Backing Away

How’s everyone doing? Boy, it’s been a tough week, hasn’t it? It’s been, at the very least, anxiety-inducing. So, in order to try to preserve what’s left of my sanity, I am beginning a new relationship with social media. I’ve been fairly active on Twitter since I joined in 2010, which has been both good and bad. On one hand, I have met some really really fantastic people, but on the other hand I’ve also seen some truly ugly stuff go down.

Lately it’s become a constant toxic stream. This is not a put-down to anyone, it’s just that it’s a constant barrage of (mostly) righteous rage, and very little else. I’ve also been dismayed  and disappointed by some I thought were a little more enlightened than they now appear.  It’s funny, the sort of back-handed tactics they employ to try to tell you what you should be tweeting, what they find acceptable. Well, you never really know people on Twitter, do you? I’ll tweet what I like, when I like. If someone doesn’t like it, they are free to unfollow me. I didn’t get on social media to argue. And as far as I can tell, arguing with people online never changed anyone’s mind.

But, that aside, Twitter has been consuming far too much of my time anyway. I’m always griping about trying to find time to write, so removing that time-suck seems the logical thing to do. Years ago I resisted joining, even though I had writer friends encouraging me to check it out. I finally caved back in 2010. So seven years later it’s sucking up my life as I feared it would. My fault, of course, for letting it. I don’t intend to vanish entirely from Twitter, but I am going on a Twitter-diet, and will be more strictly regulating my time there. I considered automating my Twitter feed, but I really hate when people do that. It’s more likely I’ll have a couple bursts of activity during the day, then shut it down again.

Additionally, I’ve been busily unsubscribing from a host of email newsletters that I signed up for in the dim past and never seem to actually read. I spend more time deleting them than reading them. I cleared out probably 1000 old emails  (I know, I know…) this morning, and it’s just a colossal waste of time. New rule: read it or delete it immediately.

I only recently joined Instagram, too, and though I really enjoy it, it too is a time-suck. All this social media may be fun, but it’s not writing. As with most of these things, you follow some people to be polite, then find you never interact with them, or even read their posts. It’s just silly.  If we’re not really interested in what someone is saying, why the pretense?  So, I unfollowed a bunch there. I expect to spend far less time on Instagram as well.

Indie authors like me are encouraged to have accounts everywhere, but it’s absurd. I have accounts on Ello, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Wattpad as well that I’ve all but forgotten about. There’s no way to keep up with it all. Even this poor blog is terribly neglected. If anything, I may try to get back to blogging on a more regular basis, but the rest will likely be very much more on the back burner.

Social media is not all bad, but it’s largely unproductive. I’ll be around, but not as much as I have been. At least, that’s the plan. Let’s see how long I can stick to it.

Indie Author News – Multnomah Co. Library Wants to Read Your Book

I was tipped off to The Library Writers Project just this morning. The Multnomah Co. Library is looking for books by local authors:

From October 11 to December 15, 2016, the library will accept submissions from local authors who would like to see their books added to the library’s e-book collection.

The book needs to be available on Smashwords.

You don’t have to live in Multnomah County to submit your book, but you do need to have a MCL card.

Live outside Multnomah County?

You can get a free library card if you are a resident of:

  • Clackamas County, Oregon – except for Johnson City
  • Hood River County, Oregon
  • Washington County, Oregon
  • Clark County, Washington
  • Klickitat County, Washington
  • Skamania County, Washington
  • Yale Precinct, Cowlitz County, Washington
  • Cities of Ariel, Cougar or Woodland, Cowlitz County, Washington

Also, October 8, 2016 is Indie Author Day.  You can check that to see if your local library is participating.

I Do It My Way

writer at deskI try to write the best books I possibly can, and with my limited free time to devote to writing, it should be no surprise that it takes me a while to finish even a first draft. Once that’s done, the revisions and rewrites begin before I allow beta readers to see it. This flies in the face of some of the advice to indie authors these days that you should be putting out several books a year. It simply can’t be done, or at least not done well. I take writing very seriously, and rather than toss out a sloppily written novel I try to put out the best product I can. Why should I expect anyone to pay money and spend time on anything less? I do aspire to be a better writer and I’m always looking to improve.

