Resuming writing after hiatus depends on preparation

Preparation key to survivalWRITING IS FORWARD MOTION

Due to physical circumstances you do NOT want to hear about (I’m better now, thanks), I haven’t written a blog post since January 24th.

This is a long time for me. I usually manage to put up something or other once or twice a week, but it was literally impossible, even though I sat at the computer half the day, to put thoughts together. They would not coalesce for more than a few sentences in a row, and the fogged brain would not hold enough thought in mind for me to see anywhere to go with the following words.

Freaky. I’m used to having at least a short period every day in which I feel like myself. And I usually choose that period to spend writing.

And I usually block the internet off during that time so I don’t get distracted as much as usual (Look! A squirrel! Shiny!).

To show you how out of it I was, I could not bring myself to block anything. Write anything. Do more than click (where has all the CONTENT on the internet gone?) to try to find something I could read for a few minutes.

So none of that is important: coming back is

Yesterday, the brain came back! For a couple of hours! I blocked the internet!

And I faced the usual writer’s prospects: where the heck was I when I stopped writing?

And more importantly: what’s next?

And this is where I discovered that I have set up a number of good writerly habits which allowed me to almost pick up where I left off, automatically.

Seven choices a writer can make to prepare for the unexpected break

1. I date obsessively: Every time I have more than a few minutes’ break during writing, and to indicate there has been a break from the previous thoughts, I date the next entry. Scrivener makes this easy: OPT-CMD-SHFT-D automatically inserts the date and time at the cursor’s position. Sometimes this results in a single line, occasionally in a blank date entry, but it means I know where each time period started. And which pieces go together.

2. I think on the page: partly this is due to my CFS brain fog, but partly it is due to the fact that memory is unreliable, elusive, and the brilliant idea you have may disappear so completely if you don’t write it down that you don’t even remember having it! If you’re very lucky, similar circumstances may deliver that bit again – and then you’ll experience a shock of recognition. But don’t count on it! Record it.

3. I create a digital version: I have twenty notebooks filled with the ideas that have led to my books and stories. In a mostly-legible handwriting, though even I can find my own words illegible. But creating those notebooks took a lot of time, and so those ideas are often incomplete. Finding ideas, even with my brief list of contents on the front page of each notebook, is a nightmare. I’m a fast typist – and can store far more information when typing than when writing by hand in the same amount of time. The biggest benefit? DIGITAL is SEARCHABLE. It may take me a while, and going through every Scrivener project associated with the WIP, but if I can remember ANYTHING about an idea, I can find it.

4. I Journal obsessively: the amount of text in any one of my Scrivener projects reaches the tens of MBs. Pride’s Children: PURGATORY has at least three Scrivener projects with almost 100MB of text each. Within each project, each major subsection has a Journal, into which I dump anything not specific that runs through my head as I work.

5. I keep ideas in their own computer files: Scrivener makes this extremely easy. When I have a piece of an idea long enough to take up more than a line or two in the current Journal, I simply create a new file in the appropriate section, title it with the obvious, and dump a chunk of text into it. Later, I can search by title or contents, but a quick way for me, the human, to find the file in the list of files (the Binder) is convenient.

6. I save frequently: the thought of losing anything I’ve spent time creating – thoughts which fly from my head through my fingers and out onto the screen – and having to re-create them from scratch (I literally DUMP them out and scour the brain for all the bits and then FORGET them), terrifies me.

7. I back up conscientiously: my systems do a lot of automatic backing up, but, for example, when I have the internet blocked, I have disabled Dropbox – which means I have only my local external hard drive as a backup device (besides the software and Mac backups). Which means I have to turn it on, back up, and then turn it back off (it is very quiet, but has the tendency to come on when not asked to, and there IS a tiny high-pitched whine that drives me nuts). As soon as the internet is connected again, Dropbox provides another level of backup.

So how did preparation save my bacon?

I was out for ten days. Any trace of knowing where I was had vanished from the internal HD (the poor tortured brain) in the first couple of days.

As when I start a new project, it can take me days, weeks, months of pulling all the pieces together before I can start actually writing more than snippets. I had already done that, and was just at the point where ALL those pieces, loaded into the brain just right, were about to produce the final version of calendar/timeline/scenes that I need to write.

Yup, the bug picked the most vulnerable time possible to take me out: right before synthesis. Chalk one up for Murphy’s corollary: ‘Anything that can go wrong will, and at the worst possible time.’

Under the best of circumstances, synthesis is something I attempt only with my prime mind. I must be as rested and prepared as possible. It can’t be toward the end of a working day. Nor can it be before I feel a certain je ne sais quoi which tells me I’m in as good a state as I’ll ever be (a state sadly lacking since January 27th).

I start synthesis with a clean mind, and carefully load in every relevant piece, do the necessary thinking (!), and write everything down like crazy so the cross-connections don’t fail me. I live off that synthesis for the remainder of the time it takes me to revise the whole book.

I had everything loaded into the brain, and decided to tackle the synthesis clean the next morning. The Jan. 27 Journal entry reads: ‘The only thing left to do before I start the next phase is to make sure the dates on the scenes I have work okay.’

