50,000 Words in One Month – Zoinks!

Every year, fools like me, put themselves through thirty days of craziness for the chance to write 50,000 words in that short amount of time. I’ve been participating since 2007, I think. In that time, I have managed to hit the magic number only twice. Even so, I make amazing inroads into whatever I’m working on. I might manage a measly 30,000 words but it’s still an accomplishment.

As a sane person, you might ask, why not write consistently every day and not worry about putting yourself through hell one month out of the year? That is an excellent question and I have a less than excellent answer for you—and a long-winded one at that: Humans need carrots (I prefer pizza). Even writers, who are generally considered loners, need the camaraderie an organized event like this provides to generate the enthusiasm and drive to put out just a little more effort. It’s a competition of sorts, with a few bragging rights involved, which makes it fun to post your accomplishments for your friends to see. They cheer you on and they offer encouragement when things aren’t going well. Seeing what others have managed can also get you to pull yourself up by your typing fingers and fight for that extra thousand words.

I have high hopes for this year. Since I’m feeling so much better, I’m writing more than double each week what I did before my CPAP treatment. When I’m particularly inspired by a scene I’m working on, the word count can leave me blinking in wonder. I did that?

In addition to writing, I’ve been fiddling with the character designs for the next cover. You heard it here first, the characters for book IV’s cover will be Lord Icewind and Lady Culna’mo. I’ve got Lord Icewind down pretty good, but Lady Culna’mo is giving me some trouble. I think I may have hit on a design, though, I’ll work on her more today.

Going back a few months, I wrote most of a short story which takes place about ten years after the events in the Chronicles of Shadow series. I finished up the story and sent it to a kind, patient lady to look over. I’m sure it needs some work. Maybe a lot of work. I haven’t dared read through it since I initially typed it out. At any rate, once it is finally in polished form, I’ll be making it available for free as a gift in return for joining a mailing list. I know. I know. Everyone has a friggin’ mailing list. Unfortunately, it is one of those things the people “in the know” swear is necessary for anyone serious about writing as a more than a hobby. The good news is, seeing as I’m so sporadic about blogging, you don’t have to worry about drowning in a barrage of emails from me.

I’ll try to get at least one more post up before November 1st. Odds are, once the challenge starts, I won’t have the ambition to do anything other than pound keys toward my word count goal. Wish me luck! The more I get done the sooner Book IV will hit the virtual shelves.

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Almost November!

Getting excited for the big push! Since I’m feeling so much better this year, I’m hoping I can make the 50,000 word goal!

Mad Genius Club

Are you ready?

Yes, it’s almost NaNoWriMo time!

National Novel Writing Month is an old favorite of mine. Of eight years, I only crashed and burned once, and six of the books I wrote have been published.

https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-nanowrimo

Now, that doesn’t mean my reaching the goal of 50,000 words written in November means I’m ready to publish! There’s always editing! Last year’s effort wound up getting interwoven into something else—and published. After a lot of polishing.

But how would you like to have a 50K rough draft on December One?

I use NaNo as a yearly tune-up, thirty days of writing and never stopping to edit or polish. Thirty days of pushing to write regularly.

If you’ve never tried it, do. It might work for you, too.

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Busy Bee

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Photo by Kristine Tanne on Unsplash

I meant to write a new post some time ago, but like so many of my best intentions, I found myself diverted by mostly tedious events I’d rather forget. You know, like filling in for someone going on vacation. Only when you get there to do a job you hate even on the good days, you find it’s a billion times worse because several other people have failed to do their jobs properly. This had a lot to do with the fact that the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) has no sense of humor and refuses to have sympathy for poor accountants trying to deal with the mistakes of others attempting to use the commission’s archaic register software. Bah, enough said.

I did have a shiny moment. I went to see the Downton Abbey movie with my father and a pair of good friends. Some of the critics grumped that the movie was nothing more than an extra long episode. It just so happens, that most of the fans wanted exactly that. The acting was superb, of course. Most of the story wrapped up quite nicely, while a few threads were tossed out there giving fans hope for a sequel. Since the movie has done much better financially than expected, there could very well be a second movie.

I have continued to work diligently on book IV, and I’m happy to say it is about halfway done. A few things have changed along the way. While I create a general outline to get me from point A to point B, as the story unfolds I sometimes find that something I’d originally plotted out would work better either altered or removed entirely. The characters grow, or at least change, as the circumstances they struggle through have an impact on them. I also find I have to learn a few things along the way, right along with the characters. Research is inevitable, even when writing fantasy. I find I know just enough about many subjects, as they say, to be dangerous. In fact, as I type this out, I know I need to go back and rework a scene where Chalice Renoir attempts to explain economics to a couple of new supporting characters I’ve introduced as the architects designing the rebuild of Teresland. They have big – BIG – plans, but Elven naivete leaves them struggling to comprehend why humans won’t simply do what they (the elves) want.

