On Doing too Much, or Lessons in Your Time and Your Writing

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A few months back one of my closest friends asked me about doing too much and why I take on so many tasks. Back then, Juliana asked me to write a post on how to effectively do too much and how to time manage. I wanted to do the post, but as I was doing book trailers at the time, I didn’t have the time to write it. I was trying at that point to further my design career and skill set at the same time as my writing, which suffered to the point of nonexistence. In essence, I stopped writing. I couldn’t get past a sentence most days or even figure out how to go about editing my books.

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I was frustrated by this, so I quit making trailers in hopes to better my writing but still found myself needing to progress my design skills anyway to stay on top of it with the industry as it is. While it did make more time for conference attendance and writing articles, it still left little time between my day job and my writing for my books and writing them. I also found myself less and less active in my community of writers as a result and unable to do things I wanted to like write short stories or CP work or guest post. It also left me less confident in my work because I was stretching myself thin, getting harsh criticism for my videos and art portfolio that left me feeling completely dismantled.

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As conferences stepped up in pacing, I found myself having to chose between the two fields and what to pursue. Those of you that are familiar with being a commercial artist understand it’s brutal in a different way that other creative fields. It’s a different level of expectation and a different level of harsh dedication. I’ve seen more advice in being an artist professionally along the lines of “give up every other inch of your life besides being an artist if you want to be great” than I do in writing. Most writing posts I see talk about balance, are more forgiving of family or day job obligations, but still have rough deadlines you have to push through like any other creative field. I think the real trouble came in for me when trying to do both to my fullest potential and I quickly found something had to give.

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At first, I only gave up video, needing a day job to help out at home, but that balance faded fast when writer expectations stepped up. As writers, you all are probably familiar with the daily need to blog post, review books, CP, Beta, write your own books, guest posts, blog group membership on a rotating post schedule, Twitter, and conference attendance. Add in the fact I’m also an illustrator of my work and others and you’ve got too dishes spinning in the air and something had to fall. My brain would just shut down some days and I couldn’t work on anything creative at all.

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In all this, my decision came to a crux and I chose to quit my day job. I read a lot a posts leading up to this decision on why not to quit your day job as a writer and I don’t think those posts are always accurate. Particularly for those of us trying to do two creative careers at the same time. You get burned out all too quickly. I had anticipated years from now having to make this decision and even looked forward to it but now that it’s here I’ve found myself at a loss of whether to be excited or nervous.

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In a society that expects a 9-to-5 means you have a “job” oftentimes the idea of being a full-time writer isn’t regarded as real work, but it is. It is a full-time job and there is no getting around that if you want to do it and do it well. So doing all the things all the time is not what it’s cracked up to be. It makes you perform at less than your best in the end though the pressure now is to do everything and still come out with 150% at every second of every day. That said, what I’ve found in design is a lot of stiff competition to be the best based on the last big name you worked with so you can progress to just copying someone else’s design or branding to the pixel. I love branding, I love marketing, but not to the expense of personal creativity. I realized then and there I was more of an entrepreneur that wanted to write for creative projects that I chose to work on rather than having to recreate someone else’s OCD pixel-perfect work that I didn’t even care about for the rest of my career. So, I’m leaving the design field and making a field switch to writing and illustrating.

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Then I realized, I am actually stupidly excited about this. I’m going to get to freelance write and edit, focus on my book career, my edits, my CPing, my TV reviews, blogs I write and edit for, and internships/freelance jobs I’m interested in. Much more interested in than pixel perfection. It took months of working all hours, not seeing friends, not working on projects I actually wanted to all in the expectations of other people or other things than what I was trying to focus on: my writing.

I think I’m most thankful to Juliana and my supportive husband Michael for helping me realize all of this over the past few months. They saw I was killing myself behind the scenes and spoke up weekly/daily for me to change things. Chuck Wendig was a huge help behind the scenes too. That man is a guru of how to be a writer. It was also my lovely agent Carrie who helped me see how important focus on writing was to my books and how much being able to focus on my edits would make them so much better. She really is the best.

