Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving forward, not noveling

Yes, it's been a while since my last post. Sporadic is the name of the game here.

2009 was such a "meh" year overall. I'm thrilled we've put it behind us. And that's all I'm gonna say (here) about that.

Whilst I have not been novelling lately, I have also not been simply letting time fly by. In fact, other than a short book binge over the Christmas holiday, I have been reading much less than usual. (I haven't been sewing either, for an entire month, although I'm less pleased about that as I would like to make some progress on the UFO pile.) There's a chance that before 2010 gets much further underway I will catch up with a half-baked intention to note here what I've been reading, but it's not on the agenda today.

I would be novelling if I felt even the tiniest spark of inspiration, but I don't. I do feel inspired to be pushing forward on other fronts, including:
  • Long overdue and much needed overhauls (major, huge, time-consuming) of two ancient (in internet years) non-fiction websites that produce -- or used to -- a decent slice of our income pie. It's way past time to ditch the static web design and embrace the simplicity and flexibility of WordPress. I'm psyched to be embarking on this, but feel compelled not just to reformat the same old same old, but to take a step back and reenvision the totally of each site, how the info is presented, and to ask myself what I really want to be doing with all this stuff now, today, 2010. Ideas and inspiration are flowing in delightful abundance, but oh, man, it's a big job. Plus, I want to create from scratch some new "bonus" ebook offerings to sweeten the restructured deals. Haven't even started on those, although I know what they will be. Wish I had any kind of budget for outsourcing, but this is purely a DIY effort. Most hopeful, dreamland estimate is I'll be where I want to be on the first (smaller) of these jobs by the end of April. The other re-launch, while greatly desired and a very good and necessary thing, may be delayed until some other stuff gets underway as well. No need to bore you with details. And no, I'm not saying what these sites are, as I'd prefer you hold off for just a little while and visit when the new versions are up.
  • Converting my non-fiction titles to Kindle and eReader format. You'd think this would be a piece of cake, but it is a HUGE undertaking, as these books are a long, long, long way from the "straight text" format of a novel. My PDF layouts are replete with mutliple layers of subtitles, call-out boxes, diagrams inset into text, bullet lists, "action steps," journalling exercises, etc.: all the stuff that does not convert automatically at the touch of a button. After some trial and error I have found that the only acceptable results come the hard way, from extracting each text block from the original PageMaker (I'm still using my original dinosaur edition of that software, 'cause it does what I need it to do and not upgrading is free) files, converting to plain text, then converting to HTML. This would be easier if I'd had any knowledge of HTML going in, but I didn't, so there's a learning curve there, too. It's not a speedy process, although the first one is almost done, and subsequent titles will go much faster now that I know what I'm doing. My perfectionist tendencies are running rampant on this one, and I'm letting 'em do their thing, having read a few Kindle titles that had egregious and easily remedied errors and I want to avoid as many of those quality-control issues as possible. My end results will probably not be perfect, but I can promise they will not be sloppy!
  • Tentatively, slowly, incrementally building a vision of next non-fiction projects. These, too, are long overdue. More about those later. Much later. Like maybe sometime before the end of the year if I'm lucky later (see bullet points above for why this is not yet a front-burner project).
  • Getting ready to make 2010 the year my non-fiction micro-mini publishing company goes digital only. I've already ceased reprinting paper copies of two of my five titles. A third was never offered in paper edition from the get-go (although I will be making that option available to readers through or equivalent as site relaunches get underway). Two others still sell well enough at Amazon (my only paper outlet, I've never courted brick-and-mortar stores) to continue periodic short-run reprints, but I hope to discontinue those by the end of the year as well. No promises (I might, possibly, consider the possibility of keeping the one top-seller going in TPB into 2011, but would prefer not to), but that's the vision.
That's plenty to be keeping me busy. Plus there's the usual ongoing, time-eating admin stuff. Mental note to self: no matter how excited you are about the new year, and no matter how close you think you are to being "caught up" by 12/31, expect that the first two weeks of January will go to wrapping up the prior year. So, that's been done, but about half my useful time each day is consumed by fun tasks like reconciling ClickBank pay period reports and processing purchase orders (are you snoring yet?).

Speaking of Amazon, the Interwebs are all a-chatter about the pulling of Macmillan titles over pricing disputes. Plenty has been said about this already, and the debate will likely continue, but let me just say that Big Publishing has resoundingly demonstrated the depths to which they have plunged their heads up their butts. Sheesh. Talk about clueless.

