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I’m breaking traditions left and right in this post. For one thing, it’s a how-to on making a very different kind of book, and it’s also a tutorial on how to offer a free ebook. I hadn’t planned on the second part until yesterday, when something that seemed straightforward took a hard left turn and I was scrambling to keep up and keep people happy. So! Onward into the weeds and off the evenly mowed, smooth paths of Indie Publishing (what? They are so! Maybe not manicured like the golf course of trad-pub, but I’ve always been more a fan of the casual lawn and garden. Why yes, I was planting tomatoes and flowers earlier, why do you ask?)

First off, I had promised  I’d write up the process of publishing Inktail & Friends. Inktail is a huge departure for me. Not only is it not fiction, it’s not even prose. Inktail is a coloring book. I didn’t create it to try and catch the wave of Adult Coloring Books, although that’s the hot new fad. That just happened to be good timing for this book. No, Inktail was born out of having no time and very little brain. You see, writing fiction for me requires enough time to think, and not have to think about math and science at the same time. Given that I’m down to one semester left in a STEM degree, that means I have effectively not written anything in almost a year, with family obligations added to my mental burden. Art, on the other hand… Inktail actually started with doodling. I will doodle in classes during a lecture I don’t need to take notes on (professors who read you their powerpoints and then post the ppt for you to study from) and people (coffMomcoff) started suggesting that my drawings were very cute and had I considered a children’s book?

First of all, I don’t think there’s a market for Indie-pubbed children’s books (I could very well be wrong, but it shaped my decisions) and second, I had very little brain. Children’s books still need a story. So when someone asked me if they could print and color a sketch I’d put on facebook, the lightbulb went off over my head. I think my First Reader could literally see it. A coloring book! They are a hot market, and most of the ones you can buy are created not from original art, but public domain clip art. I could do that, but I want to look myself in the mirror sometimes. So I started doodling with purpose. Several months, much improvement, and a bit of unladylike language (more about that in a bit) later, I had a coloring book. I don’t expect it to sell like hotcakes. In fact, since it’s only in print, I anticipate that I will make the money I have in it back, and not much more.

So why am I telling you about this? Well, it’s different. Someone reading this may be a terrific artist (I’m not, by the way. I doodle really well) and this might be a great way for them to get a product on the market. I figure you can learn along with me, or from my mistakes, so you don’t have to make the ones I did.

Ingredients for a Coloring Book: 

  • Pens, pencils, and paper
  • A thematic idea (mine was adorable dragons and flowers)
  • Line-Art (this from the pen and paper, or you could create it digitally, which would be even better)
  • A good scanner
  • Graphics software: Gimp will work, Photoshop is actually better for this
  • Wordprocessing software: I laid the book out in Microsoft Word. You could use InDesign if you have it and are comfortable with it.
  • Patience

Cost? Well, not counting the cost of pens, ink, paper (I had all of those at the beginning, although I did invest some in upgrades) I spent about $12 on Inktail’s final production stages. That was $10 for a Createspace ISBN and $2 for stock art elements to put on the cover. Time? Well, now, that’s a horse of a different color.

If you are not experienced with a graphics program, you can expect to sink a lot of time into this. I’m hoping my how-to will help speed that up. It’s not the drawings. I usually pencil, ink, and erase for the dragon drawings. There are some sumi-e style ink paintings that were done ‘spontaneous’ which involves a lot of time visualizing the brushstrokes, frenetic painting (no sketching at all) and then you’re done. It’s really fun, my favorite style, but deceptively simple. No, the time is cleaning the drawings up.

Step 1: Scan your art. If you’re generating digital art, you can skip right to step 3. I am using a flatbed scanner set to custom scan, full platen, save to TIFF file at 600 dpi. The scanner I have is less than $80 and will accomodate paper up to 9×12″ on the scan bed. Before you scan, clean your scan bed. I usually give it a swipe with a microfiber cloth, and know that I’m going to miss the dratted dog hair, or something. Eraser bits are probably the most common (a large soft brush, like a kabuki brush, will get most of those off).

Step 2: Clean up your art. Artwork for the coloring book isn’t as simple as scan, crop, insert as photo onto a page. You’ll wind up with dirty images, shadows, and goodness knows what artifacts that way. I open the file to edit in Photoshop, set to ‘smart object’ and then rasterize the smart object. At this point I can make fundamental changes to it. I will either use ‘select by color’ to eliminate all the while, leaving only my lines, or a combination of that and the magic wand tool to eliminate all the background. Then, I create a new layer, fill it with black, and immediately you’ll see all the dog hair, lint, or what-have-you that was on the art. The magic wand tool is good for eliminating this, but I always check. If you have problems, select the eraser tool on soft round and erase on the art layer. When you’re satisfied, eliminate the layer of black, and save the line art file as png or TIFF (there are reasons, I’m told, not to use png but I don’t worry too much). You cannot save it as jpg, you will lose your transparency.

Step 3: Insert your art in the book. I used Word for this, so my instructions will reflect this. I wrote a foreword, decided to put in a color-your-own color wheel at the beginning, along with recommending that people use colored pencils to color (Createspace uses thin paper, unsuitable for watercolors). I laid out the book, based on reviews I’d seen of Indie-pubbed coloring books, with the images only on one side of the paper. This prevents bleed-through if you want to use markers on the book, and if someone wants to take out a page and frame it or hang it on the fridge, you only have one choice. I also chose to add, at a fan’s request, a section at the back with instructions on how to draw a dragon my way (very simply).

Step 4: Format for print. Well, I suppose this should be before step 3. You have some flexibility, but not a lot. I chose to have my coloring book formatted to the 8 1/2″ by 11″ size, which makes it good sized. I included 40 images to color, and with some front and back matter (instructional, notes, so forth) the coloring book was surprisingly hefty when I finally got the proof copies. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your margins to include a gutter if you are going to have many pages. The Createspace templates are somewhat helpful, but CS doesn’t always adhere to them when approving files, so be prepared to deal with that.

Step 5: Create a cover. I opted not to color a page and use that. Looking at best selling coloring book covers, the line art and suggestion of coloring tools seem to be popular, and that is what I chose to do. I did get playful with my title font – maybe more than I ought, but I couldn’t pass up a DragonCaps font for a dragon book! You will note that I did not put anything on the spine, I felt my spine would be too narrow to support text.

