Decisions, Decisions

I am still trying to pick the second book I’m going to work on for this year. I’m opting not to do another young adult, which means the number of options has been cut down at least. Unfortunately, I still can’t decide between them all.

First there’s the one that I keep thinking about, Escaping Reality. I feel like the only reason I’m considering this one is because I just finished it for NaNoWriMo in November and I want to take a crack at fixing it up already. Also, because it’s the one that has the least problems with it. It’s newest, so it’s much cleaner and more in line with how my current writing works. There might be passages I can salvage and I won’t have to start from scratch.

I am doing my best to resist this easy option.

The other two are much older stories with a lot of issues to them structurally. First is Flightless1 which has basically nothing happen in it that makes any sense. There were things that were supposed to happen to make things make sense, but those things never happened. In fact, none of it makes any sense at all until a huge exposition dump half way through where a minor character steps up and starts getting stuff done off screen.

Fate2 has a lot of the same issues. It’s from almost a decade ago and it has the prose I was using back then. Which is awful. The base story underneath it and some of the ideas of characters can be salvaged, but so much of it really needs to go.

I know it sounds like I’m saying that there’s nothing left to save in these stories, but I do still enjoy the stories. It’s just everything else needs to be fixed. Like the plot. Pacing. Characterization. You know, everything that isn’t the intended story.

At this point, I’m leaning toward Fate because it’s the oldest and will involve the most work. Because if I don’t do it while I’m motivated, I’ll probably never do it. Which means I really need to re-plot this thing and figure out a new ending. Wish me luck.

  1. Which is a new temporary title because the old one really doesn’t work anymore []
  2. Another new temporary name. I went on a temporary re-titling spree! []

The Beat Goes On

I’ve been trying to figure out what big project I am going to edit next year. While the third book in the Looking Glass Saga is definitely on the table, I want to put another one out there and I’ve been running down the list, trying to pick up just the right one. After White Noise has turned out to be more of a success than I was expecting1 I want to try to put out a Looking Glass book and an original every year.

The thing is, going through my stories like this one after another, I’m noticing distinct patterns in them. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Some of these are things I have liked in other stories, while others I’m just not sure where they come from. It’s just the pattern of the story beats that seem to repeat themselves over and over again.

It’s not even just in my young adult stuff either. There are stories I have intended for an older audience that I’m considering writing over the next year that still pull the same beats in the same general places. I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting predictable already or if that’s just the way I write. Or if anyone else is even going to notice.

I know the Hero’s Journey is a thing and, as I grew up with both that and the plot diagram as the basis of my understanding of how stories are constructed, I can understand why some things are in the places they are every time. A lot of the beats in the story make sense in that context, but it just bothers me that they actually are all in the same places.

Which means I’m probably going to make a conscious effort to change the placement of these beats if I can this time around. Looking at them in these stories, I don’t know how I can without some major surgery on the plot, but I was already planning on rewriting them anywyay.

Now to just choose a story.

  1. In that people I don’t know are actually downloading it! []

Print Book Publishing with Createspace – Part 2

The first proof arrived almost a week early. It was a great start, or so I thought. I was working form home that day because I caught a flu1 and was able to get it without going to pick it up. I waited until 5 to open it and it was more exciting than Christmas. Which is only relevant because it was the start of December at the time.

It looked amazing. At first. The front was great and the matte felt great in my hands. It smelled like a book. And then I turned it around. The spine was a little off, but that’s okay. I knew about the 1/8″ slip and I measured. It was exactly that much of a slip, so it was fine. And the back cover looked good too, so I was generally pretty happy.

Well, until I started reading it through.

Those notes? Every one a thing I had to change. Missed orphans. Places where the spacing looked weird. Typos. Grammar. All the things I thought I had gotten the first few times going through it, and there were still little things that needed fixing.

But it was all little stuff. I fixed them all in both the InDesign document and in the eBook at the same time and uploaded the new versions. I also changed the finish to glossy because, as much as I loved the feel of the matte, it smudged and got dirty like crazy with a white cover. The pages, as well, were very white and didn’t feel like a book in the way I was used to. I went back through my stack of reference novels and noticed they all had more cream pages, so I changed that as well.

Time for the second proof.

They were a little lighter in the cover than I thought they would be. I darkened it with filters in the photo, but the grey was just a bit too light for my liking. The problems in the book, though, those were mostly fixed. The glossy worked better, as did the cream pages, but I didn’t check the spine alignment on the digital proofer this time, thinking everything would be the same as before. I was… very wrong. But, since I was changing the colours on the cover anyway, I went back through and made more adjustments to the spine.

