Worldwide sale means thirteen Kindle marketplaces

worldwide

IT DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS* – sale details below

Okay; I promised myself this one when my brain-fogged brain figured out that Kindle Countdown Deals are only available for the UK and the US: have a sale EVERYONE who has access to a Kindle or Fire device (or app) can take advantage of.

Amazon is not to blame; country regulations are to blame. At some point in the future, maybe France’s arcane regulations will allow online Countdown sales; don’t hold your breath – the French (or should I say the French government, for good or ill) have all kinds of regulations designed to keep prices for books high, digital books out of the marketplace, and bookstores in business.

It’s their country – their laws and rules and taxes.

The only time it’s my problem is when I wanted to hold a Kindle Countdown Deal for Pride’s Children in France.

I can, sort of, but I will be manually changing the prices daily (and hoping Amazon, which was very fast when I did it today, would continue to be fast – they don’t guarantee it). And I wouldn’t have the cute little Countdown deal image that goes on the product page, and tells people time is running out.

WAY too much trouble for moi.

*So that everyone who has access gets a sale (which ends May 1):

New authors need READERS, REVIEWERS, and RECOMMENDERS at the beginning far more than they need revenue; the small business that is a single-practitioner press (Trilka Press for me) has to become known, and that takes marketing and advertising and sometimes annoying everyone you know, on and off Twitter and Facebook.

(In fact, if you’ve heard this one before and have no interest, just skip the rest of this post.)

If the practitioner is slow, like me, the usual indie recommendation – write more books – is just another annoying thing ‘they’ say, with no bearing on your real life. Because you can’t.

Therefore, you want to make sure you don’t neglect anyone – which brings us to the following thirteen links for the marketplaces where Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sells mobi (and paper?) versions of your book if you  set yourself up in business with Mr. Bezos.

How to do your own sale:

Nobody told me – I think they must have assumed I knew. Nope. Newbie here. Just figured it out this month: I can do my own sale. In India. Or Canada. And Mexico, Australia, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, the US, and the UK.

But I have to do the work (I did: I checked out every link personally – they are not all carbon copies of each other with a tiny bit changed).

IF you have always wanted your own personal copy of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, but you live in Mexico, today is your lucky day. You WILL need an account with the appropriate Amazon, but then you can even buy it cheap, and leave it on their website until you eventually break down and buy a Kindle. Or get the Kindle app for your iPhone or desktop or laptop or iPad – or wherever you consume your digital breakfast.

At this point I’m not even going to nag you to read it (next week).

But I can’t do this very often – you guys want me writing NETHERWORLD, not futzing about running sales for PURGATORY, right? It takes more time and energy than you realize getting all these details right (not sure I have!), and it has to come from the ‘good time’ I have relatively little of.

I read the self-publishing blogs daily, and stay current, and ESPECIALLY pay attention to ‘things that can go wrong if you mess up’ and don’t pay attention. Trust me – I can mess things up so bad I don’t know if I can straighten them out.

The links (finally – she is going to stop talking and cut to the links!) for the 0.99-equivalent sale ‘worldwide’:

PLEASE be so kind as to let me know if ANYTHING doesn’t work. You guys were WAY too kind to mention before that the sales weren’t available in Australia and the others – and I never meant to leave you out.

If you don’t want to buy Pride’s Children or read it – that’s absolutely fine, I’m very clearly not everyone’s taste, as so many people have kindly told me lately, some MUCH more nicely than others.

I’d love to hear 1) if I’m doing anything wrong, and 2) what your experience as a reader or writer and sales was like.


** Many thanks to Stencil for the ability to make a few images a month free – they have a lot to offer and it is VERY easy to use. If you make a lot of image quotes, get the paid version.

You like a writer’s style and voice – or you don’t

PRIDE'S CHILDREN

let fiction bloomEDITING? REALLY?

Way back in the dark ages, I submitted the manuscript (digiscript?) of Pride’s Children to an organization dedicated to vetting indie novelists, and giving them a ‘Seal of Approval’ which could be used on the cover of their novel to indicate ‘quality’ or ‘goodness’ or ‘lack of indie crap content.’ I will call them XXX.

And then I forgot all about it.

I just received their reply, a reply to which I take a great deal of umbrage.

Here is their email:

Dear Alicia,

I regret to inform you that your book Pride’s Children did not gain XXX approval. Our assessor said that though the book had an interesting premise, it would need a thorough line edit before it could be considered for approval.

In particular, she found the following issues:

Extreme overuse of incomplete sentences to the point where it becomes a repetitive sentence structure.

Too…

View original post 666 more words

Is literary fiction a category or a quality?

you write areDO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Do you even have a choice?

I’m not sure exactly why, but I have found every single one of my careful decisions, made during five years of deliberations and reading the blogs, questioned lately.

  • Cover
  • Pricing
  • Style and voice
  • Book length
  • Category
  • Marketing

By people who know better, know what they like, know what I need and should be using.

Okay, in some cases I actually asked. So I deserve what I got for insecurity.

