Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gozer (The Gozerian)

I told my fiance today that if I ever get another cat (If my 13-year old cat ever dissolves into an angry cloud of swirling, bitter, dust) that I want to name it Gozer (The Gozerian).

Go get her, Ray!

I think this scene brings up a good point for indie authors (see how I worked that in, there?)

I mean, there is a Gatekeeper and a Keymaster (There is no Dana, there is only Zuul!). Obviously, the publishers would be the Gatekeeper (though for digital books I would say that is changing to Amazon and a lagging B&N), but who would be the Keymaster? I'd be inclined to say the readers, as they are the end users of the product - but the more I think about it, the more I think it might be the authors themselves...

Think about it. If an author picks a lame cover, a boring title and puts out a product riddled with errors, people just won't want that product. You can give away crap (sometimes) but people want a good product and they want it affordable. Too inexpensive... and they worry about the quality. Too expensive... and they bypass it via the "this does not meet my impulse buy threshold requirements". In this blooming digital era, the Indie Authors really hold all the Keys they need to be successful.

Does your cover suck? Change it. Title not catchy? Tweak it. Priced too high? Lower it. Priced too low? Raise it. Manuscript errors? Correct it. Story shoddy? Remove it.

All of these changes can be enacted within 24 hours... some within only a few minutes! That seems like a pretty heavy keyring to me. Putting out a product that we can't be proud of - that is every author's personal Gozer (the Gozerian). WE can choose the form of the Destructor!... and it doesn't even have to be a giant marshmallow man (coughMichelinmancough). It just has to be laziness or incompetence. Both of these can be overcome by acting, learning, or hiring someone to do it for you!

My cousin recently sent me her manuscript and BEGGED me to read it. Great! She's interesting, fun to talk to, so I agreed. I received a copy that another (possibly more than one person) had already interjected about a million comments into via the Word comment tool. After 20 seconds I had a headache and couldn't read it. I have to request a "clean" copy.

Ask yourself: Is my manuscript clean? Does it read well? Did somebod(ies) check my grammar/punctuation? Is my voice unique and representative of me?

Kindles aren't that expensive anymore (especially compared to when I bought mine) *coughearlyadoptercough* I would ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND (Pay attention now, I just used caps for TWO WORDS in a row!) buying one and testing your file out on it before you release it.

I was having crazy and infuriating spacing errors with my document when I first started. Random paragraphs would be completely tabbed-indented in a big square with no idea where they start or end. There were ridiculous spaces between certain words, etc. I poked about the interwebs for about half an hour (acted, learned) and now my document looks quite clean and understandable. I even learned how to make a linked ToC (that even connects to the ToC function on the Kindle).

My mother-in-law-to-be got a Nook Color for Christmas. Before I release my book to PubIt, do you know where I'll be? (Hint: At her house checking my file!)

So Indie Authors: Master your Keys and Go Get Her, Ray!

And remember: If anyone asks you if you're a god... you say YES!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Distractions Made Easy

I love to write. I love to fill my hours by baring my brains on an otherwise blank screen, fleshing out characters and dialogue, scenes and ideas. I love the subtle ticking noise my keyboard makes as letters form words and then sentences on my screen. I love the satisfaction I get from a piece well written and usable.

I hate when I'm working on a project and get an idea that I really want to work on more... especially when I'm almost done with said project and absolutely need to finish it (I am under threat of losing my computer again... thanks fiance!)

When this happens, I encounter a big ugly roadblock in my head. The ideas are still there, but they feel pale and flimsy next to Big Shiny New Idea. Imagine you just got your first computer, and it is 64-bit (pixelated), all the game music sounds straight from the original Nintendo and it runs so slow you can make yourself a full meal before it finishes booting. But imagine it's also the only computer you've ever seen and therefore is a marvel of mankind.

Then picture that about a week after you got that awesome (horrible) new computer, someone plunks down with the newest Alienware with a processing speed so fast it literally tears the clothes from your body and a graphics card that makes you feel like what you see everyday with your real eyes is actually a poorer resolution than what is on your screen. Also, that computer can revive Beethoven from the grave and make him compose a brand new musical score just for the occasion. It also makes Julienne fries. In five seconds. No potatoes needed.

That is how I feel when these new ideas crop up. I am horrible at finishing stories. I am about 2-3 chapters away from finishing the 1st manuscript of Chains of Memory yet... it is SO hard to get it down.

Everything distracts me. My computer connects to the internet - I play Facebook games. I have to work, the puppy whines, the puppy farts (a VALID EXCUSE), I'm hungry, I'm tired, I need another pop, I have to go to the bathroom because I just drank six pops... all because I want to work on another idea.

I can't though. I have to finish this one. I know, you'll say - step baaaaack. Give it tiiiiime. If I do that, I'll never finish it. It's that simple. The whole idea will simply fall off the face of the earth. It's just how I roll.

Meanwhile, I've been accepted into an anthology, the first draft of which is due February 1st. It seemed so far away back on January 10th... For the three of you who read my blog, and who may not read Derek J. Canyon's... it's the Twelve Worlds anthology and we're donating the proceeds to charity. I'll touch on it more as we get closer to publication. For my piece, I've done 1.7k words on it (it has to be between 3-7k) but I'm not sure I like the voice. I may switch to third person and rewrite.

