Edits, Revisions, and Babies

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This is going to be a fast, to-the-point blog post so strap in and hold on.

I’m in the thick of several things right now, which feels exactly like drowning if instead of water you substitute edits, revisions, and deadlines.

For some mysterious reason (read: because I’m a masochist who loves being busy and until I’m actually busy, at which time I regret all my life decisions) I signed on to participate in an anthology at the same time I was working on a full-length novel. As you can imagine, the revisions are all hitting the fan at the same time, and I’m under deadline for both, which means I have mountains of fun, engaging, excellent work to get through before the end of the month.

Now, to make things even more fun, I’m heading down to California on Saturday for a full week because my brother and his wife had their first baby last week and 1) I needs must hold my tiny nephew and 2) she’s going to need some help when my brother goes back to work.

This is a very good thing I’m excited to do, but it’s rather unexpected as her due date was not until April. So wish me luck this week, I’m going to need it. I have a month’s worth of work to do, and one week here, and another week there to do it.

Thoughts on Passengers

I’m sure that everything that’s needed to be said about the movie Passengers has already been said, but I finally had the chance to see it this weekend and simply had to get some thoughts down on digital paper about it. It spurred a discussion between Wes and I that spanned two days, which I think makes it remarkable because really, how many movies do that?

For those unfamiliar with the story, SPOILERS Continue reading

Writer as Multi-Level Marketer?

I was talking to my husband last night about book marketing and he had an insight that set me back on my heels a bit. He said that it seemed to him like a first-time author is a lot like a recent multi-level marketing convert who’s been instructed to hustle up sales from among their friends and family first.

He has a point.

The wonderful thing about having been in the publishing world for a handful of years is that I’ve had a chance to develop some perspective on the appropriate role of friends and family in growing your reader audience. When I first started out, I was rabid for readers. After all, if you get a book published and no one buys it, does it even matter? And I desperately wanted my book to matter.

It wasn’t until Wes stopped me one day and gently told me how incredible it was that any of my friends and family even bought my book in the first place that I stopped thinking of them as potential sales ranking boosters and began gaining my perspective back. It was incredible that any of them bought my book. Even more amazing was that some of them read it, and then went on to tell me they enjoyed it!

I think that was the moment I redefined what success as an author means to me. Every single person who puts a book out, whether it’s self-published or through a publisher, wants it to be a runaway success. Did you know, though, that according to Bowker more than 700,000 books were self-published last year? And well over 300,000 books were traditionally published.

That’s over one million books published. IN ONE YEAR.

I don’t care who you are, that’s depressing. It’s overwhelming! If you believe some of the contradictory figures produces by informal surveys, readership of books is declining. Whether that’s true or not is tricky to find out, but what is true is that book sales figures are down, and look to be in continuing decline.

What this means is that there’s a deluge of new material coming onto the market, and fewer people are buying it.

So what does this mean for authors? Are we peddling wares that will soon be obsolete and irrelevant?  Are we the ice deliverymen and women of our generation?

Maybe. I’m convinced the world will always need compelling and entertaining content, but the form it takes may change. That’s okay. Because I’ve recently decided what success as an author means for me:

I want to entertain people, and encourage developing writers. I’ll keep writing my books for the people who enjoy reading them, but I’m not going to pull my hair out trying to lure a wider audience who isn’t interested in being lured. I’m going to take every opportunity I can to teach, equip, and encourage developing writers, because the world needs quality prose, and because I enjoy teaching.

So that’s it. I’m officially hanging up my MLM desperate-for-sales hat, and putting on my I’m-just-here-to-tell-stories pj’s. And if you’ve bought one (or several) of my books? Thank you, sincerely and heartily, for supporting my dream. You’re a kind and wonderful person and I deeply appreciate you.

Snow Thank You

My view from the treadmill at the gym. I’m working out in a Norman Rockwell painting. #pacificnorthwest

A post shared by Erika Mitchell (@parsingnonsense) on

Pretty picture, right? I tell you, there’s very little that awes my little former-Californian heart more than a bloody great deluge of snow. There’s something magical about fluffy little pieces of frozen water that are FALLING from the SKY.

It’s even more magical when it’s sneak-attack snow, like the kind we had yesterday in western Washington. TWICE. Let me explain.

