Here Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

How long has it been – twelve years or something? Note to person who left me a message on Facebook six months ago – I never remember to check “other” messages, and now it won’t let me reply.

Anyway. The last two months have been…lame. So I’m going to pretend they didn’t happen, and we can just move on from there, ‘kay?

My alter-ego has completely taken over my life (the part that isn’t being taken over by my day gig – oops, I forgot – I wasn’t supposed to go there), so it’s very difficult to remember that there’s this other person named Wren Andre. Sort of like the premise for the Stephanie Meyer book “The Host“, soon to be a major motion picture. Hopefully, the first half of that film won’t be as excruciatingly boring as the book was. It got better after the first four hundred pages. Good thing I don’t give up easy.

I am feeling the need however, to hang on to a tiny part of me, and to not just completely let my Host envelop me. Especially since she spends way too much time contemplating naughty situations and positions for her characters to get in. For those who are wondering my opinion: Yes, I think Fifty Shades is going to help the genre and garner new readers. And despite the level of writing, you have to give credit: she created two characters that transcended horrible copy-editing and rampant overuse of the term “Oh my”. Isn’t that what readers want – to be engaged and lost in the lives of these fictional creatures? Most people don’t read fiction to critique it for an English Lit. class, they read it to enjoy it. Get over your jealousy people. I have. Almost.

With that said, let’s see if I can get back into some nostalgic writing here soon. That’s the plan, as I’m happy to say that my one year-anniversary happened somewhere around now, I’m pretty sure. For those of you following my pod-person’s journey, she has just completed the final line edits to her second release coming out in September, and is wrapping up the submission draft for part one in her three book series. That has been gruesome – I estimated each book would be 30 – 40, 000 words – and the first one comes in at almost 50 K. It’s not even the writing that’s the epic part – it’s the re-writes for something that long. Seriously – one of the characters somehow stole the other character’s Ford Bronco halfway in ( I accidentally switched their cars around – duh), and things like time of day (was it morning or evening?), name of a restaurant, have three or four days gone by – all of it becomes monumental the longer the thing is. No pun intended.

I’d might as well throw this in as well – my publisher has opened up a new line called “Clandestine Classics”. Remember Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Well, take out the zombies and add in smutty scenes instead. They announced it to the world a couple of weeks ago, and the press has been crazy. Yes – my alter-ego made a proposal since they sent out the submission call only to their authors, so we’ll see. Sorry – I can’t tell you which one! Here’s a you tube video with a segment that Jimmy Kimmel live did on CC when the press broke (pretty hilarious):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5ZIlC5vZ48

Finally, the most exciting news of all: I pick up Lord Chumsley, my bearded dragon, tomorrow morning. He’s a big fella’ and will keep me company here by my computer. I shall post lizard photos soon.

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Exercising My Right to Freely BBQ

I am so off schedule, it’s up there with completely ridiculous. Obviously, my posting at this blog has suffered greatly, and most of you who follow along on my writing journey know that it’s due to the recent publication of my alter-ego’s first book.

Quick update: Going great – seems like a good response so far. No reviews or royalty statement, so I am currently in Wonderland as to how many units have sold and whether or not people love or hate this thing. For my impatient demeanor, that has been frustrating, yet to be expected. I am moving to phase 2 of promo; after the virtual blog tour for the anthology, I am now setting up – or supposed to be setting up, sigh – the next blog tour for the standalone release on June 11th. More on that later.

That actually brings me to the present, and why I’m even more off-schedule. It’s been a non-stop drama-fest at work for the last week or so with more ch-ch-ch-changes. Some of you will remember that my position was eliminated in a corporate re-structuring (paste my name and face on thousands upon thousands of Americans around the country) blablabla three months ago. Due to my friend and co-worker’s enormously wise decision to escape from Hellhouse, my job has just become available again. Which would mean going back to salary exempt, staying up all hours to write, being exhausted, and not getting to make homemade potato salad and Sopapilla cheesecake pie (thanks for that recipe, very wise co-worker) on a holiday Monday that I get to spend with my family. The financial reward? A few hundred bucks. Not that I don’t need that few hundred bucks (I do), but I still haven’t seen that royalty statement yet. Will it replace that money? And haven’t we survived these last few months without it? And if I don’t make up the money now, won’t a few months down the road (and more completed writing) replace it then?

