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It's Alive!

...coming to you from a new (to me) computer that is at last up and running!

More later. :)

Still Here!

The days are flying by now.

Saturday the truck will be loaded. Sunday we drive away. Tuesday we begin living in Colorado.

Between now and then, there is much to do, though not so much as to be crazy-making. I'm glad I took the slow-n-steady approach. Not only have I been calmer and, frankly, happier with the whole process, I've had an incredible amount of time to enjoy the company of folks I know around here. Dev is a tad more panicked, as he didn't realize just how long it would take to pack his memorabilia-packed room, but he'll make it. :)

Our poor pups are the ones most freaked out, and Tanner is actually the worst of the two. She is attached to my side, sometimes whimpering for reassurance, which is totally opposite of her usual Warrior Princess persona. I think she's fearing a repeat of what happened with her previous home, when the owner moved in with family and surrendered Tanner to the shelter.

Alas, there's nothing I can do to explain to Tanner that she's stuck with us forever. So we just keep cuddlng her whenever she reaches out for reassurance, and giving her all the love we can.

And I have a laptop! A friend here had one not being used and passed it on to me. I did a happy dance. :) I'm not going to bother setting it up before the move, though. But once I land in CO, I can hit the ground running--a good thing, considering the projects requiring my attention.

And... well, that's about all for now. Other than, "I'm moving," there isn't much more to say other than I miss being social with y'all!

Still Here!

I haven't even attempted to start my poor last-legs laptop for a few days.

I have my Kindle, and am doing my best to keep up with everyone here. Commenting is at a minimum because I'm ridiculously fumble-fingered on this touch keyboard thingy. (Insert cane-shaking) But I am around -- Twitter is easiest -- and I so look forward to really catching up with folks by the end of August.

At the moment, I'm taking a little break from everything. Dev -- still on the edge of being sick -- asked if I'd drive him to Gen Con since he'd already paid for his ticket. I'm not sure if my doing so makes me a good mom or a bad mom, but there ya go. So while he's at Gen Con, I'm enjoying a little lunch on the Indiana State Museum terrace overlooking the canal and Medal of Honor memorial, wishing I'd brought something to take pictures with, and doing a bit of writing while breathing. That sounded much better to me than paying money to fight crowds and sit in conference rooms.

In the meantime, packing is progressing, revisions are being performed with old-fashioned pen and paper, and I have a mere eight teaching days remaining before I quite literally hand over the keys of my dojo.


The Latest on Breath of Stone

We are closing in on a draft worth showing to other people.  This is good news.

And yet, as you know, I’m readying to move over a thousand miles west of my current location.  I’m wrapping up my karate commitments—working with upcoming instructors on their teaching methods, adding more private lessons—investing additional time with the remaining wellness clients I’ve had even though I no longer run a practice, and trying to at least tip my hat to eighteen years’ worth of relationships.  My son and I are working to complete the final testing for his high school diploma while he works his last weeks and manages car repairs.  And at some point, I should actually pack.

Just to make things interesting, my laptop is crashing at random moments.  It always reboots, but since it’s a kajillion years old, I’m surprised every time it successfully does so.  A replacement computer isn’t in the cards until after the move, alas.

All of those things are bad news in relation to how quickly Breath of Stone will reach your hands.

And that truth, my darlings, makes clear my biggest learning curve as an indie author: accurately estimating the time any given project requires me to create.  Three times out of three, I’ve given you an estimate.  Three times out of three, my darlings, I’ve been wrong.

So… the answer to “When will Breath of Stone be published?” must now be, “When I know the novel will not disappoint you.”  Really, I could slap something together in the next couple of weeks.  But I believe delivering a substandard novel on time is far, far worse than delivering a solid novel late, and your positive enthusiasm drives me to give you the best.

The first first draft for Breath of Stone grew long.  So, so long.  So very long, I found myself rushing and cutting and cramming the story into something akin to a bad 90-minute TV adaptation of a multi-volume series.

And I was only two-thirds of the way to the end.

