WooT!

Well, I did it !  I manage the walk, even came across the finish line ahead of the majority – not that it was a race or anything, of course.

What a great day that was. Not only did we have a fantastic weekend of sunshine and perfect weather, but then the Walk to Empower fundraiser walk was amazing good fun. My Mother and Sister acted as cheerleaders while my Stepfather and I participated in the Walk. Got up at o-dark thirty in the morning to get into the city by 7:30 sign-ups, then wandered around the participating sponsor booths to pick up swag and eat apples and bananas and bagels (oh my). Then after some warm-up exercises in a group of wild women (and some supportive dudes), a few moving motivational talks and a high-five to Ronald McDonald, we were off!

Like a herd of pink turtles for a few minutes as the crowd tried to manuever through some unfortunate tourists, but then we were off.  Jerry and I were up front and only got seperated from the leaders when we stopped for a red light.

Somewhere around the half way mark we got passed by a few, but I also noticed some of the leaders popping in to Starbucks and Subways to use the potty, but we soldiered on! Grabbed some water and bananas at the halfway and kept marching. Managed the hills of my beloved Seattle streets, waved at some cruise ship passengers, confused a lot of tourists, the sweated back up the hills to the finish.

After that it was pass-out on the grass time, while the DJ kept spinnin’ tunes, and applauding all the finishers coming in after me. That’s when I realized I’d managed to stay out in front the whole time after all.

Then it was closing ceremonies with a local news personality, Dennise Whitaker of KOMO 4 News, and a pledge to do this again next year !  Honestly, I’m hooked. I’m signing up to do the Relay for Life 24-hour walkathon in June, and then it’s on to bigger and better walkies!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an Aleve calling my name !

Walkies!

So this Sunday, Mother’s Day May 9th, is my cancer walk – raising money for Walk to Empower, which benefits women diagnosed with breast cancer, offering them assistance, guidance, and a great source of emotional support.

Today, I’m at home with a touch of “something” that flattened me out – but I stayed home from work to rest, drinking lots of fluids, taking aspirin and being a zombie on the couch – in order to recover for Sunday’s walk.

But Sunday I’ll be walkin’ !  They’re promising us sunny weather, so I’ll take loads of photos. Hopefully none of me barfing into a potted plant at a red light (!)

So happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers out there – of which I am not one.  Wish me luck!

Take my advice

I see writing advice all over the web now, from so many different sources. People flock to writing forums, desperate to uncover the secrets. Those who aren’t there in the vain hope of learning some secret code of writing, are there dolling it out, hoping you’ll believe they have the authority and wisdom to tell you what is and isn’t right.

I’m not sure what’s worse – people who believe/hope/pray there’s a secret handshake, or those who want you to believe they know what it is.

Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one.

The tragedy of it all is that the answer is staring you in the face, and has been all along. Ever since the day you thought you wanted to write a story, the answer has been there. The One Truth, the Uber Secret Handshake of it all, and it couldn’t be more simple. I’ll even reveal it here for you at the end of my diatribe, free of charge.

You’re welcome.

I should warn you, though, a lot of you aren’t going to like the answer. You’ve probably even been told what it was before, but it didn’t suit what you wanted it to be, so you moved on to find someone ELSE who could offer up the keys to the kingdom. I can’t help you. In point of fact I (as in me) cannot help you at all. I can lead you to it, I can point out the way and even put it in your hand (or I could, if you were standing beside me or something) but I can’t help you with it.

Recently, relative to a scale of the past several years, I made a breakthrough – a realization about my writing, writing in general, and the big wonder of it all. I grew ten feet tall that day, and the world opened up. Suddenly things are clear, and crisp, and solid, and I understand the universe around me and my place as a writer in it.

I can’t teach you that, or even explain it without sounding like an ass, so I’m not going to bother. When you get there, you’ll know.

But about that Secret Handshake – – the reason it’s so elusive, so hard for people to accept, is because it requires something of you. It’s not as simple as “never use prologues” or “avoid back story”, and yet it’s so much more simple than that. It’s not as complex as “avoid superlative adjectives” or “never open with the weather”. You won’t figure this out by “always write first thing in the morning” or “do ten pages a day without fail” and it’s not gonna come to you while you’re writing your “thousand pages of crap”.

