On Stranger Tides

I thought of calling this “Hey, I’m famous!” but that seemed way too arrogant.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but see this is some sort of milestone as a writer: I’ve been pirated!

GoogleAlert

And downloaded 6 times already at that!

HulkLoad

Yes, I’m happy about it. If I were a full time writer, maybe I’d be more upset, but if I were a full time writer, then I’d actually be making money off my books, so I probably wouldn’t even worry about it. My opinion is if someone is going to illegally download your book, then they weren’t going to buy it anyway. And if they actually decide to read it and end up liking it, perhaps they’ll tell someone who will pay for it. (Or they’ll give it to someone who will read the first book for free, and then decide to purchase the next book… So I guess I should get on that instead of blogging about how famous I am.)

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-international-poster

NaNoWriMo Recap

So I did some prep work (and some prep fun) for NaNoWriMo this year. And good thing, too. Because I had my best “November” of writing since I’ve been keeping track. I didn’t “win”, not by any stretch of anyone’s writerly imagination. But I did get 32,578 words written during my own somewhat modified NaNoWriMo.

Now, I don’t want to get off on a rant here…,” but there’s a reason I’m writing my NaNoWriMo recap in the middle of December. You see, in addition to Thanksgiving, which most NaNoWriMoers have to deal with, November this year also happened to be the start of Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act. This matters because the company I work for is heavily involved in selling health insurance. I had been working a lot since, oh, August, but for the first 10 days of November, I actually managed to go over 1,667 words five times. 50% success. That would get me to 25,000 words by itself, but I was managing 500-900 even on the non-#winning days. But things got turned up (not turnt up unfortunately). Over the next 12 days, I only had the time and energy to get 3,771 words. Total. I would get up, go through code reviews in the morning, go to work, do work, come home at 8 or 9 each night with a brain so fried you could eat it.

So, instead of tossing in the towel, I decided to give myself an extra 10 days (((12 x 1,667) – 3,771) / 1,667 =~ 10). And in that following 18 days, I got another 15,000 words. Obviously not the 30,000 it should have been, but I was still working fairly long hours, and there was Thanksgiving (which was really just one day, because on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving, I buckled down and came close to 3 days in a row of 1,667).

One nice thing is that the government is pushing back the start of Open Enrollment to October 1st next year, so hopefully things will be under control by the time November starts and I’ll be ready to set a new PR in NaNoWriMo.

For reference: last year I had 26,847 … So if I maintain that rate of improvement, I’ll be up to 50,000 in a mere 3 years! If only someone would start a MayNoWriMo… I know there’s JulyNoWriMo, but according to the site it is no longer actively maintained, and there were only 90 people who participated in 2014 compared to 148 in 2013. Not a positive trend. MayNoWriMo would be 6 months after (and also before) NaNoWriMo, and it also seems like it would still be the kind of weather where you don’t feel back that you have to stay inside and write all day since you’ve still got three months of summer ahead (though I suppose it’s basically the same as November in the Southern hemisphere). Also, in the US, you get Memorial Day off, which I think would be better than Thanksgiving since it’s a lot easier to say “Hey family, I’m not going to fly out to see you for Memorial Day” than it is if you try that with Thanksgiving. Maybe not a good time for college students who have Finals, but when I was in college, I wouldn’t have had time for NaNoWriMo anyway. (And I feel like college students probably travel at a higher rate than the average American over Thanksgiving, while during Finals, you basically lock yourself in your room or the library and don’t let anyone talk to you… Which sounds an awful lot like NaNoWriMo!)

I know I could do MayNoWriMo by myself, and that there are a lot of writers who probably crank out close to 50,000 words in any given month anyway. But I am not one of them. I like having the excuse that it’s a Nationally (Internationally) recognized thing that I’m taking part in, even though I’ve never really actually told anyone besides my wife that I’m doing it.

So anyway, there’s my recap/rant. If you participating in NaNoWriMo (or want to help me get MayNoWriMo off the ground), feel free to leave a comment!

Oh, and here’s a quick chart of my word count by day…

NaNoWriMo-2014

Can’t Wait To See Some LinkedIn Custom Backgrounds

LinkedIn Custom Backgrounds

“This will be fun,” he said, a maniacal glint in his eye (perhaps also rubbing his hands together).

I’m actually a little surprised that LinkedIn would give people such a gratuitous way to shoot themselves in the foot, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure there are some people who will use custom backgrounds to enhance their profiles and give them a little spark. My guess is, though, that the people who make good use of it are the ones who don’t really need the additional bonus points. Meanwhile, thousands (if not millions?) of people will put up… what? Cute cat pictures? Current memes (that quickly become outdated)? Gritty Game of Thrones pictures? Iridescent scuba diving photos (a suggestion in the rotating images from the email above) which, while beautiful, add nothing that tells a potential employer about the competency of the candidate?

I’m trying to think if 23-year-old Nels was smart enough to know not to put a strip of basketballs bouncing across the top of his profiles… And even if he was, how many other people won’t be?

But it’s not just that the opportunity with this seems so severely limited compared to the potential for disaster… On a technical level, it’s a completely “Me too” feature already available on people’s Facebook and Twitter pages. I don’t really go to people’s Twitter pages since I use TweetBot, but I’ve seen a lot of Facebook Cover Photos and only two or three of them have actually made me think “Wow, that’s cool.” And even those are not images that would have made me want to hire someone, unless I was looking for a graphic designer or a photographer. Speaking of graphic designers, though, I guess this does give them something else to do, so in that sense maybe it’s helping the economy… But the people who are consciously thinking about “their brand” to the extent that they’d hire a graphic designer to create a custom LinkedIn background are, again, probably the people who make good candidates without the custom background.

Since I encourage my colleagues to come up with solutions rather than just complaining about issues, and I try to follow that advice myself, here’s my tips for using the LinkedIn custom backgrounds:

  • Don’t. Easy as that. If you’re not a graphic designer and don’t have a friend to make a nice background for you, then just don’t. No one is going to take away “hiring points” if you don’t have a background. But they might if you throw up a wallpaper of the WWE Divas because you’re totally into wrestling.
  • Go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and have someone create you a professional background that represents the business professional that you want your profile to project. It looks like you might be able to get one for $5 over at Fiverr.com. Or if you really want a “brand”, you can probably put together a total marketing package at 99designs.com.

NaNoWriMo Prep: The Music

Last year I didn’t have a set playlist for writing during NaNoWriMo. This year, I’m trying to change that. Starting with the list I began last year, I’ve been adding to the Code Warriors playlist with songs that I hear that seem to fit the theme. Just as a warning, if you hate this playlist (which I can understand), I don’t think that means you’ll hate the book (whenever it ends up getting finished). The music is quite obviously and unabashedly heavy on EDM, Dubstep, and movie soundtracks. But it combines the two main things that I want to start off with which are: Technical/Electronic feel and Upbeat/Light-hearted/Energetic. (Okay, yes, that’s five if you split on the slashes, but it’s two general ideas)

It’s only a small part of the entire list, but this one spells it out pretty well… Play Hard.

krewella-play-hard-ep

Here Comes November: NaNoWriMo Prep

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

Last year I did a pretty crappy job of prepping for NaNoWriMo. I was working on a couple different pieces, but basically started totally from scratch for NaNoWriMo without any prep on an idea that I’d been sort thinking about for a while. Obviously, I hadn’t thought about it enough… I got about 25,000 words written but halfway through I figured out that the first quarter of the book I was trying to write should actually be a book by itself. I was trying to jump in way too fast and accelerate to an arbitrary story point that I wanted to write about. In doing so, I uncovered a whole new story that could (and like I said, should) be told before I get to the other part.

My problem then became (and still is): I need to do some prep work. Why is that a problem? Because in my mind, Prep Work is not Writing. My logical mind is aware that I need to do more prep before my writing (the Valkyrie Project mostly congealed in my mind when I worked out the whole outline over a period of several hours while handing out candy to Trick-or-Treaters). But my goal-oriented mind says: You’re not going to hit your word count goal if you keep writing about this character or outlining more of the story! (To which my logical mind wants to respond: I haven’t hit my word count goal on a consistent basis in about three months, so maybe Mr. Goal-Oriented needs to STFU)

Nevertheless, this argument rages on in my mind even as I go through Sean and Johnny’s Planning and Outlining Novels using Scrivener course in the hopes that with 11 days left before November, I can have a wholly fleshed out plan for adding 50,000 more words to the start that I got last year (before going back with my tail between my legs to the other stuff I was working on before the month of insanity started).

If any other novelists are reading this, how do you account for planning time in terms of meeting goals? My possible solutions include…

  • Go to a time count system for my goals instead of a word count. (The problem then being that I’d have to buckle down and make sure that I actually focus during the time I say I’m going to be working on writing. Also, sometimes I can come up with 500 words in 30 minutes, which might get me to my daily goal, but for planning I might get barely anything done in that same 30 minutes)
  • Maybe go to a hybrid system of words/time where if I get to my word count goal quickly, then cool, I’m done. Otherwise, if I’m focused in front of the computer for a certain amount of time, then whatever I write is good enough. I feel like I’m self-aware and disciplined enough to make that work, but I’m also self-aware enough to know that I would probably try to use that soft measure as a way to slack off.
  • Count words that I write as planning towards my word count goal. I like this idea, but it seems overly generous since writing about a character, or even a rough story outline, is a lot easier and can include a lot more superfluous/extraneous, stream-of-conscious type words than writing actual words for a manuscript.
  • Write blog posts about my stupidly inane writing problems and count those words toward my word count goal. (Note: I actually do this already because I do count my blog posts as part of my word count. I justify this because: a) I am actually writing and editing the posts before I put them up, so it does at least require some of the same skill, and b) it’s part of marketing and trying to get my name out there a bit, so maybe someone will read a post I write and then be like “Who is this guy?” and see that I have a book [or soon multiple books] and decide to read something I’ve written besides a blog post).
  • Just ignore word count goals when I’m doing Planning and accept that I can feel good about writing outlines and character synopses even though it doesn’t add any words to my manuscript word count.

Any other options?

Kindle Pre-Orders for Self-Published Authors

Just as we call out Amazon when they do something stupid, so must we praise them when they do something smart. Just after their “Let’s all send nastygrams to the CEO of multinational corporation” email, Amazon followed up with this:

amazon-kindle-preorder

I think the email there pretty much says it all. I know this is something that self-published authors have been asking for since Amazon first started letting them publish via KDP. I’m guessing when KDP started, Amazon assumed that people would just throw up pre-order pages and then never deliver a book. They’ve taken care of that by requiring that you upload at least a draft version of your manuscript in order to have the pre-order page created.

I know I’ll be using this when I finally get Valkyrie Project 2 edited! 90 days seems like a good goal date… Maybe I should go upload the first draft right now. :)

Audible Control Center Options (Life Changer)

Okay, this may not change your life, but for me it has quite literally brought about a new found sense of ease and happiness while listening to audiobooks.

If you use the Audible app for iOS (or Android I would assume as well) and you use it on your smartphone while walking around or doing chores or whatever, then you’ve probably had someone say something to you or a train or a loud truck go by that causes you to miss part of the book you’re listening to.

Arg! and Be quiet! Can’t you see I’m listening to an audiobook! Do not disturb!

Anyway, until a week ago, I was not aware that you could actually change the behavior of the “Control Center” for Audible. What does that mean? The Control Center is evidently the name for the lock screen that you get when you’re listening to music or an audiobook or some other app that uses what I can only assume is the Audio API. This is what it would look like if you’d just started listening to No Return by Zachary Jernigan (on sale for a ridiculous $4.49 on Amazon/Audible at the time of this writing):

audible-control-center

What is the behavior you could (and probably should) change? Well, there’s those arrows to each side of the Play/Pause button. If you’re listening to music, it’s pretty obvious that they’ll go back and forth in your playlist. But for an audiobook? You’d probably assume they’d go back and forth between chapters (and you’d be right). But chapters in audiobooks tend to be long. I’ve never actually wanted to skip ahead or back a whole chapter. (Maybe someone else has) But if you go to the Settings in Audible and scroll down a little, you’ll see a setting for the Control Center. In the screenshot below it’s already set to Jump Seconds, but as mentioned, the default is Chapter Skip.

audible-settings

Hit that Chapter Skip and you’ll get the next screen where you can change it to Jump Seconds. Then you can go back and customize how many seconds you want the app to jump forward or back. (I like 20 seconds, obviously. I listen at 1.25x usually and 30 seconds is a bit too far for most interruptions or external noises. 20 seconds at 1.25 speed is really only 16 seconds and if I were listening to a book where I had to 1x it, I’d probably change that setting to 10 seconds instead – 15 seconds would probably be ideal in that case, but it’s not an option).

jump-seconds

That’s all. Now you can back up quickly and efficiently without having to unlock your phone. Life: changed. You’re welcome. :)

Stop Using Your Authors As Leverage

In which Amazon asks its KDP authors to use themselves as leverage to tell Hachette to stop using its authors as leverage. (The content of that page was also emailed to all of Amazon’s self-published authors this morning)

indeed

I mean, I know there’s a lot of confusion and argument over how to use the word “irony” properly (I’m pretty sure I don’t know), but if literally can mean figuratively, then I’m pretty sure this is the precisest example of irony that I’ve ever seen.

