Friday, March 30, 2012

FFF: Wild Library

This one's for fellow writer/author/blogger Nadja Notariani, making use of one of my more, ah, popular characters from The Binder's Daughter... 

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”

Matthias raised his blood red eyes and examined the prey. “Vell enough.”

“Oh good.” The woman swept a lock of coffee-colored hair aside. Relief sweetened her smile. “I need help finding something and, well, my German sucks.”

Americans, the vampire thought. So… tasty. He lifted a finger to his nose, pushing up glasses that were not there. Then, he smiled sheepishly. “That is okay. Vhat are you seeking?”

Chocolate eyes swept the nearly empty library before returning to Matthias with a sparkle. “Why don’t I just show you?”

Feisty, too.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

State of the Writing

In lieu of a ROW80 check-in this week (sign ups are open for the next round, but it hasn't started yet), I'm going to do a quick "State of the Writing" address. That is, I just wanted to go on record with where I stand in my writing career. Maybe it'll end up being more for me than anything else, but so be it.

I (still) have two projects in the proverbial oven right now. One, the full length novel Fates' Motif. The other, the novelette The Only Sparkle. One set of FM edits are back in my eager hands. The other set is being hand delivered soon. TOS is out with an editor.

The cover for FM is nearly complete. It looks great. We're getting better at covers.

Everything seems abysmally slow to me. It has taken me a lot longer than I wanted to get these projects to the point they are today. The problem is, there has simply been an unfortunate confluence of negative life events conspiring against me. It cannot be helped.

Part of my prior ranting on success is likely due to my current struggles with life. I've talked about my wife's health struggles before, and I don't really want to get too deep into it here (I have the personal blog for that). Suffice it to say Depression, Anxiety, and Migraines are not a fun combination. And the medicines they run you through can knock you pretty much out of service for a week at a time. Taking care of a sick spouse can be a lonely job. I'm not complaining; it's totally the job I signed up for when I said "I do" (they're very clear on the "sickness and health" clause), but those who have gone through it know that it's a special kind of hell.

Last night, my mother reminded me of something she'd been told when going through a similar struggle with my father: "When you're going through hell, the best thing to do is keep going." Trust me, you don't want to stop and smell the roses. They smell like sulfur. I think.

Anyway, the point is that writing has taken a bit of a back seat... but it hasn't stopped! I'm still knocking things off my list, editing a bit each night, and getting these projects closer to release. I'm just not able to spend near the amount of time or energy I would have liked. For those who are waiting: thank you for being patient!

My plan has been, and remains, to simply keep writing for about five years (or until I have a solid stable of content). Until then, I'm networking by doing what I love (blogging and writing), but I'm not really focusing on marketing. I'm counting on word of mouth alone to sell my early books. It hasn't made me rich, but neither has it failed me. I've been able to share my stories with more people that I would have had I not embarked on this journey. And a critical part of the creation process is sharing.

So, though I'd love to strike it lucky, sell a million books, and quit the Day Job... I'm not there yet. But things are going according to plan. It feels better when I say that out loud (or write it out loud, I guess). This is still a young blog and a young career, and I've already met some phenomenal along the way. Just have to keep on keeping on. Everyone's journey is different.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday

I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with this alliterative concept. I mentioned on Wednesday that I'd done a bit of Flash Fiction. It's sort of addicting, I must confess. 100 words or less? Easy peasy. I think I'm going to start trying to do this every Friday. I've typically been poor lately at adhering to any "real" posting schedule, but I think I should be able to squeeze 100 words out. What's more, I'm going to try to do these with characters from my stories. No guarantee which world I use, but they may hold some interesting tidbits (though nothing earth shattering). Today we'll go with a scene prior to Fates' Motif...

"Just take it," Werim whispered.

Bud looked around for the umpteenth time. The bakery window was unobserved, ripe.

"Wimp." Werim’s eyes twinkled.

Bud shot his friend a glance. "If you're so brave, then you do it."


With a lopsided grin, Werim disappeared around the corner. A moment later, he returned, golden loaf dancing from hand to hand. "It's still hot," he said with a wide smile.

Footsteps sounded behind them. They spun.

"Werim Swift," Sharee accused. "I'm telling Mom!" She took off like a shot.

"No you don't." Werim tossed the bread to Bud and chased after his sister.

