Dec 202018
 

WARNINGTHIS POST HAS MANY MORE PICTURES THAN NORMAL!  AND THEY’RE AWESOME! 

First of all, yes, I missed last week’s blog post.  But I have an excellent excuse this time.  I flew to New Mexico to help Baby Bird move from Santa Fe to her new apartment in Albuquerque.  Of course, flying during the holidays can be all sorts of fun, as you can see in the picture here.  That was the scene at a bit before 5 AM last Thursday at Tulsa International.  I can only imagine how wild it was later in the day, and TIA is a small airport compared to some of the larger cities.  Places like Houston, Chicago, or New York must be truly nightmarish during the holidays.

But it all went smoothly, and I arrived the morning after the first snow of the season in Albuquerque.  And while the snow was beautiful, the ice on the roads was most definitely not.  Still, we made it all right, and there’s that whole, “all’s well that ends well” thing, right?  ;)   And the view was really nice once we were safely at the apartment.  I mean, isn’t that beautimous?  (Well, other than the chain-link fence, that is.)

She had a few friends to help, so I got to meet some of her cohorts.  They were really nice… wow, I almost called them kids.  And when I think about it, they’re all around the age MBH & I were when we got married.  (And here’s where I insert the obligatory “where did the time go?” comment… Oy!)  

Over the next few days, we finished packing her life into boxes, (though she had honestly already done most of the packing), got one of those big, orange, moving trucks, packed it up, moved her from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, unpacked her life at the new location, and organized things in such a manner that she could function in the new apartment.  And for an artist, that includes setting up the improvised painting studio in the breakfast nook, and hanging lots of artwork.

And I LOVED being able to see how she does that, and to help with it.  There is painter’s canvas on the floor, plastic sheeting on the walls, flaps cut in the plastic for air vents and thermostats… it was a pretty intricate setup.  But it’s necessary for a college student who would like to one day get back her security deposit.  LOL

MBH and I worry about her commute now.  She’ll have classes in Santa Fe, so there’s about an hour commute each way.  But in truth, it’s not the distance or the time that concerns us.  It’s the fact that there’s the potential for her to be driving it in snowy, icy conditions.  And for someone used to living in Houston and San Antonio, those are some seriously different driving conditions than she’s used to.

But Baby Bird isn’t really a baby anymore, so we’ll just have to worry in relative silence.  RELATIVE silence…

The Ladies – six panels, oil on canvas

Now, I’m going to move on to my writing progress synopsis, but since we’re talking about Baby Bird and her art work (yeah, I’m a proud papa, so sue me ), I’ll be sprinkling some pictures of some of her paintings throughout the rest of this post.

 

 

Writing Progress

Animorph – Acrylic on paper

AP2 – .  Between the holidays and travel, I haven’t made a whole lot of progress on The Payne Before The Storm.  It’s currently sitting at just over 99k words after the third major revision, but that isn’t counting about 20k that I excised as part of the beginning of AP3, the third in the series.  So once this one is finished, I’ll already have a decent start on yet another Amber Payne novel.  No promises on when it will be finished, because I have other books I also need to be writing.  Nevertheless, it’s a little bit of a head start.

TBL – I haven’t spoken about The Burning Land in quite some time, have I?  The only reason I’m mentioning it now is that I’ve decided to use it as practice for recording my own audiobooks.

Owl – Watercolor on paper

After the problems I ran into with my narrator for Year 12, I’m leaning more and more toward starting to do my own narrations. I think I have a decent enough voice, and I’ve done some minor readings and sound editing for a few podcasts, so I’m familiar with the basics of the process.

But none of that is a guarantee that I can really do what I think I can do.  With that in mind, I decided that it made sense to start with something small.  And since The Burning Land is the shortest work I’ve published, what could be better?

So I set up and recorded it the day before I left for New Mexico.  It’s a 5k word short story, and it took me right at an hour to do a master take.  Next step is to make a copy for backup, and then begin the editing process.  After that, I hope to be able to submit it to ACX for release on Audible, iTunes, and of course, Amazon. So if things go well with the production of the TBL audiobook, then I can make a more informed decision on whether or not there’s an ROI to doing the audiobook for Y12.

