Archives for November 2013

Uggh

I’d forgotten how unenjoyable it is to format a book for the Kindle. It’s like picking a piece of grit out of the corner of your eye with a flaming chainsaw.

It might not be such a chore if I’d only be willing to give up my WordPerfect silliness, drop to my knees, and bow before Microsoft Word. But I can’t.

I first tried out Word around Word 5 or so 20 years ago. Didn’t like it. Continued to try it out as the years passed. Had to use it at work. Didn’t like it. It was too hard to do things that I could do with ease with WordPerfect.

I like and use Outlook. I used to use OneNote until I made the final move to EverNote. Used PowerPoint extensively at work, but haven’t had a real need for presentation software since 2009. But I upgrade Office every time they release a new one, primarily for Outlook. And to keep up with changing file formats.

So I write with WordPerfect. And WordPerfect does have a Kindle ebook maker that does many things right – builds the table of contents, lets me put in the cover, copyright info, title page, etc. etc. easily. What it doesn’t do quite right is output the HTML that the Kindle is built from. It outputs HTML, but it’s not clean (of course, the HTML that Word outputs is not clean either, but there’s plenty of information out there on how to clean it up, since so many people use it).

With WordPerfect, it’s more a journey of exploration and adventure, as I figure out why I’m having issues – strings of        in every line I have to get rid of or it messes up the paragraph indents. Occasional changes of font color to black (not a real problem, unless the reader is using Kindle for PC, like me, with white text on a black background – the words just stop, replaced by seemingly blank pages.

In six hours today I compiled the Kindle version of Bleeding Sky 29 times. I know that because there are 28 copies in my Recycle Bin. First one deleted around 10 am, the last around 4 pm. And I uploaded and downloaded the file 10 times to Amazon to let them do a final convert that I could check by putting the book into draft status.

I think if I did it regularly, I’d actually remember how to fix everything in the first try. Of course, that would require me to write even faster. And if you write too fast, as they say, it’s not writing. It’s typing.

But it’s done – It looks good. I’ll do another readthrough sometime early next week, looking for any final issues, but I think I’m definitely getting better at spotting them, so I don’t expect to find many.

Monday I’ll do the paperback formatting, but that’s relatively easy – change the fonts, change the size of some fonts, put in the gutters, do alternating headers, do the full wrap-around cover. A few hours of work and that should be ready to go. And then the wait to put it out there on Friday, December 6th.

Speaking of the 6th, I’ve decided to start the five days of free Night and Day on the 6th as well. Rather than have people grab it before Bleeding Sky is out, they can see that there’s a second book in the series already out, and perhaps will pick up a copy as they’re grabbing a free Night and Day. Seems to make more sense to me. All of the promotional things I’m doing are trial and error – I’ll see what works and discard what doesn’t as more books come out.

And the Goodreads giveaway ended with approximately 1100 people signing up to win the three paperback copies of Bleeding Sky. Two Australians and an American. Shipping the books to Australia is kind of pricey (about $24/each), but I really didn’t want to limit the giveaway to just US readers. About 500 Goodreads readers put it on their “to read” list, but who knows if that was “to read if I win a copy”. Again, trial and error – we’ll see.

I can’t be bothered worrying about any of it. I have another book to write.

First Lines

 

It was seven in the morning, and the bums, lowlifes, grifters and renegades were hitting the streets. That’s the first line of Night and Day and not a word in it changed from the first time I wrote it to the day the book was released. Lots of other words changed, much of that first chapter changed, but the first line was immutable.

I felt like it captured the world in a sentence. A world turned upside down, where the bad guys hit the street at sunrise rather than sunset.

With Bleeding Sky, my desire was different – I knew I’d be explaining the world in the first chapter (far more than I did in the first chapter of Night and Day) as I got those new to the series up to speed. So I decided to open the book with Welles and his latest nightside vampire investigator Brenner, courtesty of Phillip Bain at the Area Governor’s Office, out on the street, Welles training Brenner in vehicular surveillance.

So the first line of Bleeding Sky is “Too close?” coming from Brenner. Then Welles goes on to explain that he’s not too close to the car they’re following, and why, and then the story moves into who Brenner is and what they’re doing – and eventually on into some more about the world and how Welles got to this point. Sort of opening in the action rather than exposition (and actually action that has an impact on the story much, much later….nudge nudge, wink wink)

Now on to Bandit’s Moon, and the first chapter of that, the third book in the Night and Day series. And I wanted to change it up yet again.

First book, the first line was evocative of the setting. Second book, the first line got the reader into the situation. In Bandit’s Moon, I wanted to do something that was a kind of cross between the two.

That line, which I’ve played with and rewritten four or five times, is The last person I ever wanted to see again stepped into my office and my hand went to the pistol on my hip.

Like the Night and Day line, it tells you something about the world. Like the Bleeding Sky line, it puts you into the situation. You’re wondering who it is, why Welles didn’t want to ever see this person again, and why Welles feels it necessary to go for his pistol. It also tells you that Welles is armed, as you would already know if you’ve been reading the series, or which tells you he’s a guy who carries a gun if this is your first dip in the Night and Day series waters.

