What I did on my summer vacation

AKA Adventures in self-publishing...

So a few weeks ago I wrote, edited, formatted, created cover art for, and published an e-book. Wednesday at 8:03 p.m. I posted that my social media and email were going dark, because I had an 8-hour challenge to complete. Sometime in the next hour I started a timer for eight hours and bought a stock photo that I just knew would fit the cover, because I loved it.

That's the cover art I ended up using, because I'd bought it and I ran out of time at the end. If I'd had another 8 hours to search stock photography sites, I might have done the cover a little differently.

Anyway. I've been working on an epic fantasy novel this summer, tentatively titled The Weather War. I know those characters, and I know several of them are good friends. I've even related a couple of "remember when" type stories in the first draft of TWW. But a couple of my favorite characters in TWW aren't getting as much screen time as I would like. Enter the 8-Hour Ebook Challenge.

Two days ago, my friend Laura sent me a link to the blog post where Joe Konrath issues the 8-Hour Ebook Challenge. I didn't have any idea what to do with it, but the notion sat in the back of my mind for a while, and I got an inkling of a plot idea.

I spent the bulk of those 8 hours writing. I drank a bottle of wine during those 8 hours (Sleepy Creek Vineyards' Three Amigos, for the curious) and listened to a heck of a lot of whalesong. Because magic whales.

Sometime around 2:30 am, I realized I really needed to wrap up the story and figure out how to format an ebook. Jane Friedman's Writing Advice Archive came in handy there. I used styles in Microsoft Word to create a filtered HTML file that I imported into Calibre. I used Photoshop Elements to create a cover, and then I spent some time figuring out Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Not a lot of time.

Amazon KDP actually makes it really incredibly easy for the author to upload her work. So sometime between 4 and 5 am, I finished formatting and uploading the file. I stumbled off to bed and slept for the next nine hours.

 photo StormsingerThumbnail.jpg

When I woke up...I was a self-published author who'd already made one sale. (Okay, so it was to a friend, that still totally counts!)

"Stormsinger" is available on Kindle. Regular price is $0.99, so it shouldn't break the bank. It's 8,400 words, and it gives you a little glimpse into the kingdom of Amethir, where I anticipate hanging out for many years to come.


Captain Arama Dzornaea thought she was just supposed to transport Crown Prince Vistaren Doth'Mara to meet his contracted bride. As the king's top privateer, she thinks she can handle anything. What Arama doesn't anticipate is storms out of season, an unruly stormwitch, and a strange witchery echo that puts Arama, her ship the Dawn Star, and everyone aboard smack in the middle of a mystery.

Red-shouldered hawks

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, where I work, is situated on 3.5 acres of grass and trees in the middle of Crawfordsville, Indiana. It's a gorgeous place to work, not only because of the national historic landmark in the middle of the grounds, but because of the the trees and crazy abundance of fox squirrels. And then there are the hawks. =)

We had a pair of red-shouldered hawks nesting in a tree on the grounds last summer, and we've been hoping like crazy they would come back this year. We know it's likely, but I'm feeling more confident now because we've had one hanging around for a couple of weeks. I think it's the male, scoping his old territory and defending it from any possible invaders.

I got some good shots of him today.

Here's my set of photos on Flickr.

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Restart and Reboot Yourself

Prompt: Take a line from a song that you love or connect with. Now forget the song, and turn that line into the title or inspiration for your post.

The song in question is U2′s "Unknown Caller"-–a song from their No Line On The Horizon album, which constantly amazes me with its depth and emotion, not to mention awesome music. I think one of the reasons this song so strongly resonates with me is this concept: "restart and reboot yourself."

Hasn't everyone felt, at some point in life, that a reboot is needed? I know I have. And for me, I feel like 2012 was that year. 2012 was the year I started an "issue" blog (separate from my personal blogging), got a job that uses my BA in History/Creative Writing for the first time in my life, turned 36 (which one of my Facebook friends pointed out is 6-squared, which is all kinds of awesome), and revised a good portion of the novel closest to my heart–the one I'm going to spend 2013 trying to get published.

"Restart and reboot yourself–you're free to go."

Yes, that's the appeal of a reboot–freedom. A fresh start. Something new. Going back to the essence of yourself, without all the junk that gets installed and downloaded and virused up over the course of daily living. Run a health check. Delete those unused programs and habits that are just clogging up the system.

"Shout for joy if you get the chance."

Go on, do it right now. Close your eyes and give a big old whoop of happiness. "WOOHOO!" Ignore the people in the cubicles around you or sitting nearby at the coffee shop. Forget that you're on the commuter train with standing room only. Don't worry about whether the dog is going to think you've gone insane. Just smile and make a joyful noise.