That night was hell.

Recovery was possible because EVERYTHING was there

Yesterday, when I finally felt human again, the first thing I did was to try to figure out where I was, before the Apocalypse hit.

I could not remember a word.

My desk was a pile of things which collected over ten days with no one at the helm, including detailed medical notes of what I took when what happened, and the results, naps and sleep and awake in the middle of the night time.

The disjointed ramblings (yes, I did write things down when I couldn’t think – that usually works; it didn’t this time) were duly recorded, but made no sense.

I did what the Time Machine does on a Mac: I went back to January 26th. I let Scrivener search for every file that had been changed on that day (about 20) and the 27th, as I was doing the last of my collecting.

I dumped everything since then out of my head, and RELOADED my brain.

I read for what seemed like hours.

And the past ten horrible days were as if they had never happened. Yesterday got me almost back to the final synthesis place when my good time ended, and today I hope to go the last steps I would have taken on the 28th.

And I could also blog again, so I did what I do – and recorded everything for my own benefit – for next time.

There is ALWAYS a next time.

I hope any of these choices are helpful. The brain is a wonderful thing, until it isn’t. I don’t trust mine any more – but I can live with that.

What say you?

——————–

Thanks to ShareAsImage.com for a quick way to create visuals for blog posts.

Awesome BookRiot post: promoting a book you loved

If you love a bookI’M GOING TO DO AS MANY OF THESE AS I CAN

Couldn’t pass up spreading this link – separating the good books from the bad is what READERS do; writers are too close to them!

BookRiot has a splendid list of things you can do if you like a book.

I already got a few – such as taking a copy or two to the library (love the library and librarians of the Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton, NJ).

But many of these are things I simply don’t have enough energy to do (while the extremely slow fogged brain refuses to do the last couple of steps so I can start the actual revising of Book 2).

Help yourself to any ideas that appeal to you – and bookmark the post. Me, I’m copying it to a safe place.

I’ve always wanted to try leaving MY book in a public place

With instructions to pass it on and an email address where people can write to the author. As soon as I get my act together, I will. It just sounds like such fun.

I MIGHT wait until the snow melts.

Amazon PRIME plus a Kindle equals a free book a month

Jan 2016 free bookFREE MONTHLY BOOK BORROW FOR KINDLE, FIRE OWNERS with PRIME

January 2016 is almost over – have you borrowed your free book this month? There’s a snowstorm on its way where I live (NJ), and you should make sure your Kindle or Fire device is charged up – and loaded with books – so you will have something to do if all else fails.

You do it FROM the Kindle; it’s on the list of options on the starting pages.

Many people have Prime – the benefits are significant even if all you do is order from them several times a year.

Many people either don’t know – or don’t remember – that one of the Prime benefits for people who own ‘a Kindle, a Fire tablet, or a Fire phone’ is the FREE ability to borrow a book from the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) once a month – and keep it until they finish it. (Not Kindle apps :( – it’s their way of making the devices even more attractive.)

Any book in a storm (if the publisher agrees)

The book’s publisher has to have put it into Kindle Unlimited (KU) for you to be able to borrow it (I have put Pride’s Children: PURGATORY in KU); the author will get paid for pages read out of the Amazon fund for that.

Books priced right make their authors about the same for a borrow as a sale – and it doesn’t cost you a penny.

READ A BOOK – ANY BOOK – (even mine).

And don’t forget to do it again EVERY month.

Being taken seriously as a writer is daunting

First timePUBLISHING? BE PREPARED TO ENJOY THE TINY DETAILS OF THE EXPERIENCE

We went to a concert tonight, Princeton Folk Music Society.

And one of the long-time members, a wonderful woman who was active in the folk music scene when I was still in diapers, brought over a copy of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY – and asked me to autograph it.

It was a curious sensation, being treated seriously by someone I love and respect, and have known a long time. She went to the trouble of ordering the print version, and of bringing it to the concert where she expected to see me.

A FAN, IN PERSON, IN AN UNEXPECTED PLACE

But then she started asking questions – about the biblical quotations, real questions about how I chose them and where they came from. I have epigraphs and chapter titles which are quotations from the Old and New Testament.

I explained that several came from the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible (she’s Jewish). Of course we have different versions, since I obtained permission to use the words of the King James Version, and her scriptures would not have a New Testament.

I chose the quotations I did because they resonated for me, knowing that my readers might be from very different backgrounds: the words can be taken at face value, but they always have a deeper meaning, and one that may take reading further into the chapter to understand.

But she told me she had been going online to find out where the quotations came from – and I never thought about how some educated people like her might be interested in quotations enough to check them out.

The epigraphs as a whole tell part of the story: some are commentary on the worldview represented by the main character, some are a little bit of extra backstory (such as when I quote books Kary has written).

In addition, there are two ‘group characters’ represented by the media quotes I created in the spirit of what I’ve seen online – those that are supportive of a particular artist and those that tend to pick a few entertainers and find nothing but critical comments to make about them. The source attributions for these are as imaginary as the characters they refer to – but the models are ‘torn from the headlines’ of print media and TV news shows. My friend won’t find these online.

