Monday, November 28, 2011

Cover 4 (sort of)

Decisions, decisions.

I was looking at my Kindle books, trying to choose what to read, and started really noticing the covers. I realized that I could pick out most of the self-published books from the trade books by the size. Not that it was a glaring difference, but it was a difference. Even though this book will never be a trade paperback, It should probably use the trade paperback trim size, which meant changing the page format on Powerpoint from the standard to a 8 by 5.25 layout.

I also decided that the cover really didn't pop enough. I love the gray and the subtlety, but subtlety is not necessarily the most compelling selling factor. So I spent a half hour or so tweaking. I'm not sure I feel like it's an improvement though. It's brighter, but less balanced. I think I might need to start playing with the typography again. I did change the colors and move my name down to the power-corner. But I think I'll post it for a while and see how I feel about it after I've been looking at it for several days.

I posted the first chapter for critiques at Critique Circle and that's been fascinating. It's fun to find out what changes other people would make. I was an editor for long enough to know that there are always words that can be changed, sentences that can be improved and so on, and that no work is ever perfect, and a lot of that feedback is quite useful. If it wasn't going to take months and months, it might be fun to go through this process on each and every chapter. But I think that's the same level of obsessiveness that used to inspire me to spend days on a presentation that other people would pull together in a couple of hours, and I'm not sure it's actually a sensible use of my time. Do I really want to spend years on one book when I could be writing story after story and getting better with each one instead? And phrased that way, the answer is really obvious. At least to me. So on to Sylvie! I love, love, love the scene I wrote last night.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Writing badly

I think the chapter I wrote over the last couple of days is, um, not good. But I posted it to fictionpress anyway, so that I could let go of it and move on. I do keep trying to remind myself that first drafts are allowed to be terrible, that it's okay to be struggling in the early days while I try to figure out what's necessary and what's not, where the story is going and who these people are.

But I overwrote somehow the only paragraph I really liked and it seriously vexes me. It's the fiction of thinking that the work that's gone is better than the work that remains, but even knowing that it's probably not true doesn't make me feel better. I'm quite sure that paragraph was somehow perfect. The rest of it? Dry. Tasteless. Like the turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, only without the cranberry sauce and gravy to hide its flaws.

I think I have to get rid of the parts about Sylvie running. That was to set something else up, later, and maybe I just need to either not foreshadow that run and/or not have that run. Oh, well, either way, I can think about that when I'm revising. For now, it's time to move on and let Sylvie and Lucas meet up again, yay. Or no, actually it's time to write a 20-page paper. But after that, time for my characters to meet!

Friday, November 25, 2011


I think maybe I need a camera. And then I think I bet I can have Mom's old camera. Dad won't care.

And I know I need a new electric mixer. Then I think I'm sure I can have Mom's, Dad's not going to be using it.

And maybe I ought to try to get Photoshop, so that I can get serious about my book cover design? But maybe Dad will let me have Mom's software.

I can't decide whether it's good to know that my needs can be met so easily or just sad.

But I didn't  intend to write about that. I don't want to be bleak, just to save some notes for next year.

(That said, in a way, the day was just as bad as I expected it to be, although not in the way I imagined ahead of time. K had to work, and I just didn't want to try to deal with making a noon-time Thanksgiving meal. It was too much like a chore, too hard to do, too likely to make the end of the day be a long quiet lonely stretch. I didn't want to get up at 6 to start cooking. So although I felt bad that she couldn't there, I made a plan that worked for me, with dinner at 5. Only then her best friend died unexpectedly the day before. We don't know how yet: the optimistic vote is that it was a heart attack in her sleep; the pessimistic, that it was an asthma attack and she was unable to call for help. But it doesn't really matter, except that it turned an already rocky day -- Mom's birthday -- into something rocky in an entirely different way.)

Back to the food -- so much more fun to think about -- I made a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, roasted sweet potato rounds topped with celery salsa, and it was yummy, yummy, yummy. None of the kids would even try the salsa, but they all liked the sweet potatoes, I think. I also made brussels sprouts with maple syrup and chestnuts, which added a nice flavor to the table, but wasn't nearly as good as it should have been. And the cranberry sauce this year was orange juice flavored with cinnamon and allspice, and it was delicious. It's really tough to go wrong with cranberry sauce, in my opinion, although the one I made with Pinot Noir and blueberries last year was not my favorite.

