Sep 052011
 

Sorry folks.  This post is a little later than I wanted, but I was out of town for the Labor Day weekend.  I began writing it last Thursday, but between getting ready to go out of town, and then being in an area where there was no access to cell phones or internet, the news here is a little old by now.  But still, here it is…

I got an email from Lynn late last week indicating that we’re finally done with the heavy editing passes on Half Past Midnight.  At this point, it goes to the proofreader(s).  So now to wait for that.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining about the wait by any means.  Lynn has been great with the turnaround times.  As a matter of fact, I’m the one that has held up production on the editing process here, as you already know, if you’ve read my previous posts (1 & 2) on the subject.  And if I were going the traditional publishing route with a larger house, it takes several months to years for the process to work its way through to completion.  Besides, I still have plenty of other tasks to keep me busy.

For instance, I’m working on a companion piece for the novel.  It’s a short piece, currently entitled “The Road to Rejas“.  It’s the tale of one of the minor characters in HPM, what happened to him on D-day, and how it led him to arrive at Rejas.  I’m guess-timating it will run around eight to ten thousand words.  What’s that, a novella… novelette?  Hmmmm…. let me look that up.

Okay, according to the Hugo and Nebula awards:

  • … a “short story” is 7,500 words or less
  • … a “novelette” is 7,501 to 17,500 words
  • … a “novella” is 17,501 t0 40,000 words  AND
  • … a “novel” is 40,001 words or more

Interesting – I had wondered for a while where those numbers fell.  If anyone of the rest of you were also curious, be curious no longer!  :-)  So, if I hit my eight to ten thousand word estimate, then “The Road to Rejas” will be a novelette.  Of course, we’ll just have to see where it actually ends up.  My stories often take on personalities of their own, and sometimes don’t want to cooperate with whatever plans I have initially made for them.  Any of you who also write probably know exactly what I mean. 8-)

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with “Road” when it’s done.  I’m planning to release it, but how I release it is still up in the air.  Will I pay for professional editing on it?  Will I release it before or after HPM?  Will I charge for it, or release it for free as a promotion for HPM?  Will I podcast it?  If so, will that be before or after HPM?

Lots of things to consider still.

And there is still the matter of

  • writing a book blurb for HPM (shouldn’t be too difficult)
  • tweaking dedication and acknowledgements for same (almost done)
  • write my bio (which is a royal pain in the – um… back)
  • formatting HPM for e-pub
  • getting cover art and design done for HPM
  • get serious with the recording and podcasting for podiobooks.com

On the personal front, as I said above, we visited my folks this weekend for Labor Day.  It’s been a while since we’ve been able to get away for a weekend with them, so this was a real treat – and of course, the dogs loved being able to run around out there again – lots of room! My wife calls it “Dog Heaven”, and the dogs seem to agree.

The trip itself was pretty interesting.  We have two dogs, Cricket and Bella.  Cricket is a dachshund/corgi mix, and unfortunately for us, she doesn’t travel well.  She’s one of those dogs that suffers from car sickness.  We love her dearly, but travelling for any length of time in a car with her gets pretty messy at times.

This time we thought we’d be smart and got her some Dramamine.  It probably would have worked better if we’d read the directions first.  Especially, the part about giving it to them an hour before travelling. :-?  Yeah, it was messy – again.  Also, an aside for any of you thinking about trying this for the first time, there is another interesting side effect that we found.  It seems that Dramamine causes little Dorgis to lose control of their facial muscles, especially the muscles that keep the drool at bay.  Poor Cricket was a veritable fountain of staggering slobber.  Still messy, but not anywhere near as bad.

In other news –

Elder Daughter is on her own vacation right now, visiting Utah, where she lived for several years before her husband passed away last year.  They (she and our grand-daughter) are visiting friends and family she left behind when she moved to Texas.  It’s one of those happy and sad situations.  She gets to see people she hasn’t seen in about a year, including her husband’s family.  On the other hand, it will be tough being around all those reminders.

Middle child is our son.  He’s house sitting for Elder Daughter while she’s away, has a new job, is broke, and waiting on the Marine recruiters to wind through his paperwork.  He’s ultimately trying to get on a Seal team, but the Navy wants him in their nuclear program.  So he’s going the circuitous route of enlisting in the Marines and going to BUDS via the USMC.

And Baby Bird seems to be settling into college life just fine so far.  She sent us a pic of her first still life study in class.  It was a two-hour project, and at the end, she snapped a pic on her phone and sent it to us.  When I first saw it on the phone, I thought she was taking a photography class.  When she told us it was a charcoal drawing, I had to zoom in on it to tell it wasn’t a photo.  Damn, she’s good!

