sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
What? The new year can start in February. Who says it can't!?

Yeah, not really. But nonetheless, I am intending to put more time and attention into my writing. I currently have two shorts stories ready to reissue under a new pen name. I once had three pen names, but I've ditched one and am reissuing the stories under the second, which is the name I use for sci fi, fantasy, mysteries and pretty much everything but erotica. The first pen name will remain my designated erotica name.

I have two more new stories in the pipeline, one completely written but still in need of proofing, the other 99% complete. Then I'll need to find art for the covers, create the covers in GIMP, and turn them into ebooks in Jutoh.*

I have a couple of other completed stories that need to go out to markets again. I sent them out one or twice, then stopped. But persistence is the name of the game, and I am now, again, in a headspace where I can manage that. I wasn't for a long while.

Then there are the stories--from short stories to a couple of novels--in various stages of completion. I'm tempted, badly tempted, to start over. But as my writing gurus Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch will tell anyone who listens, NEVER EVER DO THAT. That is your critical voice talking. Every writer feels like that, generally about two-thirds of the way through the project.** Throttle that voice and finish the story. Get it out the door. Write the next one, and use what you learned on THAT one. (In fact, they being married, often have to remind one another of this. One or the other will stomp out of their office to announce that the current project is unsalvageable shit. The other will ask, "How far along are you?" The frustrated writer will pause, realize what's happening, mutter "dammit" and return to the office to keep writing.)

In other news, I'm about to start playing in an online superhero game on InsaneJournal. I played in several years ago and loved them to death. But they eventually petered out, as such things always do. I've tried many time over the years to find new games, but never with any real success. But this time for sure!


*Unsolicited endorsement. Jutoh is by far the best software I've yet found for turning documents into ebooks. It's not terribly expensive, it works great, and while the manual is...less than helpful, the author can be reached with questions and always responds promptly.

**I'm right at 35,000 words on The Lifeboat (working title). I'm right on schedule. The urge to start over is powerful, but I'm not gonna. I'm gonna finish that damn thing.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Friday was my dad's birthday. He would have been 78 this year. I thought I was dealing with it okay, I frequently think I'm doing okay. And then it sneaks up and hammers me, and I have a sucky day.

And that's the thing. I don't recognize that my day is sucky because I'm grieving. I just think I'm tired or in a bad mood. Which is true as far as it goes, but it's WHY I'm in a bad mood and feeling tired that's the point. I'm tired because repressing my feelings is hard work. Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon, where he discovers Ali Baba's cave full of treasure? Remember when he tried to stuff the genie back into the lamp, jumping up and down on him with every ounce of strength he has? Yeah, like that.

Saturday was one of those days. It wasn't until my lovely and talented wife asked me if I needed to lie down in the bedroom and cry that it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't just feeling bleak and tired and antisocial for no good reason. I did as she suggested, and it helped. Not enough, but it helped. I'd had plans to attend a party that evening, but I called to cancel because I just didn't have it in me. Just like the August Babies party last month, I wanted to want to go--but I didn't.

Instead, I spent the weekend at home, alone or with Snippy and Twoson. I didn't go to the party Saturday night. I didn't go to our bi-weekly D&D game today. I just couldn't face dealing with people for a while. It's frustrating and aggravating to feel this way; and doubly so because it might not happen if I wasn't so busy trying to repress my grief. Half a century of practice is hard to undo quickly. But I'm working on it.

In other news, I'm trying to figure out how to turn my ebooks into POD books. I'm using CreateSpace, and learning how to format the interiors, calculate the page counts, and create covers (front, back and spine) instead of just front-cover art. It's not rocket science, but it's not simple either. It's going to take some take. Fortunately, it's not a time-sensitive project.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means....

So, I signed up for a June writing workshop on short stories under the tutelage of Kristine Katherine Rusch (award-winning writer and editor), among others. It was a week-long exercise is reading and writing and reading and writing and more writing. Or so I hear.

I didn't make it. I couldn't get the time off from my day job. I didn't get my time off request in soon enough for what is, unsurprisingly, prime vacation time real estate. I was disappointed, but frankly it may not have been a bad thing. I'm not sure I was in the right headspace to work at my writing last month. So maybe it's just as well I couldn't go.

I can't complain about not getting the time off--my bosses have been very accommodating about my need for time off--just over a month after I was hired--for my surgery last November, and for the trip back to Virginia (again, on very short notice) for my father's funeral.

I'd already paid for the workshop, so I wrote to them and had them apply the fee to a different week-long workshop in October...which was cancelled this week for lack of interest (only half a dozen of us had signed up). So I'll be applying the fee for some other workshop once they announce the schedule for the remainder of 2012 and the first half of 2013 later this month.

But in the meantime, I didn't get the boost of enthusiasm and confidence I always have when I've spent a week with other aspiring (and accomplished) writers. And I won't get one in October now, either. So I need to find that somewhere else. I also need a first reader (or two, or three) for my fiction. My wife used to do it, but I think I need some input from other people.

So I'm looking for a writing group.

I know a number of local writers (for various flavors of "local") are on my friends lists on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal. I'm in the Portland Metro Area (Clackamas, to be specific). For that matter, it doesn't HAVE to be a local group. People who are willing to share work and responses by email could prove helpful too.

If any of you are in, or know of, a writers group that could use another member, I'd be interested in knowing about it. I write erotica, romance, science fiction, and fantasy for the most part, with the occasional mystery or crime/adventure story. Short stories and novels, both. I've had a number of short stories published by Cobblestone Press, an epublisher, and have published more under my own publishing name (Gelastic Press).

Any help anyone can offer will be greatly appreciated.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I haven't been posting as much lately. I've been doing most of my posts lately just to let my lovely and talented wife know what's going on in my head. (I'm the silent type.) But I've been talking to her more, I think.

I'm seeing a therapist. My lovely wife urged me to do so, believing (correctly, as it turns out) that I've been depressed. I've been seeing the therapist for a couple of months now, and I think it's helping. Some days now I feel both less depressed (able to do more, get more writing done and get more job-hunting done) and more depressed (in that I am FEELING depressed now, and like I don't want to get out of bed to face the job search). But then, nobody likes job-hunting. It's demoralizing.

