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:

Mar 152017
 

WW75AWell, as you can see, we got the fence back up, though it did take a few days longer than expected. I managed to get the old post out of the ground well enough.  See that big “log” on the ground in front of the fence?  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that it’s really not a log at all.  It’s the two feet of concrete that the old post was set into… two feet of concrete that I had to dig out of the ground before I could plant the new post.

I suppose I should be grateful, though.  The guy that put up our fence used an auger to plant the posts, so the holes are all nice and neat – smooth cylinders of concrete straight into the ground, and relatively easy to find and dig loose.  Not so easy to get out of the ground by yourself, though.  I mean, that much concrete is heavy!  :beatup: 

However, I managed it all right, though I had to go wide enough with the hole so that I could get enough leverage with the shovel to help lift it out.  And that meant that the nice, neat, round hole, was no longer nice, neat, or round.  Now I had an oblong, ragged, gaping hole in the ground, with considerably more volume to fill than I had bought concrete for.  But yours truly is nothing if not inventive. You see, I get buckets from the local bakery for use in my various gardening experiments.  They’re free, and give me considerable freedom to test out various ideas for planting, irrigation, or to just carry tools around.

In this case, I just sacrificed the bottoms of two of them, cutting them out so that I had a couple of empty plastic cylinders.  I poured a little concrete in the bottom of the hole, slid the first bottomless bucket around the new post, filled it with more concrete, and when it was full, repeated the process, stacking the second one on top of the first.   The end result was a post set within concrete filled buckets that were then easily surrounded with the fill dirt I had dug out in order to remove the old post.

So there I was, feeling quite clever… old post still propped up, holding the horizontal rails and fence in place so the dogs couldn’t get out and nothing else could get in. The new post was standing straight up in the ground (I knew it was straight, since I had repeatedly checked it with the level while placing it).  And that was when I realized that the horizontal posts from the old fence had to go into the new post before the concrete completely set.

And I still hadn’t even taken them off of the old post!   :eek:

The next several minutes were filled with me frantically struggling to remove the fencing staples that held the fence to the rails with a screwdriver and hammer, all the while hoping the “QuickCrete” I had bought, wasn’t so quick that I wouldn’t be able to move that post to get the rails into the holes on the new post.  And after considerable hammering and prying at the staples, (you know, those crazy “U”-shaped, double-headed nails?) and more than a little bit of cussing, I managed to get the rails loose from the fence itself, and then from the old, broken, post.

And the concrete hadn’t set so much that I wasn’t able to move the post.  So I shoved the new post out a bit, placed the horizontals in place, and shoved the new upright back into place, all with the concrete still pliable enough to fill back into the hole. Crisis averted.  Whew!  :struggle:

At that point, the new post and rails were in place, but the concrete hadn’t set well enough to put any tension on them.  The QuickCrete bag said it would be four to six hours at a minimum, so I still had to prop the old fence back up again with old lumber (and a bit of wishful thinking) right up against the new post.

Saturday came, and as promised, brought with it more than enough rain to keep us from working on the fence any further. No big deal though, we still had Sunday, right? (sigh)

Unfortunately, Sunday brought its own set of issues… namely, me.  I’d been having problems with my asthma for the last few weeks, which let me know that I was probably getting ready to have a full-blown allergic reaction sometime soon.  “Soon” ended up being Sunday.

MBH and I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  It was another experiment for us, as we had never made them before.  They turned out pretty good, though as with most experiments, there was room for improvement and we’ve already decided how we’re going to change the recipe for next time.  After breakfast, we bundled up (Saturday’s rain brought more cold weather with it and the temperature was down into the upper 30s), and took the girls for a brisk morning walk.  That was all it took.