Enter my boss who swooped down on our little beach hamlet last Monday to grill us all like day-old grilled cheese sandwiches ( I have no idea what that means) on what our workplace intentions were. And to ask if I’d like my old job back. Uh…….hmmmmmmm…well….NO. I need to stay true to my writing path, and my sanity. And, okay, I confess; I did have a little bit of a “HA! NOW you want me! Forget it…” moment. But hey, I’m human, and I have been taking it in a part of my anatomy that shall remain unmentioned, quite a lot lately at this job.

I am now officially the trouble-maker. Or, the worse than ever before trouble-maker. But I need to stay true to my path here, and to my family that is also along for the ride. However, it’s been stressful because since I didn’t make it easy by neatly filling in the gap at work just as we go into our busy season, the boss is not thrilled. I did leave the position available for others – one in particular – who would do great and really benefit from it – but not according to the corporate rules and regulations. In other words, the expected and proper line of ascension up the corporate ladder. Such nonsense. So I say – they are bringing it on themselves, which is why all of this happened in the first place. Had well enough been left alone, my wise co-worker and I might have just stuck it out. But once she got my job – in addition to the essentially two jobs she was already doing – dumped on her, well, there’s only so much one person can take in the name of corporate down-sizing.

But here we are, it’s a nice day, and we’re all celebrating (those who don’t work retail anyway) the freedoms we have because others sacrificed and fought for us. I haven’t had a holiday day off like this in the four years since I took this job, so I’m going to exercise my right to BBQ – and to be with my family for a change. Happy Memorial Day to my American friends out there!

 

It’s Here! And it Needs to be Promoted…

I thought I would check in with y’all since I am so overloaded currently, that even pretending to write about my far-distant freak show past would be a useless exercise, so instead, I shall bring everyone up to date.

My alter-ego’s first book was released yesterday! Yee-ha! I have been a very well-behaved modern author, and have been booking and following through on a virtual blog tour promo schedule. There are giveaways, excerpts, thought-provoking (one can only hope) posts, interviews and such to deal with on a daily basis over the next few weeks. Once that concludes, than the stand alone comes out a little earlier than I originally thought: June 11th. This means another round of promo events. Then in August, the print version of the anthology comes out – more promos. September? Why that’s when the second book comes out. Hopefully, as suggested recently by the publisher, I will have turned in the first of my three-book series, so that an excerpt can be included in the back. Hmmmm…I sense a pattern here.

Many writers have lamented the fact that they have to be their own marketing gurus. It’s not that you don’t get support from your publisher, but that support can vary massively, depending on the publisher’s muscle. Translated: cash flow. I feel very fortunate with my marketing person and the publisher.  They take their business very seriously, and have been successful at it, when many others in the relatively new erotica genre have failed. My direct contact is communicative, creative and very involved. They have offered me multiple opportunities to get my name out there: writing articles, peer reviews, chat groups and so on. They’ve provided me with free review copies, in addition to the lists they already send out to. But they also have anywhere from 4 -8 new releases EVERY week, some are anthologies, so to think they are spending all of their energy on one book from an untried author is – as my boss at work would say – crack-smoking madness.

It’s here, and it needs to be promoted. It’s also my baby, my responsibility. Which means that every day I’m not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to me currently, is another day I’m slapping another writer trying to get their work out there in the face. In the interest of not slapping any of my wonderful writer compatriots in the face, I want to assure you that I have been staying on top of it. Of course, that means other things suffer. Like my writing.

The time and energy to keep up with writing my memoir pieces at this blog – which are for my soul, no less – has been greatly compromised. So has the writing time I need to put in to the first book in the series my new editor said she was very interested in, and would recommend to the publisher. That cannot be neglected. So now, even at this small level, all of this gives me a glimpse into a full-time writer’s future. It’s not unexpected. I figured it would be like this. Figuring and living are two very different things though.