But none of it has helped: I have not been able to nod wisely and say, “Thank you – that’s just what I needed.” Too stubborn. Too pigheaded. Too ME.

So I trundle on, and have the nerve to enjoy it.

Note to myself from a while back:

“It seems ‘literary’ is going to have to be my Amazon category – the other ones just don’t work for me.

Emphasize the characterization and the loving detailing of the thoughts of the three main characters, and maybe I’ll sell more.”

I’ve been fighting this. Choosing my style of writing and my voice keeps getting me in trouble with the ‘cognoscenti’ (new post on the Pride’s Children site on editors who don’t get it, but feel free to pronounce sentence anyway – and yes, the pun is intentional).

‘Literary’ can be pretentious.

Literary goes from sublime to ridiculous as a category. Many, many books have a literary quality which goes far above and beyond the words needed to simply tell the story. I would put such classics as Dune into the literary quality category – and definitely leave Dan Brown’s books out.

‘Literary’ can interfere with plot, slowing down a story to the proverbial snail’s pace to admire the local flora and fauna. With pretty words and swooping sentences. When I find myself skimming, and then skipping, large chunks of description with no greater point than ‘close observation,’ I know I’ve run into the kind I don’t like. Your mileage may vary.

The kicker: how to categorize your fiction on Amazon so readers can find it?

Literary is, of what’s offered as a genre, the closest. ‘General fiction’ could be anything.

And yet what I’m NOT full of is literary allusions, and I don’t need my readers to have a MFA degree to be able to read my writing. You may skip the more literary epigraphs at the beginnings of my chapters with relative impunity, though they’re put there for a reason. When my negative reviewer (so far) wrote in her review, “The number of quotations before each chapter was overkill – for the most part they only made sense to me after the chapter had been read.” – I did a fist pump, because that is the exact reason they are the way they are. She didn’t like it – her prerogative – but like everything else I do, it was INTENTIONAL.

I’m going to get excoriated for pretentiousness if I claim to write literary indie, and want to make a small corner for myself in literary writing, but the truth is that I was brought up (by myself) reading the classics – because that is what was available.

When I taught myself to write, I spent a lot of time with quality teachers such as Sol Stein, to learn how to give a sentence or a phrase the nuance that goes beyond writing fast.

This doesn’t mean the thesaurus is my best friend, because if most of your readers don’t understand your language, what’s the point?

Keeping this up:

For Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, I don’t seem to be doing anything different this time around. It was a long time between finishing Book 1 (PURGATORY), and being ready to revise the rough draft of Book 2 (NETHERWORLD) – almost exactly a year – but the new scenes are coming back to the same process as if I had never stopped.

This is good, because I want the trilogy to feel as ‘of a piece.’ Pride’s Children was planned as a unit, and if I had been a faster writer, would have been published as one. A very long one. But I think CreateSpace has a limit to how fat a trade paperback can be, and the three volumes in one binding would not have been a possibility.

But I have not, cannot, and will not change my voice and style – I don’t have that kind of energy or self-control. It is what it is.

Mental Dialysis, slow CFS brain, and extreme resting

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SLOW BRAIN SYNDROME YIELDS TO EXTREME RESTING

‘Brain fog’ slows the thinking process to a standstill. Other than the passage of time, is there anything else you can do to get rid of it?

I call it ‘Mental Dialysis.’

‘The passage of time’ simply means to keep doing what you’re doing, at less and less brain efficiency, until it’s time to go to bed – and hope for better tomorrow.

Brains are live things. They think and messages go to and fro in an odd manner: along a nerve fiber, the conduction is electrical; when you get to the end of the axon, the leap is made across a synapse, and that leap is chemical – a release and diffusion and reception on the other side of neurotransmitters; the next never goes electrical again; and so on until the message reaches its intended target (a memory cell, an action cell, a pain sensor, a happiness sensor…).

Slow brain syndrome – a gummed up brain

Well, mine don’t work very fast much of the time. My guess would be that the part that is messed up is at the synaptic gap, and has to do with any of the parts of the transmission process, from creating and releasing the little burst of neurotransmitters, to diffusion across the gap, to the speed with which the receptors can process the chemical message.

One of the things that affects this process is whatever synaptic fluid is IN that gap, and what it contains.

Normally, the fluid is scrubbed of ‘the products of thinking’ on a regular basis, cleaning the fluid of extraneous debris, so the neurotransmitters can float across again.

Where’s the holdup?

CFS brains can have trouble at any of the three steps. I don’t know if production of neurotransmitters has as much trouble in the CFS person as production of energy from food – but I think that is not the problem, as my lack of energy is continuous, and I have no aerobic capacity (where the process speeds up because the demand does).

But I’m pretty sure that the debris is not removed nearly as quickly from the CFS brain/synapse fluid as in normal people.

Possibly there is inflammation (it’s been theorized inflammation in the brain is a continuous state for us), and the physical SPACE the fluid occupies is such as to make cleaning it take longer because the fluid can’t move around well.

