Tag Archives: success

Vonda N. McIntyre

Her Own Successes

“All her life she had made her own mistakes and her own successes, both usually by trying what others said she could not do.”

Vonda N. McIntyre, Aztecs, 1977


Requiescat in pace, Vonda. Thank you for all of the incredible worlds. (For me personally, I discovered her work through 1981’s The Entropy Effect, one of the first Star Trek novels I’d ever read—though, I wouldn’t find it until the early 90s.)

Fear Never Leaves

Fear Never Leaves

Is there such a thing as post-publication depression? I mean we spend all this time working on a book losing our evenings, weekends, and holidays making sure it’s ready. Then the big day arrives, the launch happens! We’re giddy! We’re excited! The book is released! Then… silence. The book is out there. You see people buying it. You know it’s in the hands of readers. But you sit and wonder and wait and eventually fear starts creeping in.

Oddly, this is my third post on the subject of fear as it pertains to writing. (See: I’m Scared and Fear Is The Mind Killer for the others.) I say “oddly” because these are never the articles I set out to write, but somehow I still write them. Which shows how constant these emotions are in our lives. Over the last three years, with each successive launch I have taken the time to write about the tangle of emotions that swell around the launch of a book.

The greatest feeling in that knot is always the same; it’s fear. We’re afraid it’s not good enough. We’re afraid our books will be failures. We’re scared it’s full of mistakes. We worry that people will hate it. Those ideas can be debilitating. They gnaw at us, and if we let them they can devour us. But, here’s the kicker, I don’t think those feelings ever go away.

Worry comes with this job. Sure, in some magical land a writer writes a manuscript and everything is perfect, editing isn’t a bear, and reviewers laud them with praise, accolades, and candies. La de da. But that isn’t today, and it’s certainly not the world where we live. It can be tough out here. People can be mean. Some want to be mean. But, here we are. Three years ago, when I stared into that long tunnel and faced the launch of The Stars Were Right I was there. I was terrified. But I pressed on. A year later, when I set out to launch Old Broken Road, I still felt those pangs. Hell, here I am standing on the other side of Red Litten World‘s launch, and I still feel it. Those emotions are still there even three books and thousands of copies later.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

There is an ancient saying (Seriously, ancient, it’s attributed to Voltaire) that I like to quote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t try to achieve perfection. Quality matters. That’s a given. What I am saying is that so often we get so stuck in the chase of perfection that we never stop. We run and run and run afraid of failure. Projects never see release because they haven’t achieved an unreachable ideal we set up in our heads. Fear fuels it, and it’s empowered by those lingering “what if” questions. Questions that bog us down, snare us, and stop our momentum.

The biggest lie in life is the idea that failure itself is permanent. I’ve seen it crush writers, artists, designers, architects, and creatives of all types. I’ve seen it destroy dreams. But… it’s a lie. Failure is a state of being, and like every other state of being, you’ll realize that it’s temporary. Once you realize its temporal nature fear begins to take a back seat. The panic becomes a white noise. The post-publication depression that hangs over our head and sabotages us begins to fade. As that happens, you become powerful.

“You’ll have more failures than successes.”

Last week, Kari-Lise was watching The Trojan War, the latest in ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30. (It’s a brilliant documentary series and I encourage more than just sports fans to watch it. A lot of great stories.) During the program, Lawrence Turman, the producer of The Graduate and American History X, had a great quote. It was something that has stuck with both Kari-Lise and me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something along the lines of: “you’ll have more failures than successes.”

Think about that for a moment, more failure than successes. That’s intense and yeah, it’s scary. But the trick, the thing a lot of people don’t understand, is you can’t fail unless you try, and you certainly cannot succeed until you’re willing to fail.

So, I’m scared. I feel the fear. I always do. But, now three books in, I’m realizing: that fear never leaves. It lingers, it picks, it torments. Somedays I give in, but more and more I find myself pushing past it. My reaction to it has changed. I’ve changed. The way I react is shifting. Emotionally I realize that fear is part of the process. Sure, I can still feel it moving beneath the surface. I know it wants to reach up, and (excuse the Lovecraftian imagery) grip and strangle me in its tentacles. But I push on. What else would I do? Give up? *scoffing noise* Not a chance. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I don’t ever intend on stopping.

So yeah, fear is out there. We all deal with it. But we can’t let fear stop us. Keep at it.

Now, go make great things.

Friday Link Pack 07/17/2015

Friday Link Pack 07/17/2015

Here is today’s Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

WRITING:

Shorter
Fantastic article from Cory Doctorow on learning that brevity is often the right solution for any project. He’s right, and it’s good advice to take to heart. It’s something I am still learning myself. Thank God for good editors. [Thanks to Steve for sending this my way.]

