Tag Archives: Miranda

Reflection on 2014 goals and renewal, revision and recreation of Goals for 2015.

How do I follow up a year like 2014? To finally be able to call myself not only a writer, but a published Author, has been a dream for decades and a goal since 1991. That was one small part of 2014!

2015 looks to be a challenging year for all authors, as the industry continues to flex and flux to maximum capacity. My overarching goal for 2015 is to beat all the records I made for myself in 2014: get more words written, more stories and books published on more platforms. Develop my web presence more to increase my discoverability. All of these are within my locus of control. I must have confidence that the sales will follow and keep to the long view [As opposed to the Longview] of success.

Doing some end of the year accounting I discovered that I have paid for all the printing costs of books I purchased: 600 copies of the paperback, 50 copies of the hardcover and another 10 copies of the Advanced Reader Copies. My cost in books, shipping and tax? $3935. My estimated income for 2014? $4037. Now, I haven’t paid for the cover art, editing or advertising yet, but I also paid the bulk of those in 2013! So, I very nearly broke even this year! When I have to order a second printing, I will have covered those costs.

So, onto the goals. In 2014 my original goal was 150,000 words [I actually raised it to 182,500 in a fit of optimism and then got very little writing done for the first four months after releasing All Is Silence. Not counting what I may write in the next two days, I hit 127,551 or 85% of my goal. I’d give myself a solid B for writing. 102,055 of those words were fiction and the other 25,000+ were blog-posts. So for 2015, my goal is to write 150,000 words of fiction and 32,500 words of blog posts and other non-fiction activities for a total of 182,500 words, averaging 500 words per day. Not bad for a father, partner, teacher.

I intended to complete two on-line writing courses I purchased from Holly Lisle. I got partway through both. No goals for writing courses in 2015 except for finding advice as needed.

How I did on other Writing Goals 2014 [and how I’ll adapt them in 2015.]

  1. 26 submissions – No. 3 publications and 1 submission. 2015: 12 publications of novels, novellas and short stories.
  2. Complete Final Draft of Straight Into Darkness before October. – No. Finished a really, really rough draft in early December. 2015: Finish Final rough by 48th birthday, February 15, 2015. Complete Advanced Reader Copies by April 1st before Norwescon.
  3. A three day novel writing weekend (outside of NANOWRIMO) – No. 2015: Renewed.
  4. NANOWRIMO – 4th Deserted Lands novel – No. 2015: Write 50,000 words in November 2015. Probably Grace I or Charley I.
  5. Break record of 6054 words in one day! [using TEK article] YES!! 11/15/2014. 6,238 words. 2015: Rebreak record. At least 7,000 in one day.
  6. Complete 2nd Draft of Oppositions, my second novel, fantasy – No. 2015: Tentatively renewed. Only if I finish a 3rd Deserted Lands novel draft before November.
  7. [added 5/4/14] Blog once a week [added 7/10/14] Blog longer, more content. YES!! 63 blog posts, averaging 386 words each up from 143 words each in 2013. 2015: Aim for 64+ posts averaging 500 words each. Focus not on writing.
  8. [added 5/4/14] Publish Toils and Snares novella in late summer/early fall. – No. Perhaps I should have set a goal to write it first! It was going to be 22,000 words. It’s going to finish at about 40,000. 2015: Publish in January of 2015.
  9. [added 7/10/14] Publish at least one Kindle Single [this summer?] YES. Published Just Desert and One Tin Soldier on KDP. 2015: Publish 8 short stories to Kindle Direct Publishing.

Additional goals for 2015

  1. Read and decide whether to rewrite first novel, Jack and the Beanstalk for YA/MG or not?
  2. Record all unrecorded, written/remembered songs.
  3. Complete at least 2 short Deserted Lands stories TBD: 10,000 words total.

My reading goal was 14 books and I hit it, not certain that I didn’t read a few more on e-readers! Oh, and not counting the three books I read to my daughter putting her to bed! I’m aiming for at least 15 in 2015 [not counting my own books! I read All Is Silence twice in 2014].

Hope your new year is a good one.

Write on,
Rob

On Backing Up… wherein I praise my ThinkPad & Scrivener writing software

On Friday I was at the Whatcom YMCA waiting for my daughter to climb the wall. I know, usually children make their parents climb the wall, right? Well. There were a bunch of people there despite the fact that we got there five minutes before the climbing wall opened for Family Climb.

So we got her harness on and then she waited. Climbing the bouldering wall and getting all warmed up. While I waited I found a spot partway up the stairs where I could see her when it came time for her to climb and with a nice space on a girder that abutted the climbing wall for my laptop. I set the laptop on my carrying case and proceeded to read what I had just written on the novella: Toils & Snares and the novel: Straight Into Darkness. Then something happened. The laptop slipped and fell…

Now the “new” laptop is actually a 2009 Lenovo Thinkpad X200 that I picked up used from the Rakuten website for $175 and free shipping. I’m one of those weirdos who actually like the little red cursor button in the middle of the keyboard between the G, H and B keys. I had once owned a 1999 Thinkpad that I bought in 2005, another refurbished model like this one. Both computers were nearly top of the line when they were built so with some extra RAM and an operating system update it works great. And it’s small and lightweight. I bought the docking station with a DVD-RW drive, extra battery charge and an extra large capacity battery. I was all set to write a whole bunch under all sorts of conditions.

Now back to the story at hand. I froze as it slipped from my fingers, closing itself as it passed between the girder and the soft panel on the side of the climbing wall. It clanked into something. From my vantage point I could see nothing. “What was that?” asked one of the Y’s climbing wall crew.

It was a laptop,” I said in a pained voice as I ran down the stairs, “I’m not sure what it is now.”

It had not hit the ground. I could barely see where it had ended up. It had hit the next girder down about a six or seven foot fall! The battey pack was separated from the laptop and I couldn’t reach it easily. “At least I bought it used,” was all I could say in response to the jumble of questions and concern. I managed to twist and gyrate myself around under the girder and retrieve first the battery pack and then the computer. It was dusty, but didn’t seem to be majorly beaten up. Having recently gotten a netbook back from a repair service after it had lost video after a short fall of about 18 inches onto a very thick carpet, also while close, I was fearing the worst.

I pressed the battery pack back in place and returned to my perch, opening up the laptop bag this time so there would be no repeating my computer’s suicidal plunge. I took a deep breath and pressed the power button. It whirred and the archaic green lights came on showing wifi, hard-drive activity and battery power. In a few moments longer than normal, the Windows 7 welcome screen came up. In minutes I had reopened my Scrivener files for both pieces of writing. Despite not hitting back-up in the recent hour, both files contained all the words they had had when it closed itself and plunged straight into darkness. In addition, the spreadsheet file I had created in OpenOffice4 came up in recovery mode with all the numbers of the words I’d just finished.

As someone who has lost an entire chapter of a novel, nearly 4000 words from inadvertently saving the wrong file on top of another file with the same name… Well, I’ve burned myself before. So I take backups seriously. I have a huge collection of jump-drives, utilize GoogleDrive for backups as well as often e-mailing big files to myself. [Oh, excuse me a moment. BRB] {Okay. Just e-mailed both of the backup files to myself.} I’m so paranoid that I’ll lose my stuff I suspect there are sections of my first published novel in existence on some drive somewhere that may have magical words now lost to time because I made too many backups. Since I rarely use an SD card I bought a 16 GB SD card that is set up for automatic backups and also for speeding up computer operations. I discovered that if it is not in the slot, Scrivener will back up to its own backup file. So I’ve now taken to alternating where I save my backups.

The key aspect is setting up the habits. One of the best things you can do is to ALWAYS name a file as soon as you open it, before you write any words. This increases the odds that you may be able to recover the file if there is some sort of catastrophic failure that does not have the happy ending mine did. When the hard-drive died sompletely on the Apple MacBook I was using for final Scrivener output for the All Is Silence HardCover printing, I did lose both the original files and the back-ups. I had not been careful, but I had an extensive collection of PDFs and mobis and epubs and rtf docs that had all the words! So, with a little hard and repetitious work I was able to reproduce the PDF and make the page number adjustments to be able to print the hardcover, though it was most of a month later than planned. So. Back up. Now. Do it. I just hit Ctr-S, did you?

Why write a book for an audience that doesn’t read?