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So my question to you all is how many of you need to focus more on your writing? Struggle with balance? Hoping to make the switch to full-time writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

What’s Up Wednesday!

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I thought I would try this awesome meme that’s going around that I found out about through Dahlia’s blog to keep you guys up-to-date on my happenings. It’s called What’s Up Wednesdays!

WHAT I’M READING

I’m more than a little obsessed with SOMEWHERE IN TIME by Richard Matheson. I can’t believe I’ve never read him before. I needed a break from horror so I took a turn into this book and my generously donated ARC copy of BELLMAN AND BLACK which is tremendous. It reminds me of a gothic Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. I just finished two audio books: THE DEMONOLOGIST and ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. My reviews are over at Goodreads/Amazon and I’ll be posting my ANNA one there soon.

WHAT I’M WRITING

I’m in edits on my Young Adult Horror WHITE HOLLOW while attempting to do NANOWRIMO on my other fantasy book LO, which I’m terribly behind on but just enjoying writing it at whatever pace it needs. I’m also hoping to get to a short story or two if time allows.
WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

I’ve made up a new inspiration board over at Pinterest with new things that are inspiring me. In particular, I’m a fan of artist Rebecca Rebouché who did a line for Anthropologie. I immediately went and bought one of her plates because it was so cute. What inspired me about her is how close to nature she is and how she emulates that through her art. I’m trying to get outdoors more because I’ve missed the mountains of North Carolina and Asheville so much lately and it seems to be feeding my art. I’ve also fallen in love with blog Honey and Jam, which is full of gorgeous mountain photos and recipes and references to contra dancing. It’s like going home.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

Drawing and reading mostly. I’m trying to catch up on a few commissions that I am super excited about. Whenever I say I’m catching up on reviews or illustrations, I saw it with great love, not frustration. I love love love drawing for writers and it feeds a part of me that needs to collaborate and create.

Tearing the Shroud Blog Tour, guest post by J M Bray, and GIVEAWAY!

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Hi everyone!

Thanks for stopping by Cat’s wonderful blog and a huge thanks to her for having me over. Today is a big moment in my life, the release of my Romantic Fantasy, Tearing the Shroud. When Escape Publishing picked it up last June I didn’t think I could be more excited, but today might top it.

In many parts of the world, this is Dia de los Muertos or the start of All Souls Day in various churches. Interestingly the storyline in my novel involves another reality and the idea that the world we live in has unseen things happening just out of our perception. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a couple of unexplainable moments that happened in my life.

The first took place at age twelve. The day was sunny and the pool in our back yard reflected the brilliant blue of the Southern California sky. I sat at the kitchen table munching on a sandwich my mom had just made for me and looking out over the city below when the phone rang. A feeling like I’d just slipped into a hot bubbling Jacuzzi came over me.

I turned to my mom as she reached for the phone and said, “Grandpa’s dead.”

Her face registered the oddity of my proclamation and she lifted the receiver. Then as she spoke to whoever it was her reaction grew. The phone call was a family member letting us know that my dad’s father had died minutes before.

The second happened when I was nineteen. I’d moved out of my parent’s house the year before and was living with a roommate in a small apartment in Tujunga, California. If you watch Son’s of Anarchy you might know it as “Charming.” It’s a town with a checkered past.

In the 1950’s surrounding cities sent troubled youth to high school there when they couldn’t handle them. Then, further down the road it was the So. Cal. hotspot for the Hells Angels. (I guess the SoA producers got it right.) During a huge flood in the late 1970’s a graveyard gave way and coffins floated down the steep streets. If all that isn’t enough, a buddy of mine came to high school one morning only to find it closed because someone had nailed a severed goats head to the main doors. Yeah…like I said…a checkered past.

One night as I traveled home in my beat up ’59 MGB, I ran out of gas a couple of blocks from home. It was common enough as the thing didn’t have a working fuel gauge and I was dirt poor. I parked and started to walk. The Santa Anna winds whipped the tall eucalyptus trees into a frenzy with their warm bursts and gusts. The tree limbs groaned and creaked overhead and I sped up a little, worried that they would come down.

