Athena Grayson ...Hacking the Great Narrative... Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:21:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Athena Grayson 32 32 128824109 Indie Weekend: Summer of New Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:21:24 +0000
I don’t talk about my books a lot. I don’t even talk about myself a lot. I’m one of those “extroverted introverts” – people who look like they love being around other people, but when the party’s over, we run into caves and don’t come out for half a year afterward and you realize you don’t know anything more about us than you did when you met us. But seriously, I can’t escape the fact that the only reason the six of you are here (or rather, five out of the six of you–Hi mom!) is for the damn books.

I’ll be honest with you–there is a metric fuckton of worldbuilding stuff that never makes it into the books. I love worldbuilding like other people love air conditioning in summer and heat in winter. But I’m nervous about sharing it because it feels incomplete to me–like parading around in my underwear. In fact, I think I’d rather parade around in my underwear. I’ve got alibis for all my physical imperfections. I don’t have excuses for why the planet of Landfall’s mid-levels are the best places to get food from carts and find funky cafes even if the atmosphere’s starting to become harder to breathe and easier to chew.

But it’s a good sign that if I’m uncomfortable doing it, or if I’m avoiding it, it’s probably a thing that I need to do.

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Indie Weekend: Creative Bursts Mon, 11 Jun 2018 22:47:35 +0000

Once, I fancied myself one of those organized people who plans releases with plenty of time to complete them and meets their deadlines with consistency, grace, and aplomb.

Only once. I had a lie-down and disabused myself of that notion straightaway. My magic is messy. My creation is chaotic. I wish it weren’t so, but I sorta don’t because when I come out of it, I’m exhausted and drained but I’m proud of what I’ve bled out onto the page. And when I’m in the middle of it, I can achieve this meta-state where I feel like I really am digging deep to pull the best out of me. I don’t do drugs and I keep forgetting to day-drink, even though I’m in my 40’s and a mom so it’s sort of expected, but damned if I don’t get a contact-high off that creative buzz. If I time things just right, it expands and starts multiplying back on itself.

That sorta happened this past month. After a long time where I was depleted and dealing with a lot of external stuff, the pressure let up and the anvils stopped dropping. I found myself with a new venture on a new platform in a different sub-genre, a second book in the current series (which took longer than I thought because the series goes deeper than I thought), and more than one side-hustle for existing series and future projects that have had significant progress made upon them.

I still have anvils in the forecast–I don’t think I can escape that–but they’ve let up to a sprinkle, and in between the clangs, I’m getting hit with ideas. I’m grateful, but I’m also a bit wary. At some point, I have to choose the ones to work on and the ones to tuck away, and I hate picking favorites from all my little plot-bunnies. It makes the un-picked feel sad. Still, there are worse positions to be in.

Indie Weekend: May Flurries and Radish Coins Sat, 05 May 2018 19:45:44 +0000
I know, you’re thinking, “That better not be snow she’s talking about!” Haha, yeah, I know. There were snow flurries last weekend not too far away from me and that’s freaking ridiculous, but no, I’m not going to get Mother Nature any more punch-drunk than she already is. I’m talking about Flurries Of Activity. Specifically, book activity. Specifically, MY book activity.

Strange Magics

I just released a new book in a new series on a new platform. I know my sci-fi readers are waiting patiently for the next installment of Scions, too. The Strange Magics fantasy romance series kicks off with The Dread Lord’s Tithe as a Radish-exclusive. It’s something I set in motion several months ago while I was dodging falling pianos–I had the book ready to go for another project that fell through and the platform popped up on my radar. The pre-launch required minimal effort–just some formatting–and it was something I could do in the middle of mad housecleaning, getting rid of a lot of old junk I’d let pile up way too long, and fixing minor house repairs. Now, speaking of Strange Magics, I’m doing a little strange magic of my own to promote it. I’ve gone in with a handful of other Radish authors and we’re doing a Radish Coin Giveaway! We’re giving away 200 Radish Coins in our contest (coins are what you use in the Radish app to purchase episodes or chapters of your favorite stories and it’s how us authors keep our kitty overlords in catnip when you read). You can enter by clicking here on the graphic below. And a special shout-out to our friends at Romancing the Dragon for putting the giveaway together. Good luck!


But in the middle of all that–or I should say, as the bulk of the house work wrapped up–my fingers got itchy again and this time, I knew the path I had to take with Fallout (Scions book 2). Now, weird as it is for me to be working in a clean, uncluttered house (a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, LOL), Fallout has fallen into place and I’m about ready to put up a pre-order link. It’s later than I’d hoped, but I’d rather be late than half-assed. I confess it’s a little scary–I had to rip this book apart once and put it back together, and for a person who writes continuing series, that can have…repercussions. But I’m glad I did the hard construction work, because it’s a better book for it.

