maandag 30 december 2013

Looking back on 2013

As 2014 peeps around the corner, I believe it’s time to write my ‘yearly reflection.’ 2013 has certainly been a rollercoaster of good and bad.

Someone mentioned that new year’s resolutions are daft, as if a new year will magically make troubles go away, and as if one year is different from the next. Of course that’s true, (though a magical new year’s pixie who will just bring a bunch of new opportunities with it, would have been the nicer option) but at the same time: it’s easier to break life up in years and reflect what you have done. We could do the same with months or weeks, but a year feels more weighty.

For me 2013 has been a year of change, my life altered so much from the beginning of this year, I feel like I’ve lived a short lifetime in the past twelve month.

At times I joke that I’ve grown from a starry-eyed newbie, who wanted nothing more than have a work published, to a cynical old hag who is one step away from turning into a crazy cat lady.

All joking aside, I do miss being starry-eyed. When I started 2013 I had a few stories accepted for anthologies, and the world was my Oyster. I didn’t know anything about the writing world yet, and I had a lot to learn about my own writing voice.

Now, only a few months down the line, I’m still learning (and I never plan to stop) but I’m not so naïve anymore, and I have already walked a long educational path. I’ve learned about passive and active writing, plot arcs vs character arcs, character archetypes (even some Jungian ones), about gerunds, plot holes, POV,  and many more things.

And that’s just my part of the writing. I’ve learned the importance of having a good editor, and I’ve learned that marketing is difficult. I now know that it’s difficult (almost impossible) to publish a book by your own, and I believe it takes a village to do so.

There were some dark moments in my journey. I had some problems coming to grips with the publishing world, and as in most things in life, I found out that not everything was ‘fair’. Not all writers act professional, and not all work that is out there is actually ‘ready for the world to read’. Not all publishers have a good business plan, and sometimes your work will end up on a big pile with other work, and it will never be read by more than a hand full of people. Not all editors are real editors, some are just people who had good grades in English. Most writers hardly make any money, and it’s important to keep your head up and keep going.

There were times when this information made me feel small and stupid , and granted,  I wanted to hide under my bed and tell the world to ‘go away’, and there have been moments where I’ve cursed some elements of my profession… but only some moments. One of my new year’s resolutions is “Let it go, and accept the way of the world.”

But it hasn’t been all bad, in fact most of it was good this year. I started out as someone who was desperate to get her work published, and now I find myself in the luxury position that Indie publishers ask me to submit work to them. (May ‘Indie’ one day replaced with ‘Traditional’ *grin*).

2013 was a year of anthologies. That’s how my career started, by writing short tales for anthologies. It was great seeing my work in print and it was even better when readers would mention my stories in reviews. The anthologies drew a little attention to me, and I received a lot of compliments… but I wanted more.

So 2013 was also the year where I got to publish my first novel and my first collection of horror stories. Both were reasonably well received and I’ve been getting some nice praise from bloggers and strangers.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

Coyote will always be special, it was the first project that was truly my own, and I noticed that publishing changed quite a bit after that. Suddenly I was a lot more involved with the whole publishing process. My work was no longer ‘hidden’ between other authors, the readers who read my book, wanted to read ME.

In fact, Coyote attracted my first readers to me, and even my first fan. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels when you get to ‘spoil’ readers with your world and your writing. It’s magic.

A lot of people will tell artists that they have to work for themselves, but I don’t agree. I agree that you have to write what you want to write, but I don’t agree that you should do it for yourself. I write for readers, for like minded souls. Not that I would change my writing (that would make me very unhappy) but I would be devastated if no one would ever read my work.

Working on the second screen was also a fun experience. It made my path less lonely, and I suddenly got to talk to other people about my work.

2013 was the year where I found my editor, Apple Ardent Scott. She was my editor first, but became my friend very soon after. Meeting her changed my life a little, and my perspective on the writing world. I’ve learned so much from her, and she has shown me a whole new world, which has just been magical. I love all the things she taught me.

Then came my collection, Deeply Twisted, and it was fun to write a bunch of short stories. The reactions were once again wonderful. I even put my collection up for the Bram Stoker awards of the HWA, but I don’t know if it will go anywhere… time will tell. If it does, it’ll show up in my ‘reflection of 2014’.

2013 was the year where I connected with a lot of other writers. It was the year where I made new friends all over the world. And it was also the year where I let go of some things in the past. I guess I could say it was a year of beginnings and endings. At the end of this year I have a better sense of who I am as a writer, though I’m still searching for my own niche.

