The War of Art: Overcoming Resistance

The War of Art: Overcoming Resistance

Two weeks ago, I finished writing my fourth novel. I set an ambitious pace for myself–2,000 words a day, or a whole book in 40 days. For the most part, I stuck to my goal, and finished in 43 days. But the road to get there wasn’t easy. Getting myself to sit down and write that much every day without fail felt like a Herculean effort.

My husband and I have had this certain disagreement multiple times–he refers to writing as my hobby, and I get prickly about it. On the one hand, I can see his point–it’s something I choose to do in my free time because I enjoy it. That seems hobby-esque, it fits the bill. But on the other hand, writing is work. Really hard work. Work that requires serious brainpower, requires serious willpower to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 am, or off the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, to put my butt in that chair and write. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like my other hobbies. It’s not relaxing or rejuvenating in the same way. It is draining, agonizing, fulfilling, inspiring, all at the same time. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is normal. Why is it so hard to get myself to spend time doing this thing I supposedly love? 

Any time you choose to fight against the path of least resistance, it will be a challenge. But I don’t think I really understood why creative endeavors felt especially tough until I recently read The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. This book is so aptly named. It helped me realize that how I’m feeling is normal. Common. It is all about the war you fight when battling to create. He identifies the enemy, and its name is Resistance. It is a part of ourselves, but somehow other as well. It helped me to name it, to personify it. Somehow it feels easier to do battle. 

Resistance is everything that comes between you and your writing. It’s fear, it’s doubt, it’s comparison, it’s laziness, it’s procrastination. It’s wondering if this is all for nothing, it’s ten more minutes on Facebook. It wears many faces and has many names. Pressfield explains that “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. . . . If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” What a perfectly frank definition. If you let Resistance overcome you, you’ll deserve what you get, which will be a big bag of nothing. 

So how do you overcome Resistance? You show up. Day after day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. “[W]hen we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unforeseen forces enlist to our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose. This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

But it’s not enough to just sit down and wait for lightning to strike. You have to become better at your craft, to constantly learn and constantly strive to be better. This makes the difference between being an amateur and “going pro,” as Pressfield calls it. “A professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.” 

This little book was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to see me through the end of my fourth novel, and on to start my fifth. Now, when I feel Resistance creep up on me, I call it what it is, and drag myself to my chair to start writing. Because as Richard Bach said: ” a professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

 

 

Happy Sunburner Launch Day!

Happy Sunburner Launch Day!

It’s officially arrived: launch day for my second book, Sunburner! I wrote the first draft of Sunburner in the fall of 2015, so this book has definitely been a long time coming! I can’t wait for all of you to read the continuation of Kai and Hiro’s adventures. 

Here’s the blurb, if you’re wondering what it’s about:

Kai, the newly-crowned queen of Miina, finds her reign threatened by a plague of natural disasters that leave death and destruction in their wake. Are the gods truly angry at the peace between the moon and sunburners, or is something more sinister to blame? Kai’s throne and her very life may be forfeit unless she can appease the gods’ anger and her peoples’ superstitions.

Determined to find a solution, Kai and the Sunburner Prince Hiro embark on an extraordinary and dangerous journey to discover the true cause of the plagues. What they find is an ancient enemy determined to plunge their world into eternal darkness — and one desperate chance to save it. 

And as always, if you do read it, I would love, love, love you to leave an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews make a huge difference to readers, and may be the difference between a new reader giving the book a chance or not. So please help this author out, and leave a review! 

New books ahead!

New books ahead!

They say that professing a goal to the world will help motivate you to keep it. So, in that spirit, I wanted to share a new challenge I’m embarking on this fall. (I can’t believe it’s fall already!) Thus far, I’ve written one book each year for the last three years. But, I’m interested in getting more books into the world in the hopes to build some more fans and momentum for my author side-biz. So, I decided to set a bold goal for myself: I’m going to write three books in the next four months. Plus a novella.

Before you tell me I’m crazy to sign myself up for such madness, let me explain. If I write 2,000 words a day for the next 120 days, I’ll have written 240,000 words, or three 80,000 word books (that’s a little less than 300 pages per book). Now, that may seem like a lot, and it is in some ways, but in other ways it’s not. I write about 1,200 words an hour. So really, this equates to about 1.5-2 hours of writing per day. All this year, I’ve been getting up to write before work, between 5-5:30. If I keep that up, and write consistently each day and on the weekend, I can do it. I’m excited at the prospect. I’ve already plotted the books out, and started September 1st. So far I’m on schedule, in fact, I’m a little ahead of schedule, at 20,032 words!

