business resource: the freelancer’s survival guide

I usually wake up on Thursdays with an extra spring to get me out of bed (and, boy, do I need all the help I can get!). Not only is Thursday past the halfway point of the school school (one day away from Weekend Eve) but it’s also the day that Kris Rusch updates her weekly writing/business column.

If you don’t yet subscribe to it, you should! Rusch draws on years of experience as a publisher, editor, and full-time fiction writer to talk about industry-wide changes and how to navigate them.

Rusch is also the author of The Freelancer’s Survival Guide, which is available free on her site as a series of blog posts as well. I’m on my third (fourth?) re-read of the book. Rusch wrote this book for all freelancers, not just writers, and the topics she covers are applicable to anyone working for themselves (or thinking about it). They include planning, discipline, money management, negotiating, advertising, and more. There’s so much information in here that I would be hard-pressed to write a thorough review of the book without going on for pages and pages.

Instead, I’ll focus on those areas that have jumped out at me on my current re-read.

I went back to the Guide because I was having serious discipline issues. At the beginning of April, just as I was congratulating myself for having avoided all the sicknesses that plagued the rest of my family this winter, I came down with the Sinus Infection From He** and lost a week to it. Then I lost several days because I’d gone into “I’m Sick” mode and my body had gotten used to being lazy and my mind had gotten used to letting it slack off. After that, I was faced with incredible resistance to finishing Ironhand, the sequel to Mourning Cloak, because it was just a hard project.

So I lost about half of April. I knew I needed a kick in the pants, because if I don’t write, I don’t sell. If I don’t sell, I don’t earn money, and if I don’t earn money, then I go back to writing for myself–which means I end up with lots of unfinished novels and short stories while I chase one shiny idea after another.

I went to the Guide for help and found that Rusch takes very serious steps to deal with leaks–those time sinks that we want to cling to and should be utterly ruthless about dealing with.  I needed to hear that she’s learned (through bitter experience) to never begin a book until after her day’s writing is done, that she keeps the Internet and games off her work computer, and that no fiction but her own is allowed in her home office.

My big leak is the Internet. If I’m not careful, it can take over my writing time, my prayer time,  and my housework time.

(Never school time, though. I’m very disciplined about my children’s schooling, probably because I was very disciplined as a student, too. Unfortunately for me, all being good at school is good for is… being good at school.)

This is why I’m downloading the Freedom app to try out.

Right now, I’m working my way through the money management section of the Guide, which is a real eye-opener. My most important takeaway from this section? Pay yourself.

Most freelancers are focused on making their business pay for themselves, ie: their income from the business covers their business expenses. Most of us, however, don’t include paying for our own time in the equation. We get our business to the point where it pays for itself–but not for our own personal bills. Not rent, not groceries, not clothes, not utilities.

Many of us have spouses who pay for all of that.

I’m still at the point where I’d consider it a milestone for my writing business to pay for itself, without including my salary. Last year, I ran at a loss. This year, I’m ahead, but I’ve kept my expenses low. For instance, I haven’t commissioned any covers yet (my biggest expense), but they’ll be coming. I also get a lot of unpaid help–for instance, my husband does my e-formatting and print layout. The business should be paying him for his time, too, but I can’t really afford his hourly rate (he’s an experienced programmer, and luckily for us his day job *can* afford him *grin*).

I got into writing because I’ve always been a story-spinner. Even if I stopped writing, I’d keep making up stories in my head, because there’s no OFF switch for it in my brain. I keep writing because selling stories and sharing them with readers is a great motivator for me. Treating writing as a business keeps me focused on increasing my productivity and improving my craft. This is one of the reasons why a book like the Guide is more inspiring to me than a feel-good, Cinderella tale of making it big. The Guide gives me practical steps and realistic expectations, things I can apply in my own writing and business.

