Author Resource: Book Launch Events

Just a quick blog post today.

I subscribe to The Author Biz podcast and wanted to recommend the latest episode (#120 if you’re a reader from the future). It’s a great breakdown of scheduling, preparing for, and participating in a book event. Whether you’re a self-publisher, traditionally published, or hybrid, it’s probably something you’ll need to consider, and the interview is to the point while being very thorough.

I’ve never heard this level of specificity on the subject before, so I wanted to archive it for myself and offer it up for my readers.

And just in case you’re coming in when there have been hundreds of episodes between my posting this and the current date, here’s a direct link to the mp3 (their hosting).

Runaway Snippet Spiral

Snippet: Runaway

I am losing my nerve, uncertain that this is the escape I was seeking.

The sun hammers through the windshield onto my arms. I turned off the engine a few minutes ago, but when I went to reach for my bag—to get money for the gas pump—I realized that my cards could be tracked.

I should have cashed out my accounts, but I was in too much of a panic at the time for logic to rule my escape plan.

Now, four hundred miles way, it hits me that I have not escaped at all.

I skipped the air conditioning on this bright day to squeeze more miles out of the first tank, to get father without needing to stop. My shirt is sticking to my skin after riding in the hot box, warm air blowing from the vent that may well have been warmer than the air inside the car.

And now? I’m back to the start. Reset the trip counter.

I’m going to have to drain my accounts at the gas-station’s questionable ATM. Visit more. What are the limits on a single withdrawal these days? How much does a stand-alone kiosk hold?

I left my mobile phone behind—on purpose. Oh God, what if my bank calls to verify my identity for these transactions?

I take my hand away from my purse without retrieving my wallet.

The car’s title is in the glove box.

A used card lot is across the street from the gas station.

Maybe someone there can drive me to a Greyhound terminal after I make good my escape.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

MINE - Lion with Meat

Bitty Bitty Locomotive

I am sitting down to belatedly compose this update, and I’m at a bit of a loss for words.

In general, of late, my head has been feeling full of cotton. Or angry bees. Or like an extension of the pervasive backache I’ve been feeling as a result of too much sitting or craning my next to stare myopically at small text.

My thoughts are consumed, split between the enormous task of a project for work (day job), and the enormous goal of ‘getting it right’ in this (hopefully) last revision of Flotsam.

I enjoy working on both projects, but I am definitely at the limit of what I can handle in terms of stress. My skin is breaking out. I’ve gained weight again. My sleep is finally being affected.

At this moment I want two very contradictory things, and I want them equally. I want this project at work to be completed, because of the promise of lowered stress that having completed it promises. The project will not truly be done but a large part of my stress should be when I finish phase one, so I’m pinning a lot of hopes on that. Possibly unrealistic hopes but hope is about all I’ve got right now.

I also want very much to focus all my own time on being an author, because while writing a book (or more specifically, finishing) a book will never be not stressful, and will likely not replace my need for a day job, it feels utterly rewarding on a creative level that I haven’t felt professionally in a very, very long time.

I am looking forward to vacations in that aching way that Dilbert or Cathy would tell you is totally normal, and even expected, of a professional adult in a corporate world. One that I have thankfully not felt until recently. I always figured I was doing the right thing if getting up to go to work was not something that I found abhorrent.

This week, however, I have felt very much as though going to work is a punitive thing.

I know it’s just because I’ve been putting in extra hours over weekends and evenings, working at full steam until I can’t see straight and my neck pinches. I expect, any day now, to feel the familiar radiating pain down my arm that tells me I have a pinched nerve in my neck again.

This is not a good week for me. I know will pass, but right now I feel embroiled in a very strange realm where I am both creatively charged and physically and mentally drained. I believe it would be accurate to say I have not ‘switched off’ in over a month.

My goal is to complete the project for work before I leave for my week staycation beginning June 30. That gives me just about a week to complete this project. Is that possible?

