2020 update & resources for indie authors

Howdy!

I hope your 2020 is off to a fabulous start. Mine certainly is. My last day of work with my former employer has passed, so I am completely freelance. That’s right, I am a FULL TIME author now!!! 🎉🤩🎉🥰🚀

I’m thrilled to finally be able to focus 100% of my efforts to my writing and editing career. It’s a daunting task, to be sure, but I have the full support of my amazing husband.

This decision was not made quickly or lightly. It’s still difficult to discuss the details, but suffice it to say that our family suffered a tragic loss last year, one that spurred my husband and I to make some big life changes. 2019 was a time of massive upheaval, but I think – I hope – things are settling down now. My bearded half and I are devoted to our new endeavors, and although more change is definitely on the horizon, our hope is that we’ll be able to meet it with smiles on our faces.

SO! What does this mean for the Catalyst Moon series? Well, only good things, as far as I can tell. I’ve been able to spend a ton of time editing book 4, and it’s still on track for a Spring 2020 release. I’m thinking late April or early May.

If you’re interested in being an ARC reader (ie: getting an advanced copy of the book to check for typos/errors, and also leaving a review once it’s live), then please drop me a line: lauren@laloga.com

(If you’ve been an ARC reader in the past, I’ll be in touch soon! 😁)

If you or anyone you know has any editing needs (I prefer to edit genre fiction, but am open to anything!), check out my info page here: https://laloga.com/author-services Or just contact me at: lauren@laloga.com

Other goals include but are not limited to:

  • more informative blog posts about writing, story craft, editing, indie publishing, etc.
  • more posts with actual fiction/story content
  • more/better marketing for Catalyst Moon
  • writing stuff OTHER than Catalyst Moon (I love it, but sometimes I just wanna write fluff)

Is there anything you’d like to see on my blog? Let me know! 😊

Okay, on to the resources. These are a few of the valuable websites and tools I’ve discovered on my indie publishing journey. I hope you find them useful!

In no particular order:

Evernote: I use this for taking notes, as it syncs across my various devices and is SUPER easy to navigate. I like the free version just fine, but they have various tiers.

Reedsy: Holy cats, formatting my books was a HUGE headache until I discovered Reedsy. They have a formatting tool that’s quite basic, but the end result is clean and professional. Plus it’s easy for an Elder Millennial like me to navigate so 👍👍👍 They also have a ton of listings for editors, graphic designers, and a slew of other professionals.

BookFunnel: I’ve been trying to grow my email list and thus my readership, but Facebook ads just weren’t cutting it. Another indie author turned me on to BookFunnel, and I haven’t looked back. It’s a little cumbersome to get the hang of, but I have managed to get a bunch of new email subscribers (howdy, y’all!) and hopefully turn some of them into readers. You do have to pay for this service, but so far I’m quite pleased.

NotebookAI: Okay this is one I’m not using a TON right now, but I think it will be useful when I start planning the next series in earnest. It’s a way to organize worldbuilding ideas (settings, characters, etc.) and seems fairly intuitive. The free version has been A-OK for my purposes.

Pixabay: Great resource for free images you can use in ads, blog posts, or wherever. Easy to use, plus they have a decent selection.

Wonderdraft: This inexpensive map making program has a bit of a learning curve, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. If you’re creating worlds, I think this is worth looking into. In addition to creating maps for fantasy novels, a lot of folks use it for role playing games. 🤩

Fiction University: This blog by author Janice Hardy is FULL of amazing information about all things writing and publishing. I’ve come across a lot of writing advice in my time, but much of it sounds the same. Hardy actually gives new info (new to me, anyway) and troubleshooting tips, plus she assesses other folks’ writing on the blog itself (with the author’s permission), so we can all see what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly, WHY.

Helping Writers Become Authors: Another blog, this one by K.M. Weiland. Like Fiction University, this one is also full of great tips, tricks, and actionable writing/story crafting advice. Weiland also likes to break down popular books and movies (like her Marvel Storytelling series), which is super helpful when one is studying story theory.