Read the whole thing. You can peruse the blog posts, buy the entire Guide or only the sections you’re interested in. I highly recommend this as a great starter book for any freelancer–whether you’re a writer, a house-cleaner, or consultant.

 

first quarter reads

2013 has gotten off to a great start, reading-wise. Here’s a sampling of some of the books that have kept me up late into the night, turning pages.

An Urban Fantasy of a Different Kind

The Rook by Daniel O’ Malley

The Rook

Dear You, the body you are wearing used to be mine.

Who can resist an opening like that? Mwfanwy Thomas finds herself in a London park, surrounded by bodies wearing white gloves, and no memories. Following a paper trail left behind by her meticulous former self, Mwfanwy finds herself in a super-secret organization staffed by people of extraordinary abilities–and a deadly conspiracy behind it all…

Fairy Tale Retelling

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

A Long Long Sleep

A SF retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda wakes up after 62 years in a stasis tube to find that her parents and young love are dead and that the world has fallen into and pulled itself out of the Dark Times. Rosalinda is a fragile young woman, making sense of her past and putting together a future for herself. This poignant story does not offer easy answers for heartache.

I-Really-Should-Read-Something-By-China-Mievelle

Railsea by China Mievelle

Railsea

And I finally did!

This Moby Dick-inspired yarn is set in a fabulously original world. It slogged in the middle, but the ending and the payoff were soooo worth it.

Middle Grade With Whimsy

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge

Fly By Night

Beautifully-written, with compelling characters and fantastic setting. Reminded me a lot of the Joan Aikin books I read as a kid.

Shakespeare With a Twist

Prospero’s Daughter and sequels by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero Lost

What if the events in Shakespeare’s The Tempest were only the beginning? What if Prospero didn’t renounce his magic? What if he and his children (yes, plural) had lived into the modern era, shielding humanity from the caprice of elemental spirits? This is the premise of Lamplighter’s ambitious trilogy, which combines Shakespeare, pagan and Catholic mythology, and historical detail in a unique way.

Oldie Comfort Reads

Death in Cyprus and other mysteries by M. M. Kaye

Death in Kenya

I had a hankering for these atmospheric mysteries set in various British colonies and ex-colonies. I wish Kaye had written more of them!

Indie Reads

Wearing the Cape by Marion G. Harmon

Wearing the Cape

I felt like a superhero story and this hit the spot. A lot of fun characters with a great deal of potential and well-thought-out world.

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Terms of Enlistment

A fun military SF. There’s not much of a plot, really, until the final third or so of the book, but if you like a story about how warfare would look like in the space-faring age, this is a book for you.

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Do you have books to recommend? Share them in the comments!

2012: a year of reading

2012 was an odd reading year for me. I went through a dry spell in the middle, and thought that I wouldn’t even hit my annual goal of 75 books (I made it to 77).

Without further ado, here are my notable reading experiences of 2012.

Blog-to-Books

Freelancer's Survival Guide

I never thought I’d read a single blog-to-book, but this year I read four, including The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated by Catherine Ryan Howard and The Freelancer’s Survival Guide byKristine Kathryn Rusch. Which just goes to show: never say never.

Short Fiction

Black Juice

I read several anthologies, both single author and not. My comfort reads this spring (right after our move) were six volumes of L. M. Montgomery’s short stories. I finally tried out Margo Lanagan’s work by reading her collection, Black Juice, and yes,”Singing My Sister Down” is one of the most powerful and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read.

Best YA Fantasy

Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

One of the most well-done treatments of human-dragon relationships I’ve ever read.

Best Book I Didn’t Expect to Like

Girl in the Arena

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

This book is more about family dynamics and social commentary than action-adventure. A surprisingly moving read.

Best Worldbuilding-YA

Dark Life

Dark Life by Kat Falls

Two words: Undersea. Colonies.

