Author Goals

So I currently have White Noise up for free on a site called Story Cartel, which I’m doing so I can hopefully get a few reviews on it, and I was asked why I didn’t have an agent for it. I told him the answer was a little longer than 140 characters, but it’s a question I think I will be asked again, so let’s actually go through this.

A lot of it derives from the fact that I am writing books in my off hours. I work full time as a developer and I write because I enjoy it. I’m not ready to be held to someone else’s timelines in my off hours and, if I’m having a bad day, I want to be able to take the day off without the added stress of knowing that I have a rewrite or an edit to get in. I already plan on getting two books done per year,1 but I want to know that if my day job gets to be too much, I can drop everything for that without worrying that my agent is going to get in trouble because I’m not getting my stuff done on time.

I have no drive to make anything with marketability in mind. I aim to write the story first, and then figure out who would like it after. I’ve already talked about doing some hypertext fiction or interconnected short stories, as well as doing some stuff that’s just not linear. At all. My romances don’t usually show up until the second drafts based on character chemistry,2 and sometimes there’s no romance at all, which means I don’t follow the rules for young adult fiction or certain genre fiction. Not that I always write young adult. Sometimes the stories are suited for older or younger audiences and I don’t really want to change the stories to suit one particular audience if the story doesn’t call for it.

I also want to actually learn about the publishing process from a publisher’s perspective. Since I’ve started, I’ve gotten a crash course in book formatting and marketing3 as well as learning how to find people to work with and how to work with them. I’ve been really enjoying that, as well as learning the ins and outs of trying to figure out how to set it up as a business.

And, as a bonus, I don’t have to have the girl covers on my books if I don’t want to.

I may change all this in the future and eventually go for the traditional publishing deal,4 but for the moment I’m enjoying doing it all at my own pace and learning about the process. If you’re an agent that really wants to change my mind, though, feel free to get in touch.

  1. A Looking Glass Saga book and one other one []
  2. I also don’t always write straight people, but I do sometimes if the chemistry is there for the characters []
  3. Which I’m pretty damn bad at, I have to admit []
  4. Or maybe do the hybrid thing and only have an agent for some of my work []

The Publishing Tracker

A surprising number of friends have recently asked me to look over their stuff because they want to publish it. I’ve, of course, advised them against doing any such thing because it’s a bit of a pain to get everything ready for publication, especially if you want to print your books out.

They gently told me that they were going for the traditional route before I ranted too long.

They are apparently, following the same path I tried a while back in trying to get their short works published to build up a name and a resume for themselves before trying to find an agent,1 which means I asked them about their tracker.

Apparently the publishing tracker isn’t actually standard. Go figure. For those who don’t know, the spreadsheet was a thing I learned about and lived by when I first started  trying to get published and was sending out short stories to everyone I thought would be a good fit. It’s a document to keep track of who you’ve sent what to and to help prevent multiple submissions.

I, being me, did a bit more with mine and turned it into a rudimentary tracker for some of my projects as well as a research document. And then I started building an online version of it. And then I stopped because finals were awful that year and I never picked the project back up.2

I made a stripped down version of mine for one of my friends who has a lot of stories to send out and a lot of places she’s looking at sending things to. There’s three sheets to it: Sent, Works and Publications.

Sent is just your tracking information. Which stories you have sent to which publishers, the date you sent them on and the date of expected reply. It’s pretty simple and you can sort by the various columns to see who you’ve already sent which stories to.

Works just keeps track of your stories and some of the vital information about it that you use for finding publications to send it to. I think this can be easily changed to Poetry, if you are sending poems out instead.

Publications are the places you’ve looked up and you like, along with the basic information you need to know about sending to them. I’ve stripped this section down a lot because back  in my day3 pretty much everyone wanted an SASE4 and an IRC5 , though these days with everything more digital, that’s becoming the case less and less.

If anyone else wants it, I’ll leave it here. It was incredibly useful for me when I was sending out my stuff and keeping track of what I needed to do, so it might help a few of you out as well.

Publishing Tracker

  1. Some of them, anyway. Not everyone. []
  2. I might, though. It was a good project, even though I will not use it again. []
  3. If I ever wanted to sound old… []
  4. Self Addressed Stamped Envelope []
  5. International Reply Coupon []

Getting LAMP Free on Amazon AWS

Quick break from the writing talk today, since that’s not the only thing in my tagline. I do development by day and, given that I’ve started working on some of those side projects in my off hours between writing, I figured I’d share a little.

I recently signed up for AWS, which has been quite the experience. I’m not a big command line person, so I’ve been learning a lot about how to set up LAMP from scratch and get all of my settings in order. I’ve not only made the one domain that I’m working on several times, but had to fidget with the settings over and over again.

