Category Archives: Life

Taking Control

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Jon Tyson

For the past five years that I’ve ben self-publishing I have paid for zero marketing. I’ve paid for cover art and copy editing and that’s it. Everything amazing that’s happened to me and my books has been because of word of mouth. Sure, in the beginning of my career I spent hours planning a few blog tours for some of my earlier contemporary novels and the first book in my paranormal series. But at most I’d get about twenty reviews and never did those appearances translate into significant sales. For almost two years I’ve mostly just sat back in awe at how far my stories have travelled, watching silently while people talk about and share my books online.

But after two years of having to do absolutely nothing in order to generate sales (except write more books, of course) everything sort of fell off a cliff in January. According to other indies, the immediate drop-off in sales happened sooner–around November–when the world was in a state of panic, unable to concentrate on work, let alone reading for pleasure. There was too much to worry about. There still is. But at least the fear of falling into a “Handmaid’s Tale-like” dystopia has loosened its grip on the majority of us just enough for us to actually function. Not that it can’t happen, but even in the midst of resisting the rule of tyranny we also need to eat, and pay the mortgage, and do all of the other things necessary for survival, which means we need to make money, which means we need to work.

But how do you survive in a society on the precipice of total ruin when the product you sell is (for most people) not considered one of those essential elements of survival? Writers know the essential value of stories, but art, as well as the appreciation of art, is so incredibly subjective. This means that when the shit hits the fan no one is going to be concerned with reading more books. They’re just not.

But…we’re not totally there yet and there’s still hope that I can eke out a living a little while longer. But how? How, when people aren’t reading as voraciously as they used to? How, when people only have enough leftover energy to consume the news? How, when that news is so depressing that it makes “frivolous” activities like experiencing or creating art seem even more futile?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I can do is write more books–books about human beings who are learning how to cast out their demons and approach others with compassion–and take more control over how exactly my books find readers. Part of this means being willing to finally spend a little money on marketing, which I conceded to when applying for my first BookBub ad. I’m still monitoring the results, which I’ll be sharing on the blog in the coming days. But at the same time, there are still so many factors out of my control. And it’s scary. Not just as an artist but as a teacher and a daughter and a friend and a human being. But maybe I’ve been afraid of what’s next only because I’ve felt helpless to stop it. Maybe it’s time to stop being helpless.

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The Fog

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For a while I thought I’d start 2017 off with a TBR list or a WIP Wednesday (haven’t done one of those in forever). Something optimistic. Something about my productivity. But unfortunately, there hasn’t been any. And apparently I’m not the only one.

For weeks I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to write before school but instead of writing, my thumb swipes the twitter icon on my phone and before I know it I’m drowning in one awful thing after another. I read an article the other day about how much productivity has slipped across all job sectors due to the chaotic state of our democracy, as well as the world. People are living in a fog–anxious, helpless, unable to concentrate on the future or the possibility of it containing anything good.

Depending on the breaking news, some days the realization that I’m a teacher and the huge responsibility that comes along with that makes me feel even more helpless. On the one hand I am doing the most meaningful work I possibly could be right now. On the other, all of my students are immigrants and when they ask me if everything is going to be okay, if they are going to be okay, I don’t have an answer. I am just as worried and afraid as they are and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a child in this world where even the adults you trust can’t offer you comfort.

The stakes right now are sky high and in my tiny classroom in my middle-class neighborhood I feel the weight of the world. I want to teach my students how to save it. How to save themselves. Us. Because I know that they are the only ones who can.

Unless we destroy everything before they even get a chance.

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New Year, New Goals

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I am a planner. Always have been, always will be. But that doesn’t mean my plans always pan out. I had planned to blog more this past year and reconnect with the blogging community. This did not happen. I’d planned to release TDOTN in June. That did not happen. Filling in my writing/revision calendar used to be a compulsory obsession and I haven’t touched it in months. I haven’t touched this blog in months. But now that I’ve finished my master’s degree and successfully survived my first semester of teaching, it’s time to find my way back to these important touchstones–the places where I first began to dream. The places that held me accountable and connected me with other dreamers in pursuit of the same dreams.

So, on that note, here is my new list of dreams.

*P.S. I live 90% of my life in the future, which means that my 2017 new years resolutions were actually planned years ago and now it is simply time for them to manifest*

1. Buy a home

I have lived in apartments for 8 years. That’s 8 years of listening to couples scream at each other on the other side of the wall; 8 years of possessed toilets and ice makers and broken dishwashers and bugs so big they were almost alien; 8 years of confined quarters and a pile of dirty dishes being the “heart” of the home; 8 years of wishing for a window, for a porch, a place to play our music loud, and a yard for our dog to run in. But this year, no more wishing. It’s time to put down roots.

