Archive for August, 2015

A Surplus of Spare Time

I don’t know what to do with myself, Squiders. The husband and the no-longer-that-small, mobile one have gone on a father/son sort of trip, so aside from some contract work (~4 hours worth) and taking care of the very small, nonmobile one, I have the whole weekend to myself.

It’s been years since I’ve had so little responsibility.

The problem is that there’s so much I could do. Here’s a sampling:

  • Writing Activities, including:
    • Write this month’s segment for my serial story
    • Edit a short story I wrote a few weeks back and get it ready for submission
    • Send out a round of short stories to various publications
    • Edit my first nonfic book; outline and start writing the next
    • Work through a flash fiction writing course
    • Brainstorm and outline a series of shorts set in my high fantasy trilogy world
    • Work on (and hopefully finish) my out-loud edit of my YA paranormal novel
    • Plan out the rest of the year in terms of writing goals and plans
  • Marketing Activities, including:
    • Catch up on an author marketing podcast
    • Work on tweaking the description/summary and Amazon categories for Shards
    • Continue putting together my email list
    • Figure out if it’s worth it to continue on Patreon or if I should move those benefits to email list
    • Work through various marketing books/posts/podcasts/webinars I’ve been hoarding
    • Continue poking Pinterest and seeing if I can organize it better
  • Non-writing Activities, including:
    • Catching up on TV, such as Doctor Who, Deep Space Nine, and others
    • Hanging out with friends
    • Getting back to my scrapbooking
    • Doing puzzles
    • Playing computer games
    • Reading

There’s probably more that I’m forgetting. Of course, I can’t get everything done, and I’m a little worried, with so much unstructured time, that I won’t even make a dent. They left at lunch time; this afternoon I’ve taken the car to the dealership (see previous post), picked up a friend’s share of fruit/vegetables from a local farm since they’re out of town, read 50 pages in my current book (The Devil in the White City), and did the final line edit on a short story that will be published on Sept 1. I’ve also half-started a gazillion other things, which doesn’t bode well. Oh, and listened to two and a half episodes of a marketing podcast.

So I need to break things down and focus. Because who knows when I’ll get the chance again?

Suggestions, Squiders? Anything I should do while I’m free?


GMC: The Swiss Army Knife of Writing Tools

One of the things I’ve found interesting as I spend more time as an author and communicating with other authors is what left-brained organizational processes different people employ. This is an interesting tool, and I thought people might like to give it a look.

Kobo Writing Life

Tools for Writersby Chris Mandeville

One of the best things I ever did for my fiction writing was determine what my main character wants, why she wants it, and what’s in the way of her getting it. Figuring this out helped me know my character better (obviously), but also helped me to plot more effectively, build tougher villains, raise the stakes, and increase tension in my story. And I accomplished all this through the use of one tiny but powerful tool, “GMC.”

Debra DixonI guess you could say GMC is the Swiss Army Knife of writing tools—compact, multi-functional, indispensable, and fits neatly in your pocket. I never leave home without it. And now you can have one, too. But it’s not sold for a low, low price via a very special television offer that’s only good for the next ten minutes. No, it’s available in abbreviated form here on this very blog, and…

View original post 1,015 more words

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Broadcast to Complain

Oh, Squiders. Let’s talk about cars. I have a 2011 Subaru Forester and, in general, I am very happy with it. In fact, I have been so happy with it that my sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and father have all gone out and bought Subarus since I got mine in December of 2010. I have just one major complaint.

Car Fender

It’s a ridiculous complaint, in the great scheme of things. The car runs. It does not leak. It gets decent gas mileage. But my particular trim level came with these textured plastic trim pieces over the wheel wells. Supposed to make the car look nicer or something. However, they don’t stay on. I’ve had to take the car in over and over and over just to get them replaced when they fall off, which is invariably every six months or so.

As you can see, the right rear one has fallen off again. For the second time this year. And, also as you can see, they leave behind sticky residue so it’s obvious that something was there that has gone missing. Ironically, the base model doesn’t have this madness, so I actually paid extra to be burdened with this inconvenience.

I’ve already been in three times since January for trim replacement. And the last time, the idiot who checked me in didn’t actually listen to me, so I sat for two hours before they even touched my car because they thought I was picking the car up later.

So in I must go again. However, I’m strongly considering asking them to just remove the damn things and clean up the residue on the side, because who has time for this eternal madness? (Not Subaru, which no longer puts this trim on newer models of the Forester.)