Indie Weekend: Reading As Self-Care Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:55:35 +0000

In the age of social media, sharing everything, and tagging yourself so that the whole world can see what you’re doing and where you are, reading, at least for me, is still an offline, solitary thing. Even though I’m charmed by things like the Kobo Reading App’s “achievement” badges (and yes, I get a little tickled every time I do something like “read 5 days in a row at lunchtime” or “binge-read three books” or something silly – hooray for human psych), reading is still something I do on my own, without needing to tell anyone about it.

Much of that comes from my upbringing, where I couldn’t disappear for days at a time to tear through a literary doorstop like Gone With The Wind all at once. I had to “be sociable” and interact with people. That’s something I can do, when necessary, and I even enjoy–a lot–when I’m not forced to do it. But because it was in the way of my book, I hated having to do it at the time, so I ended up doing a lot of my reading in the middle of the night, or in places where nobody knew I was reading.

But in those places, I made no apologies about what I chose to read. I didn’t have to explain myself or (in later years when I was away at college) read critically for any reason other than “Is this fun for me? Is it telling a good story?” I do read critically, and have often found myself going back to examine why I find something compelling, entertaining, thought-provoking, or attention-worthy in the first place. I’m comfortable with a certain level of saying to myself “I enjoyed reading this, but it bothered me because ___” or “I didn’t like the premise, but it worked because ___” (I do that last one with a lot more movies and TV shows than books, though. I have less patience with visual media probably because it’s inherently more “social”).

AR DeClerck

AR DeClerck isn’t afraid to jump genres between sci-fi and fantasy, or mystery and romance. Her steampunk stories come from the heart and are as satisfying as the steady tick-tick of a well-engineered piece of timekeeping elegance.

Aimee Easterling

Aimee Easterling isn’t afraid to cross the boundary between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to a fellow Linux user because open-source opens doors where windows sometimes get stuck shut.

Indie Weekend: Radish Reads and Romantic Thoughts Sat, 31 Mar 2018 13:18:05 +0000
I have this complicated relationship with the romance genre. I’ve been writing seriously for over twenty years, and most of them were spent as a card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America. Romance writers can rock this business like nobody’s business, and if you think you’re in uncharted territory, chances are, there’s a romance writer who’s already been there, done that, and left some trail markers to help you blaze your own path. And RWA is second to none when it comes to training up would-be authors into professional shape. Back in the days when Trad Publishing was the only way to go, and submission guidelines had to be mailed to you, RWA was there to tell you NOT to submit your manuscript on scented pink paper, or with cookies, or written in crayon, and definitely not to send it to the address (of the publisher’s distribution warehouse) printed in the publisher’s colophon on the copyright page (ask me how I know this last one–g’head).

But romance as a genre career choice is a harsh mistress. It’s currently the biggest genre, full of dozens of sub-genres and specialties, and the competition is brutal. Reader expectations can be even moreso. I spent a lot of time circling the target and never quite hitting it with conventional romance (and by “conventional” I mean romance that follows the patterns readers expect when they pick up a romance book, regardless of subgenre).

But you know who can handle that genre choice? These ladies right here. They’re kicking it with contemporary romances on Radish and I want to share them with you.

Nadia Lee

Nadia Lee is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, emotional contemporary romance. Born with a love for excellent food, travel and adventure, She’s lived in four different countries, kissed stingrays, been bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers. (The shark part is not recommended!)

Krystal Shannan

Krystal Shannan writes billionaire contemporary romance. Fated Ever Afters. Romance. Adventure. Suspense. And just a little bit of humor.

Indie Weekend: Travel In Groups Mon, 26 Mar 2018 17:13:27 +0000
I tend to use writing as a vacation as well as a vocation, and in my downtime, I’ve been exploring other genres. I’ll never leave sci-fi, but part of me will always believe in magic, and that part of me has been playing in a high-fantasy world (and I swear to you it’s NOT my old college D&D campaign novelized. My college DM remains to this day an evil, evil Dungeon Master who loved nothing more than devising creative ways for adventuring parties to die).
Writing is not exactly the most social business. Even though we’re all over social media (or the experts say we have to be all over social media), the writing part can be just you, the walls, and a blinking cursor with no end in sight. So when you find a crew of people who understand the world in the same weird filters you do, group up with them for as much time as you can stand–those long stretches of solitude will thank you for it later. In the middle of pushing so hard to move forward through my regularly-scheduled space opera, I’ve never strayed far from straying far–last week I mentioned that I’m branching out into some new territory, just to explore the possibilities. But I’m not going it alone. I’m traveling with a great group of fellow authors who are also trying this new territory. I’mma tell you about some of ’em right now, and in the posts that follow.

