February Ad Results

I planned to do a review this week, but I can’t seem to break out of this reading slump. I’m reading a book I really like, a YA biography of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, but I didn’t finish it in time to review it this week. 

So instead, I’ll just give an update on my advertising efforts for Finding Frances that I focused on in February. I ran a Bargain Booksy ad on February 16th and I did sell a few books on that day. I started a Facebook ad campaign on the 25th and I have gotten some sales out of that, enough to move up in the top 100 of two of my categories. This is cool because it means anyone searching that category could feasibly see it on the first page of the results. 

Finding Frances category ranks

I also ran two Kirkus ads, one in their magazine on February 15th. I haven’t seen anything from that, but if I am lucky, that’s more likely to be paperbacks, I suspect, and there’s a major delay in reporting those so I won’t know for a while. The other ad I ran with them was on their website and started February 14th and ran for two weeks, and that one probably was a bit of a bust because I didn’t see any clear sales on Kindle books except on the Bargain Booksy day and right after the Facebook ad started. I also ran 10 separate targeted ads on BookBub for the book. It was so strange—I had a terrible click through rate, and my two Amazon ads that actually advertised the sale price never got a single click, even after being shown to nearly 1000 people each. I think BookBub does offer help with creating effective ads, but my guess is it’s not free. Anyway, I hope I get some more reviews out of all this advertising. 

I’m still working on prepping my new releases. I finally got both Always the New Girl and Ugly sent off to Kirkus for their reviews today, and I should have them back by May 2. This meant I pushed Always the New Girl’s release to May 10. Ugly is still June 7. The Always the New Girl cover is almost finalized. It looks really good. I’m actually planning to release all but the Kindle version through Ingram Spark instead of going to each distributor directly (except I will do Amazon Kindle myself). I also plan to put both of them on BookSprout, which is a site you can put ARCs (and older books) on to get reviews. I’m also probably going to do a review tour with Goddess Fish, which I did for Finding Frances, when I got 7 good reviews. I plan to submit both books to BookBub as New Release features. I doubt I’ll get that, but it’s free to try, so why not. I guess I’m going to do everything in my power to get some momentum at the beginning. I don’t have high expectations, but I figure I should give it the old college try. Rah.

Twitter Drama and Advertising

It’s kind of funny that my last post, 3 weeks ago, was all about social media and my plan to be all involved, because literally the next day Twitter locked my account without cause. I had posted a link to a Medium article I published that day that talked about a racist Zoom-bombing experience I had that was awful, and how I didn’t think that the way the presenters handled it (pretending it hadn’t happened after kicking him out of the meeting) was right. I talked about how  upsetting it was even for me (a lot) and how I wasn’t even a target. By ignoring it, the presenters kind of gave tacit approval of what had happened, or at least they didn’t convey how wrong it was. So that was my article. Not very salacious. Two hours after I linked to it, Twitter locked my account, claiming I had broken one of their rules. The email said I had broken “the following rule,” which was a blank line, so I had no idea what rule they thought I’d broken. But I read their rules, and I hadn’t broken any of them. I assumed that their automation picked up on the word “bombing” and flagged it automatically. So I filed an appeal (which was linked to from the original email), expecting a person to look at my tweet and realize it was the opposite of rule-breaking. However, a few hours later, I got an email stating that they had determined that a violation had happened, so they would not overturn their decision. Then they again tried to tell me which rule I’d broken, but again left it blank. How anyone could look at my tweet linking to basically an anti-racist article and call it a problem is beyond me. Maybe they haven’t heard of Zoom-bombing? Because I looked on Twitter before posting that tag, and it’s been used many times, sometimes by people bragging about doing it. And I’m a problem? It boggles the mind. I filed another report with customer service a couple days later, and after a week I still hadn’t heard back. When I go into Twitter there’s a screen with a message about my account being locked and a link to cancel the appeal and delete the email, which seemed the only way forward at this point since my appeal was denied and they weren’t responding to my followup. So I decided, what the hell, I’ll just delete it and repost without using the word “bombing” anywhere. I went in to do this, and in order to delete the tweet, you have to check this box admitting you did something wrong. I was like, I didn’t! So I didn’t click the box and went in and filed another ticket with customer support. It’s now been almost two weeks and I haven’t heard back. They indicate that you should hear a response within a few days but sometimes it takes longer. It’s infuriating to me that they won’t even tell me which rule I supposedly broke. How do they think that’s acceptable? 