And one of the interesting things that went through my Science News recently was a report of mice who got examined when they were so relaxed they fell asleep – and noticing that their brain cells shrunk a bit, and the spaces between got correspondingly larger, and – the important part – debris was cleared away from the fluid FASTER.

How does extreme resting help?

I think that’s what’s going on during my ‘naps.’ I am doing two things simultaneously:

1) not putting any MORE debris into the fluid, because I shut down thinking, and more importantly, sensory input such as visual and auditory information, and physical tasks which the brain runs such as getting around and using your motor skills, which create a lot of brain debris and uses a lot of your brain’s capacity (think of shutting down several programs on your computer because the one you want to use seems to be running slow if the others are in the background, chewing up CPU time), and

2) giving the brain more room for the fluid, and no competing processes to catching up with the clearing away of debris (a lower level task than thinking or looking).

I call this my ‘mental dialysis’ time: no input plus conditions which promote dejunking.

I ALWAYS wake up/get up from these ‘naps’ with more capacity than I had when I forced myself to lie down (what adult likes being forced to take 3-5 naps a day?).

After mental dialysis, the brain works better – for a while

SOMETHING has happened, and I can now think MORE clearly than when I lay down.

We do some of this every night during sleep, but then wake up and overload the system just by figuring out who we are and what we were doing yesterday and what we have to do now and tomorrow and we’re hungry and we have to get moving…

In computer analog terms, I stop running all but the essential programs, and let the CPU run all its little cleanup programs and memory reclamation and reorganizing and cache cleanout and… that are usually in the background and need to be rolled in and out when there is a little bit of free time.

And then my brain/computer is more efficient – for a while.

And why is this so hard to use?

Because I’m an adult, making decisions with a brain that is tired and in no mood or capacity for more decisions.

The decision to go lie down and block out the world, JUST as it seems I might be waking up (a lie), and only because 2.5 hours have passed, is counter-intuitive – even after 27 years of battling CFS (not quite as many of knowing how the mental dialysis works). It sounds like this to my inner child: “Why do I have to go to bed? It’s too early, and all the other kids are still out playing.”

I’m working on it (my attitude). It’s nap time. See you all later!

——-

*Image is from Wikipedia article on synapses, Creative Commons license.

The indie author’s artistic integrity is prime

mine THE BUCK STOPS AT THE INDIE AUTHOR, AND IT SHOULD

I am in an odd position. Someone said something about my cover, in a negative way, claiming they said it as ‘tough love.’ As a ‘friend.’ It hurt – because I am very proud of that cover. To have someone suggest, literally, that ‘I still think you’re shooting yourself in the foot with that cover. I’m pretty sure that a mediocre but professional looking cover will outsell a far more evocative but still obviously home-made effort every time.’

For the record, I disagree.

I had to think about it. To figure out why the response was so visceral to something meant kindly.

Bad covers are UBIQUITOUS

I knew, when I created them, that my two placeholder covers were ‘bad.’ Definitely amateur. But I hadn’t yet done ANY studying about design or cover elements or what a cover telegraphs to a potential reader. I knew those were not going to be published, because I also knew I was going to spend the time to learn how to do covers properly.

As I have taught myself to write properly.

But the comment was about the actual cover I published, and for which I spent an entire summer studying graphics and design and covers, and reading books and blog posts. After accumulating at least a year of studying the CONCEPT of ‘cover’ and of looking over the sites of many ‘professional’ cover producers – not one of which I liked. There were plenty of covers in that sample – thousands that I looked at. I added new sites every time a blogger I respect suggested a cover designer.

I’m not even going to mention bad traditional covers; that is shooting guppies in a teacup.

CAN an indie learn cover design?

In the same way I found ONE photo of a woman out of the thousands that I looked at which would do. At ALL. Because of nuance I would never be able to explain (to anyone except a professional photographer I then wouldn’t be able to afford).

The cover I compared to every set of covers I could find on the books I believe are my ‘comps,’ the ones I want to sell with, and whose audience I believe will like my work. And compared to every set of covers I did NOT want (from too literary to too Romance to definitely genres like SF, fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers). Because if you signal ‘Romance’ to a reader, you had better be providing a proper Romance between the covers, or you’ve already lost the marketing war.

WHO’S ON FIRST?

More and more I’m believing that the choices in the indie world are UP TO THE AUTHOR. And they REPRESENT the author. That the whole thing, beginning to end, is an exercise in learning what choices to make, in making those choices, and in standing by those choices because you ARE the Author. The artist. The creative. The creator.

If you choose to use a commercial editor – with all that entails, from finding one to paying one to accepting the edits – it is your choice, it was hard enough to make, and no one has the right to second-guess you.

If you choose a cover, you yourself will decide exactly what you want, even if that means you want to abdicate the responsibility for the cover to someone else. Or you want to learn Pixelmator and do it all YOUR way. Or you want to paint an image from the book. Or you want pale blue letters on a black background, or yellow on green, or WHATEVER.

The COVER is part and parcel with the BOOK now.

