Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week, it's our monthly Self-Publishing Life Salon with Alli Director Orna Ross and author Dan Blank. They discuss the importance of finding your rhythm and balance across the days and weeks.
Orna proposes a three-part planning system that takes account of processing, promotion as well as production. And Dan explains why he doesn't believe in balance, but obsession, and discusses firm schedules and accountability. Both of them have intriguing insights that will hopefully help you in finding your rhythm.
Here are some highlights:
Dan, on ‘Work-Life Balance'
So the idea of “I don't believe in balance, I believe in obsession” is the idea of giving yourself permission to do a couple things that you really believe in. So, you know, when I'm working with a writer, talking to a writer or in my own life, the first is always idea of getting really radically clear about what you want to focus on.
Orna, on Writing Routine
So before you finish one session, just setting up exactly when the next session is going to happen. Perhaps even leaving your sentence half finished so that when you come back, you know exactly what you're going to write next time.
Also, on Inspirational Indie Authors
Howard Lovy interviews Maggie Lynch, who writes a series of science fiction books she shares with eight other indie authors, called Obsidian Rim. Their goal is to produce a new book in the series every couple of weeks. Howard and Maggie discuss how the group is appealing to a growing demographic of sci-fi readers: women.
Maggie's new book is called Gravity and it has all the elements of space opera, but with “a romantic twist.” Maggie talks about what that means.
Maggie Lynch, on Women in Science Fiction
Now that women are entering science fiction in larger numbers, there is a better representation of real women and their role in saving the world or the galaxy or maybe just their own little piece of Earth.
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and artists share their stories and grow their audience. He is the author of the book “Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.”
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer. Find Howard on howardlovy.com LinkedIn, Twitter.
Read the Transcript
Orna: Hello everyone. Good evening from London and hello from the U S of A. I'm here with Dan. Hi. Dan.
Dan: Hey, how are you?
Orna: I'm very well. How are you?
Dan: Excellent, thank you.
Orna: That's great. And we hope everybody who's here listening is also in good form and fine fettle. We are going to be talking today about your self publishing life, how you fit your everything you have to do as not just a writer, which in itself as somebody who writes books long form, it's challenging. We all know that. And then in addition to meeting that big, big challenge, you've also set yourself the challenge of publishing those books, which is a multifaceted challenge in and of itself and one that calls for different skills, different practices, different ways of going about your life. So we are going to monthly discuss all the various aspects of that. How do you fit your publishing in to your life without going crazy ending up in a home for the bewildered or just giving up and going away.
Orna: And you know, the whole point of doing this, I think, is to make your life better, not to give yourself endless distress, worries and hardship. So, Dan has huge experience in working with lots of authors and other creatives who meet these challenges all the time. So today we're going to be talking about finding your rhythm, which I think, certainly for me, was key, you know, getting the rhythm right of the days, the weeks and the months so that what I was trying to do fit it in and had enough space around it so I could enjoy it all. And I used the word balance when we were discussing and then setting this up and got a very intriguing note back from Dan. I'm going to start there. He said, “I don't believe in balance. I believe in obsession.” Explain yourself please.
Dan: So the way I look at this is probably every writer listening to this is balancing the idea of self publishing their book, writing it, marketing it. They may have kids or family, they have relationships, they might have a day job, they have health, they idea of balancing this is, to me, setting yourself up for failure because it doesn't take much, a very slight gust of wind to throw everything out of balance. And what I find is that there's not enough hours in the day or energy in the tank to do it all as well as you want. So the idea of “I don't believe in balance, I believe in obsession” is the idea of giving yourself permission to do a couple things that you really believe in. So, you know, when I'm working with a writer, talking to a writer or in my own life, the first is always idea of getting really radically clear about what you want to focus on.
Dan: And I like to kind of put it all into one pot. But this idea that if you say, I really want to publish and write books and you get really clear about what that means, you also need permission to obsess about it. And the practical way that this works down is that maybe you need to say no to volunteer events at your kid's school. Maybe you say no to going to a party. Maybe you say we're going to hire that house cleaner, even though I feel guilty about that expense because of how I was raised. it means, yeah, you know, people are saying you've got to also do an audio book and you got to also do this or that. But you know what, I'm letting that go because I'm obsessed with getting this series of five books into print. So it really is this idea of knowing very clearly what you want to focus on and then really honing and focusing your energy on that. And I like the word obsession, even though I know it's a little controversial. A lot of writers I've talked to prefer the word passion and I think that is adequate as well. If someone listening has a negative view of the word obsession, I totally understand that.
Orna: Really interesting. So many things there I would like to unpack and we will. So yeah, I don't think actually while I'm a big believer in balance, I don't think we're that far apart really and I think definitely one thing we can certainly agree on is in order to do this, there are lots of things you have to say no to. So always in life there are competing wants, we can't have it all and certainly not all at once. Maybe you can stagger your pleasures and by the end of your life have done it all. But, at any moment, you know, in any day or in any week or in any month, you are going to have to select. And to me, creativity is very much about selection and commitment. What is most important today, what is most important over the span of your lifetime, you know, and then kind of peeling back from there, back to a sort of a 10 year or seven year or five year old, one year, a quarter, a month, a week, a day, then right now, so for me right now for you right now, we've made the conscious or subconscious decision that the most important thing we can be doing right now is what we're doing right now. And I think that's something that is a skill in itself on that you get better at as you go along. Is that your experience?
Dan: Oh, that's a great question. It's a yes and no because I think that I'm thinking of even the creative practice, like in the last year and a half I've decided I'm going to finally learn how to play guitar. And as you go through the daily practice of learning anything new, one of the things you become really aware of a couple days, a couple of weeks, a couple months in, am I, am I practicing the wrong thing in the safe habit that I know how to do? And how do you break out of that? How do you challenge yourself to stop practicing the wrong thing in the wrong way with the wrong narrative? And I think that a lot of us do end up in that trap and that you get better at it when you start, to me, it's usually about collaboration. It's when you talk to one other guitarist, you realize how they do it.
Dan: You talked to three other, you go to a show and you talk to the guitarist afterwards and it opens you up. And I don't want to say you've got to break a mold. I think there's something about collaboration that gets people to get better because it breaks their comfort level. It breaks their familiarity. It breaks all these social habits that we have where we're like “I'm not doing social media as an author, you know, I read this article once, it's all garbage and here's why.” And then you talk to authors of published in your realize like, “Oh, they use social media. They don't think it's the greatest thing ever, but they made a couple of good points that it's useful. Oh Gosh, how do I hold these two things in check? I don't want to use it, but it's kind of useful.” So I think that I agree with you and I agree it happens usually when you're engaging with other people in some way.
Orna: Interesting. I also feel there are practices that you can, as a creative yourself, I think very much in terms of, you know, your core products that you're putting out as, in this case, as an author, it's your books or courses or whatever it is, the kind of you're selling and offering. And there is the practice of kind of sitting down to do that, to do the writing or to do the publishing tasks or whatever they are. But around that you also need stabilizing practices that create some space and ventilation. So, for example, every morning a group of us get together on Facebook live and we do a meditation together and we do some free writing together. And for me that keeps me honest. You know, that's where I challenged myself. I find I just, I am challenging myself in a way that I wouldn't if I just kind of stuck with doing the work. So you do need, if it isn't collaboration, it might be collaboration.
Orna: And I think, I know you're a huge believer in collaboration and I think it is definitely, creativity is collaborative by nature, but I think there also may be times where solitude and you know, that connection with your own creative process, your own creative flow, nurturing that in some way. Having practices that nurture it, you know, it could be walking, it can, there are a thousand things that it can be and it's different all of us, but there are certain core things that the research shows are very good and certain kinds of meditation, certainly one of those free writing or some kind of expressive journaling is also not just for writers but for creators if all kinds and so on. There are these practices up for me as a, speaking personally as a creative and also in my observation of other authors are really important.
Dan: Totally agree. I love that. Absolutely.
Orna: We have a question from Janet. “Any tips on how to get your rhythm back after being hit by a hurricane while trying to sell my house and buy a new one? I hope a metaphorical house-ly hurricane.
Dan: It sounds like an actual hurricane.
Orna: Maybe, maybe, maybe it was an actual hurricane. All these years gone by. Things are not all fixed by closing on my new to me house mid June. Okay so perhaps it really was. I took it as a metaphorical hurricane there. So how to get your rhythm back after being hit by a hurricane. Dan.
