2014 in Review

There’s nothing like coming back from vacation to make a person all think-y and reflective and introspective.  Or, um, maybe it’s the calendar change-over doing all that…

I started off 2014 with major plans for my career.  I planned on publishing nine books (the Diamond Brides Series) during the year — I had 3.5 of them written on January 1, so I still had 5.5 to go.  I also thought I’d throw together a few omnibus editions, just to keep things fun.  Of course, in the world of indie-publishing it’s not enough to write the books — I also needed to take care of covers, formatting, uploading the books at various vendors, and promoting the work.

And, Reader, I’m thrilled to say:  “I did it.”

What’s more, I enjoyed it.  I found out that I loved writing my short, hot contemporary romance novels.  I truly enjoyed creating the heroes’ points of view, and I reveled in the challenge of making each story unique (not just the bedroom scenes, but the characters’ motivations, the plot conflicts, etc.)  I contracted out the work on cover design, but I did all the rest of the production work, designing and implementing systems along the way that will help with all my future writing.

I underestimated the amount of work, especially with preparing the omnibus editions for publication.  They present some special challenges in production (page numbering, for example, and larger file manipulation), and they require the same level of publicity and promotion that individual books take.  I correctly estimated the physical toll of writing more than half a million published words — my back is fussing with me, and my hips, too, and I accumulated about ten pounds I didn’t have when I started the year.

I also wasn’t prepared for the effect that Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program would have on my success.  I refused to participate in KU because it requires exclusivity; I want to sell my books in stores other than Amazon.  As a result, I saw a huge cut to my sales, beginning in July when the “all you can read” program was launched.  From speaking with other authors, I’ve concluded that KU has most deeply affected romance writers, and its impact seems even greater upon relatively short works with relatively low price points.  By tracking the trajectory of my sales prior to the launch of KU, I estimate that I lost between 50 and 75% of the sales I would otherwise have seen.

Nevertheless, 2014 was a successful year artistically, emotionally, and financially.  I increased my income approximately 60% over the preceding year (when my target was to increase my income by approximately 40%.)  I made the USA Today Bestseller list, a title that I’ll be able to claim for the rest of my publishing career.  I worked with some incredible authors on joint projects (most notably the Playing for Passion boxed set.)  I met new readers who continue to brighten my day with comments and posts about my work.

On a personal note, it’s been a good year, with lots of joy at home, good times with friends, fantastic plays and museum exhibits and books and films to keep me entertained, and many excellent conversations along the way.  There’ve been some sad notes — cancer stalked too many of my friends, greedily taking its last toll just this morning.  Each of those deaths has left me more resolved to do more, to see more, to accomplish more in the time I have.

So 2015 should be an exciting ride.  I have five books scheduled for release — a free sampler containing the first chapters of many of my other works (The Mindy Klasky Sampler, in stores January 27), a non-fiction book on writing (The Rational Writer, in stores May 26), a new Jane Madison novel (Joy of Witchcraft, in stores August 4), and two more works waiting for titles and specific release dates.  I look forward to more time with friends, both in person and online.  And I can’t wait to see what stories evolve, the ones I’m not even expecting.  Yet.

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Why Retreat When You Can Write Full Time?

Last week, I drove two hours north to the Pennsylvania woods, where I rented a cabin with Maria V. Snyder for a week-long writing retreat.

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I suspect some of you are wondering why I’d do something crazy like that.  I mean, I have the luxury (and the responsibility) of writing full time.  Why spend a total of four hours in the car to go to a place where I need to carry in bedding and pots and pans and food, all to write, just like I write at home?  (For reference, I’ve written an article about writing retreats — how to set them up and why do do them — here.)

Short answer:  It’s not just like at home.

For one thing, I’ve driven two hours to get there, and I’ll drive two hours to get home, so there’s a time cost to going there.  Far more importantly, there’s a family cost to going there — I’ve left behind my husband and our cats, upsetting human and feline schedules alike.  I’ve turned my world and the world of those I love upside down.

So I damn well better be productive while I’m there.

In an ordinary week, when I’m writing at full speed, I produce 15,000 words of solid first draft.  Those words aren’t perfect, and there will likely be fairly substantial revisions in specific language, but the plot is set and the general sequence of events and the backbone of the writing.

In the four full days of the retreat (Monday through Thursday, plus a few hours on Sunday after I arrived), I drafted almost 30,000 words.  That’s one third of the new Jane Madison novel, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT.  Those words are more likely to survive editing than my usual words because they were written quickly, in close proximity to each other.  (I find that I do my best writing fast.)

In addition to drafting all those words, I also built a Scrivener file that contains all the Jane novels in one large project.  That file makes my writing vastly more efficient — I can search one file to see if I’ve used a name before, or to track down the characteristics of a crystal or an herb,  or to recall the name of a spell.  It took  me a few hours to do the work (see, Sunday evening), but the labor will benefit me for all the Jane novels to come.

Usually, I alternate writing time with breaks — taking long walks in the woods, heading down to the lake, etc.  On this retreat, alas, it rained *buckets* on Monday.  And then on Tuesday, the temperature didn’t get above 25.  (I took a short walk, but I headed back when the wind nearly blew my frozen ear lobes off my head.)  On Wednesday and Thursday, the words were flowing and the temps were still glacial, so I kept my head down and wrote, wrote, wrote.  On Friday, before we left, I did take one relatively long walk, but it was mostly a chance to say goodbye to the site.

Maria, I’ve discovered, is a great retreat-mate.  We keep very different hours.  I wake up relatively early, write a chunk in the morning, break for lunch, write a chunk in the afternoon, break for dinner, write a chunk in the evening, then go to bed around 11:00.  She wakes up much later (around my lunch time) and she works must later (till 3 or 4 in the morning.)  Therefore, we both have “alone time,” the same way that we have “together time.”  It works out well.

I have two other retreats already scheduled in the new year — mini-retreats that last a weekend and take place at the homes of writer-friends.  I’m looking forward to them, to the socializing, to the discussing business, to the short intense bursts of writing.

But I’m also already planning my next retreat in the woods.  Because I’ll have another third of a book to get drafted.  I always do.  :-)

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Not Dead Yet

Not dead.  Not carried off by the camelback crickets that insist on taking refuge on the ground level of our home (and some of them are HUGE this year!) Not king yet.

But, um, where did the past ten days go?

Let’s see…

We had houseguests visiting from Canada — the charming Julie Czerneda (in the midst of her book launch tour for A PLAY OF SHADOW) and her husband, Roger.  They arrived with flavored coffees (blueberry! maple!) in hand and a ***gorgeous*** matted photograph of a unicorn ice sculpture, taken by Roger himself.  We enjoyed long conversations about writing, books, publishing, politics, music, travel, and I don’t know what else.

Julie and Roger were in town for the World Fantasy Convention, which took place in a hotel just a couple of miles from our house.  I didn’t attend the con as a member (I’ve been publishing too little fantasy!), but I did hang out in the hotel lobby and bar for two days, visiting with friends and catching up with folks I haven’t seen in far too long.  I also had a chance to meet some Book View Cafe members for the first time in person — I’d love to have a chance to visit each of our co-op members, because communicating face-to-face adds so much more to our online chats!

With Julie and Roger in tow, we went to hear Suzanne Vega play at a small venue in DC.  Stranger to music that I am, I only knew a couple of her songs, but I loved her performance.  Stevie Wonder was playing a huge arena show just a couple of blocks away, and I think we *totally* made the right choice for the evening :-)

I’ve begun outlining my next book, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT, which will be the fifth Jane Madison book.  I’m having a wonderful time getting back into Jane’s world.  Poor librarian-witch! Nothing goes easily for her!

We went to an amazing Smithsonian lecture on Istanbul, taught by Nigel McGilchrist.  Alas, I knew very little about Istanbul prior to the talk, but I learned a great deal of history (and some information about art and food and geology and, and, and, and…)  One of the great things about Nigel’s lectures is his ability to fold together so many different disciplines as he speaks.  His slides illustrate his points beautifully, and he speaks without notes, making everything feel very real and immediate.  And now, alas, I have more travel destinations to add to my list :-)

And I’ve been preparing for a writing retreat next week.  I’ll be stealing away with Maria V. Snyder.  We’re heading off to a state park, where we’ll rent a cabin (just as the first major blast of arctic air is set to hit the region!)  I intend to get about a third of a novel written while I’m there — and to have great conversations about writing, publishing, etc.  (Maria and I keep somewhat different schedules — I wake up early and go to bed before midnight; she wakes up after noon and works until the wee hours of the morning.  That gives us both some “alone time” to get a lot of work done and some “social time” to talk.  A great arrangement!)  I’m generally very productive on retreats — I have to justify taking the time away from Mark and the cats!

So, that’s the past.  And I’ll be scarce for the next week.  But after that, I hope to be back in the usual swing of things!

What about you?  How’s the autumn treating you?  Tell me something wonderful about November!

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Can’t Blog. Brain is Full.

Well, I’m back!  (Did you notice I was gone?  Please say you noticed I was gone!)

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I just spent five days in St. Petersburg, Florida, attending the 2014 Novelists, Inc. conference.  I knew I was in for something good when I looked at the program and there was at least one panel that interested me in every single time slot (sometimes two or three!)  And I suspected I’d enjoy the conference when I saw the resort hotel, with its white sand beaches.  And I was pretty sure I’d enjoy at least the *meals* when I saw the elaborate menus for every conference meal.

But I hadn’t counted on how much I would learn. And how many ideas I’d have, sitting and listening to others. And how many new projects would start to tempt me, as I traded thoughts with other professional writers.

I’ve been to lots of conventions — tons of World Fantasy, lots of Worldcon, a healthy handful of RWA Nationals.  But this is the first conference I’ve ever been to that ran like the librarian and lawyer conferences I used to attend — career furtherance, from keynote address to final thoughts.

It’s also the first convention where I live-tweeted some of the sessions.  Yes.  Me.  @MindyKlasky. #Ninc14.

Pardon me, now. I’ll be over in the corner, revamping my massive to do list.  Don’t laugh.  That’s what I’m calling that massive scroll of a document!  To do.  Sometime before I die :-)

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So, This Happened

It’s been a crazy week or so. I completed edits on ALWAYS RIGHT (the last volume of the Diamond Brides Series), only a couple of days later than I planned back in February. I drove up to Baltimore and participated on two panels at the Baltimore Book Festival with the Maryland Romance Writers. I attended the Crafty Bastards craft show and bought more yarn than any human being should buy (also enjoying a great lunch with a close friend I never have enough time to see.) I enjoyed lunch with my cousin, catching up on all sorts of family stories.

And, oh yeah.  I BECAME A USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!!

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Ahem.  I hit the list with PLAYING FOR PASSION, the limited time collection of twelve sports-themed romances that includes PERFECT PITCH (the first volume of the Diamond Brides Series.)

I am over-the-moon thrilled with this recognition.  PLAYING FOR PASSION is a great set, and eight of us authors had never been on any national bestselling list in the past.  You can buy the collection until October 14.  After that, it disappears forever!  (Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo)

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Twelve Books for Less Than a Buck!

One of the amazing things about the so-called ebook revolution is how readers have access to more amazing books for less money than they ever have before.  Case in point:  PLAYING FOR PASSION.

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This limited edition collection (available for only one month!) gives you ***twelve*** sports-themed romances by New York Times Bestselling authors, USA Today bestselling authors, and some of the leaders in the sports romance field — including, um, me.  For $0.99, you can read books that range from sensual to erotic, following characters who play baseball, football, soccer, or hockey.  PERFECT PITCH, the first volume of the Diamond Brides series, is included in the set.

Come on.  It’s less than a buck.  At that price you can buy a copy for yourself and four friends and still not spend more than you would on that extra-large pumpkin spice latte.  And PLAYING FOR PASSION will keep you warm a whole lot longer than that cup of coffee!

Buy the book!  Spread the word!  And revel in the power of ebooks!

 

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