Book-buying Habits and the Cold Snap

Salem is frozen. A cold snap from Canada has swept through the Willamette Valley, dropping temperatures below freezing, and gracing the trees with a heavy weight of ice. In fact, the tree outside my apartment sacrificed a few of its limbs to the ice, blocking off my parking space last night.
Frozen tree frozen leaves

Add to it power outages all over town, including my place, and I’m sitting at Starbucks a little earlier than usual.

In my morning perusal of WordPress, I read something having to do with the whole Amazon/Hachette thing. The blogger said some things about cheaper books are good for everyone, and said or implied (I can’t remember now) that everyone uses Amazon to buy books.

Well, after careful reflection, I realized that I have never bought a book through Amazon. I’ve never bought an Ebook, or a normal book through Amazon. I’ve bought movies and music, but not books. In fact, excluding textbooks, I’ve never bought a book online.

This isn’t something I’ve consciously done. I don’t have some personal decree that I shall never purchase fiction on the internet. But, when I lived in Arizona there was a beautiful place called Bookman’s Media Exchange, and I would buy every book I could there. If what I was looking for didn’t live on their shelves, I could visit three Barnes and Nobles along my commute.

In Salem it’s not quite as convenient, but it’s a lot more fun. For instance, I recently tried to hunt down a copy of Stupid & Contagious. There isn’t a single big chain bookstore in town. In fact, the nearest Barnes and Noble is in Eugene, 45 minutes to the south. So I hunted through my favorite store, Escape Fiction, but they didn’t have a copy. I went to Book Bin East, but they didn’t have it either. So, I called their downtown location, and found that they didn’t have a copy either. But, their Corvallis location did, and they could have it shipped to the downtown location at no extra cost. So, three days and $6.50 later, I’ve finally got the book.

But, even through all the searching, I never once considered just buying it offline. It’s not a marketplace I consider when thinking about books. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but the bookstore atmosphere, and the thrill of the hunt are way more important to me than scoring a book for under a buck.

Hell, Escape Fiction sells all their used paperbacks for $2, and hardbacks at half the cover price. So, I get to hunt through an entire warehouse stacked to the ceiling with books, and then have a conversation with the cashier about my purchase, upcoming releases and get recommendations.

And I’m sorry, but a recommendation from the bookshop owner will always mean more to me than some randomly generated list on Amazon or GoodReads.

Plus, at least in Salem, there’s a healthy bookshop community. When I went to see Brent Weeks I saw the owners of Escape Fiction, and they recognized me. We didn’t get chatty or anything, but a small wave and a head nod was all that we really needed.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that your local bookshop, though technically more expensive than the pocket change you can spend on books online, offers books at low prices as well as a sense of community. They help bring author and book events to your town, and if you can’t be bothered to spend a buck or two more in order to keep that alive, then I’m sorry.

Anyway, that rant is concluded, for now. I’ve talked up Salem’s Indie Bookshops (it’s only bookshops) before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again before long.

I’ve been kicking ass at school, and only have a couple things to do today. Write a discussion post, reply to a couple from Wednesday, and take a reading quiz. That should all be done before noon. That leaves me with three hours of free time!

Since Hunting Storm is finished and turned in, I have a couple options for this afternoon. I can continue reading Stupid & Contagious, work on chapter five of Jordinn’s Story, or pick up the edits on Vessels.

Now, I picked up Stupid & Contagious on Wednesday, and I’m already on page 178/317. I have until Wednesday to finish it, and I’m comfortable with the progress I’ve made. Plus, I have about 50 minutes of reading time on my breaks at work.

I’ve stewed on chapter 5 for a while now, and I have some great ideas about how to move it forward. Plus, doing some of my own writing would be nice.

I’ve fallen WAY behind in my editing. I think I’m intimidated by the sheer amount of work the first draft presents. And, though I enjoy editing in general, editing anything longer than 20 pages is just rough. But, I don’t want to give up on it, and I won’t. Also, it’s fairly easy to drop and pick back up, which my current time constraints sort of requires.

So, we’ll see how I feel after homework is finished. But, I’m thinking I’ll be editing later today.

Catch ya later, Blogland!

BZ

Writing in a Vacuum

I want to use today’s post to talk about something important, that I think a lot of writers forget.

So, I’ve been talking about Caladria a ton, I know. And if you’re sick of hearing about it, I’m sorry. But, it’s not going to stop anytime soon, so buckle up. I’ve only been a member of this project for about a month now, but I’ve learned so much. And it’s just a hint of the lessons and experiences available to me.

When we envision writers, we usually have a very detailed image. The lone person, sitting at a paper-strewn desk, staring off into space as they imagine worlds and characters, dust from the stuffed bookshelves floating in the ray of sunlight from the single window. The lone person. We have come to expect that writing is a solitary act. That creation demands solitude.
stephen-king-writingAnne Rice writing

And sometimes it does.

I’ve spent the better part of three years writing in a vacuum. I’ve written two manuscripts, and the only person to see even a word of them is my mother. And for first drafts, I think that’s all right. But, edits on Vessels have ground to a halt, even though the time I spend on them is really productive. And for the life of me, I can’t seem to devote time to finishing them.

Last year, I seriously considered attempting NaNoWriMo. I signed up, and joined my local chapter here in Salem. And then, in my post-Vessels haze, wrote a whopping 2,000 words of Cards. I then shelved it until the following February. But, during those 2,000 words I joined my fellow WriMos on Facebook, and they keep the writing conversation alive year round.

Now, in the heat of this NaNo, the page is constantly posting. Word Wars, prompts, and talks of starting a non-NaNo writing group.

Then this morning I received an email from the Caladria staff, a newsletter for the authors, that singled me out as the “All-Star Performer” of the month. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but they put my name out there, and linked to my blog. They did this because I’ve been talking about Caladria non-stop, and because I turned in Hunting Storm, and they loved it!

Which brings me back to my point about solitude. It’s not wrong to need time alone to get work done. But, you can’t write in a vacuum forever. You need the support and encouragement of others to keep you going. And, as much as people (co-workers, family, friends) ask after my writing, they don’t want to know the details. Even if they’re readers, they don’t really want to know the minutia of the creative process.

You need other writers. Even if it’s just once in a while.

Someone else who has some insight into this world of Collaborative Fiction is Andrew Knighton. If you click his name, it’ll take you to his post on the subject. Also, you really should add him to your reading list, seeing as he’s wonderful.

And since I’m linking to things, Caladria has just launched its Blog! Click on that bad boy if writing fantasy in an ever growing world appeals to you. Or if you just want to keep abreast of all the happenings as this project moves forward. You should also follow us on Twitter @Caladria1.

Anyway, Hunting Storm is done. I turned it in late Monday night, and received really enthusiastic feedback Tuesday morning. I haven’t gone back to read it myself, simply because I don’t have time, but I remember being really pleased with myself. It’s nice to know that my instincts about my work are good. I liked the piece, and had impressed myself, as well as my “Editor”.

So, now that there’s no pressing deadline, I can focus on school even more. Yay. Sarcasm. But, I’m doing well on that front. I went from an 85 in my French class to a 92, and I’m still killing my Short Story class. Speaking of which, I’ll update my reading page today.

Anyway, I’m falling behind on homework, so I’ve got to get going.

Blogland, have a great day! See you soon!

BZ

Endings, Interstellar, and Lunch

It’s been a long day already. Woke up at 9, finished a day’s worth of French homework and took a chapter test before noon. Just finished my Short Story class assignments, and it’s 2:30. Now I have three and half hours before I have to work.

I’ve had a cup of raspberry yogurt and a vanilla latte. My stomach isn’t pleased. But I can’t decide what to eat. Nothing sounds good enough to warrant leaving my cozy set up at Sbux, but nothing available here sounds good either.

So, today I want to finish Hunting Storm. Aside from lunch, that’s priority number one. If that goes well, then I’ll work on chapter five of Jordinn’s Story. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, and I never quite have time to get to it. But now that this short story is almost over, I should have a couple hours a day to chisel away at it.

I’ve been reading The Star Scroll, though slowly since I don’t have a lot of free time. I should hear from The Book Bin either today or tomorrow, so hopefully I can get started on Stupid & Contagious. Kayla, the supposed non-reader, was the first to finish the book and she liked it! So, as far as I’m concerned, the book club is already a success.

What else is going on? Oh! Trevor and I saw Interstellar over the weekend, and though it is a touch slow in parts, I really loved it. The character development is great! The score was amazing, as well as the cinematography. Matthew McConaughey was really great, and brought me to tears several times. And I’m not a fan of his in general. If you’re looking for something action packed, you might be disappointed. There’s action, but this is about story more than special effects. It’s about characters and how time and distance affects relationships. Although, the special effects are spectacular.

Trevor and I are finally getting over the last dredges of this weird flu/cold thing we have going on. Aside from a persistent cough we’re back to normal.

Anyway, there’s an update for you. I have a bit of writing to do today, and my lunch just arrived. Jimmy John’s ordered online. Pretty awesome.

Have a good Monday Blogland!

BZ

N7 Daydreams and a Change in Perception

It’s Saturday, my day off, and I’m sitting here, awake before 9. So much for sleeping in. I think I might still be battling that flu, but I’m feeling much better.

Anyway, yesterday was N7 day. For those of you not quite on my level of nerd-dom, that’s a Mass Effect reference. N7 is a special ops rank for the Systems Alliance (the Earth’s military), of which the lead character  Commander Shepherd was a member. So, us super nerds get excited when November 7th rolls around. And with good reason.

Bioware has made a habit of announcing/revealing awesome things on N7 day. There were rumors floating around the interwebs about a trilogy remaster, not unlike the Halo: Master Chief Edition. But, that was wishful thinking. While I think a remastered edition of the trilogy on Next Gen consoles is definitely a possibility, I have it pegged for a Holiday release sometime in the future, probably the season before the new game is launched.

Speaking of new game, that’s what they showed us. Ok, not any actual gameplay, because everyone knows they’re nowhere near that stage, but they showed concepts and initial designs for some really neat architecture. And they finally talked a little, tiny bit about the game.

They keep emphasizing exploration. They want the player to be able to explore the galaxy in a really open way, but with a great story at its heart. And now I have visions of of an open-world/galaxy game, where you can land on a planet and just explore and see what you find.

Like Skyrim, but with aliens and space ships and a story that drives you to play. And who wouldn’t want that?

So, as is often the case when I think about Mass Effect, I daydream about being a game writer. So, during my morning perusal of the internet, I looked up some articles on tips to becoming a game writer. And, though most of it is vague and highly dependent on circumstances, I learned some valuable info.

For instance, I need to get more comfortable with computers. Like beyond the basic functions of Word and the internet. I should take a basic design class, and get myself at least comfortable with the terminology, if not downright familiar. I need to play more games, and not just RPGs and Bioware games, because the odds are I’m not going to land that dream job right out of the gate. I need to prepare myself to write for any type of game, even if it’s just to get the experience.

Also, I should try my hand at making a game, or joining in with folks who are. A great suggestion I read was to inquire after college students, who may be working on a game and in need of a writer.

And of course, write, write, write. And write some more.

So far I’ve been really proud of my achievements in the last two-ish years. I’ve written two novels, started a third, and am now working on a really cool collaborative world, where the writing helps build the world as well as dictate its history. And I think working on Caladria is a definite step in the right direction.

Caladria will show that I can work within deadlines, can accept and respond to feedback, as well as make necessitated changes to a piece of work. It will show that I can and do work well in a collaborative setting, that I’m communicative and helpful. And that I can do all of that while working full time and going to school full time. While still maintaining a smidgen of a personal life.

And most of my sanity.

But, I was sitting in my living room, just finished reading and took a moment to reflect on my work from the last few years. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m proud of it. I’ve edited three short stories for publication, and found a home for them all. I’ve written two novels, and am half way through the first round of edits on one of them. I have a third manuscript under way. These are major achievements.

But, I broke down the math, the word count over time, and I was pretty disappointed.

It took roughly 15 months to write both Vessels and Cards. I divided that total word count by that time, and I was only writing an average of 7,500 words a month! That’s terrible! I can and should be writing so much more than that.

And for a brief moment, I was upset. Downtrodden. I’d thought I was doing so well, had been so driven and productive. What was I thinking?

Then I realized that what had happened was I had a change in perception. There was a time when 7,500 words a month seemed impossible to me. A time when I was convinced I’d never be able to write a full length novel. That was only two years ago. Now I know I can write novels, and that I can write entire chapters in one sitting. I took a short story assignment with a minimum required word count of 3,000 words, and I thought, “I can bust that out in a couple of days.”

And so far I’m right.

My session with Hunting Storm yesterday added another 1,000 words, bringing it to 2,074 words. I start work late Monday, and though I have a French exam, and a bit of homework for English, I expect to finish the rough draft that afternoon. I’ll do some basic edits, looking for any typos or spelling errors, and checking clarity before I send it off to my content editor.

It sounds so official. And I guess it is.

I want to leave this random post on an inquisitive note. Bioware announced and introduced the lead team members working on the new Mass Effect game, and not one of them is a woman. I’m not getting all aggressive and wound up about it, but I wonder if there are any women on the writing team?

If not, I want to change that.

Have a good weekend Blogland! See you Monday.

BZ

Midterms, Cheat Reads, and Playlists

So, last night was dumb.

The writing portion of yesterday was great! I wrote 1,097 words for the Caladria short story, and I’m really impressed with it so far. Hopefully it’s what they’re looking for.

But, by the time I wrapped up and put my apron on, I definitely had a low-grade fever. I was freezing all night, no matter how many layers I put on. Add to it my stomach’s staunch aversion to any sustenance, and my night took a down turn.

But, I was rescued by an awesome co-worker who came in to finish my shift. I went home and passed out. This morning I’m feeling much improved, though I have a migraine threatening behind my left eye. But, I can deal with that much better than nausea.

So, today’s plan. I have to take my Short Story class mid-term today, which I’m going to do as soon as I post this. Then I’m going to put more work into the Caladria short story. I’m really excited to see how it comes out. I don’t know if I’m in love with it because it’s a return to writing, or because it’s actually that good, but I’m completely enamored with it. If I’m focused, and the words flow, I might finish it today. If not, then I’ll finish it Monday.

I still haven’t bought Stupid & Contagious, because none of the local bookstores have it in stock. I called The Book Bin today, and they’re shipping a used copy from Corvallis, which should be in early next week. Which means I have no book until then, which we all know is just unacceptable.

So, I’m starting The Star Scroll today, the second book in the Dragon Prince trilogy. I am super stoked to continue this journey with Rohan and Sioned, even if it’s a little bit of cheating on my part. But, it’ll only take me about a week to read through and prep discussion questions for Stupid & Contagious, so it’ll be fine.

star scroll vs. 293027

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Also, while I was brushing my teeth, I had a breakthrough in my dreaded chapter 5 of Jordinn’s Story. I think I’ve found a way to add a fresh spin to that scene I’ve written so many times, and it’s just enough to breathe some life into my personal writing.

Suddenly I have even less time to spend with friends and family! And, that’s OK. I’ll see them all during the holidays.

So, I think I’ve talked about this before, but music is incredibly important to my writing. I’ve seen quite a few blog posts and heated discussions about what kind of music is best for writing, and it’s such a circular thing. Everyone is different. Everyone’s writing habits are different. What works for one won’t work for another.

But, I create playlists based on the tone and content of the story I’m writing. Jordinn’s Story is the largest playlist I’ve made to date, which makes sense since it’s the largest project I’ve ever worked on. The playlist for the Caladria story, currently titled Hunting Storm, is the shortest playlist I’ve made. Which again is logical, since this story is the shortest I’ve written since I’ve started making playlists. Since it’s so short, I’ll give you guys a look at it.

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 12.46.11 PM

I’d like to point out that, generally, I’m not a big fan of female lead singers. There’s a select few I enjoy, but even then, I don’t listen to them a lot. But, nearly half of these tracks features a female lead. I wonder if it’s because the only characters in this story are female? Interesting.

What do you guys think? Do you prefer music to write by? If so, how does the music reflect your work?

See you guys Monday!

BZ

Reading, French, and a Little Diversion

There are some cool things happening, Blogland!

Besides the ever present workload of school, I’ve been busy at work, with a goal of earning a promotion. Probably not before Holiday, but I’m keeping my eye on the proverbial prize regardless. I’ve been reading a ton, and finally finished Dragon Prince. Man, what a roller coaster that was. Typically I’d be half way through the second book by now, but I have got to get cracking on my book club book! We meet in two weeks, and I haven’t even bought the damn thing yet!

Cutting it a little close for comfort there. I’ve still got my novel mewling in the back of my head, waiting for its turn. I’ve got a manuscript to look over. My own editing dreams still fighting to survive, and now, I’ve volunteered to write a short story for Caladria.

And, despite all the rest of me crying out that I don’t have the time, I’m super excited to get started. I have a bit of research to do first, because I don’t know nearly enough about the world and its creatures to write a convincing story yet. But, I’ve got the scenes planned out in my head. And by planned out I mean they’re flickering images of awesomeness waiting to get typed out. For the next week or so I’ll be virtual-elbows deep in world maps, and culture lore, in an effort to understand my two characters.

To the WriMos out there, good job getting as far as you have! And don’t you dare give up now!

What else? I feel like I always forget something….

Check out the “What I’m Reading” page, because it’s changing frequently! 12 short stories a week, plus my own pleasure reading is taking up a ton of my time!

Also, if you’re a gamer, check out Shadow of Mordor. It’s very entertaining, and the story so far is decent. But, I’m still waiting for Dragon Age: Inquisition to release. Expect to hear very little from me once it does!

I just wanted to post a quick update! As soon as I have a better feel for my project with Caladria, I’ll talk it up a bit more!

Thanks for hanging with me,

BZ

Busy Season

It’s that time of year. The lackadaisical whimsy of summer is gone replaced by the urgency of fall. Suddenly my carefree days are filled with To-Do lists; find costume pieces, carve a pumpkin, plan and prep for Friendsgiving, coordinate family holiday plans, school, busy season at Sbux, NaNoWriMo, buy gifts for Christmas.

It goes on and on.

Luckily my costume for Friday is complete. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but I’m part of a five member group costume, that’s going to be amazing! I promise loads of pictures.

Trevor’s birthday is Monday, and he just bought himself Shadow of Mordor, so now I have no clue what to get him… That brat buys everything he wants, leaving me struggling to come up with a good gift, year after year. But, it kind of adds to the fun of hunting down the perfect gift.

Today is Tip Tuesday.
tips

If you’ve ever worked for Starbucks, you know that this is the day when the last week’s tips are divvied out. This week’s tips are going toward laundry money, Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane, and Patrick Rothfuss’s new book. I want to buy Prince Lestat, but it’s going to be pricey in hardback, so it’ll have to wait.

NaNoWriMo starts Saturday. For those of you new to this business, that’s Nation Novel Writer’s Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words by December 1st. I’ve yet to complete it, and I’m not going to this year either. I simply have way too much on my plate, which is a shame, because the Salem Chapter is active and full of awesome people.

nanowrimo-logo

School’s plugging along, and my English class continues to entertain me. My French class has become a source of frustration thanks to technical difficulties during my chapter exam last night, but my grade should survive.

I still entertain thoughts of working on Jordinn’s Story, but I’m starting to think it’ll have to wait until the holiday break from school. Even if that’s the case, it’s an entire month of free time, so I should get a lot done.

I finally spent about an hour adventuring through Caladria last night, and feel comfortable sharing a few details with you guys. So, here’s the concept: Caladria is a collaborative world of fiction. Some awesome people got together to create a living world, using software I’ve never seen before. So, in this fictional world, there are different species and continents, and oceans. It has a living timeline, that grows and changes based on the fiction we write. Last night’s wanderings found me exploring the interactive world map, that allows me to scroll across oceans and mountains and villages. Some have names, some are as yet undiscovered.

You’re wondering how this works, right?

The lovely folks who thought up this radical idea have invited volunteers, of which I am one. They send us info via newsletters, and invite us and guide us through exploring and learning the world. When they’re ready for content, they email story outlines. So, the story has a title, there’s a brief synopsis, followed by the desired genre and word count. They don’t demand a certain ending, or even limit characters. We are allowed to create as much as we deem necessary for the story.

As volunteers, we pick our top three story choices, and they email us back when they’ve doled out the outlines. Then, we get about two months to plug away at the story. We submit to them by the due date, there’s back and forth about any necessary editing, and then it’s out of the writer’s hands.

Where does it go?

The lovely folks working behind the scenes will be formatting and prepping the stories for an E-Zine, currently titled Fab Fables, which will be available for purchase through Amazon. I don’t know when it will be available, but I believe sometime after the New Year.

And why am I doing this?

Well, aside from the completely incredible opportunity to work on something I’ve never seen done before, I could potentially see income from my endeavors. If one of my stories makes the cut for the issue of the E-Zine, I will see a portion of the sales. I have no idea how it gets doled out, or what the percentage is, and it doesn’t really matter to me. The fact that any income is possible is exciting enough.

Plus, if this thing takes off, I will be able to say I was there from the get go. Another feather in my proverbial cap. And, I imagine working on Caladria will be quite similar to working on a large scale video game. I’ve always thought writing video games would be amazing, and I want any sort of experience that can help me toward that goal.

BioWare, here I come! <————- That’s dream status right there.

On another note, a reader messaged me via my Facebook page last night. Surprised the hell out of me. He read my post from yesterday, and noticed my interest in editing. He wondered if I might be willing to work with him in editing his fantasy novel. And he asked how much I would charge.

Now, I’m flattered, really. But, I have zero editing experience outside of my own work and school papers. I would feel like a real schmuck if I took this guy’s money. But, I offered to take a look at his book anyway, and give him feedback. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes will make all the difference.

And hey, maybe I’ll be in the Acknowledgements!

And, you know, I’d still like to edit Vessels some time this year.

So, in addition to all the stuff I have with school and work I have some really cool writerly things happening too. Anyway, I have Spring classes to register for! See you later, Blogland!

BZ