Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: The Impact Of Stress On Time Management

My family member the archivist has, for many years, been studying and preserving old television. For the last twenty months, he's also been the daytime caregiver for a baby, now toddler. Recently he said that he frequently can't work during toddler nap time, because he's worn out from the twenty-four hour a day stress of dealing with what a child should be eating, how he should be sleeping, whether or not he is sick, why he is crying, and keeping him safe and alive. When he gets a break because someone is napping, the archivist finds himself collapsing in front of the TV or with his phone. The stress of Dad Life often makes it difficult for him to take advantage of his small amounts of work time.

This was very interesting to me, because I had just experienced a drop in my stress level after many years of dealing with another family member's illness. I had less to do, less hanging over my head, and less to worry about. Was this new lack of stress, I wondered, going to have some kind of positive impact on how I managed my time?

What Time Does To Stress Is Not The Same As What Stress Does To Time


I went out looking for information on this situation and didn't find much. There's a lot written on weak time management skills causing stress, but far less on stress causing a collapse in time management. One article I did find, How Stress Affects Your Work Performance by Christina Hamlett at the Houston Chronicle's website, deals with stress in traditional work places. A couple of points that could pertain to people who work for themselves:

  1. Stress contributes to job burnout and strained relationships. What happens with people who work alone and have no relationships to strain? Maybe burnout was what was contributing to my family member collapsing during nap time instead of working. Or my struggle to get up in the mornings because here's another day of problems, what's the hurry? Or get up off the couch at night to go to bed.
  2. Stress affects ability to remember things, evidently both short- and long-term, and makes you easily distracted. Do I have any new followers on Twitter this morning? I should look again this afternoon. Have any of my friends posted pictures on Facebook? Oops. Gotta go check my blog stats.
  3. Stress pounds away at your health. It's hard to work if you're sick. Or going to the doctor. Or the pharmacy. Or using the Internet to research what's wrong with you, which kind of relates to what we were just talking about with being distracted. 

 

Some Why From The Time Management Tuesday Archives


Speaking of archives, as we were earlier,a few things we've talked about here at OC's Time Management Tuesday feature could relate to what's happening when we're stressed enough to blow up our ability to manage time.

  • According to our old friend Kelly McGonigal in The Willpower Instinct, people who are distracted have poor impulse control and are less likely to be able to stay on long-term goals. Stressors...hugely distracting. And then there is the What-the-Hell Effect. In the case of people under stress, the more worn-out they get and less they do because of it, the worse they feel about their ability to get anything done and...What the Hell? They might as well watch TV during work time. They might as well stay in bed another half hour.
  • Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says that a big part of the reason procrastinators procrastinate is that they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Say what you want about social media, it can be an immediate feelgood. McGonigal also writes about how undermining feeling bad can be in The Upside of Stress. People who are shamed or frightened by their doctors over things like weight, smoking, or drinking, frequently engage in those behaviors even more, because now they feel bad. They're humiliated and frightened, and the quickest way to escape those feelings for them is eating, smoking, or drinking. Well, people under stress feel bad. Often for years, if the stressor is child rearing or eldercare. TV, bed, and the Internet are immediate feel goods. Work, not so much. This spring I've noticed people on Twitter tweeting that they're having a bad day and asking to see images of cats, because that will make them feel better. I'd rather look at celebrity gossip on my tablet while lying in bed in the morning or plastered to the couch at night, but to each of us our own immediate escape. 

 

So What?


Well, exactly. We've got some why, but can we do anything about stress's impact on our work time? I've got a couple of things in the OC archive that might help, and I've started a summer blog read,  The Upside of Stress, which I mentioned above. I know I've said I was reading it before, but I must have gotten distracted or stressed or something. I'm really reading it now.

More to come.



Monday, June 17, 2019

Magical Old People In Children's Books

Last night I finished reading a realistic middle grade novel in which an old woman appears way too conveniently in order to help our heroine with a far-fetched situation. She's what I think of as a magical old person, a secondary character in a children's book who appears for the sole purpose of helping the main character and providing life lessons. In my experience, most magical old people die by the end of the story, as the one in last night's book did. Because, you know, that's the very best life lesson.