Dan: So I like to put a lot of boundaries on it. So I think this is where it's nice to give your, just get yourself creating again and give yourself a really low goal. So this is where you can say, I'm going to have a goal of writing everyday for 30 days or I'm going to write for 10 minutes a day, or I'm going to write 400 words a day. Or, that's a writing goal. It could be something else. If you're more in the branding, marketing and publishing side of it. I would just set a lot of very artificial boundaries so that you have a pretty clear goal that doesn't sound scary and that it's small enough to where you can kinda just, you know, just kind of get acclimated again. Because a lot of it's just kind of stretching those muscles and then you come to the end of that, whether it's a 10 day thing or 30 day or 90 day, and you've built those muscles up again. Now you can say, “Okay, you know, what do I really want to do?” That's how I do it.
Orna: Yeah, that's fantastic. I love your and you know, setting the bar really, really, really low. I think that's great. And I know people that has really helped. Janet has come back to say “Yes, an actual hurricane.” I'm so sorry. Gosh, that's horrible. I think you raise a point, Janet, you know, has referenced to everybody, life springs surprises. So, you know, we have our publishing plan or our writing plan or whatever, and then a hurricane hits and of course it isn't just physical damage done by whatever, you know, in this case a hurricane. But it's also the emotional drainage. Our creative work needs energy and when we are emotionally drained by life, you know, when something comes in that's unexpected and difficult and challenging, a lot of our energy can, a lot of our creative energy can be dissipated in that and I think there is something to be said for having this space that we give ourselves if life is tough and challenging in terms of the rhythm that what we're trying to do in the time that we do allocate for our work is the stuff that is most nurturing for us. So recognizing that if something major like this has happened that life doesn't just go on as if it didn't happen and we have to make allowances for it and that our creative work in itself, and I include publishing as creative work and not just writing, our creative work we chose it, we choose to do to the first place because at some level is it's healing and transformative and nurturing for us. But there are aspects of it that aren't, there are aspects of it that we found more challenging or difficult or oppressive.
Orna: So to stick while life is tough, to stick while, to stick with the bits of it that really feed us and look after us. So yeah, and I think to recognize that it can actually be a huge help in getting over whatever other challenges we have to meet in life as a result of off the tough thing that has happened. If we see it as just one more thing to do or another responsibility or that we're failing ourselves or letting ourselves down by not doing it under trying and exceptional circumstances, I think we're delaying the time when we will actually get back on top. So hopefully between those two that is helpful. Anything to add Dan before we?
Dan: You know, it's funny, one thing I think about this, especially when it comes to the idea of like the publishing process, you have to expect that there's going to be roadblocks and failure. Right before we went on this call, I shared like a series of five tweets about this, @DanBlank on Twitter. But this idea that that is the creative process that if, you know, there are things like a hurricane which are truly extraordinary, that is just beyond the pale, but in general, less than hurricanes, I think a lot of us get taken off track and we get jaded and we get bitter. We get all kinds of things around it. And I think one thing I've learned is the creative process is full of this. Like you have to expect that this is going to happen. Doesn't mean you have to be happy about it.
Dan: But I do think that learning to weather it is like a skill that you are honing in the process. Because if, I mean if we went to a conference right now, we talk to keynote author published 40 books, you say, “Gosh, I'm having a problem. You know, what would you do? You know, my editor flaked in the last week and they stole my book.” They'd be like, “Oh gosh, that happened on my fourth book, my ninth book and my 22nd book.” It's like, it's not that they wouldn't have empathy, but they would be like, “Here's what you do when a close collaborator flakes because they've gone through it so much that they're not totally shocked by it when it happens.” They've learned how to work through it.
Orna: And I think it is about that kind of returning and showing up, even when you're highly confused, upset, you know, that you do just go and do the next thing that needs to be done. Keep it small, keep it manageable as Dan advises. But just, if you don't, something else will come along next year that will derail. And Janet, I think you've had your share of misfortune. I'm certainly not suggesting there's another hurricane on the way and there isn't. Hurricanes are definitely exceptions. But there are so many small things that can take our creative energy away. And you know, we were talking about this in the meditation group this morning. It's about turning up with this kind of spirit of inquiry. “What's going on here” and noting it and noting your internal responses to that. And it's all in the response to whatever is going on on the outside, be that life.