Time Management Is Only Making Our Busy Lives Worse
I’m including this in the writing section for a few reasons: first, I see a lot of articles regarding time management and writing, and second: I think it’s good to step back and consider our craft the way we’d consider any other task. Don’t let time management get in the way of your creativity.

10 Key Questions That Can Determine Your Success As A Writer
Great list from best-selling author Jonathan Gunson reminding us what it takes to succeed at writing. Fantastic advice. Give yourself the time to go through these and answer honestly.

Three Quotes On Villains
What makes a villain engaging? What is a villain anyway? I assembled three quotes from three great creators that challenge the notion of what a villain should be.

ART:

Spooky Glass Bottles Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft
Italian artist Andrea Falaschi has created a series of insanity-inducing bottles for your favorite concoction. Fantastic detail. I love how unique each one is and how weathered they look. [Thanks to Scot for sending this to me.]

The Gore and Agony Of New Baroque Sculptures At The Met
Absolutely stunning 17th century sculptures by Pedro de Mena. The level of detail in this work is astounding.

Viral Series by Jess Riva Cooper
I guess this weeks theme is sculpture. I stumbled across these ceramic busts and was struck by the craftsmanship and how they danced on that fine edge between beautiful and disturbing. Fantastic work.

The Sandy Beach Architecture of Calvin Seibert
I fell in love with these temporary sand projects. Incredible work. Part of me is disappointed they were reclaimed by the sea, but that is also what makes their existence so wonderful.

RANDOM:

Japan’s New Satellite Captures an Image of Earth Every 10 Minutes
I just… I can’t… how stunning is this? (Very.)

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes
Sometimes it’s hard to realize the scale of an event in history until it is presented in a way that changes your perception. This quick animation from Slate does a good job in putting a number of lives affect during the slave trade into perspective.

The Death Of The Hippies
Photographer Joe Samberg looks back on the era of the hippies and his time on Telegraph Ave. for The Atlantic, recalling how drug addiction eventually destroyed the scene. (A cropped version of one of Joe’s photos serves as the lead for today’s link pack.)

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Hotel Toilet Paper Folding
“Hotel toilet paper folding is a common practice performed by hotels worldwide as a way of assuring guests that the bathroom has been cleaned.[1] Elaborate folding is sometimes used to impress or delight guests with the management’s creativity and attention to detail.

The common fold normally involves creating a triangle or “V” shape out of the first sheet or square on a toilet paper roll. Commonly, the two corners of the final sheet are tucked behind the paper symmetrically, forming a point at the end of the roll. More elaborate folding results in shapes like fans, sailboats, and even flowers.” Continue Reading → 

H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

Fungi from Yuggoth
This poem, comprised of 36 sonnets, has long been a connection point between Lovecraft’s other work. Innsmouth is mentioned as well as Nyarlathotep and Azathoth, and we get more backstory for The Dunwich Horror and even Brown Jenkins from The Dreams in the Witch House makes an appearance.

GIF OF THE WEEK:

And, now you know how they worked...

Edgar Rice Burroughs

I Knew Nothing About Writing

“I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs


Came across this quote today and figured it’d be worth sharing. It resonates a lot with me. In the end, when all is said and done, the important thing is that you told the best story you can tell. Keep at it.

Oh! Remember the Red Litten World cover reveal and giveaway is coming tomorrow!

Friday Link Pack 05/22/2015

It has been a week in the Alexander household and I am so glad today is Friday! That means it is time for the Friday Link Pack where I share a few links I’ve found over the last few days. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

Writing:

To Win Big, You Have To Enter The Race
I thought this was a fantastic bit of encouragement for anyone who is struggling with their writing. The quote from Kevin J. Anderson really rang true to me: “If you want to attract lightning, be a lightning rod.” Work hard and keep at it, you got this.

The Master Outline
What do the YA novels Harry Potter and The Sorcerers Stone, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have in common? The Better Novel Project lays it out in this enormous outline that somehow works for each of them. [Thanks to Christine for finding this, very cool.]

Pros And Cons Of Being An Indie Author
Novelist Joanna Penn lays out the good and the bad of going it on your own. If you’re unsure of the direction you want to go, I recommend starting here.

Red Litten World Cover Reveal Is Coming June 4th
Hold on to your butts. The cover for the third installment of my Bell Forging Cycle is being revealed in a few weeks. Those readers who subscribe to my newsletter will get to see it a few days before it’s posted. Make sure you sign up today →

Art:

The Art Of Syd Bee
Seattle-based painter and illustrator Syd Bee, is doing the cover for my upcoming fantasy novel (which I am still being coy about). However, I want to introduce her work to my audience and what better way to start than using the link pack! Check her work out and expect to see more around here in the days to come.