Proof copy three. Here’s hoping this time?

One thing I will say is that throughout this whole thing, shipping has not only been good, it’s been amazingly fast. The slow option took maybe a week all of these times so far. On top of that, this version of the books looked great. No orphans left and after reading it through hundreds of times to the point where I was unable to see anything wrong with it anymore, I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with it. And on top of that…

… the spine finally lined up!

In chronological order. You can see how off the spine has been so far. It was pretty awful. You can also see that 6×9 as a size is much larger than most of the books on my shelf. At this point, I’d put so much work into it that I couldn’t go back. The ISBN was assigned to the size. I’d make a smaller one later when I was more comfortable with everything. When I could pay for moor proof copies with the income from this book!2 It’s the size of Name of the Wind on the next shelf down, as well a few other scattered books I have, so it didn’t bother me.

I looked through it yet again. A few times. I showed it to the girls at work, both designers, and they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. That night when I got home, I decided to publish it. I have a coupon for two free books from finishing NaNoWriMo, so I go ahead and order those as well.

2 hours after deciding to do that, I got a message pointing out something…

Screenshot_2015-01-07-15-10-02

Dammit.

So of course, I immediately get it all changed and get the new version. I’ve learned at this point that Createspace usually gets back on approvals in 12 hours on changes to interior files and less on cover changes. I get it changed and breathe a sigh of relief.

Which brings us to now. I have received my free books3, and they have the right back cover! White Noise the physical copy is now for sale at Createspace and on Amazon.

I think I’m going to wait a little while before I do this again. It’s been an interesting journey so far, but I think that’s enough for a little while. Time to start looking at what I’m going to write next.

  1. Which is still going, might I add. I will be sick forever. []
  2. Such wishful thinking on my part… []
  3. It took UPS a week and a half while I called over and over to find out what was happening []

Print Book Publishing with Createspace – Part 1

It was late November. I had just finished writing two books for NaNoWriMo1 and I had promised that I was going to take the rest of the month and all of December off of writing to keep myself from completely burning out. I was already really close to burning out as it was, so it was a good idea to take a bit of time off.

But this is me. I don’t do time off very well.

I don’t know why, but I got it in my head that I wanted to turn White Noise into a print book. I have wanted to make a print version of my books just for that aesthetic. I like holding books and I love the smell of a book, so I wanted that for my own works as well. Since I promised that I wouldn’t be doing any more writing, I figured that now was the perfect time to start working on creating something that I always wanted. I’d just finished White Noise and I already designed the spine and back cover back in October, after all, so why not this one?

Luckily, I’d already been playing around in InDesign for a while, so I had a general sense of my way around. I pulled out novels from my shelves and made a pile of them by my desk as I started looking for fonts and tried to remember every gripe my designer friends and classmates had about text on a page. I tried to get rid of any orphans and widows2 that I could find. I adjusted my spacing and rewrote little things so that the lines looked better.

And then I chose my fonts3 and I had to lay everything out all over again. Choose your fonts first.

I went with a 6×9 layout because that was the recommended size by Createspace and, now that I had all of my documents ready, I was able to start uploading all of my documents. It was exciting. I had checked everything and rechecked it. Everything was going to be great. I’d get one proof copy and it would be perfect and that would be all. I uploaded the cover and the interiors and I waited for them to approve it and get to the stage where I could order my first proof. I obsessed over the description for a while, I selected a matte cover finish,4 but there was something wrong.

Here’s a tip about Createspace. For those who are using Createspace for the first time and you’re wondering why your interior file still needs approval, open up the Digital Proofer. There’s a big blue button at the bottom that says Save and Continue. You have to press that before it will approve your interiors.

Once that was sorted, I looked through their digital proofer. From here, you get to see how the spine is aligned and the spine was a little off. Cue making little adjustments to it, uploading it and waiting until Amazon approved the new version before I could actually check it for myself. The biggest downside of this whole process really is this part right here. You have to upload a cover and get it approved by someone on Amazon’s end before you can check the alignment yourself. But a few tries later, I finally get it ready. It’s approved. The spine looks good.

Time to get my first proof copy.

  1. Escaping Reality and a Looking Glass book []
  2. Single words on a line and single lines on a page []
  3. Chaparral Pro and Bebas Neue []
  4. Because matte is awesome []

Writing Resolutions for 2015

It’s the time to make resolutions that we’ll all give up on within a couple weeks. Promises to eat healthier only to give into the junk food cravings, a gym membership that goes to waste by February, and all that water you thought you were going to drink replaced by Coke soon enough.

