Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday check-in: More on e-Publishing

Sometimes, regardless of our best writerly efforts, a dose of nasty self-doubt arrives. So I'm checking in to say that tenacity, perseverance, and sheer stubbornness are needed. As well as heart. Always.

My last two weeks have been a grand experiment in e-publishing. I can report the whole process takes far longer than I anticipated.

1) Is the project truly ready? Think write, rewrite, edit, re-edit, and then reread again. And I'm not just looking for typos.

2) Have the formatting guidelines been followed? As my mother would say, "Oofta!" Word puts hidden symbols in where I would least expect. Even downloading the Kindle template (which saves slower than a sloth in August) did not help UNTIL I saved my file in Wordpad and copied it over. Another wrinkle: Once the Kindle version was ready, I popped over to CreateSpace. Guess what: Another template to download AND another formatting session to go through. Only AFTER I completed this second formatting session did I learn I could have started with CreateSpace and created a Kindle version with one click -- after my CreateSpace version was complete.

3) Is that cover really copyright free? This question arises AFTER the writer is completely happy with overall design (image, font, layout, etc). Using someone else's image without permission is a simple no. Using a public domain image is ok -- according to Wiki Commons, if the original artwork is older than 70 years -- but NOT OK according to Wiki Art Gallery. Then, consider technical details:  Kindle liked my cover image because it easily fit one page. CreateSpace did not IF I use their cover creator because that template uses TWO pages (front and back). So, I now have a pretty blue ocean wave for the print version of The Mermaid Quilt and Other Tales. And that's OK, for this is a learning process.

See that picture of joy? That's my dear grandchild, Leda, just 11 weeks old. One hug from her and I'm ready to go again!

4) For print publication, is the final copy really ready? Preview is possible online, but paper copy is recommended for that final, final preview. And that's where I am, now awaiting paper copy from CreateSpace, due sometime the first week of September.

Than I revamp this website and jump back to work on the trilogy: revising Standing Stones or starting research on Rivers of Stone, while waiting for first reader feedback on Years of Stone. And then it's truly time to decide whether to e-pub or sub to small indie presses.

I'm sharing all this to build up to the reality of this Sunday check-in. I haven't written a word for two weeks. Not any words that move any story forward. I've made progress in every other area (reading about the writing craft, building a marketing plan, working on the e-publishing, participating in ROW80, and even critting on the NOVELS-L list of the Internet Writing Workshop), but not a poem, a story, or a plot outline.

I miss the writing.

Read the accomplishments of other ROW80 writers here

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weds Yahoo! I'm live on Amazon!!!!

The Mermaid Quilt & Other TalesToday was pretty exciting. The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales went live on Amazon, proving that pure dogged tenacity does work. Sometimes.

After waffling over whether I should or shouldn't e-pub, I decided to put up a collection of short stories and poems. True, I couldn't get two images included in the final document, but I WAS able to format to Kindle standards. My next step is to learn how to publish on CreateSpace so that IF anyone did want a paper copy, that is possible.

You can click on the image or the title to visit Amazon and "look inside" to read the first story, if you like.

This whole process has taught me so much about formatting. I still can't quite believe that my stories are 'out there' for others to read. Right now I'm feeling pretty darn grateful to everyone who weighed in on the cover. I love the results! Romantic. A little mysterious. Hopefully inviting!

Participating in ROW80 has been a useful process for me.  Not only have I met other writers and seen how they approach these twice-weekly check-ins, but people have been very generous in advice and in sharing their thoughts about writing. By participating, we write ourselves into a sense of community, and I appreciate that universal caring of craft.  But the writing comes first and the goals and weekly check-ins push me to clarify what I really want to do. So, thank you ROW80!


WRITING: I will reread Standing Stones and analyze it for revision (1 month). Still waiting for first reader feedback on Years of Stone. By the end of November, I'd like to begin researching Rivers of Stone.

READING: Each month The Writer and Writer's Digest arrive. Each month I dutifully read 10% and put the magazine in a safe "to read" stack. I'm challenging myself to read both of these magazines cover to cover and to use at least one article to strengthen writing or revision skills. Yes, I rip the magazine up and file selected articles by topic. But now I want to USE the information.

MARKETING: OK this is way more complicated than I thought. The least I can do is devise a plan -- this week.

PUBLISHING: Get The Mermaid Quilt up on POD through CreateSpace (maybe 2 weeks).

Quote of the day: "I wake up at 5 a.m., when very little threatens to distract me -- the hell if I'm gonna cruise around the 'interweb' at that hour when I'm giving up sleep." Jonathan Evison in "How to Take Your Fiction to the Next Level (The Writer, September 2012, p. 30).

How easily are you distracted by the 'interweb' when you begin writing?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Last Word on Covers . . .

The elusive cover floated just outside of my reach. Weds check-in brought lumps of coal (worthy and appreciated), but now I faced empty sheets of watercolor paper. Unused brushes. Expensive cover art that hinted at what could be!

