Tag Archives: Scrivener

SmorgasBlog Post III: Worldcon, Woops and WATTYS 2015!

Robert Slater saw Robert Sawyer at a Spider Robinson play, while Spider joined us by Skype! I saw and heard Robert Silverberg’s hilarious, tambourine accompanied plea for peace like they had at the 1968 Worldcon in Berkley. In between the tear gas and cannabis smoke wandered the Hari Krishnas chanting calmly. Also got to nod a greating to him. Hadn’t seen him in about 10 years. He looked great.

I missed the Heinlein Blood Drives and my autograph session was mostly a bust other than as a test run for the download cards from Greenerside Digital I’ll discuss below. I ended up spending a lot of time in my hotel room putting finishing touches on Straight Into Darkness.

I ignored the funny sounds that seemed to be coming from my laptop speaker which was, of course,  muted. I should have known. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice, and when the darn thing crashed with a Fan Error and refused to boot I have not backed up my in three or four eventful writing days. I recovered much that I had done on GoogleDocs, but what was done in my Scrivener file? It’s still there as I my two day shipping on the fan turns into three or four as well.

I nearly cried when I couldn’t find a scene that I had written. I sucked it up and used the school computer to create a new Scrivener document, so that I could release an updated version of the one I’d uploaded to CreateSpace a good two weeks before. Sigh…

So, all that to say, I should have taken note of the apocalyptic sun that greeted me in Spokane and been more wary! I may or may not Download cards Medhave print books at the release party. I will have download cards like these. The four e-books included would cost $16.96 on-line and you would not get the cool credit card sized cover art. They are good for one download each in either epub/kobo/nook/itunes or mobi/kindle formats. Your cost Friday at Village Books? $11.99, the same price as the paperback of Straight Into Darkness all by itself. I am willing to sign and mail these as well. I don’t have them up on the store yet, but if you want a set, let me know and I’ll send you a paypal invoice. Shipping is pretty cheap compared to a full book, too!

Please don’t forget to TWEET something like this: Check out my favorite for the Wattpad People’s Choice Awards. ‘s

Thanks. Hope to see you all soon for a reading near you.

MY PATH TO INDIE PUBLICATION: PART XI—KDP Select and a “novella” idea

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 IXPart X

Part XI— KDP Select and a “novella” idea.

Once I had published ALL IS SILENCE on all formats and in all major markets, I realized I was unable to take full advantage of Amazon’s considerable marketing. My idea for a solution was to write a novella set in the same universe. I expected it to take a month or so and be a short novella, about 22,222 words, or that was the goal I set. I had the idea of a story that was a prequel to a later series of DESERTED LANDS novels about a religious family that had gone off into the wilderness to escape the pandemic. It would start slightly earlier than ALL IS SILENCE and cover a longer period of time with a lot less characters. Then at a point 15 years in the future the two storylines would connect.

By marketing the novella as a parallelequel, I might gain new readers for ALL IS SILENCE, but most importantly, I could offer it on Kindle Select and take advantage of Free days and Countdown Offers. While working on the novella, working title: SAFE THUS FAR, I realized I could also begin uploading short stories to Kindle Select and submit them to Kindle Singles.

I chose my first, JUST DESERT, a long short story that I was proud of, but had no connection to anything else I had written. I did a quick rewrite, I hadn’t read it for years and had gone through several revisions when I first wrote it and a revision in order to submit to the Norman Mailer fiction competition. I was pleased with the story, so I uploaded it to Scrivener, formatted it and then added a bonus short-short story: BEGINNINGS, the opening story to the OUTWARD BOUND collection. Already free to read on Amazon by using the LOOK INSIDE feature. I thought it might offer an invitation to read OUTWARD BOUND or one of the other DESERTED LANDS works.

