Category Archives: A writer’s world

Keeping busy

Yikes, a week after wrapping one project up I am all but done with the first draft of book three of Citlalli. No, that doesn’t mean it’s done (in fact I think that, between revisions and rest periods, it still has something like a year to go), but even though a part of me knows that the fact that I could cross all three of those things off my list in a matter of days is mostly a coincidence, it is still a rather nice feeling… especially because when it came to Citlaill I had to deal with quite a bit of writer’s block.

Of course, I also know myself well enough to realize that, as soon as I start revising it, I will probably also start cringing at the sorry state of that first draft, but then again that’s why it is called a first draft (actually, it’s not even called that, as I usually refer to my ‘first draft’ as a ‘rough draft’… the ‘first draft’ is actually the second one, which is the first one I expect to be sort of  legible).

Well, that’s how a writer’s life goes, but for today I guess I’ll just revel in the fact that that draft is done… tomorrow I’ll go back to cringing.

E-publishing and the race to the bottom

As I prepare to release another book I find myself grappling once more with the question of what to do about e-books, a question that becomes more relevant with each and every passing day, as more and more readers eschew the printed world altogether to switch to electronic versions instead. The thing is that while a part of me would love to join this trend, there is another one that can’t help but to hesitate.

To begin with there is the fact of just how fragmented this market happens to be. You can choose a publisher, have your book printed and distributed by signing a single contract in such a way that you know what you are getting, but when it comes to e-books each bookstore requires what amounts to a different agreement, with most outlets claiming for themselves the right to modify the terms of the agreement. This creates a maze of shifting legalese few self-published authors can realistically hope to untangle, or even keep track of, where the possibility that the evolving contracts would at some point collide with each other cannot be entirely ruled out… and the more distribution options you seek, the higher that risk becomes. Continue reading E-publishing and the race to the bottom

Waiting for the proofs to arrive

And we are done! That project that was almost there the last time has officially crossed the finish line, including cover design and interior layout. That means that all that’s left to do is to wait for the proofs to get here, and then, if no major issues pop up, it will probably go live on November 2.

As for what that one is about: it’s a ghost story (hence the decision to release it on the Day of the Dead if at all possible). Will it sell?

Who knows? The truth is that I’m not particularly optimistic in that regard (not considering that I have a marketing budget of exactly $0.00, and would much rather be writing anyway), but I’m not particularly concerned about it either. Yes, being able to make ends meet would be great, but my needs are simple, and no matter what happens I had a blast writing it, so I’m just tossing another message in a bottle, waiting to see if someone -anyone- will pick it up…

Two down three (at least for the time being) to go

Well, one/two of the five projects I have been trying to juggle are all but done (they are two versions of a single title, that’s the reason behind the iffy numbering. The English version is done, and the Spanish one has less than a week to go, though there are also some design issues that I’ll also have to take care of… still, the end is near). A second/third project (the one that was being a bit of a brat), has effectively been shoved to the back burner. It’s not happy about it, and at times I hear it grumble so I have to go in there and stir it a little to keep it from turning into a charred mess, but on the back burner it sits. Whether or not it will agree to stay there remains to be seen.

As for book three of Citlalli (that would be the third/fourth project depending on how one counts the one that is almost done), the first draft of that one  is coming along nicely, and with a little luck it will be done before October is out… not that I don’t have half a dozen rounds of corrections to go, but I should have the rough draft by then.

Once that is done I’ll finally  be able to turn my attention back to the sort-of-history book I have been neglecting for the past few months (that would be project four/five… the problem with that one is that it was supposed to be something like 25,000 words, but last time I checked it was 90,000+ and counting). It should also make it possible to go back to my preferred kind of insanity (that would be one where I have two active projects, where I revise one while writing the other one)… okay, so that’s supposed to be the theory.

Of course, that only works if no other projects come knocking (okay, so for the most part they don’t knock, they just barge in and make themselves at home, knowing that they are welcome and that the door is always open), or if the one that is currently on that back burner doesn’t get too bratty in the meantime. Still, having some semblance of order, even if it is only for a little while, makes for a nice change of pace!

Crowdsourcing your book

I’ve been going over the Pubslush site for the past couple of days, and I have to say that this is a trend that could actually be interesting not just as a means to secure some financial backing, but also as one that can help authors fine-tune their sales pitch. No, I’m not too sure about their publishing arm (they mention the fact that they have one, but there is little to no information about it), but the basic concept seems to be solid.

The basic premise is the one you would expect from a crowdsourcing site: you create as project, set some goals and rewards, as well as an allotted time frame, upload some content, and wait. There is a minimum $500.00 threshold, and if you reach it, you get the funds (minus 4%, plus processing fees), even if you fall short of your stated goal.

Of course, the question of whether crowdsourcing a book using what is, at least for now, a relatively obscure site can hope to reach all target audiences is a valid one, but seeing how the service is free it may well be worth a shot.

Roller coaster writing

One of the hardest things you have to do when writing a story is learning to recognize when and where should you hit the delete key. Sometimes, when you are stuck, you have to go back and make some radical changes to a section you thought was long done. Doing that can be not just frustrating, but also downright terrifying, especially when the scene involved was one that was one of the pillars of the whole plot. These little ‘surgeries’ can be enough to cause the whole structure to collapse on top of your head, a fact that can leave you bruised and battered… and if you are in the middle of a series, where a couple of volumes have already been published, well, let’s just say that that makes it even worse. Simply put, if the work in question is part of a series then there are parts you just can no longer change, and you certainly can’t walk away or start anew. That was what happened to me a couple of months ago with Citlalli.

The good news is that, even though it took me a while to figure out how, I eventually managed to fix that one, and I’m pretty happy with how that turned out. The bad news is that I’m no longer sure I know where the story is going… not quite. Oh, I have a general idea as to what the general destination is supposed to be, and I think I know how to get there in general terms, but the detailed map I thought I had has been shredded. That means that the path I’m going to have to follow is going to be different from the one I had originally envisioned.

Of course I have to admit that dealing with these little surprises can also be a lot of fun.. .terrifying fun, mind you, but still fun. This is the roller coaster aspect of writing, the one most people don’t even realize is there. Yes, you can set out with a destination clearly in mind, but there are always surprises, and pitfalls, along the way, and watching a story grow, develop and change is one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole process. In fact at times when people ask me why I write, seeing how I’m not exactly making a living out of it, my answer is that I write precisely because I have a story buzzing between my ears and I just have to know how it turns out.

I have written a number of books by now, and the one lesson I have learned is that the story I wind up with at the end of the process hardly ever turns out to be like the one I had originally envisioned… but of course, if I knew how the story was going to end, chances are that I wouldn’t even bother writing it down.

Upcoming projects…yes, AGAIN

It’s beginning to look like I’ll be able to get one or two more books out this year (or, to be accurate that I might get one more book out in two versions. The book in question is a sort of ghost story that’s going to be released simultaneously in both English and Spanish). That’s the good news. The bad news is that book three of Citlalli is running a little behind schedule (I am hoping to have that one ready a year from now). I have two other titles lined up after that, but I have so much work left to do there that I can’t even begin to guess when they might be ready (one of those may still be done before 2014 is out, but it’s going to be close). Still, I’m working hard, and having fun with what I’m doing, so at least on that particular front things are good.

Getting my projects into some semblance of orders

YES! At long last it looks like my projects are in some semblance of order (don’t ask me how long that’s going to last though). Sure, seeing how I didn’t abandon any of them, I’m still juggling more projects than is good for my sanity (that is assuming I have some sanity to begin with), but at least I seemed to have come up with something that looks like a sequence that allows me to prioritize them so that things can start moving again. That’s a good thing because lately I had been feeling like there was a logjam in my mind, so much so that at times I had the feeling that I was so worried about what wasn’t getting done that I couldn’t even concentrate on whatever it was that I was actually trying to accomplish.

How do you explain that you actually love what you do?