The solution I chose?  Change where Breath of Stone will end, set aside a chunk of chapters for what will become Book 3, and go back to the beginning to reshape the novel.

Y’see, when a writer tries to put too much story into too little space and/or time, something’s gotta give.  We end up with simplistic relationships because we can provoke a response in a reader by using a cliche or two.  Motivations seem unrealistic because we have to cut the 200-word dialog exchange that enhances a character’s flaw or goal.  Action feels choppy because transitions are pulled out.  Or—my own pet peeve—the book ends a heartbeat after the climax, as if achieving victory is harder than facing its consequences, so there needn’t be any words expended on resolution.

That’s not the novel I want to write.  I want to give you the novel that has in it what made Sand of Bone an enjoyable read for you.  I can’t do that if I’m cramming for length or time.  I’m just not good enough yet, I suppose, to turn out lovely story in the midst of life-chaos.  I wish I were!

I suppose you’ll just have to put up with me–rather, I can humbly request you put up with me!–until I master this learning curve. :)

In the meantime, here’s what I need to know from you:

Do you want preview chapters?  These would go to newsletter subscribers first, then be posted on a link-only page at the website.  These would be draft quality, and subject to change, but it’s sometimes fun to get a preview of the upcoming novel and to see what happens between the writing and the publishing.

Do you want to know more about the research pieces that go into the story, perhaps including notes and comments from folks I’ve consulted with?

What other things sound interesting?  I must admit, I’m not much of a “Let’s hold a contest!” gal.  But I’d love to have more discussions, and I’d love-lovelove to post developmental and editing examples using writing samples (voluntarily submitted, anonymous or otherwise, and I’d toss my own into the mix if requested as well) to talk about choices, shaping a scene, and delivering emotional verve.

Breath of Stone is coming.  So are the next two novels in the series.  If those continue to make readers happy, there will be two more.  After all, I cannot very well write novels about the fallout of intergenerational conflict without at least glimpsing what the next generation will do with the problems created by the current one!


If you’d like to sign up for that newsletter I mentioned above, click here.


Dichotomy Is Easy, and Easily Dismissed

Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books.

Or, “What I Learned Upcoming Writers At 4th Street Want To Know About Indie Publishing.”

Last weekend was for 4th Street Fantasy, and not even the thief who stole my driver’s license and debit card on Saturday could dull my overall enjoyment.  In addition to attending great panels and having fantastic writerly conversations, I took the opportunity to discover what writers—published and about-to-publish, new(er) and up-and-coming—want to know about indie publishing.

Y’see, SFWA’s new VP Maggie Hogarth recently talked me into working with the Self-Publishing Committee.  (It was the Hopeful Jaguar Eyes that did it.  That, and I didn’t want honey badgers sicced on me…:)  Having so many smart writers at 4th Street offered the perfect chance to gather some helpful information.

The writers I spoke with were not new to the craft or the business.  They were all well beyond the beginner stage in terms of craft.  Most had at least one SFWA qualifying sale and/or comparable experience in invitation-only workshops.  They’re the writers on the verge of breaking in, not the writers who are still figuring out the basics of writerly terminology.

Read more...Collapse )

Everyone—information providers and information seekers—gets to decide if they want to feed arguments, justify choices, or educate writers.  You can’t very well do all those things at once anymore.  The more successful and talented writers don’t much like sifting through bluster in the hope of finding facts.

Dichotomy is easy.  But conversation isn’t all that challenging, either.  The longer we permit “versus” to dominate, the greater the disservice we do to talented writers.

Besides, the more interesting discussions have already moved forward, and this is a good thing.

Remember to sign up for the not-to-often newsletter!


I Am At 4th Street

I am having a great time. More when I can actually put thoughts into written words.

Crossposted to Blair MacGregor Books

Another day, another piece of writing on self-publishing that makes me want to *headdesk.*  So I’m going to put this post here and, in the future, simply point to it when yet another one of those articles pops up.