Jolie Mason

Jolie Mason writes sci-fi and fantasy with heart and shares her love for space opera, love, and ‘splosions. She’s got an exciting list of Radish Reads in paranormal and sci-fi romance. Check out her Southern Gothic series, or if you’re a fan of the giant robots, the 47th Lancers are waiting for you.

Eden Ashe

…more than a little addicted to fairy tales and romance novels… Eden’s first Radish Read is “Gideon’s Revelation” – a “Knights of Hell” prequel.
The thing I love best about these two ladies is that neither one of them is afraid to try something a little off the beaten path because it’s where their hearts lead them. In the business of writing, it’s always a bit of a risk to try something new and different, or off-trend. As a reader, I have my trope-catnip, same as everybody else, but there’s another reason I read, and it’s not just to satisfy the inner trope-monster. Something special happens when you can feel an author’s love for the story leak out between the words. You get caught up in that magic, too. And I know I’m not alone–I bet every one of you can tell me a story about a story that hooked you by the bottom lip and pulled you inside of it, and filled you with magic that stayed behind long after the words “The End.” In fact, if you feel like sharing, drop a note in the comments.
Indie Weekend: Exploring Wed, 07 Mar 2018 21:04:13 +0000

One of the things I “get” to do as an indie is experiment. I use “get” in quotes because, as anyone who’s ever been in a lab with high school kids knows, the advantages can sometimes be…dubious. And that’s when things don’t get into downright dangerous. (Note: DO NOT LICK THE SCIENCE!)

Indie publishing has now reached a maturity where there exists, if not a paved highway to guaranteed success, then at least a beaten path on a map with a few outhouses and a general store along the way. There are definitely proven things you can do to stack the deck in your favor for success. They aren’t guaranteed to work every time or even be guaranteed sustainable for longer than a few weeks or months, but they are your best shot at the smoothest of several bumpy rides, should you choose to take them.

I’ve never been that great at reading maps. In Girl Scouts, I never failed to get my troop lost. But we always ended up lost in the most interesting places. I do that in my writing, too. I like to mix genres, flip tropes, play around with structure the way a ten-year-old plays with LEGOs. Publishing is no different. Even though I know there’s a marked trail, I still like to wander off the path looking at interesting flowers.

One of those uncharted paths is Radish Fiction and one of those flowers is Fantasy. Fantasy isn’t that far from Sci-fi, and we’re often lumped together, I know. But one of the markers on that beaten track is to stick to your genre lane when you build up a name. I’ve already broken that rule with my rom-coms and my paranormals, and I’m not afraid to be all over the map as I follow my muse (or rather, the Girls In The Basement – I don’t have a muse, I have five roommates that live in an epic basement with amazing decor including shag carpets and lava lamps. One entire room has been converted into a ball pit. I’ll tell you about it sometime). In the meantime, I’ll let Radish explain Radish in this cute little video that all readers can relate to.

One of the most fun things about wandering off the trail is taking some friends with you. In the coming posts, I’ll be introducing some friends who’ve also wandered into this little Radish garden, along with some short snippets of my own upcoming entry into Radish Reads. So keep an eye peeled for my next posting!

Roadmaps 2018 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:48:23 +0000

The Way Forward

I’m trying something new here. From the time I first launched Huntress as a serial in 2015, I’ve been dumping a LOT of information into my brain about marketing, social media, book launches, series launches, what works, what doesn’t, and what will suck your money out of your wallet like a pool filter sucks out junebugs. I won’t lie and say I haven’t learned anything–I’ve learned a buttload.

In fact, I’ve also learned that a buttload is a real, honest-to-Dog unit of measurement. Infographic courtesy of Brad Chmielewski at Digital Hitchhiker.

108 imperial gallons of information is a lot to process. And unlike wine, not all marketing information gets better with age. Some of it’s even skunked from the beginning. Also like wine, large quantities of it can be a false refuge of desperate people.

Tangential to brewing is distillery. I used to work in a distillery, and the tanks of corn mash are huge and they stink and there’s a ton of crap floating in liquid. Only after the distillation process is complete and all the crap is filtered out do you get liquid that is still barely potable. You still have to put it into a barrel (oh, who am I kidding, I can’t let that one go) You still have to put it into a BUTT (there I said it) and let it sit there in a warm dark place before it turns into something you’d put into a glass and drink.


2018 is the year of distillery for me. Not that I’m going to end up soaked at the bottom of a BUTT and smelling like a distillery (although I haven’t NOT entertained that possibility), but rather that all the stuff I’ve been cramming into my head needs to be shoved into a BUTT and stacked in a warm dark place while it ages and the crap settles to the bottom, below the bunghole (I HAVE NO REGRETS!).

