Changing course

There’s always so much to do in the self-publishing world, and it’s exhausting. It also pulls you away from what you want to do most, write. Sometimes, I use these other things, these necessary evils, as a way to procrastinate.

The first was in finding the perfect image for the book cover. I became obsessed with it. Once I found it, I toyed with how to use it, slightly modify it, and looked for the perfect font. This was over a year ago, the book still incomplete. But I had a cover.

I distracted myself with re-issuing earlier, unrelated, books using my own ISBNs in order to have a little more control over my work. This involved learning the ins-and-outs of Bowker and IngramSpark. Easy enough, except, IngramSpark has different requirements for cover files. Another distraction, which included upgrading from Photoshop Elements to Photoshop and re-learning how to do certain actions in a more powerful program. And hey, I also switched aggregators to distribute my e-books wide. Fortunately, that’s an easy system to use, except…you know, I really need to add an active, hyperlink table of contents to those books. Let me distract myself with that for a week or so.

Okay, book cover? Check. Reissues reissued? Check. Understand how Bowker and IngramSpark work? Check. Understand enough of Photoshop to do what I need? Sure. E-book hyperlinks? Got ’em.

You know, I should really try and have an online presence. It’s what all the kids are doing nowadays, can’t be a dinosaur, can I? Yes, it’s already tough trying to get a blog post up twice a month, but, go for it. So, I created a Twitter account, which I avoided for years because I didn’t think I was succinct enough. Turns out, I am. Found some great people to follow, too. It’s so entertaining to distract myself and procrastinate reading those tweets.

Hmm, I hear about AMS ads. I should really look into that. Warning: start trying to build a list of keywords for ads and you’ll be at it for days. Or weeks. And, wouldn’t you know it, as I search for relevant words, authors, and book titles, I find books that interest me. I should order this or that book and distract myself from my writing a bit more. True story, last night, I had some books in my cart but wasn’t logged into Amazon. I closed the browser and thought, you know, I don’t really need those books. Besides, I have a stack of titles I haven’t even read yet. Screw it.

Well, after all those diversions, I’ve come to a decision that’s going to require a lot of willpower. I’m not sure I’m up to it, but, damn it, I’m going to try. No more distractions, no more procrastination. I’ve got to focus on the novel. I don’t care how small the progress, as long as it’s progress. To that end, I’ll still try to update the blog twice a month. I’ll still be checking in on Twitter, but not to waste time or procrastinate. The book is far too important.

Organization and epiphanies

Yesterday, I worked on organizing a scene in an early chapter of the novel, adding some new dialogue along the way, and deleting the duplicate, triplicate, and sometimes quadruplicate notes I had (yes, sometimes I’m like that). Of course, it’s not perfect, but at least that scene is now in the proper order. There’s more, similar, work to be done in the chapter, but it’s all coming together.

Later in the evening, over a cup of tea, I took to my digital recorder. I often do this prior to going to bed. I relax, and babble about the day’s work, or all the things that still need to be done on the project. It can sometimes become a stream of consciousness type thing. Last night, I was talking about what I accomplished earlier in the day, noting that what began as an add-on prologue (it wasn’t in the original draft), became two separate chapters that could stand alone as a short story. Then I thought, it seems like a lot of (intriguing) stuff that doesn’t have any bearing on the rest of the book, kind of a misdirection or cheat to accomplish one, minor thing……

Until my subconscious thinking smacked my conscious thinking and I realized just how important it was. Incredibly so, in fact. I delved deeper, spelunking that dark cavern of my creativity. I realized that, because I’ve been so focused on earlier chapters of the book, I had  ‘forgotten’ later chapters, when things take some wonderfully complex turns. Last night, I reminded myself of character motivations and plot points and realized how it does all tie together.

I also rambled about some other things, which I’ve always known, but found the succinct words to describe or relay the idea. I just stopped the recorder, hit play, and scribbled those out right away. Good stuff.

The full story is always there, lurking in the recesses, revealing itself, little by little. Sometimes, parts are fully and easily recognizable. Other parts appear more abstract, until I pause, observe, think, and finally see the full, multi-layered picture.

 

 

 

Reading, writing, soon to be reviewing

Unfortunately, other things kept me from getting much writing done the last two weekends, but things are looking good going forward; pesky, specific errands are out of the way and my calendar is clear. In fact, last night, lying in bed, I had a thought that would make for a good sentence in a paragraph I had written earlier in the day. I got up, grabbed a flashlight, and made for the next room, where I jotted it down on a legal pad. All that for one sentence. Thing is, I knew I’d forget it if I didn’t make the effort. So many words, sentences, and paragraphs have been lost in the past due to inaction. I used to do a great deal of ‘head’ writing while lying in bed back in the day. Thankfully, I’ve moved away from that, it’s only occasionally that I have an idea in those moments. I’ve successfully retrained my brain to avoid thinking plot and character developments when I should be catching zzzs.

