A Whole New Year

Obligatory New Year’s Post is Obligatory

I’m not making any drastic changes heading into 2022. I think there’s far too much pressure on resolution and sweeping realignments that set people up for failure, especially someone like me that needs an external structure to succeed, but is neglectful in seeking one out. I could use a writing buddy or two heading into the new year. I remember how fast I made friends in online forums at the beginning of the ’00s and now, social media makes it so much harder, at least for me.

No! This is not the lonely writer post!

What I have done is reorganize my goal and tasks around three (four) simple BIG ideas. I have three major goals (three is a magical number – four goals if you count my “Personal” category) and I call those major goals – “BOSS”. Yes, these are my Gohma, Dodongo, and Barinade of my life quests. Every task I put into my calendar has to fit under one of these BOSSes or it’s not really worth my time.

Screenshot of my partial Notion database

I break things down even further, having separate MINIBOSSes for each BOSS. This gives me a way to see what areas within each BOSS I’m putting my time into and if there needs to be adjustments. I do all this in Notion using databases. Originally, I tried to limit my MINIBOSSes to just three per BOSS, but I found that, at least in my “Active Writer” boss, I needed a few more areas, such as “Working on Craft” and “Marketing.” The most important MINIBOSS here is “Finish Current Projects” because that’s where I have the most trouble. I have a separate database for Writing Projects and I try not to add anything to it unless the concept is completely clear to me. Everything else goes in a “idea” file.

This year I want to really lean into the idea of changing my “environment” instead of myself. Instead of acting as if my process, or my thinking, or my existence is a “problem,” I’m focusing on how I can create the space (physical and mental) where I will thrive. Coming up with this organization system has been key in this. I don’t feel the pressure to get everything done every day (my daily list is just things due “today” and “before” – and I’m purposefully not setting tasks with “priorities” because, in my mind, they’re all important.)

As for the writing, here is the plan:

  • I’ll be continuing all of my Vella series (one of them ending in late winter.)
  • Finishing up my first thriller novella, Chatterbox, to give away as a thank you for signing up for my newsletter (so look forward to that!)
  • I need to find a copy editor that I can work with on a regular basis. I’ll start searching in a few weeks. (I’m open to suggestions if you know of a good one.)
  • I’m planning on publishing some flash fiction on here and then compiling them as I go into anthologies
  • I’ve outlined the first two novels in a psychological thriller series to be published by the summer. More info coming soon!
  • The Shape of Us Mysteries first novel, Pedigree, is moving along and I hope to have that ready to go by March, April at the latest.
  • My Woodlawn College romance will get a sequel (Secret Title) to be released in Kindle Unlimited with the novella form of the series, Art History. No timeline on that yet.
  • Hopefully other opportunities that I can’t even see yet.

So that’s where things stand. I have the organization down and some of the systems in place and very optimistic goals. But I feel that now I have a better understanding of who I am and how I work and with that, can better give myself the grace to make adjustments.

May we all find some comfort in the new year and pinpoints of hope to help light the way.

Hey! Listen!

Navi

I want to love Kindle Vella

Earlier in 2021, Amazon launched their new serial platform, Kindle Vella. What? You haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s no wonder. Amazon’s been taking the phrase “soft launch” to new levels. While there have been some impressive ads spotted in the wild, the larger Amazon-verse doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge it’s own version of Radish, Wattpad, or Royal Road. For new writers, like myself, pulling new people into an unknown, untested, pay-as-you-read app has been a bit of a struggle. For established writers, their cup overfloweth.

Wow, this sounds bitter. It’s not!

See I enjoy writing in this format and originally started my series, Wound, at Tapas and Webnovel. The thing is, it was hard to get traction there as well. Horror isn’t the hot genre (isekai, LitRPG, and romance sub-genres take the top spot) but I felt a little more noticed. When I heard about Vella (which requires exclusivity or paywalls) I made the jump. I think I made the right choice, but I still wonder. If I had built up a following elsewhere, would they have followed me to this platform? I’m honestly not sure, because I’m not sure Amazon knows what they’re going to do with Vella.

At least they really haven’t said.

Where is it?

Well, you can access it online and read stories that way, but the interface for web reading leaves a bit to be desired. It’s clearly formatted for mobile viewing and even the way the chapters are listed is unusual.

Maybe it’s just me, but I expect to go down the left column first, then the right.

Your Kindle app is the best place to read your serials, since you can receive updates when new chapters are released. I follow and read several serials and this is the best way to experience them – and probably the way it’s intended. Yet, buried within the Kindle app, which I don’t use much on my phone for reading novels, it feels very hidden. I would think that Amazon would release a new stand-alone app just for Vella, but I’m not sure that’s in the cards. If they really wanted to take on the other big serial players, an app that delivers a similar experience would be essential, right?

Heading to the main Kindle Vella page will give you some clue as to the best performing genres, what’s trending, and the “Top Faved” section – which doesn’t’ seem to change much each month. As a writer it’s discouraging but that’s on me to write a better story. As a reader it makes the page feel stagnant if those favs never change. Since I’m following stories, those appear on top, but “Popular Tags” is right below and they don’t line up with my interests. I would think something along the lines of “Also Boughts” – like “Stories with Similar Tags” would encourage more discovery on my – the reader’s – part and, hopefully, serve up my story to more potential readers of horror, etc.

Also, there’s no horror genre. That should be changed.