So what are my plans for 2014? I have a great many plans.

My year will start fantastic, because Coyote won the ‘Best Western Book of the Year’ award from Turning Pages, which will be properly announced January 1st. This will be a great way to ring in the new year.

Right now my first (out of seven) novelette in the ‘Even Hell Has Standards” collection is with my editor, and as soon as she has time, we’ll start our editing dance. I plan to publish this with Tip My Hat.

Am also working on Alleria (my NaNoWriMo project, which I intend to turn into an actual novel)

But I have several novels in the making that I’m going to try to find an agent for. 2014 will be my ‘quest for an agent’. I’m ready for new things. There is a lot of great stuff in the Indie publishing world, but I’m ready for a new challenge. In the end I want to be a hybrid writer, who publishes traditional and independent at the same time. This will give me a bit more freedom in my writing.

I hope that 2014 will give me a larger and steadier ‘reader’s base’ and I want to connect with more of my readers. I plan to get more novels and novella’s out there than I did last year, despite my agent search.

Not sure why, but I have a good feeling about 2014.

vrijdag 13 december 2013

Fresh fish! Uhm... I mean, marketing

Happy Friday the thirteenth! May your superstition be kind to you today!

I am going to write about marketing, I promise… there will probably be a ton of blog posts by me about marketing, because it’s like a quest for the holy grail.

Had to show off my cover again
But first Kiddywinkles (yes I just called you that, deal with it, you love me really *grin*) I wanted to share a blog review with you about my horror collection ‘Deeply Twisted’ by Book Junkie Reviews: Of course I handled reading this like a professional and an adult, by reading this 10 times and crying my eyes out. Lately I’ve been getting quite a bit of love for my work, and especially Deeply Twisted is well received. My head might actually swell up to the size of a cantaloupe if this continues.

And watch how I slip from that little bit of self promotion into the subject of marketing… just like that. *snaps her fingers*… It’s like a magic trick.

Reviews are an important part of promoting your work (see what I did there… subtle, no?) Unfortunately not all reviews are credible, and that’s a shame. Don’t get tempted to go down the slippery slope of false reviews, it might help you in the short run, but in the long run you’ll be found out and it won’t be pretty. Just a little word of advice from me.

Now all us writers want reviews. Of course we do! Writing isn’t the same as most other jobs that actually involves people. Take me for example… I used to be a very social person, and now I’m teetering on the edge of ‘crazy cat lady’. In previous professions I would occasionally get a pat on the back from colleagues, and a lot of my work would have some sort of ‘instant gratification’ to it, I would see projects be completed and get feedback.

Sad party!
Writing isn’t like that. You write this book and spend months of your life on it. Even when you’re not writing it, you’ll be thinking about writing it. It will be a love affair with something that on occasion you will hate with a passion. And then it’s done. If you’re lucky you get a bit of a book party or something to celebrate you putting your baby out into the world.

And. That’s. it.

All you have after that are sales figures and book reviews. The first time I did this, I felt so empty. And you’re not even done yet, because then you’ll need to start promoting your work (but I’ll get to that later). For me all I wanted was for people to take the journey in my world with me. I didn’t need to hear how great people thought I was (that just makes me feel awkward) but I did (and do) wanted to hear that people enjoyed my story. I loved (and love) it when people told me what parts of my book they liked. Of course I was absolutely terrified that someone would hate my book, and that did happen. One of my friends told me that my book wasn’t very good. It hurt me, but then I realized the critique didn’t kill me. I also realized that not everyone could love what I did, and I was (sort of) fine with that. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of people tell me that they loved it.

Now there are two books out there with my name on the cover, and I’m getting a little better at the marketing side of it… though the process still baffles me.

One of the things I don’t try to do is ‘Spam’. You can’t stay away from it completely, but some people really lose all sense of etiquette when it comes to sharing their work. It’s tempting to send people you barely know personal messages on facebook with your


books, but I don’t think anyone really appreciates that. (In fact, I’ve unfriended people that did that too often before, and I know others have too) See promotion as courtship. Sometimes you just have to put a ‘Single and desperate’ notice on some boards to attract people, but if you do that too often, you’ll just look too desperate. So use the boards with moderation, because you don’t want people to grow tired of seeing your work and not take you serious. If you just use common sense, you’ll do fine. Woo your readers a little bit, make them want to read your work.

Please don’t lie about your work either, you’ll lose all credibility with your readers. It might work for a little while, but if you get exposed… *yikes*. I’ve seen people pull some weird pranks to make their work look acclaimed. It’s very shady.

Now having said all that, I found that the world is a weird place. It’s very difficult to get your work out there. I hear you, and I feel the same way. I haven’t been doing this that long yet, but I do ‘okay’. I’m not unhappy for the reason that I’m only just starting out and I have big plans for the future *grin*.

We’ve been working on some promotional campaigns, and some are more successful than others. It’s pretty much trial and error when you start out. Then last night I was in a silly mood and I tried something different and a little weird. Let me explain.

For days I’ve been seeing these “share this picture to show my daughter / students/ whoever how fast pictures circulate the internet.” Each time I saw one of those I thought: I wish my books would circulate that fast. I told my husband and my daughter about it, and Elora said “why don’t you do that then?” To be honest, I thought it was too gimmicky and said ‘no’ at first.

Yes, I actually did this!
Then last night I thought “Oh what the heck!” (yes I still think it’s gimmicky, but I choose to be a hypocrite, thank you) and I placed my two books under my Christmas tree before I put Elora to bed, put a note on it. I really should have let her hold the books instead, that would have made it even funnier, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

And what do you know… within 24 minutes I had 24 shares. And this morning I had near 50. Elora was thrilled, and I’m sure she’ll come out of school today and ask me ‘how many do we have now?’

The sad part is that I actually get more response on this ‘meme’ about my work, than I do about the campaigns we have. I try to share things with my drawings too, and that never has this much effect. So… the lesson I’ve learned? Be very explicit that you want your work shared. It doesn’t help if you want to send a message if you don’t spell it out for the people in the world that you want them to share it.

Now it’ll be a while before I do something for mass sharing again, I don’t want to annoy my friends and followers, but it’s been an interesting lesson. I started this as a bit of a laugh, but I’ve learned many lessons.

So marketing tips? Get your work out there as much as you can, but don’t over saturate. Don’t post the same links for the same people over and over and over and over again. You might get one of two sales out of it, but you’ll probably chase away more people that could have been potential customers for your other work.

Engage your audience. Be about the readers and answer questions and ‘show your face’ so to speak. Participate in book events to get to know more readers.

Help other authors too, they might return the favor.

Find good bloggers. Bloggers are often more credible than the reviews on Amazon. To be honest, no
matter how much I love each and every review I’ve had on Amazon and Goodreads, the whole ‘fake review’ scandal has made me a bit wary about what is real and what is not. I’ve seen 5 star glorious reviews for books that were train wrecks. I won’t be the only one who is skeptical out there, especially avid readers will trust (the right) bloggers more than they will trust reviews on random bookselling sites. (And now I’m going to completely contradict myself… because I can) at the same time reviews can really improve your visibility on Amazon and Goodreads and push buyers in the right direction to buy your work… so it’s a bit of a double edged sword there.

I know I’m not lighting my cigars with hundred dollar bills yet. It’s a struggle to get your work out there and to get sales. And feel free to ignore my advice, it’s just one woman’s humble opinion. And if you have any good marketing / promotion tips, I’m always happy to hear them!



dinsdag 10 december 2013


Right now I’m juggling several projects and I’ve noticed my heart’s not in any of them. This sort of sucks, because I really don’t want to start up yet another new project, it’s time to finish something.

Currently I’m in the middle of editing ‘Pride’ which will be the first novelette in my ‘Even Hell Has Standards’ series, and it’s a new version of the old story ‘Only Forgotten’. That piece is at my editor’s right now, so in the meanwhile I’m working on other things.

At this moment I have three projects to choose from (besides Pride): “Alleria, Celestials and Coyote 2.” Because we’re working on an agent search for the Coyote series, I decided that the sequel will have to wait a little while, because I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do with the series.

Alleria is a finished first draft, but when I started re-reading it I decided that I wanted to switch from first person present tense to third person past tense. This means I have to rewrite the whole thing. And that’s before I start editing and sharpening the story (though I’ll do that as I go too). It’s a little disheartening and I’m not even sure if I’m making the right decisions. Sometimes it’s really tough to figure out what’s best for a story. I wish I trusted my own instincts better than I do.

Then there’s Celestials, which is 75% done at 89.000 words, but it needs a lot of work too. And I have to get back into the story.

The question is: “what story will do me more good in the short term? Which one should I finish first?”

At this moment in time I’m feeling a little creatively empty. On the one hand I have a lot of story ideas, but getting them to paper isn’t really working. And I keep feeling very disappointed with what I write. It’s affecting my mood a little, and I’m not too happy with it.  I’ll snap out of this soon enough, I know I will. And when I do I will go at these stories with full gusto. For now I’m still undecided, so I’ll probably end up tinkering on both stories, until I make up my mind.

vrijdag 6 december 2013


Most of you know by now that my first novel “Coyote: The Outlander” is the first in a series. Some of you might even know that this book actually started out as a short story, or even further back, because Coyote was my role play character for a Deadlands campaign we had going in my early twenties.

Old Coyote drawing
Old Coyote drawing

First Coyote drawing made somewhere in 2000
I always wanted to give her a story of her very own and when I was asked to write something for the Indiana Science Fiction anthology in 2012, I somehow thought I could use Coyote for my story. Because it was meant for a science fiction anthology, I decided to work with aliens. It worked for Cowboys versus aliens (though I have to admit I never actually saw more than 20 minutes of that movie) and I love Firefly which is Cowboys in space. I decided to work with my own form of Aliens, because I wanted them to be more like either ‘humans’ or ‘monsters’ than I wanted them to be like cliché ‘aliens’, and I ended up calling them Outlanders. Using the rips in the fabric of time and reality helped me play around with the world.

I set out to write this 4000 word story. I had the whole story in my head and when I started to write it, I realized I couldn’t tell it in 4000 words. Instead I wrote ‘the Deal’ for Indiana Sci-fi and I made a longer short story out of Coyote for some competition I then considered entering, which allowed me 10.000 words.

10.000 wasn’t enough either, and after talking to my husband, we both agreed Coyote deserved a novel of her own. Together with the second screen pieces I told her story in 45.000 words, and it’s still not done… because there will be four more books.

During my journey with Coyote I discovered a lot more about Steampunk, and it’s no surprise really that I decided to use more Steampunk visuals in the setting of the second book entitled ‘The Clockwork Dragonfly.’

But writing a sequel is not as easy as I thought. Sure I have a story in mind, and it’s one I quite enjoy. Yet there are a lot of new factors when you’re writing a sequel.

For one… I want my characters to experience growth. This is not as easy as it may sound, because you create certain expectations with your characters, and you need to stick to that as well, but they can’t become monotonous. As a reader I’ve read so many series that failed to let their characters grow, and I always found it very irritating. In many occasions I really got bored with a series and couldn’t make it past book three, before wanting to hurl books across the room. It’s easy to judge as a reader, but as a writer… it’s not easy to create a subtle and natural growth for your characters.

One of the writers who does this really well is JK Rowling. Harry Potter went through an amazing journey and grew up throughout the books, while he still remained a believable character. I really admire JK’s skill… especially now that I’m attempting to do the same. Coyote started off as a 23 year old, so her growth should not be as steep as Harry Potter’s. However her discovery (not going to give spoilers, so read the book, lol) will change her, and the dynamics in the relationships.

And then there are the other characters around her who need to grow as well. I can’t keep Caesar as her shadow throughout five books, I need to give him his own journey, without taking away from the original feel of the stories.

When I wrote Coyote I wanted the books to be fun. But fun should be interspersed with a little bit of tragedy too, to keep the story interesting. It’s difficult to find the balance in having a more in depth storyline, while still making it fun. I have more experience in writing horror and misery than I have in writing ‘fun’, so there lies another challenge.

Right now I’m juggling with characters and relationships and still having the story move forwards. At the same time I’m trying to remember the little inane details about the characters I’ve used in the books before.

Today I was wondering what I named Coyote’s horse. The plan for her horse was to make it her mother’s horse and make it an Outlander too, but somewhere along the line I decided that this would be too much ‘loose plot’ and wouldn’t really add to the story, so I took that part out… but I actually didn’t remember if I named the horse or not. Little things like that can get confusing. I try to keep a lot of notes, but remembering what Savage Sam looked like made me have to go through the book again.

It’s fun writing sequels, but it’s a lot harder than I gave it credit for. I hope I can make a nice series out of the Coyote novels, and keep my readers interested and not invoke the ‘I want to throw the book across the room’ feelings.