June 30, 2011

You Just Made My Day!

Today is June 30. It is my self-imposed deadline for publishing Deadly Gamble. I get up at 4:00 in the morning and commence work. I have a lot of ebook formatting to complete to make my publishing deadline.

I uploaded the print files at CreateSpace on Monday, and watch the mailbox for my proof copy. After it gets here and I check it over, it's very likely there will be no changes necessary, and it can be published with the click of a mouse. There's only one detail I'm not certain is perfect.

My fingers dance over the keyboard and caress the mouse. The Kindle formatting is now complete and the files uploaded to Amazon. They have to be reviewed and approved before they will go live in the Kindle store. It may take 24 - 48 hours. I move on to the next stage.

More fast finger work readies my files for Barnes & Noble. A few clicks take me to the Barnes & Noble pubit site. There is a big colored banner across the top of my dashboard page asking why I haven't called them in reply to the email I didn't get from them. For unknown reasons, there's a hold on my account and I have to call them to get it straightened out before I can upload books. I called and left a voice mail.

I turn my attention to the formatting for Smashwords. I finish, and upload the files. They tell me the book is now available for sale at their site. I can't send it out to vendors like Apple and Sony until the files are approved and the book has an ISBN. Smashwords is out of ISBN's, but should have more soon.

It's noon, and there's only twelve hours left on my deadline. The book is going to be late. I'm falling asleep at the keyboard on two hours sleep. I'm feeling down, because I'm not going to meet the goal, due to those pesky "circumstances beyond my control". I still need to do the ebook formatting for the books I plan to give away for various reasons, but I will do that after a nap. I've now done everything I can, and make the two-foot commute from my office to my bed.

It's 4:00 in the afternoon. I am awakened by the third phone call in as many hours and decide I'd better get up and check on my books. Amazon is still waiting for review. Barnes & Noble still hasn't called.
I check my email before going to Smashwords to see if they have any ISBN's yet. Today's prize is sitting in my inbox. There's an email from Smashwords. Someone has already bought a copy of Deadly Gamble. My spirits soar. I'm not even finished publishing the book and some kind soul has bought a copy. I don't know who you are, but you just made my day. Thank you very much.


P.S. Deadly Gamble is available at Smashwords here. Other announcements will be made as formats become available. There will always be links on the book's page on my website along with cool facts about the book.

June 28, 2011

Anatomy Lesson

Part of understanding the language of fantasy comes from familiarity with the technology of the time period. Marsha Ward, a writer of westerns who read Tanella's Flight for us, taught us a lot about horses. This includes horses that are ridden and those who pull vehicles. We also learned much about the parts of those vehicles.

At the same time, she was amazed at our well-written description of clothing. We knew the names for the various items of clothing, how they fastened, and how to put them on. My familiarity with Elizabethan dress developed while I danced in a renaissance group. When you sew it and wear it, describing it becomes easy.

For those not familiar with coaches, I found a labeled photo for your education and amusement. This is an American Old West Stagecoach, but the technology didn't change significantly between the 1400's and 1800's.


June 22, 2011

Deadly Gamble Cover

It's getting so an author can't go out and play in the street without drawing a crowd! Well, not quite, but while getting the cover art for Deadly Gamble, it sure felt that way.

After the concept for the cover art had changed several times, we finally hit on the idea we wanted; a chalk outline on pavement, absolute proof in the entertainment world that a corpse was involved. The idea came late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, the pavement in the street outside was cool enough to lie on, and I took my adult daughter out into the street to be my model. She laid down, and I began tracing around her with a stick of white sidewalk chalk. When we were nearly finished, a car drove past. I ignored it.

A minute later, it came back, pointed the other direction. A woman got out, wanting to know how she could help. It seems her young daughter had seen my daughter lying in the street and was worried about her. We explained we were making a book cover, and everything was fine. They asked again to make sure all was well, then went on their way, satisfied they'd done their good deed for the day. We finished the photo shoot while giggling. We'd have a fun story to tell later. I put the pictures into the computer, and didn't bother with them, since it would be months before I was ready to make the cover.

