Catching up

I’m trying to be better about this space because I’ll forget about it for months at a time and then it’s awkward when I come back, acting like we’re cool, like I haven’t abandoned you for so long and am trying to pick up like it’s only been a couple of days.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to remind you that you can follow me on quite a few platforms outside of this blog. I’m usually much better about being active an vocal there.

We’ve got my FB fan page. I’m good about keeping people up to date about writing and bookish things there. And, I promise, I don’t spam post so I won’t be clogging your feed.

2017-07-28 11.03.48We’ve got my twitter feed. I’m far more outspoken there. I don’t shy away about my rage screaming over politics. If you like to keep art and artist separate and you don’t swing toward the liberal side of things, consider this your warning about my twitter space. I like the freedom I have there and I won’t apologize for it or anything I say or share there.

Then we have Instagram. Oh, I do love Instagram. That’s a lot of puppy pictures and what crazy hair color I’ve got going and food pics and coffee (lots of coffee) and of course, bookish stuff.

patreon bannerAlso, I have a Patreon page (with a new post up today!), where you can help keep me from being a starving artist with your monthly pledges. You can pledge as little as a dollar just because or you can pledge $3 a month and have access to all the exclusive fiction content I’m sharing (right now I’m posting the installments of Maggie’s [from Dandelions] story that will eventually become a real book, but you can read as I write), at a $5 pledge you get a free ebook of your choice each month and the rewards grow from there. Also, every patron gets their name listed in the acknowledgements of each book that releases as long as they’re a patron. I’d love to see that list of names grow.

spellbound widget invertedAnd, of course, we have the Spellbound Scribes. Through accidents and luck, I somehow became the moderator of this awesome group blog where I, and some awesome fantasy authors, post once a week on various bookish and writerly things. It’s very informative and helpful, I think.

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Second to last, I have two manuscript critique slots open for August. I don’t have any time in September, so if you want to grab one of these two slots, now is the time. You can check my rates and philosophy on my Manuscript Critique page and contact me at shaunagranger82 @ gamil dot com. If you mention you saw this post, I’ll give you 10% off the total cost of the critique!

Finally, just to remind you, or tell you if you don’t know, the eighth Matilda Kavanagh Novel is set to release in September! Eeep! And you can preorder your ebook copy now at your favorite ebook retailer.

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Pre-order links:

Amazon Barnes and Noble | Smashwords Kobo iBooks

Thoughts on Exhibiting at a Con as a Woman

This past weekend I was exhibiting at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comiccon (AKA ComiKaze). This is only my second con and was my first big con.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about how women are treated at cons, whether as a cosplayer, a panel participant, or just an attendee. Sometimes you get harassed–verbally or physically–as a cosplayer because, to some men, a costume gives them permission to ignore societal norms and stop treating you like a person. Sometimes you get talked over because obviously a man understands the subject matter better than you do in your tiny woman brain. And sometimes guys are just jerks and you get treated like shit so things like The Backup Ribbon Project has to be created.

We all get this. We get it because it’s really not all that different from our day-to-day lives except maybe we’re in a costume this time, or our harassers are.

But today I’m gonna talk about having a table at a con as an artist and the bullshit I had to smile through. These were mostly microaggressions, so I’m sure some will dismiss them, but I think they’re indicative of the crap we are trained to put up with because it’s easier to just smile and avoid rather than confront. And, who knows? Maybe a guy will read this and see himself in these douchebags and maybe he’ll try to change. That’s all we can hope for, right? A little bit of change.

So, if you’re reading this, you probably know who I am and know that I’m a writer. If you’re here because you saw this linked on Twitter or somewhere and don’t know who I am, well, I’m a writer. I have three series out under this name, all various shades of Fantasy.

I am very lucky to have a supportive husband who will go with me to conventions to help me man the table, move the heavy boxes, share the long car rides, watch the table to let me take much-needed breaks. But that’s all he is at these things: my helper. My husband is not a writer or an artist (though he his a martial artist, that doesn’t apply here). He wears shirts that promote my books and website, he passes out business cards for me, he supports me.

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But guess what reader? 7-8 men out of 10 who approach my table automatically assume he’s the writer/artist at the table. Now. I know what you’re thinking, “Shauna, that’s an honest mistake.” So let me further explain.

Behind my table are two huge stand-up banners that have “SHAUNA GRANGER” written across their tops. Affixed to the front of my table is another banner that says, you guessed it, “SHAUNA GRANGER” in bold white lettering against black.

