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:

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:

Jun 062018
 

As you can see, I finally got the final monitor working.   The external graphic card adapter I bought worked like a charm.  As a matter of fact, if I ever decide to go crazy with them, this particular card is capable of concurrently synchronizing up to six monitors at once.  Of course, you have to buy a new adapter for each one, but it’s nice to have options, right?  LOL

And it seems to already be making a difference as far as the head- and neck aches are concerned, so it looks like this was definitely a good decision.  Thanks, Better Half.  

I have a new mystery.  Not a story I’m writing… a real life, honest to goodness, mystery.  You see, I had an outing last Saturday.  The outing itself isn’t really germane to the story.  But when I got home, there was a package from ‘Zon waiting on the porch.  I was a bit confused, since I didn’t recall ordering anything, but hey, my name was on it so maybe MBH had ordered something & I just hadn’t known it.  I brought it in and sat it on the desk without thinking too much of it for a few minutes.

But when I asked MBH about it, she was as much in the dark about it as I was.  So I opened it up, and found an item I had looked at on Amazon on more than one occasion.  You know, one of those, “if I only had money to spare” kind of things.  It was a Goal Zero portable solar charger and battery core with some USB attachable accessories.  Now, I’ve looked at various Goal Zero products in the past, so I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked something and ordered it without remembering. (Yes, I’ve done that in the past, so I had to be sure.)

Nope.  Then it occurred to MBH & I that maybe it was an early Father’s Day or birthday present from one or more of the kids.  But they didn’t know anything about it either.  I called my sister & brother-in-law, and they hadn’t done it.  And since my mom lives with them, I checked and she hadn’t bought it, either.

Like I said… mystery.  

The only other thing I can think of is I had just written up a bunch of product reviews for the monitors, graphics adapter, cables, and a bunch of other items I had purchased on Amazon.  I’ve heard that ‘Zon sometimes sends customers items to review.  But if that were the case, wouldn’t they at least send me an email letting me know they had done so?  At any rate, I’ve got a very nice little portable solar panel and charging setup that I’ll be playing with.  And yes, I’ll likely do a full review on it, too.

 

Writing news –

The latest Amber Payne story just keeps going and going.  I’ll probably break 70k by the end of the day, and the characters still don’t even know what the real problem is, let alone the solution.  I have a feeling this one is going to take some serious cutting to bring it down to size.  To give you a comparison, Streets of Payne was right at 90k.  That was my target goal for this one, too, but like I said, I think I’ll probably bust that limit by a considerable amount.

Guess I’ll just have to see where the story takes me.  For now though, it’s time to get back to writing.

Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

May 092018
 

We finally got a storm shelter!  Ever since our tornado scare two years ago, MBH and I have been trying to figure out how to fit a storm shelter into our household budget.  Luckily, the Choctaw Nation has a grant program for tribal members that covers the majority of the cost.  And of course, yours truly is a member.

Yep, if you didn’t already know, I’m a member of the Choctaw Nation, and very proud of my heritage.  Even more so, now that I’ve seen first hand what they do to help their constituents.  Yes, there’s a bit of paperwork, and several months of wait time before approval.  And it took several more weeks for us to be able to get the actual shelter… ironically, because of the weather.

For those of you who might not know, storm shelters are typically pre-manufactured, then transported in pieces before being assembled at the installation site.  In our case, the installation site was our back yard, and intermittent rain over several weeks kept the ground pretty wet.  Much too wet to support a heavy truck with a mini-crane and a the shelter on it.  It turns out that such a load typically runs over fifteen tons.  And if you tell them to install and they get stuck, guess who’s responsible for getting a heavy-duty wrecker out to get them un-stuck?

So we had to wait until we had several consecutive days of dry, sunshiny weather before we were able to finally get it in the ground. And that didn’t happen until last week.  But it’s here now, and just in time for tornado season.

Such a huge relief!

Writing news – 

Payne and Suffering – I mentioned in my last post that I was having trouble tracking the plot and motivations in the latest Amber Payne novel.  The story was threatening to stall for me, and I was really beginning to worry that I was on the wrong track.  Then I had a dream about it.  I’ve mentioned before that I actively try to think about my stories as I go to sleep when I’m having trouble… sort of guiding my subconscious in an attempt to get it to work the problem as I sleep.

Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  To be perfectly honest, it usually doesn’t.  But if it doesn’t work one night, and I don’t solve the problem during the following day, I simply try again the next night.  This time, after several days of minimal progress, and nights of… well nothing, I had my eureka dream.