I woke up Monday morning and opened my curtains as soon as I was out of bed because 1) It makes me feel like Julie Andrews when I do that and 2) I like to know what kind of weather I’m going to be dealing with while I shepherd children out to the bus stop. I blinked a few times in surprise and looked again, then reached for my glasses and fumbled them onto my face in the hopes that they might explain what my blurry vision¬†had been trying to tell me.

It had snowed. A lot. Enough to obscure our grass, our shrubs, and, on further inspection, the road outside our house. Now, that last one is an important distinction because in Washington, snow doesn’t really cause much trouble unless it sticks to the roads and it very rarely ever does. Here in western Washington, we’re protected from the worst of the Arctic air by a crapton of mountains, so mostly we just get rain and very occasional flurries.

The last time we got snow of any note was in 2010. And before that? 2006.

This winter, though, we’ve had two big snowstorms. Weird, right? Well, it gets weirder, because yesterday we woke up to snow, had it melt in sunshine, had crazy-intense hailstorms, and then had more snow. A lot more snow. I’m guessing two inches in two hours?

In the midwest, two inches is laughable. “Ha ha!” they say to us. “Two inches of snow is bikini weather! Even for the men!”

What they lack that we don’t, however, is hills. Hills aplenty. It does not matter how many wheel drive your car has or how good your driving is, your car will slide out of control on a snow-covered and icy hill. Where I live in particular is just chock-a-block full of hills, so there were a lot of people parking on the side of the road last night.

My poor husband tried to leave early-ish last night to beat the snow home and it ended up taking him three hours to drive ten miles. Not because of the snow, mind you. The plows and salt trucks were out and the roads were fine. It was the people driving on the snow that were the problem. Traffic for no reason! So much fun.

All that to say, I love the snow. It’s terribly pretty. I’d like it to stop now, though. Let’s keep the roads and schools open. Let’s keep commutes to reasonable lengths. And, for the love of cake, let’s get some freaking sunshine around here for awhile.

I wore shorts in California a couple weeks ago and my legs were so pale the sunlight reflecting off them nearly blinded some drivers. My paleness has become a safety issue, which is my annual indicator for when I’m ready for winter to be done. So ready? Set. SPRING.

Updates and Appearances and Anthologies, Oh My!

I just got back from a quick trip down to CA to visit family with my two children and these are the things I learned:

  • CA gets crazy flooding when there’s a monsoon-style downpour.
  • Dramamine makes my children almost catatonic.
  • In N Out is still delicious and the best thing ever.

I seem to have caught a cold while I was visiting, however, which is kind of a bummer because I’ve been invited back to do a guest lecture for the Writing for Publication class at Northwest University and I have this weird feeling like I’m going to need my voice for that. I’m getting really excited about it.

I had the chance to do this a couple years ago and it was a blast. There’s something invigorating and inspiring about discussing the craft of writing with other people who are as passionate about it as you are, and I fully expect to have a fantastic time (assuming, of course, that I have use of my voice and will not have to conduct the lecture via semaphore).

From one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, Wuthering Heights by Semaphore.

I’ve also recently applied to participate in the LitQuake Festival in San Francisco this fall, so fingers crossed for that, and I’m most likely doing a book singing on Bainbridge Island at the Eagle Harbor Book Company in late July as well. All told, 2017 is shaping up to be a very busy year, which is great because there’s almost nothing more frustrating than trying to get the promotional wheels spinning only to have nothing happen.

Oh! And I almost forgot the coolest thing that happened last week: I got invited by my writing buddy AC Fuller to participate in a thriller anthology that’s coming out in the fall! How cool is that?! Doing an anthology is on my writer bucket list, so I’m delighted the timing worked out for it.

I’m submitting a short story about what happens when Bai goes home to visit his parents after the events of Take the Bai Road. Hint: stuff happens. Lots of stuff.

I had a blast writing the story, and I think it’ll be a fun amuse bouche for those of you looking for something to read in between Take the Bai Road and book number three, which will be called Bai Treason. (Oh, man. Bai Treason is GOOD. I can’t wait to get started on revisions for that one after I finish Take the Bai Road and the anthology short story).

All in all, things are looking busy in a good way. Full steam ahead!