I’ve also, in my attempts to set up a free account to develop on, managed to spend quite a bit of money because I’ve made quite a few mistakes on this setup. Only around $5 worth of mistakes, but nonetheless, I’d rather not spend that.

So how to set it up so that it’s free and it stays free? It turns out that it’s not too difficult, but setting it up is a bit of a pain.

To start, make your EC2 Instance. I use the Amazon Linux option and set it up as usual. It’s step by step and pretty easy to pick up. Once you’re done, connect to your instance and the rest of it gets started.

First thing’s first, you need to set up the basics. Here’s what you’re typing into command line.

sudo yum update -y
sudo yum install -y php55-mysqlnd php55 php55-mcrypt httpd24
sudo service httpd start

Important to note there is you don’t install the MySQL. Now you need to set your permissions.

sudo groupadd www
sudo usermod -a -G www [USER]
exit

Why yes, you did just log out. Go log back in again and make sure everything looks right.

groups

Which should return:

ec2-user wheel www

Now keep going.

sudo chown -R root:www /var/www
sudo chmod 2775 /var/www
find /var/www -type d -exec sudo chmod 2775 {} +
find /var/www -type f -exec sudo chmod 0664 {} +

And you have most of the server set up! Congrats! Now that you have the Linux, Apache and PHP in there, you just need the MySQL. Which is not something you do here.

See, as I’ve learned, if you install it directly onto your instance, you will be charged for it. If you install an instance with software that has MySQL integrated into it, well I’ve been charged for that as well. You can’t really put a database directly on the server and expect it to stay in the free tier.1

If, however, you make one through RDS, you can make one under the free tier. The nice thing about RDS is that, as you go through the options, it will specifically tell you whether or not you are free tier eligible. It’s much more straightforward than EC2 to setup.

You are also going to need to make sure everything has been setup in the same region to use them together. Up at the top left, you can select your region. Make sure all of the regions between RDS, EC2 and whatever else you plan on using with your site are the same.

And here’s hoping that’s been useful to someone. I know it was driving me nuts.

Oh, and for a more in depth explanation of setting up your server, I’ve been using this tutorial. It actually goes into what all that you’ve typed in does.

  1. Unless you really know what you’re doing. I have yet to figure it out. []

After Destiny Begins

So After the End has already been renamed. I was going to wait, but I kind of like the name.1 I think most people saw that coming, but I’m glad it’s done and that I like the name. The rewrite is going just as rocky as I was worried it was going to be. It’s going to be a bit of a slog to get through, but I’m hoping a couple people will join me on it.

See, I’m going to be putting up the rewrite, piece by piece as I keep writing, through Wattpad. It’s going to still be pretty rough, since this is before the editing and before a lot of the making-it-good parts of the writing process goes into it, but it’s the restructuring. If you like it, you can let me know a lot sooner than waiting for me to finish this way.

Fair warning, I’m probably going to be stopping part way through. I can’t go spoiling the ending now, can I? But please do give it a look.

Even before the world ended, everyone inside the Janus Complex knew that the earth outside was flat. When the mountain appeared on the horizon that morning, they sent a small team out to investigate.

When that team came back, the mountain was gone. The only proof they have that it was ever there at all are some soil samples, plants and insects who somehow managed to survive the irradiated haze, and a strange woman with no name who knows just a little too much about what’s coming next.

After Destiny

  1. Also, After the End being attached to that other book was really starting to bother me because they are similar in genre from the looks of it. I need to read it and find out. []

Not Quite From Scratch

So the rewrite has begun as far as I’m concerned. I’ve started going back through the initial story and I’m working through what can stay and what can go in the whole mess of it. Considering how long ago I wrote this story,1 I am not that surprised with what’s staying at what’s going.

What’s staying:

  • Basic plot
  • Most of the universe elements
  • Most of the characters in some way
  • A few of the scenes

What’s going:

  • All of the actual written text

This was written nearly 7 years ago. The ideas I still like, but the actual prose is… well, it’s like it was written by me 7 years ago. There are a lot of things in it I don’t like, such as the belief I used to have that a large vocabulary meant that I was awesome at this writing thing.2 There’s also the fact that everything is kind of traditional in that there’s a damn lot of dudes, all two of the women in the original cast fall into the traditional roles and there’s nothing societally that’s changed from what I thought things were like back in 2008.

Which is weird because I took a glimpse at the story I wrote the year before and none of these things were an issue.

I do, fortunately, have a bunch of notes of things to change and I’m working on writing up a new plot off the old one. I need to flesh out bits of the universe and get the setting down3 and make sure I have the appropriate back stories switched, but it’s definitely workable. I just need to write it again.

And edit.

And edit again.

And again.

You know how it goes. Wish me luck. This one’s going to be a bit of a rough one, I can feel it.

Also, I keep changing the cover around, so look forward to previews of the cover with every post.