Then a feeling that something was behind me ran down my spine, you know…that feeling you get when ascending a darkened stairwell or walking in a graveyard at night (which I’ve also done.) I turned, but nothing was there. The chill grew, adding some juice in my stride so I started to jog. It didn’t help. The branches seemed to be reaching for me, the palpable weight of something after me put spurs in my sides and I took off like shot from a cannon.

I rounded the corner and sprinted through the gate of my apartment complex, fumbling with my keys. As I took the cement stairs two at a time, I gripped them like my life depended on it and never looked back. I somehow I managed to hold my trembling hand still long enough to shove the key in and unlock the door. Dashing inside, I slammed it behind me, turning both locks.

My startled roommate asked what was wrong and I said, ‘Something’s chasing me.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Something?’

At that moment, the door handle started to move, jiggling one way then another, but held by the lock. We had a curtained window just next to the door. I summoned my courage and brought my shaking finger to ease back the curtain for a peek outside. Surely, it was a buddy pulling a prank, or a drunk neighbor…or…nothing.

Nothing.

That turned out to be the correct answer. Nothing was there…yet still the handle continued to move.

(Cue the music from the Omen)

I hope you enjoyed the visit but let’s not end things here.

Share a comment about something unexplainable you experienced. It has to be true and your own personal experience. Cat and I will choose the best comment, and you’ll receive a digital copy of Tearing the Shroud and digital signed cover art.

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IMG_6052 (E1) copy 2Genre: Romantic Fantasy, Fantasy, New Adult

Publisher: Escape Publishing (Harlequin AU) http://www.escapepublishing.com.au

Blurb:

Fall in love, be possessed, hunt a sorcerer and save the world — and Vincent thought calculus was tough.

1984 — Vincent expected college to be about freedom and girls, but then the nightmares of sorcery, monsters and other worlds began. Not even the surprising attention from his dream girl, Julie, could shake them.

Before he’s even nailed his second date with Julie, he’s possessed by Coleman, a warrior from another realm. Coleman is hell bent on defeating the monstrous Kafla who threatens to tear into Vincent’s reality, changing both his and Coleman’s worlds forever. They have one chance to stop them: Vincent must allow Coleman to share his body and wage war against the sorcerer.

Now it’s up to them, the women they love, and Vincent’s rag-tag bunch of role- playing and gaming friends to save the world, or see 1984 descend into the apocalypse.

Brief Bio:

J.M. Bray lives in Southern California with his college sweetheart and their two dogs. After a lifetime together, they are happier than the moment they met.

When not writing or working his “day job”, he loves to cook, play the guitar, and travel with his wife. Every chance he gets, he races an old Porsche named “Tuffy” at tracks in the southwest.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?keywords=9780857990976&index=books&linkCode=qs&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20

iBooks:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/tearing-the-shroud/id712018114?mt=11

 

You can follow J. M. Bray at:

Twitter: @jmbraybooks

Web: http://www.jmbray.com


Blog: http://blog.jmbray.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JMBray.books

Facebook Connect Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003928607731

Interview with J. Lincoln Fenn, author of POE, and GIVEAWAY

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN FOLKS

In case you hadn’t heard, earlier this year, a little horror novel called POE won the Amazon Breakthrough Contest this year! Today, I have author J. Lincoln Fenn telling us all about it.

After you read the interview, type in the comments below with your SCARIEST HAUNTING STORY (preferably real) that has happened to you or a friend or that you heard through the wilds of the interweb and I will send you AN E-COPY OF POE! Winners announced Nov 2, so you have until Nov 1 to enter! 

Blank white book w/path1)   So tell us more about your debut “Poe” and how it won the Amazon Breakthrough Contest this year! How did you go about coming up with the concept?