Well-read child readers must catch on to the fact that if you have an old person in a book directed toward them, dollars to doughnuts you're going to have a death. Old people are like dogs in kids' books.

I want to write a middle-grade novel with an old woman who's a bitch-on-wheels. Not only will she survive the story, she may blow something up. 


Thursday, June 13, 2019

So What Do Writers Do All Day? Not Write, Obviously.

I'm not a fan of accounts of how writers spend their days. This is totally because I once read an article in which a poet described his typical day. It involved reading the paper, going for a walk, and taking a nap. Maybe with his wife. I remember thinking something along the lines of, Please, God, no.

Nonetheless, I had an interesting day on Monday, one that is not representative of anything in particular but one that in its very lack of representation represents something, even if I'm not sure what.

Morning


Frittered this away, the whole stinking thing. That includes a mile and a half walk. So...yikes.

Afternoon


Lost!
This is where the interesting part starts. I need to make some significant changes in a character in an adult book I've been working on. I wanted to go over my research, some of which involved a book I bought specifically for this project...and read...a number of years ago. So I spent the afternoon turning the office upside down and going over the living room bookshelves over and over again looking for it.

No luck. At first, I couldn't even remember the name of the thing and consider it quite an achievement that I was able to work that out with some Internet research.  My fear is that I decided I was through with it and tossed it while I was starting an office clean-out that I never finished.
Found!

This book definitely had an impact on what I'm doing with my book, and, yet, I cannot find any notes I took, either on paper or on my computer. Yes, my research skills are not what you'd call skills.

Something good came out of this experience. I found a bookend that's been missing for six months or so. It was where you'd expect it to be, on a shelf between a couple of books. This gives me hope that God's Daughters will show up someday, too. Along with my mother's checkbook and a heating pad that are also lost.

Evening


So on Monday evening, I went to my NESCBWI writers' group, the first meeting I've made in a year. Somebody got sick in May, 2018, and I missed some time for that. Then I was working on an adult book and wouldn't have anything to bring to the meeting so I didn't go while that was going on. Someone got sick again in January, 2019, so I stayed away for that. I wasn't enthusiastic about going this week, because I'm still working on an adult book, so I don't have anything to read at the group. Also, I'm aware through group e-mails I've been receiving that there are a lot of new group members. What if they were doing things differently? And, you know, going to these things means getting home around 9:00, which is the middle of the freaking night.

I was not up for this, at all, but I keep reading that you need social connections or your mind goes to pieces, so that is, absolutely, the reason I changed my clothes and dragged myself to that group meeting.

To make a long story short, I had a good time, got some marketing ideas, and finished the evening drinking with friends in the rain by the side of the road afterwards. I was looking forward to going back before I'd even left.

What's The Point, Gail?


It turns out, my Monday does represent something. What it represents is the amount of time writers can spend on writer-related activity without actually writing. This is not an original observation. The point has been made before, that writers can spend a lot of time "working" without writing.

Speaking of points, another interesting one is that in spite of the loss of my morning, I felt very good about Monday. Though, remember, I didn't do any writing.



Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Not All YA Is Obvious YA

I recently finished reading The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, the first in a series of four YA historical mysteries. It's set in the nineteenth century and ends with a couple of feminist twists I appreciated. I grabbed it on a Kindle sale, because historical mysteries are something I read. My Kindle is loaded with them. My heirs will find them.

How These Historical Mysteries Work


Okay, so I've read dozens of these things...dozens. And the dozens and dozens of the adult historical mysteries set in the nineteenth century that I've read involve a female/male couple, who meet angry, end up with lots of sexual tension, and, after a few books, sex. At least one part of the couple is either tormented or has some torment in his/her past. One or the other of them ends up in physical danger that the other one saves them from. As a general rule, the characters are of more interest than the mysteries. And, in my experience, many of these series do the literary equivalent of jumping the shark at some point, and the characters and the sex aren't enough to keep you reading.

"A Spy in the House" And The Historical Mystery Pattern


A Spy in the House pretty much follows the pattern for the first book in one of these series. The female lead has a rough background, she's in conflict with the male lead, at least one of them ends up in physical danger and the other one saves the day. The ending may or may not be typical of these series. I'd have to read the next book to see.