June came, and I was deep in the production of Deadly Gamble. It was time to make the cover, but the artistic shadows from the bare branches of our tree made the pictures unusable. What I needed was photos without shadows, but it being June, I couldn't have my daughter lying on the hot asphalt at noon. We decided to re-shoot just after dawn, when there would be even lighting and cool asphalt.

On a Saturday morning, we put my daughter down in the street again and began drawing. Anne was down on her knees, tracing our willing corpse, and I was standing in the middle of the street making sure they didn't get run over. Two women came by, with that garage sale look in their eyes. They stopped and asked if my daughter was all right. We assured them she was, that it was a photo shoot for a book cover. They drove away, but didn't really believe us; about three minutes later, a police car came slowly cruising down the street. Fortunately my daughter was now vertical. The police car slowed, nearly stopped, and Anne waved him on his way. A minute later, the women came past again, obviously disappointed that we weren't being arrested.

These pictures worked out well. During the second shoot, I had taken a shot over Anne's shoulder as she wrote our name on the street. I intended to use it for the author photo on the back, and it was good, but our name wasn't complete enough to see what she was writing, so she asked to reshoot just the one picture.

Saturday arrived, and we draped our cooperative part-time corpse on the street again, and Anne started the outline. Just as I was about to snap the photo, a neighbor drove by and wanted to know if there was anything he could do to help us. It's hard to explain that it's a book cover photo shoot when you have a giggling corpse behind you.

Here's the finished cover, what do you think?

June 14, 2011

The Language of Fantasy

I've been blessed to have friends who are willing to be readers for my books.  I don't ask them to tell me what's right and wrong with the technical parts of the book, such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation, because I am capable of doing that for myself (most of the time). What I ask them to tell me is what works for them as a reader, and what doesn't. What's beyond belief, what's out of character, or if there's any places where they can't follow the story because I made a leap based on my knowledge of the characters that they don't have, and need more explanation on. All in all, they let me know what needs fixing in order to make my novels better. What I learn as I read their comments helps me not just on the book they've read, but when I write future ones.
Through one reader's comments, I just recently realized that there's a "language" of fantasy novels. This reader is an accomplished editor with many published books to her credit; mostly non-fiction. She apparently doesn't read much fantasy, because she doesn't understand the language of it. I thought I would share a few things to educate those of you who don't read fantasy, or have tried to read it and don't "get" it.
What makes a book a fantasy is usually one of three things: 1) it's set in a place that doesn't exist; 2) it involves animals or peoples that don't exist; 3) it involves use of magic or other supernatural powers. Other than that, it is simply a novel.
Many, probably most, fantasies, are set in either a medieval or renaissance time period. This gives the writer a set of customs, language, dress, and technology that is well documented that they can describe easily because there are paintings and resource materials available. Technologically emergent civilizations are based on the Victorian time period. Other tales are based on either Chinese, East Indian, and Islamic societies of the same time periods. All of these settings are somewhat familiar, because they are based on human history. It's very easy to make up a geography and political map, decide what time period and culture your group of people live in, and then go forward with your story. Any ordinary novel that is set in an entirely fictional place, especially if it includes a map inside the front cover, or has an established dating system not used on earth, is a fantasy.
There are certain well-established fictional people and animals you can include in your story, and with a little research, you can understand the mutually agreed-upon "rules" governing them: elves, dwarves, goblins of many sorts, leprechauns, fairies of several sorts, unicorns, gryphons, phoenixes, and so forth. Any ordinary book that includes one or more of these groups is a fantasy.
Any book involving the use of magic, witchcraft, mind-reading, telekinesis, or any other mental or physical power, including power learned through study is a fantasy.

June 07, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Twenty-two

The Doctor and Romana carefully calculated how long they had until Old Mrs. M’s spell would wear off, and had the children go and get into their Halloween costumes about an hour before it was due to be midnight in Belly Button, Arizona.

Newt put her costume back on slowly, wishing desperately that her time in the TARDIS wasn’t fast coming to an end. She would give everything she had if she could be allowed to stay on and go on other adventures with the Doctor, but she understood and respected his reasons. If she was doing something she knew could become dangerous, she wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s underage child, either.

Perhaps when she was older, she might be lucky enough to meet the Doctor again, and he would allow her to ship out with him in the TARDIS. Costume in place, including Karen’s sock filled bra, she joined Dusty and Harold in the control room to await the stroke of midnight. Dusty had either retrieved his cloak and hood from the meadow before they had left Purvis Major, or he had filched replacements from the Doctor’s wardrobe room, for his costume looked like it did when he’d first entered her living room this morning. Newt shivered. This morning seemed an entire lifetime ago.

A clock the Doctor had awkwardly perched on the center console ticked off the minutes. Five minutes, then four, then there was a flurry of hugs and goodbye’s and Newt was unsurprised to find herself crying as she joined hands with Dusty and Harold to watch the hands of the clock come together at the stroke of midnight. Suddenly, there was a bright flash, though not as bright as the one that had taken them to Purvis Major, and the ground beneath their feet lurched.

Newt staggered, but managed to keep from falling. She looked around to see where they were. The three children stood, in their Halloween costumes, in the large, dark and totally deserted parking lot of the Belly Button, Arizona Regional Shopping Mall. Their backs were toward Old Mrs. M’s property.

Harold looked at his watch. “Three minutes past midnight,” he said, “Let’s go home.”

Dusty dropped hold of Newt’s hand. “We’ll walk around the end of the block this time.”

“And every time,” Harold added. “No more short cuts for me.”

“No candy this year,” Newt noted dully. “How are we going to explain that?”

“We don’t explain,” Harold said grimly. “Not now, and not ever. If people ask why they didn’t see us at the party, we just smile and tell them they must have missed us in the crowd. If they ask us what we were wearing, we give a very mysterious smile and say that if they aren’t bright enough to pick their own friends out of a crowd, it’s their problem. We don’t say what we were wearing, or where we’ve been, or what we’ve been doing, or who we were with.

“As long as we’re home on time, our parents won’t notice we’ve been missing. And if we stop at the Wal-Mart over there at the end of the mall and pick up some of the candy that will be on clearance now, nobody will ever even suspect we were missing for sixteen hours.”

He gallantly offered his arm to Newt, and she happily tucked her arm in his, and they all traipsed across the parking lot toward the Wal-Mart to get their candy.

June 02, 2011

Hooray for my Netbook!

Yesterday I woke up and turned on the computer, thinking to check my email before I headed off to do errands for the day. The computer that sits on my desk and never goes anywhere is a laptop, because that was the only intel-chip computer in my price range in February when my four-year-old computer gave up the ghost. The computer made the usual chunking and whirring noises it makes when it is booting up - but the screen was white with slowly moving brighter-white lines, like a mobile white-on-white plaid. Then it turned grey. I could still hear the Windows welcome noises, I just couldn't hear anything. I rebooted. during shutdown, I heard all the usual sounds and noises, and this time during start up, again it sounded normal, but on the screen there was no white, just grey. It's at the repair shop now. I suspect the video card.

Some of my writing files are saved on the desktop (including my website files, my accounting files, and my ideas folder), and I really hope I don't lose any of them. It's interesting how many files you don't need until they're inaccessible. I miss all my internet shortcuts. I miss the auto-login cookies, and hope I can remember how to get into my new twitter account. I needed to find a book in my library yesterday evening, and couldn’t remember what it was filed under, and then realized my library catalog was on the computer’s desktop with my writing files. (My library is close to 5,000 books, about half catalogued, and takes up a goodly chunk of two rooms in the back of my home.)

The good news is that I still do have internet access on the netbook I got for carrying back and forth to college. It’s small, but it does work, and hopefully I’ll have my “real” computer back, with all the files on it, within the week.

The other good news is that all my manuscripts are still safe on their flash drive, and work on Deadly Gamble won’t be slowed by this…obstacle.

Ironically, one of the errands I was doing yesterday was buying a new flash drive to put the rest of the writing files on, to get them off the hard drive and available to me wherever. Would it have been too much to ask for one more day of working screen?