Saturday, April 1, 2017

Patty's Promo - 100 Books for 99-cents

Need something to read this weekend?  Pop on over to Patty Jansen's Promo site and take your pick from over 100 ebooks, all priced at 99-cents!  What a deal!

Included in this sale is Once Upon A Kiss, exclusively featuring my retelling of the ancient Greek story "Galatea & Pygmalion."

Friday, March 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Kate Shindle, Mary McColl, and Actors Equity

I recently received some emails from you, saw the statement on the AEA site and Twitter, and noted your urgency and outrage over Trump's proposal to cut the NEA.  Yes, I will fight to save the NEA with every fiber of my being because I believe that art's value to our society goes far beyond a dollar sign.

But I would humbly ask you to take this moment and these feelings you're having to see if you can now viscerally empathize with the 99-Seat movement in Los Angeles.

You had an interview on Ken Davenport's podcast, Kate, in which you stated that the outrage over cutting the 99-seat plan in Los Angeles was at such a fevered pitch, you shut it all down and said that you weren't going to talk about it anymore.

Were we any more angry than you would ask us to be to protect the NEA?

For us in Los Angeles, the destruction of the 99-seat plan was the destruction of our version of the NEA.  The 99-seat theater plan was about allowing art to exist for the sake of art.  And it was about making sure that our artistic souls were kept fed when the paying jobs were being cast 3,000 miles away (BTW - How's your run of Fun Home going?)

Cold hard fact: To date you, literally, have done more damage to the theater scene in Los Angeles than the Republican controlled Congress has.  You have shut down more theaters and shut down the voices of more actors than any funding cut or bill out of Washington, DC has thus far.  I will amend this statement when this truth changes.

Think about that.

This fear you have of elimination of the NEA nationwide and the ripples it will have culturally?  That's our world in Los Angeles.  That's what you have put us through.

That's why we were and are so angry.  That's why we were and are at such a fevered pitch.

There were many theaters forced to go onto the new contract in December.  I have done an informal poll to find out what has happened since then and how many continued on the new contract.  I'm hearing about theaters now having to shut their doors because there are no rentals.  Theaters that gave opportunities to large casts are now only doing one- and two-person shows.  Theaters that are now solely non-Equity.  Theaters that are just... dark.

The 99-seat theater scene was a risk-free incubator that taught producers safety rules and respect for actors in a way that was not onerous.  It was a lesson that they carried with them as they moved into larger spaces with larger budgets and larger casts.  Safety and working with the union became the normal way of doing business.

The 99-seat theater scene taught producers the value of risky works.  You can take risks when your budget is only $10k.  When your budget is $100k for the same production, you tend to go for safe bets.  I believe that the way we keep theater expansive and alive is to keep the risks low so producers are willing to try inclusive casting practices and challenging plays and to see that there ARE economic advantages in those sorts of works.

On a personal note, there was a recent study by the Lilly Awards that only 20% of all produced plays are written by female playwrights.  I'm a woman.  In addition to being a funny-looking actress that most directors don't look at twice until they see my work, I am a playwright.  The cards are stacked against me.

But because of the 99-seat program in Los Angeles, my first full-length play received a full production with an AEA cast.  I got to star in it and play a role no commercial producer would ever cast me in.  The budget was under $8k.  The development of this play at this 99-seat theater led to rewrites, which led to this play winning the prestigious Panowski Playwriting Award.  It had a world premiere in Marquette, MI, a Canadian world premiere in Grande Prairie, readings in Seattle and New York, a reading in Bath (UK) and is currently being championed by that producer for a London run, and another producer for an Off-Broadway run.  The confidence I gained from that play led me to write another one, which was a semi-finalist in the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and will be getting a reading at the Last Frontier Conference.  My short plays are getting full productions in festivals internationally.

But, according to you, this play should have died on my hard drive unless that theater had a $50k budget.

