Personal Time

Toes
I’ve been enjoying the writing I’ve been able to do over the last week. It’s all for me, so I’m just letting the words flow. There’s even been character development, which is something that I wasn’t expecting, but it is a nice little exercise for getting my energies flowing back through the keyboard again. And that’s all that matters at the moment.

This week has also been buoyant for sales, which is nice. Especially as I’ve been putting exactly zero effort into marketing at the moment. Watching the different corners of the globe that I’m gathering readers and fans is always interesting. I’m always amazed at the sort of locations that people want to read my books from, particularly the sorts of regions that would ban the books outright if they ever appeared in a physical bookstore. I’m glad that I can bring a little bit of freedom and escapism into the lives of my readers in those countries.

I’ve also been kept happy by Facebook. It keeps throwing up someone I know through other channels as a potential friend. I am very careful to keep those two parts of my life very, very, separate, so much so that there is zero overlap (as far as I can tell) between the existing friends groups, and there is no known relationship between either profiles. The only thing that I can think of is that they are fans of a book genre that I never could have imagined. Again, I’m glad that I can reach into a private part of someone’s life with my words, and it makes me smile inwardly every time I get to see them.

There isn’t really much else to cover this week, but I’m happy to be back being me, again.

Fun Productivity

In Middle
I’d been watching the week roll to a close and was dreading what I was going to write about in this post. I didn’t want to have to come out and say that I hadn’t achieved anything over the last week. But, I’d never felt busier.

The first problem that had been overcome this last week was the gradual decline in the level of illness in the family. It didn’t help that the last couple of people to get it caused almost as much trouble as everyone else had, put together. But, hey, that’s what families are for.

The second problem that was faced this week was increased effort to get more work poured into the special book printing job that is due in the next dozen days. I thought things had been finished but, apparently that was my mistake. I wound up finding more reference material, which ended up having a much broader effect on the book than I had thought. So, my little minor-adjustment next edition has become a vastly revised and expanded edition. Over 20% new material has gone into the book, which came as a surprise, to say the least. I didn’t think that there was anything that had been missing from the first edition. Certainly anyone who had read the first edition couldn’t think of anything that had been missed. That alone wouldn’t have been too bad, except the deadline for printing is firm, and I’m not about to send an incomplete work off for printing.

I originally wasn’t caring too much, as it is an institutional authorship and my name didn’t appear on it anywhere, but then I was given permission to add an acknowledgements section. That meant my name up in lights, and my chance to acknowledge a short list of people who had been instrumental in getting the book created. I had also generated a fairly minor foreword for signature by the document’s sponsor, which appeared in the original edition, when it was suggested that we could get one of the most senior people in the workplace to sign one (and then two other names were brought into the discussion, as well). I could see the benefit, but it was hard up against the existing time pressures. There was no slack. If I couldn’t write appropriate foreword material in a couple of hours, it wasn’t going to happen.

So, I found myself with an interesting writing challenge. I had to generate several forewords for signature, by several different people, not knowing if all, or any, were going to be signed. The first problem was that none of them could overlap in terms of content. That limited what each could possibly say. The second problem was that each of the signatories had their own voice. I couldn’t present a boilerplate foreword that read the same as the others, or else things would look and read funny. I ended up sitting in front of a web browser, closely scrutinising biographies of the signatories and the business elements they were responsible for. My challenge from there was to write in the style and tone of the signatories, with the content limitations already in place and without a hard sample of their own writing for reference.

I’d like to think I was successful in the challenge, as there was no negative feedback when they went in for review and being passed on for signing. There were a couple of interesting discussions about the specific use of language, especially when projecting voice, power, and the impact that a few short words could have. I’m kind of glad that no one asked just how I knew how to write like that, as I didn’t really feel up to talking about my more exciting writing. I’ve got to say that it was a very fun little exercise and I got a lot more out of doing it than I thought I would. There’s always a benefit to be had to be able to throw down pages of text that are written by another hand -- to carry their voice, their desires, their dreams, their hopes.

At least I know I’ll be seeing the back of the book soon. Finally.

Because of all the other work, I thought that my muse had wandered away for a little bit. I wasn’t as concerned about this, due to not having much time for anything else.

But...

I really should know better by now...

I can’t say that I’ve been slapped by a woman before, but that is exactly what my muse did to me this last week.

I had been making my way through a bunch of internet sites when something called my attention back to an image I’d briefly seen. Flicking my eyes back over the image I couldn’t see what it was that was special about it and was about to carry on my merry way when it happened.

My muse slapped me. Hard. Leaving a stinging reminder in my mind that when she speaks, I should listen.

I sat and stared at the image, nursing the feeling back into my mind and wondering what had prompted my muse to act like that. I knew I hadn’t been writing a lot of content that had come from her lately, or even really sure if I was paying much attention, but it wasn’t the sort of thing that warranted such a forceful approach.

In person, it’s assault. In my mind, it’s confronting and confusing.

My muse sat and comforted my mind, keeping my attention on the image she so desperately wanted me to see. Whispering words of passion in my ear -- words dripping with a sweet venom that was going to eat through my soul. She was being every bit of the demanding mistress I knew her to be, and I held a respect for the lengths she was going to in order to remind me that she had much to share with me.

Any perceived pain or confusion from my muse’s slap dissolved with her crystalline laughter when I saw what it was she had been trying so desperately to show me. Her parting kiss spoke volumes about the fact she was still with me and was waiting for when I was going to come back and sit at her feet.

What I saw wasn’t much at all, but it was enough to plant the seed of a short story. One that I put everything aside to start on. I couldn’t put more than a few words down, but I already know that it’s not going to be an erotic story. It’s probably not even going to be a romance, and might even be very sad in parts. It is my muse kicking me into gear and making me get back out and writing for myself again. Honestly, it’s not really a story for my normal readers. It’s a short little story for me, to make me feel good about writing more exciting material again. When it’s done, I’ll be releasing it for free and letting everyone see what hooked me properly back into writing for fun again.

That’s probably the biggest revelation from this rather long entry.

Writing had stopped being fun.

I was getting afraid of sitting in front of the keyboard, or in front of the blank page with a pen. There wasn’t much writer’s block -- it was something altogether different. Of course, I avoided telling myself that it really was what I was experiencing.

Denial can be such a seductive lie to tell. Especially to oneself.

I’ll be honest. I had sensed something was a little bit off. My characters had started feeling flatter, and I couldn’t find what I needed to do to flesh them back out again. I had put it down as being a one-off, or something like that, but it was more pervasive than just being a one-off issue.

I’ll see how things go with this next little short story, though I can feel that the drive is back again. A little tarnished and dented, perhaps, but it is there and ready to push me along.

The other thing which has picked me up today has been the realisation that I’ll get to find out soon whether I can publish my out-of-genre title. That would make me happy, to be able to share at least one of the books I’ve written this year with a wider audience.

Here’s to a brighter future.

Keeping Healthy

Illness
This last week has been one of interesting trials. It seems that flu season is on us and I’ve watched as various members of the family have succumbed to something that looks like flu in some form or another over the last week. With such a large family (by modern standards), there’s almost no respite as the bug moves through the household. We’re not quite into an isolation-style lockdown, but it has been a race to keep up with it all. It will be interesting to see what happens if we all get sick at the same time...

That’s all been keeping me busy, but I’ve still managed to get some words down. Not as many as I wanted, but that does seem to be a trend of late.

There’s not much else from this last week, it was just one of those weeks.

An Argument I Wanted to Stay Out of

Eyes
My writing this week has been a bit hit and miss. I had what I thought was a fairly straight forward set of scenes that I was going to write for a couple of stories but, when I came to actually sit down and write, it didn’t quite happen as planned. While this wasn’t what I wanted, I was able to jump between a couple of stories and still achieve some headway, but it didn’t really work towards being able to achieve traction on a publishing date for them.

What I have been doing over the last couple of days, more than anything else, has been thinking about the different goals of an author and a publisher, and also those of the retailer. While this has recently been demonstrated with the ongoing stoush between Amazon and Hachette, it has been appearing on and off for a while, and if anyone thought that things were going to be much improved after Apple’s court case, they were mistaken. Fundamentally, all I care about as an author is that I attract people who want to read my books. That’s it. If I can earn a living from it, become famous, or completely dominate the genre, then all of that is a wonderful bonus. It is writing and getting readers who want to read that is first, and most important.

At the same time, fair compensation for the work carried out is important. I don’t do my work in isolation. There are editors and other contributors to the publishing process who must be paid and, as an independent self-pub, I have the responsibility to ensure all aspects of the publishing supply chain are taken care of. By only publishing electronically, it does cut some expensive costs, but also limits potential readership.

I’d been keeping out of the other arguments between the bigger publishing houses and the major retailers, although I had been keeping tabs on what was going on, as it was likely to have a flow on effect to what I am doing. Thus, I was surprised to see a recent email from Amazon’s KDP team which took the front foot on their dispute with Hachette. The content of the email can be found at readersunited.com.

The first thing that struck me was the STC - Style, Tone, and Content. It didn’t seem like an appropriate sort of thing for a behemoth to be sending to the authors using it as part of their retail solution.

It also merited a raised eyebrow that they chose to ignore the contribution that penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and the pulp magazines (spiritual successors to the dime novels and precursors to the pulp paperbacks) made to the overall literary scene, particularly as they predate the timeframe that the KDP team give. It is also worthwhile to note that these alternative publishing formats actually provided a cheaper entry point for many authors than to directly approach the major publishing houses, and gave many the leg up they needed in order to be picked up for wider readership, something that the self-pubbed ebook scene has been doing over the last few years for some skilled authors (and some not-so-skilled).

I can understand the push for cheaper ebook pricing for most books, but things start getting murky and questions begin to get asked about where the line is for dumping, for loss leaders, and for collusion (which is one of Amazon’s claim against Hachette) Similar questions can be asked about Amazon, itself, and the restrictions that they place on certain distribution methods for authors, as well as how they determine their cut of a sale. It really is a two-edge sword when you start getting into arguments like this and it’s doubtful that there could ever be a clear winner. Everyone will probably take some form of hit from whatever solution is worked out.

These sort of arguments eventually drift into wondering why music prices are set the way they are, and why certain regions of the world have almost punitive regional pricing differences (Australia, for example). Perhaps Amazon’s beef with Hachette will have a positive flow on effect into these other issues...

Where do I stand on the broader issue, and not just this particular evolution? I can see merit to both sides of the argument, and can understand why each side wants what they want. It just seems that there is so much risk of negative outcomes that neither side will ever be able to declare a decent victory. It’s the old pig wrestling trope, except both sides see the other as the pig in the argument. Since I’m not in a position to sell mud-pit tickets, I’m going to have to make the best of whatever outcome is eventually arrived at, and to do so with the least amount of mud sticking.

Keeping Up To Date

mid
It’s been another week of few words being written. As long as they’re being put down, I’m okay with the slow pace.

I did find myself in the odd situation of having to go into fine detail with a number of people over the last week about the book binding decisions that are being made for the special book printing that I am working on at the moment. The number of odd looks I was getting about why I knew so much about the publishing and printing of books was entertaining. I had to remind myself that not everyone knows I’m a published author (a self-published author, at that), and had to refrain from giving them pointed blank looks in return (it’s a special skill I’ve developed -- the pointed blank look).

The book continues to sap my time. Because its physical printing is going to be so long after the original version was released, it is effectively a new edition. To that end, I have been engaged in editing for it to be a new, revised edition. That alone isn’t too bad, as I was expecting editing to happen to make it ready for publishing. It’s realising that I’ve got 26,000+ pages of original reference material that were updated and I have to go back through it all and find what’s changed. I thought that things were going to be fairly straight forward, with margin marks to tell me where things have changed in the parent references, but that would be too easy. I was a little concerned when I couldn’t find any margin marks, so headed for the change logs, only to find that there were page after page of annotated changes affecting the full document, and that the margin marks were not being used due to the extensive and total nature of the changes to the references.

To say my heart sank is an understatement.

On the upside, I got through 20,000+ pages last week, and feel like I’m on the home stretch for it now. I’m not going to get too excited about being able to wash my hands of the book, but it does feel like it’s getting closer. At the very least, I know that I won’t have any responsibility for the book from next year, so there’s a no-later-than date that I won’t have to worry about it after. It’s getting past that point for the rest of this year that’s causing the current crop of issues.

Time to shift more effort into the words I want to write, not the words I have to write.