Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Selling Ebooks Directly to Your Readers

Author David Gaughran, whose blog is filled with interesting posts about the art (science?) of self-publishing, wrote today about Gumroad, a company that allows you to sell your e-books directly to your readers. I don’t have anything to publish (yet), but the concept is intriguing and I’m sure I’ll eventually try it out someday. Head on over and read his post.

Have any of you ever considered the idea of selling your books yourself?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Angry Birds Space is out for the Kindle Fire!!!!

Angry Birds Space is now out for the Kindle Fire! Yeah, I know I already said that in the title, but some people don't read blog post titles.

If you read my earlier post about the Kindle Fire, you know that my wife had to have the game immediately. She’s already blown through all the other versions of Angry Birds. Besides, it’s so easy to tap the screen a few times and have the game magically appear for your gaming pleasure.

Unfortunately, the Kindle went black in the middle of downloading the game and refused to turn back on. I tried plugging it back into the charger, but to no effect. I began to sweat. Was it the charger or the Fire itself? The Fire was less than three months old. What kind of warranty did I have? Argh!

Then I did what I always do when I’m feeling insecure. I went to the Internet. Sure enough, it didn’t take long to discover the Kindle occasionally requires a reset, which is accomplished by holding the “on” button down for twenty seconds. I did as the Internet commanded, finished installing Angry Birds Space, and all was happy around the house again.

Today I bought a backup charger – just in case.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Best Time to Write?

It’s weekends like this that make me happy when Monday rolls around. After two birthday parties for my son, attending a two hour Tae Kwon Do class to watch my daughter test for her green belt, and running the local Robofest computer club meeting (the big competition is next week!), going to work today seems like a breeze. And this doesn’t include the two chapters I critiqued for my CPs or the many hours I spent attempting to solve a major problem with my own manuscript. Not bad for a weekend.

I learned one thing this weekend. The part of my brain I depend on for writing works best during the morning and early afternoon. After staying up till 1:30 on Friday trying to fix my second chapter – with little success – I woke up the next morning and promptly solved the problem in less than thirty minutes while vacuuming the house in preparation for the first of the birthday parties. I suppose it could have been the act of pushing the vacuum around that set my creative juices flowing, but I doubt it. I always do my best writing during the early part of the day.

Too bad that all my free time comes at night.

So when do you guys do your best work?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing is a lot like Gardening

I’m not sure if it’s the aftereffects of the time change or not, but it’s not even eight in the morning and I’m already drinking Mountain Dew. Not a good sign.

Speaking of signs, it’s spring in Michigan. Okay, maybe that’s a bit optimistic, but the recent warm spell sure makes it feel as though winter is gone. I even spent a few hours this weekend cleaning up our garden. Here’s what it looked like afterwards.

It may appear to be a mess now, but just wait until summer!

While I was removing the two barrels worth of leaves that had buried most of the patch, it occurred to me that gardening is much like writing a book. There are certain steps you have to go through if you want your book or garden to be great.

First you have to lay the groundwork. Decide where the boundaries will be, purge the area of rocks and weeds, and decide upon your overall theme. Cottage garden? Shade garden? Fantasy? Romance? You have to know this before you begin.

Next you consider the perennials – think of them as the basic structure of your story. They will form the backbone of the garden. Around them you will add annuals – think of them as the smaller story details (characters, setting, sub-plots). They have to fit amongst the perennials in a manner that enhances them. Is there too much of one color in one spot? Will the annuals overshadow the perennials? Are you putting shade-loving plants in full sun?

It’s easy to stick words flowers together. It’s blending them together in just the right way that makes a great book garden.

Of course, once everything is planted, your work isn’t over, unless you’re one of those people who write perfect first drafts. No, you have to keep your words watered and fed, you have to deadhead the parts of sentences that no longer add value, and you have to keep pulling out all the unnecessary words (that, was, really, etc.) that keep popping up like weeds everywhere. If not, your CPs wife and neighbors will complain. A lot. You may even find that some of the flowers need to be moved to other sections of the garden in order for them to shine.

I think that’s about it for the garden analogies today. I’ll keep you updated on the status of the garden over the year. I should warn you, however, that I’m not what you might call a true gardener. True gardeners think of bright colors in the same way many writers feel about adverbs. Too much marks the gardener as an amateur.

But I can’t help it. I love adverbs bright colors!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Insecure Writer and Critiques

Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me most insecure as a writer this month? Something which I’m sure you all can relate to. Critiques of my first chapter just arrived in my Inbox.

My very first critiques.


It’s not the first time someone has read this chapter. I let both my wife and daughter read them before I sent them out to my shiny new CPs, but neither my wife nor daughter have any experience with writing and I knew they’d say nice things no matter what I wrote. But taking the words you’ve sweated over for months and sending them to complete strangers, people who actually know something about writing fiction, can be a wee bit intimidating.

Fortunately, both CPs had some good things to say about my chapter. They also pointed out plenty of errors as well, which are fixable, along with suggestions which I think will make it a better chapter. However – and you knew there had to be a however, right? – one of them mentioned something that took me by surprise.

You see, in this opening chapter, I tried to show that the MC is a nice guy who is disorganized and easily walked over by others. (I did all this by showing instead of telling by the way, a fact of which I’m proud.) Unfortunately, one of the CPs came away with the impression that my MC was lazy, messy, mean, and a liar. Someone she found unsympathetic.


Worried, I read back through the chapter and, sure enough, I saw her point. Without knowing his backstory the way I did, it was easy to construe his actions in a way I hadn’t intended. Since I knew his backstory, his actions made sense to me, but the reader wouldn’t understand any of this until they had gotten deeper into the story. Definitely time for some editing!

I’ve scarcely begun the journey to being a writer and I already know the importance of critique partners.

Does any remember their first critiques?

Friday, March 2, 2012

What Program Do You Trust Your Manuscript With?

Now that I have critique partners, I’ve discovered the importance of document format. I don’t mean the formatting of the manuscript into standard critique style (double spaced lines, left justified, etc.). I mean the format in which the document was saved.

I use Word for most of my editing needs. I’ve heard some people like Scrivener, but Word suits me fine and I have the added advantage of being able to edit my WIP pretty much anywhere I have access to a computer. And my CPs use Word too, which makes things convenient. But we don’t all use the same version of Word. I know this because one of my CPs sent a chapter in docx format, which Office 2000 -- the version on my wife’s computer -- does not recognize. I have access to other computers which can handle that format, so it's no problem, but it made me think about this whole concept of compatibility.

You see, my manuscript has been edited by more programs and on more computers than I have characters. I believe my very first chapters were conceived on an old laptop which ran Word 97 (or some suitably old version). Since then, my poor manuscript as been edited on Word 95, Word 2000, Word 2002, Word 2003, Word 2007, and Word 2010 -- all depending upon which computer I'm sitting next to at the time. I’ve edited it on a Linux-based computer using Open Office in Word compatible mode. I’ve even started editing chapters on my Kindle using QuickOffice, which can be a bit problematic as older versions of Word often crash when presented with QuickOffice edited documents, unless I run them through newer versions of Word first. In short, I find it amazing that I haven’t had more compatibility problems.

Needless to say, I constantly make incremental backups of all my chapters, just in case.

So which programs do you use to write your novels?