I’m starting to believe that when the author gives someone else responsibility for or authority over a part of the production, whether or not money is involved, it is the author’s choice to do so, and the author’s right to revoke that when and if the AUTHOR decides that is necessary. And it is a precious gift.

Whether or not the results SELL is not the validation. It is how the author FEELS about whether the product represents the best the author can do (assuming that’s the goal) that validates.

Now, more than ever before, when you buy an author’s product, you are getting the PURE author, warts and all, artistic judgment and artistic sensibility and esthetic sense all rolled up into a big ball of product. The consumer may like or dislike it, occasionally even returning the product for a refund; the consumer may give the product a bad review – reviews are up to the consumer.

This product has always had the writer’s name right there front and center.

[Whether the writer was a pseudonym or a ghostwriter has never mattered to READERS. And few people even notice the publisher’s name or logo.]

But other people don’t have the right to judge the product – the book – per se. They only have the right to say, “I liked it.” Or, “I didn’t like it.” They will never have the right to say, “It’s wrong.”

———–

How do you feel about the covers you see, if you’re a reader; or have on your own books if you’re a writer, too – whether or not you design them yourself?

Pride’s Children is on Kindle Countdown SALE!

PC1 3D front

I AM DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE AN EBOOK SALE FOR PRIDE’S CHILDREN: PURGATORY (BOOK 1)!

The Kindle Countdowns for the US and UK (sale for other marketplaces to follow on April 27 – I’ll let you know again) is announced on the books’ site with a few more details.

Please tell all your friends.

OR go directly to the Amazon US and Amazon UK sites.

When Life hands you lemons, write a blog post about it

PPP plastics HERE ARE A BUNCH OF LEMONS THAT HAVE COME MY WAY LATELY, AND WHAT I’VE DONE WITH THEM

So many things that make you shake your head, and wonder what the world is coming to!

  1. A moment ago, someone I have never heard of sends me an email (name redacted, but I’m not preserving IP for someone who hasn’t the courtesy to find out anything about me):

Alicia,

I thought you might enjoy knowing about my Shakespeare’s SSS adaptation mentioned on NNN Book Critics Circle Roundup Blog and most recently in the XXX Island News:

Sincerely,
UN Owen*

(* points for you if you recognize the name and source)

NNN and XXX are links. The email address looks fairly normal (a Verizon.net address), but I’ve NEVER heard of this person, am not interested in Shakespeare’s SSS, and certainly not in an adaptation! And anyone who thinks you will click on links in an email from a stranger has rocks in his/her head. Not in this world.

2. From a supplier of plastic bags:

“Dear WWW,

I am not sure if you received the “15% off Trash Bags & Can Liners” email promotion that was sent to you last week.

I was just making sure you didn’t miss out on this great special offer as it ends Today, Friday, March 25th.

You can use the coupon code TB316 at checkout to receive the 15% discount or call me directly so that  I may assist you.

As always, I thank you for your past business and look forward to helping you again very soon!

MMM LLL
Senior Sales Representative
PPP plastics company
(###) ###-#### ext. ###
MMM@’PPP plastics company’.com
http://www.iiiiiiii.com

P.S. Happy Easter!”

with my grumpy response:

“Dear MMM,

This kind of aggressive marketing – we buy your bags for a specific purpose maybe every couple of years – is why I just unsubscribed.

If you had looked at our buying history, you would have known that.

The pushy mail marketing turns people off.

Please do not respond.

ABEhrhardt”

Am I being too harsh? What if I were Jewish? Or Hindu? Or had issues with – oh, just about anything. I’m already creeped out enough by ‘personalized’ mail that comes to me on my birthday with ads for local establishments I would never use because they sell things like nail extensions. Honestly, what in my buying history implies I have EVER used a plastic nail extension – I’m female?

3. From SurveyMonkey, which I checked out once because MailChimp – which I was also checking out ONCE – landed me there and I couldn’t figure out how to undo having created an account:

“Case study: Unlocking market trends with targeted surveys

Get insights from real people, really fast

Buy survey responses →”

They don’t know me from Adam. I have ONE book on the market. If I could figure out people to survey (I did look at their categories of available people for sale), I wouldn’t need to do a survey. As I said, ONE book. Couldn’t we be acquaintances first?

——

This is a tiny sample – I have a bunch of emails from people trying to sell me their services the instant I registered my copyright and published a book (hello, if I already published a book, I don’t need your services!).

WHY AM I RANTING? WHY DOES THIS BOTHER ME?

Because it is rude, intrusive, insists on some of my time and attention, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME and MY needs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg that lands in my inbox – as it must be landing in other people’s (no, I don’t think I’m specially targeted).

I have Mail set up to divert most of it; one out of 100 or 200 is something that shouldn’t be in the Junk file and I need to see, or I’d delete them automatically. The rest is bad enough – I do NOT use Vi@gra, don’t want my teeth whitened by an anonymous product, and certainly don’t want investment advice from you.

But I am SO not enamored of the ‘targeted’ advertising that isn’t. Targeted. It is lazy, annoying, and extremely unlikely to get a response. Okay, make that COMPLETELY unlikely to get a response.

