Rabbit Holes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m prone to falling into rabbit holes while I’m working on a project.

When I was actively making animated films, I’d take a break in the middle and spend a day looking for the right music, or working on an animated title sequence. With the Night and Day Series, breaks usually involve firing up iClone –  build a nice 3D scene, save a screenshot, do the cover in Photoshop, spine (for the paperback) and the blurb on the back.

This weekend’s rabbit hole involved the first three books in the series.

After finishing up Chapter Six of Blood for Blood Friday night, I did some skimming of various writing forums as I often do, mentally mocking people for their stupid questions (“I really want to write but I don’t have any ideas. Can somebody help me?”)

I came upon a few threads talking about moving the print copies of people’s books from CreateSpace to Amazon. I’d been vaguely aware that Amazon had started offering their own printing for  physical books about a year ago. It had seemed interesting enough, but since CreateSpace had worked fine for those few readers who wanted a physical book, it wasn’t a high priority –  I sell 20 ebooks for every one paperback.

But people were talking about how easy the process was to move from one to the other, and how happy they were with the Amazon printed copies, so I decided to give it a whirl. Did Night and Day first, a few clicks, and it was done. Saturday morning I went ahead and did the same with Bleeding Sky and Bandit’s Moon.

Then…

Saturday morning, after getting the two books moved over, I decided to do a little more forum browsing before I got into Chapter Seven. Saw people talking about an amazing program called Vellum. It’s basically just a book formatter, but as I’ve discussed in the past (like here and here), formatting can easily kill a couple of days or more. Vellum does it in minutes, for both Kindle and paperback, and includes a lot of nice formatting stuff (like drop caps and little graphic flourishes) and handles all headers, footers, page numbering, and that kind of thing as well.

So, hey, let’s take a look.

Oooops, it’s Mac only. But it looks so good….

Because my brain is mostly mush, my first step is to see how much it would cost to pick up a used Mac laptop. Then I’m looking at new Mac Minis. But then, because there are some solid particles in the mush of my brain, I realize that I used to run a Mac virtual machine on my computer (basically a fully-functional Mac in a window on my Windows desktop) and still have the files. So I get a new copy of VMWare Player and try to load the old virtual machine. Too old. Won’t even load in the new version of the player. And then I realize it’s too old for Vellum, too.

So, off to find a more recent version of MacOS, hopefully in virtual machine format, and I find one. High Sierra, the latest version (until they release a new version this year). Load it up, and after some fiddling, get the virtual machine working.

Then I throw Vellum on there. Vellum requires Microsoft Word .docx files for import. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been using WordPerfect for 30 years, prefer it to Word, and though I have Word as part of an Office 365 subscription (primarily for Outlook and OneNote), I almost never use it.

Let’s convert the WordPerfect file of the entire Night and Day to Word. Oooops, the new version of WordPerfect, released a month or so ago, doesn’t have Word conversion yet, because Microsoft discontinued their Word conversion package that other companies use. Fine, I’ll load the WordPerfect doc into Word, do the conversion there.

It sucks.

All kinds of problems with the converted text, that would take me hours to fix manually. So after playing with it a good long while, I decide to try exporting to rich text format (to strip out the WordPerfect stuff) and then import that into Word. And there we go.

So last night, I did Night and Day and got it uploaded –  new Kindle and paperback versions. Today I did Bleeding Sky and Bandit’s Moon. The more I use Vellum, the faster it is, since I know exactly what to do to get what I want. I think Bandit’s Moon took me less than an hour, from conversion to moving files from PC to virtual Max to finished product.

All of the newly-formatted books are up on Amazon now, and should be live in the next 24 hours or so. I’ve already checked out the Kindle versions on both the computer and tablet, and they look great. Later this week, I’m going to order a couple of paperback copies of each book (having given away my copies) and check out both the Amazon printing and the Vellum formatting.

And tomorrow morning, I can get back to Chapter Seven of Blood for Blood.

Hidden in Plain Sight

I didn’t spend the weekend writing, like the good little writer boy that I aspire to be.

Instead I spent it reading and thinking about the first draft of a friend’s novel that I had a chance to look at. I won’t say I was “honored” to look at it, since the truth is that reading anybody’s first drafts (my own definitely included) can only be considered an honor if you’re also “honored” to have Mistress Helga take a paddle to your bare ass after a hard day at work, so you can “unwind”. First drafts can hurt, and not in a good way.