As a writer I love to discuss the craft of writing with other writers. To that end, I participated (briefly) in an online writer’s chat on Twitter the other day. It turned out to be more of a coffee klatsch than writing talk. Questions were things like “What’s the best review you’ve ever received?” Being at work while the chat was going I was only able to participate in the first question which was “Where are you in your writing process?” Most of the rest of the participants (not all) mentioned several projects that are in various stages of writing or revision. I answered that I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. I do have other stories started, but I’m focusing most of my time on the sequel. The moderator (who has apparently heard me discussing this before) said, “Still? How long have you been working on that?” I replied that if I didn’t have a day-job, it might go faster. The mod does not have a day-job. Yes, it’s taking me a while, and I’m sorry for that to those of you who are waiting for the sequel but I have to keep the day-job as I have bills to pay and I’m not a kept woman. Add in everything that needs to be done around the house on weekends and it leaves very little time to write.

That question rankled. It’s no wonder the market is flooded with poorly written books and indies have such a terrible reputation. People are cranking out multiple books a year, but how much time and attention are they giving to any of them? Could my own book have been better? Of course, and I wish I had the money to hire a professional editor to go over it. I may yet release a revised version, now that I’ve discovered ProWritingAid. I’m dying to run the whole book through it and make it better. I can already see things I’d like to change and tighten after using that program for just a couple weeks. I expect Revenants Within to be a much stronger book.

Before self-publishing became an option, it was the norm for a writer to take six months to write a book. Now, if you don’t publish six books a year, you’re pretty much told you’re slacking. I will never be able to write at that pace. If you can, godspeed. But don’t denigrate others who don’t.

And if you’re a slow writer like me, you’re not doing it wrong. You’re doing it at your own pace, which is exactly how you should.

Info Sharing — Editing for Indies

This is just an “info sharing” post. Indie authors (meaning self-published) have long had a very bad reputation for poorly written and poorly edited books. This is why it’s next to impossible to get brick-n-mortar bookstores to stock indie titles.  In my quest to improve my own writing I’ve discovered a couple of free editing tools that can help polish your manuscript. Professional editing costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, a cost most indie authors just plain can’t afford. These are the costs publishers absorb if you’re lucky enough to land a book deal, but for indie authors the whole cost is on us for editing, cover art, marketing, and so on. Even if you’re not going to self-publish, before you fling that thing into the cosmos with hopes of landing an agent, it still needs to be as shiny and pretty as possible. The less work it needs the better your chances of acceptance.

So herewith, two online tools that can help improve your writing. There’s nothing to download.

The first one I encountered was EditMinion. Editminion ss

Welcome! EditMinion is a robotic copy editor to help you refine your writing by finding common mistakes. To get started, paste a chapter of writing into the box above and click Edit! Don’t paste too much or the script will stop responding. This is still very much in Beta and I”ll be adding features as I come up with them. If you have suggestions, tweet @DrWicked or email imp@editminion.com. Thanks!

EMss3

Below that it shows the text with mark-up, highlighting the potential problems.

It’s a pretty good tool for what it does. It is in beta still, and I don’t know if the developer is actively working on it, I haven’t seen any changes to it recently. It can be a good quick check for certain issues, including ‘frequently used words’ which is a problem of mine. I tend to overuse certain words and don’t even notice. I was thrilled with this thing’s ability to help me find those. It’s entirely free, and as we all know, free is a very good price.

Next, I recently heard about  ProWritingAid via a comment on Anne R. Allen‘s blog. This one has both free and paid versions. If you really can’t afford to pay anything, it’s still a pretty robust tool that can help dramatically. The one-year subscription option is listed as $40, then $30/yr for a 2-year subscription, and on up to and a lifetime option for $100. I initially signed up for a free account, intending at some point to subscribe because I like to have all the bells and whistles,  but within just a few days of creating the free account, I received an email with the special offer for $30/yr. I came really close to paying that, but then I saw a little graphic on the left side of the email offering it for $25/yr. See the box on the left? Almost missed it. No guarantee it’ll be offered again, but if you check out the free version, wait for the email with free ebook of “20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers.” The special offers were tacked on at the bottom. Needless to say, I took them up on the $25/yr offer.

PWA ss1

Here’s the same sample analysis that I ran through EditMinion of a short story I’ve been working on:

PWAss2

You can see the analysis is much more detailed and thorough.  You click each heading on the left to see the areas of the text it dinged you on. I’ve found most of the suggestions very good, and have cleaned up and tightened flabby prose by taking its advice, but sometimes it’s just a stylistic difference and I can’t remove all the occurrences of “had” it thinks I should. There’s a lot to this thing, I haven’t even had a chance to check out all the features yet. The Word and Google Docs add-ins are only available if you pay for a subscription. I haven’t added the Word add-in, and I don’t use Google Docs so I won’t be bothering with that one. But you get most of the other features even with the free version.  You can save the document on their servers, export to Word or RTF format. There’s so much to this thing but I don’t want to go into more detail here and make this post even longer. Frankly I find it addictive. I love editing and cleaning up my writing and making it better. I’ve also found that when I seem to have a case of writer’s block, editing a bit can get the ideas flowing again.