On another note, it seems Baby Bird drove from San Antonio to Houston over the weekend to take a friend up to visit.  They had a fun weekend, but trying to get back into Houston today they got caught in a massive traffic jam between Houston and San Antonio.  It seem there was a wildfire blocking passage from here to there, and they had to turn back.  Better that, than they become a casualty of the wildfires.

Speaking of which, if you read this near the time that it’s posted, please send your prayers or positive thoughts out for those who have lost loved ones and/or property to the fires.

That’s it for now.  Keep reading, keep writing, and stay safe.

Jul 262011
 

Yep.  I’m still at it. :?  This post could easily turn into a litany of reasons I haven’t finished the editing, but I will resist that particular temptation.  If there is anything that I’ve learned over the last fifty years, it’s that life will always give you excuses not to finish important projects.  There will always be outings with the family, overtime needed at work, or that great new book or movie to distract you.  And after enough of these distractions, you look back and realize that the progress meter on whatever project you’re tracking isn’t moving all that quickly.

It can get depressing, and there are times when you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “who do you really think you’re kidding?”

Anyone who knows me, knows I go through occasional bouts with this feeling of malaise.  But this time I find its grip is weaker.  I’ve come to accept that it’s up to me whether or not I allow life to dissuade me from completion of my chosen task.  And I choose “not”.

So while my progress has been slow, it has nevertheless been steady.  I finished the last of my repetitive word/phrase edits this morning and I think I’m on the home stretch overall.  I’m currently working on some character enhancements, which is the last major part of my edits. (Yay me!) :)   After that, all that’s left are minor little tweaks (like adding another Century at the beginning of a chapter, where I broke a long chapter into two smaller ones).

I’m almost afraid to say anything for fear that I’ll jinx myself, but I hope to finish the last of my edits this coming weekend.  In other words, by this time next week, I should be working on the podcast version of the book – at least until Lynn goes through it again and points out everything I’ve missed.  :)   Then the next round of editing begins.

In other news…

Reading – I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Nathan Lowell‘s work, both audio and written.  I’ve listened to the podiobook version of all his Solar Clipper books (twice), the Tanyth Fairport novel – Ravenwood, and South Coast.  Additionally, I’ve purchased and read the three Solar Clipper books that are currently out for Kindle, and even got my wife hooked on them.  We’re both chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Double Share.  I’ve even become one of his rabid fans who listens to his daily musings on his “Talking On My Morning Walk” podcast (though I’m just now up to the early June podcasts).  I don’t necessarily recommend them to everyone, unless you want a little insight into his thoughts on writing (which I definitely do).

So imagine how tickled I was to find that he has released the first of a series of novellas set in the universe of the “Golden Age of the Solar Clipper”.  It’s called “A Light In The Dark (Tales of the Deep Dark)“, and is available for 99 cents as a Kindle download (and probably B&N or iOS as well, though I don’t know for sure).  It took me all of five seconds to click the button for that one, and I’m currently just under halfway through it.  The man is a great storyteller and writer, and an inspiration to me.  Basically, he personifies the type of writer I would like to be.  I dare you to read his stuff and not be impressed.  :)

Work – Things are exciting at work these days (think of the ancient Chinese curse when I say exciting).  We just rolled out a new ERP system to our division of the company, and as IT support supervisor for a good portion of our North and South American sites, I got to be on the front lines for problem resolution – and there have been plenty of them.  Now that the dust is beginning to settle, the company is undergoing a major re-org, and my team and I are being rolled into a new division.  Coincidentally, this new division is the next on the list to undergo the new ERP rollout. AARRRGGGHHHHH!! 

So we will once more be on the front lines, for the next phase of what (if the latest experience is any indication) will likely be another two or three-month long rollout – during which time all our other tasks will be shoved to the back burner.  The thing is – even on the back burner, some things are bound to boil over.  At this rate, we’ll NEVER get caught up.  (sigh)

Home – Baby bird is about ready to leave the nest.  Just a few more weeks, and we’ll be moving the youngest to her dorm for her first year in college.  It’s a strange feeling, actually.  All the stories you hear about how “it’s different with the youngest” appear to be true.  While the eldest daughter never went to college, neither did she let any grass grow under her feet when she graduated high school.  Within a few weeks after graduation, she had moved out and was looking for greener pastures.  Middle son spent two years in a special program for the military, attempting to get into a combat aviation program.  During his second year of college, the Navy changed their vision requirements for pilots, and he was suddenly ineligible.  He then tried for a spot in a Marine Officer candidate training program and was doing well when his recruiter was found to be falsifying records.  She was court marshalled, and since there was no way to determine what records had been tampered with, and which ones hadn’t, all records of all candidates were thrown out, and he was right back to square one.  He’s now working on a plain enlistment, but on his own terms.  On the one hand, I REALLY sympathize with his situation.  On the other, he REALLY needs to get out on his own.  :)