I realized that I was trying to force the wrong antagonist into a plot that didn’t fit them.  Not only that, but I realized who my antagonist really was, and what their motivations were.  Suddenly, the story is flowing again.  Woot!! 

 

IMR – The sekrit projekt I mentioned last month in WW105 looks like it’s going to really happen.  It’s still in the early stages, so of course I can’t really talk much about it other than to say I’m really, REALLY excited about this one.  We’ve had preliminary discussions, and the contract is being drawn up, so technically, it isn’t a reality quite yet.  But we have verbal agreements in place, and things are looking really good.  As for the story itself, the more we talked about it, the more convinced I was that this was going to be an incredibly fun project.  It’s going to be a lot of work, and will of course impact my writing schedule for the foreseeable future, but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to it.

Watch for the new meter, (IMR) to begin moving when the final details are hammered out and the projekt begins in earnest.

Fringe News – 

This one isn’t really related to my current projects, but rather to a past one.  Streets of Payne was (I think) the first book I had produced in audio format.  It’s available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes and was narrated by the magnificent Joy Nash.  At the time, Joy was a “struggling actress” in Hollywood, having been in a few shows.  At that point, her most notable role was Simone on The Mindy Project.  Since then, she has gotten several other roles and seems to have finally hit it big with a starring role in AMC’s new series, Dietland (co-starring Julianna Margulies and Adam Rothenberg).

So while I’m incredibly happy for Joy and her success, it looks like I’ll probably have to find a new narrator for the next Amber Payne novels.  

 

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  Take care, everyone, and stay safe.  :bye:

Apr 252018
 

There’s been some recent grumbling about Amazon’s new review policies. It seems that you can no longer leave book reviews on the mighty ‘Zon, unless you have purchased at least $50 worth of goods on the site.  Not books mind you, just $50 worth of goods.

It’s apparently their attempt to address the mass scamming of reviews that some writers have been putting up for the last few years.  Yeah, you know when you find that new release that has tons of five-star reviews and you think, “this must be a good one. I’ll just drop my hard-earned cash here and see what all the fuss is about.”  Then you find that the book is little more than a nasty pile of something that came out of the south end of a north-bound bull.

That’s because unscrupulous authors have been scamming Amazon’s system by hiring click farms that (for the right price) create tons of fake Amazon accounts to write reviews on items they’ve never laid eyes on.  The bad thing is that, in their attempt to rectify the situation, Amazon keeps coming up with new ways to “fix” the problem.  And it’s like they almost always either get it wrong (like when they tried to say that your social media “friends” couldn’t write reviews, and ended up deleting reviews written by reviewers who happened to follow authors they liked on Facebook), or the scammers just change their game to get ahead of the new rules.

For instance, when the Kindle Unlimited program began, Amazon authors got paid a percentage of a multi-million dollar “pot” based on how many people read their books past the 20% mark.  There were authors who immediately began publishing short stories and serialized fiction.  Each title read gained the author the same percentage of the pot, so a ten page short story earned the same amount as a five hundred page epic fantasy. 

Needless to say, there were suddenly TONS of short stories being published.

After a couple of years, Amazon figured it out, and changed the KU payment system to a percentage based on pages read.  Each page read gained a percentage of the pot.  Scammers later learned to put links in their books that jumped the reader to the back of the book.  For instance, you might open a book that has a raffle for a $100 gift card.  The link to the offer is in the very beginning of the book.  The reader clicks to enter the drawing, and the link automatically takes them to the last page of the book, where they fill out the form, never realizing that they just gave the author full credit for reading a book that might never be completed.

To make matters worse, some scammers began simply filling manuscripts with all sorts of garbage they copied willy-nilly from the internet, pumping the page count up to tens of thousands of pages, then front loading the “book” with links that took the reader to the back.  So the reader downloads the book, opens it up, sees the click bait at the front, and clicks to the back.  They might then try to read the book and find that it’s nothing more than thousands of pages of absolute drek, so they either return the download, or simply delete it, not realizing that they have just given the author credit for having read however many thousands of pages.

So Amazon put out new terms to authors, making such actions illegal, and threatening to remove author profiles when someone was caught violating the new terms.  Unfortunately, until then, it was common practice for many authors to put their tables of contents in the back of the book.  Think about it.  An e-book is basically a web site, full of links that tie one part of the book to another.  A table of contents is a list of links that go from one part of the “book” to another.  And many authors considered it good business to load that table of contents in the back.

