Bread and Butter Books

Some of you may not know, but I tried to be a potter. I was decent at it, too. I loved the tactile sensation of the soft yet rough clay. The instant gratification of it yet knowing it wasn’t done yet. That I could take that wet, smooth, delicate thing and turn it into a hard, functional, object of beauty. And sell it! There’s money in pottery, especially in this area. It’s expensive as heckaroni to start up. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation. To make good stuff to sell, you need good equipment. From the wheel to the kiln to tools to clay to materials for glazes. You get the idea.

One thing about pottery is most of us had our pots we loved to make but for various reasons, they didn’t sell that well. Often the reason was because we had to sell them at a higher price. Pottery ain’t cheap! And then there were pots we hated to make yet they sold faster than we could produce them. We called those pots “bread and butter pots”. We made what we didn’t like in order to afford to make what we loved the craft for.

Now that I am a writer, I really really want to write science fiction and fantasy. Yet they don’t sell that well. Not in the lesfic niche market. What does sell is romance. Holy cow! Lesbians love their romance! And for good reasons! But dangit, I don’t like writing romance. It’s tough for me to write. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was a fluke I think. And after eight (yes, eight) years, it is still selling like mad.

Since it first came out in early 2007, it has sold 3226 copies. That number may not mean much, I know. Heck, I don’t know much about it either since I have nothing to really compare it to. Except since Regal Crest started doing ebooks, sales took off. Of that number above, 2007 of those are ebooks. Amazing, isn’t it? No, print books aren’t dead, far from it. But ebooks aren’t going away.

I often wonder if BGCFA sells so well as an ebook because of the title. I mean, do you want to sit on the bus and read the paper version of a book with that name? Or would you rather hold you tablet or reader so the title is hidden? Same with a lot of lesfic titles, I suppose. And no, I’m not removing “Butch Girls” from the title of the other books.

Meanwhile, To Sleep has only sold 132 total copies in its first year (compared to BGCFA’s 605). I love that series and those that have read it, and have told me they did, have liked it too. I’ve read a few Amazon reviews that were negative and I appreciate them. I’d like to hear from more folks who read it and didn’t like it. There’s THREE more in The Soliloquy series and I can’t fix what I don’t know is broke. Ya know?

With these sales numbers, it means 2015 will be the Year of Romance for me. I am going to put out at least one of these, more if I can, but I don’t want to set goals (again) and set myself up to fail (again). I am not a hobby writer. Let me repeat that. I am not a hobby writer. I am in this for the long haul. This is my job, as much of a job as I can do. Writing takes up several spoons and I need the right ones in place. I am lucky to have a partner who has a stable job that allows us to be comfortable but we could use my additional income from book sales to take care of extras and to put into this thing we keep hearing about called “savings”.

So, those of you who like SF and F? BUY THEM! Tell everyone else to buy them, too. Don’t buy used. Don’t borrow or share. Buy them new. It tells the publisher that they are worth offering contracts to writers. It tells writers they are worth writing. It gets them out of our heads and desktop folders and into your hands. I am lucky that my publisher (who I heart muchly) takes risks on that genre. To Sleep has not yet earned back its investment. Our hope is the release of To Dream will increase sales.

Announcement

To Dream, Book Two of the Soliloquy, will not be released until October 2015. Yes, this is nearly a year after its original release date, but it is for a good reason.

Regal Crest and I want to put out the best book we can. And while To Dream is a damn good book as it is, there’s a few things in it that need some more rewriting and editing. No, I am not cat licking the novel and not letting go of it, honest. To Dream is like The Two Towers, an in-between book with lots of growth, lots of directions, but not much actually happening except growing tension. It sets up the next two books, mostly. And that is hard to do and make it worth the reader’s time. It is VERY character driven, one character with the others in very strong, supportive roles.

For me, it was a hard decision to make. But then we missed an important deadline (you would not believe the angst Real Life has thrown Heather and me!). The decision had to be made and we made it and it is done.

To Dream Teaser

To Dream is almost ready to go to the editor. Again. The damn thing just kept growing, as it always has, and it was decreed to large (at 163K+). So I had to cut it down (to 110K). Now I am going through it to make sure there are no dangling plot threads.

But this is one of my favorite scenes. Call me a tease. I’m fine with that.

“Did you break it?”

I looked up at the sound of HER voice. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything.

“She did not. She has this need to take something apart in order to understand how it functions. Fortunately, she has not felt the need to do the same to me as of yet.” Mona came into the room while Cass leaned against the door frame.

“What is it? Or was it?”

She had this southern accent, soft, not overly twangy. Her words rolled off her tongue, across the room, and into my ears where my brain savored them like a well-aged liquor.

“It is a bio-bed. Karen, are you feeling ill again?” Mona got the scanner and it was its beep that pulled me out of my cask of Cass bourbon.

