Going the distance as an indie writer

It’s so easy to get discouraged as an indie writer. It’s a tough industry! Writing is already a difficult and lonely occupation, but then throw in the business side of marketing and hustling and self-promoting yourself, your brand, your book – and all for maybe a handful of sales to your closest friends and family and maybe half a dozen reviews on Amazon (if you’re lucky!). It’s little wonder why so many throw in the towel after a year or two. It breaks my heart every time I see a writer friend give up on their dreams.

It’s difficult to see, but I get it. I totally get it. I have been there sooooo many times myself that I’ve lost count.

But, here’s the thing about choosing to be an indie: it means playing the long game.

Writing and self-publishing, marketing and promoting, growing our platforms and our readership: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The end will not be in sight for a long time, but then again, we shouldn’t be looking for an end.

As writers, we should always be writing.

As “authorpreneurs” (“one who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets” – Urban Dictionary), we should always be learning about and growing our business.

And there should never be an end to that.

Trust me, as someone who has been self-employed for sixteen years, creating and operating five (soon six) businesses, there is still and always will be much to learn – and that is a good thing!

Keep yourself busy enough with the writing and the learning and the growing as an indie and soon you ‘ll find that you won’t have any time to become discouraged.

So, keep going!

Some of my favourite websites for writing/ indie inspiration:

www.brainpickings.org

www.writtenwordmedia.com

www.writepublishsell.com

Choosing ourselves

We can pour ourselves in, give it everything we’ve got for days, months, years (!!) even, and still come up empty, or worse yet, get spit out, get rejected.

It happens. It happens all the time. We know the risk is there in everything that we do, be it a project or a relationship, but still, it hurts.

Rejection is a bitch. It’s a beast. It’s brutal.

Rejection can shut us down. It can make us stop trying (stop writing, stop creating, stop loving). It can make us turn inward and question and doubt everything about ourselves. It can leave us spinning our wheels, making it impossible for us to go anywhere but down – but, aren’t we there already?

As much as it hurts, as much as it stings, rejection does serve a purpose, because when viewed in the right light, rejection is a redirection. It’s a sign-post that reads “dead end” with a myriad of arrows around it pointing us towards an infinite number of other paths available on this journey.

No matter what direction we choose, so long as we accept and choose ourself, we can’t go wrong.

The Innovators #8 with….author/poet Jared Kane

This week, I’m excited to feature my favourite author, Jared Kane. His novels (Decline, Mya and The Underside of Wars) are some of the most thought-provoking and beautifully written books that I have come across since my university days studying English lit. He is also an incredibly talented poet who crafts some of the most profoundly dark and stirring poems found on social media today. Read on to find out more…

Introduce yourself and your work.

I’m Jared Kane, a writer of books, short stories, and poetry. I’ve had poetry published by both online and print publications. My novels are currently self-published, and are regrettably in the corner, unwilling to raise their hands to draw attention to themselves. They don’t want to be noticed at this party because they make the most noise, but because they are the most beautiful and profound thinkers in the group. Sometimes those types stay in the corner and are never discovered.

Explain the significance of your Instagram handle, Whirlpool of Crows.

I went through a couple before I landed on this one, and really, I only stuck with this one because it is how many first found me. It’s four syllables of seventeen of a haiku I wrote: a whirlpool of crows / swirls above, justifying / our murderousness. It also features in my first novel, Decline. And I have it tattooed on my arm.

Your first novel, Decline, reads very much like poetry. Tell me why you were inspired to write it like that and why a nameless/anonymous protagonist?

I wanted Decline to differ from all the other post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories out there. I conceived the story before the glut of post-apocalyptic media hit our shelves and screens, but by the time I finished it, a lot of these stories were already out there. So, I took inspiration from a Salman Rushdie book I read once—I’m not sure if I even liked the actual book that much, but the manner in which he wrote it, it felt like you could pull out any random paragraph, arrange it like a poem, and a beautiful poem it would be. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. So, I set about writing Decline with a different mindset: to couch the story in poetic language.

The nameless protagonist is a bit of a shameless homage to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Also, the novel is very “stream of consciousness”, like the reader is inside the narrator’s head, hearing what he hears, and seeing what he sees. I feel like his name would be superfluous, and maybe even colour the reader’s impression of him (everyone knows a John, or a Dave, or a Dominic—maybe less so the latter—and if the narrator was “John”, the reader might see their John’s face or hear their John’s features).

