Friday, 17 March 2017

Why do I keep writing small town settings?

I just finished a book set in a tiny town. It occurred to me that I have recently set a few of my own stories in small towns, and I got to wondering why.
I guess it’s easier to keep track of everyone. There is the bloke who runs the store, the lady who has the gift shop, the kid who works at the gas station, and so on. There’s a limited population. One of each trade, unless having two is a conflict point.
What happens when a second real estate agent opens? Or a rival gift shop, or whatever.
The rivalry thing is a common romance trope. Or the one-upmanship of your daughter’s wedding must be better than the neighbours’ daughter’s wedding. I’ve read a few of those. They can’t work in a huge town with dozens of weddings every weekend. At that scale it doesn’t matter as much.
Making characters up is hard work. They have to be different, sound like themselves, have their own backstories and so on. Each character is the hero of their own story.
And it’s easier to make them care about other things, or to show them caring.
Their community is smaller and a change of attitude is more noticeable. If they dislike the protagonist because they’re new in town, that’ll show. If that protagonist does something that brings new industry and economic growth to the town, the locals will really care. Some may oppose it if they’re change averse. Others may love it and adore the protagonist for ‘saving’ the town.
It’s harder to write or show that interaction in a population of thousands or millions.
I was born in a tiny town. It currently has 211 people.
I have lived in all kinds of places from a town that small to the second largest city in the world. Jakarta’s current population is 31 million.
That’s a lot of stories to tell.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Stop trying to save me, inner critic

I scheduled reminders in my google calendar so that I don’t forget I have a blog. As opposed to forgetting I have a website; that one’s a deliberate task avoidance issue… sighs. Yeah, yeah… I’ll get to fixing that. Soon…
I was listening to a new podcast - I know, right. It’s so unlike me. Petal to the metal is from J Thorn and Rachael Herron. They ‘met’ talking on other podcasts or being interviewed by Joanna Penn or … god, I don’t know, somewhere in the web realm.
This week they were talking about FoMO - or fear of missing out.
Wikipedia defines this as:
Fear of missing out or FoMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing".
I’ve told you before that I am the worst (best?) book hoarder. Especially if they are free for a limited time, or price reduced or whatever. I subscribe to all the ebook notifiers like BookBub and Freebooksy. I will grab a free boxed set not having read a word of the author. That ‘normally $X.XX now $0.00’ label gets me every time.
I adore books. I believe that you cannot have too many of them. But this also stems from an incident where I did indeed miss out on a price reduced copy. And I was annoyed with myself. So now I will grab it and rationalise that I can delete it later if it turns out to be unreadable.*
But the FoMO isn’t what my brain gets the heebies about. I’ll give you an example from my current work in progress. I was jammed for the last couple of days on the idea that my witch main character, works hard, pushes herself, upgrades her powers and finds a previously untapped power of fire. And she uses that in the final showdown.
My issue is that I am concerned that some reviewer will say ‘yeah? So there must be skeletal remains left’.
I’m worried about a non-existent review for a book I haven’t even finished writing.
Yeah. It isn’t logical.
I’m writing a witch and a shapeshifter. Neither of which is logical.** And a shapeshifter that wears a suit when he’s human to match his cat markings.***
The bad guy disappearing in a flutter of ash is a common trope in TV witch shows like Charmed or Bewitched. It’s arguable that people might even EXPECT it to happen in a witch fight.
So why do I latch onto that as a fear? Probably because it’s my inner critic trying to ‘save’ me again and it’s chosen to pick that particular thing to be problematic about.
Stop trying to save me, inner critic.
~~~
* this is how you end up with two thousand ebooks jammed in your kindle app, AM.
** please don’t @ me with comments about how witchcraft is a valid belief system. I'm talking book witches.
*** shapeshifters keeping their clothes on… well the trad Hulk does. Twilight wolves busted out of their clothes when they shifted but never seemed to be naked when they turned human again. What? Seeing Alex Meraz’s ass was high on my list of things to do. I say ‘was’ because my wish was granted in ‘Never back down 2’ And yes, I own it on DVD. Smiles.

