Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Some of you may be new to this site, some of you may have been here before, and some of you may be long-time fans -- whatever the case, thank you for stopping by! I hope you'll stick around and become part of the Allegiant family (that is, an extremely wonderful fan; if you're wondering where I got the title Allegiant from, you can read Midnight Terrors at CrimsonSterling.com).
In case you don't know much about me, my name is Alexandra, and I am a writer -- and artist, and analyzer (and sometimes over-analyzer). I write (Speculative, mainly) fiction, and blog posts like the one you're reading, under the names Alexandra Lanc and Crimson Sterling (for YA and Adult fiction respectively). I was part of the mainstream, traditional Self-Publishing world for nearly four years, up until a few days ago (as of this writing). And now, everything has changed, and I'm not part of that world anymore, at least not in the same way--
Because I've left the traditional Self-Publishing world behind.
You may have noticed my titles disappearing from the sites mentioned below. You may wonder why on Earth I decided to say goodbye to the Indie Publishing world -- to Amazon, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, to marketing, and releasing e-books regularly. That's what this post is about; this post is for those of you who have supported me from the beginning, those of you who do publish, or want to, and for those of you who are merely curious. I hope what I have to say is helpful to you in some way.
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A New Beginning
Why did I leave the traditional Self-Publishing world?
Well, because I'm crazy -- or not, or maybe. *laughs*
The real reason is much more simplistic and yet complicated than that, and it all really boils down to this: for me, it was getting to be too much constraint, and not enough of doing what I really love to do, which is creating.
I've ranted about how frustrating publishing can be many times before, but I'll start by saying that this isn't the case for everyone, and I'm in no way saying that Indie Publishing (or publishing in general) is bad. I've had, overall, a rewarding experience in the Self-Publishing world. I have fallen many times, risen many times (Clara Claus has been on the bestseller's list nearly since the beginning), and learned the value of hard work -- and more than anything, staying true to yourself. These aren't lessons I could have learned otherwise, and so I am grateful to them. I still love books -- paper books, especially -- and I will always love writers like me, who work hard to create them. In stepping away from the Self-Publishing world, I'm not giving up, but creating a new beginning; I am working to re-discover my true creative self.
Being a creator -- a writer, artist, musician, actor, etc. -- is difficult. The wonderful thing about the beauty of art is that it looks simple, but in the same token that wonderful thing can sometimes be detrimental to the artist. It's all too easy to look at your work and say: "Why did this take me so long?", and think that you're a failure or are being lazy...but then it's also all too easy to forget that time is never wasted on a genuine pursuit, and that the old saying "haste makes waste" often rings true.
Self-Publishing is a business, and like any other business, there are plenty of things to do: marketing, website building, marketing, answering e-mails, marketing, getting covers created, marketing, going to events, marketing, and, somewhere in this long list of mainly marketing, the "real work" of actually writing. If you're like me, you're an absolute perfectionist, and are hardly ever satisfied with your work, because you think that you should always do better, do "more", that it should be perfect (I will note, however, another thing I have learned: your best really is all that can be asked of you, even from yourself). There is a giant, crowded marketplace out there, and even answering tweets on Twitter can take hours (or scheduling tweets to hopefully get the word out about your work). This takes a large amount of time away from writing, and in my case, it led to endless frustration.
There will always be work outside of the work that you love; we all have to do things that we don't want to do, and that is life. But one of the decisions I made when I decided to leave Self-Publishing was to pursue real connections, instead of connections with the marketing, connections which I feel like I've missed out on, thanks to time being wasted, in my opinion, on things that didn't get me anywhere, on things that did not help me, personally, get to where I wanted to go.
There are people who can juggle all of those "necessary" things like the hours of marketing and networking, but I am not one of them -- or, I don't want to be one of them any longer; it is too much for me. In saying goodbye to Self-Publishing, I want to reconnect with my writing, which has taken a sore hit from lack of time, and with my artwork, and with my fans, because I miss these things, and the creativity that stems from them.
I'm taking things back to basics -- and by basics I mean being myself, and doing what I can do.
Do What Only You Can Do
Speaking of doing what you can do, here is a big part of why I have made this decision: falsity.