A couple of times references are made to the leads' ages. The male is twenty, the female seventeen, but that's pretty much the only way we know how young they are. At the halfway point, something comes out about the female character's family and background that adds a bit of search for identity to the book world, something that is YA-ish. But it isn't a major part of the rest of the story. The sexual tension isn't very high in this book, though there's enough to suggest something could come of it down the line. This lower key love interest could be a nod to the YA audience.

Otherwise, this is pretty much an adult book with teen characters. The teens could be pulled out and replaced with adults with very little effort.

Nothing Wrong Here


A Spy in the House isn't the first book I've seen that works like this.  Au Revoir Crazy European Chick from 2012 has an adult-like character in an adult-like thriller geared toward teen readers. I Hunt Killers, also from 2012, is a teen Dexter. Illuminae from 2015 is a science fiction space thriller in which teen characters definitely function in very adult ways.

There's nothing wrong with any of this. We're just not talking books with traditional YA themes and YA situations. At most there may be a loose connection to a missing parent to tie the books to the genre. Otherwise, you could imagine any number of adult actors playing these characters in the movie adaptation.

And that is probably the point. These books give teen readers an opportunity to imagine themselves in far more adult and thrilling roles than those they find in more traditional contemporary YA books.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Author Jennifer Blecher Talks About Publishing "Out of Place"

Last night after an early dinner out, I hit the River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury, Connecticut where debut author Jennifer Blecher was speaking about the publication of her first book, Out of Place.
She gave a very smooth, comfortable talk on finding agents and dealing with editors on the "island of Manhattan," the home of the publishing world. She did very well, particularly considering the book was only released four days earlier.

I have not read my copy yet, but I can say it is a beautifully designed book.

So I met and talked with Jennifer, ran into writers' group friend Nancy Tandon and introduced her to my husband, chatted with the River Bend people about Dog Man--they are fans--all after having enjoyed a nice chicken margengo and glass of pinot grigio. This is what we call a night out at my house.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Can Traditionally Published Authors Market Their E-books?

I believe I've mentioned this once or twice before, but in case you missed it, all eight of my published books are out-of-print in paper. But four are "in-print," so to speak, as e-books. (Look to your left. Scroll down a bit. Not too much. There they are.) My publisher published e-book editions of my last three books with the company, as publishers do these days. I got the rights back to one of my older out-of-print books and republished it as an e-book myself.

Well, I received my royalty statement a few days ago, and imagine my surprise to find that all three of the e-books from my publisher have sold some copies. We're talking a number small enough that I'm not going to mention it here, but all three of them sold something. Usually maybe one will sell something during the period the statement covers.


I checked my Saving the Planet sales on Amazon, and, damn, I'd sold a few e-books there, too. (I think one was to a family member who just got a Kindle.)

Now, in all likelihood, this "surge" in sales is some random event in the universe. Nonetheless, it brought to mind a thought I've had before and may have written about here but, of course, can't find. And that is...

If Traditionally Published Authors Are Out-of-Print In Paper, Should They  Market Their E-Books?

 

In my experience, most authors published by traditional publishers that include an e-book edition with their publication plans (as many do nowadays), treat those e-books as if they don't exist. Paper
and print is all. This makes sense for authors whose paper-and-print books are in print, because they are usually more expensive than the e-books, so a paper-and-print sale is worth more. Additionally, it's easier to support a paper-and-print book with appearances at bookstores and festivals. E-books are invisible. It's hard to make a public appearance for them.

How much do writers focus on paper-and-print books over e-books? I read an article this winter, which, of course, I can't find now, in which a number of pretty well-known authors were asked their opinion on what authors should do when their books go out of print. Try to find another publisher? Republish themselves?  Every single one of those people said the equivalent of "Give it up and move on, folks. That horse is dead, don't waste your time beating it. There are other books in the sea waiting for you to write them."

Except...the horse isn't quite dead. There's an e-book edition. And while e-books aren't big sellers in children's publishing, they do much better in some adult genres. Your book is available for purchase by anyone with an e-reader. For that matter, library users are able to access e-books for their readers through their libraries, so, somehow, libraries or organizations they are connected with buy them. Should you be doing your bit to market them, just as you would to market the print book?

