New Year, Blank Page

Happy New Year everyone.

Yesterday I looked up my stats on this site and discovered that this blog had a grand total of 220 page views in 2014. That sounds like a piddling amount, I know, but WordPress insisted that it was pretty good for the first year, especially given the long gap this summer when I didn’t post anything. Then again, that could just be their marketing department talking. Maybe it really is just a piddling amount.

The most popular post turned out to be the one with my cat’s picture on it. Which, come to think of it, I originally posted simply to get page views. So I guess it worked. Here is another picture of Squeaky and her sister Ginger. Ginger is the cat who likes to read stories on my tablet but, unfortunately, not when I have a camera ready to snap her picture:

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Probably the first thing I need to get out of the way is something that most of you have already noticed: A City of Air is not ready for publication. Or even finished. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised, because I have yet to hit a deadline head on, and the holidays provide enough turmoil to push anything to one side.

Another hurdle is the mental block of trying to start up again after letting the story lie idle for the summer. Truly, I don’t recommend it. Once you lose the momentum on something it’s difficult to get it back. More than once, I’ve given serious thought to scrapping the whole thing and starting over. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you’re stuck.

Plus, it’s the end of a trilogy. That might not seem like much of a problem, but I’ve had fairly good response to the first two volumes of the story, which is good but scary. I’ve been afraid of messing up the ending, and fear can be crippling. Dangling plot threads littered the landscape and offered no clue as to how they can be tied up. I might give short shrift to someone’s favorite character. Or screw it up altogether.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of the main characters–Kas’s father, no less–went and did something unexpected. Where in the hell did that come from? What did he think he was doing? How on earth would I resolve that? Honestly, sir, everyone else had two whole volumes and more than 120-thousand words to develop their stories, and you had to go and pull something like that?

But the unexpected is what a writer lives for in her work and the end is finally in sight.

On New Years’ Eve, while preparing to stay up past midnight, I decided to lie down for a nap. (I don’t know why I want to stay up for the New Year, just habit, I guess.) I didn’t succeed in sleeping, but lay for an hour drifting along the free-range-thought-train that comes in that gap between not-asleep and not-entirely-awake.

Suddenly, there it was.

Click, click, click, it all opened up like a series of locked boxes.

The ending of the story.

All of the plot threads neatly tied into a bundle, resolving all of the subplots. I could give John Merriweather a happy ending without sending him to a corner like an errant child. (Although I dearly wanted to, naughty boy.)

I figure it will be another couple of weeks before I’m ready for the final edit. In the meantime, I probably won’t post here again until it’s done. Wish me luck.

-kf

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Avast, Ye Mateys

I meant to post this on Saturday, but the local internet connection was pretty lousy for some reason, and I kept losing my post. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, I was busy venting my annoyance to the blogosphere regarding an ever-growing problem among independent authors: online piracy.

You see, I’ve been pirated. It isn’t the first time. I was aware almost since the publication of my first novel, A City of Wood, that someone had nicked it out from under me and was offering free downloads of my baby on the worldwide web. At the time, I felt flattered that anyone would go to the trouble, and weirdly disappointed that there wasn’t more interest in it. For most of the past year I couldn’t find that anyone else had actually downloaded the pdf from the pirate site. The general consensus of opinion, among writers more experienced than I, seemed to be that trying to chase down the pirates themselves would be like playing Whack-a-Mole and that my time was better spent writing new stories.

Even Neil Gaiman had a YouTube video on the subject:

Then the hell that was Summer 2014 descended upon me.

I ran out of money.
I spent most of the spring and summer in a fruitless and demoralizing search for outside work.
For the entire month of July, I didn’t have enough money for bus fare.
I went to bed feeling hungry more times than I care to admit.
I became a burden to my worried family.

When summer finally turned to fall again, I managed, through the generosity of my long-suffering relatives, to get a buffer on my rent and food. Things are starting to look up again, for which I am grateful. And I found another pirate site on the web with my books on it. It now shows 1,009 downloads.

