Booklikes: My New Website Crush

October 7, 2013

Book blogs have been around for as long as the Internet has been, and WordPress alone probably has hundreds of them. But now there’s a website created for the sole purpose of hosting book blogs, making it super easy to connect books to your entries, with templates for book reviews and quotes from books ready to go. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that much more special than just inserting images and links to any old blog, but there’s something magical about a blogging site that’s all books, all the time. I think I’m a little bit in love.

The website is BookLikes, and it’s got an interesting story. Initially, its main attraction was its book recommendation engine. Then it crashed, losing all its data … but rather than throw in the towel, its creators listened to what the initial users were saying, which was that they wanted a site devoted to book blogs. So BookLikes was born anew, and I found and fell in love with it in its current state.

My kitty loves books, too!

I’m already an avid user of a couple other book websites. I post reviews of everything I read on Goodreads, and I inventory the books I own at LibraryThing. You can use BookLikes to inventory and review books, too, and in fact, I do cross post my Goodreads reviews there (as well as some of the posts from this blog, when they relate explicitly to books.) But it’s also provided a place for me to reflect more intimately on the books I’m reading, to share thoughts in progress or to connect books to my own life and memories in a way that I don’t in more straightforward reviews. I don’t think anyone much reads them, but that’s okay. I find the process of creating alone to be cathartic and rewarding.

So, if you haven’t checked it out, do stop by. And if you’re already a Booklikes convert, let’s “follow” each other. Hope to see you there!


Self Publishing … Without a Clue

February 18, 2013

Artwork inspired by Rumpled, from my sister Krystl.

Like almost any author in today’s literary landscape, I’ve explored the idea of self-publishing. Although I used to scoff at it, I’ve softened toward the idea over the last several years — not because of one-in-a-million success stories like Eragon and 50 Shades of Gray, but because I, like many writers, am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the consolidation of big publishing houses and fewer and fewer people holding all the cards when it comes to traditional publishing. And now that we have the option to go directly to the reader … why don’t we?

Back when I was a teenager, I established quite a following as an author of Aladdin fan-fiction, and my one piece of Gargoyles fan-fiction didn’t do too badly, either. At the time, I was so excited by the ability the Internet gave me to reach readers directly — as far as I was concerned, it was just as good as being published. Because the whole point in being published is in having readers, right? Maybe even fans. And I had readers, many of whom became fans.

Now, publishing seems to be following that content model more and more, and I’m going to experiment with it again, too. Still, there are two obstacles (besides my own pride and the feeling of “legitimacy” that come with traditional publishing) that scare me most:

  1. The fact that self-published work isn’t taken as seriously as traditionally published work; and
  2. The fact that I hate marketing, even when I really, really love what I’m marketing.

As for #1, I admit that I’m one of those people who doesn’t take a self-published book as seriously as a traditionally published one. And the main reason for this is that I’ve read so many really bad self-published books, books that felt like early drafts rather than finished ones. But I feel fairly confident in my ability to create a polished product — and I know that, especially with ebooks, there are a lot of readers who don’t know or care which books are self-published and which aren’t. I know there are a lot of readers willing to take a chance on an ebook by an unknown author because the price is right.

As for #2, well, I don’t really have a plan for that.

But I’ve decided to explore self-publishing in ebook format with my novella Rumpled, which is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin. The reason is because it’s an awkward length to submit to short story or to novel markets at about 24,000 words, and there are few dedicated novella markets. And although I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings, it seems now the rest of the world is getting on board with this passion, as evidenced by the proliferation of young adult retellings featuring everything from Cyborg Cinderellas to werewolf-hunting Red Riding Hoods, not to mention TV series like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, or movies like Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

So if ever there was a time to encourage people to take a chance on an unknown writer with a retelling of a fairy tale, now seems like the time to do it.

If anyone knows of good resources for self-publishing or promoting ebooks, I’d love to explore them. Thanks!


Freelance Writer Opportunity

October 26, 2012

My husband’s company, Wimpy Analytics, LLC., is seeking a part-time freelance writer and PR person for their website Coppergoose.com. Below is a description of the position:

Wimpy Analytics, a software startup, is seeking a writing and marketing intern/part-time staff member to become part of a fun, enthusiastic team. The chosen candidate will be responsible for writing blog posts and press releases, researching and pitching to markets of potential interest, and writing short descriptions of prizes to be given away on the company’s flagship website, Coppergoose.com. Time commitment will be about 5-10 hours a week and all work can be done remotely with a computer that has access to the Internet. The position pays $10/hr with long-term possibility for the right fit. The position is open to anyone with good writing skills willing to work remotely, whether or not you are a formal student. An interest or involvement in “geek” subculture is a plus. If taking the internship for credit, we will work with your department to ensure that internship criteria are met.

To apply for the position, please submit a letter of interest detailing your related work/personal experience and qualifications to jobs@coppergoose.com. Please note that this will also serve as your writing sample, although you may supply additional samples at your discretion.

About Coppergoose.com: Coppergoose is the premiere offering of Wimpy Analytics, LLC., a software startup based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s a no-strings-attached giveaway site offering the chance to win free goodies every day and catering to the “geek” market (sci-fi and fantasy, role-playing, video and board games, anime, comics, etc.). To learn more, visit http://www.coppergoose.com/faq/.

A few notes/a bit of insight from the wife:

  1. Although the job is posted as an internship, this is mainly to welcome students and those beginning their freelance careers to apply, and to let applicants know that Wimpy Analytics is willing to work with academic departments if you prefer. Because it’s not a full-time gig, it may be best suited to students or those who have another source of income. If you are interested in the position long-term or are not a formal student, don’t let the word “internship” scare you off.
  2. This is a fun writing gig for someone who’s the right fit, particularly someone who is interested in geek subculture or software startups.
  3. This is an “entry-level” freelance writing gig — clips or extensive publishing credits are not required — just proof that you can write.
  4. It’s a great, flexible way to earn a little extra $$ each week (who doesn’t want that?)
  5. I would not post this on my blog if I couldn’t stand behind it as a legit freelance opportunity. (Nor would I marry a guy who was a jerk to the people he works with.)
  6. Ivan (my husband) and his business partner are enthusiastic, fair, intelligent, and laid back. They’re open to working with and discovering new talent.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments below, or to email using the address provided.


Oh, Internet, How I (Haven’t Really) Missed You

September 21, 2011

In the wee hours of Monday, September 20, my wireless router died quietly in its sleep. Monday morning, I was in denial. It will come back, I told myself. All morning, I did laundry and washed dishes. By noon, my Internet still wasn’t up. I gathered my courage, packed up my computer, and brought it to my parents’ place. On days that I’m not at the library, if I can’t get online, I can’t work. I accept and return all my assignments online, not to mention the regular email accounts that must be checked to make sure I don’t drop the ball on an all-important issue.

Yesterday, my Internet was still down. I went into the library half an hour early, where I accepted two orders from Scribendi using the library connection. Later that night, I went to my parents’ place again to download both orders to my flash drive, so that I could work on them offline until the Internet tech guy came out to my place at 4 today. That means that before 4 pm, there was no one around except me, Microsoft Word, and two long-ish manuscripts in need of editing. Both were due by the end of the day.

Last night, I estimated that the manuscripts would take me about 14 hours to edit; I wasn’t looking forward to the long day, but I need the money and both were at least interesting projects. I felt incredibly impressed with myself as I worked through the first manuscript before lunch; by the time the Internet guy came, I’d done my first pass on the second one, too. In all, both manuscripts took me about eight hours to complete, six hours fewer than I’d predicted. Now, this isn’t totally due to my lack of connectivity; both pieces were in better shape than the pieces I’m used to editing, and I based my estimation on word count alone without taking a peek at the skill of the writers. Still, there was something so incredibly satisfying about having no choice but to dig into those pages, at least while I was seated at my computer. Usually when I’m editing or writing something, a thousand distractions run through my mind: has that client’s payment been deposited into my checking account yet? Do I have new email at Yahoo? What about gmail? What were the guidelines of that publisher I thought might be a good fit for my work? Have any of my friends updated their Livejournals? What’s the current prize on Coppergoose? The gossip on Facebook? Should I update my progress on my “currently reading” shelf at Goodreads? What’s the meaning of sigil, anyway?

I’m sorry to say that my mind grabs onto these distractions when I start to feel bored or stuck with my current project, and I follow them wherever they may take me, taking just “one more click” like an addict needing one more puff on one more cigarette. I justify each one by saying it will only take a few minutes, which is usually true. But snippets of five or ten or fifteen minutes away from my work or my writing add up. The havoc it wreaks on my brain is even worse.

I still had many of these urges today. Knowing I didn’t have immediate gratification, they eventually subsided, and my focus improved. When I really needed a mental break, I had lunch, drank a cup of tea, took a power nap, and even watched an episode of Sex and the City. The difference between this and my usual working habits were that each of those activities had a clear end point. The food and tea run out. Sex and the City episodes are less than 30 minutes long. I had to wake up to let the Internet guy in. This means I was more productive than usual today, but I didn’t feel totally burnt out at the end of it. That’s because I didn’t throw all those tiny increments of time away on the rabbit hole that is the Internet, a place in which there is no end in sight, and willpower alone is your only salvation.

I found myself feeling a little let down when the Internet was back up again. Now that barrage of distractions would once again be part of my life. Not having the Internet in my home isn’t an option; for me, no Internet means no income. Still, it occurred to me for the first time that I have power over whether my computer is connected to the Internet or not. So when I settled in to finish my edits, post-Internet, I pulled the plug on it until I was ready to upload my completed assignments.

What a relief to realize that I have a choice! Sure, the Internet is still only a click away, but that extra step of having to reconnect it makes me think twice before I chase whatever random whim sounds more fun than my work. I’m making a commitment right now to disconnect the Internet when I need to be intensely engaged with writing or editing. I’ve known for a while that multi-tasking is bad for my brain, but now I’m finally going to do something about it. I challenge you to do the same.

 


I’m Officially a Goodreads Author!

August 1, 2011

My bit of writing excitement last week — which I’ve already blasted around all the social media to which I belong — was being accepted into Goodreads Author program. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for over three years now, and recently I was looking at the collection of science fiction short stories, Queer Dimensions, in which I published a piece. I noticed that several of the short story contributors in the anthology had a “Goodreads Author” credit next to their names, but that acknowledgment was woefully missing from my name. So I did a quick Google search, applied to be part of the program, and voila! Three days later, I, too, have become a Goodreads Author.

The best part of this transition is probably that it pulled up a few reviews of the anthology that I hadn’t read before, including one that referenced my contribution, “The Man in the Mirror” as “the most sincere of the stories.” I also appreciated this review from Lily:

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR by Lacey Louwagie
This well written story is about what could happen when everything you’ve always wanted starts to come true. In this sweet yet oftentimes sad story the heroine learns that being yourself, and not trying to be what someone else needs, is the only way to truly be happy. Very nice story with an excellent ending.

As endings are the most challenging part for me to write, I was particularly pleased that she commented on the ending.

There are some scary things about crossing the threshold to “Goodreads Author,” too. One is that now I’ll have to be ready to buck up and accept negative, even scathing reviews, of what I’ve written (Lord knows I probably deserve it, after some of the reviews I’ve written!) I admit that when I review a book on Goodreads that designates the author as a “Goodreads Author,” I feel more hesitant to write something negative. A good friend of mine admitted to feeling the same thing, but then made peace with it by deciding that authors just need to accept that not everyone is going to like their work. It’s part of the territory. I agree with her. Now let’s see if I can take as good as I can give (one thing I will NOT do is leave comments on bad reviews “defending” my work. Readers have every right not to like what you’ve written, no questions asked.)

And then there is the issue about being brave, too. I tell the world I write speculative fiction, but it’s not as widely known that some of it (much of it, if I’m totally honest), addresses queer themes in subtle or overt ways. I know that this means some people will judge me immediately as a person, and skip right over the writer part, skip right over what I actually have to say (“oh, she’s part of that agenda”). And that saddens me. But it’s part of the world we live in, and it’s not going to get better if we continue to hide.

Mostly, though, I feel challenged. Because as good as I thought it would feel to reach this milestone, I find the one book to my credit looking pretty piddly on my author account page. I want more books there. MORE!! Around this time next year, I’ll be able to add the book I’m working on for ACTA publications to the roster. Hopefully by the time that one is there, I’ll have another in the works that I can look forward to putting in spot number three.


Why I Write: Because I’m Not Always Brave

July 27, 2011

Last night, I posted Ask Any Scientist! to Young Adult Catholics. The post argues against using “science” as a justification of homophobia. I knew as I was conceiving of, writing, and publishing the post that I was more likely to get flamed for it than to get support, as the commenters most active on that blog are those who like to pick it apart. My tone was a little more snarky than usual (homilies against same-sex marriage tend to bring out the snark in me), and even when I take the least offensive tone possible, my posts about women’s ordination and just treatment of GLBTQ individuals always get flamed.

For a moment, this made me wonder if making the post was worth it at all. Because I get weary of having people rail at me as if I’m a terrible person because I disagree with what my institution dictates that I believe. It always feels like a personal attack, as my Catholicism (and my feminism, and my bisexuality) are all core facets of my identity, so that attacking any one of these things feels like you’re attacking me and not an idea. I am Catholic. I am a feminist. I am bisexual. These are not ideas. These are the realities of living in my skin. I’m sorry if my reality is offensive to you (actually, I’m not. But I am sorry that I can’t live out my reality and speak my truth in peace, when doing so isn’t hurting anyone.)

Sure enough, the first comment I got on my post was one comparing my argument to the reasoning that eugenicists use. Often, I don’t even respond to these comments because it’s draining, and these people are never interested in dialogue. This time, I did respond. Whether I have the energy to continue the conversation remains to be seen.

Last night as I was deciding whether to go through with the post or not, two things pushed me forward. One was my deadline. I didn’t want to miss it, nor did I want to switch gears at the last minute when I’d struggled most of the day deciding on a topic to begin with. But the second reason was by far the more important one: I wondered, if we are not able to write about what we truly believe, if we are not able to write from our core, even when what’s at our core is pain or embarrassment or snarkiness or fear, then what good is writing at all? If I allow fear to start dominating my writing, then I lose a certain amount of integrity as a writer. And sometimes, my writing self is the one place where I feel my integrity remains intact.

Because here’s the truth: I let fear dominate my actions in real-life far too often. Although I write about being bisexual, there are still people I’m not “out” to in my real life. As my marriage to a man approaches, there are hundreds of people who I know now and will know in the future who will never see me as anything but straight, and I don’t go out of my way to correct them. Last week, I bit my tongue in response to two homophobic remarks. Both times, I rationalized my silence based on “professionalism” (since both happened within a work context.) Both times, I knew why I really remained silent: fear. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of having my professionalism compromised. Fear of “forcing” my ideas on others. Fear of many things, but ultimately, just plain old fear nonetheless.

Obviously, I don’t try to hide that hard. The Internet is not exactly a private place, and publishing is not exactly a private act. I know that a quick Google search could lay bare the many things I don’t always talk about in my day-to-day life. So I do consider this writing, knowing there could be offline repercussions, as an act of bravery. But sometimes, my writing feels like the only place in my life where I live up to the type of bravery and honesty I value. And that’s why it’s so important to keep doing it.


Poem #15, Writers Group, and a Meeting w/ a Publisher

November 15, 2010

Cats for a Day

Every morning I used to ask my cat,
“Why don’t we switch things up a bit?
This time, you go to work,
and I lay around all day.”

She blinked, chirped, walked away.
I grumbled about how some people
just don’t pull their own weight.

But do you remember the time
we decided to play cats-for-the-day?
More commonly known
as playing hooky.

You had the day off work
and I had a bit of an ache in my arms
and my period —
not enough to keep me home,
except that you looked so cozy
in your bed, goading me:
“You should do it. Call in sick
and hang out with me.”

For seven years we shared small spaces
cheered each other up onto our soap boxes
had conversations in broken Spanish
played guitars and cards at the kitchen table.
Even then, I knew those nights of movies
and reading books aloud
were our glorious moments of stretching out
basking in the sun
just because it was there.
Two kittens dashed across
slippery tile floors
as two women lay on two sides
of the same wall
and reached out their voices
where their hands didn’t touch.
Except for the nights when talking
wasn’t enough and my body shook
and the tears came rushing down my face
as fast as you came rushing into my room.

But then one day, you wore an expensive white dress
and we had a big party
and that meant that it was time for you to share
small spaces with someone else,
curled up with him in bed just like
kittens curled up on the couch.

And so I have no regrets
about the half lie I once told
so that I could spend the day
beside you on a scratchy green couch.
Not an ounce of guilt
for when we finally gave in
to our desire to be
cats for a day.

I think I can officially count myself “caught up” for that one missing poem, since I technically wrote three poems on Saturday night, all of them about my childhood relationship with My Little Ponies (there was a My Little Pony pic that I used as a prompt in my Picto-Journal). Two of them were terrible, and really what just felt like a ‘warm-up’ for the third, which might actually be worth salvaging. But nobody ever said these poem-a-day creations had to be good! (If that were the case, I wouldn’t be able to count the dreadful six-liner I jotted out last night while my boyfriend was in the bathroom, but count it I did!!)

I met with my writers group tonight via webcam, which was an exciting change full of the suspense of wondering what-in-the-world-the-person-on-the-other-end-might-be-saying. Dropped connections, distorted voices, and frozen videos abound, but it was still really lovely to hear the voices and see the faces of my writing posse. They’ve promised to scope out better Internet possibilities. Technology could be so wonderful if only it would work!

I’ve been saving the best bit for last: I have a phone meeting on Friday with a publisher who is interested in an anthology of young, Catholic voices. I fielded his “fan-mail” to one of the Young Adult Catholics blog writers last week and decided to respond with a bit of a pitch. We had interest from a Catholic publisher over a year ago in doing a similar project, but his team decided our voices were just too dissident for their press. The press I’ll be talking with on Friday is much more comfortable with dissidence–and that’s the kind of press I like!