Other little realizations: I still want to do this. I’m absolutely okay with climbing on to the writer hamster wheel. Also – writing guest blog posts and answering interview questions is helping me to think on my feet more. Writing under pressure and deadline is helping me to keep the writing flowing better. I am becoming –  I feel anyway – a well-oiled machine. Is this good? I think so. It beats sitting around wondering what to write about, and maybe getting a page or two down, or a couple random ideas, and then deciding I hate it later on. The other day I scheduled seven hours of writing on the new book, and gave myself a 5,000 word goal. I felt I was over-reaching a little, but I am feeling the pressure to get these guys out there – they are all going to be between 30-40,000 words each – so I need to quit screwing around. Once I set my mind to it – I hit 5,200 words in the allotted time. I even liked most of the words afterwards.

Speaking of which, I have another 5,000 word goal today. And of course, another promo blog post to do for the new baby…

The Crazy Saga of Billie Part Two & Latest Publishing Updates

Okay – I know – it’s been two weeks. So before I dive in with the Billie freak-fest, this is what’s been going on. I finally received my alter-ego’s manuscript with the edits from my editor. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Or am supposed to be doing.  I have never worked with a publishing house before. I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I am just terrified to look like a complete idiot – no easy task at times.

After agonizing for the first few days over this 47 page long document with all of these blue highlights and little boxes with suggestions in the margins, I have figured out that I don’t have current enough software to “track changes” in the document. That dilemma solved, I shall now buy Word 2010. For some odd reason, many people have moved past Word 2002 by now. Silly me. Seems like I just took that class and paid $125 for the textbook. Dammit.

Anyway – this was all just the technical nonsense – never mind any creative considerations. So I have also been trying to figure out the most efficient way for me to go through the editing process, and have it all make sense at the other end. I have been tempted a couple of times to just send it back with her own suggestions and a note that says “looks good to me”. Somehow, I don’t think that’s exactly the partnering process she was looking for.

Just minutes before I received my edits from her, I dropped her a line to tell her about a couple new story ideas I had, one that would involve a 3 book series. She responded positively, woo-hoo! But now she would like to receive synopses for all of them. One has to be in prior to an anthology deadline of April 1st. Have I gone insane? My hubby warns me not to bite off more than I can chew all the time, but I became overly excited when I stepped down at my job and was given more time to write. Plus – I’d better start writing my ass off now that I’ve seen my first post-demotion paycheck. Yikes.

Enough of that. Here is a little more in the crazy saga of Billie:

My life had settled into a routine with Billie. We had the regular Wednesday night trashing, and occasionally we would add on other nights. Thursday was Encino, Tuesday was Northridge, but I liked Sherman Oaks trash the best. One night, we were bringing in such an awesome haul – including big pieces of furniture – that we needed to go unload for round two. After getting the stuff out of the truck, Billie said she had to go in and let out the cats, let in the cats, let out the dogs, let in the dogs – the usual.

I opted for the truck. Her house had been creeping me out lately, and sometimes when we’d talk on the phone late at night, she would tell me about some of the strange things that were supposedly going on there. I sort of believed her, based alone on my first night at her house with the weird light, but then again, there was also the Clint Eastwood and dead husband story to consider. She had reiterated many times since the first telling about how she was waiting for Clint Eastwood, and he was waiting for her. It was that one look while she was standing in line at the movie theatre. No words were spoken, but they both knew. Even though he was with Sondra Locke, and her husband was still alive, someday they would be together.

Wow.

So one didn’t want to take everything Billie said as the absolute incontrovertible truth.

It was pretty late, getting close to midnight, and it was quite dark on the quiet street where she lived. Only one street lamp could be seen across from her corner home, and it was at the very corner of the street. Something caught my eye. In the darkened driveway of the second house from the corner across the street were shadowy figures, maybe three to four feet tall at most, and they were dancing around. I kid you not. I sat bolt upright in the truck and leaned forward. It was absolutely pitch black on her side of the street; her automatic porch light had already gone off shortly after she went inside. The only light at all was the glow from that one street lamp two houses over from the figures.