On the other hand, I've had three--count 'em, THREE--responses this week to my blizzard of emails and resumes lately. Which is a much better rate than I had been getting. I haven't changed what I'm doing, so I wonder if maybe the job market is actually picking a little. I didn't get one job (I'd have heard today if they were offering it to me), but I am still waiting on a second interview for another, and have lined up an appointment for a third job this coming Monday.

The therapist is also working with me on digging into some of my less-than-helpful behaviors. Things I do that cause strife between the wife and me, and which are not helpful. I don't like the results. She doesn't like the results. But I keep doing them. So we're working on identifying why I do them, and how I can learn to use more constructive behaviors.

I'll be in Lincoln City for four days this coming week, attending a writers' workshop on Thinking Like A Publisher for those of us who are writing and publishing our own work electronically (or in POD form). I'm looking forward to it. Hanging around with other writers, and learning from them, is always inspiring. I expect to learn a lot next week, and hope to put it all to use as I slog (slowly) toward the day when I can make a living (then a decent living, then ultimately a very good living) from my writing.

Speaking of writing, I have seven short stories published through Cobblestone Press. They were my first seven sales. At this point, I have two dozen other stories (from shorts to novellas to one full-length novel) self-published on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other sites. I am currently getting more sales (and making more money) from the self-published works than from the stuff I published through my epublisher. Not that I'm making a lot, but...I'm making even less from Cobblestone. I suspect that had I sold to some of the much larger epublishers, I might have done better. Or maybe not.

In any case, my contracts for the works published there are for three years. They also have a clause allowing me to reclaim the works after they've been available via the publisher's website for eighteen months, if I notify the publisher via registered mail. I've been thinking about doing that. Those stories, along with a few new ones, would make for some nice short story collections--but I can't collect them while they're under contract. Plus, I think I might do better self-publishing them.

Or that was my thinking until recently. Cobblestone has recently made a deal with Amazon, so my stories (and everyone else's) are now available on Amazon, where they are much more likely to be seen by potential buyers than before. (In fact, just tonight I looked at my author page on Amazon and found that "Flying High", my first Cobblestone sale, was the third or fourth-ranked of my stories on Amazon now, nestled amongst my self-published stories.) Which suggests that they may sell better now that they're on a much, much larger platform.

Plus, Christmas is coming. And with it, if 2011 is anything like 2010, a huge boom in ebook sales as people who recieve a Kindle or a Nook (or some other ereader, but mostly Kindles) start looking for fiction to buy and read on their new toys. Since I have to give my publisher 90 days notice of my intent to reclaim my works, and it would take days or weeks for new versions of the stories I self-publish to propagate to all the various web sites, it would be counterproductive to do so now, when Christmas is less than three months away.

So I've decided to hold off on that. I'm going to wait to see how they sell for the next few months, both before and after Christmas. Eventually I'll reclaim them, even if it's when the contracts expire.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Oh, I know. It isn't even Thanksgiving yet. It's not even Halloween yet. But Christmas is coming. And with it, the inevitability that many, many, (many, many, many) people will receive an ereader as a gift. And then those people will, naturally, want to buy things to read on their new toy. Or they'll be given gift cards to accompany said reader for the same purpose.

It happened last Christmas. There's every reason to think it'll happen again this Christmas. Last Christmas, I hadn't gotten into indie publishing my work. But now I have. And I want to have as much stuff as possible available for potential buyers.

So one of the things I'm doing this week is pulling apart my episodic "starship repo guy" novel. I'm going to break out the various parts--which range in length from about 4,000 words up to 33,000 words--as separate novellas, short story collections, or novels. A little rewriting is necessary on a couple of them to make sure background info is there, but there's less of that than I thought there would be. When I'm done hammering them out, I'll have four short novels (or novellas) and one collection of three shorts in about the same word range to publish.

I've decided on cover art for them--and learned that cover art for SF is harder to find online than cover art for romance or erotica. There's plenty to choose from when it comes to attractive men, women, men & women in suggestive poses for romance/erotica covers. There isn't so much when you're looking for images with the right tone for an action-adventure SF story. More compromises are necessary.

So there will soon be five books online employing the title template "Repo Book [Number]: [Starship Name]". And if they sell, I can always do more of them. In the mean time, I also want to continue writing and publishing other short stories, and possibly some longer works over the next three and a half months. The more I have up, the better. (Plus, writing is practice for writing better. So...the more, the better.)

In other news....

My father's birthday was yesterday. He's seventy-seven years old. In October of last year, he went into the hospital for a few days with congestive heart failure. He'd had open heart surgery three years earlier, and had never completely recovered. That last hospital visit was...the last hospital visit. He came home and began receiving hospice care. My mom said on the phone that he wouldn't be going to the hospital again. He has a living will and a DNR notice. Snippy and I flew back in November to visit him, fearing it would be my last chance.

But he's still alive and kicking. And showing no signs of that changing. I have mixed feelings about that. I know he never expected to live so long, and has said he's ready for it to be over. He's weak, always tired, and...ready for it to be over. But it's been almost a year now, and as far I can tell, he could live a long time this way. When I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, he mentioned that he remembered thinking his grandfather was ancient at 83, and said he thought he might make it that long. Seems unlikely, and I expect he knows that, but I also suspect he wouldn't consider it a blessing, even if it seems possible sometimes. I don't know what to wish for him, or my mom.

I think I'll probably talk about this in therapy today.

I'm in therapy, did I tell you? My lovely and talented wife suggested it. She thought I was depressed, and she was probably right. I've doing it for a couple of months now. It's been interesting. And helpful. It isn't easy. I'm a very private person...in person. I write about things much more easily than I talk about them. So talking to the therapist has been a learning experience in actually, you know, expressing what I think or feel.

...there's a gyro cart downtown. They make THE best lamb gyros I've ever tasted. Alas, they close at 5 p.m. I'm never downtown anymore except to pick up my lovely wife after work...at 5:30. Or for my therapy session at four. I can't get to the cart before it closes! Argh! But today--today I'm taking Twoson to the train station so he can travel down to visit with his dad for the weekend. So I'll be going downtown earlier than normal. And I will HAVE A GYRO or know the reason why!
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
It's been more than two weeks since I last killed a man posted to my journal. I just don't feel the urge to post that much these days, but I do mostly so my lovely and talented wife can keep up with my thoughts and feelings. (I communicate much better in writing than verbally.)

