Monday, December 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo Failure

It's been sometime since I've blogged and it's been some time since I failed a NaNoWriMo, but this year I did. My day job interrupted my writing time and I ended up finishing with about 35,000 words (I didn't validate my novel).

The good news is I'm still working on a new book, new characters, new Cozy series. This one is a true cozy - strong female lead characters, a romantic interest and a murder to solve. I'm hoping to have it finished up this weekend and then I'll be making a concerted effort to polish it up, get out some synopsises to agents and hope I get a bite.

One thing I am really hoping for is that the publisher will use the photo that prompted the story. It was taken by a dear friend of mine and it's the second photo of his that gave me my NaNoWriMo project for the year.  I love a lot of his work, I love that they give me story lines, but I regret that they give me entirely new book series ideas. I simply don't have that much time to write, given that - like the vast majority of writers - I have a demanding full time job, plus extended family and pets galore.

I really don't care which book series get picked up first, by an agent or publisher, as long as one gets picked up I'll be happy. I won't forget the rest, that's for certain. Jess, who started it all, deserves to have her stories read, even if I have to self-pub them, save money up for cover art to be created, and market them all by myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Everything I learned in English Class

Has been forgotten.

I have a new critique partner, which is awesomely wonderful. He is very honest, giving me the good, the bad, and the ugly about my work. Exactly what I asked for and needed. With his input I'm sure I'll be able to get my writing to that level needed to be worth publishing.

However, I've realized everything I learned in English classes in high school and college has left my "building". I've had to look up Protagonist and Antagonist again to get a more detailed idea of where I'm missing the mark. Being a techie, my writing revolves around user interfaces, system consoles, ROI and cost-benefit analyses, not fictional writing.

I find myself wondering why I "think" I'm a writer. But then something funny, odd, somewhat hysterical happens: characters invade my space with story lines, new problems and genres I rarely read let alone have the vocabulary necessary to write a story that will pull the reader in.

For example, Hallmark Channel was having a Christmas in July movie-thon and I was listening (and swearing profusely at an uncooperative server), when an entirely new character sauntered into my brain, plopped herself in a comfy chair and snarkily fed me a story line. A romance story line no less. I believe she actually belongs to Simone Anderson, but for whatever reason this character has decided I'll be the one to write her story.

That's when I remember why I think I'm a writer, because I have to write. Sure, I don't know all the rules or remember all the terminology, but it's the only way to shut up all of the people in my head.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Confederate Flag

I'm okay with the Confederate Flag. Some folks may take umbrage with this statement. But I'm okay with the flag. Just as I'm okay with the Pride Flag, that gorgeous rainbow flag that represents LGBTQ communities across the globe. I'm even okay with the other countries flags being displayed - as long as none of them are flown above the American Flag. No need to insult our veterans who have fought and died for the American Flag, our right to say our minds, and our safety.

Banning the Confederate Flag (how many times can I type that?) won't resolve the underlying issues. Banning it also has us running the risk of forgetting what it represents. We should never forget ANY part of the Civil War. I happen to be old enough to have a grandmother who was old enough, with a grand-father (my great-grandfather) still alive that had fought in the Civil War. He told her the ugly stories of the war, glorified nothing about it, and made sure she, her siblings, and cousins understood they needed to share these stories with their own children and grandchildren. Because, as he said "We never, ever want another drop of blood spilled on this soil as a result of an internal war." My family had family on both sides of that fight, as so many families did. But ours is a country that fought to free people from slavery and we should never forget that.

Rather, we should teach our kids about our flags. Teach them what they stood for, the truth about the wars fought on this soil, no glorifying either side, and let them think for themselves about what it means to have war on our own soil. Let them know how fortunate we are, that we are not a perfect country, we have work to do still, but don't forget where we've been, how far we've come and how far we have to go.