Truth: There is no “real cost” to self-publishing, just as there is no “real cost” to trade publishing.  Anyone who tells you there is intends to sell you something, validate their own choices, or is simply unaware a range of options exist.

What is the “real cost” of feeding a family of four for a week?  What is the “real cost” of a college education?  What is the “real cost” of owning a home, taking a vacation, adopting a pet, raising a child, buying a car, having someone do your taxes, finding the perfect gown for an event?

The answer to all those is, “It depends.”

And too often, someone comes along to assert “It depends” must be followed by “the quality of work you want.”

That someone is wrong.

Writers new to self-publishing often take a Google-tour of sites claiming to give them “real” information.  And some writers, thinking they’re being helpful while defending their choice to not self-publish, have written compelling pieces that place the cost of putting out a single novel somewhere between ten and sixty thousand dollars.

Those are not helpful articles.  New writers who stumble onto them and believe them are likely to either give up entirely or become an easy target for scammers.  Heck, after reading an author dropped thirty thousand dollars to self-publish “properly,” who wouldn’t believe an Author Solutions package of ten grand sounds like a fantastic deal?

(And if you’re not familiar with Author Solutions and the support it receives from major publishers and imprints, start here and here.)

In most cases, cost is assumed to be the same as quality when one of two factors come into play.  In the first instance, cost matters if money is considered to be a measure of personal worth (see “Protestant Ethic”).  In the second, cost is used as a proxy for quality when one isn’t accustomed to or comfortable with cost comparisons and negotiations.

I once paid nearly $2000 for a gown.  People at the reception in Washington D.C. complimented it.  I once paid $65 for a gown.  Never in my life had I received so many compliments, and this from a Beverly Hills crowd.

So if you’re a new writer, here’s the deal:  You do not need to pay what large trade publishers pay to get professional results because—and this doesn’t get mentioned often, for some odd reason—you are not paying to retain employees, warehouse product, or maintain expensive office space.  And frankly, you’re not paying for exclusivity.  You are paying a contractor to provide you a professional service.*  You are paying for that service one timePeriod.

How do you find professionals who deliver great results at the price point you’re looking to pay?  Use the same method that used to be touted to writers in search of a compatible agent: check the books you like.  Well-produced indie titles will list their publication team—cover artist, designer, copyeditor, etc.—in the front matter and/or the acknowledgements.  Best of all, ebooks usually contain a live link to the professional’s website.  In very little time, you can create a targeted list of professionals whose work you like alongside the approximate cost of their services.  Easy-peasy.

If you’re an established trade writer thinking you should say something about self-publishing, here’s the deal: Read up on successful self-publishing members within your own professional organization.  SFWA recently opened its membership to self-published writers who meet the same income standards as trade-published writers, and many long-standing SFWA members fully embraced self-publishing long before.  Just a small bit of reading and discussion will reveal that the professional experience and focus of those who primarily self-publish differs from those who might self-publish a small project or two on the side.  They can give you actual numbers, based on multiple projects.  And if you have a question about self-publishing, it’s easy to ask.

For some, custom artwork provided by a Certain Name is critical to seeing their final product as “professional.”  Those folks will pay a premium for it.  For others, it’s essential to pay Certain Name for a developmental edit to shape their story for reasons of craft and/or confidence.  Those folks, too, will pay a premium.  But premium is a choice, and should not be presented as a necessity.  Telling new writers—and established writers uncertain if they should step into self-publishing—that they must spend a pile of money to be professional and spend every moment on insurmountable tasks associated with publishing is a swift and efficient way to put a lid on the number of writers who’d otherwise be able to engage with enthusiastic readers.

In fact, it’s kinda mean.

It isn’t realistic.  It isn’t “harsh truth.”  It is a narrow band of experience, based on a different business model, that’s erroneously touted as universal.

I’d much rather see us reach out with accurate and up-to-date information on the range of costs associated with self-publishing.  That’s the way to realistically and immediately support diversity, to give fellow writers the knowledge needed to take advantage of options and avoid scammers, and to expand the readership for everyone.