In the world of ebooks, specifically Kindle ebooks, I’m not sure that the first line is as important as it is with print-only books. You can usually “peek inside” or read a sample before you actually buy an ebook. If the cover and blurb don’t get you, the sample, whatever the length, is usually the deciding factor. It is similar to a print book – look at the cover, read the back cover…but then you would probably (at least I did) open to the first page and read the first couple of paragraphs.

Of course, standing in a book store or an airport or whereever it was you were considering your purchase, you couldn’t exactly read 20–30 pages to get a real feel for the writer’s voice. Or maybe you could, but it always made me feel awkward. Read the first couple of paragraphs, the back of the cover or flyleaf in the case of a hardcover, and decide. So those first sentences were very important.

Right now, I’m pretty happy with that first sentence of Bandit’s Moon. It gives me a chance to quickly answer those questions that it raises and get rolling into the story. I’ll probably keep it.

In other news, tonight I’ll be doing the first assembly of the Kindle version of Bleeding Sky. Then I’m sure there were be multiple exports as I fiddle with it to get it right. Now that I’ve gone through the process with Night and Day, it should go quicker, and the paperback formatting quicker still.

And tomorrow I find out who won the 3 copies of the Night and Day paperback in the Goodreads giveaway. There’s almost a thousand people signed up, and I guess there’s a good chance it will go over a thousand by the time it ends tomorrow.

 

Bandit’s Moon Rising

Today I begin Bandit’s Moon.

For those who’ve been following the blog, or even better have read Night and Day, the word “bandit’s” in the title might give you an idea of where the focus of the third book in the series will fall. Bandit is the term that vampires use to describe the human resistance movement.

As for why I use that term in the Night and Day series, it’s ripped, as they say, from the pages of history. The Germans in World War II used that term for the various resistance movements that sprung up during their conquest of Europe. And probably for the same reason that I have the vampires in this series use it – bandits evokes criminals, people breaking the law, assaulting the common good. Not people resisting, because if you admit that they are a resistance movement, they must believe they have something to resist against. And you really don’t want people thinking like that.

Occupation, resistance, collaboration. A subject that has always fascinated me. In many ways it forms the backbone of the Night and Day series. In this universe, the majority of humans in the US certainly fear and often hate vampires. Not all of them, of course. Some are active collaborators – the coming of the vampires has given them a chance to be more than they were and would have been. But the majority wouldn’t shed a tear if the vampires disappeared, if they woke up from the bad dream to find things the way they were. Yet few are willing to actively rise up against them.

Who are those who do? Are their motives as pure as they seem?

The Resistance has featured in both Night and Day and Bleeding Sky, though in a peripheral way. Part of the story without being the story. That changes in Bandit’s Moon.

I also wanted to take a break from Bain, Takeda, and the whole Area Government thing. Charlie Welles is a human private investigator. Circumstance in Night and Day/Bleeding Sky compelled him to work with the vampire hierarchy, and he will again in future books in the series. But not in every book. Because it’s important to see him as the free operator that he is. If I wanted to have him joined at the hip with the parallel government the vampires have established in the United States, I would have made him part of it – a human investigator with the Security Force, something like that. But that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

So though there will certainly be vampires in Bandit’s Moon, and perhaps (though not definitely) some cameos by familiar bloodsuckers, they’ll only be that, and only if it makes sense to have them in the story. This is a story about humans.

I’ve got the first chapter down cold in my mind, the second chapter sketched out (generally what will happen in the chapter) and probably the third as well (in the same way as the second, since it will probably be a continuation). I have some thoughts about where it goes next, and characters that it involves. I know some other things that will happen later in the story. No ending yet, but that will undoubtedly reveal itself to me as I roll along. It always does.

Today, before I start writing, I’ve been playing around with some character names – I can see them in my mind, I know who they are, but they didn’t have names. One important character that will step on stage in chapter three has undergone 4–5 name changes, including the addition and removal of a nickname. The nickname may come back by the time I get there. Or not.

One thing I can say for sure is that I won’t be writing at the frenzied pace of Bleeding Sky. I’m not aiming at a chapter a day, though I may actually hit that. I wanted to get the second book out as quickly as possible, so as to maximize exposure of the series, so I set a tight deadline. And made it with ease.

But once I have two books in the series out, I can spend a little more time getting the third out – and use that time to promote the series and the first two books.

My intention is to have Bandit’s Moon out by April 4th or April 11th, 2014 (I like releasing on a Friday). That gives me 4–5 months to finish this one. I may finish sooner, of course, and if I do, I’ll just move on to the research for Poison Blood, the prequel to the Night and Day series, which is almost certainly my next project. Because of the nature of the book, I’ll need a factual foundation to the fantasy, which means research.

I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Free Beez

Tomorrow I need to start putting the word out at various sites about the upcoming 5 free days for Night and Day, leading up to the release of Bleeding Sky on December 6th.