Why?  Because it allowed them to get more of the manuscript in front of the reader when they viewed the sample on Amazon’s web site.  You know the “Look Inside” link that lets you see the first 10% of the book?  Well how do you feel when you click the link, and then have to scroll through the cover, and the copyright page, then author notes, table of contents, and other forward matter, before you actually get to read any of the sample?

I know some legitimate authors who lost money because books that had been out for years were suddenly found to be in violation of the new terms.

And now we have this problem of fake reviews.  It’s been a recognized issue for a few years now, and Amazon has been floundering about, trying to figure out how to fix the problem.  For a while, they tried a tattletale system where people could report books that were suspected of scamming reviews.  That quickly became a fustercluck when legitimate authors found their accounts suspended.  Amazon never would state what the author had done, only giving out a generic, “you have been found in violation of terms and conditions…” but never stating what specific violations.

It was often suspected that the scammers were reporting legitimate authors in order to muddy the waters, but there is apparently no way to know for sure.  So this is Amazon’s latest attempt to stop scammers.  The idea is that, if only legitimate customers can leave reviews, then that should stop the click farms from being able to “sell” reviews.

But there are already people complaining about it.  There are concerns that reviewers who buy in the US will no longer be able to load their reviews on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.au, or any other country where they don’t normally shop.  So even though a book is available in countries all over the world, reviewers will only be able to post their reviews in the country in which they bought the requisite “$50” worth of goods, or its equivalent in whatever nation.  There are also concerns that reviewers won’t be able to write reviews early in the years.  For instance, a reviewer who begins buying books in January, before they have purchased their $50 of good for the year, might not be able to leave reviews until they’ve done so.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  I don’t think there are any easy answers.  I almost feel sorry for Amazon at times.  After all, it’s not them who are trying to scam the system.  They’re just stuck trying to get ahead of the latest scam du’ jour.  Unfortunately, their fixes often create as many problems as the scams, and it seems that there are too many honest people caught in the “fix”.  I sincerely hope that isn’t the case this time.

 

My writing –

Payne and Suffering has been moving in spits and spurts.  On days when I have a distinct scene in my head, I can fly through the writing.  The problem comes when I finish those scenes and have to move into the transitions. And I think the problem stems from the way I write… the fact that I’m “pantsing” my way through a story that I haven’t been able to fully see.

This usually doesn’t bother me, and it took me a while to figure out what’s different with this book.  In just about every other story I’ve written, whether it be novel, novella, or short story, I’ve had one of two things firmly in mind.  I’ve either got a pretty good idea of what the ending is going to be, or I have a good feel for my antagonist and/or their motives.  With P&S, I’ve been floundering with little more than a few key scenes in my mind, and a general idea of what the antagonist is trying to do, but little of the motivation behind it.  So I’ve woven this vast and intricate mystery in my mind (at times so complex that I lose track of who’s doing what), and I’ve not taken the time to really understand the why of most of it.

Today I was writing a scene in which Amber and Richard are starting the third day of their case.  The two of them are sitting at their desks, and Richard asks Amber “…what’s on the agenda…?”

And I realized I didn’t know.  I’m the one writing the freaking story, and I didn’t know what needed to be done next!

It wasn’t really that I didn’t know what leads they needed to follow, but rather that I didn’t know which one needed to be followed at that moment.  Because there are several leads in my mind, but some of them are dependent on others, so some things have to happen before others can be discovered, and I was trying to jump too far ahead in my mind.

Yeah, they need to go here to find this… but wait, they can’t do that until they know about such and such, and they can’t know that until they decrypt the files from that computer.  And they don’t have the computer yet because they don’t know it exists! 

When I realized just how complex things were getting, I knew I was going to have to do something I almost NEVER do.  I was going to have to create a cheat sheet for myself just to track events, leads, and solutions.  I’ve only had to do this once before, and that was on Chucklers, where I had six different point of view characters, in four different locations around the country, and had to synchronize their stories so that they would all come together at the right point in the book.

But I did it.  I made my cheat sheet.  I spent time writing about three pages of notes, and I actually feel better about where the story is going now.  Let’s hope this clears some of the fog out of my brain.

For now though, P&S has passed the 40k word count, and is still moving, and I hope to have the first draft done late May or early June.  Wish me luck.

And that’s it for now.  Stay safe, everyone.  :bye: