I have a new web-site!

I have a new web-site (and a new blog, although I think I’ve imported almost everything from this one). The URL, which is imbedded above is: http://michellesagara.com.

I will be blogging there in future. Go and take a look :).

Answering email: Release Weeks & me.

Two people, because of discussions elsewhere on the internet, have sent email asking me questions about release weeks, and how when a reader buys a book affects me, personally. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer them here. But, as usual, before I answer a question, I need to explain the context.

(This might be a little on the long side – and because I want everything to be clear here, if anything I’ve said is confusing in any way, please ask me to clarify).

First: Everything I am saying about release week refers to traditionally published books, in large part because most of it relates to the sale of physical books through traditional outlets. Ebooks figure into the discussion, but not in the same way.

If you haven’t heard the phrase “release week”, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably someone who goes into a bookstore, browses, finds a book (or more) that looks interesting, and buys it. The book is either in the store, or it’s not. However.

Every book has an on-sale date. In most cases, this date is “soft”. It is the day by which every bookstore that ordered the title, prior to its release, can be expected to have copies. In order for the book to be on the shelves of stores in CA and also in NY, they need to be picked, packed, loaded onto trucks, and delivered. The location of the warehouses define, in part, which stores will get copies first. Clearly the books do not arrive at the vendors on the same day.

When the books arrive, the bookstore people will receive the books, which are invoiced from the time the books were picked for packing and shipping. They price them, and they put them on the shelves. Is there an On Sale notification? There’s a sticker on the outside of the box. It’s often small, green or yellow. It’s not always at the top of the box. And, in most cases, it is functionally invisible. A large store will receive a hundred boxes, many of which do not have these stickers, but all of which require the same receiving & stickering.

What this means in a practical sense is that the book will begin to appear on bookshelves before its theoretical release day as it arrives in the various stores. There are a (very few) occasions when the bookstores have signed binding legal agreements not to display a book before a certain date (Harry Potter’s later volumes); if you don’t sign, no books. For the most part, though, the books get put on the shelf.

People find them. People buy them.

Why, then, does release week matter to some authors?

The NYT (New York Times) Bestseller lists.

The NYT Bestseller lists are aggregate and weighted surveys of (totally unnamed) bookstores and venues in which books can be purchased. They are reported to be primarily brick-and-mortar outlets. In order to prevent authors from deliberately gaming the system (by, say, ordering 500 copies of their own books through an NYT store), the list is kept private.

They accumulate numbers for each of the fifty-two weeks of the year. Once a week, they tabulate and release their list.

The theory behind release week is this: it’s when the greatest concentration of sales should occur. If you are desperate to make the NYT list in any position, you want all of your initial sales to occur during the same week.

Why would an author want to be on that list so badly?

Let me make a small list.

1. Increased visibility

2. “New York Times Bestseller” appended to your author name forever.

3. Marketing buzz. If you make it onto the list, it means you have reader-momentum.

4. Escalators.

There are additional reasons. Some authors feel that if they don’t crack that list, their career is over. Their books won’t sell to publishers, and they won’t be able to continue to write them.

However: in my very, very humble opinion, if you’re not cracking the top 10 – the print list – it’s insignificant. As a reader, I generally consider “NYT Bestelling author” to be an insubstantial bit of fluff. I don’t pay attention to it because it doesn’t matter to me as a reader.

Obviously, the way I respond as a reader influences my thoughts on the matter as a writer. If something says #1 NYT Bestseller, that’s impressive. (Not that it influences whether or not I want to read the book). Short of that, I don’t pay attention. My husband feels that I am somehow not the typical consumer – but really, I have a lot of books, and it’s one of the few areas in which I do feel I am the typical consumer — inasmuch as any reader is.

So here’s my take. Well, no, let me say instead: Here’s Ilona Andrew’s take.

How does all of this silliness affect the reader? It doesn’t. You shouldn’t have anxiety when you go to a book store or when you preorder. You shouldn’t worry about when to buy the book or how it will affect the author. If you like the book, get it. A sale is a sale and we thank you for it.

So, the plan is, if you find the book early and you want it, buy it. If you see it early – score! You get the book early. Email us if you liked it. We’ll be totally happy for you.

They have a much larger audience than I do, but started out from the same position; they sell well, but they do it because people liked their books and told other people about them.

It’s interesting to note that they hit the NYT list on the week before release week. (I say they rather than she because it’s a husband & wife writing team, not because I am bad at pronouns. Well, okay, I’m sometimes bad with pronouns, but.)

Having said all of this, it’s normal for authors to worry about how a book is selling. This is actually much, much easier to do as time passes, because after a couple of decades, we become more aware of writers we know and love that can’t sell to publishers because of prior low-sales records. Series that we love writing/reading aren’t viable anymore.

In my less sanguine moments, I’m looking into a gloomy future left in the wake of the death of Borders, because Borders did carry my books, and they did carry my backlist. Loss of that shelf-space across the US makes keeping books that have been in-print since their first publication almost impossible; the West novels are too long for the current PoD reprints that are occurring for other mass markets, and they don’t have the sales volume of, say, Patrick Rothfuss. (A volume which I think he deserves because I think his writing is brilliant).

But with the broader acceptance of self-publishing and e-publishing, there are at least options.

News!

Wendy Good, in the comments to the previous post, asked: How many more Cast books are you currently contracted for with Luna? Will you seek contracts for further Cast books or is that too far reaching of a question? I dare to ask because I don’t want them to end. I know all good things must eventually, but would love some reassurance regarding the next few years, if at all possible. : )

The answer was: The one I’m working on now (which is Cast in Peril).

The answer is now: The one I’m working on now (which is, oddly enough, still Cast in Peril) and three more Cast novels, none of which have titles.

Some of the questions about various elements of possible future books – the Dragon Court – are affected by events in the almost available Cast in Ruin. Which is all I’ll say for the next few months, because anything else is so heavily into spoiler territory I will get hate mail at the very least.

I try very hard, with the Cast novels, to start with a very, very simple statement about the book before I begin writing. Cast in Silence was: Kaylin confronts and finally accepts her past. No, really. Cast in Chaos was: An influx of refugees causes panic and fear in Elantra. No, really. Cast in Fury was: In the aftermath of the panic caused by the tidal wave Kaylin must deal with an artiste — while Marcus Kassan is relieved of his duties on charges of murder.

Cast in Peril was a small paragraph. Some of which I can’t detail, because it follows from Ruin. Cast in Peril is not the book I planned. Which is to say, it is the book I planned, but in planning, I seem to have forgotten that plot takes words, and the more plot there is, the more words there are, and at some point, there are too many words, because clearly I thought I could fit everything into one room. An apt analogy would be furniture: the fridge is now sitting in the hall and the dining room table is the TV stand, and there’s no room for anything but the couch because you can’t get past the table, and for some reason I thought it would all fit in one room.

In this, I absolutely blame Teela; it is entirely her fault. Well, actually, that’s possibly not fair. It is also the fault of another character I can’t name yet.

What I really want to do is post Chapter One of Cast in Peril. And no, of course I won’t, because it will make no sense if you haven’t read Cast in Ruin.

ETA: I think Cast in Peril will make sense to a reader who hasn’t read the previous books, in as much as that’s possible, but readers who have will immediately say: who the heck is (character name redacted)?

Public Service Announcement

Thanks everyone for your input on my previous question. We (this would be the West household) are going to keep the Author Name under which the stories were originally published.

I have ISBNs! I have a block of one hundred ISBNs! I’m sorry – ISBNs always make me ridiculously happy. It’s a quirk.

Some people might notice that on Smashwords there is one Michelle West novella available; this is because I wanted to make sure that the Smashwords formatting — on my end — actually works. (It does! Yay! It’s the first thing I’ve done so far that’s worked right on the first attempt). It also takes about two weeks for any Smashwords titles to propagate to their various retailer sites.

Because I’m Canadian, there are extra tax forms that need to be filled out, submitted, and acknowledged at any of the various vendors that sell ebooks and with whom I will deal directly. So the second part of this is that I need to be an active account for the paperwork to be relevant.

So…(yes, there’s always more), I also submitted the same short story (Echoes) to the Amazon store and the Apple store. The Apple store apparently takes weeks to review an application to become an iBooks seller (it takes time to review every single book, as well). So the book in the iBooks channel, if I have filled everything out correctly, will also not be available for weeks. (I realize this will not be exciting to many people, as Echoes is one of the stories to be found for downloading for free in the sidebar.)

When I started this, I had the naively optimistic view that the bulk of the time would be spent reading, proof-reading (four different passes on Echoes by me alone, in various formats because changing the way text looks changes the way I catch errors); plus two other proof-readers, and etc.

In the case of Echoes, however, the formatting took far more time. The learning curve here (I typed curb originally, go figure) is probably steeper on my end than it would be on many other people’s. I have learned how to format epub, mobi and MS Word for Smashwords .docs. I have also found, downloaded, filled out W-8BENs for various vendors (that was today’s ordeal). I have made accounts and uploaded and downloaded to make sure things actually work, where work in this case means that only on the Kobo is an extra page inserted at the end of every section, for reasons I cannot quite figure out. But this happened with the six Kobo samples I downloaded as well, and those were publisher-created epubs.

So…I wanted to let you all know that this is not part of the mass release (which I had intended to do), and it’s not part of the collected six stories (since it’s only one); it’s kind of a lone, floating denizen, sent out into the wilds because it’s proof of my commercial US presence, which will make the W-8BENs internally relevant to their various vendors, since every entity that sends you any money at all has to have one on file (this would include the agents).

But the other five stories, the collection and with luck, the print-on-demand version of the collection, should appear in a more orderly fashion at the same time (weeks from now), all paperwork having been submitted, all formatting concerns having been addressed, and covers extant. The covers were the easiest part of the process because the person doing those already knows what she’s doing.

At the end of July, I will put up the sample chapter of Cast in Ruin.

Version control, sort of

Aaron asked, in the previous thread:

A bit off topic, but you don’t have a general “contact the author” web submission page and this may be better suited for your LJ:

Actually, before I get to the question, let me quickly say this: If you have a question that I think I can answer, you can leave it in a comment thread, or you can email me at Michelle.Sagara@sff.net. Actually, even if I can’t answer it, you can do either, but it’s less productive.

I won’t answer questions about future developments unless the question is really, really general (e.g. Will there be more about dragons? (Yes)), because some readers are very spoiler-averse. I’m personally not one of them, but I try to respect that reading choice (and it drives my husband crazy when I flip to the end of a book I didn’t naturally arrive at by reading through all the intervening pages).

This is subject to the fact that I am terminally underorganized, and frequently behind (I’m actually almost caught up. My inbox is only at 348). There is a lovely, funny post at Hyperbole and a half, titled “this is why I’ll never be an adult which caused me to cringe in instant self-recognition.

Speaking of which: the page proofs for Cast in Ruin have gone back to Luna. There is now nothing else I have to do to make this a book, except wait. I am, on the other hand, doing final (editorial) revisions on Skirmish. Or will be, once I’ve finished this post.

And now: less PSA, and more answer. The actual question:

How do you feel about self-published authors or established publishers being able to retroactively copyedit e-books and release ‘new and improved’ versions of their texts? Do all future copyedits have to go through you (the author) for approval? Do you think that there is potential for abuse if people fundamentally change the structure? Would you go back and change minor details (e.g. eye color)?

I had to think about this one for a bit.

Henry James revised all of his novels at one point later in his career, and this was well before the time that such a production would have been effortless on his part, or the part of his publishers, who were still stuck with moving little slugs around in order to actually print.

Stephen King revised the The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger before he finished the series. He added 500 pages or thereabouts to The Stand. There are other authors who have gone back to do ‘authoritative’ editions of earlier works. The difference is, it’s not easy compared to revising and resubmitting an ebook.

Publishers have always had a method for tracking errors in printed books, if they’re aware of them; if a book goes back to press (i.e. they print more), they can fix typos while they’re at it, and this isn’t announced. On the other hand, I’m not sure how many publishers still do this. Publishing has become very lean, and I imagine production departments are pushed to exhaustion merely getting the new books to press.

A major print revision would, of course, require complete resetting of every page, and it’s therefore not done often; when it is, it’s for authors whose audience is naturally large enough to include readers who would want or insist on owning a book that is very similar to the one they already own by the same author.

So, it would depend. To a lesser extent, revisions to text were done before ebooks. Fixing formatting errors in ebooks, rife because of the lack of standardization in the process, seems like it would be a godsend, frankly.

A major revision done by a self-published author also doesn’t seem an abuse of privilege, to me, in the sense that s/he is altering his/her own work. I would love to change about four small things, myself, because, you know, making mistakes of that nature in my own books is really, really stressful, guilt-inducing and embarrassing. In public.

I would have serious, serious qualms about a publisher randomly revising my text – but I cannot honestly bring myself to worry about this on the print side of the equation at least; the publisher’s production departments are hugely overworked, and they’re unlikely to try their hand at secretive editing in the middle of their day. In the extremely unlikely event a publisher should somehow decide to hire a copy-editor for a manuscript that has already been printed and published, I doubt anyone would think to ask me first.

But I honestly cannot see this ever happening.

I do know that BenBella did work on the Sundered books after their first release, to clean up the text and the formatting. At the time, I had no e-reader, and I haven’t actually seen either the formatting/typo ridden versions or their improvements. I have no issues whatsoever with the clean-up; I think there might have been ulcers had I seen the first release.

However having said that, there were readers who were deeply upset at King’s revision of his own book. I understand why. As a reader, I form emotional attachments to the books I read and loved years ago. I will return to them. I love them now.

As a writer I understand the desire to change finished books, I really do. I feel that I’m a better writer than I was when I started out in 1991. (In 1986, to be fair, but the book wasn’t published until 1991). There are sentences, paragraphs and whole scenes that I would like to nuke down to zero and totally rewrite. There are plot threads I would like to flesh out, and plot threads I feel are enormously clunky. I’m allowed to feel that way. I am not the same person as I was in 1986. Or 1991. Or even 1996.

But what I feel about my own writing and what readers feel about it are not the same. I have whole days during the writing of any one of my novels in which I feel like an abject, talentless failure. I conversely have days where I desperately want to be able to immediately send all my readers the scene or scenes I’ve just finished because I feel so certain they will love them. Both extremes are part of the process of writing a novel–at least for me.

What I hope for, at the end of any novel, is that the finished book will speak to my readers; that it will move them, that it will mean something.

But some of the books I would rewrite, revise or alter have already done that. They’ve moved readers. It’s why I still have any of them (readers, I mean). And if I go back and change those early books wholesale, I’m destroying some part of the experience of those readers. I’m effectively saying they’re wrong to love the work, or that they had no taste because the books were so bad they need to be obliterated and totally redone.

I love early books by some authors with an abiding and unreasonable devotion–but I’m aware that their authors, decades later, do not feel any of that same love. At all. Ever. And if one of those authors were to take the books that spoke so strongly to me and demolish them in the service of improving the words, I would feel it to be a tragedy.

So. I do not feel that an author revising their own work is abuse, per se. It’s certainly not illegal. But I still feel that if you wrote the best book you could at the time, it’s better to find the best books you can write Right Now than it is to revisit and change the older works.

The only case in which I feel this would not be true is if you personally feel that you butchered the book because your publisher insisted that it had to be cut by 75k works. In that case, though, I think it would be better if you published a second edition – a clear, distinct “author’s preferred” edition.

I’m not sure if that answers the question, because I’m not entirely certain what you mean by abuse. If it doesn’t, and you elaborate, I’ll do likewise.

In the meantime, how does everyone else feel about the idea?

Tools of the Trade Part Two

I promise I will go back to more specific writing related posts (which are less frequent), after this post.

I used to keep all of my notes in Claire Fontaine notebooks — the ones with graph paper pages, instead of lined or blank ones. I fell out of this habit when I got my Newton MessagePad 2000 (later upgraded to 2100), because there is still no device that’s better for handwritten input. Except for the aforementioned notebooks, of course.

When I wrote, before I had luggable computers, I sat in front of an IBM selectric.

So I had notebooks and multiple different pens. I did love computers and word processors when they finally arrived in my life, though. I loved that I couldn’t run out of paper, that I didn’t need to change ribbons, that if I wanted to change a paragraph, I could change it without retyping everything. However…

There were things I did on a typewriter which translated perfectly to a computer. And there are things which I did in notebooks which didn’t make that transition as seamlessly. All this to say that there are things which I just don’t do on a computer. It’s not that I can’t, of course; programs exist for everything. It’s that I don’t. I was given an iPad as a gift. Like many people, I couldn’t really see what I would do with one; I have a laptop if I need portability, and I have an iPhone if I want to listen to music (or make phone calls, even). The iPad, from the outside, seemed like something I wouldn’t really have much use for.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Because the iPad isn’t a computer, to me; it’s a notebook, in the older sense of the word. I use it for all the things I don’t do on my computer. Not everything I do on the iPad is work-related, but I’ll list the applications I do find useful for writing-related tasks.

——

First, iA Writer. It’s in the mid-range of app prices at $4.99. (The biggest surprise for a former Newton user is the price of the apps. Given what many of them do, they are soooo cheap in comparison to their desk-top counterparts). It’s an application for writing. You can use one font. In fact, you can use one font and you can’t add any emphasis. The font is specific to the application; it’s a monospace font. It has the usual built-in on-screen keyboard, but adds a bar for punctuation that writers commonly use, and it synchs with dropbox.

I don’t do a lot of writing on the iPad, but I’ll write if I have a long wait at the doctor’s office, or similar places. I find it clean, simple, and easy. I thought, when I got the iPad, that I would have to spend money on a physical keyboard – but the onscreen keyboard is good enough for the amount of writing I do.

——

One of the things I have never done on a computer is a To-do list. One of the things I use daily on the iPad is — wait for it — a To-do list. Lists were one of the things I composed in my paper notebooks. The app I currently use is ToDo. It is also $4.99. I use it for writing; I have recurring daily tasks (book words), and when an idea for a blog-post strikes me, I’ll jot it down in the list. You can have multiple lists – for home tasks, for work tasks, for whatever-you-want tasks; you can tag every item and search for items by tags. You can make a ToDo item a project. For instance: The West short story collection. When you make a project, you can then add individual items – an item for edits on each story, an item for finding a cover designer, etc., etc. I track things like page proof due-dates as well.

(I use a different application for gift lists and home lists: Sorted. It’s much simpler, but I really like the way it looks. I make things like Christmas Lists or packing lists (for travel) using this. Which is not about work, but it’s a small digression. It’s 0.99.)

——

As more publishers transition their offices to an electronic work-flow, I’ve started to get contracts — in email. Usually as .pdfs. Some of those, I need to print and sign in ink, but some of them, I can just “sign” electronically and send back. I have resisted buying Adobe Acrobat just to alter a pdf to this extent. However…I can do this on the iPad for a cost of between 4.99 and 9.99. At the moment, I’m using PDF Expert. I have a saved signature, written in i-ink on the iPad. I can drop it into any part of the pdf, and when I email the pdf to myself, my signature is now there. So are any changes I make, any visible text I add, and any notes; all of my highlights and scribbles or strikeouts are also preserved in the pdf.

If I wanted to do exactly the same things on the Mac, I would need to pay a minimum of 139.99.

——

Before iPad, I’d often idly wondered how much time I spend on each book, on blogs, on short stories. myWorkTime, at 2.99, made the curiosity far less idle. I found set-up very intuitive and very simple. It works like this: you create clients (in my case, publishers for novels, editors for short stories, and myself for blog posts). After this is done, you set up projects for your clients: so if the client is DAW, I create projects for all the novels I have in progress. After the projects are done, I can create tasks for each one – as many, or as few, as I want. “Writing” is always one of them, and is the obvious one – but since I have to review copy-edits and page proofs, and I also have to revise, I’ve added those as well.

Each level — client, project or individual task, has hours associated with it. If I want to know how long it took to write the book, I can look it up; if I want to know all of the time that went into a book, I can look at that, too. I can set a dollar value per hour worked, although in my case it’s academic.

——

Those are the writing related applications I use most frequently, although I have dictionaries (ummm, a few) that I refer to if I’m not actually sitting in front of my computer.

On the macbook, I’m currently experimenting with Spell Catcher X and Marsedit (on which this was written).

Tools of the Trade

Because I have page proofs and I cannot stand to look for any more errors at this time of night, I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the tools of my trade.

I use a Macbook Pro as my main writing machine. This is not a religious stance; I have a PC (an Asus), on which I play games. I fully believe that a writer is more than the sum of his or her tools, and that each of us should work on whatever platform we find most comfortable.

This is my way of saying that if the comments descend into platform wars, I will moderate with the world’s heaviest hand, possibly because I have read it so many times and there is nothing new.

On the other hand, if anyone has suggestions for PC equivalents of the Mac only apps I list here, that would be great!

——

The first application I use — and the one I would not be without if you paid me — is Scrivener. It started life because Keith Blount was trying to write a novel, and he found none of the programs he tried up to the task of handling his process. He was not, before Scrivener, a programmer. I find his creation incredibly impressive because of this.

There are probably a thousand ways to use Scrivener; I’m not a power-user. Most of its features are features that don’t suit my writing process, so I don’t use them. The ability to break text into scenes, partial scenes, that follow a loose/tight outline doesn’t work for me; I know writers who love the program because it allows them to move whole scenes from one part of their novel to another with just a drag-and-drop. I know people who make really smart use of the filing card view as well, to denote which chapters are viewpoint chapters, or which chapters are heavy action and which are quieter. It’s not a view I use, but if you head to their web-site, you can see it in action.

I write sequentially, chapter-by-chapter, scene by scene. When I revise, depending on the book, I will sometimes break chapters into their component parts – but folder them so they’re contiguous when exported. I can tag those scenes in any way I like, and will often tag them for their structural components: things that are necessary, things that aren’t.

Only when I’ve finished a novel do I make use of the “export draft” feature, which exports the entire book as a single file, in whatever format I choose. It will change underlines to italics or vice versa, keep a running page count, and keep a wordcount if that’s necessary.

Scrivener 2.0 will also export to epub. This takes a bit of set-up and experimentation, but once it is set-up, it works like a charm, and produces compliant epubs. It will export to .pdf, .doc, .rtf and .txt as well.

At 45.00 U.S., it’s a bargain; it’s one of the few programs I own that I would pay old-school money for, if it came to that. There is a PC version of Scrivener in beta.

——

Microsoft Word wasn’t always a necessity, but as more and more publishers make use of track changes for line-edits and copy-edits, it’s become necessary for me. All of my Luna line-edits and copy-edits are now sent in .doc or .docx format. For that reason, I have MS Word 2011 for the Mac in my toolset. I found 2011 a good upgrade because it’s faster than the prior version for the Mac, and I find the layout of track changes clearer and easier to address.

I use it only for publisher-sent copy-edits, but those are necessary.

——

Flying Meat’s VoodooPad is a wiki app. I don’t have an on-line wiki–although with very little effort, I could, thanks to VoodooPad.

Why do I use it?

I keep track of the bits and pieces of information about my various worlds and the novels written in them. If I create a page for a character, every incidence of the character’s name will automatically link to that page. If I’m too lazy to do a find I just type the name in a random on-screen page and click it. I have my time-line, which is the longest single page, my gods, my visible magical effects, magic items, loose ends, characters, etc., stored in VoodooPad; it’s like a hyperlinked notebook.

You can make the pages look nice; since I’m not an .html wiz, I don’t. Except for the fonts. It’s a way of keeping the information I need in a form I can easily revise and add information to, without having a million smaller documents.

I don’t think there’s a PC version of VoodooPad, but I’d be really surprised if there wasn’t a similar application available for Windows.

——

I have the Oxford English Dictionary as my main dictionary. No, it wasn’t cheap – but I made humongous puppy dog eyes at everyone in my family at Christmas time. I really like the OED; it’s very comprehensive, and I find it fascinating to look at the first (known) use of various English words.

The port is not a pretty port. It confounds the operating system by ignoring most of the basic rules that otherwise govern application interfaces. The review I’ve linked I linked because it’s hysterically funny.

But to be perfectly fair, the PC port is equally horrible, and also ignores Windows paradigms. You don’t buy the OED because you expect it to be pretty, or well-behaved.

—–

Although it doesn’t directly apply to writing, I use DevonThink as a general aggregator/database, as well. I clip web-pages, throw in .docs and .pdfs, and keep receipts. Again, I’m not a poweruser, and while mail can be archived in Devonthink, I don’t because I can’t stand the messy way it looks. Devonthink has a great search engine, as well, so all the bits and pieces of on-the-fly “that might be useful” web pages or emails that come my way get tossed into the in-box. It’s the equivalent of the shoe-box for the pre-computer age. There are very flexible ways of arranging the data: in folders, with tags, in separate databases with clones (business, writing, home).

Not everyone is going to love this, but it means I have things in one place instead of all over the drive. If you don’t want or need multiple databases, there are similar apps that people love: Yojimbo, by Barebones, has a really lovely interface, and it’s very intuitive; Notebook by Circus Ponies, which allows the same clipping and pasting of any information (they have better integration with the overall contextual menus than Devonthink), but contains it in a “Notebook”, a visual, literal scrapbook.

I tried them all, which is why I mention them — Devonthink is, imho, the ugliest. But it does a few things the others don’t.

I’m certain there must be PC equivalents.

——

I want to put in a plug for software that’s in beta at the moment, even if I’m not up and running at 100%: Aeon Timeline. Aeon Timeline is timeline software, yes – but it does a few things that are incredibly useful. Entities are defined as character, places, etc. When a character first appears in a time-line event, you can set the characters age at that time — and every time the character appears on the time line, his or her age will be noted. This is helpful when you’ve flubbed ages because you’re writing at 4:40 in the morning. You can set locations and characters and look at all events on the timeline that involve them, as well; you can have multiple characters marked for the same events. You can tag all entries and search on or show tagged entries.

If I did not have 11 books worth of time-line events, I’d be using this now, because it also allows you to define your own calendar year – with month names, day lengths, etc. So for those whose fantasy calendars don’t precisely match our own, it’s ideal. When I have time, I add more of the timeline on flat paper to the program; if I’d had this years ago, would have added events as they occurred, and I would have loved it like a crazy person.

State of the Writer, May 2011 edition

I’ve been absent, and mostly quiet. I noticed this year that I am almost always absent during the early months of the year, and usually for at least the last one; I’m not sure if this is in response to the lessening of the sunlight, because I’ve never actually valued sunlight all that much.

I have been working, though. I’ve just finished the last-but-one stage of Cast in Ruin, which is a review of the copy-edited manuscript; the last stage is the review of the Harlequin version of page proofs, which shouldn’t be for a month or two. I’m working on final revisions of Skirmish now. I also realized that the 50,000 words of Touch as it existed weren’t the right 50,000 words (the short version: at 50k words, I suddenly realized that the book as it’s written is written from the wrong viewpoint character; the right viewpoint character was not at all obvious to me until that point), and I’ve set them aside for now, to concentrate on Cast in Peril (as it is now called). I submitted one new novella, Anne, to Russell Davis’ Courts of the Fey.

You’ll note, in that list, that new writing is not perhaps the order of the day. Or month. I wrote many, many pages of War, and jettisoned them. I finally have a prologue, many, many pages later, that I’m happy with. The West novels generally cause me grief at the very beginning because while I’m certain of characters & place, I’m not always certain which is the right viewpoint–and sometimes writing the beginning makes me realize that the certainty of characters and place was perhaps misplaced. I’m looking, as I write, for the moment when the book snaps into focus and the words are absolutely the right beginning for the book. I now have the right beginning for the book.

Last, but not least, I’ve been figuring out the formats for epubs. Many of my short stories were written for anthologies that are no longer in print, and I’ve been considering re-releasing them in kindle/ebook format. The research into this has reminded me of how little I wanted to be a publisher or an editor when I first started writing; there’s some need for each separate story–if they’re sold separately–to have an individual cover, and I lack, among other things, any artistic talent whatsoever. There’s some excitement at the idea of putting these stories where people can actually read them, though.

The books are trickier. A number of my writer friends are beginning to put their shorter and out-of-print works up at various ebook sites via Smashwords. Smashwords, however, requires that the publisher/author own all of the electronic rights. And with the exception of the short fiction, I don’t.

DAW owns the North American rights to ebooks for all of my DAW titles, but the earlier paper books are lost in the backlog of all of their previous backlist, awaiting conversion. DAW does not own the rest of the world English rights, and I am strongly considering making the backlist of at least the current three books available on amazon.co.uk — but each book is the work of about two full-time weeks, because the manuscript formats I do have are absent any of the later copy-edits and proofing, and they would have to be checked against the book. I also, as mentioned above, don’t have anything approximating cover art, and as an artist, I’m a good writer.

For the Luna Sagara books, all ebook rights are owned by the publisher for all markets–I have no say at all in the timing or the production of their arrival in their various constituencies. Unlike every other short I’ve written, the Luna novella for Harvest Moon, is also entirely under the purview of HLQ for the duration.

So at the moment I’m going over the short fiction, and I have a question: I was considering put up a collection–the one that would have been published by MeishaMerlin, had their doors remained open. That one contained all of the extant West-related shorts, as well as a few others. Someone pointed out that my readers are likely to have some of those stories, and it might make more sense to offer them separately.

Offering them separately would take more time, because of the aforementioned necessary covers.

Any thoughts?

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