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Now, fine, maybe their eyes miss the last ‘a’ in my first name and they think it says “SHAUN” but give me a second. Behind the table are two chairs. I sit in one, dead center of my table with a clear space in front of me for signing books. My husband sits in the other, off to the side, and slightly behind me.

And, I’m not counting the people who also looked at my signs before making eye contact and asked, “So, who’s the writer?” Because, yeah, there’s a chance we’re just manning the table. No. I’m talking about the men who would look at my banners, glance at my books, then look right at my husband, never at me, and say, “So, you’re the writer?”

Now, here’s another funny thing, reader. People who assumed I was the writer, or who didn’t assume either of us was the writer, would smile at me when they realized it was me. They would ask me about the books and nod and listen. When they bought books and I offered to sign them, they’d light up and say, “Yes, please!” The guys who assumed the writer was my husband? Would then lose their smile, lift their eyebrows, and then very quickly leave the table when my husband would direct them to me, the writer.

What the fuck guys? What the actual fuck?

This happened a lot. A lot.

At one point my husband looked at me and said, “Wow  they really do just assume it’s me, don’t they? Just because I’m the guy at the table. What bullshit.”

Another thing that happened that really tested my patience were the guys who made fun of my books or my very presence at the con as a novelist, not a comic book artist.

Yeah, that’s right. You know these guys, the ones that think it’s funny to tease you about who you are or what you’re doing. I’ll give you an example of a conversation I had with a guy who was probably ten years younger than me and had absolutely no intention of ever buying my books.

Guy: So, I imagine it’s pretty hard to be a novel writer at a comic book convention.

Me: No, not really.

Guy: Really?

Me: Really. I have a different product, so it stands out.

Guy: People actually buy your books?

Me: Yes.

Guy: Do you sell a lot?

Me: I do alright.

Guy: *smirks* Right.

Me: Well, when people do buy, they buy whole series.

Guy: Right because they can’t buy them anywhere else.

Me: No. My books are available at all retailers.

Guy: Really. (no, not a question)

Me: *strained smile*

Guy: So. Tell me about this series. *points at Elemental Series*

Me: *Give brief explanation because it’s 5 books*

Guy: The Elemental Series.

Me: Yes. *Starts to explain what “elemental” means*

Guy: *cuts me off* So, Potassium, Magnesium…? *Stupid asshole smile*

Me: Yeah, alright.

Guy: So what’s the story about?

Me: I just told you.

Guy: No but what’s it about.

Me: Each book?

Guy: Yes.

Me: *starts to explain book one*

Guy: *cuts me off* Do people ever come back the next day and tell you they liked your books?

Me: The very next day? No, I don’t expect people to read a whole novel series in less than 24 hours.

Guy: So they don’t.

Me: They usually find me online later.

Guy: Online. Right. *walks away*

Yeah. Bullshit like that happens to us all the time. See, I consider everyone who comes to my table as a potential new reader. Even if they start off as a jerk, I am in sales mode so I don’t treat them like jerks, even if they deserve it. But if you’re never going to be interested in something a woman has created or if you’re coming up just to be a total asshole, don’t waste our time. Move along and find a table only manned by men. Only go to a table where you might spend money, not just to make yourself feel like a big man because you’re not. You’re a tiny man.

Guys, don’t be these guys. Because, honestly, we only have so much patience and you might be the one we lose it on.

ETA: The guys who would wait to approach until after my husband would leave the table. I’d see them lingering, their eyes glancing in my direction, not really talking to anyone at any other table, and then my husband would leave for a minute and the lingerers would swoop in to talk to me. It was creepy and they never bought books.

ETA 2: The asshats who tell you to smile. I have been told to smile by men my whole life. My whole life. I don’t stand around or walk around like a grinning idiot. How weird would that be really?! But men would come up to my table, from the opposite direction as the one I was looking and would say shit like, “You’re supposed to smile when a customer comes up.” Like, bro, I wasn’t looking in your direction, but thanks for the advice.

I’ve Kept My Promise About Patreon

If you remember, I posted that I was giving Patreon another go and I promised I was going to be better about posting there and making it worth your while to become a patron of mine.

Well, I think I’ve done a fairly good job about it.

There are some exclusive fiction posts that only patrons can read and I’ve started adding some flash fiction for everyone. Yes, that means these posts are available to anyone to read, without pledging any money.

The flash fiction I’m working on right now is a novella set in the Ash and Ruin universe, which, believe me, was difficult to get into the mood for after the week we’ve had. But I’m pushing through! Fiction is where we find escape and help to deal with the real world around us. So I keep writing.

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Anyway.

I hope you’ll check it out, check out the reward levels I have set up for patrons. If you become just a $1 a month patron, you will be included in the acknowledgements of my upcoming book, the seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel! If you sign up for a higher amount, you’ll get some awesome, tangible rewards!

Check it out here.

YSO: The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

In college I took Creative Writing: Poetry. It was a junior level class, but I took it as a freshman, because obviously I was a fantastic writer who knew everything and would ace upper level classes.

Our first assignment was to write a poem. Any poem. Any form. Any subject. No direction or limitations whatsoever.

So I wrote my poem. It was amazing and poetic. The best poetry that ever poeted.

When the prof returned my poem it had a huge “YSO” written across it in red ink. No grade, no comments. Just YSO. Lots of poems in the classroom had this strange notation on them.

The professor, an old Irish poet, grinned back at us and asked how many people had YSO written on their paper. Most of the hands went up.

“Years ago,” he said, “I assigned this same assignment to another class, just like this one. And one of my students couldn’t think of anything to write about. Eventually, he went to his window in the middle of the night to try to think of something, anything to write. And then he saw it. A full moon, bright in the night sky, and he was inspired. So, he set down to write his poem about the full moon, bright in the night sky.”

We all waited as he paused, taking in our faces.

“And the first line of the poem read: ‘Yon sailing orb!'”

And we all burst out laughing.

Dr. Ledbetter looked at us and said, “Sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.”

So when we ever wrote something so over the top, so difficult to understand, so ridiculous that it made him laugh or shake his head (when that WASN’T the reaction you wanted), he would write YSO on our work.

Because sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.

 

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Finally finish your first book: I know how to write a book!

Finish books 2 and 3: Yep. I got this! I know the process and all the secrets! How I write a book is how you write a book! Ask me and I’ll tell you because I know how to do it.

Reach 2/3 mark on book 4: Oh crap. My process isn’t working. I have to change how I do this. There was a secret I didn’t know before now.

Complete a series: Okay. Now I know all the secrets. Not only can I write a book, but I can finish a story. I know all.

Start writing 17th novel: I know nothing.

I know, seems strange, that on my 17th novel I’ve come to a point where I admit that I don’t know how to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve done it a few times now, but things are just never the same.

Most of my books have taken me between 60 and 90 days to write the first draft. There are some of those books between 1 and 16 that I wrote in under 30 days.  But those are the ones where I am on fire and everything is clicking and I’m cranking out 4-6k words a day.

Words a day. Now that’s a phrase that freaks people out. We often hear the phrase “Real writers write every day.” I get this phrase, I really do. I applied it to my process for the bulk of my career, but I don’t take it quite as literally as many others do. For me, writing every day means 5-6 days a week that I’m drafting the first draft. That does not mean writing 8 hours a day. It means writing until I’ve reached a goal or I’ve come to a natural stopping point for the day. Sometimes that’s just 1 hour. Sometimes it’s 5. Depends on the book, the scene, and the day. And I do allow for 1 or 2 days off, like any “regular” job, you wouldn’t be there 7 days a week.

But this book, the 17th, has been so different for me.

I feel like Sisyphus and that rock is getting harder and harder to push uphill.

When I was first starting out, writing books 1-3 and the first 2/3rds of book 4, I never outlined. Then I hit a wall and had no idea where to go. So I loosely outlined the end of the fourth book and learned that I could, and maybe even should, outline a story before writing it. As a young writer, I couldn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, feeling like I’d already done it. So it took time and practice, but now I need an outline to help me get from A to Z.

So every day that I plan to write, I review my outline and get my daily goal, be it 1k words, 2k or 5k. Some days are hard and I may only get 500 words, but I get something.

But this book. This book. I want to write this book. I like my characters and their heartbreaking story. It’s a new world with new faces and a new story. I want to get to the end of it. But I started writing this book at the beginning of January and I’m only halfway through. I don’t even have a complete outline because it has been such a difficult story to figure out.

I take a week off from writing at a time. Some weeks I only write 2 or 3 days.  And I’m not even getting huge word goals when I do write.

This book is taking so much out of me.

