June 28, 2012

Anatomy of an eBook:  Something Real

I finally got around to updating my progress meter here on the blog.  I'm at 74% of an anticipated 65K-word novel and it's still June, so I'm very pleased.

I was keeping up with my 1000-words-a-day output until last week, when I got caught up in editing my dictated text (I prefer for the Dragon software to transcribe it into MS Word rather than the Scrivener software I use for writing) and then transferring it into the appropriate places into my Scrivener document.  I have to make sure this text is in good shape, because once I delete the voice file, it's gone forever and there's no going back to listen to what I actually dictated. 

Then, a few days ago, I noticed a timeline error.  Horrors!

Back when I was writing for Arabesque (seems like a million years ago), the editor sent out a rare blanket communication to all the writers telling us that we had to pay more attention to the timelines of our stories, because the line editors were seeing a lot of errors that required considerable time to revise to fit properly into the story.  If you're thinking this must be a common error writers make, you're absolutely correct.  It's also one of the worst.  Not only can a timeline error require great effort and extensive re-writing to correct, but if it is not caught before publication it can render the entire novel into an implausible mumbo-jumbo, and I've read at least one book where this actually happened (written by a popular author who has had many reissues of earlier books, this particular title has only had an initial release, which tells me that the editors became aware of the error after they published it).

One thing I liked about one of the free writing software programs I used in the past, Storybook, was that it had a section to include the timeframe of the action.  Since that time I discovered Scrivner, and while it does not have this feature, it is by far the best writing software I've used.  I understand that some writers use a timeline program in conjunction with it, but I've found an easier way to track when the action takes place:  I simply include the month and year at the start of each chapter summary.  I can easily switch to the corkboard view, which places each summary on a separate index card, and see an overview that includes the timeframe and gives me a complete overview of my work-in-progress.

Timelines are especially challenging in Something Real, since the majority of this book takes place between Save The Best For Last and The Heat of Heat, while the shorter second part takes place after The Heat of Heat has concluded.  A lot happened in between these two stories, and I have to be able to provide accurate updates of where the major characters are in the latter half...everything from where they are in their careers to how long they've been married and how old any children they have might be.  It took me two days to straighten this out, but I'm happy to say I've got it under control.

So it looks like I'm still on schedule for late summer publication, although much of this will depend on my editor.

Stay tuned!    
June 26, 2012

Marking another year

Today marks three years since I published my first independent project, Save The Best For Last.

I still remember how excited I was when I saw my baby listed for sale on Amazon. Not only was I an author, but a publisher under the name of Bunderful Books. Of course, that was just the beginning. I didn't publish it in eBook format until several months later, and three original titles plus one eBook backlist title and one bundle followed. I am presently working on two new projects, including my first women's fiction to be indie published.

It's been an exhilarating ride, one in which I've been largely self-taught. I made many stumbles along the way, but I'm proud that I didn't miss a beat in transforming from traditionally published author to indie author and publisher. When I published Save The Best For Last I was still working on the manuscript for what would be my final traditionally published novel, Trouble Down The Road, which was released the next year, 2010. When I learned that Dafina would not offer me another contract, I just kept writing...and kept publishing. Now the life of a traditionally published author is but a memory that gets dimmer with every passing year. I never really thought of myself as being the take-charge type, but the truth is that I absolutely love doing it all myself and reaping the rewards.

I don't do it all myself, of course. I use a professional cover designer and work closely with her to get the "look" I want.  With the publication of Isn't She Lovely? this past March, she created a brand look for me (specifically the hero, heroine, and a dented front end of a vehicle, since a car crash plays a pivotal role in the plotline) that I intend to keep...at least until it's time for something new. I also use an editor, not a professional, but one who is very knowledgable and perceptive, and we also work closely together to ensure that the characters' motivations are clearly put across for readers. But it's wonderful to be so involved in the process, and it's wonderful to see results on an immediate basis.  Isn't She Lovely? has met with thumbs-up from the majority of readers, and it was a mainstay on the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers of multicultural romance for over three months, and occasionally still squeaks in there.  So Happy Birthday, Bunderful Books...and many more! With any luck, the stumbling period is over and it can now, well, run.