Anyway, apparently I am no longer going to be on Twitter, because I refuse to admit to wrongdoing after doing nothing wrong. But I really sort of need that account for promoting my writing and having a social media presence, so this is really frustrating and unfair. And they’re denying me that for no reason at all. I’m so pissed.  

Other than that drama, the past week has been filled with an intense campaign of Finding Frances promotion and advertising. It’s been on sale for 99 cents (Kindle only) since February 4th, through the 24th. I started an ad campaign on BookBub on the 5th, but that actually didn’t go anywhere. BookBub emailed me to tell me to try something else because I was getting no clicks. Then early this past week, an ad went live in the Kirkus Reviews magazine that came out Tuesday, and I have an ad running on Kirk’s website for last and the coming week. Then on Thursday, I also ran a BargainBooksy ad, which did result in some sales. I don’t know how many yet, but it brought me up to a rank of about 65,000 in the Kindle store (normally I’m down around 1,600,000) and I got in the top 100 of one of my categories for a little while, which is great. But these are small wins, and my BookBub ads (I redid them and am now running 10 separate focused ads) are totally flopping. I really don’t know what to do with this book. I think I may just have to admit defeat after this month if I don’t see significant sales. This is a tough business. 

I am still in the process of preparing to publish Always the New Girl and the prequel, as well as Ugly. I’ve pulled all the Always the New Girl stories off Vella and they’ll be officially gone after 60 days. The Ugly Vella is still publishing, three episodes per week, so I figure I’ll let it finish (mid-March) and then pull it from Vella, too. I haven’t had a single read on that one, not even one free episode. But I almost have the covers for Always the New Girl and the prequel finalized with my cover designer. Once she finishes those, she’ll work on the one for Ugly. I’m figuring out my pre-publishing activities at this point. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to go wide (publish everywhere) or focus on Amazon for a bit. I’m leaning toward wide. Always the New Girl will be available in ebook and paper and the prequel in ebook only. As soon as the cover is finalized, I’m submitting Always the New Girl to Kirkus for a review (I prepaid). Then I’ll release it (and the prequel) April 26th. I’m going to put some ARCs up on BookSprout to see if I can get some reviews soon after release. Once the Ugly cover is finalized, I’ll also submit that to Kirkus for a review. The release date for that is June 7th, and I’ll do BookSprout ARCs for it, too. I’m also looking into BookFunnel, which allows you to do promotions with other writers. I’m thinking I may do a FreeBooksy for both of the novels soon after release to see if I can get some traction. Not that I expect it to work, but I figure I should try. 

So even though it is all depressing and seems pointless, I’m moving forward. Maybe I’ll eventually catch a break some time. 

Social Media Frenzy

Frenzy probably isn’t the right word, but I have decided to really commit to being more active on social media, because apparently that is the best way to get attention on your books (nothing else has worked, for sure). And apparently TikTok is the most important one for authors, because BookTok is a big thing and authors swear it brings them readers. So I’ve opened an account there, too. But there’s that old rule of making sure to not only do marketing. You’ve got to have real non-promo content, too. This is not easy for me as I never think anything I do is interesting, unless I’m making it up.

So I have a plan. I’m going to get back to doing those staged book quotes I’ve done on Instagram for a while. But I’m also going to post that content on Twitter, as well as links to my reviews posted here. And I’ll post the Medium essays I’ve started writing on Twitter, as well. Occasionally I’ll post pictures of my books and links to them, including the Vella stories while they’re up. For TikTok, I’ve started making these really dumb videos of me holding different books, with a quote from the book appearing over my head. And I’ll be posting content to Medium once a week, too. With the exception of Medium, I use all these accounts for everything I do, not just writing YA or art or whatever. And there will still be cats. I have this schedule I’m planning to follow: Twitter M/Th/Sa, Instagram Tu/F/Su, TikTok W/Sa, and Medium M only. I’m going to continue posting my reviews to the website here and adding those to my Pinterest boards. 