There will always be things, as I said above, that we have to do in order to run a business -- to live, to work, etc. Laundry? Yes, it has to be done. Bills? No, you can't forget them. Dishes? I don't recommend letting that one go for long, or you might find little buggers crawling around your home.
In everything, there are things that we have to do, but I feel like that in Self-Publishing (and other industries, I am sure), there are too many things that we have to do in order to be "successful" (a subtle difference, yes, but an important one). By have to do, I mean this: denying your comfort zone, and not in a good way.
Advice is wonderful; advice is great. It's wise to listen to other's opinions or wisdom, and take it into consideration. It is not, however, helpful when you try to conform to the seemingly necessary things that go against how you function as a person.
What do I mean? Everyone has their own way of doing things, and the evidence is visible everywhere: writing styles differ, clothing styles differ, even how we write our letters differs; it is all very personal and unique, and that is how we are able to bring new things to the world. Aside from the truly necessary things, we should be free to be ourselves when we work, so that we can bring this uniqueness to the world, and create new ideas, doing what only we can do.
For me, the Self-Publishing industry was truly choking me to death, especially creatively. Trying to make things "work", I implemented various different methods over the years: blog tours, release parties, publishing books every few months, offering books free, publishing short serials, writing blog posts on a set day every week, writing books where readers could vote, using social media heavily, marketing heavily -- and do you know what? None of them worked.
That's right: none of them worked.
Did they fail to work because they were bad ideas? No, I don't believe so, because they worked for others, so obviously they weren't bad ideas to begin with. The key is that they were bad ideas for me.
I don't work well with a strict schedule. I don't work well if I'm trying to plan things far in advance (for real life, anyway; I'm great at plotting books in advance, and I usually always know the ending shortly after the idea is conceived). I don't work well if I'm pressured to write or finish a project by a certain date. I don't work well if I am forced to work on the same project continuously. These things aren't wrong, they are just me. (For a post on this, check out: Working With Your Creative Clock.)
I can't -- and shouldn't -- try to be anything but who I am, to do what only I can do, and that is the biggest lesson I have learned from Self-Publishing.
I work best when I am struck with creativity, or when I tell myself that I want to get something done because I want to get it done. I work best if I work on more than one story, if I skip between them, just like I skip between books (I tend to read at least 10 at a time, whenever the mood strikes). I work best if I can create art and writing together, and really get a feel for my stories. I work best if I take my time.
I can only do what I can do, and by doing what I can do, I am being me.
Work has a way of changing things. Dreams are never as easy to attain as they seemed when we were children -- but that doesn't mean that we should stop straining, reaching for the stars.
The truth is: I'm not a publisher -- I'm a writer, an artist, an analyst. It took me a while to figure that out, to get to where I don't feel guilty "doing what I can do", instead of doing what I have to do, according to the mainstream world. But life is a journey, and as one door closes and another door opens, I can genuinely say that though I'm a bit scared and nervous, I am also extremely excited, and that I feel more like Alexandra now than I ever have.
What does it mean to be Alexandra? It might take time to really be able to answer that question, but I can also honestly say that I wouldn't know this much if it weren't for my time in the Indie Publishing ring.
It's often hard to step out and do your own thing, to leave something that has been "safe" for years behind, but the people I admire most have done so, and so maybe that's why I'm less afraid to do it myself. I left Self-Publishing because I saw another avenue that was more me, closer to who Alexandra is, and because I believed that I could achieve a closer vision to my original if I worked differently; I am creating my own avenue now, doing what I can do. Creating is a intimate thing, closer to who we are.
Does this mean that I will stop producing titles, stop writing, stop releasing books, and ultimately stop publishing in any form?
The truth is: Yes, and no.
I've launched my new website today, along with this post, so that you can see for yourself what I am doing, so that I can take my first few steps forward.
Yes, I will stop, according to traditional Self-Publishing, which says that you have to be on Amazon, and Nook, and everywhere else in the world, that says you have to sell thousands of e-books to even begin to make a profit, that says you have to release a new book every month, and write until your fingers fall off; I am saying goodbye to this method of publishing, to this method of books, to this method of writing, because I cannot do it, and prosper, and be Alexandra--
However -- no, I will not stop, according to Alexandra's rules of publishing.