I guess the point I was trying to make was that both of the older kids were ready to get out on their own, and we were ready to help them do so.  Baby bird is actually a bit more difficult.  While academically she is the most well-rounded of the kids, she is also the only one that seems to be almost afraid to leave the nest.  That makes it harder for us, too.  Still, she’s an amazingly talented artist (spoken as a proud parent – no prejudice here at all :) ) and is pursuing her dream, going for her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  As a matter of fact, I am hoping to get her to do the artwork for my book cover.

So that’s it for now.  Time to get back to work.

Ack!  On second thought it looks like it’s time to get to bed.  I’ll work on the edits again tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Jun 222011
 

As mentioned in my previous post, the second round of editing is done.  That means the progress bar is now reset, and it looks depressingly empty.  I suppose it’s time to do something about that.  :)

Since this round is more subjective, and not something that I can quantify quite as easily as just listing the number of pages edited, I have decided to go with an approximation.  My editor, Lynn O’Dell, left about seventy-five additional comments and a few pages of notes that I still need to go over to see if I’ve addressed them properly, and to do something about if I haven’t.  I figure that between those two sources of editing notes, a simple zero to 100 progress meter should help keep me on track with how I’m doing.  Obviously, some of those tasks will go easier and quicker than others, so the progress is likely to be sporadic, but please be patient with me (as I will have to be patient with myself) as I wind my way through new ground.

I’ve come to realize now that, while I’ve always been a writing enthusiast, it’s only within the last few months that I’ve truly decided to become a writing professional, and breaking into any new career is scary as hell.  The “business” of writing is considerably more complex than simply following the old adage of “ass in chair, hands to keyboard”.  It’s a lot of work… make that a LOT of work :) , but it’s also a LOT of fun.  And while I know that just now I’m flailing around a bit because I don’t really know what all I need to get done at any given time (branding, networking, marketing, editing, writing, podcasting – which I suppose is part of branding and marketing but seems like a whole art unto itself) all of these things are tasks that I have set myself as part of being a modern “professional” writer.

Matthew Wayne Selznick posted a guest blog on The Dead Robots’ Society entitled “What Every Modern Writer Needs To Know”, and I was gratified to see that his views for the most part echo mine.  I suppose it’s more apropos to say that my views echo his, but what the hell, this is my blog. :lol:  Seriously though, Selznick posits that “writing” is no longer a viable term for what I am doing.  The word no longer conveys what we now go through to get our stories to our audiences, and he proposes that we are no longer just writers, but are instead some kind of multi-media bards.  He uses the old term “storyteller” but the multi-media bard is an analogy that I’ve had rattling around in my head since I began to see just how much the writing business has changed. 

You see these days, getting a “book” out to an audience isn’t just a matter of typing away and sending off to an agent or publisher.  First of all, just what is a book anymore?  Gone are the days when the word automatically referred to a bound set of paper pages.  Now a book can be in print, electronic, or audio format.  It’s the same story, but the media changes to fit the needs of your audience.  The old process of sitting and writing is just the first step now.  After that, you have to work on what format you want to present.  For those going the traditional route, the path is still pretty well established; send your manuscript off to an agent, and hope they can find a publisher to take you on.  Unfortunately, that’s a tedious and time-consuming process that usually takes anywhere from several months to a year or more for a single manuscript.  Now, I know  that any writer worth his or her salt isn’t simply sitting around by the phone, hoping for the phone call that will announce their sudden rise to stardom.  They’re busily working on the next manuscript so they can start that whole process all over again with another story.

But the game is changing.  A tough economy and new technologies are changing it, and traditional publishing is struggling to keep up.  What used to be a pretty monopolized industry, geared mostly at making the big six bigger, has busted wide open.  Now, an author has a choice.  He can either try for a small piece of the very large pies offered by traditional publishing, or he can go for larger pieces of the many smaller pies now available through self- and indie- publishing, small press publishing, e-book publishing, and audio publishing.  And the thing is, the large pies of traditional publishers seem to be getting smaller as the big six cut back on their mid-list authors, instead concentrating their efforts and money on the established big-name authors in hopes of staying afloat.  At the same time, entrepreneurs have recognized the advantages that new technologies such as e-book readers, print on demand, audiobooks, and social networking have made available, and they have embraced them.  And in so doing, they have greatly increased the size of the various indie- and self-publishing pies.  Not only that, but those pies are available to anyone willing to put forth the work necessary to get to them.

Getting your stories out to an audience used to be akin to winning the literary lottery.  Now, it’s a more realistic goal attainable by those who are willing to put forth the hard work and sweat equity to get there.  I guess for me it’s more attractive because it now seems that success or failure is more in the individual’s hands, rather than in the hands of agents and/or publishers who are so overworked, underpaid, and buried under so many manuscripts that there is absolutely no way they can ever read them all.  The new model is more akin to free market enterprise, and anyone willing to invest the time and effort in creating a good product, and marketing it properly, has a decent shot at becoming a success.

So I’m trying to learn about this new business of writing.  There is a thirty to forty-five minute commute to and from work each weekday that used to be wasted time.  My choices used to be to either listen to the same songs on the radio over and over again (along with the inane babblings of DJs that seem to talk down to the least educated people in their demographic), or listen to the talking heads irritate the hell out of me over the sad state of affairs in government.  Now I either listen to a “podiobook” from Podiobooks.com or (more likely these days) a podcast on writing from either the Dead Robots’ Society, Podcasting for Dummies, or Mur Lafferty’s “I Should be Writing”.  Between those, I hope I’m learning what’s working and what isn’t.  Even when I listen to a podiobook, I now listen to it with an ear to how the intros and outtros are put together, what the level of background production seems to be, and what the author and/or narrator did on the reading.

So for now, it’s back to work – back to editing – back to learning about this newly emerging reimaging of an old industry.  And I’m finding that I love it.  I’m invigorated, enjoying the fun new world that is a multi-media bard’s playground. 

Yeah, it’s fun.  :)   So let the games begin.

May 262011
 

I’ve been dealing with a bit of anxiety lately.  Not like it’s bad or crippling, but it’s there.  And when I sat down to figure out why I’m “off”, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just because I’m juggling several bowling pins (because this analogy just gets too suggestive if I talk about juggling balls), and I don’t know if I’m going to catch them, or if they’re going to come tumbling down around me.  There’s the usual LIFE stuff; daughter about to graduate, college for her, son lost his job, walking the tightrope with him between taking care of him and getting him on his own feet, work projects with completely unreasonable deadlines, wife sick, bills… all the day-to-day stuff that tries to grind us all down.  Like I said – LIFE.

But working on my second life, my WRITING, is also getting complicated.  I’ve already posted about the many aspects of my plans for a writing career, and I’ve been working at putting them in place, juggling the various pins of WRITING along with those of LIFE, and I’ve constantly tried to prioritize them.  I’ve had to make choices at times as to which ones to keep in the air, and which ones to let drop.

But lately, something’s been different, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until just last night.

Some of those pins now seem to be in other people’s hands (see? suggestive!), and I’m having to adapt to the conflicting ideas that, while for the moment I might have a lighter load, I need to be ready at a moment’s notice to catch those bowling pins and move them back into the juggling pattern.

And the anticipation is freaking me out.

For example, this blog – on or shortly after June first, because of my ignorance of how websites work, I will likely lose this blog.  You see, I thought I was doing the right thing, and bought my own domain for this blog.  That’s a good thing, right?  A month later, I made the decision that my writing career would require a full web site.  So I tried to plan ahead and transfer it to a web hosting company, only to find that I couldn’t do so until the existing domain had been in existence for at least sixty days.  Evidently the forwarding is pretty much an automated process, and I’ve been informed that once it occurs, my domain will be a pristine (read that as “empty”) fully functional website.

I have one more idea on how I might salvage this, but it’s going to cost me another $120 (assuming it works) and who knows how many hours of working with techs on the WordPress side, and on the GoDaddy side.  I’ll try to tackle that project this weekend.  But in the meantime, I can’t do anything but sit on my hands.

Another example – my story in the anthology.  It’s great news that I sold a piece, don’t get me wrong.  I’m going to be in a book!  I’m absolutely elated over that.  :)    But it’s not quite real to me until I sign that contract and find out all the details.  What’s the up front payment?  What’s the percentage of those “semi-annual royalties” they spoke of?  When is the book slated to come out in print?  How much will it cost?  Where can I point people when they ask where they can buy it?  It’s not so much that I’m really worried about these things as much as the simple fact that I don’t know.

My Podcast – I already made two stupid mistakes with my submission on that, and I haven’t heard back from them since my third attempt.  Does that mean the third one passed muster and they’re going into the more in-depth review process now, or does it mean that they got tired of trying to baby me through the process and I’m now just waiting for the process to start over again next Sunday?

All of these pins are currently in other people’s’ hands.  I can’t do a thing about them right now, and I can accept that (mostly).  I like to think I’m pretty good about accepting “the things I cannot change”.  But this feels different.  While I know they are things I can’t change right now, I also know that they are things I will have to address in the future; possibly the very near future.  It’s that anticipation that has me on pins and needles.

LIFE, I can deal with.  WRITING, I can deal with.  Even LIFE plus WRITING, I can deal with (though that starts getting tricky).  But LIFE plus WRITING plus ANTICIPATION has me wanting to curl up in the corner at times.

I know this is the path I’ve chosen, but like the subject line says – anticipation is a bitch!

May 222011
 

Had a few “oops” moments recently, with regards to my writing.  In an attempt to move further along the path of writing-as-a-business, I seem to have taken a couple of missteps.

The first misstep began earlier this week when I was contacted by customer service/tech support from GoDaddy.com, the hosting site I signed up with for my new website.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I ran into an issue initially when I tried to transfer my blog to GoDaddy.  I found out then that you can’t transfer a domain until it is at least sixty days old.  Well, when GoDaddy’s tech support called me, they were apparently unaware that I had run into that particular problem, and wanted to know if I was having any problems with their service.  When I explained the issue, the kind lady informed me that, while I might not be able to transfer the blog, I could go ahead and forward it by changing the name servers on the WordPress side, and point the blog at GoDaddy’s site.  She gave me the names of the proper servers, making it seem like an easy thing to do.

Well last night, I did just that.  She was right.  It was easy.  I changed the name servers, saved the settings, and patted myself on the back for a job well done.

And this morning I found that my blog was AWOL.  ACK!!!  Luckily, I remembered what changes I had made, and was able to undo the damage, which is the only reason I’m able to post this entry at all.

The other misstep was with my podcast.  When I initially began recording for the podcast version of the novel, I ran into a problem with the quality of my source files.  Without mincing words, they sounded like crap.

After a few days of searching through the various settings on all the programs I was using to compile and edit the sound files, I finally discovered that the problem wasn’t in any of them.  The problem was that I had my mic set to a 64 kbps bit rate, which was well below Podiobooks.com’s 128 kbps requirement.  As I commented at that point, garbage in-garbage out.

Well, I decided that it made more sense to set everything at a higher quality than was required, and then drop down after all the editing, splicing, and sound production was done.  It seemed logical to me that this should give me the best possible sound for my podcasts. It was too late to get best quality for episode one, since the source files were still the original ones recorded at 64 bit, but the software conversion brought them up to where they were technically within specs, even though the quality was still not great.  Quality should go up for future episodes, but as posted before, episode one is my learning curve.

Unfortunately, when I submitted to Podiobooks.com, I submitted the original, high-level version of the file.  I forgot to send the version where I had dropped the encoding values back down.

CRAP!

And Podiobooks.com uses those values the same way a publishing house uses submission guidelines to weed out idiots who can’t follow directions.  Actually, I think that analogy is VERY accurate.  And since I had managed to not follow directions, I was deservedly tossed into the “idiot” pile.  I received an email, informing me that I had not encoded the file properly, and was therefore being rejected for the time being.  They were professional in what they said, but I still felt like an idiot.

Realizing what the problem was, I reformatted, re-uploaded, and re-submitted the file.  This time, I had concentrated so  much on making sure I sent them the file with the proper encoding values, that I completely missed that I’d messed up on the naming convention, leaving spaces in the filename.

Once again, I was politely informed that I was in the idiot pile.  (sigh)  No, they didn’t say that, but I know they have to be thinking that.  Hell, I would have.

So I renamed the file and once again uploaded it to SendSpace.com.  When the upload completed, I then downloaded it and imported it into iTunes, using iTunes to check the encoding values and to make sure that I had uploaded the correct file (by now, I’m getting so many different versions of this thing that I can’t see straight), and that it was named properly.  After confirming, I sent one more email to Podiobooks.com, once again apologizing, and listing all the values in the body of the email.

That was an hour ago, and so far, I haven’t gotten another “Dear Idiot” email.  I think at this point that if I do, I’ll just go hide my head in shame, change my name, and pretend that the guy who made all those mistakes was someone else.