Friday, September 30, 2011

They meant well, I'm sure

Google released a Blogger app for my phone and I tried it last night.  I wrote a short post to see how well it worked and I thought I saved it as an unpublished draft.  But it is not here and it is not in my phone.  So it is gone like the morning mist.

It's really too bad it did work.  I gotta think that the one app that will work the best is the one made by the folks who host the blog in the first place.

Very strange and very curious.

There is another app I can try is the Blogger app doesn't work out.  I found an app for the iPad that looks interesting, called Blogpress, I think.  It costs $2.99.  That's not much but I'm trying not to spend money on apps if I can avoid it.  So I've not gotten that app.

To be honest I'm being lazy about it.  The need for blog from my phone or iPad is more a whim and a luxury than anything else.  I don't really need this capability, but it would be nice.  And isn't that the point of technology?  To make our lives easier or better.

The problem, however, in most cases, is we substitute the interact with the machine for interaction with people.  The reason is obvious, human interactions are complex and varied.  You never know if saying hello to someone else will get you a hello back or a some other response.

The computer, on the other hand, is predictable and we need that, especially in the chaotic world we live in.  A little predictability is welcome.  When you add to that the fact the computer also serves as an entertainment source (and we are all entertainment addictions) it is easy to see why people replaced face-to-face interactions with surfing the web or watching videos online.

Well, I'm going to go check out the Blogger app a little more.  I'll write again soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time to Face the Music

Book 2 has entered a brief production phase.  I'm doing the work needed to get the novel to reviewers so I'm collecting the front and back matter and thinking about a cover.  When I'm done I will create a Kindle version of the book and send out to review.

At the suggestion of someone on Facebook, I've decided to try BookRooster.  They charge a small administration fee and put in front of 10 reviewers.  This is perfect for me because I really want to keep writing (Book 3 awaits) but I also want to know where the story is weak.

Most of the comments aren't likely to bother me since this isn't while a finished draft but I am nervous about taking this step.  I mean, I think the story is complete and really good, but I could be wrong.  If people hate it then what do I do?

I think I had these same concerns for Book 1.  But Book 1 is a much simpler story.  Aside from some character development (which is a matter of opinion) Book 1 does exactly what it sets out to do.

Book 2 is more complex with one story morphing into another and then a twist at the end.  It's the twist, I'm worried about; people may say it's contrived.  And to a certain extend that's true but it is the characters contriving for other characters.  Wheels within wheels.

Still, I really have no choice.  The book needs reviewers so that I have the feedback I need to write the best novel possible.  I need to know what does not work so I can revise and fix those sections.  Hopefully no one will hate it.  But unless all the reviewers think it sucks I'm probably going to release it as soon as I can.

I just wish those damn butterflies in my stomach would find another home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saturation Point

I never thought I'd live to see the day when I had my fill of technology.  But I think it's here or just around the corner.

I've always been something of a technology fan, mostly focusing on computer technology, since I bought my first computer, an Apple IIe, all those years ago.

What I like about it is there is always something new to learn about.  Once I had the basics down, I began focused on graphics, then networking, then the different technologies in the computer like USB and Firewire.  Most recently, its been about wireless technology and all the devices that are now proliferating like missile in an arms race.

But increasingly, as I began to drip a toe into Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.7, the new operating systems from Microsoft and Apple, I'm seeing (or hearing about) issues and problems that make me shake my head and say, 'they aren't really for prime-time yet.'

What's even more frustrating, in this age of information, when I try to find out about a problem, like corrupted Windows profiles, or report a problem, say on Apple's VoiceOver utility, I can't find a place to go.  It's like there is so much information that is clogs the way so simple requests, sort of like wet leaves in a storm drain.

It makes me want to break out my old typewriter and through away all the social media crap we are saddled with these days.  Actually, as I think about it, the last typewriter I used was my mother's.  I'd have to go buy one.  Can I still do that?  I don't remember seeing any in Staples or OfficeMax.

Maybe I can't do that.  Figures.  Just when you think you can escape, they get rid of the exit.

Sigh.  Okay.  Guess I'll go back to writing. Maybe by the time my third book is done they'll have gotten the technology right.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Third Time's the Charm

To my great surprise, I began writing Book 3 this weekend.  That may not seem like much but I've not touched that material in five or six years because I've been struggling with the events in the first two books.  Book 1 was particularly hard to get right and I've been feeling like I'm in a time loop of some sort repeating the same tasks on the same text over and over.  A sort of writer's version of Hell.

But last Friday afternoon, I broke through the curse, like the 2004 Red Sox, and gained new ground.  Book 2 is mostly done -- the last three chapters just need a few more reads to ensure I have no more edits-- and then I send it out for reviews.  In the meantime, I can work on new material: Book 3.

So I am actually making progress.  Slowly.  Steadily.  Pain-stakingly.

It's like driving around a very gentle spiral curve with a very gentle slope.  Eventually you get there but you have to travel a long way to do it.

Book 2, by the way, came out to be around 100,000 words, which also surprised me since Book 1 is more in the 67,000 to 68,000 word range.  I have no idea how long Book 3 will be and that is really my biggest concern for the novel because I need at least 50,000 words, 70,000 would be better.  But I'll be watching the word count as I go so we'll see if I've got another novel in me.

And now the reality check, which I hate paying: this does not mean the books will sell or that I'm about to become the next big thing.  And obviously, when reviews on Book 2 come in, I'll be revisiting it.  But it is good to finish up Book 2, at least for now and move on.

With luck I can still release Book 2 by the end of the year.  If not, then as soon as I can.  And let's not forget that I've still got Book 1 under consideration for publication in 2013.  The good news there is if it sells, I've got the next one all set to go and the third one should be well underway by then.

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, September 16, 2011


I seem to have a problem finishing my own work.  Every time I read a chapter in a novel or a short story, I always have edits?  Why is that?

I sometimes think that all writers automatically edit everything they read, but I doubt that's true.  Still, I would like to know why I'm constantly making changes.

Case in point:  I found a section in my novel, Aure, the Topaz, that wasn't quite right.  Brashani's, the wizard,  reaction to being chased out of town by the local necromancers should've been anger not a grim determination to go fight them.  His anger leads to the idea that he should fight them, but he shouldn't just jump there.  Additionally, I need to show the reader the reaction and transition Brashani undergoes at that moment so he or she can follow the scene better.

It was a small point but I felt I had to revise and clarify the scene.  Do I have some underlying need for perfection in my work?  Or is it merely that the scene wasn't as good as it could've been and I knew that.  So I improved it.  Of course, good and improve in the case are subjective.  As I said it was a small point; I wonder how many readers would've even noticed.

But as a seasoned writer I know nothing is perfect.  And the pursuit of perfection can drive one mad.  Of course, the publication process can do the same thing, and mostly for the same reason.  When the time comes to get something out the door, the text needs to be free of typos and grammatical errors.  The writing needs to flow and be engaging.  That alone can make you nuts.

Then there's the cover for the print version and map I include so you know where all these places I refer to a in relation to each other.  The map took three tries before I figured out to make the text small and legible.  The cover, on the other hand, has been a lot tougher to get right.  And that's something that does need to be perfect.  I see now why lots of folks don't bother with a print version.

But I have to wonder, am I the only writer edits released work?  If I'm not, I'd love to hear from you.  That way I'd know, at least, I'm not completely crazy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Site review: Authonomy

Authonomy is a web site where writers can go to post part or all of a book they want to here published.  Once posted, people on the site are expected to see and comment on the work.  The best works are supported (backed is the site jargon) and rise in rankings.  Writers are also ranked.  The most you read and comment on the higher your personal ranking is.

The site is run by HarperCollins.  Every month they take the top five books and review them.  In some cases this leads to a publishing deal.  Most often it doesn't.  And in my experience, the entire site fails to achieve the promise set out by the publisher.

Initially I used the site on my first novel is get some feedback to see if I could get high enough in the rankings to warrant a review from the publisher.  As it turned out, I couldn't get above 1000.  Additionally, what I found was the site is more about wheeling and dealing, making bargains with others so that if they back your book, you back theirs.

So the more you play that game the better off you are.  Ultimately I gave up on that because that's not how I want to spend my free time.  I want to write not play politics.

So I don't recommend the site.  It seems pointless.  I've had better luck elsewhere.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Off to the Faire!

I'm off to the Faire tomorrow.  That's King Richard's Faire, a Renaissance faire held annually in Massachusetts.  I go every so often because it inspires me to see people dressed in period costumes or joust a little or even shop a little.