This made a huge file. You may have to use the compressed pdf file to upload successfully.

This made a huge file. You may have to use the compressed pdf file to upload successfully.

Step 6: Upload for publication. As I’ve mentioned, I chose to use Createspace for this. I’m familiar with them (even if they do drive me nuts) and I didn’t have the time (or energy, to be honest) to try and find a different vendor. I saved my interior file as a pdf with all images and fonts embedded. This is important – your images will ‘float’ if you don’t do this, and wind up in weird places. I knew to do it with Inktail because of the experience with my grandmother’s memoirs. When your files go out for review, you may get a warning that some images are less than 200 dpi. Check this – most likely it’s not your art if you did that part right – and if it is your fonts, ignore it. Embedded fonts look like images to CS, but they will print just fine. I highly recommend ordering a proof copy. If your book is near mine in length, it’s not expensive, and it’s really a good idea to see how it came out in person.

Step 7: Sales and Marketing. Um. Well, I have done minor, very minor, promotion on my blog and at ATH in the promo post. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do with it since it’s not a novel. I’m going to see how it does while I’m at the Indiana ComicCon this weekend. I’ll have a bunch of copies with me, and it may sell well out of hand as it’s fairly reasonably priced. In the meantime, it was fun, I have fans who have been very happy I did it, and it was a learning experience. I’ll let you know how it went. I suspect that if I were doing a lot of sales out of hand, it would do well.

I may also decide to offer this as a downloadable file, so folks can print and color as many times as they’d like. See below for the possible snags in that!

Part 2

This is a quick-and-dirty tutorial on selling/giving away an ebook using a wordpress site and woocommerce. Sarah Hoyt has been urging me to offer a collection of my short stories for free, as a thank you gift to my fans, and I have finally gotten around to it. I was delighted to discover that woocommerce makes this relatively easy – you simply select virtual and downloadable when you are setting up the product. You can find the step-by-step here. I opted to do this as a product rather than straight site download to keep the ‘bots at a minimum (you have to enter information to ‘buy’ the ebook rather than simply click) and so I can easily track how many I’ve given away.

Where it started to go awry was when I tried to set up my product as pdf, mobi, and epub files. That didn’t work – WordPress won’t let me upload epub and mobi, only pdf. So a generous friend hosted and gave me links for the epub and mobi files. This time, it looked ok… but the first few ‘customers’ let me know that they weren’t getting download links. Well, crap. Woocommerce doesn’t allow epub and mobi, even hosted offsite. So! Since the billing info through woocommerce allows me to have the customer email, I opted to direct-email the files of choice to the readers. This seems to be working nicely. The pdf file can be downloaded immediately.

Check it out, and let me know if you have feedback… I’m a mere guinea pig for all you Mad Geniuses, you know that, right? I’m a Mad Apprentice.  Lab Rat. Temporal Anomaly. Something! Twisted Mindflow Cover

Friday Promo Post

What’s a blog by a group of writers without the occasional promotional post?

Actually, this is the fifth Friday of the month and we suddenly realized no one was scheduled to blog today. This is what happens when you get a bunch of writers together, all of whom are fighting deadlines and real life. Cedar’s around here muttering about finals. Kilted Dave seems to think having a toddler and a babe in arms is enough reason to get out of an extra blog. Then there are little things like house hunting, jobs, deadlines. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Changeling’s Island (Baen)

Dave Freer

Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way. For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.

But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.

***

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)

Sam Schall / Amanda S. Green

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

***

Sword And Blood (Vampire Musketeer Book 1)

Sarah A. Hoyt

The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.

Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.

Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.

But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.

Things are about to get… complicated.

***

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)

Kate Paulk

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

***

Inktail & Friends: A Coloring Book

Cedar Sanderson

Inktail is a coloring book for all ages, with designs that encourage the user to add their own creativity to the existing art. There is also a section on learning to draw your own dragon.

 

***

The Chaplain’s War

Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

***

Cascades (Wine of the Gods Book 24)

Pam Uphoff

Three stories and some out takes.

A collection of magic potions cascades through the lives of a desperate divorcee, the wannabe God of Thieves, a family of poor country trash, and an up-and-coming young officer.

***

Kraken Mare

Jason Cordova

Sergeant John Manning was a simple Marine who liked spicy foods, big guns, and even bigger explosions- so long as those guns and explosions weren’t pointed in his direction.

When offered a well-paying job after being unceremoniously drummed out of his beloved Corps on a medical discharge, he jumped at the opportunity for good money and the prospects of a bright future. For the first time in recent memory, John had a chance at life.

Then his life turned into a horror movie.

The secret research station hidden on the moon of Titan was not just any government facility. It harbored dark secrets and frightening realities. The scientists here have not only studied more than just the local fauna, but have discovered something far more important. A discovery which would shock the very foundations of the universe. Something out of a nightmare.

The depths of Kraken Mare hid a horrifying truth, and the unwitting Marine stumbled right into it.

***

Baptism By Fire (Edge of Faith Book 1)

David Pascoe

When a madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.

***

Stand Against The Storm (The Maxwell Saga Book 4)

Peter Grant

When duty and honor collide…

An emergency recall to his ship short-circuits Senior Lieutenant Steve Maxwell’s plan to get rid of a long-standing personal burden. Instead, he finds himself dumped into a war zone on a peacekeeping mission hundreds of light years away. He doesn’t have enough people, equipment or information. Left in the dark, he has to rely on uncertain allies with their own agenda.

Even worse, it’s not the Fleet’s war, so he’s not allowed to shoot back – much less shoot first. Neither side is observing civilized rules of engagement. The bodies are piling up.

Steve’s been ordered not to act… but there are times when cold, hard reality trumps orders.

 

The Obligatory Post-Hugo-Finalists Post

As anyone who hasn’t been buried under a rock or elbow deep in the Code of Cthulhu would know by now, the finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards and for the 1940 Retro Hugos were announced yesterday. I’ll admit it took me a while to process what was going on: the Code of Cthulhu has strong tentacles and while I’m still able to give a semi-reasonable impression of being alive and awake, the truth is this narcoleptic is one short step away from shambling zombie.