I squinted my eyes, trying to process what I was seeing. I must be really tired. I needed new glasses. I’d finally lost my mind. All of these seemed much better explanations than actual dancing shadow figures. If I could give a shape or form to them, the best I could come up with is what my perception of a little wood nymph would be. Yep – pretty crazy. I could see pointy, thin limbs and edges, but absolutely no detailed features. They were like dancing silhouettes. Did I mention they were dancing in a circle too? Yeah – super crazy.

That was it. I would face the stench of Billie’s home any day over dancing wood nymphs at midnight in the driveway of suburban San Fernando Valley.

“Billie – I think you should come out here and see this!”

“SHUT THE  DOOR – ARE YOU CRAZY?!”

Why, yes I am, I wanted to say. But I realized that she was mid-cat corralling, and I had almost given those poor creatures their only opportunity of escape.

“Sorry, sorry, but there’s something really weird going on out here.”

“IN!”

The blurred stampede of cat flesh flew by me into the guest bathroom, and she slammed the door.

“Oh my God, what is it?” She ran excitedly over, and threw open the door. I wanted to stop her so that I could give her a head’s up, but she was always up for anything strange and other-worldly, so there would be no holding her back. I followed her reluctantly out to her front yard. It was a cool night; we weren’t into spring yet. I was trying to readjust my eyes to the darkness, and squinting in the direction of where I had seen the figures.

“What did you see?” she whispered at me.

I was still trying to ascertain if they were still there, but I was getting distracted by the fireflies buzzing around. Fireflies?! In California at the end of winter?

“Did you see that?” I asked excitedly, pointing in a couple of directions all around me. Those little buggers were flitting around, there one second, gone the next. It was almost more surreal than the figures had been.

“I know,” she said, “I see them on occasion, but only in my yard. Sometimes I smell oranges too, but the orchards are long gone, and I’ll smell it all winter as well.”

As it turned out, I would experience that with her on a couple of other occasions. I told her about the figures I’d seen, and we stood in the yard, waiting for them to reappear. Obviously, based on what she was always dealing with, she had no problem believing me. After awhile, it was also obvious that we weren’t going back out. Our paranormal hunt had become much more interesting than the local garbage. But I was getting tired, so I was just about to call it a night when we both heard a loud crashing noise. It reminded me of stabby guy. Not again.

As we had been standing there staring intently at her neighbor’s dark driveway across the street, we had gradually moved over to the Suburban, and were leaning against it. The crashing noise was coming from bushes at the opposite end of her yard. Then the automatic porch light came on – but there was nothing there. Yet, the noise was advancing closer to us, and seemed to be coming towards us at a high rate of speed. It sounded almost like horses hooves – without the horse.

That’s it for this week – I will be sure to get the next part of this creepy tale to you next Sunday. Until then – buy something legal that Paypal has deemed objectionable.

I Couldn’t Do it Without You

I’m listening to Goldfrapp’s Supernature right now and trying to get a grip. I have a few days off of work (I’m taking my Thanksgiving day off right now – gotta love retail), and one thing the hubby and I did this past week was work on a production schedule for me. Not one minute of this year can be wasted! We sat down for a couple of  hours and hashed out what I’ve accomplished – somewhat unexpectedly – this past year, and how we can keep the train a’rolling.

Now that I’ve actually got my foot – or perhaps just my big toe – in the publishing door, it would be the height of stupidity not to take the proverbial ball and run with it. This is exactly the type of stupidity I have been known for in the past, and am not at all anxious to repeat. Especially at this stage of the game – I don’t have forever here folks.

The result is that I have had to take a hard look at the relatively small amounts of time that I actually get to write. In between the writing I need to stay in touch with my alter-ego’s blog, facebook, twitter, promo and review opportunities. There’s also the matter of my family and this 40 hour-plus job I show up at every week. We discussed what stories/novels I’m working on and want to work on this year. It soon became way too obvious that I have too much on my plate. So we made a list. We checked it more than twice, and we drew a red line through the things that needed to be let go for now.