This isn’t something I regularly do. I don’t hang with writers. I don’t belong to writing groups. Other people’s writing process interests me. The result of that process, especially in its raw, first-draft form, not so much.

First, as I think I’ve mentioned, I almost never read fiction when I’m writing. Some possibly-foolish concern about cross-contamination, stylistically or in terms of plotting or characterization. Like most, if not all writers, my style and way of telling my stories are a result of years of reading and writing and reading some more. Absorbing bits of style, ways plots are developed, how characters can be made real to a reader. Mostly on a subconscious level, though occasionally it’s been “I like the way she did that – I’ll have do something similar sometime”. But once I’m actually pounding out the words, I want to concentrate exclusively on my own voice, not somebody else’s. So I read non-fiction.

Second, as I’ve also mentioned, I don’t believe everyone has a novel in them. They may have enough words to create something approximating novel length, but often the story is ill-advised, the plotting is dismal, the characters wooden cliches that barely have enough buoyancy to float. I don’t want to read that. And I dread the inevitable “what did you think?” that follows. Because it puts me in that moral gray area – do I say “Yeah, it was good” or do I tell the truth? And the only lying I like to do is making up stories and telling them in book form. Unless I’m fairly sure that the writer has the skill to have, perhaps, “issues” that can be pointed out and discussed (rather than telling the writer “delete it and start again” or asking “do you have any hobbies that you’re good at?”) I decline the “opportunity” to read early-draft work. Or, for the most part, even later-draft work.

In this case, I’ve read other stuff from this writer, over the years, so I know he can write. He can tell a story. He can write realistic characters and have the words coming out of their mouths sound like actual speech. Also his style is radically different from my own, and not one that I’d want to emulate, so I’m not apt to be “contaminated” by it. Which is not to in any way say that there’s anything wrong with his style. It’s just not appealing to me as a writer. As a reader, I’m fine with it.

And when I read somebody else’s material, I try my damnedest to read it as a reader, not a writer. Give five writers the same plot synopsis and put them to work, you’re going to have five different versions. Written different ways, focused on different aspects of the story, with different characters moving the story along. If he summed up his plot in a paragraph and said, “Write it your way” it would be very different. So I have to suppress that. I have to say “This is what it is, and it needs to be read based on what he wrote, not as I would have written it.”

For a writer, that can be difficult.

Even moreso when as a reader you get to a point where the story becomes unsatisfying and as a writer you see all the elements already in place to turn that around.

In this case, it was in the ending portion the book. Which is, as I’ve found myself, often a minefield that you have to get across to bring the story home.

Endings are hard. Maybe they’re easier if you plot the whole damn thing, chapter and verse, from beginning to end, ahead of time. Or if you write to a template, whether it’s something like the Hero’s Journey or an “act” structure, where certain things happen at certain points in the story, because readers “expect” it. I don’t write that way, because for me, if the story doesn’t roll out organically, it ain’t a story worth telling.

So getting the ending right is hard. In Bleeding Sky, I was two-thirds of the way through the book and I knew I was adrift. I knew where I needed to end up, but there was no satisfying path to follow. It took some hard thought and reflection. And then I saw it. I saw what was there all along, what was, as I’ve said, “really going on” – who was who, how they connected, and what it meant. A little retrofitting of a couple of scenes in the book and it all fell together.

In Bandit’s Moon, I actually cheated a bit, in my own mind. I knew the last chapter was going to be episodic, so I went ahead and wrote the last scene. It gave me a target, and helped me through the events that made up the last chapter.

In the first draft I was reading over the weekend, the ending portion is also episodic. But the episodes weren’t especially strong. Some blah-blah-blah, something happens, some more blah-blah-blah, something else happens. There was no compelling thread to it, something to make me, as a reader, want to find out what’s going on, what happens next.

But as a writer, I saw all the elements already there, in place, to construct a compelling thread, to give a reader something to follow along with, to even get some questions answered, as the book moved to its conclusion.

As writers, we sometimes miss things in our own pieces. Things we’ve put there but left unconnected to the whole of the story. They’re there, they’re clearly visible, but they’re hidden from us. Because we’ve got other ideas, or we’re anxious to move on, or because of the peculiar tunnelvision that keeps our eyes so focused on what’s ahead that we miss the scenery on either side as we pass.

And as loathe as I am to put on my writer hat when I’m supposed to be a reader, I pointed out this different direction to him. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with it.

For me, it’s time to get back to Blood for Blood. It isn’t going to write itself…

Countdown

Everything is done. Bandit’s Moon has been gone through a final time. The files are uploaded and in place to go live tomorrow/Wednesday.

Right now, Night and Day is in a Kindle Countdown promotion. You can pick up a copy for $.99 until Thursday morning or somewhere thereabouts. After that it goes to $1.99, and then back to $2.99 at the end of the week.

Watch this space tomorrow (wherever you watch it from…) for a chance to pick up all of the Night and Day series books for the usual price of one, give or take a few cents.

Showtime

And away we go with Bleeding Sky.

It’s now available at Amazon – U.S. link is right here, and if you’re elsewhere in the wide world of Amazon, just go to your local Amazon and type ken white bleeding sky and it should take you to it (I haven’t checked all the international Amazon sites, but it’s there on the UK site and undoubtedly on the others as well.)

If you’re a physical book kinda guy or gal, it will probably take a few more days for the paperback to show up. It seems to me, if I can remember back to September, that it only took a couple of days, so probably by the 7th or 8th of December it should start showing up. Probably no later than the 9th or 10th.

The Freebooksy promo for Night and Day is running (just scroll down till you see the cover and/or my prince-of-darkness picture) – and hey, there’s new material about the book inspiration and me on the page, since they didn’t want the same old tired stuff that’s been on Amazon for the past few months.

The book is already in the 9000s on the free charts and hey, #12 in the mystery/private investigator chart. No idea how many downloads so far, since the reports are undergoing maintenance, but when I know, you’ll know. But feel free to grab a copy, even if you’ve already bought it. Every little bit helps.

I’ve also submitted it to a bunch of other free book promo sites, but put it on those for the last two days of the freebie (December 9th and 10th) to both get a boost towards the end, and see how they perform.

So grab Bleeding Sky, grab a free copy, or another copy of Night and Day, and start reading (and when you’re done, review, review, review – but only honestly – no fluff).

Once More Into The Breach

By this time tomorrow, things will really be happening with the Night and Day series

Bleeding Sky will be available for the Kindle (actually probably sometime tonight…I’d rather it be out there for 12 hours promo-free than not there as the promotional push begins). And it has a new blurb.

More than five years ago, hordes of vampires swept across the United States, killing or turning the humans in their path.

Now human and vampire live together in uneasy coexistence in a country cut off and shunned by the rest of the world.

Private investigator Charlie Welles is still dealing with the ramifications of his partner’s murder eight months ago. And his life is about to get more complicated.

The former German ambassador to the United States is in town as part of a nationwide trip to explore the possibility of reopening diplomatic relations. Welles is hired to oversee the ambassador’s safety during daylight hours, as well as that of the rogue U.S. Army captain and mysterious European vampire that accompany him.

He’s up against the human Resistance to the vampire occupation and elements inside the vampire hierarchy who oppose normal diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.

And if that’s not enough, Welles has another problem.

Nobody is quite who they seem to be…

Sometime shortly thereafter, the paperback version of Bleeding Sky will be available on Amazon (I’m guessing by Monday at the latest). Because Bleeding Sky went about 40 pages longer than Night and Day, I had to bump the price by a buck to retain any profit from sales – no complaining, please – even my own cost to buy copies for giveaways and such has gone up a buck as well. Anyway, Amazon seems to discount the list price by a buck, buck and a half, so readers won’t see much of the list price increase. And it has a final cover, as I’m finally done fidgeting with it…though another change might come sometime next week, since I like the new blurb better than the back cover copy on the “first” edition…

BS Cover 1 small

Not that back cover copy matters all that much at this point. The blurb people will see on Amazon is the one above – only on the physical book will they see the old blurb.

I did go back and forth on “expanded distribution”, which would allow readers to order a copy through bookstores and libraries to buy copies. The fact that it would add another buck to the price kind of put me off at this point, though if I decide to do a bookstore signing or start nagging the Jefferson County Library system to buy some copies, that might change down the road.

And Night and Day goes free for five days – December 6–10. I’m hoping for a ton of free “sales” and a good position on the free charts by the end of it. We’ll see how it goes, both the downloads and what effect it has on sales of Bleeding Sky and sales on Night and Day after the promo is over.

Today is a rest day. Maybe watch a couple of movies and just chill. I’ve given the snowball a push down the hill, so I can’t do anything but watch it go down and hope nobody picks it up and hurls it back at my head.