There’s a lot of controversy about doing freebies – some writers believe that the very idea of giving your work away is insane, and only feeds the idea in readers that they shouldn’t have to pay for books – and if you put one up for free for a few days, you’ll eventually put more up for free, and they’ll never have to pay.

Maybe I’m an atypical reader, but I read what I want to read, not what’s free. If I see something interesting for free, I might grab it, just as I might grab something that seems interesting if I have to pay for it. It’s not about having hundreds of books that I got for nothing – it’s about having books that I actually want to read.

The story goes that people fill up their Kindles with free books, just because they can, and that they’ll probably never read those dozens, hundreds, whatever that they’ve downloaded. It may be true. I have never run into one of those people myself, and even those who talk about them don’t seem to have any personal experience. They’re going on what, in their minds, seems like it might be.

But it doesn’t seem like it might be probably in my mind. Many people don’t read anything, or read a book or two a year. Maybe five (and then they consider themselves “heavy” readers). Why would those people want to stockpile a hundred books? So they’d be good into the 2030s? Why would they do that?

People who truly read a lot, who invest in a Kindle to help accomplish their voracious reading, might have a lot of books on their Kindle, but they’re there to be read. People who use Kindle apps on tablets, smart phones, or computers also probably have books they want to read on the devices, not just a hundred random free books that they might not even want to read.

It ain’t like “books by the yard”, where you have some nice bookcases and fill them with attractive book spines as part of the decor of the room – the illusion of being smart, or a reader, or whatever loaded bookshelves convey (my many overstuffed bookcases only show how loathe I am to dispose of books – if I read it, I generally want to hang onto it in case I want to read it again). A Kindle, tablet, or computer directory stuffed with books isn’t the same thing – unless you want to show it to people, one at a time, to say “Look at all the books I have!”

So I’m not really buying that people who download free books are doing it for the joy of acquisition – I believe most of them are downloading it to read. Giving a book and writer a chance for their attention.

And that’s why I’m doing it. Bleeding Sky comes out in 10 days. At the end of the updated Night and Day, there’s a teaser for Bleeding Sky and the first chapter of the new book. When somebody who downloads the freebie of Night and Day gets to the end, they’ll see that the next book in the series is either coming out or already out (depending on when they get to the end). And if they liked Night and Day, they might be up to spend $3 and grab the next book in the series. If they didn’t like Night and Day, probably not so much, but they still might have liked something about it, at least liked it enough to check it out. Or borrow it on their Kindle.

The number of free downloads can range from a few hundred to a few thousand – that’s why I’ll be promoing it, to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. Some will want to buy Bleeding Sky. Some won’t. Just as some may come into the series with Bleeding Sky and decide to pick up Night and Day to see what happened before.

That’s the way I read, the way I choose what my next book will be. And at the end of the day, just like with the writing, I can only go with what I know.

Days Gone By

There are times that I wish I was writing back in the pulp magazine days of the 20s-40s.

I’m not saying that I’d be a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, the giants of the pulp detective world. I’d certainly be a lesser light.

But I like the atmosphere of the times, of knocking out reams of stories at a breakneck pace for Black Mask or Dime Detective. No agonizing over turns of phrase or writing the perfect sentence. Just pure storytelling.

Dime_detective_19350101

Though the money wasn’t great (a penny a word or so, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less), the sheer exhilaration of telling a story, sending it out, then starting another is the kind of writing life I crave.

Especially when I’m in the middle of rewriting/editing/polishing/whatever.

As I’ve probably said before, it’s not a case of disliking the post-writing pre-publication part. I’m actually pretty neutral about it. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. It’s just a necessary part of the biz, and I do it (though there are some “experts” who say that the first draft, minus typos, misspellings, etc. is what you should always go with. Never rewrite is their motto – because any changes you make other than technical ones dilutes the creativity. Of course, there are other “experts” who say you need to do three or four or ten drafts to get to the “essence” of your story. Guess that’s why I don’t pay attention to “experts” when it comes to writing…).

But right now, I’m really ready to start working on Bandit’s Moon. I’m excited to start it. I can’t wait to explore more of the world, follow the twists and turns of the case.  I can’t really throw myself into that until I’ve got Bleeding Sky in the bag, though.

So right now I’m almost resentful of having to do more work on Bleeding Sky – it’s keeping me from what I really want to be doing. But I’ll do it anyway because I’m a grown-up. In a manner of speaking.

And speaking of that, two weeks till Bleeding Sky is released. Next week I’ll do the conversion and final runthrough. Following week I’ll do some promotional stuff, probably write the first chapter of Bandit’s Moon (which is clawing at the inside of my skull to get out) and get everything ready for the December 6th release.

Then on to Bandit’s Moon for real. Right now, I’m thinking April 4th or 11th, 2014 as the release date. After that, a break from the tales of Charlie Welles and a serious beginning to Poison Blood, the book that tells you how it all began almost five years before Night and Day opened.