Here is how I'm standing on what I want to write right now:
New, Shiny Idea
Older, Still Sparkly Idea
Anthology Draft (Tentatively: Sleepeater)
Chains of Memory

I think it's unfair New Shiny Idea is being an attention hog. Didn't anyone ever teach it manners?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Injecting a Little Confidence

I finally saw Up yesterday. I thought it was a very good movie and, incidentally, Doug was my favorite character. He was lovable and honest and cute!

I also watch a show called Project Runway. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a show hosted by Heidi Klum, featuring 16 designers who have to make a catwalk "look", usually in a single day and sometimes with bizarre things. (Good examples of this are: design a look with items only from a grocery store = winner made a dress from corn husks; this season: design a look with things Only From a Hardware Store... all in all it's pretty innovative!) I'm currently almost finished with Season 7 (I know, I'm way behind!)

One of the funny things about this show, is that it gives me a lot of confidence as a writer. How could a show about fashion design make me more confident? Well, consider that they are both forms of art, carried out in a limited amount of time, to a panel of judges who may, or may not like their "design" aesthetic.

Sometimes the garments that go down the catwalk are absolutely gorgeous, or amazing, or stylish, creative, fun, witty, comfortable... something I would seek out and overpay for. Yet, the judges bash the designer, call it a "trainwreck", "complete disaster", "shoddy piece of blah". I can't understand how the judges don't see what I see. On the other hand, things go down that same catwalk that make me cringe, that I believe should never see the light of day... that I wonder if the designer even knows that someone is expected to wear that slipshod piece of work... but the judges love it, praise it... award it first prize.

In the third scenario, the judges and I are on the same page and love/hate what we are seeing and have nothing but good/bad things to say on an equal level.

I think writing is the same way. The things I (or anyone) write, can be good, fantastic, witty, amazing - something people would seek out on their own... but to some, it will be blah, boring, uninteresting and typical. Or, I could write something that I'm not entirely sure of, but people go rabid over it and demand more.

You can't please 100% of the people, 100% of the time. And may I add - if you do, then what is the point? You'll have nowhere to grow. I will settle for pleasing only one person - myself. If others also see my genius and are pleased in the wake of Typhoon Medrick, then hurrah for me!

I know what I am writing is good to some degree. I know people can enjoy it.

I was browsing in the bookstore the other day (Yes, I STILL do that). Despite my mammoth reading list, I passed a copy of Fahrenheit 451, a book I have already read, but sadly did not own. I picked it up. I put it down. I picked it up again. I looked at my fiance with quietly desperate eyes. I bought it. I read it in about a day.

Will I ever write something as full of meaning and impact as Fahrenheit 451? Mmm, probably no. Will I write something that shows my own design aesthetic to the world? Something that is "me" and I can be proud of?

Hell. Yes.

I don't have any reviews out there yet. I only have some editors who point out my grammar mistakes and plot holes. I don't have a finished product that needs defending in a violent marketplace. I have a concept, that is almost finished, that I want to do well.

But I'm not going to sweat it.

I know I have put a lot of work into this manuscript. I can see, from where I started, to how I'm writing now - I've grown while writing it.

I can be proud of my product, and hold my head up high when someone says, "You wrote that??" for better or worse. When someone asks me , I will straighten my spine, look them in the eye and say,

"Yes, I did. Thanks for asking." Then I will give them biggest s***-eating grin I can. I made it, and I'll stand by it.

Readers may be my judges, but no one can be my executioner but me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Accident? and Name Change

While working today, I was tossing stuff around in my head about the fact that around this time next month, I will have a book ready for sale. That seems crazy in a lot of ways for me! It also fills me with pride.

I decided to change the name of this blog to "Mythos of an Indie". Perhaps one day I will become a legend :) Well, one can dream. I would settle for a mostly-remembered fable.

Also, I had to increase my target word count. It's tentatively 55k. The story is just not finished! I refuse to kill my story because of an arbitrary (completely arbitrary) word goal. So, there it is. My 98% completion dropped to around 89%, but that's okay! Inversion, anyone?

I also changed my schedule at work. 9-10 hour days, 5-6 days in a row over the weekend and beginning of the week meant that I was working A LOT, and because of the payroll week breaks, getting no overtime. I asked to only work 4 days a week. The funny thing is, I'm cut down a day, and my scheduled hours are only 3 less than last week. Hmmm...

Anyway, I have 3 days off a week to help get caught up. I also have a 9 day vacation coming in February, where I want to finish everything up completely/obsess over my launch. I really hope my cover guy gets back to me by then! 9 days unpaid, by choice (the 9 days by choice, not the unpaid part). Hopefully this will help me get the writing I want to get done, also :)

My fiance is also a super sweetheart by saying, "I don't care how much or how little you work, as long as you can cover your personal bills, and help out with buying food etc. around the house, it's fine!" I'd love to end up super successful so I can give us a boost in life, and provide a nice ending/reward for someone who is so supportive!

Love makes the world go 'round <3 (And loved ones make that damn book get finished!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Angry Snore

I have an adorable bargain bin puppy who is supposedly a half black-lab, half border collie mix *coughbargainbinpuppycough*.  Though, he looks all black lab with a really long face, he holds his whip-tail like a border collie.  I can believe he is this mix.  His name is Ajax and he's incredibly cute in the face and horribly obnoxious when he tries.

He was more energetic than usual today (which means he was like Gordon Flash with Fur on Crack) and I could not seem to wear him out.  I wanted to get some writing done, because yesterday I didn't have any time before I konked out, dead from my 9 hour shift.  Needless to say, my little bundle of joy (read: obnoxiety, yes I made that word up just for him, I'm a wordsmith) wouldn't let me do so today.  I played tug with him for about 10 minutes then decided it would be better to play fetch.  Ajax loves fetch and we didn't even have to teach him, he brings the ball back automatically because he just LOVES to run (and tug you for ball rights).

I threw the ball so many times my shoulder was getting sore and he was panting like crazy.  I thought it would be a great time to bring him in, but apparently he had other ideas.  Usually when it's time to calm him down, we put him in his crate to rest.  He is very crate-trained, something we have done since we bought him from that shady fellow at the Circle K, whose name or address we never knew...  Anyway, it's important for him to have his "safe place", and to know where he belongs when no one is home/everyone is sleeping.  It means we don't have puppy piddle all over the house and because we trained him young he -never- gives us a fuss about going in there.  Actually, he walks in on his own, sits, and waits for us to close the door.  It's GREAT.

Today I said, "Ajax, crate."  He walked in, but oh he was not happy.  I closed the door and he walked around, whined, growled, grunted, moaned, clawed, banged, scratched and wheezed at me from behind his little crate bars.  For ten minutes... that became fifteen... then twenty... then thirty... I was about to tear my hair out.  Then, out of nowhere, he slams his body down onto the crate floor (I mean like, pro-wrestling off the turn buckle slam) and falls instantly asleep, emitting the angriest snore I have ever heard.  I don't even know how to describe it (and I, a writer!).  Imagine a dog giving a constant low growl, then break that up into the steady rhythm of breathing, then put all that through the nose.

It was thrice hilarious, a little pitiful, and very, very angry.  Don't be fooled by that face in the upper left-hand corner!  Behind those warm brown eyes is an emo-kid waiting to happen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflections While Home Sick

I'm home sick from work today, seem to have caught a nasty stomach bug that has laid me low.  It started last night and I was not in a condition to be delivering pizza this morning :(  Luckily they found someone really quick, so I don't have to agonize over my decision, as I never, -never- call off if I can help it.  I'm hoping I feel better by tomorrow.

First off, I'd like to give a shout to Megan Duncan because while reading her blog I saw a nifty little gadget (the word counter in my upper right hand corner) that she ganked from Melissa Shepard, that SHE ganked from here.

I have almost decided on naming the book "Chains of Memory", so that is the heading for it.  It's a little satisfying to see the percentage complete, there.  Between visits to the Porcelain Throne, I hope to get some writing done as I'm not good for much else today (well, sleeping, but that's probably even less productive).  Hopefully I can bump it up off the 84% where it currently sits.

But, the title of this post starts with "Reflections" so I'd like to reflect a little today on the publishing industry as a whole.  I have very mixed feelings when I read blogs like J. A. Konrath's and see the print publisher bashing that goes on, especially in the comments section.  It's amazing to me how much shouting down is done to anyone trying to defend the traditional printers anymore.

When I first started reading it, I fell into the "Publishers must be wrong, Indie writers must be right, how could there be such a gap in royalties..." et cetera type of mindset.  It is very easy to lay the blame for the "bad decision" of rejecting a manuscript and poor royalty rates on a failing by the industry as a whole.

In the end, I have a BBA and I came to my senses.  It is true that, "All that glitters isn't gold"; that it is an irrefutable statement.  Do I think selling 1,000 copies a month of Book A on your own is amazing?  Yes.  Do I think the industry made a horrible decision by bypassing your manuscript?  Not necessarily. 

I read an interesting article here today.  I was looking for a tangible fact on the cost of printing a book so I wouldn't have to do the work myself, but I didn't really find that in so many words.  My goal was to try and demonstrate why publishers seem to desperately seek out that 1 million plus blockbuster over your 12k/year book.  Then I found **THIS**.  Finally, someone who understands and speaks rationally and objectively!

It's not that they wouldn't love to publish your book and get it into people's hands, it's simply the economics of the business.  Once you parcel out the money to printing presses, editors, cover artists, discounts to get your books on the shelves of major retailers... the publisher doesn't actually get to keep so much of that 85% cut.  In some cases (especially cases where the author doesn't earn out their advance), the author makes more than the publisher, in the end.

In order for publishers to keep taking on new authors they MUST be making a profit that allows them to do that!  If a publisher offers up an advance that is NOT earned out, they are losing money.  If they do that again, and again, and again... they will go belly-up, no questions asked.  (You cannot keep drinking from a container and expect it never to go empty - you MUST refill!)  The publishing industry is like a sieve.  They want to put out new books, but they have to spend money to do it.  Sometimes, the money they put out is more than the final product gives back, so the money trickles through the bottom of the sieve.  So they work harder and faster, all the while trying to stay high enough that the sieve won't be completely empty, leaving them with nothing.

In e-publishing, the costs are lower than traditional print books.  Yes, that's true.  But, there is still a significant cost to getting that book up for sale.  It is also a truism of business that if you want to continue with one thing that does not earn well enough to support itself (read: lowering print book sales), you use your "cash cow" (in this case, the slightly extra profit from e-books) to fund that other side of your business.