The Creative Penn: Chances are my fellow scribblers have heard of Joanna Penn, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her here. Talk about a treasure trove of information! Joanna is an indie publishing goddess who has over a decade of podcasts, blogs, interviews, books on craft, and more available on her site. Seriously, she is amazing and I cannot recommend her enough!

Okay, that’s it for now. I have ideas of creating a music-themed post, wherein I share my favorite playlists to write to, plus the various Catalyst Moon playlists I’ve created. (Yes, there’s one for each book. 😁)

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

Update – March 2019

The discovery draft (ie: the rough draft) of Catalyst Moon #5 is DONE. It needs a lot of work and love, but holy cats…I made it, y’all. My world has changed dramatically since I started writing back in September of 2018, so it’s been quite a journey for me as well as my long-suffering characters. The last 10k words were probably the hardest; there’s a lot of complex stuff happening and I struggled with portraying it “well.” I was worried that my writing was crap, that the story was terrible, etc. The usual bout of writerly self-loathing. But in the end, I gave myself permission to write garbage, which oddly freed me from my hesitation and made me push on. (I also bribed myself with glittery eyeshadow, which worked marvelously.)

If you’re interested, here’s my word count log for this book:

Behold my chicken scratch! But you can see that some days I busted my ass, while other days, I fought for a single sentence. Writing is often a slow, painful grind, but for me, the challenge is its own reward. Plus, you know, it’s nice to have another book under my belt. 🙂 I’m going to sit on this one for a month or so while I address some other outstanding projects (a couple novellas), then do my first read-through and figure out exactly how much of a mess I’ve gotten myself into, and what in Ea’s realm it’s gonna take to fix it.

In other news… The cover for Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) is also DONE, and it’s fabulous. No – it’s AMAZING!!! Fiona Jayde did a fantastic job, and I cannot wait to share it with y’all! My trusty ARC troopers (@ me if you get the reference) are doing a final check, and I anticipate launching the book around the end of this month.

So that’s it for now! Next post will probably be about the cover, and then expect me to ask/beg y’all to share news of Book 3’s release to your social media buddies. [insert hopeful smile]

Until we meet again, stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: On April 3rd, I’ll be doing an AMA on the reddit Fantasy book forum, so come say hi!

 

Update – seeking readers for ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of Book 3

Hiya!

Short post today. I’m working with a cover artist for Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3), and am busy prepping for this book’s launch. To that end, I’m seeking anyone who’d like an ARC (advanced reader copy) ahead of the launch. In return, I’m asking for

a) a quick note once your done to let me know of any typos/errors/inconsistencies, etc.

b) an honest, unbiased review once the book launches

What you get:

a) a PDF version of Catalyst Moon: Storm (Book 3) before it’s released!

b) any future Catalyst Moon books prior to their release, as I’m trying to start an exclusive ARC club for my lovely readers. 💜

c) my eternal gratitude

That’s it!😊  If you’ re interested, comment here or drop me a line at lalogareads@gmail.com

Thank you, and stay awesome!

Lauren

 

 

on heart v. brain (or, the everlasting struggle)

Nothing is simple.

So, Catalyst Moon #3 is basically ready to go, I just need cover art. I’m trying to get it out to y’all, I really am, but I’ve discovered a divide within myself, namely between what I know is the “smart,” “marketable” path, and what my heart wants.

Conventional wisdom tells me that my best bet to get folks to read my books is to pick a cover that fits genre conventions. The cover needs to convey not so much what the book is about, but what “categories” it falls into, (ie: fantasy, adventure, romance, etc) so the reader knows more or less what they’re getting. It’s why you see so many shirtless dudes on those romance novels, and why there are SO MANY grim-faced fellas with swords on fantasy novels. (Is no one happy in those books? Ever??)

My issue is that I CANNOT stand the standard cover fare for my genre. I’m sorry, but most of them look boring and ugly, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on something I find so distasteful… Well, it sucks.

But my brain – my rational side – tells me these ugly covers are the best way to get readers. These are what’s selling now, and if I want to Be Serious about this whole self-publishing gig, then I need to swallow my pride and ignore my desire and go with what objectively works.

