Marketing for Authors is here!
Thanks to members of the Indie Author Life Facebook group (which you can join at any time! Just be sure to answer the questions. I don’t approve if there are no answers 🙂 Carissa Magras and I are bringing you the goods on being and author and learning to market.
Last month, I gathered questions on marketing from Carissa and we recorded a video to answer all of them for you. My conspiring toddler graciously gifted me his illness in the meantime, so please forgive a few nose sniffles. There’s been lots of sore throats, long nights, and vomit. Vomit everywhere. (Not my baby, luckily, but my poor nephew had it bad. Nothing like a houseful of sick kiddos!)
I digress . . .
Carissa didn’t get to all the questions posted in the group directly, but I think she probably answered them all as she and I dove deeper into discussion on marketing, where to start, what to do, and how to structure yourself. She took me by surprise (and swept me away in the meantime with her awesome content) so I think she’ll maybe do the same for you.
What she’s bringing to the table here isn’t your run-of-the-mill advice that you’re going to find on Buzzfeed. You probably won’t like it because she’s calling for us to make a mindset shift—but that’s what I know it’s good.
Watch it. You’ll be so glad you did.
As always, leave any questions in the comments.
The Struggle is Real
I was 29 years old when I heard the phrase self care.
Maybe I’d heard it before that, but if I had, I couldn’t recall it. My naivete on the subject was pretty pathetic. My counselor sat across from me after I explained a food binge to her and asked me, “What do you do for self care?”
I distinctly remembering blinking and asking her, “What does that mean? I’ve never heard of it.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Self care is time you set aside to take care of yourself. It’s different for everyone. What do you do for self care?”
Without her explaining it, I knew that I couldn’t say I work.
“I trail run a lot. Or, I used to, before I had my son. Does that count?”
“Okay. Yes. That is a form of self care. But what do you do now?”
“Nothing,” I whispered.
Food As Self Care
Actually, that was a lie.
I did do self care: in the form of food. #allthefood
Chocolate was always the most forgivable binge. Culturally, American’s love to cope with chocolate. I could literally justify almost any form of chocolate away. Bad day at work? Time for a pint. (Of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream). Ran through an eight miler without passing out? Time for some Fresh Market Chocolate Chunk Cookies. The fact that I exercised twice a day (before kids—remember?) only helped cement the fact that I needed the calories.
No. My body probably needed some almonds.
When things went wrong—or when things were going well—it was all-too-natural to reach for the fridge. What I didn’t know is that I was giving myself food instead of giving myself freedom.
Taking care of myself is less about food and more about avoidance.
What It Is . . . And What It Isn’t
I’m not going to try to talk about self care on a spectrum for everyone, because it’s too broad. So let’s keep it in terms that I can explain and you can then extrapolate into your own life.
For me, self care is quiet. It’s not watching Parks and Rec instead of thinking about the brownies I ate that made me feel sick.
Self care is connection with myself. It’s not staying up late so I can work myself into a tunnel that doesn’t see my issues.
Self care is sitting in the sunshine and thinking about good things. It’s not a 90 minute run followed by a weight lift followed by cleaning the house. (I’m not saying that exercise is bad—not at all. But historically, exercise has been a way that I binged and justified. When I’m manic about exercise, I’m trying to hide from something. Typically my feelings.).
Self care is being in the moment, not worrying about my future plans.
Self care is staring at a plate of food and asking myself, How hungry is my body? It’s not feeding my eyes, mind, or heart.
Why I Avoid it
So the big question is this: why do I avoid self care?
Why do I find myself packing the days with hours of work? Why do I find myself exercising relentlessly in pursuit of self imposed shame? Why do I eat the extra cookies when I’m not hungry at all?
Because even though I’m aware of my issues, I’m not free of them.
Food is an addiction, just like pornography, smoking, alcohol, or anything else. That means I’m always going to gravitate to it, and I’m always going to struggle with the impulse of the moment. That also means that identifying the addiction doesn’t remove the desire for it.
Basically: addiction sucks and self care is hard.
Although I’ve been through a lot of counseling, talk openly about my food and body image struggles, the truth is that I constantly struggle with what is actually my biggest ally: self care. Self care means I need to face ugly facts (like the 5 no bake cookies I ate after dinner in a moment of toddler-tantrums inspired passion). It means I need to stop the dopamine rush of achieving something at work in order to step back and breathe. It means I need to take time. And time is oh-so-precious.