So at the end of the day, the truth is pretty straightforward.

The real cost of self-publishing is what you pay, after researching your options, to get the results you want.


(Next week I’ll put together a post in response to the “You can’t become a better writer unless editors reject you repeatedly” post I can wriipoint to whenever that meme pops up.)

*I’ve heard the argument that paying below Big 5 rates for artistic and editorial services harms professionals accustomed to making their living at their trade.  While not unsympathetic to that viewpoint, I do find it a tad offensive when directed at the one professional in the publishing business who has forever been told they shouldn’t expect to make a living in the biz.

And Then I Stared In Shock

As most of you know, I've spent the last year or so dealing with the fallout of deteriorating hip dysplasia.  For the most part, daily life isn't deeply affected--evening stiffness, a bit of a limp when I'm tired, and an occasional wince-worthy pinch if I step wrong. It's my martial arts training that took the biggest hit. Multi-hour sessions of intense training are a thing of the past, as are sharp sparring matches, most kicks above the knee, and anything that requires lots of torque or pressure on that joint.

Considering all that, I'd pretty much given up on testing for my Sandan rank (aka third-degree black belt). Yes, I could perform the material... if I could spread my demonstration out over a few days. But an hours-long high-intensity test? Erm, no. Not only was it doubtful I could get my hip to hold up for that long, I was certain I didn't want to create more damage than I could properly recover from.

And it totally bummed be out--even moreso because I'd been on the verge of testing way back when my elbow dislocated. The complete healing of those ligaments overlapped with the decline of my hip and... well. That was that.

Thus you can imagine my shock and my weepiness when, after I ran the belt promotion for my own students, my teacher announced my promotion to Sandan.

And, unbeknownst to me, my adult students had put together a little celebration for it, too. Cake, drinks, everything for all the students and parents. I came home with little red-icing fingerprints on the back of my gi from kids hugging me after cake. :)

So. There it is. Sandan. Me. Whoa.


Update: Breath of Stone

My darlings, there is indeed forward movement!

This week and next week are for major structural revisions.  We’re talking quite major here.  Were this an architectural project, I’d be doing something akin to replacing spiral staircases with glass elevators, and installing fireplaces in place of heating ducts.  Sure, it would be relatively simple were I just changing the artistic renderings.  But elevators and fireplaces require the installation or creation of all sorts of things that’ll be hidden behind panels and walls, and its the hidden things that make the obvious and visible function at it’s best.  That’s what has consumed my time.

Plot is easy.  Story is hard.

If I do it properly and well, if I take the time to do it right, maybe the reader won’t notice.  Maybe it’ll look effortless.  And I want it to seem that way.  I want the story to capture and resonate.  Yeah, I put in little connections and hints and call-backs, but I’d prefer they work without distracting the reader with their presence.

I don’t want to be a clever writer (which is good, because I am not clever).  I don’t want to be a writer-as-character in the story.  I want the story to be for the reader.

So.  The tentative schedule goes something like this:

Between now and next weekend, I need to retrofit the existing manuscript.  This includes stripping out a subplot that not only wandered into the hinterlands but tried to drag the main plot with it, replacing those chapters with what will actually work, and reordering some of the remaining pieces so they fit better into the structure.  I estimate it’ll take about 20K words of new material.

Then I really want to take another week to make one more pass before sending it along to beta readers.

Then I shall send it to my beta readers.  I suspect I’ll do a great deal of compulsive cleaning and packing around that time.

Then I fix All the Things.

Then I get a proofreading, and fix All the Other Things I screwed up while fixing All the Things the first time.

Then I format.

Then I send it out into the world!

Newsletter subscribers will get a release-date heads up–and access to a discounted price at Amazon*–before I make the general release announcement.  (How do you get the newsletter, you ask?  Why, you can sign up right here!)

And once it’s out there in the wild, I will again throw myself into packing and cleaning, which will likely distract me from the nail-biting wait to see the early reviews.