Who Should Consider This Question?


  • For authors who are publishing regularly, marketing their print books will probably still be their top interest, because that's where the money is. And, you know, you've moved on. Unless, of course, you have a book out-of-print in print that you really like a lot, and you'd like to see it get more readers. In that case, e-books will be more important to you.
  • Then you have authors who publish a book and then find themselves, for whatever reason, out of print before they've found a publisher for book two. But they've got their e-book edition out there, ready for purchase.
  • You also have writers who have been published multiple times and then find themselves, for whatever reason, in a long dry spell. They may have multiple e-book editions out there, ready for purchase. 

 

What's To Be Gained By Marketing E-books?


  • If you can generate sales of e-books, you can show potential publishers that you're capable of marketing.
  • If your print book went out-of-print before it had earned back your advance, your publisher lost money on you. Money generated from e-book sales goes toward that advance. You're showing potential publishers that you're capable of continuing to make money for them, even after your print book is gone.
  • If your print book went out-of-print after it had earned back your advance, you'll collect royalties on e-book sales. 

 

How Can Traditionally Published Authors Market "Traditionally" Published E-books?


Well, there's the big money question. You could try looking to self-publishing for a model, but writers who self-publish e-books have control over their books in a way that traditionally published authors don't. They can change the price, for instance, creating sales periods, which traditionally published authors can't do, because the publishing company is the publisher and controls that. Nor can traditionally published authors tinker with any of the Amazon details for their e-books. Again, that's the publisher's business. On top of all that, most self-publishing how-to's for marketing e-books relate to publishing new e-books. The e-book edition of an out-of-print book could be five, ten, or more years old. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it is difficult getting marketing attention for the e-book edition of an out-of-print book. A bazillion books are published every year. The shiny and new get attention.

You probably shouldn't be putting tremendous effort into marketing backlist e-books. Tremendous effort should be going into writing new books to become your future backlist e-books. Go for less labor intensive marketing:

  • Make sure your website includes information on how visitors can buy your e-books.
  • Make sure visitors to your blog can see your e-books and follow links to purchasing information, too. (Look to your left. Scroll up a bit. Up some more. There they are.)
  • Include their images on your Twitter banner.  
  • Be active on social media. E-book readers curious about you may decide to try out an available e-book. Especially if you have a cheap one.  
  • Find opportunities to mention your available e-books or use their images. Yes, the way I have in this post.  
Whatever you do, don't ever say that your book is only available as an e-book. There is nothing lesser about e-books.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A Taekwondo/Writing Analogy

Box o' TKD Belts
You haven't seen me write about taekwondo in...ah...maybe six years, which was when I quit training. But I'm still going through my old writers' journals and found a post about breaking boards.

Everybody loves breaking boards, by the way.

Back in 2008 I wrote:

"The point of breaking is to perfect your kicks, to land them more accurately, and you can be doing that without breaking the board. You can be getting what you're supposed to be getting from the experience without seeing the board break."

A Place to Perfect Writing. Yeah.
I don't know where I got that. Presumably I thought of it myself, because I'm pretty obsessive about keeping track of citations. But looking at it now, I realize there's an obvious connection to writing.

One of the points of writing is to perfect the writing. You can be doing that without getting published. You can be getting what you're supposed to be getting from the experience without seeing your work published.

Ommmm.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Whispering Pines Retreat Retreat

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has been running the Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat in Rhode Island for more than twenty years. It is one of those retreats that's more of a mini-conference with a weekend of mentors and presentations. It's a very well regarded and popular event, so much so that they've started running two a year.

This fall the organizers will be running a different kind of Whispering Pines, a working retreat without faculty or workshops. A traditional writers' retreat in a beautiful, somewhat isolated place.

Dates: Oct. 25-27.

For an extra fee, you can get a private room!!! Introverts take note.

You can also get day only tuition, for those of us who think an entire weekend with our own kind would be way too much, even with our own rooms.

This thing has a lot to offer.

Disclosure: I attended Whispering Pines Retreat thirteen years ago as a mentor and went back as a participant for a day a few years later. My sister has attended rubber stamping retreats at the same facility. Her complaint? The food was too good.