What made us Pro-99ers so mad was having you say our art was unimportant, that our art was only of value if it was a commodity, to have you ignore the greater cultural impact of the 99-Seat theater scene and reduce it to dollar signs... and to hear you aim at us all of the same arguments that the politicians are now using in Washington, DC against the NEA.

Welcome to our shoes.

Please proceed accordingly.

P.S.  I believe no one should complain unless they have a solution.  So, what would I do to deescalate the tension between New York and Los Angeles members?  I would make the NY Showcase code a national code available in all cities to all actors.  It has not damaged the commercial viability of the $12B theater scene in New York.  In fact, I'd say it has enhanced it.  Why can't we have equality?

I understand that AEA has to remain financially solvent.  One of my big issues with the destruction of the 99-seat scene is that actors are now without safety protections and producers are not being trained early in their careers on how to behave with safety in mind.  I take a look at the sexual abuses in Chicago and find it shameful they've had to form a Guild with a code of conduct because AEA didn't swoop in to protect those actors and actresses because they were non-professional.  I'm not okay with that.

So, I would make a tier of Equity that is open to all and aimed at non-professional theaters and universities.  Charge a reduced membership fee to all actors.  Establish a national code of conduct for community theaters that costs them nothing to adopt, but gives them access to this open-tier group.  Make safety the norm.  Make working with the union appealing and the norm.  Train people early.  Let this open-to-all tier be a requirement for AEA membership and EMC candidates.  Remember the union was founded because actors were dying, and I would argue the AEA mission should go back to its roots and focus on service and safety.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Write-a-lution - Your Mindset

Over the years, I have spoken to a lot of people who have confessed in low, embarrassed tones, "I've always wanted to write a book... but... I just can't..."

Writing is HARD.  Listen, if writing was easy?  Everyone would do it.  But the big secret is that writing is just as hard for us folks cranking out the books as it is for you.  Let that sink in for just a moment.  If it is hard, it means you're normal.

You figuring out how to overcome these challenges will be the greatest gift you receive.  The tools you pick up to face the monumental task of writing a book will bleed into the rest of your life and the rest of your life will become more efficient, more effective, and more powerful.

This post is about how to silence all of the little voices in your head that are telling you that you can't do this.  This post  is about how to turn something you WANT to do into something you believe you CAN do.

The biggest roadblock I hear from frustrated writers is that they have no time.  I hear you.  But, to be fair, I wrote The Woodcutter and the first three Maggie books while I was juggling a full-time job and a full-time acting career and going to school to become an x-ray tech, while also taking care of my household.  

There is a great little book (and it's free on Kindle!) called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.  It was written at the turn of the century.  The basic premise is that money comes and goes, but time?  Time is our most valuable commodity.  Prince or pauper, everyone only gets 24 hours a day and we each get to choose how to spend it.

So, how do you manage your time?  I, personally, am a BIG fan of lists.  I'll go into my own habits in a later blog post, but right now everyone I know is swearing by their Bullet Journal.  It is a way of organizing your life in bulleted lists and it is pretty cool.  There's a really nice video on that site and you can pick up a cheap journal at Michael's for a couple bucks and get started today.

I also found myself getting into the habit of getting up, getting a cup of coffee, slogging to my computer, and watching my life get sucked away by Facebook.  The rest of the day was doom and gloom as I mulled over all the horrible things happening in the world.  No matter how much I tried to change this habit, it always snuck back in.

So, I began a thing this week called The Miracle Morning and, I gotta say, it is pretty frickin' miraculous.  The premise is that if you start your morning off right, the rest of the day falls into place.  And what does starting your morning off right mean?  Ten minute chunks devoted to a little exercise (I use it to gently stretch), a little journaling, positive reading, some meditation (there's an app my sister introduced me to called Calm which is lovely), some affirming self-talk, and visualization.  You know, all the stuff that people say is good for us.  This idea is what sold me on starting:  

"Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become."  

But what has been THE most powerful tool for me?  It s a program called The Artist's Way (I recommend buying this particular book in paperback.  The Kindle version has some funky formatting issues that makes it hard to read.)  I TOTALLY thought it was stupid the first time I heard about it.  

