Friday, December 28, 2012

Resting and Garbage

Leisha here.

Everyone knows garbage trucks are not supposed to come on holidays. They're supposed to stay parked in their garbage truck garages. Because everyone knows this, my hubby and I didn't bother to put our cans out this week.

Our only problem was, we didn't realize Christmas Eve day didn't count as a holiday. Apparently it counts as a garbage day. Waking to the sultry sounds of an approaching garbage truck at five-something in the morning the day before Christmas isn't fun because somewhere in your sleep-clogged brain lives a garbage warden. It sounds a lot like a warning klaxon.

This is what it said, and yes, klaxons are well know for their dialog.

Klaxon: Wake up, you fool! The garbage truck is here! You'll be swimming in post-Christmas garbage in less than twenty four hours, and the recycle truck won't be back for two weeks. This equals your own personal landfill. Wake up and run for your cans!

Me: Uhhhhhhhhh?

Klaxon: The garbage, woman! The truck is here! Run!

Me: Ubb nnm uuhhhh?

Klaxon: Run, you fool! Run!

Me: The garbage truck!

I bolted from my bed and ran for my cans. Down the stairs, across the house, out the door, and into the fresh cotton-candy snow.

Did you know snow is slick? I went down like only a forty-year-old, pajama-clad, bare-footed, klaxon-crazed, landfill-fearing-woman can. (Falling hurts.)

But! I had to get my garbage out. I scrambled up, slushy and wet, and limped for my cans. I grabbed the first one, dragged it to the curb, and faced a smirking garbage man. (Garbage men are the best smirkers, by the way.) He had one word for me: Recycle.

I glanced down and realized I'd grabbed the wrong can. I asked him to give me a minute and went to retrieve the correct bin. He waited, politely laughing the whole time. As he drove away with my junk, I hobbled into the house, bruised, cold, and somehow triumphant.

Now, I know this sounds like the typical Leisha adventure, but it really does have something to do with writing, and no, I'm not suggesting we take out our writing garbage. That's a whole other story. I am suggesting we slow down a little in our sprint toward publication.

Sometimes we, as writers, are like the sleep-drugged version of myself. Except, we're anticipation-drugged. We want to get our stories out. We need to get them out. We must get them out. We have some deep, irrational fear that if we don't run full-out for publication we'll miss it, and our stories will clutter up our heads like a literary landfill.

Here's the thing. Running like a crazy person toward publication isn't always the best plan. You might fall and get hurt. You might take out the wrong story. You might get smirked at.

Several of the recent posts here at Scribblers Cove mentioned taking a writing break and refocusing. That doesn't have to mean eons, years, or even months, but we do need to let our stories rest. As an example I finished my latest WIP during NaNoWriMo this year. I was jazzed. I was pumped. I was ready to rush into revisions December 1st. Then I got the flu, followed by bronchitis. I felt like garbage. Long story short, I took the whole month of December off, and the best thing happened. Ideas started percolating in my head. Unanswered story questions started answering themselves. Plot holes started filling in. Characters deepened. Settings became more vivid. All because I didn't rush on.

Now, not only am I rested and ready to move on, my story is, too. I'm awake, I'm rational, and I'm armed with fresh ideas. Perhaps if I had slowed down to think and plan in my race for my garbage cans this week, I might not have ended up splayed out on my sidewalk. And perhaps if we do the same thing with our writing, we won't injure our careers either.

Just keep in mind resting is good, waiting forever isn't. After all, we must get our stories out. And if we do slip and fall, there will always be a garbage man watching. At least we'll make his day.

Leisha Maw

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Briar Patch Life

It's been quite a while since I've really set foot into cyberworld. Yes, I have posted a few things here and there on Facebook, but that's the extent of my online presence.


Because I am pregnant! 6 months. My baby is due March 10th and we've named him Weston Rei. Love the way it sounds. As it is, I am uninspired to pursue new books. It's been this way with my every pregnancy.

One of the most frustrating things about this is that I've been hit with SO many book ideas, but I am not interested in pursuing them. The odd thing is that I've had the drive to edit Eros. It's been a very adventurous time and I am enjoying revisiting my characters and plot.

I am still mulling over traditional versus personal publishing. I've been jaded by my traditional publisher and have heard so many heartbreaking things from traditional authors, that I've decided to move away from traditional. I've had to jump through several fiery hoops that have burnt me, injured me, even unraveled me to the point of tears. But, as I sought other ways, I became more and more hopeless because this is SO new to me, and there is SO much information regarding the alternative.

Boy, am I glad for my 9 month hiatus.

It has actually given me time away from my career and has lent me a different perspective. During this time, as with the insistence and persistence of my 16 year old princess, we wrote a trilogy. She's thrilled to get it published. I keep talking about "when" she's published (she's written several books already!). Funny, but in my heart, I feel that personally publishing her books as well as the ones we've written together, is the way to go.

