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Meet My (Writing) Family

A few days ago it was National Book Lovers Day. I had the intention of making a blog post to shamelessly self-promote myself, but as with all things, life got in the way and I failed amazingly well.

I did, however spend some time contemplating my writing journey, silly as it was. I thought about how The Code started as a silly project to help me cope with the challenges of life, and then somewhere along the way became firmly embedded as a part of me. I thought about the people who supported my GoFundMe so I could pay for my editor, and my managers at Chapters who have eagerly supported me by allowing my book to be on the shelves. I thought about my coworkers, who have bought copies and demanded I sign them, as if I were someone important.

As if the book has value beyond what I imagine for it.

And then, perhaps most importantly, I thought about my writing friends. No, not friends. Family. I thought about the people that are on the same journey, some ahead, some behind, some on a different path still leading to the same well. I thought about them and was immeasurably grateful for their love, support, and their insanity. And it occurred to me that while I’m not by any measure a particularly important person in the world of self-publishing, I do have a few people who glance at this blog. It would behoove me to share the accomplishments and sing the praises of the people I care about whenever possible. With that in mind… Meet my second family.

Ashley Whitt, who I met via kismet when myself and others were seeking critique partners on CC. Along with Lisa Reece, the three of us began the arduous task of sharing and exploring each other’s writing. She is in the query stage, and has had several requests for partial and full manuscripts of her speculative suspense novel, The Fairer Sex. What if men were no longer needed; what if women not only ruled the world but kept the men oppressed in camps? What if a woman saw a child – a male child –  at a camp who looked remarkably like her own daughter? Samantha kidnaps the boy and, accompanied by a man, Jonas, makes a wild escape into a world that she is beginning to question.

I loved everything about The Fairer Sex. It was my first experience acting as a critique partner to someone, and the day Ashley gets the agent she absolutely deserves and sells TFS for a gazillion dollars, you can be damn sure I will be putting my Staff Picks sticker on it at work.


Amber Pierce (My Agent Told Me To Make a Blog) is the first of our little group to actually accomplish something in the vein of traditional publishing. She has an agent, she has an agent who is telling her what to fix in order to make Pull of Gravity the perfect piece to pitch to publishers. Like Ashley, Amber has worked her ass off to get where she is, and we’re intensely proud of her. Her love of science and dedication to her craft makes for amazing blog posts, which you should definitely check out! Alternately, go find her on Twitter.


Pat – Mr. P.A. Thompson – has more dedication to writing than I could theoretically muster in a lifetime. He goes to conferences, he rubs elbows, he makes it damn clear that he wants this, and his novel Dog Tags, is going to get him to the top. An emotional and physically defeated veteran has his life inexplicably changed when he finds a stray dog whose tags help direct him through life. I was pleased to assist in a small way when Pat asked me about living with chronic pain.

Sometimes we live vicariously through Pat, for those of us that can’t get to, or afford, writers conferences. He gets the info, absorbs it life none other, and graciously passes it on. We’d have no idea what those conferences were life if not for Pat. And now, just recently, he has become, and I quote “a real writer”, by receiving his first rejection letter. One of us, Pat. One of us.


Debbi Miller Gutierrez, aka Gretchen. She is, without a doubt, the mom of the group. She looks after us, an while her wit is absolutely biting, she can turn it off at a moments notice to offer advice. As long as that advice doesn’t have anything to do with how you plan to kill a dog in your book because she will literally eat your face if you even dare consider it. She is a dog-lover through and through. Her children’s books are charming and popular with the children of our group members. Gretchen may have been in a slump with her latest work, but over the last month she has been re-energized to take it on, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.


Keith McBride, parrot lover, Hugh Howey worshipper.

Keith and Parrot Lovin'

Suck it, Keith. Oh wait, you already did.