Orna: But also the challenges that are emerging in the work as well. So holding, holding that attitude or regaining that, the ability to hold that attitude after great misfortune, I think, is what you're trying to do and there is great reward on the far side of that. I think we become very much, much more resilient and less swept around by the events of life. Though we will always be swept around, clearly.
Dan: Now we're back to the hurricane metaphor.
Orna: Yeah. Hurricane actually, as a metaphor for some of the things, you know, it's brilliant because that is the feeling you have when something sweeps in in life that you haven't planned and haven't expected and all that energy, you know, that goes in there. I think every creative needs, and for me, you know, on our theme of today, every creative needs some method, some techniques, some tool or or variety of them that stabilizes, that allows you to not to ignore or pretend what's going on isn't going on but to function anyway creatively, you know, in the direction that you want to go. I know you work with people specifically on this, Dan.
Dan: Yeah, and it's funny, I think it hits into another point I want to talk about, just that schedule, staying to a schedule. It's funny, I have a whole for how I manage my time where it's very much focused on the calendar and on assigning a task to period of time. And I find that what you tend to want are these two things that work together. You want a lot of structure to know what you have to do next, which you mentioned a minute ago and almost be able to do it no matter how you feel about it. So I happen to use a calendar to do that. I understand a lot of people, want a planner, they want a to do list. You'll have your system to do it that's right for you. But if every morning you're like, “Okay, now I've got to figure out how to format this in my book. Then I've got to figure out that thing on Instagram. Like, do I feel like it?” The answer is half. It's not even just the answer's yes or no. You're putting yourself every time you ask that through this journey, this emotional journey of “Well should I, well do I really need to do it? Maybe I should do it later. You know I heard about this other thing that isn't it-” Like it's like you're killing all this energy and I find that you want enough to know. Let me just move on to the next thing I have it to be Instagram. Let me spend 20 minutes on that or an hour on that. Then I'll get to the next thing and I like blending that, the idea of moving almost unemotionally from task to task with a ton of flexibility. So I live by my calendar, but I'm always moving blocks around and that is attending to the emotion a bit.
Dan: There are some mornings where I'm like, my writing client is best served if I have coffee first. So I will move their little block to later in the morning. And I think it's just that balance is different for every one of not constantly negotiating with yourself of picking a path I need to do this and then this and then this. But then also giving yourself some flexibility to where you don't feel constricted by that. I feel like a lot of people I know are either ultra organized, like they have all their little systems and everything's a spreadsheet and then there are people who think that that is the worst thing in the universe and everything is free flowing and I'm waiting for the Muse to tell me what I should go to the food store. And there's nothing wrong with either, but I feel like there is like a middle way there where you can not always be second guessing where you've got a bit of a path, but you also have flexibility in terms of the day of how you take on one thing after the other.
Orna: I completely agree. I mean, I'm the kind of person that a spreadsheet brings me out in a rash. Like I actually can't read them and I'm not good with numbers and I'm not, you know, I'm just not good on that front. But there has to be some thought of bones and structure to things. Otherwise, as you say, you're making it up all the time as you go along. And you know, the great thing about brushing your teeth is you do it every morning, you don't think about it. If you have to think about, “Do I really want to brush my teeth and do I want to do it now? Do you want to do it later?” You know, you could waste so much time on even such a small and trivial thing. And I think also locking yourself in is also a good thing.
Orna: I mean, one of the, I spoke about the meditation free writing that we do together online. One of the reasons I do that is because then I do it, I don't, you know, the fact that we're there, we're online, we turn up for each other makes sure that it happens. It's one of the ways that you can kind of make yourself do things. I remember reading Twyla Tharp talking about her routine. I'm not sure if I spoke about this on this program before but she has a routine prayer by a taxi driver, talks about it in the Creative Habits and actually, I would really recommend that book to any of you who might be struggling with setting up good creative habits and setting up good rhythm and routine. And she talks in that book about, yes, that's it. It's a fantastic book.
