It’s pronounced, “Frank-en-shteen”

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A few months ago, I had a falling out with a friend. It was a long time in coming, but it was inevitable. Our opinions on the world were simply too disparate to ignore. Now, this friend of mine, he’d done me some very good turns in the past. We were roommates, at a time where I had thought I would have to pack it up and move back to Wyoming. Later, he offered to publish my work, The Corsican.

I owe Early a lot for his selflessness. I was content to leave my book moldering on my hard drive, and he made me pull it out, dust it off, and put it out there for the world to see.

We learned a lot together, mostly about formatting a book after it’s been written. Eventually we pushed it out, and it was successful for a time. It’s a first work, no one knew me, and quite frankly, I priced it too high for a first work. I thought I was being reasonable at the time, but I also didn’t know as much about the publishing world as I do now.

Foresight and a good friend’s advice made certain that I got a contract with my publisher, one that explicitly gave my book rights back to me after a year. In that year, I found that every time Early said something on my Facebook, it started a fight, and I was left dreading his next bout of opinion-sharing. There were other factors too, most of them involving disrespect to my friends. Finally, I had to part ways, lest I be forever tarred with his brush.

After we parted ways, I’ll admit, I didn’t want to deal with my book. Too much was wrapped up in it, for me, and I wanted to just let it go. However, I’d learned so much from the experience, and it seemed a shame not to put my knowledge to good use.

First, I redesigned the cover slightly. I didn’t like the chosen color or font of the title and author slots, so I went in and added a font that better suited a science fiction book. Next, I went in and reformatted my book so I could upload it to Amazon.

And reformatted.

And reformatted.

For days and nights, reformatted.

I now know how Dr. Frankenstein must have felt, working in his lab. Making minute corrections in his creature to see if somehow this particular setting would bring it to life. Trying, failing, trying, failing, until each step forward feels like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. Each time, getting a little further, a fingernails width, just enough to give you enough hope to rise again when the boulder crushes you and rolls back to the beginning point.

I’m not a patient person, but I am a determined person. Turns out you can substitute one for the other. The results, however, are not pretty.

They’re not pretty, but they are effective. I have just released The Corsican to Amazon under my own steam, for a much better price point, with an improved cover.

I hope that it takes off, like the Frankenstein’s Monster that terrorizes the unsuspecting villagers. Regardless, I want to announce that my work is now online, at Amazon. It’s my first book, so I’m very proud of it. I can’t wait to push Bento Box on the shelf next to it. 

Loose Ends

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After having had a project to work on for the last year, I have found myself somewhat at loose ends these days. Especially towards the end of my book, I was writing in a frenzy of excitement. My beta readers now have my story in their capable hands, and I have to wait for some feedback.

One does not simply hand a novel to a person and expect a two to three day turnaround time. People have lives, and even with the best of intentions, if a person is going to give your novel actual thought and reasonable feedback, they aren’t getting back to you in a week. Of course, that makes this a really hard stage of the game. I hate waiting, I’m bad at it, and this is definitely teaching me patience.

The reason I think I’m at loose ends is because my main project is finished for now, and so I’m not coming home and writing up a storm.

There are benefits to not writing like crazy. First, I get to spend more time with Luke and Toby. Family time is important, and they are patient with me while I’m writing. They deserve the extra time as much as I do. I’ve been able to experiment more with my other interests. I’ve been trying new recipes. I’ve been visiting with girlfriends. I’ve been reading all those articles I always thought I’d get to.

You would think this luxury of time would be met with unbridled enthusiasm. This is where you would be wrong. I am driving myself into a froth for want of things to do. I am thinking about new projects already, trying to find one that is small enough to work on while waiting on my next round of Bento.

My only consolation is that lots of my friends are this way, they just happen to be that way about cooking, or knitting, or volunteering, or video games. Everyone has their passion.

It’s just another part of the process. Or so I tell myself.

 

 

80/20

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It has been said that in any project, eighty percent of the work will take twenty percent of the time, and twenty percent of the work will take eighty percent of the time. I haven’t been keeping clock hours, possibly because there’s no one to bill for them, possibly because I don’t want to think about how long I’ve been pouring into my project. I will say this though.. to write a book is a project, but to publish a book is another project all together.

I have finished my rough draft! Which, of course, is misleading. I have stopped typing raw material, I guess is the best way to put it. I’ve amassed a group of willing beta readers who will read the work, and hopefully not burn it completely to the ground.