Anyway.

The important part first:

Congratulations to all the finalists. You earned it. People thought your work was among the best of its class in the eligibility period and paid $40 or more to have the privilege of saying so.

Now a random scattering of thoughts about the whole thing.

It seems that the public announcement is so earth-shattering an event that it generated its own emanations and penumbras – at least one famous-in-his-own-mind author was pontificating about the content of the announcements almost half an hour before they were made… or someone leaked the information to him.

The usual claims of “wah evil!” are echoing of course, and there’s been one public withdrawal so far. Whether there will be others remains to be seen, but regardless, there are clearly those who believe that even one of ‘their’ favorites is somehow tainted by association with the ebil puppehs (usually without distinguishing between the Sad and the Rabid flavors).

So here’s a quick thumbnail guide: the puppehs who want to help the Hugos – whether you agree that the help is needed or not – are Sad (or rather, feel that message should not be valued over a damn good story). The puppehs chanting “Burn! Burn! We’re not even gonna wee on that fire!” are Rabid. Got the distinction? Good.

Because the Rabids have just as much a right to their opinion as the Sads, and the Anti-Puppy folks have exactly the same right to their opinion. As long as all parties abide by the rules of the awards that’s where it ends.

I said when I started this that I didn’t care what won: I wanted to see more participation. Damn near doubling nomination ballots is a good start. Phase 2 for 2016 is a similar level of increase in the actual award ballots, and again, I do not care which of the finalists wins. If hordes of people vote for dino erotica, so be it. If they vote for something else, so be it.

All I ask is that people read, watch, and then vote for whatever/whoever they honestly believe is the best of the finalists.

Going Indie For Dummies — But I LIKE My Editor

And now we get into editing and the meaning of editing, what you pay for editing, IF you pay for editing, what types of edits are useful, which are just the equivalent of washing your hands in ditch water, and what you should do and avoid.

First let’s get into what most readers mean when they say “I liked this book, but it needed editing.”

Nine times out of ten when you get this review, it means they think you need copy editing.  That is they found one or nine typos in your book.

This is by the way one of those “not fair” things, since traditionally published books often have as many or more typos in the books.  The difference is that for whatever reason, if you’re even suspected of being indie or small press, readers go in looking for the mistakes.

So we’ll establish you need a good copy editor and go on from there.

We’ve done several posts here at MGC which cover this, but it’s also the information most asked-for, so it’s worth covering again.

What is copy editing: copy editing is going over your manuscript and making sure you don’t have ANY egregious mistakes.  These cover not only grammar, but also consistency, style (ask your first copy editor for a series to prepare a style sheet on things that are common only to that series.) and formatting.  If you’re still writing with underlines (I dropped it some time ago) they should make sure that all your underlines become italics.  If you’re fond of ellipses, they should not only make sure it’s not excessive, but that they are properly or at least consistently spaced.

As I mentioned before, copyeditors should follow a manual of style, and be able to tell you which.  Baen uses way more comas than Penguin, and neither uses as many as I was taught to use in my Oxford-English-based education.  Penguin eliminated the subjunctive, and Baen in its latest edit made an attempt.  (Which is why they got back a snarled comment on that one.  They can have my subjunctive when they pry it from my cold, dead brain.)

Before you hire a copy editor, make sure you’re on the same page.  Ask for references.  Look those references (and comments on them) up on Amazon.  Call at least two of them to make sure the copy editor is responsible for no “needs editing” comments, because the author might have had it re-copy edited.  I could tell you stories. BTW NEVER ask in public.  Often the copy-editor is the writers’ friend or someone they don’t wish to p*ss off.  Ask in private, preferably on the phone.

If the copy-editor checks out, you should pay around $200 TOPS for copy editing.  I’ve paid double that, but it was because the manuscript was an insane mess, having been created in Word Perfect and translated to Word, and…  But for normal manuscripts, for JUST copyediting, $200.

I trade it even-steven for a cover with friends.  I’d charge more for covers for non-friends, but you know how it goes.

However sometimes when people — like me — say “you need editing” what they actually mean is that… you need editing.

The level above that basic copy editing, I don’t quite know what to call.  We could call it “Fact checker.”  Yes, I know you’re writing fantasy and who needs a fact checker.  You’d be amazed.  There are facts in your book, unless it takes place completely among the squidloids of Oxon V.  And even then.  Someone will look at how Xio the squidloid moves through water and tell you that you’re violating physics, and she/he will be right.

Take the book I read last week (and by read, assume 11 eleven pages.)  It’s supposedly is a regency, but London is described as having a “Lowtown” and a ‘Hightown” where the low and high class live, respectively.  The wife of a baron AND HER DAUGHTERS go out every single morning to collect food from merchants, which they then give the servants to cook.  (Apparently butcher’s boys and grocer’s boys never crossed this person’s experience.)  The daughter of the family wonders why they need servants to cook “for a little family of four” demonstrating a total lack of understanding of both the complexities of Regency entertaining, and the work involved in cooking from scratch over coal or wood.  And by page eleven, the final insult, when a man refers to two other men as “those guys.”

A fact checking editor, familiar with the regency, or even with just regency romances could have “fixed” this.  Does it matter?  I don’t know.  She has 300 positive reviews.  So I’m going to assume either she bought them or a lot of people are reading this for something else.  I never read far enough to see if there’s sex in the book.

But if you’re writing something vaguely historical, and THINK that it’s going to be an issue to put your foot in your mouth that assiduously, I suggest you get a content checker.  This could just be your buddy who is a Jane Austen (or Tudor, or whatever) fanatic.  Or you could find someone you pay.

If you don’t know the person, I would check them as you’d check a copy editor.  Expertise, clients, etc.  The payment for this on its own will be around $300 but it might be more depending on how many times you stuck your foot in your mouth, or how obscure your area/time is.

After that you have what I’d call a “structural editor.”  And here I’m going to tell you “don’t.  Just don’t.”