From 1999 to 2012 I taught at small alternative schools. One of the challenges as an English teacher is finding books that can hook students who did not grow up reading. Most students have one book that they read and loved: The Giver, Of Mice and Men, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Witch of Blackbird Pond, My Side of the Mountain, Island of Blue Dolphins,Hunger Games. I wanted to write a book for the kids who have gotten to high school without finding that book that they couldn’t put down.

I worked with a lot of young women who had lives that continually interceded with every attempt to connect with school: boyfriends, fathers, mothers, siblings, girlfriends, jobs, pregnancy, illness, drugs, boredom… Many of these young women eventually graduated from high school. Many did not. Most are doing well. They come and bring their kids, or their partners, show me pictures of their kids, their cars, etc.

I had the idea for the Deserted Lands Universe about 20 years ago right after finishing Lord of the Flies. The book made me very angry. How depressing can you be? Take the best of the best and strand them on an island and within weeks they will have degenerated into savages? Not the kind of stories I wanted to write. So I wrote a short story originally called Jailbreak 2000 or something like that. By the time I finished the first draft I had a new title: Nor Iron Bars a Cage.

The setup was that in a prison for the most violent convicts in the near future, inmates would spend half their time hooked up to a M.I.L.D. [Mescaline Induced Lucid Dreaming] System. When a plague hit killing 90% of humanity, these men and women were not afflicted by the disease due to the medicinal qualities of the Mescaline. They would start over and I wanted to show that for the most part these worst of the worst would make good. The short story grew in size and never did reach a satisfactory end.

My time for writing was limited over the next few years. I got a full-time job, had two more kids, got married, became president of Shakespeare NorthWest, got my Masters Degree and my National Board certification and released a CD, Some of the Parts. For more specifics on the writing path, you can read, Path to Indie Publication: Parts 1-10. My life took a couple left turns in there and I found myself drawn back to writing fiction.

So, 15 years after the first spark,  I had an idea. What if this plague hit and we followed the story of an At-Risk teen girl, someone who had a rough life so far? That was in 2011. The idea lay in my subconscious other than a few notes. I wrote an intro scene, Lizzie eating the last frozen pizza with a shotgun in her lap with a dead guy out in the street she’d killed while protecting herself. Oh, and the dripping can of Lima beans pierced by the buck shot. 😉 A few paragraphs actually made it into All Is Silence.

When I began writing I shared the WIP [work in progress] with two 15 year old girls. They asked for more, demanding it at times. Eventually,  I got to the point where it slow ed way down. Then the first two attempts at an ending came up short. I would have to wait quite a while to see if my novel appealed to the target audience.  My first most passionate responses came from older folks, retired Senior citizens.

When the book came out,  students started reading and responding. My fellow teachers told me they were having to tell kids to stop reading my book. My first reviews from teens came in. And most demanded more. I got my first OMG tweet exchange between two teens I didn’t know. “I just got All Is Silence.” “OMG, it’s that book!” That sounded like success to me.

My Path to Indie Publication: Part X—Finding Equilibrium

Path to Indie Publication Series is a companion series to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Path to Publication. I have been avidly reading Marshall’s posts since I discovered his blog. Read Path to Indie PublicationPart IPart IIPart III. Part IV. Part V. Part VIPart VII. Part VIIIPart IX

Part X—Finding Equilibrium: the agony and the ecstasy of new authorhood. *

With the success of the three readings equaling sales of more than 70 books, I was very hyped about attending Norwescon 37. I created and ordered bookmarks—5000 for about $200 including shipping. They had special pricing codes: $3 off either a signed print book or a Kobo eBook as well as a note to find me on social media and I’d meet them at the con and sell them a signed copy for a great deal without the shipping and handling. Elena and I went down to the stuffing party to help put 3500 of my bookmarks into the swag bags. The result? [Because, I’m following Kris Rusch’s rule of not offering a deal unless you can track whether it is successful or not.] Nada. Zip. Zilch. The only book I sold was one that was already promised months before to a beta reader. She bought a second book, because I didn’t have change! Sheesh.

The best thing to happen at Norwescon was that I got to see Gordon Van Gelder, he had seen somewhere, a bookmark maybe, that I had a book coming out. He asked if I’d send him a review copy, which of course I was happy to do as I could then send him one of the new and rare copies with the Dante Rossetti Award announced on the cover. Will it lead to a review in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction? Who knows. But , alas, if this one doesn’t break with him, perhaps the next one will.