Next week I'll be celebrating a personal milestone...my 55th birthday. It seems odd to think of myself as being 55 years old (if anyone tried to put in a candle on a cake for each year, it would look something like the picture above). Where did the time go?

I'm certainly grateful to be here.  Two of my four siblings did not get to see 40, much less 55.  But the actual day will seem rather anticlimactic.  I used to look forward to qualifying for those 55+ discounts certain restaurants and stores give. When I was in Florida in February, my sister and I took her twin grandchildren shopping with us, each of us putting a baby seat in our shopping carts. When it came time to check out I was charged less than the actual cost of the item I purchased, even after tax. When I looked at my receipt, I saw that the cashier had automatically taken off 10%. I guess she took one look at the gray in the front of my hair (I don't use color, at least not yet) and at the nine-month-old baby (at the time) in my cart and figured I couldn't possibly be the mother, so I must be the grandmother. That's certainly a reasonable assumption, given that my eldest grandchild will be six years old later this year. So I got the discount five months ahead of time.

Similarly, when my husband and I stopped at IHOP for breakfast while out early last Saturday, we both ordered from the 55+ discounted menu (he already meets the age requirement) and I was not questioned.

I'm not worried about getting older, other than trying to retain good health and hoping to get all my ideas put into book form before I check out.  But I am concerned about staying relevant, about being able to write younger characters without showing my age. My current work-in-progress is about women in their late 20s...an age I haven't been in over 25 years.

Something Real, my work-in-progress, isn't my first attempt at trying to write young characters.  Since this is a sequel, these characters were even younger the first time they made an appearance in Save The Best For Last.  But I wrote and published that just before I turned 52. I find myself wondering if I can really pull this off.

How about you? If you're a reader, have you ever noticed characters who are written too old (or too young) for their given ages?  If you're a middle-aged writer, do you worry about being able to capture the emotions of characters under 30 or over 70?

Anyway, to celebrate my third year as an indie author and publisher, I am offering a half-price sale on Save The Best For Last .  Simply go to my author page at Smashwords, where all my Bunderful Books titles are listed, click on Save The Best For Last , choose the file type (Mobi for Kindle, ePub for Nook, etc.) that corresponds to your device, add to cart, and at checkout enter this code:   RR54J.  It will automatically take 50% off the list price of $3.49. 

This special is only good for today, so enjoy!
June 14, 2012

Thrifty Thursday tip

Last month I had a call from Sears, from where we had purchased our refrigerator as well as washer and dryer, informing me that it was time to renew my service agreement for another year.  The cost of this would be in excess of $400.

I was reluctant to do this even last year, although I ended up doing it.  This time it occurred to me after I hung up that with the money I was spending for appliance protection since the year of purchase, I easily could have purchased a replacement, if not all three, for either the fridge or the washer and dryer set rather than pay for an expensive repair (particularly for the washer and dryer, both of which have numerous sensors that can easily run into the hundreds to repair).  That just didn't make sense to me and made me feel like Sears was getting rich on my nickel.

I told them I wasn't going to renew. After listening to the rep drone on about how much repairs cost, etc., I stuck to my guns.  I then arranged for one last service call before the current coverage expired.

When the man arrived, I asked him what I could do to prevent the need for service.  He told me that with the refrigerator, it's all about keeping the coils clean, and with a washer and dryer, it's all about protecting the sensors against lightning, avoiding mildew in the washer, and avoiding lint buildup in the dryer.

He instructed me to leave the washer door as well as the drawer where detergent and bleach go in the open position when a load is not running to keep them aired out, to clean the lint catcher regularly and to try to keep the lint drain clear as well (my laundry room is on the second floor with my bedrooms, so I'll have to get my handyman to do that).  Finally, he suggested a surge protector to keep lightning from burning up the sensors, or to simply unplug when not in use.

As for the refrigerator, the repairman said to continue keeping the kitchen appliance rug in place in front of it because it blocks out dust from getting underneath.  When he removed the bottom grill and vacuumed under the fridge, he said there was very little dust becuse the rug kept it out.  He showed me how to remove the grill and how to put it back so I could use my vacuum attachment to gather any dust that will eventually settle on the coils and make the fridge not as cold as it should be.  He pronounced the sealants in good condition, and that was that.

In four years, I've only called out the repair to do an annual checkup but have never needed repair work for any of these three appliances.  I figure the worst that can happen with the fridge is that my icemaker in the freezer might act funky, in which case I'll have to make my own ice...hardly the end of the world.  As for the washer and dryer, the set is made by LG, an excellent brand (the hatches holding the doors to the units are metal, whereas other brands we looked were held together with plastic, which is a lot less sturdy and more prone to cracking and breakage). Of course, one never knows if your appliance was slapped together fifteen minutes before quitting time before a three-day summer weekend.  Still, I'm confident that I can manage without having to spend $400 a year on "just-in-case" repair coverage that hasn't yet been needed.

Something to think about!
June 9, 2012

Anatomy of an eBook:  Something Real

It's generally recognized that the fewer characters in a novel, the better.  While writing a pivotal scene between tortured lovers Brian Price and Liv Oliveira where they meet while out with other people, I decided to pull out a character from another book to be Brian's date. (No, I won't say which character or even which book; I want you to be surprised when you read it.)  She plays a very minor role in the story and is in no more than two scenes, but I thought it makes for a nice twist for readers who will recognize her name.

You'll have to let me know your thoughts when you read the book. 
June 3, 2012

Time Passes

Last week, while watching the crime movie Bonnie and Clyde on Turner Classic Movies, the Nineteen Thirties seemed like a very long time ago. It was a time of old-fashioned cars that could be jumpstarted in a heartbeat, banks had no Federal insurance against robbery and failure, and the simple act of crossing a state line often protected criminals from prosecution.

Then it occurred to me that the action in the movie, set in 1931-34, took place approximately 35 years before the film was released in 1967...and that 45 years have passed since that day when the 10-year-old me went to see it in the theater with my friends.

After allowing myself a few minutes to feel ancient, I started thinking again.  A 10-year-old in 1934 might have read newspaper accounts of how Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed in a shootout on a lonely road in Louisiana, then gone off to the movies, paid their dime, and seen an afternoon of flicks like It Happened One Night, The Thin Man, Imitation of Life (the original version with Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers), or Manhattan Melodrama (the last movie John Dillinger saw before he was gunned down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago on a hot July night that same year).  That same 10-year-old would have been 43 years old when Bonnie and Clyde was released, and in those 33 years had seen the Dust Bowl, the attack on Pearl Harbor, four long years of the war effort, the atomic bomb, the postwar baby and building boom, the rise of Communism, the birth of rock and roll, the civil rights movement, the Kennedy assassination. But what stands out most of all to me are all the social changes that went on in that time...rising hemlines, working mothers, escalating drug use, cohabitation, the Pill.

That 43-year-old may have found it shocking how much life had changed in their lifetime.  Well-dressed women and men never went out without a hat on their heads (and I don't mean baseball caps).  Going to a casino called for elegant dress, not shorts and gym shoes (think of James Bond sailing through a casino in his tuxedo).  Women who worked outside the home were either single mothers, just out of school or newlyweds before the first baby came, empty nesters, or old maids.  Many people still distrusted banks and kept their money tucked between their mattress and box spring.  Good girls tried to hold out for marriage before having sex, and it was terrifying for them and shameful for their families if they didn't and became pregnant.  Wearing pants to church (for women, that is), was unheard of.  It took real skill for married folks to limit the sizes of their families.  The rise of nudity in films made drive-in movies, visible from the road, had to be careful what films they showed. 

Sometimes I think the world has changed more in terms of lifestyle in the period between the 1930s and the 1960s than it has in all the years since, during which most changes are related to technology, not social mores.

What do you think?