Why?  Because structural editors, once upon a time called bookdoctors, are difficult to find.  Oh, you’ll find a million of them, but the problem is finding a GOOD one.  I’ve seen more books outright killed by a bad structural editor (or agent, or editor) than by any other cause.  Arguably my second Shakespeare book was a kill by an agent who was also an author and had a “bible” for how things should be written.  It didn’t at all mesh with my style of writing, which at the time was even more interior and emotional than it is now.  So a thriller plot was superimposed on the poor book.  It sold worst of that series and it still sells worst, as indie, partly I think because people who love the series find it odd.  It is.

But what if you know you have structural problems?

Well, first of all, how do you know?  And compared to what?

Look if the publisher you want to publish with tells you that you need to change to be more acceptable to them, and it won’t break you to do so, follow their instructions.

But if you’re indie, what is good structure?  My friends who are bestsellers follow all types of structures and beats.  One works for one and not for the other.

For the first fifteen years after I was published I was convinced I couldn’t plot.  This was not precisely true.  My plots tended to be interior and involuted, but they were there.  It’s just that I hadn’t made my plotting conscious, so I didn’t know what I knew yet, which made me vulnerable to agents who said I needed to change it completely because it didn’t have a plot.  (At 38 books under my belt the answer to that is to take a hike, because honestly, at this point some books are worse than others, but “unpublishable” doens’t happen.)

Take a tour of your favorite books, and see the structure they use.  There is no One Right Structure.

But what if your doesn’t work?  If it failed to gel?  If you’re not sure?

Sigh.

I’d first recommend beta readers.  Start with ten, though if you are looking online you might need twenty, because life happens to people.  If six come back and three of them agree you have a problem and that it’s the same problem, THEN consider what to do.

If you can’t find beta readers, find someone you trust to tell you the truth and whose judgement you respect, and have them look.  For me that’s my husband.  Yes, we have in the past told each other a book or story sucks or “isn’t up to it.”

Again, if there is a problem, consider what to do.

Why consider what to do?  Why not “fix it?”

Well because people who can tell you something is wrong don’t necessarily know what to do to fix it.  They might not even have the right problem.  For instance, my story, High Stakes, got everyone in my writers’ group saying it was too slow.  I boggled.  The story has a murder and hiding the body int he first five pages.  So I went to read it.  EVERY sentence was passive voice.  A problem, but not the one the readers’ found.

If it’s something like that, it’s easy enough to fix. But what if it’s more complex?  That’s where you have to consider what to do.  If you’re at a point you can’t “See” and feel the plot, you probably can’t fix it yet.  At that point you have to consider if it’s bad enough to warrant fixing or if it’s just “manque” but functional.  Because fixing can make it worse.  This is like having an appliance that works, sort of, but you are tired of it glitching, so you go in and take it apart and put it back together.  This is fine if you UNDERSTAND at an intimate level how this appliance works.  But if you’re going in blind on something someone told you, the chances is that once you’re done the thing is only good for the scrap heap.  I have at least five novels I killed that way, and which I NOW can fix.  Arguably this was the case with Darkship Thieves and the reason it sat for over 10 years in a drawer until I went back, looked at it, and realized what I’d done wrong (and went back to the original form.)

“BUT I like this structural editor, and my friend who uses him sells tons.”

Okay, then.  First, be aware you’ll pay a content editor anywhere from $500 to $1500.  Make sure you get that much improvement.

Second, make sure your content editor reads the genre.   There are conventions, short cuts and ways of doing things that are understood in the field but will raise flags on an outsider.  If you change those according to the content editor, you’re going to end up irking your fans and destroying your book. (aka what I did to DST after first round of rejections.)

If you’re following a particular writer’s style, make sure the content editor knows it.  For instance Heinlein has a lot more preaching in his books than anyone who read him long ago remembers.  If your editor only read Heinlein once in childhood, he’ll flag every time you stop to talk to the audience.  Removing this would kill the feel of your book.

Third, if your content and structural editor is a writer, make sure he doesn’t write anything like yours.  He reads it, yeas, but doesn’t write it.  Why?  Because the author who can stop himself making others’ books like his is very rare.  I’m fairly good at it because I “grew up” as a writer in a group that wrote many styles and genres.  Even I am not perfect.  If you were doing Space Opera In The Heinlein Mold, the close but not close would probably fry my brain and I’d end up editing as if I were editing for me.

Then talk to clients, check how books are doing, etc.  You’re shelling out a lot of money.  Make sure it’s worth it.

And now you’re up to 2k for the book that it will have to earn out. Look, this is why most of us have trading arrangements.  I do a lot of covers for people in exchange for first reads/proofreading, etc.  You probably have a skill that is highly valued and you can trade. Then there’s mining your contacts.  I have a friend who will do proof, content and structural in one pass for $500.  He does it because he likes me.  And he goes light on structural, usually just a query like “You already hit this emotional beat, on page x?”

I use him if a book has been monkeyed with before, and needs cleaning.  I don’t use structural editors otherwise.  If a book isn’t working I usually know halfway in, and a dinner out (or weekend out) with my husband, with much brainstorming, fixes it.  But that’s me.  You might be different.  I’m just telling you it’s a difficult trade and don’t do it if you can avoid it.

For years now, I’ve used this book to double check myself: Self editing for fiction writers by Browne and King.

It won’t proofread for you, but for my money, it will make you into a decent structural and content editor.  Give it a try.  It might work for you.

Next up: Ready, Set, Go. The final steps in getting your book published and why you really shouldn’t need approval (but probably do.)

 

 

 

A Cautionary Tale, Part 2

Last week, I wrote “A Cautionary Tale” about what initially appeared to be a bump in the road in the release of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). What I didn’t know was that the problem would continue to exist not just for that day but for days and days. In fact, it isn’t completely dealt with as I type this. Things are better, for certain definitions of better, but I’m still seeing the negative impact of what happened.

A quick reminder of what happened. A week ago yesterday, I woke to an email from Kindle Quality Control saying there was a problem with the file for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It had the right cover but the wrong ASIN and interior file. Within half an hour I updated the file. Approximately six hours later, I received notice that the file had gone live. Except it hadn’t. For most of the next five days, the purchase and KU read for free buttons would not be active. Some of the time, it would say the book was unavailable. Or the buttons would be there but the disclaimer that the book was under review and therefore not available for purchase would be present. Those few times you could buy the book, you might have gotten the correct book or you might not have.