2018 is about self-care for me, and distilling what matters into my practices. It means focusing on the writing, no matter what pace I settle into. It means focusing on the evergreen marketing stuff–the stuff that gets better with age, not the stuff that flames out and is better used to peel the paint off walls.

Whether it’s wines or words, the good stuff lasts. 2018 is about the good stuff.

Indie Weekend: A Peek Into My Writer’s Brain Sun, 18 Feb 2018 13:38:18 +0000

Falling To (Puzzle) Pieces

You know that expression, “Man plans, the gods laugh?” Yeah, they had me in mind. See, I don’t write my books chronologically. I try to, but I end up writing something at the beginning that really belongs near the end, and some things at the end that belong in the first act. What I think are middles are beginnings or ends, and the beginning ends up being the middle.

I’ve told my beta and developmental editor that when I build a book (and it is building), I put it together like a jigsaw puzzle. Some days, it’s finding all the blue sky pieces, other days, it’s finding the leafy greens or the soft purples (but no, not that purple, that goes in the other corner, see how it’s pinker than this?).

There comes a time, though, when I’m ready to work on all the edge pieces. You know, the ones that have one straight edge that defines a boundary of the picture? This time around, when I was working on the edge pieces, I realized the puzzle wasn’t matching up. The corner pieces–the major turning points in the story–weren’t from the puzzle I thought I was doing.

The Shape of Story

Funny thing about working on puzzles. You can almost never do them linearly. In the middle of looking for all the border pieces, you’ll find clusters of matching colors, obvious transitions, or unique parts of the picture that you put together on the way to establishing a border. By the time you get the border built, you have patches of story built up already, along with a general idea of where they go. All you have to do is find those stubborn transition pieces that hook your patches together. During this time, you can see much more clearly where the holes are, but it’s not so easy to figure out which pieces fit in those holes.

Yet in the end, you do finish the puzzle. It didn’t form from left to right, top to bottom, or start to finish, but rather it came into being in spots and patches, emerged from a bunch of discrete images and colors, and into a complete picture. And it’s the best feeling in the world.


State of the Athena: 2017 Recap Wed, 31 Jan 2018 16:55:04 +0000

The Faceplant Launch

The first book in my new series, Scandal, came out and it was the best launch I’ve had to date. Well, if we’re being honest, it was the only launch I’ve had to date. My entire Huntress series launched with maybe a Facebook post of “So…this happened” but I had no idea how to really launch a book back then other than punt it out there and hope. As a result, I get a book done and go faceplant somewhere for six months while the next one is brewing, growing, and calling my name. 2017 wasn’t supposed to be the year I faceplanted and couldn’t get back up, but hey, guess what?

Rolling With The Punches

I launched Scandal (Scions Book 1) at the very end of March and was on track to launch Fallout (Scions Book 2) in May when something that is not disaster struck. Mr. Athena’s job went from being stable to “could end at any moment” which is indeed a personal disaster, but then Mother Nature was like, “Hold my beer, I’ll show you some disaster,” cracked her knuckles and my country simultaneously sank underwater, caught on fire and got blown off the map, (also what happened to our political landscape, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Or the understanding of scholars for many years to come). So the constructing of fictional conflicts for this dystopian sci-fi sort of took a backseat to a reality that was lobbing far more dystopia in my direction than I could make up.


Pianos Don’t Fly

I confess, I did not really realize what was going on until my chief beta and developmental editrix cracked her whip and told me, “Athena, you have spent the past year and maybe more dodging pianos that have been falling out of the sky and onto your head, girl! No wonder your writing slowed way down!” See, that’s the other thing I like to do–I’m much more sensitive to other people’s stresses and challenges while I busily and casually disregard my own.
I tend to feel embarrassed about work I’ve done. I’m extroverted as hell about other people’s work, and stuff I like that was made by other people, but I’ve always been hesitant to talk about my own creations. My inner introvert puts her foot down and pulls a Greta Garbo. “I vahnt to be ah-lohn now.” (Speaking of which, did you know her Manhattan apartment is for sale? Hashtag “a room of one’s own Virginia Woolf” goals, amIrite?)

Eating Dirt Is Nutritious

So I didn’t want to spend most of 2017 gumming the floor and looking around for teeth, but I did, and it’s okay, because dirt has antibodies! And the floor, at least, is horizontal, which means you can use it for napping. And because I wasn’t hurtling forward down the highway at breakneck speed in a go-cart that had no brakes and never even saw the inside of an inspection station, I had some time to look around and see that I was not alone in my faceplanted-ness. All around me, other writers were dropping like flies from burnout. But things grow in ashes and dirt, and what grew out of our ashes and dirt was the new, green growth of why many of us went Indie in the first place. Because it’s all about the stories, and getting to tell them the way we need to, for the people who need to read them. Going forward into 2018, I’m moving out of Pianoland and back to Writerville by any means necessary.