Someone suggested that maybe I should take a break, go on vacation for a few days beyond the couple of weeks I go visit my family each year. A part of me found the idea appealing. To see new sights, to do new things, and taste new flavors (especially the latter). Then I tried to picture myself actually going. What would I want to see or do? Well, there are countless places I would love to visit, but in spite of that the image that came to my mind was mostly one of myself in a hotel room, typing away in my computer, far from home.

Granted, a couple of hours of being on vacation in some exotic location a day sounds great, and taking a break from what I charitably describe as ‘my own cooking’ would most definitely be a welcome relief, but until teleporting becomes an option going on vacation remains an all or nothing proposition. You are either there or you are home… and the truth is that for most of the time I’d rather be doing what I am actually doing.

Far away so close

I look at the world around me and, even when everything seems to be going nicely, I can’t help but to think of all the ways in which things can, and probably will, go wrong. No, I don’t consider myself to be a pessimist, but somehow we always seem to be living on the edge of something. Maybe it’s because change seems to be spinning out of control, because at times it feels like we can’t even catch our breaths before we find ourselves being shoved along in a direction that is no longer the one we thought we were going.

I know this doesn’t really make much sense. I’m not even sure what brought this about. I think it may have to do with that project that crept up on me a few days ago (it does feature a dystopian view of the future), but the thing is that all of a sudden I feel like we are in the middle of something, of a process that threatens to spin completely out of control.

Yes, I know the book I am planning, a book I may never even get to write, is a work of fiction, but at the same time, in order to be believable, it has to depict a world that I deem to be at least possible outcome of what I see around me. For it to work there has to be a path from here to there, and that is what makes bringing that world into being a slightly unsettling experience.

Yes, I know that doing that is part of the job description, and I won’t deny that there are some aspects of it that are a lot of fun, but the bottom line is that the world I am seeing is one in which I would most definitely not want to live… and yet at times it feels so near.

One more project to add to my to-do list

Remember how I mentioned a while ago that I was juggling more projects than are good for my sanity already? (and yes, I know, what sanity?) Well, it looks like a new one has moved in and added itself to the list. It was one of those instances in which you read something (in this case a news article) and a new story comes up to you, pretty much fully formed, smacks you over the head -hard- and starts jumping up and down screaming ‘do me, do me…me, me, me!’

The good news is that I’d rather deal with this than with writers’ block (just thinking about that one is enough to make me shudder), the bad news is that, no matter how I look at it, there are still just twenty-four hours a day… and to makes matters worse my body insists on sleeping  at least some of them away, plus the truth is that there are only so many hours I can spend writing before my brain feels like it is about to start dripping out of my ears. Still I am excited about this new plot (even if it is being a bit of a brat), that means that I am going to have to try to accommodate it somehow. It’s not like I’ve never done something like that before… in fact that is kind of the problem.

I’m already working on four projects simultaneously (including one that began as a brat), so I guess adding one more to the list won’t make too much of a difference (though, to be honest, two of those are taking turns and near completion anyway). Who knows? Maybe, if the project insists on being a brat I’ll just turn it into a bribe (something along the lines of ‘listen brain, I’ll make a deal with you: you do your share when it comes to all the other projects, and then, if there is still time, at the end of the day you can spend an hour working on this one, deal?’)

I wonder what THEY think

I was reading a story about a woman who found herself on the receiving end of a visit by the spook brigade because she was looking for a way to cook some lentils… okay so maybe it was a little more complicated than that, and there are some questions about the details, but basically what happened was that a series of innocent searches by different members of a household led someone to put two and two together and come up with twenty-two. That got me thinking: in a world in which our every search is logged, monitored and aggregated to create a ‘profile’, what would my search pattern say about me? The answer is that I suspect that my profile is likely to come up as puzzling to say the least. Why?

Well, as you know I am a writer. I may not be a great writer, or a successful one, but I am a writer. That means that some of my search terms are bound to be on the unsavory end of the spectrum. I can’t help it. If I want to write a less than pleasant character, and I want that character to come across as believable, then I have to try to understand that character’s world… and that is precisely where my research comes in. After all, the characters I have something in common with are easy, it’s the characters that are totally alien to me that require me to look things up to try to figure out just where it is that they are coming from, and at times that research can be pretty extensive. Oh, it’s not just the unsavory characters that lead me to Google’s door (the professional ones too tend to require their fair share of research), but those are the ones that are most likely to raise some eyebrows.