I keep hearing that the traditional publishers are floundering, that eventually they will be gone - bookstores all over the nation will close and we'll be left with no outlet for the "dead-tree model".  I absolutely don't believe that is true.  Yes, bookstores are closing.  The Borders near me closed because of poor management by Borders.  (You don't get into debt to publishers because people aren't buying a product from you that they buy elsewhere - you get there because you have screwed up.)  The Barnes and Noble in the area stripped it clean of customers by its better selection, prices, and over-all functionality of the store... exactly like Best Buy did to Circuit City in the same area only a few years earlier.  It is the nature of capitalism.

I think that publishers are holding on and riding it out.  Yes, many publishers and editors seem to be giving out information and quotes that puts them drastically behind the times.  It's not impossible or even particularly difficult to do that - witness Richard Curtis' blunder.  (Sorry Konrath, I'm not trying to pick on you, here.)  The fact is, when people are trying to prove a point, they will print information that puts their hypothesis in the correct light.

I personally believe that publishers are turning around the higher profits on their e-book sales to keep print publishing alive.  I applaud them for that!  I will be truly devastated if print books vanished, or became something for rich collector's to show off to their fancy friends.  When I was a child, I dreamed, dreamed of the day I would have enough money to have a library IN MY HOUSE.  A room, completely full of precious, delicious, well-written literature!  I love my Kindle to death, and I will parade it around and show off it's fancy features and all the while, it will fill with books I couldn't find in bookstores... while my bookshelves at home fill with books that CAN BE.

So publishers miss out on a few bestsellers - indie authors that go to e-book publishing and with a liberal dose of personal promotion and luck, become famous almost overnight.  Who hasn't made a mistake?  That time I drove that guy's car to pick him up for work and got hit by a truck gone left-of-center, doing $43,000 in damage?  How about flying home from Japan on an overbooked flight and turning down a free flight to Hawaii, including overnight hotel stay?  I've made mistakes, too.  Everyone does.  It's part of the human experience.

I have a sneaking suspicion that one day, publishers will turn the whole business on its head and indie authors will be left wondering what's happened, because they are becoming so smug and self-important that they believe they can never fail.  I picture those publishers like jungle cats in the trees, indie authors sprawled fat and lazy in the shade with the profits they have garnered for themselves.

Are you not afraid of that image?  I am.

What happens when publishers strike a deal with Amazon that, under their label, Amazon continues the 70% profits, but self-pubbed only get 35% at best?  What if it's 20%?  5%?

I'm not saying it's a future that's chiseled in stone, I'm saying let's not throw our spears into the fire before the jungle cats are actually exterminated, yeah?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Difference a Year Makes

I have to post this, because I find it so hilarious.  I was looking over the stats for this blog and one of my popular posts this week can be found here.  It is a post from EXACTLY a year ago, today.

How much different do I feel about my life!!  I could absolutely be a stay-at-home-author and get work done.  I think I needed some serious work grind to remember there are things out there I love to do - and writing is really one of them.

I may not be the most fabulous writer ever to grace the halls of of the printed word, but I love what I do and I think that shows.

Yesterday I wrote three chapters (Yes, I did manage to get all three, haha, my fiance can't yell at me!)  It averaged out somewhere in the range of 3.3k in words.  I went back today and read over it, tweaked a bit here and there.  I don't know if it's the outline I made so I can see the path clearly... or just that the more I write, the more naturally it comes... or if I'm in one of those "It's just writing itself!" modes... but I did them in record time yesterday.

I feel like a total bundle of nerves about the whole thing.  Only ten days ago, I ordered a cover for my almost complete first novel.  Only a year ago, I wondered if I'd ever finish writing a story!!!

Well, I am proud of myself, and I hope you, dear reader, can share in the warm rays of my ego also :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Geeking Out

I just want to put out there, into the digital world, that I am geeking out a little bit.  Why?  I just crossed the 40k marker a few minutes ago.  According to my outline, I have 10k and 6 chapters to go.  Then, this book will be finished.

I feel absolutely amazing right now.  I am almost finished.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel... I can feel the wind kissing my face and hear the birdsong of freedom.

Why freedom?

I feel like this is a very serious turning point for me, when I can finally shake off the last vestiges of doubt from childhood trauma (as pertains to writing).  I felt so much shame over the whole PotP incident (which I have not fully cataloged yet, sorry)... as I said, I felt so much shame over my failings that I haven't completed a serious work since.  In fact, in the roughly 12-14ish years since then, I have finished only 1 short story.  What a waste of time on my part!  Oh, hindsight, you are truly 20-20.

Finally getting up the courage to tell the story, and to the wide world of strangers (aka: internet) was a huge step.

I feel like walking around and laughing with every person I meet.  I want to share my jubilation with the world!

I am almost finished!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I must be a good writer, look how many exclamation points I used!)

Days of Freedom

It's been a little rough at work this week.  I worked 26 hours in the last 3 days and 6 of them were yesterday...

Needless to say, I slept in today.  The poor puppy woke me up with his whining because it was past his breakfast time :(  Sorry Ajax!