And it sucks up precious time and energy dealing with it.

And no, I can’t remove my email addresses from circulation – I need them.

Hugh Howey’s blog post today says privacy is dead and good riddance

I disagree (about the good riddance part).

Invasion of privacy has reached astronomic proportions – and is likely to get worse.

Is there an answer other than disconnecting the internet, that vast necessary resource for writers? Beats me.

But at least I get a blog post out of it occasionally.

And practice writing snippy responses with nuance to Senior Sales Representatives – who usually wouldn’t take my calls if they were real, at real positions of authority, at real companies who valued my business. If they didn’t make exactly the right kind of plastic zipper bag we use for heavy duty freezer bags (not their intended use), we could have saved them hundreds in advertising over the years. By telling them to jump in a lake long ago.

End of rant. Thanks for listening. Please feel free to include any rants you feel coming on – in the comments.

Inconvenient ideas for your new novel

inconvenient ideas THEY NEVER COME WHEN YOU NEED THEM

The ones you get when you thought you had everything lined up for the novel, and just needed to write it, and the Muse drops a big What If? in your lap, and you go Hmmm!

And it might be a GOOD IDEA, but it is certainly coming at a BAD TIME.
This happened this morning, and I have to admit it is a) a good idea, and b) fills a small plot hole I had, but hadn’t really thought about much except peripherally.

I think what happened is that as I took care of all the other ideas, assigning them to where they will be developed in the plot line, I cleared up some thinking space, and this little one came out, like Hope from Pandora’s Box, after all the rest had gone.

It provides a nice little conflict, and small but connecting plot line, and fills an empty space on the story’s calendar.

CONFLICT FOR READERS – KEEPS ‘EM HAPPY

On the other hand, it is new, puts things in a different light, and will worry my readers.

THAT was the touchstone.

My motto is ‘Torture Rachel.’

This will nicely torture Rachel.

I hope it will torture other readers, too – making them anxious and slightly unhappy, and annoyed, and…

Sorry, Rachel.

REAL LIFE IS NO DEFENSE

And I have a nice solid example from Real Life where I know exactly how things worked out to use as a template, one I actually understand and liked when it happened.

Not all RL is usable this way: ‘it actually happened’ is a sorry excuse for work that is not also story-true. RL doesn’t have stories that open and close neatly – which is why we crave stories, Lisa Cron of Wired for Story tells us.

IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN?

It DID derail forward progress a bit, while I suss out the implications and the necessary connections, and carve it some space, and make SURE it is justified.

Yes, I think it WILL do.

Brains, even brain-fogged ones, can surprise you when you’re not looking.

Have you been strong-armed by your own ideas lately?

Why I cannot read your writing

ask writer for feedbackTHE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM: USABLE FEEDBACK

A person who is becoming an online friend has asked me to do the impossible: she sent me a sample of her unfinished work, and asked for me to comment on it.

Worse than that, she has said nice things about my own published work.

She has no idea what she’s done.

I have been agonizing for two days over this simple request.

Why? Because there is no way to fulfill it OR turn it down.

If I didn’t value her friendship, I would merely have said, “No. Sorry. I don’t read other writer’s unpublished work unless we are in a writer’s group.” And let it go at that.

Instead, I’m going to send her back an email that says, ‘Please read THIS blog post about Why I Cannot Read Your Writing.’

With the bunch of links I have gathered (yes, I’m trying to pawn this off on the professionals), and a separate list for those which use bad language.

And the additional information about me:

  1. I have CFS and considerable brain fog: every minute when I’m coherent is fought for with blood.
  2. I am no one. I have published (self-published) one novel.
  3. I have been writing for twenty years, and just last fall got to the point where I had something publishable; it is impossible to condense that experience.
  4. I have NO editing experience beyond working on my own novels.
  5. I wouldn’t know where to start.
  6. I don’t want to. It will take/has taken me out of my safe mental writing place already.
  7. If you really, really need my commentary, my going rate is currently $1200.00 per hour (see 1., above), and we will still have to negotiate about whether I will work for you.
  8. Having to turn down a friend has already cost me those two days of agonizing over how to do this.

Google on your own the phrase, ‘I will not read your writing.’ In no particular order:

Relatively clean links:

dmattricino (Writers Digest)

Peter Clines

Gavin Pollone

Danny Manus

Links with language I don’t usually use (read at your own risk):

Chip Street

Cynthia Haven

Josh Olson

David Gerrold

What to do if you want feedback:

Create a critique group.

Join a writers’ group.

Join a professional association and request a mentor.

Put your work in public – which is automatically asking for feedback. I did this: I posted Pride’s Children, a new polished scene every Tuesday for two years.

Join Wattpad and post your work (they also have groups where you can specifically request feedback).

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? BECAUSE IT DOES

To be absolutely clear, I have not even read the rest of the email which incited this rant: as soon as I figured out what was being requested, I stopped reading the email. I did not read a word of the work sent to me.

And if you think I’m making a huge deal over a tiny request, then remember I take this step with the full expectation that I will lose this friendship which I value AND I will be called nasty names by others who may read this post.