Which is pretty self-deprecating. I’m proud of this work. I’ve written two books before that I have felt moderately so-so about. It’s lovely to have a story that I feel good about. It’s a rough draft, so it still has a way to go, but that’s okay too. Developing a story is part of the fun. It would be lovely to have every word I type turn into gold, but rarely is anyone talented enough to just roll out of bed and start writing prize-winners.

It’s a bitch to write a novel. A novel is like an iceberg. For the ten percent that a reader sees, there is a vast, ninety percent that a reader doesn’t. It’s hours of toil, spent over days, weeks, months, depending on the kind of time the writer can dedicate to the story.

However, I’m finding that the other side of the novel is the tough part. I have sent out my rough draft to beta readers. While I do have people who enthusiastically supporting my effort to become a published author, these people also just happen to have lives. They have time to read, but they also have work to do, errands to run, and free time to enjoy. It’s not that my beta readers aren’t awesome. It’s just that they are busy people, like I am. I can’t finish a novel in one sitting. I don’t expect them to, either.

Then, there is the other work involved. I have had a bizarre first experience with publishing. Basically, a friend of mine wanted to learn how to publish to take the pressure off of his writing friends to do it. It wasn’t self-publishing, because I didn’t publish my book, but it’s glorified self-publishing, because we went through KDP and CreateSpace and all the self-publishing tools. I learned a lot that way, and it’s doubtful I would have gotten this far without a friend to take me by the hand, but the one way I did not go was a traditional publishing house.

I hear some of you, booing and hissing. I predate the Internet. I still respect publishing houses. I want an advance. I want someone to do my distributing. Take your pick of reasons, it’s worth it to me to at least shop my book around before I break down and run back to Amazon’s program.

Of course, this runs directly into the realm that all artists of any strip dread… the business portion. Putting together a list of arguments as to why my book rocks socks sort of goes against my personal grain.. but fortune favors the bold, and if you don’t put yourself out there to be noticed, it’s a guarantee that no one will notice you. Speaking as someone who waited their whole life to be called by a publisher to get published.. it’s better in your head. I thought I was safe, I thought that I was going to be fine because a really good friend wanted to forward my career. He did a great job, but between his inexpertise and mine, we ended up doing everything wrong. So, even if you do get the situation exactly the way you dream it to be, it’s not going to turn out the way you think it will.

Hence, why I’m working so hard this time.

So, here’s to the final twenty percent of the project, which will now take eighty percent of my time and energy. Hopefully all this work will pay off. As long as I learn something about the process, then it won’t have been a waste of time. And with luck, all my hard work will pay off.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

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I started writing Bento Box in July 2013, depending on your perspective. In April of 2013 I wrote a catchy short story that raised all kinds of fun questions, which I then decided to explore. I also decided I was going to experiment with plotter techniques; prewriting, outlines, figuring out the end before launching into the beginning. It wasn’t just a challenge, it was several challenges at once. I was so nervous about doing it right, that I paid my editor fifty bucks to edit my outline and see what she could add to it.

I don’t know if I could have said it clearly then, but now I see I was exhausted from the endless rewrites of my second story, Best Served Cold. For whatever reason, that story was simply not coming together coherently, and I had to put the concept to bed, if only to get a break from it.

I did end up ignoring my editor’s suggestions, mostly because it was obvious that she wasn’t a fan of the science fiction genre. I think she’s a fantastic person and she taught me a lot over the time we worked together with Best Served Cold. That aside, I haven’t found the genre that I’m going to settle down with yet, I’m still in the process of experimenting. And now I’ve learned, it’s important to get an editor who loves your genre as much as you do.

Two weeks ago I made it to a major milestone – the climax of the story. And let me tell you how surprised and excited I was that it went exactly as I’d outlined. Before you get too excited, that’s probably the only portion of the outline that survived contact with what actually got written, but working so hard and seeing all that work, 75 thousand words, culminate into the section I wanted it to be was very rewarding.

Previous success does not guarantee future success, however. The climax is not where you end the story. It’s where the crescendo happens, but not the denouement. So in I went again, realizing that while I had so very carefully decided where the story was going to climax, that I had no idea where it was actually going to end.

So I wrote stuff.

It was the last thing I wrote last night, so after I folded in for sleep, I didn’t think anything of it.

Consciously.

In the morning, I woke up to what I was convinced was an ending that sucked. It had all the tells of me being tired with a thing – flippant, sloppy, more like a sulk quit than a rage quit.

However, it was there. I could read it. I could see my hallmarks of badness. I could sift out the things that were good, lift them free, rinse them off, and start fresh with them. Before, “The End” was just a nebulous tag that I slapped on to the butt of the Heroes Win! Now, I had something to work with, even if it was to destroy it utterly and start again. I saw what didn’t work, and I could now avoid those pitfalls and use the pieces of my destroyed work to build up.