Classic Art Heroes In Modern Day Situations
Artist Alexey Kondakov takes characters from classical paintings and photoshops them into scenes we tend to take for granted. The result… well, you’ll just have to find out…

Poll Finds 1 in 25 US Citizens Unsure If They Own Art
Question: Do you own any paintings, sculptures, or other art works?
Answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Random:

In Flight
In this article from the New York Times, we get a pilot’s perspective en route from London to Tokyo. A great read.

23 Brilliant Life Lessons From Anthony Bourdain
I love Anthony Bourdain, I like his honesty, his candidness, and his no-nonsense approach to life and writing. (If you haven’t, go read Kitchen Confidential you’ll thank me later.) So yeah, I think these little bits of wisdom are great.

When The Victorians Used Microscopic Photography To Look At Porn
But yeah, the headline. Victorians hid naughty imagery viewable only with a magnifying glass inside random gadgets. This was a thing they did. [Warning: Saucy Victorian Nudity.]

NASA Captures Best Photo Yet Of Strange Lights On Dwarf Planet Ceres
Something shiny is on the surface of Ceres, the tiny dwarf planet that orbits with the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But what could it be…

Random Wikipedia Article of the Week:

Rural Purge [Nice find from my friend, Jedrek.]

“The “rural purge” of American television networks (in particular CBS) was a series of cancellations between 1969 and 1972 of still popular rural-themed shows with demographically skewed audiences, the majority of which occurred at the end of the 1970–71 television season.”

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Little Glass Bottle
A short story that serves as an illustration showing us that that not every idea is a good one.

Gif of the Week:

Friendship. :' )

"There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice, and if you keep at it, you’ll eventually find them and they’ll eventually discover you."

Ignore The Market. Tell The Story You Want To Tell.

Recently, over on KBoards there has been a discussion going on about finding success as an author in the current market. It’s worthy of discussion. After all, it’s always helpful to share what has worked for you. It’s a big reason why I started this blog, I want to share my experience and I hope you glean something useful from it. But, I had to pause when I read a post from someone on how reading through that thread was depressing them. This was sparked mainly by the heralded success of romance fiction—something they didn’t write—and its perceived market and potential profitably compared to their own genre.

Often authors get sucked into the comparison game—indie authors especially. They look at what others have done to achieve success and the kneejerk reaction is to emulate them. Likewise, they get disheartened when they pour so much of themselves into a work and the market seems to ignore it. It can lead to frustration, depression, and animosity. Instead of telling the stories they want to tell or sticking with their work, they end up chasing promises while trying to placate the desires of the market. It turns the market into a hungry monster. Instead of a place to share and sell work it becomes something else. It slumbers like an evil beast forged in the dark fires of jealousy and thrives on our desire for explosive and immediate success.

“Oh!” It will say in its sultry voice. “You’re writing an epic fantasy? No. No one cares about epic fantasy anymore, we’re all into hard science fiction these days! Didn’t you see the sales numbers for the last bookstore blockbuster? Your numbers are a pittance in comparison! Didn’t you see how Famous McAuthor did their giveaway? You should have done the same! Why didn’t you write a character like that popular one? Yours are boring in comparison!”

As long as you keep feeding it, the thing will never be silent. The mystical market monster cannot be appeased. Even success won’t sate its hunger. It’ll always want something else, it’ll always cause doubt, and it’ll always frustrate. You sold ten thousand books? Well, Famous McAuthor sold one hundred thousand. You sold one hundred thousands? Well they sold a million! On and on it goes. It’s easy to see how it can spiral down for anyone.

Yet… the market monster can be defeated. During interviews I have often been asked what my advice is for new writers. My best advice is to ignore advice. Advice will only get you so far. Everyone’s path to success is different. Keep working hard and keep trying new things. Don’t dwell on what others are doing. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.

“There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice…”

Sure, there are always cases of instant success but for the grand majority of people it takes time. Focus on craft. Write your stories. Tell what you need to tell and please, stick to it! It doesn’t matter if someone believes that “dystopian is played out” or “no one cares about steampunk” or “vampire romance doesn’t sell.” There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice, and if you keep at it, you’ll eventually find them and they’ll eventually discover you.

That’s one of the best things about the internet and our connected culture worldwide. It’s what allows for stories like Homestuck to get told, find an audience, and become runaway successes. (If you haven’t heard about Homestuck, educate yourself.) None of the big publishing houses would have even considered giving the creator—Andrew Hussie—the time of day. He forged his own path and it took years but eventually his story found its audience.

So when it comes to your own creations, I really want to encourage everyone to keep doing what they’re doing. Keep writing. Keep perfecting your craft. Keep making quality products. Ignore everything else. Those three things should be your focus. Chase the stories you want to tell and ignore the market monster. You’ll be a lot happier and it’ll show in your work.

Now, get back to writing.