LEARNING TO BE ONE OF THE WRITERS (the grownups)

A warm fuzzy place in my heart made me happy. I am now a ‘published author’ and my book is available in the marketplace of books. It’s not that it hasn’t been true since last Oct. 28, but that these little steps on the way to FEELING like a real author happen when you least expect them.

I check out the Amazon Reports – and see that SOMEONE is reading Pride’s Children, because the graph of KENP (pages read) is non-zero. Amazon reports how many pages people read on Kindle Unlimited, in fairly real time, updated when people get near their computer – and you can SEE the numbers grow, almost see the pages turning. And I don’t know who the someone is. It could be a complete stranger. It could be someone I reached via a comment, or an ad, or a personal recommendation. All weird. Good weird.

I’m too new at this to get jaded for a LONG time.

Do you find yourself taken aback when someone treats you seriously in connection with your writing?

Learn something new: a PAGE is NOT a POST

Learn something newMY MAMINA WAS RIGHT: IT TICKLED HER FANCY WHEN SHE FOUND THE DAY’S NUGGET

Sometimes the brain just loses it completely. I wrote a post yesterday about me and PC and marketing plans – and then I could NOT find it.

I thought I broke WordPress.

Here it is: Marketing Post.

Only I created it as a Page – and they are not the same.

Posts get the publicity you set up, such as going to your Facebook page; Pages do not.

Posts have tags: Pages do not.

Posts have categories; Pages do not.

Brain fog is such fun!

2016 and the writing of Pride’s Children

DEAR FOLLOWERS:

I beg your indulgence. I haven’t figured out which posts belong here (probably the general ones NOT about the books), and which on the Pride’s Children temporary blog. (new post over there, too, about the reviews slowly accumulating)

And the permanent site is still tangled in software I did not install myself, and which will have to be uninstalled and reinstalled.

There are a LOT of things on the to do list:

  • Writing Books 2 and 3
  • Fixing websites and blogs
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Audiobooks – should I decide to continue with my mad plan to produce the Read by Author version
  • Getting reviews for Book 1
  • Keeping up with Wattpad and WriteOn and…
  • Life

Unfortunately, there is only one of me, and I seem to be on the critical path in every one of these items, gumming up the works and slowing things down.

So you will have somewhat irregular blog postings, and occasional rants.

I thought writing was hard – but I can’t wait to get back to it – because the marketing, etc., is HARDER.

I have a bent for the writing, interest but little experience in the other, and tech skills to be developed on websites and blogs.

I’ll get there – I’m still enjoying all the bits and pieces, and it has been wonderful getting some feedback from complete strangers – and other feedback from some of the people I’ve been following online for the past four years and am in awe of.

But it may be slower than I’d like, because I want to push to make the writing faster, now that I kind of know what I’m doing in many writing areas. I think I can. I KNOW it won’t be fifteen years again, and I’d like to aim to get Book 2 finished in 2016.

Big goal – but if you don’t write them down, they have a tendency not to happen at all.

Wish me well. And I wish YOU well with your goals for 2016.

A very Hoppy New Year to all

chinchilla sitting on a hand

Gizzy (think tiny dwarf rabbit size chichilla)

FROM GIZZY AND ALL OF US TO ALL OF YOU

I WISH I could jump as high as she does – even not taking into account that she is tiny.

And I’m very grateful she doesn’t realize she could easily jump over the child gates we use to keep her in the living room.

We leave her out and wandering about in a safe area until she’s had her fill and goes back under the bed.

May the coming year be a good one.

I can prove I talk too much

HOW TO TELL IF YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS – OF A SORT

WordPress put together an annual report for me – and it says I have 73 posts this year, which, at an average of around a thousand words per post, would have made a decent-sized novel.

I have gathered ALL my notes, timelines, and calendars – Book 2 is well on its way.

The missing ingredient for Book 2: JOY!

First look at PC2 letteringNEWS FLASH: THERE WILL BE A Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD

From Journal of the Next Books:

I have been looking at Book 2 with a lot of fear and trepidation – fear has been blocking the way:

  • I remember how hard it was to finish Book 1, how it took FOREVER.
  • The hours, days, weeks, months, and years when progress was glacial (though it was always progress – of a sort).
  • The soul-searching, and the process of turning myself inside out, to figure out a simple emotional progression through a scene that had to be just right.
  • Discarding everything I knew and starting fresh because a scene was different, and I knew it, and the old tools weren’t good enough.
  • Working from a draft so rough I’m surprised it made sense at all.
  • So much WORK.
  • Knowing that if there are any missing links in the chain I’m constructing, the whole will collapse like a bridge over a gorge.
  • Knowing I’ve only written the EASY part.
  • Thinking about how the sophomore slump affects so many writers and so many books, and why should I be any different?

WASN’T IT obvious? You DID write TO BE CONTINUED

I already know what happens: and the leaps of faith in the writer keep getting bigger. What if I’m not up to it? What if I’ve shot my wad? These last few months of publishing – EIGHT of them – have taken me away from writing for a long time. What if I can’t do it again?

