Crista Ayers

I hate socks.

Journal of Awesome

Yesterday I started a Journal of Awesome. Entries so far:

January 24, 2012
Went to gym – 4th day in a row
Foisted carb foods off on Amy
Took garbage to dumpster

January 23, 2012
Organized Pantry
Bagged up bad carb foods

These are huge accomplishments, ya’ll. I feel awesome already. I actually want to start a Journal of Brilliant where I note down all the stupid crazy things I do each day, but that seems to undermine the point of the Journal of Awesome. At the same time, I feel like it would be much more interesting to read back through some day. You know, after 20 or 30 or 50 years. When it all seems funny. After the pain and embarrassment fade.

Rule of Three #3

Prompt: Betrayal is in the air.

Garret looked over the list again. It was short, and the items were familiar to him: boracic acid, whiskey, lemon, and a cinnabar crystal. The first three he already had, and retrieving the crystal would take him about half a day – not nearly the amount of time he had told Amai. She couldn’t know he’d been preparing for this eventuality for years, and what she didn’t know would hurt her. He shredded the paper with his fingers and prepared for his trek to the Kastanes Caverns.

The caverns were dark, and Garret walked slowly and carefully, lighting his way with a small oil lantern. The sound of his feet against the loose earth shuffled against the stone walls, echoing and multiplying until it sounded as if there were fifty men sneaking through the passages.

Finally, he came to a small pool. He was deep underground by now, and the air and water were still. He set the lantern atop a large rock and sat down in its light, pulling his pack onto his lap. From it he pulled a large loaf of bread and a large thermos. He opened the thermos and the scent of beef stew overwhelmed the stale air of the cavern. Garret set both items in front of him, leaned against the rock, and feel asleep.

Two hours passed before the water began to ripple. Garret sensed the change and woke, but did not move or open his eyes. slowly, a large pale creature pulled itself from the pool. Slime oozed off the creature, leaving a slug-like trail behind it. It stopped in front of the food in front of Garret, and the skin flaps over its large nostrils vibrated fiercely as it inhaled the enticing scents. Garret woke, pretending to just notice the presence of the creature, and gave it a half bow while remaining sitting.

“Garra…” the creature exhaled with a gurgle.

“Walla,” Garret addressed it. “I have brought you a gift.” He cut a bowl out of the bread and poured the now cold soup into the center. He placed it closer to the creature and sat back again. Walla fell upon the food with much gurgling, and when he rose to face Garret again, there was an extra large pile of slime where the food had been.

“I have come for the items I gave you for safekeeping.”

The creature stared motionlessly back at Garrett.

“Of course I do not expect to abuse your kindness. I have another gift, to thank you for their safe return.” Garret returned to his pack and pulled out a bag of apples. He cut one open, and the creature’s nostrils flared wide as it caught the sent. In a sudden motion, it slipped back into the water. Garret set the bag of apples beside him and waited.

A few minutes later the monster returned and tossed a sopping wet bag at Garret’s feet. In return, Garret stood and threw him the apples. While the monster fell upon the bag, Garret quietly picked up the bag and his lantern, and left.

Once he was a decent distance, Garret stopped to check the contents of the bag. From it he pulled the cinnabar crystal. He wiped it off before storing it in his pack. He reached back into the bag and slowly pulled out a deep green hallo crystal, in color and properties the exact opposite of the cinnabar crystal. And the key to his plan.

Rule of Three #2

Rule of Three #1

Prompt: Someone is killed or almost killed AND a relationship becomes complicated

Amia raised an eyebrow at the shopkeeper. “Inquisitive type.”

“Keep your distance.” He stood squarely facing her, arms crossed, eyes unblinking.

Garret Feston had aged. After thirty years she didn’t know what else she had expected, but the creases and folds and color of his well-worn body surprised her more than she liked to admit. And I, she thought, I haven’t aged a day. Aloud, she said, “Come, now, Garret. Is that a way to greet an old friend?” She slinked closer to him, her hips undulating, the light reflecting off the folds of her dress just so, articulating her assets, echoing the color of her eyes.  Her charms dashed against his stoic figure.