I’d quit my job, but I’m too fond of food and shelter. I know, so greedy. I need to spend time with my family – they are the only thing that keeps my tenuous hold on sanity. I also need to continue to produce material in the genre that I’m currently successful in. With all of that in mind, I’ve let go of some things that I had planned on doing in 2012.

The first would be that I’m not submitting anything to Rain Magazine, a literary journal that has published me the last couple years. That was tough – but I don’t have anything ready to submit, and I would have to start from scratch, or work on something I already have going. In other words, not generate any content under my pseudonym while working on that – and she has some hard deadlines that John and I agreed on. I also have a couple other contests that I typically enter in, such as Writer’s Digest, Women on Writing Flash Fiction, Glimmer Train, and I had an invitation to submit to the Glass Woman Prize for being a first reader in their last contest. I will not be doing any of those things for this year. I will also likely be only blogging once a week here so that I can stick to my schedule.

But I do have plans to finish my NaNo novel and submit it to my publisher. Finish my series that I currently have up on Amazon. Submit to my editor for at least two submission calls the publishing company has out. And finish at least one short/novella a month, using the already-begun material that is festering in my computer. This along with all of the other afore-mentioned stuff. The reality is that I had to make hard choices. The other reality is that I will forever be a shirt-folder unless I make it happen as a writer. If my alter-ego rescues me from retail hell, then I bet she’ll let me put a chunk of time into my Wren Andre projects. I know her pretty well, and she’s cool like that.

Finally, I couldn’t do it without my family’s support – especially John – he is so amazing. I know he realizes that already, and I run the risk of making his head explode with his awesomeness, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. My daughters – and fellow artists – are a continuous source of inspiration to me. I also have to say that it’s been an unbelievably wonderful experience commiserating and meeting so many other writers and book-lovers online. You guys rule! Every one of you makes me want to keep pushing through when I’m so exhausted all I want to do is watch something stupid on T.V. and pass out when I come home. Thank you. I really couldn’t do it without you.

Startling Frank Confessions Pt. 2: Or How I Hope to Someday Make a Living as a Writer

I think that title was long enough – I’m done writing for now. Ha!

The purpose of this post is to answer a few questions that have been posed to me regarding pen names, writing erotica, and the big question all writers ask themselves: will I ever be able to make my living as a writer? Really? Especially if what we’re talking about is creative, or artistic writing.  This is opposed to writing ad copy, articles, press releases, technical writing and all other legitimate forms of non-creative writing. It’s not that people ( and I have been one of those people) writing ad copy or articles are not creative writers, but that they are generating written copy based on the needs of the venue; i.e. magazine, client, newspaper, website, etc. It’s not the same.

When you write a short story, novel, poem – you are creating something that did not exist before you as the artist made it come alive. When I quit public relations and writing for newspapers, it was because I wanted to focus my writing energies on creating as a writer. Carol Deminski (http://cdeminski.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/time-to-write-a-rant/) is a blogger/writer I follow, and the questions she posed to me in the comment section of my last blog, and the questions I have had from friends and writers, have inspired me to give you a brief history of my writing  journey up to this point.

After I began writing creatively again – which was post music business, post P.R. and post ghost writing someone else’s memoir – my writing was sporadic and shaky, at best. I fumbled around with the beginnings of some novels, and then put them aside. I began to focus on short stories, my own possible memoirs about the music business, and the occasional poem. There were snippets in there of light and possibility. There were also large chunks of garbage and drivel. I could probably do another entire post – or book – about the whys and wherefores, but the reality was that I was practicing. I was learning. I took some classes, went back to college for a bit, started a writing group; I was finding my voice as a writer.

In the middle of finding that voice, I discovered I was just as eclectic (or schizophrenic, take your choice) as a writer, as I was when I was in music. I love a lot of different genres, both as a reader and a writer. But because the realities of marketing yourself as a writer, and whatever book you are promoting, precludes mash-ups of genres, it’s better to be identified as a writer (at least the name you’ve attached to it) with a particular genre. So even though I read – and write – literary, memoir, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance and erotica – my one name can’t be all things to all people. Seriously – the Pulitzer people are not going to be awarding prizes to a writer that is known for kinky vampire romance sagas. At least maybe not this year.