So what are these books, you ask? The first is a third book in my Moonburner series, which will be called Starburner. It’s going to be set about 20 years after Sunburner ends, and will feature Kai and Hiro’s daughter, Rika, as the main character. It starts when the black sails of invaders appear on the horizon, and will have a prominent romantic angle. The book will take the characters to an entirely new island in the world and feature a new culture and characters. I’m really excited about the story! I’m aiming to release this book May 2018.

The other two books will be book two and three in my Confectioner’s Guild trilogy. The Confectioner’s Guild is a young adult fantasy mystery about a young chocolate-maker who finds out she has the ability to make magical food, right before she’s framed for the murder of her guild master. Book 2 features a prominent mystery element as well, as Wren and her friends investigate a kidnapping that unfolds while a hostile power lays siege to their city. In the third book, the bad guys have taken over (spoiler!), and they must repel the foreign invaders and take their city back. I’m also halfway done with a prequel novella that features one of the main characters. The world of the Confectioner’s Guild is loosely based on the west coast of the U.S. (especially Washington!) and the city, Maradis, is based on Seattle. So you Pacific Northwesterners will find yourself in familiar territory. I plan on releasing these three books (if all goes according to plan) in September, October, and November 2018. The novella will release earlier in the year and will be a freebie to get people excited about the trilogy. 

So, that’s my crazy plan. I’m pretty good at sticking to goals I set my mind to, and so I’m really hopeful that I can pull this off. I’m just so excited to bring these stories into the world, I don’t want to wait another few years to write them! Plus, the process of writing a book is getting easier each go round, which is lending me extra confidence and courage. Hopefully I’ll be reporting back in the new year that I have some fantastic new stories to share with you! If I can edit them all in time. And that, my friends, is a problem for another day.

 

Sunburner Cover Reveal!

I’m so excited to share the cover reveal for my second book, Sunburner! This cover was also designed by the talented Sarah Hansen (like Moonburner), and she did a fantastic job capturing the feel I wanted for Sunburner! This second book focuses on both Kai and Hiro’s point of view, so we decided to put Hiro on the cover to have a nice contrast to the Moonburner cover.

Want to know what that creepy monster is? You’ll just have to read the book! It officially launches September 26, and is available for preorder now! Preorders are eligible for some exclusive bonuses and swag, including deleted scenes, a high-res digital poster of the cover plus map of the world, plus a Moonburner/Sunburner bookmark! 

 

Now without further ado, here it is!

BOOK REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee

BOOK REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an absolute gem of a book. It has everything you want: adventure, friendship, young love, and laugh-out loud humor. I could not recommend this book more highly!

The book features Henry Montague (Monty), a philandering Earl’s son who can’t seem to get his life together. The book begins when he and his best friend Percy depart on their one-year tour of the continent. It will be Monty’s last year of freedom and debauchery before he returns home to manage the estate with his overbearing father. It seems that they will have a grand time–so long as Monty ignores the fact that he’s head over heels in love with Percy.

When Percy is afflicted by serious illness, Monty, Percy, and Monty sister, Felicity, set off on a rollicking adventure to find a mysterious alchemical cure. Waylaid by highway men, kidnapped by pirates, and chased by a dangerous French Lord, Monty has plenty to keep his mind busy (other than thoughts of Percy!)

Monty is delightful protagonist. He’s hilarious and irreverent and just self-aware enough to not be insufferable. As Monty and Percy grow closer and romance blooms, you find yourself rooting for Monty to get over himself and learn how to truly share his feelings. It’s a refreshing change of pace to find a hero that is so unheroic. Somehow, this only makes you love him more.

If you like reading humor, or adventure, or historical fiction, or romance (really if you’re a breathing human being), I highly recommend this book!

Ten Best Asian-Inspired Fantasy Books

Ten Best Asian-Inspired Fantasy Books

Ever since I was a little kid, and my family hosted Japanese students, I’ve had a special place in my heart for Asian culture. My Japanese “big brothers” introduced me to a new world of sweeping calligraphy, honor-driven samurai, and mythical creatures unlike any I had seen in western fairy tales. I think that’s why when I set out to write my first book, Moonburner, the Asian-inspired setting felt right. If you’re like me, and can never have enough Asian-inspired fantasy in your life, try some of these favorites!

Click on the covers to head over to Amazon to find out more. 