Best Worldbuilding-Adult

The Serpent Sea

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

This, and the third book of the Raksura trilogy, The Siren Depths, are just awesome. I love the depth of Wells’ world, with its mysterious flying islands, several sentient races, giant trees, and–especially–the Raksura themselves who are both so alien and so sympathetic.

Best Book That I Did Not Finish

The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island  by Margo Lanagan

Beautifully written, but so emotionally wrenching that I had to put it down.

Book That Filled the Georgette Heyer Void in My Life

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

This book is a romp, featuring a marriage of convenience, eccentric family members, a search for treasure and a cute romance. Different from the books starring Miles Vorkosigan, but in the best way possible.

What were your favorite reads of 2012?

Related Post: 7 Favorite Books of 2012 (as of 9/24/12)

a belated merry christmas!

Hope you all had a lovely holiday! I didn’t intend to be late with a Christmas greeting post, but one does not think about blogging while catching up with family, eating awesome food, and–most importantly of all–playing Angry Birds Star Wars.

Angry-Birds-Star-Wars

All the cool kids are playing this

On the way back home yesterday (long road trip, complete with cold rain, traffic jams, and boys gone wild in the backseat), I was thrilled to see these lovely reviews of Rainbird at Shelfspace Needed and Willing to See Less, both of which went immediately into my I-Don’t-Suck file.

Also, don’t forget that Rainbird is on sale till the end of January!

Rainbird Winter Sale

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Now back to work for me. Current projects include a novella set in Blackburn, the setting of Out of Shape, featuring Thad’s secretary Amanda; a short story set in Highwind, the world of Mourning Cloak; and a Secret Project that I’m not going to talk about yet *hugs it close*.  I also need to finish planning the next term of homeschool, and get my blogging schedule back in order. The time away was great, because I am excited to do ALL these things.

I love this time between Christmas and New Year’s. I love the quiet, the introspection, the comfort of the old, the excitement of the new.

What are your plans for the rest of 2012?

dragons I have known

When I first started writing fantasy, I swore that I would never ever include something so cliched, so stale, so overdone, as a dragon.

Riiight.

Whether I wanted them or not, dragons crept or stormed into my fiction anyway.

The sleeping dragon whose awakening would restart an ancient war. The cultured dragon who likes books and foreign travel. The continent-sized space dragon whose skeleton is home to humans and humanoid species.

And these are all in some way influenced by the dragons I have known, and fall in one of the categories below:

Force of Nature/Actively Evil

The dragons of Western literature dragons are seen as forces of nature–like a destructive storm–or actively evil. These are the dragons that Beowulf and St. George battle. These are the dragons from the movie Reign of Fire. The ones that are intelligent as well as malevolent are the most compelling and frightening of all–from Smaug in The Hobbit to the transformed Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Loyal Companions

Two words: Pernese dragons.

Admit it, you were thinking about Pernese dragons too when you saw the “Loyal Companions” heading

These telepathic dragons are genetically engineered to bond with human riders and fight Thread. They are sentient, but they are also totally, irrevocably loyal to and protective of their riders. These dragons fulfill a powerful human fantasy to command the utter devotion of such fearsome beasts.

They’re also from my grown-up perspective, a little boring. (I wonder what would happen if a genetic mutant in that sort of world didn’t bond with a human, didn’t die from lack of such bond, and grew up wondering what made humans so special that dragons had to obey them?).

Cute and Cuddly

These abound in children’s books, from the little kitten-sized dragon in There’s No Such Thing As a Dragon to the three, darling troublemakers in Good Night, Good Knight.

See, dragons just want to be cuddled and petted. Hmm, also sounds like Pernese fire lizards.

Very cute story. And look at those adorable little dragonlings!

Just Like Us

They may have sharp teeth and be overfond of princesses and sparkly stuff, but they are like us. They talk, they give dinner parties, they form governments. They argue and form alliances. Some of them are inquisitive and question everything. Others would rather read poetry than fight. They are easy to identify with.

Who are your favorite dragons? Any dragon categories I might’ve missed?