Done? Did you notice how it makes you feel? You can't make a joyful noise without smiling. You can't smile–genuinely smile–without it making you feel better. I'm sitting on my bed as I type this, my two cats chasing each other. I'm not unhappy, the word I would use is probably content, but I'm also not feeling particularly joyful. Until I shout.

Isn't it crazy? Making a joyful noise makes you feel joyful. Letting out a few loud woohoos has lifted my mood from content into something that feels energized and empowered and ready to create something.

I feel like I've restarted. Rebooted.

I feel free.
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Tired of winter

Really tired of it. Someday I want to live in a place where winter happens every few years. *G* The geography and climate of San Diego appeals to me, though it has far too many people. Maybe the desert. I could live in the desert.

I need to finish my novel. I also need to find a second job. I wonder if any of the gyms in town are hiring. That would give me access to a gym, which I also would really love to have. My arms are flabby, and it's starting to really bug me. LOL

Finished my first book of 2013. Patricia Wrede's The Far West, which I absolutely loved. Collapse )
Now I am going to sit and write. I really am. I mean it. >.>

2013 Reading List

So last year I read 64 books, 7 of them non-fiction. I can't seem to break that 10 non-fiction books barrier. Maybe this year. Of course, I did read a lot of white papers for work, and some of them were almost book-length. And I have been working my way through another non-fiction book for work, but I haven't finished it yet. Oh well.

2013 Reading List


Stymied by the climax

According to my novel outline, I’m 9 scenes away from finishing the novel revision. And I’m stuck at the scene that takes place right before the major showdown. I have to get Character C and Villain A to a certain physical location and set the scene for the showdown to come… And I can’t seem to find the right entry point to this scene. Character C is at the end of his rope, heartsick at what’s been demanded of him throughout the novel, and terrified of what he’s going to have to do next. And for whatever reason, I absolutely cannot find the right tone for him in this scene.

I’m going to make another attempt at the scene tonight. I spent last night setting up a new Windows 8 laptop and playing with Skype for the first time ever. (Skype scared me. It still sort of scares me, but I think I’ll get used to it.) It just occurred to me that I’ve set the computer up with almost all my necessary software–except Skyrim–without using a single disc. Technology blows my mind.

And I managed to get Christmas cards and presents in the mail today. This is an accomplishment, since last year my Christmas presents got mailed…sometime in the summer? Yeah.

So time to knuckle down and get to writing.
no excuses

Miserably sick

Have a wretched, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad cold. My sore throat has been so bad it wakes me up several times a night for the past week, and then there's the cough and sinus headache. I feel run-down and miserable, but I still feel like I should be making progress on the novel. I can't seem to manage much in the way of housework or Christmas-present making, so it seems like I should at least be able to sit at a computer. But it's just so darn hard! My brain doesn't want to process things.

I worked on adding info to my series bible, but for the most part I've been doing things like catching up on Arrow on Hulu and watching movies on Amazon Prime. I was pleased to find Thor and Captain America on the free streaming for Prime members, but sadly enough, Iron Man and The Avengers aren't free yet, and I can't afford the rental price right now. They're fun movies, but I can't get into them quite as much as I get into Batman. Maybe I really am just a DC Comics girl.

I've also been rewatching Escaflowne, which was the very first anime I ever watched, courtesy of [personal profile] slightlyjillian. I've discovered I still like it as much as I did then, and I still adore Dryden and Gaddes, which tells me my taste in men hasn't changed in 25 years. LOL Scoundrels and sidekicks, that's my kinda guy.

But I still feel like I should be doing some writing. *sigh*
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Backstory complete

I completed my backstory on Saturday, and on Sunday heard back with approval from my beta-reader. The story answered her questions, so now I have the opportunity to weave the backstory into my novel in several tiny snippets. I finished up somewhere between 21,000 and 22,000 words, which is a lot of writing to never see publication. But at the same time, it's invaluable to me, since it taught me so much about the characters and where each of them is coming from.

Of course, I'm not thinking about just ignoring those words. I'm considering the Writers of the Future contest, if I can tighten up the story enough to fit the word count. I think it's possible, because I always write really long on my first drafts of anything. That's probably a blessing, since I think it's easier to cut words than the alternative.

In the meantime, I'm back to work on the actual novel, have sent chapter 11 to one of my beta-readers, and am excited about moving forward again. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

Hijacked by Backstory

The novel revision has been on hold for a couple of weeks as I've been working on backstory for several of the characters. Not generic backstory like, "He had four brothers and two of them died and now he's the heir" or "She grew up north of the mountains and has never been in a city", but an actual event that took place three years prior to the events in the novel.