Not even remotely.

There is so much data entry before I can even do the bulk of the ‘getting it done’ tasks that will actually feel like some semblance of progress.

There is just no physical way that I can see completing this project, even if I worked every weekend and evening. The task is just too big.

But for the time being I have been given clearance to shoo other requests away and concentrate on this. I have learned, repeatedly, that this will not last forever, so I surge ahead while I can get away with it.

The only thing I can do is push forward as though my goal is possible. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If I can get the bulk of this project done so that it can at least enter review while I’m on vacation, I’ll be quite content.

In the meantime, I fiercely defend my morning writing time. Though it means I am completely burning out, I refuse to give over that precious hour and change in the morning to a project that feels like it will never end. That time is for me, and my characters, and my creativity. I will bear fangs and hiss and spit at any suggestion that it is otherwise.

So where am I at now with writing?

Flotsam: About 37K words into my edit, which is just over a third of the way through, if my brain can still handle math.

Salvage: An alpha reader (hi, Mom) has the current draft so I’m allowing it to wait for Flotsam to get through edits.

Prequel Novella: Haven’t touched it since the Pittsburgh Transcription Fiasco of ’17. I’m happy to work on this while Salvage is being beta-read or later.

Other Prequel Novella: Pervasively on my mind, not fair. The characters and plot are coming alive and I can spare them only the barest jotted note for now.

 

And strangely I have been able to read at a much faster pace lately. Partially I think it is that I have been exploring kindle books largely as sample downloads so I can taste all the flavors as fast as possible. Partially I think I have made it a priority, just like the project for work or the revision of Flotsam. What I put my mind to, I attend, and damn the consequences, and damn myself.

Spiral for Snippet

Snippet: System

I am part of this great beast’s immune system. I walk with on other, our plated boots clanking a mismatched rhythm on the aged perforated metal catwalk. We breathe heavily. Not from running. One cannot run in the burning iron miasma of the factory. From the climb up the ladder, nine floors of rungs slick with condensation. And from the heat. It’s so intense, we don’t need our electric torches to see. The angry glow from the smelters below ripples on wavering air through the holes in the decking, casting its red light up along the pipes and railings ahead.

There are no systems in place to direct us toward the problem, though plenty in place to alert us to it. Our ears throb with the siren’s ringing, even after another team gets it shut off to spare us all. But we have been at this long enough that we can follow instinct, and the humidity, and the god-awful angry hiss of a burst pipe.

The air is thick. Our goggles fog, and the skin beneath our leather protective suits is slick.

Of course it had to be a burst pipe on the upper catwalks, which sway beneath our opposing gaits until my partners realizes and matches her steps to mine. Up here, the steam gets what it wants – escape upward. The flow beyond stopped almost completely, halting everything on the work floor below as the pressure downpipe plummets to near nothing.

We’ve got only minutes. The crew bringing a replacement pipe better be moving with as much haste as we are.

Valves resist turning, but we’re armed with reinforced crossbars for such things. The hissing subsides. We’ve choked off its escape.

The air clears, and we survey the damage. The pockmarked edges where the metal peels back from the ruined pipe. The ironeaters have been at it again. They nibbled a hole large enough to put my gloved fist through, and the furious steam did the rest.

We unclip the flaps securing our weapons in their holsters, and tilt our heads to listen for the sound of a swarm.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

CC0 Licensed Stock Image

Write Every Day or Stop Now: Internalizing Advice

I can’t decide whether or not to touch this. So, for anyone who isn’t aware, there was an article posted recommending that anyone who wants to write a book should sit down to write every day, or quit now.

The article (I used donotlink.it so as to avoid giving the article a boost): If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Day or Quit Now

Authors took to Twitter to object to this article. And I understand why. It’s poorly conceived, full of shaming language, and perpetuates what I often hear referred to as ‘the worst writing advice ever given’ to new writers.

But… it’s what I do.

Now, I know it’s the Handed Down from On-High nature of the article’s tone. I know that many of the authors who flipped their twitter tables are also authors who have a well-established daily writing habit.

But I still felt shamed, somehow, by the backlash I witnessed. I know it wasn’t directed at me. And I know it wasn’t directed, even, at authors who do write every day. It was directed at the mandate, and at those who would wield such blanket statements (and especially at those who would suggest that giving up is the only alternative).

But I know what happens if I don’t give my writing practice daily attention. I wander. I get lost. I put it off. Procrastination seeps in the cracks and I do nothing.

I’ve sort of been experiencing this over the past week.

Even though my butt was in the chair. Even though I have been addressing things on my self-assigned writing-oriented task list.

I haven’t created. And I feel my creative muscles weakening. They’re not atrophied yet, but if I don’t do something soon, they may start.

And in the middle of this unfocused feeling, when I knew the best thing I could do was return to the daily creation practice, suddenly authors I respect were shaming the suggestion that daily writing is a good thing.

It’s a knee-jerk reaction. On their parts. On my part. But we all felt our reactions very specifically and poignantly. As a result, I shrank into myself. Desperate to return to my daily progress, and yet shamed for wanting to.

It was an odd dichotomy, and it’s where I’ve existed for the past week or so.

I didn’t sit down to write this morning. It’s totally unrelated to everything above. My husband has been battling severe depression, worse than usual, for the past few months. Last night he asked if we could have breakfast together, and damned if I’m going to skip quality time with him for a single hour of writing. I’m more than happy to do it. I even told him I’d be happy to make this a regular, weekly thing. Skip one writing session a week, no big deal. I won’t shame myself for that. I won’t quit writing because I can only manage six days a week.

Hell, I’d make married breakfast a daily thing if he started getting up early enough (he was up all night, though, so that doesn’t count). I’d figure it out. I’d find another time to write daily.

But I’d still make writing a daily practice. Or almost daily. No shame in either.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post, but I was feeling reflective about it, and had nothing else, really, to report today, so there you go.

The fact is, the act of creation is extremely personal. I can’t express what the person across from me has to express, and I can’t tell them how to do it. If you want to write a book, write a book. Find a way to make it happen, in a way that works for you. It doesn’t matter if it takes fourteen years to write, or if you write fourteen a year. If you have a book in you, let it out. It’ll be painful enough without trying to conform to a mold that someone else has made and handed out like hotel bibles.

You do you. Write every day, or don’t.

I’ll do me. Whether I write every day, or don’t.

Pages from todays creative writing session

Snippet: Passive-Aggressive Cinderella

I am not complaining. There is a roof over my head. I have clothes to wear, such as they are. I have food to eat, if there are scraps left over. And I have work to keep me busy. I am always busy.

Today, after breakfast, word came down from on high that the dresses should be mauve. Never mind that the sage dresses are almost done. They slouch from the shoulders of my dress forms as though they sense being abandoned.

My shears cut peaks and valleys along dusty rose cotton, sending up pink dust to mingle in the motes that dance in the morning sunlight. The shears make a heavy, lazy sound, chomping through the double thickness of fabric. My wrists ache, and the handles leave the flesh around my thumb indented and red.

I don’t know what inspires the urge. I have not been wrong, I am treated almost fairly, after all. If they’d taken the green dress, we could have avoided this. But I thread my needle with stiff filament and stitch the waist stay into place along the lining, with loops that will chafe and itch at the pale tender flesh of the dress’s new owner.

I am not complaining. Not so that they can hear me.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

Audio equipment to illustrate subject of this blog post.

Verdict: Suspending my Dictation Practice

I’ll be honest. Before I sat down for my Asimov Hour session this morning, I had no idea what I was going to blog about for today’s process post. I realize that most people who read the blog aren’t also automatically going to watch my YouTube videos, but I felt like I’d said all I needed to say about my current state of things in the three videos I uploaded yesterday, and was a little tapped out with regard to providing updates.