Making matters worse, for whatever reason, the emails that should have been sent out to those who had pre-ordered or purchased before the file was pulled were not. Nor did Kindle Customer Support have a clear idea of what was going on. Some of those who tried helping those with the wrong file did what they were supposed to do — the pushed through the updated file. Others said to return the book and try to buy it later. Still others said to wait and see if the update came through later.

The result, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a number of returns (the most I have ever had for any book) and negative reviews. Both of which brought up other issues.

Finally, last Wednesday, I had had enough and I e-mailed Jeff Bezos. I knew he wouldn’t actually see the email but it made me feel better. It was a business-like letter, detailing everything I had been through to that point. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call late in the day from someone who had gotten the job of trying to find out what was going on and making sure things got cleared up.

Long story short, she talked to different departments and made sure the web page was made stable and my book could be purchased. She talked to the folks in charge of reviews. She listened as I explained how this fiasco had impacted the book’s release and prevented me from doing any true marketing because I couldn’t guarantee those interested would be able to buy the book — or that they would receive the right one when they did.

She admitted that the problem pointed out some shortfalls in their process when a book is under review after the quality of it is called into question by Amazon customers. There is no clear procedure for letting Kindle Support know what is going on or what phase of the review they are at. Nor is there a clear procedure for letting the author know what is going on. All authors get is an email saying the book is under review and they will be contacted when it is approved. Well, you get a note from KDP saying the file has been approved but that isn’t the same as QA saying it is approved. So my contact at Amazon is recommending that this process be improved so others don’t have to go through what I have.

As for the 1-star reviews based on getting the wrong file, well, I’m stuck with them. The Review Department — I think you are starting to get the picture. This quickly became a situation where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing and didn’t care once it did — won’t remove the negative reviews. It doesn’t matter that they have nothing to do with the book. The fact that they deal with customer experience is enough to make the “valid” reviews. It doesn’t matter that these reviews are coming in now because Amazon didn’t act quickly enough doesn’t matter either. All I can do is grin and bear it — and as you to down vote them.

Actually, there is more I can do but I need your help to do it. If you received the wrong book after Thursday of this past week, especially if you have yet to receive the correct one, let me know. When I contacted Amazon yesterday about the continuing problem, I was asked to provide specifics.

Amazon is very understanding about my concern and understands this has cost me money and some good will with my readers. Their recompense for it is to allow me a couple of extra days of promotion through Kindle Unlimited. This is more than a little counter-productive, although I accepted it. First, I rarely run promos for a new book. Second, that promo (if I run it) won’t make up for the money I’ve lost. Nor will it replace the good will that has been soured. In fact, it might cause more ill-will. After all, I would be doing a giveaway or countdown deal for a book my readers have just paid full price on.

What am I taking away from all this? Good question and one I’m still asking myself since this is still an on-going situation. I’ll try to sort it out here.

For me:

  • I have to be even more careful than ever before to make sure there is no issue with my work when I get ready to upload a file.
  • I am going to think long and hard about doing pre-orders in the future. Not only because of the impact they have on publication day numbers (As Dorothy pointed out, pre-orders don’t count toward release date rankings but count on the day of the pre-order) but because of the length of time it has taken to deal with the current situation.
  • While I am still frustrated and disappointed in Amazon and the way it has handled this situation, especially the negative reviews, I will continue working with them. They have tried to do what they can to assist me and they are still the big dog when it comes to indie publishing. They are also the easiest of the outlets to access and use, both as a reader and as a writer.
  • I will pay closer attention to what is happening re: foreign sales if I do another pre-order because I might have spotted the issue a few hours before Amazon notified me if I had this time.
  • If I should get another such notice form Amazon, I will download the preview file (again) before uploading a new file. This serves two purposes. It will let me see if I did upload the wrong file (which I still deny because I checked my copy of not only what was uploaded but the preview file I downloaded) but it gives proof to Amazon that the problem is on their end. What happens when you upload a file to Amazon, that new file overwrites the old file so they will not admit any problem being their fault because they can’t check it on their own servers once that new file is uploaded.

Regarding Amazon:

  • It is still the only real game in town so I will continue working with them.
  • Amazon needs to improve the communication between departments within the KDP process.
  • Amazon needs to reconsider its policy about reviews and make it easier for authors to challenge reviews. I have no problem getting a negative review because someone doesn’t like my work. But when, as in this case, I have jumped through every hoop to correct a technical problem and yet Amazon drags its feet, those reviews are on them and not on me. I should not continue to be punished as a result. No author should.
  • Amazon needs to make it easier — as in possible — to contact the Kindle KDP QA people after a book has been removed for review. As it stands right now, the only thing you can do is contact Kindle KDP support (which can be fun in and of itself) and then ask them to contact QA. You may or may not be successful.

The biggest decision I have to make now is about what my next step should be. I will continue letting my contact at Amazon know of any problems with the book’s download that are brought to my attention. I am planning on a new title in the series, an extra title that will take place before the events of Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). I’ll figure out a way to make it available to those of you who have stuck with me through all this before it goes up for sale on Amazon. (It may be that I will announce it here and on my blog and put it up for a very limited time for free there before it goes up on Amazon. I’m still working on that.) But do I start writing Victory from Ashes now, putting it out ASAP, or do I keep with my current publication schedule and not write it until later this year, early next year? What are your thoughts?

What this all shows is that writing is like any other business. Not every release goes as smoothly as you want it to. There can be breaks in the supply or delivery chain. It would be easy to throw my hands up and say I’m never working with Amazon again. But that would be a perfect example of cutting off my nose to spite my face. Mistakes happen — and did, on both our parts. Now I have to work my butt off to make up for the problems and rebuild from it. Fortunately, Amazon has done what it can. Not as much as I would have liked but more than many companies would have. So I move forward. All I have to decide is which path to take — or, more specifically, which book to write now.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate knowing if you are still having trouble getting the right file downloaded. I’d also appreciate it if you would leave a review once you’ve read Honor from Ashes. Those reviews will go a long way to counter the negative ones.

 

A wide country

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In the last week or two I have been getting a lesson in how wide even a small space can be.

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Now those of you who know me well, will know that I don’t do crowds. The trip into London was pure purgatory for me (that’s Cambridge above, and Wales above that. I did not take any pictures in  London.). For many people, that IS the UK – London, cities, thronging people. Now don’t get me wrong I know full well there are people who love it, love the bustle, the shops, the surge of people around them.  And they are welcome to it, I wish them every kind of joy in it – so long as they don’t want me to be there – or to pretend I like it. Oh some of the buildings are pretty enough, but once seen (or even not seen) I am happy to be with the sheep in the emerald field.

It occurred to me what an apt metaphor this was for the genre of sf and various sub-genres -they may look  as narrow and shadowy and crowded as those streets, especially when viewed through the eyes of those who love that environment. But really they don’t have to be. They’re as varied and different as the imagination of the author.

My own foray into Steampunk (CUTTLEFISH and THE STEAM MOLE) are into a steampunk subgenre – but they’re mostly set in the wide open parts of the world (and yes, they do reflect my opinion of coal, and it’s written from the POV of a biologist. (And no. It’s not about carbon dioxide. Soot yes. But it’s not PC to mention soot. The West has cleaned up its soot. The East and Third world have not. ).  I know, there are always the self-elected gatekeepers who try to keep wrongthink out (who wander the the internet to bludgeon the ‘unrighteous’ with their version of the narrow truth – like the troll Hyrosen who showed up here – but really they are (despite their lynch mobs and pile ons and attempts at exclusion) fairly powerless against writers. I think they find this infuriating.

So if there is something I’d like you take from my adventures on this small island is that even the narrowest small subgenre of the imagination is bigger than anything they can limit you to. DSCN0159

It can be as open as this (Idwyll Slabs, Wales)

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Or as chocolate-box as you please (Ogwyn)

Reader Demographics via Emotional Beats

If I were selling jewelry at a gaming con or ren faire, the easiest way to figure out my target audience is to note who’s attracted to the displays, and who of that segment has enough money to buy the merchandise. (There’s a secondary market of “attracted to the display, but can’t afford; clearly I need to find a piece that it’s their price range yet still profitable to sell!” But that’s a digression, not quite so applicable to ebooks.) For silver and semiprecious stones, that’s the $20-$80 price range for a good-sized gaming con, with a few pieces/sets up to $250 that may or may not move, but attract the customers to the booth.

The demographic is primarily women and gay men, though if a man walks by with a lady who glances at our booth, he’s the best kind of fair game. “Sir! I have a necklace for your lady that would go perfectly with… your credit card!” Generally, for silver and garnet, you’re looking at the college age, though any older gothy types are even better – they have more money, know what they like, and won’t hesitate to purchase it. We’re especially looking for the people who have similar tastes in jewelry on them. “Shiny things! We have sparkly, shiny things!”

(Okay, maybe that’s more “when I used to” than “if.”) Anyway, it’s pretty easy to suss out your demographic – if they’re not interested, they saunter off. If they are, they stick around for the pitch, or browse and buy. Selling ebooks blind through a vendor makes it a lot harder to figure out who your target market is, especially when you didn’t have one in mind when you started.

Who likes science fiction? Who likes entertaining stories? Who’s willing to put in time and money to getting good stories? Don’t limit yourself artificially here. If you check the demographics of Star Wars fans on Tumblr, you’re going to find demographics… that reflect Tumblr. If you check the demographics of science fiction fans at WorldCon, you’re going to skew old, literary, and heavily social justice compared to DragonCon… neither of which are the same as a ComicCon, and even that won’t reflect the general population that liked The Martian enough to go see it in the movie theater. Most statistics of reader populations are small and self-selecting, reflecting the pool from which they’re drawn. They tend to miss the vast majority of the buying public.

The Martian’s opening-week audience, who went to go see it based on trailers alone, was 54% male, 59% of whom were over 35 years old. Week 2 was 52% male, 72% over 25 years old. The preordered tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were “primarily” male, between 18 and 49, with an average age of 34. Given the Martian’s domestic gross from film run was $228 Million, even if you assumed $20/ticket (it’s $9.50 locally), that’s still a heck of a lot of eyeballs. Neilsen Bookscan, which we know misses a lot of sales, was reporting 62,000 sales per week of The Martian (print format, ebook not included) after the film was released.

Granted, you don’t have a film directed by Ridley Scott backing your book. Nonetheless, you can see there’s a heck of an audience out there the publishers don’t tend to reach. Dream big!

So, you’re now nodding, and saying “Okay, so you’ve proven that men in the 18-49 range like science fiction if it promises to have a good story. And lots of women; 52-54 percent is barely a majority. How do I get any clearer than that?”

Well, now you get to do some research on your particular book. Go to your biggest market (probably Amazon), and start pulling up the first books in your also-boughts for one of your books. (Skip the other ones by you. That just proves that the readers like you, and buy more after one try.) Now, you’re going to break out for each of these some basic dissection.

1. Is your protagonist Male or female? How old are they?
2. Is there romance or romantic subplot in the book? What rough percentage of the book is dedicated to the romance?
2a. Are there explicit sex scenes? (female audience!)
3. On the action to introspection scale, what rough percentage of the book is action, and what percentage internal monologue and introspection?
3a. Is the protagonist whiny? (female audience!)
4. Is there a sidekick? Are they humorous? (kids and male audience!)
5. Is your antagonist nature itself, some faceless group entity / race / corporation, or a villain?
5b. If your antagonist is a villain, What is their age, sex, and occupation?
5c. Is it the cartoon standard of rich old white man or corporate man for evil corporation?
6. Is your scifi hard, cyberpunk, military, space opera, or steampunk? Is your fantasy urban fantasy?
6b. Does your urban fantasy have sexy monsters or ugly monsters that get killed?

People find it easiest to identify with someone like them. Kids can identify with a protagonist up to about 27 years old, as long as they don’t become parents, but respond best to someone their age or slightly older. (A 14-year-old has been 10. She doesn’t want to be 10 again, but she may want to be 16, or 18.)

In general, statistical strokes:

Kids and Teens respond strongly to wonder, adventure, and humor. Teen girls to romance, teen boys to horror.

Women from Age 20-40 respond strongly to romance, humor, horror, mystery, and drama. (As they approach 40 and the hormone levels drop, mystery and drama statistically become stronger draws, and romance less.)

Men from 20-50 respond strongly to adventure, primarily, followed by wonder, drama, and mystery.

Military, active and vet, like military science fiction, and action/adventure, especially if it doesn’t have navel gazing or anti-military messages. They also tend to like hard(er) scifi, where the challenges against environment and entropy are clear.

Kids, even the ones still in college, respond strongly to coming-of-age, exploration of strange worlds and cultures, fitting in, etc. Parents are often absent or dead in stories, sometimes the restrictions that must be overcome.

Over time, the response shifts strongly and naturally to caring for loved ones, providing for a family, raising children, and makng a relationship stable and lasting. Now the fears are threats to children / family, to relationships / marriages, to jobs.

So look at your story, and the other stories your audience likes. Peter’s Laredo Trilogy books often lack romantic subplot, and by the other books his audience buys, that’s pretty normal for the target audience. This means they’re going to skew military and skew male, looking for adventure, wonder (cool new worlds! Starship battles!), drama (the ship is at stake! So is the empire!), and mystery.

Sabrina Chase’s The Scent of Metal, on the other hand, has adventure, wonder, and romance as its primary emotional beats. And it has kissing (sparks fly!) So her audience demographics is likely to skew much more heavily female than Peter’s books, though the military aspects will draw military of both sexes.

Dave Freer’s Changeling’s Island is a wide-audience-draw marketed as YA. The protagonist is a teen boy of unmentioned age, but there’s a girl sidekick that can provide somebody for preteen and early teen girls to empathize with. The parents are absent, but there’s the boy’s grandmother, and the girl’s parents, to provide adult points of view, with their own challenges and struggles when it comes to taking care of family, of neighbors, fitting in as an adult newcomer, remaining independent as your body fails you and the place you know changes (that’s a post-50 draw for men, post-40 draw for women). The kids’ POVs are heavy on wonder, adventure, mystery, and humor. The parental storylines have horror and drama interleaved in.

If you want more in-depth on this, check out Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines. He has some pretty nifty demographics breakdown that can be applied to marketing, not just outlining.

One final note: all this analysis can be done in outlining, or post-writing, but it’s not prescriptive for how to write any single book, much less your book. Write the book that thrills you, that inspires you, that you love. If you write to a marketing formula, it’s at best formulaic, where if you write to emotion, it’ll have an emotional depth to attract and hold readers.

Wrapping this up now, as I’m crashing for the night. What beats and demographics do you find from one of your stories and its also-boughts?

Forensics For Writers: The Wrap-Up

It’s been a fun few weeks, putting this series together and sharing it. I will almost certainly come back to it, but for now I’m moving on to other topics. This post will be a few thoughts, all the links in one place for those who want to bookmark the information, and of course the usual discussions in comments.

  1. Part One: a bit of history, what is admissible in court, and why.
  2. The Crime Scene: searches, evidence collection, and preservation of evidence.
  3. Evidence Collection: The nitty-gritty of evidence collection, with a case study.
  4. Blood Spatter and Ballistics: study of motion, sprays of blood, and where did that bullet come from?
  5. Toolmarks and Firearms: Using microscopic markings to match up evidence.
  6. It’s Written in the blood: a brief overview of serology and toxicology.
  7. Forensic Toxicology: Poisons, Drugs, Scientific Analysis and the Law (this is a paper on my own website, and not geared toward writers but includes some interesting case studies).
  8. The Gold Standard: DNA evidence and analysis.

There are whole missing sections of this, like questioned documents and what’s sometimes called ‘cyber forensics’ so do understand that this is a light overview of the world of forensic science. Since literally any sort of scientist could be called on to use their knowledge in a legal case, forensic science is very broad. There are, for instance, forensic botanists, odontologists, geologists… I left off the cyber forensics because it is the field I am least familiar with. It is, however, one of the fastest growing and most challenging in the legal aspects of it.

Consider this: If you have a phone, like the recent case with Apple, the FBI, and the San Bernadino terrorists, how do you get into it? When do you need a warrant? What do you do to prevent a phone that belongs to a suspect who is still alive and on the run from being remotely accessed? A mobile phone contains a wealth of information, enough to be comparable to carrying in your hip pocket what would have taken a warehouse to store back in the time of the Constitution’s writing. The phone is very tempting to the forensic analyst. But it is also clearly protected from search and seizure under the ‘papers’ of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

As a writer, this is an interesting wrinkle to explore. As a citizen, knowing that your whole life is on that device, and that it can be collected into a Faraday bag that will cut it off from all signals, and laid open to an investigator, it’s even more interesting and I used that word in a not-so-good sense. Laptops, tablets, GPS devices, all of these can be used to track and trace a subject’s path not only in the physical world, but the cyber one as well. Here, again, the TV shows with their hacking and hacker-types are pretty far off base, I’m given to understand. But it’s not my specialty (mine is more sticky, and stinky, and wet) so I’m not going to address it at length. Feel free to take it up in the comments, or if someone wants to write a guest post, get in touch with me. I’d like to include the topic in the series.

Because this series is also meant to be a springboard for speculation on ‘what comes next?” for those of us who write science fiction. Cyber forensics is the wave of the future, as the ‘Internet of Things’ is born, and our devices become smaller, more fictional (Dick Tracy watches, anyone?) and possibly, implanted into our very bodies. How do you access an implant without consent based on a warrant? What happens if you have a crime scene where an implant has been removed? What if removing the implant from the body’s biofeedback wipes it? How do you keep a victim alive long enough to forcibly download them? And prevent the signal from reaching investigators who could use it to triangulate into your position?

With all that speculation, I will leave you for this week. See you in the comments! I’m traveling, but will check in from time to time.

The New Thing

It’s 0430 and I’m sitting mostly in the dark, here in my dining room, at an inherited oak table that’s made it at least twice across the country since about the Civil War, and I just realized today is my day. Outstanding. Mrs. Dave, the Davelings and I are trying a new thing, recently. Well, Mrs. Dave and I are. Wee Dave and Dave-called-Moxie (which may need to get revised: this one’s turned downright cheerful. Avo is not enormously pleased.) are on their normal schedule, or whatever passes for it this week.

