Summer sun shining…

Today I have been working on several smaller projects, getting things set up for the rest of the month. That includes getting my bullet journal in order, setting goals for the month, and starting in on a new art challenge to get me warmed up in the morning.

I’ve also made a priority of taking care of my mental health this month. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is having trouble with staying indoors so much. I’ve been trying to just get out in the back yard and sit in the sun a bit more. Exercise every day by dancing. And eating something healthy (with the occasional unhealthy cookie now and then.) I’m in Texas so things are starting to open up again, but I won’t be able to go out just yet. But soon!

This weekend I have two free books, and anthology and a short story.

Twilight Tales: three unusual tales of creatures that go bump in the night.

Ghostly Intentions: A fantasy horror romp through a haunted house.

Review: Dust

Some days I get lost in the back alleys of YouTube, taking in amazing short films. Some are funny, some poignant, some beautifully done. A few stand out above the crowd as true masterful strokes.

Dust by Ember Labs is one such film. (Also available on Vimeo) This 26 min film is a mix of fantasy and science fiction that captivates the audience with the world building, and touches our emotions with the story telling.

Set in a world where everything is evolving incredibly fast, the trackers are there to record the evolutions, and find cures for diseases and poisons that might come of the quick adaptations. Humans, of course, have locked themselves behind walls to try and save themselves, but a wall doesn’t stop a virus.

The world is shown thorough the eyes of a man who has lost his way. Once a tracker, he has withdrawn into the city that he used to disdain. Now he has to venture back out into the wilderness to find the cause of a new virus, Dust, and a cure.

The CGI is beautifully done in this film. From insects with glowing wings, to interesting mushrooms that emit clouds of spores, and a large beast deep in the forest. The wilderness settings give stark contrast to the walled city rising up through the trees, and the apothecary shop sets the stage for our would be tracker.

Everything from color, to atmosphere, to sound, blends together to create a beautiful experience. Well worth the watch.

Something New

This week has been a journey of new things. I tried doing a few things that I’ve never done before.

I finally finished Ghostly Intentions! It is out right now. You can pick it up on amazon.

Yes, I’ve published books before, but this is my first ghost story.

 

It is a ghost story with a fantasy twist. Magic, a haunted mansion, and a creature that no one should go looking for.

 

 

 

I’ve also made some enamel pins. They are adorable, and I love them. And I’m selling them. I also started designing some fabrics, and they are also available for sale. I only have three patterns up at the moment, but more will come as I do more.

 

 

Why not both?

book vs kindleWe see it a lot these days, “Ebooks are killing print books!”

They pull up stats, and show us how ebooks are starting to outsell physical books. Physical book readers fight back and say how awful ebooks are. Then we get more stats from publishers saying print books are outsold ebooks. Back and forth like an endless yo-yo.

Why can’t we have both?

Ebooks are convenient. I love the fact that I can take my kindle filled with a thousand books anywhere I go. I can read on the bus, at the park, poolside, or just during my lunch at work. The text and e-ink are easier on my eyes then the computer screen or smart phone, and I have a paperwhite so I can read in bed with a low level of light if I really want to. If text is too small I can adjust that. If text is too big I can adjust that too.

But I have to admit that my digital collection of books isn’t as awe inspiring as my physical one. I don’t rush to see my own book on kindle, I want the paperback in my hands so I can show it off. I like the smell of old books, and the look of their covers on my shelf. I love having a non-fiction paper book that I can write notes in the margins, highlight, and fold pages. Bookmarks in kindle aren’t quite the same.

The music industry is a fantastic counter example of where the publishing industry is going. They had iTunes, then other music shops open to regulate prices. We had Amazon. They had access to iTunes, soundcloud, and other services where indies could go straight to the public, we had Amazon, then Smashwords, and others. They struggle with the same “go free or don’t go free” quandary that faces writers.

Just as writers can see a correlation with their indie writers, readers can see a correlation to their music lovers. CD’s, and even LP’s, have not faded away to obscurity because of MP3’s. On the contrary, they have become collectible, sometimes specialized to give them greater value to the listeners. While lovers of great music continually search out the new, and fill their technology with MP3’s they are also sharing, buying, and trading CD’s and LP’s.

Why wouldn’t books do the same? Print books aren’t going to disappear into the ether. There will always be those who shun technology, who can’t afford it, or simply enjoy the feel of a good book.But like music book publishers are going to have to be a little more creative in how they market, or stick to the big boys who sell the most books. As print on demand becomes easier, and even more cost effective, fewer bulk books will be available.

One of the biggest markets hit by the change in the music industry may have been music stores. Many of them failed while others changed their model, becoming more specialized and catering to specific crowds. Book stores are doing the same thing. While Boarders disappeared Barns and Nobel adjusted their business model and is surviving.

It’s nice that music lovers no longer care if it’s digital or physical. They’ve gotten past the logistic of how their music gets in the hands of the fans and just gone on to make great music. Hopefully that will soon be the case for authors and readers as well. Then we can get back to the business of writing good books, and getting them in the hands of those who love to read.

I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

Writing a Novel

The last year finally paid off. A novel that had been stewing in the back of my mind for the last several years. The novel, Mermaid’s Curse, started out as a simple thing. The name, actually. A cursed mermaid, never allowed to fall in love least she die, and Brother Hawk, a man cursed to be a hawk, and suffer the will of the priesthood who visited inhumane tortures on him for centuries.

I finished the first book of the trilogy today. The last stubborn chapter that kept whispering that it needed to be there, but wouldn’t tell me why it needed to be there until just last week. It is the third novel that I’ve completed. It actually has a few threads in common with the first book I wrote (the one that died in the computer crash.) I subconsciously picked out the best parts of that novel and used it in this one.

