Love, Patient Zero

I’m giving up on calling this thing allergies and moving on to where I just admit that it’s a cold. The good news is that means it has a lifespan of a couple of weeks. The bad news is that by then, the farmers in Kansas will be burning their fields, so I’ll probably just transition smoothly into allergies.

I have pills that are supposed to help, and probably do, since I woke up at the stroke of “allowed to have another one” and a nifty OTC inhaler which smells like furniture polish, and works, if you’re actually able to… ya know… inhale.

Tea might be the answer.

I will be faking my way through work, pretending I feel fine because there’s just not an absence policy that lets me stay home that long.

After the next pandemic, I’m sure the survivors will all be sitting around, saying If only they’d just been allowed to stay home back when we thought it was a cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lagniappes, Giveaways, and Finding YOUR Fans

I love it when people give me free books.

Aside from the obvious–someone is giving you a free book–it’s a great way to get past all those unconscious biases and read something completely out of your comfort zone and find something you wouldn’t pick up on your own.

The first strangers I remember handing out free books were the Gideons. Motel room Bibles, first–seems like I was always on a road trip of some kind as a kid–and later, the suit-and-tie men who stood outside schools and passed out teeny-tiny New Testaments in bright colors. One of my great-uncles was a Gideon, and you could always go over to his house and read the Bible. And since he was also kind of an ersatz missionary, you could “read” the Bible in more languages than I can count, some of which used a completely different alphabet.

Laugh, if you want, but it was one of my first introductions to foreign language.

Later on, when I was a Bookseller, we had a communal shelf for the Advance Copies publishers sent us, and the books rotated in and out fairly quickly. You’d read it, and then bring it back (most of the time) and add a post-it with a few notes on your thoughts. Obviously, the ones  with the most post-its were the most desirable.

Yes, there was a range. There were tech manuals in back that had probably been untouched since the dawn of the Epoch, and which were probably… just fine as that goes… and occasionally, you’d wind up with a note or two that shredded something.

But you still got that exposure to things you might not ordinarily buy or even read. Would I put out money for a History of the San Francisco Sewer system? Probably not, but if my friend liked it, and it was free…

And then, comes the world of e-books. When I got my first e-reader, it seemed like everything was free, and if it wasn’t… well, wait a week. People were fiddling around, trying to figure out the business model for e-books, and the first digital-only imprints were being born. And somehow, people still made money.

Just not the company that made that first reader. In time, their store wound up being swamped by “Free.” You could search, but you couldn’t find anything under the piles and piles of “Free.” The algorithm seemed to make no distinction between “real” books and the “books” some high school kid kicked out over the weekend. Probably because it didn’t make a distinction between giving away copies and selling them. It wound up closing.

Moral of That Story? There is a difference between attracting your own fans, and attracting the fans of Free.

So, moving right along…

The solution at least a couple of traditional publishers have come up with is offering “free” ebooks, but only through their newsletters, and off their own websites. That way, they’re focusing on people who care enough to know, instead of on the whole internet.

I get a couple of newsletters that have a regular Book of the Month type giveaway (and an associated discussion group, if you’re into that). I think they’re probably doing fairly well in terms of attracting “their” fans instead of a bunch of bargain hunters. One of them is Tor, and the other is a much smaller, University press that trades in non-fiction.

On the far end of things, I’ve heard the idea that you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work (eventually) because your true fans won’t be able to wait and will wind up sending money, anyway. I’m not sure I totally believe that, but it does seem to work for some people.

So, what do you think? If you give away books, how do you make that work for you? If you don’t, what led to that decision? And if you’re in some other industry, how do you handle the giveaways?

Spring, Cleaning, and Strappy Sandals

My spring cleaning has kicked up a lot of dust, and my allergies are going haywire. My eyes are dry and itchy, and my neighbors are circulating a petition to have my nose removed entirely, as it’s now an unauthorized water feature.

I’m not doing anything completely insane. I’m not washing the soap or alphabetizing the rejection collection, but a little tidying here and there might not kill me.

The inescapable truth is… I have a lot of index cards. I use them for my writing, and for my programming, and probably for notes on half a dozen other things, when I happen to grab one. Recipes, too, although the last time I cooked was… uhm… well, I can cook. I think I made some fry bread a while back.

It’s the time of year when I realize that I own a pair of ice tongs shaped like dragon claws (Why?!!), and that sometime last summer, I hid a pair of strappy sandals from the cat, and they’re still in pristine condition. (Yay!)

I’m also going through a quick inventory of clothes in my closet. Spoiler alert: I’m going to need some new clothes. I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for, but something that makes it a little easier to pretend I’m an extrovert.