What if that was it, the dying gasp of an aging mind? There have been times lately when I’ve wondered…

Simply, what if it took so long I can’t finish the rest of it, because there is nothing left of ME?

I didn’t say the fears were rational. I didn’t say I couldn’t talk back to some – most – of them.

But this is my process:

I identify that the feeling in my gut is fear. Simple ordinary fear.

Then I tackle to process of thinking about it, and the more important process of getting all the fear out of my mind – where it circles unceasingly like the Indians around the wagon trains in the old movies of the wild west.

I have to acknowledge each fear, give it attention, realize it’s real and it’s there for the purpose of keeping me from making a fool of myself (a bit too late for that one, eh?), and of keeping me from starting out on a Quixote-esque adventure with a bad end, an end the fear is telling me is CERTAIN.

Fear clamors. It overwhelms (I get out the techniques from Alan Lakein’s book How to get control of your time and your life specifically for Overwhelming reasons to procrastinate, which are mostly fear-based).

Maybe it even drives adrenaline into the system, adrenaline I have to stop from pouring into and circulating in my bloodstream because it cripples me to have to deal with the aftermath.

What am I working with?

I have myself exquisitely calibrated: Diet Coke #1 starts the day, #2 is after Nap #1, and if I’ve been a good girl, and had Nap #2 in a timely manner AND it is before 3 PM (2 PM really, but maybe today I can stretch it), Diet Coke #3 may be sipped and possibly help focus the little brain for a bit more work.

This is usually an illusion, but I dare not extend the time – insomnia is rampant already since I prefer to get to bed after 2 AM, and that really doesn’t work with getting up at 6 to write, because, in the winter, that’s when the daylight kicks in, and I need every hour possible of daylight just to function.

Ni tanto que queme al santo, ni tanto que no lo alumbre. Not so much that the (candle-flame) burns the (statue of) the saint, not so little that it doesn’t illuminate it.

I miss more than I succeed, but it is a lot better than years ago, and I’ve probably doubled my usable awake time since 2013 this way: some days I’m actually human for a few hours!

But skip ALL the little tricks – from the half-hour naps that clear the debris out of my brain, to the low carb diet that doesn’t allow refined carbohydrates to gum up the works (I LOVE refined carbohydrates), to forcing myself to go to bed at night, and not leave the house many times a week, and fob off, ignore, or do badly every possible task, and let the housekeeping standard drop to…

But I digress.

Don’t do ALL the tricks, and my body reminds me instantly that it doesn’t HAVE to think, only to breathe and process nutrition.

Fair enough.

So far what I have cannot be cured, only managed, and that badly, since there are days when I do everything right and it doesn’t help.

The final fear is the biggie:

Could I have a life, an easier life, one with more fun in it, a more relaxed life – if I just gave this up?

Since this little writing career of mine takes EVERYTHING I have, and forces me to short household and family, should I just let it go, now that I’ve satisfied the life-long itch, and there is an actual book out there – and on my shelf – to prove it, shouldn’t I just quit before I embarrass myself by trying again, older and less mobile, less mentally quick (ha!) – and FAILING.

Yup. Fear of failure.

BORING.

So I’m lying there today, relaxed into Nap #1, allowing the little questions: What am I doing here? and What am I missing? to play about in the drowsy state, and I remember Rachel Aaron’s 2,000 to 10,000 words… book, and the thing she gives a few minutes to every time she starts writing: Enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm – to counterbalance work.

Enthusiasm – to cancel out FEAR.

Enthusiasm – to switch deliberately to the state of mind where things are possible instead of impossible.

Mind tricks?

Yup.

What’s the point of having a mind, and knowing the tricks (thank you, Cognitive Behavior Therapy), and not using them?

Our lovely minds can hold but a single major thought at a time. Stanford University researchers have proven multitasking is an illusion.

IF I INSERT the GOOD THOUGHTS, after weakening the fearful ones, I WIN.

Final bit: Do I want to do this?

Do I want to spend countless hours over the next years taking the next part of the story from an incredibly rough draft to something coherent? Do I WANT that result enough to work for it, and work harder than most people? Do I want to COMMIT myself to something which might take another fifteen years (unlikely, thank God – I did learn a few things). Twice more if necessary?

At this point the good stuff started rushing in to support a decision I suspect I’d already taken.

I told myself that, even in that rough draft, there are scenes I have been waiting to polish since the first time I laid them out, and now I know a lot more about how to do that.

I told myself I made promises: to myself. To readers. Possibly even to posterity (however egotistical that sounds). I keep my promises, if I can.

And I told myself that every time I can exit the mindless fear state, I work it out.

And that, if I decided to quit (not likely!), it would now be a wise and measured decision reached with logic and deliberation. Not unlike the PhD thesis which tortured me. And prepared me for the professional career I loved. And for which I wouldn’t have been hired, not at the same level, if I had not finished.

