Tending the Fire

It's a winter morning and I'm still trying to get the fire going. Tenacious little flames keep licking at the logs, but they're not quite catching fire as fast as I'd like them to. The holdup is that the wood is wet. With enough tending those stubborn little flames will dry it out, and a couple hours from now the fire will be roaring in our trusty wood-burning stove. When I have enough hot coals I'll be able to throw on another damp log and walk away knowing that it will dry out and catch fire without needing much attention at all. For now, I'm still waiting, still tending to it. I know it will happen.

Maybe it's because I'm creative by nature, but I can see metaphor and symbolism in practically everything around me if I want to. Take this fire for example. I see the damp logs as my books. Based on reviews and the steady growth of my mailing list, I know it's perfectly fine fuel. Unfortunately the books are rendered less effective because I didn't look after them properly from day one. Instead, I stacked the firewood outside and let it be covered in snow & rain...just like I let my books be covered with images that don't tell you anything of what the story is about. They don't say what genre they belong to, what target audience they're meant for, or invoke much emotion whatsoever. On top of that, I let them sit at a single retailer with no pricing incentive to attract new readers and no marketing plan other than the occasional Facebook ad. Even my keywords were terrible. "Paranormal romance." Really? Really? Yep. I basically chucked the best fuel I had into a soggy corner and walked away. No wonder no burning fire came of it. It's my own damn fault for not doing my market research years ago. If I knew then what I know now...but I don't like to dwell in that mindset because it doesn't do any good in any facet of life. We can live in the past, remain stagnant in the present, or stay resilient, persevere and go forward. I'm sure you can guess which option I chose.

Six months ago I didn't have a mailing list, and now I have a dedicated fan base in Australia, Norway, Germany, and Israel, along with the one here in the USA. It gets bigger every week. Six months ago I didn't even have a proper website. All I had was a sad little blog that I rarely updated. Now I have a hub where you can find all the links to my books and social media pages and anything else you'd find relevant about my craft (or simply how to pronounce my name). Six months ago I hadn't read any articles by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn or Mark Coker of Smashwords. When I first signed up for wider distribution through Smashwords, I discovered I'd already joined back in 2011. I signed up to read a book I'd received a coupon for. Man...where would I be now if I'd only investigated further into their site? But c'est la vie. I'm glad to be where I'm at now instead of where I was 6 months ago when it seemed the fire was practically nonexistent. Since then I've been adding more and more dry kindling and I've been using the bellows to revive the flames that held on. Slowly but surely that fire has been growing over the past six months, just as the fire in my living room has been catching on since I began this post.

When I think of my goals for the future, they're not too complicated. I expect to produce at least one book a year and continue growing my readership. I hope to travel more with my husband and spend more time at the barn with the horses. My biggest dream is to see both of my series be adapted for film the way that The Outlander was. Release & Catch would be a great movie, although I think the Annika Brisby series would be better if it was made for television. I thought it was a ridiculous pipe dream until one of my superfans told me out of the blue that she hoped for the same thing. That validation was priceless, and I'm sure that she & I aren't the only two people who'd like to see the stories brought to life on camera. Obviously there's a huge market for paranormal romance, and I doubt any TV executives are looking to produce another vampire series. They want the next trend. With my interworld travelers, rocker chicks and wood elves, I know I've got exactly what they're looking for.

Which brings me to my weekend. I spent my entire Sunday away from the computer and caught up on some of my favorite shows. I'm almost done with Mad Men and just finished the episode of Downton Abbey directed by Wes Craven. Hells bells and buckets of blood...it was crazy! After my friend Angela & I finished Downton, she turned me on to the phenomenon known as The Outlander. I'd heard of it for a few years now, but I never looked into it because Scottish history and burly, hairy men were never one of my particular interests. I do have a thing for accents though, so I agreed to watch the first episode at Angela's insistence. Her enthusiasm is pretty damn contagious. Plus she loved the DVD I gave her of The Lady & The Highwayman, which is sort of a litmus test of mine. It's nothing but 80's romance novel cheesy fluff crammed into a renaissance-era package, and if someone can appreciate it for what it is then we're probably going to get along swimmingly. Angela saw the same things I did in that old Hugh Grant movie, so I trusted her opinion when it came to time-traveling WW2 nurses and historic Scottish dudes.

We got through the first two episodes of The Outlander and I was hooked. Actually I was hooked as soon as I saw a particular sex scene in an abandoned castle where Claire is sitting on a table and her husband is on his knees. After sitting through all the rampant misogyny in Game of Thrones I was desperate for a show about a strong female protagonist. Diana Gabaldon didn't disappoint me, so I read up on her. What an inspiration! I had no idea that she wrote her first book back in 1991 as more or less a novel-writing experiment, and look at her now.

I know we all have to carve our own path towards our particular definition of success, and I've learned what it will take to get where I want to go. I'm also blessed/cursed with an aversion to giving up on the things that matter the most to me, which is why I'm still here, still writing, and still pursuing my dreams. Being an indie-author is not for the faint of heart. I don't think being any sort of artist or entrepreneur is, in all fairness. You need to have a thick skin, be willing to make mistakes and then learn from them, and keep going when it seems pointless. In the time it's taken me to compose this post, I've watched the fire in the wood stove grow bigger and brighter. The temperature in the house has gone up a few degrees, and there's lots of white-hot coals. Time to throw on another log and get back to work.