It really scares me to do this by myself--because of so many unknown factors from formatting to setting up accounts to knowing how to protect myself. I am determined to teach myself all these things because, as it stands now, we can't afford hiring editors, formatters, marketers and so on. This is a big thing to take on, yes, it is.

I've embarked on a sacred journey to discovering my pathway in my career. I am hoping I will be ready for this quest after Weston is born. Heartache and all. (Yes, I am scared, because I don't have a mentor to guide me every step of the way--I've made so many ignorant mistakes on my own already that have cost me a lot as an indie author).

I've come across this most-ever helpful post (and it has been very difficult for me to glean, if at all, any advice from my friends who've chosen this pathway). I hope this gives you hope to setting your roots firmly into the ground if you do choose this!

How I would love a business manual on how to avoid sharks, present yourself to bookstores and how to protect yourself when you do, effective book signing, presentation secrets, as well as everything you need to know to start your own publishing company from A-Z. Yes, I've heard, if you have an idea of how a story should be written, write it! I am no expert in this area and still have TONS to learn, so I can't be the one to write this book! Maybe some day...

How has your journey into publishing treated you? What kind of mistakes took you by surprise and how did you cope with them? Do you have a mentor?

Thanks for listening. I hope you guys have a great Christmas!

Elizabeth Mueller

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Indie Frontier: Foreign Language Translations

One of the main reasons I started a career as an indie author was because the field is brand new, and I wanted to be in the first wave of explorers. Even if my books weren't a commercial success, the opportunity to say, "I was there" when this major market change occurred was worth it to me. I published two chick lit novels and began to upload my previously published science fiction and fantasy short stories. A few months into this venture, I was contacted by Michael Drecker, who asked if he could translate my short stories into German. It took a few emails back and forth for me to catch on to the fact that he's German, given how strong his English is. He corrects my vocabulary, for example. Together we hammered out an agreement, aware of the fact that there wasn't really much precedent for this. Authors rarely hire their own translators and the usual arrangement is that the translator makes their full fee up front. Michael wanted to be an indie translator though, and thus we had to come up with a system that would make him affordable to authors without a big six publisher signing the checks. We settled on having him get a fraction of his fee up front, and then make 100% of the royalties until he earned out the rest of his fee. He translated three of my short stories and sales were strong... for short stories. Which is to say, they weren't going to earn out his fee any time soon, and so he decided to double down and asked to translate one of my novels.

There are a million reasons why this deal could fail. For one thing, while my chick lits sell decently in the US, they sell significantly less in the UK (and I live in the UK!) Germany was yet another cultural step removed from where the novels are set. Michael also doesn't read a ton of chick lit (that he's admitted to me, at least) and is male. There aren't a ton of male chick lit authors in the world. And yet, we decided to be brave and try it out, though this required me to watch my budget, as I was prepared to pay Michael his entire fee if this venture failed. I paid him the agreed upon portion up front and he translated Someone Else's Fairytale into Nicht mein Märchen, which we then launched on The result? I'm posting this sales curve to show some data, not to be obnoxious. This shows the book's ranking on since its release date:

What is exciting about this isn't just selling a lot of books, it's having taken a risk and seen a payoff. As far as I'm aware, Michael is the only translator working with this business model, and it's one I helped create and drafted the original contracts for. 

Aside from doing a solid translation, Michael made several other wise choices. Perhaps the most significant is that he contacted Emily Bold, a successful German indie romance author who'd just had a book translated into English. Together we struck a deal that I would help promote her in the US and she would help promote me in Germany. Hence in the back of all my English language books is a plug for her novel, The Curse, which really is fantastic, and in the back of her German language edition of The Curse is a plug for Nicht mein Märchen. We also posted on each other's blogs. Since then, Emily Bold has pulled back on the publicity while she gets the book re-translated. The Curse takes place in Scotland and Delaware and hence requires two dialects of English that are almost different languages. The current translation is in Scots dialect and British English, which Americans might find a little unusual, but I have to say, the story is rock solid and I highly recommend it. There's a reason Emily Bold's books are at the top of the German bestseller lists. When the new translation is out, you'll hear me singing its praises as we go full steam ahead with a publicity campaign.

Michael also contacted German book bloggers and I let him know that I would reimburse him for any paperbacks of the book he sent out for review. Thanks to this, we got several four and five star reviews right off the bat. This also got the book onto, which is essentially the German Goodreads.

But at the end of the day, this shows Michael's gift as a translator. Another friend of mine who started out as an indie author but got picked up by a major publisher, entered into her own German rights deal at around the same time. When she asked her agent about the terms of the deal, he let her know that it was always preferable to stay with the norms and let the publisher call the shots, as people who'd tried to hire their own translators usually failed. (Though, don't get the wrong idea, my friend got a good deal and was treated well in the process, she was merely curious about alternatives.) Just because someone can translate into another language doesn't mean they can do a book justice. Successful translators are almost writers in their own right, as they have to make a lot of creative and poetic decisions that make the prose work.

Our translation deal differs from traditional deals in other key ways. One is that Michael will continue to earn a percentage of the royalties even after his fee earns out, and will be entitled to this percentage for as long as the book is for sale, which to me is only fair. He took a big risk and did a lot of work without immediate compensation, so I think that if the book stays a bestseller, he deserves a share of the proceeds. I feel like the work we've accomplished, we've accomplished as a team. He didn't just translate the book, hand it back to me, and move on to other projects. He's stayed invested in its success.

As I write this, Michael's just inked a deal with a major indie suspense author who's seen FAR more success than I have, and I can't help but be thrilled. Michael's business is taking off, and I wish him every success as I look forward to continuing the Fairytale franchise with him on But more to the point, I'm so excited and elated to have forged a path on this particular frontier of indie writing and indie publishing. Michael's got a full translation schedule at the moment, but can still calendar people for the months ahead and, if he gets enough requests, might bring on board another translator, so anyone who is interested, feel free to contact me ( to get his contact info. He can afford to be choosy, though, so please don't take offense if he turns a project down. He works on a mostly contingency basis, still has his day job, and his first ever novel translation has been in the top 1000 books on for weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Resistance Isn't Futile... It's Death Itself

This is Resistance's PR campaign. It wants you to think Resistance is Noble, when really, it's much more like being the Borg.

Steven Pressfield in The War of Art says, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

Pressfield believes that Resistance is that anti-life, anti-creative force that stands between you and the creative life you are supposed to live. Resistance is literally Death Itself, a tiny, daily death that stops you from creating the works you are capable of. I agree with Pressfield, with the caveat that I believe there still needs to be a balance between life and creation - that our creative works are born out of the life we live, and sometimes the call to live life is exactly that, not just a siren song diverting us from our "true" creative work.

But caveats aside, The War of Art is well worth the read. And Resistance is a real and deadly (to your creative work) thing.

My Resistance mostly manifests as fear (see my recent internal dialogue with Fear as it attempted to stop me from writing my most recent NaNo novel). Resistance also pushed on my brain as I contemplated outlining my next SF series. It's always, always, there whenever I'm ready to start a new project, or finish an old one, or push the "publish" button. But Resistance doesn't reserve its deadly charms for when I'm attempting large, ambitious things. It wages a relentless war even at the smallest scales, most recently when a blogger asked me to write a guest post, topic: How would you explain Christmas to someone who has never experienced it before?

Me: Uh... what?

Resistance: You can't write about that! What if people get offended? I mean, you're going to explain Christmas?? That's like religion. Taboo topic. Walk away slowly.

Me: Oh good grief, it can't be that bad. Surely I can talk about Christmas without igniting some kind of religious war.

Resistance: I wouldn't be so sure.

Me: It's really that I don't like writing prompts.

Resistance: Me either! So... stifling. I mean, why would we care about this topic anyway? We should only write things when the mood strikes us, when something strange and mysterious wells up deep from within us, setting our muse on fire...

Me: Ok, I know that's complete bunk. I mean, I'm a writer. I should be able to make a grocery list interesting. Why would something like this stop me? I just need to be creative about it.

Resistance: Sure, creative. Like we have time for that. Don't you see all those emails clogging your inbox? Creativity takes energy. We ran out of that before we even got up today.

Me: Now you're just depressing me. So, let's think. What kind of person would never have experienced Christmas before?

Resistance: Jews, Muslims, Hindis... pretty much everyone who isn't Christian.

Me: That's the obvious angle. I want to be creative. Hey! Robots! I bet they don't have Christmas! Being immortal and all...

Resistance: That sounds really cheesy.

Me: Except that I happen to have a really non-cheesy androids-of-the-future story all plotted out already.

Resistance: You haven't even written that story yet!

Me: Yeah, but I already have the characters banging around in my head. It wouldn't be hard to let them loose for a while...

Resistance: Wait, no, don't do that!

Me: Why? What are you afraid of?

Resistance: Those characters... you love those characters... 

Me: I know. It will probably get me excited about writing the novel too.

Resistance: Nooooo! *sobs* *slinks away*

Me: *writes furiously, grin on face* 

The funny thing about Resistance is that whenever I overcome it, I invariably create things that I love. (Like this little bit of flash fiction - scroll to the bottom.) I've come to recognize Resistance of a harbinger of great work waiting to happen, if I just let go of my fear and tackle it head on.

In this Christmas season, I hope you take time to enjoy your family, friends, and Holiday Celebrations of Choice. And I hope you also find time to let your creative energies loose and bring something new and wonderful into the world.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Series, which includes two novels, three novellas, one novel-in-waiting, and a trailer. She's currently writing her NaNoWriMo novel, a steampunk fantasy romance, and has plans to embark on that androids-of-the-future story as soon as Resistance gets out of her way.