A Secret Vacation from Social Media

I’m baaack…
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing. Because I worked hard to make it seem like I was here even though I wasn’t.
I’ve taken time off the blog before—a week every now and again for vacation, the holidays, or whenever real life gets too crazy.
But when I found out I’d be joining my husband for a three-week trip to Germany and Spain, I was left with a tough choice. Either let the blog go dark for an obscenely long time or work harder than I’d like to keep the blog up-to-date.
I chose the later option while I spent the majority of this past month in Europe. And here’s how.

Get Organized

I was lucky in that I had advance notice of our travel dates. So I created a list of priorities that I wanted to accomplish before leaving town. Everything from reaching certain milestones on my various projects, ensuring all my critiquing obligations were met, and preparing blog posts in advance.
Knowing what I needed to run when was hugely beneficial. In my early blogging days, I always had a blog post or two ready to go in case I needed it. However, that fell off as my writing obligations increased. But it was good to remember just how smoothly things could go with the right preparations in place.

Get Tech

The post scheduling feature on Blogger (also available on WordPress) also helped tremendously. Although we were told we’d have internet access at the hotels we were staying at over the course of our trip, who knew how that would work out in actuality (Spain had the worst internet b-t-dubs). That combined with the time difference and the fact that I would be more focused on having a fantastic time in Europe instead of micromanaging my social media, it made sense to have my posts ready to go in advance.
The other tool in my arsenal? Tweet Deck. Some of you are already familiar with it, I’m sure, but I just started using it this Spring, and it’s “schedule tweets” feature was hugely helpful in creating the illusion I was still around in the digital ether. Took the spontaneity out of my tweet stream, yes, but it was a big help keeping my Twitter profile active.

Get Help

But in the end, I didn’t do it alone. When I found out I’d be gone, I solicited help from a few of my writerly friends. I staggered their interviews between regular posts, which lessened the burden on me to create new content.
In case you missed them, be sure you check out the interviews with some great fellow writers I have the utmost respect for:

I was happy I could keep the social media machine rolling while I was away, even though it required a lot of work. What techniques or shortcuts do you rely on to stay on top of your social media obligations?
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Shifting Priorities

How is it March already?

What started out as a one-week break from the blog turned into two. And the only reason I’ve been remiss is because I’ve been slammed lately.
My critiquing responsibilities skyrocketed since the fall when I joined a new writing group. We meet monthly, and the week before, each member submits anywhere between 30 to 100 pages of their WIPs. Then those pages need to be read and responded to in time for the meeting. Needless to say, when that week rolls around each month, critiquing has to be the first priority.
My own writing often has to be put on hold, and that means my blog as well. I’m also a member of another writing group that meets weekly, so I sometimes have to be creative with how I divvy up my time.
This month another variable was added to the equation—my editorial pass on the collaborative project I wrote about a few weeks ago. 70k that needed extensive line and developmental edits. Hence the radio silence on the blog.
Now, I wouldn’t trade joining the new writing group or working on the project for anything. But sometimes something has to give, and more often than not, that’s this blog.
I’ve been blogging now for three years. When I started, conventional wisdom was that you needed to do social media all the time. Now, slowly but surely, people are starting to back away from that.

If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.

Do I regret blogging? Absolutely not. I enjoy it and I’ve enjoyed the connections I’ve made because of blogging. But that doesn’t mean I always enjoy the time and energy it takes to maintain one.
Especially when it comes up against my own writing time and professional responsibilities.

So that’s where I’m at. If I’m not here, I’m writing. Which is how it should be.
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Potpourri to Start 2013

So it’s been awhile. Between the holidays, houseguests, and a mystery illness during the majority of December, I haven’t had a whole lot of energy for the blog. But it’s a new year and a new beginning for all things writerly.

A few announcements to get me caught up:

  • First, applications are now being accepted for Taos Toolbox 2013. I found it to be a great experience and made a lot of writer friends through it. So if you want to take your craft to the next level, expand your network, and spend two weeks in the mountains of northern New Mexico, get your application in. 

