Friday, May 27, 2016

Happy...Memorial Day?

I was going to write a quick hey-there-have-a-great-long-weekend! post when I remembered what we're celebrating on Memorial Day.

The ultimate sacrifice.

The sacrifice of a life for a cause. Some of those causes have been more noble than others, but that's not the real point. The real point is that brave men and women died to uphold whatever cause their country deemed worth dying for.

We have been at war on multiple fronts for over fifteen years. My youngest nephew has never known a time this country was not at war. How can that be? But so it is.

I've been following a debate in the news as to whether young women should have to register for the draft. My dismay is not that women would serve in combat--nor that we still have a draft that we could reanimate at a moment's notice--it's that so many of our lawmakers can consider with equanimity the likelihood of still another impending conflict, one where we'd have to draft every remaining kid.

But I don't want to be a big downer for those of you about to reap the reward of a much-deserved three day weekend. It's just...the original heading of this post was Got Plans? And I couldn't help thinking did all those people whose sacrifice we're acknowledging come Monday.

Humans = strife and strife = war. I think war is part of the human condition. We're an early planet, relatively speaking, and conflict is in our genes. But the least we can do is take a few moments to consider what all those global "conflicts" mean--and that the price is more than a few hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling away on a grill.

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Golden Days of Yore -- And a Free Audio Book!

I think a writing career was easier back in the day when none of us expected to be successful.

I read a heartfelt post yesterday by a talented and hardworking author who confessed to feeling like a failure because he hasn't had the success he pictured. I'm not sure what he pictured...being able to support himself at writing fiction? But back in the day, we used to consider ourselves successful if we managed to get published at all. And if someone read us, corresponded with us? Good heavens! We had MADE it.

Now days writers expect to earn a living at writing. Even though all data indicates earnings for writers are dropping (am I the ONLY person in this genre who reads those Author Guild updates?!) people are so certain that earning a living penning fiction is a reasonable expectation, they feel like they have failed when they can't do it.

If you're doing what you love, if your endeavors bring you satisfaction and happiness, you're not a failure.

You know what failing is? Allowing others to define you--and your concept of success. Not making time to do the things that you love and you find meaningful. Neglecting the real live people in your life because you're so focused on this goal of "success."

Anyway. This pressure to succeed is a creativity killer. Not to mention a real downer in my newsfeed.


So. It's been about three weeks since I pulled the plug--No! I'm just postponing, taking a breather--on the last project. And true to my word, I've been focusing on my long-term game plan because, as previously mentioned, cranking out a new book every 90-120 days is not sustainable.

Or rather, not sustainable for me. Your mileage (and readership and earnings) may vary.

I'm in the midst of taking a number of online courses dealing with promotion and blah-blah-blah. No, I shouldn't say that because first of all, I LOVE learning new stuff--and these are all great courses--and I feel kind of accomplished because I'm getting stuff done. Stuff that needed to be dealt with.

What kind of stuff? Well, right now I'm focused on translations and getting more stories into print. Neither of these are big money makers, but as I've said elsewhere, maybe they'll pay for my food stamps in my old age.

Speaking of...well, nothing previously mentioned, but I need a segue... would you like to take an online course from me on writing mysteries? I mean, I'm not Robert Crais or James Patterson, but I know a thing or two about writing mysteries -- for niche and for mainstream publishers...and making a fairly decent living at it. I've got the credentials and I've got plenty of experience in teaching. So...maybe. Is there interest in such an enterprise?

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I'm taking professional development courses and toying with ideas for the future that don't involve me cranking out books like an aspiring data entry clerk trying to beat the clock.

Oh! I finally--how many years has it been--figured out how to use Mailchimp. I have just under two thousand subscribers on my regular list, and that's a nice beginning, but I've started up what I am going to curate as a VIP or premium list. This will have monthly chitter-chatter and more about what's happening in general versus the quarterly updates on what's new to buy. It will have more freebies and giveaways and books for review and that sort of thing.

That list can be joined here. (You'll notice there's a very cool and exclusive giveaway for my VIPS.)

I'm not saying that I won't be returning to social media, but... well, we'll see. If the past few months have proved anything, it's that the big attraction for most of you is very simply the books. The stories. The characters and their journey. And that is exactly the way I want it. The way it should be.