August of 2014, when I released JUST DESERT, also happened to be the month Amazon introduced the Kindle Unlimited program. Not surprising to me, my ebook sales dropped 90% from August to September. Now some of that was that my book had been out for 8 months, but I could read the writing on the wall. I needed more ebooks on kindle select without moving ALL IS SILENCE out of all the other markets. So, I continued working on TOILS AND SNARES [Safe Thus Far sounded too, uh… safe.] I also got another short story, ONE TIN SOLDIER, up on Kindle Select.

I’d planned on TOILS AND SNARES being in the 20,000 word range, but as I wrote I realized the story, though smaller than ALL IS SILENCE was going to be a lot bigger than planned. When I finally finished it, I had over 40,000 words. Instead of paying one editor, I worked with no less than 8 people offering me advice on the story. I also uploaded it half a chapter at a time once a week, building up to putting it on sale. It didn’t do as well on Wattpad as ALL IS SILENCE, but that didn’t surprise me; it wasn’t young adult.

For TOILS AND SNARES and all of the other Kindle Select submissions I did my own cover art. For the two short stories I used the website Canva and spent a couple hours per cover and a couple bucks for stock art. For TOILS AND SNARES I used a photo taken by my son near the area where the story is set, lifted some of the lettering from ALL IS SILENCE and then did the title art myself. None of these titles look as good as the three covers I’ve paid for, but they’ve cost me about 10% as much even figuring in time spent.

When TOILS AND SNARES released on February 28th, it had a nice solid bump. And what do you know? There was a corresponding bump in sales of ALL IS SILENCE about a week later. Now this week I’ve got TOILS AND SNARES on sale with a Kindle Countdown. I’ve managed to hit my highest Amazon author ran in all categories, but the #1056 in Science Fiction made me happiest.

What I’m hoping for now is enough reviews to get TOILS AND SNARES on a Bookbub advert and see if I can ride that wave into the release of STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS this summer.

That’s all for now. I think my next Path to Indie Publishing post will probably be a final update on my Wattpad experience where this week TOILS AND SNARES is #62, STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS is #20 and ALL IS SILENCE is #1.

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

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?

Slater is Streaking in Seattle (and Salt Lake City).

Sick of Seattle by the Smithereens. Sleepless in Seattle. Stuck In Seattle with Slater’s Airport blues. And now, streaking in Seattle. Basically, alliterating all over.

So, after screwing up parking and missing my flight, I logged onto the SeaTac Airport wifi and discovered that I’ve sold a book a day on Amazon for three days, a book a week through Neilsen Bookscan for three weeks [Brick and mortar bookstores that report sales] and I’ve written at least 500 words of fiction a day for nine days. I wrote 800 on the flight to Vegas. So, that’s what I mean by streaking.

Looking back from the Salt Lake City airport 9 days later. I got good news in Vegas. My three days in a row, became 4 in one day. Then a day of no sales. And another and another. 3 days. No sales. Not the streak I want. Then 2 and 1, 2 and 1… Hhmmm, another streak except this time with alternating single sales and double sales? Or a steady rise? Either would be great.

The difference between all these streaks? I can only control one of them—writing 500 words or more each day. I figure if I can run a streak while traveling and get 500 words a day in short bits and pieces I can hit my annual writing goal which is 182,500 words for 2014, which is equal to 500 words a day for 365 days. At the moment I am way behind, but this streak gave me a big month so far. 13,000+ words bringing my fiction total for the year to 22,000+ words. If I average only 870 words a day for the rest of the year I will still hit the 182,500. My streak of 500 words a day stopped at 11 days, when I only wrote 258 after a big travel/ALA day. Those 258 words I was not even happy with. They may eventually get cut, but my aim was to move the plot forward by the next definitive action and hit 500 words. I did half of it. So, I decided that the important component is writing everyday and wrote those 258 words after everyone else had gone to bed. The writing everyday streak is now at 15 21 and the 500+ words/day streak is now at 3 8. Even with the short day, I have averaged 676 words a day for the everyday streak.