Orna: It's really great. She's a great writer as well as choreographer and she talks about going to the gym every morning to, you know, do her thing but what sets up the habit for her is that she has a taxi that calls for her first thing every day. And to her that's the ritual. The ritual is the Ding Dong on the door bell and going down and getting into the taxi. She knows if she does that much, the rest looks after itself. And I think that's what it's about, a lot. It's about getting that little thing that just ensures you're off. You know that you, you started out talking to a group of writers the other day about setting up a writing chain. So before you finish one session, just setting up exactly when the next session is going to happen. Perhaps even leaving your sentence half finished so that when you come back, you know exactly what you're going to write next time.
Dan: These little tricks of the trade, which absolutely sound, you know, they are funny, but gosh, we can get really, really attached to them because they help us to get over this constant challenge with creative work, which is that nobody really cares if you don't do it. And unless you have a contract or something and somebody is actually waiting for you to produce it, nobody is actually going to care whether you sit down and do whatever your tasks of the day are. So we need these little tricks and tools to help us across the line.
Dan: Yeah, I think a big part of that is this idea of knowing what to invest in. Because I can see Twila, you know, saying, you know, why am I spending $12 a session for this driver to get me to a gym that's already costing you $1,000? I can walk it, in fact, the walk will be part of my workout and then I can use that, you know, $200 I'm saving each month. I can put that towards this. Like, you can rationalize it away. I think often we do, we rationalize away anything where we're putting money towards an experience, like an accountability or collaborative experience versus like, “Oh, I have a book or I have a course or information, I have access.” And I like that idea of, of kind of carefully investing, whether it's time or energy or money in something that will actually get you to do the work.
Dan: And that really can be, of course we talk a lot about the publishing process too, of like, you know, when do you hire someone to walk you through different aspects of setting it, you know, getting things published, getting things edited, getting the cover designed, going through the marketing plan, the branding, getting the writing done. And I do think that a lot of it is like, I don't want to say tricking yourself because that's not quite the tone, but it's like knowing that little catalyst that will actually get you to write. And a lot of times it's not, “Well I need to take another course on writing better” because a lot of people delay that. It's just like, “No, it's getting you in front of the screen and your fingers are doing this and there are letters underneath those fingers and the things that get us to do it. I love that taxi cab metaphor, or not a metaphor, but it's that idea of like what will get your butt out the door and zooming towards the gym where you can't even stop it?
Orna: Exactly. It's brilliant. The other thing I think is really important to us of publishers particularly, but you know, for any creative entrepreneur is to have some understanding of the different tasks and the umbrellas that they fall under, you know, and not labeling any of them pejoratively or negatively, but realizing that it is your creative responsibility to develop a creative relationship with everything that needs to be done in the job that you've set yourself to do. So I'm thinking of the old cliche of I love the writing but I hate marketing. And you know, we addressed this almost every week, I think, because again, since I spoke to you last, I've had loads of authors who have said that to me. As creative entrepreneurs we are wearing three hats, some of your very familiar and have heard me bang on about this forever or but some of you may not realize that you are not just the maker of the product off the book, but you are also a manager of your business and your business processes, the tools, the team, everything that goes on within that business. You've got to work on the business as well as in it. And then you are also the maximizer, the promoter, the person who lets people know that it exists because probably nobody else will if you don't. So recognizing the different skill sets that are needed for each of those, recognizing where you fall down, what you tend to like, not always going for that, but switching it up and also developing your own way of handling the tasks that you may find challenging or you may think you don't really want to do, but mostly knowing that you need to do them all and that they need to be balanced if I may use that word, Dan.
Dan: Yeah. It's funny, this weekend I spoke on a panel at the Biographers International Conference in New York City and it was me, it was a self published author and it was a publicity person from Henry Holton Company. And it was neat to hear the different ways each of them answered questions. Because he would, you know, the, and they were both amazing. But the publicity from what's inside a big publisher would say something like, “Oh, I think social media for authors is entirely a waste of time.” And that gets a really good laugh in, you know, a big auditorium in Manhattan. And he had a wonderful sense of humor. But then there's also the more nuanced way of, “Well, you know, when you give up social media, well, how are you connecting with people? How are you meeting people? How are you being a part of the community?”
