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

/SIDENOTE

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!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Win Nine Free Books!


Love free books?  Win a stack of fantastic urban fantasy books by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maggie Book Seven is HERE!!

The wait is over, my friends!  Maggie Reloaded (book seven in the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker series) is HERE!


Maggie and Killian may have prevented Earth's destruction, but the Other Side is not looking too good. The queen of the elves is dying and when she goes, everyone goes. Even worse, Maggie's got to move in with Killian.

Time is running out to save the queen and the situation is serious enough for Maggie and Killian to start a ragtag resistance team with Father Killarney and Xiaoming. It's going to be one hellish ride through the Dark Dimension, especially since their mode of transportation is a horse whose riders tend to be of the more headless variety.

WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Write-a-lution Manifesto

So, there's this great guy named Bruce Lazarus who heard me share at the Dramatists Guild National Convention on my self-publishing journey and he insists that what I'm doing as an indie author is pretty special.  I'm afraid I suffer from imposter syndrome, though, because the voices in my head shout things like, "Sure,things may be fine now, but it will all come CRASHING DOWN AROUND YOUR EARS ANY SECOND NOW.  ANY SECOND!"

But I took a look at the Author Earnings report the other day and it turns out (much to my surprise) you could fit all of the authors who are in my bracket in a large Broadway theater.  Say... Hamilton's theater... you know... if anyone is looking for ideas on where to hold a club meeting...

This truth finally made me acknowledge my head is full of idiots.  As such, I've decided to stop listening to them and start listening to the advocates and champions in my life who keep dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the light.

I am a successful author.  I consistently make six-figures.  I make more as a writer than I ever did in an office.  There were other authors ahead of me that shone the light and taught me how to do it and, you know, gosh darn it, it's time for me to return the favor.

This blog has been stagnant for awhile, but I'm going to start sharing more about how I do what I do so that YOU can do what you want to do.  The biggest joy I have as an author is watching other's grab a hold of their writing dreams.  I want you to do that.  I'm going to start taking time out of my writing day to share my journey so that YOU can start YOUR journey.  Take what works for you and leave the rest.  I am not the end-all-be-all, but I've done it and I hope my mistakes and victories can give you the courage to give your dreams a fair shake, too.  It is not an easy path.  The market is getting more and more complicated.  But it is possible.  As the old saying goes, "When you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life."  Welcome to the party.  Viva la Write-a-lution!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Maggie VII Coming at You Next Week!


Maggie VII will be coming at you next week!  One of the scenes is located in a kids' playground located in Orange County.  Here's a picture of the ACTUAL playground it is based upon.  And want more pictures?  Here you go!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eyduck/albums/72157623060621157/with/4264888088/

Available for Pre-Order:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Queen Mab Audiobook

UPDATE!  Queen Mab is LIVE!  Grab your copy on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

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I am so pleased to announce that one of my favorite actors in the world is locked in a studio right this very moment and is being forced to record the upcoming Queen Mab audiobook... erm... wait...  I mean, he graciously agreed to lend his dulcet tones to bring my book Queen Mab to life.

I've been a huge fan of Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing, The Hour, Blandings, Banished) for years and if you're lucky enough to live in the UK, you get to hear his voice regularly on BBC Radio.  Lucky ducks.

A little history of this project: as many of you know I'm a hybrid author with titles both traditionally and indie published.  Back in 2013, a wonderful publisher made a five-figure offer on Queen Mab. I ended up turning it down.  Since then, my feelings on that decision have fluctuated between "best decision" and "worst mistake" of my life.

What it came down to and the reason I walked away, though, was the issue of creative input on the audiobook.  These things last forever.  These things will be what my great-great-grandnieces and nephews share with their children and say, "This is what your dead ancestor did with her life."  You don't think about these things when you sign your first contract.  But you start thinking about them rather seriously when you begin to understand, viscerally, what signing something over until 70-years-after-your-death means.

In 2013, I had no power.  In fact, that's sort of a running theme for authors in the publishing world - very rarely do we get to say, "I like this cover" or "I want this voice."  And let me make this clear, the publisher who made the offer is actually one of the better ones out there and even so, couldn't guarantee me a say on the narrator.

And so I politely declined and decided to sit on this project until the day came where I could get it done in such a way that I could be proud of it.

Enter ListenUp Audiobooks.  A little over a month ago, I received a notice from Kobo that they had teamed up with ListenUp Audiobooks to make self-publishing possible.  I had a phone call with their team and the conversation went like this:

Me:  I'd really like Julian Rhind-Tutt to narrate this book.
Them:  FYI - We do have some narrators in house that sound similar.

(NOTE: This is where the conversation usually breaks down with a publisher.  Usually they decide someone "similar" is good enough.  I have come to believe, though, that audiobooks are an art form. I believe they should be more than "not terrible" or "did the job" or "well, they were willing to do a royalty split on ACX."  They should make you feel something - like going to a play or listening to music.  I believe the voice is actually even more important than my words.  And so, I believe audiobook talent should be more than a line item and the role of the narrator should be awarded to actors and artists who are experts in their field rather than to a "similar, yet more cost effective" voice.)