Enter The Patrons
When I first received what I like to call my "crazy idea", I knew that there would be plenty of things to work out and work through, just as I knew immediately that it was the right thing for me to do, so very Alexandra. And, after weeks and weeks of searching, after I put together the new site, figured out ways to get my work to where readers could easily read it, I finally found the last key that I felt I needed: not only fans, not only Allegiants, but Patrons.
Patronage is certainly not a new thing. People have been patrons for the arts, especially, throughout history (and geniuses like Shakespeare, Da Vinci, and more were certainly very happy for this, I am sure). And I personally think that it's a wonderful idea, and very close-knit, personal.
When it comes to Patreon, the partner I am working with, what does it mean to be a Patron?
Now, what does this mean for my fans, my Allegiants, specifically? You can read a summary on the new Mission and Donations page, but here is basically how I have planned things to work:
~ I write, draw, create blog posts like this, and post them to my website(s) for readers to read/view free.
~ Patrons pledge to donate whatever amount works best for them (with some fun gifts!) per post, to support my work, keep the website(s) functioning, help me reach goals like getting titles in paperback for Allegiants to treasure, and pay for supplies.
~ If applicable, Patrons receive their gifts as a thank you once a month (or when I post things to the special Patreon feed), along with enjoying new content here on my website, Patron buttons for their site, social media, or blog, and the special thank you of being listed on the Brought To You By page.
~ Readers also have the option of making a donation through Smashwords to download the .epub or .mobi file of the stories they read free here on the site for their personal library, or to recommend my books to their local library, which can download them from Smashwords through Library Direct for free.
~ Once paperbacks are made, readers will be able to purchase them through links from my site. The paperbacks that I have made up until now will remain available until new editions are released.
Does it sound fun and simple? That's the idea, because I like simple, and I wanted to find a solution that was as author-friendly as it was reader-friendly.
The Journey Forward
I may have left traditional Self-Publishing for something new, but I am and will always be committed to creating great work, and trying my best. Thank you for going along on the journey with me, readers, Allegiants, because it really does mean so much.
Who can say where this road will take me, and there is still a long way to go, but I am confident that change is usually for the better, and I am excited to begin creating with passion again!
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the last (official) Writer's Wednesday!
It's in some ways sad to say goodbye to Writer's Wednesday, which I have had quite a bit of fun with in the time that I've been doing it, and which I hope has inspired many authors and readers to be their best. I will, of course, be writing posts like this still, but on my own schedule (I'm rubbish, I could say, at keeping a schedule, but we will explore that a bit in the Crimson post "Working With Your Creative Clock"). And, as with all things, I know that the end of one thing (Writer's Wednesday in this case) just means the beginning of something else -- I'm not sure what all that is, but I have a small bit to share about my upcoming website changes today, which is part of it!
Thank you to everyone who has checked back every week, and for the past few months every other week, for Writer's Wednesday. I've loved hearing your feedback, and seeing how these posts have inspired you. It warms my heart, truly.
Please enjoy this last (official) post, and please check back and look forward to the wonderful things that are to come!
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What does it mean to be inspired?
This is a difficult question to answer, and everyone seems to have answers that are essentially the same, and yet still different. Inspiration is something that appears to be key to the creative life, and yet it often eludes even the most focused or open of us.
Have you ever had a day where you wanted to give up writing -- or creating of any kind -- and throw in the proverbial towel? Writing is not easy, and publishing is even harder, so if you have it's completely understandable; I believe we all have been down this road once or twice, if not more often. When you lack inspiration, it's hard to imagine doing any good work, but again--
What does it mean to be inspired?
Whenever I "lack" inspiration (we can debate if this is actually possible), I turn my mind towards things that help me to bring it back, and then (surprise!) I find that I had never lost it at all, merely that I had lost my focus. One of the first things I turn towards, which I'm sure I've mentioned before, is the film Kiki's Delivery Service, from director Hayao Miyazaki. It's a fantastic film anyway, but there's something special about it to me because it seems so relatable. Here is a girl who loses her confidence, and her reason for doing what she loves (flying, since she's a young witch), and she has to try and regain it -- to regain her inspiration. How does she do this?
By, essentially, doing nothing -- nothing but thinking, and being.
This relates directly to my Crimson post "Working With Your Creative Clock", and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Why is it that, when we don't feel inspired, or happy, or any of those things, we automatically resort to working harder, to doing something? Perhaps it's simply the culture of fast-pace that has brought it about, or perhaps it seems like working more will lead to being more inspired, but I don't think that this is the case; more is not always better. How are you supposed to hear the soft voice of artistry whispering in your ear, if you are so busy listening to everything else? I think it's only when we quiet our minds that we can truly see clearly.
I have been told tales of the greats doing just this. Some that come to mind are are also some of my favorite creators: Leonardo Da Vinci, who I recall being told would watch the birds, trying to figure out how they were able to fly; Jim Henson, who would sit on his back porch and stare at the scenery for hours, soaking up life; J.M. Barrie, who would spend quite a bit of time wandering around Kensington Gardens; and of course there is Mrs. L'Engle, whose journal I am still reading, who made it mandatory to go to her outside calming, thinking spot regularly to reconnect.
What does it mean to be inspired?
I have touched on this before, I am sure, but I still think of it now, and it is a conundrum: should we expect to be inspired before we sit down to write, or after we have begun writing? I have found that, even after quiet contemplation, I am hardly ever immediately inspired to write a story, and quite a bit of the time, I am not inspired even after I have sat down and begun typing. Writing is work, and work isn't always fun. Some days, I am not inspired at all, and yet that doesn't mean that I can stop typing, stop writing those words down, because then the story will never have the chance to fully be told.
I am, however, more often inspired after I start writing than before I start writing. I sometimes have to drag myself to the computer, coaxing myself into writing with a cup of tea by my side -- and maybe even some chocolate; I like to be in good company. The computer screen seems eerie and terrifying in those moments, the blank page like a death sentence, and the keys I imagine are on fire, so that if I touch them I will get burned. But once I tell myself that I need to write, inspired or not, and begin typing, I often find that what I was looking for was there all along, buried in the work that I set out to do -- my inspiration.
What does it mean to be inspired?
As I said, I think this is different for everyone, and yet still the same -- the means may be different, but inspiration comes to us all. Being inspired doesn't always mean coming to work with a giddy feeling, with words pressing upon you, happy that you're going to be typing -- or painting, or crafting, or whatever it is that you fancy. Sometimes being inspired means sitting down and working, as a labor of love, and only finding your giddiness once you have begun working...and sometimes it means not being excited at all, but working through what you know you must, an even bigger labor of love. And sometimes being inspired means being quiet, and finding your own voice, your own inspiration deep inside.
It isn't easy to find your inspiration, and sometimes you might lose sight of it, but I think that working with your inspirations means fighting for them -- fighting to keep hold of them, to keep working even when you don't want to, and maybe to have the strength to find a new inspiration, or a new path in life.
What does it mean to be inspired?
To be inspired means to be courageous, moving forward even when we can't see the end of the path, or what is lying in wait to meet us.
New Website Sneak Peek!
So, dear readers, I can now divulge that I have been working on a new project as of late -- something a bit crazy, but in my opinion also brilliant -- a brand-new website model!
If I wasn't someone who liked surprises, I would give you a snapshot of the new site, but I have always liked surprises (and, I can say, the backbone of CrimsonSterling.com will be changing a lot more than AlexandraLanc.com). What I can tell you now, though, is:
~ Both CrimsonSterling.com and AlexandraLanc.com will be re-imagined.
~ The new site will have plenty of content for readers to enjoy directly, without third-parties.
~ The new site will feature more author artwork.
~ Readers will have a chance to directly support the author, and to help in the publication of paper books.
In short, the new site will be a fun place for readers and for me alike, and a bit different than the "traditional" publishing model I have now. In the next few weeks, you will begin to see my e-books disappearing from sites like Amazon and BN, but don't fret, because there's a reason for this, and my writing is definitely not going away!
I am hoping to unveil the new websites within the next weeks, or shortly after the beginning of June, so please check back for updates and to see the brand-new websites!
Hello, everyone! Welcome to Writer's Wednesday. Long time no see!
When I realized that the first Wednesday of May was two weeks away from the last post I did, I was a bit shocked, but here we are for Writer's Wednesday again, and I hope you're looking forward to the post. I liked this post so much, I put it on the Crimson Sterling blog, too, so there's only one post for today.
First off, some IMPORTANT NEWS (with caps, to make it even more important): May will be the last month in which I do Writer's Wednesday. I'm sorry to jump off the boat, but a lot of changes are occurring in my work and home life, and I'm having to take stock of what I can manage and can't, and WW is one of the things that's become a bit too much. I will still write on this blog and give advice, but it won't be every other Wednesday (I don't work well on schedule, it seems). I've had a lot of fun writing these posts, and I hope you've enjoyed them, and will stop back by to read my other posts, and check out the website...which will be changing very soon (how is a secret for now). Thank you for sticking with WW all this time! I will endeavor to make these last two official WW posts the best they can be!
So, onto the post! Enjoy!
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When I enrolled in Creative Writing class at my local college, I was extremely excited to see how everything was done. I was not necessarily new to writing, but I had never taken a formal class on it before, and had never actually experienced the thrill of meeting and chatting with other writers regularly (something I'm not sure I could live without now).
That semester is a bit of mush in my mind now, but at the same time the Creative Writing course stands out. My teacher was amazing, funny, and quirky, as all good English professors should be (for of course Creative Writing is an important part of the English language, for without it we couldn't and wouldn't have Literature, and that would be extremely depressing). I recall thinking that this class would be like my others in some ways, but my professor speared that idea directly from the beginning.
In my Creative Writing class we tried new things; we did things differently. We moved the desks to sit in a circle often, we moved to different rooms at times, or sat on the floor, or sat down in the cafe beneath the floor we were on. We read aloud, scribbled in notebooks, listened to the professor, edited each others work, people-watched, and did exercises that conflicted one another. I think if my professor taught me anything, it was to not be afraid to try new things -- and yet, don't forget the tried and true, and the important (such as grammar, which she was very big on; if nothing else matters, grammar does).
I am a lyrical writer, much less now perhaps than before -- or, conflictingly, perhaps more so now than I ever have been. I like to describe things as I see them, not literally, in figurative language. I recall my professor finding this odd, but I also recall her accepting it, and then asking me to try writing in a different format, to see what I might get out of it.
She encouraged me to try something new, to see how it would inspire me.
I love to read classics, and one of the things that I find when reading them is that they are so different compared to most of today's writing. Some of my favorite novels are written in journal format (such as Dracula), or as if the main character were verbally telling their story to you (such as Frankenstein). They may be written in a direct format, much less show than tell, the opposite of what we are told to do now (in my opinion, Jane Austen was very good at keeping tell entertaining). And then there are those novels that make you laugh, simply because the author is in constant contact with you, speaking to you like a friend, and often referring to you as "dear reader" (Peter Pan is one of my favorites of this flavor of novel).
I am sure that in the time periods in which they were written, these formats may have been the "norm" for writing, such as a fast-paced, short-sentence novel is for our current readership (groan; don't get me started on that one, please), but when I pick up a cleverly written book, sentences pieced meticulously together, it makes me want to try something new.
Do you want to try something new?
New things -- in writing, or in life in general -- can open new doors, and by trying new things, we can reach people we could never have reached before. The oddest story might find a place in someone's heart, or it might inspire someone else to do something amazing.
I love to try new things, and try to do so as often as possible. Just the other day I went zip-lining/tree-obstacling with my family (comical, because I don't like heights, particularly if you're on something unstable), and it was actually an amazing new experience that I'm sure will end up in one of my stories some day. I also asked my great-aunt recently to show me how to crochet, and though I'm not terribly wonderful at it as of yet, I enjoy it, too, and through that was able to hear about her life, and where she learned to crochet, and a bit about the past, which is always fascinating to me.
When I was young, I used to write the strangest stories, things I don't even know how I came up with. But when you get older, into the realm of "expectation", you can lose that ability -- to try new things, and to genuinely enjoy them. However, with work, you can get the ability back, and start trying new things again.
Remember what I said about how we can inspire others -- or, in reverse, how they can inspire us when we try new things? Madeleine L'Engle, as always, had some wonderful advice concerning this, quite poetic:
"A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn't diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe...This response on the part of the artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else...
...It is beauty crying out for more beauty."
We shouldn't be afraid to try something we've never tried before, something we're excited about, to see new beauty that someone else, somewhere in time, created. What brave worlds can you explore by trying something new?