Oh, but my real motivation for posting to make some notes for next year on the pumpkin pie. Mom always made really good pumpkin pie but her recipe actually makes no sense, so I'm going to have to experiment for a while to try to figure out what she did. (Her measurements would require actually measuring the ingredients like evaporated milk and pumpkin rather than just dumping a can into the bowl, and there's no way: she was a dump-in-the-can kind of cook. I think she had a basic recipe but she followed it loosely.) So this year, I followed the recipe on the can for the basic ingredients -- pumpkin, eggs, milk -- and then Mom's recipe for the spices. I would say that's probably pretty close to successful, but with a couple of issues. First, I used Mrs. Smith's frozen pie shells and no, they were not as good as whatever Mom used. I am absolutely sure that she used frozen pie shells, but next year I need to try a different brand. Next, my filling feels heavier than hers. I mixed by hand and she always used an electric mixer, so next year, assuming I've stolen her electric mixer or gotten one of my own, I should try it with an electric mixer and see if that gives the filling a fluffier feel. And there's something not quite there about the spices: I added cloves, which was part of her recipe, but I think maybe I needed nutmeg, too. There's a flavor that's just missing slightly. Most important, though, would be to try to get the filling lighter. I might need to switch out some evaporated milk for real milk (her recipe uses both, the can recipe used only evaporated.) That said, I ate two pieces for breakfast this morning, so I'm not really complaining!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Names, names, names

I got reminded the other day (from a review) that I started writing Ghosts almost as an extension (rebellion might be a better word, really) of Eureka fan fiction.With two glaring exceptions, the connections are subtle enough that no one who didn't know that would ever guess it, but the two exceptions are my hero's name and the company name.

When I started writing, I figured, eh, if I ever decide to do anything with this, I'll change those. Turns out, though, it's much, much, much more emotionally difficult to change a name after spending 60,000 words with a character with that name. I probably spent half an hour today using find-and-replace on my file, changing Zane's name to something that doesn't belong to a character from a television show.

Zeke. No. Zack. No. Niall. No. Neil. No. Nathan. No. Aidan. No. Mark. No. Kieran. No.

I finally settled on Shane, because it was as close to Zane as I could get without staying Zane, but it still feels wrong, wrong, wrong. I may have to keep his name Zane, despite the connection with the television show. I'm pretty sure if they tried to sue me, they'd have a tough time, since the differences are far more obvious than the similarities. But still, I wouldn't like it.

General Directions, I'm not so bothered by. On Eureka, it's GD, too, but that's short for Global Dynamics, which is a very different name than General Directions. And I like the whole vagueness of General Directions, so I'm keeping it.

But Zane/Shane, I just don't know. If you're reading this and you've come to the blog from one of my fiction accounts, what do you think? Can I keep his name Zane or does that make it just too much like Eureka? 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Is My Book Not Selling?

Okay, not my book -- it's not posted for sale anywhere yet, so that's a fine reason for it not to sell. But I stumbled across this blog, Why Is My Book Not Selling, and spent a fascinating hour reading. I also added it to my RSS feed. It's such a terrific source of help for self-pubbed authors and I'd like to start commenting there. Partially to build up karma for when Ghosts gets there, but also just because it seems truly useful.

I did realize, though, while reading other people's blurbs that I'm a truly critical reader. If I do start commenting, I'm going to have to qualify everything I say with 'just my opinion' and 'personal taste.' Reading for a while made me want to go through my work and delete every adjective and adverb. I wonder what Ghosts would be like if all the adjectives were missing? I might have to try it and find out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thought defusion

I learned this little mindfulness technique for class and I've fallen in love with it. It's called thought defusion and it's from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and also dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Both types of therapy emphasize learning how to accept life as it is and yourself as you are. Basically that's figuring out how to know that my natural instinct is to be anxious and to worry, and acknowledge that that's just who I am, and then still try to let go of the anxiety, rather than telling myself to stop being so anxious.I think it instills self-sympathy instead of self-criticism, if that makes sense. Anyway, this is thought defusion:

Pick an image of something moving away from you, clouds in the sky or leaves on a stream or waves washing in and out. Then take a few slow, deep breaths and close your eyes. Imagine your thoughts moving away from you. Let the thought arise, and then picture it floating away on the clouds or leaves or being wiped away by the waves. As new thoughts come up, let them float away, too. Don't judge the thought -- don't think about it as being a good thought or a bad thought -- and don't judge yourself for thinking it. It just is what it is and then it floats away. Go for as long as you can, and then take a few more slow breaths and open your eyes.