Which brings me to the next point: can creative writers make a living anymore if they’re not with the Big Six, or one of the top chosen few that are bestsellers with film options and all of that? Carol commented that short story writers have a particularly difficult time, and she gave an example of someone who did win the Pulitzer, wondering if they were able to survive financially. I suppose we could get into another discussion regarding the differences between literary and commercial fiction – but I don’t want to get anymore off-kilter in this post than I already have. My opinion is that you are creatively writing in either mode, but the difference lies in the writing style and voice. Hence, why Wren Andre as kinky vamp writer and Wren Andre as literary short story writer might twist people’s brains too much.

But I believe we can make a living. I spoke briefly in my last post about how I was using a pen name to write erotica, and had made a few bucks by selling them on Amazon through Kindle self-publishing. The technical aspects of it alone were very uncreative and very non-writerly, almost putting the kibosh on the whole enterprise. But I persevered, and have had some startling (in my opinion) results.

The idea was that I would invent a persona for this type of writing, and she would have her own blog and twitter account. However, she has really no platform at all, and no one has ever heard of her, hence me not holding out hope for much more than that Starbuck’s latte in reward for my efforts. The first title went up the end of August, and I sold 9 copies in about 10 days. I think 2 of those were me and my hubby, and 1 was a friend I had confessed to. So 6 copies purchased by complete strangers from an unknown author. Most of those are being sold at a 70% royalty rate, and at $2.99 a copy, I end up with a clean $2.04 per copy. In 35% royalty territories (Kindle explains the breakdown), I get about a buck.

September saw me add another title, and my sales were a little over a copy a day. At least 75% are at the 70% royalty rate. I added 2  more titles in October, one as an experiment – a shorter story for only .99 cents – and I broke over a 100 copies total a few days ago. With the 4 titles, my sales are now averaging 3 to 4 a day. Not bad for someone who has never existed before August of this year. I am giving these stats not to brag, but to shout out to all my fellow authors out there – ANYONE can do this. Be warned though: sex sells, so other self-pubbed efforts will likely not take off as well initially. Like all the gurus say, you still have to market yourself and do all the work – including making sure there are proper edits, appealing cover, blablabla.

But it is possible with the right effort. Staying on course in all that you do will definitely pay off in the long run. I saw a graph recently from Amazon that showed the striking rise of e-book sales in just the last 3 years – it was astonishing. There is no longer any doubt that e-publishing is a viable and exciting new way for authors to be seen. Check out this link from one of my favorite romance blogs: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/what-ever-happened-to-shanna-swendson/#com It revolves around what ever happened to a romance author whose final book in her series was turned down by the publisher. Yet, she had plenty of readers and fans who were dying to read it. So why not self-publish? Read the comments section – of particular interest are the responses from the author herself and other  traditionally published authors, particularly P.N. Elrod. What an eye-opener. I am more excited than ever to take my writing destiny in my own hands, and while I will still send out stuff to traditional sources, I no longer feel held prisoner by them.

As a final comment on the erotica, I was first introduced to the concept of a “real” writer seriously handling that genre through Anne Rice’s Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty, which she wrote under the pen name of A.N. Roquelaure. That lead to my discovery of Anais Nin and other women writers who had written quality erotica that some considered literary. So, even though I may be a smut peddler, I am taking it seriously to the extent that I care about the quality of the writing. Special side benefit:I am getting an amazing amount of writing done, and it is helping my craft! Yay! Since I am taking it seriously as a story writer ( not just throwing in gratuitous sex scenes) I am giving myself continuous exercises in character development, story arc, plot points and creativity.

Keep on keeping on to all the writers out there – we are no longer just limited to waiting for that stamp of approval from the Big Six, or a handful of literary presses and boutique presses. Let your readers decide.