So...just got back from another trip to the mall right across the street. Twoson and I are pounding the pavement (or the tiles) looking for work. I've been instructing him in the fine art of making cold calls on mall stores. He's getting better at it, and finding it easier to do. The first time I providing an incentive--when we finished our quota of calls I'd buy us lunch in the food court. This time we didn't do that, but we still did our quota of calls, and a couple more for good measure.

I've got an interview next week with one of the big anchor stores for a "sales associate, part-time" position (I'm looking for part-time work so I still have time to write) which would be a stocking position. That suits me fine. Stocking and restocking is more my speed than sales anyhow. I'm hoping to get it. It would be almost perfect: part-time, across the street from the apartment, and nothing too mentally or socially taxing.

Today we got a very encouraging response at a jewelers. The lady behind the counter urged us to go their website and fill out the application online ASAP as they're hiring. So that's first on our agenda, ahead of all the other online applications. Virtually all the stores simply give us a website address to apply to. We can haz the future.

Later today I have a therapy session. Snippy asked me to consider therapy a few weeks back. She was under the impression (and, I think, correctly) that I was depressed. What with all the change in our lives in the last year (selling our house, moving to the apartment, my father being in hospice care, Snippy and I being deathly ill in May and June, my hospitalization, etc.) I've definitely been off my game. And she needs me functioning so I can take care of her; that's a big part of my raison d'etre around here--and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So I agreed. I've had three or four sessions now. I think they're helpful. The first couple of sessions I talked about my writing, or the lack thereof lately, and my resistance to sitting down and writing, though I enjoy it when I finally do it (and really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I am productive). That's just old-fashioned anxiety, and something I'll probably always have to battle. Most writers (most people, for that matter) do.

Last week we went into an argument Snippy and I had, and why it happened. That was more difficult. It required more self-analysis, which is...not my forte, shall we say? I expect we'll talk more about it today.

My writing is going better, though not as well as I'd like. I'd like to be producing more words (and more finished stories), but I'm definitely trending upward, so that's good. I'm even seeing some money from my writing now. Nowhere near enough to constitute even a part-time job's worth (if that were the case, I wouldn't need an outside job), but that too is trending upward as I publish more material, and that should continue.

I started self-publishing in January of this year. Dean has written repeatedly that you won't REALLY know how you're selling for months. Smashwords, for instance, publishes your work to a bunch of other retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Apple, and others) both domestically and abroad. Some of those sites report monthly, others quarterly. Then Smashwords has to report to you. If one or more sites are slow to report, it could be near the end of the SECOND quarter (or even the one after that) before you find out how well you sold in JANUARY.

I've made money in three digits (excluding cents) so far this year. Not a lot, but it's a start--and I'm only just starting to see results from downstream sites (as explained above). Plus, in January I only had a couple of stories up. Now I'm up to over a dozen; given months and months to wait before all the sales on all of those are reported and...there's no telling. In the mean time, I need to write, write, write and publish, publish, publish.

I'll be attending a workshop on self-publishing in October. I got my first assignment for that class by email today. I was to read Dean's "How To Think Like A Publisher blog posts (done); choose a publisher name (Gelastic press--long since done), and establish accounts on Smashwords (ditto), PubIt (ditto), Amazon (ditto), and Createspace (done), register my Publisher name with the state as a DBA (done today), and establish a bank account I can use with all the above publishing account (also done).

I've started running again. The Couch Potato to 5K program. I downloaded an app to my phone that tells me when to run and when to walk, and keep track of mileage and pace. I'm going to have to get an audio & music-streaming bluetooth headset, though. Carrying the phone is a pain in the ass when I'm running, and when it's in its belt pouch I CAN'T HEAR IT. Still, it's a useful app; I don't have to carry a stopwatch and try to remember which intervals I'm doing on a given day. My legs are very sore; after being bedridden for a while, and very low energy for so long afterward, I have no stamina and no strength.

But that's why I started running again, so I can get that back.

Time for lunch now. I didn't eat breakfast.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
That's the name of the writing workshop I returned from yesterday afternoon. I spent a long weekend--from 7 p.m. Saturday to about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday--at the Historic Anchor Inn in Lincoln City with a dozen other writers learning the delicate art of selling our work to potential readers via...pitches, blurbs, and taglines.

Unlike a previous workshop I'd attended, which had to do with busting myths about writing, and explaining how you can make a living at it and which was mostly lecture, this one involved writing. We got together first early Saturday evening. Dean Wesley Smith, the instructor, talked about the topic and what a good blurb involved. Then we were given two stories (one by Dean, one by Kristine Rusch) to read, with instructions to write blurbs and back cover copy about them for the next session at 11 a.m. Sunday.

I sweated over that project, as did we all. Sunday morning we got together and distributed copies of our efforts and then we read them, each of noting down whether or not we'd buy* the story based solely on each blurb. Nothing more. No critique, no commentary, just a binary decision like a reader in a bookstore (or cruising Amazon): buy or don't buy.

After that, we went over each one as a group, led by Dean, discussing what worked and what didn't, and why. The ultimate no-no was using passive constructions ("to be" in any form). That was an automatic re-do: you had to revise that project for Dean in addition to the new assignments. Then we were given three more stories to read and write blurbs and cover copy for. Oh--and we had to do a blurb for one of our own stories.

That's how it went all weekend. We got reading and writing assignments, then went over them together, then got more for the next session. We ended by doing blurbs and cover copy for THREE of our own stories, as well an exercise in writing taglines, and a requirement to write our own author bios.

We didn't distribute the bios, or even show them to Dean. The point was to get us to write them, since a lot of writers (being introverts) tend to resist doing them--but they're as much a sales tool as anything else. Readers (or editors) who have something in common with you, or who can see that you have experience that applies to a story you're promoting, will be favorably inclined toward you.

It was good practice. Seeing how a dozen other people approached the same story and generated wildly different results (both good and bad), really highlighted what sort of things worked and which didn't. I learned a lot, and I'll be putting it to use. I'll be revising most of my online book pages, adding taglines to covers, modifying blurbs, and adding author info.

