Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Fatigue

This has been one strange winter.  Every week since just after Christmas, the northeast has been getting one large snowstorm after another.  Most of these have been nor'easter -- storms that draw energy from the ocean. Typically these storms deliver a foot or more of snow each time they go by.

So far we've have a total of 60 inches (5 feet) of snow and I'm out of room to put any more anywhere until some of this stuff melts.  The problem is we've got six week of winter to go and no end to the storm pattern in sight.

After the last storm, I found I had no interest in writing.  My whole focus was to clear away the snow to get living space back.  It takes days for me to clean up after a snowstorm because there is so much work to do.

The driveway, the back deck (for the dogs), the front stairs and the path that leads down to the driveway.  And each of these tasks takes a lot out of me, my shovel, and my ice chopper.  This last time I found I had to take down several drifts as well.  I'm still working on that last one.

Apparently I'm suffering from snow fatigue.  I read about this in the newspaper.  And I'm guessing that this feeling is adding to my stress and destroying my interest in writing.  The good news is the effect is temporary.  We had a storm on Wednesday and I was back writing and revising Friday night.

The bad news is that's two days I don't get back.  I really don't want to give up any of my writing time not when it took years for me to get to the point I'm at now.  On the other hand, I can only do what I can do.  So it was probably just as well that I didn't write on those two days.  I can't afford bad writing to creep into my novel, not when I'm preparing it for another submission.

But when I realized why I hadn't been writing, it seemed to me worth telling others about.  So be on guard.  Just one more hurtle to get passed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Story Review: Last Call by Brian Hartman

I received another review on my novel.  For those interested, go to I've posted a copy of the review there.

In exchange, the reviewer, Brian Hartman, wanted me to review some of his work.  I agreed.   I began with a story called Last Call.  It is available free on Smashwords.

It is an unusual story set in the modern world.  It takes place in a bar where the main character Dave is celebrating his birthday with Lue.  One of the things that makes this story unusual is I don't know who Lue is exactly.  Is she sister, ex-girlfriend, cousin, co-worker?  I don't know and the story does not answer this question.

Dave and Lue spend time talking about life and philosophy and things that have no bearing on the story.  I presumed this conversation is mostly for character development.  The problem here is that the development does not come where I need it to following the story.  For example, Dave is in a wheelchair.  I figure this out about halfway through and it changes everything about him because I suddenly realize how much like one handicapped friend of mine he is.  This would have been better earlier.

Dave meets a woman who is at the bar and they talk a little.  She talks about suicide.  Dave tries to talk her out of it.  By the end of the story, Dave has to leave but the fate of the woman is unclear.  I was not sure if she would go through with it or not.

My assumption is that she did and that it is in the newspaper just as the woman said it would be.  But this leaves me with more questions than it answers.  Who is this woman?  Was she a prominent figure?  If she was then why didn't Dave recognize her?  If not, why is it prominently placed in the newspaper?

So ultimately, the story is not satisfying because so many questions remain.  The story is a good start toward something.  Brian just needs to resolve a few items, revise, and try again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rejections Aren't So Bad After All

I recently tried to get my first short story, Baby Muran, published.  That attempted failed and I completely dismissed it.  And other time, I think I would've been upset.  But I'm not.

I think the reasons for this are:

  • I know it's a good story.  If magazine A doesn't want to publish it, that's their loss.  I'll go somewhere else.
  • I am busy with other projects, most notably revising my novel.
  • I am more interested in the fate of my fourth story, which I submitted to a different place at about the same time.

And as I write these things, I realize my attitude has changed.  Does that mean I've got a thick enough skin to be a writer?  I have no idea.  I'm pretty sure that since I know the story is good, a rejection from any one place is meaningless in terms of my ability to write.  It just means they can't use the story.

A pity.  But I'm moving on and focus on my other projects.  And perhaps that's the lesson here in handling rejection.  Have more than one thing going so you can focus on project B if project A doesn't work out.

I've not done that before.  I prefer to work on one thing as a time.  But I can't always do that.  Even now while my novel, Aure, the Topaz is being revised, the second novel, Vorn, the Onyx is waiting for another pass through it.

And as I said, I've got my fourth short story out there with the fifth one started but not completed.

Guess I grew up and became a writer after all.  Who knew?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is Content Any Different from Software?

I repeatedly have this thought: my novels are like software.  I think I've been seeing them that way because I revise, and revise, and revise.  Each revision is a new version with different features and different characters sometimes too.  I might add a minor character here or take out one there.

I'm reminded of the scene in Apollo 13 where the astronauts need to do a controlled burn to adjust their course.  Using only the Earth as a fixed point in space, they have one person controlling the up-and down control, and one person on the side-to-side control.

I love that scene because they pitch wildly in all directions for a few seconds and end up right where they need to be.  That's seems to be what I've been doing, only with more gyrations as I finally settle in on my target.

As I revise again, this time for punctuation, sentence variety, and some modern idioms, I believe I'm finally close to my target.  This is really good news because book 2 is nearly ready and I really don't want to go through all the same mistakes again.  I'm sure I won't and I'm sure there will be new challenges.

But to get back to my original question, I think the answer is yes, during the writing, revision, and editing phases of a book, your story is a lot like software.  When it is published in paper, it becomes something else; something more like a sculpture that you can't change easily, if at all.

eBooks change that.  eBooks can be revised the way software can be.  I do know if that's good or bad, but it is a fact. I guess the question, even if I can change it, why would I want to?  If it is done and complete and a good story, move on, right?  Well, maybe.  eBooks allow us, as writers, to test all or part of story and get feedback.  Essentially, that's what I've done without realizing it.  That wasn't my intent, but that's what has happened.  And with that feedback, I can revise it once and move on.

This is just one more way the technology changes the way we work and the process we can use.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Twists in the Road

Last July I submitted my novel to a small publisher hoping I would be accepted.  Last week I heard from her.  While I was rejected, she had many nice things to say about my novel and told me she would consider a rewrite.  That's considerable better than most rejections I've received.

As it turns out the draft this publisher saw was not the latest.  I had found several things in the text I wanted to change after I submitted the book to her and I had gotten feedback from another small press to work on the characterizations (which I did).  This is why would like to change the submission process by giving out only a url instead of the whole manuscript.  That way, I can update the files at the url until the publisher actually reads them.  But I digress.

In the weeks since I self-published the book, I've come to realize other changes were needed too.  For example, the beginning of the story does not reflect the true focus of the story.  Armed with this information, I am now revising the novel for this publisher's review.  If it is accepted I can *finally* move onto the book 2.  If not, I will republish the e-book.

Personally, I'm hoping for the latter.  Self-publishing has much to be desired I think unless you are giving your work away for free, which I would rather not.

What I find amazing and strange is the way events play out.  I self-publish only to have some small press show interest.  Ironic.  And expensive because I was about to release the print version of my novel through Lulu, ISBN and all.  That's over $100 potentially wasted ($75 for the ISBN and the rest for three proof copies).

But it is a small price to pay, I suppose if I can sell the story to someone.

Now what do I tell all the people who purchased the ebook?  The story was revised and your copy is erroneous?  Hmmm.  I've have to give that one some thought.  Maybe I'll give them free updated copies.
Maybe.  We'll see.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Self-Publishing: you are tech support

I was asked recently in a Goodreads forum why I primarily published my novel as an eBook.  I responded saying it was for time-to-market reasons.  Getting a quality paper copy ready has taken over a month because I have to wait for Lulu to ship me proof copies.

But there was another reason I released an eBook first.  I expected mistakes creating the various electronic formats and I assumed fixing those errors would be easier than getting a paper copy ready.  Turns out I was right about that.

Now I find out that despite my testing of the Kindle version, the book has odd indents on a real Kindle viewer.  When I heard this, I decided to re-release the Kindle version.  My thinking is that the eBook is like software and this error is a bug.  So I am obligated to fix it.