Because… go read the links.

What say you: Am I being paranoid?

In training for a writing marathon

it takes what it takesFOR THE NTH TIME, I TELL MYSELF THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

The title of this post is meant to be ironic, as writing is a long steady race for me – and many others.

But it isn’t just the revising/editing/polishing of the rough draft that is slow, it is the entire preparation period, now complicated by having to use at least a little time for promotion of the previous book – a process which I assume gets worse as you publish more.

Added to that are the nice conversations (via email) I’ve had with people who’ve read Pride’s Children, some of whom have left lovely reviews.

And wondering about who the people are who’ve left reviews with either ‘Anonymous’ instead of a name, or who are people I’ve never heard of.

The latter kind are more exciting – one out of the first 12 positive reviews came from someone whose name I don’t recognize, who created a profile just to write this review, and vanished. (Thank you, Cris, whoever you are.)

Authors with more experience than I have, expect these. For me, each new oddity gets a tiny bit of attention. I scurry to make a copy of the review for my records when I see them, less Amazon decide for some reason best known to themselves to remove them.

VERBOTEN COMMUNICATION: READERS ARE OFF LIMITS

I’m fascinated by the interdiction on authors communicating with readers OR reviewers – and I can see it could easily become a zoo without the proscription. Half of the commentary I’ve read on Goodreads has to do with people defending or attacking two logical points of view:

  • authors should stay out of reviewer venues such as Goodreads and Amazon – those places are for readers only to express their opinions, except where clearly marked ‘for writers/authors’
  • some authors wanting to say thank you, thinking this will encourage reviewers – and lead to more reviews

I removed ‘desperately’ from the second phrase after I realized you can’t be impartial about these things if you use such adverbs. My opinion is that the first group is safest – if someone writes to me or posts a comment here or on the books’ site, they will get an answer, but I’m staying out of mine fields. Not nearly nimble enough, I’ve discovered, from trying to maintain peace and civil discourse on one of the GR threads.

PROMOTION – AN EFFORT HERE, AN EFFORT THERE

I’m waiting to hear from Ereader News Today whether they will take my money and give me a place on their lists; I’ve decided, after reading lots of things, that my primary category need to be ‘Contemporary Fiction,’ which may be the new ‘mainstream’ for stories set in the real world within recent memory.

There will be a Kindle Countdown Deal to go along with the ENT promotion, if they take me on.

I’m looking into Amazon giveways for ebooks and print books – Chris McMullen’s blog post had lots of details.

And I’m trying to get my brain organized to send a few print copies on walkabout via Book Crossing: you label the book a traveling book, get it a unique ID and register it at the site, and then either release the book into the wild (leave it somewhere, preferably where the cleaning staff won’t dispose of it) or give it a controlled release (ie, hand it to someone). If people keep handing it from person to person, or leaving it where someone can pick it up, AND go to the site to comment that they’ve had it/read it, you can see how far it goes in the world. Sounds a little iffy, but I’ve always wanted to do that.

One other advertising opportunity is to a specific group of people – if that works, I’ll report on it.

PREPARATION IS GOING WELL

I keep saying that – and I keep discovering new little areas of plot and characterization that I really ought to investigate BEFORE getting up to my ears in the writing.

It doesn’t help that I keep having days in which I stare at the wall, so I’m instituting some practices to minimize the effects of leaving the house, namely, much more deliberate resting practices before, after, and the next few days. Oh, and fewer carbs – those kill me.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll notice a lot less angst over the above – I do the best I can, and I don’t worry so much any more (because it never helps). Good days, like today, I try to use my time well. Bad days I try to ignore – but they are scary when my brain refuses to check in for a several days in a row (at which point I get really deliberate with those dratted naps – because, for me, the resting/pacing works).

The hope is that the preparation will mean that I can just write, and not have to stop and do research into obscure points, but I do realize you can’t predict everything you’ll need. It wouldn’t be any fun if you could.

But it doesn’t hurt to take a road map when you travel, does it now? Especially if you know you’re going to need frequent stops along the way.

What does this character do for your story?

character for reasonIN LIFE, PEOPLE HAPPEN; IN STORIES, YOU WRITE THEM IN

I’m just about ready to start revising the excruciatingly rough draft of Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, and my last task is one I thought I wasn’t going to have to do much work on.

Why? Because many of the characters in PURGATORY carry over to NETHERWORLD.

And really, since I am writing a trilogy – split for the convenience of size, not because the stories are separate – you’d think I already had my characters well in hand, and that I would just give them a quick review, add a few, drop a few, and be able to move on.

I’m dropping four characters, and picking up four characters.

It doesn’t seem like much, does it?

And they are minor characters; our main characters, Kary, Andrew, and Bianca will of course be there for the whole, but there are changes, and some of the characters (two of whom come back for Book 3) don’t belong in this volume.

That’s typical, and not at all unusual.

Relationships between characters are half the story

But my plotting software* gives roughly equal space to plot/theme – and characters.