Which is of course, not what I want to be doing. I don’t want to be grown up about it. I want to fall on my couch face first like my six-year-old did when I told him his homework was only going to get harder as he got older. There’s nothing easy about writing a goddamn book. Anyone who writes to make it sound like it is easy to write a book is selling you something and wants your money. It is tough as hell to write a whole books worth of interesting characters, situations, and ideas. A novel is a lot like an iceberg. You see about 10% of what the writer’s written to make the story happen.

And only about 10% of their insanity, as well.

 

The Magpie and the Starlings

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I made an art form out of not fitting in when I was younger. I marched to the beat of my own bagpipes, and was spectacularly awkward at it to boot. Fortunately I grew out of this when I reached my teen years and moved to Washington. I found a group of like minded, awkward, funny, brilliant individuals who bonded with me strongly and gave me the social framework I rely on today. During the time I was with them, I didn’t write a single word that wasn’t related to my drama groups and gaming that I involved myself in. I had given up my passion forever, and I was just fine with that.

Now, I’m older, and my friends have spread out from the central mass we had in college. I don’t see everyone every night, in a week long frenzy of hanging out. Obladee, obladah, I found quieter ways to spend my time, one of them being writing.

The problem with writing is that while it is a wildly creative and interesting endeavor, it’s just like any other past time. To the right people, it’s fascinating. To most of the rest of the world, it’s great if they’re in a bookstore, browsing. But no one wants to talk the craft.

I get it. I have five fast friends who are fierce knitters, and they discuss wool quality and needle gauge and patterns they’re longing to try, as well as how many projects they’ve left abandoned in their closet of shame. I can’t add anything intellectual to these discussions, because despite my beloved grandmother’s constant and patient attempts, her granddaughter proved to be a hopeless case with anything yarn related. So I smile and nod, because I know eventually the discussion will turn to other topics.

Today I went out to lunch with a person who may become a friend. I think she will, or obviously I wouldn’t have gone to lunch with her. I’ve only met her twice before, so I only had an introduction to her, but one of the things I knew was that she too is a writer. She contacted me on my FaceBook author page, asking me how I went from a pantser to a plotter. I invited her to lunch to discuss it, because the idea of typing up nine months of experience was much too daunting. People have written books about less.

I sat down and talked to her, at a pho restaurant not far from my work. We caught up a little bit, talked about people we know in common, established some basic communication. Naturally the conversation drifted into waters that bled into ink. She talked to me about her work in first person, the dual genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, how she poured herself into her story. I told her about how I’d done similar things, and how I’d come out displeased with my first two works. How I knew I could do better, but trying to frame an entire novel in my head was simply too much for me to manage.

The hour went by *much* too fast, and I realized that for the first time, I’d really felt allowed to speak about my craft. I had an audience who was genuinely interested in me, in the workings of what I did. I’ve joined writer’s groups around the area before, it’s not as though I haven’t tried. However, despite the three groups I joined and rapidly backed out of, I couldn’t find a group who genuinely cared about my work. They were each people who cared about their own work, and looked forward to getting their feedback, and were willing to give feedback if it meant getting what they wanted. I made no connections, and generally left feeling deeply disappointed in the communities I’d found. One was certainly came close to what I needed, but even then, I was a magpie amidst starlings.

Just before this, I had gone to lunch with two close friends of mine that I’ve known for many years. We all bemoaned our writing group experiences, when Allie hit upon the idea that we should join forces and start our own group. It’s small, and private, and exclusive as hell. It’s so new we haven’t even had a chance to talk the craft yet, despite the fact that we’ve all been writers since our early years.

It’s genuinely wonderful to find like-minded spirits to discuss the craft with. I felt like such a lone, lonely loner for such a long time. I finally feel like I’m part of a collaboration, that I fit in and can share my geek and not have to apologize for being socially awkward because I care about things like outlines and plotting.

It’s nice to come home.

 

TMI

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I apologize for my last post. I have diagnosed myself with information overload, and it took me a while to figure that out.

It’s a very interesting thing that happens when we ingest new information. There’s pleasure that occurs. Not immense amounts, mind you, but we all feel good when we learn or see a new thing. If it’s something small, like hearing a new song, the pleasure is small, too. But we humans have found a way to increase that small pleasure by ingesting ALL THE THINGS on social media. Every day my friend’s feed is filled to the brim with recipes, quotes, news links from around the globe, comics, pictures of baby animals, or babies, or babies with baby animals… the list, she goes on.

