Showing posts from 2011

Excuse Note 12/31/2011

Please excuse Sheila from working on her novel today as she is spending her New Year's Eve clearing the decks for the upcoming year.

The Ugly Handsome Man

So I was doing my  Three Daily Pages  (most folks might know them as Morning Pages, but I'm not always up that early) and this strange and crazy thing poured out that I'm transcribing here for future reference. If you've ever done any kind of serious writing, it's a safe bet you've had to deal with The Thing In Your Head That Keeps Stopping You From Writing.  There are a lot of names for it--Resistance, the Inner Critic, the Shitweasel.  I sometimes call it the NoMonster.  When I was writing this, the thing took on a persona I described as The Ugly Handsome Man.  (I picture him as a blond guy in a suit with a face that's just a little too . . . tight, in some way.) This is a speech given by said Ugly Handsome Man, laying out the strategies to my various gremlins for stopping me from working on my current novel.  I suspect these strategies may not be unique to my inner battles. I suggest a three-pronged strategy. Three lines of defense. I'd prefer

On Being a Writer

There's a riddle I learned from a book or a magazine when I was about eleven years old.  Goes something like this: A truck driver was going the wrong way up a one-way street.  A policeman saw him, but didn't stop him.  Why? The answer hinges on a couple of bits of linguistic sleight-of-hand.  One is the careful ambiguity of the verb--you can substitute the word travelling for going but cannot use the word driving .  Because the answer is, of course, that the truck driver was walking . The second bit of linguistic sleight of hand hinges on the nature of titles that are derived from verbs.   Truck driver is a job description and thus one can be called a truck driver even if one isn't actually driving a truck at the moment.  Truck drivers also do things like eat, sleep, watch television and, occasionally, walk places in between the business of driving trucks. To be known as a writer is a good deal more glamorous than to known as a truck driver.  When somebody asks y

Keeping Track

NaNoWriMo comes with some lovely stats pages so you can see where you are and where you should be by now in your wordcount.  But I realized that I'd forgotten my own personal tracking method which works as a surprisingly good motivator.  I figured I'd share it here (nearly halfway through the month--go figure) in case anybody else might benefit from it. My amazing high-tech word count indicator and motivation device consists of a sheet of graph paper from a pad I picked up somewhere for cheap and still haven't used up.  There are fifty lines to a sheet and forty-one squares to a line.  I mark off a block of forty-by-fifty and notch it at intervals of four along the top and intervals of ten along the side.  Each time my wordcount advances by twenty-five words, I put an X in one of the squares.  Four boxes adds up to one hundred words and each line of forty adds up to a thousand. Twenty five words isn't much.  Twenty five words can be something as simple as: &qu

The M.A.R.T.A. Write-In

So today, the crazy folks at NaNoLanta have organized the Mad Authorial Rampage Through Atlanta (M.A.R.T.A.) Write-In . I've decided to sign up. I'll be tweeting when I can ( @wonderbink ) with the hashtag #NaNoMARTA and if I can get to a WiFi signal, I'll be updating this entry on the fly. It starts near Lindbergh Station and ends near Dunwoody Station, which means I can catch the 5 there and catch it back home as well. Too perfect to pass up. I'd better start by packing up the laptop I'm typing this on, so . . .

Two Things That Happened on November the First

The first, of course, being the beginning of National Novel Writing Month , my favorite November pastime.  I have again submitted myself to the process and I'm about five thousand words into a novel called Dave the Wanderer and the Circle of the Sun.  Dave's a character who showed up in a notebook of mine about fifteen years ago.  Just now I'm getting to write about him.  He's a hell of a lot snarkier than I expected him to be. The second being the official publication (or maybe just the first day I was able to be sure it existed, I'm not sure) of Catbooks and Other Methods on the iTunes Bookstore.  I've been a bit bad about getting the word out, but I guess I'll have to become That Gal Who Won't Shut Up About Her Book On The Interweebs.  Apologies in advance for that. I'm about a day behind on my NaNo efforts since I've done very little in the way of wordcount what with grocery shopping and laundry and taking advantage of early voting.  How

Did You Hear That?

There's a sound that Apple programs make, a chime of three ascending notes, that signals that something has been successfully brought to completion.  It's the sound you hear when a program has finished installation or a CD has been fully uploaded to iTunes. I never knew that sound could be as delightful and terrifying as it was when it rang out to inform me that the upload of my book for purchase via iTunes had gone through. I resorted to using Pages to translate my words into EPUB format, which was a touch more aggravating than I would have liked and forced me to relinquish a great deal of control over how I wanted it to look.  But once I relaxed and put my emphasis on the words I wrote rather than my font and formatting choices, it fell into place a little more easily.  I can only hope that those willing to lay down the ninety-nine cents to purchase this wee book will be forgiving of any lingering twonkiness in the layout. I'm guessing that the folks at Apple will b

Breaking Into the Walled Garden

Catbooks and Other Methods has sold a handful of copies on the Kindle but I've been putting off doing any serious promotion of it until after I'd gotten the EPUB version up and running in the iTunes Bookstore. Unfortunately, I've also been putting off the "getting the EPUB version up and running" part as well. Part of it is my usual procrastinative tendencies but the main reason is that Apple is the opposite of Amazon in terms of ease of publication. Publication for the Kindle can be summed up in three steps: 1. Write a book. 2. Set up a Kindle Direct Publishing account. [Steps one and two can be done in either order, to be honest.] 3. Upload your book. That's all you have to do. This is both good news and bad news, as this means that the book you spent ages perfecting is sharing space with the sorts of manuscripts that would normally be languishing in a publisher's slush pile and the ebook equivalents of SEO spam. It takes a lot o

And It's Up . . .

Rather sooner than I'd planned, mind you, but I was under the impression I'd be able to set up a postdated release date for the Kindle. No such luck. It's up and I've just got to deal with it. You can get the Kindle version so far. As of this writing, I am still waiting to hear back from Apple about setting up the EPUB version in the iTunes bookstore. It's still something of an odd abstraction at this point, but I'll be posting soon about what I've learned from the process.


I've finalized the ebooks and sent copies to my publisher. Going to have a long and quiet evening at home to celebrate.

One Step Closer . . .

ISBNs have been acquired. I'll be meeting with the head of Lullwater Press this evening. (A fancy way of saying "I'm stopping by Mom and Dad's house for dinner.") Guess it's time to do one more grind and polish on the book itself. I'm sure there are folks out there who are curious about the nuts and bolts process of ebook publishing, so I'll do my best to keep you posted.

Closer to Completion . . .

The acquisition of ISBNs for my upcoming ebook has hit a slight snag, as it seems Bowker is confused by the fact that Lullwater Press previously obtained the ISBN for their first publication via LuLu and is now asking for a batch of them directly. I figure I can at least work on a final grind and polish while waiting for this matter to sort itself out. The next phase is going to have to be the dreaded M-word: marketing. It's not my strong point by any means, and certainly one of the reasons I steered clear of the very thought of self publishing for so long. Granted, by putting these out as electronic editions, at least some of the heavy lifting in the Letting People Know It Exists Department will be handled by large, scary corporations. But I know from experience that merely offering something for sale on the Internet is no assurance that anybody will notice, let alone make a purchase. Non-skeevy marketing in the Internet age seems to break down to three simple (if not always

Final Steps

I've given the words themselves one more going-over--by printing it out and scribbling corrections on the pages, funnily enough. It was a little trickier making the corrections directly in the HTML code, but I kept an eye on the results in my favorite browser and reloaded with each change to make sure I didn't bork anything. Unfortunately, I still did bork something, but it was undetectable until I converted the results into ebook form. Since I'd been using Calibre for conversion, I also took advantage of the ability to construct a Table of Contents that certain ebook reading devices can access. This requires using HTML tags at the start of each chapter and then telling Calibre which ones to detect and use accordingly. Initially, I'd used 'a name=' tags so I could also construct a working Table of Contents within the book itself. This did odd things to the TOC when I read it on my iPhone (it kept duplicating each chapter heading each time the book was opene

No Excuses

So a little HTML hackage in TextWrangler and some Calibre magic have provided my ebook with a workable Table of Contents that links directly to the chapters. The nice thing about HTML as an ebook writing medium is that you can check the formatting in short order by firing up your favorite browser and opening the file with it. This way I was able to test my tags and fix them instantly instead of loading things onto the iPhone and then finding out that they were borked. It's still a rather short work, some twenty-odd pages on the iPad, but this is a how-to book rather than a novel, so I can hope that its utility will make up for its brevity. I'm not planning on charging more than a buck or so for it anyway. I think the next steps are one last going-over for revision, finalizing the cover and then getting it set up on iBooks and Amazon. Yikes.

Ebook Progress

After a long pause and much procrastination, I've resumed work on hashing out my wee little ebook. A few things I've learned: 1. Calibre works wonders for rendering .odt files into something resembling an ebook. So far I've done a few test drafts that I've been able to look at on my iPhone and iPad in three different reading apps (Stanza, Kindle and iBooks) to catch and mend the flaws and glitches. 2. Optimal size for an ebook cover image is 600 x 800 pixels . This allows it to play nicely with the Kindle and looks fine on iBooks as well. My test cover was originally rendered as 6000 x 8000 pixels (slow going, but still functional) and then scaled down to fit. PNG looks better than JPG, by the way. 3. Get rid of the double space after the period. It looks funny when rendered on a page, even an electronic one. 4. Make sure there are no gaps before the page break, or you may wind up with a blank page in the middle of everything, depending on how the pages come o

Starting Where I Am

What I have so far: 1. A tentative title. ( Catbooks and Other Methods: Free Writing for Mood Improvement, Problem Solving and Making the Waiting Room at the Dentist's Office a Better Place to Be ) 2. A draft manuscript. I cranked out an early draft in Scrivener and later transferred each chapter to my Wonderbink blog as a series of entries there. 3. A potential publisher. As I've mentioned earlier, my parents set themselves up as Lullwater Press and my father is willing to add my little book to their catalog. I could also just as easily set up my own gig through LuLu and simply lean on their expertise in the process. Still deciding. I guess that's as good a place as any to start. Next step is revision, I think, as well as getting a feel for what I'll need in order to render these words into a booklike form.


Two and half years ago I wrote a blog post called The Wrong End which asserted that self-publishing was less than ideal for the aspiring writer. Obviously the landscape of publishing has shifted in the intervening time. Now that there are more ways to publish and distribute books in electronic formats than there were in 2008, one can set up shop as a self-publisher and not be saddled with boxes of books to lug around and wave in people's faces and you can have large corporations like Amazon and Apple do the heavy lifting of making your work available to the world. This doesn't mean I entirely rescind what I said previously about the hard work from the wrong end. The ease of distribution still doesn't mean that the hard work of polishing the work to be the best it can should be ignored. Even having the wonders of social media to tell the world about your book won't help much if the book isn't that good to begin with. But I am curious about the possibilities of eb

Possibility and Impossibility

So I've snuck Soft Places just under the wire for Open Door Month at Angry Robot Books . I had a month to perfect it but, true to form, I just put it off instead until there was no other choice. The thing I've come to understand about my tendency to procrastinate such things is that in a weird sort of way the part of me that puts things off is trying to protect me from the disappointment of failure. The imaginary victory of contemplating what you could have done can be pleasurable in its way, while the pain of genuine defeat is not one that anybody I know rushes to embrace. I came across a rather odd insight that has changed my perspective on a lot of things- -what I can imagine will inevitably surpass what reality can provide . This seems a bit obvious when attempting to become a writer of fiction, particularly fantasy-type fiction but it hit me that this doesn't just apply to stories but also to the imaginary conversations I have with people I'm on my way to meet


I have recently resumed the practice of a mere minimum of twenty-five words a day on my current project. (Again, the luxury of the amateur to slow things down to that level without anybody but myself to worry.) Usually a few more words get in before I set it aside to tackle the rest of my day. But what even that tiny effort does is get me in the regular habit of thinking about the thing, figuring out what happens next and how to get there. Last night I did a little bit of brainstorming and two stuck places cracked themselves open and a stream of ideas came forth. If this, then THIS, and, oh, what about THAT? It feels good to have that again. Even at a mere twenty-five words a day.