You’re not going to find the answer at a writing convention, or retreat, either. All you’ll get there are lectures, bad hotel chicken dinners, and long, pensive hours staring at a blinking cursor (or your belly button).

But there is good news. The answer can be found on the bus, the train, at your desk, in the living room, the back yard, the beach, even the toilet. Because, my friends, the answer you’re looking for – the One True Secret Handshake of it all – the secret to being a good/better/great writer . . .

Read.

Read, then read some more. Find authors you admire, and study them by reading. Then look for more and read those. Read beyond one genre, read everything you can get your hands on, good, bad or indifferent and then read more.

Read crap so you’ll know what to avoid doing. Read great books so you’ll have something to aspire to. Read books that frighten you, read authors that inspire you, read novels that confound or confuse you and find out why that is. Read what you want to write, read what everyone else is reading, read stuff you’ve never heard of before.

Read, then read some more.

Like it or not, folks, that’s the answer. That’s the Big Secret. That, is the Uber Secret Special Writerly Handshake. That’s the best advice you’ll ever get from any writer, and the only advice that makes any sense at all.

You’re welcome.

Luddites Unite!

Okay, so I’m not technically a dyed-in-the-wool Luddite, since clearly you’re reading this note on a blog, on the interwebs, and not scratched into a cave wall with a stone. But I’m one week into my experiment – which if you recall was to take a novel I’d just finished the first draft of, and handwrite the second draft – and I’ve noted some interesting side effects thus far.

1) I seem to write a very clean First Draft, just as I’d always suspected. In fact, over the years, my First Drafts have gotten cleaner and leaner. Although I’ve changed a few words here and there, and altered a few sentences, I’m several chapters (and half a tube of Aspircream) in and so far no huge changes or big segments altered.

2) I found the perfect cramping break for my hands was to work on the cover art, which was surprisingly difficult for this one. I’ve never had such a time coming up with the “right” look for a cover before, which surprised me, but I think I finally did reach a solid conclusion.

3) I sometimes like to write with a pencil. Yep, even though I bought a new pen for this experiment, and I like that pen a lot, I find myself getting really comfortable with a pencil. I think it harkens back to my early days in school, using a pencil for nearly everything. Plus, when I do make a blunder, it irritates me to see a glob of ink there, and it’s nice to be able to just erase the boo boo.

4) Simplify has been my motto for years, and it’s seriously creeping in to my writing comfort zone. The physical aspect of it, that is. I’m loving how it’s just me and my notebook and pen/pencil. No booting up, no cursor blinking, no Microsoft formatting trying to impose it’s authority over my own. I don’t have to keep explaining to Word that ‘splainin’ is a fine word, properly spelled, thankyouverymuch.

5) I’ve finally shaken off a lot of the nasty side effects that crept over me during an unfortunate time spent in a writer’s forum, and come out the other side stronger, wiser, and clued in – if you will – to some very insightful things.

6) I’ve given myself permission to let the story determine length, and the speed with which it is accomplished. I don’t even check word counts any longer, they’re meaningless. Just as meaningless as micro-labeling genres, which I’ll chat about later on.

There are other issues, other developments, that involve writing by hand that I’ll go at in more depth later, I only have a few minutes to spare (kill) right now and just wanted to gab. This summer is going to be very exciting for me, writerly wise. I’ve learned a lot and discovered a ton and have experienced a sort of … well it’s hard to describe. But it’s exciting, primal and new all at the same time.

And now it’s time to wash out my coffee pot, and my cup, and drive home for the evening.

ChchchchChanges!

Hold on to your butts, I’m dusting and cleaning in here, so things might look a little odd for a couple of days.

Then we’ll return you to your regular blog – thank you for your patience! Remember to tip your waitress.

hot off the presses

So I’ve just completed a novel called The Legend of Darkness and Light. It’s not like the others in that — frankly — this was a mental writing vacation for me. This story is a raucous, balls-to-the-wall, no-holds-barred, cliché-ridden, adrenaline-pumping, goof-fest.

Think Indiana Jones meets Uncharted. A treasure hunting adventure, with all the right trappings.