It was a good weekend. About half the class was staying for a follow-up workshop on being your own publisher. I'll be taking that class in October.


*"Buy" in this context means, would you open the book and look at the story opening? The point of a blurb or of cover copy is to get you interested enough to investigate further. Whether the writing itself sells you on the story is another issue and not relevant to this workshop.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
First, a meme. The AO3 (Archive Of Our Own, a fanfic repository) site has enabled user subscriptions, so you can get emails when someone updates. I haven't done so recently, and probably won't, since I'm writing original fic these days. But just in case you're dying to see what I've posted there:

I'm at faviconSinanju on the AO3. Subscribe to me - fandoms in the immediate queue include Dead Like Me, Highlander, and Grey's Anatomy! (You'll need to log in to see the subscribe button.)

I've been playing a lot of Battlefield 1942 on my new Windows machine, using keyboard and mouse as God intended, no matter what other misguided souls may claim. I tried playing Battlefield 1943 on X-Box Live, but I hate hate hate the handheld controller, mostly because I can't use it for shit. Plus, they only have one map available to play: Wake Island. Which is a fun map--I've been playing that one a lot on my PC, along with Stalingrad and Berlin--but just the one map gets old.

So I've mostly been playing the Medic class. Advantage: you can heal yourself of injuries. Disadvantage: your primary weapon isn't great at long range. Sometimes I play the Scout (sniper) class; or, rarely, the Engineer. I play the engineer mostly when I'm spending a lot of time manning the anti-aircraft gun, because I can repair the gun when it takes damage.

The game is good for teaching you the value of combined arms. The AA gun is extremely effective at shooting down enemy aircraft, which will otherwise strafe and bomb the bejesus out of your guys. But it's hard to do that when the bad guy infantry can walk up and shoot you in the head because nobody was around to defend you. Or their tanks can blow you to pink mist for the same reason.

Ditto, when I'm running around shooting other bad guys, I do pretty well...unless I run into a tank. Then I'm screwed...unless an anti-tank guy is there to demoralize him (and by "demoralize" I mean "destroy"). But he needs ME to defend HIM from the enemy anti-tank guy with the bazooka. And we need the AA gunner to keep the enemy aircraft from ruining our day.

I'm still playing solo. I've tried to join a couple of online games just to try them on, but I always get a "wrong version" error message. I haven't bothered downloading patches for the base game. So far I haven't wanted to try the online game enough to bother doing so. I may not. The drawback to solo play is that some maps--the desert maps, mostly--are too big and empty to be much fun, even with bots. But Wake Island, Berlin and Stalingrad are crowded, deadly, fun maps.

One of the larger romance epublishers (Samhain, I believe) has put out a call for manuscripts for a superhero romance anthology at "any heat level". Which means my smutty superhero erotica is just what they're looking for. So I plan to write a couple and submit them. That should be fun.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So as part of my unofficial effort to read more short fiction, I subscribed to Daily Science Fiction, a website which posts, well, a new SF story every day. They also email them to subscribers. Some of them are great, some not so great. A lot of it is a matter of taste, of course. Sometimes I really, really like a story, sometimes I don't, sometimes I read a few paragraphs and just can't bring myself to care.

Friday I got "Shark's Teeth" by T. A. Pratt in my daily email. It was a story about Marla Mason, a modern day sorceror. So it's urban fantasy, but not typical urban fantasy. To quote from the website, This series follows the adventures of Marla Mason, an ass-kicking sorcerer who doesn’t wear a leather catsuit, doesn’t suffer from low self-esteem, doesn’t wallow in angst, and is almost always absolutely certain she’s right… even when she’s dead wrong. It’s got monsters. It’s got sarcasm. It’s got death, destruction, sex parties, ancient gods, wisecracks, artifacts, oracles, dark alleys, and magical daggers. Come and see.

I really like this character, and I like the writing. The writer's sensibilities closely match mine, so I found the dialogue, characters, and worldbuilding very entertaining. I read a long prequel story online last night, laughing out loud repeatedly. Now, of course, I have to go out and buy all the novels. A very "First World" problem to have, to be sure.

Closer to home, a short story I was working on this week got shunted into the "unfinished, save for later" folder. I tried repeatedly to finish it, but there was no connecting thread holding the scenes together. So I've put it aside. Eventually I'll find a way to finish it, or pull out pieces to use in other works.

I've got a copy of an indie role-playing game called CAPES. (Someone on my friends list used to post about this game, but damned if I can remember who after all this time. A few weeks ago, I found a copy at a local game store, so I bought it.) It's a superhero role-playing game of the "no GM, distributed authority, collaborative storytelling" sort. Today my lovely and talented wife told me she'd picked it up and read some of it, and she really liked what she saw and wanted to try it out.

So tomorrow we're going to give it a whirl. It looks like it could be fun, I agree, and if it is perhaps when our gaming group gets done playing the current D&D 3.0 game, we'll try this for a bit.
 



sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
My, how time flies sometimes, when you're having fun. Or, you know, not.

I've been having vivid dreams lately, which probably means something. I had a strange, semi-lucid dream recently. I woke up one morning before my alarm clock went off and I wanted very much to go back to sleep before it did. I was lying there trying to do just that when I noticed someone walking around in the bedroom. I knew it wasn't my lovely wife, so I asked, "Who's there?"

No answer. I asked again. "Who's there?"

Still no answer, though I caught  glimpse of someone in a gray suit just going toward the door. "Who's there, dammit!" I yelled. The figure turns and walks over to stand by the bed. It's my youngest brother. He looks at me, then leans over and says, "I'm here to tell you that you are sleeping."

At which point I realize that he's right. I am asleep and I'm having a lucid dream. He, having delivered his message, then turns and walks out of the bedroom. I call to him through the open door, "As long as you're here, send some hot starlet in here!" After all, I figure, no reason not to waste a perfectly good lucid dream. Alas, then I really did wake up.

Writing Stuff ahead--be warned.