The thing is that doing that research can be an eyeopening experience. It can also be a puzzling one, or it can leave me feeling almost sick, but at the end of the day what I have is a situation in which what I search for says very little about who I am, what I think, or what I care about.

Free to write whatever I want

Is it odd that I find the fact that my books aren’t selling oddly liberating? That was a thought that hit me as I worked on the third book of the Citlalli series, and I found myself confronted with the need to make some hard choices when it came to a few critical aspects of the plot. It is a choice I have known I was going to have to face at some point pretty much from day one, and that was one of the main reasons I switched from Virtual Bookworm to CreateSpace in the first place, but still I know that, if the book had been selling, I would have found myself wondering which plotline would play better with my readers… I would have found myself trying to play it safe. That is human nature, but as things stand I am free to make my choice with no external influences. In fact if the books had been released by a traditional publisher I might well have found myself deprived of the right to make that choice at all. More often than not, that freedom is one of the first things authors working on a series have to give up when they sign on that dotted line.

Oh, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like it if my books were a source of income. Like everyone else I have to eat, but the bottom line is that at the end of the day I have a roof over my head, I am reasonably happy, I can publish what I want, when I want, and my dogs are fed, so I have no reason to complain.  It is a matter of perspective, of keeping my priorities straight, and figuring out what matters to me… and of feeling grateful for the fact that I am in a position to follow my dreams, to write and publish my books on my terms, and to live my life more or less like I want to.

Do you have a favorite?

One question a few people have asked me is which one of my books is my favorite. That’s a tricky one , but my answer is mostly that while I try not to play favorites, that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a hint of where to start if you want to pick one of my books. To begin with let’s get Scales at a Glance out of the way. If you are interested in music theory then that’s the best bet. If, like most people, that is one subject you could hardly care less for, well, then you will probably want to avoid it.

Soulless was my first attempt at writing a full length novel, and I still think the concept is well worth it. At the same time there is no denying that it has a few of those kinks that are commonly associated with first novels(though I did fully revise it, so hopefully it’s not that bad any more).

Citlalli has its own set of issues. To begin with there is the fact that it is something of a work in progress, not to mention that it is long (something like 800 pages and counting, to be accurate), a fact that makes tackling it a prospect that may seem a little too daunting a starting point for those who don’t know me. It is a project I hold very dear, one I have been working on and off on for a very long time, but at the same time it is one I’m not sure anyone else is ever really going to care for. I would love for people to read it and enjoy it, but it may be too much of a commitment for someone approaching my books blind.

Finally there is Laira, I’m not sure I would describe it as my favorite, or my best, work but I do realize that it is by far the most accessible one of the lot. It is a straight-forward, science fiction novella that, if nothing else, can be read in a couple of hours.

So while I don’t really have a favorite, there is one book I can recommend as a starting point (unless you have a deep aversion to science fiction, that is)… make that two if you care for music theory.

Pick your own world

ARGH, I hate having to even think about marketing, and yet here I am… AGAIN! I have released my books, but as usual it is what comes after that that seems like the most daunting prospect. I know I should at least give it a try, I get that, but the thing is that while I enjoy blogging (at least to a certain extent, I’m not so fond of it in those days in which it seems to have become something of a chore), I am not good at self-promoting, I’d much rather be writing, and even when it comes to blogging I know I have failed miserably when it comes to keeping this thing professional (read I’d rather blog about cats and hammocks than about me, me, ME!!!). To make matters worse there is also the fact that, as soon as I start looking for marketing ideas my mind begins to wander… there are so many things I find so much more appealing, and unfortunately my sales, or lack thereof, tend to reflect that fact.

Sometimes I get worried about that, but then I turn on my computer and I see two paths opening in front of me. I can write or I can market. I can focus on the real world, or I can push it aside and build my own. I hesitate for a moment and then I click on my word processor… that gateway to the world I’d rather live in.