And then Lee McAulay, a wonderful historical fiction writer from ROW80, suggested checking Wiki Commons for images in the public domain. And there she was, the mermaid for my cover! Of course, my editing friend from Oregon trounced me for using pedestrian fonts, BUT that only meant another several hours of trying this and that.

My goal remains to go live by the end of August via Kindle. Any comments re the cover are appreciated!

I can report that working on the Kindle edition of The Mermaid Quilt definitely triggered another, very different part of my brain. I have conquered (I think) the formatting, wrote the blurb, and have just the ISBN to figure out, the author bio for Amazon to write, and then the acid test of uploading and waiting to see how it all worked. This is not an easy journey, testing skills I didn't know I had -- with promises of more to acquire re marketing.

ROW80 keeps me focused. As we wind down through these last hot days of August, ROW80 challenges me to set monthly goals for September. And I'm dithering a bit for I'm between projects. Years of Stone (70,000 words, historical fiction set in 1840s Tasmania) will go out before the end of the month to potential agents. I have two months before the great disruption (month-long trip without computer), so what to do? The next book (Rivers of Stone) will take on the Great Pacific Nor'west, also in the 1840s, and involves plunging into lots of research, outlining, freewriting, in other words, starting from the beginning -- though I know my characters, setting, and have a few thousand words as starters.

What works best for you between projects?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weds Check in . . . and Covers . . .

Every day I'm seeing a few more leaves turning that pre-fall yellow, just at the tips of trees. 90 degree weather, but these hints of fall are here. And what am I doing this week but obsessing about covers.

So far, I've learned that the three key elements of a 'good' cover are 1) title really large and in different font than that for the author, 2) author also with large font (no room for modesty here), and 3) an eye catching image. Startling. Make the person want to 'open' the e-book. Dear hubby wants me to go with original artwork (no, no, no, no). Shutterstock has some interesting images.

Here are the two latest for votes, if you please.  And do you like either of the earlier covers better?

Dare I say that the formatting for Kindle is done? Yes!

Did I write that blurb for the back of the book? Yes! Only because of  ROW80 am I reporting progress for the Weds check-in.

Now to see what others have done -- and to wish everyone well for the coming week. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I fear no progress is being made until this cover issue is resolved.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday night . . . short and sweet.

As the first trees begin to yellow, just at their tops, and the quilting stores put out those rich orange and brown fabrics, I slowly realize we're heading closer into Fall. The ROW80 weekly goals really should be bigger picture goals, for an 80-day window, so by Weds, I hope to refine some writing goals that will take me through the end of the year (and snow).

ROW80 Update: These last few days I'm reading lots about Kindle guidelines, moving ever closer to e-pubbing. Argh! Those little Word codes are everywhere! But progress is being made. The edits are done. The sequence of stories is done. Decisions about the cover are in the works. A graphic artist offered to help, and I'm learning much as we go along. Of course, I did fall in love with a wonderful cover, but the copyright is not accessible. I can't even bring myself to put the picture here (the artist lives in China).  So it's back to the drawing board, literally. But if all else is ready . . . then what's a little picture?

I took this photo in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, a folk art mural of the holiday each February 2 that honors Yemanja, the siren goddess of the sea. All the stores close and the people walk down to the shore with little boats they'll fill with candles, flowers, and gifts of alcohol and fruits. They place the boats in the sea and sing and dance all night. The boats float out, the candles winking between the waves. All these celebrations very far from my keyboard, but I have memories of the music and the dancing. And maybe one day, I'll paint.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Weds check in . . . for Mermaid Covers

This week balanced moments of euphoria with dark thoughts. Well, maybe not that dark. I used i-stock as recommended by a writer from the helpful Internet Writing Workshop to find the perfect cover, only to discover that photograph I fell in love with would cost about $278. Not this time.

So my challenge to you, dear readers, is to give me some feedback. Which of these two covers do you prefer? 

The book is a collection of ten short stories (and a like number of poems) about mermaids -- historical, cross-cultural, gothic, and a tad of magical realism. 

Which cover grabs you, invites you in, makes you want to pick up this soon-to-be e-book?

The photos come from a summer trip to southern Mexico. I can't use a picture of my mermaid quilt without violating copyright, and truthfully, I have lost confidence in my drawing abilities, even if I can still paint large cartoons on walls to the delight of small children.

Now for this week's ROW80 Weds check-in, just 12 hours late.  

I can report steady progress. The edits are done entirely for Years of Stone. Gasp! Next week, I'll be reworking the synopsis and query and sending it out. Just two stories remain to edit for The Mermaid Quilt, the sequence of stories/poems is set, and I'm chopping out two stories that don't quite feel finished. Then I tackle Amazon's amazing guidelines for e-pubbing (yes, I'm using their template). 