I've been struggling with my writing for a while, trying to recapture my mojo since the long hiatus while I was packing up to sell the house, then moving, and unpacking, and dealing with the household-wide illness following the move. It's been slow. Much slower than I'd hoped or expected, but I think--I hope--I've regained my footing.

I finished and submitted a new story this week. The first one in far too long, but only the first of many, if I can keep at it. I sent it to Ellora's Cave, an erotic romance epublisher, much larger (with a much bigger audience) than Cobblestone Press. If they accept it, I hope it will garner more sales than I've made there.

I've also got five short erotica tales epublished at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble (and Sony, Kobo, and other sites via Smashwords' distribution agreements). I've assembled them into a single compilation file as well, and will be publishing that tonight or tomorrow as well. The individual stories have been priced at $0.99 each; the collection will go for $2.99, which a) will save money for anyone who wanted to buy all five stories, and b) will net me a much bigger piece of the pie (70% of $2.99, or $2.09 rather than 35% of $0.99, which would add up to $1.75 if someone bought all five short stories individually).

I am following Dean Wesley Smith's advice in this regard. I've been reading his blog religiously, where he's been discussing the changes in publishing, and chronicling his experiences (and others') as they try to learn how to surf the wave of change. One of the things I keep reading, in Dean's blog, as well as in others by other writers, is that it may be better financially to pursue self-publication than to try to sell a book to New York. I've seen a number of people run the numbers based on typical advances, sales, accounting, and whatnot, and it seems to be true.

Nor are they cherrypicking the handful of people who've been making huge sales (and profits) self-publishing. I won't try to summarize it all here (read Dean's blog, or Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, or J. A. Konrath, or Mike Resnick, and others to get the full story). But it seems to make sense.

Add to that, that there are no publication length restrictions in epublishing. Unlike traditional publishing, you can write short stories, novellas and novelettes (or "short novels"), novels, or gigantic doorstop epics. It's all good. You're not limited to the lengths New York can profitably publish and sell. Whatever length the story needs to be is a publishable length. Nobody has any real handle on the "right" price yet, though there are strongly held opinions; I think probably price will ultimately settle down to fairly standard pricing based on overall length, but that's just a guess.

So rather than try to write to an arbitrary 90-120,000 word length, I want to try to produce more but shorter works. Traditionally published novels used to be much shorter than they are now, from 30,000 words on up. There were always exceptions (romance, for instance, or "men's adventure" series*, westerns, and the like), but for a long time anything longer than a short story but not a full-length (by the ever-growing standard of NYC publishing) novel was hard to get published anywhere.

Epublishing has no paper costs, no minimum page or word count. Shorter works, priced below what paperbacks (to say nothing of hardbacks) cost are a viable option again. I've even seen it suggested that old-fashioned serials, continuing stories written and published at regular intervals are a possibility. I'm not planning to try that, but I see no reason why it couldn't work.

*The Destroyer novels, for instance. Over140 books in that series, and still going. The Executioner, Able Team, Longarm (a western series), and others. The novels weren't long, but there were a hell of a lot of them. Going back even further, the classic pulp novels (Doc Savage, The Shadow, and others) were similar. No reason you couldn't write something like that and epublish it today.



sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I'm sensing a pattern. First my lovely and talented wife buys a Nook and enjoys it. I play around with it and decide to get one. Then she gets a new smart phone to replace the cheap, stupid (functional but extremely limited) cell phones we've been using for years. She chose a Samsung Intercept from Virgin Mobile (same carrier we were using before).

It's really cool. She can get phone calls, texts, browse the web, check twitter and facebook (if she did facebook) and use a zillion other apps. Probably nothing to those who've been using smart phones for a while, but new to us. So after watching her play with hers for a while, I bought one. I may be a technophile, but I'm also pretty closed-fisted when it comes to spending money.

But really, my new Intercept is pretty neat. I bought a belt case to carry it, which lasted all of three days. It uses a bent metal clip to hold it to the belt, but apparently when I've been sitting I've been putting pressure on it, so the clip has opened up. Where it once was a tight fit on my belt, now it basically hangs like a coat hanger--and about as securely. So I'll have to find something better. But the phone is pretty darn cool.

I'm "writing" again these days, but not making much headway. Snippy is supportive, and assures me that I'll get back in the groove again, but it doesn't feel like it. I feel like I'm flailing, trying to figure out what I want to write, and being unable to write anything anyhow. I know these doubts will recur periodically, and I'll overcome them in the end, but it's frustrating and disheartening sometimes.

I've got a few rejections on stories I have circulating, and one of them recently really threw me for a loop. Ordinarily rejections just roll off my back. I understand that it's just part of the biz. But that last one really depressed me a for a while.

On the other hand, I now have four short stories up on Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and they continue to sell at a slow but steady rate. I'm not exactly setting the world on fire, but it's something positive to think about. One more to go, and then I can bundle them into a collection and add that to my sales listings (at a higher price and a higher royalty).

Valentine's Day has come and gone 'round here. Snippy bought me a card, tulips, and another gift. I bought her chocolate and a copy of the movie RED, which she absolutely adored in the theatre. MY current obsession is Monsters vs Aliens, which I have saved on the Tivo and watch--in bits and pieces--repeatedly. I dunno why. Partly because it's a very well done animated movie, and partly because it's just a reliable piece of entertainment when I'm suffering from "we have a zillion channels and there's nothing to watch" syndrome. It's amazing how that happens, but it often does.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So it's been three weeks, more or less, since my last update on this topic.

On January 2, I began the year with a score of 18 points. As of January 5, after getting a number of stories back into circulation, my Race to Publication score stood at 25 points. As of tonight, when I added a third self-published story to the others on Smashwords, Amazon and PubIt, my score is as follows:

Short stories available for sale online: 10 (1 point each)*
Short stories currently in submission to a market: 9, including one new story (1 point each)
Novel submission packages out: 2 (5 points each)

For a total of 29 points. I have five more short stories in the queue for self-publication, as well. That will bring me up to 34 points before including any additional stories finished and submitted or published.