At best, I thought maybe I’d address that kerfuffle from yesterday about the article that made Twitter authors lose their collective minds with the all-capped headline commanding: WRITE EVERY DAY OR STOP NOW. Maybe I’ll touch on that later since my perspective isn’t quite the apparent norm.

But that is not what I will be talking about today.

In my Asimov session this morning, as I’ve been doing for the last week-or-so, I continued working on transcribing the road-drafting sessions I recorded on my way to Pittsburgh on May 18. Now I realize I had quite a bit of trouble getting things going with Dragon in the first place, so I’ve been trying to ignore my misgivings about this method and give the software the benefit of the doubt.

Just to recap:

  • I had trouble getting my recording equipment set up. Multiple purchases/returns via Amazon, multiple attempts at recording sessions that went to waste and were trashed because of poor audio, and much time wasted that I’d hoped would go toward ‘getting the hang of dictation’ but was mostly spent researching what sound equipment other dictating authors used because what the *@#!ity-@%#! was I doing wrong??
  • Either from stress or seasonal allergies or overuse in all these practice sessions, I started to lose my voice before I even left for Pittsburgh!
  • I finally dictated, limiting myself to about an hour to just see how it would go, then had the disappointment of seeing Dragon return total gobbledygook when I tried to transcribe those files in my hotel room.
  • Extra editing time for each file was necessary because of road noise that the lavaliere mic I was using did not eliminate.

So finally, I think it was Tuesday after I wrote my weekend recap blog post, I found good instructions to clean up the road noise, and finally got somewhere with Dragon’s transcriptions. Not perfect, but far closer than I’d experienced thus far.

Encouraged, I spent all week working on those transcriptions.

Let me repeat that. I spent ALL WEEK working on TRANSCRIPTIONS of about an hour’s worth of recordings.

ALL.

WEEK.

The reality of that didn’t strike me until this morning. I reached the end of my 9 files for transcription, and faced the possibility of walking and dictating some more (I don’t know when, it’s done nothing but rain for the last week and looks to continue that trend), and then having to return to the practice of transcribing my dictated files in future morning Asimov Hours.

So I did a little math.

I’d already been calculating the WPH from the recorded files. The output of words versus time came out to between 3700 and 4250 words per hour (calculated; the longest recording was 28 minutes). That seemed rather promising.

Except.

Except.

EXCEPT.

Except for how much time was, in reality, going into the production and transcription of those words.

Let me give you an example. And, say for the sake of simplicity, I didn’t have to deal with the anguish of the initial road-noise-impacted transcription.

That 28-minute long dictated recording.

Well, it took 28:47. That’s fairly straightforward. Hard to imagine recording in double-time or anything. So for the 1690 words that created, my pace was approximately 3496 WPH. Pretty good. Not amazing–I could easily do that hand-typing–but pretty good.

Then they took about 3 minutes to clean up in Audacity (road noise, noise levels, etc.). Not too big of an impact, you’d think. 3168 WPH, though, a noticeable drop.

Then there was the time Dragon took to run the transcription. It wasn’t fast. I don’t have the exact data on this, so it’ll have to get lumped into the sessions from that week where I also worked to correct the transcription errors. What I did, finally, was play back the audio on my Mac, following along in the DragonPad document so I could highlight sections and tell Dragon to correct them. 75% of the time I needed to hand-enter the correction because Dragon’s suggestions were way off. To transcribe this 28:47 file took me two Asimov Hours. Not the full sessions, as I also did shorter files on either end, but a fair estimate would be 35 minutes each for two days. Add 70 minutes to the time that these 1690 words took to create.

And that leaves us at 994 WPH.

If I were struggling to write one day, not free-flowing text from my fingertips like unicorn snot, I would probably get between 750 and 1000 WPH.

Which means, after the process described above, Dragon Dictation/Transcription got me no further than a BAD writing day.

Doing even rougher math than that above, I got 6400 words out of the entire experience (9 separate recordings of varying lengths), and it took me the original hour and fifteen minutes (rough estimate), plus a week’s worth of Asimov Hours (9 days, actually, let’s pretend an average of an hour each). Net WPH? 624. That’s worse than a bad day, and it cost 10 writing sessions. Even when I have a writing day, it doesn’t last more than one day.  Most times I perk up before my writing session is over and make up the difference.

Also.

Also.

ALSO.

I do not consider the text that I created through dictation to be a usable draft. It’s a hot mess. It makes no sense. It rambles, it shambles, it walks into solid walls and bounces against them over and over, trying to figure out why it can’t move forward. Yes, a draft is meant to be shit so you can fix said shit later, but this was not writing. This was awkward fifth-grade mixer slow dancing, and there was much trodding of feet, and spinning in slow rocking circles until dizzy.

It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that I am going to stop bothering with Dragon for a while. I may return to it someday, most specifically if I am hobbled in some catastrophic way that removes my ability to type by hand. In such a desperate hour, I know I could make it work. But the effort that’s gone into it so far, the numerous frustrating audio equipment returns, lost days, and awkward drafting, has not provided the ROI I’d hoped. I have even developed wrist pain from struggling with the touch pad on the Dell laptop I was using. All of this earns Dragon a hard nope from me.

For now. Can’t return the software, so I’m not counting it out entirely. I’ll hang onto the recording equipment I bought. I might use it to dictate things later on, directly into the program, when the rest of the household has gone out and won’t be bothered by it. Might record things if this infernal rain ever stops and taking a walk is actually possible again. Recording blog posts worked pretty well, anyway.

But for right now? For a standard Asimov Hour? It’ll be finners on keys again, to get an actual draft, worth using, and an ROI in terms of WPH that won’t make me feel FUBAR.

Creative Writing Spiral

Snippet: Blood

I am going to drown, or be eaten, but it’s the chapped lips I keep worrying at.

I can’t keep swimming toward the thin steady line of shore and fuss over my bleeding leg, but my teeth can play at the dry flaking ruin of my lips. And they do, because it’s focus on that pain, or acknowledge the exploratory touches of marine life below me which I can neither see or fend off.

I was on a boat, but the splinters and crumbling, smoking remains of that vessel float around me in the water, no help except to feed the panic I fought for the last several hours to control. It seems so stupid now, to expect a floating bowl of fiberglass and canvas to form an impervious shield against the fury of the oceans. She is smarter than all of us. Found something to tangle in our props. Found a way for her salty tendrils to enter the hull. Found a way to tear us apart and claim us as her prize.

And soon she’ll have me, the panic says again. I bite down on the tender spot in my lip, add pressure to the sting of salt water, and kick my feet, pushing on toward the shoreline that gets no closer.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

State of the Unbelievable

First

Holy shit, you guys. The Nebula Conference. SFWA people are amazing. I have never experienced a 0-60 like that, in terms of being a total stranger and then feeling completely welcome. Everyone was so incredibly warm, open, wonderful, true, and as awkward as I was. There wasn’t a single person who behaved as though I—a non-member unpublished first-timer—was anything less than their peer. It was really amazing. Got to meet people already on my radar and other people who emerged out of the mists at the edge of my perceptions. I wish I could list them all but I’m terrified I’ll forget someone!

Also I got to meet an astronaut!

Second

Feeling slightly less enthusiastic about dictation after some hiccups in the process over the weekend. Luckily I am stubborn to a fault, and I’ll keep working at it.

Third

My publisher (Parvus Press) is amazing. SO amazing.

Okay, so now what?

The weekend was so wonderful and incredible and overwhelming and for the past few weeks was the solitary focus of everything I was working toward, so it’s strange to be on the other side of it. I found myself without a distinct plan, and that’s untenable for a planner like me.