 

Untitled – Oil on Canvas

Learning to Write

And finally, in the writing “business” category… the flights back from New Mexico gave me a little time to read.  I didn’t get time to read on the way out because I ended up in a fun conversation with a very pleasant gentleman across the aisle on the flight to Albuquerque, and we were back on the ground before I knew it.  By the way… Nate, if you actually read this, here’s me saying hello.  ;)

Untitled – Oil on Canvas

However, on the way home, I was able to finally make quite a bit of progress on the book I mentioned in WW115, way back in August… (Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert).  I’m about 90% through it now, and am amazed at just how much sense the book is making… and in just how badly I’ve missed the mark in what I should be trying to do with my mailing list.  In fact, a LOT of what I always considered “conventional wisdom” with mailing lists and newsletters really doesn’t make sense when you examine it closely.  So yeah, another project to tackle at some point in the future.  What’s more, some of what I’ve read might actually affect this blog, as well.  But more on that whenever the changes get closer.  For now, there are too many other irons in the fire.

Don’t Be an Ass – Watercolor on paper

And finally, I’ve been studying a bit on Amazon ads, keywords, book categories, and the like, in an effort to (hopefully) learn how to gain more visibility for my books.  The more I learn, the more I’m reminded that writing is a business… and that business is always shifting.  When you try to settle on a working model, the industry has a tendency to shift and leave you in the dust.  I need to be more vigilant on that side of things.

All right, I suppose I’ve meandered on for long enough.  However, in reading back through this post I realized that with all of Baby Bird’s paintings, I didn’t show anything to give the scale.  She doesn’t do much in the way of small paintings, so these last few pictures will give you an idea of what kind of size we’re looking at.  Enjoy, and stay safe.  :bye:

Nov 042018
 

It’s November, and for my fellow writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as most call it), I wish you all the best of luck.  For those of you who might not know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a movement wherein aspiring authors dedicate the month of November to the goal of writing an entire novel in a single month.  The goal is writing 50k words in thirty days.  I know a few authors who spend most of October getting ready for NaNo, plotting, planning, writing notes, and when November 1 rolls around, they hit the computer with a fury.

Simple math tells you that 50k words divided by 30 days means NaNo-ers must commit to an average of 1667 words every day.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Except it isn’t.  On days when there are no distractions or interruptions, sure.  Knocking out a few thousand words is no big deal.  But for those people who live in a world with children or a job, or even just the day-to-day minutia of regular living, it can be a challenge to do for thirty days straight.

And while I’ve never participated in NaNo, I know several people who have.  I know many who succeed in their goal every year… and I know many who have never quite made their goal.  Hell, I know a few who finish their 50k in less than a week!  In some of the writing groups I follow, writing 10k in a day is called a “Lowell”.  The term is named after Nathan Lowell, who regularly manages to do this in November.  Nathan is a very successful indie author, one of my favorites, as a matter of fact.  But even he admits that 10k a day knocks him on his tail when he does it.  Of course, there are some who claim to have done even more than that.  I know a couple of writers who claim to have written 20k, 25k, even 40k at a single sitting.  The only one I know personally, who backs his claim under the light of public scrutiny though, is Nathan.

But whether the goal is 50k in a month, or a week, my hat is off to all you NaNo-ers, (or it would be if I was wearing a hat). Go get ’em!  

 

Personal News

A couple of weeks ago, I had the surreal experience that most indie authors live for.  I had given a copy of Pangaea: Exiles to a neighbor.  He had given me permission to use his name in the story, but hadn’t had a chance to read the novel.  So I gave him one of my author copies and he took it on a hiking weekend.  When he got back, he tried to return the novel, thinking I had only loaned it to him, and during the course of convincing him that I had given it to him to keep, he said those golden words… one of his friends had seen the novel, and recognized my name.  He had already read Half Past Midnight, and on my friend’s recommendation, immediately went and downloaded PE1.  Someone recognized my name on a book!  I mean, someone I don’t know.  LOL.  Happy dance!