And then I read an interview with the gal who played Pam in The Office.  She said that when she started doing The Artist's Way, that's when things changed for her.  Soooo... I picked up a copy.  I started doing it and things... just changed.  I can't explain why or how.  But by doing the exercises, I began trusting my instincts, began trusting my dreams, and I began honoring and protecting my artistic soul.  It's been close to a decade since I first picked it up, but I still go through the process several times a year.  The Artist's Way will unblock your blocks, it will address all of those things holding you back, and it will give you practical tools to walk boldly and bravely onto your road less traveled. 

Invest a little time in yourself.  Figure out your dreams and goals.  Take care of your brain and body.  Decide you're worth $9.99 for a paperback that will change your life.  It is in acknowledging the value and worth of your true self that you will find the strength to share your story. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Write-a-lution - Let's Begin at the Beginning

Hi.  My name is Kate.  And it's been 21 days since I published a book.

So, there's a reality to this indie publishing thing that most people don't like.  They don't like it one bit.  They will wail and gnash their teeth and shake their fist at the sky.  They will swear up and down that it effects quality and no one can really write that fast and produce good work and blah blah blah.

Doesn't change the truth.

The truth is you have to publish something on Amazon every 90-days or your sales go into the toilet.

At 30-days there is a cliff where your sales are cut in half.  The reason is that your book is dropped from the hot new releases list.  Your sales will be cut in half again at 60-days.  And then will be cut in half again at 90-days and go into free fall.  It happens overnight and there is no chilling fear quite like seeing that point on the sales chart drop by 100 sales while you slept.

Now, if I was a publisher publishing books by a lot of different authors, this would be no problem.  Shoot.  Most publish a book a week.

As an indie author, I'm a publisher.  I mean, just of me.  But just because I am a single, solitary writer cranking all of this out with my own ten little fingers doesn't mean I get magical rules to make it easier.  I have to have my product compete in the same market as the big dogs.  So.  Every ninety days.  Four times a year.  Whatever makes it less scary.  I gotta do that in order to maintain my status as a full-time writer.

And it is 21 days since I published my last book.

So, it is time to get cranking.

When I look back at my choices as an author, I chose to get distracted by the new and shiny, by the lure of opportunities and other worlds, instead of sticking with my main series.  I would say this was one of my mistakes from a business standpoint.  What other business would have people pounding at the door before opening, demanding more of that unique caramel ice cream, and then provide cheese?  And then be surprised when the audience grudgingly takes the cheese but keeps saying over and over that the reason they are here was for the caramel ice cream.

Give the people their caramel ice cream.

If you're just starting off, learn from my mistakes and write books in a series.  Release in that series regularly.  Keep focused on one world, young grasshopper.  And if, after three books, the series doesn't take off?  Wrap it up and move on. Wrapping things up and moving on is the about-face I made in my business this year.  I ended all of my other series, declined generous offers from lovely people whom I would love to work with but wanted me to bring their worlds to life instead of my own, and decided to devote my time to caramel ice cream... well... with a few other projects on the side for pure fun...

So, Maggie VIII must be conceived today!  The germ of the idea must take shape!  How the heck does a person do that?!

There are two methods writing - pantsing and plotting.  Plotting is just what it sounds like - you outline your ideas and spend about three mind melting days figuring out who your characters are and what happens chapter by chapter, but once you're done, you can write at amazing speeds.  It is a pure joy writing from plot point to plot point.  I think my best was about 8k words in a single day.  And when most of my books are between 50k - 65k words long, it's a GREAT way for chewing through that first draft like a wood chipper.  I wrote my O'Hare House and Dark of Twilight series that way.

I highly recommend, if you're interested in learning speed, to pick up the book 2k to 10k.  There are other books out there, but this is the one that helped me the most.  And I gotta say, too, don't be afraid to try different methods.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Back when I sang, one of the things my teacher would say is that you have to work out the limits of your upper range and your lower range, because it makes your normal range stronger.  The nice thing is that if it doesn't work for you?  You just ditch it.  And if it does work for you?  You have this magical new tool.