In my RJTL;DR video from yesterday, I was at a loss to set my goals for this (already in progress) week! Who am I even?

So, the plan:

  • Figure Out the Dragon Issue – I am going to clean up the files I have using Audition, and see if I can get a clean enough file for transcription. Also will do some walking dictation again and see if it can still transcribe that. If so, it’s not the profile but the road noise, in which case I’ll make a second profile while in the car so I can train it to that.
  • Announce Release Date – Since my publisher and I were telling everyone all weekend, I imagine it’s a good time to announce the release date of Flotsam, so I’ll send a push out to my newsletter on Thursday.
  • InstaFreebie Campaign – I joined a group campaign with other SFF authors, in which I’ll offer the first chapter of Flotsam to new subscribers, and I just need to make sure everything’s set up in my MailerLite automations to handle that properly. Then I need to draft the email that will go out for that. Maybe I’ll combine it with the release date announcement so as not to suddenly send two emails in as many weeks. (I’ve been incredibly sensitive to deluges of author emails since I signed up for a collection of novels from InstaFreebie a month ago, so much so that I’m going to treat all these new people as cold leads until they actually read the chapter and come back wanting more.)
  • Re-read Revised Draft from April – It’s been almost a month since I last looked at Salvage, so I feel like I’m ready to go back into it again. I’ll give it another read-through to see if I spot pacing or other major issues. Then take it to John Adamus for some outside input.

Now obviously it’s Tuesday and it’s a little late to assume I’ll be getting through this list completely, but these are my focus targets. The mailing list items are pretty straightforward. Dragon and re-reading my draft will take an unknown amount of time and/or trial and error.

 

Nature shot from Writing Session - Wild Red Columbine

Snippet: Detective

I am close to retirement. But not close enough.

I am tired, tired of seeing the filth of humanity, tired of finding bodies of children.

We pulled another one out of an alley this morning behind a bus stop in the city. The rats and birds found it first. The plastic bag it was wrapped in was stretched and pulled and full of jagged little mouths where the animals had tried to get inside but you could clearly see the little sneakers inside, the little backpack, no matter how much red covered it all.

There isn’t a lot to be said for what I do. Sometimes I feel more like a janitor to maniacs and not someone who makes any difference in the world. The futility of tracking down a single person at a time, when there are so many out there, so many people doing so many horrible things.

But there are so many little sneakers, and so many little backpacks. There are children. Other people who can’t defend themselves. Even though it hurts me, even though I just want to close my eyes and never open them again sometimes. In the most permanent sense, of course, because when I close my eyes I see them all. Everyone I should have been able to help, everyone who died without someone there with them, except for the sociopaths. So every morning, I roll out of bed, get dressed, put on my janitors badge, and head to the precinct to find out what horrible thing has happened next. To do my best to make sure that one more maniac is off the streets.

This child is the tenth.

How do you justify what I do, when it has taken ten children?

No fingerprints, but their parents. No clues, except the homework in their bag, scrawled in childlike innocent print. Nothing but the future they will never see.

No stray hairs, no skin under the fingernails, no clues. They might have died at home, with their families.

And in this crazy time? Can I even rule that out?

There’s nothing special about the plastic bags that we find the children in. Heavy duty, impact resistant, tear resistant, thick plastic. You can get it from hardware store.

I guess it’s time to check receipts.

Time to check on the parents. What else can I do?

Do I want to catch this killer, if it means finding out it’s not one villain, but an epidemic of families that have gone over the edge?

It’s my job to find out. Even if it means another night’s sleep, with those kinds of thoughts tucked behind my eyes. Even if it means I put off retirement, keep at this forever.

Or at least as long as there are little sneakers, and little backpacks.

 

 

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I usually use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these, but today’s was written in the spirit of that while dictating on a walk in my neighborhood. It was then transcribed with Dragon Naturally Speaking. I made minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise was left as-is.