Links:

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Rain, rain go away

It’s been raining in Sydney. It has been raining almost continuously for the last ten days or so. And we’ve got crazy hail storms.
My back veranda is covered with alsynite roofing. It was punched by fist sized spiky hailstones and it did not win the fight. As far as I can tell the house roof doesn’t have any broken tiles. From my walks, I can see that none of my neighbours are sporting tarpaulin roof covers. So that is some good news. The laundry pile of Mount Washmore is increasing daily and my whole house feels damp; everything has a grimy surface touch. Ugh. I HATE it. Unintelligible frustration noises.
But back to writing… my brain won the ‘hey let’s write that shiny new idea’ battle. I have allowed it six weeks to write one shiny new idea that was almost fully plotted out. It should be about 90,000 words - a standard novel length. [I am aware that being at war with my own brain is … odd.]
Here’s my short blurb for it (which needs work):
Gen, the magic shop owner and low grade witch is just trying to keep her head down when her aunt is kidnapped by some guys who want her to cast death magic on the local sheriff. It’s a trap; she knows that, but she can’t tell what they really want.
Dominic, the cat shifter, thinks he has found a witch who could make him her familiar but she’s got troubles of her own and her power is too low to hold him.
Can they rescue her aunt and foil the bad guy’s plan without killing anyone? And can Dom stay by her side forever as her witch's familiar?
To do that Gen might have to hold her head up and be seen and that scares her more than anything.
Like most things I’m not sure where the idea comes from. I saw a one sentence prompt 'what do you mean you're closed?'. I wrote a short story about a small girl who turned a guy into a toad, I had some other random ideas about shifters and witches familiars and then I saw a cute shot of a black and white cat wearing a bow tie… and voila.
I used pacemaker app to set a random daily target and it is going really well. I even added in a whatsit to the blog so you can see how I’m going, too. Public accountability.


I have it on random, but there are several different ways to set up the daily targets.
40,000 down… 50,000 to go.
Links:
The hut - my short story on magic, girls and toads

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I wonder if there’s a boxed set?

My current Achilles heel with respect to buying books is asking myself,  ‘I wonder if there’s a boxed set?’
It makes sense to me. Why would I buy just one book if I can get three with a discount? Or more! *squees*
Sure, it’s a risk if it’s a ‘new to me’ author. What if I don’t like the first book? What if I hate the author’s writing style? But I can read a sample on Amazon. I can check the Goodreads reviews from my friends and people whose opinion I respect. Sometimes I disagree with them, but it’s rare.
So let’s call buying a boxed set a calculated risk. With audio books it’s a super bonus to use my monthly credit to buy more than one book that counts, to Audible, as one credit.
What I don’t get is why traditional publishers seem to have no clue how to market titles in the ebook trade. Seriously, this IS their day job.
Over and over, I see rookie mistakes. They publish a sample with an ISBN number and a separate listing- the whole shebang - when anyone who actually uses Amazon, Kobo et al at any depth knows that you can open it and have a look inside on the sale page, or you download a sample of the full book to your reading device and read it, or hear a sample for the audiobook.
Making a separate version is unnecessary. It duplicates listings, confuses readers, clogs up sites like Goodreads, and makes more work for everyone without adding any value. Doing it this way makes it look like a short independent work by that author.
But for me, it makes me annoyed. I get what I think is a short story only to read it and find out it’s actually a sample of a longer work. Do you think I’m going to give it five stars in my review?
Nope. It isn’t written like a short work. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end so it’s an unappetising read. Angry me doesn’t buy the whole book.
But, back to boxed sets. Why the heck would a publisher box together three works in the same series and then have the price almost exactly the same as if I had purchased them separately?

I get that you can download them in one file. See also, the price of ebooks in Australia… sighs. $13 for an ebook times three is $39. So a HUGE saving of $1.01 to buy all three.
For that price I can buy the paperback on bookdepository and get it posted from the UK to Australia for free. Sure, I’ll have to wait a few days but I can do math, why can’t the publishers?