Thank you for your patience and encouragement, my darlings.  I promise the next one won’t take nearly so long to get to your hands.

Yes, I did say the next one. There will be more.  Hee.

*Why only Amazon?  Because when I make pricing changes, Amazon responds in a timely manner.  Other retailers and distributors take their long, long time.  Amazon’s response time is measured in hours, other measured in days and days.

May's Mundane Miscellany

Inspired by the lovely blue of Stephanie Charette, I decided I wanted to play with some color. Alas, I can't get in to my favorite hair gal for a couple weeks, so it will have to wait. Besides, she's getting some sort of new product in and wants to experiment with it first. I'm not sure if I'll keep my hair auburn and go with burgundy ombre, or dark brown with deep purple ombre.

I don't know if I'll need to walk into a more conservatively professional environment for consulting/teaching by September, so it needs to be something I can trim off, if required.

On the other hand, I'm moving to frickin' Denver--far away from the Land of Limits and Laments. There, purple hair is no reason to point someone out on the street unless it's too say, "Cool hair!"

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I want the purple.

When I told my son I was going purple, he told me he'd checked into getting some deep blue in his hair, but opted to save the money for a con he's attending next weekend instead. When I told him I thought the blue would look awesome on him, he said, "You know, some people can't believe you don't freak out over stuff."

Apparently, the list of unbelievable things that don't freak me out include tattoos, frank discussions about sex and attraction, staying up until wee hours, cussing, and having different opinions.

The last one brought me to a full stop. It is amazing, among my son's age-mates, that a parent tolerates--nay, encourages--kids to have independent opinions. Contrary ones, even! And it is sad that it is so.

Around here, I can honestly say it is not religiously and politically driven. Truly, my parents--my father in particular--are extremely conservative and regular church-goers. But they raised their daughters to challenge the world, not mold themselves to it, and they offered themselves as our earliest quintains in verbal jousts. Some topics were touchier than others, and differences in opinion didn't mean we didn't have house rules to follow. But our very thoughts weren't expected to align with our parents!

No, around here, the drive to conform and carry on is instead cultural--as deeply set as the assumption big-city living is inherently immoral and leaving town will result in heartache. Conformity is its own high virtue.

I've sat here for the last half hour considering the words I just wrote and wishing I didn't have to leave my young karate students behind.

Last week, I told the students in my women's class about my upcoming move. To say I was unprepared for the emotional reaction is an understatement. We ended up going out for drinks for two hours after class. I keep making mental notes of things I want to see these women achieve, or groundwork for achievement I want to see in place, before I move.

During regular classes, I catch myself calculating when this or that student is likely to be testing for their black belt, and wondering if I'll be able to travel back to sit on their review boards. I wonder where they'll end up in life, and I hope there will be someone to remind them they have choices and options and can ask questions of smart people and never have to apologize for dreams that don't fit in the confines of a small town.

The most insidious "inspiration" quote I've heard used around here is, "Grow where you're planted." It's often on posters alongside pictures of a single flower blooming between cracks in a sidewalk, or on an expanse of parched earth, or some other such appropriately challenging environment.

Yes, yes, I understand it's supposed to be about acceptance and inner peace and doing what you can where you are. But it's a pretty screwed-up message to give people who are in toxic, stifling, and abusive environments. It's basically saying, "Look: you had no power to choose where you were born and raised, and you have no power to go anywhere else now that you're an adult, so you might as well just make the best of your crappy situation and get on with doing what you can until you die right in the same place."

Or, perhaps, "You're screwed, but it's immoral to want anything more."

You know what would be better? "Choose where you want to grow." Then you can have all sorts of wonderful conversations about choosing rich soil, the right amount of sunshine, and good companions for optimal growth.

And I doubt that scrappy little flower bloomed all alone in the crack of a city sidewalk so it could be lauded from afar as a shining example of tenacity and humble virtue. It would likely prefer a bit more soil and little less trampling instead.

And, perhaps, a touch of purple hair and transplant.


Blair MacGregor

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