“To business, then,” she said with a sigh, and slipped to one side, fingering a set of ribbons on display. “I would like to employ your services once again.”

“No.”

“Now, now,” she tutted. “You haven’t even heard my proposal.”

“No.”

“Garret,” she admonished.

“People who work for you end up dead, or worse.”

“You didn’t come out so bad last time, did you?”

“Now, I’d think most folks would file “murderer” under “or worse”.

“Don’t be melodramatic, Garret. You didn’t murder anyone.”

“As good as. So you can forget whatever scheme you’re planning on tangling me up in – not this time.”

Amia let her face fall into a mask of regret. “I’m afraid that this time you have no choice.”

Garret’s grim facade broke with a guttural laugh. “What can you do to me? I’m an old man. With no wife, and no children.”

“There is the boy.” She nodded to the far door where Neil had disappeared.

The old man twisted around in comprehension and stumbled to the stockroom’s door: no mess, no struggle, no Neil.

He turned back to Amia who let no smile of victory cross her face. “I knew you’d come to see it my way.” She pulled a small sheet of paper from a reticule hanging from her wrist. “The items should be easy enough for you to find. How much time do you need?”

Garret crossed the store and snagged the paper from her hand. He took a moment to look over the list. “Three days.”

“Make it two.”

“Impossible.”

“Make it possible. I’m on a schedule.”  She turned to leave and glanced over her shoulder. “We’ll meet here at dusk, two days from now.”

Garret locked the door behind her, flipping his sign to “Closed”.

Rule of Three #1

First entry for Rule of Three Blogfest.

Prompt: Someone might fall in love.

Neil scrubbed away the red dirt that smudged his face. He’d spent the night in one of the underground rooms that opened off of Heroit’s Pass instead of his normal spot up in the inn’s hay loft. It had been otherwise occupied by the innkeeper, Rofer, and a girl who most certainly was not his wife. At another time and and place it would have been entertaining, but Neil wouldn’t risk catching Rofer’s attention. As long as the surly innkeeper was unaware that he was providing a free room, Neil had access to a comfortable and warm, if smelly, bed.

He checked his image in the reflection of a window and wiped the few missed streaks of dirt from his face. He straightened his dark vest, brushing away any dust. No one would be close enough to see the numerous well-mended tears and holes. With a quick nod of satisfaction, Neil turned toward the main street of Renaissance.

He mounted the stairs of the general store’s porch with an easy leap and entered quickly, sliding neatly behind the counter and grabbing an apron. He had just finished tying the strings around his waist when an older man entered, his round glasses perched pecariously on his nose and his wispy white hair sprouting in wings from the sides of his head.

“Good morning, Mr. Feston,” Neil called, beginning his morning prep routine.

The older man mumbled a greeting, moving around the shop with unconscious familiarity.

Neil prepped the cash drawer, retrieving it from the back office, while Mr. Feston wandered among the shelves, noting the stock that needed replenishment.
Mr. Feston handed his notes to Neil. “Good thing the train’s supposed to be coming through today. We’re completely out of pickles, and Deidre Lewberry has been fussing about her fabric order every time she comes in here. But,” he said with a sigh, “find what you can. If the train is delayed again, I may have to close up shop.”

Neil started toward the stock room when the bell over the door jangled and a young woman walked in.

Her dress was a bright peacock blue, tight around her waist and billowing at her hips. Her dark hair piled in curls on her head, topped by a small hat with precise edges. Neil paused mid-stride, dropped the list on the counter and turned to her. “Can I help you, miss?”

She smiled at him, and Neil gripped the counter for support as his leg muscles wavered.

Mr. Feston stepped in front of him, blocking his view and Neil took the opportunity to sternly reprimand his body.

“What are you doing here?” Mr. Feston said, curtly.

