Monday, January 29, 2018

Technology on Wheels Sort-of

I'm an IT professional and I love putting advanced tech into my fictional world.
But the frustration with technology transfers easily from world to world.

I may make my living from tech, but that doesn't mean that life with my Toyota Prius is smooth at all. We actually have a very rocky relationship. It's a family car so I don't drive it all the time which makes me always a step behind the smart-ass thing. It's devilishly skilled at getting under my skin without even trying.

I was making an evening run to Walgreens to pick up medicine for my dog. While not in a huge hurry, I was definitely on a mission. I pull into the lot and park without issue. I don't know if you have had experience with Priuses or other cars like it, but you can lock it by pressing a spot on the door handle IF you have done all the [to borrow from the sexist named game of Mother-May-I] tasks that make it happy. So out of the car I go, close the door, press the magic spot on the door handle and I get a BEEEP. The You've-Done-Something-Wrong beep. Oh, I forgot to turn off the car so I open the door and press the Off button, close the door, and BEEEP. "What?" Open the door and the console says something on the order of "You forgot your key dummy."

With the Prius you don't insert a key it just has to be in the car... somewhere... I dig the key out of my purse that was on the seat. Ok. Good to go. Close the door and BEEEP. Argh! I am now trying not to just yell "I Hate This Car." and kick it repeatedly.

I open the door again and the dashboard says "You forgot to turn the car off idiot." (I had inadvertently turned it back on again during this dance.) Telling said car just what I think of it, I smash the off button, semi-slam the door. lock it, and try not to storm into the store.

Not a Prius fan.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Preparing to Submit [a writing sample]

The title was sounding far more suggestive than the topic deserved. I'm preparing to submit the first 20 pages of my book to She Writes Press.

I've submitted pitches to agent before but this is a little different. They don't ask for a pitch or any sort of introduction. Having gone to the trouble of writing such an intro and pitch, I feel kind of exposed without one. So I wrote them asking if there was a way I could send them the pitch first.

Also, I have to understand that these really are traditional book publishing folks. They want to see the first 20 pages in a normal font like Georgia or Times and it has to be double-spaced. Both of this things make me cringe. I just loath serifed fonts even though there is no shortage of research saying that they really are easier to read. And double-spaced means that they are only reading 10 pages of my work, not 20.

So I did the prep and of course it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I chose Times New Roman which is a very compact font and even with double-spacing there is a lot of the story in the proposal.

Now do a wait for an answer to my question or not? I picked a holiday weekend to send the question and it's unlikely I'll be patient enough to wait.

But let's hear it for last minute snags to slow down the impulsiveness. I need to have page numbers turned on. I use Google Docs and they're already on there, but I downloaded it as an Open Office word document, so I have to learn enough about Open Office to figure out how to turn them on.

Not too terrible. I had to Insert: Footer->Default.
Then click in the footer and Insert->Fields->Page Number.
I also chose to center it.

Of course, things were going too smoothly. Even with those changes it doesn't save them. I repeated the whole thing and when I reopen the document the page numbers are gone again.

Ok maybe it's time to update Open Office since I've been putting that off for a long time.
So I download the newer version, futz with my security preferences to allow me to install it, and then I realize that when I resaved it with the page numbers it had changed it from the ".docx" format to an ".odt" file, so I was actually looking at the old file. I resaved the ".odt" as a ".doc" and the page numbers are there.

Now I get to figure out when to submit it. Time for the dog's nighttime walk while I consider.

I should have guessed. On the submission page they give you a chance to submit a pitch, a cover letter, and a bio.

And they will accept .doc or .pdf. I'm much more comfortable about pdf because it works in a consistent way for the most part, so I'm going to re-download it as pdf. Of course, the page numbers disappear but the viewer shows them.

They use a service called "submittable" that I see that I've used before since they recognize me, but I don't remember what it was.

Ok, I did it. I'm trying not to worry about it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Back Story of My First Book's Writing

My first  book started out as a 2012 NaNoWriMo dare. NaNoWriMo is a the National Novel Writing Month ( is in October each year. My friend Jan (still a friend) said that we all should try it. The object is to attempt to write 50,000 words in a month. If you do the math you find that the goal is to write 1612.9 words a day. Now there are days that you might meet such a goal, but to do it every day for an entire month is a special kind of crazy that they cherish.

I wasn't able to do much more than 1000 words at a session and quickly found that I was more content with 500 words a day. But if you do a different sort of math you'll find that if you write 500 words a day for a year you have 182,500 words which is a very respectable novel. You can even skip a few days. (NaNoWritMo conveniently skips over the fact that 50,000 words is not really considered novel-length anyway.)

So i kept plugging along for more than a year and with some struggle with these concepts called Plot and Story, I actually had something. Then came months and months of copy editing that two friends were very nice to help me with (one friend is paid, one is my sister who was being nice.)

I attended a writer's conference on how to approach book agents and I learned a little about "pitching" the story from a writing coach. I queried about 25 agents and didn't get very far. I had resolved to contact 200 agents when I heard about She Writes Press from another writer friend. She Writes Press is a full-service book publishing (editing, cover design, bookstore access), but the author contributes to some of the up-front costs (currently $5900). Because you are sharing some of the initial costs you get a lot more of the sales back and you have fewer hoops to jump through just to get anyone's attention which is what is intriguing me. The catch is that they don't take everyone, so it's entirely possible that they'll say: "It needs more work." The other catch is that you realistically need to do more publicity which can get expensive.

So why haven't I submitted the asked for first 20 pages to them yet? Um, because it's terrifying. I and a lot of other authors fear that they won't be able to write a second book and I'm writing a series, so, I set the book aside and started working on the second book which I was stuck on chapter 3 for a long time. I think I'm unstuck now and see a way through things.

So now I have two choices. Go back to trying to get the first book published or keep writing the second book. I have That Sinking Feeling that I will just want to completely rewrite the first book and I might never finish it. There's a book called Beautiful Ruins and one of the characters just keep rewriting his first chapter over and over again which I find just tragic. I'm not in danger of that, but it would be nice to get the first book done even if I'm going to hate it once it finally sees the light of day. (I actually like it right now.)

And So The Publishing Process Begins

For years, I've run the Yoshi Training Diary which is what I've called the longest running, most boring dog blog on the internet and no one has disputed that claim. My obsession with keeping my reactive, "OMG what's that?" Corgi sane, not only has taught me a lot about dog training, but has had me rubbing elbows with some of the brightest minds in dog behavior and communication.

As a writer, it also showed me that while there is a lot of nonfiction writing about solving dog problem after problem, there is a genuine lacking in fiction involving dogs save for clever mysteries that actually feature excessively bright cats.

So, I decided to write my own and I'm happy to say that the "Amy and Lars" stories will be coming soon to the broader world beyond kind friends who were nice enough to read pre-release manuscripts.

This blog will be about the many road blocks to getting published and while other bloggers have made mention of this (one of them being the Wait But Why writer), I'm not sure people fully understand how much background research a writer needs to do to realistically tell even a fictional story.

That's where this blog comes in. All the weird stuff I had to learn just to write a chapter, or even make an effective allusion to something. There will be plenty about dog communication styles, but also how human infants learn and their language skills. Fair enough, but what could a blog be without learning about container truck numbering systems or research on our waterways or the hazards of gun mis-handling or who the heck really needs commas? or does a writer really need a "platform" anyway?

It's also about all the crazy internal questioning that one encounters during this process.