Still undecided on that point. Maybe I replace it yet again this time (it should be free, since it’s been less than a year since this piece last fell off), and I remove them the next time around. I can at least talk to someone about whether they would remove them for free (at this point, I’m wondering how much of it is technician error) and, if not, how much it would cost to free myself of this insanity permanently.

(On the other hand, my electronics system is also starting to die, at least the Bluetooth functionality. So I can at least have them look at that at the same time this time around, so that’s slightly less head-beating against the wall.)

Ever run into a similar problem, Squiders, where you’ve got a problem that is driving you insane through sheer repetitiveness? Recommendations on whether or not I should just pull the damn things off?

A New Way to Tackle the TBR Pile

If you’re like me, Squiders, (and I suspect you are to some extent) you have a ton of books sitting around, waiting to be read. Physical books, ebooks, books you were super excited for and yet have not touched, books your sister loaned to you over a year ago–books. Everywhere.

The choice of what to read next can be overwhelming. Do you want funny or poignant? Scifi, fantasy, romance, mystery, or something else? New book? Classic?

I think I’ve come up with a plan. I’m going to go shelf to shelf, left to right. I have three six-and-a-half-foot tall bookcases in my office, plus a fourth in the basement. I’m going to pick a book off the top, leftmost bookcase shelf, read it, then move down a shelf, and then again, until I finish that bookcase. One book per shelf, for now. And then on to the next bookcase.

It’s completely arbitrary and weird, I admit. And it might not work, because I have my shelves vaguely organized (though mostly by size and not genre) and there might not be anything on a particular shelf that sounds good at that moment in time. But organization, even random organization, makes me feel like I’m accomplishing things.

I started this morning (Tuesday morning, for you reading this now) with Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, which is a nonfiction account of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. (The top shelf is purely nonfiction.)

How do you tackle your TBR, Squiders? What do you think of my new system? Brilliant? Bizarre? At my current rate of 4 books a month, assuming I don’t read any library books or books I’m hoarding elsewhere (*cough*), it’ll take me 7 months to get through all four bookcases.

Library Book Sale Finds: The Kingdom Keepers Book 1 by Ridley Pearson


I’d like to preface this by saying I did not pick this book out myself; my husband noticed it while paying for our bag o’ books and stuck in the bag because he thought it sounded ridiculous.

First, some random info:

Title: The Kingdom Keepers
Author: Ridley Pearson
Published: 2005
Genre: Middle Grade (MG), oh, let’s go with Science Fantasy
Other Pertinent Details: Published through Disney Editions, and the “Kingdom” in question is the Magic Kingdom

Pros: Excellent pacing that keeps you entrenched in the action
Cons: More telling than I’ve ever seen in a book, significant headhopping, key plot details occasionally a bit muddy
Best for: Disney obsessed preteens who like an adventure story

Here’s the basic premise. Finn, almost 14, has recently been chosen by Disney to become one of their newest bits of technology for Disney World, a Disney Host Interactive, or DHI. The DHIs are holograms that walk around the park and help visitors out. However, now that the DHIs have been activated, Finn finds himself crossing over into his hologram self at night, where he meets an Imagineer named Wayne. Wayne tells him that the DHIs were created for a specific purpose, to be part human, part park attraction, in order to fight what he calls the Overtakers. Now, what an Overtaker is is a little muddy, but I think what it comes down to is that they are parts of the park (such as animatronic characters) that have started coming to life due to people’s beliefs.

Because believing in something makes it real, you see.

Normal people can’t see the Overtakers or some such (again, a bit unclear on this part, because it seems like even if it were animatronic pirates stealing cars from other rides, that that would be perfectly visible to all), so the DHIs are needed to fight them. The Overtakers, like their name implies, intend to take over the park, and eventually move on to the world beyond.

However, some Overtakers can already be seen/interact with the normal world, which is where I am confused. Maybe someone else can read it and explain it to me.

The prose is extremely clunky in bits, and it switches POV willy nilly (it’s almost always in Finn’s, but takes detours to tell you how other characters are feeling, or follows someone else if Finn is not currently interesting enough), but it does engage you, even though the premise is a bit silly and the plot points are confusing.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5, I suppose. Not terrible, but would not read again, and it’s going to go in the Donate to Goodwill pile unless someone else in the household wants to read it. I suspect I am far from being the target demographic.