This year my wife has some business at the Faire and I'm only tagging along for the ride so I can do as I please, but it's a good excuse to get out of the house.

This time of year New England is full of fairs and activities and after almost a full week of rain on top of what Irene gave us, it will be nice to walk about in a small grove and people watch.  People watching is really the main thing because the event attracts so many types.

You've got the people who come in costume, you've got the people with their kids, you've got the people who have never been to a Renaissance faire, and you've got people like me who have and keep coming back for one reason or another.

Still, I'm sure I can find some interesting characters or costumes from which to draw upon for a story I might write in the future.  I'll have to rely on my memory or a notebook because the local Sheriff will fine you for the use of a camera.  The fine is for show, by the way, and is for the use of an unauthorized magical device.

Nevertheless, my goal is not to be seen while people watching so that the people I'm watching act naturally.  This can be a fine line because if people notice you watch, they can get hostile and that's not the intent as all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Climb isn't just Uphill, it's Steep too.

Readers of this blog may recognize this theme.  I've written about this before: namely how hard it is to write and publish a novel.  But I think this bears repeating.  Plus I keep finding new potholes in the road.

First, you have to have a good idea.  That's hard enough.  It doesn't need to be an idea for a story.  It can be an idea for a character.

Next you have to develop the idea into a story.  The story must be well written and must be satisfying to the reader.  Some people have told me it must be exceptional, but this is subjective.

Then you have to sell the story to a publisher or publish it yourself.  If you publish it yourself, you must be sure the production value is top-notch and that it is priced properly.  Electronic distribution makes this easier but I don't think you can distribute exclusive in electronic formats.  You need a paper form too and getting that right can be a huge time sink.  The paper version will also be more costly.

Marketing the story is also an issue.  You'll need to spend the word yourself and that's a lot of work, making hard to find time to write another book.  But you must continue to write.  One book from one person is like a lightning strike.  It's a fluke.  But if you can write two or three or more books than readers (and publishers too) will know you have the right stuff.

This is why many famous and well-known modern writers started by writing short stories and then graduated to novels.  They proved they could do it.  But short story writing and novel writing are different and I have no interest in writing short stories, at least not at the moment.

What this means is this even if you have a good story that is well-written, it may go nowhere because you have not marketed correctly or you've priced it too high.  Or maybe your sample is not interesting enough.  In my case, I know my sample, before I revised the novel this year, was misleading.  It gave the wrong impression of the story.  The new sample from the revised novel should work better, but it has not helped from what I can tell.

So I am forced to conclude that the marketing of the novel is insufficient or poor in some way since I know the story is good (from the reviews I've had) and it has been professionally edited.  Maybe I need a thicker skin.  Maybe I shouldn't let this concern me.  Maybe.  But it does.

I think I need to attract the right audience.  And I need to find a way to do that.  I have some ideas on that score which I've not enacted.  Perhaps it is time I get off my ass and do something.  And perhaps I will once I am ready to announce and relaunch my first novel.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sometimes Luck is Your Best Plan

Many years ago, before iTunes and online purchasing was common, back when CDs were purchased in retail stores -- I know, the Dark Ages -- I went looking for a CD with a specific track on it.  It was for my brother.  I don't remember the song, but he wanted it and I remember wondering how I was ever going to find it for me.

He was a student then and had no car to go places, where as I did have a car and was working in one of the jobs on my resume, before I started focusing on novel writing.  It was late in the year and he had asked for the song as a present.  The problem was the band that did the song was a one-hit wonder so they didn't have an album of their own.  Worse still, I am terrible remembering who recorded what song.

So with the odds stacked against me I went to browse in a music store.  I remember feeling lost and adrift and after a few minutes decide to look at the CDs with a complication of songs.  After a quick search I happened to stumble across a CD with the exact song I was looking for.

I couldn't believe it.  In such a circumstance, luck is your best plan.  This is also true when a hurricane is bearing down on you.  Only luck will keep your house intact, the power on, and the flood waters away.

However, luck is not the best plan for selling books, or even writing them or for many other things that require effort and planning such as exercising to stay fit, mowing the lawn, repairing the car, shopping for food.  I say this because I know please who think otherwise.  They rely on luck regularly for everything when they need to buckle down and get working.

But I shall not preach here.  That would be too easy.  Rather I just pose this point as something to think about when, say, you are resting from some hard work you have completed.  With luck, you'll find such a moment and reflect on this post.