I say go for as long as you can because me being me, two or three minutes is about as long as I can handle. But if you're better at being peaceful than I am, you can set a timer and go for ten minutes or fifteen minutes.  The nice thing is, two or three minutes, at least for me, can almost feel like a nap. It's very relaxing to let my thoughts float away instead of having them build intricate webs inside my brain.

I wish I had a picture of a floating leaf to add to this post! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cover design number three

Somehow, I'm going to have to figure out how to get other people's opinions on my cover designs. I need to do a poll or something, in a place where I can get more than a response or two. I guess that probably means Facebook, but eh, that gets complicated, too.

This, however, is cover design number 3, and yes, I am starting to enjoy the cover creation process a little too much. I made it in Powerpoint, using a public domain photograph of lightning. I cropped and rotated the photo, so I could keep the palm trees and put the lightning on the left, and then tweaked. I think I enhanced the brightness by +20, and did something to the contrast, then nudged the color to the cooler side. I wanted to bring the green of the palm trees out and make the lightning look a little more magical than it did.

I then spent an endless time playing with the text and the fonts. Powerpoint does not exactly have the best font tools, and I didn't go absolutely insane in the way I would have if I were a real designer. (To wit, the G in Ghosts is too far away from the H, in my opinion, but in Powerpoint, I would have needed to make them separate text blocks to nudge them together, and I was not quite willing to go that far. Six text blocks were quite enough.)

I took a quote from a review on fictionpress that was from someone who reviewed only at Chapter 33, figuring that review was for the whole thing, not just a piece of it. I didn't want to be misleading by using a review that was just for a chapter. Maybe if and when I actually get ready to publish, I'll ask a couple people for reviews that I could put on the front page. It's not possible to read the quote on the thumbnail, I don't think, which is a pity. But I suppose I can use a bigger image that then gets turned into a thumbnail? I'll have to figure that one out.

I'm still trying to refrain from revising until December, but I have definite ideas about some big changes toward the ending. I think I'm going to try not to go crazy on most of it, though. These are just words 300,000-360,000, and if I get too obsessed with achieving perfection, it'll join my first novel (oh, book of many names) in spending the next decade on my hard drive.

I really like this cover, though. I think for me, it's definitely jumped ahead of both 1 and 2.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bookmark disaster

Something strange went wrong with Chrome today. It kept returning errors, and wouldn't show me any pages. I tried using Internet Explorer but found it confusing; downloaded and installed Firefox but found it frustrating. I'm just used to Chrome. It works the way I think it should. And it's fast. And it knows all the places I like to go.

So I read some suggestions in the help pages and the simplest seemed to be to uninstall the software and reinstall it. A moment -- a single moment -- of thought would have made me question the wisdom of this decision, but did I pause for that moment? No, I did not. I was too frustrated.

All of my bookmarks, all of my carefully organized folders of bookmarks, interesting writing sites, college sites, links to... everything... are gone. Strangely, I feel like I've been robbed, that weird little shock when you open the car and realize that the glove compartment has been ransacked, that the CDs are gone, the change in the cupholder has been cleaned out, and that instead of hopping in the car and heading to work, you have to call the police. Only I'm not sure there are any police to call.

Ironically, it made me happy that I'd changed the address of the blog, so at least I knew how to find it. It'll take me forever to recreate my bookmarks.

If I looked for a picture to represent this post, it would be a sad face.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


While walking the dog this morning, my head was busy with thoughts of 'Thoughts' -- hmm, and I detect a problem with that name -- but there, I just added a link to differentiate, woo-hoo -- and back to my point, I was thinking about the story I'm working on. Then I got home and a friend suggested something about 'Ghosts' (link created just for the fun of it) and now I've been trying to write both stories at once and getting nowhere with either. It reminds me of when I was working on two Eureka stories at once. I'd say that both suffered as a result, but that wouldn't really be true: one suffered greatly as a result, one got most of my attention. In this case, I don't want either to suffer. I need to figure out where I'm going.

I'm noticing with Thoughts a little bit of the same problem I faced with Ghosts about three chapters in: I thought that I was writing a light, fun, cheerful, entertaining paranormal romance, only then I discovered that it had a remarkable amount of death and tragedy in it. After all, telling a story about a teenage ghost requires that there be a dead teenager somewhere in the background. In this case, I'm writing a romantic thriller, I thought, only I have the same dead teenager problem. Not to mention poor Rachel. Sylvie's reaction to finding out about Dillon's death is important, but I can't let it take the story too dark. I need to find the right balance. 

I did have a clever cover thought (I think), which was that I ought to find a picture I like for the cover right now, and then I can be sure that the right picture exists. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of women on stock photo sites trying to find one that I could use for Akira, for the cover of Ghosts, but alas, in my head, she looks just like Marie Digby. I never did find anything that satisfied me. For Thoughts, on the other hand, I found a great Sylvie almost immediately, but the pictures of her were probably only usable by someone who is really good at Photoshop. (In other words, not me.) Cover design thoughts are really just ways to distract me from thinking about writing, though. And drat, how did it get so late? Time to write...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Three months

It's been three months. I hope that the sixth of every month isn't always a reminder.

Note the camera in her lap? She
was always the one taking the pictures,
so of course there are few of her. 
Hmm, maybe that's not true. I wouldn't mind having a day of the month on which I always thought about my mom. But I'd like that to be more as if when I remember, I feel happy and loved and lucky to have had my mom as my mom.

Right now, I'm not there. I just miss her. Yesterday, for the very first time, I almost forgot for a second. We passed a garage sale sign and I thought, oh, it's good weather for garage sales, I wonder if Mom...and then I had to cry in the car for a while.

Poor R was distressed that I was crying again. We were going to pick up a friend of his, and I'm sure he was worried that his friend would think his mom was crazy. (Well, not 100% sure, I could be projecting. But I suspect he was worried about that.) He was good with handing me the tissues, though. Some future female in his life is either going to be impressed or insulted that his response to tears is simply to find the box of tissues.

NaNoWriMo is not working well for me. The pressure to write has actually reduced my writing to even less than it was before. I've been aiming for 1000 words a day (except for Thursdays) since September, but for the past week, I've been lucky to eke out a few hundred. And somehow knowing that I'm not supposed to edit just makes me edit all the more. I've revised the same 600 words about a dozen times and it's still not good enough. I finally let it go and posted it on fictionpress, but that was just to let it go and move on, not because I was satisfied.

That said, I can tell that my new romantic heroine is going to be just as quirky as my last romantic heroine, although in a totally different way. Apparently, I like quirky in a heroine. But I'm finding Sylvie very entertaining, if only in my head. She's kickass, cynical, stoic... completely non romantic lead material. If it were a movie, she'd be the sidekick who gets killed while saving the day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I signed up for NaNoWriMo thinking that it would be really motivating and fun. An exciting challenge, so to speak. So far, my kitchen is really clean, I've done a lot of laundry, I actually filed some papers that had been sitting on my desk for months and months and threw away a bunch of others, and I've got homemade stew simmering in the crockpot. Oh, and I've taken three naps in the past two days. Rock on, NaNoWriMo.

I am thinking about the story I want to work on, but I've actually written less than 100 words of it. I spent a long while this morning (before my thinking turned into a nice nap) pondering identity theft and how a seventeen-year old girl would go about stealing someone's identity. I made a great story about it, lots of interesting details, then realized a) this is all just backstory, completely unimportant to the real action and b) I killed off another teenager. That would make my third dead teenager in two books (Rose, dead at 19, Dillon, dead at 15, and Elizabeth, dead at 18.) Admittedly, that's over 50 years so it's not impossible, but it's sort of a depressing theme.

Still, no complaints. I have a clean kitchen and that's a nice change. Maybe I'll go fold some laundry now!

Random picture, found while cleaning off the desk. And tweaked with Picnik. I'm searching for a better image-editing tool than Photoshop for my book cover creation.