Even with all of that going on, I’ve spent quite a bit of time taking an online class about effectively using Amazon advertising to market my books. I can say at this point, if you are also a writer, it is possible to grow your readership with Amazon ads, but it is not for the faint-of-heart. It is not a fast process either. It takes months to gather keywords, design ads, monitor how the ads do, adjust daily budgets and determine how high to bid.

For those of you unfamiliar with sponsored ads on Amazon, the person placing the ad has to choose how much they’re willing to pay to get their book displayed to a potential buyer when said buyer types in a search word or phrase. You do not get charged unless the viewer clicks on your book to check it out. As a seller, your hope is to get at least one sale for every ten clicks. Fewer clicks is, of course, preferable. In my case, my first book is currently priced at .99, which means I get .35 in royalties if someone buys it. If I’m spending .45 to get my ad placed in front of a potential buyer and it gets clicked (it could be less than the .45, but if I explain every detail your eyes will glaze over and you’ll wake up with keyboard face), I’ve just lost money even if they buy the book. Maybe. The expectation (I should say, hope) is that once they read the first book, they’ll go on to buy or borrow the second and third books creating what is called read-thru profit. Yes, fun times. Fortunately, I enjoy ciphering, so I don’t mind messing with the whole thing.

So, that leads me to two final things.

Starting October 1st, the price of the first book will get bumped back up to $2.99. This is in part an experiment to see how it does at that price with ads running. It will drop back down to .99 at the end of November since I have some email ads set up for the holidays. Just wanted to warn people in case for some reason they’re coming to this site and haven’t already read the first book. If you don’t have KU and don’t want to pay $2.99, wait until after Thanksgiving to pick it up.

The second item is that I took my print books off of expanded distribution, which means Amazon doesn’t require me to charge as much to put them up for sale. It allowed me to lower the price of all three print books by $2. I’d assumed expanded distribution would be of benefit to libraries and such, but as it turns out, the likelihood of libraries stocking indie books is pretty rare (though I did find out one library in Canada has my books – how weird is that?).

Okay, gonna go read someone else’s book now before I go to bed. I hope all of you have tons of fun books to read too. Cheers!

Surprised by Joy

Isn’t this the truth. You have to take care of yourself, otherwise everything else falls apart as well.

Mad Genius Club

I read a lot of posts and comments – not just on this blog, but on writers’ sites all over the Internet – subscribing to a world view which I would characterize as “Live is real, life is earnest, and everything worth doing is hard.”

Well, yes. Can’t really argue with that. But I sometimes fear that with all the comments like “Writing requires butt in chair and fingers on keys,” and “Just force yourself to do it,” we’re lying by omission – leaving out the most important part of the enterprise, as though it were marked TOP SECRET.

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Sometimes the Light Bulb Finally Comes On

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Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Last time I posted, I whimpered (you could probably hear me) about my difficulty in finding horseradish or wasabi that didn’t have soy or sugar added to it. Well, sometimes the old brain doesn’t work as well as it should. It finally dawned on me I could order powdered wasabi and either make my own or add it to something like my Whole30 compliant mayo. Duh. It’s now on order, should arrive Monday.

In addition, I finally got a hold of compliant ketchup. It’s put out by Primal Kitchen and I have to say, it’s pretty darn good. In fact, I like it better than normal ketchup (aside from the price). It’s REALLY expensive on Amazon, but locally I found it at Safeway for about four bucks less. Actually tastes more like tomatoes than normal ketchup. I can get my eggs down again.

My last grand find was coconut aminos. They’re a substitute for soy sauce. Slightly sweet if you taste it right out of the bottle, but it’s subtle. When mixed in with the other ingredients for a Chinese dish, it’s impossible for the average palate to notice. Since there are people who do taste testing for a living, I’m sure someone will scoff at my unsophisticated taste buds. Scoff away!

The fourth book continues to get written. I finished up Chapter 7 today, and celebrated by watching the last episode of the third season of Stranger Things. Of course, my favorite character bit it (well, maybe – there was some foreshadowing at the very end that might hint at a miraculous reappearance in season four). I am pretty much anathema to any character I grow attached to. My old anime group can attest to that.