Anyway, if you are interested in following me on any of these platforms, here they are (and don’t ask me about the TikTok user name … grr):

I do also have a Facebook page you can follow if you feel like it: https://www.facebook.com/Kelly-Vincent-Young-Adult-Author-106808441724806. I don’t do much with it right now, but I needed it to run ads on Facebook, so it’s there now. Feel free to follow.

December 2021 Update

It has been a while since I’ve posted. I’m still not reading a ton, which is part of the reason there aren’t reviews being posted. But I’ve got a few things going on now. Thursday, I got news of a Kirkus Review of Finding Frances that was actually really good—I didn't realize it at first, but it is actually a starred review. You can find it here. I was pretty happy to see it. I still don’t know how to get people to read the book, but at least I can be comfortable that when they do, it’s not crap. 

I mentioned a couple months ago that I would be publishing Ugly on Kindle Vella. I did that, and you can find it here. The first 12 episodes are released now, and new episodes release every MWF. It will wrap up in March. It’s 807 tokens in total. I’d love it if you’d read it, thumbs-up any episodes you read, and fave it. I’m going to be getting a new cover image for it soon (more on that below). For Ugly, I added author notes on each episode because apparently readers like that. I am planning to go back and add them to all the Always the New Girl episodes soon.

I am already planning to publish Ugly next year in eBook and print, and also Always the New Girl as an eBook/print book plus an eBook prequel. So I got in touch with the cover artist who did my romance cover (which I loved), and she’s working on the three covers for me. These will be for the real book, but I’m going to license the image(s) she uses on the covers so I can reuse them without text on the Vella stories. So I’ll be redoing all those images soon. 

In other news, I am working on an exciting new project. It’s a book proposal for a YA nonfiction book on what I do for my day job. I’m pretty stoked about this because there actually isn’t a book for teens about it, and it’s recently been called the “sexiest job” all over the media. There are a lot of books for adults about it, but these make assumptions about the reader that wouldn’t work well for teenagers. I think I have a really good chance of getting this published, so I’m working away at the proposal and sample chapters. 

If I am lucky and this works out the way I want—as long I’m smart about it and choose well—I would have someone who would also look at my fiction. I’m going to also try to find someone who does picture books in addition to YA fiction and nonfiction. I may not be able to manage that, but I’m going to try. 

We will see how things go. It’s hard to imagine the future at this point. 

The only other thing I have going on soon is a pretty cool trip to Egypt (as long as omicron doesn’t ruin it).

Moving Forward, I Guess

So things are not going great. I’m pretty sure I posted earlier about my plan to give myself a real chance of getting an agent and getting published by a large press. My book coach told me that while she thinks my writing is good, it’s not quite at the publishing industry standards of quality. She said I was close, but just needed a little more to get my work all the way. Current wisdom says that agents won’t take on a project unless it’s publication-ready. No more do they take someone on and develop them. Or so it’s said. But I’ve heard plenty of stories about people being taken on by agents who then work with them on several revisions of their manuscript(s), so I don’t really believe it. Still, it does seem that I'm not going to be one of the lucky exceptions. I’ve done everything I possibly can to improve my craft to the point where my work is publication-ready, and I’m still falling short. Whatever the situation really is, I am not good enough to get an agent. 

So my book coach felt like with the right editor, who could make a deep dive into UGLY, maybe I could get it all the way to publication-ready. The trick was that this needs to be exactly the right editor. Someone who really knows the industry as it stands now, and would therefore know what I need to change to make it pass muster. She suggested one developmental editor, only to find out they weren’t taking on new work. I also got another recommendation from a Printz Honor author who is really good friends with a really good friend of mine, but she also wasn’t taking on new work. Then my book coach came up with another name she also felt confident would be able to help me with my specific needs. 