In November of 2012 when I was writing All Is Silence for NANOWRIMO, the third novel I’ve written and the first published, I wrote over 58,000 words in November, Nearly 2000 words a day. In November 2013 I managed 1000+ words a day for NANOWRIMO. Since releasing All Is Silence, my word counts have been abysmal. No words of fiction in February. And minimal words in Jan/Mar/Apr. In May, I realized I had written more words of non-fiction: blog posts, guest posts, and marketing materials than fiction—10,000+ compared to 9,000.

How did I turn things around? Two tools. The tools I used? Scrivener and Google calendar. I’ve started scheduling writing time to hold myself accountable. If it’s on the calendar, I’ll be able to tell people, “No, I have an appointment.” Yes, the appointment is my butt in a seat and my hands on the keyboard, but it is more than a hobby. If I don’t schedule it, it is even less likely to happen.

The second tool is the writer’s software Scrivener. Scrivener’s Project Goals lets me set a word count goal and then as I type a bar of color moves across the box. It starts out red and gradually turns to orange to yellow and finally to green as I reach my goal. In addition, I have been keeping two Scrivener projects open and each day I have been setting goals in both. Usually 500 words per project, or 250 words if I don’t have scheduled writing time and the day is likely to be chaotic. I’ve proven to myself that I can write 1000 words per hour IF I know what happens next in the story. My goal for July and August is at least 1000 words a day. I will write for four hours each workday morning Monday-Thursday in the summer] or until I hit 2000 words, whichever comes first. On the non-work days, I’m planning on at least an hour each morning.

500 words a day Challenge & Progress

At the beginning of this year I set a goal of a 500 words per day. I have only managed to accomplish that goal on 5 days. Other days I wrote few to none. So, with the idea that if I tell folks what my goal is I will hold myself more accountable, I am publicizing it. Anyone else who wants to take the challenge is welcome to comment below with their own goal.


I’ve also set up writing goals in Scrivener that will help. Today I broke 1000 words in 1 hour and ended the day at 1450. More words than I have written in one day since the 16th of December! I’ve added progress meters on my two main works in progress: Straight Into Darkness, the next Deserted Lands Novel, set for release in Spring of 2015 and Toils & Snares, a Deserted Lands novella, set for release in Fall of 2014.

Thanks for all your support, folks. Write on!

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!


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 

My Path to Indie Publication: Part V–Reality and the Instability of Time

My 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.

Reality and the Instability of Time, a.k.a. Learning to Use Scotty’s Law of Time Estimation (or even less well known, how to a write a blog post with too long a title…)*

[Author’s Note: Sorry this is late. It’s at least slightly ironic that this blog-post was late, no?]

When I “finished” the first draft of And Everything After… [Third working title. First was Zombie Zoo, Second was Where Have All Your Children Gone?] I decided I wanted to publish in August of 2013—TEN MONTHS after I’d written the first words. Hubris? Yeah. There have been lots of humbling moments in response to this presumptuousness.

As part of my NANOWRIMO prizes, and on the recommendation of my new editor, I bought Scrivener Writing Software for half-price–a steal at $20. Reasonable at the usual price. I bought the Windows version to format Outward Bound, the Science Fiction & Poetry collection. I had struggled with the NANOWRIMO 45 day free download of Scrivener and given up on it.

After the stress of finishing the first draft of the novel, I found that taking already existing documents and uploading them into the software was easy. Then turning it all into an e-book was even easier. The only real issue I had was formatting the poetry. One poem graphically moves across the page like a spiral galaxy; getting it to look right in an ebook was challenging. I had hoped to release Outward Bound in April or May as a way to build interest in the release of All Is Silence In the World [the penultimate title]. But as June came, it was not yet ready for prime time. Luckily, as a self published author the only deadlines one has to hit are ones own.