We don’t see the world abstractly. We don’t sit on the front porch and muse about honor.

We compare friends, one of whom acts honorably and responsibly (most of the time), with the one who seems to have an excuse for anything that somehow puts the responsibility for her actions elsewhere.

And from how it hits us, and from what the results of their behavior is, we come to form our own opinion of whether standing up is better than slithering out from under. We understand an abstract concept by its concrete representation in a form our brains are designed to respond to.

Characters are chosen to represent extremes

There isn’t much point in wasting space in a story on two characters who are very similar in their outlooks on life, regardless of how common it is in real life to surround yourself with people you have a lot in common with.

Stories are created from CONFLICT. DRAMA. TENSION.

Stories have word limits. Yes, even long stories like Pride’s Children. If the writer spends too much time belaboring the obvious, the reader starts skipping. Elmore Leonard recommended leaving out the parts people skip.

In Albert Zukerman’s useful book, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, he has an example which stuck with me: Ken Follett, in an early draft, had included two policemen in The Man From St. Petersburg. Zuckerman recommended combining them – and making the single remaining character a much more important personage – to kick up the potential for conflict.

When every word matters, the pages turn more quickly, and the point the writer is trying to make sneaks into the reader’s mind more easily.

In real life, there’d be a whole police precinct full of cops, most of them of similar personality type – those are the people who enjoy police work. But for a story, one is MORE than enough. Unless it’s a police procedural, and the point is to push the in-house conflicts of a group of officers, under pressure to solve a crime, fighting over the best methods.

But in a story we have to be parsimonious in the extreme.

And this means not adding a character to a story unless he or she is there for a multitude of purposes.

Relationships are where the story’s points get made

So the interactions between the characters have to carry their weight.

Ever notice how good dialogue skips all the small talk? In life we spend lots of time inquiring about family and friends, work and leisure activities, before we settle down to something as unpleasant as having a friend on the police force look up a license plate number for us because we have a sneaking suspicion a neighbor is responsible for the new dent in our car door. In a book, the reader would go mad with boredom!

Rule #1 of writing: Don’t bore the reader!***

But the dialogue or physical interaction that remains then has to serve as many purposes as possible: information exchange, state of mind, difficulty in responding to a request that is faintly illegal, status of the friendship… plus class and education and income level of the two participants…

And to set these up, the writer should know why she picked these two particular characters, and what exactly the reader should take out of the exchange.

Setting the web of character interactions into place

1 – For continuing characters interacting with continuing characters, the story must change. We already heard what they had to say in Book 1.

2 – For new characters interacting with new characters, the story must explain why these new characters at all, and what has changed/what has remained the same in the story that the new characters reveal.

3 – For interactions between old and new characters, what is new to the story.

Not surprisingly, planning takes time and a fair amount of effort

I found myself extremely reluctant to go into the relationships when I realize how many of them there were. Then I had the above talk with myself.

So the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about characters, what gets space in the story and why, and what can be left out – because somebody has to do it.

I’m almost to the end of it, and it’s been fascinating.

And since I’ve been having the best time planning to use all this.

I almost missed it due to that reluctance (missed doing it as a unit, because I would have certainly had to do it in every scene) to dig into what seemed finished. It wasn’t.

I hope readers like the results.

————

*Thanks to ShareAsImage.com for the ability to create graphics

**Dramatica – which allows me to look at a tiny piece of the puzzle at a time (drat that brain fog) and have some hope that the whole will make sense when I’m done.

*** The only rule that matters, so far as I’m concerned.

From PLAN to PUBLISHED, writers make events HAPPEN

well structured fictionPEOPLE FORGET THAT WRITING IS WORK

It’s the most fun work I can think of, being mistress of all I survey, but sometimes it’s still work, and it takes time, and is subject to all the interruptions Life has to offer.

For all that I didn’t start polishing Book 1 (Pride’s Children: PURGATORY) until I had a complete blueprint and a rough draft of the whole story all the way to the end of Book 3, I’m finding that the original blueprint – even the one from the Great Reorganization – is merely a sketch compared to what I need to actually sit down and write every day.

Suppose you’re building a house, and you have this nice little plot of land on a hillside, and you sit out there and draw a few lines of what it might look like when it’s finished, with a porch here, and a big window in the kitchen with a view of that magnificent dogwood tree…

The house is no more real at that point than a dream, and you can’t go into the bedroom which doesn’t even appear on the drawing, and take a nap.

There’s a bit of work to be done first.

The road from dream to reality is a long one

Once the house is built or the book is finished, it has the solidity that belies its complete lack of existence before that sketch, and somehow it doesn’t FEEL any different than the sketch did, but the concept has absorbed an enormous amount of human time and energy (and money or opportunity cost).

In Spanish we say, ‘Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho,’ which means, ‘From words to action is a long way.’

Many books never get written.

Well, the reason I haven’t had much to say lately is that I’m just down in the trenches, doing the work, and it isn’t all that exciting.

But it’s incredibly necessary.