My Google Fu tells me that there are now seven books in the series (of which this is the first) and a few short stories available. If this sounds interesting, you could be entrenched in Disney holograms for a few thousand pages.

Stay tuned for more library book sale reading shenanigans! And remember to sign up here to get more fun stuff in your inbox!

The Dark Truth About Editing

I learned something the other day that I’d never realized before.

Before we get into this, watch this short clip from the Simpsons.

Anyway, what I learned was that what we consider editing is not really editing. It’s really two separate processes: revision, and then editing.

Technically, when we cut things and move things about to improve content, we are revising. And when we check grammar, spelling, and punctuation, we are editing.

Now, this is admittedly nothing more than semantics. “Editing” has been expanded over the years to include most everything past the writing part of the process: revision, proofreading, and even formatting can be considered editing by publishing standards.

But I admit that learning this gave me a bit of a start. How was it that I, a professional editor of many years, didn’t technically know this distinction? How many other editors are also unaware of it?
It just goes to show that you can learn something new at any time. I know, at times, it can be easy to say that you know what you’re doing, that you’ve got nothing left to learn, and sometimes it can feel that way, when you see the same information over and over, but it’s always good to keep an open mind.

After all, who knows what will be the next piece of information to rock your world?

Ever learned anything that made you pause? (Writing or otherwise?)

In other news, Squiders, I’ve set up an email list for anyone who’d like to get news about new stories I have available, when I have contests or sales going, other interesting things, and occasionally landsquid. (As a bonus, I’ll also offer subscribers a chance to join another list that can get you stories and stuff for free!) You can join by clicking “Get updates!” in the menu bar above, or by going here!

The Dangers of Library Book Sales

Ah, Squiders, library book sales. Dangerous, dangerous things, aren’t they? One of our local ones, in celebration of Western Welcome Week, is having a week-long one where you can fill up an entire bag of books for $3.

Three. Dollars. For a bag of books! And they had a ton of old scifi and fantasy, authors I’ve wanted to read but haven’t gotten to because my normal library system doesn’t have them and they’re out of print.

(I also grabbed some mysteries because I love mysteries. Mmmm, mysteries.)

I come from a family of bibliophiles, and our local book sale was called the Whale of a Book Sale (I mean, it still is, but I haven’t been in forever), and they would take over the main building at the local fair grounds and fill it with books. My sister and I would indiscriminately go through the entire bunch, grabbing whatever had a cool title or a neat cover. Dozens of books each. I am still reading books that I picked up as a kid. I read one last month, in fact.

Of course, there are some who disapprove of such sales. These are the same people who dislike used book stores, because the author gets nothing from a resale of a book. The numbers don’t count toward their publishing record if they’re traditionally published and rely on such numbers to get their next book published.

As an author, I can understand that view. It would be nice to be able to get more money each and every time someone else paid for one of my books. But, on the other hand, I really really enjoy hoarding books and being able to pick up new books and authors that I might not otherwise. I have read some really excellent books that I might not have touched otherwise. I mean, I have also read some really strange and/or otherwise horrible books. But most have been good. And the hope is, if someone picks up one of my books, I’ll gain a new fan too.

(My husband misses the point. Every book he bought at the sale he checked out on Amazon first to see how they were rated. Where is the fun in that?)

(Also, I would recommend Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, which I picked up at one of those library book sales when I was younger and really enjoyed a few years ago.)

Anyway, it might be fun to do a segment here on the blog about the library book sale books as I get through them. So look for that in the coming months. I’m reading Lost in a Good Book (Jasper Fforde) and The Martian (Andy Weir) at the moment and I think I’ll pick one of the new books up  when I finish one of those.

Do you love library book sales, Squiders? Can you control yourselves? Ever picked up anything really excellent at one?

The Inside of the Writing Mind

Oh, Squiders. How do we writers ever get anything done? We cannot concentrate on any one thing. We certainly try, don’t we? We pick a project and say “I am going to work on this until it is done.” Meanwhile, we continue to work on other things outside of that. Sometimes more. Because we are all insane.

