Annnnnnd I’m Back on the Timer

Darkwing Duck

The other day I got frustrated because I didn’t balance my schedule changes appropriately. So? I turned to my trusty friend the timer, opened up a document, and started to write. I had three interruptions in the first five minutes (all of which were my fault) but the numbers blaring on my screen reminded me that I had to stick to it.

I wrote 1,000 words in a half an hour without even realizing it. Had to stop because I was typing so fast I kept sticking on the Ctrl+ key which made my keyboard go all kinds of wonky — twice — but hopefully that’s all sorted out now. I think I’d have a meltdown if my new keyboard was batty after I spent three days setting it up, but after some investigation, I think this was a case of user error. Sigh, where’s Tron when you need him. Eh?

This free Countdown Timer works really well and there’s a full screen option available for those of you who have a second monitor. Combined with a Task Timer app from Chrome, these two items will help me break out my day into smaller chunks, even when I’m working on larger projects.

Although word count is important, you will notice a change to my status updates at the bottom of the blog screen. Due to the new 100 day announcement I posted earlier, I’m going to list the type of projects I’m working on. Mind you, I’m under NDA for some and others I don’t want to tell you about for professional reasons. I know other authors are comfortable talking about what they submit for open calls, but I’m not. I’d rather focus on the work at hand then think about publications like little notches on a computer screen.

For me, once I get past the research phase, I worry less about word count because I track progress by date moreso than the number of words. Deadlines are my goals and with some projects, like short stories, there really isn’t a set word count. It’s done when it’s done. Sometimes that means I have to go through several revisions; sometimes I’m good after the first draft.

Like any other working writer out there, this job (part time, any time, full time or hobby time) requires balancing more than one plate. Some gigs work out; some don’t. The trick is to keep at it and the timer is one tool to help me to just that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mood: This grasshopper is focused.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: It’s kind of hazy…
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Half an hour walk.
    Yesterday’s Projects: RPG, blogging
    In My Ears: Movie Soundtrack Playlist (Currently Listening to Battlestar Galactica)
    Game Last Played: PicCross 3D
    Movie Last Viewed: Limitless
    Book Last Read: The Encyclopedia of 500 Spells
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Medallion pendant in gold
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

5 Questions To Help You Set Your Writing Goals

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

I think one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to figure out your goals. Last year, I had to balance what I wanted to do with what I could do and what I did (and didn’t) get paid for. Your personal situation may be different because you may not have the same financial or time considerations that I do. Maybe you’re trying to figure out what genre you want to write or maybe you want to find a critique partner. Maybe you’re scheduling your first convention appearance or your fiftieth. Regardless of your situation, I’ve come up with five questions that might help you explore not only what you want to achieve in 2012, but how.

1. How Does Your Past Support Your Future? – Think of where you’d like to be as an author. Now, review what you’ve done the past five or even ten years. Can you pinpoint what you’ve done to transform you into future-you? If it takes you longer than ten or fifteen minutes to immediately recognize the clear and actionable steps you’ve taken, then you may want to think about what that means to you. Maybe you revisit that long-term goal. Maybe you make smaller goals that do support your future-you this year. Maybe you get depressed and whine about what you haven’t done. And that’s okay! There’s a lot of emotional investment tied up in being an author because it’s a creative work. There’s going to be moments where you piss and moan, but also cheer and celebrate!

2. What Are You Willing To Sacrifice? – Every author gives up something to make a career out of it. Every. Single. One. For some, it’s social interaction. For others, it’s nights and weekends or having new furniture. I don’t watch TV. I get my pop culture trends from Twitter or Google. I watch even less TV now that I started making jewelry again, which ended up being a huge blessing for me. I get the camaraderie of a regular beading group, the ability to learn something new in a non-threatening environment, and the wonderful “art” that results from it. I’m not in shape (something I need to change) but I’m on schedule for achieving what I have to (and what I want to) in 2012. Next week, I’m going to hit the timer again hard to make sure I stay on track in spite of traveling. The point I’m trying to make here, is that becoming an author is more than just putting fancy words on a page. It takes a lot of work and because of that, because of the hours and hours involved, something has to give.

3. What Are Your Strengths/Weaknesses? – I talked about this a little bit when I wrote the debut column for Adventure to Dice Castle, but it’s still appropriate here. It’s impossible to be realistic about your goals if you have no idea what you can and can’t do. Think about this in terms of an RPG character. If the quest is to find the magical macguffin in a hidden tomb, then you’ll need skills that will help you find out where that tomb is, deal with any NPCs along the way, and survive the encounter. A lot of people find this part to be really hard, because there’s a lot of “I don’t know’s” that are often thrown around. Find out! Do you write better consistently or, like me, plan everything and then let the words flow out in a big heap? On average, how much time do you need to write a short story? Novel? Are you better at writing action scenes or romance? What’s the biggest reason why you haven’t finished your novel? What life-related things get in the way of your writing? Health/money/love/family/job problems?

4. Are Your Drawbacks Manageable? – There is no way that you will ever get rid of your negative traits. It just won’t happen. Instead, you have to manage them. Addicted to caffeine? Over-committed because you can’t say “No?” Insecure as hell? Procrastinate? Jealous of other writers younger than you? Don’t finish what you say you’re going to? These are tendencies ingrained into your personality for whatever reason. Embrace them, don’t beat your self up over them, and figure out how to manage them to help you keep focused on your work. Maybe that means you get help. Maybe that means you have to, like me, use a timer or blog for accountability. Whatever your tricks are, find them. Your drawbacks will never go away, not when you’re successful, not when you’re published, not even after you’ve achieved every goal you’ve set out to do, because you are you. Writing is a solitary act. No one else can put those words on the page for you. To get those words on the page, you’ll need to face yourself and deal with the parts you like and don’t like to achieve your goals.

5. How Much Money Can You Make versus Want To On Your Writing? – I’ve often talked about how every writer’s path is different, and money is a big reason why. Some authors have a spouse that financially supports them, so they don’t have to have a second job. Others have insane medical bills and work-and-write full + overtime hours. As much as writing is an art, it’s also a job for many, many, many professionals. I feel that some writers forget that, because the dream of becoming a successful novelist is rarely detailed. Many people are enamored with Cinderella at the ball, but being that abused, half-starved, over-worked girl? No one wants to be treated like crap, nor do they want to willingly go through the crucible to get back to the ball. Don’t get me wrong: some authors find success comes easier to them than others. That’s the way of the world, but that isn’t true for everyone. Right now, the paying markets are continuing to shift and change as digital media sorts itself out. The number of copies sold for an anthology and for first-time novelists has dropped. For every success story you can name there are literally thousands who never do.

I hope you didn’t think I was being overly negative by bringing these questions up. I’m not trying to say: “Don’t write. It’s scary. Oooooooo.” What I’m attempting to convey here? “Plan to write. To do that, you’re going to have to make changes in your life. Some you’re going to be okay with. Some you’re not going to. It’s up to you to figure out what that means in the end, but when you do? You will become future-you.”

    Mood: Post-Christmas recovery. Day Four!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two with a chance of BBZZZZzzzzZZZZ.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I suck. This is the longest post Christmas-recovery ever.
    Word Count Logged Yesterday (not including day job): 2,000
    In My Ears: Movie Soundtrack playlist on iTunes. (Currently listening to Harry Potter)
    Game Last Played: PicCross 3D
    Movie Last Viewed: Limitless
    Book Last Read: The Encyclopedia of 500 Spells
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Medallion pendant in gold
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Announcing Strange, Dead Love!

Strange Dead Love | Vampire: the Requiem

Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem is now available! You can pick this book up in a PDF format or in softcover from DriveThruRPG.com. This new release was developed by Russell Bailey and Eddy Webb. Jess Hartley, Filamena Young, and myself were the writers. Christopher Shy was the artist who created the cover and interior art was provided by Ken Meyer, Jr.

Released yesterday, our first Strange, Dead Love review is now live, too! It’s a chapter-by-chapter overview of what’s in the book.

Don’t forget, there’s still time to visit Can Vampires Love? for your chance to win a FREE copy! Contest winner will be announced on January 3, 2012.

Revised Thor Ending

Marvel Thor

Yes, this is exactly how Thor should have ended. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mood: Post-Christmas recovery. Day Three!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two and definitely going for more.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Nope, I blew it.
    Word Count Logged Yesterday (not including day job): ~1,000 and holding steady.
    In My Ears: Nothing.
    Game Last Played: PicCross 3D
    Movie Last Viewed: Limitless
    Book Last Read: The Encyclopedia of 500 Spells
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Medallion pendant in gold
    Upcoming Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

The Internet Isn’t Just All Talk. PR Where it Hurts.

Mean People Suck

Today’s blog is inspired by a link (via Jim Zubkavich of SKULLKICKERS fame). Ocean Marketing, a company that makes video game controllers, had an exchange with one of their customers that is now gone viral.

And now, I will momentarily pause for you while you Read Just Wow! on Penny Arcade.

(Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…)

My problems with the article? The way the company communicates makes me want to take a red pen out and bleed all over the screen. Remember, these are supposed to be e-mails from the owner of the company. The lack of grammar and spelling immediately makes me lose respect for the company, because if I’m a customer who is paying someone money, then I expect that company to be professional.

Unprofessionalism comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, companies that are too formal can also experience negative backlash. Well, I’d rather err on that side. In this case, though? There’s a cavalier attitude that really pisses me off because it sounds like the company doesn’t value the money the customer spends. That, regardless of tone, will backfire every time. Yes, there are problem customers and entitled customers, but this is not one of those times.

The thing is, many business owners lament the power of the internet and some pass off “nerd rage” or think bad PR is good PR. Not every micro-trend will result in a substantial financial loss, which is why it’s hard to tell when it’s a *big deal.* GoDaddy lost over 37,000 domains because of their political support for SOPA and PIPA. (They later recanted their SOPA support.)

So what’s a company to do? Spending all day every day on the internet to monitor a brand is a *huge* time sink even with all the alerts you can muster. I’ve seen criticisms where people were complaining about how a company *should know* even when it’s after hours. I feel that companies should have social media policies in place to address the “What if?” scenarios. Don’t ignore the power of the internet, but understand that not everything’s a major PR blowout. Being on Twitter and Facebook will open up holes in customer service, because not everyone will go through the appropriate channels. Look at how many people who ask questions on Facebook/Twitter that can easily be Googled, for example.

In the end, there are some things money can’t buy. Word-of-mouth marketing, genuine opinions, is one of them.

    Mood: Post-Christmas recovery. Day Two!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two and definitely going for more.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Nothing official. Cleaned like a crazy woman.
    Word Count Logged Yesterday (not including day job): ~1,000
    In My Ears: Nothing.
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy XIII
    Movie Last Viewed: Limitless
    Book Last Read: The Encyclopedia of 500 Spells
    Latest Artistic Project: Byzantium chainmail bracelet with soft pink and black rings
    Upcoming Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem
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