Dan: And it's like when you choose to not do something, you're then forced to ask, “Well, if you don't want to do marketing that way, how will someone find out about your book?” And I wanted to share this story because it was so great. The self published author, she had gotten a really, really good blurb from a famous author and it was so big it got the cover of the book and she said, “Well, I got it because I have a friend who occasionally bartends for this author. So I gave that person my, you know, manuscript.” And like, I had the like the occasional bartender pitch this author and it's such a great example of the things that as an author you think are maybe beneath you or are spammy or are horrible.
Dan: And she was lovely and it worked out. She got the blurb, the famous author loved the book. It really helped her launch her book in a very big way and it's one of those things where I can see everyone listening, including me and you'd be like, “No, no, no. Don't ask a friend who occasionally is near this famous person to pitch your thing for you. That's bad for all of these reasons you've got to” and yet when you open yourself up to it, that is literally how things get done sometimes and that is the weird linchpin that stands between you and success.
Orna: Yeah, and I think you know, if anybody has any, by the way, specific questions about any of this or any particular challenges you're meeting yourselves, do put them in the comments and we'll address them before we go. I think that, you know, what's so important here for everybody is openness and you know, being open to whatever is arising at the time. Openness is probably the core creative characteristic, I think, not being, not prejudging, not labeling not deciding in advance, but actually being open. So she was open to that opportunity. She took it, it was there and she took it and it's not, she never sat down and said, “In order to make my book a success, I'm going to find somebody who happens to bartend for somebody famous and ask them for a blurb.” No, that's not a plan you would ever, it's not something you're ever going to write down, but this whole world does move in mysterious ways.
Orna: And when you are, you know, looking for a solution, often it can be there, but you don't necessarily see it, you feel you're too busy. You're, you can get caught inside, you know, busy syndrome. And I think this is again, too, our theme of today, which is about that rhythm that you need to develop. It's got to include a lot of rest and it's got to include a lot of play. Otherwise it's not going to be creative. Otherwise you're just, you know, banging it out there and that's you're aA, possibly not probably not working to the level you can work out, but B, you're not enjoying yourself very much and the whole reason you wanted to do something creative was to feed that passion and obsession and all the good stuff. So balancing those three to me are, you know, is key and I think we don't give enough attention in our busy distracted days to the importance of switching off., you know, night rest, night sleep, but also day sleeps if we can. And lots of creative rest and lots of creative play produces lots of creative work.
Dan: I love it. I'm nodding in agreement with all of it.
Dan: We have to have a future episode just about nothing more than napping.
Orna: Napping. Okay. Okay.
Dan: Okay. Creative naps.
Orna: Done. Okay. We are almost out of time. Any last words of wisdom for our listeners?
Dan: No. I mean other than this idea of what I think something we're trying to put out here is that this is what you do, it's what you work with writers on. It's what I do. It's what I work with writers on. And again, it just, it supports that idea of having a community, of having colleagues, of talking to other writers no matter what your specific situation is, you have so many opportunities now to DM someone on Instagram, to email someone, to put a message here on Facebook. And I think that you should exercise that incredible power that you have to connect with people. So let's end with that.
Orna: That's lovely. That's great. And we do have a closed Facebook group. It's a completely free of charge, not connected to ALLi or anything. Go Creative in Business group. If any of you would like Google that you'd be very welcome. We set our intentions at the beginning of the week, each week under those three hats of the maker, the manager, the maximizer, what you're producing, processing and promoting. And then at the end of the week, we actually talk about what we accomplished that week. And sometimes it's what we set out to do and sometimes it's completely different things and sometimes hurricanes happen, Janet, right? But we set some of the intentions again on the Monday. So if that sounds like it might be useful or helpful to you, you are invited along to that and we'll be back next month same time talking about another aspect of the self publishing life. So if there's something you'd like us to consider, do drop us, either of us an email and we'd be delighted to take up your suggestions. So til next time, happy writing and publishing. Bye, Dan. Bye, everyone.
Inspirational Indie Authors
Howard Lovy: I'm Howard Lovy and you're listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. Like many awkward and nerdy boys I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, and this was in the 1970s so I read all the classics. And, for the most part, they were very male-centric. Space, it seemed, was a very male-dominated place. That bleak future for women is changing now, although not without some backlash. So, today, to help us make sense of this brave new female sci-fi world is Maggie Lynch, who writes a series of science fiction books she shares with other indie authors called Obsidian Rim. Hello Maggie. And welcome to Inspirational Indie Authors.