Finish what you start, if you really want to

I am a finisher (there is a post coming on that – when I finish it). If possible, I finish what I start (except bad books – I’ve given up on those; Life is too short).

So:

  • I’m back in control
  • I KNOW what was going on, and I’ve dealt with it: FEAR.
  • I am really looking forward to seeing the final form of those scenes: they can be so much better.
  • I’m committed to work. As hard work as it takes.
  • If I’m slow/slower, so be it. Old/older, ditto.

I don’t know if the results will be worth it – this whole thing with Harper Lee has shaken the confidence of many of us older writers, especially not knowing if she understood and accepted the consequences, as was ‘approved’ by her state government’s ‘investigation’; money talks, and we write conspiracies for a living.

I am already digging out everything I need to finish the trilogy

The debris of this little debacle has been swept into the dustbin, with only this edited post to mark the spot.

I am making the fresh start. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedos.

And my missing ingredient? That’s been JOY. I get a huge pleasure out of the results, and a perverted pleasure out of the process. As I strike a blow for my tribe.

If I make a mess of it, it will be a glorious mess.

What’s YOUR next project? And what’s keeping you from starting?

Encouraging new writers: on the edge and without a net

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FAR A SMALL KINDNESS CAN GO

Two things before I go into this post:

Thing the first: Today is the last day of the Kindle Countdown Deal for Pride’s Children.

Thing the second: There is the story of the violinist who approached the master, asked that the master listen to him play and tell him if he had talent. The master nodded his head wisely for a time, and then told the violinist, “I’m sorry, but you have no talent. Do something else with your life.”

Years later, the violinist again approached the master. He said, “I am so grateful for what you told me. I focused on other things. I am happily married, have two beautiful children, and have had success as an accountant. My life has been good. But I have always wanted to ask you how you knew back then that I had no talent.”

The master looked at him. “I didn’t listen. I tell everyone who asks that question the same thing. But the ones who have talent never pay any attention to my answer.”

Blast from the past

I found this among my many notes to myself, abortive attempts at blog posts, ideas captured when they happened.

I’m glad now I never listened.

*********

FROM NOVEMBER 18, 2013 – [a thank you to my readers-along]

Before you finish your first salable novel and publish it, almost everyone you know will think you’re a few chocolate bunnies short of an Easter basket. Why? Because of statistics (which I’m too lazy to look up, and wouldn’t trust anyway) that say that many novels are started, few actually finished.

And most people never start that book they say they want to write.

‘Salable’ has changed dramatically in the last five years. It now means ‘finished enough for me to throw up on Amazon etc., and good enough to sell a few copies.’ Even given how easy the ‘publish’ step is now, relatively few people actually get to that point, because the requirement to finish a longish and complicated story is the dream-killer.

Once you are published, traditionally or self-, you are on a different track. Your work is out there, in public, and people can actually buy a copy with money. People can leave reviews, and argue about your plot points over at Goodreads, and comment on Amazon about your characters and themes.

Before that is the point I’d like to address: the novel is started; maybe outlined, plotted, and first-drafted to the point that you’re pretty sure you know where you’re going [or, for pantsers, that you’ve already gotten there because that’s how pantsers know they’re within sight of the finish line]. Now comes the hard part: finishing the writing, editing the manuscript, and getting it ready for market.

The question to be answered first has to be: why bother to nourish new writers? Aren’t there already too many writers and too many books out there? Well, yes, and most people would find enough reading materials out there to read continuously for the rest of their lives even if every writer out there stopped producing anything new immediately.

So, then, why encourage writers? It has to be because you are still looking for something new, because readers can read far more than most writers can produce, and are still out there clamoring for more. If you like mysteries, and read Sue Grafton’s novels of Kinsey Milhone, you can read far more than she could ever produce. If you like Travis McGee novels (I love them), John D. MacDonald isn’t around to produce any more – the best you’re going to do there is find a new writer who reminds you of the flavor of Travis – and who is still writing new stuff. Otherwise, your only option is to back and reread Bright Orange for the Shroud. Again.

So we encourage new writers.

Someplace along this line from conception to novel birth out of the Amazon river is the Temple of Lost Hopes. You know where you’re going, but finishing seems like the impossible dream. No one is giving you stars on Amazon because there is nothing there to praise or deride, and your feedback supply comes from whatever you’ve cobbled up in the form of readers – alpha, beta, familial, and friendly. You stop at the Temple to find a guru. You are desperate. The burden of finishing on your own has gotten gigantic. Nobody cares. Nobody knows what you’re going through.

For writers who are writing and editing live, as I am, this is the point at which a little encouragement from those following along (if any) has an effect far disproportionate to its size. The beta reader stands in for a hoped-for host of future readers; I have gotten to the point where I write ‘to torture Rachel,’ because if Rachel reacts correctly to a scene, I have written it correctly. I KNOW ahead of time I’ve written it as well as possible, because Beta Reader isn’t being given crap (in this way my beta reader is more like a focus group for a movie than a critiquer or a proofreader or a writing partner), but the confirmation comes from getting somewhere near the desired effect.