It’s really a mix of concepts influenced by my life. I’ve experienced horror, I’ve been haunted, I’ve seen things that can’t be explained away by science.  But I can’t ditch my own doubt. A Tibetan lama loved to tell a story about how he’d perform dharma ceremonies in the houses of his Western students, and here they are all chanting in unison to conjure a deity, but no one believes it. Then they’d freak out when cabinet doors started opening and shutting on their own. He thought it was hysterical – like, What did you think would happen? Dimitri embodies my doubt, and his character really drives the narrative. He attends a séance he thinks will be a waste of time, but it’s the inciting incident that changes his life. Things he thinks are random prove to be mysteriously connected. He comes to a realization I envy.  I’m like Mulder – I want to believe.

 

2)   When you set out to write about Poe, what sort of research did you do? Just how much about Poe did you have to know to write the book?

Yeah, about that….I can’t give away too much without dropping a spoiler, but the novel isn’t about Edgar Allen Poe. It definitely has that gothic vibe, but let’s just say I did quite a bit of research into Russian occultism in the early 21st century.

 

3)   Was “Poe” the first novel you wrote? Do you have other WIP your working on now?

Poe was my first completed novel, but I had plenty of false starts before it. Like many beginning writers, I looked to what was popular and tried to write that. Then I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing, and he said write what hasn’t been done. Of course when I did that, agents loved it because it was different but had no idea where to sell it. Poe is horror, but it’s also dark urban fantasy, includes a new adult/coming-of-age arc with paranormal mystery elements, all wrapped up in a sardonic, first-person narration. Everyone wanted me to choose a shelf, but I couldn’t write it any other way. Considering Poe won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award this year for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, I’m glad I stuck to my guns.  Currently I’m working on a sequel to Poe.

 

4download)   What about your critique partners? What can you tell other queriers about why they need critique partners and what it takes to be a good one?

It’s a strange thing, but when you’re up close and staring at each word in your novel, it’s hard to see it as a whole. It took me four months to write the first draft, but easily double that on revisions.  You need to have people you can trust reading your work, and if you hear some kind of consensus, be open to changes. Poe had a much, much darker ending and an extra 100 pages. I cut many passages that I loved to make it work better as a novel. If you’re acting as a critique partner, be honest but give specific feedback. Don’t just say, “I didn’t like this chapter.” Think about what would make it better, like “the dialogue here just dragged.”

 

5)   What’s the hardest thing about writing horror? What are some common misconceptions for writers interested in trying the genre?

Horror can be daunting – it’s a genre that has iconic, masterful, successful authors and just the thought of tossing your hat into that ring is incredibly intimidating.  It feels like trying to climb Everest when all you’ve got is a backpack, a box of matches, and pluck. But we can all find the kernels of life that scare the bejesus out of us, and write to that. With Frankenstein, Shelley was horrified by electrical experiments being conducted on dead flesh. That horror translated to her time, and ours.

 

6)   What was the most exciting part of working on your novel? The hardest?

The most exciting part was discovering the story as it gradually surfaced. I had a general baseline of a plot, but all the details were completely organic.  I chose the name Dimitri because I liked it, but then that meant he was of Russian origin, then when I wrote in his father, he had an accent, which surprised me.  Later I found a connection between the name Dimitri and another famous Russian, which added a major dimension to the plot. The hardest part was fitting all the pieces together at the end. I had to let go of some, re-write others to fit the most compelling story arcs. It was like putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle.

 

7)   Last but not least, I ask every interviewee to share a scary story. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced? How does it inspire you to write dark tales?

Well…I saw the shadow of a demon once. Not even remotely kidding – horns, the works. I was in a basement, and there wasn’t anything down there which could even cause a shadow like that. I don’t know what to make of it, but moments like that make me think that there’s something unexplainable pressing into what we call reality.  Norman Mailer called writing a ‘spooky’ art, and dark tales are the spookiest of the spooky arts, because we play where our greatest fears are. ‘Dark’ is equated with ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, but really, it’s just the unknown. For a curious person, that’s the only place to be.