WW75BMany years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced allergies.  My first attack was when I was a teen.  I had just finished one of my karate classes, and was jogging home when I started noticing how much my feet were hurting. Within a few minutes, I was having trouble breathing, and by the time I made it home, I was in the midst of my first asthma attack, accompanied by my first experience with hives.  My mom freaked (understandably), and rushed me to the local emergency clinic, where the doctors also just about had a cow.  To be fair, I suppose I would have done the same.  I mean, you see a thirteen year old kid on the table, face so swollen that his eyes are barely able to open, and he’s wheezing like his throat is swollen shut.  My mom told me later that they were about ready to trache me.  Luckily, one of the docs recognized my symptoms, administered a dose of adrenaline, and within several minutes, I was breathing normally again and the swelling was going back down.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to deal with this as a normal part of my life.  I’ve also learned to recognize the symptoms leading up to an attack, and minimize their effect.  MBH has also learned to help me deal with them.  Because of the tightness of chest and trouble breathing I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks, we knew it was coming.  And since I had shut down the last few attacks before they’d really run their course, we suspected I was due for a relatively bad one.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared, though as you can see in the picture, I did end up with a few hives.

But the end result was that my Sunday was spent kicked back, trying not to scratch, while I tried to let the attack run its course.  A few hours of hives, with the accompanying itching, swelling, high blood pressure, and asthma, meant that I wasn’t about to be outside working on the fence.  Instead, I ended up sitting like a lump in the easy chair, waiting on the symptoms to peak so I could take a Benadryl and crash.

But Monday, I finally got to get outside to finish the freaking fence.  Yay!  It’s still not perfect.  It turns out that I set the pole a couple of inches higher than the original, and the gate is about an inch higher off the ground than it was.  And while there’s nothing I can do about the post being higher, there is enough adjustment in the gate itself to line it up properly.

So that’s it for my “Post about the Post”.

Other news…

End Point PangaeaEPP now sits at nearly 55k words, and is still moving.  This has been my main focus (other than visiting family, fence posts, and allergic reactions :wink: ), so no other real writing news to report.

The Burning Land – “But wait,” you say. “I thought there wasn’t any other writing news.”  That’s true.  However, I’ve done a bit of recording, and am going to see about releasing TBL as audio via ACX and Audible.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  But with the changes that Amazon has made in terms since they bought out ACX, it’s very difficult to find voice actors who are willing to work for a royalty split.  These days, they want payment up front, and for anyone that does a decent job, the cost is usually at least $200 per finished hour.  Since ACX lists Year 12 as an estimated 12.8 finished hours, that means I would have to come up with roughly $2600 to have it produced.  And I just don’t have that kind of money.  So it occurred to me that perhaps I could do it myself.  But I need to start with something smaller… MUCH smaller.  Most sources agree that you can count on working about eight to ten hours per finished hour when you begin audio work.  Thus, this experiment with TBL.  I’ve already recorded the basic reading, and I already have the software, and know how to use it.  I’ve used it to record my promos for my other books.  Now it just remains to be seen if I can get a decent enough production level to put out something good enough to Audible.  That means editing out the miscellaneous train whistles from town, jet noises as they pass overhead, stomach gurgles from when I try to record just after eating (lesson learned there), wind whistling through the trees, laptop fan when it kicks on… I think you get the idea.  But IF I can get all that done, and manage to produce a decent audio file, then I might consider tackling the recording for Y12.

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  So for now, stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

Oct 262016
 

ghost-story-final-bI’m in a little bit of a lull, as far as the work load goes.  I’m sure it won’t last long, but there are no immediate, pressing deadlines overhead at the moment.  The Burning Land is out… Chucklers – Book 1 is with the publisher… Year 12 is with the editor… and there’s no one depending on me to get anything done with my writing at the moment.

It’s an odd feeling.  Sure, I’m still working on End Point Pangaea, and there’s a certain amount of urgency to get it done, but it’s not like things have been for the last several weeks, where there are people waiting on me to get something done before the titles can be released.  For once, no one is waiting on me.

Of course, that will change as soon as Severed sends me the final (or what I hope will be the final) .mobi file for CB1, or when I get back editorial notes on Y12.  Hopefully, the CB1 file will be problem free, and can then be released.  And the edits for Y12 will likely take a week or two, but for now, it looks like the main project is going to be EPP.