Other than that, back to typing up all those handwritten pages that have been building up in my purse, and maybe find some rubber bands for some of those index cards.

Sometimes, It Really IS the Journey.

Once upon a time, I decided to hike the Ocean-View trail out of Muir Woods. I can’t remember who, if anyone, I was with. Family, maybe, or possibly a friend or two. It’s not the most rigorous trail in the world, and it’s only about three and a half miles long, but if you make it to the end, you’re promised–you guessed it–a view of the Pacific Ocean in all its glory.

It’s a beautiful trail. Redwood country, with a little stream (the site I was just on called it a “river”) about halfway up. And a nice, steady rise in altitude.

Well worth the effort, if you  happen to get out there.

And the day was perfect. Not too hot, and not too cold. More or less Hollywood style hiing up a mountain weather. Despite being in Northern California, we only ran into one nudist the whole way, and it was a small nudist.

But.

Ocean view? Probably not what I’d call a teeny-tiny sliver of slightly not-sky blue peeking out from between two mountains. I think someone had to point it out to me, because I would have missed it.

You were looking down across a deep, green valley, and some of the oldest trees in the world, under a blue sky and a warm sun… Are you sure that’s the ocean? I wasn’t. I’m still not, except that the signs promise it is.

Actually, the most prominent features of the place I’d just spent an hour or two getting to… Were the convenient parking lot and picnic tables just off the main road.

Blogging Ahead

So, in order to get some blog posts queued up and ready to go on the days when I’ll be at the Fabulous Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, I’m taking a quick peek at the A-to-Z Challenge schedule, and I find that if I include travel time, I’ll need posts V-Z while I’m there, and also one more post for the 1st of May.

April 26th also happens to be the StoryTime Blog hop, which means that letter V will have to be a short story in a sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction vein. It doesn’t necessarily have to be aimed at children, but it probably does have to avoid sex, violence, and language.

And I believe the theme for my alphabet challenge would be the letter M.

I don’t have the faintest idea what I was thinking.

Oh, well. Too late for buyer’s remorse, now.

The thing is, If I start early and stay ahead of it, I may be able to cram just about anything into my letter M theme.  If I slip behind, it’s going to take more and more time to find today’s appropriate letter. (As opposed to “hey, I can throw that over here.”)

The process might get me ahead of schedule for good.

The Great Theme Reveal

Anybody who’s read this blog for long knows I’m not much of a “theme” person. I have to drag themes kicking and screaming out of my novels, and most of the time, I have no particular desire to build or work with a theme. I’m not someone your tenth-grade English teacher would like. My tenth-grade English teacher(s) spent the entire year hinting about ways to do drugs in class, on the premise that stoned might be an improvement, and ultimately wound up being sainted for not killing me in my sleep.

At any rate, my theme for last year’s A-to-Z Challenge was a Fly-By-The-Seat-of-Your-Pants stroke of brilliance: Whatever the hell happens to pop into my head. It worked well enough. I made it through.

This year, I thought about doing an upbeat complicated relationships thing, because that always seems to work its way into my stories, but let’s be honest, I’m not really sure all my readers are up for a recitation of A-to-Z relationships, and quite frankly, it would almost certainly devolve into a list of rare and exotic paraphilias. Why no… I just needed something that started with the letter U. Why do you ask?

That could sure get thorny fast.

Do I really need a theme?

Okay, so the one that finally popped into my head was…

Words that begin with the letter M.

That doesn’t seem so unreasonable. I’ll need to add words that don’t begin with the letter M to make it fit the challenge, but with some effort, I think I can make it work.

Words that begin with the letter M it is, then.

If you want to join in the challenge, all the details are here.  Let me know if you’re playing along.

Explaining the Self-Explanatory

Well, hell. Sometimes it just gets down to that choice of getting up or lying in bed counting down the moments that you could have been sleeping… if only you could sleep.

Good morning, world. Time to eat my English muffin and pretend to be awake.

I’m not really sure what got me up this early. It could be the scene I was writing last night. (Possibly I need more time between when I finish writing, and when my head hits the pillow.) Or it could be the fact that I’m having one of those “conversations” at work. You know the kind: I said something I figured was self-explanatory, and apparently, it’s not.

It’s going to need to be fixed.

I’m still vaguely hoping to have a manuscript by the time I leave for Colorado. That may be at least slightly optimistic, but my characters were cooperative last night (and probably any night where I have time and a little bit of discipline) So, it could happen.

I think about going to the library to work on things on my days off, and then, I realize the library opens roughly eight and a half hours after I wake up. That’s a whole work day! I’m not sure what is open, right now. Truck stop cafe might really be it.

In further small-town related news, the junk-yard burned last night. Thick black smoke everywhere. About two miles of road was closed down… not that the fire was that big. It’s just that two miles is the smallest section of road you can close, and still have a place for traffic to turn off without having a giant rut of u-turns.

I liked that junk yard. Meanest dogs in town. Nearly licked me to death, the last time I was there, and when that didn’t work, they tried drowning me in an ocean of slobber. I was lucky to escape with my life.

Grumpy Saturday Morning

It’s early in the morning on a Saturday, and I am awake. I mean, it’s early, even for me. I’m being punished for letting my schedule go to hell on my days off, and for crashing yesterday. Somehow… no matter how hard I try, or how long it’s been, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that sleeping to seven is sleeping in. And sleeping in more than I ever would have, when I was on a more normal schedule.

I mean, three and a half extra hours!

And no… Not good enough. I wind up sleeping until all kinds of times I wouldn’t ordinarily.

**pops a series of happy morning type vitamins**

**and an acetaminophen**

I’m having one of those mornings where I woke up to my “daily reminder” on Twitter of how evil a particular book is. The general goal of the “reminder” is to talk it’s (traditional) publisher into cancelling it.

Let’s be honest, though… if I didn’t catch on that there was a publisher until after I’d read the tweet, and read the review it linked to, and went on Goodreads to figure out what the heck the story is about… the campaign’s not all that effective.

I’m creeping slowly toward free-speech absolutism in my old age, and by the time I’m eighty, I’ll probably think you should be able to shout FIRE in a crowded theater.

I was a little shocked to find out that this did have a mainstream publisher. My first thought–as soon as I read the main character’s name–was actually that the reviewer had accidentally picked up something written and published by the white power movement, and was doing nothing but signal boosting by railing against it.

(There will be no signal boosting here.)

So, here’s this book. And by the time I was finished reading the review, I was thoroughly convinced that the reviewer was an idiot. After all, who picks up a book where the hero’s name is Hitler McHitlerson and is then surprised when it turns out to be racist?

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that obvious. I’m grumpy early in the morning, and I probably need to be reminded that not everybody was actually paying attention in that particular dusty corner of the library stacks.

Still. Direct line.

I was surprised when I found out we weren’t talking about some guy with a garage full of vanity press copies.

If there’s an idea out there that’s so dangerous I need to be protected from it… well, this isn’t it.

Revision In Rhythm

A while back, I made a list of twenty-three scenes that are either missing or completely fouled up that my novel needs to survive. I’m starting with the ones that don’t exist at all, and working my way back to the ones where there’s some material already done.

I’m writing longhand, and then typing into a project in my novel writing software.

I have three more scenes than I did at the beginning, and they’re running a little long. I have to figure out how much wiggle room I’m willing to eat up.

At this moment, the novel is scattered out across at least three projects; there’s one for the material I’m already more or less comfortable with, there’s one for the not-even close to finished scenes that I’m salvaging from my first draft, and there’s one for the shiny new scenes I’m writing right now.

Well, it cuts down on distractions, and it keeps me from looking at tens of thousands of words and being overwhelmed.  Other than that, no, I’m not sure it serves a purpose.

I also have some short-story excitement to type up.

And some short stories to write. I am slipping behind on the 52 week challenge. I’m trying to convince myself that it IS a priority.

 

Attack of the Mile-High Writers’ Conference

I finally registered for the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference in April. I managed to get time off from work to actually go, and if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. So, I filled out forms, and pressed send, and now, I’m going.

So, clearly, the first problem is underwear–

No, wait. That’s packing for a dance competition.

Fair enough. I won’t be spending all that much time upside-down at Pikes Peak. This is so complicated!

Aside from figuring out exactly what I’m going to wear, and exactly the right memorable, but non-freakish haircut, I’m working my way through the scenes I need to add to my novel revision. I have a neat, tidy checklist of the things my novel can’t live without. I’m typing in a couple of them, today, and I’m working on more, after I get done with that.

Odds of novel being actually, legitimately ready to go by the end of April?

Probably right around zero.

But I am getting closer. I have… a plan!

Naturally, I’m falling into that phase of revision where I’m sure that my novel sucks, and the best thing I could possibly do for it involves an acetylene torch and some marshmallows. Big marshmallows.

I’m hoping to slip back into the This is the greatest thing the human mind has ever conceived! stage before the conference. We’ll see.

So, my general game plan is to track down a few friends I know will be there, and then figure out the rest of my schedule.

Any other suggestions for me?