100 on the dot. :-)
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#ROW80 - Count Me In The Wimper Crew

The first round was quite the struggle for me. An inauspicious start to the year, I guess. Still, could have been worse. I completed my first novelette. And I've just now gotten my edits back from my second novel. I should triple my publishing portfolio in the upcoming months. This is not a sprint, it's a marathon.

Let's look at my last week of goals:
  • Lesson Learned - I'm trying to think how I can phrase this. I created a "my stories" page up there on the link bar. I suppose the lesson is that, after you get more than one work release, you need a clean way to display them. If you try to smash them all on one big, image-laden page, it can be hard to figure out what is what. Instead, I tried to make my links mimic the "also-by" page we're used to seeing in books. I figure there's a reason they've chosen that format, and I think it look sharp. I can easily add to/link individual books as I release them.
  • WIP Progress - I wanted to try and find a new editor, but my search has really been fruitless. There are probably some more that I need to contact and get a better idea of what, exactly, I want, but time's been short. On the other hand, my regular editors are done with Fates' Motif, and they're ready to pick right back up with my short story, so that's in the pipeline. I also spent a day editing already. Knocked four chapters out (only with one set of edits, though.)
  • Blogging - I did a bit of flash fiction just now for my gaming blog. That makes 4/3 there, and this is 3/3 here. My personal post was done earlier this month, so I'm did great on this goal. It's good, because this is really all I'm writing. Practice makes perfect and all that.
Round 2 starts in what, 11 days? Something like that. I'll be editing in the mean time, and should hit it in stride. I can honestly say, this round will probably be my worst this year. Quite frankly, it can get much rougher. I pretty much invented a WIP out of thin air while my novel was stuck in editing limbo. I kept going, got some business stuff done, transitioned positions at the day job, and navigated family health issues. It would have been really easy to get nothing done. Being part of a group like ROW (even when you're not as active as you'd like) makes it a whole lot easier to persevere.

In any case, I'll see you folks in the next round. You'd better believe I'll be lurking around. And I'll likely get a whole lot more done, too. Until then, I'll ruminate on my "terrible round" word count:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 2,592
  • New Fiction: 0 - Editing Mode
  • Round 1 Total: 47,287
Not too terrible....
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Monday, March 19, 2012

The Price of Success

Here's a great post from Ollin over at Courage 2 Create. I wanted to share it today not only because I've experienced this as a writer, but also because I think it is an idea that transcends to any career choice. It is also a concept that I try to let shape my life (fighting my more unenlightened urges to the contrary at times).

The basic point is that a lot of times we fall into the trap of thinking that if we could only succeed in our chosen career, that we will be happy. Yet, reality has presented us with a deluge of examples where this is exactly not the case, where success in a job actually creates more unhappiness. Even when it's a "dream job." Or maybe the expected sense of fulfillment is curiously absent, as if the success is somehow incomplete.

In my own life, I often feel like it's just "not enough." My job, any job, is not all of what I'm about. It is not all of what I want to be. I want to be a father (someday) and an active member of the community I live in. I want to live my faith. I want to contribute to more than just my bank ledger and 401k. I want to be a whole person. A career, any career, just doesn't cut it on its own. Succeeding in a career does not equate to succeeding in life.

Even if I succeed in transitioning from full-time engineer to full-time writer (which I desperately want to do), it won't represent the summation of who I am. It isn't the only thing I want, and in that there is a sort of safety. All of my eggs aren't in one basket. Having other areas of my life that are essentially unrelated to my career choice provides me with a built-in buffer should I fail. It allows me to take reasonable risks. Even if I never succeed in making this transition, it doesn't mean my life is a failure. There are other places where I'm making progress in parallel. And I'm certainly not sacrificing things like my family or my marriage for a job, even a dream job.

Maybe this idea will doom me in the long run. After all, I'm simply not willing to give as much as some others. Living in a capitalist society, you learn pretty quick that there is always someone willing to go further, do more, put in longer hours. America was sort of founded on that principle, right? The American Dream? Still, I can't help but think that a solitary focus is unhealthy; it spoils the dream from within the dreamer. At what price does success become too expensive?

When I started on this journey, I made one promise to myself. I'm going to do this the right way for me. One of my favorite adages from my father was the notion that "there's just something to be said about doing things right." The "rightness" is, itself, the reward. Other people may blow past me on their fast tracks, but I'm staying true to my road, even though it may be slower. This way, success if it comes, when it comes, will be all the sweeter.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Luck of The Irish

Fellow author Nadja Notariani posted a Lucky Seven Meme yesterday. I've not done a whole lot of memes on here, but thought this could be a fun one. The premise is this:
  1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP 
  2. Go to line 7 
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written. 
  4. Tag 7 authors
Now, I'm going to have to modify this a bit. My latest WIP didn't have 77 pages. It was a novelette. So I'm going to pick my favorite number and go to page 17. I'll do two and three as advertised, but I don't think I know seven authors to tag. At least not seven authors that would pay attention to my tags. So I'll just say it right now: if you're reading this and want to do the meme. Consider yourself tagged. You can even leave a comment and I'll give you a proper link.

We'll go with seven paragraphs from page 17. This is also unedited, so feel free to point out errors. Here it goes:
“Probably has a thing for blondes,” Mark muttered.

He’d not meant it seriously, but Sally was nodding. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I remind him of a lost love or something romantic like that.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Okay, so we arm ourselves with culinary additives and religious idols, you walk in and flash him, and then what, we ask him politely to put on pants?”

“Oh yeah! The pants!”

Mark seemed to be conjuring a mental image of his description. “It’s pretty counterproductive to putting on pants if you ask me,” he said, but Sally wasn’t paying attention.

She had the note out. “The pants make him human. We won’t necessarily need a stake. We could use, well… anything. Do you own a gun, Mark?”

Mark blinked. “A gun? No I don’t have a gun. And even if I did I wouldn’t let you use it. Sal, you’re talking about murdering a man.”
 There you have it. A nice little exchange smack in the middle of the story. Well, I guess it's still pretty early, but fun nonetheless.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#ROW80 - Time Equals Blogs

Another quick check-in this week. Day Job is being, well, daily. It's been tough to squeeze things in, but the last week was not a complete failure. Let's look at the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - Mailing Lists are good! I wrote about my plans for setting up a newsletter yesterday. I'm rather excited about the idea (not that it's particularly novel or anything), as I'm all for rewarding readers. I'm always hesitant to simply mark down my books (maybe I shouldn't be), but I love handing out Smashwords codes for cheaper books. It's just simpler and more direct, I think. Maybe this is a personal thing, though.
  • WIP Progress - Still looking for an editor for The Only Sparkle. Perhaps my new goal here is to get the ball rolling on that by the time this round ends. Otherwise, I'm in business mode right now, so not a lot of writing going on apart from the blogs.
  • Blogging - Only 2/3 at the gaming blog, but 3/3 here. More on this in a moment, but I think this is good for the time I'm spending. My personal post has already been notched for this month. 
I've found, in generally, that the amount of blogging I'm able to do goes hand-in-hand with the amount of time I spend on things. That is, if I don't game for a whole week, it becomes really difficult to hit my 3 post goal. Similarly, if I'm not working on my writing career, it's tough to write things here. Thus, I use my blogging goal as a natural reflection of how hard I'm working in a given arena. 

I didn't game a lot this last week, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (since gaming is a pretty optional activity). My brother is staying with us for a week, so I've been spending time with him. Plus, my car is back in the shop (which is becoming a weekly adventure, and I'm searching for a new car in the mean time). Being social and getting the "life business" done are good reasons not to game. 

My writing blogging stayed on target, as I'm squeezing in the "right" amount of time for this. I've been knocking off what I would call more "business" tasks, but I can still write about those on here. I've checked in with the nice folks editing my novel, and the good news is that they are both very nearly done. I should enter my editing gauntlet next week, which means we're looking at a release for the novel before the end of the month. It took a lot longer than I'd have liked, but a lot of life stuff got in the way, and I'm still getting it out. I didn't stop or give up... just delayed. Any forward progress is good progress, even if its slow. Like I said last week, just keep chugging, keep rowing; that's the key.

Let's check out the word count:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 2,044
  • New Fiction: 0 - Editing Mode
  • Round 1 Total: 44,695
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A List! A List!

At first, I was reluctant to set up a mailing list. I'm not sure why. I guess I just thought I wasn't even remotely "cool" enough yet to justify a mailing list. That's only for when you have gobs of fans, right?

Well, I still don't think I'm all that cool, but I do have a small handful of fans. (To be fair, I don't even like to say "fans." Most of you I think of as friends, even if we've only chatted through the Internet.) As I'm getting ready to release both a new short story and a new novel, it occurred to me that I'd really like to offer my dedicated few some good deals and sweet pricing. Like, of the free variety. Especially with the short story.

I was starting to make a list of people I wanted to contact via email and offer free copies of my short story, when I thought: isn't there an app for this? Or, more specifically, a chimp for this? Email newsletters are hardly a new idea, yet it didn't take much thought to figure out that they're perfect for what I want to do. A list of folks that I can send a pretty email to in one, easy step? Now wai!

You'll find the sign up on the left there. The heading is "Only the important stuff..." That's how I view the newsletter. I'm am NOT going to spam you. In fact, if you sign up, you may only see one or two emails per year from me. I only plan to send out notification of new releases and special deals. The deals will likely be in the form of a Smashwords code, allowing you to snag a story for a discount in whatever format you'd like. You'd also be completely free (and even encouraged) to pass your "exclusive" deals along to friends. The more the merrier.

Sign ups are open now. We'll probably shoot out a "practice" mail to start, featuring The Binder's Daughter. In fact, we'll probably include a real code with it. Maybe in the next week or so, depends on how quickly we can make it look good. In any case, the list should be a great way to just get the "good stuff." Sign up if you're interested. We'll see how it goes.
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Friday, March 9, 2012

A Title For The Dare

I don't have an editor yet, but I do have a title for the dare story I just finished writing. It's a 12,000 word novelette. If you recall, the basic feature of the story had to be a vampire whose power hinged around whether or not he was wearing pants. Yes, it's pretty preposterous. The challenge was to craft a short story around a crazy idea.

I think it turned out well. The story is fun. There are some good jokes. It's not meant to be taken completely seriously, but I think it'll be a great little read for the 99 cents I plan to sell it for.

In any case, I wanted to come up with a title that captured the fun nature of the story. I didn't want it to sound all "srs bzns" because that would be false advertisement. My friend mentioned that he used to see magazine stories with long, one-liner titles all the time. It's a convention I can't say I'm familiar with (I've pretty much always stuck to the novel as my preferred media), but I'm going to go with it. Long titles are silly. So, the title I'd like to use is:

The Only Sparkle On A Vampire Should Be The Zipper.

Or "The Only Sparkle" for short. Thematically, it fits with the story and I think it's pretty fun. Now, I'm not totally hating on Twilight or anything (though I am poking fun). One of the main characters just happens to be a vampire "purist," if you will. There's also a pretty clever hook (if I do say so myself) that ties it all together so that it makes sense. As soon as I can get this baby edited, I want to put it out there.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#ROW80 - Getting Back On Track

This round has been rough for me, as far as staying on task goes. I've had a lot of interruptions, yet still accomplished a good amount. Not as much as I'd have liked, but not nothing either. And that's sort of the point, isn't it? That, so long as we set goals and keep rowing, we'll get somewhere. It may not always be the intended destination. It may not always take the expected amount of time. But we're going, not staying, and that's a good thing. At least, that's a good thing if you're trying to become a better writer.

Here's a quick look at the current goal status:
  • Lesson Learned - My definition of "success" as a writer (especially fiction) should begin and end with telling a good story. I wrote a bit about this last Friday. You can heap a whole bunch of other conditions on your definition of success, but it has to have a firm base in storytelling, I think.
  • WIP Progress - I'm in editing/business mode, so I've not written anything new. I made some good progress trying to find a freelance editor, though I've not heard back from the few I've contacted. I'm finding that I'm very particular about what I want. Mostly, I'm looking for a good proofreader. As far as this goal, though, I've pretty much done something every day, which is good.
  • Blogging - I hit 3 for 3 on my gaming blog, and this will make 3 here. I even threw up my personal post for the month last night... so my side-goal was to focus more on blogging this week, and I succeeded in that.
My first round of taxes as a small-business owner are coming up soon (I have an appointment with a tax prep person in a few weeks). That'll be fun. My wife has also gotten back into cover design (she'd been off it for a bit while sick). We're moving again. The big wheels of train are just taking their first chugs back in the right direction. It doesn't feel as good as being under full steam, but it's a far cry from being stuck at a station. I'll take it.

Here are the word counts:
  • Since last check in (two weeks): 2,244
  • New Fiction: 0 - Editing Mode
  • Round 1 Total: 42,651
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Numbers Don't Lie

The Day Job has been rough lately, but more on that tomorrow for the check-in. Instead, I wanted to squeeze out a quick post this evening about something I read today. Apparently, the folks over at the Romance Writers of America ran a survey of romance readers. I think the results are interesting both as a writer and a reader. It's also pretty likely that SF/Fantasy isn't all that dissimilar in some areas.

Obviously, the demographic is likely a bit different. That is, I'd bet good money that SF/F isn't 91% women. Also, I'd wonder if most Fantasy readers can knock out, say, a George R.R. Martin-sized novel in a month, every month. Not saying it'd be tough for an avid reader, but we're talking "average" here.

The rest of the info, though, I think could be generally applied to most fiction. Probably not in an exact sense, but definitely enough for some generic musings. For instance, do you notice how things like "the story" and "liked previous stories from the author" factor highly no matter the avenue of purchase? Curiously absent is the "familiar with the publisher category." Also, cover doesn't seem to factor highly, either.

And what is the number 1 source of information about a new title? Friends. Funny that family is only #5 on that same list. Thought the fact that those are two categories and both in the top five is probably telling. For all the talk of getting on Amazon lists or doing blog tours or whatever... simple word of mouth is still your best best. And how do we get that? Write a good story. It all starts and ends there. That's why my focus will always be on the writing first, and the promotion a distant second. I just need to write more, get better... not yell louder.

Did anyone else snicker when they saw that erotic romance is heavily skewed toward e-book purchases. Duh.

The price data is pretty interesting as well. I'd guess that as a fledgling indie author, being just above the "floor" is a good place to be.

It was surprising to me to see how interested readers were in attending a "live author event." Online just doesn't hold the same swag, I guess. Though author's websites and blogs seem to be good avenues. It seems like a lot of readers are checking out websites, which is good. That's probably the best way to see what I'm up to anyway.

Maybe I should figure out a book trailer. I can honestly say that's one aspect on here that I've never really gotten into or given much though... but they seem generally effective if this survey is to be trusted.

In any case, some good food for thought. I wouldn't take any of it as gospel, especially if you're not a romance writer, but it was pretty interesting, no? The survey was web-based... so I wonder if that leaves out a whole swath of computer illiterate readers. Or maybe computer-phobic is a better term? Luddite? I'd be afraid of offending such people, but the chances that they'd read this are pretty much nil, right? (Yet, wouldn't non-computer people probably read more books? I mean, what else is there to do without the Internet? Television, you say? Bah. I'll take a good book any day!)
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Writing is Frustrating

I think it's very easy to get discouraged as both an author and a blogger. In fact, a big part of what keeps me going here is my success with my other blogs. If I didn't have the experience, if I were purely doing this in a vacuum, it would be exponentially more difficult to stay enthused. But I've felt the ups and downs before. I'm out here experimenting on my own because of those earlier success. As humans, we build and learn, right? But lessons are often hard-won.

My top two posts, traffic-wise, on this site are the two cheater posts that I wrote linking to other posts. That's right, they're insubstantial crap. A paragraph of nothing with the express purpose to point to something else. I have no idea why they're racking up the hits. I must have hit some magical combination of search terms and am probably sending a lot of googlers away frustrated.

I shot myself in the foot with my pricing. It was stupid to raise my pricing for a month. Quite frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. Sales have pretty much bottomed out. Instead of freaking out, though, I know what I need to do: I need to get more stuff out there. It's very, very, very hard to do well with a single item for sale. It would be unreasonable for me to expect more. But the knowledge doesn't always keep me from feeling frustrated.

I feel like I'm basically sitting here, hanging out in my little corner of the Interwebs, shouting into a void. Occasionally someone listens, but more often than not, I'm just talking to myself. Babbling incoherently. We all feel like this sometimes, right?

I've felt this way before. When first starting my gaming blog (and at times since), it felt like this. It takes time to build an audience of any kind. It takes time for people to find you. Despair lurks out there in the darkness, swishing about your feet. But I have a pen-light, a tiny beacon of hope that I cling to as the waves of life buffet me. I know I can write. I know I can succeed with strangers in providing an entertaining story. I may not be a pro, but I have something. A spark, if you will. And I believe in myself.

That's the hardest part, right? Believing in yourself. How many writers struggle with that? I know I do.

I guess the point here is that there are going to be setbacks. There always are. You're going to make mistakes. Things aren't going to get done as quickly as you'd like. Looking at numbers can be quite depressing. But it's not all about that. It can't be.

At some point, I've written a story that someone has enjoyed. Take away the talk of "sales" and "marketing" and "publishing." I'm a writer first, businessman second. Read that first sentence again: I've written a story that someone has enjoyed.

Nothing can take that from me. And to that I say: "mischief managed, damnit."
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