  • I’m now reading slush for Masque Books, Prime Books’s new digital imprint. So if you have a great speculative story, check out the submission guidelines and send it in! 
  • Duotrope is no more—at least not in a format I can support since they now charge for access to the most useful parts of the site. This is disappointing, as I was a heavy user and proponent of the site, but such is life. If you are looking for a Duotrope alternative, check out THIS POST for your options. Happy subbing! 
  • Finally, be sure to check out L. Blankenship’s Kickstarter for the continuation of her hard fantasy romance series. After successfully funding Disciple, Part I, you can pre-order Part II. I was one of L.’s betas on this project, and I highly recommend it! Samples are available through the Kickstarter page

I hope 2013 is off to a fabulous start for all of you. Happy writing! var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”); document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”)); try { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-15029142-1”); pageTracker._trackPageview(); } catch(err) {}

Rebuilding Momentum

I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately. At least as far as my blog goes. I haven’t been able to post for the last couple of weeks. In fact this place would be a ghost town if I didn’t have comments from spammers to keep me company. Thanks, guys. Or, umm, bots.
But although the blog may not show it, I’ve been rather busy this last couple of months. Lots of writing going on, and there’s also been an uptick in my critiquing responsibilities. Then I had family in town for Thanksgiving. I basically spent the week before the holiday cooking and cleaning like a madwoman and the week of trying to stay sane. I survived, but just barely.
And now? Now, it’s back to the writing routine and my much-abused blog. I’ll be dusting off the cobwebs so to speak these coming weeks, so please bear with me.
In the meantime, here are some helpful links to help you stay productive:
Happy writing, and see you next Wednesday!

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Next Big Thing Meme

I was recently tagged by Fran Wilde, a fellow writer and friend I met at Taos Toolbox, to talk about my current Work-in-Progress. Be sure to learn more about her WIP Bone Arrow, Glass Tooth, which I had the privilege of reading part of at the workshop.

1. What is the title of your Work in Progress?

Fireproof

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Well, for starters, it wasn’t always a book. It started out as a short story. My response to a particularly bad season of wildfires—one actually got very close to my house. I wondered what it would be like to live under threat of fires all the time, how that would define you as a person and shape your culture. And the idea evolved from there.

Around that time, Wily Writers announced their YA post-apocalyptic theme, and I wanted to submit Fireproof. But I soon realized that wasn’t possible—my short stories are often novels in disguise, and Fireproof was one of them. So I set it aside and wrote Chicken Feet (which was accepted by Wily Writers and later reprinted in The Shining Cities anthology). I then returned to Fireproof with the new goal of fleshing it out as a novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

YA Science Fiction

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Let’s see if it gets picked up first.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

I hate writing these. How about a paragraph?

Tanwen’s father trained her to be a survivor, but the colony will train her to be a spy. When a rogue collective takes aim at the colony’s water supply, she’s ordered to infiltrate enemy territory. Away from her family and friends, Tanwen must come to terms with all she thought she knew about her life. And when her mission objective changes from recon to sabotage, she’ll learn what’s really worth saving.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Representation, I hope. One day. Fingers crossed!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The idea was kicking around in my head Spring/Summer of 2011. Starting in Fall 2011, I started treating it as a novel and had a full draft by late Spring 2012. It’s complete and polished and I’m largely pleased with it, but still making the occasional tweak.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

The dreaded comparables question? I think this meme hates me 😉

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See Q2. I also wanted to explore a couple different themes:

  • Sacrificing what you want for the good of the community
  • How specialized education/skillsets can lock you into unwanted trajectories
  • We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our parents
  • Grief and all the different shapes it takes
  • And, of course, hope in the future

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The southwestern setting is a huge part of the story, despite its SF trappings. Many elements are rooted in the culture and the people who make the high desert their home—and some things were ripped straight from the headlines. Granted most readers won’t care about all that, but it was important for me to have that extra layer of authenticity.

I also wanted to present a possible, if not probable, apocalyptic scenario because so many other books gloss over what happens in the past. In Fireproof, the connections between what happened and its impact on the resulting society are tightly drawn, showing the messy transition from apocalyptic event to resulting post-apocalyptic society. One of my trusted readers called it a pre-post-apocalyptic story, which is awkward to say, but in some ways accurately captures my intention.

***

Thanks again to Fran Wilde for tagging me!
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