So leave the flag. Don't drown out or water down the history of our bloody Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, or the Indian War. To do so begs us to forget the lessons learned and dooms us to repeat our mistakes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

So Many Device Sizes, So Many Formatting Woes

(Note: this is a repost from my post at GRRWG)

I suspect that a "simple" novel or short story will not create the same pain as trying to convert a complex format book (such as my cookbook) into an eBook readable on multiple devices. My cookbook is my lesson in self-publishing and yes, I worked with a layout person the first iteration through. Even then, the format varied in success depending on the size of the device. Also spacing , paging and text formatting wasn't consistent across the various devices I used for testing. I'm not sure what software they used, as I didn't get a source file back, just a .PDF.

Since I wanted to add a new recipe \to my cookbook I decided to update the Kindle version first. Without the same software or source file, I had to start over with the .doc file I'd provided to my layout person, basically a Word document. The added recipe and reformat has been a trial and error project with lots of lessons learned. I figured I'd share what I've learned with you.

Lesson #1

Take full advantage of the Styles in Word (because Kindle only accepts .doc and .pdf formats) and save yourself the headache. I have repeating text layouts for things like ingredients lists, equipment lists and directions. This also comes in handy when using titles that you don't want to include in the overall table of contents. Styles allow you to make a universal change to a chunk of text and come in handy when have to go back and forth between reviewing the imported file and the .doc file.

Lesson #2

Don't use tables unless you actually want the borders to be the same across the board and show up. The spacing is consistent but no matter how hard you try, those borders will show up.

Lesson #3

Give up on trying to view your book on every device you have that can view the book. Go with what the previewer shows you and realize that the reformatting on the fly can have a funky effect on the layout. Just paging back a page in the previewer will give you a different result than what you see moving forward in the previewer.

In case you didn't realize it, Kindle and Nook both have free apps that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PC's (yes, the term PC includes the Mac line as they are also Personal Computers...don't get me started on computer history!). PCs/laptops/notebooks can have average screen sizes from 10" and up. Since the applications will size to the screen size in use, the paging can change drastically. You'll go crazy trying to make sure it works "perfect" on every screen. Changes are it won't anyway, so save yourself the headache.

Lesson #4

Hard page breaks are you friend. The best lesson I learned was to use a hard page break between each recipe and chapter page. I removed the rest of the page breaks, so in that sense the layout is very similar to a traditional novel which would only have a hard page break at the chapter end.

Lesson #5

Leave it alone for a day or two. When you think you have it "done", walk away for a few days. Come back and review it again. You'll be surprised at what you may have missed or find that you are ready to finalize the copy. Either way, give yourself a break.

Last, but not Least

Select the DRM (Digital Rights Management) opton when setting up your eBook the first time. You can't change you mind after you publish. Without DRM, your eBook will be pirated even faster. Make it a bit harder for them to pirate, select DRM

I hope this doesn't scare you off from creating your own cookbook for your friends and family. It's still worth it if they're scattered to the four corners of the world. That's exactly why I set mine up as an eBook. With friends across the globe, it's the easiest way to get the book distributed to everyone.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Puppy Mayhem

We bit the bullet and got another Great Pyrenees puppy. Boy, have I forgotten how much work a puppy can be! Our last puppies came as a matched pair so they entertained themselves and are very bonded to each other, since they're still alive and with us, they're not taking to the new member of the family as readily as I'd hoped.

Part of why we decided to get a pup is that our 8 year old female Pyr has so much going on with her - a heart arrhythmia, hypothyroidism, bad hips and now Lyme disease - we have no idea how much longer we'll have her. Our male on the other hand, also 8, presents as if he's 5 instead of 8 because he's so healthy. He's also so bonded to our big girl that he whines and pouts when she goes for a vet visit or just a walk down the block. So we picked out a new female for him to bond with in the hope that he won't die of a broken heart when it's his sister's time to go.

It's been a week...I'm somewhat sleep deprived as I'm on-call this week. Tonka Tala Tama (Tala for short) knows to pee when told "go potty", understands inside/outside/treat/bone and comes and sits on command, no leashes needed. Pooping outside remains a challenge, just like with our big girl and we're still learning Tala's signs for when she needs to potty.

My mother's day started off with cleaning up a poop pile full of dead round worms (it's actually a good thing), rescuing a variety of shoes from being destroyed, redirecting her chewing to a small rawhide and a bone. The rawhides have to be swapped out as soon as they are flexible enough for her to chomp a piece off...I don't want her to swallow it.

No paper is safe from her shredding puppy teeth, I have cuts all over my hands and arms from her razor sharp teeth, and I'm getting a heck of a workout carrying her downstairs to go potty. She can come up just fine but down is a challenge. She weighed 20.5 lbs. on Wednesday, I swear she must weigh close to 25 now and I've had to size up her collar and harness twice now.

On the plus side, she's a ton of fun, very sweet, loves everyone and is giving our neighbors a chance to enjoy the puppy experience that they missed out on with their youngest dog. She's also smart as a whip, evaluates what the big dogs are barking at before chiming in and will change direction or stop what she's doing when she hears a stern "no". And she's super soft.

None of this has anything to do with writing really, other than that the spare time I used to have is being eaten up by puppy care.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Advice from the Menopause Zone - for those 25 and under

Now that I'm at "that age", I'm hearing about more old friends/acquaintances getting late in life divorces. The one thing they all have in common is that they got married in their early 20's. What I find interesting is that a big portion of them are saying some of the same things I heard from my moms' (that's a plural possessive - if that's possible as I had a lot of moms growing up) friends going through divorces in their late 40's and early 50's.

Trust me, as a menopausal women who can drive herself nuts, I get why men of a certain age may decide to walk away. We're tough to live with, I'm the first to admit it. Horomones are all over the place, our thermostats are shot and unlike pregnancy there's no cute baby as a reward at the end of the line. It can even be worse if you weren't sure of who you were before you got married and tend to rely on your spouse as your primary focus in life.

The general recipe for this disaster is a smart young women meets boy with potential in college, they fall in love and get married. Kids arrive shortly thereafter and - if they could afford it - she quits her job to be a full-time mom. Which is awesome work if you can get it! After the kids are grown and head off to college, she turns to focusing on the house or spouse or takes on grandkids, but in general does not return to the workforce. Most went from their parent's house to dorms or apartments with loads of roommates and never lived on their own or really had a career before being wed.

Then - WHAM! Divorced and on their own they don't really know how to cope with life or have any idea who they are or were.

So, my dears, please do yourselves a favor. Wait to get married. Live on your own for a while first. Really get to know you, what you like and what you want in a partner. Some of you may discover that you aren't who you thought you were, maybe your orientation is different, maybe the career choice you made before knowing what you like to do was wrong. Take this time to learn. Learn how to take care of your own finances, your car, your job and life in general.

Granted, I didn't get married until I was in my 30's, but I knew what I wanted in a partner and I lucked out. It takes a lot of love and tolerance to ride this roller coaster called life with another person. Give yourself the time to find that right person. Sure, it's a lot easier to have kids when you're young and have more energy, but waiting until you're older and more stable will take a lot of the stress out of it too.

Make sure your partner has a viable career (really, no one can survive on fast food wages unless maybe they are in management or own a franchise) and can handle their own money. Have some outside interests that you invest time in without your partner. Being able to spend time by yourself or away from your partner is a good thing. We all need our own space at times. Don't give up best friends for your partner's sake.

Don't get me wrong this advice isn't just for the straight girls, swap out the gender-related pronouns and you'll get my drift. Take some time to figure out who you are and to truly realize that you can survive on your own. Hopefully you'll be laid off at least once before you hit 30. It was the best gift I could have been given. Having gone through that young, before I had lots of responsibilities, taught me how to bounce back fast, get back on my feet and find my next job. It also taught me to have a business plan ready to go should I need to work for myself during any lulls. (I hate accounting with a passion and suck at marketing, otherwise I'd have my own company).

Ok, almost off my soap box. I'll just leave you with this: know that you are a perfectly capable young woman and can survive on your own just fine.  Be brave! Take Risks! And most of all enjoy the ride!