*I'm getting sales, too. Not a lot, but some. Given the size of the marketplace, and the fact that I have, essentially, no name recognition, that's not so bad. The more stories I get up, the better. This is a long term project. Every additional story written and submitted (or published) is additional practice at writing and another chance to make a bit more money.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
On the writing front, I've gotten eight stories back into the (e)mail. One got rejected the next day and resubmitted elsewhere, but it still only counts for one point. The seven stories I haven't resubmitted are candidates for self-publication. I'm currently working on that. My score to date:

Stories published online: 7 (1 point each)
Stories submitted to editors: 8 (1 point each)
Novel query packages: 2 (5 points each)
Total: 25 points (plus 7 from the last report)

I'm doing a lot of driving these days, and it looks like I'll soon be doing more. I drive my lovely and talented wife to work every morning, and pick her up every evening, as I've done since getting laid off. It gives us time together to talk, forces me to keep to a daytime schedule*, saves us having to pay the exorbitant downtown parking rates**, and saves her having to drive herself.

Now that we've moved to the new apartment, what had originally been a 10-15 minute commute is now a 30-45 minute commute, depending on traffic conditions. One way. So I'm spending considerably more time in the car these days--between two and three hours all told. Still, it's not bad. I talk to my sweetie when we're together; I listen to the radio when I'm alone. And I still have plenty of time during the day to run errands, do chores, and write, now that I'm back to writing.

Once I start driving Twoson to or from school (he's starting massage school shortly) two evenings a week, it'll be even more. He's learning to drive, so eventually I'll be off the hook for that, but the daily commute to Snippy's office won't change. It's just part of the new normal for us.

And speaking of chores--I had to be here between 10 a.m. and noon today for the cable guy. See, we got phone, internet, and cable service from Comcast in the new place. We'd rather have had DirecTV (which we loved for years), but our apartment faces north, not south. So no dice. We also got DVRs for the living room and master bedroom.

Comcast DVRs (by Motorola). They sucked. We can live with cable rather than satellite. But after being spoiled by Tivo, the Motorola DVRs were bigger, slower, and crappier in every way. They were slow to respond, sometimes failing to respond to the remote at all the first time you pushed a button. You could turn them off all too easily***--and a DVR that's been turned off doesn't record anything...which is the whole point of having a DVR. Worse, they had an aggravating habit of turning themselves off at random, or losing their tiny electronic minds and turning into paperweights until we called Comcast and got them reinitialized.

Even the remotes were bigger, clunkier, and less user-friendly than the Tivo remotes. In short, they sucked. So we bought a couple of Tivos and signed up for Tivo's service. We had to have the Comcast tech come out to provide the cable cards to allow them to work with the cable system. (When I called to arrange that, and to cancel our DVR service, the customer service gal didn't ask why. I suspect we're far from alone in our assessment of the Motorola DVRs.)

The Comcast technician turned up on time. He was friendly and helpful. We started up the Tivos, he installed the cable cards, and then went through the start-up procedure on one--the one wired directly into our network router. The other was supposed to connect via a wireless adapter we also bought from Tivo. We couldn't get it to work--it couldn't connect to the network. Eventually I figured out, by reading the router manual, and the Tivo website, how to make it connect. Then it worked fine. All in all, a painless customer service experience.

Once the Tivo in the living room was fully functioning, I played with it a bit. Ah, it was so much better than the Motorola DVR. Until four hours later, when Twoson alerted me to the Green Screen of Death. Yes, four hours after we set it up, the Tivo in the living room suffered a complete hard drive failure. There followed much swearing by Yours Truly. Hours later, all efforts to reboot it (in the vain hope that it wsa simply a data corruption issue, as sometimes results in the GSOD) had failed. I called Tivo customer service, which was an adventure in itself I don't care to dwell on.

The short version: that Tivo is really most sincerely dead. So we've ordered a new one, and will be shipping this one back to them for credit. So we're without a DVR (or cable box) of ANY kind in the living room for the next few days. Fortunately the Tivo in the bedroom is working properly, so we can at least record our shows in the interim. I'd say "so much for the vaunted Tivo brand," except that nobody's perfect. Hardware failures may be rare, but they're not impossible. We had years of reliable Tivo service in the house, and I expect years of reliable service now. Once, you know, we get another Tivo....

In still other news, I think I'm going to raise the white flag and buy myself a new Windows machine. I love my linux box. I really do. But the cumulative issues of working with it have simply become enough--in aggregate--that I think I'll be better off going back to Windows. Between the .rtf format issues in OpenOffice (a known and unfixed problem that is unacceptable when some markets for my writing insist on .rtf submissions), my inability to read Word notes in OpenOffice, my inability to get any sort of wireless networking to function on my machine, the possibility of playing some of my old Windows games again, and the ability to use various other programs available for Windows but not linux...well, I think the handwriting is on the wall.

It feels like a defeat, but I'm trying to think of it as a compromise instead.

*Left to my own devices, I'd develop a nocturnal schedule.

**We're buying more gas, and putting more mileage on the car, but not as much more as you might think. It's not distance so much as traffic that lengthens our commute. And even so, I think we still come out ahead.

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I've been going through my short story submissions database, cleaning it up and getting ready for the new push in 2011. Of twenty-three stories on the list, seven sold and one is still awaiting a response. The other fifteen have either been rejected by the most recent market or have gone unanswered for at least twice the market's stated response time. In most cases, well over twice that. I don't know if they didn't receive them, or simply ignored them. Either way, it's well past time to move on.

So I'm marking them all as rejections, and planning to send them out again. Or possibly, in a few cases, try publishing them myself via Smashwords, PubIt and other online venues. We'll see.

So as of January 1, 2011, my Race to Publication status stands at:
Short stories available for sale online: 7 (1 point each)
Short stories currently in submission to a market: 1 (one point)
Novel submission packages out: 2 (5 points each)

For a total of 18 points. Once I get all the other stories back into circulation, I can almost double that number.

I've also concluded that I need a new mouse. Trying to work with the spreadsheet when my mouse is almost useless was an exercise in frustration. I new it was getting flakey, but hadn't realized how bad it was until I started trying to select and work with cells....aargh.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)

I'd say Santa brought it to me, but I'd be lying. I've been using a standing desk for several years now, though it wasn't really a desk--just an Ikea shelving unit with an extra wide shelf for the keyboard and mouse. This is an actual desk.

