Lloyd Alexander The Documentary: A Kickstarter

I’ve talked about Lloyd Alexander before, and praised his work often.  I’ve told the story on this blog of how it was Alexander’s “Chronicles of Prydain” series of books that first introduced me to the Fantasy genre and inspired me to become a writer.

Given how important those books were in my own development as a reader and a writer, I was delighted to discover the Lloyd Alexander Documentary project on Kickstarter.

I’ve never given to a Kickstarter project before.  But naturally, I felt the urge to kick in on this one.  Giving to this project felt like an opportunity at some kind of karmic give-back (for someone who doesn’t believe in karma in a strictly religious sense, that is).  And now, having stepped up to that particular plate, I thought this was something I should also pass along.

They’ve got until July 1st to raise enough funds for the project to go forward.  So if you have any interest in Lloyd Alexander or his works, maybe you’d be interested in taking a look at this project…

Data on the Ebook Revolution

I’ve said before that I’m a data-hound.  I don’t like airy statements that lack any real numbers to back it all up – I prefer solid statements based on actual, verifiable data.  There’s a lot more of the former than the latter in discussions of digital self-publishing and ebooks and related topics.  So some new, solid data on industry trends is a real treat for me.

  • Pew Internet on the Rise of E-reading: The study shows that one-fifth of Americans read an e-book in the past year; those who use e-readers read more and are more likely to purchase books than to borrow them.  This research gives a good sense on the direction of the broader market for e-books and how things have evolved.
  • Dean Wesley Smith and Mike Shatzkin each comment on the data unearthed by the Pew Internet survey.  A key take-away is that e-readership is growing.  But there are some surprises in there as well: like the fact that e-reader owners are still more likely to be reading a print book than an e-book.
  • Self-published Author Lindsay Buroker argues that more authors are making a “living” self-publishing than you might think.  To back up her claim… she points to a small number of authors who appear to be doing well (i.e. anecdotal data).  She goes on to offer advice for making it big based on doing the same thing that these folks are doing….
  • But then along comes a new survey from Taleist on self-publishing that will disabuse you of the notion that there’s easy-pickings gold in them thar hills. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending May 26, 2012

Incoming late because of the holiday weekend, but better late than never:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 357 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 593 words

Grand Total: 950 words

I wouldn’t ordinarily be totally psyched by a week with less than a thousand words.  But I am, because I’ve been so busy lately that more than 900 words feels like a luxury.  A guilty pleasure.

I only got in time on two separate evenings last week, but they were reasonably good, productive evenings.  I was especially excited to have come up with an interesting bit of back story that hadn’t occurred to me before, but which seems like a totally natural extension of a lot of the history I’d written previously, and which helps round out some of the secondary characters in the story.  It’s a small thing, but it really helps tighten up one of the dominant themes of the novel.  It feels like things falling into place.

Back in real-world-land, this is slow, slow writing, but I’m happy to be doing it.

So tell me, how was  your week?

Quality vs. Speed

During my MBA, one of the problems that was often discussed is the tension between having quality information with which to make decisions versus having timely and fast information with which to make decisions.  In an ideal world, your information is both timely and accurate.  It’s hard to make good decisions unless you have information that is both accurate and timely.  But in the real world, there is a trade-off between timeliness and accuracy.

I offer this by way of analogy.  This holds true outside the world of business and MBAs as well: in whatever field of interest or endeavor of human activity, there is always a tension and a trade-off between the quality of something and the speed it can be done.

Author Dean Wesley Smith, who has become something of a self-publishing advocate, talked about this in a recent guest post gig he did on the “Fictorians” blog.  I found it interesting, then, that he took a stand against one of the most commonly-cited positives for new authors to choose self-publishing over traditional publishing: speed.

The argument goes this way: traditional publishers suck because you write a book and then a publisher accepts it and then it’s like two years before the book comes out and before you sell a single copy.  Or, you self-publish and the book is out tomorrow and you’re selling like hotcakes.

And hey, I can dig that argument.  I mean, yeah, two years is a long time after you’ve already invested whatever into writing that novel in the first place.

Which gets to the heart of Dean’s argument: you did invest time and learning into writing that novel, didn’t you?

Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending May 19, 2012

It’s been a slow climb back to normalcy – or at least back to a good writing productivity level – and there’s still a long way to go:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 470 words

Grand Total: 470 words

While I had certainly expected the past two weeks to be at-or-near-zero in terms of my wordcount productivity, I had honestly hoped this week would look a little better. In reality-land, though, I only had an opportunity to sit down and write once this past week.  While Home Project Phase II is mostly behind us now, there were still a few minor after-shocks.  And there were other things going on.  And, bigger than that, there was some serious timeline and project planning for Home Project Phase III.

Yes, there is a Phase III coming, which I’ve known for a while.  But I finally have a sense of the timing of Phase III, and it’s coming up pretty soon.  There will likely be some preliminary work here and there in the next several weeks.  But the real work, during which I expect another cessation of writing activity for a period of some several weeks, should get underway in the latter half of July, with some tremors likely lasting into early August.  Of course, things will come up, as they do.

On the balance, I think my initial expectation, at the start of the year, of losing only 7 weeks of regular writing productivity due to Home Projects, Holidays, etc. was probably a bit optimistic.  So far this year I’ve had 5 weeks in which my productivity for the week was 0 words.  That leaves 2 weeks left on my original goal/plan.  Frankly… between Home Project Phase III and the holidays later in the year… I can kiss as many as 4 or 5 more weeks good-bye, writing-wise.

But that’s not all!  Of the remaining 14 weeks so far this year in which I did write anything, I met my minimum weekly goal of 2,000 words on only 6 of them: i.e. less than half the time.  If I don’t count the five non-productive weeks, I should have written at least 28,000 words worth of fiction material so far this year (including background notes).  But I have written only 25,532 words so far: I’m off my target by about 9%, and the year is quickly approaching the halfway-point.

Basically, I’ve written an average of 1,300 words per week so far this year, or 1,800 words per week on weeks I actually spent time writing.  It’ll take quite a few 2,000+ weeks to bring that average back up to my goal for the year.  And, hey, I knew that 2,000 words a week was a stretch goal.  It wouldn’t have been a really useful goal if it wasn’t a bit of a stretch.  But it’s still disappointing.  And it’s disappointing to know that with the other non-writing projects still on the horizon for the year that it’s unlikely I’ll get back on track for the year.

Anyway.  I’m just grateful for the time I did have writing this past week, and hope for more in the next few weeks before things get really busy again.

The writing I did do was split roughly evenly between some new material on the next scene in the story and some revisions and additions to an earlier-written scene.  I have some more revisions and additions to earlier-written scenes sitting on the back of my mind – mainly to the purpose of ironing out the protagonist’s motivations for certain actions early in the story.  When we first encounter her, we find her embarked upon a certain undertaking.  But she hesitates and turns back – and I realized that the reasons for her turning back aren’t particularly clear.  Nor for her later turning forward once again.  She’s seemed kind of erratic – which, yes, people can be erratic sometimes.  But I do want her character to be clear from the reader’s perspective, and I think that means clearing up her motives so that her course reversals make sense.  So that’s what’s up for next week, plus hopefully more on the recently started 4th scene of the book – after the first true mid-chapter scene break of the book.

So, then, how was your week?

An Awesome New Worldbuilding Tool

If you write secondary world fantasy in a pre-modern, pseudo-Medieval setting, you are going to find thisverycool:

ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

What is it?

It’s like GoogleMaps for the ancient Roman world.

You just enter in your parameters and voila!  Orbis calculates the best route for you and tells you how long it will take.  And there are a lot of parameters: not just departure point and destination, but time of year, method of travel, relative expensiveness of travel, etc.

In other words, this is really cool.

A word of warning, though: it only appears to work with a fairly updated browser (like IE 9 or a more recent Firefox installation, and you’ll want to temporarily turn off any script blockers you might have on). 

This is going into my worldbuilding and inspiration toolkit along with:

I just wanted to share this with you all.  I haven’t had a chance to play with it much, yet, but what I’ve seen of it is pretty cool.

Oh, and all those other things I just linked… I’ve shared them around here before, haven’t I?  No?  Oh.  Well, those things are cool tools to help your worldbuilding, too.  Check them out if you haven’t seen them.

I’m Guest Posting It

Today, I’ve got a guest post up on Ollin Morales’ blog {Courage 2 Create}.  It’s called “The Trick to Keeping the Big Picture In Mind While Working Out the Details“. But it’s not about the “big picture” and the “details” of your novel.  It’s about the big picture of your writing life and your non-writing life.

In the post, I introduce something that I do that keeps me going that I call “taking the long view”.  If you struggle with managing the vagaries of your daily life to find time to write, you might find some inspiration, or at least consolation, in this post.  You should check it out.