And I had an absolute blast writing it ! It’s hard to explain why, but it made me feel like a kid again, and it was just plain damn fun.

Now I’m trying something new, which is to say — I’m handwriting the second draft. I’ve never done this before, and I’m not sure if it’ll change much, or anything, but I wanted to give it a shot. Normally I write a pretty clean first draft, with just a few bits and bobs to add and fluff when I’m finished. This time, though, I’m using it as an experiment and a warm-up for my writing hand and penmanship, which are in serious need of exercise.

See, my next novel is already in the works, planning-wise, and it’s gonna be a whopper. I don’t really wanna spoil anything here, not yet, and I sure as hell don’t wanna frighten my readers away, but I’ll say this much . . . It’ll be a complete 180 from what I’ve just done.

And since it’s going to be very involved, I’ve decided that Legend of Darkness and Light will have to be posted on the Midnight Reading site in it’s entirety, all at once. I won’t be putting up a chapter every Friday, as I have been with the others, because I can’t trust I’ll remember every week, and really can’t afford the distraction. So when the eBook and Lulu print version are available, the web free-read will be too.

I’m in search of some good Bluegrass music right now, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’d appreciate them. That’s really about the only “country” music I can tolerate without wanting to get out a gun and shoot everyone in sight, but in the interest of setting a mood, I’m exploring some new tunes. Right now I’m trying out Gangstagrass (not your mamma’s bluegrass!)

But back to my original point, I’m handwriting again. Or at least giving it the ol’ college go, as they say. I’ve read too many amazing novels written by too many astounding writers who all wrote/write by hand to ignore my desire to do it any longer. Granted, back in the day, that’s all I did. Even when we were all using typewriters, I didn’t write my novels on them because making mistakes drove me batty. I couldn’t continue down the line until I’d corrected the mistake, and that got too ridiculous. I’m a fast typist, too, clocking in at 90wpm, but that really puts me at the same mind/writing set as using the computer. The only difference being the sound, the use of paper and white-out, and seeing my words on the screen instead of a piece of paper that’s slowly curling away from me.

There’s a sense of “throw away” when you’re writing on a computer, vs handwriting. You’re more apt to let yourself write shit, knowing you can just delete it out. When you hand write, you invest more time and physical effort with every sentence, so you’re more inclined to spend some time thinking it over, and writing down only what you mean to say, because crossing out huge segments of crap represents so much wasted physical effort (as well as ink and paper).

There’s also a tendency to get ahead of yourself, letting your mind advance to the next paragraph, the next scene, the next chapter, even as you’re still keying out a line. As a result, if you’re not careful, you wind up leaving out whole chunks that you’d intended to write. Great lines and interesting scenes you’d thought up the day before, are forgotten in your rush to type stuff out and progress the novel.

Another thing that sitting at a computer for hours at a time, day in and day out will do is create an underlying sense of HURRY UP! After while, you get impressed by your speed, your production, your massing word counts. Better to slow it all down, give yourself permission to take 6 months to write that novel, rather than enjoying the fact that you can crank out two or three a year. And forget all notion of word counts and lengths. They don’t matter. Only the story matters, and the story will tell you how long it needs to be.

No novel should be any longer, or any shorter, than it needs to be. Padding is for bras, not novels. Your story should begin on Page 1 and end when it’s over. Period. Hard stop. The only consideration you should pay to word counts is when you’re typing up that query to your big time Traditional Agent’s assistant to the mail opening department.

Writing, as with all things in life once you sit down and think about it a second, benefits the most from that old adage: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s nearly lunch-time and I have a lovely pink Cross ballpoint callin’ my name!

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Mmmm, I love the smell of ink in the morning!

the status of the apparatus

Aka: Wazzup?

So lots of stuff’s been happenin’ lately, some of which I’ll mention, some of which will have to wait.

On the heels of Smashwords’ announcement of a new ISBN plan, I went ahead and put a number on both Ether and In The Time Of Dying, listing myself as the publisher, ‘natch. Those two titles were “shipped” to the Apple iBook store this week, so I’m interested in seeing how that will affect readership. I don’t know yet how Apple will report sales, quarterly I’d expect, so it’s time to sit back and ignore it all until figures come in.