Anyway, just a couple of options for those of us indies who want to make our writing the best it can be without taking out a second mortgage. And don’t get me wrong, working with a live editor who knows their schtuff is great, and they totally earn their money, but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it. No amount of wishing is going to make that money materialize.

Revenants Abroad Paper Proceeding

The good news is: paper copies of Revenants Abroad are back on! I finally caved and contacted my cover artist, Jason Juta, and he graciously said he’d provide me a lighter version of the cover at no charge. I love this guy so hard. I felt bad going back to ask him for yet another change (of course I intended to pay him, but still) because I know he’s busy. He graciously said he’d do it gratis, since it’ll only take him about 30 seconds to lighten the image up. If the book ever really takes off, I’ll be throwing a few extra dollars his way, believe you me.

If all goes according to plan, the paper copies should be available in a couple of weeks. Once I get the file from Jason, I need to upload it to CS, and get another proof copy to make sure they don’t hose it up again. Those of you holding out hope for a paper copy shouldn’t have long to wait now.

The advantage to publishing paper books via CreateSpace is that it’s no charge, unless you hire them for design, edit, and marketing. It’s not cheap. “Custom covers” from them are $399 (starting with a stock image), a custom cover ‘Premier’ is $599, and still starts with a stock image. After the customer support I’ve experienced (essentially, none), I don’t think I’d trust them with something this important. So the disadvantage to going through them rather than another self-publishing route that would charge hundreds or thousands of dollars is lack of support. Also, while some bookstores will now stock self-published books, those same bookstores are often not happy about stocking books pubbed through CS, as Amazon takes a bigger cut of sales.

So, if you’re going to self-publish hard/paper copies of your book, do your homework. There are so many options it makes my head spin. That’s one reason I decided to use CreateSpace. I basically had everything (electronic files, cover art) and not a lot of cash up front.

And here are some of my latest shots, just for fun.

Going Select, and a Selection

Just to let everyone know, I’ve pulled Revenants Abroad off Smashwords, so that includes Kobo, and Barnes and Noble, etc (Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart). It was proving to be a dead end. I’ve chosen instead to go with Amazon’s KDP Select because I think it will provided greater visibility and will make the book available via Kindle Unlimited to those who have that. I don’t actually know how that works since I don’t have a Kindle, but I’m sure those of you who do, do. See?

Revenants Abroad - Final Flattened with Text for PrintAnd for those patiently waiting, here’s a small snippet from the rough draft of Chapter 1 of the sequel, “Revenants Within.”

Hope you like it!

Revenants Within

Six hours of bad roads from Montreal to Tupper Lake felt like a week and a half, but neither the old house nor the solemn solitary figure standing in the driveway looked at all inviting to Anne-Marie.

“This is it. Wait here a minute while I make sure everything’s ok.” Andrej parked, opened the door and got out. He walked up to the waiting figure who shook his hand.

“I had no idea traveling could be this painful.” Anne-Marie tried to stretch her back, twisting and turning while she waited with Neko inside the car as Andrej spoke with the man. The guy was young, strikingly handsome with a square jaw and shaggy black hair, but he had a cocky belligerent air that chased away any thoughts of confederacy with him.

“What the hell is going on?”

Neko heaved a sigh. “These guys-it’s just their way. They want to be sure we’re the people they expected.”

“Who else would we be? How many people drive all the way out here? And who is that guy?”

“A pain in my ass. I’ll explain later. Come on, looks like we’ve cleared customs.”

The man had nodded and Andrej turned and motioned for them to join him. Neko hopped out first and opened Anne-Marie’s door for her, and together they walked up the driveway. Andrej put his arm around Anne-Marie’s shoulder, pulling her close.

“Jimmy, I’d like to introduce Anne-Marie. And of course you know Neko.”

Jimmy looked at Anne-Marie while he held out his hand to her. As he and Neko shook hands neither one spoke. He turned back to Andrej with a sidelong glance at Anne-Marie, making her feel more like an intruder than she already did.

