Monday, January 4, 2016

What I've been up to

I have already stated that I don't want to be "just" a stay at home mom (no disrespect to SAHMs, it is HARD work) but after talking it over with HusbandX we decided that it would, in fact, be better if I stay home for a little while.  (Yes, WE decided.)  I wasn't finding just the right job (or at least not being hired for it), and HusbandX felt that if I got some crappy job to pay our current bills it would interfere with his job search.  Rightly so, since trying to apply for jobs and take care of our busy, busy toddler, (at least in this house which is not our own and which we can only do minimal toddler-proofing on), would be too much.
This might sound very constricting but it is, in fact, freeing.  Very much so.  It is giving me the time and space I needed to do a long held but mostly quiet dream: to write.  So I have.  Write and write and write and look at freelance opportunities (which is still mostly just looking, from a lack of time to commit to anything solid and a crippling sense of being Not Good Enough) and trying to figure out where to go.  Sharing my writing is difficult for me.  Even sharing my blog is tough.  I have to take a deep breath each time before publishing a post, each time my brain starts telling me, "People will hate this.  No one wants to read it, you have nothing interesting to say!"  I've finally had to tell myself that if it's not interesting, fine.  But I'm going to say it anyway.*
The one concrete thing I have done is to self-publish on Amazon.  Now that I've done it, I don't know why I didn't do this years ago.  You know how I said that I've been dreaming about this for a while?  I haven't just picked up writing, I've been working on some things for years in my spare time.  To be perfectly honest, I started trying to write novels in high school.  Earlier, even?  Due to the passage of time, the vagaries of computers, and a complete lack of interest in my old works I don't have any copies, but I'm certain they're quite bad.  Really, cringe-worthy bad.  But writing, like anything else, takes work, so I've kept at it.  I've even written a few things of which I'm quite proud.  (One friend to whom I've shown my stuff said that I actually made her laugh out loud--that leaped straight onto my Best Compliments Ever list!)
I have slowly...very slowly...been letting some friends and family know about my work.  I've given out my pen name even more carefully, to far fewer people than have asked.  I wouldn't even have done that much if not for HusbandX's encouragement.  (He's more excited about this than I am.)  In part this is because I'm worried that people will see me differently, judge me a little differently, if they've read my work.  Part of it, though, is because what I've been writing is romance.  It feels, even to me, like fluff.  Silly stuff, and I should be better than that.  I got a college education based around literature, great literature, and I choose to write romance?!
BUT, here's the thing.  Romance is fun.  Dreaming up two characters and figuring out why they would fall in love has a psychological element to it.  Opposites might attract, but to have a strong and lasting relationship they must also have enough in common to forge a bond.  That's interesting to me!  Or what about the classic Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy dislike on first sight scenario?  How would that turn into love?  That could be fun to play with!  (I haven't, yet.)
Also, it's really easy to come up with plots.  I think of romance novels more as fantastical realism than reality.  I feel less constricted by the boundaries of what's real and what isn't.  I haven't actually gotten into a fantasy world (although steampunk would be really, really fun) but I don't feel the need to be bound by reality at all times either.
There are a few caveats to my love of this genre.  For one thing, there is a ton of blatant sexism in most romances.  Against both genders.  The "men are such babies" trope is so overdone and it's everywhere.  The idea that men need to "protect their women" is also everywhere.  Even just silly things like putting "male" and "female" descriptors where they're unnecessary is a constant irritation to me.  I might gag the next time I read about a hero staring at a heroine with "masculine appreciation".  WTF does that even mean?
I can't promise my novels are entirely without sexism.  Two of them, so far, are historical and while I feel like I get to play around with reality a bit, I also don't want to discount historical accuracy entirely.  (I HATE historical romances with modern dialogue and actions--just write a contemporary romance and be done with it!)  So certain attitudes were given a head-nod to, but without letting them truly shape the characters or the plots.
I also don't like the timeline of many romances.  Some of them take place over the course of a weekend.  Seriously?  Does anyone really think that's enough time in which to truly get to know someone?  HusbandX and I have been together for nine years (as of the beginning of this February) and I'm still getting to know him.  So I can promise that none of my characters rush into romance, at least not that short.  It sets up unreal expectations, and I find it just plain silly.
Lastly, I am really, truly prudish in many ways, and this genre is...not as blatantly about the sex scenes as erotica, but it's still there.  Even I have found myself reading a romance which doesn't have sex and thinking, "Bor-ing!"  So part of why I haven't told people my pen name is because I wrote graphically about sex.  Shocking, right?  I can see it.  You're turning away, disgusted.
Seriously, though, I should take a time-lapse video of myself writing a sex scene because I'm sure it's absolutely hilarious.  I laugh at myself.  A lot.
The reason I'm OK with this aspect of writing romance is simply that sex is important in a relationship.  It's not the only or the most important thing, but it is high up there so in books which are about romance and relationships, I don't really feel that that aspect can be entirely discounted or left out.  Also, it sells, and I wouldn't be publishing my work at all if part of the point wasn't to have it sell.
So if you want to know the nitty-gritty details, here we go: I write under a pen name, but I will admit that I have five works up.  One of them, probably my best since I worked on it the longest (over 3 years), is a historical (with five star reviews!!!).  Of my five works, the two historical works are full-length novels, and I have three novellas.  One of the novellas I managed to write over the course of just two weeks, and another all in one week with only minor editing later on.
I put my first work up in the last week of October.  All of my books are available through the Kindle Select program, so readers who are signed up can read them "for free" (really, they've paid into the fund via their recurring fee) and I get paid based on the number of (normalized, formatted) pages read.  So for that last week of October I made a little over $20, and I was finally paid at the end of December.  For November I made just over $75, which will be paid to me at the end of this month.  I'm hoping that December was kind to me, and that I'll make a bit more than in November since half of my overall book sales (only 14 so far) were in November, but I don't find out until the 15th.  And now you'll understand, if I seem particularly anxious on the 14th of the month.
This is a slow game, working to build a readership and have enough works out there to grab people's attention.  So I'm not making much yet, but hopefully one day I will as I keep working and getting better and putting more stuff out there.  As HusbandX pointed out to me, I might have only earned $75 in November, but those works are up there as long as I choose.  I don't have to go back and write more just to make another $75, they will continue to earn me money.  And at the moment, every bit counts.  It's not all profit, though.  I have to make my own covers, which means that unless HusbandX and I want to pose for the pictures (ha!) I need to pay a stock photo site for their pictures.  So far I've paid about $50 for that privilege, although I should be able to eke 1-2 more covers out of that.
And, this isn't just about the money.  This is my outlet, my fun at the end of the day, my break during nap time.  It keeps me up at night sometimes, helps me fall asleep other times.  It's not "back to work" as I intended last summer, but it just might be the perfect blend of staying home and having work to do.
I'm really having fun with this, and I hope that it will give me the confidence to branch out and to do more.  I have a few non-romance ideas that are percolating, but which still aren't ready for me to write out, and a few ideas for freelance articles and such.  It's coming slowly, but I am starting to think of myself as "a writer", which is something I've wanted since elementary school.  Success feels good.

*I'm not writing this to fish for compliments or get messages of support.  This is an internal battle I must wage.

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