Monday, October 14, 2019

I've Been Busy On Pinterest, Too

In addition to the website and Twitter work I described yesterday, I updated my Pinterest board Connecticut Childlit Author Appearances. These are appearances that I attended, myself. Or, in a couple of cases, was part of.

They all have links back to Original Content posts covering the events.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Kitchens, Bathrooms, And Websites Don't Age Well

Author photo for new homepage.
It seems as if it was just four years and ten months ago that I was all excited about a website rework. Well, now I've done another. The latest one involved extensive changes to the homepage, some deletions and minor reworking on other pages.

What We Did Last Time

In 2015 I was interested in using color on both my Facebook page and Twitter banner as a sort of brand. I'd read an article on personal branding that said colors have attributes and yellow's is supposed to be creativity, intellect, and energy. But I am not a pastel person, so we went with gold, which I thought of as yellow-ish. That meant a tremendous amount of work for my computer guy, because he had to carry the color to every single page of the website, not just the homepage.

We kept the same color this time. We also kept the same fonts. This meant far less work and time.

What We Did Do This Time

I write and submit adult work, as well as children's, so I wanted my homepage to reflect that more. Additionally, while I like a homepage that contains information immediately, so users don't have to wait for some fancy work-of-art to load before looking for links, my homepage had become very text heavy. I was concerned that the amount of reading was turning visitors off, and that they weren't continuing deeper into the website where there was even more content.

What we have now is what I think of as a preview page. Each link has an image from the page it leads, too, which I hope will encourage visitors to move into the site, itself. And, of course, there are still images for each of my books, so that visitors can go directly to information about each of them.

Author Websites Need To Keep Changing

As a reader of other authors' websites, I've seen many changes over the years. Because so many websites change, the ones that don't begin to look very dated.

Much like kitchens and bathrooms. I'm very sensitive about old kitchens and bathrooms. And websites.

By the way, I've also done a little updating to my Twitter banner. It now has a photo image of my books, instead of a spread of book covers, and the same new picture of me that we're using on the website.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Thursdays!

I stumbled upon 15 Time Management Strategies for Freelancers at while on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. As a general rule with these listicle time management things I find a lot of the same old, same old or they don't relate to things writers can use. Maybe I find one interesting offering.

And that was the case with this article. What did I find that was interesting, that I think writers can use?

"Thursday Debriefings: Use Thursday as your day to review your progress over the week and identify the projects you need to complete by the weekend."

Yes! I actually did this for quite a while a few years ago, in a What Did You Do This Week, Gail? feature here at the blog. Every Friday I would do a post on how I had used my time for that year's objectives. I would prepare it on Thursday nights, and if I found that I was behind on the social media related goals, I hustled to promote blog posts to Twitter, Facebook communities, Goodreads, and, at that time, Google+. Thursday night was a catch-up night.

What Can You Do With Thursdays?

  • Use them regularly to check in to make sure you're spending your time on your work goals.
  • Use them to catch up with small tasks.
  • Use them to to decide what you haven't done this week that you really wanted to do, that being how you'll spend the rest of your work week.
So, keep the Power of Thursdays in mind.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Weekend Writer: More Publishing Reality

Last month, How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying by Heather Demetrios was getting a lot of attention in the Twitter circles I travel in. If I didn't get e-mail notices from The Millions, I wouldn't have heard about Russell Rowland's article published there in mid-September about his publishing experience.

Russell (I am referring to him as Russell because we were kind of acquainted years ago through the Readerville writers' community) covers his twenty year experience as a writer in The Long, Winding Road to Publication. Why is his essay not getting a lot of attention, the way the essays on the writing life written by other authors have over the years? 

I think it's his acceptance of and appreciation of the reality of that writing life. "I ended up working with whoever would have me, in most cases regional publishers in Montana. And I have nothing negative to say about any of those people." He writes about what it's like to meet writers he admires and have them dismiss him as an unknown writer. But I don't get a sense of bitterness from him. It's more a "this is how it is" sort of thing.

He recognizes the seduction of the stereotypical big author's life, but at the same time, when he asks the question "Is it possible to be happy as someone who has a small, loyal following?" he answers, "As a matter of fact, yes it is."

For those of you starting out, this is the kind of publishing reality essay you want to end up writing in twenty years. 

Russell has a new book, Cold Country, coming out from Dzanc Books next month. According to the publisher's description, it involves a murder.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Multi-Media Fun

I've been watching Dix Pour Cent (known as Call My Agent on Netflix). It's a French TV show about an agency of actors' (not writers') agents. It's in French with English subtitles, which gives me a chance to pick up a (very) few French phrases ( parce que mon francais est tres mauvais).  It is a very entertaining show. Those agents do carry on.

Watching foreign TV shows with subtitles is relaxing, because I can't do anything while doing it excupt read said subtitles. This explains why I watched two seasons of a show from Iceland.

Today I listened to Suzie Townsend & Ten Questions with a Literary Agent, a Write or Die podcast. It's a totally different experience. Nothing to see, nothing to read. What Townsend has to say about agents' assistants made me think of the agents' assistants in  Dix Pour Cent, though.

Agents' assistants appear to do a great deal.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Boarding School Book Number 1

I picked up Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson because it falls into that YA mystery/thriller category I'm interested in this year. Additionally, I've read other books by Johnson that I've liked. What's more, this book deals with a contemporary character who is trying to solve a mystery in the past. I just happen to have a completed unsold middle grade manuscript with that scenario.

Stevie Bell has been accepted into Ellingham Academy in Vermont, which she wants to attend because of the murders connected with the place back in the 1930s. She's interested in becoming a detective and solving the Ellingham Academy case, she believes, will bring her closer to her goal.

I like the historical period in which the murders occurred. Yes, it's true. I have many historical periods I long as they're nineteenth into twentieth centuries.

The setting for this book is great for me, too. Stevie and her parents start out on I-89 from Burlington. I was just there at the end of August! I've done the I-89 route many times over the years. And when they get off the highway onto a "smaller road dotted with stores and farms and signs for skiing, glassblowing and maple sugar candy?" I bet that's the road that goes past Waterbury to Stowe.

Truly Devious works for me in almost all ways. My main complaint? It's the first in a serial. I've enjoyed serials in the past, but mainly completed ones that I could binge read. I will admit, I will keep my eye out for Book 2, The Vanishing Stair, which was reviewed in the March/April The Horn Book. The reviewer highly recommends reading Truly Devious first, though she also says it's a "fulfilling second volume."

And, she says, information is held back for a third volume.

Well, I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of The Vanishing Stair in the next month or so. Which I guess is why serials exist.

This is, as I said, a YA mystery/thriller, part of my study of the genre. What am I taking from this? So far, the romantic or physical attractions in this book do not overwhelm the story or world, as they so often do. The romances seem to exist because this is a teenage world, and teenagers do this sort of thing. There is a logic to it. It becomes part of the setting.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

This is a big, big month for Connecticut children's literature. Since there will be no Connecticut Children's Literature Fair in November, I'm guessing #CTchildlit activity will peak in October.  

Tues., Oct. 1, Jennifer Thermes, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Thurs., Oct. 3, Elizabeth Eulberg, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Sat., Oct. 5, Jenna Grodzicki, Barnes & Noble, Canton 11:00 AM          

Sat., Oct. 5, Michael BelangerPegi Dietz Shea, Sarah Darer Littman, Marilyn Nelson, Chandra Prasad, Cindy Rodriguez, Connecticut Literary Festival, Real Art Ways, Hartford  Scroll this page to check times and learn of other presenters.

Sun., Oct. 6, Jeanne Zulich Ferruolo, That Bookstore, Wethersfield 2:00 PM

Mon., Oct. 7, Kwame Alexander, Sea Tea Theater, Hartford 5:30 to 8:00 Registration now closed

Thurs., Oct. 10, Jake Burt, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Fri, Oct. 11, Raj Haldar, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 4:00 PM

Wed., Oct. 16, Katie Melko, Avon Free Public Library, Avon  11:30 AM

Wed., Oct. 16, Beth Vrabel, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 6:00 PM

Sat., Oct. 19, Wendell Minor, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot  2:00 PM

Sun., Oct. 20, Connecticut Book Awards Ceremony, Reception, Book Signing with finalists as well as winners, Hartford Public Library 3:00 to 5:30 PM Registration and fee

Sun., Oct. 20, Jeanne Zulich Ferruolo, Bank Square Books, Mystic 4:00 PM

Fri., Oct. 25, Brendan Wenzel, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 6:30 PM

Sat., Oct. 26, Jerry Craft, Bank Square Books, Mystic 4:00 PM

Sun., Oct. 27, Jenna Grodzicki, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 10:30 AM

Tues., Oct. 29, Grace Lin, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Wed., Oct. 30, Rebecca Behrens, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 6:30 PM

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Crash! And What It Has Done To My Time

I'm the one who has crashed, not my computer.

Though my computer is involved in part of it

My Laptop Is Destroying My Body

I started using a laptop six years ago. I've worn the letters off some of the keys I've used this thing so much. I spent at least one summer working on it while sitting on a couch in my sun room, with the laptop literally on my lap. I spent nearly six years of evenings working on it in the evening while sitting on the couch in the living watching TV.

I ended up with upper body pain probably for a year or two before I put two and two together and realized hunching over a computer was a contributing factor. I was able to turn that around quite a bit by working on straightening my posture both while working and doing everything else in life.

Then maybe six or eight weeks ago, while I was still dealing with Lyme issues, I was working away on the couch one evening, typing over some old journal notes into my laptop, when I experienced an excruciating pain from my shoulder to my elbow. No, I wasn't having a heart attack. I self-diagnosed a pinched nerve. It took days to clear up totally.

I haven't worked on the laptop in the evening since.

What My Laptop Messing With My Body Is Doing To My Time

Now, remember, I actually worked in the evening on the laptop while I was watching Blacklist, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and a variety of scifish shows on Netflix. What was I doing? Blogging. Promoting the blog on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and, before it, too, crashed, Google+. I spent a week of evenings most months working on the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. We're talking hours of work a week. When's that stuff going to get done?

  • During my daily writing time? That seems counterproductive.
  • Weekends? I have been doing more on Sundays, which is laughable. After the death in our family last spring, I decided to make Sunday a Sabbath rest and diversion day. Try to attend church more often. Go for walks. Kick up yoga those days. Watch movies on TV. Read. I got back from a bike ride this past Sunday and then spent an hour or two on a blog post. So having to take on more work on weekends, in a word, sucks.
  • I could drop some of this stuff, but I'm too obsessive.


It's Not As If My Daily Schedule Was So Fantastic To Begin With

I use the unit system to manage my work days. (Also known as segmented time.) I work 45 minutes with a 15 minute break to trick my mind into thinking it's starting afresh when I go back to work. Also, there's always the possibility that I'll have a breakout experience regarding whatever I'm working on during those 15 minutes.

Well, here's the thing. With those unit system/segmented time plans you're supposed to use the fifteen minute breaks for things like going for walks, meditating, maybe some reading. I use mine to get started cleaning a bathroom. Get some food cooking. Mop a room. Bake a cake. Go to the store. I do a lot food prep things with my 15 minute breaks, because even before my laptop turned on me, I was on diets for what ailed me. To the point that I work near the kitchen instead of in the office so I'm never far from the stove.

In short, those 15-minute breaks have been stretching longer and longer, while  the 45-minute work periods have been getting shorter and shorter.

The not-working-in-the-evening issue added to my personal vs. professional life boundary weakening has caused a bit of stress. Which I am looking at as a challenge.

I am trying a totally new workday, which I will write about in a few weeks when I've had a little more practice with it. It's shiny and new. Shiny, new things are exciting.

A Positive Coming Out Of All This

Now that I'm not working a couple of hours every evening, I seem to be sleeping better at night. Grab whatever gold rings you see coming your way.

Okay. Done with this. I'm going to go clean a toilet.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Weekend Writer: Publishing Reality

This past week I saw some references to "that publishing article" on Twitter. I found it so you don't have to look for it.

Initial Thoughts 

  • How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying by Heather Demetrios deals with an author's disappointing experience with publishing her work. Another such essay got a lot of attention a few years ago. I don't want to say Demetrios's experience is common, but it's not totally unusual, either.
  • Demetrios is dealing with the stress she experienced by looking at it through a tend-and-befriend mindset.  (Discussed here recently in my time management feature.) She is trying to publicize the problems she encountered in order to assist other writers. Just thought I'd mention that since this seems like such a good example of a writer doing tend-and-befriend.
Demetrios's article deals with two issues: how she managed her income from publishing and her sales once her books were published.

The Money

First off, 99 percent of the people reading this post won't have to worry about handling six-figure advances, two of them, which is what Demetrios received.  According to agent Jennifer Laughran, advances for children's/YA writers are more like this: "Many new authors will probably be offered $4-8,000 on a debut picture book text-only to a normal mid-sized traditional publisher. $5-12,000 on a chapter book. $8-20,000 on a middle grade novel. $12-30,000 on a YA." Demetrios is a YA author so her first advance of $100,000 for two books was very good. The next year she got another advance of $250,000 for three books. Again, a lot of money, but, keep in mind she still had to write the second book on the first two-book deal, and probably at least two of the trilogy books.

Here's something I don't think she mentions in her article: It's unlikely she got either of those advances all at once. In days of old, you got half your advance on signing the contract and half on publication. Nowadays, you get it in three payments: on signing, on turning in a completed manuscript, on publication. If you have an agent, a percentage goes to him or her. Taxes need to be deducted. So Demetrios probably never had a huge amount of money in her pocket at any one time.

In her essay, she discusses various mistakes she made in terms of handling the money she did have, to make the best use of it and to make it last as long as possible. You can  read about those for yourselves. Personally, I think the basic mistake she made was believing that because she'd made two big sales, she was established and could expect to continue selling books to publishers and make a living that way. That happens for a very small percentage of writers. Writing is market driven. Your product has to sell in order more of it to be picked up by the middle people who sell it. For us, that's publishers.

You can find a lot of information on-line about the business of marketing. Jennifer Laughran's REAL TALK: $ix Figure Book Deal$ from 2015 (quoted above) is one example. An Agent Explains the Ins and Outs of Book Deals by Kate McKean at Electric Lit is another.

If you are a children's or YA writer who has received an advance and can use some of it for something other than food, shelter, and health care, you might want to consider joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It puts out a publication four times a year that always carries a column on taxes, for one thing. It sponsors writing groups and, in my region, anyway, meet and greets that are free, for another. There are also various SCBWI Facebook groups. Spending time with other writers could provide some information on their experiences in publishing.

Book Sales

One of  Heather Demetrios's books won an award, she got starred reviews, she did promotional work with a website and interviews, guest posts, and podcast appearances. One publisher sent her on a book tour. But sales were still disappointing.

What went wrong here? Maybe nothing. Seriously, I don't think there's anything that can really be done to make a book successful.

Sure, you want to go with the best editing and production values, a beautiful cover, attention from reviewers, a social media campaign. But many, many books get that and don't generate enough sales to make back what the publisher gave the author for an advancement. It's a mystery.

And when a book does become successful, there's often no way to determine why that happened, either. There's no way of putting a finger on what marketing or promotional investment did the trick.

The best advice I've heard offered for dealing with this dilemma is to move on to writing the next book. Even though it may mean a smaller advance. And, once again, try to network with other writers. Because misery loves company.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

CT Book Award Finalists And That Other Award Long List Announced

The Connecticut Book Award Finalists for 2019 have been announced. The nominees for Young Readers Fiction, Nonfiction, and Picture Book are


The History of Jane Doe – Michael Belanger
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle – Leslie Connor

The Rhino in Right Field – Stacy DeKeyser
Lifeboat 12 – Susan Hood
Young Readers – Nonfiction
Shark Quest: Protecting the Ocean’s Top Predators – Karen Romano Young

Young Readers – Picture Book
I’m Sad – Michael Black, Author
Night Train, Night Train – Wendell Minor, Illustrator

I'm having trouble finding information about when the winners will be announced.  Also, does it look to anyone else as if it will be a major upset if Karen Romano Young doesn't get the award for nonfiction?

UPDATE: I've got the winner announcement info! The ceremony is on October 20 at the Hartford Public Library at 3pm. Philip Caputo, co-winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of A Rumor of War, is the keynote speaker. A reception will follow with a book signing for finalists, as well as winners, and books will be available for purchase. This event is open to the public. Registration is requested and there is a registration fee. Which is, I believe, half of what it was years ago when I was a finalist. Good news!

That Other Award

The New Yorker has the list of 2019 National Book Awards finalists for young people's literature. I believe this list will become shorter before a winner is selected. But you know me. My knowledge of book awards isn't all that great.