Um, Macmillian, hello? Are you listening? NO ONE WILL PAY MORE THAN $10 FOR AN EBOOK! Lots of folks don't even want to pay that much! So heads up: even if you do win this one (my money's on Amazon) and can set your own pricing, you WILL NOT SELL EBOOKS for $14.99. So where's the victory there, huh? Huh?

So, the real reason I have done nothing over the last few months about pursuing agent/publishing deals for my finished novel is that Mars has been in retrograde and I take that seriously. But now, with this dodo-dom kind of idiocy going on, I am starting to reconsider my long-held position that I would never self-publish a novel. At this point the prospect of signing with a big publisher of the Macmillan ilk feels like putting my life savings into buggy whip futures. Not so appealing.

Yeah, the publishing world is in turmoil. But I'm with Joe Konrath on all this stuff: business as usual ain't gonna fly. I'd a thousand times rather be out there on the moving edge of change than betting on buggy whips to make a comeback.

Friday, December 11, 2009

NaNo Dud Confession

If you're wondering what happened with NaNoWriMo this year, it was a dud. For nine days I valiantly slogged through to the word count goal, and I never once, with any of those 10K+ words, got anywhere close to a glimpse of a drop of inspiration.

On Nov. 10 I woke up and thought:

1) If this write-til-you-have-a-breakthrough-and-gain-momentum thing were going to work for me this time around something should have happened by now,


2) I've been at this for nine days and am not having any fun at all, so why the frack am I putting myself through this?

Continuing to turn creative writing into what felt like a horrible punishment seemed like a waste of time I could be spending more pleasantly reading, or sewing, or working on one of the many in-progress non-fiction projects on my list, or catching up on the endless backlog of bookkeeping, or maybe even doing some laundry.

So, I bailed, feeling grateful for once that I am still a "pre-published" novelist and don't have an editor breathing down my neck or a contract that forces me to write to someone else's schedule.

I do believe there's a lot to be said for persisting in the face of writer's block, but I wasn't so much blocked on a work in progress as utterly and completely uninspired to do any kind of creative writing at all. Maybe all the stars were misaligned in my chart. Maybe it was the other distractions. Whatever is was, creative effort has to come from some kind of inspiration, and when inspiration is lacking the way to woo it back is to go do something else, preferably involving a good dose of fresh air and moderate exercise.

So, no NaNovel produced this year. But I'm back to my morning Pilates practice (which I had somehow dropped for about two years) and I'm going for walks again now that a bout of rainy weather has eased up, and those are both good things.

I do want to work on a new novel. Really, I do. I can feel that itch. But if one thing is clear from this failed NaNo effort, it's that the story I was trying to write isn't what I should be working on right now. There's another story out there, waiting for me to find my way to it. When I do, I'm gonna have my own private WaiNoWriMo here on Wainaku St. It's not gonna be this month, but maybe in January???

Monday, November 9, 2009

Falling Behind

One week in (okay, it's 11/09, but I'm rouding down and calling it a week) with NaNo and I am falling behind: have lurched past the 10K mark word-count-wise, but am in dire need of inspiration and ideas. Still hoping to slug it out with the word count and see what pops up during the process, but even if I hit 50K it sure isn't gonna look anything like a novel. I just don't seem to be in the groove this year, and am now distracted by news from home about a health challenge that has taken a deeply scary turn for the worse. It's hard to feel creative with that lurking in the background. Perhaps if I had a plot worked out I could focus on a specific scene and write my way into not thinking about the bad stuff. But staring at a blank page, feeling sad and worried... nuh uh, not working out so well today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ready, set, go!

Nov. 1, and NaNoWriMo begins again. I'm already procrastinating working up a giddy enthusiasm as I tank up the caffeine reservoir. 7:25 am here in Hawaii, which means most of the rest of the world has cranked out their first day's word count by now. I don't mind starting out "behind" because on 11/30 I will have (apparent, though not actual) extra hours to finish. My great plans to have some kind of story line in place by now fizzled and are lying in a dessicated heap by the side of the road somewhere. I do, however, have a premise, and I did finally manage, over the past couple of days, to get curtains made and up in my office. This may sound like a low priority, but with seasonal sun-shift southward, glare has become a problem here on my trusty computer screen. The eye strain and splitting headaches that have started to crop up after a long morning at the desk will not help with the NaNo thing (or any other desk-related thing), so taking a couple days to get "make curtains" off my to do list was worth it.

I'm going to go pound out my day 1 word count now, starting with a killer first sentence.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ants in my pants

I'm getting Kindle: whooot!

And it's so bugging me that, having convinced myself and DH that it will be a useful (deductible!) device for ourselves and our business, and having worked up enthusiasm for the "new book in 60 seconds" thing, I now have to WAIT for it to ship! (Word to the wise: don't order something you want now over a holiday weekend, unless it's an ebook and you already have the reader).