As such, I tend to set my resolutions as goals instead of sweeping lifestyle changes.

I plan to continue posting Looking Glass Saga and Cloned Evil on alternating Saturdays for the new year and probably several years beyond that. It’s been fun, though I suppose I should try to get a few more readers for both of those.

I’m also planning to get two more Cloned Evil arcs written. The current arc is only 10 parts long,1 which means I still need to write another 18 updates for the rest of the year, which will probably end up being about two more parts. It should be awesome. I have plans.

After getting White Noise in print, I have a desire to do the same thing for Return to Wonderland. I need to get a new cover made before I do anything like that and think long and hard about making sure that all the books in the series have a similar cover and branding and whatnot.2

Speaking of, I am also planning to publish Jabberwocky’s Book3 this year as well. No guarantees on a print book for that one.

On top of that, I want to edit and put out one more book from my stack of rough drafts that I have. I’m thinking about pulling out one of my early Nanowrimo projects that I know I need to rewrite completely and, after all the trouble this last year was getting books done, I think I can manage this.

So thems the plans for this year.4 It’s a lot, but I still hope it’s feasible. If not, it should at least be fun trying.

  1. With two installments posted in 2014 []
  2. My artist for that project will probably hate me by the end. I am ready for that. []
  3. The sequel and second in the Looking Glass Saga []
  4. Also, a not at all expected one being sell enough books so that I can get an Amazon cheque. It’s more of a wishlist thing than an actual plan because I suck at selling things []

2014 in Review

I redecorated the place. Hope you folks like it.

Also, happy new year! I’m going to take a little time to look back at last year, so indulge me. It was an interesting year internationally, certainly,1 but for me it was the year of a few big good things overshadowed by a lot of little things that went very wrong.

I ended up having a very expensive detour on a trip I took back in January. I’ve been in a strange state of permanent sickness since September. It felt like work was full of these nonstop deadlines that were mission critical.2 I failed to update this blog for a long time.

On the other hand, work has been better for me than it’s been in a while. I managed to pay off that student loan that’s been lingering over my head all these years. And that expensive detour has turned into planning a proper trip to Ontario instead of just staying there because a snow storm happened to strand me there.

I also managed to get a lot of writing done.

Not only did I finish posting the first Looking Glass Saga book on Jukepop Serials, but I also managed to start up Cloned Evil, which I’ve been planning to write for a while in December. I also put out both Return to Wonderland and White Noise as ebooks and even got White Noise out as a print book.

I learned inDesign and I learned just how intensive a book rewrite really could be. I made deadlines for myself and stuck to them. It was an exhausting year, but overall I think I did what I could with it. While I would have liked it to go a little easier on me in the general bad luck category, I think it did good work laying down a foundation for what I should do with myself next year.

Here’s hoping for a good3 2015!

  1. Arguably in the worst possible way, but I’m sure it could still get worst []
  2. Which, as I should have known given that I’ve worked startups a lot before, were not as mission critical as they were made out to be. []
  3. and productive! []

Extending Hagan Reviews

I am going to assume most of you are not familiar with the Hagan Reviews series. The series follows a woman, Diamanda Hagan, ruler of a fictional country named Haganistan, reviewing obscure films that most people would never touch. The reviews themselves are a lot of fun,1 but the thing I’m going to focus on more is the potential of the narrative that exists and how to use that to extend the videos outwards into other mediums to make it a more immersive experience.

So how to extend it?

Book Extension

I can easily think of three books that could be written around the underlying narrative universe.

The first chronologically would be a journal about someone living in the country while Hagan took it over and became the unquestioned dictator of the land. Hagan could find it in a review and get rid of it as a means of advertising the book. It could be put out as a lost blog, a physical book or published online for download.

Next would be a book about the takeover from the perspective of Hagan and her spin doctors, this time taking a more satirical route2 and making the take over look more like everything was for the best. It would talk about how awesome she is for the most part, as well as the rules that she put in place for the good of the citizens or herself. Finish it off with a minion application form3 and we’re done!

Lastly would be a Minion Guide. It would be a basic rundown of what you need to do as a minion and maybe a couple stories about current minions about how great it is to be a minion. Again, ebook or physical book, it doesn’t really matter which. If it is an ebook, I’d suggest this one have a printable PDF version as well with stripped down content for free.

Minion Packs

Because the universe involves many minions, why not give normal people the chance to apply to be a minion? These would be small cardboard boxes with some basic merchandise in it. A Minion Guide, perhaps, as well as a mask. The Diamanda Hagan book. I know that plushies exist, so if she could make a few of them, maybe one of those so that they would always have a Mistress to worship with them. Shirts. Just, a pack of stuff that all relate to being a minion in the Hagan Reviews universe.

Movie Boxes

I’m kind of in love with the Boxes craze that’s come up and I can see it potentially working here. After the initial Minion Pack, maybe three or four times a year, send out a box of stuff for people who are minions4 to keep people immersed in the experience.

I’ve noticed not only that she seems to like more than a few of the movies she reviews, but also that she seems to be on fairly good terms with a few of the film makers and very supportive o the indie films. In the boxes that follow, if possible, she could get little things from these upcoming indie films to put in them. Trailers, shorts and little merch could all go into these boxes along with a note from the Mistress commanding her minions to appreciate these things.

Also, there’s the opportunity to send them bonus content from the show in the form of deleted scenes, original versions of scripts or other bonus content.

These, of course, could be done digitally instead of physically, but given the narrative of the universe implying that she’s turned it into a dictatorship under an iron fist, a physical brown paper box seems more thematically appropriate.

And that’s what I thought of. Now, I need to catch up a bit.

  1. If you’re okay with a lot of the violence and sex that comes with the films she covers []
  2. Which is much more appropriate for the tone of the show []
  3. Coming back to it []
  4. And charge for them like the other Boxes do []

Extending Percy Jackson

So there’s a thing I like to do whenever I finish binge watching/reading/playing a series to make me feel better about the fact that it’s over. I like to think of how there could be more of it for me to find somewhere if I just looked hard enough. And then, to make myself feel more academic about it and like these aren’t the thoughts of someone just sad it’s over, I frame it as a brand extension exercise.

Percy Jackson is one of those properties that I’ve done that for. I know there’s a movie series1 and a second series of books,2 but we’re going to ignore them for now. I had a few ideas for it back before those things.

Merchandise

Easy starting point, right? besides the classic dolls/action figures and stuff with the name on it, there’s also the entirety of the Camp Halfblood brand to play off of. Shirts, camp necklaces3 and little trinkets to mark your Godly parent could be made to bring people into the world. And that’s the non-specific simple stuff.

With a bit of research or clever design, you could make Athena themed puzzles or Hephaestus themed small mechanical projects. Aphrodite beauty supplies. Ares training weapons made of foam. Use the mythology to help come up with further ideas.

Actual Camp

I wouldn’t be surprised if a thing like this already existed. You could do an actual Camp Halfblood that people could send their kids to, framed around the ideas in the book and drawing on it considerably. Each camper would be sorted into their bunk based on which camp program they’d be following, each of which would be different and unique to their chosen Godly parent.

What I mean by that is that it would be several small camps running concurrently with one another under the Camp Halfblood umbrella with chances for crossover. Ares would get a focus on learning weaponry, where Poseidon would be getting more time in the water and Apollo4 would get time with horses. There’s be opportunities to take things outside of their chosen programs as well and they’d have an opportunity to take stuff with campers in other houses, but their focus would be based on whatever their initial chosen parent/program was.

Virtual Camp

There’s also the Pottermore route. I’d opt for a more interactive route than just rereading the books from an alternative perspective and instead set the story after Percy’s story.5

Make it more like an MMO. Let people go and learn and train in the sections of camp. Get interesting quests into the outside world. Have some sort of micro-transaction system so that they can make in-game purchases and help them out in playing the new mini-stories that they can play within the system. Give them a chance to share those achievements with their friends.

And give them camp necklaces. Or, at least, give them access to pay for real ones. Give them an actual necklace to put their bead on and, as they complete stories or quests, give them access to new beads for each completed adventure. It’s such a small thing, but there is just something about having a physical thing that you can feel like you earned that can make the experience so much more rewarding and immersive. Send each item with a note from Chiron to make the experience feel that much more personal.

And that’s what I thought of after I binged on Percy Jackson. I’ll probably do more of these eventually.

  1. Which is terrible []
  2. Which I need the last book of []
  3. We’ll come back to these []
  4. I think it was Apollo before Percy came along []
  5. Still pretending the heroes of Olympus series hasn’t happened at this point []

Villain Motives

I am currently plotting my next book and it’s mostly going pretty well. I have my characters figured out, the arc for my main character, a couple subplots and minor characters that will pepper the story. I know the setting, a general sense of demographic and the overarching themes. I even have the challenge that I’m going to put in place for this book! There’s just one thing left that I’m avoiding.

You’d think that the motivations of your villains would be easy, but I always leave it to the end and then over think it. The villain should be opposite in many ways to the theme and lead character in ideology, but not in a way that’s alienating. There should be something familiar about the villain, like someone you could actually know, and they should have motives that make sense, even if they are being set up in a way that implies the audience should disagree with them. Adjust how sympathetic they are based on how sympathetic the lead is.

It’s a lot easier when I have a singular person to work against the protagonist and the villain is the antagonist, but that’s not really the case for this one. The villain is just the means by which the awful things happen and where the aggression is coming from and directed at, while the actual antagonist exists more theoretically.1 And I really want to do a story with end of the world stakes, so I need this villain, though I am agonizing over just what to make out of them.

I could pants2 it, but I do love me a good plan, even if I don’t stick to it. There’s a nice security to it and knowing that I know how everything in this world works, not to mention why everything is happening, before I go in. I am a planner and a plotter at heart, no matter how much I deviate from my notes during the writing process.

In the end, the villain takes on a life of its own while I’m writing and becomes much less of a list of traits and things to represent. The motives shift and change to make more sense in the context of the story, or the villain changes to someone else entirely who makes more sense with how the story actually ended up.

  1. It’s a Woman vs Self story in the end with an antagonist to give the whole thing a bit more direction []
  2. Pants: Making it up as you go []

Books as Babies

It’s something I have heard a lot of times before. “My book is my baby.” Some people disagree with this statement. I am one of them. Still, I am willing to figure out a way to make this analogy work.1

The initial idea for a book is like a baby. It’s new and just sprang out of nowhere2 into your lap. It has so much potential and you have no idea what it’s going to become, but it’s yours and you are going to try your hardest to do right by this little adorable thing that you have created. It will be fun to raise and to figure out how to make it into something you can be proud of. You know you can nurture it just right. You might even make a complicated plan to make sure of it.

Childhood is the first draft. You get to play and have fun with your little idea and watch it grow in unexpected ways. All those carefully laid plans you made during infancy are being put to the test as it takes on a life of its own. You talk about it with other parents3 and sometimes go on related blogs and forums when you’re having trouble, but all in all you are still happy with and proud of your little creation. And when it finally graduates elementary school, you take a look back and realize maybe you shouldn’t have had quite so much fun and let it go off wandering quite so often.

And then the teenage years hit with the rewrite.4 At first it seems fine. It’s not so bad. And then you realize that some of the things your poor little idea is doing makes no sense. It doesn’t realize what the implication of its actions are. You start arguing, trying to straighten out as many of these bad habits that it’s developed as you can. Your book resists, of course. But that shirt looks great on me, look how nicely it’s written! That character totally has a place – you always need a musician! You just don’t understand how to use a comma splice anymore, author.

Somehow, your book has graduated and gotten into a nice school where it will live on the campus. This is where your editor(s) come in. You get a break away from your demon creation while someone else helps smooth out the rough edges, you just having to deal with it on breaks, though it seems that the breaks are too long and the time away is too short. You still love the thing, but these new ideas it brings back can be hard to get your head around. You work with it as best you can and try to be supportive. You’re getting tired and really want to see it on its own two feet. You are enjoying the quiet that comes with it no longer being in your hands.

And then it comes back from college, diploma in hand, and you realize just how much you missed it. It’s all done, ready to go. Or so you think. It makes a home in the basement. It doesn’t want to go out and do something with that degree. Do you know how hard it is out there? It could just stay home and play video games and have you take care of it for the rest of its life. It never has to come out again.

That’s when you have to get tough. You pick up your book, you go over every possible thing it could still do and you force it to go out and get a job. You have taken care of it for long enough. You raised it from when it was a little idea and you are proud of it. You do love it. And you know it can do it. It just has to do it somewhere other than your house because it is time, dammit.

On a related note, I’m kicking White Noise out of the house on Saturday. He needs to get a damn job.


White Noise (Kindle Edition)

By (author): Tanya Lisle

Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only
Release date October 22, 2014.
  1. Mostly because I am in desperate need of a break from editing. []
  2. We’re going the immaculate conception route on this analogy []
  3. Writers []
  4. Skipping middle school because I have never been and cannot speak for what is surely an awful experience []