That’s 1,009 people who have downloaded my books without paying for them. When I think about how desperate I was for that money this past summer…well, I hope you understand how galling it is for me.

I could have gone to sleep with a full stomach. Or at least one that wasn’t so empty.

I needn’t have become a burden to my family.

I could have…

But we aren’t playing “could have” and “should have” here. That’s never really an option, is it?

So the question remains, what to do about it?

Here is what I have planned: for the moment, I shall leave things as they are.

When I finish the third book in the trilogy, A City of Air, (I’m still hoping for the Christmas season) I will submit it to KDP Select. This means that it will be exclusive to Amazon, and for a brief period each month, it will be free to download. I will let you know when each promotional period begins and ends.

At the time of its initial release, I will put the first two books on sale for 99 cents for a period of two weeks. Again, I will let you know when the sale begins and ends. After that, all three books will go back to their full price.

In addition, I will probably put the paperback versions on sale for the same promotional period. Keep watch here for discount codes that you can use to get the lower price. It will also be for a limited time, and I’ll keep you posted when that happens.

-kf

Technology is Great (Except When it Doesn’t Work)

The best laid plans…

Last Saturday I was energized and ready to start hitting the writing hard. I had a schedule. I had outlines. I got up early and settled in with a cup of tea and ideas swirling in my head. You name it, I had a plan: Twenty short stories, two new chapters on a novel, article ideas for Yahoo. I was even going to update my job resume and hit the jobsites again. Then I tried to open Word on my computer.

Nothing.

My files were still there, but they wouldn’t open. I tried the backup files on a USB drive.

Nothing.

I started to panic. Then I plugged the USB into an old laptop. It worked, and I could open the files to read them…but the old laptop (it’s a Dell Latitude 620 with Windows XP) only had Open Office, not Word, so some of the formatting was screwy.

Back to the writing computer, and decided to do a refresh. That wiped out Word, so I reloaded it. Or at least tried…

…my internet connection sucks wet donkey balls, if you don’t mind me saying so.

After 12 hours (yes, you read that right) the download finally completed. I could open my files. By this time, it was early Sunday morning, so I went to bed.

Sunday I had breakfast and sat down to catch up on some belated writing. And the Word program I had spent the day loading told me that there was an error in the download and it would have to b reloaded. But I needed to remove it first.

I may have used ad language at that point. I’m surprised I held out so long.

So…uninstall Word, connect to the internet, and attempt to reload. This was around 11 a.m.

By 3 p.m. it had reached 11% of its download. I discovered that there were other updates running in the background, and disabled them. By 6 p.m. it managed to reach 14% and I gave up out of exhaustion. Besides, I was hungry.

Monday morning I took the laptop to my local library, which has killer Wi-Fi. Went through the whole process again. Finally, it completed!

PowerPoint worked. Yay!

Excel worked. Yay!

OneNote worked. Yay!

Word said: “Sorry, we’ve encountered an error loading this program.” @#^&%$ !!!!!!

I looked deep into the root menu to find out what the @#$% the problem could be. Saw that the user’s license a due to expire on April 24. Could it be that they want me to buy a new one? A search disclosed that they have a sale for ‘only’ $104 for a new version.

Uh, no.

So I looked for a new version of Open Office to download. I can learn how to use it all over again. I did it once, after all. At this time, the Wi-Fi at the library had slowed down, and by 3 p.m. I gave up and went home. Later that night, like around 11 p.m., I tried again. For some reason, my home Wi-Fi works best between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

At 3 a.m. I woke up, and the download was complete. Had no clue about how to operate it, since it’s been awhile, but shut it down and went to bed. It was now early Tuesday morning and I had lost three and a half days of writing.

Tuesday was spent trying to figure out the menu options. In retrospect, I should have downloaded the user’s guides, too, but I was feeling punchy at that point. I managed to get two paragraphs written on a short story.