Stefan Bachmann’s THE WHATNOT US tour, or you may want one of these bookmarks…

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Have you read THE PECULIAR? Are you reading THE WHATNOT? Well then, you may just want to pick up one of these collectable bookmarks coming to a city near you for the short time Stefan is in the US.

These bookmarks may also be making an appearance at Crossroads Writers Conference with me this weekend coming up… be sure to stop by my artist table!

If you’d like to know more about commissioning me for bookmarks, trading cards, and what have you, please visit my new illustration information page!

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STEFAN’S BOOK TOUR

OCTOBER 5th - Portland, Oregon

Wordstock Festival 

2:00PM    Creepy Tales from the Cabinet of Curiosities – Children’s Panel.

“Join creepy collaborators and co-curators of The Cabinet of Curiosities for a spine tingling story time certain to put you in the right mood for Halloween–if you dare. Most appropriate for ages 8+. Featuring Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne.”

4:00PM    Reading with Claire Legrand

5:00PM    Autographing session

OCTOBER 7th  - Portland, Oregon

5:00PM        Reading and signing at Barnes & Noble Portland

Bridgeport Village, 7227 SW Bridgeport Rd., Tigard, OR 97224

OCTOBER 9th  – Seattle, Washington

12:00PM        Reading and signing at Seattle Mystery Bookshop

117 Cherry St. Seattle, WA 98104
 
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11th - Austin, Texas

School visits with Book Peopleinfo TK.

OCTOBER 13th - Denver, Colorado

7:00PM        Reading and signing at Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue

2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80206

OCTOBER 15th  - Boulder, Colorado

6:30PM        Reading and signing at Boulder Bookstore.

1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302

OCTOBER 17th  - San Francisco, California

School visits with Copperfield’s, info TK.

#PonyFest 2013 Entry- Jennifer Strange of my book series WHITE HOLLOW

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When I heard about Rebecca’s Pony Fest contest… I just had to enter my character Jennifer Strange because the idea of my horror medium as a cute custom pony was just too much to resist. I gave it a whirl in the custom pony generator (as I have been working like a madwoman for other illustration projects and on my book edits). I love how cute she came out!

Jennifer Strange is a auburn-haired teen with freckles just on the edge of her nose with a practical mind but is also a powerful medium. I chose the symbolism of the all-seeing eye for her cutie mark because there isn’t a lot Jennifer doesn’t see when it comes to the afterlife plus I love the dual symbolism the eye has as the Illuminati symbol and as an occult symbol, both of which tie into the novel. She’s also wearing, the eye necklace she eventually wears in the novel, which matches the color of her own eyes for mysterious and nefarious reasons that are revealed later. 

WHITE HOLLOW synopsis: Despite seeing a ghost child rip apart her class in a chemical fire, Jennifer still doesn’t believe in the supernatural. When she meets handsome but snarky Marcus and learns that she is a Medium, Jennifer understands the circumstances surrounding her father’s disappearance are not only linked to her new power, they’re tied into the Blackwell family. Now, Jennifer and Marcus must work together to help develop her budding abilities and destroy a wraith before it devours the soul of the young ghost.

ALL HALLOWS READ BOOK SWAP – October 2013

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Hello dear blog followers.

As you all know, I’m a BIG fan of Neil Gaiman. All the way to being on panels talking about his work to once doing his laundry (ask me about it sometime).

As a result, I’m a big believer in his concept behind ALL HALLOWS READ. Don’t know about it? Find out more HERE!

So, my friends… I had an idea as I usually do at one in the morning.

A STUPENDOUS idea…

I would like to host a trade. Not unlike a Secret Santa except you swap books with people instead of secret gifts.

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NOW, the rules

1) All books must be scary books. They can be scary YA, MG, or Adult. Just scary.

2) They should be physical copies, however if people prefer ebook trades, that is okay too.

3) Sign up below by Oct 3rd and we’ll start trading books by Oct 10th.

4) Have fun!

5) UPDATE*** If you are lost on what to give people, check out these recommendations at the All Hallow’s Read website!

I can’t wait to join in this with you guys!

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