Meeting Alice Acheson at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference helped me figure out a more reasonable plan for marketing and releasing the novel. All Is Silence. Alice suggested waiting until February because when bookstores get a book at the holiday season or soon after, there is so much going on that it may not get noticed. So I picked February 11th. It seemed like a long way off.

With my final installment of Memories of Light, the Science Fiction Serial, appearing in the Bellingham Herald in August, I wanted to maximize that press opportunity. But the novel was not nearly finished. I decided that releasing Outward Bound instead of the novel in mid-August with a sampler chapter of the novel made the most sense.

In late July I submitted the current draft of the novel to CreateSpace to see what it looked like in print. I went with a generic cover and the wrong title, Deserted Lands, not wanting anything to go wrong about having the book out too soon. I had printed a slipcover for it featuring the amazing art of Pintado. ALL IS SILENCE.  I was thrilled to hold it in my hands. For about 30 seconds. Well, maybe five whole minutes. This now svelte title, cut down due to reading a blog from Mark Coker of Smashwords, [Web editor’s note: Rob’s daughter Sheridan suggested cutting the title to ‘All is Silence’ months before he] housed a manuscript that needed a similar svelteness.  If I had published it at this point I would have been deeply embarrassed, yet many of the self-published books I have tried to read seemed to be released at this point.

The weeks leading up to the release of Outward Bound and my “chapter” of Memories of Light became full of marketing and formatting and uploading and re-editing stories and poetry I hadn’t read in years as well as the new Deserted lands works. On a challenge from Holly Lisle, I had started three short stories set in the Deserted Lands universe intending to include them in the collection. The first two came easily, but I realized the third was not a short story. It told about a European stuck in the U.S. due to the pandemic and trying to figure out how to get home to his lover who had also miraculously survived. This novel, about a bunch of non-sailors trying to cross the Atlantic, is now slated for #10 in the series, I think. Might be #7.

More delays coming. Which leads into Part VI: Playing the Professional.

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

Learning Curves on ePublishing.

Thanks for all the positive comments on the intro story, Beginnings, and the cover art for Outward Bound: Deciding to release an eBook collection made of mostly previously published works was one of the best decisions I’ve made in the past six months. I’m learning all sorts of things about Scrivener, eBook formatting and marketing. Unfortunately for the release of the eBook, the only distributor that may be up and running on August 20th may be Kindle. I’m finding the Nook and Kobo sites more difficult to deal with and so I may let BookBaby distribute to everyone, except Amazon. I want the best looking version of the book, the .mobi file that I have created with Scrivener to be at the biggest eBook market. I will also have individual download cards for all major eBook formats, but those won’t be available until Mid-September. Hopefully, what all these delays mean is that when the novel comes out everything will be releasing within days of each other.

E-Book of Fiction and Poetry nearly ready.

Outward Bound_1

Completed 90% of this e-book using Scrivener. It was more difficult to figure out, but when uploaded to Kindle reader, Scrivener gives me so much more control. The e-book should be up in early August. It includes most of my sold fiction (PG rated) and poetry, as well as, some unpublished fiction and poetry, a BRAND NEW Deserted Lands story and the first chapter of my debut novel: All Is Silence. Nothing like three days with limited internet to ensure progress is made.


Hey folks,

Passed the half a million characters mark! 😉 And 92,000 words. Closing in on the ending. Which changed in the last two days. There is a certain pull, a point at which the characters tell you what they are going to do (provided you’ve raised them right!).

Created my first e-book. No chapters. 2nd attempt. Chapters, no text. Third time charm, Chapters, text, but extra numbers. 4th time excerpt. All cleaned up. Scrivener Rocks! Next book will be written in Scrivener. If you write, fiction, non-fiction, plays or screenplays, even comic books, you owe it to yourself to try Scrivener.

Turned over 301 of 411 manuscript pages to story editor, Amanda Hagarty of Mandy’s Media. My computer acting as my print server told me to shut down because there was an overheating error!  When it is finished and printed the manuscript pages will be about as long as an entire ream of paper!

Write on,