In other news, the contract job is done.  I finished the project Thursday before last (or at least, as much of it as I could do from a remote location).  Four months of a regular day-to-day (and the steady paycheck that goes with it) helped put life back in perspective.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend lunches with MBH (that was by far the highlight of the job), and work with a great group of people, and that was really great.  But while I really did enjoy the experience, as well as getting the opportunity to dip my toes back into the IT waters again, it really is good to get back to the writing.  I hope I’m not being overly ambitious here, but with the day job behind me for a while, I’m actually hoping to finish the first draft of AP2 by the end of the month. This also means that my Website Wednesday posts will actually go back to Wednesdays.  Which brings me to…

 

Writing News

Yes, I know there are going to be interruptions in the schedule, especially that turkey of a holiday in a few weeks.  But I already have the climactic scenes of AP2 in mind, and I’ve already built the framework to getting Amber Payne and her team to those climactic scenes.  So I really do hope I can stay on track well enough to get it done pretty quickly.

Of course, even if I do, at this point, the chances of actually getting it through beta readers, editing, and formatting, before year’s end are pretty slim.  I’m more likely looking at an early 2019 release date.  I have contacted Streetlight Graphics, the company I use for my covers, to get on their schedule.  We spoke for a bit, discussing cover ideas, and I’m confident that they’re going to have a fantastic cover well before the book is ready to release.  Remember “Cover art lesson #2” from my old “Cover art – from a writer’s perspective” post.

Learn to manage the timing of publication.  There are some tasks that are prerequisite to others.  For instance, the book must be written before it can be edited, and it must be edited before it can be formatted for publication.  However, the cover art can be done as soon as you know your novel’s theme, tone, setting, and characters.  Once you have a feel for what you want on the cover, I recommend that you begin working towards getting your cover done.  This will eliminate the frustration of having your novel written, edited, and files ready for publication while you have to wait on your cover.

At this point, I’m beginning to plan my next projects.  2018 has been a bad year for my writing.  The Year 12 audiobook completely fell through, Crazy Larry stalled at about 90% completion, and AP2, (the Streets of Payne sequel) fought me SO much more than I anticipated, and is turning out to be the longest book I’ve written.  When I look back on the year, I really did a poor job of it.  In fact, the only thing I managed to complete and turn in on time was a short story for an anthology.  And that anthology is currently five months behind on publication.  In short, I haven’t gotten anything published in 2018.  Nothing. 

But that also means I’m poised for multiple titles to be released in 2019.  My goal at this point is to publish three novels, and at least two novellas next year.  I have to contact a few people to hammer out details on what these next projects will be, but I have several options.  If one doesn’t pan out, another will.  My goal remains the same… three novels and two novellas.  As badly as I did in 2018, I plan to make 2019 my most productive year to date.  I’m thinking of it as an early New Year’s Resolution.

With that said, time to get to it.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  :bye:

Oct 062018
 

I believe I’m going to have to change my “Website Wednesday” entries to “Website Weekend” for a while.  With the current day job in play, there simply isn’t enough time on Wednesdays to work and write a post, and also get some writing done on whatever WIP I have going.  Once the temporary gig is done, I should be able to drop back into the old schedule.

In the meantime, my posts will likely become pretty abbreviated.  I’m working to try and finish up a few titles, and the blog has to remain secondary to that goal.  So without further delay…

Let me start with the admission that I still haven’t taken the time to read the Newsletter Ninja book.  In fact, I haven’t taken time to read anything at all in a few months now.  Between work, writing, and researching for upcoming projects, I’m not getting any reading done.  Sorry Jim.  

AP2 – This is what I’ve taken to calling the second Amber Payne novel.  I know I’ve been referring to it as Payne and Suffering, but the more the book evolves, the less that title seems to fit.  So for now, it’s simply going to be “Amber Payne – Book 2“, or AP2.  As for how much it’s evolving, so far the thing is a bit over 103k, and still growing.  It has the very likely potential of becoming the longest book I’ve ever written… (at least the first draft).

Y12 – I’ve finally given up with the narrator for Year 12.  The audiobook is already more than a year overdue.  At first I was getting excuses, claiming the narrator had run into personal issues but he was going to get it done.  More recently, he stopped responding to emails at all.  This really makes me sad, because he did such a wonderful job on the first two HPM titles.  Whatever happened in his life to bring us to this turn of events, I hope he manages to work it out eventually.  Still, this is more than a year with no income from an audiobook that we had a contract on.  So I notified him that I’m going to contact ACX and dissolve the contract.  

And that’s going to be it for now.  Time to get back to writing. So stay safe, and I’ll try to get back to you soon.  

