My WordPress-iversary

Wow, I registered with WP 8 years ago. Eight years. Holy smokes. I started with my Wandering Mind blog back then, mostly chronicling my bicycle adventures. That blog has lain dormant for many years now while I’ve focused on writing and Tarot (on the Dangling Pentacles Tarot blog), which admittedly has been more active recently than this.

I’m gonna throw down the gauntlet to myself and try to get the sequel to Revenants Abroad out by the end of the year. We’ll see how that goes, but it’ll be 2 years on October 31 since RA was released. Time to get a move on!

You can really embiggen this pic, I uploaded the full 6Mb file.

Clouds over wheat field

Clouds over wheat field

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.

World Dracula Day 2016

 

Bram_Stoker_1906

I didn’t know there was one! Today is the anniversary of the first publication of “Dracula” in 1897. In honor of that, here some links to fun Dracula-related things (sites, podcasts):

http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/05dracula.html

The Dracula Chronicles

The Vampire Historian – World Dracula Day Mini-sode (from 2015, don’t see anything more recent)

The 1977 “Count Dracula” from the BBC, starring Louis Jourdan. One of the more faithful adaptations. Sorry, can’t find one without the subtitles. Subtitles just annoy me.

And remember, “The dead travel fast.”

Vampire Tarot Magician

 

Summertime, and the Livin’ Ain’t Easy

Warm weather is here, and you know what that means.

Yardwork.

Sucking up my weekends, when I’d much rather be indoors writing. I’m trying to reclaim my back yard from the blackberry brambles this year, and have finally resorted to chemical warfare. I hate using herbicides, but it’s out of control. There’s a play structure in the back that my ex-husband made for the kids when they were small that is now completely overgrown by blackberries, you can’t even see it. The deer haven’t been by in weeks, so I thought maybe it was safe to spray as long as they’re not here eating the blackberries. I wanted to get the blackberries dealt with before they flower and produce berries and (more to the point) more seeds. I still hate the idea, but it’s insane how much yard they take up.

I found this little thing growing up through the ivy. Known as “Stinky Bob” or “Herb Bob” it’s also classified as a noxious weed, just like the blackberries are. These sound much easier to get rid of, if you want to. I left it.

Stinky Bob / Herb Bob

Stinky Bob / Herb Bob

Here’s a shot of my redwood tree. You can see some of the blackberry bushes at the bottom, how tall they are, almost totally blocking the shed/outbuilding. It’s a big building, up on a concrete slab with electrical. Previous owners used it as a woodworking shop, apparently they built  cabinets there. There’s an extra-wide door to get the stuff they built out through.

5-1-16 redwood2

And Buster. He follows me around, meowing. I don’t know what the hell he wants.

Buster

Buster

I’m already sick of mowing.

Evolving Twetiquette

This is just a pet peeve of mine on Twitter that I’ve yet to see it addressed by any of the “Twitter etiquette” articles I can find online. There’s something about this that just doesn’t sit right with me, and that being when someone takes every conversation public by responding to a tweet by using the “retweet” and then “quoting” it  in replay, like so:

retweet convo

So for the sake of argument, let’s say  I conduct all my Twitter conversations like this, by hitting “retweet” and quoting the other person’s tweet, even if their tweet was sent to me as an @ reply. Clearly this one was not, but I’m just using Baba Studio’s tweet as an example since they’re a business and sent that out or the world (or at least all their followers) to see. I don’t want to embarrass anyone with this, but I’m wondering how others feel about this method of interacting? I know there are no hard and fast rules, and social media platforms are still evolving, but I find this quite annoying. It’s stopped me more than once from responding to someone because I knew they would do that with my tweet to them. Sometimes you just want to have a conversation with one person or send a quick reply, and I realize it’s the web and everything is public, and if I really wanted to keep something private I’d take it to DM (Direct Message), although these are off-the-cuff conversations and don’t merit a DM anyway. I guess it feels like it depersonalizes it, as if they can’t be bothered talking to just me.

To me, it’s the equivalent of chatting with someone at a party or in the office, and everything you say to them, they turn around and yell it to everyone else or broadcast it over the PA system. By quoting the other person’s tweet they’ve effectively invited everyone else who follows them to join the conversation. Personally I’ve only used this in the past when someone was going on the attack. He or she had said something I thought was funny in response to something a newspaper had tweeted, so I quoted him/her and tweeted it. The person was horrendously offended and shocked that I would do that, and became combative and defensive, when I had meant it as a compliment because it was so pithy. I don’t recall what the comment was. I don’t know if he/she didn’t realize the tweet was public and anyone could see it. He (I’m assuming it was a male) seemed quite shocked that I could see it and demanded to know who I was. He seemed afraid of getting into a flame war with people who might disagree and seemed to hint this had happened in the past. Well, that’s the risks of tweeting, I suppose. But I digress.

So granted, all tweets are public, but it just seems like bad form to conduct all your conversations like performance art. And it’s really annoying when someone does this with a celebrity’s tweet, and quotes the celeb’s tweet in a tweet as a response, as if they know the person. Which they don’t. It strikes me as pretentious like “look who I tweeted to!”

What do you guys think?

Do Your Research

On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:

 

Still looking for the right publisher for my newest #book . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz

 

And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.

Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.

Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.

This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.

Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.

Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.

Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.

Read  Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.

That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.

I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.

UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents  http://agentquery.com/

 

End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.

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New Locations Now Open

With all the talk of Twitter moving to an algorithmic system that promotes “popular” posts (read: things that make the company more money) I’m preparing to either abandon it, or use it less. In any event, I’ve started a Tumblog which can be found here. Not much there yet since I just started it today. I expect it will evolve as these things do.

I also resuscitated my Ello site, just barely, but it has a pulse now. I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing over there. But if you happen to be on either of those services, let’s connect. If you’re on Facebook I’m there as well (also here) but I don’t log in often.

Don’t be a stranger!

Feb 5, 2016 sunrise

2-5-16 pond2