Blueprint/outline/storyform – don’t proceed without it

I’m a structuralist and an extreme plotter, partly by nature, and partly because, working on one tiny piece of the quilt at a time as I do, I have to know the pieces will fit together when I finish them.

Book 1 proved the worth, to me, of my methods: I did it exactly the way I said I was going to do it, and it worked and came together and connected and made sense.

Now for Book 2

The blueprint that I have, my Dramatica storyform and its ‘encodings’ – the sum of everything that I’ve put into the little text boxes which are the result of figuring out the structure behind this WIP, or what you might call events illustrating each structural point – was complete in concept, and even had placeholders for everything.

I had two choices: use the long-ago blueprint, and try polishing the rough draft.

Or go through every single piece and decide if it was still the best way to do that part of the story – or if it needed replacing with something better.

A lot was already good and connected and made sense.

What happens during writing?

But I’m more experienced now, and the first part of the story, a developing friendship that left its characters at a particular point with no obvious way forward, is finished.

The characters – big surprise – grew in the writing. Not changed. Grew. Things only hinted in my rough draft and master plan – happened.

That’s the only way I can describe it: until they are written in their final form, things haven’t ‘happened.’

And the blueprint for the next part needed a thorough going-over before being used to make the next set of things ‘happen.’

The eternal problem: picking up the story in the next book

Instead of choosing to understand and execute what I had planned back then, even if it was somehow part of the whole – which would have meant examining every choice I made in the storyform, and reading every bit of text I put in a text box so that I could write that better, I chose to delete most of it.

Not because it was ‘wrong,’ but because making it mine again as a whole would require that I remember why I put it there in the first place, and then that I take the time to decide if I still wanted it quite that way.

I foresaw that it would actually take me longer to go through the steps, for each entry, of figuring out what I meant back then and then deciding whether I still meant it quite that way and changing it to reflect Book 1 where necessary – than to trust that I have enough of the story encoded in my brain as a whole, and just answer all those prompts again from that gestalt.

This, I hope, will have the side effect of making the ‘new’ more connected when I start, and making the revisions – complete rewrites in most cases (as it was in Book 1) – easier when I’m working on my quilt squares.

I didn’t do that in Book 1, because I was too deep in revision by the time I really needed that one-ness, and so I found myself having to figure out whole sections AS I went.

I think this will be easier in the writing phase because I’m putting so much work into the planning phase.

And since I really need to write faster – and a major part of my time in writing the scenes in Book 1 was spent figuring out what and why – this may help me complete the next two books faster, so we can all have the whole story sooner.

Will this help Book 3?

Yes, this means I’ll have to do the same thing again for Book 3.

I naively thought I could do 2 and 3 simultaneously, and then pick up at the end of revising Book 2, and just move right into writing Book 3.

Until I realized how much work the re-planning is.

Book 3’s will have to wait.

I took extensive notes, and I’m feeling out my whole system (I’m not planning to stop writing after I finish the trilogy), and it shouldn’t be nearly as hard as for Book 2, since I won’t go through most of this questioning again, and just do it.

Learning to write is a process of finding out everything there is, and then selecting YOUR writing best practices, and finally getting practice doing it your way.

Even with refinements, and especially when you start out older, this system, if it works for you, is not going to get a lot of future change. This is one of the benefits of being more mature as a LEARNER. [And if some of you are out there, laughing at me because I’m STILL naive, so be it.]

Progress on preparing for writing again?

Those little text boxes for the Dramatica prompts? There are 71 of them, if you don’t count the character appreciations.

I’m almost finished with re-filling them, and I’m pleased that both nothing has changed – and they are filled better and more consciously and, what’s more important for me, more coherently.

They are forming a better ‘set’ than they would have, had I merely tried to remember what I was doing.

And – phew! – they have not hugely changed anything in the story that I care about.

And I have answered a bunch of niggling questions in my mind that I was putting off until ‘later.’

Character appreciations? What is she talking about?

The remaining ones, the character and character relationship apps? There are a LOT of them, but they tend to be shorter and smaller and more obvious – and require only a bit of thought or dialogue to reveal in the final version. Plus many of them carry over from the first book.

Only a few characters change from book to book. I use the Dramatica technique of handoffs: if character A represents something in Book 1, and then dies or leaves or the story moves elsewhere, then someone else is needed to represent the same thing in Book 2 or 3, and may express the ‘something’ differently.

To put that in more understandable terms: George has to go home at the end of Book 1, which will leave Andrew, just at the point where many things are heating up, without the childhood friend he trusts as a sidekick. Who will his replacement be – and how will the replacement deal with the pressures of the job – and will the replacement have the right stuff – and what will the consequences of the change be to Andrew? All questions important to the final end – and all planned in.

Hint: how is Nahrendra like George – and how is he George’s antithesis?

I’ll stop here, having talked forever about something few people will have any interest in.

But if you wondered why there weren’t more posts in between, when I have so many other things to write about, this is the reason: I’m putting in the work, and I need to stay focused until it’s done.

But trust me. It hasn’t been boring.

And it’s all necessary.

What say you? Does structure bore you or bear you up?

 

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?

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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.