I’m also in the process of reading a fantastic book. I honestly haven’t been this engrossed, excited, or blown away in a long time. I’m enjoying it so much, I slowed my pace to make it last. Of course, I had to order another title or two by the author right away, convinced I’ll need another fix sooner rather than later. I’m holding off on saying anything about the title until I do a review, although I’ve mentioned the book and author on Twitter.

Hoping I get at least a little writing in tonight, then, back to reading.

This and that

Update on my goings-on.

One of the books I was reading really started to irritate me at about the half-way point, so I set it aside. It can be a problem when reading a story collection of one author. Problem is, I have two more collections by the same writer on the to-be-read list. I think it will be a while before I get back to any of his works. In its place, I started to read a novel. I like it well enough for what it is, but it’s not a page-turner. More of a slow simmer type of book.

All the re-issues are out, including e-books with active ToCs. Even better, a quick check of a couple of titles on Amazon shows the correct file in the Look Inside.

Now to the important stuff. In an attempt to jump-start my writing, I thought working on something else would help. Perhaps something in a different genre. It did and it didn’t. As I began thinking things through for the new project, I quickly realized I wasn’t feeling it. There were some elements I liked, but the story lacked a purpose. The general idea, I think, would work better as a vague, ambiguous short, with no resolution. A bizarre kind of day-in-the-life.

What did happen, however, was that I turned to my novel instead. Over the holiday, I worked solely on that. Did I make a lot of headway? No, but I tackled some of the things I had been avoiding and was satisfied with the results, at least until the next round of editing. It was a good day’s work.

 

My subconscious strikes again

I’ve been toying with an idea for a possible novella. Over the weekend, I hit upon an idea for a scene and  started thinking it through, jotting notes, fragments of conversation, etc. Last night, I started to wonder why that new scene focused so much on a particular thing.

This morning, it dawned on me. I realized the story had an underlying theme that could be summed up in one word. One word, that can be applied in various ways. It wasn’t my intention. All I set out to do was write a straightforward horror story, leaving subtext, complexity, and deeper meaning to my novel.

But that’s not the way my mind works. This isn’t the first time this has happened either, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a new idea, so it seems a little foreign.

My subconscious always seems to be miles ahead of my conscious thought when it comes to writing. I often have difficulty catching up to it, but when in synch, the words can’t stop flowing.

Still in a writing rut

I haven’t done any work on the novel. I considered working on another idea, a horror novella, something lean and mean. Different. I made some notes one day, but I didn’t like the direction it was going. I need to think about it some more. I did, however, mock up a fairly decent cover that conveys horror/suspense. That counts for something, right?

I finally managed to get another book review out. It’s posted to my YouTube channel or you can find it here on the website under Podcasts.

“Whatever happened to that Silver Brook redevelopment plan? Wasn’t someone going to revitalize the resort, make the area shine again?” Connie asked.

“It was a disaster before it started. Herb Fenley and Lou Klaussen approached me about it. They were looking for investors. I turned them down, I know a dog when I see one. Then they promised me the moon and the MIlky Way. Exclusive listings of luxury condos and a handful of mansions they had planned. I told them Silver Brook is a limbo, a no-man’s land. Nobody would willingly live there, at least, nothing human.”

“Rob, don’t start that shit —”

“I’m not starting anything,” he soberly replied, and she thought he paled slightly. “The whole project fell through when Herb Fenley disappeared…during an excursion to Silver Brook.”

 

Books and non-books

Checking in with a quick update. With the reissues out of the way, I have some time I can devote to other things. One of them is reading, something I haven’t done much of over the years. Yes, years. The problem was I couldn’t find books I liked. Except for horror, I’m not much of a genre reader, and I gave up on contemporary fiction somewhere around 1992 (literary fiction that seemed only to meander and thrillers that were too formulaic). I read some 18th century plays, a penny dreadful or two, then basically gave up reading altogether.

But I wanted to read. Something new, different, that I would potentially like, rather than something I’d want to throw across the room or complain about wasting my money on. I finally found some authors that filled the void, Ray Russell and Charles Beaumont. Both 20th century authors and Chicago natives (curious, that), who wrote horror and weird fiction. Russell’s works tend to have invisible layers. When I’m finished reading, I find myself sitting and thinking and those layers slowly start to become visible. Many stories are like little puzzle boxes that, surprisingly, can have more than one resolution.

I’ve started to read the first of three Beaumont collections. I’ve read three distinctly different short stories and they were all good, ranging from horrific, to fantastically whimsical, to slightly gritty and depressing. An interesting observation I’ve made is that Russell tends to be careful with language, meaning he doesn’t usually use curses or obscenities. If he does, it’s rare and rather mild. Beaumont will use expletives more liberally, but not gratuitously, they feel right for the situation. I really want to savor these Beaumont stories, so I’m only reading a few at a time, and I have one other Russell book to read. Reviews will be forthcoming. Russell’s tend to take more time to review because I have to think about them more, and oftentimes, as I’m thinking, I hit on another aspect I hadn’t considered before. Those invisible layers again.

That’s the good news. The bad…I haven’t been motivated to write. I have ideas, I have notes, I have a pile of things that need to be addressed. But, damn it, the motivation isn’t there. I’m considering making some changes. Handwriting some things, moving to a different work area, something, anything, to jump start the process. Maybe I’ll become so frustrated and angry with myself, I’ll start working again out of sheer spite. Here’s hoping.

Hyperlink ToC bookmarks in LibreOffice that don’t fight with Calibre

NOTE: UPDATED WITH VIDEO 6/24/18

If you read e-books, you’ve seen it. The Table of Contents at the beginning of a book, listed in blue. Tap or double-click a chapter name and voilà, you’re there. Nifty, huh? If you use Word, you know how to create that ToC, or can readily find out how, because instructions abound on the web. Heck, even KDP explains it somewhere. But what if you use a Mac and LibreOffice? You’ll find nothing helpful on Amazon’s KDP site because a) they’re indifferent to Mac users, b) they’re indifferent to LibreOffice users, and c) they’re indifferent to Mac users who utilize LibreOffice. What to do?

You could save your ODT file as a DOC or DOCX, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Libre if you ask me. Not so very long ago, KDP used to tell Mac users to hand code all the HTML, good luck! Now their not-so-helpful help entry merely says to use hyperlinks and bookmarks. Which brings me to the crux of the matter.

I use Calibre to create an EPUB from an ODT file. I never created that active ToC because I didn’t know how, didn’t have time to learn, and didn’t have the inclination to wander the web trying to find out how. Yesterday, however, through some semi-useful information found on the internet and a lot of trial and error, I figured it out. There may be a better and faster way, but this seems to work and is fairly simple. Continue reading

Parted ways with CreateSpace

I’ve been busy of late, so I haven’t had time to blog much. I did want to say that as of a couple of weeks ago, I’ve officially parted ways with CreateSpace. I’ve mentioned my reasons in other posts; title suppression, delays in customer service responses, and weak site security. It was unfortunate, because I really liked the swift turn-around when it came to ordering proofs and their end product. My understanding is KDP Print books are of the same quality, so, fingers crossed.

If truth be told, CreateSpace’s website was a bit old fashioned looking and will bounce you to sections you’ve already completed. KDP is streamlined and quick, I’ll give them that. I only wish I had more control over how things list on the dashboard and could set preferences. I’ll be able to test the entire KDP Print process, including ordering, in the next few weeks with the last guide re-issue. From what I’ve read, the method for ordering proofs from KDP seems unnecessarily complicated. Place order, receive an e-mail, order within a set window on Amazon…odd.

I’m still not sold on IngramSpark books. I dislike the thinner paper stock and heavy black of the text. I’ve seen others say they like the crisp, dark ink coverage, but I think it makes the book look cheap. That’s just me, of course, although I just recently read a traditionally published book and the ink was no where near as heavy, it was more in line with a CreateSpace book. I do like having IngramSpark for wide distribution. I’m planning on a hardcover edition for the novel and their pricing isn’t bad, all things considered.

I updated all files and metadata for the first five episode guide e-books and the print re-issues are out for them as well. I’m cruising through the changes for volume six and will release both editions around the end of June. I’ll say here, I won’t be continuing the project. It’s incredibly time consuming and there’s little to no interest. There are other things that need my attention. I’ve had some great ideas for the novel the last couple of nights while shaping late chapters. I’m looking forward to diving back in.

I need to focus

I finally got the third edition print versions of the episode guides out in the retail wilds. I was really just procrastinating, but the KDP Print uploads went off without a hitch. Received the IngramSpark proofs yesterday and, no surprise, I’m less than impressed with the quality. I considered a podcast/video about it, but deleted what I recorded. Maybe I’ll do one in future. I’d like to get the last available guide re-issued but can’t quite muster the enthusiasm to make those changes.

Since the guide project became a black hole that merely sucked my time and resources into a void of nothingness, I’m not continuing. Energy could be better spent on the backlog of novels and novellas I have.

I bought a microphone for audio recordings and think I’ve found the best settings and set-up. Still need a windscreen, but I’m making due for now. I rambled on for quite a bit last night on a new book review and still need to do a bit of editing.

More importantly, I need to focus on my novel. I kept telling myself if I just got those re-issues out of my way, I could dive back into it. Truth is, I find more distractions so I can continue procrastinating, like doing book reviews or anecdotal videos about writing.

So here’s my plan: get the last completed guide out by the end of June. The book review I mentioned is almost done, so I’ll post that in the next week or so. Another book I wanted to review I need to re-read. Since it’s a horror novel, I can always aim for a Halloween timed review. What’s that leave? Work on the damn novel. Here’s hoping.