Lastly, I am attempting to learn new techniques to use in my digital artwork. I’ve had some interaction with other cover artists of late and find myself feeling sorely inadequate. I suppose most anyone involved in creative endeavors finds themselves constantly wishing they were better. I know I try to improve my writing skills with each book. I shouldn’t beat myself up so much about not being the Great Spiny’s gift to the art world. But I do. And so, I’m trying to learn new stuff. In order to keep myself sane, I’m setting aside two days a week to work on art. I refuse to let myself feel guilty on those days, despite my lack of words on page. Mostly.

Today, I still have several hours left in the day for writing, though. Maybe I can get a good lead into Chapter 8. Wish me luck.

ARC Review: The Weaver by Heather Kindt — Katelyn @ From Cover to Cover

The Weaver by Heather Kindt Publish date: August 20th, 2019 Source: ebook, Kindle Edition, 246 pages Summary: (from Goodreads) Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers. Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in […]

via ARC Review: The Weaver by Heather Kindt —

My Next Step

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With my sleep issues cleared up, thanks to my dedicated use of my precious CPAP machine, I am moving on to other things to help improve my overall health and general enjoyment of life. I’ve pretty much always had weight issues. Even as a kid, despite being involved in both nordic and alpine racing, I had to constantly exercise or I’d blimp out. I ran two miles every day. I did circuit training. I played soccer (terribly, I might add)—you get the idea. As an adult I continued to run every day until a doctor realized I’d been on prednisone for eleven years and took me off it. Turned out I had massive knee issues the drug was masking. So ended my running days.

Fast forward to today and I spend most of my time in front of a computer. I’m either doing accounting at my day job, or at home I’m writing, gaming, or creating book covers. Talk about sedentary! I was taking time out to walk a couple of miles a day, but I somehow managed to acquire a groin injury. I’m in rehab for that and hope to start walking again soon-ish.

But walking is not enough. I need to stop stuffing crap down my gullet. Some friends have had very good luck with the Whole30 diet. It’s an elimination diet. You completely avoid all dairy, all sugar, and all bread-like things. You have to read labels since even things that say “all natural”, “organic”, etc., can contain honey, sugar and soy, all of which are no-no’s. No corn either or grains of any sort. No legumes (except for snow peas and green beans). But you can have pretty much all the meat and fruit you want. Eggs and nuts (no peanuts – they’re a legume) are fine.

Fortunately, Costco has a ton of stuff, even cold cuts, which are considered compliant. I’ve never eaten so much fruit in my life. I’m on day sixteen and I’ve lost 6.5 pounds (shhh, don’t tell anyone, you’re not supposed to weigh for the thirty days).

The good: I’m never super hungry and if I do get peckish I can snack on almonds or cashews. I don’t feel weak like I have on severe calorie restriction diets. I’m a big fan of meat and berries, so I have plenty to keep me full. I discovered yellow watermelon. Awesome stuff! Guacamole is fine on the diet. Mayo made from avocado oil is allowed too. Also, most of the books, including recipes can be snagged if you have Kindle Unlimited. There are a lot of recipes to be found just searching on the internet also. The slow cooker and the InstaPot are your friends. Oh, and they recently started allowing you to have baking potatoes. You just cannot fry them or cover them in sour cream. Clarified butter is pretty much the only dairy item they allow.

The bad: I’ve gotten to the point where I can hardly look at an egg. Almost everything I would add to jazz them up are forbidden. Most condiments have either soy or sugar in them. Even salsa requires a label read. I looked at one today which had cornstarch in it for thickening purposes. I have yet to find horseradish or liquid smoke that doesn’t have something non-compliant in it. I would kill for some wasabi. Most people find ketchup gross on scrambled eggs, but I was raised that way—however,I cannot find ketchup without sugar (or honey) in it.

Overall, I’d say this diet is a keeper. I have twelve more days to go before I can add something back into my diet. Odds are I will continue to avoid corn, soy and sugar. What I’m hoping to do is add cheese back in and maybe a hamburger bun now and then. Probably have to stay away from peanuts too, including peanut butter. I think with just those two adds I can stay true to the spirit of the diet, especially if I don’t allow the bread and cheese into my meals more than a couple times a week. We’ll see. I’ll let you know the final results at the end of the thirty days.

Now, I have to get back to writing. Cheers!

Hurrah! I Feel Spiffy!