I sent the manuscript off in the first week of May. At first she was really helpful—she even looked at a query I had to send by the end of the month because of an opportunity I had to submit to Delacorte that month. I understood that it would take her about six weeks, which would mean that I’d have the manuscript back by the end of June. At that point, I followed up and got an answer that made it sound like I’d have it in less than two weeks, because she was just finishing up the second read and would then only have to transfer her comments to the document and write the edit letter. Two weeks passed and I followed up, and that is really where the nightmare began for me. Fast forward to October now, and I have had promise after promise that it would be delivered, and still don’t have it. The reason I let it go on this long is because she was having some really big and awful family and medical stuff going on. I don’t think she was lying. Though I’m not sure when it all started. But I would follow up about every two weeks, and every time I’d hear promises of an imminent delivery. At one point when I hadn’t heard back, I asked my book coach to follow up (they know each other), and then I heard back from the editor with more promises. She also claimed she loved the book and did have suggestions, but really believed in the book. Every time she was very credible, and I’ve become convinced that this was one of those things for her where you just get stuck on something, and can’t do it no matter how hard you try. But she still kept promising. By early September she was promising to refund me the first payment I’d made and still get me the feedback (earlier she had told me she wouldn’t be charging me the second half of the charge). I told her I didn’t want a refund, just the manuscript. I talked to a couple other writing friends who said I should just give up on the feedback and cut her loose. So I emailed a couple Saturdays ago telling her that if she couldn’t get it back to me by the following Sunday (last week), I just wanted a refund. As that date approached, an idea started forming in my head. Sunday came and went, and the next day, I got another email promising to get me the manuscript in what sounded like the same day. Didn’t happen. So Tuesday I finally officially gave up. I emailed her telling her I didn’t care about the feedback anymore and just wanted a refund. 

This whole thing has been hard for me because it has always been my dream to be agented and published by a major publisher. I have worked like crazy to get there. UGLY is my best work, and it still has collected over 100 agent rejections (adding to the mountain of rejections for Finding Frances, over 200). It just seems delusional to keep believing that me getting an agent is really possible. So telling the editor I don’t want the feedback anymore is giving up on a major dream I’ve been working toward for almost ten years.  

The editor did respond, saying she would be refunding me in a few days. She also said some nice things about the book and my writing—I know she did read the book—but I just think it’s not a good time to try to get an agent. It’s not going to happen. She again said she’s going to send me feedback. I believe that she will, but not necessarily this weekend like she promised. 

So, I have decided to publish UGLY on Kindle Vella, even though the Always the New Girl stories have completely bombed there. But supposedly your stories have a better chance of getting discovered if you are actively publishing episodes, so I will be publishing maybe two episodes a week. I have no idea how long it will take to get through the whole book, because I’ve got to break the manuscript down into episodes first. I am going to go the Vella route because I think if I publish it as a standard novel, I will never find readers. Most of the promotion things I know how to do target adult readers. And we all know that adult women do read YA, but this particular story is really going to appeal to teens more than adults. And supposedly Vella has teen readers. So that’s what I’m going to try. I do not anticipate success this time, either. I’m just not top-tier. But I have been wrong before, so maybe I’ll get lucky this time. If it doesn’t work out, when I finish publishing all the episodes on there, I can pull it off and publish it as a novel. So I was planning to send the manuscript as it is—and has been for over a year—to a line editor. She’d be able to get it back to me by the second week of November, and I’ll be able to make the necessary changes and split it into episodes hopefully by mid-November. But I’m thinking it might make more sense to wait until January to publish it, which means I have to time to see if the developmental editor really does send feedback, and attempt to incorporate it. Either way, between now and then, I need to get a really good book description written, a cover image ready, and figure out seven good tags to use. 

So I guess I’m forging ahead.