Today I'm mostly relaxing and getting my lazy on.  When my fiance and I ended up finally at home for the night, yesterday, I was so darn tired!  I begged to be let out of my writing for the day, promising three chapters today.  Well, I got a pass, and now I have to write three chapters!  Ha ha ha... oooh...

I've gotten the house cleaned up a little.  I really hope to be a full-time author one day, because our house will be so much cleaner then!  Though, if I had free time all the time, maybe I would be lazy and get less writing done?  In case my fiance reads this post... that last sentence was just a joke.  Ha, ha!!

In writing related news... no chapters yet.  However (here you should picture me triumphantly piercing the sky with a jabbing forefinger) I did make an outline of how to end my book.  I never make outlines, the story is always floating on waves of imagination through my brain.  But, I'm getting down to the last bits and I want to make sure everything is in its correct place - especially since this will be the first novel I've ever finished.

If all goes according to outline, this book will be finished in 8 (eight!) chapters.  I just had a small moment of foreboding there, so I had to spell out eight.  8 is too close to the sign for infinity, and I don't want infinity chapters until I'm done...

I think it will probably be closer to 9, but we shall see.

Also, for those interested, here is my current (as in, in progress) reading list:

(Hardcover) The Heretic's Daughter, Kathleen Kent
(Borrowed, hardcover) The Host, Stephanie Meyer (I have not, and will never, read Twilight, so don't ask)
(Hardcover) The Monster Book of Zombies, anthology
(Hardcover) A Whisper of Blood, anthology
(Kindle) The Hangman's Daughter, Oliver Potzsch (umlaut over the o in the last name, laaaazy)
(Kindle, free) Bright of the Sky, Kay Kenyon

I know there are more, but some of them are actual printed books and got lost in the shuffle in the house...

In my Kindle sample queue:

The Demon Queen and the Locksmith, Spencer Baum
Amber Magic, B.V. Larson
The Gift of Fury, Richard Jackson
Silver Thaw, Amy Rose Davis
The Black God's War, Moses Siregar III

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Karmaic Balance

I am a pretty firm believer in the power of karma.  I think I have avoided so many accidents in my car because I'm a courteous driver.  Things in this vain, et cetera.

Today I tried to contact a fellow I knew in college.  We were in IFS together (International Film Society, for all you acronym lovers)  He's a pretty cool cat, very witty, very into paranormal.  He sometimes interviews/takes pictures with famous horror movie figureheads.  I think it's pretty impressive how far he's taken his love of the genre.

I know I need to network for my book, but it's really hard to do.  It's not what I am particularly interested in doing.  I want to write.  I want to have my product available to entertain others.  I love the business side of it, but for now, I want to focus on the production side.

So anyway, I contacted him with the hopes that in exchange for a digital ARC, he'll review my book (for better or for worse) on his blog, and on Amazon where I suspect it will be posted.  Then I clicked send on the e-mail, with much trepidation.  Will he answer me back?  Probably, like I said, he's a cool cat.  Will he do it?  I have no idea.  We honestly haven't talked much since graduation.

Then, not five minutes later I struck up a conversation with an ex-professor and friend of mine from that self-same college.  Incidentally enough, she was my Marketing professor.  We talked a little about my book finishing up this month and hopefully being available soon.  Then, surprise of surprises, she asked if I would like to become a client of her Promotional Marketing class.  She thinks my book would be a great way to get them started (Google is apparently giving them $200 in adwords credit).

I am absolutely way excited about that, so of course I said YES!

I had another 9 hour day at work, but right now I am feeling quiet content <3


I am going to take all the irritation... nay, frustration... nay, anger... nay, rage at some of the customers today, coupled with working long past my scheduled hours and condense it into one moderated word of expulsion.



I feel better :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Puppy Jar

I am seriously considering buying a nice, clear container to set in a place of prominence for when guests come over.  When they see it, and the myriad of amazing bits it contains they will ask with awe and wonder,

"Why, whatever is that jar for?"

"That old thing?" I will answer with calculated nonchalance.  "Oh really, it's nothing."

"No, no," they will press me, like children.  "Tell us why does it contain such bizarre items?"

"It is merely a puppy jar," I shall respond, fixing a cold eye on them, much like a preying hawk.

"Tell us, tell us," they will insist.  "What is a puppy jar?"

"It is every thing my delightful bargain bin puppy has put in his mouth, and that I have had to pull out."  I will point to the pine needles, liberally littering the bottom.  "Christmas," I shall say, waving a hand dismissively.  I will offer up the knowledge of every bit of plastic, toilet paper, bottle cap, napkin (and so forth) that my puppy has managed to unearth from the bowels of my supposedly clean home.

"That," I will answer, finally, with an air of triumphant scorn, "is a puppy jar!"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exciting at the End

Ever read a book and realize SO MUCH happens at the end?  I feel like the lion's share of the action is really coming in the last half.  This worries me a little, for if it's not gripping enough in the second half, it may be put aside.  I've put a number of books aside for this reason (it's just not picking up and I can't slog through it anymore!).  I don't feel my story is doing this, not entirely, but then, I'm biased.

One of my good friends gave me an excellent criticism about the story.  I have almost finished the first draft, and it is something I will keep foremost in my thoughts when I start my serious revisions.