But y’all.

I’ve been scouring the interwebs for a cover artist. I’ve talked to a few, but no one’s portfolio has captured my heart. I know how silly and pretentious this all sounds, believe me, (#firstworldproblems), but it’s a truth I can’t ignore. My heart wants a gorgeous “artistic” cover that attempts to convey the story I’m telling, not the categories that Amazon prompts me to select.

This hesitation on my part is for good reason. Waaaaay back when CM 1 came out, my publisher initially took all my crazy notes to heart and commissioned this incredible artwork from Natalya Pushokova:

Stunning. 😍😍😍 I love this so, so, SO much. It’s just…ugh, SO GOOD!!!

But when they tested the cover, no one knew what the book was about. 

So, back to the drawing board. The next version of CM1’s cover is the current one:

Which is fine and seems fairly popular. I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments about it. But it’s a far cry from what the arty gorgeousness my heart wanted. So yeah. Heart v. brain…brain won this round.

Now that I don’t have a publisher to answer to work with, I’m working on finding a way to merge these conflicting desires. The thing is, my “issues” aren’t just about money or art or book sales. They go deeper. Namely: Is what I’m doing worth all this frustration and effort? I consider my writing to be art, but the world is not kind to artists. There are approximately a bajillion other epic fantasy series out there. Is Catalyst Moon really worth all this inner conflict, or would it (and me, by extension) be better served by quietly going along with conventional wisdom in the hope of attracting more readers?

Sorry to be a downer. I’m not looking for a resolution from anyone – that will have to come from within – but if anyone has been in my shoes and can possibly relate, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll try to pull my head out of my own ass and figure this out.

Stay awesome,

Lauren

Many thanks to The Awkward Yeti for perfectly and adorably portraying my inner turmoil.

on discovery drafts (aka: your first draft isn’t “shit,” you just don’t know what your story is about)

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m over this axiom. Not necessarily because of the message it’s trying to get across, but because it does so in a way that’s designed to shock and dishearten. Perhaps for some people this is helpful, but that tactic always rubs me the wrong way. First of all, there’s enough disheartening obstacles in the storyteller’s path, and second, because the first draft ISN’T shit…it’s just not what it could be. It hasn’t reached its full potential. Perspective is key. Sure, a baby bird looks like a piece of used chewing gum stuck with feathers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a “shit” bird. It just hasn’t grown up yet.

Stories are the same.

(Caveat: Everyone’s experience is different, so I am only speaking about my own. Perhaps the process will be different for you.)

No matter how much I daydream, brainstorm, plan, and outline, the first/rough draft of any given story emerges as a somewhat different animal than anticipated. For me, stories are like living things: you can give them the best care and nurturing, and they will grow up to be completely different than all of your careful planning. Perhaps other, better authors don’t experience things this way, but I’d reckon that more than a few folks can relate to the feeling of looking at a completed first draft and going, “Huh. Didn’t see that coming.”

I’m here to tell you that is okay. More than okay; it’s normal. Writing a book is really hard. Writing a great book, with a compelling plot, interesting characters, and everything else that readers want, is damn near impossible. But you can do it. You just need to be patient with yourself and with the process.

I don’t write first/rough drafts, though I will sometimes refer to them as such to avoid confusion when talking to others. I write discovery drafts. This is the magical time when I ignore my inner critic/editor and simply play in the sandbox that is my WIP. Yes, I stick to my outline as much as I can (while often changing things around as I come to them), but I don’t edit as I go (aside from a few little bits here and there), and I don’t read over the entire story until after it’s written. I do this because, for me, it’s impossible to know if something is working until I’ve written “the end.” Elements that may seem out of place when I’m halfway in suddenly make sense at 3/4 way in, and I’m able to bring them all together by the ending.

Beyond that, though, it’s impossible for me to do the high-level editing (relating to themes, character arcs, plot, pacing, etc) before I have a sense of what the story is *about.* Not what I think it’s about, (per my outline), but what it IS about: the truths it reveals; the struggles and the triumphs, how they fit together, and what they mean.