I still have about 1500 bookmarks and will be taking many of them to ALA14 to see if anything happens this time around. I also gave out a couple handfuls at Vikingcon in Bellingham with no discernible sales off site. I think bookmarks are cool, but don’t spend $200 and expect to get it back. I actually prefer the postcards that I made in cover-shaped format, a better way to get the name and the graphic out there. 

Vikingcon was really awesome. I met a bunch of cool people, and renewed my acquaintance with Greg and Astrid Bear. I met Greg at a Vikingcon in the 1990s and then got to be on a panel about Robert Heinlein with him in 2005 at Norwescon. So, I got to hang out with Greg Bear, I got a free table in the conference hall to sell my books and I got to meet really cool people. I am a fairly terminal optimist, so I signed 10 books with my name and inscribed Vikingcon 2014! But none sold before the panel with Greg. The panel on technology in SF, “Text me, Scotty.” went well. After the panel, my daughter Sheridan, womanning the booth with her daughter and younger sister, had sold two copies. A few people who had attended the panel came by and bought books. Then the Vikingcon folks came to pick up the signed copy I’d promised them. And as the Vendor’s hall was closing I sold the last of the 10 books. Maybe next time I should pre-inscribe 50? Nah. Lesson learned.

The biggest bump of sales not related to meeting people directly came from a friendly source. Dean Kahn, the Bellingham Herald editor who had guided the Serial Science Fiction story Memories of Light the previous year asked his readers to nominate the best books set in Bellingham. Four fans [also friends] wrote in praising my book. The day it came out I sold 9 ebooks and 2 print books in the next 24 hours and several more over the next few days. Yeah!

I’m currently sending out some short fiction set in the same universe to magazine editors in the hopes that a story might lead people to the novel. I’m also planning to release a standalone Deserted Lands novella, Toils and Snares, in the fall as an ebook. As I write this sales have gone flat, but they’ve already been better than I expected. I’ve got more readings set up and a trip to Las Vegas for the American Library Association convention followed by a drive up to Provo where the next book, Straight Into Darkness takes place.

The long awaited hardcover of All Is Silence will be here soon as will summer with more time to write. I’m doing a PubSlush campaign so I can pay my editors and cover artists more. The benefits will be commensurate with the crowd-funding amounts. More to come after school comes out.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. It’s been a roller coaster for me, but as this ride continues, I feel more and more certain that choosing the Indie Publishing route was absolutely the right decision for me. As I have more insight into this amazing process, I’ll blog a bit more, but for now… I’ve gotta write on…

* Adapted and expanded from the Foreword to Outward Bound: Science Fiction & Poetry, a collection of some of my published and unpublished works. Top

Vikingcon, Novella Cover Art, and other news…

VIkingcon 2014 was awesome. 17 newsletter signups, panel with Greg Bear, Jason Andrew, Susan Matthews, met Alma Alexander, Jennifer Brozek, and John Patrick Lowrie. Hung out with daughters & grand. Sold 9 novels and donated one for the WWU Associated Students Raffle. Had some cool conversations about books, apocalyptic fiction and music. I love small cons! Looking forward to next year.

I have now sold 200 of the first 500 hundred books I ordered and had delivered to my house! Also, have sold an additional 200 in ebook, through distant bookstores, and to libraries, none of which touched my hands! Would love to sell out of the first printing before the end of the year.

Hardcover faced additional delays. The proof copy is on the way, but I already know I need to resubmit the interior text. I didn’t click the right boxes in Scrivener. So, all the extra font work I did for the print version disappeared and that first proof copy will essentially look like the mobi file on a Kindle. Grr… Also, somehow, added an ‘s’ to my dad’s first name in the credits!

toils&snares3

Sneak preview of a possible cover for Toils and Snares, a Deserted Lands novella, I plan to release in the fall. It’s set a month or so before All Is Silence in Portland, OR and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The story will be a prologue of sorts for a later book set 15 or so years in the series future.

This is the first cover art I’ve ever created that I begins to approach saleability. Mostly due to the work of Pintado. Now, back to writing.

Photo by Ian R. Q. Slater
Cover design by Robert L. Slater