My fiance also gave me a very good criticism today... it made me laugh a little.  "All your characters sound so... smart!"  "I'm smart," I answered.  "Yeah, well, all your characters can't be, too."  This will also be good to know during revision time :)

It's nice to have amazing friends (and fiances)!  And by that, I mean friends (and fiances) who tell you honestly there is a problem, not just pat you on the back and say good job.

Curing the What Ifs...? (or: How I Learned My Insomnia Could End), Part 2

Last time I talked a little bit about how I see my day-to-day routine.  Little things make me go, "What if...".  I realized after I wrote it that I may... perhaps... seem a little paranoid.  I want to assure you, I'm not paranoid, I'm just curious about alternate possibilities.

Here's a fun example.  Yesterday I opened at work.  We prepare our onions, cut by hand, every morning.  They are fresh and yummy (and a big pain in the butt to do).  I was peeling the paper skin off when a cloud of white dust poofed out of the onion in my hand, startling me.

Here was my thought process:
What was that?  What if that was anthrax?  No, that's silly, there's no anthrax in these onions.  Wait, are these foreign onions?  Are onions in season in the States right now?  What if it's a foreign onion?  What if it carries the seeds of some strange, buried prion or something?  Holy crap, what if that turns me into a zombie?  Do I feel like a zombie?  I wonder how many people I'd infect before being taken down.

From there, it was an experiment in how I think a zombie outbreak would look, with the epicenter being my sleepy little Ohio town.

I think you get the point by now... basically, I feel like I'm always considering what could happen, and in thinking about it, I entertain myself.  Greatly.

Until middle school, I was always able to fall asleep on a dime.  I could close my eyes and I was gone.  If it was bedtime, I was asleep. I didn't argue or ask questions, I simply laid down and that's all she wrote!  As for what I wrote - whenever the mood struck me, on any topic and for any length of time until I was bored/done with it.

In middle school, I made the worst decision of my young life.  I joined Power of the Pen.  It was a competitive writing group (we actually went to competitions!).  You'd be given about two hours to write, and everyone would be given the same topic.  Some competitions, you'd do this two or even three times (yes, six hours of writing by hand).  We also met weekly to talk about writing, how to improve, et cetera.

My writing was deemed not entirely acceptable in this setting.  I am just not good at being given a topic and told to write on it - especially on a time limit.  I made the team... barely.  I was second alternate.  Basically if someone got sick, I still wouldn't write.  If two people got sick (inconceivable!) I might have a chance to get into the competition.  However, I was assured, this had never happened in all the history of PotP.  (Be ready to hear that more, 'in all the history of PotP')

So, of course, it happened with our last writing competition.  I had gone all year glumly cheering my team on from the sidelines.  I didn't want to cheer, I wanted to write!  It was why I had joined in the first place.  I smiled as best as I could, but my heart was heavy.  When I was told that for the first time ever, the second alternate would be permitted to join the competition, I literally bounded about, an unbridled source of joy and energy.  I thought my heart would explode, because it was far too small to contain my happiness.

I wrote with all my fervor that day.  I remember my topic, "Write a story based around the idea 'Just wait 'til your father gets home!'"  I wrote a story about a kid finding a little alien and causing a lot of mayhem with it.  The boy took credit for the alien's misdeeds.  The mom got angry and made the exclamation.  It was unpolished, unfinished, maybe a little ugly, but I wrote with everything I had.

At the grading ceremony, our team was all set up to win the whole competition.  Story after story was rewarded with stellar marks.  Then, my story, graded last.  How apropos.  I received the worst marks in history, for our club.  We lost the competition.  We didn't go home with any awards.  I was devasted; my team was furious.  My friends would not longer speak to me.  I cried like any heartbroken child would.

The next week at school, my English teacher (Vice President of PotP) approached me about my scores.  "Your writing is terrible," she informed me.  "You received the worst marks, ever, in the history of our club.  I don't even want to look at you right now.  You will never be a writer.  Never.  You should give it up.  Do something you're actually good at, like math.  Spare yourself the embarrassment, and don't write anymore."  Then she walked away, red tresses flowing behind her in the cryptic winds of the hallway.

My heart was in my shoes.  It was beneath my shoes.  It was dripping in rivulets down through the dirt to burn up in the core of the earth, never to be recovered.  I cried, right there and quietly through the rest of the day.  I swore off writing.  I packed up all the stories and ideas I was working on, clenched my jaw and gave up.

Less than a week later, the insomnia started.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Shorty Before Bed

I would like to take a moment out of my day to point over to my sidebar there and ask you to notice #3, 5, 7 and 9 of My Pledge.

There is no new content today, as I spent my allotment of "writing time" poring over the suggestions of my editors-in-writing.

This is a very, very, very mission critical thing for any writer to do.  If you do not have at least 3 people read over your manuscript then read very carefully.


Someone in that group is bound to catch at least one detail you missed.  If they do, it's one less screw-up the world knows you made.

Here's to making a story all it's meant to be.  Cheers, editors!

Curing the What Ifs...? (or: How I Learned My Insomnia Could End), Part 1

I know I had kind of a negative post yesterday, so I'm sorry about that.  I think every writer goes through it at some point.  I also believe bad writers don't, and that's why I haven't enjoyed a number of books I've read in the past.