Maggie, though, is pantsed (insert the sound of all my UK friends tittering.)  "Pantsed" means writing by the seat of your pants.  You sit down at the keyboard and just let your fingers fly.  Maggie was my second published book and I wrote it before I knew about plotting, and I feel that it is important to stick with the recipe that has connected with readers.

My top speed as a pantser is about 4k words a day.  Usually I'm much closer to 2k... or 1,200... or 600...  and editing is slower...

But pantsing  means you cut a lot of words out.  A lot.  I usually cut 20k words from my first draft.  HUGE swathes of story are axed as I find out what the thread of the original story is.  But it isn't lost work!  I keep a file for future Maggie adventures and when it is time to begin the next book, I flip through that folder and see what I've got.  BOOM!  Insta-20k words.  Only 30k to go.  Okay, so it isn't really that easy, but I have a head start.

The next thing I do is I set up my goal calendar.  I decide when this book HAS to be done.  The ninety day mark is September 26th.  I write this down and work backwards.  My proofreader can turn things around in a week, but it is much kinder to give her two weeks.  My editor has turned things around for me in 48 hours, but if I want to maintain that friendship, it really is nicer if I give him two weeks, too.  So that means I need to have a finished draft by August 29th.  I usually do three drafts.  There is the big, ugly first draft, the second draft where I make all of the huge cuts and smooth out the plot lines.  And the third draft which is a final read for any glaring inconsistencies.

So knowing my habits, I need to start the 1st draft today.  I need to start the 2nd draft August 19th.  The 3rd draft by August 25th.  And have the final draft done by the 29th.  There are 33 days between now and August 19th.  Sounds scary?  That's three days more than NaNo speed!  (Yes, funny that you mention it, NaNo IS how Maggie came to be.  The next National Novel Writing Month begins in November and you should TOTALLY do it.)  I aim for 45k words in my first draft, knowing that I will expand and cut and shift things around and eventually end up at 55k to 60k words by the time I'm done.

SIDENOTE:  Industry Standard Lengths

Flash Fiction:  Under 3000 words
Short Story:  Under 7500 words
Novelette:  7500 - 17,500 words
Novella:  17,500 - 40,000 words
Novel:  40,000 words


So, 45,000 words divided by 33 days gives me my daily wordcount goal of 1363 words.  That's not too scary.  The average page is 250 words, so that's about 5 1/2 pages a day.

I then open up my Excel word count spreadsheet and plug that in.

And then, this might seem a little silly, but you know those chore charts that kids have?  It turns out those methods work for adults, too.  I have a wall calendar and I write down what I should be doing each day.  If I make my goal, I highlight the task (and I color code it.  Maggie, for instance, is orange.  Plays are blue.  Acting is green.)  And then I circle if I've reached the end of a goal (and add little star shine squiggles if I finish it before it is due.)  If I don't make my goal (even if I work on it), I don't highlight it.  It's like giving myself a gold star.

But by color coding, it allows me to see at a glance what I'm spending my time on, if I've set reasonable goals (I reevaluate every Friday and reset goals for the week), and how much time I'm ACTUALLY working on something vs. the lies my brain will tell me.


And THEN I start filling my brain with inspiration.  But we'll tackle that in the next post...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amazon Prime Day!

Hey Everyone!  Today is July 12 and marks the annual Amazon Prime day!  A bunch of us authors are giving away books at prices so low, you'd think it was a fire sale at a car dealership at the end of the month.

Off we go!

So, you can grab all three of my first in series for FREE today!


And then just a reminder that Maggie Book Seven: Maggie Reloaded is now available, too!

Already have all of these?  Of course you have!  That's because you're awesome.  So how about some deals from some of my best buddies in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/and Sci-Fi world?

Grab some books!  Share the deals with friends!  Enjoy more from Amazon Prime Day than $1 off detergent!