Wednesday I woke up with a migraine that lasted most of the day. I spent most of the day in bed. I’m feeling better now.

This morning I set up some templates: e-book, paper book format, and short story.

And I wrote this blog. Here’s hoping things smooth out from here.

-kf

Many Irons in the Fire

It’s been a busy week around here as I try to hold on to the dream if being a writer. First off the bat, I submitted the manuscript of A City of Wood to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The contest is held every year and there’s a book contract with Amazon Publishing offered as grand prize. I have a 1 in 10,000 chance of winning, so you can see that the odds aren’t in my favor, but that’s true of publishing in general. Nothing ventured, and all that…

I also sent my first short story to a magazine…and got it in 10 minutes before the deadline. Honestly, at the 30-minute mark I didn’t thinking was going to make it. A photo finish, to be sure. I really need to start these projects earlier. Time management has always been an issue for me. I’m the princess of procrastination, and always have been.

Oh, and here’s another look at Squeaky. She didn’t think the last picture showed her best angle:

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Stay warm this weekend. We’re in for another round of snow in these parts.

-kf

Writing to Live

When I quit my job last year, it wasn’t to pursue a dream to become a novelist, although that was in the back of my mind. No, I walked out because I couldn’t take one more day there. It wasn’t them. It was me. Well, okay, it was a little bit them, but restlessness had set in long before things went south between us. Looking back, I can see that I may have had some part in that.

This wasn’t the first time I walked out on a good paying position. When I turned forty, I left Las Vegas and moved to Illinois seeking a quieter life in the sunlight. In a real town. (Las Vegas was an exciting place, but it often felt like I’d wandered onto an oversized movie set.) It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then, seven days after moving into my new apartment, I was watching the Today show while drinking my morning coffee, congratulating myself for having found a safe place to land. Then I watched in real time as a large plane flew into one of the twin towers in New York. The point was driven home to me that there are no safe places. In truth, there never were.

You would think that this might make me more wary of change, but in fact, it was oddly liberating. When the worst has happened, nothing else seems to be of much consequence. It also convinces you that time is not on your side, whatever age you happen to be at the moment. The fears that had wrapped around you in your youth–and really they’re the fears of our parents projected onto our young minds–seem to peel away like the layers of an onion over the years.

Until one day you wake up and wonder what the hell you think you’re doing. Why spend so much of your life trying to play it safe, when all the available evidence points to that as something that isn’t real?

The truth is, everyone dies. Everyone. No exceptions. Despite all our efforts, the mortality rate for human beings is still 100%. No one gets out of this world alive. It was the realization of that which led to my second mid-life crisis.

Can I still call it that? Unless I live to be 106, I think I’m pretty much past the midpoint now. Damn. Anyway, one day I decided that earning a living was no replacement for learning to live. I wanted to live before it was too late. At the time, I was so convinced that my job was killing me, that I don’t doubt that it would’ve become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So here I am, a year later. I won’t lie to you, sometimes it’s scary out here in the open. There’s no guarantee that I can keep it up, and the past few weeks have shown that I’m apparently not as employable as I was thirteen years ago. The generosity of a close relative has made it possible for me to keep a roof over my head for another month, but I can’t dip into that well forever.

Sooner or later, I need to make my writing pay for more than a pizza dinner now and then. I think the long term prospects are good. It’s just the short term survival that’s tricky. Besides, spring is coming. That always brightens things up. Maybe I’ll have better luck on the job hunt in milder weather.

So what’s the point of all this blathering? Do I regret taking that leap of faith?

No.

However this all turns out, I found satisfaction in writing fiction that I never had with anything else. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. More than that, I feel like I’ve finally found the thing that I was supposed to do with my life. I know that whatever happens, I will never stop.

Writing has taught me how to live, and it’s a sweet thing.

-kf