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.

Yep, busy times, indeed…

 Podcasting, Publishing, Writing  Comments Off on Yep, busy times, indeed…
Jun 172011

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I did finally get my web site moved.  If you’re reading this, then you can see the result (so far).  You probably won’t see too much of a change, as I tried my best to keep as close to the original blog style and feel as possible.  What you don’t see is the new site’s potential.  I now have unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, the ability to post audio, an SSL certificate so I can participate in e-commerce if I decide to go that route, and several other bells and whistles that I didn’t have before.  For now though, I’m likely going to let it sit as is.  I lost enough sleep and gained too many gray hairs just getting to this point.  I think I’ll leave it alone for a while, and get some work done on other projects…

Editing, for instance.  You may have noticed the little progress meter in the side bar to the right.  If you watch, that guy moves a little every day.  It indicates the amount of work I’m getting done in editing Half Past Midnight.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I have gotten my first edit back from Lynn O’Dell, the wonderful lady who is helping me straighten out my novel (thanks Lynn!).  I received her edit back on June 8th, and had a great conversation with her on the problems I have with the novel.  She has done a fantastic job of helping me see the thing with a fresh perspective, and I have pages of notes on things that I either overlooked, or simply got flat-out wrong.  Unfortunately, that was just before my birthday weekend, and my family had other plans than letting me hide in my study to work.  This next weekend is Father’s Day, and I’ve been informed that there are plans in the works there, as well.

So I’ve been working on the edits in the evenings, and in the early morning before work, and tracking my progress with the little meter on my site.  You will notice that the meter currently says it’s on the “2nd edit”.  That’s not entirely accurate.  I’ve edited it and rewritten it a few times, but I’m counting all the earlier edits and re-writes previous to my hiring Lynn as a first edit.  Lynn’s professional edit is the second, and I’m tracking my progress through it (using MS Word’s Track Changes feature) on the meter.

I’ve decided to tackle Lynn’s edits in two stages.  First is the basic spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) edit, wherein I either accept or reject her changes to the manuscript with regards to (you guessed it) SPAG.  :)

That’s the easy part; the part I’m currently working on.  I’ve found that it’s actually a little embarrassing how many basic mistakes I made in this manuscript.  The mistakes she has caught are quite often things that I know better than to do.  There are admittedly several things that I thought I knew, as well, but when I look them up I find I was wrong.  And there are also those items that are more stylistic issues, things that may not be entirely proper, but I use them to emphasize some little quirkiness of a character.  When I run across one of these, I have to examine it especially carefully to figure out why the characteristic didn’t come through.  What did I do wrong, that doesn’t properly convey my intention to the reader?  Those are the tricky ones.

When I finish this editing pass, I will restart the meter for the “3rd edit”.  This will be the more difficult one, where I tackle the more serious problems that Lynn found.  The plot flaws and shallow characterizations that I let pass.  Once she pointed them out, they were obvious.  Yet, I completely missed them up to this point.

Admittedly, I find a lot of my mistakes are instances where I am so familiar with the story I’m telling that my eyes see what my mind intends to say, rather than what is truly on the page.  But that’s no excuse – and why I obviously need an editor.  I’ve been told by some writers that they don’t need an editor, and by others that every writer does.  Based on what I’ve seen in self / indie published books (traditionally published books automatically get edited), and on what I’ve seen from Lynn’s work on my manuscript, I know I’ll likely never again consider publishing a novel without first hiring one.

And I did consider it.  I considered it pretty seriously at one point, especially since the nature of electronic publishing is such that anyone can publish their work and then come back and change it later.  I thought I might publish my novel as a “first edition”, then when/if I made enough money off its sales I could afford to hire an editor to refine the novel and publish a “second edition”.  I mean, hiring an editor for a 100k word novel isn’t enough to break the bank, but neither is it an inconsequential expense.  After thinking about it and discussing it with my better half though, I decided that if my writing was ever going to exceed the status of a hobby, then I had better begin treating it like a business.  And if I’m going to run a business, then I want to put out the best product I can.  That means working with good “vendors” who have the skills to help me out.  I therefore need an editor, just as I will need someone to handle the e-book formatting.

So yes, I’m busy.  I’m writing on Streets of Payne.  I’m editing Half Past Midnight.  I’m recording and producing the podcast version of Half Past Midnight.  I’m learning a lot of this process by trial and error.

And I’m having the time of my life.  :)



Jun 032011

Things are finally starting to move.  I got into work this morning and was greeted by a couple of emails indicating that my domain is in the process of being transferred.  More accurately, they indicated that they were unable to transfer my domain due to my having purchased WordPress.com’s privacy option.  The logical result of this is that DBP was unable to confirm the administrative email address to authorize the transfer.  (What do you know, the privacy option works!  :) )  This was easily remedied, however, and I was able to quickly reinitiate the transfer request.

Now I’m staring at my screen, waiting on the email notification with my transaction ID and security code that will allow me to finalize the domain transfer and then (hopefully) import the content from my existing WordPress.com blog, to my new WordPress based web site.  I suppose this means that this site may go offline for a while during the transfer process, but hopefully the process will be quick and relatively painless.

In the meantime, I received word that episode one of my podcast version of Half Past Midnight has passed Podiobooks.com’s tech spec review.  Yep, after a couple of rookie screwups on my part, I finally got it right!  :lol:  They sent me an acceptance email and some in-depth instructions on the rest of the process, and now the real work begins. If my calculations are correct, I think I’ll have nineteen or twenty episodes. With a weekly production schedule, that means I should have approximately five months of episodes.  And if I want them out before the end of the year, I have to get at least five of them completed by the end of June, since Podiobooks.com won’t even put you on the schedule for publication until you get at least the first five episodes uploaded.

On top of that, my editor (it still sounds cool to be able to say that) called two days ago, and asked if I objected to being moved up on the schedule.  I was curious as to why anyone would object to this, and she explained that some people have budgeted the cost into a strict timeframe.  That makes sense.  For me though, I had budgeted the money in and set it aside almost immediately, so this was simply a great opportunity for me.  She invoiced me, I paid.  Viola!  So she began working on the print version of the novel yesterday.

That, of course, means I will also need to be available to work with her as much as possible throughout the course of this wild ride.  Add to that the fact that my better half and I are going to be working on getting my youngest ready for and settled into her upcoming life at college, and my “real” job, and I think I’m going to be pretty freaking busy for the next several months.

So here’s me – learning about busy,scary, exciting times.

Hope I survive it.

Anticipation – it’s a bitch

 Miscellaneous, Podcasting, Writing  Comments Off on Anticipation – it’s a bitch
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.


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.