But it’s cool. No denying that.

My current work in progress is nearing completion – maybe three quarters of the way there with the first draft. My plan is to handwrite the second draft. Normally I write a very clean first draft, but a second read-through is always in order, adding bits and bobs. I’m not one of those who subtracts 20%, mostly because I write very lean anyway, and if I took OUT twenty percent, I’d be left with a skeleton. And also because that blanket “twenty percent of all writing is needless fluff and should be cut” is horseshit. Blankets are for keeping warm, and should never be used as all-encompassing advice. Every writer’s mileage varies.

“Lord, Ethel, there she goes, gettin’ all hot n’bothered again.”

Okay, what else . . .

I bought a new pen – it’s a PINK Cross rollerball, and writes like a dream. It was a birthday present, so technically I didn’t buy it. Also picked up one of those little Moleskin notebooks to carry around with me, since my next novel is already cooking away in my mind and I’m resorting to jotting down notes whenever something new strikes me, so as not to interrupt the flow of my work in progress. Nothing better as a writer than to have your next novel already waiting in the wings. I’m thrilled about it because it’s going to be a complete departure from anything I’ve written so far, and will require some research. Not SF at all, just your regular, dyed-in-the-wool literary venture.

I’m reading Drood by Dan Simmons right now, and have Neil Gaiman’s American Gods waiting in the wings. I bought Drood in hardback, so it’s a massive, heavy thing that I can use to ward off intruders while I’m reading. Fantastic book, by an amazing writer.

I’m still in training for my big cancer walk on May 9th – though I did have to go get fitted for proper training shoes. My left shin was giving me issues, causing my foot to go numb at the mile mark – turns out I’d been walking with my feet a tad pronated, but a solid pair of shoes, cushy arched insert and fancy-dancy lacing technique that I could never repeat if I was paid to do it later, and I’m walking like a champ!

Baseball season started! And the Mariners won their opener against the Oakland A’s, but that never means much. Mostly what it means is, Spring is finally here and Summer’s comin’. Time to fix that massive moss issue in the back yard, paint the window boxes before planting, and write up lists of things “to do” that won’t “get done.”

That’s about it, in a nutshell. Till next post, anyway.

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

So, what’s new with you?

just when you thought I was done

Talking about ISBN’s for the Indy writer – Smashwords comes out with a new plan.

If you’ve been reading along, and I trust you have, then you’re familiar with the Pros and Cons of purchasing ISBN’s for your novels and short stories. And you’re aware of how expensive it can be, if you want to be listed as the Publisher of Record, as opposed to allowing – say – Lulu or Createspace to be listed as the publisher of your book.

Either way, it’s always been and still remains your choice. For some, allowing Lulu to be listed as their publisher. For others, it’s important to be listed as your own publisher.

And, if you’ve been following along and reading the rules of ISBN’s, then you’ve come to realize for the ebook publisher, it’s a royal pain in the arse. Why? Because, as the rules are stated, you are required to obtain a separate and unique ISBN for each and every format your ebook is published in.

Can you say Holy Shite?

I thought you could.

In order to cover all the available reader bases out there, I have – via Smashwords – all of my ebooks published in no less than 9 formats. HTML, Java, Mobi for the Kindle, Epub (considered an industry standard, if anything can be considered standard these days) PDF, RTF, LRF (for the Sony reader) Palm Doc, Plain Text for online and Plain text for download view.

You can imagine how much it would cost if I were to purchase an ISBN for each of those formats.

So what’s new, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Smashwords – my preferred ebook distributor – has signed a deal that will include titles in the new Apple bookstore, for all Smashwords books that meet certain guidelines. The requirements are simple – your book has to be included already in their premium catalog (which is a simple formatting and cover art issue) your book has to have a price that ends in .99 (I don’t know why, it’s odd, go figure but who cares) and your book has to have an ISBN assigned to the Epub formatted version.

Okay, so first you’re thinking “hang on, you just explained why ISBN’s are too expensive. Are you drunk?”

Yes. I mean, not right now. You see, another announcement from Smashwords is their new ISBN offering. They’ve managed to French kiss Bowkers and come up with a deal, wherein they can offer you options to place an ISBN on the Epub version of your novel.

