Thoughty Thursday: Un-Plugged!

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The past two days I’ve been in purgatory–I won’t call it hell, because it’s the ABSENCE of something vital to my writing life. And I’ve learned (horrors!) that I’m an addict. . .

. . .of the Internet.

In the olden days (lawsie, sound like my Grandma used to!) words were typed and the smell of well-inked ribbon perfumed the room. Any piece of writer-icity fortunate enough to claim a home traveled via the U.S. Postal System–which meant a May 1st deadline required mail drop off at least a week in advance. Once Email emerged–and I’ll admit I arrived late at that party–writers not only saved on postage $, we gained something much more valuable. Extra time. Have a column due on May 1st? as long as you hit “send” before midnight on April 30, you’re golden.

And I’ve been burned several times by downloading emails infected with viruses or having a computer go belly up. So the past year or so all my email stays “online” in a virtual database I can access from any computer, anywhere. Even my email address book remains online, for ease of contact. Makes life simple.

Until the Internet goes ka-flooey. (That’s a technical writerly term, which loosely translated means !@#$%^&*O!@#$%^&!!)

Besides the inability to read or answer email and send articles, I couldn’t post blogs here, over at my RedRoom site, or update my spankin’ new puppies.About.com site, spread the furry news via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Particularly annoying, I could get Email via my Blackberry but couldn’t do more than answer a word or two without thumbs being sabotagued by the auto-correct feature. Arg!

So are you (gasp!) addicted to the Internet? How do you handle outages? I ended up working with my co-author on another project that didn’t require online access. And I suppose tomorrow I’ll do more of the same since the forecasts call for more crappiocca weather.

I’ve always thought technology offered countless benefits. What about you? Do we depend on the “un-wired” world too much? What do you do when your working life goes ka-flooey? Play hookey?

I would love to play hookey sometime. But my boss is a real bitch.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Tuesday Tips: Ask Amy Thinks Outside The Box

 

Now that I’ve got your attention, no–that is NOT a real book. The totally twisted folks over at Smoshed.com posted a whole slew of tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) “Rejected Children’s Books” . Here’s another one that seems to fit today’s theme–think outside the box & get off the @#$%^! pot!

As writers we need to know our audience, and give ’em what they want. Since all my kids have four feet and fur, I’ll leave it to others to wax poetic on what’s appropriate for human children. But for the rest of us, one truism remains in today’s world of publishing. Even though it’s changing faster than Magical-dawg sheds fur, publishers still want the same-ol’ same-ol’ but with a twist.

They want a book that’s exactly the same (so it’ll sell), only different. Arggg! Listen, if you’re writing to a popular “trend” the train has already left you behind. Legacy publishing–the traditional Noo Yawk way of doing things–takes so long that by the time your agent search, editor offer, and publish date rolls around, your piping hot trend is old news fit only for the bottom of the cat box. And we all know that discerning kittehs snub stale boxes and look for pristine accommodations.

”Creative

So the tip of the day is — WRITE WHAT MOVES YOU. Put on your big-kid panties, get off the pot and write what YOU want to read, find your passion, and never mind if others raise eyebrows. It takes a brave soul to be a trend-setter. Somebody had to be the first to turn dry courtroom jargon into a thriller, transform doctor-speak into bone-chilling narratives, fairy-tale broom-riding kids into an international phenom, and cold-blooded suckers into sparkly hearthrobs. Study why that trend works. Then set it on its ear, and find a way to make your twist a success. And remember to listen to your audience!

I’m trying, believe me. Fur keeps getting in my ears.

How do you think outside the box? What passion rules your writing–or other creative outlet? Are you knitting fantastical creations for your grandkids–or the Siamese down the street? Have you figured out a new way to clicker train your goldfish, or teach middle school students? (Now THAT’S scary!)

My audience, for instance, gets pissy about cat box issues. (How’s that for an awkward segue? Stinks, don’t it…) Litter-ary problems are the top cat behavior complaint and there’s lots of reasons why Sheba chooses to …ahem…  “color” outside the lines. I suspect there are parents out there with their own potty-training horror stories. Lucky for me, Seren-kitty has been faithful to her box. This latest Ask Amy “covers” a common potty problem. What are some other tips that have worked for you? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Ask Amy: Why Do Dogs Roll in Nasty “Stuff?”