With each novel I’ve learned something about myself, and my writing habits. With this particular completion I learned quite a bit more then ever before.

Mermaid’s Curse: Book 1 is just over 50,000 words. It took almost a year to complete. Keep in mind that I started Mermaid’s Curse as a single book and it has since become a trilogy. Book 2 is now just over 50,000 words, as well, and should be about 52,000 words when finished. Book 3 is currently 5000 words of plot. It’s going to be at leas 50-60,000 words when finished. That’s a lot of writing. 50,000 of which was done just last November during NaNoWriMo.

What I learned: 

You can’t force the story sometimes. I had everything finished for Book 1 except for one small chapter. I agonized over that chapter for a while, added a few words, added some notes, deleted them, and wrote some more. But the chapter sucked no matter how I wrote it. Something was missing, and I didn’t know what.

So I skipped ahead, wrote some other chapters, finished whole scenes and gave up on that one chapter. I even tried cutting that chapter out because if it was that horrible and boring it probably didn’t need to be in the book, right? Wrong. Without that chapter linking the rest of the book together the story kind of had an abrupt shift that felt ungainly and… just wrong.

So that chapter sat in the back of my mind for months while I polished off other chapters, rewrote sections, and decided the novel was actually a trilogy. Then one day I was taking a shower and think about another problem chapter and it was like magic. All the pieces slid into themselves.

Oddly enough the pieces fell into place because I started plotting the third book. As I plotted the third book I saw more of the world, saw new characters, and realized what needed to happen at the end of Book 2 to make Book 3 carry on. It was always the end of the books that gave me the most trouble. Once I figured out the end of Book 3 the chapters for Book 2, and that one stubborn chapter from Book 1 just snapped into place. I wrote 2000 words that night just trying to get down all the plot points so I knew what to write the next day.

Really, the thing that did it in the end was just keeping the story in the back of my mind while I went about the rest of my day. Jotting down ideas helped a little, but when it finally snapped into place it had nothing to do with forcing it, and everything to do with just letting it happen naturally.

Scheduling

The next thing I learned was about time. You only have so much. Use it wisely.

I can’t tell you how many times I sat down to the PC and my daughter would suddenly need to use the computer, or my son would need help with homework, or my boyfriend would just need attention. Families take a lot of time and energy, and they are so worth it. But this means that taking those moments you get to write, pouncing on them and using them to your advantage means EVERYTHING. Even the few minutes you have on a car trip to think about the story and come up with a plan to jot down on a note is better then nothing at all.

Finishing

Finishing feels SOOOOOO GOOD. (Yes, read that however you want.)

When I finally completed that chapter that I had been stuck on for a year I was so excited. I almost wanted to dance for joy. I texted four people and told them I’M FINISHED! I was that happy.

Whatever you’re working on, finish it. Doesn’t matter if it’s terrible, if you have to throw it out and start over, or if you just want to burn it in a fire. Finish it. That sense of completion will give you more inspiration and perseverance then all the self help and uplifting posters with kitties hanging in there that you will ever see.

I’d like to teach the world to sing….

I had this conversation with someone today on reddit, and I’d just like to share it. After writing it I felt so proud to be part of the indie community. And if you are an artist, writer, story teller, or just someone chasing your dreams… you should feel proud of the community of creators we are building too.

It isn’t a contest. We aren’t at each others throats vying for the top. We are friends, and coworkers, helping one another because we are also helping ourselves.

************ the conversation ***********

In response to my assertion that “the arts are skyrocketing” and a person should follow their dream, another redditor replied:

I agree that we have a lot more avenues to express our creativity.  And, it is easy to reach a lot of people. I also believe that supporting local economies is good. But I wonder about ‘skyrocketing’. Is this a growing viable industry, is that what you mean by ‘skyrocketing’? Do most people make good money or even a living?  Or are most folks ‘starving artists’ that would be considered as hobbyists to the business world?

My reply:

I am mainly familiar with the self publishing book world since that is where I am working.

Ten to fifteen years ago, before Amazon opened up publishing to individual authors, the best a writer could do was sign with a publishing house. Most houses would pay 10-15% royalties on a book. They would miss payments, miss count, hide numbers, and basically the publishers made bank while the author made crap. A large portion of authors, way back then, had to have a second job because what they were making through the publishing company couldn’t really pay the bills. They were limited to one book a year. Often signed to contracts with “no compete” clauses so they couldn’t sell anywhere else. And a big part was that there were only so many publishers with so many open book slots each year, and more authors to fill those slots then slots available.

Then Amazon came around. They give their authors direct access to publishing, pay them 70% royalties, and let you do everything yourself.

There are MORE writers now that actually get books out into the world then there ever were before. And they are selling! Things no publishing house would touch because they were cross genre or off brand are now selling millions of copies. Authors, for the first time ever, have a real chance to make a living doing what they love.

I know several dozen authors who make a full time living from writing. They quit their day jobs. And now they just create art. I know about hundreds of other cases and there are reports of thousands of authors who all write full time.

Amazon, smashwords, kobo, and all the other platforms have opened up a world to people who were once hampered by what the publishing industry dictated.

And others are succeeding because we, self published authors, are succeeding. We hire freelance editors, illustrators, voice actors, formatters, personal assistants, and more. Just because we love to write, and people love to read.

Now a lot of authors are starting to hire graphic novelists, animators, and film makers….

Yes. from where I sit, the art community is sky rocketing. We are sharing the wealth. We are encouraging indie development, and teaching each other how to succeed. There are free podcasts, tutorials, and ebooks out there for anyone who wants to put in the hard work to become a self published artist, writer, musician, filmmaker or whatever. And we as an indie community understand that the more our fellow creators succeed, the more we succeed.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and I am so happy to be part of it.