Finally, I've had the chance to read other participants on ROW80. Not quite all of them, but enough to feel these are serious writers who, like me, are writing between other commitments. Yahoo! Unfinished work? A story to send out by Sunday.

Meanwhile, I shall hold my breath and hope for your reaction to these covers.
Just in case you wish to see what other ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sunday night musing . . .

August. Too darn hot! It's nearly 8 pm, time for a walk up the hill, through a quiet suburban neighborhood, past a tidy row of houses, too tidy for me, and then along a wetland where the ducks will gather on a greenish pond, tails up as they bob heads down for dinner. Each night the moon has risen a little fuller. Maybe tonight the moon will be transparent and a cooling breeze will lift my spirits.

Writing only happens very early in the morning, and so far, I've reached this week's goals for editing Years of Stone; I plan to finish the final section in the coming week. But I didn't touch the short stories at all, though I did find a wonderful story about a quilt made in 1887 (or so).

A tailor in Helena, Montana, sewed this hexagonal quilt with scraps from men's suits, ties, women's gowns both from the upper class and ladies of the evening. The quilt is gorgeous -- paper pieced, with yellowing newspapers never cut out, a few confirming the date of the quilt. Here's a picture of this treasured quilt. I want to write about this unfinished project with bits of cloth from so many lives, all intersecting in unexpected colors and patterns. 

What do quilting and writing have in common? Tenacity! A sense of purpose. A belief that we can make something that will be of use, perhaps of pleasure. Picking up a needle is soothing, the skills to quilt every bit as complicated as those needed to write. Quilts and words can comfort. The process of writing and quilting is every bit as rewarding as the final project; both are often made to give away.

Goals for the coming week, by August 13:
1. Finish Section 3 edits for Years of Stone.
2. Finish final edits for The Mermaid Quilt.
3. Read other participants in ROW80 and persevere.
4. Send out ONE story to an online market.

May your own writing go well.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Weds Check In . . . August 1

Crazy world out there. Bombs. Shootings. Road rage.Sometimes I think writing is a way to create a world that's separate from all that, though my story has darkness as well. What history doesn't? I'm buried in edits, slogging my way through, but encouraged by first readers' reactions, positive enough that I'm back on the fence, agent or self-pub all over again!

Still July went by in a flash. My little tiny baby grandchild (now 8 weeks old) has grown by a third, coos and gurgles, and nearly holds her head up most of the time, and I can change her diapers before she realizes what's happening! She's a tranquil soul, still blue eyes, and I realize that I named one of my characters for her before she was even thought of.

Today is also our anniversary. 37 years! That passed by in a flash as well. We're going to the Milk Bottle Cafe, a landmark here in Spokane that was built in 1935. According to Wikipedia, this representational architecture was "designed to build better men and women by making dairy products attractive to boys and girls." Ah, the innocence! We're going because their milkshakes are unforgettable and  they fry up the best bar-b-que hamburgers in town.

So, goal setting for the week by WEDS 8/5:
1. Complete edits and add one major scene to Section 2 Years of Stone.
2. Revise two last stories for The Mermaid's Quilt and Other Tales.
3. Do two CRITS for NOVELS-L on the Internet Writers Workshop and participate in ROW80.

Writing thought for the day:  What does a writer do when the scene doesn't unfold, the characters don't talk to each other, the conflict lies flat on the page like a pancake? (Sorry, still thinking about that Milk Bottle Cafe).

If I've worked hard enough, I jump on the internet to look for a FACT that relates to this scene. Maybe an image of a street or an old house. In my current work, old newspapers online are a gold mine of trivia for local controversies, street names (a sense of place), shops that are going out of business, governesses that need to be hired, confirmations of ship sailings. Sometimes I'll search for biographies of key historical people and read through where they were born, how they grew up, when they married. Often the wives (mid 19th Century) died in childbirth. Sometimes the husbands remarried immediately. Sometimes they never married again. I found a lovely image wandering through a museum. Somehow a prison door had been preserved and now was on display. Prisoners had carved graffiti into the wooden doors of the prison -- the outline of a ship, a year, the names of their sweethearts. Some lines were cut deeply, as if the prisoner had a knife; other lines were faint. Paintings, portraits, photographs of old buildings, city histories -- and an unexpected wealth of PDF reports, doctoral dissertations, studies, all help prime the pump. TIP: No matter how much you download or save on your trusty computer, please, please remember to back up your stuff!

And, sadly, that old standby, interlibrary loan, doesn't always come through with books that no one else (apparently) in the world wants to read. So never pass a used book store without checking out what they might have in your area! My most recent find, a lovely collection of aboriginal folktales, The First Sunrise: Australian Aboriginal Myths by Charles P. Mountford (paintings by Ainslie Roberts). One of these will prompt me to add something to a character, a memory from childhood, a recurring dream, maybe a night terror.

May your writing go well.