Me:  No, I'd really like him.
Them:  Cool!
Me:  *stunned silence and shock, waiting for the other shoe to drop*
Them:  We got your back.

And they made it happen.  They made what several Big 5 publishers were not willing to make happen.  They arranged international contracts with his agents, studio rental across  The Pond, and today?  This actor I have admired so much is speaking my words into a microphone, words that will last 70-years after my death.  I could not be more honored to have his voice be the legacy of this project.  Look for it in July.

Godbless this digital age.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Building Madness comes to Canada!


Last July, I received the nicest email from a reader named Patty Burritt.  She wrote to say she really enjoyed my books and was wondering if she might be able to get a copy of my play Building Madness.  She was a director and performer at the Grande Prairie Live Theatre, one of Canada's largest community theatres, and she was interested in seeing if she could bring my script north of the border.  Well, lo and behold, here we are and not only is Building Madness coming to Grande Prairie, it will be making its Canadian debut!  All because of a really special person named Patty Burritt.  So thank you, Patty!  And if you live in the area, make sure to catch it this January!  I'll be there opening night to cheer on Patty's awesome cast and crew!

______

If you'd like a copy of the playscript, it is for sale on Amazon.  Want to check it out first before taking the leap? The first scene is available online.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Paranormal Romance Urban Fantasy Sale


Grab an armful of free and discounted urban fantasy books at the Paranormal Romance Urban Fantasy sale!  A bunch of my buddies and me put together a list of our free titles and now share it with you.

http://www.cgockelwrites.com/promo-nightshade/

Seriously.  Just click.  Grab a ton of books.  It is that easy.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Welcome to Under ___ Minute Theater

As my plays begin receiving national and international productions, I decided it might be nice to make some of my short works more available.  I got my start competing in forensics and festivals, so thought I should share the love.  If you are a student or educator, your purchase of an e-play for each cast member gives you the right to use any "Under __ Minute Theater" play in your classroom, in competitions, in auditions, well... in front of any non-paying audience.  Send me some pictures!  I'll brag about you!

If there is a paying audience, I'm afraid a royalty is involved.  I firmly believe that if you think your show is good enough to ask people to pay for, you should compensate the artists who gave you the show to sell, even if it is just a token.  So don't be scared off!  The royalties are low and adjusted for each theater's particular financial realities.

To sign up for new play releases, join the Play Newsletter

The Camera, the Gerbil, and the Big, Wide World
2w, 1m

Two lonely children meet in Texas and their lives are changed for the better.

This sweet, family friendly, fifteen-minute play is a nostalgic journey through friendship, and how a camera and a gerbil can make the world huge and wonderful.













Kings of the World
2m, 1 w/m

From politics to cars, Bud and Jeff know exactly how to fix the world... if only they could put down their drinks and get off their barstools. Could the magic of a new song on the jukebox be enough?

This 10-minute play features great physical comedy opportunities for older character actors.

WARNING:  Artistically motivated cussing

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Maggie Goes to Hollywood - Now Available


Well, folks... the day you have been long waiting for is sloooowly here.  Maggie Goes to Hollywood -  Book Six in the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker series is available on Kindle!  As this week continues, it will be rolling out on all the other vendors and paperback, etc., et. al.  But for the time being, grab it here!

http://amzn.to/1UCTxcG

A few readers have asked me about future plans for Maggie.  There are many, many more books on their way in this series, with another coming out *fingers crossed* this August.  As long as they are still fun for me to write and still fun for you to read, I'm game for just keeping this party going.  Cool?  The one decision I made last year, though, was to wrap up all of my other series so that I could get Maggie out to you faster in the future.  Instead of four different books in three different series like its been, my brain is just going to live in Maggie-land from here on out.  So thanks to all of you for your patience as I goofed around trying to figure out my voice and other artistic crap.  Let's just play now, shall we?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, May I present the ladies and gentlemen of Building Madness

The costumes, hair, hats, and makeup are all coming together for the show and I gotta say, what a sharp looking crew.


(left to right: Matt Jayson, Colin Simon, Sean Faye)

(left to right: Sarah Lily, Alex Wright, Kate Danley)

 For more pictures and blog posts behind the scenes, head on over to https://buildingmadness.com/gtcburbank/!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Building Madness

Building Madness's first preview is tomorrow and I've got to say, it has been an absolutely dream.  I've been blogging about it over at www.buildingmadness.com if you'd like the inside scoop.

The cast is fantastic.  I have to pinch myself whenever I walk onto the set and realize the enormity of having people who believe in something you've created so much, they are willing to give up their weekends and evenings to bring it to life.  Life is hard as a female playwright.  A recent study by the Lily Awards found that only 20% of all the plays being produced in America are written by women (and some theaters have entire seasons without a single female playwright on their roster.)  I have hit the lottery, especially with a director like Kevin Cochran and a cast as massively talented as this crew.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, please come out!  Tickets are now available at gtc.org and if you use code "madness" you get 50% off.  It is such a fun show, plus, your presence tells the world that it is good to invest in female playwrights.