One of my beta-readers (the amazingly talented [personal profile] slightlyjillian) pointed out several opportunities where I could, instead of having Character A think Character B is a liar, I could have Character A flash back briefly to a specific incident that made him realize Character B is a liar. Similarly, when Character B is reflecting on what a loyal person Character C is, he could reflect on this particular incident where Character C proved his loyalty.

What has resulted is (so far) almost 15,000 words about a formative incident in the lives of five of my novel's characters. Three of them are main characters, two of them minor, and the relationships particularly between the three main characters is crucial to the outcome of the novel. In addition, I am absolutely loving this backstory and I'm hoping I can eventually turn it into something worth publication on its own, provided it won't spoil the events of the novel for people. (I don't think it will, though!)

Something I love about this backstory is that it gives me a chance to lavish a little attention on a couple of characters who only get namedropped in the novel itself. It also allows me to spend some time in a setting that was ruthlessly chopped out of the novel because the subplot that took them there was superfluous to the main action (and, frankly, my high-school attempt at a scene inspired by the Council of Elrond).

Another great thing about writing this backstory is that I'm learning new things about the characters that have been living in my head for twenty-odd years. That's always a good thing! And they're surprising me, too. I shouldn't be surprised, because their actions are entirely in character...and yet I didn't realize, for instance, that Character B had actually told Character A he would do a certain thing, before he ended up weaseling out of it. (Character A isn't necessarily wrong in thinking Character B is a liar!) And I didn't realize just how uncharitable Character A could be in his judgments of other people until I discovered that he would completely misinterpret something to fit his opinion of someone.

Anyway, it's been a great exercise, and I've been enjoying it. All the same, I'm looking forward to getting back to the actual novel revision. My goal is to finish this backstory today. I want this novel ready for submission by the end of 2012, and I'm running out of time!

I will be so glad to see November 7

Wow, hi LJ! *dusts off blog* How is everyone doing? I have been focused so much on work and novel and SWC blog that I have been almost entirely absent here.

I love my job. Every single day I go to work and feel like I have made a difference to my coworkers and employer, and that I have given an excellent experience to our visitors. I don't think there's any way I wouldn't like a job where the mission statement was to "celebrate and renew belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture." And one of these days, I'll even finish reading Ben-Hur.

About three weeks ago I swore off Facebook until the election was over. Too much vitriol from either side of the aisle, and frankly I was tired of losing respect for people I had always liked. Tonight I took a cool quiz at www.isidewith.com and, to no great surprise, learned that I side 76% with Barack Obama. (What surprised me more was that I actually agreed with Mitt Romney about...well, um, anything.) The website had sharing links, so I took a deep breath, bit the bullet and outed myself on Facebook as someone who's voting Democrat this year.

Of course, now I'm too cowardly to go read my friends feed, with its three lonely liberals. Ah, the loneliness of being a moderate. You may get to poke fun at both ends of the political spectrum, but you also have twice the number of people pissed off at you. *G*

Because of a request one of my beta-readers made, I've been spending my writing time this week working on an episode in the backstory of five characters. It's not something that will appear in the novel, except as each of those five people remember it from their various POVs. But the more I work on it, the more I love it, and I'm gaining all sorts of new understanding of these characters I've been living with for...um...over 22 years now. Well, most of them. Poor Ranulf, he didn't show up until draft 3, I think. *G* Anyway, it's fun.

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I made a miserable attempt at Camp NaNo this summer, which consisted of me signing up for it and promptly refusing to write for nearly two weeks straight. That led to some consideration of my novel-writing process, and I decided that, while NaNoWriMo is awesomely fun, I have learned all that it has to teach me at the present, and I really want to concentrate on finishing my current novel revision. So I'm setting NaNo aside for 2012. I may go back to it in future years, but not this year. NaNo taught me how to plot a novel, and NaNo gave me characters like Zeva and Edmund and Fithian, and I will forever be grateful that I discovered NaNoWriMo. But this year, it isn't in the cards.

In other news, still looking for a second part-time job. Retail and waitressing are out, unfortunately, because as much as I love my job, it requires a lot of energy for someone who is an introvert. I think adding a second job that requires too much interaction with the general public would make me a wreck. And in the meantime, I'm squeaking by financially. I had to borrow $10 from my dad until payday on Friday, but since that $10 is going to keep his and mom's cell phones working along with my own, I think that's okay. And one of these days I'll get around to selling my Gaiam balance ball chair and that Boonton ware I inherited from Gedna and have no use for.

A while ago Eowyn brought me a present, in the form of a not-quite-dead mouse. I'm not afraid of mice, but I don't particularly want them in my bed, so I carried her back downstairs (mouse firmly in her jaws) and put her in a large box. She proceeded to kill the mouse and jump out of the box, leaving the mouse behind to feed me, I guess. I think she's getting the hang of this hunting thing. :)