There are readers – or at least people who click as far as the novel’s text on your website/blog (this is all the information you get from WordPress – it’s called ‘views’). If those readers seem to come back – and an occasional ‘Like’ is registered by the statistics division of WordPress, and an even more occasional actual Comment is left behind as proof they were not ghosts – the effect on the writer is transformational.

I can live for days (writing days, finishing this thing we are pursuing together) on one of those tidbits.

So, if you are nurturing a writer along, what can you do? Not much if you are not exposed to the process – and this is the state of most writers: they write privately until it’s good enough to publish, and then market like crazy when it’s available for sale.

You’re already doing the hardest part: reading the THING as it goes up, live, in pieces, every week. This is enormously valuable.

*********

Couldn’t have done it without you guys.

From my tribe to yours:

Merry Christmas to all, and happy holidays to those with other traditions. Peace on Earth, goodwill to humankind, is real and possible.

Huffington Post reviews reviews on Amazon

KEEP REVIEWS HONEST – YOU KNOW YOURS IS

This came up today on The Passive Voice (a blog that should be required reading for anyone who reads and all writers daily), and Christina said it better than I can.

She wrote a lovely warning about the dangers the review system is in – if those who want honest reviews don’t participate in providing them,  and discussing Amazon’s changes and the choices faced by all sites with reviews on them.

She has a lot of good points in her article, but the one that struck me the most was someone MUST have a reason for leaving negative reviews – and she mentions at least one possibility. But it’s almost impossible to prove.

Negative review removal – NOT!

The only defense against that is other reviewer and customers; authors are NOT successful when they complain about most negative reviews.

For example, even when a negative review said her book had missing pages, which “was incorrect and misleading information. I knew that it could put readers off because, let’s face it, who wants to buy a book with ‘missing pages’? Especially if it’s a murder mystery where every clue matters.”

But customers can click whether a review was helpful or not, and leave their own reviews, and enter into discussions on the ones that are there. Even NON-customers can do this. And report to Amazon that the review is abuse.

I urge you to USE your power for good.

Pride’s Children’s first Kindle Countdown Deal

Pride's Children ~ KINDLE COUNTDOWN DEAL

Pride’s Children ~ KINDLE COUNTDOWN DEAL

AND LAST MARKETING EFFORT IN 2015

Dec. 15 to Dec. 21. It is live now – and the KINDLE Countdown Deal widget, should you choose to visit, tells you how long you have before the price goes back up to its regular price.

Remember, only the EBOOK edition is on sale. (Amazon may occasionally discount the print edition, but I have no control over that.)

I’m doing the simplest possible sale: 0.99 for a week – if you were planning to get the ebook, now is a good time to grab it.

You can give it as a gift – if you buy during the Kindle Countdown Deal. And you can recommend it to a friend – at the deal price – but only until the timer runs out.

If not (or you already have it), please excuse the marketing overflow – this is the last one for a while. I’m going back to writing.

BACK TO WORK

Book 2 isn’t writing itself.

And I’m a writer, not a graphic designer or a publisher, all the trappings to the contrary.

I’ve had my fun. I never realistically examined how much time all this publishing effort would cost a beginner (or I never would have started). That’s the way of all new things, and I’ve been very glad to challenge the brain with all of them, and manage to learn them.

Did I go WAY overboard? Yup. That’s me.

But I figured if I didn’t do it now, I might never get the chance. And I might always think it was too hard for me.

Being too SLOW for me didn’t occur to my fogged brain, and of course that’s what it turned out to be (though my lovely AND kind mentor, J.M. Ney-Grimm, says I’ve learned quickly).

Will I do additional marketing?

Probably – next year – but I could easily dump all my good time there, every day for the foreseeable future, requesting reviews, looking for every little opportunity to self-promote, being active on the social media where reviewers congregate.

Healthy people can afford to do that and still write (recommendations are to use your ‘less good’ (evening?) time for promoting) – but we all know I can’t.

So I will depend on the kindness of friends and new friends – and go do MY job.

My contract with readers has always been to lure them in – and then finish the story. Right now, I’m the only one who knows it.

My daughter has insisted that I finish it out in summary form, in case something happens to me. That I will do – she can publish it if I get called home, ah, before I planned to go (another thing beyond my control, thank God!).

Those of you who’ve read and said all the lovely words: you don’t want it to stay only in summary, do you?

Encourage the nice lady. Even if you’re an introvert, tell your friends – and tell them while they can grab Pride’s Children: PURGATORY for $0.99.

 

Waiting for print? Pride’s Children has achieved ignition

 

PC1 3D frontPRINT BOOKS HAVE VOLUME – AND FRONTS AND BACKS

The print edition is up. Links below, if you were waiting for it.

‘Achieved ignition’ is my little joke. Hard to set ebooks on fire. Though I hope if you get one, you will read it first. Passing print books on to other people is also a good way of getting them off your shelves if you don’t want them any more.

But don’t lend them. The books I lend never come back.

I’ve finally learned not to lend them

PC1 3D back3D FREE Images courtesy Boxshot (high quality renderings available)

Looks like a book, doesn’t it?