Maggie Lynch: Thank you so much for including me today.
Howard Lovy: Oh sure, no problem. So, before we talk about your books, First, did I get that right? Women are reading more science fiction, so depiction of women is improving.
Maggie Lynch: Well, actually women have been reading science fiction for a long time. And in fact some women wrote science fiction, against all odds, back in the ‘70s when you were reading. But they were often under male pen names for some of the backlash that you talked about. But now that women are entering science fiction in larger numbers, there is a better representation of real women and their role in saving the world or the galaxy or maybe just their own little piece of Earth.
Howard Lovy: So tell me more about your other demographics. You studied this market a great deal.
Maggie Lynch: Yes. Well, my partner in this venture is Jessa Slade, who writes as Elsa Jade in this series and she's been involved in a lot of world projects in both fantasy and science fiction for about four years. And so together when we decided we wanted to coordinate something together, we looked at what has been the most successful shared worlds in terms of leadership and income. And we asked people who participated in that, you know, why they thought that was successful. And we also looked at those that had failures and asked what happened there. And one of the things that we learned is that the world needs to be really tightly connected between the stories in order to have readers want to connect from one book to the next, even though they may not know the next author. And we also learned that a fast release model is really important as in much genre fiction readers love series, but they want to read them one right after another really quickly. And so we couldn't work on the model of, you know, “Oh, we'll put out a book once every three to six months.” So we decided to do it once every two weeks.
Howard Lovy: Once every two weeks? That's quite a killer pace.
Maggie Lynch: Well, except with eight authors, it's not, so I'm not writing a book every two weeks, but we're releasing a book in a series every two weeks.
Howard Lovy: But, but still, you know, that's still quite a lot of writing. So how's that experiment going so far?
Maggie Lynch: Well, so far we've only released the first two books and so it's really too early to tell. My book released two weeks ago and I'm Elsa Jade's book released just Tuesday. So we're doing pretty well. We're not hitting any bestseller lists, but we're staying in a good range for both of us. And I think as it goes on that we'll really see, I hope, the fan base increasing. Because the other thing about a shared world is that you have eight authors not only writing in the world to help feed the fans, but also marketing for each other and pushing out to their fan base. And so that should multiply and help us with just bringing in new people all around.
Howard Lovy: Right, right. Well tell me more about the world. Tell me about the Obsidian Rim universe and what happens in your book, Gravity.
Maggie Lynch: Well, so in short, humankind was able to colonize a number of planets in the galaxy with the aid of two really important inventions. One is a quantum entanglement drive, which we call a QED. And the other is qubition. So the drive is what we use for faster than light travel. It helps to discover or create wormholes and qubition is exotic material that when injected into the wormhole stabilizes it so you can actually get out the other end before it closes in, smashes you to death. So, and as often happens in science and world politics, those who want to wrest power away from resources and other planets use that same technology to create two bombs, quantum bombs, and they take over worlds. And eventually, in their greed they ended up annihilating more than half of the galaxy. So those who survive, the only place they could go was to the very outer spiral arms of the galaxy.
And that's where the world takes place. We wanted to really have a defined world, which is what the rim does, so they can't be zooming, you know, to thousands of possible planets. And also we wanted a world where humankind had to solve their own problems. We didn't want any aliens coming into save us or any of that. So that's kind of how we define it. In Gravity we have a protagonist who was raised on a world by the most notorious pirate in the galaxy. And after she served her inventorship, she's trying to decide how she can make a living and really who she is now, what lines will she cross or not cross. And she crashes on a planet that mines this qubition, this most important mineral that helps faster than light travel. And in the process of getting off the planet, she ends up with a stowaway and his two children.
And now she has to, you know, she's faced with a decision of what does she do? Her pirate self would say, you know, “Turn him in, get rid of him. I don't need this trouble.” But her human self is, who survived a lot of trauma in her past is saying, you know, “No, I have to help them.” And that kind of starts the adventure and this book leads into the second book, the one that Elsa's just put out in that the miner, the stowaway is, becomes a inspiration to all the other miners to eventually rise up and face their slave owners.