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Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Apparently, a lot of people who get CPAP machines do not use them. When I picked mine up and went through the how-to’s with the tech, she emphasized the importance of using the machine at least four hours a night, a minimum of twenty-one nights a month. The machine calls the doctor’s office each day (or at least the company that makes the machine and they in turn provide the doctor with the info) and lets them know if I used it, how long I used it, how many times I stopped breathing during the night, and whether I have a good seal on the mask. In addition, I have an account where I can log in and get the same info. They’re serious about this stuff. And the insurance company is too. If I don’t use it enough they won’t pay for it. So, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say, I don’t think a lot of people follow through, otherwise they wouldn’t go to so much trouble.

Considering how much better I feel, I can’t imagine not using it. The difference is astounding. Even sleeping upright didn’t make me feel this good. The awful sense of being hung over all the time is gone. I’m not falling asleep on the couch, behind the wheel (scary!), or at my computer. Even my cat has adapted and puts up with the hissing air and the crazy tubes.

My CPAP machine has become my precious!

Since I’ve started feeling better I’ve gotten a lot more writing done. I’ve finished a short story that I plan on posting as a freebie. My intention is to start a dreaded mailing list, and using that as an incentive to sign up. I’ve also gotten a couple more chapters done on Book IV – title still pending – and have faith I’ll be able to get it done much faster than the last one. NanoWriMo is coming up pretty soon (November), so if I need a kick in the pants, that should help.

Cheers, everyone!

Apropos of Nothing, a Gentle Reminder…

Tis the season, folks. Only two more days to vote for your favorites.

Mad Genius Club

July 19 is the deadline for submitting nominations for the 2019 Dragon Awards. Any book, movie, comic, game, published or aired between July 1 2018 and June 30 of 2019 is eligible.

Anyone can nominate, and voting will begin in August.

Remember, these are fan choice, so if you read/saw/played it and liked it, you can nominate it!

http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

And please stay hydrated and cool. Summer’s cranking up in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s easy to get busy and forget to drink enough water and other hydrating fluids.

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Prime Day and the Joys of Sleep Apnea

So, let’s get the self-promotion out of the way. Prime Day is coming up this 15th and 16th. During that time my first book, “Exile’s Redemption” will be on sale for FREE! If you have not read it, or have someone you would like to introduce to the series at no risk to your wallet, mark your calendar. The actual sale starts on the 14th and goes through the 18th. In addition, the second book “Exile’s Gamble” will be on sale for $2.99 – that’s $2 off, for the same period. And as always (makes puppy dog eyes) reviews are always desired. You can post reviews for any of the books at the following links:

Exile’s Redemption

Exile’s Gamble

Exile’s Legacy

Enough of that. Let me tell you about sleep apnea. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. It’s bad enough always feeling hung over, but it can kill you. I don’t just mean because you fall asleep behind the wheel (which I have done). It can lead to heart failure. In fact, one of my favorite artist/writers, Drew Hayes, died from this very thing. They didn’t catch it on time and the damage to his heart was too great. The man was one of my great inspirations, even if all his girl elves looked like strippers.

And now I’ve been diagnosed with it. I don’t know about elsewhere but here in Central Oregon it takes about six months to get in to see about a sleep disorder. I got in and they agreed my symptoms warranted testing. They told me they’d send a home tester with me. I reached out my hands and said, “Gimme.” No, they couldn’t do that. Seems that despite the huge number of people with issues, they only have a total of four, count ’em, four testers. I had to wait another month to get one. Then I had to wait another two weeks to get the results – extreme sleep apnea. My oxygen levels were getting down into the mid-sixties anytime I managed to get into REM. So, I’m getting CPAP machine. Of course, they couldn’t give me one immediately. The bureaucracy involved is phenomenal. I’m supposed to get it on the 23rd of this month. That means I will have waited an additional six weeks since my diagnosis to get the treatment.

There is good news, however. When I got my diagnosis and was told I couldn’t have a machine right away, I asked if there was anything I could do to help myself in the meantime. Sleep upright, I was told. I’m kicking myself I did not think of that on my own, but oh, well. I am now sleeping propped up by a wedge pillow and two additional “normal” pillows. Overnight my sleep improved. I’m still expecting things to improve more once I’m on the CPAP, but since I’ve adjusted my sleep position I haven’t fallen asleep during the day once. I feel immensely better and my work output has gone way up. I may actually finish book IV before you’ve all forgotten the events of book III.

So hurrah!

Let this go as a friendly bit of advice. If your sleep sucks, get it checked out. Even if you don’t develop a heart condition or drive into a tree, chronic fatigue leads to some nasty depression. It sneaks up on you over time. You don’t even realize it. Just everything becomes a chore.

Take Care, all of you.