Whys and Why Nots

I’ve had a conversation stuck in my head ever since Comic Con.  A fan stopped by our booth and asked my friend and fellow author James what the difference was between traditional and independent publishing and why we decided to go the independent route.

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There’s a fairly typical response to this question.  Most of it truthfully comes down to rights and royalties.  I love that Cemetery Tours and Boy Band are 100% mine.  I guess I’m kind of a control freak like that.

But James mentioned something else, something that I really hadn’t considered.

“There’s more freedom in what we write.  Many of the big publishing houses require a certain formula.  They like books to fit their mold.”

I’d always known that from a business perspective, I had more freedom with independent publishing.  I once read a book that ended with several cliffhangers.  It was clearly not written to be a standalone novel.  But it hadn’t sold the way that the publishers had hoped it would, so they didn’t order a sequel.  I was distraught.  There was no way those characters’ stories were over.  Not even close.  I love that with independent publishing, I have the freedom to give my characters the complete stories that they demand and deserve.  But I had never stopped to think about how my independent books differ from the countless traditionally published books I’ve read.

And wouldn’t you know it?  The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I began to pick up on certain patterns.  On little predictabilities.  That’s not to say that all traditionally published books are the same book.  Not in the least.  But I suddenly became acutely aware of all the unwritten rules that do, in fact, exist.

The independent world is different.  True, if we want to be taken seriously in the world of literature, we need to produce high quality books.  That is non-negotiable. But as far as the stories and the characters go?  We really do have a lot more freedom.

In graduate school, I was taught that everything that happens in a story is significant.  The writer wouldn’t have written it if the reader didn’t need to know it.  And in many traditionally published books I’ve read, everything eventually falls and fits together like a perfect puzzle.  It’s excellent story-telling.  But life, I’ve come to realize, isn’t really like that.  And yes, okay, I realize my books are about ghosts and boy bands.  Hardly representations of what real life is actually like.  But I’ve always wanted my books to have some sense of flawed authenticity, if that makes any sense at all.  I want my stories to play out as they would if they were happening in the real world and not in a book.  And that, I think, is an advantage that independent authors enjoy.  Because our stories and our characters truly can be anything we want them to be.

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Thought Catalog’s 50 Questions

A friend of mine posted this article a few days ago:

50 Questions To Ask A Girl If You Want To Know Who She Really Is

As I scrolled through the questions, I began to realize not only do I now know a lot of my friends’ answers to the questions… I don’t even know my own answers.  Of course, I try to avoid getting too personal and deep… ever.  It’s a bit of a defense mechanism.  If I don’t take anything seriously, then I don’t have to confront my own shortcomings or flaws or let downs.  But I rather like the idea of this challenge, so I think I’ll give it a go.  If for no one else, then for me.

1. What’s one thing that’s happened to you that has made you a stronger person?

Honestly, writing my books, learning about the publishing industry, and making the choice to go forward and follow my dreams despite the numerous odds stacked against me.  I’m so proud of everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve been brave enough to try.  I never thought I would feel so confident.  But I do.  

2. What’s one thing that’s happened to you in your life that made you feel weak?

The snark inside me wants to say Calculus.  Calculus made me feel oh, so helpless.  But I think the correct answer to this would be my struggle with low self-esteem and social anxiety.  It’s terribly frustrating to be in constant battle with your own mind.  It’s also kind of sad to realize how little you think of yourself.    

3. Where is one place you feel most like yourself?

The beach.  The lake.  The woods.  Nature in general. 

4. Where is your favorite place to escape to?

The beach.  The lake.  The woods.  Nature in general.  But of course, I also love to escape into my books.  

5. Who do you think has had the largest influence on the person you are today?

Everyone who has supported me, especially my parents.  They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.  Even when I was little.  

6. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I have NO sense of direction and it frustrates me to no end.  I embody the stereotype that women can’t carry a map in their heads.  Thank God for GPS!

7. If you had one day left to live, what would you do first?

Fly to Australia even though I’d spend over half that day in an airplane.

8. What decade do you feel you most belong in?

1990s.

9. Who are you closest to in your family? Why?

I think it’s probably a tie between my parents and my sister.

10. Who is the one person in this world that knows you best?

My sister.

11. What is your favorite quality about your best friend?

Oh wow, where to begin?  She cracks me up.  She’s fiercely intelligent and independent.  She believes in magic and adventure.  We can talk about anything.  

12. When you were younger what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A marine mammal trainer.

13. If you could identify with one fictional character (from a book, show, or movie) who would it be?

Probably Cather Avery from Fangirl.  Or Ariel.  

14. Do you easily accept compliments? Or do you hate compliments?

Oh, I love compliments.  But they make me blush.  And I always feel like I have to return the favor.

15. Is your favorite attribute about yourself physical or non-physical?

Non-physical.

16. What is your favorite physical attribute about yourself?

My eyes.

17. What is your favorite non-physical attribute about yourself?

I think my sense of humor is delightful but I might be the only one.

18. Do you believe in love at first sight?

I’ve seen it, so yes.

19. Do you believe in soul mates?

Yes.

20. How seriously do you take horoscopes?

Not very.  They’re fun, but I certainly wouldn’t place bets on their accuracy.

21. Have you ever been in love? How many times?

No.

22. What makes you fall in love with someone?

If I want to spend time with you and talk to you all the time… That’s pretty awesome.

23. What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?

I do not like vulnerability.  Vulnerability, to me, is making everything that hurts you more real and giving other people access to it.  I don’t like people to know when I feel vulnerable.  I don’t like people to know when I’m hurting.  When they’re aware of it, I’m aware of it.    

24. What’s one thing you’re scared to ask a man, but really want to?

I don’t know.  I’m not actually very shy… 

25. If you were a man for a day, what would be the first thing you do?

Grow a beard. Then go to the store and dress myself up in sexy clothes.  

26. What do you find most attractive about each sex?

Men: Eyes, arms, smile.

Women: Hair, eyes, smile.  

27. What’s one thing you’d love to learn more about?

I’m always considering going back to school for my marine biology degree.  I also still want to learn to cook.

28. What is something you’ve never done that you’ve always wanted to do?

Oh man, too many things to list.  Parasailing is the first thing that comes to mind.    

29. Why haven’t you done it yet?

Good question.

30. If money didn’t matter, what would your dream job be?

I wouldn’t have a job.  I’d just travel full time and take pictures.  But I’d keep writing books because I can’t not write books.

31. If you had off from work today, what would you do?

Read or write which is basically my job anyway sooo… 

32. What was the last thing that made you cry?

I think it was The Shack…

33. What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Stupid Pinterest pictures.

34. What is your favorite memory?

Oh my goodness, I have so many.  Probably standing on top of a mountain in Scotland.  Or sitting around in the small living space of the Iona hostel, watching the sun set, reading, and singing Breakfast and Tiffany’s.

35. What’s the last thing that REALLY embarrassed you?

God, I embarrass myself on a daily basis.  The thing is I’m so used to it that I don’t really get all THAT embarrassed anymore.  I really hate it when I forget someone’s name though.  Or don’t remember a conversation that I’ve had.  That happens a lot more than it probably should. 

36. What is your biggest fear?

Losing my family.  Sunken ships.  Vomit.  And that I’ll accidentally hit a pedestrian with my car.  

37. Do you have any regrets? What’s your biggest one?

I try really hard not to have regrets because I believe that life works out the way it’s supposed to.  Every choice I’ve made (even if it seemed like the wrong choice), has led me to where I am today.  I guess I regret that I’ve spent so much time worrying about what other people think of me.  Or worrying that I might be missing out on something.  Or worrying that I don’t always fit the mold or social norms.  

38. Have you ever broken a law? If you haven’t what is one law you’d love to break?

Um… I’m not telling you.  If I put it in writing, that means it actually happened.  If I COULD break a law though, I’d probably steal a lot of stuff I don’t need.  

39. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not sure I’ve done a whole lot of crazy stuff.  I’m not a very interesting person.  

40. Would you have a conversation with a stranger?

I talk to strangers more than I talk to people I actually know.  

41. Would you tell a stranger they have toilet paper hanging from their shoe? Or their dress tucked into their underwear? (Or anything else that is embarrassing to be seen in public)?

If I could do so discreetly.

42. What’s your favorite joke?

I like inside jokes.  I guess I’m kind of exclusive like that.  

43. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat.  Cats all the way.  Cats forever.  

44. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?

Killer whale.  I would be beautiful and at the top of the food chain.

45. What’s one show, movie, or book, you’re embarrassed to admit you enjoy?

I love lots of embarrassing stuff, but I will say it loud and proud.  I love Twilight.  I love Nicholas Sparks books AND movies.  I love One Direction.  I love Hannah Montana.  

46. How do you think your parents would describe you as a child?

Weird, quiet, and a VERY picky eater.  

47. If you could go back to any age or time of your life, what age or time would it be?

I don’t want to go back.  I like where I am now.  And I’m excited about the future.  

48. What’s something you believe in that not everyone else does?

God. 

49. What’s one thing you would say that makes you unique from other people?

I don’t drink soda or coffee.  LOTS of people think that’s weird.  

50. What is one thing you feel your life is missing?

The snark in me wants me to say money, because it’s true.  I don’t necessarily feel like my life is MISSING anything.  It’s more that I’m not quite there yet.  I feel like I’m on the right path.  But I’m not where I want to be yet.  I may not ever get there.  But I’m going to keep trying.  

A Comic Con of Errors

Okay, so the title of this post is a bit misleading.  There truly were not that many errors at Comic Con.  I just thought I’d be clever and witty.  Ha ha ha.

Comic Con (technically Fan Expo Dallas) is one of my favorite events of the year.  Three days of pure, unadulterated nerd heaven.  And I get to sell a lot of books and meet a lot of readers!

This past weekend was so fun and so busy that honestly, the memories are beginning to blur and fade together.  As always, my favorite part was meeting and connecting with new friends and fellow book-lovers.  And stopping all the cosplayers and asking them to pose with my books.

My favorite cosplayers, however, were Cecil Grimes and his partner in crime, Richard Dixon.  Early Saturday morning as my colleague and I were browsing the convention (we don’t get a lot of chances to explore once the Expo actually opens), and I noticed a photo booth that looked a lot like the prison scene from The Walking Dead.  I walked up to the man running the booth to ask if I could take a picture.  The guy looked up and I swear, I jumped a foot back.  He looked EXACTLY like Andrew Lincoln.  I’m not ashamed to admit I lost my cool a little bit.

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I’m especially glad I got to meet him since my photo op with Norman Reedus was cancelled at the last minute… And I do mean the VERY last minute.  Due to bad weather, he and his Walking Dead co-star had to catch an earlier flight.  I was disappointed, but since I got my money back, I wasn’t going to complain too much.  I was, however, VERY concerned about how long I’d stayed inside the convention center BECAUSE my parking permit was about to expire.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this in a previous blog post, but last year, I got a parking boot for having an invalid permit.  The only catch was that I’d asked my friend to watch after my purse (including my car keys) while I waited in line for my photo op.  During that time, his phone died and we got separated so I had NO way of reaching him.  Of course, me being me, I was far more conceded with having to pay for a parking ticket, so once the hoards of Walking Dead fans were escorted out of the convention center, I ran down to the parking lot to make sure my car hadn’t been booted again.  I figured James would eventually figure out where I had gone and come to find me.  In the mean time, I was calling my mom and James’ wife Claudette to tell them what was going on.

Thankfully I did not get a parking boot, Claudette found James, and we all lived happily ever after.  There was a brief period of time, however, that I became a crazy downtown lady, sitting in the middle of a parking lot at 10:00 at night screaming “DON’T BOOT MY CAR!” while the thunderstorms rolled in.  It makes a funny story I guess.

There were a few other interesting stories as well.  For example, one man I talked to actually got hit by a car in the Comic Con parking lot.  He was in the parking lot and a car physically backed into him and knocked him over.  Fortunately, he was fine and he’s an EMT so he didn’t make a big deal out of it.  It’s so typical, though.  Like, if you were going to get hit by a car, OF COURSE it would happen at Comic Con.

But as always, the good things about Comic Con far outweighed the weird and the parking lot mishaps.  For example, they had a booth set up right in front of the women’s bathroom and they roped the entire area off with curtains.  Well, I’m guessing that no one knew that that bathroom was still open because every time I went in IT WAS TOTALLY EMPTY.  It was kind of the best thing ever because this event was PACKED.  Normally, there would have been a line straight out the door to use the restroom.  But no.  Every time, I walked right in.  It’s the little things, y’all.

This weekend, I also celebrated the release of a brand new anthology in which I’m featured.  The book is called Ever in the After and it is a charity anthology.  Every dollar we make off of this book goes to benefit a charity called Lift 4 Autism.  I was able to bring a limited number of copies to Comic Con and guess what?  I sold them all!  To all of you who bought a copy, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy the stories.

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I’m eternally grateful to all the amazing people I met this weekend and the amazing people I’ve known now for years (James, Claudette, Joe, Alicia) for reminding me why I do this.  Why I write.  Why I love to tell stories.  Why I continue to strive each and every day despite the tremendous odds stacked against independent authors.  This is the path I’ve chosen.  It requires a lot of work, a lot of endurance, a lot more manual labor than you’d expect, but it is so, so worth it.

I love you all.  Thank you for this weekend.