There’s a certain amount of relief in the knowledge that it’s not all waiting on me, at the moment.   8-)

So, what else is going on?  Hmmm…

Oh!  My first horror short story, Ghost Story, is free for the next five days, (though at a bit over 15,000 words, it’s technically it’s a novelette, not a short story.)  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

Yeah, aren’t you thrilled? ;-)

Now, hang on while I grab a copy of the cover to insert into this post……

Okay, I’m back.  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, Ghost Story is free.  I figured it would be a good Halloween read, so if any of you are looking for a something to give you a few chills for the holiday, grab a free copy.  And if you’re so inclined, leave a review.  Just be aware that it’s not like most of my other published titles to date.  After all, it’s HORROR!   :devil: 

And now for something completely different… I got a nice email out of the blue last week, from one of the honchos at Telemachus, the company that published my first novel, Half Past Midnight.  He was writing to let me know that, though the company had published the novel a few years back, he had recently re-read it for pleasure, rather than work, and said that he had greatly enjoyed it.  I can’t tell you how much a kind message like that means to a struggling author.  It’s a really nice shot in the arm.

But that’s it for now.  I’m going to keep this post short, and get back to work on EPP.  Because, despite what I said about not being rushed at the moment, once those edits come back to me, I’ll once more be working under pressure.  And the more I can get done on the novel before that happens, the less stress I’ll have to deal with then.

So, stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

Oct 202016
 

081215_1754_WW8Publishi1.jpgIt’s been a few weeks since I posted here.  Last you heard, I had just published  the short story, The Burning Land. Since then, I’ve been working like a fiend on my next two releases, Chucklers – Book 1, and Year 12, both of which are very close to being published.

CB1 – I have to admit to a bit of panic when Severed sent me the CB1 ebook file for approval.  See, I had requested a copy of the formatted .mobi file with the cover, table of contents, front matter, back matter, etc.  Basically, I wanted to see exactly what it was going to look like when a reader loaded it onto their Kindle.  I’m one of those readers who reads my Kindle with the nighttime mode on.  I find it easier on  my eyes.

If you don’t already know, night mode is the setting on most Kindles wherein you can invert the standard setting of black text on a white background, to white text on a black background.  There is even a sepia setting for those who prefer black text, but find the white background to tiring on the eyes.  However, I’ve run into documents that have formatting issues that only become visible in night mode.  Things like a bad tag on the text color that makes it black, even when the color of the background changes.  Yeah, try reading black text on a black background sometime.  See how well that works for you.  :dazed:

Another common problem is when certain parts of the work refuse to accept the night setting. You’re reading along, relaxing with your low light, white text/black background setting, when WHAM!  You click to the next page and there is a section that has black or gray text that is “highlighted” with a bright, white background, like in the picture above.

I’ve dealt with those, and other issues, either with my own titles, or in other books I’ve read.  As a result, I’m a little cautious.  I like to make sure my titles are as problem free as I can make them.  So when I opened the file they sent me, only to find no cover, no TOC, no front or back matter at all, and more than two dozen formatting problems, I have to admit, I began to panic.  I contacted the fine folks at Severed with a list of the issues and got a puzzled reply.  They weren’t having the same problems, even after testing on multiple devices.  They sent another copy of the file, and when I opened it, lo and behold, the cover, front matter, back matter… everything that had freaked me out when I found it missing in the first file, was there.  There were four minor problems, one of which was an error I had made in the original manuscript, that I didn’t catch until going over it again for this pass.

I have no idea what happened, but can only assume that the first file was somehow corrupted in transmission.  Whatever it was, Severed responded quickly, and I’m now confident that CB1 is going to come out as a fine product.  Better yet, it’s close enough to being ready, that I think it will probably be out pretty quickly.  So again, if you haven’t signed up for my new release mailing list, please consider doing so here.  I always make my first announcements and cover reveals there, before anyone else gets to see them.

 

Y12 Year 12 is off to Red Adept Editing.  I’ve used RAE for editing almost everything I’ve self-pubbed, and they’ve never disappointed.  They’re the people I always recommend whenever anyone asks for a good editor.  Since this is the beginning of the editing process, I know I probably have another month or so before Y12 is ready to publish, but believe me, I’m going to keep you all up to date as it winds its way through the process.  Besides, I still need to do a blurb, dedication, acknowledgements, and all the other finishing touches that go on a manuscript before it’s published, not to mention the cover.

And speaking of covers… I had a short conversation with Glendon at Streetlight Graphics that leads me to believe they’re already working on cover design for it.  To be perfectly honest, when they contacted me, I was so busy, that I don’t even fully recall the conversation.  But I do remember answering some of the basic questions they always ask before putting a cover together.  By the way, they’re another company I can recommend with the utmost confidence.  They do great covers and formatting if you’re in the market.