But just like with my 4th book, I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have other projects going on at the same time that need attention, so I’m not just sitting around. But I’m telling myself not to feel guilty. I am working on it. I am always thinking about it. I even had a plot knot unravel itself the other day that will help  me expand the outline when I come to the end of it.

So what’s the point? The point is, none of us hold all the secrets. Processes will work for you until they don’t. You just gotta be able to roll with that and figure out how to carve a new key to unlock the next secret.  Even if you’ve written off the idea of something, like outlining vs. pantsing or writing every day vs. taking days off, try it if you’re stuck. It might be the thing that gets you unstuck.

Back from the holidays

I am typing! This is amazing. I know, if you follow me, the idea that I’m typing shouldn’t be a big surprise or cause for celebration, but today it is.

On New Years Day I took a tumble.

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Okay, it wasn’t a tumble. It was an OMFGIAMFALLINGHOLYCRAP fall. It was a fall that I was lucky to stand up from. It was a fall that I was lucky not to have a broken arm or cracked skull from. But it wasn’t a fall that left me unscathed.

My hubs works from home just like me, and he had an intake interview with a couple of potential new clients who wanted to meet on New Years Day. When you work for yourself, holidays are not the same as they are for many other people, kinda like working retail. So of course we said, “yes! Come on over!” And we started cleaning the house and grounds, putting the holiday back in the boxes and making the place presentable for new people.

One of the things that had to be done was retying one of our sun sails over our outdoor space. We’d taken it down when there were 60mph wind gusts the other week. So I climbed up on our pick-nick table to reach for the rope and tie the thing off. Now, the key to surviving anything like this is to watch where you’re stepping.

I did not.

I ran out of table.

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Unfortunately, I already had hold of the rope in my right hand when my foot stepped onto the nothingness. When you stumble you instinctively grip whatever you’re holding. Sadly, I hadn’t started to anchor the rope, so it was a just loose and happy to let me fall and slide my hand down the braided fibers.

I fell off the table, my leg going between the table and bench, to bounce off and land flat on my back on the cement pavers our table is centered on. It was fast and slow all at once. I don’t remember hitting the bench (though the massive bruises and swelling prove I did), but I remember having a moment to think, “You’re going to land on your back in a second,” when I hit the bench. I managed to pull my arms in and tuck my chin before I hit the ground. If I’d flung out my hands to break my fall I’d’ve broken something. If I hadn’t tucked my chin, I’d’ve cracked my head on the cement.

My husband rushed to me as I lay there telling him I was okay, just needed a second. The funny thing was, I had no idea there was something wrong with my hand. I lay there, giving my mind a moment to think about my body and listen for cues that something was wrong, but nothing screamed back with pain.

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So I sat up and laughed for a second.

Then I saw my hand. My right hand. My dominate hand.

I said, “Hey, look at my thumb. It looks weird.” I said that because it didn’t hurt. Yet. The rope had burned my palm and ripped off some skin, making it look like a puncture wound. But my thumb. Oh holy gods, my thumb. Between the knuckle and my palm I’d ripped off so much skin that I could see the vein that runs through your thumb just below the last layer of skin. If I’d taken that layer, I’d’ve been in the ER.

Because I looked at my palm and thumb, the shock wore off and the pain set in. My hand was on fire. It truly was a full burn from the rope. My hand shook and I finally cried, panicked and freaked out over what my hand looked like. And I started babbling about not being able to write today or finishing the beautiful scarf I was knitting for myself. These are the crazy, panicked things you say when you hurt yourself.

So, here I am, Monday morning, able to type and it is awesome. I promised myself, whether my outline was done or not, I was starting the New Project today, so the idea that I wouldn’t be able to added to my panic and tears. But it’s cloudy and rain is on the way and I can move my fingers and I can hit the space bar with my thumb without causing searing pain. Who knows, I might be knitting by the end of the week.

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So happy new year my loves! I survived and will have new words!

P.S.

I have one slot left for January for a new Critique project. If you’d like to steal that spot, please email me at shaunagranger82@gmail.com – you can always sign up for a Feb or March slot, but hurry, I only take a couple each month. Check out my critique page to learn more about what I do.

Release Day: Cursed

Today is a release day for me. It’s the fifth book in my Matilda Kavanagh Novels, Cursed. That’s kind of an appropriate title.