“No, I’m fine. I see you finally made it.”

She laughed. If her accent were expensive bourbon, her laughter was a rich dessert, chocolate something served with coffee the color of her skin. “I swear, that’s what everyone says to me. Not ‘hello’ or ‘hey how are you’ but ‘I see you finally made it’. I ought to leave and come back just to get a proper greeting!”

I put the two bio-bed gut pieces down and jumped to my feet. I carefully stepped over the parts I had strewn over the floor and made my way to her. Taking her hand, I raised it to my lips and kissed the back of it. “Cassandra, it is good to see you again. How was your overly long journey?”

Showing Off the Craft

I got this friend/acquaintance (seriously, I have several) who is this crafter/knitter/sew-er/creator kind of person. And a waitress who knows her stuff in that arena, too. I recently “friended” her on FB (wave at Sammi everyone). Most of her stuff on her page is all pics of her craft. Really cool stuff, really creative. Makes me uber jealous. Writers are crafters, too, but we really have no daily pics to show off. Sure, we have books as the final products but…you know, one every six years is just not enough.

So I thought I would share some of my work process.

This is the folder I have for To Dream.
– “Awakening” was its initial name but, obviously, I changed it. When I did the rewrite (Awakening is the raw-arse draft), I saved the original and started fresh, basically. I’m a document hoarder.
– “Beta” is what I sent to the Beta readers, bless their hearts. It also contains their responses in all its brutal honesty.
– “Edit chunks” is when I realized Google Drive had eaten a huge chunk of the manuscript. I was editing heavily, taking out what I had edited and putting it into a new document. I then had to go through both to figure out what pieces were missing. Yes, I saved these, too.
– “Images” are some drawings I did of maps and some houses I built in Sims3 so I had an idea of what their house looked like. Yeah, I am that freakin’ weird.

The rest are the actual current documents. The .doc files are the ones I put on my tablet. The program I use there only uses .doc format, dammit. There’s one that can use .odt but it is awkward as heck to use.
– The “~lock” ones are the currently open documents. It is how OpenOffice works in doing their autosaves and recoveries I think.
– “ack-ded” is the acknowledgements and dedication that goes into the front of the books. I keep track of this so I don’t leave anyone out. I have a short memory.
– “synopsis” is, duh, the synopsis.
– “cuts” is what I remove as I edit. I save those because sometimes there’s a word or phrase I can use later. I said I was a document hoarder, get over it.
– “edit” is, duh, the edit version.
– “wb” is the world build document
– “To Dream” is the final version before I started this edit.
– The .txt file is one that I brought over from the “To Sleep” folder. It contains some quotes about butterflies, mostly.

I use a variety of tools, just like Sammi. Although mine aren’t as colorful, dangit!
WordWeb Pro – way cool thesaurus, dictionary, reference. I have the paid version but the free one has a lot to it.
OpenOffice – a free word processing program that also has a spreadsheet (excel), database (access), presenter (powerpoint), a drawing something, and something to do math equations.
IrfanView – an image program that resizes and does other stuff. Simple and to the point, the way I like ’em
NovaMind 5 – it is called a “mindmapping” program. I call it a “brainstorming” program. Works either way.
SimpleMind – While NovaMind has a lot of bells and whistles, it doesn’t work with my tablet. SimpleMind does. So sometimes I use it instead.
Notepad 2 – a simple alternative for Windoze Notepad. Much better for those who do coding, too.
SyncBack Pro – After my disappointment with Google Drive, I needed some other way to keep everything together. My bro pointed me toward SyncBack Pro and I love it. Syncs, backups, both. Does both via FTP, too.
Dragon Premium – I recently got this again. I don’t expect my hands to completely fail but there are days where typing is impossible. And there are days where sitting is difficult. So I’d be stupid to not give it a go. The problem with Dragon is you cannot edit what you have not used it to write with so I can’t edit with it. I got the Premium because I can dictate into my phone and then load it into the program on the desktop later. My goal is to do one of the Butch Girl books completely with Dragon. One of the characters in BGCFA was Rain who had multiple disabilities including the loss of both legs. I plan on doing her book via Dragon as it feels appropriate to do so. I have two others to do first, probably three. That gives me plenty of time to learn Dragon before I jump on the Dragon Wagon. Heh.

On my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet, I use:
Kingsoft Office – good software.
LectureNotes – I am soooo freakin’ glad I found this. What a great program. And makes me glad I got the tablet with the pen! For real students, they have some other excellent software.
OpenDocument Reader – allows me to view (but not edit) .odt documents. But I can’t figure out how to point it to the external card
AndrOpen Office – OpenOffice for Android. Has nearly everything OpenOffice has which makes it clunky on the tablet. Not giving up on it yet though!
WordWeb – yep! Got it on my tablet, too! And my phone! And my iPod Touch! I really love this program.
SimpleMind – the Android version (which I don’t use as often since I found LectureNotes)

Oh, and one last thing. Want to know another reason why I prefer OpenOffice to Word? Go back up to that image. Look at the file sizes of To Dream Edit.odt and To Dream Edit.doc. See the difference? Totally unnecessary.