How dare you suggest that cheaper boxed sets would just mean more books for me! *grins*



Thursday, 16 February 2017

Falling at the first hurdle

This week I tried to be a pro, and I hit a snag. I followed the 'simple' steps to set up a domain name and a webpage so that I can then do what seems like the thousand steps that follow to be a professional author, you know: the mail list, the popups to join the mail list, the auto-responder when you join the mail list etc.
And I messed it up at step one of ten.
Sighs…
I don’t speak this language and it makes me feel stupid to not be able to work out where I went wrong. Then I get anxious about having to try and explain what is wrong to a helpdesk. Writers are generally introverts and the whole process is scary to me.
Kid extra, who works at a tech helpdesk, just said, “I don’t listen to people when they try to tell me what’s wrong; they don’t know what’s wrong. That’s why they’re calling the helpdesk.”
Huh.
Oh, yeah.
Sadly, kid extra can't help me with this issue but I’ve done things like this before and I’ve worked it out. I set up this Blogger page and it’s not amazing, but I can change a theme or add in a side bar link.
I’ve got a tumblr page and I can change the theme or add special hotlinks.
I’ve got a Goodreads account where the reviews use HTML to make text bold or italicised, and to add in images and set the size, and I’ve learnt how to do that, too.
I can upload and edit posts in fanfiction.
I’m not stupid. I’m just swimming in unfamiliar waters.
It’s exactly like working out how to make the canva covers I blogged about earlier.
Jeez, AM, stop being so hard on yourself.



Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Making covers with Canva

I was tooling about on my Pinterest page and realised that my fanfiction list is missing an awful lot of entries. I don’t have Photoshop skills, I failed with Gimp - I needed another degree to work that one - and most of the banner makers I know from ages ago aren't doing it anymore.
But in the spirit of learning things from free videos, I was watching one where the person was making a printable book for Amazon. She’d upload it and if it sold, fine - if it didn’t, it had taken less than one hour of her time to make it. With print on demand, it cost her nothing other than time to produce a journal. And she could get weirdly specific: things like migraine journals and so on. She was selling the way to make these journals in more detail.
She used Canva. I had looked at it before, but needed some more guidance and watching the talk helped me see how to use it. It’s a lot like the old Microsoft publisher - yes, I’m showing my age. 
So I had a go with some of the prompts from the Anon twilight one shot contest from years ago. It took me about an hour to make five of them, using the pre-loaded formats and inserting the picture prompts from the contest. The pre-loaded images are also set to the correct sizes for various formats from Facebook headers to Wattpad cover sizes. Neat.


What do you reckon?
It’s a little dark, but it’s way better than this attempt where I used Word to make a cover.


I mean for heaven’s sake… I am so used to seeing the pilcrow - that backwards P that shows formatting marks - that I didn’t notice it was visible in the cover I uploaded to Pinterest. Facepalms.
Why didn’t you guys tell me?
Links:



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Listening to sales podcasts

Today I got up early to listen to a podcast. The eternal curse of living in the southern hemisphere.
I worked out pretty quickly that it wasn’t really for me, it was more for non-fiction books, but I left the tab open as the guy talked on - and sniffed too often - ugh.
One of the things he talked about was that writers think they can’t sell things because they aren’t sales people, they’re creatives. He gave some hints about how you can sell things, even if you think you aren’t good at it. One strategy was to show the buyer what failure looked like and then they will be more likely to buy your product.
About fifteen minutes later, he flashed up this scary looking list of all the things people had to do (and the lists below each listing of the smaller tasks required in each individual step) before they could publish a book. He was selling a product that will automatically list all the tasks, and the completion dates for you.
He basically showed us (the buyer) what failure looked like.
He did what he had just talked about to the same audience he had just told that strategy to.
I was checking my emails as he was talking and in the continuing story of the universe throwing stuff at me, there was a blog post from Stephen Barnes talking about how you can educate yourself on sales and marketing by watching these kinds of things and learning from them. There are a lot of people out there making money by selling courses to you on how you can make money.
At that point, I shut it down.
And no, I didn’t buy his product.

Links:
https://stevenbarneslife.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/thousands-of-dollars-of-free-education/