New Standing Desk

It's 50 inches wide, so there's plenty of room for pages of notes or a manuscript to look at while I write. Top shelf holds my speakers, flatscreen monitor, and a few books, as well as a small clip-on lamp.

The middle shelf is for the keyboard and mouse.

The lower shelf will hold more books eventually. Right not it's home to a box of #10 envelopes (for the all-important SASE), and a box of larger envelopes for sending out manuscripts. Though at the rate things are changing, all the markets may be electronic before I get through it.

I'm very pleased with it, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the writing groove now that I have my new desk--and (much more importantly) I feel like I'm finally getting over this damn cold

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I continue to struggle with getting my linux box to communicate with the wireless router. For the moment I've moved the cable connecting my computer to the router so it runs around the edges of the room and is less obtrusive, but it's a stopgap. I still want to get the damned wireless adapter to work, but so far no dice. I've been communicating with people on the OpenSuse forums as well as the Portland Linux Users Group (PLUG) mailing list. I've made some progress, I think; I now have the right drivers and firmware for my chosen adapter on my system...but I can't get my computer to see the USB adapter.

I know the USB port works. I can plug other USB items into it (like my Nook ereader) and they work just fine. I don't know if there's something wrong in my operating system or hardware or whether perhaps the adapter itself is borked. I'm waiting to see if anyone can tell me definitively which--or even how to test to find out. It's really frustrating me--I know it should work. Other people running linux use this very software and hardware. I don't know why mine won't work.

In other news, we discarded (sold, donated, gave away or simply junked) a lot of furniture during the prep for moving out of our house and into the apartment. Some of it was just stuff we didn't use anymore. Some of it was stuff we'd never really liked anyhow. Some of it was furniture we didn't want to bring with because it's fabric covered and could (and no does does) harbor dust mites, to which my lovely and talented wife is allergic. So we took this move as an opportunity to make changes.

We're replacing a number of things. Dressers, computer desks, lamps, side tables, chairs and a sofa. We've bought a couple of recliners and a sofa loveseat from Ikea. They all have leather upholstery instead of fabric, to minimize the mite problem. The loveseat is smaller than our original couch so Snippy and I can sit close even when occupying opposite ends of it. The recliners are incredibly comfortable. We like very much.

I spent all day today assembling furniture. A large new dresser for me to replace the one I've been using, which Snippy will take over (she likes it). I adding shelving to a bathroom cabinet. I also assembled her new standing computer desk. There's more to do tomorrow, but I'm done for tonight.

I got a rejection today on a short story from Sniplits. I haven't checked my spreadsheet yet, but I have the sense that it was out for quite a long while. But then, I haven't done anything on the writing front in a long while. That's going to change. Now that the prep for and the move are behind us, and we're settling into the new place, I can focus on my writing again. I'm looking forward to it.

I think I'm going to track my progress with Dean Wesley Smith's "race" approach in 2011. You give yourself points for everything you have out in circulation, and you can compare your score with other writers who are doing likewise. You get 1 point for each short story, 3 points for every novel submission package (chapters and an outline) and 8 points for every full novel manuscript you have circulating. As things sell, you take them off the list. If you're losing points faster than you can add them, well, that's a problem you want to have.

He posted about it just today, and discussed the differences in scoring between traditional publications and epublishing (specifically, self-publishing via Kindle, SmashWords and other venues). The scoring for epublication is a bit different: 1 point per short story, 3 points per collection, and 5 points for novels. Novels get fewer points because they don't have to be nearly as long in this venue as in traditional publishing; "the pulps" are making a comeback, now that short novels can be produced and sold again. Also, you don't take things off the list when they sell. Epublication can be forever; it costs you nothing to leave a publication up for sale indefinitely. So the goal is simply to rack up as many points as humanly possible.

Anyhow, I intend to start writing short stories again, as well as longer works. Last year I focused on writing a couple of full-length novels and abandoned short stories. I don't want to do that again. I've been studying up on story structure and plotting, which are my weakness as a seat-of-my-pants writer, and I think I can learn more by practicing with short stories. I will, however, also keep working on novels (viewing anything of 15,000 words or more as at least a short novel).

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
"No, there is too much. Let me sum up...."

PODS )

Orycon! )

So there we are. We sold the house in less than 24 hours, and found an apartment three days later. So we're not doing too badly.

In other news, I haven't written in quite a while. I've been busy with other things. But I want to get back to it. Now that things are relatively settled (aside from a job interview on Friday for a two-month long term temp job and the inherent uncertainty of knowing whether I'll be employed again), I hope I can find the time to get back to it.

Though I haven't been writing, I've been studying--both writing (specifically, how I can work at improving my plotting and storytelling) and business. I've learned some things about epublishing that should be helpful in deciding where and how to submit stories to publishers and about the possibility of doing some self publishing electronically. It should be interesting.
 
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Twoson and I just got back from our morning run. It was a short one today, only twenty minutes. He's having a bit of slump, and I was pretty unmotivated when we started. Nonetheless, we ran.

Yesterday we spent a couple of hours trimming the rhododendrons and the camillia plants in front of the house. I started with the electric hedge trimmer, but quickly had to resort to the long-handled loppers. The branches were mostly too thick for the trimmer; it could trim only the thinnest and lightest branches. Since we wanted to hack the bushes down far enough that they were below window level...that meant some serious pruning.

I filled the yard debris bin with trimmings from the first plant. After we'd finished trimming we spent a while carrying the resulting debris into the back yard to throw on the large, out-of-control yard debris pile. Which will also have to be dealt with eventually. But the bushes in front a lot better. On the gripping hand, now we can see just how unruly the undergrowth beneath them has gotten, and we'll have to clean that up too.

In writing news, as I mentioned before, I ditched the Iron Maiden novel. Maybe I'll resurrect it at some point, maybe not. I began work on another novel. I already had 10,000 words written on it. Monday I added 3,000 and yesterday another 2,000. I'm aiming for anywhere between 45-60,000 words for this puppy. Not long enough for a NYC publisher, but more than adequate for a number of epublishers. I should, if all goes according to plan, have it done before the end of October. Which will leave me in a position to write another novel in November, for NaNoWriMo--and accomplish my goal of writing four novels this year.