Self care means lots of hard things.
But it also means lots of freedom.
My Favorite Self Care Options
Being in the moment is what dictates what I need.
For example, I just traveled with my two-year-old for a week, and the transition back home has been !#(*%)!*@#!. After the end of several long days, I just wanted a silent house and an opportunity to be creative without interruptions or the melodic voice of my son bellowing, “HONEY!”
So this week, self care looked like me asking husband for a two hour break on Saturday. I’m always tempted to feel guilty that I’m not spending #allthetime with them, but a little 1:1 daddy time is awesome for both of them. Plus, 2 hours in the scope of 24 is not a big deal.
Most of the time, self care looks like eating when I’m hungry, not when I’m sad, happy, frustrated, anxious, or stressed.
Self care means journaling out the way I feel instead of putting it off by working an extra hour.
My favorite form of self care? Hiking. Reading in the sunshine. Sitting on my porch swing with a cup of tea in the morning. Talking with a really good friend. Leaving the house by myself.
Most of my self care options are “selfish”, meaning that’s the time when I get to revolve around me. I don’t find it selfish at all. The rejuvenation that comes with it is strengthening. I’m a better human when I have self care.
The End All Be All
Despite the obvious advantages of self care (lack of binges, healthy self esteem, etc), I know that I’ll always struggle to take time out for myself. Not just because I’m a Mom. Not just because I’m a military wife that sometimes has to balance more than other times. Not because I’m addicted to food and work.
But because I’m human, and it’s so much easier to put off than go through.
Talk to me: what is your favorite form of self care?
Today, let’s talk about all things dragons, Noblebright Fantasy (to be defined in a moment) and heroes that aren’t, well . . . very heroic.
This summer, I stumbled on novelist JA Andrews and chatted with her a little bit about her mountain life in Montana, what it’s like being an author with three kids (she homeschools too!) and, to be my great surprise, a genre of fantasy I’d never heard of before—Noblebright Fantasy.
Take it away, JA! (<— You see what I did there?)
Noblebright and the Unhero: Because what we think of heroes matters.
Noblebright and the Unhero.
No, that isn’t the title of a story about a unicorn and a monster that undoes heroes. (Although, I would definitely read that story. #unicornsforthewin)
“Noblebright” and “unhero” are two ideas that I constantly come back to. I admit that most people won’t understand either word because they’re a bit obscure—and by obscure I mean “might not really be words”—but if you stick with me for a bit, I’ll do my best to explain them, and maybe you can see why I get all atwitter about them.
BecauseI firmly believe that how I think about heroes matters.
The Typical (and Atypical) Hero
I love a good hero. I grew up on fantasy books in the 80’s and 90’s, full of larger than life heroes striding across the page with the Sword of Destiny slung across their back. There were great warriors, powerful mages, sneaky thieves who could pick even the lock of the Impenetrable Vault of Doom.
And stories about them are great.
I also love a good antihero, those heroes who are not your typical hero. Bitter, caustic Severus Snape. Conniving, manipulative Scarlett O’Hara. Sherlock Holmes. Hans Solo. They’re great at something, just not something traditionally heroic, and they’re among my favorites.
But I do think heroes and antiheroes make us think that heroism is limited to the Special Ones. To be heroic you must be rich, or strong, or exceptionally skilled.
But I do think heroes and antiheroes make us think that heroism is limited to the Special Ones.
I don’t know about you, but it’s a rare day that I feel Able-To-Save-the-World special. In fact I often don’t feel Able-To-Complete-My-To-Do-List special.
So for a lot of my life, without really thinking about it, the only people I put in the Can Be a Hero category were those I’d deemed More Special Than Me.
Enter the unhero.
Confession: I just made up the term “unhero”. A quick googling shows that it’s not a real word. But it should be. An unhero is a not-hero.
I’m very fond of the unhero—that character who just isn’t heroic.
They’re never going to escape unscathed from a tavern brawl, never mind win an actual sword fight. It’s Bilbo Baggins and Neville Longbottom. It’s characters who are not special. Not only would they not win the Most Likely to Be Good At…Anything Award, they’d also be the one the coach forgot when ordering the participation trophies.
They’re actually a lot like me.
I love when these characters get put in a situation that demands heroics. Because this is where I think the truest vision of heroism is seen.
Superman keeps saving the world. But let’s be honest, he doesn’t even have to live up to his potential to do it. One time I saw him spin the entire earth backwards to reverse time. Anyone who can defy all the laws of physics, time—and logic—like that can easily defeat one bald villain.
But when Bilbo Baggins, with his absolute lack of skills or power and only the help of a ring he literally stumbled across, actually steps out and speaks to that terrible dragon – that is heroic. When he leaves the safety of his dwarf friends because they’re overtaken with greed and he knows they’re wrong, that is heroic.
Bilbo never slays the dragon, but he’s the hero of the story. Because heroism is something different than physical strength and power. It’s not muscles or magical powers or astounding skills.
Because heroism is something different than physical strength and power. Heroism is stepping up to do what’s right, regardless of whether you’re going to succeed. And when you have an Unhero, well, you know that internal strength is all they’ve got.
When Neville kills the big bad snake at the end of Harry Potter, who wasn’t cheering? Sure, Harry got Voldemort. Of course he did, Harry was the Chosen One. But…Neville! With nothing but his own unremarkable him-ness he stood up to that big, nasty snake—and won!
And here’s where the idea of noblebright comes in.
Unlike “unhero”, “noblebright” is actually a real word that came out of the gaming community as an opposite to the term grimdark.
Grimdark is pretty well known:
- The world is savage.
- People are savage.
- The hero, who’s fairly savage, might possibly survive long enough to succeed, but they’ll have no chance at changing the savage world in a meaningful way.
- Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive.
The most popular grimdark story is Game of Thrones. There is no good vs. evil. There are only morally grey characters in a morally dark grey world. And no one has the power to change that.
There are a lot of grimdark stories out there and some of them I like quite a bit.
But I like noblebright better.
Being the opposite of grimdark doesn’t mean that noblebright stories are fluffy tales about rainbows and dancing chipmunks. It means the central worldview is opposite.
In noblebright there is good and there is evil, and even though the whole world and each individual character is a mix of the two, good and evil are still distinct things. Goodness isn’t just naiveté. Evil is still ruthless and cunning and vicious, but goodness has a deep-rooted, unyielding power of its own.
And that power means that a person has the chance to affect their world for the better.
This is where Noblebright and the Unhero come together.
Because the unhero’s tale is the place where it’s most obvious that it is goodness that is heroic.
The unhero is not fighting because they’re strong, or wise, or skilled. They’re fighting because they know it’s the right thing to do.
And it turns out that stepping forward and facing evil and injustice not because you’re sure you’re going to win, but because that is what Good does, is the essence of heroism.
Which is awesome.
It’s hard, and sometimes terrifying. But if I believe that what it really takes to be a hero is doing good, and believe that goodness is powerful enough to change the world, well, that reforms what I think a hero is.
And even better, those two beliefs allow me to see that I actually exist firmly in the Can Be a Hero category.
Have you read Noblebright Fantasy? Who is your favorite Unhero? Leave your responses in the comments!
JA Andrews lives next to the Rocky Mountains of Montana with her husband and three children. She is eternally grateful to CS Lewis for showing her the luminous world of Narnia. She wishes Jane Austen had lived 200 years later so they could be pen pals. She is furious at JK Rowling for introducing her to house elves, then not providing her a way to actually employ one. And she is constantly jealous of her future-self who, she is sure, has everything figured out.
You can grab a free copy of her book, A Keeper’s Tale, by signing up for her Bookish Things newsletter. Her book, A Threat of Shadows, is now on sale for $0.99 instead of $4.99 in honor of her being a semi-finalist in the Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off Awards.)
A Keeper’s Tale:
A hapless hero,
a dragon with a grudge,
and a maiden who doesn’t need rescuing.
LIFE WITH A TODDLER 101.
Me: LM, you want some of my eggs?
LM: No. Pancake.
*hands LM cut up pancake*
Me: Here’s your pancake.
Me: Yep. Now eat it.
Me: I already put agave on it.
*I lift a forkful of scrambled eggs to my mouth*
LM: No pancake! EGGS! NO NO NO NO PANCAKE.
*gnashing of teeth*
Me: Okay, calm down. Ask nicely and I’ll give you some eggs.
*rubs his belly*
LM: Peez Mama. Peez eggs.
*scoops eggs onto his plate*
*LM tilts his head back*