So, Y12 is getting close to publication, too.  I feel pretty confident that it will be out before the end of the year.

 

Other projects –

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is back on top as my priority WIP.  I hope to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

TBLThe Burning Land – But wait!  That one is already published, isn’t it?  Well, yes.  But I’m going to use it to try my hand at producing an audiobook.  I’ve already got a few titles out on Audible, but I’ve never taken the time to actually record one, myself.  But TBL, as a short story, is short enough that I hope to learn that process, and so open another income stream.

After those?  Well, I have several titles I plan on doing.  I just don’t know which ones will top the list.  I need to do Chucklers – Book 2, End Point Pangaea 2, the second Amber Payne book, or any one of several other projects.

But for now, I need to go fix dinner.  Sausage-stuffed portobello caps and salad.  Yum!   :-))  So stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

Oct 052016
 

tblcover02Those of you who are on my mailing list got a sneak peek at The Burning Land on Monday, the day before it published.  Last night (Tuesday), I got the email from Amazon that it had gone live.  I was out at the time, so when I got home, I checked it online and was initially tickled to see that it was true.

I say initially, because it didn’t take long for me to discover that there was a minor problem with the “Look Inside” sample.  When you click the link (above the cover on the Amazon page), the sample you get ends at the Dedication page.  It turns out that this is evidently common when publishing short stories on Amazon, and has to do with the fact that Amazon normally defaults to a “first 10%” setting on their end.  When looking inside a novel, the first 10% usually gets you well past the forward matter (the title page, copyright material, table of contents, and all the other little requirements at the beginning of a book).  But with a short story?  Not so much.

The good news?  Because it happens so often, it was simple to find the solution.  All I had to do was contact Amazon’s KDP tech support and, using the proper online form, give them the specifics of the problem, the ASIN of the title, and ask them to override the default, setting it to 20% instead.

Simple!

The bad news?   The requested change won’t take effect for three to seven days.  That means that during the first several days that it’s live, sales will likely be hampered by the fact that anyone going to check it out, won’t be able to see a sample before they decide to buy it.   :idk: ww58

However, word of mouth evidently has an effect, too, because I was pleasantly surprised this morning when a friend let me know that TBL is climbing the charts, despite the glitch.  As 11AM this morning, it is #18 in Kindle Short Reads (Science Fiction & Fantasy), #106 in Kindle Short Reads (Literature & Fiction), and #287 in Kindle eBooks (Hard Science Fiction).

Funny thing is, I never registered it in the Kindle Short Reads category.  I can only assume that’s an automatic thing with Amazon, based on the length of the work.  And I know a lot of this quick rise in the rankings is based on the fact that it’s newly published, and the ranking will likely start dropping pretty quickly.  But it’s still pretty awesome to see.   :-D

And who knows? Maybe it will get another boost once they get the 10% / 20% glitch fixed.  That would be great!

So, enough about TBL.  In other news, I’m beginning to get feedback from some of my Year 12 beta readers, so it’s looking good for getting the notes in time to incorporate them before sending the manuscript off to the editor.

And as soon as it’s off, I’ll be able to get back to concentrating on End Point Pangaea.  Looking at my calendar, it looks like I should have three new titles out before the end of the year (TBL, Y12, and Chucklers), and hopefully another one (EPP) in the first quarter of 2017.  Of course, Chucklers and EPP are a little trickier, since they’re part of a collaboration with the publisher.  That makes it a little more difficult for us to coordinate with one another, so things move a bit slower, but I think Chucklers is in the last stages of production.

And I’m at the point where I have to start thinking about what I need to do next (after EPP).  There are a lot of projects that need to be done.  The second book in the Chucklers series, second book in the Pangaea series, second book in the Amber Payne series, I have a couple of short stories (possibly novellas) set in the Half Past Midnight world.  Hmmm…. and now that I think about it, one of them is probably about halfway done already. Yeah, I think it’s time to finish Crazy Larry.  Then, maybe the next Chucklers novel.  I don’t know… maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, it’s time to get back to work on the Y12 edits.  So take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time!   :bye: