Veni, vidi, vici

…is definitely how I’m feeling right now. Come Friday, it’ll be probably more like Alas!

Loyalty is now available for pre-order, and not only that, but I’ve actually submitted the manuscript.

And the manuscript for the hardcopy.

Which means both will be available come Friday.

It’s hard to believe I’ve managed to release a second novel in 2021. It’s been a lot of work–like, a lot. I need to thank & thank & thank again my readers, Crow no Yami and my wonderful husband Nic; everyone who listened to me griping about editing and character development in my Writing Buddies chat; and everyone on Twitter who encouraged me and motivated me.

Here we goooo!

Loyalty revisions & progress

So, last month I tentatively set June 30th as the drop date for Loyalty. I don’t know why exactly–but I needed a date to work around, and June 30th was as good as any.

To meet that deadline, I worked backwards: I’d need to send out to ARC readers in late May/early June. I’d need to get it professionally edited (I am not going through self-editing again). I’d need to have the final-final2-final.docx done mid-May for editing. I’d need to complete beta reads early May for revisions.

Well, my 3rd beta reader just completed her read through!

Oh man 🚀

Okay they’re mostly comments, and great comments, like:

and

Ah, joy.

Combining this with my other feedback, I think I have a game plan–add one more Loren scene (seriously, I’ve revised his portions about twice as much as the others!) , add a scene with [redacted] and [redacted], make a couple small additions and changes, and ship it (to editing, anyway). I’m quite certain I can have this done for the end of next week, which keeps me on track for June 30th.

Oh, one more thing I need to do to hit that date: finalize the Sacrifice prologue so I can include it as a preview! That was super fun last time. Right now I suspect it’s a bit too short at only 2400 words.

Since writing the above I’ve added 2000 words to the prologue! Now it might be a tad long…

April wrap-up

I cannot believe it’s the end of April already.

Seriously… what a month. Mostly in personal things–it was an extremely trying month. But! Looking at what I did get accomplished, I’m pretty impressed with myself! The biggest one, of course: condo is sold. Signed, sealed, delivered! It’s off our hands. After three months of reno-ing on the weekends with a three year old trailing along, it’s hard to express what a relief this is. Now we’re looking for a new place and 👻

Anyway, on to the actually pertinent stuff. Y’know, writing!

As you can see from the summary below–this month was focused heavily on two projects: Loyalty (which has moved into beta-reading) and Into the Grey (to which I managed to add 24k words). No real progress on other projects, unfortunately.

PROGRESS in April

DRAFTING/EDITING PROJECTS

  1. Bolfenn: beta reading (no updates. Is it OK to nudge a beta reader if there’s like no progress? I don’t want to irritate anyone but…)
  2. Into the Grey: drafting, 26k/100k target (broke 50k last night!)
  3. Loyalty: alpha reading (beta reading)
  4. Sacrifice: currently at 58k/90k target (no progress this month)

QUERYING PROJECTS

  1. Bootstrap_: Sent three queries:
    1. Another two rejections this month. Also submitted a couple more places.

IN THE SOMEDAY-QUEUE

No updates from last month 😭

  1. Lesbian Island actual title The Spicer’s Wife, historical spec-fic: needs a from-the-ground-up rewrite
  2. Sad Valkyrie, historical fantasy: also needs a from-the-ground-up rewrite
  3. That Sequel to Bolfenn, sci-fi/new-adult
    I am tentatively combining this with another prequel story on the history of the Ala’pr and the Niptae. Combined 5500/100k words.
  4. The Dreamers and the Dying, hard sci-fi: 2300 words, on pause
  5. The Vernacular of the Regency Romance, LGBTQ historical romance, not even started but I this idea so much ugh

And as for goals… it was a pretty successful month!

GOALS for April

Writing

  1. Get all the Loren-POV chapters in Loyalty in their own doc, read this story, and revise so it is a satisfying narrative
    if it’s satisfying or not, I don’t know, but it’s reasonably coherent.
  2. Commission character artwork of Casey+Norah in the Ll’Amh bay and begin offering this as a freebie for physical sales
  3. Add at least another 20k words to Into The Grey
  4. Sell five copies (or complete KENP reads) of Identity
    As of today–four. Sooooo close 😭
  5. Add at least 5k words to Sacrifice
    Haha nope.

Blogging

  1. People liked the post on Print Formatting! So I’ll publish Part Two this month
    Nope.
  2. Collate links and publish the initial Megapost of Online Writing Tools

Social Media

  1. I’d like to increase from 1400ish followers on Twitter to about 2400
    Another close one. I’m at about 2150 right now! 1000 per month was probably a bit too ambitious.
  2. Get another review!
    THREE new reviews. Blasted past this one.

Kindle Countdown

This whole thing is like a series of experiments, right? I try this, I try that. Amazon ads were a huge bomb, no clicks. Facebook ads were an expensive bomb: clicks, no buys.

I mean, it hardly matters. This is a hobby, and all I really want to do is try to get people to read. I don’t need to make money. But I do want to figure out what works.

(Because of course, in my heart of hearts, I’d love to be able to do this and support myself by doing it. This is a complete fantasy, because I’d probably have to be in about the top 5% of indie authors worldwide to replace my day job income. But I have so many stories to tell that get chewed up in the grind of working fulltime.

Okay that’s my sad story for the day lol! Moving on)

Anyway, with this in mind, I’m going to try a Kindle Countdown deal. Ta-da!

So the way it works is, Identity will be priced at $0.99 for two days, then $1.99 for two days, then return to regular pricing after five days. I have honestly no idea if this will drive sales at all! But I want to try it and see. I’ll keep this blog updated with results (if any, or none) so y’all can follow along with my experimentation.

Completed art

Is this an art blog now? The world wonders.

(Actually have you ever read the backstory to the phrase the world wonders? It’s really interesting! So in World War Two, were added to an encoded message as padding (they were meant to be meaningless). But the message was something like >>where is the USS Nimitz [author’s note: I don’t remember the actual ship in question] the world wonders<< and the admiral who received the message took it really personally, like, where the fuck are you admiral dude.

I guess the message is, choose your encryption padding carefully.)

Right, but this post did have a point. Uh. Art!

YAY

by acerolinha on Fiverr

This totally inspired me to go back and add (at least one) of these decompression scenes to Loyalty. It’s half-drafted now, about 1k words in (though it’ll probably clock in at about 3k). Anutea+Loren! If each book focuses on one character’s perspective, and the first book definitely focused on the Casey+Norah relationship, then book two is much more about Loren’s relationship with each of them.

(Although book 2 focuses on Casilim-la‘s perspective, so I’m not sure why it focuses on Loren’s relationship… this meta stuff is hard).

Can you imagine a more fraught relationship than Anutea+Loren at the beginning of Loyalty? Man, there’s some fucking history there.

I think I’m going to try my hand at turning the above ^ into a bookmark, plus also get some prints to send out with hardcopy signed copies of the books. I wonder what scene I’ll commission next? Possibilities, possibilities~

More art

Actually I’m not sure I ever posted about the first art, so I probably shouldn’t label this one more art. But the point of the matter is: I commissioned some art of Casey and Norah in zero-g and got a sketch version of it yesterday, and I need to share this joy with the world.

It still needs colour, but doesn’t it look so fabulous? They’re so happy, my goodness. My happy darlings ❤

If you haven’t read this scene in Identity, it’s Norah trying zero-g for the first time (with Casey, who is definitely not in zero-g for the first time). Casey is also completely ignoring about six hundred urgent messages (#goals).

Actually looking at this (it’s my phone background now, so I see it many times a day) it occurs to me that there isn’t really an equivalent scene in Loyalty. I’m not sure exactly where I’d add one, but those little happiness scenes are important, aren’t they? One of my readers told me this was her favourite scene, and another said her favourite was Casey and Norah playing video games.

Of course, the character dynamics in Loyalty are quite different. But the karlzn scene (above) in Identity was a second draft insertion, so it’s not like I couldn’t go back and add a little… release of tension scene. Or a couple. Loren+Anutéa? Loren+Casilim-la? Why not? Or, hell, a flashback? Possibilities!

Megapost: Free (or cheap) Online Writing Tools

I think a lot of people think that they need to pay money–sometimes a great deal of money–for writing tools. I mean, I’ve definitely tried a lot of them, but with little success. But there’s actually many online free, subscription-based, or cheap tools available to use which… might be of use!

If you know of any that aren’t here, please let me know! I’m always looking for new things to try. Also, I’ll be continually adding to this list as I find and try new tools.

This post is divided into sections: Actually Writing, Book Design, Character Design, and Worldbuilding.


Actually Writing

One Page Per Day

http://www.onepageperday.com/
Free

Simply a blank page upon which to write. No formatting distractions. I use this a lot.

WriteOrDie

http://www.writeordie.com
Free

This online writing aid keeps me focused (especially during NaNo) by screaming at me when I’m not writing enough 🙃

Google Docs

https://docs.google.com/
Free

How could I write a list of writing tools without including this? Not just Docs for writing, but Sheets for collating data is also super useful.

The guide I wrote to Print Formatting in Word also applies to Docs, by the way! And it’s free!


Book Design

Canva

http://www.canva.com
Free, paid extras

User-friendly content creator with many, many formats and templates to choose from. I use this for my book covers (even drafts–I love having a nice cover to look at!) and most of my blogging/Twitter content, too.


Character Design

HeroForge

http://www.heroforge.com
Free, paid extras

This 3D-character modeller is technically for creating print files (for 3D printers) but I find it extremely useful for solidifying characters in my head.

⬅Josie and her cats 😺
Where did you go, Norah?”


Worldbuilding

Inkarnate

http://www.inkarnate.com
Free, paid extras

Map-making software with about a thousand options for farms, towns, villages, cities, deserts, wastelands, mountains, you name it.

March wrap-up and April Goals

Well, as I said in my very first ever post “hello,” I’m going to use this blog in part to track my writing progress & goals.

And boy did I make some progress this month!

PROGRESS in March

DRAFTING/EDITING PROJECTS

  1. Bolfenn: beta reading (beta 1 of 3 completed this month)
  2. Into the Grey: drafting, 10k/100k (drafting, 26k/100k target!)
  3. Bootstrap_: alpha reading; ending needs significant re-write (Finished revision & off this list)
  4. Loyalty: alpha reading
    Entirely re-working Loren’s chapters based on alpha feedback. But, I also got a beta read done, and she loved Anutea–so I’m taking that as a good sign for the non-Loren chapters. He’s such a tricky character. I think I’ll do his character sheet next. Tricky. 🤔
  5. Sacrifice: revising & adding scenes still, currently at 58k/90k target

QUERYING PROJECTS

  1. Bootstrap_: Sent three queries:
    1. One rejection to date. Very kind.
      Thank you for querying me with BOOTSTRAP.  I think you have an interesting project here, but I’m afraid I’m not connecting with it on the whole in a way that makes me think I’d be the best champion for it, so I am going to have to pass.

IN THE SOMEDAY-QUEUE

  1. Lesbian Island actual title The Spicer’s Wife, historical spec-fic: needs a from-the-ground-up rewrite
  2. Sad Valkyrie, historical fantasy: also needs a from-the-ground-up rewrite
  3. That Sequel to Bolfenn, sci-fi/new-adult
    I am tentatively combining this with another prequel story on the history of the Ala’pr and the Niptae. Combined 5500/100k words.
  4. The Dreamers and the Dying, hard sci-fi: 2300 words, on pause
  5. The Vernacular of the Regency Romance, LGBTQ historical romance, not even started but I this idea so much ugh

OTHER

@crownyami was super super kind and did a full revision of Identity, which I then incorporated and re-published. It looks so good now guys seriously! Also I’m never ever touching it again, so.

(Until next month… probably).

GOALS for April

Writing

  1. Get all the Loren-POV chapters in Loyalty in their own doc, read this story, and revise so it is a satisfying narrative
  2. Commission character artwork of Casey+Norah in the Ll’Amh bay and begin offering this as a freebie for physical sales
  3. Add at least another 20k words to Into The Grey
  4. Sell five copies (or complete KENP reads) of Identity
    This was last month’s goal too and I did it! 💪 Actually I managed eleven
  5. Add at least 5k words to Sacrifice

Blogging

  1. People liked the post on Print Formatting! So I’ll publish Part Two this month
  2. Collate links and publish the initial Megapost of Online Writing Tools
    I think people will find this one useful too

Social Media

  1. I’d like to increase from 1400ish followers on Twitter to about 2400
  2. Get another review!
    I’d like to complete the year with 10 reviews

Print Formatting the Easy Way: Part One

Author’s Note: This guide ended up MUCH longer than I’d anticipated. Part One comprises the template file download and a quick overview of each of the pages included. The next part will include a deep-dive on the various formatting tricks I use and how to keep things as easy as possible. Enjoy!

I am a truly lazy person.

Now, you might not think it to see me. I mean, look! Writing a blog post! Making this guide! Writing novels! Working!

(hitting the snooze button again)

But my friends, I’ll let you in on a secret. Computer programmers are the laziest people of all–because our entire job, our life’s purpose if you will, is getting someone else (ideally, a computer) to do the work for us.

I don’t want to manually do all this math? Write a program!

I don’t want to manually find all these typos? Write a program!

I don’t want to manually find keywords for all these webpages? Write a program!

(All of the above are real examples from my life. That last one got me a job offer, actually.)

I approach writing in exactly the same way. I don’t want to manually format a bunch of repetitive stuff. I don’t want to fuss with layout. I don’t want to deal with pagination. This is why we invented computers, so I wouldn’t have to think about this!

This is why I present to you now… my guide to Print Formatting: The Easy Way!

Now, this is for MS Word formatting. If you use another program (like Scrivener et al) I can’t help you: I like Word. The guidelines are essentially the same for LibreOffice, Google Docs, etc–any word processing program.

To be honest I feel like the reason a lot of people don’t like Word is that they’re not using it The Lazy Way™. They manually format things and then get frustrated when words move around, don’t look quite right, they can’t find what they need, etc. But this bar:

Holds a lot of features hidden inside to make formatting easy. Let’s use it~

Okay, ready? First off download this handy Word formatting template (right click>save to download it). It’ll open up a file with the Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication Page, blank page, and First Chapter pages all set up for you!

About the template

There are several predefined styles which I use frequently. If you want to modify any of them, change the font/size/spacing/etc by right-clicking the style, clicking “Modify,” then making the edits in the pop-ups that appear.

Also, this is a layout for a 5×8 sized paperback novel. You’ll need to adjust the page size & margins if you’re printing something differently.

Pages

TITLE PAGE

The Title Page does not have a page number. It is vertically- and horizontally-aligned.

The Section Break is super important when dealing with different layouts (vertical alignments, sections without page numbers, etc). Each time I use a different alignment, I add a section break. I also add a section break at the end of each chapter (more on this later)

COPYRIGHT PAGE

“I don’t need to include this” I can hear someone in the back muttering. Well, you do you, but I include it. Why not?

You can find standard boilerplate online; you’ll need to populate the ISBN once you have it, and add any other details/printing stuff you need.

The copyright page is bottom aligned.

DEDICATION PAGE

It’s for my husband 🙂

The Dedication Page is horizontally-centered, but I just add a few paragraphs at the beginning rather than perfectly vertically centering it. Looks better.

BLANK PAGE

There’s a blank page immediately after the Dedication so that the first chapter starts on the right-hand side.

FIRST CHAPTER PAGE

Here’s where things start to get fun! Part Two of this guide will have an explanation of all the styles, how to modify them, and how it all goes together, but basically–all chapter headers start off halfway down the page (managed via the Heading1 style). The first three words in each chapter are in small-caps (1st3 style). This is the first page with visible page numbering (managed via section breaks).

Please download the template, muck around with it, and see if it can save you any time or grief! (Actually, especially grief).

If anything is unclear or you’d like more examples, just reach out! I love print formatting and I’m only just lying a little bit 😉

Loyalty progress

March is the month of endless revisions, apparently: Identity (which I actually had the gall to think I was done with) and now I have beta feedback on Loyalty.

Actually it’s not bad. I’d planned to dedicate the entire month of April to fixing whatever structural problems came up, and… drum roll please… there don’t appear to be any!

At least, not in the opinion of one person.

My alpha reader still thinks it doesn’t pack the same punch Identity did, and obviously I don’t want it to be a let-down, so I think I’m going to let it simmer a bit. I’ll dedicate April to it by not even looking at it, then return in May and hopefully have a bit of distance to be able to evaluate it properly and figure out what secret spice is still missing.

It needs that zing.

Criticism:

  • I use too many ellipses (guilty)
  • Same but for semi-colons (definitely guilty)
  • Paragraphs could do with being longer to create better flow
    • Actually this one is funny because Identity has the exact opposite problem
  • Cut a little dialogue–“be careful, or the reader might feel a bit tired”

And positive remarks:

  • “I definitely can see that Anutéa has matured during the whole book, in fact she is my favourite character. But at the same time, she is really courageous and badass, something that I am not, but I know every reader wants to be”
    • YAY
  • “I also enjoyed how this book is fast paced, but at the same time it is not rushed as some novels tend to be”
    • DOUBLE YAY

And a really great idea:

  • “I enjoyed also how the book is structured!  It would also be cool to have a glossary on how to pronounce the names and a map! A map would be awesome”

Well, off I toddle to go Google the best way to create glossaries for entirely imaginary worlds which exist in my mind.

(The trouble with maps, of course, is that right now my jumpgate travel system is entirely non-falsifiable. I can say RE-ytri is a two-days’ journey from AA-olea, and who can argue? Once there’s a map though…

I foresee trouble ahead)