Let’s take me, today. It’s about 11 am my time. In theory, I am doing a final line edit of a YA paranormal novel so that I can produce submitting documents (query letter, synopsis, a list of agents, etc.) as my main project, after spending the last month working on short stories. I’ve been up since about eight. Here’s what I’ve done, writing wise, for the day:

  • Checked email for short story rejections. I have five stories out of the moment to various markets. Tuesday I received a very nice personal rejection from a pro market on a reprint story. Yesterday I received notification from another market that a story had made it to the final round of consideration. Today there is nothing, but something could show up at any moment! (One story has been out for almost a year. I should query that one, but I am afraid to because whenever I do, whatever story seems to be immediately rejected. I keep hoping if I wait one more week they’ll just accept it and I won’t have to bother. This is unhealthy and I am aware of it.)
  • Posted the newest sabotage on a writing game contest I’m running on one of my writing communities based off of Cutthroat Kitchen. The game is excellent and I’m a little jealous that I’m running it and not getting to play myself.
  • Wrote a long email to my co-writer on a high fantasy co-written novel that we’re working on. We’re making progress, but not terribly fast, mostly because, while we’re good on our individual characters and plots, we’re wobbly on the intersecting plot. This is the first time either of us have tried co-writing this type of story (the idea is to make a shared world that eventually other authors can also write stories in). Previous co-written stories I’ve done have been much closer on the individual parts, and myself and the other writer have alternated the writing, so we’re always in the same place. I think I prefer that, in retrospect. Won’t work with this story, alas.
  • Wrote out some plot notes for the edit of the first book of my high fantasy trilogy that I have been working on for literally half my life. The good news is that I think that I’ve got everything I need to fix all the problems with the story as is. The bad news is that I think I’m going to rewrite the book from scratch. I’ve already done that once, so I’m not ecstatic. However, seeing how the first draft was the first novel draft I’d ever finished, and that I’ve learned a lot more about editing since the rewrite (five years ago! Yikes!), it will, no doubt, be a million times better. And maybe–just maybe–finally done.

You’ll note that there’s nothing about my YA novel there. Yet. I’m a little concerned about the order of the first two chapters. Maybe I should send the first chapter to a few people and see if they would keep reading based on it. Yeeees. That is what I should do. Volunteers?

That’s just the writing stuff. I have marketing stuff flitting around in there too (like, I should set up my dang email list and figure out how to get it on my webpage) but I will spare you that madness.

Hopefully your brain is less chaotic and more focused than mine, Squiders. How’s your day been? Tips on focusing better? (Admittedly, I’m trying to just write down things for other stories as they occur to me so I don’t get too distracted with them, and sometimes that takes a little longer than planned.)

The Power of Talking Through a Plot Problem

We all know that writing is a solitary process, one where a writer stereotypically locks themselves away somewhere and bangs on a typewriter (keyboard) until brilliance comes out. Your story usually is between you and your brain (and your muse, if you go in for such things).

That being said, I think a lot of us yearn from companionship. I think that’s one of the reasons NaNoWriMo has been so successful. We like other writers. We like to talk about our stories. We like to know that other people have had the same problems, and hear what they did to conquer them.

And that’s why, I think, when you have the right audience, talking through your problems can be hugely helpful. Sometimes you need to look at things another way and another point of view is the perfect solution.

I have a (largely defunct) LiveJournal that I have used over the years to post information about the high fantasy trilogy I have been working on forever. I think only 10 or so other people have had access to it. But even the act of writing information out like someone might read it has help me solve numerous worldbuilding problems, from my magic system, to languages, to number of sentient species. It’s also helped with plot problems, such as the relationship between the main characters and how things had to develop to reach the final showdown with the antagonists.

Of course, the best person to talk to is one that is relatively familiar with your story. These people are the best next to your own brain to understanding what you have and where you need to go, as well as what your end goals are.

So ideally you talk to someone who has read your story, or is at least somewhat familiar with it through small snippets and worldbuilding. Barring that, someone who is familiar with and regularly reads your genre can work as well, because it’s less conventions to have to explain.

Tonight, at my storycraft meeting, I’m running a plot problem clinic which should prove interesting. Everyone’s to bring a problem of some sort, which the rest of us will then try to help them through. However, I don’t believe anyone is familiar with anyone else’s story and don’t necessarily write the same subgenres (my writing group is specifically for scifi/fantasy/horror writers), so it will be interesting to see if this is any help.

But who knows? Maybe getting those other subgenres into the mix will help add unexpected depth to the answers.

Do you have a friend you go to when you have story problems? Is it the same person every time, or do you have a range based on the type of story/type of problem?