Why Epub? Well like I said, that’s considered for now the industry standard, the most widely read and available version, so it makes sense to pick that format above all others and assign your ISBN to it. You can still buy numbers for your other versions, if you have deep pockets.

So what’s the catch? Is there a catch?

No catch, not really. But there are distinctions. Free vs $9.95.

For free, at no charge to you, Smashwords can assign an ISBN to your novel’s Epub format – making it widely available and easily searched for/ordered by anyone, anywhere – for the simple cost of listing Smashwords as your publisher. You remain the author, naturally, because – well – you’re the author. But Smashwords will be listed as your Publisher of Record.

For $9.95, you can have Smashwords assign an ISBN to your novel’s Epub format – making it widely available and easily searched for/ordered by anyone, anywhere – and have YOU listed as the Publisher of Record.

You. The publisher. For $9.95. Sure, it’s only your Epub version, but we’ve established that as being your industry standard version right now, and on that will be listed with Bowker’s, and made available in the Apple bookstore, for all those early adopters of the new Apple iKotex tablet computer.

Is this cool, exciting news?

That’s up to you to decide. Free is free, but lists Smashwords as your publisher. $9.95 will list you as publisher, and can be taken out of your profits from sales, so you’re not whipping out that credit card that you shouldn’t have in the first place shame on you for using credit cards have you learned nothing from my lectures!?

Ahem.

Also, if you’re just now listing that novel, and haven’t sold one yet, Smashwords will let you owe them the $9.95, and take it out of your first sales until it’s paid. So monetarily, it’s a win/win.

Are there ups, downs, lefts or rights to this news? I’ll let you know as I learn them. Right now, I went ahead and put ISBN’s on Ether and In The Time Of Dying. I want them listed in the Apple store so I can test that out and see how it affects sales and readership. It’s all pretty new, and I’m still experimenting with it, poking it with sticks.

But it is news. And a very intriguing developing in the ISBN wars of the Indy writer. Stay tuned!

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Does that iPad come with wings?

sometimes less is fewer

I’m not perfect (gasp) when it comes to proper grammar usage, few of us are.  But as a writer who invites the public to read her words, I strive to be as good as I can be, and to get better all the time. My oldest sister is an English teacher by trade, and together –ever since we were children — we take a somewhat perverse pleasure in correcting family members.

Our other sister can’t spell her way out of a paper bag, but that’s okay because she’s in Accounting and I haven’t balanced my checkbook since 1986. We all have our quirks, eh?

Now, that said, I have this one particular pet peeve that’s been driving me UP THE WALL lately. In commercials on the radio, on the television, speakers, news men and women, every friggin’ Tom, Dick, Harry and Lucille ! They’re all getting it wrong, it’s being broadcast all over the airwaves, searing into brains around the globe and boring a hole through my own. And now, just yesterday, for the second time in several months, I’ve seen it used by non other than professional editors!

Months ago, while reading a blog written by a professional editor who reviews books for her blog, she did it and I became so frustrated, I logged on just so I could correct her.

And now, yesterday, while reading an interview wherein a literary agent who also works as a professional editor did it twice, in one paragraph!

What made yesterday so much more irritating was the fact that, later in the same interview, this agent spoke about writers who submit to him without even a working understanding of spelling and grammar. How writers these days seem to have very little mastery of the English language and how they don’t seem to realize it’s a necessity in this business.

I’m not going to name either of them, or link to the articles, because frankly I’m too lazy right now to go find the links and I’d quite like a nap.

What is this offense that has me so riled, you ask?

Less.

They say Less, when they mean Fewer.

You hear it all the time. “Use Proactive and you’ll have less pimples.”

“FEWER pimples!” I scream at my television set. “Less acne, FEWER pimples!” But they don’t hear me.

They don’t care.

In this interview yesterday, the unnamed agent/editor said “…that means less books acquired.” And again “.. since less books are being sold…”

FEWER ! That means FEWER books acquired ! Since FEWER books are being sold !

Less book buying, fewer books.

You see?

I scream at the internet, but it doesn’t hear me. It doesn’t care.

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

I could do with less of these fewers.

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