You store these ideas in your bookmarks because they are neat – and eventually, you get to the place where you USE them.

IF you remember that you have them. (I need to go through that whole bookmarks list labeled ‘EBOOK,’ which is where I’ve been storing these things, some literally for years, in anticipation of this day.)

Thanks, Boxshot. This time it was very quick to go into Pixelmator, cut out the appropriate images from the full cover (anyone with sharp eyes will notice it’s MY original version – CreateSpace hasn’t put the bar code on the back cover yet), save them as separate images (back, front, spine) trimmed of all excess blank space (Trim Canvas command – but don’t save!). My first attempt looked very odd as a book because I forgot to trim the pixels down to just the piece I needed – the spine image was a tiny sliver down the ‘book’ spine.

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (Book 1 of the Trilogy) is in PRINT

Amazon kindly links everything up for you on the product page, but here are a couple of the links for your convenience:

Amazon print product page

Amazon.UK product page

Amazon.MEX product page  (Hola, familia)

Amazon ebook product page

In this day and age of ebooks, I don’t expect to sell as many in paper (okay, except maybe to myself), but I’m glad to have that publishing milestone checked off the list. I do have lovely people who have been waiting for the print edition.

AMAZON HAD A SALE COUPON ON MY PAGE, VALID UNTIL DEC. 14.

Hope it is available to customers – I don’t control it. But it IS a limited time coupon if it’s there.

MATCHBOOK: Amazon sells you an inexpensive ebook of Pride’s Children

…if you buy the print edition. I’ve kept that at the 0.99 setting for now.

Check out their conditions – I don’t know what you can and cannot do with the ebook.

Still having fun. Over to you.

I claim Trilka Press and create my own logo

Trilka Press LogoDIY MEANS DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF!

I have to admit that publishing Pride’s Children, incredibly soon to be available also in trade paperback, has been a constant rush – and a constant learning experience.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Many of us indies create for ourselves an imprint – mine is now TRILKA PRESS. The imprint will cover several (or all) of our books), and may even some day turn into a company which publishes other writers.

I did my Google-diligence: ‘trilka’ came up with only 3000 hits.

And there was no ‘Trilka Press.’ Not even in Scotland where one of the few meanings for trilka (to take the trilka, to take the sulks, to become huffy) appeared. You can kind of see why.

I wanted something with ‘tri’ in it, and spent some time checking out the internet’s cache of images, and found some lovely three-lobed Irish/Celtic knots (some labeled Trinity or Triquetra knots) – but they weren’t quite right – and I didn’t create them. I could have imitated one – drawn my own version – but they were lacking something which had been building in my notes and in my mind for a while, and which I actually used in an early cover:

3 symbolThe yin yang symbol inspired this; but the yin yang symbol represents harmony and balance, and my story – and the symbol it inspired in my mind – is based on struggle as well as an intricate joining of the three main characters in a way which will become clear only at the end of the last book in the trilogy.

An IMPRINT means a LOGO, too

So I had my name, and I had an idea, and I had learned to use graphics software Pixelmator on the Mac well enough to design my own cover.

And as you know by now, that is enough to allow me to go off and running after this particular hare.

A dear friend was going to do the logo – and then life changed on her and she is moving cross-country and she will be incredibly busy until the move happens in January, and then incredibly busy getting herself established in her new job and new profession and new place.

A gift from the gods: name, idea, and semi-pro (?!) skillset. I couldn’t pass it up.

Three days of my ‘good time’ went into making Pixelmator behave.

The next step: stained-glass texture

I looked all over the internet for a way to make the colored sections look like stained glass.

Options:

  1. Buy commercial stained glass textures in the three colors
  2. Copy from a photo of actual stained glass
  3. Figure out a way to make a stained-glass texture with my Pixelmator tools

The first was rather expensive – and I needed such a tiny quantity.

The second was attempted: I photographed my friend’s Tiffany lamp (which had two of the three colors I wanted). It must have been something to do with the lighting (a photographer I’m not, though I’ve gotten better at finding textures I can use in real life, and cobbling them together), but the photos were very dull, and what was worse, flat: they completely lacked the texture I instinctively knew I wanted. All stained glass is NOT textured – some is quite flat, and a lot is even plain – but my brain had something particular in mind, and diverting it is usually more work than just giving in, so…

I went for the third option: make my own. The internet had a few interesting ways to turn actual photos into something that looked like a stained-glass painting (one I really liked is here).

But these models were not usable – they relied on plugins and effects built into software I didn’t have.

But they gave me ideas.

EASY STAINED GLASS EFFECT in PIXELMATOR

To do what I wanted, I needed to use a series of effects which would give me 1) color variation, 2) texture, and 3) shine.

I started with the cutout in the black framework, filled with blue color:

Original blue shapeTo get the color variation, I stumbled on the Clouds effect – using two complementary colors. This is your color dabbing effect (sponge) in some other graphics programs. I picked a lighter blue for the second color. I had to repeat this step several times until I found a pleasing pattern – the effect uses a random generator, and some were not usable (red required a yellow second color, and the yellow, a black (IIRC)).

Clouds effectNext, I needed something to texturize the surface. Do snow – and it looks as if you’ve used the cloud pattern to pile on glass beads. At this step, it looks like bathroom glass.

Snow effectNext was getting something with an ‘angle’ feel to it. Use the motion effect to make it streaked. Play with radius and angle controls to get short streaks.

Motion effectNow for some shine. Use Glass distortion to ‘melt’ the glass ‘beads’. It is almost perfect at this stage for what I wanted (YMMV).

Glass effectThen I used a final effect: Sharpen gives you a final sharpening to the glass facets if you like.Sharpen effectAnd I was done.

IMPORTANT STEP: FONTS

I learned somewhere along the way that when you license a commercial font to use it for your books, the license does not usually allow you to use the font in your logo – which is something entirely different, since it is placed everywhere, and is scaled up and down.

To see what I mean, think of, say, the Coca-Cola font or the Harry Potter font: the exact fonts are very distinctive, part of the brand, and trademarked – so they don’t appear on other products but the licensed ones. When a font is used like this, the font creator cannot resell it – so the license fees are considerable.

Then I remembered that, on a lark, I had created my OWN handwriting font a while back on MyScriptFont.com. (It’s free – leave a donation.) If you remember my first sunset cover, my NAME was in my own handwriting font. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted for the cover (and the font needs work because of a lot of things), but the site gives you your own TrueTypeFont – and you own all the rights.

So I wrote out TRILKA PRESS – and went to work.

Pixelmator (and others) allow you to turn a font into a shape – down to the level of individual letters.

I won’t bore you with the work necessary to turn:

TRILKA PRESS lettersinto the letters which surround the logo. The font gets Converted to Shape. Then individual letters are double-clicked to make them editable, and Transformed (rotated and stretched and moved) until they touch both circles, and ‘look’ right as an ensemble. J.M. Ney-Grimm calls this ‘torturing the font.’

That, plus shapes in Pixelmator for all the black lines (duplicated and rotated using triangles and hexagons as scaffolding to get the correct angles), and the logo is finished.

I’m rather fond of it – the creation was years in the making, and then the pieces came together when I was ready to build it.

Have you created your own imprint, font, and/or logo?

Do I HAVE TO write an Amazon Review?

 Do I HAVE TO write a review for PRIDE’S CHILDREN?

Heavens, NO – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to!

EVEN IF you said you would consider writing a review and I sent you an electronic ARC (Advance Reading Copy). The relevant word is ‘CONSIDER.’

But it occurred to me after several queries that many of my readers so far are NOT previous Amazon book customers – or even customers at all.

Is this your first time?

However, if what’s keeping you from writing one is that this is your very first review ever, I’ll make it easy by making the whole process familiar.

[The only hard part may be that you have to have an Amazon account; I’ve had mine so long I don’t remember how to start one.]

Where to start: read Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, Book 1 of the Trilogy.

Go on; I’ll wait while you read. Estimated time: 10 hours.

Heck, if you haven’t, you can buy the book or borrow it if you have Kindle Unlimited or Prime! here.

Or get a reviewer copy from me (email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail).

How to write an Amazon review IF you want to (MECHANICS):

Go to the book’s page on Amazon.

Scroll down to the Customer Reviews (after all the product information)

Click the box which says:

image 1You will be taken to a page showing, for a book, this set of FOUR boxes:

image 2Once you click ANY of the four, the following shows up:

image 3As you click in a box on each line, you get the little checkmark that says ‘Posted.’

NOTE: all are OPTIONAL – you can skip any (except the first, which gets you here), quit any time, and change your mind any time, and come back later and change anything. Unless you want to write your own words into the review box, in which case you will have to click some number of stars.

Here is Amazon’s own guidance for the STAR RATING:

image 4

How to write an Amazon review IF you want to (CONTENT – your own opinion):

What to say now becomes the slightly tricky part. Pick an imaginary friend. Tell her or him what you liked about the book (picture yourself writing an email to your friend). Say what you would say is you were trying to convince your friend that the book is good and persuade your friend to buy/borrow and read it. Compose in the box – or somewhere else, and then cut and paste:

image 5Pick a few words for your headline (it can literally be anything from ‘My opinion about…’ to ‘You will regret it if you don’t read this’) – the same words your would use in the Subject line of that imaginary email to your friend.

image 6Preview if you wish.

And click Submit.

You’ve completed your review!

That’s it – you’re finished writing a review. And have earned the author’s eternal gratitude. Not just mine – after you do one, you realize you’ve been wanting to express your opinion on a NUMBER of products – and I have launched you on your journey toward being a Top Amazon Reviewer and getting cool stuff sent to you to review.

Remember, you don’t have to – even if you said you would. This is an entirely VOLUNTARY activity on the part of the reader.

My FAVORITE response (thought reviews come a very close second) is still if you like Pride’s Children and want to see Book 2, tell your friends.

Any questions? Oh, and authors don’t need to see the reviews before they’re posted. This is a READER process – and we’re supposed to stay out.