I’m incredibly delighted to announce that Double Edged, the first book of the Bulari Saga, was selected to be part of the Renegades of Tomorrow StoryBundle curated by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA).
If you’ve never seen a StoryBundle before, it’s a really cool deal. Basically, you can get bundles of themed ebooks at a ridiculously low price. Here’s the info on the Renegades of Tomorrow bundle:
Renegades of Tomorrow
“Not on my watch.”
Why do rule-breakers and rogues intrigue us? Perhaps because we know the rules often need changing. Meet thirteen reluctant heroes of all types as they face an unjust system and find they can’t leave well enough alone. Then join each of our carefully selected renegades on their thrilling adventure to make things right, one way or another!
SFWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, advancing, and supporting science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere. This year the SFWA Independent Authors Committee had the pleasure of sorting through over a hundred excellent books as we narrowed our selection down to these special stories.
We were fascinated and inspired by a determined cop who risks the wrath of her AI superiors to save her mentor from a ruthless crime boss in InThe Paradise Factory. We were moved by the story of an illegal cyborg fighting to survive in Ternary and nanotech addict struggling to recover in ACHE. We reveled in tales of prison revolts, steam punk adventure, sci-fi espionage, underworld intrigue, and of entire galaxies standing on the brink of war in this exciting and varied look at the difference one person can make when they dare to say “not on my watch.” – The SFWA
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to The SFWA!
Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.
January 2019 marks five years since I went full-time as a freelance writer.
I got in the habit of cataloging my yearly lessons early on, when I realized so much of the advice that I was seeing out there was from freelancers who had been in the business way longer than I had. I figured this annual series would be a good way to pay forward all the advice I’ve been given to others who are a few steps behind me on the path.
It’s also been an eye-opening exercise for me, personally.
It’s so easy to just go with the flow, keeping your head down and hustling as fast as you can without taking much time to notice where you’re going and how far you’ve come.
Doing a yearly check-in allows me to take a quick breath and check both my progress and my direction.
For example, I didn’t reach many of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2018. Some because they were overly ambitious, others because they were part of a business plan I shifted away from.
That’s why I never see my yearly goals as my benchmark for success. They’re more of a roadmap that I plan to follow.
Unless those plans get derailed.
Maybe a project will take way longer than you think it will. Maybe life will get in the way. Maybe a new opportunity presents itself, and it makes more sense to pivot and take advantage of it.
Whatever happens, the goal of a yearly check-in is to take a thoughtful look at the map, and plot the next leg of your journey.
2018: A Year of Production
For me, 2018 was finally the year that I felt balanced in terms of the amount of time I was able to spend on freelance work versus fiction. I didn’t split my days 50/50 — instead, I was able to carve time around the natural up-and-down flow of client work to write 250,000 words of fiction across three books and a variety of other projects.
That’s 100,000 more than I did in 2017, which is a big boost for me.
Despite my January 2018 goal to publish four novels last year, I didn’t publish a single thing. However, I did get myself set up to a position where I can publish four Durga System novels next year, along with my creative productivity book, From Chaos to Creativity.
(From Chaos to Creativity is coming out with Microcosm Press in Fall 2019.)
As part of boosting my fiction production, I learned how to write faster and more efficiently. In 2017, I had only a single day where my fiction wordcount exceeded 3000 words. In 2018, I had at least a few of those days a month.
2018: The Year of Stress
I may have felt more balanced in terms of the amount of time that I spent on fiction versus freelance work, but I put more hours behind the computer screen in 2018 than the year before.
Back when I was starting my freelance business, I worked full time as a copywriter, then part time in two jobs as a waitress. I did all my freelance work on the side, hustling as hard as I could until it had grown enough to support me.
It was exhausting.
Right now, my fiction business is that side hustle. I’ve become more efficient (and commanded higher rates) in my freelance business, which allows me to go down to about 3/4 time, and gives me some breathing room to grow my fiction business alongside that.
But until my books are successful enough to shoulder some financial burden, I can’t afford to cut down my hours of client work any more.
(Plus, I like my client work!)
So in 2018 I learned to be more efficient with my time, said no to more things, and spent more evenings and weekends writing fiction.
The result is that I felt burned out and exhausted on a regular basis, but I went into 2018 knowing that would be part of the hustle.
For 2019, I don’t want to reduce the amount of time I spend writing fiction, and I can’t reduce the amount of time I spend on client work. But I also know I need to build more leisure time into my schedule if I don’t want to burn out completely.
I’m still working on that one.
Client Analysis: How I Make a Living as a Freelance Writer
I have made my living as a full-time working freelance writer for five years now. It seems incredible to me that I could build a business from scratch and have it sustain me — and not just pay me, but give me the freedom to live the lifestyle I want while making more than I ever did at a desk job.
How I’ve made a living writing has shifted over the years. I don’t love every single client project I say yes to, but I love 90 percent of them — and that’s pretty wonderful.
Here’s where my writing income came from last year
Website copy: 25%
Bylined blogging: 14%
Ebooks, white papers, and case studies: 11%
Educational guides: 6%
Knitting pattern descriptions: .07%
My goal for several years has been to take on more ghostwriting projects, and as you can see from the percentage above, I’ve been successful. Much of that has been ghost blogging, where I interview a client or a subject matter expert and write a blog post from their perspective. But I also took on my first business book ghostwriting project in 2018.
My total fiction sales doubled from last year, but because my total revenue also went up, the percentage of fiction sales only crept from .07% to 1%. Steadily climbing, which I like to see!
I expect that percentage to jump quite a bit in 2019, since I’ll be releasing at least five books.
Ideally, ghostwriting and fiction would make up the bulk of my income, allowing me to spend my days working on books — whether mine or someone else’s.
How Clients Found Me in 2018
The last few years, I’ve broken down where my clients come from.
From year one, the trend has steadily been from outbound prospecting and answering jobs ads towards inbound leads getting in touch with me.
This year, every single client except for one (who I’ve been working with since Year 2) was an inbound lead.
My marketing tactics in 2018 were primarily to attend networking events and to build my LinkedIn presence so that when people went there searching for a B2B SaaS copywriter or ghostwriter, they found me.
That more than anything has freed up the time I used to spend prospecting and hunting down clients to work on my fiction.
How Much Hustle is Too Much Hustle?
One of the big lessons I learned in 2018 is that I can really only hustle one “side business” at a time. Last year one of my goals was to grow my freelancing ghostwriting business at an aggressive rate while also writing and publishing fiction.
The problem is that I really only have the attention to force growth in one area. If fiction was going to be my side hustle, I needed to be content with where my freelance ghostwriting business was at, rather than pushing myself to tackle that, too.
My ghostwriting business has grown, with new clients reaching out to me via my inbound marketing breadcrumbs, and I have done more ghostwriting this year than in any year past — including my first ghostwritten business book.
But I didn’t have the energy to put into creating intricate content marketing funnels and products, into maintaining an email list, or building up my profile is a thought leader in my industry.
I could instinctively feel that I was spreading myself too thin when I tried to do both. It simply made more sense to concentrate my creative energy in one area and push there as hard as I could, rather than spreading my creative energy scattershot at a bunch of different projects.
I’m going to publish at least five books in 2019. Which means that instead of keeping my head down and blissfully writing without telling other humans much about my work, 2019 will be the year I push myself out of my comfort zone and learn how to market — without losing my forward momentum writing new books.
My solution has been to look at ways to outsource. I hired a virtual assistant at the beginning of January to help me with common tasks like transcribing interviews for client work or marketing tasks that I would know I will need to accomplish this year. It’s too early to tell exactly how that’s going to work for me, but I can tell you that since I’ve made the decision to hire a virtual assistant, I’ve felt stressed less already.
Hiring someone doesn’t seem that scary to me. But you know what is?
Asking for help from my network.
Asking a friend to read my book and review it.
Asking my newsletter to share my book with their friends.
Asking a colleague to keep me in mind if they need a copywriter.
2019 is going to be the year I practice asking for help.
Focus my energy
For 2019, I know that my biggest hustle needs to be in marketing the books that I have already written, as well as continuing to put out new words.
As it is, my freelance business is it staying stable, which means I’m fairly confident I’ll have a steady flow of clients and projects even if I don’t do an intense marketing push. If I keep it my usual level of networking and marketing, I should do fine.
But if I let myself get distracted by shiny new projects, I’ll diffuse my creative energy too much to accomplish what I’ve set for myself in 2019. That’s why my goal is to focus my energy on what matters the most this year.
Learn to celebrate
Another lesson I’m taking away from 2018 is to celebrate accomplishments.
In my freelance business, it can like I’m trapped in a cycle: working for the same clients, picking up a new client, being ghosted by an old client, turning in a project then starting work on the next project.
Writing fiction is the same way: finish draft one of the book then send it off to my beta readers and begin draft two of the next book, head into revisions, send it off to my editor while beginning the next book….
I realized I need to start celebrating milestones, otherwise it can feel like it never ends.
For fiction, publication is obviously a great milestone to celebrate. But there’s also the moment when you finish the damn book.
Is the book finished when you have a complete first draft? When you send it to your editor? When you get the final copy back from your editor? When you’ve put into the design process? When you are holding the print proof in your hand?
I decided to start celebrating my book as “done” when it gets sent to the editor. That’s because up until that point it doesn’t matter if I have 20,000 words written or three chapters left to revise, the entire process feels amorphous and insurmountable. Creative, confusing, and messy.
But once I have a draft that goes to my editor, the hard work is done. Sure, I’ll have to get my creative brain back out for the edits, but beyond that it’s all procedural. Accept changes, reject changes, put the manuscript into Vellum, upload the files to the distribution sites.
Of course, publication deserves celebration, too. I did a book launch party for my very first novel, Shifting Borders, but haven’t done anything since. It feels too weird to ask a bunch of people to come together with you and to look at this thing you created.
(See “asking for help from my network,” above.)
My husband convinced me I need to throw myself a full-on book launch party with beer and cake and friends and wine and readings, sometime in April to celebrate the release of The Bulari Saga.
It’s finally officially nice here, after one last miserable stretch of cold and gloomy weather, and my husband and I spent the weekend landscaping our yard.
(That’s us with a Subaru filled with trees and flowers, above.)
As is the way of landscaping projects, what we thought would take three days actually took five — but we’re done! Sore and full of blisters, but done.
(Left: Optimistic Jessie on Day 1. Right: FINISHED!! Not pictured, exhausted Jessie and Robert.)
It was a nice change of pace, actually.
For the past few months, every spare moment has been spent in front of my laptop, trying to make a slurry of words, characters, plot twists, and themes fit together into a cohesive whole.
(Not unlike laying a bunch of flagstones, now that I think about it. Move one element, and the whole %#*$& thing has to be reworked.)
But last Wednesday, I finished up the next novel in the Durga System series! Unlike the novellas Starfall and Negative Return, this will be the first in a trilogy of serial full-length novels featuring Jaantzen and his crew — and some very thrilling happenings.
I’m excited to share it with you! The tentative release date is October, but if you want to read it sooner and leave a review, give me a shout and I’ll add you to the Advance Reader Crew.
Story Hour with Jessie and Friends
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I had a reading at a local Portland pub. I’m generally pretty hesitant to get up in front of crowds, but I managed to work through the butterflies and have a great time!
So much fun that I think I’ll even do it again some time. Stay tuned.
I hope you’re in the mood for a good book, because I have several fantastic recommendations this week! Read on, friends, read on.
by Gerhard Gehrke
“The more of this book I read, the harder it was to put down.”
Sometime during their thousand-year voyage, the invaders perished.
But their slaves, the minders, survived to finish the journey to Earth.
Deanne doesn’t believe any of the news about visiting aliens. She’s a felon serving time in a California youth detention center.
As the lights go out and the world falls down around Deanne and her fellow inmates, she discovers something that might hold the key to their survival. Saving Earth will mean risking not only her life, but what makes her human…
“I raced through this story so fast my Kindle squealed.”
*On sale for $0.99 through May 5th!
For twenty years Inquisitor Gemson Agaton used torture and interrogation to root out subversives undermining the Establishment. Now he’s on the subject’s side of the interrogation table, duty to the regime he believes in pitted against loyalty to the one person he always protected.
And Gemson isn’t the only target on the Establishment’s radar. As Earth’s citizens rally to resist the regime’s dictatorial rule, many are listening, including one of the Establishment’s most talented operatives. To find and betray him is her directive. To fall in love with him is treason.
“The Blackscale gang is absolute hoot! I can hardly wait to read the next one.”
There’s never been a scam like the city of Abattra. People are drawn to it by the promise of riches and a chance to start over, but the only ones prospering are the Resplendent oligarchs.
The young dragon Greasetrap is looking to change that. Raised to be a thief in the Blackscale crew, he’s in town alongside his siblings to steal a fortune. With the help of a street-savvy fighter they intend to rob the oligarchs of the city for the first time in history. But Greasetrap isn’t the only one with a scheme, and soon he’ll find himself up against a sorcerer’s vicious criminal gang.
Because the vault everyone wants to break into hides more than just gold—it holds the key to an ancient secret held dear by the most powerful Resplendents in Abattra.
It’s November, which is simultaneously National Novel Writing Month and the month I most want to be curled up with a good book and a hot toddy.
I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year (the goal is to write a 50k novel in a month), and I’m thoroughly behind. But despite falling way short of the 50k word goal this month, I’m still making steady progress on the next Durga System book, which heavily features Starla!
I have a couple of book recommendations for you below, but first, some announcements.
Come meet me at Holiday Cheer!
For those of you in Portland, OR and its hinterlands, come on down to the Oregon Historical Society for Holiday Cheer. It’s a free book fair, open to the public. There will be dozens of local authors there to sell and sign books, including yours truly.
Holiday Cheer Sunday, December 3, 2017 12PM – 4PM
Oregon Historical Society 1200 SW Park Ave Portland, Oregon 97205
Win your office White Elephant or Secret Santa
Listen up. Do you want to be the person who brings yet another scented candle to the office White Elephant party, or gives your secret Santa some boring mug?
Win your office holiday gift exchange this year with my newest short story collection, Business as Usual.
It’s a stocking-sized book packed with laughs — and the perfect gift for your favorite coworker or boss.
My book recommendations this month are both by people I know and adore.
Fonda Lee’s Jade City is the first in what will hopefully be a long series of Godfather-esque novels set in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis. I’m loving the world-building and characters!
Oliver Altair’s Silver and Bone takes one of my favorite genres (western), and gives it a decidedly weird twist. The characters are enjoyable, the setting is rich, and Oliver’s writing is simply fantastic.
by Fonda Lee
FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.
MAGIC, COWBOYS, AND ZOMBIES. WELCOME TO SOULS WELL, COLORADO.
After an avalanche decimates the population, it’s up to sheriff Tiberius Tibbetts to keep his remote, mining town from falling apart. But it won’t be easy. An infamous outlaw is terrorizing the streets. A snake oil salesman is bamboozling the townsfolk, aided by his seductive assistant. On top of all that, the dead are disappearing from their graves.
When murder comes to town and a mystical power awakens beneath the rumbling mountains, Tiberius will have to race against time to save Souls Well from a terrible cataclysm. His only chance is to open his mind to the ancient art of alchemy: an arcane magic that can lead him to his victory… Or his doom.
Oliver Altair’s Silver & Bone is the first installment in American Alchemy: Wild West. The series offers a new twist on the American epic. From a graveyard under the moonlight, through the forests of the San Juan mountains, to the tunnels of an abandoned mine, Silver & Bone will take you on a ride you’ll never forget.
If you’re a fan of dark, historical fantasy and enjoy Weird Westerns like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower , HBO’s Westworld or DC Comics’ Jonah Hex, you’ll love Silver & Bone.
(This is the second post in a series about how arthritis affects writers, and what we can do about it. TL;DR version: I’m doing a writing fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation and you should donate here if you want to read my next book sooner. Here’s the first post.)
Despite being such a sedentary job (or perhaps because of it), writing can wreak havoc on the body. There’s all the slouching, the mousing, the typing, the banging your head against the keyboard.
(That last one’s not just me, right?)
I’ve been thinking about the affect of joint pain a lot lately. Partly because I’m doing a fundraising bike ride for the Arthritis Foundation later this fall, and partly because bad work habits have got the repetitive strain injury (RSI) in my left wrist rearing its head again.
I’m hardly alone in dealing with pain at the computer, but I’ve definitely got it easy. In researching this post, I came across a number of writers working through some serious pain to create their art:
Author Laura E. James on how she achieved her dream of writing novels despite developing Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at age 18.
Note: I’m lumping RSI pain into this post not because it’s related to arthritis, but because I know quite a few authors who deal with it (including myself). Plus, many of the home treatments are the same.
Workstation ergonomics for managing arthritis and RSI pain
Bad computer posture is the root of all evil, folks. From slouching over too-low computer screens to typing at ridiculous angles, non-ergonomic computer use forces your body to contort into painful angles for hours.
There are a trillion laptop stands out there, but the one I got was the Roost. I love that it’s portable, and that it fits easily both on top of my dresser (aka my standing desk) and on my regular desk. Because my workspace is in our bedroom, I always tidy everything up at the end of the day. The Roost folds up in seconds.
Keyboard ergonomics are also important for alleviating pain. Check out this post from the Wirecutter for a comprehensive review of the most comfortable ergonomic keyboards.
As the owner of a writing business, it feels like I’m glued to my laptop. I can make things as ergo as possible, but the fact remains that sitting (or standing) for hours staring at a screen and typing words onto a keyboard is dangerous.
So I’m constantly devising ways to get away from the computer.
I use dictation to give my hands a break. It can be annoying at times, but I’ve really gotten the hang of it. (You can read about my dictation journey here.) Along with dictating directly into the computer, I also regularly dictate first drafts of blog posts and scenes while taking walks around the neighborhood.
I just fire up the Dragon Dictate app on my phone and wander through the streets saying things like “Open quote I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse comma close quote said the cap Don period.”
Sometimes people look at me funny, but at least I’m getting exercise.
There is no known cure for arthritis, which is why the work of the Arthritis Foundation is so important. (Donate!). Most treatments for arthritis are aimed at early recognition and prevention.
I can’t speak to arthritis treatments personally, but here are the main things I’ve tried for RSI, ranked in the most effective order. Again, your best bet is to get a diagnosis from a doctor rather than taking the advice of a sci-fi writer on the internet.
Myofascial Release — This has done me the most good. My wrist always hurt waaaay worse the next day, but then the pain would be substantially better for weeks.
Physical Therapy — This was helpful at the time, but when my insurance ran out I couldn’t afford the treatments any longer. Once I had insurance again I was already loving the myofascial release therapy, so I haven’t been back recently.
Acupuncture — I’m not sure it has ever helped with the pain, but I do really enjoy laying quietly while soothing music plays.
Heat and ice are some of the best ways I’ve found to ease aching at home. When I went through physical therapy, my favorite treatment was the heated sand bath. The therapist would bury my arm in sand up to my elbow. I was supposed to flex and stretch through the sand in order to exercise the tendons, but the exercise was secondary to me. The heat was a divine way to ease the pain.