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

This one-of-a-kind fairytale retelling imagines Cinderella as a cyborg on the mean streets of New Beijing. This book has it all—handsome princes, evil space queens, deadly plagues…this sci-fi future will be unlike anything you’ve ever read.

A Mortal Song, by Megan Crewe

This book set on the slopes of Mt. Fuji turns typical YA tropes on their head. Sora is a kami, a magical Japanese spirit who is fated to protect her people and all Japan from a ruthless horde of demons. Or is she? It turns out she’s really a human switched at birth with no magical powers at all! Dun dun dunnnn…

Serpentine, by Cindy Pon

This sweeping tale is set in the kingdom of Xia, and tells the story of Skybright, a handmaiden to a wealthy girl, who begins to notice some very alarming changes (cough *snake-tail* cough). Filled with Chinese mythology and magic, Skybright’s story of transformation will enchant you!

Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff

This steampunk fantasy follows Yukiko on an impossible journey to capture a legendary beast thought to be extinct. The lush worldbuilding and snappy dialogue between Yukiko and a certain not-to-be-named-cuz-I-don’t-want-to-spoil-it character makes this one a favorite!

Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart

This hilarious book tells the tale of wise man Li Kao and Number Ten Ox (you read that right) as they try to find the cure for a mysterious illness. Irreverent and charming, I promise this medieval mystery is unlike anything you’ve read before.

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

This art-deco-steampunk graphic novel is just flipping gorgeous! It tells the story of Maika, a teenage girl struggling to understand the trauma of war and her psychic link with a monster of deadly power. With 11 volumes currently out, this one will keep you happy for days!

Shadows on the Moon, by Zoe Marriott

Is romance more your thing? This book is touted as Cinderella meets Memoirs of a Geisha, and features 16-year-old Suzume, who is trained in the mythical art of shadow-weaving, which allows her to recreate herself in any form. Full of mystery, illusion, and heart-break, this book is haunting and heart-wrenching in one go.

Eon: Dragon-eye reborn, by Alison Goodman

Lovers of dragons and epic fantasy will be delighted by this read, which features Eona, who has disguised herself as a boy in order to become trained in dragon-magic. Will she find her dream, or her doom?

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadows, by Fuyumi Ono

Translated from the original Japanese, the blurb for this one says it all: Once confronted by a mysterious being and whisked away to an unearthly realm, Yoko is left with only a magical sword; a gem; and a million questions about her destiny, the world she’s trapped in, and the world she desperately wants to return to. If you want truly inspired Asian fantasy, look no further than this series!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Julie Dao

Releasing October 2017, this much-anticipated debut features Xifeng, who must choose between a destiny full of dark magic and the boy she loves. Definitely don’t miss this one when it launches!

Moonburner, by Claire Luana

Ok, I’m a little biased, but I thought I’d sneak this one in here! Mulan meets Sarah J Maas in this thrilling tale filled with celestial magic, death-defying adventure, and enduring friendships. Check it out!

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Moonburner Cover Reveal!

Moonburner has a new cover!

As many of you know, I recently terminated my contract with my indie publisher and re-self-published my debut novel, Moonburner. The publisher owned the cover, so I had to get a new cover designed for the book. I found the amazing Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations, whose work I fell in love with! She did an amazing job of capturing the feel and atmosphere of Moonburner with this amazing new cover!

Without further ado…

2017 Reading Challenge Round-up

2017 Reading Challenge Round-up

I can’t believe we’re already in the middle of 2017! This year is seriously flying by.

I made a goal in January to read 50 books this year. That’s up about 2x from what I read last year, and felt like a stretch goal, but still possible! I also wanted to read some more books out of my normal YA Fantasy diet–some classics, some political books, some books on productivity and writing/book marketing. As we’re halfway through, I thought I would take a look at how far I’ve come. 

The current count is…44! I’m seriously blowing my goal out of the water! There’s just so much good stuff out there to read, and I’m spending more time reading than watching tv these days. I’m also listening to a lot of audiobooks on 1.5 speed, which helps me get through more books. I guess setting a goal really does help!

Here’s what I’ve read this year so far…

YA  and/or Fantasy

A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah Maas

Air Awakens, Elise Kova

A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab

Roses & Rot, Kat Howard

And I Darken, Kristen White

The Reader, Traci Chee

A Shadow Bright & Burning, Jessica Cluess

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemesin

Labyrinth Lost, Zoraida Cordova

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho

Wintersong, S.J. Jones

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

Vengeance Road, Erin Bowman

The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Choshki

Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen

Windwitch, Susan Dennard

Red Rising, Pierce Brown

Golden Son, Pierce Brown

Morning Star, Pierce Brown

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff

Walk on Earth a Stranger, Rae Carson

Passenger, Alexandra Bracken

Middle Grade Fiction:

Pax, Sara Pennypacker

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill

Outside my Genre Fiction:

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

1984, George Orwell

Cinnamon & Gunpowder, Eli Brown

Non-Fiction:

Men Explain things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay

R*tfucked, David Daley

March, Volume 1, John Lewis

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Andersen

Deep Work, Cal Newport

Writing Books:

Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon

Guerilla Marketing, Derek Murphy

Launch to Market, Chris Fox

Write Better, Faster, Monica Leonelle

If you’re interested in following the rest of my challenge, or for my thoughts on any of these books, find me online on Goodreads, or on the Litsy App–my handle is claireluana. 

What about you? What are your reading goals for the year? Read anything good lately?

Why I Got my Rights back and Self-Published

Why I Got my Rights back and Self-Published

I recently made the decision to terminate my contract with my indie publisher and re-self-publish my first novel, Moonburner. This post is to explain why!

As many of you know, I published Moonburner last June with Soul Fire Press, a division of Christopher Matthews Publishing. Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience with Soul Fire and CMP. I was pleased with my cover design and the quality of the book that was produced–I felt like it was a product I could be proud of. So certainly, I don’t regret my initial decision to publish with Soul Fire. At that point in my indie author career I knew next to nothing about launching a book, I had 200 people on my mailing list (most of whom were my friends and family), and I didn’t know a lot of other authors. My reach was pretty small.  I tried to educate myself about how to do all the right things for my launch, but ultimately I was not happy with how the book sold. Everyone who read the book (when I could get someone to read it!) has really loved it, (even strangers, not just friends/family who got review copies), so I felt that I had a good product, but there was something going on that was keeping people from buying the book. 

Flexibility and Control

Over the past year, I’ve been educating myself a lot about the publishing industry as well as connecting and networking with a lot of other indie authors, especially through the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, started by Derek Murphy (I am hugely grateful to be a part of that group because I have learned so much). Through my research and networking, I’ve learned out that if your book isn’t selling it’s going to be a result of one or more of a few things: Your cover, your blurb (book description), your pricing, or keywords/categories on Amazon. As an author through a publishing company, I didn’t really have a lot of control over any of those things. I could change the blurb and I could ask my publisher to change some of my keywords/categories, but I wouldn’t have real-time feedback on these changes (because I only get royalties twice per year), so it would be really tough for me to know if those types of changes were having an impact. Also, I didn’t have control over pricing, which I felt was an issue for my book. The eBook is $5.99, while comparable eBooks are $2.99 or even $.99. The print book is $16.95, which I feel is too high for a paperback. So there were a number of things I wanted to change.

KDP Select

The other option I would have as a self-published authors that I didn’t have when published through a smell press was to enroll in KDP Select. KDP Select is a program in which your eBook is only available on Amazon. This was not something I initially wanted to do, because I like the idea of having my book available “wide” (on all platforms-B&N, Kobo, iTunes). I have a Nook, I don’t have a Kindle, so I figured if I couldn’t even get my own book, it probably wasn’t the best solution for me. But the more I learned about KDP Select, the more appealing it was. Being in KDP Select means your book is in Kindle Unlimited–where there are thousands of Amazon readers who can borrow your book for free. Even though they don’t pay to borrow it, Amazon does pay you for borrows and page reads. That is a low-cost entry point for readers who may not normally take a chance on buying a book from a new or unknown author. Also, publishing through Amazon, you can take advantage of Amazon advertising. A lot of authors I know are having a lot of success with Amazon advertising, and I wanted to explore that. The other benefit of KDP Select is that you get to have 5 free days every 90 days, which is another low-cost entry point for new readers. For me, at this point, it’s not about making money, it’s about getting my book into the hands of more readers, and beginning to build a following. So I really liked the idea of exploring all of those things, and I could not do that without being a self-published author.

Pricing Promotions and Data

The other promotional tactic that a lot of indie authors are having success with is price-drop promotions. Traditional publishers are getting clued into this, and I could do this through my indie publisher. I did two $.99 promotions on the Kindle eBook, and it worked all right. I had to email my publisher, and he had to contact Amazon, so it just required additional coordination to make sure it was getting done. We weren’t able to do the price drop promotion on the other platforms like B&N, for some reason which is still unclear to me. But again, it was really hard to see in real time the success of these promotions, or the promotional sites I was paying to promote my “deal” on, because I didn’t have access to real time sales data. As a self-published author, I could time my promotions over several days, and then see exactly how many books sold on what days, and identify which promo sites were successful for my book. It was just one more thing that I thought–if I was doing this myself, I could do this more effectively.

Publishing the sequel

 The other big factor is that I’m publishing the sequel, Sunburner, this summer. My publishing contract for Moonburner is for 3 years, and I knew at the end of the 3 years, I would want to get my rights back and try self-publishing for all of these reasons. So, even if I wasn’t going to terminate early, I was going to get my rights back eventually. At that point, my publisher would retain the cover and interior design, and I would need to re-do Moonburner. I realized that if I self-published Sunburner this summer, designing it to match Moonburner as it is now, I’d have to redo both books when I got my Moonburnber rights in 18 months.  That’s not inexpensive, and a lot of work for me as well, so I realized it was preferable to pull the trigger and re-self-publish Moonburner now, so I only have to redo one book.

So, those were the factors that played into my decision to leave Soul Fire and self-publish. There are some downsides to being self-published–like you get a little additional street cred from being with an indie publisher versus being self-published. It’s potentially easier to get into libraries and bookstores, and some review sites or bloggers will not accept self-published books. But really, I found (and this is another thing I couldn’t have known before I indie published) that I’m not getting into bookstores and libraries anyway, and I’m not getting any traction with bloggers or review sites where I don’t have a pre-established relationship, so I don’t see a downside for me personally. I don’t feel that I’m losing anything.

Everyone’s path is different, of course, and there was a lot of value for me in having my book published for me the first time. It would have been pretty overwhelming to learn how to produce a book and learn to market all at the same time. But now that I do have additional knowledge and education, I think it’s time for me to strike it out on my own!

Hopefully you will all check out the newly refurbished and relaunched Moonburner in August, and Sunburner in September! Stay tuned for the amazing new covers, plus lots of fun extras I have up my sleeve, like a book trailer, map of Kita and Miina, and character sketches of Kai and Hiro!

BOOK REVIEW: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

BOOK REVIEW: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer is the first book in a new duology by one of my favorite authors, Laini Taylor! This book was everything I loved about Taylor’s writing and former trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The book follows Lazlo Strange, who is a librarian, who has been obsessed since childhood with a mythical city called Weep. He believes that Weep is real and is fascinated by its history and downfall. Those around him are convinced it’s just a legend. His adventure starts when mythical warriors from Weep come to the Great Library seeking scholars to help them solve a problem. Lazlo jumps at the chance to go along, and when he gets to the magical city of Weep, he discovers the true nature of the problem. For hundreds of years, Weep was enslaved by cruel gods with blue skin who lived in a giant palace in the sky. Ten years ago, there was a battle between the gods and the people of Weep and the people overthrew their overlords, killing them. But, it left the palace in the sky blocking all the sunlight. 

Unbeknownst to the people of Weep, five young god-children survived the massacre, and have been growing into teenagers in the floating palace. One is our other main character, Sarai, who has the magical ability to enter people’s dreams; she has been terrorizing the city of Weep with nightmares for the last ten years. But, over the years, she has gotten to know Weep’s fears, and seen her parent’s cruelty, and her sympathies for the people of Weep have grown. When Lazlo arrives, she realizes that not only does he have the most vivid dreams, but he can see her in his dreams, something no one has ever been able to do before. 

At its core, this is a romance. Lazlo and Sarai fall in love, all within Lazlo’s dreams, and their courtship is as magical and fantastical as you can imagine! This book is also about the deep-seated hatred between two people who have hated and hurt each other for generations, and what it will take to overcome that. There are no real villains in the book, everyone has been damaged by this war and so the story is very deftly created, as you are sympathetic to all the characters and see where they are all coming from. You are rooting for them to overcome their differences and find a way to live together when you know that this will likely be impossible, and a return to war is inevitable. 

As with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of the most remarkable parts of this book is the fantastical world she creates. Taylor’s worlds are so lush and unique–you know she has such a vivid imagination! It’s also the writing, Taylor has such a beautiful way with words (and metaphor and imagery), and this book was truly a joy to read. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy.

Full disclosure, this book does end with a serious cliffhanger. It’s one of two, and pretty much just cuts off in the middle. So if you really hate cliffhangers, you might want to wait until closer to when the second book comes out to read this. But definitely read it at some point!

Don't forget to grab your FREE copy of Burning Fate, my young adult fantasy romance!

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