It will be late in the week, or later, before my new toy lands in my mailbox here in Hawaii. I feel like a little kid staring at the Christmas gifts under the tree, with a week to go before the big day. Ogling an emailed order confirmation is not quite as much fun as shaking a nicely wrapped gift box, but at least I get to browse the Kindle store, think about which books I want first, and contemplate what level of weekly/monthly ebook indulgence our budget will support.

Purchase #1 is going to be Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White because it's been over 10 years since I last read it and I'm overdue for a repeat visit. I have a paper copy, purchased at Borders a week ago with said overdue reread in mind, but the print is ludicrously tiny, and the paper quality so thin and awful, that I've set it aside as incompatible with my middle-aged eyes. Which is another reason DH and I decided to go for the Kindle: adjustible font size.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I had a dreamlet, just before waking this morning, that I was reading a [blog post? tweet? email? Facebook update? - don't know, doesn't matter] from someone crowing about her delightful first day of NaNoWriMo, and how she was thrilled to have so quickly cranked out an awesome word count. In my dream I realized it was already Nov. 1, and National Novel Writing Month had begun without me. Not only had I forgotten to get started, I still had no idea what I was going to write.

Gee, you think maybe my not-so-subconscious was delivering a wee kick to the patootie?

What a relief to wake up and realize it's not yet October, and I still have a month left to gain some glimmer of an idea for where I want to take this next novel.

And I did feel comforted when my sister pointed out that dreaming I'm slow to get started is a lot better than dreaming it's Nov. 30 already and I'd missed the whole thing...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I Did This Summer

You already know that I moved. That was the big time-energy-money-attention monster that ate the first part of the summer. Since my last post I also:

~ Caught up on many bookkeeping/admin tasks. Much of my time goes to that, but it's not really worth mentioning here. Don't know why I've even typed this much about it.

~ Ate too many Hurricane Cookies, leading to thrice-weekly morning workouts with Jillian.

~ Renamed my "pre-published" novel: now "Lethal Blossom." Too soon to say how well that name will stick, but I'm liking it well enough.

~ Consulted my wonderful astrologer about an auspicious day to send out query letters to my most-desired agents list: turned out to be Aug. 17 at 10am, so I twiddled my thumbs and tweaked and retweaked and retweaked my letter/synopsis until I had to just stop looking at it.

~ Sent out query letters/etc. to said target agents on most-auspicious time/date, most by email, a few by snail post

~ Got three top-speed replies back: "Sorry, we're so busy with our current clients we don't look at submissions unless they've been blessed by the Pope, Stephen King, or Janet Evanovich." Such is life. I don't need 10 agents fighting over me, just one who really likes my stuff. Seven remain unheard from as of this writing, so that's still wide open.

~ Sent off for an entry form for the 2010 "Malice Domestic" competition. If no agent is delerious with excitement about my potential by Oct. 1, I'll give that a go.

~ Finally got around to joining Facebook.

~ Retrieved and reviewed my NaNoWriMo novel from 2005 -- the one that got set aside so I could write what is now "Lethal Blossom" (LB1)to which NaNovel '05 is the sequel. Much has changed during the writing of LB1, and much of NaNovel '05 is headed for a deadly encounter with the delete key. Fingers crossed there's enough left to give me a jump-start on a complete draft of the next one (working title "Lucky Bamboo" - LB2).

~ Got a Wordpress theme to use for my future author site. Don't have much of a clue yet what to do with it, but I'll be playing with that this fall when I need a break from working on LB2.

~ Downloaded a bunch of photos from Fotolia, for potential Wordpress site use.

~ Looked for free, interesting fonts online to use for Wordpress banner, maybe some headline graphics. Got as far as AbstractFonts, which is totally groovy, and only downloaded 37 of the 1019 in the "handwriting" category, which I think counts as remarkable restraint. It's trickier than you might think to find a font that's attractive and readable while also whispering "humorous mystery." Horror novelists have all the luck, as there are many fantabulous fonts that shriek of murder, mayhem, and madness. Not right for my stuff, though.

~ Oh, yeah. I also read a lot, as usual. And did some sewing.

Next up:

~ Try to remember how to install fonts so my font manager will recognize they're on the system.

~ Come up with some kind of a plot for LB2 before the end of October, in time for...

~ NaNoWriMo 2009. I may churn out nothing more than 50-60,000 (or more) words of drivel (it's happened before), but the group write-til-you-drop experience is too much fun to pass up.