 

 

 Posted by at 1:00 pm
Sep 122018
 

Endings seem to be the theme of the post today.

  •   The End of the End of the WIP

You’ll notice that the progress bar for Payne and Suffering took a drastic reduction.  The manuscript was sitting at 98%.  But the last several chapters I had written didn’t sit well with me. What I was writing didn’t feel “right”, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why.  Well, I recently had the chance to go back and begin re-reading the manuscript from the beginning, and I was finally able to put a finger on where the story zigged when it should have zagged.

Bottom line? I had tried too hard to force the story into a set word count.  I was shooting for a 90k to 100k word count, when the story wants to be more like 125k to 150k.  I didn’t really want to write anything quite that long, but I finally realized that everything I was weaving into the story wouldn’t work unless I gave it free rein.  Besides, in all the time I’ve spent trying to wrangle the word count under that 100k self-imposed restriction, I probably could have already written the full 150k words I was trying to avoid.

So, I chopped of the end of the manuscript, nearly a quarter of what I had written, and brought it back down to where I had last been happy with the story as a reader.  That brought me down to just under 78k words.  Then I started re-writing the story as it wanted to be told.  I’m currently back up to 85k, and MUCH happier with the way it’s progressing.  I hope you, as readers, will be happy with the result.

 

  • The End of the Laptop

Yes, I had to retire an old friend.  He was a Dell XPS 17″ L702x laptop with a 750 GB primary drive and a 2 TB secondary drive… a real workhorse of a machine.  I bought him back in January of 2012 and it’s now September of 2018.  That’s six years and nine months of tireless work.  And I HAVE worked him hard.  The only criticism I have of him is that he was a bit overweight.  Hauling that 17″ behemoth around was rough on the back… especially as I get older.

Technically, he’s still working.  The problem is that one of the hinges is giving up the ghost.  Anytime I try to open or close the lid, the hinge separates from the screen, popping and scraping, and leaving bits of plastic as it tries to break completely.  And there are only so many times you can continue to try to force the lid up or down before entropy finally wins.  So for now, he is still set up in the office, still powered up.  If not for the fact that the power button is beneath the lid, I would keep him hooked up indefinitely, using him as a desktop.  But I will still have to open the lid (at least enough to reach the power button above the keyboard) any time I want to power him back up.  Eventually, that hinge will go.

So I had to make a decision.  I had saved up enough from the book earnings to fund my next book.  For the first time, I was going to be able to afford editing, cover art and design, formatting… all the publishing expenses, completely off my royalties.  But not if I bought a new laptop.  At least not if I bought another workhorse like the XPS.  So, as in so many things in life, I had to compromise.  I bought a good, business class laptop… a Dell Latitude 15″ 5590.  It’s not got anywhere near the drive capacity of the old XPS, and the drive is slower (5400 rpm vs 7200), but it’s a mid-range and dependable business-class laptop.  It should do the job.  As a matter of fact, I’ve had it for almost a week, am working on it as I type this, and have zero complaints with it.  In fact, my back really appreciates the difference in weight.  LOL

  • The End of a Business Relationship

It’s been more than a year since I commissioned the audiobook version of Year 12.  For whatever reason, the narrator I commissioned has still not delivered the audio files, and it’s time for me to sever the relationship.  For the longest time I was patient as he claimed personal issues.  Truth is, he has a wonderful voice, and I really REALLY wanted him to do the book.  But he’s stopped answering emails, and the contract called for the book to be completed in July of 2017.  It’s now September of 2018.  That’s a year of lost income, and I guess the time for patience and understanding is pretty much past.  So I’ll be severing ties with him.  

I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with regards to a Y12 audiobook… put it back up for audition?  Do the narration myself?  There are pros and cons to both options, and I need to think it over for a while.  In the meantime, I have other books to write.

And that’s it for now.  Time to go from all these ending to beginnings.  Like, beginning to get myself back to work.  

So take care, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you again soon.  :bye:

Aug 222018
 

It’s been a while, right?  Yes, I’m still working the contract IT gig.  And you remember how I mentioned last time that we’d had two of our three kiddos, as well as their families (as in daughter-in-law and grand-kids) come visit for a bit?  Well, it was “two of our three kiddos”, and we really needed a trifecta.  So yeah, we just got back from visiting the third kiddo. You’ve heard me mention Baby Bird before, right?  She’s going to school in Santa Fe, and MBH hadn’t seen her in about a year.

We rectified that situation with a road trip.  It was about a ten-hour drive from Claremore, OK to Santa Fe, NM, and while the drive was long, it also held some beautiful sights.  As we drove west, the hills and greenery gave way to plains and windmills, and eventually to long expanses of desert, scrub, cacti, and mountains in the distance.  What was especially awe-inspiring was the sight of thunderclouds in the distance, with dark sheets of rain falling so far away that we couldn’t even begin to judge how many miles lay between us and that rain.

Our arrival in Santa Fe, however, was somewhat less awe-inspiring.  We’re some of those folks that like to use Air BnB to find places to stay.  Sometimes you find a real gem, and sometimes not so much.  This time, we followed our trusty Garmin to the little casita we had rented, but were stopped before we even got there.  When we tried to pull up the little gravel road, our way was blocked by several police cars.  And of course, as soon as they saw us, one of the cops got on the radio.

So what do you do in that situation?  If you turn around to leave what appears to be a pretty intense situation, you look like you’re running from the cops.  If you get out to ask them to move, you look like you’re trying to cause trouble.  And to top it all off, we weren’t even completely sure we were in the right place.  MBH suggested I simply ask if this was the correct address. (gulp)  So, masculinity on the line, I got out of the car to speak to the nice, intimidating, scowling officer.  I asked if this was “456 That-street”,  explaining that we were trying to get to a casita we had rented through Air BnB, and weren’t even sure we were in the right place.

Nope.  They were at “452 That-street”.  Right street, wrong address, and our casita was four doors farther down, with multiple police vehicles between us and it, and no way around them.

Needless to say, we decided to go visit Baby Bird a bit earlier than planned.  A few hours later, we went back, and this time, Johnny Law was gone.  We found our accommodations for our stay without any further issue and settled in.

While we were in town we took advantage of an annual event in Santa Fe.  The Santa Fe Indian Market is an annual show in (you guessed it) Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It’s sponsored by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, and features Native American artists from all over the US and Canada.  Just to be allowed to exhibit, the artists have to apply months in advance, must be able of Native American descent, and have their work judged and accepted by a jury for the show.  It’s one of the largest shows of its kind in the country, and Santa Fe actually closes down the streets downtown to make room for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come (as we did) from all over to visit.  After seeing the work on display, I think (hope?) we may have convinced Baby Bird to apply for a booth next year.  At the very least, I hope we’ve finally convinced her to stop undervaluing her work.  She was able to see that some of her peers who had paintings on par with some of hers, were selling them for thousands of dollars, where she’s been reluctant to charge hundreds.

Of course, there were artists of all kinds at the show… jewelers, painters, weavers, potters, and even traditional dancers.  Yeah, this was an event where the phrase “dancing in the streets” takes on a whole new meaning.

But one of the stars of the show (at least for us) was the giant teddy bear of a dog, ironically enough named “Oso” (which is Spanish for “bear”).  Oso is a Malamute almost shocking in his size.  I mean, look at the picture there.  Look at the size of his paws, as compared to his master’s.  He was huge!  But he was also as calm and gentle as you could ever imagine.  Oso is a service dog, who has been trained to smell sugar levels in anticipation of diabetic problems.

After we’d worn ourselves out at the art show, we went back to cool off and get ready for a nice dinner.  I didn’t know it, but Santa Fe is apparently known for some pretty fancy dining spots, and we decided to treat ourselves to a very rare night at a fancy restaurant.  Let me tell you, if you ever get the chance to eat at the Fenix at Vanessie Restaurant, I highly recommend it.  The food was amazing, as was the atmosphere.  The decor was (of course) high end Native American, and there was a piano bar.  And did I mention the food?  (insert drool here)

Anyway, MBH and I took Baby Bird, and it was an evening we’ll remember for a LONG time.

I could go on about the trip, but I’m already pushing a thousand words on the blog here, and I haven’t even said anything about the progress on revamping the web site (not a lot to talk about anyway), writing progress (same), marketing (learning some things, getting ready to put the learning into practice), or the business side of writing (bought a book that’s beginning to convince me I’ve messed up with my newsletter philosophy).

I guess that just means I have something to write about for next time, right?    But until then, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  :bye: