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Category Archives: writing

The 1st Page Critique Offer

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slademail

Let me read your writing!
The first page of your writing project is the most important. It’s where you hook the readers. This is the same truth whether it’s a short story, novel, or non-fiction piece. So I’m offering to do a critique of the first page of your piece of writing for anyone who’s a subscriber to my newsletter. The actual offer will be in my next newsletter (to come out on June 16th) and will be available until June 30th, 2015.

Hmmm. The word critique bothers me. It implies criticism. Instead I should call it here-are-my-humble-suggestions-take-them-or-leave them. I’ve been doing this sort of work for over twenty years. In fact I just finished spending nine months as a writer in residence. The most important part of my job was to go over the writing of other writers, mark the work up line by line, then have a one on one discussion (we talked out heads off).  I read everything from memoirs, to poetry, to fantastical fiction. Oh, and one engineering paper.

So this is my way of offering a similar virtual experience to you. You can even submit the 1st page on behalf of someone else (a student, your offspring, an elf…even literary pets). Just sign up by visiting the link here: My Newsletter Signup Page

The newsletter itself is monthly-ish and has lots of goodies for fans, readers, teachers and other humans. And there’s often a prize and competitions. I have so much fun putting the newsletters together–it’s the perfect way to procrastinate.

So, please hop on board. And if there’s anyone else you think might enjoy this offer (and the newsletter) just click and share on the links below.

Keep on rocking!

Art

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A Createspace Experiment–Print on Demand

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I’ve been curious about Createspace’s print on demand book publishing options for some time now (It’s just one of the many arms of the Amazon). Since my novel Megiddo’s Shadow was out of print in the US, I decided to use it to try out Createspace. It is a relatively easy way to self publish a book. All you need is a word file. They provide a template that I just copied and pasted my novel into (there were a few hours of fussing a fidgeting to get things right, but I expected this).  The actual book cover design system is also very easy to use. They have a variety of covers and styles that you can use. Since the novel is inspired by my grandfather’s experiences in WW1, I decided to use his picture. Again this took me at least an hour of fussing–if I had better design skills it probably would have gone faster. And finally I submitted all the files and ordered my proof. It arrived a month later (there was some odd delay and when I informed them that it had been a month Createspace immediately sent new copies of the books to me).

Here’s what it looked like when I got the books:

Overall I was quite happy with how the book turned out. The font is perhaps a little small for my ancient eyes, but the whole process cost me less than $30.00 and now people in the US & UK can order physical copies of the books for $8.99. Which means I still make $2.41 for each copy sold. I don’t expect to sell many copies, this was just an experiment to see how it worked. I also hope that it will actually help sell more ebook copies of the book because the ePrice looks better by comparison.

Am curious to hear anyone else’s experiences with Createspace or other print on demand systems.

Art

The Fionavar Tapestry By Guy Gavriel Kay

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Original Cover of Summer Tree

Someday, I hope to make a long list of the books that changed me. And on that list, taking its turn at the top, would be The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay.

I remember it like it was yesterday, though the year was 1985. My graduation year. All the usual teenage things happened. The bad hair. The parties. The awkwardness.

The awesome heavy metal.

One of the highlights of that year shines through quite clearly: buying The Summer Tree at a bookstore in Swift Current. I was a constant loiterer in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section and the cover caught my eye. Then, when I picked up the book, the words caught my eye. I didn’t know the writer. Had no idea he was Canadian or even that he had connections to Saskatchewan. No, I knew, almost instantly that he could write. “After the war was over, they bound him under the mountain.” That’s the first line. And who would be so powerful that he’d have to be bound under a mountain? I had to read on.

I won’t go blow by blow through my reactions. I know I was a kid looking graduation in the eye and contemplating four years at university. This story that involved five university students visiting a fantastical realm rang perfectly true with me. I was also a kid with Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander running through my veins. Fionavar was the next step. The transition story. A series with depth and, somehow, it was more real than any other fantasy I’d yet read. Yes, Gandalf was amazing. So was Frodo (even if he did have hairy feet). But I could never BE one of them. But Dave Martyniuk or Kevin Laine or Paul Schafer. I could BE them. The three books in this series are burned into my memory. There are several scenes that burn bright all these years later (gee, I sound old when I say that–just imagine me with a cane and a derby hat). The story lifted my spirit, taught me about humanity. Surprised me. Also the books broke my heart, damn them. But a good book can break your heart and still get you to keep reading. To find hope again. And to believe in the power of story.

 I haven’t read the series for several years. Not because of a fear that somehow they won’t measure up to the joy I felt when I was reading them as a youth. No, I keep waiting for that time when I can sit down and read them all in a row without interruption. In other words I want a deserted island and a comfy chair. Time to buck up and go back to them again.

I think the highest compliment I can pay these books and the author is this: I decided to only buy Guy Gavriel Kay’s work in hardcover from that point on. He is one of the authors whose work deserved–no demanded to be read, preserved and treasured

I did get to meet Guy Kay years later at a festival in Moose Jaw. I nearly brought all of my copies of his books to be signed, but didn’t want to appear too fanboyish. But I do cherish the first book in the series that he signed:

All of his novels sit on a shelf in my office as inspiration. As examples of what is possible with fantastical literature.

Art

P.S. Being a hoarder, I now also have the books in softcover (and love the new covers–forgive me, I’m a book cover hoarder, too). These are the brand sparkling new covers from HarperCollins. Feast your eyes.





1000 Words a Day or Else!

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Why do I have a picture of me digging a hole in my backyard (it’s for the fish pond, you DEXTER fans, it’s for the fish pond)? Well, sometimes when I’m writing I feel like I’m stuck in a rut that’s inside a deep hole. Or that I’m treading water without waterwings. I’ve found that all the other “demands” of being a writer (clever Facebook updates, amazingly insightful tweets, googling my own name) do tend to distract from my main goal of writing. So I wanted to change that. Or…to redirect my distraction.

Recently, I was re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he mentioned that he works every day except for Christmas and his birthday. What a lazy bum! Just think about how much more he’d get done if he worked those extra days. His goal is to write 2000 words a day (thankfully, he didn’t say whether or not they had to be clever, perfect words). 2000 words! I can do that easily. Just as soon as I get around to it. I have to put the finishing touches on a tweet. Oh, and check my Amazon rankings and…oh, wait…there I go again.

It suddenly occurred to me that I could do half the work of Stephen King in the same amount of time. So I set up a little goal for myself and made up my own rules. I must write 1000 words of new work every day.  Yes, new is the important part. No matter what rewriting is needed, no matter whether I have a reading at a school, a deadline or a dentist appointment, the very first thing I must do is write 1000 new words. No tweets. No checking the hockey score on my virtual hockey team (Authored Destruction). Those words must be written. All of my rewriting, redrafting, pretending to plot, are all on hold until the new words are done. The reason I want to write new words is that I do believe those brand new, sparkly words and sentences that come flowing out of your mind in that first draft are as close to the subconscious as we get as writers. And I think it’s important to be in touch with your subconscious first thing in the morning (right after waking). There is a caveat to the rule. I can stockpile words. So if I’m going on a holiday, I will actually take a holiday, as long as I’ve written my quota for the time that I’m away. But I’m gonna work on my birthday and Christmas (take that Mr. King).

Heck, I made a splendid chart to keep track of it all. And to motivate myself. As you can see I’m ten days into my schedule and I’ve written 11,000 new words. I’m 1000 words ahead! And I even took last Sunday off.

I have found that the buzz I get from creating that new storyline carries on to my rewriting that I do 2nd thing in the morning. It’s like jumpstarting my mind. It crackles. It sparks. Then the creative engine roars into verbtacular life.

So if you see me tweeting early in the morning you have full writes…err…rights to say, “What’s up, Dude? Didja get your 1000 new words done yet?” And, I encourage you to do 1000 new a day words, too. Just think about how much brighter the world will be…

At the end of the year I hope to have 365, 000 new words to play with, to bat around, juggle and rewrite and turn into something other people might want to read. Until then I’ll keep on plugging (or treadmilldesking) away…


Art

Odd Questions that Authors Get (hilarious answers free): III

AH, more questions that authors get…with perfectly rational answers.

Q: Is it okay if I come to your house and watch you write?
A: Is it okay if I give the FBI your address? By the way I’ve moved to Antarctica. Turn left when you see the marching penguins and you’ll be there. Don’t worry about dressing warm.

Q: Are you sensitive to bad reviews?
A: No. No. No. No. No. NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

A: Oh, you’re a writer? What do you do as a job?
Q: Writing is easy and doesn’t take much time and is really more of a hobby, so I spend the rest of my hours as a serial killer. What’s your address again?

Q: What is the most fun about being a writer?
A: I get to wear pajamas all day.
A: My only boss is my muse.
A: Playing jokes on people by naming characters after them. Like my friend Cheryl who complained that I never named any characters after her. So I invented Cheryl the Sasquatch for one of my books (true story).

Q: What is the worst thing about being a writer?
A: I wear pajamas all day. Even to readings.
A: My only boss is my muse but she’s seven feet tall and smokes cigars and demands 20,000 words a week and bacon. How much bacon is there in the world?
A: A real Sasquatch showed up one day. Her name was Cheryl. She was not happy that I turned her into a comical character. She was very good at MMSA (Mixed Martial Sasquatch Arts). I was not.

Comically yours,
Art

Funny Answers to Odd Authorly Questions II

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These are inspired by a few questions I’ve been asked…actually some of them are real…

Q: I have this great idea. If you write it, I’ll split the money with you, 50/50. What do you say?
Answer #1: No.
Answer #2: No. And don’t come to my parties anymore.
Answer #3: I’ll think about it. What? You’re a brain surgeon? Well, is it okay if I perform half a brain surgery on you before we begin? It shouldn’t take long.

Q: What’s your address? Do you have any children? What are there names?
A: You’re scaring me. And I think you meant “their names.”

Q: Will an agent steal all of my money?
A: No. In fact an agent will make you more money. But you have to get the right agent. There’s an easy formula for figuring out whether an agent is the right one. E=MC2 x .15% x worldwidesales x your talent quotient / the chance of a Hollywood movie – your personality quotient + your agent’s personality quotient x luck. Easy to figure out, eh? Oh, but make sure you don’t get the wrong agent. A small percentage of agents will take 15% of your life force and use it to feed their gerbils. Good luck!

Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: 60,000 minutes to start with. That’s if you dedicate a minute to each word in the average book. You also have to dedicate a minute to each sentence. That’s another 8333.33 minutes. There’s another 65,000 minutes for rewriting each word. Add 2500 minutes for computer malfunctions. Then another 4700 minutes for fretting about characters you’re going to kill. And 2700 minutes killing them. Only 250 minutes for crying about them, though. I mean, really they were getting on your nerves. Add in the minute that you hover over your email with the MSS attached before you press send. That’s 143484.33 minutes. Or about 59.785 work weeks. Maybe add in about 2467 hours of depression if your book is rejected. Then start all over again.

Q: Will I make a million dollars if I publish an ebook by myself?
A: Yes. You only have to sell 1 a day for the next 487,804 days. If you sell two a day you’ll make the money in half the time.

Art

There’s $$ in them thar hills: October Ebook Update

I'm always looking for a clever title for these updates. If anyone has any clever titles please send one my way. I can't keep using Stephen King in my title! He'll come to my house and challenge me to a write off! I can't keep up with that guy! I figure people like the $$$ sign so maybe I'll just keep using that.

Anyway, here's the report on my ebook experiment for October. What you say? You're late! Well, I decided to move these reports to the middle of the month because that's when Amazon sends me my monthly sales records (up until that point it's a bit of guesswork as to exactly how many copies I've sold). So here is your first chart!

Aha, you say. Your sales dropped in October! Ha, so much for that yacht you were dreaming about when you sold all those copies of DUST in September. But wait, I say, let's celebrate the good news first. There have now been over 3000 copies of my self-pubbed books sold. As we speak 3000 people could be reading my words. Or playing games on their iPad. Anyway, that's a nice milestone to pass. It's also important to note that October was the second highest sales month so far.

I did expect sales to slow down after that first bump that I received in September. Mostly that's because I raised my prices. Dust was no longer $1.49 but was bumped up to $2.99. At that price I get the 70% royalty from Amazon. So for each 1.49 book I am making .52 cents (because any book priced at .99-2.98 is a 35% royalty), but for each 2.99 book I'm making $2.09 (or 4x as much). That means I only have to sell 1/4 of the number of books to make the same amount of money. That's math even I can do!

Ah, so let's talk about the money. And about the beautiful American dollar and the lovely British pound. Doesn't the image above make you all teary eyed? Anyway, wipe away the tears. In September my income from U.S. sales on Kindle was $557.64 and from UK Kindle £216.49 which, once converted, adds up to about $897.98 US (I won't further complicate this by converting to Canadian since our dollar is nearly the same as the US). That's a nice tidy sum for very little work (err, if you don't count the weeks it took me to figure out all the various ways to convert files and upload all that ebook "stuff").  So I made $898 dollars by selling 1467 books in September. In October I made $251.96 from US Kindle store and £339.35 from the UK Kindle store for a total of $785.12 U.S. Except this time I only sold around 493 copies. And obviously it's easier to sell fewer copies than it is to sell more.

Two other short observations. One is that the October sales were partially propped up in the UK store because I was giving The Hunchback Assignments away for free for two weeks of that month. The second is that I'm starting to have more sales through the UK store because I have 10 books available there and only 7 in the US (I'm publishing my three Hunchback Assignments books in the UK Store but they are published through Random House in the US).

The only problem with higher prices is that you drop out of the bestseller charts faster and therefore fewer eyes are seeing your books. Already I see that my November sales are slowing. I have yet to have a book "stick" in the charts for a long period of time.

What you want another chart? Look I don't just have charts up my sleeve! Oh, wait there's one right there:

This is the Amazon ranking for The Hunchback Assignments on UK Kindle charts. As you can see it was selling a copy every once in awhile, thus the zig-zag pattern. Then it went "free" on Sept. 23rd (creating that straight line) and became "paid" around October 16th and jumped up to about 1000th spot on the charts (which made it one of the bestselling kids books for a few weeks). It's continuing to slowly decline but it pops back up every once in awhile.

Does anyone have any glue? I'd like to stick it in the top 500 at the very least.

Until Kindle sticky glue is invented, I'll keep on keeping on!

Art

P.S. I do refer to Kindle a lot. My books are sold on other sites. In October I sold 1 book on Kobo, 1 Book on iBooks, and 5 books on Barnes and Noble, so obviously it's easiest to talk about Kindle.