He’s in a band now. He also self-published Across the Chasm, a Kindle Worlds novella set in the world of Hugh Howey’s Sand series. Keith really, really loves Hugh Howey. His latest venture is a baseball novel, which is severely lack in explosions if you ask me. He is also the go to when it comes to cooking of any kind. He’s a joker, a smoker, but presumably not a midnight toker because he is also a family man. He introduced me to Maine Beer Company, which I can never forgive him for, given that it is very, very hard to find MBC in Calgary. Goddamit, Keith.


T.R. Calais aka Aries75. She has an image for everything; no matter what you have said, what you have commented on, within 30 seconds she will appear with a relevant article or image to make you laugh. She is a writer of contemporary women’s fiction, a genre that few of us dare tread. Still, knowing Aries75, The Best Bad Day (Coming soon!) is going to stand out among the rest with humor and contemporary relevance that is rarely seen in women’s fiction.

 

Linnea Ren, who abandoned us for a year to go to Asia and returned, remarkably, without any strange disease created through the combination of bat spit and lemur tears. I am in the process of beta reading her novel, Waking Immortal, which I will definitely get back to as soon as I finish this post. She is the youngun’ of the group, but not lacking in experience or knowledge. She is deeply passionate about her work, taking part in every pitch contest on Twitter, and constantly on the hunt to find another way to improve her query. Again with the dedication. It must be a writer thing that I just ended up missing out on.


A special shout out to David Fross, Dfross, who isn’t a writer but a graphic artist. He made my cover. He made Keith’s cover. I have no idea how he found our chat room or why he decided to stay, but he is a fantastic person and constantly… erm… challenges us with his viewpoints. You’re an okay guy, Dfross.


We all have so much still to learn about writing, but our combined experiences make us professionals. Well, professional assholes if anything. We goof around. We tease each other. We harass each other. We force each other to be better and question our decisions in our characters and plots. It is an amazing miniature family to be part of, and doesn’t even include the others who appear on the chat less often. I will forever be grateful for the help and love these individuals have shown me over the years, and I look forward to harassing them endlessly for many more years to come. If you are looking for hilarious Twitter feeds, informative blogs, or wonderful self-published work, I recommend taking a look at the links above. It won’t be a waste of time. Or maybe it will. I don’t know. Either way, at the end of the day we’ll keep doing the same old faffing about.

The Magical World of Commerce

I wouldn’t say I’m burnt out by writing; far from it. If anything, I have more drive than ever to get back into book 2 since I completely redid the entire damn plot. The problem is I have other responsibilities. I have work, book club, cleaning the house, taking care of the pets, laundry, beta reading, and a brand new John Connolly book which is definitely calling out to me.

So, yeah, I’ve got some stuff I have to do. I’m a little busy. And because I get easily distracted I have made a point of not obsessively checking the stats on my KDP page for the ebook versions of Between Fire and Pines (hello, buy me on ebook here!).  I logged in every hour in May. In June I checked every other hour. In July I did it maybe three times a week. Now we’re into August and I hadn’t even considered checking how sales had done until someone on Critique Circle asked me how many I had sold.

I honestly had no idea. Twenty maybe in hardcopy online? Another ten as ebooks? Who knows. I’m not Wonder Woman!

The usual process goes something like this: I post on Twitter and Facebook several days in a row, I see a couple ebook sales. That is how it works. Very simple. But I haven’t been marketing in the slightest. I’ve been bored with marketing, more keen on getting off my ass and writing some excellent explosions (I am a one-trick pony and the pony is EXPLOOOOSIONS.) I get bored of waving pictures of my book in people’s faces, crying “Here! Look at this! Buy me!” Which is ironic given that the first piece of advice I gave to Amber about social media work was ensuring that you stick to a schedule that your fans can rely on.

Ha, Doctor, heal thyself. Or in this case, Communication Professional, listen to your own damn advice.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I go onto the KDP and see that between the end of July and August I sold some ebooks! I wasn’t trying. I have no idea how that happened! I’m fairly certain everyone I know has bought a copy, so it certainly can’t be friends or family. Are… are random strangers buying my book? Did some random person with no emotional investment in the time I have spent on this project actually purchase my book?

What the hell? Is that even possible? Is that allowed? Are people allowed to buy books when they don’t know the author? I mean, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t! I have no idea given that I am new to this particular club and have only just recently sacrificed the necessary woodland creatures to Baphomet to summon the powers of creativity.

Being an author can be confusing at times.

Of course, realizing that yes, random strangers can and just may buy copies of my book, whether through bribery or blackmail, has forced me to realize that yes, I ought to get back into marketing and, hey! Maybe if you stick to a schedule, things will actually turn out for the best!

And if not there is always another sacrifice to the glorious leader, Baphomet.

The Code Book One: Between Fire and Pines is available on Amazons everywhere!

Header image by Eliphas Lévi (1810-1875) – Scan aus: Hans Biedermann –- Dämonen, Geister, dunkle Götter, Graz: Leopold Stocker Verlag 1989, Lizenz für Gondrom Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Bindlach 1993 S. 45 ISBN 3-8112-1008-4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5947736

 

 

The Validation of Publication in the Writing Nation

How many months has it been? Only two, two and a half if we’re being exact. Two and a half since I released the monster that is Between Fire and Pines into the universe to see what corpses it might drag back with it. The response has been quietly enthusiastic. Friends and family and coworkers have been wonderfully supportive, buying excessive copies and getting me to sign them, making me feel like a celebrity with a coy smile. They have joked about my future career in writing and, during my first ever book signing, a manager and coworker ran to the table and started screaming, “I can’t believe I’m seeing the Kathleen Sawisky!”

It was hilarious, and made even more amusing when a random stranger decided to take a picture of me, as if I was someone important.

It’s been fun and challenging and, at the same time, I don’t feel much about it. And it took me nearly two months to realize why.

It doesn’t feel legitimate.

Oh sure, self-publishing is tough. You take every aspect of it into your own hands. You pay for the editor, the artist. You learn how to format, you make changes, order another proof, make more changes, until you’re satisfied. Or you do what I did, get so excited that you just roll with it and discover all the errors after and realize that you will simply have to call it a SPECIAL FIRST EDITION WITH ORIGINAL AUTHOR ERRORS, and hope you can market the shit out of it that way while subtly making changes for the second edition.

Self-publishing is hard work. It involves a lot of sweat and tears. It means sitting alone at tables, trying to convince random strangers to buy your book, or in my case last weekend, try to convince random strangers that, while you want them to buy your book, no, you do not think it is appropriate for their 12 year old. Whatever. I warned them and I signed the copies so no taksies backsies.

So, yeah, self-publishing is hard. And at the end of all of it you would think that I would be able to stand back and look at my work and think, ‘Yeah, I did it. I made it. This is mine. This work is mine.’

Except I could also poop on a piece of paper, call it my life’s greatest achievement, and self-publish it right now.

As difficult as it is, there is no denying that self-publishing lacks a sense of validation or legitimacy in the eyes of writers. The public, at least according to my boss, who keeps telling me to be more enthusiastic about it, doesn’t care. It is a book. It is a complete story arc that was created from nothing. It is one hell of an accomplishment. So why am I not giddy about what I’ve done?

God damn it all to hell. I want validation.

I only realized it after a friend of mine, there ever charming animal whisperer, Amber Pierce, told us she had not one but two offers for representation! Don’t get me wrong. I nearly peed myself, I was so excited for her! But damn it, jealousy is a fickle mistress. Then Ashley Whitt, who is my favorite Canadian ever and my critique partner, got requests for her brilliant work, The Fairer Sex, and I was, and continue to be, so damn excited for her! These ladies have worked their asses off. They’ve queried and gone into contests and queried again, and I assume stapled small non-denominational bills to the queries maybe? I don’t know what the rule is on bribery.

The point is, their hard work paid off. And mine is too, in its own subtle way.

I guess deep down I still just want someone with some industry oomph to look at my work and tell me, “Hey Kathleen, this is an awesome book. Those who have read it and said that it grips you right from page one and doesn’t let go are correct and also your hair is lovely and no one notices your bad posture.”

Okay, maybe I don’t need that last part.

And I fully admitted both to Ashley and Amber that I was a wee bit jealous, because it is amazing and of course I would be! And that got us talking about validation, and how sometimes we need it.

I don’t want to believe that I do, that I can be content in what I am doing here and now, but honestly… Yeah, it would be nice. It would be nice to have more reviews, and have an agent in your corner who is as enthusiastic about your manuscript as you are, who will go to other people in the industry and gush endlessly about your brilliant thriller.

I don’t know. I don’t want to say I’m experiencing an existential crisis, but it sure feels like it. That’s not to say I won’t keep going. The plan is to self-publish book 2, hopefully with another brilliant cover by David Fross, hopefully after my wonderful copy editor has sunk her claws into it (this time I will be more aware about my own changes after the fact and carefully go through the proof copy so I don’t bollocks up all her hard work.) And maybe, just maybe, someone will notice. Some random stranger might buy a copy on Amazon and leave an okay review and tell a friend. And maybe, just maybe, that okay review will lead to two or three more. Who knows! And then, when I feel like I’ve earned it, I’ll query. I’ll present the series to an agent and tell them about the hard work and the self-publishing and how I worked my ass off to make a name for myself.

And maybe, just maybe, they will say, “Okay, sign here on the dotted line.”

 

Between Fire and Pines – Now Available!

Yup. You read it here first, folks. Or maybe this is just the continuation of a series of exceedingly annoying adverts that you have received from me thanks to my social media prowess. Whatever the case may be, my debut novel is now available for purchase!

Amazon.com is (very slowly) getting it together here.

Amazon.ca is also doing the same.

Or maybe you have a Kindle.

The easiest way to purchase it for now is directly through CreateSpace.

Also other amazons like this one.

And this one.

Not this one.

A Brief Open Letter to Billy of Billy’s Library

Dear Billy,

While I appreciate your concern for my family life, I do not believe I actually require Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. I would, however, like my copy of A Monstrous Regiment of women and presumably [Redacted] of Toronto would very much like her 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are a few areas my husband and I could improve upon. Sometimes we snap at each other, and we tend to use sarcasm as a defense mechanism, but we are definitely working on talking through our issues instead of acting passive aggressively about it. Unlike the people who live in my condo, who are the epitome of passive aggression. I’m fairly certain one day it will become full-on aggression and the end result will be a murder. In which case a detective book like Laurie R. King’s A Monstrous Regiment of Women might come in handy. I’m not saying I have the skills of Mary Russell-Holmes, but I do consider myself to have a keen eye for investigation. I almost became a private investigator once, but then an angry old white man told me that pretty young white girls don’t make good PI’s. How he knew I was white is beyond me because we were talking on the phone. How he knew I was pretty is another mystery all together, as I am not. This leads me to assume that perhaps he is not that good of an investigator after all.

Then again, maybe he was the head of some crime syndicate, and knew I was on to him and was trying to throw me off the trail. That is also a possibility, but still highly unlikely. If I had a copy of Monstrous Regiment of Women I might be able to use the skills gained from reading said book to determine what his angle was. Instead the only thing I can do is help him work through the family issues he is inevitably having with his wife. I say inevitable, because let’s face it, one does not become a PI because one’s life is all sunshine and rainbows. The guy probably eats Film Noir for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which may account for the intense weight he is carrying around, at least according to his image on the website I looked up.

Of course it isn’t fair to judge someone by their image. Instead I choose to judge him based solely on the fact that he thought calling me pretty would somehow get me off his case. The joke is on him. Now I have his social insurance number and a list of his fears, and I’m just biding my time until he slips up. That makes me sound a bit like a villain in film noir but I promise you I am far from it. I am just a simple (and apparently pretty) girl from Canada who would very much like to give this 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families to [Redacted] and receive her copy of Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.

So, let’s you and I make this happen, eh?
Sincerely,
Kathleen Sawisky Esq, PI
Integrity Commissioner