2. Finish my next book

I wrote the rough draft of this novel years ago. But then TGIB series got so big that I never had time to go back and finish it. It will be my return to contemporary fiction and I can’t wait to start writing in the real world again. I’ve already locked my schedule in and will be writing/revising on Sundays until it’s finished. Not when I want it to be finished and not when some pre-order deadline says it’s finished (did I mention I’m never doing pre-orders again?) but when it is finished.

3. Start writing THE BOOK

I’ve blogged about THE BOOK in the context of when is it okay to follow a plot bunny even though you have other books to finish. I have been fantasizing about the plot of this story, reworking it, and falling in and out of love with it for about 2 years now. But I still haven’t written a single word. In 2017 all of that will change. I’ll be writing the 1st draft of the novel over the summer and then, based on CP feedback, I might consider subbing it. I’m still not sure how I feel about that yet. There’s a lot to consider before making that decision. But the possibility keeps nagging at me and I just feel like it’s something I need to explore.

4. Hire a website designer

I finally created an official website this year but it’s pretty plain and doesn’t really speak to the content of my books or my personality. Because of the issues I had with Amazon this past year, as well as all of the changes they keep making that make it harder and harder for KDP authors to sell books on their platform, I need my website to be a source of reliability and consistency where readers feel safe shopping and I have more control over how issues are resolved and how quickly. I also want to be able to start offering exclusive content on my website, which means I need a design that’s more attractive and easier to navigate. If you have any recs for great website designers let me know in the comments!

5. Create paperbacks for all of my books

This is one example of the exclusive content I want to start offering on my website. So many readers have emailed me asking about paperbacks. Seeing my books in print has always been a dream of mine but I just haven’t had the time or the space to devote to doing it right. Now that I’m done with school and will *hopefully* have more space soon I am going to start looking at costs of illustrators and professional formatting. I recently read one of Ksenia Anske’s blog posts on paperbacks and how, in the digital age, they’re being considered more like collectibles or works of art. I absolutely agree with this and because of that I plan to be really intentional about the design, possibly incorporating illustrations and other design elements. I also want to be able to sign every single paperback, hence the need for more space to store them and more time so that I can ship them to readers myself.

Hillary Clinton is Not My Abuela

Dear Hillary,

I know you think you’re like my abuela but in actuality you have no idea what it’s like to be my abuela.

You don’t know what it’s like to leave your family and come to a place that expects you to shed your cultural identity the moment you arrive, except of course for the things they find exotic and wish to appropriate. You don’t know what it’s like to give up your education and sacrifice your own potential so that you can perform hard labor that will break your body and never satisfy you intellectually, all for the sake of a child who hasn’t even been born yet. You don’t know what it’s like to spend sun up to sun down, hunched over, sweating, picking cotton on some white man’s farm so your children can have new clothes for school. You don’t know what it’s like praying that this man is decent and honest and will pay you what you deserve because if he doesn’t you don’t have the language or the resources to fight back. You don’t know what it’s like for your children to never know the hopeful girl you used to be before you grew calloused beneath the harsh Texas sun, your dreams trapped beneath the dirt on your clothes, in your hair, and under your fingernails. You don’t know what it’s like to rob your children of their mother tongue for fear that they’ll grow up with accents and people will make fun of them. You don’t know what it’s like to sacrifice some of the most beautiful and most meaningful parts of your culture because you know that your children must be as Americanized as possible in order to be successful. You don’t know what it’s like to watch those children grow up struggling with identity because of those sacrifices. You don’t know the heart break or the shame of trying to assimilate, of wanting to so badly that you end up raising children who don’t know who they really are or where they come from. You don’t know what it’s like to live in fear that one day someone will notice you, that they’ll get suspicious, and you’ll be separated from your family. You don’t know what it’s like for that fear to be so great that even after decades in this country you still haven’t applied for your green card because despite the fact that this is your home now, despite all that it took to build that home, you know it could be taken away at any moment. You don’t know what it’s like to be an American in every sense of the word but to also know that no one else sees you that way. They never will. Not even if you’re here in this country legally. Not even if you have your citizenship. And despite the fact that your blood, sweat, and tears are in this country’s soil, in the roots of the trees, on factory floors, and all of the other places Americans won’t dare go. You built this home…for all of us. But you don’t know what it’s like to build a home that will never truly be yours. You don’t know what it’s like to be that brave.

And this is just one experience, because despite what you may believe, not all abuelas are the same. Latinos come from different countries and we speak different languages and we have different skin tones and hair and foods and music and customs and beliefs and values.

But maybe you don’t know what that’s like either. To live in a country that only knows a stereotype and prefers to view us as a homogeneous threat rather than as people who are as diverse as they come, whose fears and dreams are too.

So, no, Hillary. You are not like my Abuela. Not even close.

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