I also got a rejection on Repossessor from Penguin yesterday. Just a form rejection, but at least I know someone looked at it. It's the first response I've gotten since I mailed out the submission packages quite a while ago.

I think today may be a "go write at the mall foodcourt" day. I want to get out of the house.

Stories in Circulation: 11
Rejections: 58
Stories Accepted: SEVEN
Stories to Resubmit: 2

Novel Queries
Strange Attractors (urban fantasy): 4 queries out, 9 rejections
Repossessor (science fiction): 4 queries out, 1 rejection

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Or, Dreams About Role-Playing.

I dreamed a lot last night. Don't remember most of them now, except that they had something to do with conflicts. I do remember the end of the dream. I was engaged in a running combat with a bunch of other people. I was, of course, using my reality-manipulating powers (as I am wont to do in dreams, even when I'm not entirely lucid--I am aware that I can manipulate my environment, even though I don't quite grasp that it's a dream).

So at some point, the fight moves into a giant toy store (paging Dr. Freud), where we're running around in the aisles trying to find and ambush one another. At some point I spot the last of a bunch of toy lightsabres and I think, "Hey--a lightsabre. That has potential!" and make a grab for it. It gets yanked out of my reach for a moment, but I get my hands on it, and whoosh I light it up. I have some fun slicing game boxes and shelving with it, then go looking for an opponent.

I find one, someone I vaguely recognize, possibly from earlier in the dream or from other dreams. (Yes, I have a recurring cast of characters, don't you?) We play a cat and mouse game for a while, before he tries to dump a trash barrel full of water on me in classic "bucket of water propped on a door" style. I saw it coming and turned my lightsabre into an umbrella. He pops around the corner--and I spear him with my (again) lightsabre. We stand there looking at one another for a moment. I wiggle the handle of the lightsabre around on his chest, just making it clear that he's really most sincerely dead. At whch point he asks "What the hell is that supposed to be?"

And I tell him, "It's a lightsabre. A 1d6 HKA, NND..." and other Hero System gibberish. He seems kind of disappointed that he's out of action and has to sit out. So I tell him, "It's only 1d6," meaning he isn't dead, just badly wounded. "But I had to make sure you were down, 'cause you're dangerous." And he looks at me and says, "Yeah, because I'm a deadly prankster."

Well, now I feel bad. Maybe he's right, that I'm going overboard about making killing attacks when this is all supposed to be fun. So I suggest that maybe he's got some garish healing potions he could take, or maybe some preposterous healing foam he could apply to the burn wound that goes all the way through his torso, which would make him good as new immediately. "Just an idea," I say, as I wander off in search of more opponents with a less Kill Em All attitude in mind. Behind me, he seems to have brightened up considerably, and I suspect he'll be coming after me again as soon as he's done with his potion of healing.

...so what does this have to do with anything? Probably nothing. Or maybe it has to do with my Thursday gaming group, which has gotten remarkably bloodthirsty of late. More so than I like, but the campaign has just about run its course, so I haven't objected much. We'll be doing something else fairly soon.

Or maybe it has to do with my concluding that the novel I've been trying to write isn't working. After consulting with my Mastermind Group (i.e., my wife and a couple of writer friends), I have concluded that this isn't a case of self-doubt, but a justifiable appraisal of the project. That's not an easy decision--I worry that I'm fooling myself and it really is just self-doubt. But I really think I'm right.

I've been trying to cobble together a coherent story out of bits and pieces, all about the same character, any one of which I think works on its own, and might make a good short story with some work--but as a whole, it just has no core. So I'm shelving it. (Never delete anything. You might have a use for it one day.) I'll be working on a different story, one I've already started, and I intend to finish it by the end of October. It'll be a fairly short novel, but a novel nonetheless.

Misgivings

Sep. 21st, 2010 09:47 pm
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I can haz them? Yes I can! I woke up this morning with the knowledge that I needed to write on the novel--and a sinking feeling. Not a good combination. That ole debbil Self-Doubt was jabbing me plenty with his pitchfork, and frankly my ass is sore 'cause he's been doing it consistently for a while now. I know that I need to just ignore those doubts*, sit my butt down in front of the computer (or stand, if I like) and write--but some days it's harder than others.

So (on my lovely and talented wife's suggestion), I grabbed the laptop and scampered to the mall, where I spent the afternoon in the food court, drinking a cold drink and typing away. Just getting away from my PC, where the ever-present urge to distract myself with emails, the internet, and so forth, was a help (i'd turned off the wireless reception on the laptop).

It also helped that I realized I was worried about the wrong audience. There are people who will not like what I'm writing, people whose opinions I value, but who simply aren't the target market for this project. I've been wondering how I could make this something they'd like. And the answer is: I can't. There are genres and sub-genres that I simply don't care about, and no matter how well they're written, I'm never going to care about them. Or read them, if I have anything to say about it.

Ditto for what I'm writing now. I shouldn't worry about what the people who don't like this sort of thing would think of it. I should be thinking about the people who would love a story like this. Which is hardly news, of course. But when that ole debbil Self-Doubt is winding your entrails around his pitchfork like spaghetti...it can hard to keep in mind.

Plus, as usual, lurking the vast aisles of all-new fiction in the Barnes & Noble outlet--the shelves and shelves and shelves of science fiction and fantasy, the mysteries, the romances,... That always helps too. Someone sold every one of those books to an editor. I can do that too. Even if the book I'm writing now never sells, the practice I get from writing it will get me that much closer to writing the one that does sell.

*Which is why I pimp Heinlein's Rules For Writers so often in so many different forums. They're a prescription for short-circuiting all the most common (and effective) ways to sabotage yourself.

Project: Iron Maiden
Deadline:  October 31, 2010
New Words Written Today:  3,100
Total Words Written:  35,000 and change.

Things Accomplished in Fiction: Leah receives an interesting proposal. Or is that, proposition? She also meets three new co-workers, one of whom possesses some serious Power Perversion Potential.

Stories in Circulation: 11
Rejections: 58
Stories Accepted: SEVEN
Stories to Resubmit: 2

Novel Queries
Strange Attractors (urban fantasy): 4 queries out, 9 rejections
Repossessor (science fiction): 5 queries out, no responses

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