The only way I can discover what my story is about is to write it. Hence, discovery draft.

So in the end, my advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you feel like your first draft is “shit.” Don’t berate your story for not being what you think it should be. Find out what it wants and needs, nurture it, and your words will grow wings.

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

 

 

on gratitude (again)

Hi there!

There’s a bunch of negative thoughts in my life right now. Try as I might to overcome them and keep my focus on the positive – and on what I can take control over – the bad shit lingers. So this is a note to myself, (and to you, if you need it), to keep the flame of gratitude alive, because I have so much to be grateful for.

These are songs that both remind me what’s important and allow me to fully process all this shit tumbling around my brain:

Daggers, by Slumberjack & Machine Age (Spotify | YouTube | Soundcloud)

My husband found this song and said my four favorites words: “Listen, you’ll love this.” I did. I made him play it twice, then said, “it’s a Stonewall song.” (Because it 100% is.) And he said, “I know. That’s why I knew you’d love it.”

That’s true love, folks.

Halsey – Without Me, Illenium Remix (Spotify | YouTube | Soundcloud)

You give your all to someone, but maybe your all wasn’t enough. It might never have been. But the other party’s actions doesn’t change yours. If you were your best self, your time was not wasted.

It’s Only (VIP Remix) – ODESZA (Spotify | YouTube | Soundcloud)

This song has always reminded me of Catalyst Moon. When I listen to the album version, I can see characters and scenes in my mind, unfolding like a movie. This song reminds me of the reason I wake up, the reason my heart beats. And this version? Reminds me of what was literally the best hour and a half-ish of my life. There’s nothing like seeing your heart and soul poured onto a stage at your feet. This version is power and pathos. This song reminds me of where I’ve been, and tells me where I’m going.

Until next time, y’all.

Stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: photo credit to redditor mtjodis, though I played around with it on my phone. 🙂

If you’re curious, here’s the full image:

I live for live music.

the only constant

Hello there!

Short but sweet post today. I have a lot to say and a dearth of time, but rest assured there will be much more on this subject later.

As of December 12, 2018, the Catalyst Moon series will no longer be published by Inkitt. I will be self-publishing book 3 and taking complete control (back) over books 1 & 2. Inkitt has elected to no longer publish ebooks, but rather focus all of their efforts on an immersive reading app they are developing. That was not the direction I wanted to take for my work, so we have parted ways. This is an amicable situation and I wish Inkitt the best of luck, but my own career is my priority.

This was an unexpected change. I’m both apprehensive and excited to set off on my own. I feel like this is a turning point in my professional career and am optimistic for the future of my series, my author brand, and my development as a writer/author. That being said, there’s a lot to think about – and do – so here’s a brief rundown of my action plan:

  • edit book 3
  • acquire a cover for book 3
  • figure out KDP/Amazon in order to…
  • publish book 3
  • revamp my author page/blog to one that humans can navigate
  • revamp the covers for books 1 & 2, and possibly #3, depending on how “economical” the initial cover is. In an ideal world, I’d get a gorgeous cover for #3 and use the same designer for the rest of the series, but I think that might take longer than I’m willing to wait before #3 comes out.

There’s more to do, of course, [coughmarketingcough], but this is where my focus is atm.

Other than share this development, my aim for this post is to let y’all know that if anyone wants an ARC copy (and eventually a free published copy) of Catalyst Moon #3, please let me know! (lalogareads@gmail.com) I don’t know how long it will take to get book 3 on Amazon, but I do know that many of you have been waiting for a year or more! So please drop me a line if you’re interested. 🙂 Please also let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, or whatever else you feel like sharing on this subject!

And don’t worry. Storytelling is the reason I’m on this earth. There will always be obstacles, but there’s a fire in my heart that cannot be extinguished.

Take care and stay awesome,

Lauren

PS: I’m not really a visual artist, but I’ve been having fun with the whole glitch art trend as you can see here:

If you’re into this, check me out on Instagram! @lalogawrites