Tag Archives: what’s it like to be an author

#MondayBlogs Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year!

21 Nov

This year, I had three writing goals.

1. I wanted to sign one of my books during a Barnes & Noble event.

2. I wanted to attend a book convention as an author (booth and all!)

3. I wanted—and this one I thought I’d never reach—to receive a full request from a literary agent.

I’m proud to say I reached all of these goals and more. In fact, I’m going to break my experiences down and explain, but trust me, there’s a reason for this article beyond just me and my goals, so stick with me for a bit.

First, Goal 1. Barnes & Noble! I hosted not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barnes & Noble signings, including a Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas and BFest in Kansas City, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. There was nothing like signing in a Barnes & Noble my late mother took me to as a kid, where she used to tell me I could write a book one day. It was priceless.

How was this accomplished? To be honest, no one in my hometown ever returned my phone calls. Not once. I was terrified of calling Barnes & Noble after quite a few disinterested phone calls and e-mails and in-person meetings. Then, CTP author Tamara Grantham invited me to her local B&N during the VDay Event in Wichita, Kansas. This is a five-hour drive for me…and I work a night shift. But you know what? I jumped at the opportunity to attend. And that one event opened up all the other stores to me. Now, I have a great relationship with one right down the street from my new house. (And I write in there all the time.)

Barnes & Noble Events

Barnes & Noble Events

In regards to Goal 2, I attended not one, but TWO conventions as an author. The first one being Penned Con in St. Louis, where I shared a booth with the wonderful Natasha Hanova. The second convention was Wizard World Comic Con in Tulsa, Oklahoma…where I also had the AMAZING opportunity to be a panelist on Villains vs. Villains. On top of that, I have plans in the works to attend more next year. This was an opportunity I never planned nor saw coming, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I had a blast! (And now I’m the owner of a Pusheen plushie and a Sailor Moon blanket…and a cat T-shirt…and fudge…) I also attended a writer’s conference—The MWG annual conference—and I went to YALLFest in South Carolina as a reader.

How was this accomplished? Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows it takes planning. In fact, most conferences ask you to buy your booth a year in advance, which I did with Penned Con in St. Louis back in 2015 when I attended as a reader to see if I liked it or not. The person sharing my booth changed three times, but it all worked out in the end, and I had a blast! Out of the blue, I was invited to Wizard World Comic Con through Genese Davis, who knew…Tamara Grantham. (Tamara is the best, can’t you tell?) I never expected to be a speaker, and here I was, driving five hours to speak about what makes characters evil. Spoiler alert. Worth it. But more than half of these events weren’t planned, so keep your mind open!

Conventions and Conferences

Conventions and Conferences

So now, we come down to the agents. The reason I said I never thought a full would happen is because I haven’t traditionally queried since 2007…and a lot has changed since then. I set out to challenge myself by joining competitions and making connections. Much to my surprise (and shock), I received my first full almost right away—in the first week of February—and I’ve had the utmost joy of working with a few agents ever since on numerous fulls and even a few revise and resubmits.

How was this accomplished? I joined every online competition/opportunity I could to reach out to the writing community. Honestly, even if you’re not looking for an agent, these competitions are the bomb. (Does anyone say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) I love them, and I plan on joining more of them if I can in the future. That being said, most of my fulls (and even my revise and resubmits) came from the slush pile. Yes. The slush pile. Writing those query letters, getting feedback from writing friends, and sending off every e-mail one by one until someone gave me more feedback or took a bite actually works. I wish I could say more…but alas, this situation is pending. 😉 Don’t fear the slush.

On a side note, I also managed to complete two manuscripts and publish two YA novels with Clean Teen Publishing! …And I work a full-time day job. (Not going to lie, I’m totally exhausted. But it’s been a great year!)

Manuscripts and Books!

Manuscripts and Books!

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because creating and meeting goals as a writer is HARD…and often unpredictable. When I wrote down my three goals for 2016 on a little green Sticky Note that I kept on the back of my desk (it looks pretty torn up and ugly now), I never thought I would reach most of them (and more) within the first two months. I could attribute it all to luck (which of course comes into play), and I could definitely cite connections (thank you again, Tamara and Natasha and Genese and and and!), but I have to be kind to myself, too.

I jumped at every opportunity I could, even if that meant I would be up for 48 hours straight and driving for 5…and spend some extra money that, logically, I shouldn’t have. (But definitely don’t regret.) Right now, I work three jobs, including being an author, and I’m more exhausted than not. But I know following my dream is worth it. Somewhere in my gut I am always filled with excitement and hope and energy…and every now and then, all of this work leads me somewhere unpredictable and wonderful.

So what’s my tip?

Beyond basic goal setting advice, I am going to stick my neck out there and say something crazy.

For every “realistic” goal you set, set a crazy “unrealistic” one, too.

Why? Because maybe “unrealistic” isn’t so unrealistic once you get started, but setting it will force you to get started. Setting goals causes you to miracle jump over that hurdle you thought you couldn’t even climb on your best days. For me, I honestly believed most of the goals I set for 2016 were unreachable…or at least would take a very, very long time. Why? Because I had tried to accomplish them before and failed. 2016, for me, was the year of reaching failed goals. 2016, for me, became the year “unrealistic” became a reality.

2017 can be yours.

~SAT

 

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#MondayBlogs My Average Day as an Author

1 Aug

The average day as an author varies from writer to writer, but I think there’s a huge misconception that we wake up, write all day, and fall asleep at the end of the night with thousands of words ready for print. In reality, most authors—yes, even The New York Times Best Sellers—work day jobs. Writing is our second full-time gig. And I’m not an exception.

3 PM

My Twisted Clock

I wake up at 3 PM. Why? I work a night shift, so I don’t get to bed until about 6 AM. I also work opposite days, meaning Sunday-Tuesday is my weekend. This can cause some awkwardness online, because some have assumed I’m ignoring them on the weekends when I am, in fact, working. But I do work from home, so I can sometimes check in on my author life during my lunch break and dinner break. This is also why you see my #MidnightBaking posts a lot. While it’s midnight for you, it’s dinner time for me.

4 PM – MIDNIGHT

My First Job

Honestly, I work from 4 PM to midnight as an editor, social media marketer, and anything else you might find on my Services page. I love it. I absolutely love reading authors’ works, talking to fellow writers, and helping those with social media, because social media is something I honestly enjoy, hence why I blog three days a week. As an author, I also use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodreadsMailChimp, Wattpad, and YouTube on a regular basis. But all that is generally done in my next step.

My average day as an author always includes three things: coffee, cats, and books.

My average day as an author always includes three things: coffee, cats, and books.

MIDNIGHT – 4 AM

My Second Job

I’m an author. Finally. If I’m not completely exhausted from work—and I get all my housework done—this is where I write. But this is also the only time I have for marketing, so I often spend about a half of the time writing articles, sending out personal emails, researching books, and more. If I’m too tired, maybe I just read the current book on my nightstand. But I tend to write in this time period. If I can get one chapter finished and outline my next chapter for the next day, I am satisfied. It was a successful day.

4 AM – 6 AM

My Not-So-Chill Chill Time

I try to relax here, though I’m really bad at it. This is where I should be reading instead of writing (or even watching TV). Something—anything—to calm down my writer’s mind (or I won’t sleep at all), but more often than not, I’m curled up on the couch with my notebook jotting down more ideas as they come to me. I might even get back on the laptop. I find myself pulling 12-hour shifts (or longer) on a regular basis. This is probably why I’m addicted to coffee.

6 AM – 3 PM

My Very Restless Rest

Magnificent, majestic sleep.

Okay. So I have night terrors a lot. Not so majestic. But, hey, it helps inspire my writing!

P.S. It’s really HARD to sleep during the day. Lawnmowers. Sunlight. Truck engines. You name it, it has woken me up.

IN THE END

Writing for a living, more often than not, is not our living, but we do live for it. I love finding time between gigs to sneak in a few words or tweet back and forth with awesome readers, but I’m mainly working a regular gig like everyone else. And, hey! I love my day job. I honestly think my day job helps me be a better writer, and I get to read all day. It’s a dream come true, right?

If anyone is curious, I’m currently writing this article on my weekend. It’s Sunday, July 17, at 10 PM, so more than two weeks before you will be reading this. But it’s some of my only free time to blog, so I write ahead of time since I know work can get unpredictable and crazy. Even better? Now, I have time to go write.

Welcome to my writer’s life. 😉 

Original covered my average day as a writer in 2013.

~SAT

wattpadBlakeBlake’s origin story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. If you’ve ever wondered how a baby boy ended up in the Northern Flock, read his story here. I’m expecting to release Ami’s story from the Southern Flock on August 12. I’m also working on the sequel – July Thunder/Lightning – now!

I hope you’re reading the Bad Bloods series! Book 1 is only .99¢!

November Rain

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

#1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Rain

#1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Rain

#MondayBlogs All You Need (as a writer)

14 Dec

Intro:

Being a writer isn’t a decision for many. You just are. Still, it takes a lot to decide to be true to you and your work. Today’s guest blogger knows this lesson all too well. Ken Hughes, an urban fantasy author, discusses the truth behind what it takes to be an author—and how to stick with it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

All You Need (as a writer) by Ken Hughes

ken.jpegWhen I wake up, I step outside and leap hundreds of feet up to float above the city.

–Alright, it’s my character who does that. But I’m the one who gets to capture the sensation of Mark kicking away from gravity, hanging in the night sky, and staring around for a certain suspicious owl that might glide out of the moonlight above.

And it can be frightening… just how much I love that storytelling. But I think I’m starting to understand, how that passion is the best key there is to living as a writer.

As a career, writing is its own special kind of hard. Half the people you meet they’re working on a book, but nobody can help you in the trenches. It means

  • discipline – to keep at it for years and years in the hope that something gets better
  • choices – every scene, in fact every word, is your responsibility
  • doubt – never being sure you’ve gotten the tale to the level you want
  • and the twist: after all that time locking yourself in the basement, you have to come outside and SELL total strangers on your work. Seriously?

But what I think is, it all needs to come from the joy of the right story.

Because of one key:

“I only write what I can love.”

Prison or Prize?

Let’s accept one thing: writing is not an easy way to make your fortune, or even your fame.

Sure, there are plenty of comfortably-paid writers in the world, especially in the digital age. But If your goal is really to combine “cool stuff about what I read” with leaving your day job or having a boatload of eager fans, the time it takes to write one novel (long before you know what you’re doing) can get you on your way to making a world-class blog, a dozen clever apps, or an FX apprenticeship where you can get your fingertips onto making the magic happen. If that’s what you want, for cat’s sake follow that dream!

Writing is the way to chase those thrills where you have to reinvent everything, word for word, in many ways from scratch. (Not in all ways, luckily.) So if you write, it should be because you don’t just love spy stories, you love deciding how your spy scouts an area and the exact moment her lips quirk into a smile.

And… there is no secret, no plan or key that can change how a writer needs to spend hundreds of hours simply writing. All with no help, no shortcuts, doing nothing except putting the next word down. To many people, that sounds like a prison sentence, and it’s meaningless if it isn’t lifelong.

But that works both ways:

If you know your story is the exact kind of “leap to the sky” that you want to be writing, those hours become something very different. They mean that for the rest of your life, any time that isn’t locked down paying bills or doing laundry can go right back to writing in your own world—and nothing can take that away. All you need is a notepad and five minutes (thirty seconds if it’s jotting down a sudden idea) to get back to your happy place. It’s an exhilarating discovery.

And, it’s the best way to make the story better.

At least, it is if you’ve made that place your own.

Defining Your Bliss

We all come into writing through other writers and other stories. Since that’s what first inspires us, it makes a certain sense that it might also be the source of a few of our problems. That is, if we to learn too much of the wrong lesson from one of our heroes.

I can’t get enough of Brandon Sanderson’s sprawling worlds or Joss Whedon’s talent for maintaining a whole roster of Avengers… but I don’t want to write that crowded a story. I’d kill to produce one page as poetic as Patrick Rothfuss’s, but it’s not what my tales are about.

If you love witty dialog—write that. Learn what makes it sparkle, how to pick and choose so you aren’t just copying one writer’s style, and keep writing that. Learn to get all that annoying description out of the way with just enough to do the job, or maybe the right touches to make your banter even better. And then you know that every day, what you have waiting for you is a chance to write more wit.

If you want the ultimate romantic lead, go for it. Work out what makes him/her perfect for your protagonist… and just what kind of stylized or silly or traumatic conflict to play off of that to turn it into a STORY worth sweating over. All the rest of the tale is only a basic foundation for that.

Myself, the more I understand how much I savor the sheer suspense of pushing Mark and Angie to the brink in a fight or a round of cat and mouse, the more I look forward to the next chance I get to write. And the better my scenes get.

Discipline? The next struggle in the book calls to me to get in there and write it. In fact, each time I sit down and discover that, yes, what I’ve got waiting is another glorious twist on how my poor heroes have to master their magic, the easier it is to trust that the next session will be playing to my strengths too. (Which is what “discipline” really means: not pushing through resistance but training yourself until the right action becomes the natural one.)

Choices? Because I can put my finger on what I want to write, I can test and study what makes good suspense and how many other pieces a story needs to make that work. Plus it means I can track one of Sanderson’s brilliant battles or the terror in The Blair Witch Project and call it “research.”

Doubt? There’s always further I can go, but at least I know what I’m trying to do, and how good I’ve already gotten at it. And, bouncing my work off of writers and readers means I’m hearing from people who have the same love of a good magical thrill.

Even the writer’s great Introversion/Promotion Paradox turns out to be not so different from the rest of the process: it’s still learning to zero in on what sets me on fire. After all my years locked in with my books I never thought “marketing” and “networking” could be words I’d want to be in the same room with, but it’s true. All I need is to pick which piece of adventurous awesomeness to mention first, and let my excitement show. (And like every other aspect of writing, learn a few other basics to support them—but really only a few.)

In fact, the two top pieces of advice I’ve found about a writing career are, “write better” and “write more.” Tapping into my own excitement is the best—almost the only—way to put more time into writing, and that time plus my clearer focus and related studies are just the thing to raise my game. (Bonus: there’s a word for a writer’s sense of just which kind of fun we write and share: that much-sought-after thing called a “brand.” Sometimes everything falls into place.)

Writing isn’t for everyone. But if it is for you, and you find the kind of writing you can commit to, those hours and years of work can become kind of experience you need them to be. There’s a good chance some day you’ll have people lining up to share your own kind of excitement. And yes, you might enjoy it as much as the scribbling.

But, your fans will still understand when you have to step away again. Just tell them you have to get back to sending your hero onto his next leap to the sky.

–Ken Hughes

ken2Author Bio:

Ken Hughes is a writer on a mission to hone the sharpest suspense, most gripping adventure, and most desperately human heroes in urban fantasy. For a peek at what he’s doing and why, take a look at www.KenHughesAuthor.com.

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

My Week as an Author: the Many Ups and Downs

18 Jun

If you follow my Facebook page, then you’ve seen the events that I am about to talk about, and you saw them happen to me in real-time. (What can I say? Facebook is my go-to place to speak to you all live.) But if you don’t follow my Facebook page:

1. You missed out on all of the crazy events that happened this week.

2. You should be following my Facebook page. (I post entertaining stories, things that make you laugh, and the occasional interview. I even give away prizes, like guest blog post opportunities. I promise.)

So today I am sharing all of the crazy events that happened to me this week and how they affected me. Some were fantastic and others took my little ego down a notch. Why am I sharing this? Because readers are often sending me questions about what it is like to be an author. In fact, ever since I posted The Pros and Cons of Being An Author, one of the main questions I get asked is what my life is like and how I’ve dealt with ups and downs. And this week is a perfect example of how hectic, crazy, lovely, and insanely exciting it can be to be an author. (Did I mention soul-crushing and absolutely uplifting as well?)

Hopefully, these ups and downs that I went through will give insight to those who are curious about my author life and authors in general, but remember: no matter what, you must stay positive and believe in yourself. You’re following your dream after all.

The events are listed in the order that they happened:

I received a rejection for my poetry collection:

That’s right. I get rejected, too. Just because you’ve been published before, even in the same genre, does not mean you’ll be accepted everywhere you go. In fact, I’ve been rejected dozens of times, especially before I got November Snow published in 2007. A few months ago one of my favorite literary magazines – The Normal School – opened up their submissions for their fifth annual poetry competition. My collection didn’t make it. If I had to be completely honest, this is the second time I’ve been rejected by them. (The first time was a nonfiction piece.) But I am definitely going to keep trying! Even though every rejection hurts a little, you have to find the strength to fight back. One of my goals is to beat my fear of publishing nonfiction, so I’m working on getting at least one essay published within the next two years. Having a goal helps me accept rejection as the next step toward acceptance. That might seem backwards, but – to me – having a goal reminds me that I haven’t given up and how I won’t give up. It keeps me focused, and it prevents me from dwelling. When one door closes, it helps you move onto trying to open the next door in the hallway of life. In fact, on this exact same day, a door opened to me:

I received an acceptance letter for my short story:

On the same day I received a rejection, I received an acceptance. A few hours passed between the two, but I was glad I remained positive because I was able to be fully excited about this moment instead of allowing the rejection to taint my positive moment. The short story is slated for release in August of this year, but that’s all I can say for now.

I hit 20,000 words in Death Before Daylight

I mention this for many reasons, but here’s the main reason. It wasn’t a letter I received. It was a result of my hard work. If I allow myself to get distracted by the rejection, I might not have met this goal. It might have set me back a few days. Is that really worth it? I don’t think so. Staying focused on achieving the next step of my future publication is vital to enjoying my writing career. I’m not saying that a writer can’t take a day or two off to feel sad, but writers have to get back up again. For me, I don’t enjoy taking days off. It makes me feel like I’m letting disappointment control me, and I don’t want disappointment to control me. I want my dream to guide me. So I dove right back into Death Before Daylight the second I had some time off of work, and I met a goal I’ve been dying to meet. Plus, I thought fans of The Timely Death Trilogy would enjoy some news. If you’re on my Facebook, you also saw this little teaser:

booknews

I received my final edits for Take Me Tomorrow:

If you haven’t realized this, we are SUPER behind in meeting the publication deadline, so I’ve been biting my nails off. I practically don’t have any right now, but receiving the edits releaved all of that stress – which means that I had a moment feeling a little ridiculous for being so nervous about the edits in the first place. They were going to come no matter what. Worse case scenario, the publication date gets pushed back a little bit, and that’s not a tragedy at all. It’s still coming out after all. I wanted to share this because it shows how a negative focus can disrupt the overall positive experience of getting a novel published. Don’t be like me. Enjoy these moments fully because – when it’s all over and done with – you’re going to have your novel in your hands, and you’re going to want to look back and forward with a smile on your face. You’re working hard! Enjoy that work.

Amtrak Residency program sent me a rejection notice

I’m sure you’re probably starting to realize how often I apply to different events as a writer. Sure, I’m focused on my novels, but I’m also focused on gaining more from different experiences. I applied for this a few months ago. Basically, Amtrak allowed writers to apply to travel on their trains for free as they blogged about their travels. I love traveling. I love writing. It was perfect for me. But – alas – I am not perfect for Amtrak, and that’s okay. Applying isn’t about being a perfect writer for everyone. Being a writer isn’t about being perfect at all. It’s about loving all the adventures that open up to you. I can always apply next year, apply to other programs, and travel on my own. A rejection doesn’t stop me. Only I stop myself. It’s safe to say that I’m not stopping anytime soon. Or ever. (Probably never. Scratch that. I’m never going to give up. Ever.)

A radio show contacted me for an interview in July

Literally – two hours passed from receiving my Amtrak rejection to receiving the most delightful call of my week. A popular author radio show contacted me, and they want to interview me. Can you say, “EEEEEEEE!”? I know. I actually had to hold back from screaming out in delight over the phone. We’re already working out the details, and they’re recording the show in July, but that’s all I can say for now. (More news to come soon!) But this is another instance of how important it is to remain positive. After all, you can’t be crying to your cat about your rejection when a radio host calls you with an offer. That would be awkward.

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

In the end:

As you can see – negative things can happen, but positive ones can follow them within minutes, and it’s important to stay positive so you can receive that positive energy. (Did that sound hippy enough for you? If not, picture me throwing up a peace sign. I also have a flower in my hair. It is pink.)

It may have been a strangely bizarre and eventful week. I practically got whiplash. But it was an important week, and it was a great week, and I am going to continue to have great weeks as long as I focus on the positive directions that open up to me.

To all authors and aspiring authors, enjoy this ride. It’s sure to be a wild one full of adventures you might never see coming.

~SAT

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