Legs now under control, Neil stepped to the side, his view of the woman no longer impeded.

The woman raised one dark eyebrow, glancing at Neil. “I do apologize for arriving so early. I came in on the train, you see, and there was an incident with the track a few miles back.” She shrugged her small shoulders. “Thankfully, one of the gentlemen who came from the train depot was kind enough to lend me a horse.” She kept her eyes on Neil.

Mr. Feston growled, and turned back to see Neil staring. He pushed the list at Neil. “The shop’s not going to stock itself, boy. I’ll see to the lady.”

Neil dragged himself away, glancing back at the woman, and let himself into the back room. He tried to leave the door open a crack, but Mr. Feston followed him and shut the door tightly.

Shared World of Three

I think it’s fairly obvious I am not (yet) a very dutiful blogger. I have, however, been getting back in the habit of writing. I’m having a lot of trouble working on large writing projects like a novel — even though when I was younger, that’s what I worked on almost exclusively. But even then, I never finished a project. I’ve discovered that I am much more likely to start and complete a short story when working of a prompt.

I completed a short story a few weeks ago for a writer’s challenge, where we all worked off of the same prompt. I finished it minutes just before the deadline: midnight. Oh, the adrenaline! I was wired. Now, I love sleep. I may spend more time sleeping than I do with my husband, and I am almost always asleep by 11pm.

I could not get to sleep until after 3am. I was alive.  The story wasn’t very good; It needed polishing, but I had FINISHED it.

And then I finished another.

Before I realized it, ideas were flowing through my head like they haven’t since I was a kid! Characters started popping in for tea and assassinations – everything spawned an idea.

But then life got in the way, the writing put on pause, the ideas dried up; I have to give myself a good kick in the bottom. So this is my kick in the bottom: The Rule of Three Blogfest. Four weeks of prompts based in a shared world.

I’m pretty darn excited.

A Round of Words In 80 Days – Goals

Most people seem to be posting their daily word goal, but I always feel guilty when I set a goal and then don’t get to write that day, so I’m shooting for 1000 words a week. (Which is I think is what I already set for my personal goal… Yep. 1000.) So now I’m stating it for ROW80. This is just under 150 words a day, so at the end of the 80 days (almost 3 months) I should have at least 12,000 words.

Which is absolutely better than none.

Here’s the current list of participants. April 4th will be the start date.

Writing Update

This is quick.

Words written: 0

But I did write (a few) blog posts. We’re still in the process of moving, but tomorrow is THE deadline. The end is in sight.

Amanda Hocking is a Bulldozer

Whether you’re a fan of Amanda Hocking or not, you have to admire this lady. She is a freaking bulldozer. Whether she planned it or not, this woman is busting through all kinds of boundaries. She’s made thousands (if not millions) selling her books through self-publishing. And now she’s sold a series to a legacy publisher for 2 million dollars. Both ground breaking events on their own.

But here’s the really exciting part for me: Amanda isn’t an either or kinda gal. She hasn’t abandoned self-publishing for traditional.

She’s doing both.

She plans to continue self publishing, while pursuing her new adventure with her Watersong books. Like I said. Boundaries are shattering.

Rock on, Amanda.

 

Agents For Indies

The Evolving Role of Agents

I don’t think the current agent model is going away any time soon, if ever. I think a lot more people will strike out on their own in independent publishing without an agent. But I’d like to see a new model for agents, a middle ground. I’d like to see a bridge between Traditional-Or-Bust and Indie-Or-Die.

I’d like to see agents who function like wedding planners.

Anyone can plan their own wedding. And a lot people do it extremely well. But it takes a lot of time. And dedication. Not everyone is cut out for that. Which is why we have wedding planners. Good wedding planners take the stress away. The bride and groom make the decisions about what they want, and the wedding planner makes it happen. Wedding planners have relationships with vendors which can lead to discount prices and often lends a guarantee of quality. They know what you’re going to be able to fit in your budget, and guide you toward focusing your time and money on the things that will be most important to you.

Traditional publishing: A very rough comparison is handing your wedding to the wedding planner saying, “Do what you can with it.” I would like a little more control over my wedding, and over my book.

Indie/Self publishing: The DIY wedding. It can either rock your socks off with all the work that went into it, or it’s not memorable – I can’t think of a more gut wrenching description than to say your wedding or your book was not memorable.

Middle ground: Your agent puts her skills to work for you, working with you. There has always been a generally close relationship between a writer and his agent (depends on the writer and the agent how the relationship works), but now the writer has more control. The writer is making the decisions on cover, title, and price. The agent is sharing their knowledge, contacts and time (as in the traditional model) to make things happen.

The Worth of an Agent

Let’s put it into real terms – money. I hire an editor. A good one. And she charges by the page. I’ve seen prices listed as $25* a page. This probably isn’t the lowest price, or the highest. And let’s say that my book is fairly short, about 100 pages. That’s $2500 for editing. And that’s all an editor will do. Edit. And that’s a one time edit. What if I need them to go through it a second time? $5000. While they’re probably worth it, I don’t have that money up front.

How would an agent be different? We’ll say our example agent has been in the business for a few years, so they’re not brand new. This isn’t an entry level job. In fact, it’s a pretty highly skilled job. At a mid-level, they’re definitely going to be making more than minimum wage. Let’s just guess at the worth of their time. $25 an hour puts them at a yearly salary of $52,000. (Assuming they work 40 hour weeks, which they don’t, and I’m hoping they average out to more than that, because that’s a horrible salary to try and live on in NYC.)

I send example agent my manuscript. She reads it through. A short, quick story might take about a couple hours. We’re going to go with the quickest, lowest estimates for this example. But, example agent isn’t just reading, she’s reading with a critical eye. She stops and makes notes and comments. This doubles her time. So we’re up to four hours.

After she finishes her manuscript edits, she composes an email to me, noting overarching problems she noticed, a summary of the edits she made on the manuscript, and anything else that is pertinent. This whole time, she’s going back and forth from the manuscript to the email. That probably takes a couple hours. We’re up to six hours.

I call her to discuss some of her edits and suggestions. Maybe I need clarification. Maybe I need to hash out a fairly major plot change. It takes me a few weeks, two phone calls, and twenty emails. Each email takes her an average of ten minutes. That’s five hours for emails. The phone calls average out to an hour. That’s a total of eleven hours.

I send the manuscript back. She reads it critically. This time, I’ve really nailed it. (We’re being optimistic here, folks.) It reads smoothly and she’s only had a few minor changes. Three hours to read, for a total of fourteen hours.

14 hours x $25 an hour = $350

Well, that’s not so bad. Much cheaper than our per page estimate. I could hire someone to edit my work for $350 flat fee, and not pay commission.

But that’s not all example agent does.

Example agent has connections with some very good cover design artists. She helps me pick one out and works out the paperwork. Because she has a relationship with this artist, I get a discount. A couple hours to help me pick my artist, plus added value of the discount. Sixteen hours.

Okay. We’re ready to publish, right? Wrong. Now I have to get my book formatted. Same deal as with the cover design, I get a discount, but it takes less time to find a good one and work out the paper work. Half an hour adds up to sixteen and a half hours.

NOW I’m ready to publish, right? Let’s say I are. I put my book out in the world, upload it myself, even, to save on costs. It’s on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and even some crazy little online store I’d never heard of before. Let the money roll in.

At this point, example agent has been worth $25 x 16.5 = $412. So why should we pay her a commission?

Well, that was my BEST case scenario that she only works sixteen and a half hours. More realistically, I’d have to send my manuscript back for edits another time or two and my book takes longer to read than a couple hours. At least four. That ups each one time edit to eight hours, and six for the final read through. With two edits, we’ve got twenty two hours in editing. Something between nine and fourteen hours of emails, and four hours of calls. Plus the hour and a half of contracts. $912-$1037.