Anything else you don’t like?

Well, I don’t like the long review process when fixing a typo in a story. I don’t like that I have to schedule at least four days out if I want to get ahead and not miss a release day. I don’t like the opaque bonus payment structure. I think without a concerted effort by Amazon to market Vella, most of the clicks will come from authors trying to help other authors (outside of those with established audiences) and will ultimately fizzle away.

Which sucks, because I really like writing my stories. I just wish I knew how to help people read them.


Handy links to read the first three episodes (free) of my Kindle Vella stories:

  • Wound (Horror) Post-apocalyptical, survival, vampires
  • Phone, Keys, Claws, Teeth (YA Paranormal) High school, family secrets, werewolves
  • Art History (MM Romance) Childhood friends, enemies to lover, academic intrigue!

Fearing the story

I want to write a short story, really short, like 1,000-words short, to submit to a publication. I think I have a good idea (that’s the easy part) and I’ve even started getting the first 150-200 words done (that’s 1/5th of the story) but I’m stuck. I know where the story is going, but I’m afraid to write it.

It’s not the subject matter that scares me, it’s not even a scary story. But the idea of taking that next step – submitting – that’s hard. When I upload my Vella episodes, it’s with little expectation that anyone will read it. That’s not being negative, but a nod to the reality of the now. I don’t worry about people not liking what I’ve written. I just want some sort of feedback.

Which is why submitting this tiny little story after finishing is so scary. I may get what I really want. Then what happens? Do I feel good about it? Bad? Get better? I don’t know. I’ve submitted stories before (and been rejected) and went along with my day. There’s nothing special about this publication or this story. It’s just weird now.

I’m weird now.

I think part of the issue is that I feel the need to write in the dark, not tell my family what I’m doing, because I fear that doing so will kill what little motivation I have. (Hence the pen name. Hidden.) I really want to write this story today and the only thing stopping me is me.

I mean, even this blog post is an avoidance tactic.

I want to do it, but I feel like I’m not happy enough to do it. I’m depressed, frustrated, annoyed. I should approach my writing with enthusiasm and hope, not fear and secrecy. I have made a prison out of rules that I wrote myself.

At least I wrote something.

One more paragraph and then I’ll put on the noise-cancelling headphones and try to focus, try to get out ~1000 imperfect sentences and then tweak them into something better, shinier, something that, when I reread it, will fill me with enthusiasm and hope. Because that’s the part I always forget.

It’s the writing that makes me feel that way, not the other way around.

Ah, that’s what this blog post was for. Understood.

Trying to do too much?

I’m the queen of great ideas and bad follow through.

I’ve been watching/listening to a lot of videos about writing, craft and business, and I’ve come to realize that I’m not only putting the cart before the horse, but I don’t even have a horse, or a cart, or a road, or a place to go. Outside of my three Kindle Vella series, I’m a bit scattered, even though I’ve talked about various projects here before.

I’m the queen of great ideas and bad follow through.

I think that’s why the Kindle Vella series appeal to me now. I’d had a hard time finding a following on other serial sites and, while, the market seems dominated by steamy romance and LitRPG (neither of which I write) I decided to take a gamble.

Then I quickly became overwhelmed. And started having new ideas. Then over-overwhelmed.

The natural step after over-overwhelm is paralysis and then I get into a funk and don’t do anything at all. You can give me plenty of planners, systems, motivation, even people to sit with me while I work, but I won’t know where to go. And the one thing I’m bad at is the one thing I need to be good at: finishing my shit.

I even started a NaNoWriMo group focused on Finishing Our Shit Stuff and then abandoned it after a week or two. (Sorry, y’all. It’s not you. It’s always me.)

I’ve been thinking about all the half-finished, partially-started pieces I have saved and wondered if I could dedicate myself to finishing these pieces and putting them out there, whether indie publishing them under this pen name or submitting them to publications under another. Who knows? But it’s a challenge that I have only failed in the past.

Nowhere to go but up, as they say.

What I am doing now is reassessing each week what tasks actually get me moving forward. Writing is always a Definitely. Other things, not so much. So, more writing. (Yeah, I’ve been here before and this time may not be different, but there’s only one starting place and that’s where the starting starts.)

Good luck to me. Good luck to you.

Beverly Avery: Manager

Bev Avery

WOUND: The Characters

When we first meet Bev she’s decided how to deal with the fact that her husband is slowly turning into a vampire, or a zombie, they’re not clear on what’s following them yet. The first vamps are ragged, rotting things, but Paul is clearly not decaying in the back of Bev’s Jeep. Quite the opposite.

She’s the manager of the group, if not the leader. A good manager shifts the power and responsibility around to allow people’s talent to shine. When medical attention is needed, Bev defers to Armond and Darlene, the two nurturers of the group. Scouting belongs to Marla. Philosophizing about their situation, when appropriate, fell into Paul’s qualified lap. And Bev leaves most of the killing to Carol and her boys.

Bev Avery, former accountant, horse-back riding enthusiast, crossword puzzler, and one-time state champion swimmer, facilitates. She makes the decisions when no one else wants to. She decides what comes next and then lets people act. She’s slight, only about five foot three, but strong, with wide swimmer shoulders and, what her brother used to call, “good wheels.” She could have been a champion sprinter, if she’d ever get out of the pool.

Now, fuck-hundred miles into the ass of Wyoming and Bev has left the water behind.

You can read more about Bev in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.