 Here’s the next installment in the ASK AMY video series. Do your dogs adore pungent odors? Steal dirty socks? Roll in (ahem) crappiocca?  Please share!

And do you have other doggy foibles that puzzle, amaze, delight or otherwise come from the Doggy Outer-Limits? Post in the comments and maybe it’ll be featured in a future Ask Amy.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-awaysHint–the Pet Peeves newsletter goes out the end of this month so subscribe NOW!

Thoughty Thursday: Call Me Chameleon

It’s writer conference season. In July I’ll be at International Thriller Writers “Thrillerfest” for nearly a week of speakers, panels, and “Agentfest” with more than 60 agents to pitch. In May, I’ll be at the OWFI Conference in Oklahoma City speaking about my kindle-ization journey, and media training for authors. And tomorrow I travel to Norman, Oklahoma for the Society of Professional Journalists conference , speaking on Saturday about “niche marketing,” how to become an expert, and making a living as a freelance writer.

Holy crappiocca. Do they want the feel-good answer, or the truth? *eg*

I know a bunch of savvy “furry” writers follow this blog (~~waving!). How many of us started out saying, “I want to be a niche writer. I want to be an expert in a teensy narrow topic. I want to make a living making sh#$%^&….(ahem) stuff up.

[caption id=”attachment_835″ align=”aligncenter” width=”300″ caption=”I've had fantastic bosses–but some hissed me off. ”

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Okay, I’ll cop to that last one. But the hope of making $$ at writing, working for myself, staying at home with the fur-kids, evolved out of self defense—I’m not a very good employee. They say confession is good for the soul, so Yes, it’s true! I’ve been fired more than once. At least twice was for telling the truth and not sucking up.

The dream of getting out from under the boss’s thumb is the big carrot tempting lots of us into turtle-ing along the writer’s path.

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Niche writing and making a living at it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a “niche” focuses on such a specific topic that the audience for that topic is limited. Therefore, a niche expert limits the market before the first word ever gets typed on the screen. If the other successful niche experts out there are like me, they’re accidental experts.

#1. Become a niche writer by having a passion for a particular subject. I happen to adore pets. And I happened to fall into working for veterinarians. Being bored in a small town left either channeling my inner wise-ass (an even narrower niche) or that old saw, “write what you know.”

#2. Become an “expert” by knowing how much you stand to learn, asking endless questions and (most important of all) WRITE GOOD. Period.

#3. Make $$ at the gig by good planning and/or getting lucky. Hey, it can happen!

I quit my last “real job” in 1992 . . . nope, wasn’t fired that time, it was a good job, great people to work with, and my spur of the moment unplanned choice. Took four years to get a fantastic agent who sold a bunch of books, which led to a killer spokesperson gig. None of it was planned, but one step connected to the next like Legos until the career-of-my dreams was built. However, each time I came near understanding this writer’s biz, and got comfortable in my niche, I got bit on the butt. Publishing changes the rules more often than I swap sparkly socks. And it sucks. Even puppies target used up footgear.

I can chew it off--watch!

So now I’m tasked with being the expert on becoming an expert. Here’s #4 to becoming a success—BE A CHAMELEON. Learn to reinvent yourself.

I’m not the same writer, and it’s not the same biz of 25 years ago—and it’s changing on a daily basis. If I hadn’t changed, I’d be out of a job. Today I still have a boss. She makes me work harder and longer hours (and pays less!) than any previous employer I’ve had. She also knows anytime I goof off. My boss is a bitch.

But I love it. For the first time, I’m actually planning my career. I’m not taking one step and waiting on the whim of an agent or publisher to take the next. I get royalty income every month. And get to write what I know my audience wants to read and I want to produce. Including bloody-good fiction. I’m counting on y’all to tell me what you want to read—that’s what comments are for, right? *s*

I love the control. I know more than before, and accept that change will come and I’ll survive. I’ve got plenty of sparkly socks to mix and match. That’s why that whole Agentfest pitch thing has me torn—not sure I want to give up my newfound freedom and climb back on that hamster wheel.

Calling all chameleons…writers and readers, what would YOU do?

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