In the Beginning…

The beginning of a book has so much riding on it, depending on it. The “beginning” is usually considered the first 25% of the book. I can’t find my copy of Kress’ Beginnings, Middles, and Ends to see what she considers the beginning to be.

One: the reader has to like it enough to keep reading. There has to be enough there worth their time. Someone once said the average space a reader glances at before deciding to buy the book is the first 7 lines. Not sentences, lines.

Two: questions are asked that carry the rest of the book and must be answered by the end. Like, will Timmy ever get out of the well? Why does he keep falling in? And will Lassie ever get tired of it and just not tell anyone? And at least one of those questions has to happen within those first 7 lines. The reader has to be intrigued enough to want to know the answer.

Three: stuff happens in the beginning that sets up the rest of the book and propels the characters toward the ending. Be that a murder, an event, a meeting, whatever. It’s not just the question itself, but who or what asks it. Timmy fell in the dang well, yes, but why? What makes him keep falling into old wells? Sometimes the reason is subtle. Timmy is an inquisitive/foolhardy brat who needs to stay closer to home. Sometimes it is huge. Timmy is suicidal or aliens keep pushing him in.

It is #3 right now that has me banging my head on the keyboard. In To Dream, there’s just a lot happening in the beginning. Nothing major like car crashes or alien invasion, just stuff that is the foundation for the rest of the book. The vast majority of it is character introduction. Those characters have important roles (else they wouldn’t be introduced). One of the characters is Love Interest. To Dream, like To Sleep, is a science fiction novel, not a romance. In TS, there’s actually no sex whatsoever. In To Dream, however, there’s sex. But it’s not gratuitous, but serves a purpose. But it’s still not a romance nor is it erotica. I don’t introduce Love Interest until fairly far into the book. I’ve been told it needs to happen sooner and I kinda agree. But Karen (the main character) needs to do some stuff first and it is this stuff I am arguing with myself over. There’s an event that happens (a big meeting) and Karen attends it. Her attendance sets up some conflict (how dare she betray humanity!?) and provides validity to her statements later (“what I say is true and you believe me because I was there”). But except for providing that validity, it never comes up again. If a character has angst over where to go to eat, something better happen at that restaurant and that angst better happen again. But it never really comes up. And the conflict it creates is not something I am interested in handling. I’d rather hint at it than detail it.

I guess I just answered the question. Take that scene out. I will have to find some other way for her to prove “which side of the table she sits”. And good golly the book has a big enough word count that it will survive the cut.

And She Says “Done!…again”

To Dream is finished. Thank goodness.

To Sleep was a walk in the park compared to this one. I was hoping for at least 90K and got over 109K words in To Sleep. I really like that story. So I jumped right in and started working on the next one.

It was originally titled “The Awakening” but I realized that’s not what it was about. Well, kinda, but not really. So I changed it to To Dream. Again, I hoped for about 90K. Holy crap, I reached 120K. So I edited and rewrote it. Dang if it didn’t end up even higher! And now I just finished again and, you guessed it. It’s higher again.

To Dream just finished at 144,192 words. I could actually cut it in half, put some scenes back in, and make it two books. Not sure where the break would be but that may be what happens in the end. And I like this book just as much as the first. Which is a good thing.

In To Sleep, the reader is introduced to Karen Miller, a nurse studying to be a doctor in Philadelphia. Then aliens come and everything changes. This book picks up the story about a year after the first one ended. Karen and her friends now are dealing with their new lives. I could tell you more but it would absolutely ruin the first book. Not sure how I am going to do the synopsis, actually.

So, it will be going out to the beta reader(s) soon. Then another edit then I will submit it.

AHA Moments

…are so cool.

I’ve got one novel finished and sold (To Sleep) and then I did the huge sequel, The Awakening. By the time I got that one done, I was very frustrated. It was huge and I didn’t want it to be. So I set it aside for a while and tried to write another Butch Girl book (Stereotype This or maybe BG and Stereotypes).

Then today, I get an AHA moment. You know, when suddenly the clouds part and angels sing out a single note (maybe two) and suddenly you Get It.

The first book is called “To Sleep” because I had the phrase, “To sleep, perchance to dream” as the phrase to start with. I looked it up in Wikipedia to see if anything popped out.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Duh. It did. The second book is now called “To Dream”.

Like TS, this book was to have two halves. One was the dream, the second was the waking up. I never found a true dividing line so it doesn’t really have one. But what if I just did the dreaming part? What if…

And there I went.

PS For those of you who now have that soliloquy in your head, go to No Sweat Shakespeare to read it in full.