“Come on inside. Gaston’s resting, he’ll be up later.”

They trudged up the muddy driveway to the wooden steps of the front porch that were nearly bare of paint.With an exaggerated swagger, Jimmy pulled the screen door open and held it, indicating for Andrej and the others to enter.
As Anne-Marie walked in he said, “Anne-Marie, is it? You don’t look like an Anne-Marie. Sounds like a nice Catholic girl kind of name.”

She stopped and looked him up and down. “Jimmy, is it? You don’t strike me as too bright, trying to pick a fight the minute we get here.”

“Listen, bitch, we don’t need you here…” he started, but in less time than it took for him to turn his head to her, Neko had him by the throat, pinned against the house, choking him.

“Don’t piss me off you little shit. I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”

“Neko, let him go. Now.” The command came from inside. It was woman’s voice, strong and steady.

Neko snarled and pulled his hand off Jimmy’s throat, letting him fall to the floor, gasping for air.

“You touch him again and you’re out of here, all of you.”

The woman speaking came out on the porch. Her gray hair was gathered in a loose soft bun, and old-fashioned glasses set off a stern face. It was not an unkind face, but she clearly didn’t take guff from anyone, human or vampire. Andrej stood behind her, eyebrows raised, watching Neko.

The woman kept her eyes on Neko as she said, “Jimmy, why don’t you go check on the truck? I may need to go to town later.”

Jimmy pushed himself up off the porch floor, rubbing his throat. He shot a murderous look at Neko, then walked off down the porch and around the house.

“Neko, let’s get something straight. If you want to stay here, and you want our help, you will not lay a finger for any reason on any of my people. Are we clear?”

“He should know better than to insult my friends.”

“Jimmy was out of line. I’ll talk to him. But if you touch him again you’re out of here. I can’t have you killing off my coven, if you want our help.”

Neko shook himself, trying to subdue his own rage. Anne-Marie watched him, wide-eyed. He saw her looking at him, and hung his head. “I’m sorry,” he said.

The woman turned to Anne-Marie and gave her a motherly smile. “And I’m sorry we got started off like this. I’m Sylvia. Come on in and make yourselves comfortable and I’ll get tea.”

Neko made a sour face, but waited until Sylvia was out of the room before saying, “Hope she’s got something stronger.”

Andrej put a hand on his shoulder. “I think it’s BYOB here these days.”

With a sound of disgust, Neko shook his head. “How long did you plan on staying here?”

“No longer than we have to.” He turned to Anne-Marie. “I’m sorry about that guy. If he gives you any trouble, let me know.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve dealt with worse than him.”

Neko laughed. “That’s our girl.”

The house was decorated, if you could call it that, with a hodge-podge of mismatched furniture, all well-worn and somewhat battered. The house itself was what interested Anne-Marie most. The old farmhouse dated back to the mid-nineteenth century, and had suffered little updating over the years. Apparently repairs were carried out only when something broke or became unlivable. Even the glass in the many windows looked to be original and had become rippled with time. A large bay window in the living room looked out to the west side of the property. The woodwork and double-hung sash windows looked original.
Sylvia returned carrying a tray laden with mugs and a pot of tea.

“Neko, I don’t suppose you’d care for any,” she said, pouring tea into each of the mugs.

“Thanks, I’ll pass.”

“What are you two planning to do for food while you’re here?”

Neko looked at Andrej.

“We can take care of that, don’t worry,” Andrej said.

“You know we’re all out of bounds, right? We can’t work to protect you if we’re weakened in any way.”

Andrej nodded. “Of course, we understand. Even Anne-Marie is out of the question.”

“Unless it’s an emergency,” Anne-Marie said.

Sylvia raised one eyebrow, looking from Anne-Marie to Andrej. Andrej shook his head slightly, and Anne-Marie knew she’d made a mistake.

“Don’t worry,” Anne-Marie said, “it’s not a regular thing.”

Sylvia cleared her throat, poured a cup of tea, and passed it to Anne-Marie. “Well, whatever you decide among yourselves is your business.”

“Syl, you know me better than that,” Andrej said. He stood next to one of the windows, looking out towards the woods behind the house.

“How long have you two known each other?” Anne-Marie looked from one to the other.

“All my life,” Sylvia said. “He knew my parents before that. When I was little I even called him ‘Uncle Andy.’”

“Really?” Anne-Marie laughed. “How is it you’ve never mentioned that particular factoid?”

Andrej made a face at her.