  1. 2008, I think, for Nanowrimo []
  2. It doesn’t, 23 year old me. It really doesn’t. []
  3. Looking at Saskatchewan for this one, not that it actually matters []

Procrastination and Covers

So I’ve been seriously procrastinating on the rewrite. Obviously. Besides starting to build that project I mentioned1 I keep doing this awful thing and opening up Photoshop.

So on the downside, I still don’t have the new book plotted. But on the upside, I know basically what the cover looks like.

cover

And I finally have a new title for it! I mean, I know there’s other books using the title, but it fits with mine as well.

Oh, but that’s not all. On top of that, I have the cover done for the book next year! Have a sneak peek!

coverflightless

Oh, but that’s not all. How about a book I had no plans to write originally and was still debating whether or not it was happening?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00002]

So apparently I have to write the White Noise sequel one of these days. I mean, otherwise I’ll never get to use this cover, right?

Next week I’ll get to rewriting. That or I’ll be further in programming and I’ll be drowning in covers for the next decade. Really, it’s one or the other.

  1. Which now has three different stories I’m planning to make for it instead of just the one because I have no self control []

Transmundane – The Multilinear Project

So this may come up this year given everything, so I figure I’ll talk a little bit about it now. There’s this story. Transmundane. It may start getting written this year.

The main reason I haven’t done any writing on it so far is because of what the story is and how the story works. Transmundane was conceived as a multi-linear novel, meaning that the story is told from the perspective of every character you encounter. From the start of thinking about it, there was a built in way so that you could bounce back and forth between characters.

Originally it was going to be a much more visual thing. I had plans to animate it in Flash1 and have areas of the screen clickable when they were shown so that you could switch to another character’s perspective, then go back wen you crossed paths with the original character again. If you ever did.

And then I remembered my art skills.

The idea of the multiple stories happening at once and switching between them, though, has been one thing that stuck. There were six character’s whose exploits you would follow through the narrative and it was supposed to be the user’s choice to follow who they wanted to follow as they moved through the book, learning things with the characters and being capable of ultimately knowing the whole story while none of the characters ever gt that.

When I read Game of Thrones, I trashed the idea of just switching perspectives per chapter once and for all.2 The structure just didn’t work with what I was doing and I wanted something very different in how I wanted it to work. It had to be some sort of interactive thing. Something that didn’t rely too much on visuals.3 Something that put the control in the user’s hands and gives them the chance to go back and follow a different character through a section of the story if they are curious. Or let them continue on with the current path without context if they aren’t.

I think I have most of that figured out, though. After looking at Twine, I now have a hundred notes for a custom system I want to build to tell this story. Which, in turn, means I should probably sit down and figure out the plot and an end point and all that nonsense as well.

Why yes, I am procrastinating on working on Fate. Why do you ask?

  1. That dates the conception of this, doesn’t it? Whoops. []
  2. Especially since I think I read less than half of Dance with Dragons because I hate everyone at this point. []
  3. Because, again, lack of art skills. []

So I looked at Twine…

I have this one story that I’ve been wanting to work on, but there is a major problem with it. It’s not one story. It’s about six. Six to eighteen. And they’re interconnected.

I’ve been wanting to build it as a choose your own adventure story of some sort. The structure is essentially one where you would get a passage and there would be links inline so that you can switch perspective and follow different characters as you read, hopping between the stories and discovering what happens to all of the characters.

Enter Twine. It’s this fancy Choose Your Own Adventure creator with a nice interface and the ability to make it all online instead of downloading a program. The interface is pretty intuitive and, from what I’ve played with so far, it is a really nice way to tell an interactive story. There’s plenty of options all over the place for extending the narrative to include inventory and actual game play options as well.

I like the system, but the documentation is lacking in anything that isn’t just straight narrative options, leaving users to go out and learn javascript if they want to figure out how these functions they offer actually work. Which isn’t a problem for me, but I can imagine it’s a pain for anyone else trying to make something more like a game than a branching narrative.

I also couldn’t see the options I was looking for anywhere in the documentation. See, there’s something specific I’m looking for in terms of this project.1 As much as I looked, I couldn’t find some way to archive the scenes you visited and a way to easily go back and make different choices. There appeared to be a way to go back, but not an archiving system.

I also couldn’t tell if you saved the session or not when you were done. I’d want to be able to come back to it later.

I need a system that does both of these things because I want to be able to add to the story. I want to be able to update the story with more content and I want a way for people to return to the story and continue where they left off, or to go back and try other routes and see what the other parts of the story are easily.

Which means I still have to build this thing from scratch. But Twine looks good if I ever have a shorter, more straight forward project. Which, you know what, I just might one of these days.

  1. Whenever I get around to doing it. Don’t get too excited, it’s still a ways away. []