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I work really hard for each book I write, there’s no question in my mind about that. I know some people might think because I can get 2-3 titles published a year I’m probably just churning out some formulaic trite, but I really do try to make each book different from the others. And, since I write Paranormal Fantasy, that’s not always easy. Since I write full time and self-publish I don’t have to go through the hurry up and wait process a lot of traditionally published authors do. You may have to wait 12-18 months for a sequel, but that doesn’t mean it took a writer that long to get the story written. Luckily for me, I write my first draft, snag a spot on my editor’s schedule, she focuses on my book for a couple of weeks, ripping it apart, then get’s it back to me. Once I go through her edits, I send it back for one last proofread from fresh eyes, then it’s ready to go.

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Well, not really. While it’s away in an editor’s hands I’m working on the cover if I’m doing it myself. For my Mattie books, I have done all my own covers. They aren’t so complicated that I can’t work my own magic on them. And of course there is the horrible couple of days I spend formatting the books for eprint and paperback. That’s the worst part.

But I digress. Being self-published is difficult in more ways that one. One of the biggest ways is feeling like you’re celebrating all on your own. It’s awesome that we can do pre-orders now because, at the very least, you can see ahead of time that other people are excited for your book to come out too. But once the day comes, you’re kind of struck with a sense of… “so what?” It’s like there should be some ticker tape parade for you, but there’s not. Or flower deliveries or a flood of notes congratulating you because, damnit that was a hard book to write! But really, it’s more waking up, shuffling to the coffee pot, checking your email, making sure the book is live and doing fine and then getting back to work.

I titled Cursed before I even knew what the story was going to be about. I thought it would make a cool title, so I made a note of it over a year ago so I wouldn’t forget. Then, as I was outlining this book, I knew that was the title for this one. And boy was I spot on.

Cursed is a summer read. It’s a story about our main characters getting away for a long weekend in wine country to recharge but, of course, things go horribly wrong. To research this book, I packed my hubs and dogs up in our car and drove to the same location I was basing the book to have a look around (and a few glasses of wine, you know, research and all) and figure out where this book would be set.

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That day was awesome. It was beautiful and picturesque and I found the perfect winery to base Wyvern Wines on. So thrilled it all worked out.

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Then a few weeks later, in the middle of the book, we’d been a little stressed and my husband got an afternoon off. He asked me if I wanted to play hooky and drive back up, just the two of us for the afternoon and check out the little town the wineries were by. Of course I did! More research!

It was a horrible mistake. It was cool in our part of the world, but a good 20 degrees hotter up there, so I dressed entirely wrong with knee-high boots. The town, as it turns out, shuts down for a few hours between lunch and dinner so our food choices were limited and would be my downfall. We picked this cute sandwich shop and sat outside in the lovely sunshine to enjoy lunch before strolling the picturesque street and the little shops and wine tasting rooms.

It was all fine for a little while, until it wasn’t. We were in the first tasting room and I was so, so hot. I almost laid down on the marble counter top when the girl helping us wasn’t looking. I thought it was my boots and I was just over-heated because my hubs was fine. But after that first stop, we walked outside and I just couldn’t. All I wanted was to get to the car and take off my boots and crank up the AC. I just felt off.

So we left. We made the 2 hour drive home and I struggled to stay awake. It was like my body was shutting down. When we got home, I remember something came up in the office I just had to do, but now I couldn’t tell you what. I just remember taking care of it for about 20 mins before walking out to my hubs and telling him something was wrong and then I threw up for the first time.

Food poisoning.

I’ve never had food poisoning before. I know this because now I’ve truly had it. I would spend the next 72 hours in bed, in pain, unable to eat lest I threw it all up again and again, sipping 7-Up, sleeping to escape the pain in my legs, with a 103* fever. All for a damn sandwich. I’ve said in the past, “I don’t think such-and-such  agreed with me.” I will never say that again. Until you’ve had real food poisoning, you just don’t know. But through that, I had a little chuckle that I was writing a book called “Cursed” because, right then, that’s exactly how I felt.

So see? I suffer for my work, even if I don’t mean to, no matter how fast or easily you may think I write. So, please, buy my books, read them, leave a quick review – even if you didn’t like them.

If you’ve read this far, cheers dear reader! If you take anything away from this, know how much authors give to their books and return the favor with a review. Yep, I’m saying that again. My Mattie books get pre-orders every time I put a new one up, but there are not the reviews to prove it. I need those reviews like I needed 7-Up to get me through those 72 hours.

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