Archives for June 2018

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.

Jerks

The world is full of ’em. You undoubtedly know some. You may be one. I may even be one. (But we can talk about that another time)

Last night, before sleep stole me away from consciousness, I was thinking about today’s writing. I’d finished up Chapter Five of the rewrite and would be jumping into Chapter Six this morning. So I was mentally running through what I’d written in the original draft, and what needed to be changed, or added to.

And I suddenly came to the conclusion that I wanted to make one of the new major-ish characters a jerk. An asshole, if you’ll pardon the vulgarity.

Why?

I dunno. To give his character a little more fla-vuh, perhaps. I wanted a character who would be a jerk, be unlikable, but not a bad guy. Just someone you’d grow tired of quickly, if you had to spend any amount of time with him. And then, of course, force Charlie Welles to spend some time with him.

I’d already introduced the character a few chapters earlier, but if you recall the Reefer Madness post of a few days ago, he was high when Welles saw him. And if you’ve spent any time around people when they’re stoned, you know that even the most uptight jerk can be loose and relaxed and tolerable when they’re high. Not always, of course, but it happens.

The first fifth or so of Blood for Blood is a sort of misdirection, where you’re led to believe the book is about one thing before it turns out to be about something else. So I thought it would be fun to do a little more of the same with this character –  make him seem like an okay guy up to a point, and then reveal that he’s actually a jerk.

It seemed like it would be fairly easy, so I finally closed my eyes and fell asleep.

After 1500 words of Chapter Six, I stand before you here to tell you that it’s not.

The problem is that I do not want to turn the character into a bad guy. Because he’s not. He’s actually a sorta kinda good guy. He’s just a jerk. So I have to be subtle about it, to some extent. Show the things that make him unlikable, but not to the point that the reader wants something bad to happen to him. Something terminally bad. And soon.

I’m still playing around with it in my head right now, how to play it out so he’s tolerably unlikable. He’ll be around for a few more chapters, then disappear for a bit, then come back for the last third of the book.

With any luck, as it comes together I’ll find it easier. Maybe I just need to think about him a little more.

Conned

The Blood for Blood rewrite is moving along well –  about a third of the way through the existing 12 chapters (though I’ve apparently added about a chapter of new material so far –  I’m in Chapter Four of the original and Chapter Five of the rewrite.)  I’d like to imagine that I’ll finish the chapter tonight, but it’ll probably happen tomorrow.

But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Went to Magic City Con before lunch today. It wasn’t DragonCon or ComicCon or WorldCon, but for a small, regional con, it was fun enough. No really big names (Virginia Hey who played the Warrior Woman in The Road Warrior and Zhann in Farscape, a guy who had a nice moment in one episode of The Walking Dead, others unfamiliar to me…), a decent dealer room, some cosplay (and no, I didn’t partake –  I know people who are very much into cosplay, but dressing up like a Star Wars of Game of Thrones character doesn’t appeal to me)

There were also four or five authors selling their books.

I didn’t really engage with them as they sat there smiling behind their tables, stacked with copies of their books, bookmarks, cards, and other stuff. The only thing that interested me was if they were selling enough books to pay for their table and hopefully their time.

But it did make me wonder if I could do something like that. There are at least a dozen regional cons in Alabama and Mississippi within a two hour drive from Birmingham (I know this because I checked out the web presence of one writer and saw that he’s hitting cons from Huntsville to Biloxi this year).

Let’s face it, I’m not exactly a wallflower. I can talk (or type) your ears off about what I’m working on. But I really do despise promotion. Sitting behind a table for two or three days, smiling at people dressed as Wonder Woman and Thor as they wander by doesn’t seem like something that I’d find personally fulfilling. I’d rather be writing.

Plus you have to invest in a lot of stuff that would have no possible use other than promoting your works at cons. Banners. Bookmarks. Copies of your books that you’d have to box up and take home if they didn’t sell.

I guess it’s something that I’ll have to keep in mind, though. Once Blood for Blood is finished, and I’m ready to start the next promotional push, I’ll give it some more thought.

Until then, as I said, I’d rather be writing.

Reefer Madness

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It struck me in the last day or so, as I moved through the first quarter of the Blood for Blood rewrite, that there’s one aspect of society that I hadn’t really dealt with.

Drugs. Specifically illegal drugs.

I may have mentioned junkies once or twice in the first three books, but it was just in passing. So what’s the deal in No Name City? Are people getting high?

Yes. Yes they are. Well, at least the humans.

Opioids –  I figure that there are fewer opioid addicts in town than before the war. Remember, the entire human population of the city was put in internment camps for two years after the war ended. Cold turkey for them all. No matter what they were when they went in, none of them came out as active addicts. Recovering addicts, perhaps, but there were no drugs in the camps.

Why?

Because Vees have a dim view of anything that affects their food supply, i.e. human blood. They aren’t going to get sick, or poisoned, or even high from drinking an addict’s blood, but their body can’t use any foreign elements in the blood they consume. (And how they do that and the results are not something I’ll be going into in Blood for Blood, but will certainly be in Crimson Star. For now, let me just say that it’s generally a private matter, and it’s…distasteful, at best…)

So the Vee camp guards weren’t going to smuggle any in, and the human camp guards weren’t going to risk getting thrown in the camp themselves (or added to the menu). The humans all came out clean.

Whether they stayed clean after release or not was their choice. There would still be some around, but without imports of product or even raw materials, what opioids there are would be scarce at best. Maybe still some for pain relief as prescribed by doctors. Or maybe not. In any case, it would be scarce and expensive.

So there are some opioid users around, but not a lot.

Coke, Meth, and Designer Drugs –  Cocaine not so much. Methamphetamine, maybe a little more, since it can be cooked by anyone with the knowledge to do so. Designer drugs the same –  if you’ve got the knowledge and can get the raw materials, you can probably whip something up.

But again, the Vees are going to make sure that the full power of the law comes down on those who dabble in such things.

Cannabis –  Weed, hash, wax, oils, whatever. It’s relatively easy to grow. You can have a few plants in your house, or even your apartment. A little green thumb action and you’re in business. It may not be that dank bud you enjoyed pre-war, but it will probably do the job.

People are going to be smoking pot. It’s a given. And it’s possible that the Vees are not going to be as uptight about it as they are about other drugs. I mean, people still drink. People still smoke tobacco. It messes some with the purity of the Vee’s food supply, but you have to give the humans something to keep them from getting all tense and wanting to rise up against the vampires.

I don’t think it would be legalized (if you live in a legal state, enjoy it while you can…), but I don’t think you’d necessarily end up as an involuntary blood donor in a Vee prison if you were caught with a small amount. Trafficking, of course, would be something else again…

The reason this came to mind is that I decided to have one of the fairly major characters being introduced in Blood for Blood be a pot user. Not a pothead, per se. I really don’t want to write Cheech and Chong routines. But somebody who uses it, rather unashamedly. A little added character stuff never hurts.

Now excuse me, I need to go fire up a bong so I can do some more…research.

Food Town

Birmingham is a great food town. I mean, it’s not New Orleans or New York, but there’s whole lot of restaurants here, I know this because for the past four years, I’ve been going out to lunch on Sundays with my buddy Monk.

And though we don’t go to a new restaurant every Sunday, between Sundays and the occasional meal on another day or night (to check out those places not open for lunch on Sunday –  it is the Bible Belt, after all…), we’ve probably hit somewhere around 150 different restaurants.

Italian, American, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Mexican, Peruvian…seafood, pizza, burgers…slop, glop, and some really good meals.

Generally we don’t go to chain restaurants (other than Ruby Tuesdays, which has a solid salad bar and large glasses of beer and Outback because sometimes you want a steak and are willing to put up with the faux Australian vibes). So about six weeks ago, I decided it was time to do a chain restaurant tour before we returned to local spots (including a new German restaurant and a new Chinese buffet with Mongolian BBQ).

So we’ve done Cheesecake Factory, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Carraba’s, Roadhouse, Chili’s. Missed a couple of Sunday’s while I was in Florida. Today it was Olive Garden. Still to come, PF Changs, Longhorn, and perhaps Applebees.

Because I also have a couple of beers with lunch on Sunday (pretty much the only time I drink is when I’m eating out…at home I prefer other vices…), after lunch is nap time. And it is a nap. I’m not actually passing out. The alcohol just eases me into a nap a little quicker. Really. Would I lie?

The reason I’m talking about all of this is because I’m not very productive on Sundays when it comes to writing. I got a couple of hundred words done this morning before the dog park, another few hundred after the dog park and before lunch, and about a thousand after I woke up from my nap and jump-started my brain with a large cup of coffee.

It was enough to finish up Chapter Two of the rewrite, and get about a third of the way into Chapter Three. Things are still moving along well and I should finish up the third chapter tomorrow.

Of course, I’m heading into a portion of the story where I have to be deft in my handling of how things play out. I’ve talked in the past about the fact that the story begins with an almost rom-com feel (not my genre) so I have to be careful not to be too broad in the comedic parts of the early stages.

Fortunately, the plot explodes in a couple more chapters, and I’ll be back on firm ground. So at least I have that to look forward to.