So happy reading! And...I'll be in touch.



Friday, May 6, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing My Next Book

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of signing the final docs on our current home.

I bring that up because I believe it's kind of relevant to what's going on in that shiny, spinny little orb I call my brain.

The SO and I celebrated with Chinese food (we finally have a good Chinese restaurant--well, take out--place again!) and good wine and Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which is one of our favorite Woody Allen flicks). It was a quiet, happy evening in our still-feels-new home. Lovely.

I fell asleep at nine o'clock, which is late for me these days. At the beginning of April, I came down with the flu (one of those respiratory things) and I haven't really felt 100% since. I was flat out sick for three weeks and the exhaustion has persisted. For a while I was going to bed at eight at night and sleeping until eight or nine in the morning. Which is unheard of for me. My natural waking time is 5:30-6:00ish even on vacation. I was craving naps in the afternoon. Even green juice --my never fail cure all -- didn't help a lot.

I was -- and am -- exhausted.

And of course I have a book due. Because that's how it works in publishing these days. I write for my bread and butter and I ALWAYS have a book due. Of. Course.

Initially I wasn't concerned because the book was largely outlined and based on my own trip to Scotland (well, minus the murder and mayhem). It's a cozy mystery, and that's a genre I know very well indeed. It was fun reliving my own trip and listening to my favorite folk music and watching documentaries on the auld country...but then I got sick and fell behind and the Dark Thoughts Came.

The darkest thought was the most obvious one: hurtling at full speed down a never-ending highway is not actually a strategy. What is my strategy? Do I have a plan for the future?

Yada yada yada.

By week three, I knew that well or not, ready or not, I had to begin writing again.

And...I couldn't do it. I was falling asleep at ten in the morning. I was falling asleep at my keyboard. Hm. But that made sense because I was still coughing, still recovering, still obviously a bit under the weather. Not to worry, Camille. We can fix it in post.

I couldn't help noticing however that when I woke in the morning, even before I opened my eyes, I was filled with a sense of anxiety. Depression. Something close to dread. A feeling that was vaguely familiar.

Where did I know that feeling from?

Oh yeah. Five years ago when I burned out.


I hadn't even noticed I was off the map and here I was teetering on the edge of the abyss again. I'm not burned out--I loved every minute of writing The Mermaid Murders and A Case of Christmas. But I'm close. Way too close to that edge.

The last time it happened was simply a matter of writing myself to a standstill. Fourteen stories in one year, including four novels--two of them to mainstream publishers. That'll do it to you. This time it was different. This time it was getting sick and having time to think...and while I highly recommend thinking on a regular, even daily basis, it forced me to realize a number of things I had been too busy writing to really consider.

Like the fact that I had not had time to deal with the business side of my writing career since Summer 2014.

A writing career is not just about selling your writing. But that's what mine has been for the past couple of years. In 12 months I've written three novels, a novella and a short story. I moved house. I went to Scotland. We had a dramatic REVEAL. And a slew of other stuff happened too. And while I can hire someone to answer emails and send books for review, I can't hire someone to plan the rest of my life, or even the rest of my career for me, and that's sort of what has to happen. It has to be me and it has to be now.

Also I had to realize that I've fallen back into the habit of overcommitting. It is so damned hard for me to say no, to disappoint people. But if you overcommit, you risk failing and disappointing them anyway, so sometimes no really is the best answer for everyone.

 On the bright side of all this is the fact that I realized in time what was happening to me. I actually listened to what my body and brain were trying to tell me. The message is STOP. It's not conducive to short term success or financial security, but that's the message and I'm heeding it. Okay, maybe a little belatedly, but I am listening. I can hear perfectly well when I'm upside down.

So that's where we are right now. I'm taking a break from pretty much everything while I break up the engine and examine all the parts. I'm considering a number of plans and projects and I'll be sharing those here...and maybe on social media. I'll be asking for your input and thoughts as well.

Even if I'm a bit scarce for a while, you know me, I get in these chatty moods and next thing you know I'm blabbing away everywhere. What I'm trying to say is don't be alarmed if I go off the grid for a bit. And while I may juggle a few projects, I'm not cancelling anything. Next year will still be almost exclusively devoted to sequels and series books as promised, starting with The Monet Murders in the early winter.