Sylvia leaned toward Anne-Marie with a smile and said, “He’s always been very tight-lipped.”

“That’s true enough. But you have to admit lots of things have happened in my life, we’ve hardly had time to talk about everything,” Andrej said.

“That is a lot of ground to cover.” Sylvia leaned back with her tea, looking around at each of them in turn.

“So where’s Gaston?” Neko asked.

“He should be down shortly. I didn’t think you’d be so eager to see him.” Sylvia sipped her tea, looking at Neko over the rim of her cup.

“The sooner we get this straightened out the happier I think we’ll all be. Might as well get the show on the road.”

Anne-Marie’s shocked look told him he’d gone too far.

“Sorry, Sylvia. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate what you’re doing for us, and the risk you’re taking, which is why I think the sooner we move on the better.”

“Neko, this isn’t something that’s going to be resolved quickly. I suggest you find a way to accept that you’re likely to be here for some time. Hiding you from Paimon isn’t going to be easy. But you’re right, the sooner we get started the better. And here’s Gaston now.”

A man had appeared in the doorway to the living room, He looked to be about Andrej’s age, but with thick blond hair, and large blue eyes. He was not quite as tall as Andrej, and not quite as slender.

“Andrej, it’s good to see you,” he said with a broad smile.The two met in the center of the room, shook hands, and embraced momentarily.

“Gaston, you’re looking well. Let me introduce Anne-Marie.”

“I’m delighted to make your acquaintance,” Gaston said with a bow,and taking Anne-Marie’s hand he placed a kiss on the back of it. As he stood again he looked past Anne-Marie and saw Neko leaning against the fireplace mantel. With a wink at Anne-Marie he said, “Neko,what a pleasure to see you again.”

###

4-10-15 Mount Hood

Interested in Reviewing “Revenants Abroad”?

I should have posted this long ago, but wanted to say if you’re a book reviewer interested in reviewing Revenants Abroad please contact me for a complimentary copy in your choice of electronic formats. There’s no obligation. You can also check out the first 20% of the book at Smashwords (anyone can do this) to see if it piques your interest. Amazon doesn’t give you quite as much to preview, I don’t think. You can contact me through the “Contact” form (see above in the menu) or email me at fillingspaces (at) gmail (dot) com.

And some recent pics. I saw something on the way home a couple nights ago I’m dying to get a pic of as soon as I get the road to myself and don’t have to worry about some tailgater trying to kill me if I slow down for 2 seconds.

Also, I have a huge bouquet of lilacs on my desk this morning stinking up the place.

4-14-15 lilacs at work

‘Cause I Just Don’t Have Enough To Do

So my latest thing is I’m thinking about doing a newsletter focusing on my book and the upcoming sequel as well as other writing, and offering some exclusive content (backstory on characters, new stuff related to the Revenants series and other projects), contests and giveaways. Yeah I know, like I don’t have enough to do already, right?

If you’d like to sign up you can do so here. Unfortunately with WordPress.com sites you can’t embed the forms so I have to have an off-site page for it. I’ll be moving the blog to a self-hosted site soon, though. I’m not sure when I’ll start sending out the newsletter, and it will be monthly if I can keep up. Otherwise maybe every other month, so you won’t be inundated with stuff every week.

The white flowers below are Oregon’s state flower, the trillium. It’s protected, so don’t pick them if you see them.

We’re still getting a lot of fog in the mornings, as you can see.

Revenants Abroad and My Battle with CreateSpace.

Just so you guys know, at this point I do not plan to move forward with paper copies of Revenants Abroad. I’m so disgusted with CreateSpace/Amazon’s destruction of the cover art, I can’t bring myself to sell print copies. I can’t understand why the perfectly good artwork that was supplied to them is turned into a murky mess, and they refuse to do anything about it. Their only solution was to tell me to upload a lighter version of the artwork. I don’t have the original artwork, or Photoshop, to manipulate it in. For comparison, here is the original image:

Revenants Abroad - Final Flattened with Text for PrintAnd THIS is what they did to it. These are the first two proof copies I received, the third is exactly the same. I haven’t even bothered to check the actual text inside. I just want to cry every time I look at this.

Two proof covers

I’ve never seen anything like it. If anyone else has had a similar experience with CreateSpace I’d love to hear about it. I was told this was “within acceptable variances.” They also said something about “spacing” which basically meant they didn’t address the issue at all and all I got was a canned response. Obviously they couldn’t care less about the quality of the books they publish.