Stuck

This past week I tried my first advertising on Facebook and Instagram. I made an ad for “Now Would Be Good,” the first story in Always the New Girl as posted on Kindle Vella. I can’t say it’s working at all. People are clicking on it, but not a single episode from the series has been read this week. I have no idea how to get the message out. This writing thing is so hard. But I do think I’m going to go ahead and make an ad for Finding Frances. I suspect that one reason I’m not getting reads on “Now Would Be Good” is because people aren’t familiar with Kindle Vella.

I’m still waiting on the Ugly edits from the freelance editor, who’s having some (pretty awful) personal issues and can’t seem to finish the last step in getting it back to me. I’m just in limbo without it, though. I don’t want to start anything new. I want to wrap that up and start sending it out to agents again.

If it still fails to get me an agent, I don’t really know what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll just self-publish, even though I already know nobody would buy it. I just don’t seem to have the marketing chops to make it happen. But after that, I’m not sure if I’d start working on Sadie Speaks again. As much as I love YA, it doesn’t seem to feel the same about me. I do think I’m going to work on some of my romance projects and get those out there (self-published) to see if I can do any better in that genre (which is much more self-publishing-friendly). So most likely I will continue my break from YA for a bit.

On the other hand, if I do manage to land an agent, I will probably refocus and get back to Sadie Speaks. Or I might dive into the sequel to Ugly, for which I have the premise and main characters already worked out.

Anyway, time will tell.

First Book Event and a Contest Milestone

Yesterday was my first book event, at Best of Books in Edmond, Oklahoma. It was with four other authors of three other books. They put me at a table with another YA author, Talitha DeVilliers, and we had a nice chat about YA and writing. The staff was all really nice, too, although we didn’t interact much. I even broke the double digits in sold copies of Finding Frances (I had very low expectations) and I was able to leave three signed copies on consignment. I handed out a few bookmarks that also had Always the New Girl information on there. I also got to see a friend I hadn’t seen since she visited me when I lived in Scotland, I think in 2002.

Here’s a photo my mom took of all of us:

Author Event
Best of Books in Edmond, OK

Also, in other good news, I submitted Always the New Girl (stories 1-6, not the prequel) to the BookLife Prize contest (the one Ugly semi-finaled in in 2019) and got the score back a few days ago—a perfect 10 out of 10. This should mean I should make it to the quarterfinal round, at least, which is awesome. It’s just nice that somebody in the industry thinks it’s good. The listing can be seen here. It includes the score and review, which was really glowing. 

Another Win and New Release

I found out Finding Frances placed 1st in the YA Novel category of the NEST (National Excellence in StoryTelling) contest run by the Central Region Oklahoma Writers. You can check out the winners page. So that’s nice, too. 

But bigger news is that I’ve released a new book, on the new serial platform, Kindle Vella. This is the Sarah stories, which I’m now collectively calling Always the New Girl. I released it as seven separate stories, as #1 (Now Would Be Good) through #6 (The Weight of Choices) plus the prequel (Binding Off). If you are interested in reading it, you can search for my name or the series name on the Vella page linked above. To read the entire series, you’ll have have to have 703 tokens, which you should be able to get with the free 200 and a purchase of 525 for $4.99. I’d love it if you could:

  • Follow the story
  • Like each episode
  • Review the story
  • Fave the story (you can only do one a week, and only after you’ve purchased tokens)

One downside to this is that you can’t read on an actual Kindle, only in the app or on the website. But I’m really hoping this takes off a little and gets me new readers for Finding Frances (probably wishful thinking, but why not?). 

Another Contest Update

So I know I posted last week after ages, so posting again one week later is a little odd… but I found out Finding Frances got another award, an Independent Publisher Book Award (an “IPPY”). This is another one with tons of categories, but it’s still nice to get some more recognition. Last year they had close to 5000 entries (I couldn’t find this year’s number). This time the book placed third (in another tie—what the heck is up with that?) in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction E-book category, which can be seen on this page. 