I also found out that I need to make some other adjustments.  Suddenly I'm my own technical support department.  I don't mind that roll, it just took me by surprise.

But in retrospect I will not be releasing any more books exclusive in one format or another because so many people still want paper copies.  In fact one of the reasons I'm having a hard time getting reviews is because many places that review books want a paper copy.  They even say they don't review ebooks and that's all I have at the moment.

So if you plan to self-publish plan accordingly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Being Published

As the realities of being published settle in, one thing has become very clear: writing novels is like owning a small business.  My assumption was it would be all about writing and ideas.  That's certainly true, but there's this other part that no one seems to talk about.  The part where you go out and make appearances, promote your work, identify target audiences, and market to them.

It is very much like being in graduate school again where you living and breathe your major.  I've been so consumed with my novel over the last six weeks plans for my birthday (a few months from now) fell apart and I am constantly thinking about some aspect of my business and how to promote it.

I am reminded of my father who owned an independent drug store back before Walgreens and CVS took over.  He worked long hours overseeing his business to the point where he wasn't around much through most of my childhood. I don't have children so that part is not a concern but work-life balance is.  So I'm going to need to watch that part. (Of course, my novels *are* my children)

Another concern is I've only got one novel completed.  Many writers manage one.  The good ones turn out two, three, four, or more.  So I've got to keep going. Additionally, since I'm writing a series, I need to finish what I started or some people will never even consider my work.

And then are my short stories... I don't know when I'll have time to work on them.

But I'll manage.  Good thing I know how to walk away and ignore all this work too.  It's the only way I'm going to get any rest.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Other Shoe

I've been waiting for weeks for *someone* to read my novel and give me feedback.  At the same time I've been dreading it because I'm been afraid that the reviews would not be positive.  But that's part of being a writer so I decided not to worry about it and wait and see what happens.

Well, I'm finally getting feedback, six weeks later and... (envelope please) ... the reviews are good.

A friend of mine called the book a real page turner, the other day, and this morning, I got mail from a writer met on the Science Fiction and Fantasy web site (awesome site, btw) who liked the book, particularly two of the characters that I thought we really weak.

And finally I can breathe again.  The book is good.  The story is good.  And my convictions to self-publish and persevere are vindicated.

I say this, because, if truth be told, I've been fighting with myself about taking this path. Maybe I was premature to publish.  Maybe I should have waited.  Maybe the story is no good.

But none of that is true, it seems and so I can confidently move forward with the book and the series.

Frankly, I can't think of a better way to the new year.

Now if I can just get some reviews posted...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Word of Mouth

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm plunging deep into the murky waters of marketing books to understand how to sell the book I've written.  Apparently, one of the things I want is word of mouth.  This is the process where one person recommends it is to a few people, who then in turn do the same thing and so on.  A recommendation from Oprah is a classic example of this.

The trouble is how do I get those initially readers to spread the word?  Nothing I've read addresses this.  It is like how do I get experience to land my first job without getting the job first and it is frustrating.

I suppose a few reviews would help and I've got three people reading the book who promise reviews.  Assuming these reviews are good that might be enough to jumpstart the process.  If not, then I'll have to find other people to review the book because without reviews I just don't see how to start acquire any word of mouth.  (Of course, if the reviews are bad, word of mouth could be my enemy, we'll see.)

And even if the reviews are good and people begin recommending my book, I don't think word of mouth alone is enough.

I see a lot of discussion on using the internet to get the word out and very little on authors showing up to a conference or convention and networking.  In my case, there are several science-fiction/fantasy gatherings in my area this year.  I'm thinking this has got to be a piece of the puzzle.  And yet I'm told using the internet is more effective.  I'm not sure I agree with that.

Regardless, I should probably attend the conventions in my area but I'm not sure I will because I don't see this point yet with only one book to my credit.  When more of the series is written, that's another story.  I could go as a fan, of course, and get me feet wet, as it were, and I may do that.

I guess I'll just have to experiment to see how much word of mouth a few reviews will generate.