Explain the meaning and significance of the quote “Temporis Destruit Omne – Time Destroys Everything” as it applies to your second novel, Mya.

Temporis Destruit Omne is another one of my tattoos now—I hope there’s no Latin scholars out there who pipe in about how terrible my translation is.

Mya is a very intimate book. Without getting into spoilers, “Time Destroys Everything” guides most of what happens in the narrative. It’s a very intimate belief and feeling of mine: it doesn’t matter what you build, what you create, who you become, it will all crumble to nothing in time.

There is no such thing as history and future, past and present—aside from what your senses are perceiving right this moment (itself an interpretation of the mind), everything else is dust or in a state of either becoming dust. A character in Mya proposes the theory of Eternalism, which is a sort of answer to this philosophy. Eternalism is the belief that past, present, and future all exist at once and are equally real (to put it mildly, this is the nutshell version, and I’m absolutely not an expert). This is reassuring in a way: all those times you had, or wish you’d had, they’re all out there still and possible, even if you will never return to them again.

The Underside of Wars protagonist, Matthew Talbot, is a writer frustrated with the state of the literary world and its inability to appreciate his work or give him his “break.” How much of that comes from your own experience as an indie author?

Underside is maybe my most personal book. This will be a very vulnerable answer.

The main character grapples with a lot of things I do, thinks some things I think, feels some things that I feel. Matthew’s experience does reflect my personal experience to some degree when it comes to personality shortcomings and substance abuse. He’s a bit of a cipher. While Matthew is supremely confident in his abilities, that confidence is so shaky that he’s fundamentally unable to accept being unsuccessful, or for success to look different than he always imagined. I am very confident in my ideas, my writing, and what I’ve created. And it can be very hard to accept being passed over. It’s all the more devastating to accept the possibility that I may never be successful (insofar as I define “success”). If that comes to pass, what else is there? There’s a lot more plot in Matthew’s journey, but those quandaries and principles are pretty central.

You’ve described your three novels as a trilogy. With different characters and storylines, how do they fit in/ mesh together as a trilogy? Do they need to be read in a specific order?

I call them my Apocalypse Trilogy. It’s more like they exist in the same universe, and fall somewhere on the same timeline. There’s no direct connection between them except for some easter eggs in Underside that point to it taking place a certain amount of time after Mya. If there was an order, it would be Mya, Underside, then Decline. They absolutely do not have to be read in that order. Though that’s not a bad order in which to read them. A new reader would probably find the language in Mya and Underside more accessible. Then, hopefully after they’ve read those two, they’d be willing to undertake the challenge of reading Decline.

What role does music play in your creative process? What else inspires your creativity? What bands/artists are currently on your writing playlist?

Music is everything to me. Life without music would be food without taste. I have a psychological dependence on music, sort of the way someone can become addicted to gambling: like a gambler feels a shot of dopamine when they pull the slot lever down, so do I feel a surge of dopamine when I hear the music I love.

I always match up a song with what I’m writing. If it’s a sad moment, I play a sad song. If an action sequence, I play a more aggressive song, and so on. I know some writers have difficulty focusing when they’re listening to music, and especially music with lyrics, but I don’t hear the lyrics. All I hear is mood.

In that regard, I have thousands of songs on my writing playlist—it all depends what type of dopamine hit I need at the time! For example, Decline is a quiet, sad, philosophical post-apocalyptic novel, so my playlist for that book included a lot of Lycia for the quiet, sad moments. For the more heartbreaking moments, the playlist would become more aggressively despondent, like Psyclon Nine’s “Under the Judas Tree”. Mya was very much influenced by songs from Yendri, while Underside is more raw, and had music from Amenra and Black Mare (see Black Mare’s “Ingress to Form”). Right at this moment in the block universe, I’m cycling through those three playlists (I still keep a separate playlist for each book on iTunes) as I write these answers.

What else inspires my creativity? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. I’m usually most inspired when I feel a lugubrious emptiness. It’s a profound need that feels deeply hollow. Ironically, it’s difficult to write at those times, because my mind will conjure up the same words and lines over and over. Instead, I’m most productive during times of (and I’m paraphrasing . . . someone . . . I can’t remember who, and I don’t remember the quote well enough to search it) sober reflection on past inspiration.

I’m sure you’re the cosmic love-child of dead poets. Who do you think they are ? What writing talents have you inherited from each of them?

I love this question. Anything that makes me turn around and consider my bookshelves is welcome. It’s like returning to nature after the city.

I’ll say William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, which is starting right at the beginning. From Wordsworth, I gained a sense of wonder at nature and a feeling for romanticism that is much more vast than our current crass concept of “romance”. From Thomas Hardy, I inherited a dark and tragic outlook. One is basically a response to the other. Hardy probably continues to have the most influence on my writing. His books can be one thing for 300 pages, and then deliver a gut punch out of nowhere in the last chapter (or last two pages in the case of The Woodlanders) that makes you completely re-evaluate your feelings about the entire book.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work? Do you prefer they read your novels or your poems or both? If they only read one of your books, which one would you most recommend?

I hope that my work evokes an emotional response from readers. The best books I’ve read, I’ll put down and feel different afterwards. The light will be a different warmth, and everything around me will look a little different than it did before. Sometimes this feeling lasts a few hours, a few days, sometimes it’s forever. I want my writing to land on that spectrum for readers. Honestly, as I veer back to the question of “success” that came up several questions back, that is true success. If I can make a reader feel that way, then let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

If I had to choose, I’d rather my readers read my novels. But I don’t write long-form poetry, so read both! Depending on the reader, they might want to start with Underside or Mya because they may go down easier to start.

Where can readers find you?

Readers can find me on Instagram @whirlpool_of_crows, where I post poems and other blurbs, while The Underside of Wars, Mya and Decline are all available on Amazon.

Thanks, Jared!!

Go check out his books…

A season without doubt

Black and Yellow Party Entertainment Logo

No one doubts my abilities more than me. No one. Every idea that pops into my head gets over-analyzed and shot full of holes, usually to the point of death, before it even gets to see the light of day.

For the past year, one of those thoughts has been about stepping up my indie game and starting to help other independent artists in my own little way through social media promotion.  My doubts about the size of my social media reach and my ability to actually help anyone get noticed (I mean I can bearly help myself in getting my own books sold and my own poems read so what in the world would I have to offer to someone else!?) constantly got in the way.  But then recently, I was interviewed by an indie with her own little social media reach and it made me realize one really important detail that I had been forgetting:  quality is more important than quantity. 

Having one person – just ONE genuine, interested person, offer support to you and your work IS enoughThousands of followers on social media doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of supporters of your work, it doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of sales or reviews of your books.  In a world where everything is a numbers game (get more likes, more followers, more comments!) this idea runs contrary to what most people believe, but believe me, it’s true.

For me, that one interview equated to a higher level of support than all the “likes” I had ever received on Instagram. The invitation to be interviewed (someone was interested in me?  In my work? ) was a much-welcomed and, honestly much needed, ego boost that has supported me in a spiritual and emotional sense so much more than in a physical (book sales) sort of way.

Being an indie writer (or musician, or poet or artist in any shape or form) is really hard!  Self-promotion is really hard!  I’ve been doing it for a year and a half now and have often found myself feeling alone and adrift in an ocean of other indies, unable to swim or navigate the waters of self-promotion as well as others seem to be, and sometimes I’ve bearly been able to even keep my head above the water as the thought of quitting the whole indie scene, of giving up my writing, has occurred to me more than once.

So, with all of that said and all of that realized, and with that much-welcomed injection of support and inspiration still running fresh through my veins, I am finally going ahead and doing what I’ve been thinking about doing for the past year now: I’m starting up my own series of indie interviews and social media promotion.

The Innovators will be a bi-weekly series of interviews with indie authors, poets, musicians, and artists and it will start in September via this blog and my Instagram and Facebook pages!

I hope you will join me!

My books are FREE this weekend!

P_20200710_080428All of my book babies are FREE this weekend!! 🖤💙(Friday thru Sunday). Find the books here:  my Amazon Author’s Page.

I would love to find some new readers and get some more reviews, especially for my Hope Quest books (Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird and Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning), a YA, supernatural, coming of age series about 14 year old Hope, an unusual girl who speaks in a whisper and occasionally pulls stars from the sky, and her motley group of friends, whose search for Hope’s strange origins takes them to STARfest, a rock festival, where they find enigmatic musician Blackbird and discover his dark connection to Hope.

I also have two poetry and dance photography collections (I’ve worked as a children’s photographer for the last decade): Elegant Execution and The Stars Went Out.

So, if you are looking a summer read or two (or four!), please check out my books and consider leaving a review if you liked them! I would be forever appreciative. Those reviews are gold for indie authors like me!!! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Progress not perfection

flawed

I often wish that my typing was in step with my thinking.  I wish the words would flow from my fingers to the keys as fast and as often as they come to my mind.

But they don’t.

Most often I just sit, thinking – over-thinking – in front of my keyboard, my fingers at the ready……and nothing happens.  It’s not that I don’t have words, I don’t have ideas. In that regard, I can’t turn the tap off.  Most of the time I have too many ideas, too many thoughts to express – have I mentioned I am currently working on three books??

The problem, I know is me, getting in my own way. ALL. THE. TIME.  I worry too much about how to say things or even should I say things (my first novel Hope Quest dealt with incest and I struggled for months over whether or not I should include that at all).  I also deal with crippling self-doubt that anything I write will want to be read.  What’s the point of writing if no one is reading??

 

I recently got a new shirt to practice my yoga in. Across the chest, it announces: “Progress not perfection.”  After three years, I have come to embrace that idea in my daily yoga practice.  Yoga is not about having a perfect body or having perfect poses.  It’s about challenging yourself (mentally and physically) and also embracing yourself wherever you are on your spiritual/physical journey.  It’s very much a self-centered practice, done by you and for you only, no audience necessary or needed.

 

I’m starting to come to realize that I should embrace my writing in that same way.

I don’t do the most graceful backbends, but I still do them.  I don’t yet have the ability to do handstands in the middle of the floor, so I do them against the wall. I don’t overthink when I am practicing yoga.  I don’t stress, I don’t doubt.  I flow through the motions without worrying whether or not I can or even if I should.  

If I sit down at my desk with that same mindset ( perhaps that same “progress not perfection” shirt, too!) maybe, just maybe, I will find my writing flow, too – and having an audience would just be an added bonus.

 

Persistent whispers

attuned

I really didn’t want to do it.  Homeschooling my dyslexic son was on the very bottom of my things I’d like to do in this life list and although my husband and I had already kicked around the idea and I had expressed that maybe I would homeschool him next year, I was really just dragging my feet hoping for something else or someone else to step in and present themselves as the answer to our problems.  The little voice in the back of my head, that persistent little whisper that had been there since my son was two, when I first started to become aware of his language and learning difficulties, the one that always said what I wasn’t willing to admit, told me there was no rescue coming.  It said, “you are all he has.”

I desperately didn’t want to believe it.

And then, six weeks into my son’s grade four year, at yet another school meeting with the teacher, the principal and a myriad of other admins who had simply passed the buck by passing my son through grade after grade, year after year, knowing full well he couldn’t read and not wanting to deal with his recent dyslexia diagnosis (no one at the meeting could even bring themselves to say the word dyslexia outloud -well, except me, who said it constantly and loudly knowing it HAD to be addressed if my son was to have any chance of success in school), the house of cards that had been my son’s inefficient education finally and completely, collapsed.  Through yelling and tears (and not just mine), it was made abundantly clear that no one at the school was willing to help my son in the way that he needed to be helped.  So, my husband and I gave up the fight, we collected our son from his classroom and went home to wage our own battle.

Sitting at the kitchen table with my boy the next morning, knowing that his education was now completely in my hands and my hands only was as scary and daunting as sitting in my dorm room in college away from home for the first time had been.  It was a spine-tingling sort of realization of “Oh my godI’ve done it.  I’m here.  Now what??”

The two years that followed (much like my two years of college) were some of the most challenging, yet rewarding times I’ve ever had the pleasure of going through and growing through – and most importantly, it had the same impact on my son.

During those long hard years of homeschooling / reading remediation, my son went from reading four years behind grade level (that equated to not knowing the alphabet in grade four) to reading at grade level.  He revelled in finally being able to read his Harry Potter books to himself.  I’d listen at his closed bedroom door with tears in my eyes as he carefully and haltingly read outloud.  It tugged at my mommy heartstrings just like hearing his first words and seeing his first steps had done – but moreso because learning how to read (and for me, learning how to teach him to read) had been a steep, steep mountain for both of us to climb.  But, even on my worst days, that persistent little whisper in the back of my head was my constant cheerleader, believing in me and what I was doing even when I wasn’t too sure of anything at all.  “You’re the only one who can and will help him,” it told me, “so keep going!”  So I did.

Two years have passed since I wrapped up homeschooling and put my son back into the school system. He just finished grade 7.  He still has his struggles (and always will) because of his dyslexia, but his reading has continued to improve and stay consistent with his grade level.  I couldn’t be prouder of him, even as that persistent whisper in the back of my head has continued.

“Keep helping,” it has told me for two years now.  “There’s more like him.”

And it’s true.

While homeschooling, so many of my mom friends shared their own frustrations at their child’s poor reading skills and the inability of the school to provide appropriate or effective resources to help and so many came to the same sad conclusion, “I can’t do anything about it.  I’m not self-employed like you are, so I can’t homeschool.”

That was true, too.  Being self-employed as a photographer for the past decade has allowed me to schedule my work around my kids and their needs and I was able to move from full to part time employment in order to homeschool.  But then, the pandemic happened and in March I closed up my studio, thinking it would be temporary, but instead, it offered the silence needed for those whispers to get louder.

 

This summer, I will finish up my Orton-Gillingham certification and will close my photography business.  This fall, I will start a new venture:  Rock Star Readers, a reading tutor service for kids.

Those persistent whispers in my head finally made their way to my heart and now I trust them to lead me where they may.

 

 

My books are free today!

ad22

To celebrate the one year anniversary of Hope Quest book 1’s release, BOTH books in the series are FREE today on Amazon!  Link to Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird and link to Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning.

This story developed in my head for twenty years before I finally sat down and wrote it (the entire trilogy in an eighteen-month period!). The main character, fourteen-year-old Hope Quest and her coming of age story to find the origins of her strange star-moving talents came to me in a series of dreams when I was fifteen and going through some very dark times in my life.  She was very much like a life-line for me and in writing her story, my hope is that it will be the same for others, particularly teens, although it is meant for all ages.  Just know that book 1 does contain some triggering material in it related to abuse and drug use.

If you read them and like them, please consider leaving me a review on Amazon!  Those reviews are gold to indie authors like me!!

Say the word

eneko-urunuela-I2YSmEUAgDY-unsplash

 

In Buddhism, there is a concept of a restless, unfocused way of thinking called the monkey mind.  It refers to the relentless chatter in our head which needs to be “quieted” or “calmed” if we are to become mindful and focused.

Before the pandemic, I lived a fairly peaceful internal life. Practising yoga, following Buddhism (albeit loosely), having structure, routine and a sense of purpose in my everyday life was key to maintaining that sense of mental peace, but it was somewhat tenuous (the monkeys were caged, but the locks were frail and rusty). The pandemic, it’s subsequent lockdown and abrupt end to all of my routines shook up everything in my life and ultimately, freed those monkeys.

Running amok, tossing bananas here and shit there, my monkey mind would swing wildly from task to task, moment to moment, even book to book in my Kindle, only allowing me to focus on a sample here and a page there, until one day I came across an idea so simple, yet so profound, it stopped all the monkeys in their tracks.

In Design Your Day, Claire Diaz-Ortiz explains how deciding upon a word of the year has become a simple, yet powerful tool in her life.  “Every year, you should choose a word to represent the year you have in front of you.  Think long and hard about one word that will serve as a guidepost for what you want to do and be in the year to come.  And remember that a year needn’t start January 1 – you can start your year at any time!” 

As a lover of words and finding myself mid-way through May, this sounded exactly like what I needed to do. I spent the next day thinking about my word.  The monkeys were a fantastic help in throwing out hundreds of options.

Finally, I decided upon one that felt right. Both positive and representative of what I need to do to (regain focus) and what I want to do (write my memoir), I decided that my word of the year shall be: reflect.

I use it now as a mantra, repeating it to myself whenever the monkeys start swinging around in my head and so far, they seem to like it too, providing me with some much needed calm and quiet so that I can reflect, and ultimately, write again.