I don't work a high-end job (even with my fancy college education).  I deliver pizza.  Most of the people I work with freely admit that they use books only for the purpose of even-ing out that short leg on the dining room table.  But, as a matter of social politeness, I ask them about their kids/pets/cars/spouses/that thing they mentioned last time we talked... and they ask me about my book.

In general, I am thinking about three things: 1. Food.  (I love to eat.  And read.  And eat while reading.)  2. My family (love you guys!).  3. My book.  But, I can think about these three things, because I have discovered my own personal cure for the What Ifs.

I mentioned my co-workers, because when they ask me about how "that book thing you're working on is going" and I say something along the lines of "I broke 30k words yesterday"... it kind of kills the conversation.  I often get uncomfortable or shocked reactions to the progress in my writing.  I've had them say, "I don't think I could put one hundred words together" and I think to myself, "You couldn't write a paragraph?"

That paragraph was 75 words, by the way.

They also ask me questions like, "How can you think up these things?"  This puzzled me.  For a long time, I thought it was something anyone could pull out.  It's not hard for me to turn a mundane situation into the extraordinary.  I call this the What Ifs.  You take a situation and then you say, "But what if..."

Here is an example:
A man is going to work and is waiting on a subway platform.

Okay, so now let's think of some What If statements.

A man is going to work and is waiting on a subway platform.
What if he notices that his train, which runs on a very exact schedule, is two minutes early?
What if he steps on that train anyway, believing it to be his?
What if, once through the door, he finds himself not on the train, but in a forest?
What if he turns around and can still see the platform behind him?
What if the door closes and he's left in the jungle?
What if he's stepped into an alternate dimension (or: through an alien portal?)
What if his technology (cellphone, laptop, ect) don't work?
What if they DO?
What if they become magical!
What if, magical, they allow him to summon demons????

This is my thought process.  It took me about two minutes to do that, because I can only type 90wpm.

That's how my brain works.  I constantly have these kinds of thoughts racing through my head.

What if, when I go to pay for my groceries, there's a snake in my bag?

What if, that elderly gentleman coming down the street were to stop and shake my hand?  What if he told me he knew my grandfather in "The Orange"?  What if "The Orange" meant the CIA?

What if that payphone rang?  What if the voice on the other end told me it was God calling?

What if that boy ran out in the street after that ball he's kicking?  What if an angel saved him?  What if I saw it?

All the time, these things go through my head.  If I don't have some sort of outlet they gradually get louder and louder until I am awake in the early hours of the morning, begging for sleep.  I had to find a cure.  I'll stop here for now, and append a {Part 1} on the end.  I'll talk about my cure in {Part 2}!  To be continued :)

Part 2

Dragging Frustration

Pardon this rant. 

I've written three chapters in the past two days.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that's horrible, but I don't feel so happy about.  When I broke 20k, I thought over and over, I only have 30k left!  That's easy!

But now I'm really in the mire of the story.  These chapters are more and more important as the book progresses.  A few days ago, it really, really switched to the action.  These pieces need to be just right.  Now, looking at my almost 34k work, I think, how will I finish the next 16k?!?

It's so close.  I'm so close!  But, my writer's panic is flaring up (a real condition, I'd wager!).  What if it's not good enough?  What if it's not as good as before?  What if NONE of it's good!  (Cue exit of hair follicles).

I know I am probably psyching myself out.  I know my As-written-editors are clawing at me to get the next chapters.

Just gotta breathe.  Just gotta finish.

Fun Fact: This will be my first finished for-pleasure work since 2005.  I have well over a dozen beginnings of other stories, but I've really stuck with this one.  Almost, almost to the end.  Just gotta breathe!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why It's So Easy

I read an update from the kindly Mr. Aaron G. Niz about the speed of change, and how easily the print world is shifting to digital.

I'm 26.  My mom taught me to read when I was 3 years old and I never looked back.  I remember, the summer before I even started kindergarten, laying on the couch with my huge compendium (Run, Spot, Run!) of Dick and Jane stories, and a dictionary.  I came from a single parent household and after the 4th word I asked my mom to explain to me, she handed me the dictionary and said, "If you really don't understand, then ask me!"  Maybe it was a tough way to do it, but I love a good challenge.

I can still picture that grumpy old water heater radiator under the window.  Outside, down the incredibly sharp hill (you couldn't walk up it if you wanted to, especially in the winter) was one of the main avenues through Cuyahoga Falls, 2nd street (one way only, please, at least 3 wrong-way accidents a year).  Car brakes squealed because that light changed fast.  People sometimes walked by, chatting.  The air was hot, city hot, but a steady breeze somehow always flowed in the window, disrupting my pages.  My mom's bitter old six-toed calico cat would glare at me with venom when she got in the window.  But, reminiscing aside...

I have a history with books.  I love them.  I love how they feel.  I open them up and smell the pages (usually when no one is looking).  I always smiled to see the indentation of my books when I had them in a bag.  You can always tell which of my books I love the most because I invariably eat something with tomato sauce and spill it on the inside pages.  I have two bookcases, but still not enough space in which to lovingly display all my titles... yet, I got my hands on a Kindle as fast as I could.

I have a number of reasons for this.
1. Foreign Life
When the Kindle came out, I was living and teaching English, in Japan.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to get books in English from Japan?  I paid over $30 for my copy of Atlas Shrugged.  No book could be gotten for less than $10.  (You complain about $8 paperbacks?  YOU pay $23 for Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader For a Day)  The biggest bookstores I went to had, at absolute MOST, about 100 titles for sale.  Most of them were English Exam books, basically, classics.  I lived in a port city of over 2 million people.  Do you know how many books my library had in English?  Ten.  I had already read nine of them before going to Japan!  I couldn't use Whispernet in Japan, the servers just don't connect.  But, I could buy anything I wanted on my nice American credit card, with no currency conversion fees, and deliver it to my own computer and Kindle via magic (aka: technology).

2. Physical Distress
I will probably have permanent bowing in my back from the number of books I carried around as a child.  I would easily throw three, 500+ page books in on top of all those heavy textbooks because, "Just in case!"  Just in case I get stranded on a desert island for a month, on my bus ride to school?  No, just in case I finished one, I wanted some choice what to read next.  I almost never have less than five books that I am currently reading.  I love to read!

3.  The Drool Factor
Let's face, the Kindle is really freaking cool.  It's lightweight, compact, convenient, and even though I read in every spare second of the day, with wireless off my battery lasts over 2 weeks.  I am what is called a Functional Nerd.  I have a personal firewall that let's me restrain myself from commenting that what you just did was a very Leroy Jenkins thing do.  I don't have to remind you that there are 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary, and those that don't.  That I also happen to know all the original words for the theme song of TMNT and can probably name a number of anime characters on sight... doesn't mean I do these things!  I can have normal conversations about weather, food, animals, my job... but that other, more interesting stuff is always in there.  Part of me is a technophile.  Having a Kindle strokes something fundamental in my being, and I love it for that.

I absolutely love to read.  I read everything, even things I don't want to.  I read signs, labels, nutrition facts, receipts, annoying snail mail spam, every printed word!  If it's in my hand, I read it.  (Thank you for spam filters, by the way.)

I also love to write.  While my Kindle will never smell like a book, or give me the satisfaction of turning a page, and will sometimes run out of battery... it will also never drop a bookmark, bend a page, or soak up tomato sauce.  I can slide it easily in with my other things.  I can wow my friends with it.  I can review my own writing with it.

I absolutely believe digital is the future.  I believe digital is already the now, just not enough people have realized it!  World's going to get away from you folks, better stay trendy where you can :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Photo Finish (But, I'm the Only One Racing)

Yay, another 4am finish for me!  I love writing in the gloom of the really, really late night.  It's the time when the world is quiet, and you can argue about whether it's still yesterday because it's still dark, or if it's actually today because the clock says so.

I think I should give a shout out to my fiance for today, however.  I would have been content to do up a chapter (maybe two, the one I wrote first was a short chapter*)  I got a kiss on the cheek, an encouraging smile and a, "You have to write 3 chapters or 2,500 words before you come to bed.  Whichever comes first.  When you're done, wake me up and I'll rub lotion on your feet, because I know they're dry (stupid winter).  Good luck!"

*A normal chapter is 900-1,300 words for this story.  This one was just shy of 700.

I actually clocked in at 7 pages (Word... Microsoft, not the street slang), 2,799 words and 3 chapters :)

I feel a little silly, because I actually said to someone today, "Yeah, I'm just finishing up the book I'm writing."  I think I should clarify, I am at least 11 days away from finishing this draft.  My goal is 50k words, and I aim for at least 1k a day.  Some days (especially recently) I pull out 2k+.  If the story isn't finished in 50k, then there are obviously more words that need to be added.

I wrote three chapters today.  I feel they had a punch at the end.  I feel really great about that.

Today I am most proud that I:
(ate sauerkraut for German good luck superstition fun times!) Met my goal imposed on me for my fiance :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Gears of 2011

I imagine that like many people I am patting myself on the back and saying something like, "This year is your year!"  I have my pledge written over there, somewhere on the right toolbar.  I'm determined to finish a work, self-publish it, and sell 1k copies by Dec. 15.

What makes me believe this?
1. The belief that my writing is good, and deserves to be read.
2. The certainty that when people read my work, they will be entertained - thus sharing with others.
3. The knowledge that if I am not successful in this, I will have some serious explaining to do to my fiance, about why I haven't come to bed before 3am for the past couple months.  (Answer: Finishing up that last chapter!)
4. The average work world and I don't seem to play very nice together, so I have to do something with my days.

Okay, scratch that last one, anyway.  I play nice, there's just no jobs to be had around here... other than what I do currently - deliver pizza.  I know it sounds selfish, but one day I wish a hopeful author can look at me and say, where was J.E.Medrick before 1,000 copies a month?  Delivering pizza!  Can you believe that?!?

My puppy wants me to stay home too, because it means more attention for him.

Despite all my bluster, I didn't get anything written yesterday.  I worked from 11am - 8pm (again!) and then we took down our Christmas tree, grabbed some food and went cosmic bowling with my family for New Year's.  To be fair: #6 of my pledge is more time with loved ones.  But I charged out a few chapters each the past couple of days and I have an idea for the direction of the next few.

I can feel time ticking away a little bit.  My goal was to finish up this novel early this month, and have it up for sale next month.  I want it to be the best it can, though.  I won't sacrifice quality for speed.  But, if I have something good to get down... I just have to learn to type faster than 90wpm!