And it feels good to look at it all. Or, at least most of it. There’s always bitter with the sweet. Harold Ramis dying, for example, or stories about mutated sea creatures from the Fukushima meltdown. There are outcries about the political stupidities in Arizona or the racial discrimination in Florida. It’s all there, ready for mass consumption.

The trouble is, when you’re constantly ingesting, you really get no time to digest. Information all on it’s own is great, and it should be free. However, humans, just like computers, have a limited amount of RAM to dedicate to all this stuff. Sure, we’ll forget The Beef Seeds after a few weeks, but our brain will have an impression from wondering what a fox does say. It will last beyond the initial listening, and the seeming ‘forgetting’ that we do. How do I know this? Does anyone remember the Hamster Dance?

I have been grounding myself from the computer. I have been trying, at any rate. My full time job demands I be in front of a computer, and my part-time work as a writer sits me in front of the computer as well. It’s almost impossible to ignore the urge to see how many likes are on my author page or if anyone’s posted a new funny thing.

Without a doubt, I seem to process thoughts better if I leave them on the burner for a while. If I think deeply on a topic, rather than shallowly about a lot of things. Obviously some of our thoughts have to be shallow, or we’d never get on with our day. However, I think our society is on a dangerous vector to avoid thinking deeply about a topic because it’s unpleasant or hard, and then becoming a society that no longer knows how to think as a whole.

Deep thoughts are where the change comes from.

 

 

Junk Food

There are times in my day when the idea of potato chips sounds appealing. I just can’t stop thinking about a chocolate bar. Either that, or an espresso milkshake.

Sugar creates cravings in me. I know I’m not the only one, but it makes things hard when my naturopath explained that sugar is effectively poison (for my body type.)

It’s a poison that feels good. My mind hums on sugar; my body feels energized, and the good mood it stimulates makes me feel like it’s worth the twenty or so extra pounds I carry. I have tried everything, but it’s like quitting smoking. No gum, no patch, not even hypnosis is going to make you forget how good smoking feels. You just have to make a decision.

While I was on vacation this year, I realized that there’s something else I crave. The Internet. As certainly as I feel like I can’t live without chocolate, I feel like if I don’t check the internet regularly, I don’t know what’s going on.

But what do people post, really? Cat pictures. Funny baby stories. Upsetting political maneuvers by their rival political party. Movie trailers. Celebrity misdeeds. I find it very hard to find a Facebook post that actually says anything anymore. It’s a cacophony of noise and no substance.

Sadly, it makes me miss the days of LiveJournal, when pictures were few and posts were about people’s direct experiences with the world. Certainly there were faux pas, breakups that exploded in vitriolic posts or the ever-favorite drunk posting.. but at least the content was real. It wasn’t whining about a Coke commercial.

My next goal is to include social media in my ‘junk food’ category. I am going to try to minimize my distraction. I’m going to stop shopping – that is, browsing for things I don’t know I want until I see them. I’m taking a 6 month hiatus from buying junk. If I run out of ink for my printer, that doesn’t count. I’m going to avoid Amazon unless I am looking for ink for my printer, is all.

I’m going to give myself one social-media day a week. I am in the process of writing a book, but that’s lonely work, and I’m not posting passages out of my rough draft. Not yet, anyway.

I think this will give me time to focus on more worthwhile content. I like writing blog posts. It reminds me a lot of LiveJournal, without the commentary. That bums me out some, but maybe I can write posts that encourage more active comments.

I don’t think that the Intarnet is something I could ever truly give up. I’m a tech support specialist at work, an ex-app developer, and my friends work at Disney Mobile and Deloitte, Microsoft and PopCap Games. I am a technophile through and through.

However, while there are a thousand cute kittens, a thousand cute dogs, a thousand cute babies that all have charming giggles. If I sat weeding through them all day, I might find something that really stood out. Or, I could stop spending time on an inconsequential task and start producing something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be sorry I watched Vin Diesel lip sync to Katy Perry, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

I feel better in the long run when I cut out sugar. After the first few days of craving, I notice I’m distinctly more clear-headed. My scale is nicer to me, and I’m less emotionally wonky. I notice a similar, if different effect with a lack of Internet – I feel less of a need to choke people to death, for starters. I don’t get my emotional high off of heart-warming stories of pitbulls saving kittens from burning buildings, but I don’t have to endure the lows of seeing Russia round up homeless dogs and slaughter them to clear the streets for the Olympics, either.

So, fear not my local WordPressers – I am not going to stop blogging, and I am not going to stop supporting other people’s blogs. Facebook, Tumblr, these are the places that I am withdrawing from. I’m tired of soundbytes. I want more substance.