As anyone who has spawned (inadvertently, or otherwise) can tell you, offspring require. Pretty much everything. Time, energy, food (so much food), sleep, effort, work, time, more energy, attention, and so on, and so forth, ad freakin’ infinitum. As the one at home with them, a lot of that comes from me. When Wee Dave was at this stage, I could park him in the Boycliner, rock him with my foot, and basically ignore him in favor of my writing device, unless and until he made sufficient noise to jar my consciousness loose from whatever world it was inhabiting.

And I can do that with Moxie (it. is. glorious.), but Wee Dave is a toddler, these days. He’ll be two next month (officially. he’s precocious, so he’s been acting very two since about 17 months *sigh*), a thing about which I have been avoiding thinking too deeply, and so requires more energy, more interaction, and MUCH more supervision from me than his much tinier – and smaller – sibling. For example, he’s discovered how to draw (thank you, Grammy), and I’ve discovered the unutterable joy of pondering what will remove things from the walls.

Aside: and he keeps getting taller! Who authorized this? I certainly did not. The safe surfaces keep shrinking. It is maddening, and someone is going to pay for it. Probably me.

So whenever he’s awake, he needs at least half my attention (which makes feeding the baby interesting. Or cooking. Or anything else which requires more than half my attention. Or both of my hands. I have a recurring fantasy of what it would be like to be the hexaperson from the Karres books. Twelve hands and the ability to split my attention? Heaven. I wouldn’t even need all six. I’d settle for three. Okay, four, so one can catch up on all the reading I haven’t been doing.) which absolutely kills my writing time. One cannot put butt in chair and hands on keyboard when little hands require occupying. He’s almost like a cat, but with thumbs and words.

So I’ve been getting up at 0400. I stumble out, zombie-like, usually wondering what’s possessed me, and prepare Blessed Ichor (hasn’t happened, yet, today, though I’ll get to it shortly) and maybe something a bit more solid for Mrs. Dave and me, as her place of duty requires her presence at 0600, and Moxie-baby still has needs of a morning. Then I boot up The Rig (still going strong for those following my Techventures at home) and pull up the WiP, a weird west short of ten thousand words than I’m only 12k into. *cough*

And that’s my writing time. Depending on the morning, I can steal between half an hour and an hour and a half, and I’m averaging about 800 words/hour, which suits me just fine. For now. For a parent of small creatures and a confirmed introvert, it’s also alone time, which is a commodity without price. (The next step toward genuine personhood is to add regular exercise back into the mix. That one’s going to take some doing.)

The one downside is we haven’t managed to figure out how to get to bed before about 10 p.m, and that may be what kills me. I don’t function well with that much regular sleep deprivation, though there’s an argument to be made that it decreases inhibition (similar to alcohol consumption) and that, in turn, encourages the writing, by reducing the impact of the editor voice. Still and all, I’d rather fight with that bastard than drag through the day powered by coffee and apprehension of what himself is going to get into next.

So the new thing is really the old thing: repeated application of hands to keyboard in pursuit of story, and it’s eye-opening. It’s also worth noting that at Unholy O’clock, there are fewer distractions. Not just the Davelings, I mean. The intertubes are less of a draw. Using The Rig, while I have a wifi dongle (I heard that snicker), the RasPi doesn’t have sufficient oomph to process most of the websites which suck my time and soul away. The tablet is there (I’m actually typing this on that, as it’s just simpler from which to post), but off to the side, which would have my neck at an uncomfortable angle. The gaming desktop is downstairs, books are on shelves. The biggest distraction are actually the boots I’ve been making for most of the last year (If I had that extra pair of hands, those’d be done this weekend, darnit), and if I keep myself in semi-darkness, black thread on black leather is not-so-visible.

And the words get written (even the ones I’m going to have to cut to keep the story under the cap) and the story flows, and I learn more about my characters. And for the first time in a long time, writing isn’t a chore. Now if only I could keep the house clean…

A Miscellany

So life trundles on. I’ve been crazy busy at The Day Job (trust me, it needs those capitals. I test the Code of Cthulhu) and will be for at least another month or so. It’s really sad when I look forward to a convention as an opportunity to rest.

That’s right. Ravencon – where I have a pretty solid schedule – will be rest time for me. It will also be interesting in the Chinese Curse sense, because I’ve long passed the point where my “polite society” filters crapped out (this happens when I’m tired, and with the way The Day Job has been, I’m never not tired. It’s just a matter of degree). This means that whatever I’m thinking is likely to come out of my mouth without any filters to prevent me offending 150% of the entire universe. Possibly the entire multiverse and several abolished dimensions as well.

I’m talented that way. My best (worst) puns happen completely unintentionally. So do some of my more interesting and inspired writing efforts – this is why I can never tell how well I’ve done when I write something. I have to wait until I’ve had time to forget it.

In other news, this of the Puppy-related kind, I’ve heard rumors from several sources (but nothing official, alas) that more than 4000 Hugo nomination ballots were cast. I’ve also heard there are some saying that Sad Puppies 4 is a nonentity, that it’s run out of steam, it’s dead, pining for the fjords, gone to a better place… (erm, sorry?). Well, no.

Sad Puppies 4 is waiting to hear who the nominees (*ahem*. The Hugo Site says they aren’t being called nominees any more. They’re ‘finalists’ from a shortlist. Whatever) are before congratulating them for their recognition, whoever they are, and starting the next round of campaigning to boost involvement in the Hugos process.

I’m not going to claim Sad Puppies 4 was responsible for nearly doubling the nomination ballot count: with my negative publicity skills, the likelihood of that it somewhere close to zero. I will claim to have had a part in making the nominations a little more healthy (nearly twice as healthy, even), and plan to keep doing my best to increase voting numbers as well.

So yes, if that 4000+ number is correct, Sad Puppies 4 can claim a modest victory in the nomination phase, no matter who is nominated… shortlisted. An increase of nearly 100%? That’s a big boost and a very good thing.