On the heels of these wins, I felt emboldened enough to apply for another BookBub Featured Deal. And got a big fat rejection a couple days later. So I’ve signed up for another Bargain Booksy deal for June 26 (the ebook version will be on sale for 99 cents from June 25 through July 1, in case that is of interest to anyone... anyone?). Because I found out—and it’s a little embarrassing to write this, but whatever—I have not sold a single book in 2021. A couple books (maybe 3?) sold on Amazon, but apparently they had a few in stock, so not a single one has been purchased from the publisher (I did confirm this with them). No Kindle or other ebook, either. I knew this was going to be hard, but not this hard. Ugh.

Maybe if I can make some progress with the Sarah stories, starting with “Now Would Be Good,” on Kindle Vella, I’ll get some new readers for Finding Frances. I mean, it can’t make things any worse, as it’s not possible to have a negative number of readers. Also from the department of maybe-not-bad news: I heard from my developmental editor on this book that she started reading this past week, so I’m hoping she’s as fast as she’s been in the past, and I get it back in a week or two. I can get “Now Would Be Good” ready to post pretty quickly, as I’m not going to worry about sending it to a copy editor first since it’s been gone over so many times as part of my thesis and more. I am still going to send the whole book to a copy editor, so if they do find anything wrong with that story, I can always update the text later. The only thing that will slow me down is if my developmental editor suggests any major structural changes that impact that story (or anything that comes later but I need to set up there). 

Random image: here’s a self-portrait I had to do for a class. My mom says it’s “frownier” than the photo I drew it from. Maybe I was subconsciously depicting how I feel about my less-than-stellar writing career? 

May 2021 Update

So it’s been a couple months since my last post. Although my break has actually been kind of nice, I’m in a weird place. I haven’t been able to read YA lately (or anything other than picture books, really). Still, things have changed a little since then. I decided to send Ugly to a developmental editor my book coach recommended, as she thinks this editor could make the difference for me. So I’m going to give it one more shot. I should get it back from her soon, and then I’ll have to dive in. 

Additionally, I’ve decided to clean up the Sarah stories and publish them through Kindle Vella, which is a new serial platform that hasn’t been released yet, but is coming soon. This book is odd and was always going to be hard to sell. But it’s perfect for serialization, because it’s always been a novel in parts, where each part is a self-contained story, with all of them adding up to a larger story. So each novel part can be one “story” in Kindle Vella, with each chapter (or maybe a few chapters) making up an “episode”. Here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more about Kindle Vella. I’m in the process of finishing up the full draft (meeting with my critique partner today to go over the revised last story), and I’ll make any needed changes and send it to a developmental editor this week. Then, once I make any of her recommended changes, I’ve still got to send it to a copy editor (I could skip this step, but I probably shouldn’t—though I might be able to get away with it for the first one, since it’s been edited so heavily in preparation for going into my thesis). I’m still hoping to get the first story (I’m starting with “Now Would Be Good,” which is technically the second story chronologically, but I’m planning to do the actual first one at the end, as a prequel) published on Vella before it releases, but that probably won’t happen. But I can hope. 

I also found out that Finding Frances has won an indie award called the Next Generation Indie Book Award. There hasn’t been a press release yet, but I was notified earlier and you can see the list here. Once they’ve officially announced it, it will show up on this page. The book tied for first place in the First Novel (70k-90k) category. Now, this award isn’t exactly prestigious and there are a million categories, and I really would have rather placed in the YA category, but it’s still really nice to get some recognition. Somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good book, even if nobody is buying it. Also, the prize is $100, which I assume they’ll split in half since it was a tie. Which increases my income from this book by more than 50%. This book hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. 

Other than that, I haven’t been working on any other YA stories, instead focusing on my picture book venture. I’ve got two different drafts that are coming along nicely, and another new one I wrote a first draft of on Friday. I’m going to be starting drawing up thumbnails for the first one, even though it’s going to be a while before I can actually do the artwork. I’m taking Life Drawing this term, and let’s just say my ability to draw people… needs to develop a little. 

Here is a sketch I did in my Life Drawing class that doesn't suck.

 

A Change

So I’ve made a decision. Despite years of my best efforts, I can’t get anywhere with the gatekeepers in YA publishing. So I’ve decided to stop writing YA, as it’s not worth continuing to put this much energy into something when there’s no hope of getting what I want out of it. Ugly was supposed to be the one that got me an agent, because it’s exactly what they’re all claiming they want: something diverse and different. But despite over 115 queries to agents on it, fewer than five requested anything, and nobody’s giving me anything but form rejections (most don’t respond at all). I do still have one full out on it—my only thing out there, which she’s had since December—so maybe I’ll change my mind if she decides to take me on. But that is unlikely, given my track record so far. I’m 95% done with the Now Would Be Good stories, but that is virtually unsellable because it starts when the main character is 13 and ends the summer she’s 18. Nobody buys YA with protagonists that young, at least not without some serious convincing. I’ve always known this was a problem, but I thought I’d have a chance with it if I could get an agent on Ugly, which for so long I believed would happen. I’ve been working on Sadie Speaks, too, and my book coach thinks this one could make it, but from what I’ve been hearing at conferences, the YA suspense/thriller market’s saturated and it’s hard for new writers to break in. 

I’m still debating what to do about the romances I write under a pen name, because those I’ve long planned to self-publish, so I don’t need to convince anyone I’m worth looking at there. But I never cared about those as much as my YA, so I don’t know.

As you might have noticed from my blog here lately, I’ve already been sort of shifting my focus to my art and learning how to make picture books, so I’m just going to make that my only real focus. 

I’m not sure what this means for this site. I don’t plan to delete everything, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to switch to talking only about picture books when it’s been so focused on YA for so long. Do I start reviewing the picture books I’m reading here, or should I make a new site for that? I have no idea. I am planning to publish any picture books I make under my real name, so maybe I should just keep the site as it is and change what I blog about. It’s hard to know. 

I guess I’ll just figure it out later. 

Feeling bit lost at the moment…

End-of-Feb Update

Well, I didn’t manage to post last week and I don’t have a lot to say this week. I should get a review up next week, however. 

Amazon took away one of the reviews of Finding Frances, so that’s extremely annoying. Those things are hard enough to come by. Other than that, there’s no news on the writing front. 

I finished my second term on the art degree and am starting three new classes this week. Due to some scheduling weirdness, I’m in two art history classes and one digital art class, so no physical art at all this term. I’ll have to figure out some stuff to make, anyway. I am still taking a weekly watercolor class, so I’ll continue that. Since I don’t have much to report in the writing world, I figured I’d share some of the art I made over the last few weeks. 

This is my first complete watercolor still life. 

Small pumpkin watercolor still life

We had to do a bird’s eye city scene with a character “falling.” That sort of creeped me out, so I gave the character an out. And made it a cat. Why not?

Winged cat over city

This one’s called “The Prize.” It was supposed to be three characters involved in a conspiracy of sorts. I figured a couple of boys arm-wrestling for a kitten would be close enough. Not that they particularly look like kids… I’ll get better—I take life drawing 1 next term. 

The Prize - two boys arm wrestling over a cat

Oh, and I figure I’d post a picture of my new cat, Xander, because why not? (Isn't he cute?) I’m working on a watercolor version of this picture because I love it, so if it turns out okay, I’ll post it here. 

Orange tabby cat on a chair

Pivoting and Staying Busy

If you know me at all, you’ll know I keep myself pretty busy. It keeps me from getting depressed. But I’ve taken on a crazy amount lately, so I didn’t finish reading a book this week and don’t have a review.

I’ve decided to branch out into picture books. I want to write and illustrate biographies of women in STEM fields, though I might do some fiction, too. But since I’m new to them, I have a long way to go. I’ve been reading lots but decided to join some online communities related to picture books to learn more rapidly. I did Storystorm, which is a month-long challenge to come up with an idea per day (technically just the first 30 days) in January. I also joined the 12x12 Challenge, where you try to write at least one picture book manuscript each month. This is focused on the writing part, not the illustrating.  But there’s another online school called Storyteller Academy that focuses on picture books, both writing and illustrating if you want. I signed up for that, too. For this there are actual courses and you take whichever ones you want. I signed up for several for this term: Drawing, Illustrating, Character Design, and Writing Picture Book Manuscripts. I also started taking a weekly class in watercolor painting (finally; I’ve been wanting to do this for a while). Add this to my BFA program, where I’m doing 18 credit hours this semester, the weekly data science class related to work that I’m taking, a really good playwriting class I’m taking, that I have to send ten pages of the in-progress Sadie Speaks rewrite to my book coach every week, that I’m also working on a romance and meeting my critique partner weekly, the two monthly critique group meetings, and the fact that I’ve got a full-time job, and it all adds up to me being crazy busy. But I love it. So.

Two of the classes I’m taking for the BFA are perspective and topics in color, and I’m loving both of them. The perspective class is great—I’ve always been decent at perspective, but I am learning more about measuring, which speaks to the math-minded person I am. And the topics in color class is also fascinating. We’re studying color mostly via acrylic painting, and there’s something very satisfying about mixing paint. I’m learning a lot, even though I still don’t think acrylics will be my medium of choice. As much fun as the process is, the end result doesn’t please me the way watercolor does (though I know you can water down acrylics and use them like watercolors, but I’m still thinking I’m leaning toward watercolor proper).

I’m going to share an abstract painting I did for my topics in color class. We had to take a photograph and make an abstract version of it. I used this photograph of a sunset in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day 2020:

Oklahoma City sunset

And this is the painting, which I like even though it’s not exactly fine art:

Abstract OKC sunset

I’ll also share a drawing I did for my perspective class, which has lots of problems but is still kind of cool:

Perspective drawing of railroad station

I’d Love a Review

As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a quest for reviews for Finding Frances. I want to run a promotion on Book Bub, and the rumor is you need at least twenty reviews to have a chance. This past Tuesday, I ran a promotion on the book that resulted in at least some sales, so that’s cool (my rating on Amazon went from 1,702,055 on November 4 to 27,553 on November 10). Obviously that’s nowhere near great success, but it’s nice to not be in the millions for a few days. Maybe someone who bought it will review it… I can hope. I’m also still in the middle of a review tour where I’m supposed to get eleven more reviews. I did get my first review that was lower than four stars, so that was interesting. I’m not upset—it still counts toward my total reviews and I still have a fairly good average rating.

I did decide to do NaNoWriMo for sure this year, and I’m barreling ahead with it, way ahead on word count because I’m working off an existing draft that has some usable parts (i.e., I’m cheating). I’m rewriting one of my romances.

At the end of October, I revised the first five chapters of Ugly and wrote a new chapter that comes between chapters one and two. I’m hoping these changes will be enough to make the editors and agents like it (though I have the rest of the chapters yet to do—that will happen after I finish my NaNo draft).

I also got my feedback back from Lou on the revised Sadie Speaks (the first 20 pages, anyway). He was mostly positive but had some tips I can use. I have just one more submission for him, and one for my research class, and I’m totally done with the MFA. My thesis was accepted by the library for binding earlier this week, so I’m officially done with that.

Style

Not a lot has changed in the past few weeks. I got my thesis back from the second reader, so now I’m ready to finalize it and send it in. I finished my class about narrative distance and got some feedback from the teacher, so now I feel ready to tackle fixing Ugly. I’m pretty sure I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year, after waffling about it for a while. I may not succeed—may, in fact, give up part way—but I’m going to start it and see how it goes. I’m going to be busy because I’m also taking two art classes. Being me, I decided to go for it, and I enrolled in a BFA program in Illustration. Crazy, I know. But I'll learn stuff.

I’ve still been working through a pen and ink techniques book, copying from the artist’s drawings. I’m getting better and learning some techniques, and developing my own style (slowly). I’ve included a few pictures below.

Drawing of trees on a hill

Drawing of small sailboat

Drawing of castle stairs