Now my agent is out there pimping my book like a rock star. She’s told her friends and family about it. At lunch, she can’t help but mention it. She announced it’s release on her blog, which has four hundred unique visits a day. She sent out press releases. And she knew where to send press releases. She advised me on the best people to send ARCs to. The whole time I’ve been going through this process, she’s been there. A cheerleader when I were down, a pair of steel toed boots on when you needed a kick to get me going.

I called her in a hissy fit when the cover artist completely RUINED the image I want to portray with the story, and she calmed me down and handled the situation like a boss. She’s been working on getting my book out there into foreign presses. She has SKILLZ.

And for all this, I’m fussing that a commission would pay her too much? Example agent has been my best friend, my lifeline. She believes in my story, and she believes in me. It seems like there would be some correlation to the amount of work put into my book (by both example agent and me) and its success. So shouldn’t example agent get paid more if she works harder?

Let Me Sum Up

An agent gives us the time to focus on what we really want to do: write. A middle ground agent let’s us have more control over the finished project.

I may think my book is awesome enough to make it to the top of the bestseller lists all on it’s own. I might be right. I’m probably not. We’re not all Amanda Hocking. It may not be the right time for my genre. The book may not be as ready for publication as I think it is. I might just need help in publicity and marketing. But I still want to publish independently. Do you need an agent to self-publish? No. Is it a really good idea for a lot of people? Hell, yes. I’d love to start seeing agents who accept or specialize in self-published authors.

*Note: I have no real numbers for agent cost value. This is all speculation. I’d love to see some real data to confirm or destroy my example.

Starting Simple

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog. (Duh, Crista – write!) But what to write? I finally decided to start simple, outlining my writing goals and post a weekly update on how well I’m meeting them. Simple, boring, good for accountability. My timing, however, is fantastic, as I firmly decided Sunday that this week is to be focused on all things new apartment: painting, moving, organizing, cleaning. I set up two weeks of overlap between the old and new apartments to make this move less stressful than all previous moves.

Summary of Previous Moves:
Okay. I have finished my last final/(finally) got a new job and we have two days to get out of the dorm/move to a new city. Box everything we possibly can up – wait! No! Not the dog. I know I said everything, but let’s be reasonable. Ummm… I don’t know where that goes. Put it in a box. Any box. Out of boxes? Grab a garbage bag.

Almost done. We just have a bunch of random stuff left. Do we have any more garbage bags? I’ll sort it out later.

The most memorable incident involved me leaving a day before my husband and a friend were to drive a U-HAUL truck to our new apartment.

Phone call #1: He did what?! How do you get a U-Haul stuck on a building? Didn’t he hear it? Didn’t he SEE it? He impaled it on the side. A three foot long hole. I don’t even.

Phone call #2: They’re sending out another tow truck because the first one was too small. Of course it was.

Phone call #3: What?! Those @#$*! will NOT charge us for two tow trucks AND damage. This is why I @#$*ing bought insurance! I’m gonna call them and….

(Husband and friend made it safely a couple days later, and there was indeed a three foot long hole in the U-Haul. And we didn’t have to pay for any of it. Always buy insurance.)

So this time, we’re taking it easy. This is a move of choice, not necessity. But to keep it “easy,” I need to keep going: packing, moving, organizing. I need to keep this a bunch of little jobs that I tackle one at a time, one after another to keep them from becoming one monster Godzilla of a job.

All this to say I’ve forbidden myself from writing for the week. (This blog doesn’t count – I wrote it up during lunch and then typed it at work.)

BUT here are my goals:

  • Write 1000 words a week (blog doesn’t count)
  • Write a blog post once a week updating how well I’ve met my goals

I need to start simple. Once I get in a good habit of writing every week, and then every day, I’d like to add on specific goals of short stories, finishing a novel, writing an article, increasing the number of blog posts, etc. But small, achievable steps, one at a time.