Chuck Wendig theorizes that maybe one of the microservices over at Amazon has gained sentience and posted this of its own volition (among other things – his post is well worth reading, though NSFW). I think it’s also just as likely that this was an April Fool’s prank posted on the wrong date (and emailed to all KDP authors just to really get the LOLZ).

Seriously. Come on, Amazon. You are literally asking people to email the CEO of a huge multi-national corporation and then copy you on it so you can then report on the number of people who decide to support you. I haven’t seen that kind of strategy since middle school (though I think it happens in high school and even higher education, but I made a point to purposely distance myself from people who pulled that kind of BS). I guess with adults it’s a little bit more like…

love-the-way-you-lie-rihanna-31725831-1920-1200

and some of this…

love-the-way-you-lie-megan-fox

Don’t get me wrong. I love Amazon. I buy books there because the Kindle Paperwhite is really nice and it also syncs with my iPad and iPhone (better than any other booksellers apps). I buy all kinds of other things there too, because SHIPPING. I’ve ordered something on a Saturday night and had it delivered on Sunday. Delivered on SUNDAY.

But Amazon has already won the eBook pricing collusion case. What they’re talking about now is straight up legitimate capitalism. If Hachette wants to charge a certain price for their eBooks, then you either charge that price or you don’t sell that product. And if their eBooks are so over-priced, then aren’t they just going to go out of business because of that unsustainable practice? And once Hachette publishing has been swallowed up by the black hole of its own hubris, won’t the authors who provide the content of their books simply take their new content to a different publisher? Maybe even to Amazon? So… it just doesn’t make sense to me when I look at it from Amazon’s Economic Powerhouse perspective.

galactus

(And don’t try to tell me it’s because Amazon cares about authors making more money – that’s the most transparent attempt at favor currying that I’ve ever seen. If there are authors out there who buy in to that, I’ve got this awesome book-based start-up that I’m taking investments in. It’s gonna be HUGE!)

It also doesn’t make sense if I look at it from the perspective of a self-published author. If I have decided not to publish with Hachette or any of the other Big Guys (almost said Big Five Guys, but that would be a tremendous insult to Five Guys… so good…), then why would I want Hachette to be more competitive? Why would I say “Hey Hachette, because of your decision to sell eBooks for $14.99, you’ve opened up an entire market for self-published authors to sell their books at, well, anything less than that. Can you stop selling your books so expensive now so that people will want to buy more of your stuff and less of my stuff? Thanks.” Why? Why would I do that?

I had an analogy in here, but it was kind of weak, so let’s just leave it at that. I have a competitive advantage. Why do I want someone who keeps shooting their self in the foot to stop and instead aim their gun at my head?

I’m seriously tempted to write to Hachette and ask them to please continue selling their eBooks at high prices so that I will continue to have the opportunity to self-publish and sell my books to people who are looking for something that doesn’t seem so outrageously priced. I wonder what readers-united@amazon.com would think of that…

Meanwhile, now all I can think of is Five Guys and curry. Wouldn’t that be delicious?

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Digital Book Day!

Shameless-ful self-promotion follows…

Digital Book Day

I’m putting The Valkyrie Project up for free as part of the Digital Book Day organized by CJ Lyons.

I know that I’m going to download at least a few of the books that are already being advertised on there, and since I have a book that I can give away for limited periods of time (at least until I put out the second one and get them both into other eBook markets), I figured I could submit and promote (for what little it’s worth).

So, from July 13th until the 15th (2014), The Valkyrie Project will be free on Amazon. Tell your friends! And tell them about Digital Book Day too… an easy way to jump start an eBook collection or find some new indie/underground authors.

Some call the ability to publish digital without any sort of corporate representation (of any size) the “eBook revolution”, so it is very fitting that this first Digital Book Day coincides with France’s Bastille Day. Even more so since I will be celebrating this Bastille Day in France! #terriblehumblebrag

No go forth and download!

Covert Art (US vs UK)

I know there’s a difference… I just don’t understand it. Perhaps someone will stumble across this and explain to me why UK readers want such vastly different covers from their US counterparts… Are we really that different? I’ve only been to Great Britain twice for very short periods, so I will admit to not knowing anything beyond the surface level there, but I would be very interested in understanding what it is that drives the stark difference in the way the book covers are presented between the markets.

As an example, here are the covers for The Causal Angel which releases in July. I’ve seen a similar thing (surprisingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, similar in terms of colors and composition) with The Darwin Elevator released last year. I’m sure there are more… But why?

causal-uk

causal-us

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