Howard Lovy: Well, it sounds like it has all the elements of a really good space opera. There's a broad, sweeping back story along with a very human story too. It sounds epic and it sounds very interesting. Now, you also called it science fiction with a romantic twist. What does that mean?
Maggie Lynch: Well, what that means is that we focus on the science fiction and adventure from a plot perspective. But we are writing character-driven stories and we believe in character-driven stories that a natural relationship is a romantic relationship. So we're encouraging romantic involvement in those stories and it's really up to the authors exactly what that looks like. Some of our authors come from a sub genre known as science fiction romance and so they'll tend to write a story that is, you know, pretty equal in terms of the romance and the science fiction. Other authors like myself come to this project more from a science fiction background and so the romantic involvement happens a lot later in my story, but it's still integral to the story arc and the character arc. And the resolution of the black moment. So I would say most of the books are 50/50, but they really live in those space opera adventure part in terms of plotting.
Howard Lovy: So how did you get into science fiction writing? How did this become your genre?
Maggie Lynch: Well, I actually, I've always been interested in it. I'm a nerd girl from way back. I read a lot of those same books you mentioned in the 70s and earlier. So I started publishing science fiction short stories in a lot of the magazines of that time and when I started writing, I actually went to two authors, friends of mine who wrote science fiction and said, you know, “I'm ready to do a novel.” And they said, “Don't write science fiction because it's not selling, you know, write romance.” So I started writing romance. And then I wanted to come back to it. I did put out one science fiction novel that didn't do very well, but so I wanted to come back to it and this is really kind of my way back in by using what I've learned at the romance genre, but bringing in all the science fiction that I've really loved for a long time and combining them.
Howard Lovy: Kind of the best of both worlds. Now maybe this is just me and I don't know when this happened in science fiction and so it's probably old news, but maybe it began with the Alien movies, but governments are kind of useless in our imagined future and the force of evil now are the soulless giant corporations, or I guess in Gravity they're cartels. And it sounds like that's a premise in your series too. Why do you think this is? Is this a reflection of where we think our real world is headed?
Maggie Lynch: Well, I really think it's more reflection of where the real world is now.
Howard Lovy: Right. Yeah, that's true.
Maggie Lynch: Often science fiction authors do reflect the world now, but they put it in the future because it's easier to talk about it and show it and not be seen as political. So, you know, I think we all hope it doesn't continue like this. However, if you look at the history of humankind in regards to wielding power and waging war and greed and corruption, you know, over thousands of years, I just don't think it's so easy to change. So yeah, I do think there will be some of that in the future. The question is, you know, how far apart are we when we start going out into the galaxy and colonizing other worlds and, you know, are we able to create worlds that are kind of Utopian-like and protect them? Or are we going to have one big, huge like Star Trek Federation that manages everything? You know, I have no idea. I hope we find our better selves in the future, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Howard Lovy: Are we going to be Star Trek or Star Wars, right?
Maggie Lynch: Right.
Howard Lovy: Yeah. So what's coming out in 2019? How many more books in the series?
Maggie Lynch: Well, we have a total of 20 books scheduled for 2019 so we have two out, as I said, they're coming out every two weeks and actually sometime around, I think it's October, November, they'll be coming out every week. So all the authors are trying to write three books in the series. Half of us are, we'll get those three books out in 2019 and the other half will get two books out in 2019 and their third one in 2020. So we already know we are continuing into 2020. So it's quite exciting.
Howard Lovy: That's great. That sounds like a great pace. I'll have to check back in with you, maybe a year from now and see how that's going.
Maggie Lynch: That would be great.
Howard Lovy: Right. So how, and in what form can people buy your books?
Maggie Lynch: So they can buy them in an ebook and paperback. And the easiest thing is to go to Obsidianrim.com and they'll learn all about the world and the books and the authors. And anything else they want to know. And as books become available, either in preorder or released, we have a link to all the places you can get them. We are distributing wide, so we're not exclusive to any one platform and people can buy them there.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. Well, thank you, Maggie, for appearing on the show. Now, with all these writing deadlines you set up for yourself, I'd better let you go and get back to writing. And thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
Maggie Lynch: Thank you, Howard. It's been a pleasure.