A part of the post ended up on the cutting room floor due to length constraints.  In the post, I give five “steps”.  But what got left behind was a short example version of how a hypothetical writer might implement those steps.  So I thought I’d share the example here with you.  You’ll want to read the linked guest post first to get the full context. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending May 12, 2012

I was rather expecting the week to go this way:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

As I said last week, this week was somewhat less hectic/chaotic/jam-packed with Home Project Phase II.  But the “somewhat less” part translated entirely into “Dear Wife and I trying to relax” and get over the sense of exhaustion that had built up over the prior two weeks.  Plus, Home Project Phase II had not gone away entirely.  It was simply less all-consuming.

In the “Dear Wife and I try to relax” department, we finished up Season II of Downton Abbey.  I now have a working theory on Downton Abbey: it is a Soap Opera for people who like to feel smart.  Since that latter category includes both my Wife and I, it appeals to us.  But it is still a Soap Opera.  Witness one particular plot point of Season II: a character whom we have never met but who was presumed dead from the outset of the first episode makes a return, complete with a case of Amnesia.  But in keeping with the “for people who like to feel smart” some doubt is sown as to the authenticity of this character’s story.  But the whole plotline is straight Soap Opera.  Mark my words, this character (“Patrick”, or possibly “Peter”) will be seen again in Season 3.  Unrelated to that specific issue but on the subject of Downton Abbey more generally, I have decided that Maggie Smith‘s character, the Dowager Countess (i.e. Professor McGonagall) is definitely my favorite character.  She has such a wit and such a mouth – and she can get away with saying so many cheeky and witty things precisely because she is the Dowager Countess.  She adds a lot to the show, to be sure.

And that’s basically all I have to talk about today, on account of I didn’t do any writing this past week.  I dearly, dearly hope that I put an end to this writing slump in the coming week.  I’m starting to feel disconnected from myself and my writing, and I don’t think I can go much longer without creating some fiction.

So, how was your week?

Barnes & Noble & Microsoft

This is old news, now, but I thought I’d share it.  I was waiting to post this until I had a few more links to share in e-book news… but after this, things quieted down a bit in the news.  So… here you go:

My own thoughts?  On one hand, it’s good, because it gives Barnes & Noble extra clout, and levels the playing field.  So, that’s a good thing.

BUT!

But I fear this may mean that the Nook abandons Android in favor of the new Windows 8 platform in the future.

And Windows 8?

It is TEH UGLY!

I mean, I am viscerally turned off by Microsoft’s “Metro” interface.  And I have the same reaction against the current version of Windows Phone.  It’s ugly, blocky, and bland.  And the idea of taking a slick, polished interface like you can get with Android and ripping it out and replacing it with the blocky and ugly Windows Phone or Windows 8 interface makes me very sad.  I had thought that when I eventually succumbed to the inevitable and got an e-reader I’d likely go with a Nook… but now I’m not sure… We’ll just have to see what happens.

What do you think?  Good or bad?  Would you want a Nook with a Metro interface, or would it drive you to never read an ebook again?

Publishing: Contracts, Respect & Reversion

I’ve criticized Dean Wesley Smith in the past.  But I found this particular recent post by him to be very enlightening and useful.

Quite a long time ago (by the age of my blog) I posted a speculative piece about what the future of publishing might look like.  As part of that speculation, I talked about how today’s mid-lister (and tomorrow’s Big Name) authors might grow increasingly disillusioned with overly-aggressive contracts from Big Publishing, and would defect to strike out on their own (though I was mostly wrong about the means of that defection, I appear to have been right about the motives).

And that’s basically what Dean is talking about.

In his post, Dean discusses some simple changes to contracts that Publishers could make that would attract him back to traditional publishing.  But what’s important is that what Dean’s looking for isn’t more money, it’s contractual control over his own work.  He’s asking for a firm rights reversion date, artistic control of his own writing, and equitable consideration for contract cancellation in the case of a publisher’s failure to live up to its own terms.  And Dean equates this control with his own dignity and respect.

I don’t hide the fact that, for myself, I prefer the traditional publication path to the digital self-publishing path (though I’m yet in no position to make a decision about which path I will ultimately pursue).  But I agree with Dean that these are some pretty basic requirements for writers to expect in their contracts.  And of these, the most important clause that Dean mentions is the one about rights reversion.  Continue reading