Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Like Grains of Sand

It's said that a few grains of falling sand can set an entire dune face into motion, even create a catastrophic slide. And similarly, a relatively small change in a novel can have enormous effect as they percolate through the storyline.

As I've been rewriting The Steel Breeds True, I did a little tweaking related to the majors of several of the key characters. At the time I didn't think it would have much impact -- but as I've been working on it, I keep discovering places where I have to rethink whole scenes, including the rationale for those characters to be present at a given place.

As a result, it's turning out to be a lot harder to rewrite this thing than I'd expected. I'm starting to wonder how much longer it's going to take.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fear Is the Mind-Killer

Years ago, when I first discovered Dune, I was blown away by the intricacy of the worldbuilding and the depth of the concepts. In many ways, it completely rearranged my worldview, to the point that I began seeing my everyday life in a completely different light.

And recently I had an experience that made me recall Dune and the ideas I discovered in it. I was working on a short story for a contest, on a tight deadline, and the words didn't want to come. It was almost as if the story were fighting me. I tried the usual tricks -- writing by hand, jumping ahead to the next scene, etc. and while I'd get progress for a while, soon things would jam up again and I'd be staring at page or screen, unable to get things flowing.

Finally I was down to the last hour before the deadline, and I had a couple of scenes that I just couldn't get to write. It was like the creative part of my mind had frozen up solid.

And then I realized I was literally afraid to write them because they touched on a Sensitive Subject. Not the SJW issues that the notorious Requires Only That You Hate used to reduce writers to gibbering wrecks at the keyboard, but I was still afraid that they would bring down the terrible hammer of disapproval, the accusation that I hadn't just written badly, but also revealed myself as a Horrible Person.

The story's set in an alternate timeline in which the Apollo 1 astronauts got out in the nick of time, and although they bore the scars of their narrow escape for the rest of their lives, they got to have lives. It's now several decades later, and the Second Mars Expedition is returning to the Earth-Moon system to spend their quarantine period at the moonbase -- and the mission commander is Roger Chaffee. And deep in my gut, I was afraid that someone would see that as gratuitous, a thoughtless slap on an old wound, that by showing the world in which he survived as one with a more advanced space program, I was saying that he died for nothing, and therefore I was a horrible, thoughtless person.

And once I realized that was what I was afraid of, I faced it squarely, told myself that nobody had ever said anything of that effect about A Separate War or Holovideo. I'd even made combox posts on various blogs to the same effect without anybody bringing down the hammer of condemnation, so surely I wouldn't get attacked for a story. And then I was finally able to write those scenes and get the story in. Not my best effort, but in by the deadline.

So yes, fear is the mind-killer.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Working with Old Materials

Right now I'm looking at very similar problems with both of my current novel projects -- in both cases, I'm working with old materials. I'm trying to write Holovideo from an outline I wrote in the early 1990's, an outline in which I assumed a lot of stuff that never got onto the page, but have since forgotten. And while the current text of The Steel Breeds True was written in 2001, right after the 9/11 attack, the storyline goes back even further, all the way to the second half of the 1980's. As a result, there are a lot of unexamined assumptions in that text, things that I carried over from the earliest versions of the story without really thinking about.

So while on the surface it might seem like most of my work has already been done for me, there are ways in which it's actually almost harder to work with this old material than writing afresh might be. I'm stuck on Holovideo because I reached a chapter in the outline in which there's just no there there, nothing to unpack into text. And The Steel Breeds True is turning into a real uphill struggle because of the continual fear that the whole story is rubbish and there's just no salvaging it, and if I do put it up on KDP, everybody will laugh and point.

Which means that I'm having to put a lot of emotional energy into overcoming my own doubts and keeping pushing forward. As a result, I really fell behind when I was having to deal with two back-to-back conventions and all the bookwork that comes with selling at them.

However, we're now out of convention season, and as I'm switching our sales to online mode for the winter, I'm hoping that I can get some serious forward motion happening on both fronts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


If you've been following Holovideo on JukePop Serials, you may be wondering when the next chapter will be coming out. It's going to be a while, because there's a problem. I'm stuck.

It's not the kind of stuck where the writer has no idea what happens next. I have a complete chapter by chapter outline. The problem is this: it's twenty years old. I originally started writing Holovideo way back in the early 1990's, when I was working at a community college and a local collector brought in a bunch of memorabilia from the early days of television. That got me to researching, which led to a number of story ideas, Holovideo among them. I wrote out a complete outline and the first several chapters, then lost interest and moved to another project.

So when I decided earlier this year to pull it back out and serialize it at JukePop, I thought it would be an easy task. After all, it was a pretty straightforward story, so all I'd need to do was unpack each chapter from the outline into a developed text, polish it, and post. What troubles I did have in keeping to my publishing schedule mostly involved external crises -- a death in the family, conflict over the estate, business activities taking over my schedule and leaving no writing time.

Once I got those out of the way, I thought I'd be back on track. Chapters seemed to be flowing reasonably well, even if I didn't seem to be getting all that many +votes. And then I started in on Chapter 20, and looked at the outline and realized there was just no way I could get a complete chapter out of what was there. Obviously my twenty-something self had an idea there, but my forty-something mind could no longer get into that headspace.

Which means that I need to take some serious time to re-reading the existing nineteen chapters, figuring out where the story needs to go, and reconstructing the outline to get me to that end. And that means some serious unbroken thinking time, which has been scarce on the ground of late.

I'm hoping that once I get these last two conventions of the year done, I may finally get the time I need. It may depend on what the Thanksgiving holiday is like, but with a close family member in precarious health, I may end up spending a lot more time visiting with them than writing. So I'm not guaranteeing anything in terms of schedule, just that somehow I am going to see this novel through to the end. It may take me a month or two to fight my way through to the end, but I'm not going to just leave it dangling forever.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

When It All Looks Like Crap

Right now I'm at the worst part of the revision process with The Steel Breeds True -- the point where everything looks like crap, and I'm starting to wonder if the story itself can even be salvaged, or if it would be better to just toss the whole thing and try something else. That dreadful moment when I fear that if I do offer it for sale, everyone will laugh and point.

It's a longstanding problem for authors. I remember several of my favorite authors telling about coming to a point in the writing of a novel when they felt as if it was the biggest pile of crap ever gathered in a single place, and were seriously considering giving up on it. Yet they all persevered and often the novel in question turned out far better than they feared -- in some cases, even won awards (back when awards still meant something, and hadn't been politicized into worthlessness).

But all of those writers had one thing going for them -- the knowledge that their work would receive editorial oversight. If it really was as bad as they feared, if it were so stupid and badly written that everyone would laugh and point, it would never reach the shelves. The editor would either reject it outright or require substantial revisions to bring the work up to a presentable standard.

However, with the rise of indie publishing, authors who are going that route don't have the safety net of editorial oversight. They can hire an editor, but that requires money, and when you're first starting out, the availability of the necessary funds isn't a given. And of course you have to be sure that the freelance editor you've hired is familiar with the genre you're publishing in, and is willing to understand your vision of the work you're trying to write rather than imposing their tastes and views of what it ought to be. You do have the option of firing them if it doesn't work out, but there's always the risk that you won't realize it isn't working out, especially if they're pleasant to work with -- after all, this person is an expert, so there's a tendency to defer to their opinions even when your gut is telling you that their advice is taking the novel in the wrong direction.

If hiring a freelance professional editor simply isn't in your budget, there's also the option of getting it looked over on a volunteer basis by a trusted beta reader. You want someone you can rely upon to have a good eye for problems, but not to try to take the story over and force it into their mold. This person doesn't have to be a writer -- sometimes a person who is just a very avid reader can make the best beta reader, for the simple reason that they don't try to rewrite the story for you, but instead will be able to identify the places where they lost interest or became confused.

The worst situation is when you can't afford to hire a professional and can't seem to drum up any interest in being a beta reader among the people you feel comfortable in approaching about it. Because then you really have only two options -- muddle through as best as you can and trust your gut as to when it's ready to put up, or put it away. And there are arguments in favor of both. The argument for the first route is that at least you put up something, and if it gets a bad reception on the market, you always have the option of either rewriting it and republishing it (something which is particularly easy with e-books). The argument for the second is that putting up a bad book has a very real potential to damage your brand in a way that can be very hard to overcome with future books.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Do the Anti-Amazon Voices Have a Point

Over at Mad Genius Club, Peter Grant has an essay on whether there is some truth in the complaints against Amazon by various publishers and authors' groups.

We’ve seen the fun and games between Amazon and the Big 5 publishers, most notably Hachette.  The ‘old guard’ of the publishing world derides Amazon as a ‘monopolistic’ enterprise (which is clearly not true, as anyone with a dictionary can tell you after looking up the definition of the word ‘monopoly’).  The pro-Amazon lobby (of which I count myself a member) derides the Big 5 and their hangers-on (agents, ancillary businesses and all those who are on the ‘other side’) as dinosaurs opposed to progress.

Unfortunately, it’s not that  simple.  There really are serious concerns over where our current technological revolution is taking us, particularly as regards entertainment.  Books are only one part – and a relatively small part – of the entertainment spectrum.  Movies, games, music, theater, etc. also fall under the ‘entertainment’ umbrella.  We have to accept that in this day and age, where digital access to any and all of these elements is a mouse click away, we’re competing for the same audience and the same dollar.

 One of  his most salient points is that Amazon views authors as essentially interchangeable widgets, all effectively replaceable. There's no need to support authors or build their success. Just sign them up, let them upload their books, and collect the fees as the sales roll in. If an author doesn't see any success and decides to pack it in, no problem. There's plenty more where that one came from.

While this is technically true, it overlooks the fact that the support a publisher gave an author comes at a price. Most obviously, the publisher tied up your rights to that book, and depending on how options clauses were drafted, any number of future books you might write. You were under the authority of the editor and expected to treat that editor as right by definition, even when wrong. And while some editors might have excellent insights into your book and help you make it better, you could get stuck with a dud who didn't understand what you were trying to achieve with your book, or worse, someone trying to make you conform to a political agenda. Worst of all, your editor might leave or be fired, leaving your book and your career orphaned. And all that for a royalty that's a few percentage points of the book's sales price.

By contrast, Amazon's handling of rights is far more generous to writers, and editorial oversight is pretty much non-existent. There are a few topics that are prohibited, but most of them are pretty squicky stuff such as certain kinds of taboo sexual activities in the erotica areas. Even then, writers have often been able to get their books relisted by making relatively minor changes so the stories become edge-play rather than the actual taboos (near-incest with a step-relative rather than actual incest with a biological relative, for instance).

Of course the lack of editorial oversight means that authors are on their own to make sure that they are producing good copy, which may feel like having no safety net for some writers. However, being on your own doesn't mean you have to do it all yourself. You can pay a freelance editor for any level of editing -- continuity editing (does the story make sense? are there plot holes big enough to fly the ISS through? does characterization remain consistent throughout the story? etc), copy editing (spelling errors, grammar errors, etc), proofreading (ferreting out typos and other errors in the final copy to be presented to readers) -- or you can find a beta reader to do it on a volunteer basis, usually through a writers' group.

The most important thing is that Amazon is effectively acting more like a distributor than a publisher. In fact, many small presses and micropresses are using Amazon's CreateSpace system to produce paper copies of their books, and the Kindle program for e-books. As a result, a number of people have taken to advising that you should create your own imprint name when publishing your books, rather than having them listed as Kindle Direct Publishing in the publisher line, because it will help make your books look that much more professional.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Serializing a Novel

One of the neatest things about the digital publication revolution is the wealth of new options that are available for writers. And sometimes the new ones are in fact old ones made new again by what the Internet makes possible.

Serialization dates at least to the Victorian Era (Gilded Age here in America), a time when mass literacy meant a strong increase in the demand for recreational reading, but most of these new readers in the working class couldn't afford to buy an entire novel in one purchase. However, they could afford to buy the inexpensive broadsheet newspapers that were coming out with greater frequency as the result of the development of steam-powered rotary presses and automated typesetting. As a result, their publishers didn't limit themselves to publishing self-contained short stories, but also printed novels chapter by chapter, one per issue. It was a sort of buying the novel on the installment plan.

By the middle of the twentieth century serialization had fallen into disfavor. Part of it was an economic shift that made books more affordable, and part of it was an association of the serial with gimmicky plots and cheap cliffhangers that often turned out to be stupid tricks played on the reader to create artificial suspense.

However, the serial is making a comeback in digital form. Several well-known authors have had reasonably good success posting chapters of their forthcoming novels on their blogs, often promising a copy of the corrected final version to everyone who subscribes with a financial contribution. But as the creators of JukePop Serials note in a recent blog entry on starting a web serial, it's not necessarily a good approach for a relative unknown. If you already have an established flow of traffic, you'll get readers -- but if your blog is on one of the back roads of the Internet, you're apt to be disappointed. You can self-promote, but you've got to be careful how you go about it, because just yelling louder and louder about your blog and your wonderful novel is apt to turn people away instead of getting them excited about it.

The alternative is serializing it through a serialization platform. Since this is the creators of JukePop promoting their own platform, they're quick to tout the advantages they offer over other serialization programs, including their program to get high-performing serials into libraries and to get writers connected with publishers for other types of contracts. However, they do also provide links to several other serialization platforms (a friend of mine is having some success serializing a novel with WattPad), acknowledging that other options do exist.

Some authors even go with multiple platforms. Generally you promise exclusivity for any given novel when you sign up with a given serialization platform (yes, some authors run the same novel on multiple platforms at the same time, but they're running a serious risk of getting caught out and banned for violation of the Terms of Service), so you'll be putting different novels on different platforms. If you want to take this route, you need to ask yourself whether you are prolific enough to keep up with a reasonable schedule of new chapters for all the different novels. Letting too much time go between installments can lead to loss of reader interest, which you may not be able to regain when you publish your next installment. If you've already written one or more novels and they've been languishing in a trunk somewhere, it may not be as much of a problem as if you're going to be writing chapters pretty much as they come out, but you really do need to think about how prolific you are. If you're going to be serializing multiple novels, each on a different platform, you also need to think about how well you handle juggling multiple storylines -- will you be able to keep them separate and clear in your mind, or will material from one novel bleed over into the others to the detriment of all of them?

One thing to remember, as with all self-publishing ventures, is to keep your expectations reasonable. Yes, some authors have readers come flooding in almost as soon as they start serializing, but most authors start slow and have to build their audience over weeks and months of careful self-promoting and networking. Sometimes it can be discouraging to go for weeks with only dribbles of interest.

On most of the established platforms, you will be competing against a lot of other authors for the traffic coming through the site. I've noticed over almost a year as a JukePop author that +vote distributions seem to follow a power law or Pareto Principle pattern. That is, about 20% of the serials published on JukePop get roughly 80% of the +votes, while the remaining 80% of serials have only a small number of +votes. If you sort by number of +votes and go to the very bottom, you'll see pages and pages of serials with only two or three votes,

If you can get about 20 +votes, you can rise above a substantial number of the novels being serialized -- which is where persistence really pays off. If you have only three or four chapters posted, each new reader you acquire will give you only three or four +votes when they first discover your serial. But as you get more and more chapters posted, each new reader you gain and keep reading through all your posted chapters gives you that much more of a boost in your +vote ranking -- a boost that's always heartening to see. However, to keep those readers going, and keep them telling their friends, you're going to need to keep posting chapters on a regular basis -- which means that you need to make a regular commitment to write and post, which can be difficult if you hit one of those periods when it seems like your readership dries up and you're just not getting new +votes when you put up new chapters.

Serialization may not be for everyone. Some authors may find the prospect of needing to write a chapter every week, or every other week, or every month, just too daunting. Others may find that regular commitment just what they need to get moving. If it's the right thing for you, by all means look into it.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

NaNoWriMo Wisdom

November is National Novel Writing Month. I won't be participating, thanks to day job obligations -- two major shows, plus the need to get our online merchandise listings in the best shape possible, just doesn't leave that much time for committing to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. So I'll be working on smaller writing projects in the spaces around the sales activities, including some rewrites and finishing some projects that had gotten stalled.

However, for those of you who are undertaking the challenge of writing a novel in a month, here are some thoughts from professional writers who have experience in writing to short deadlines.

Sarah Hoyt offers a list of her favorite things to do while doing NaNoWriMo. She makes the good point that it's also important to take breaks from the writing and get away, even if only long enough to drink a cup of hot tea, or hot chocolate, rather than trying to push through for hours on end.

Kate Elliott has two posts today, one on the rules of writing and the other a meditation on the role of faith in setting forth on a major project, starting by putting fingers on keyboard.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Don't Be a Mislectorist

Over at Mad Genius Club, Cedar Sanderson has an interesting new post up about the perils of becoming contemptuous of your audience:

There’s a whole lot of mis- being thrown around the internet these days. Seems like men can’t make a move without being accused of being a misogynist, which leads to the accusers being accused of misandry… and then Mike Hoover made this word up, and I am running with it.

Mislectorist: being an author who hates (or at least dislikes, disdains, and disregards) their readers. This leads to poor behaviors on the author’s part, and support of tactics by publishers and other support staff that leaves readers out in the cold.

There are several ways we can see mislectorism manifested. This one hit the interwebs hard yesterday: a literary agent (one who is, in theory anyway, responsible for seeing that only good books make it through the gates to reach publishers and from there, readers) comparing Amazon to ISIS and proclaiming that Amazon is why writers can’t make a living. Not only is this a gross deviation from observable reality, it is a prime example of becoming a mislectorist. This fine chappie isn’t at all concerned with the readers, and what they might want, he’s only out to protect his own job and future.

Read the rest of "Mislectorist (784 words).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Too Much Polishing Ruins the Story

One of the big questions for beginning writers is just how much one should rewrite a story before sending it out. Some people will tell you to polish everything carefully and only send out your very best so that editors don't come to associate your name with sloppy writing and think you're incompetent. Others (including Robert A. Heinlein, in his famous directives for writers) say that you should never rewrite, save to editorial direction, at most doing one quick pass to correct spelling, grammar and gross errors of continuity (as in, if your character changes name, race, physical appearance or other major characteristics without a good in-story reason) so that you don't spend all your time trying to perfect one masterpiece story and never write anything else, or send anything anywhere.

This is especially true when you've just written something that's near and dear to your heart, and you really, really want to give it the best chance you can get it. Especially when most publications will give you exactly one chance with any given story (and some of them keep submission records in perpetuity -- I once got called out for resending a heavily rewritten story to a market that I'd sent it almost a decade earlier, since I'd forgotten that the market had even existed that long ago and hadn't checked my list of prior submissions thoroughly), you don't want to blow it with a stupid or careless mistake. So there's a temptation to think that if you just buckle down hard enough, you can get it right, irrespective of your skill level.

Which leads to the paradox of actually over-polishing a story to the point that you take all the life out of it and end up with a "recital piece," stiff and mannered with everything just so. Something to be admired for the effort you've put into it, but not really enjoyed.

In the current environment, this problem can be exacerbated by fear of causing inadvertent offense, of using the wrong turn of phrase or the wrong characterization or whatever, and suddenly being showered with condemnations for being racist, sexist, ableist, or whatever. So you go through and scrub it of everything that might cause offense, and in the process produce something so bland that pablum is tasty in comparison. It has no spirit because it doesn't take any risks.

Unfortunately, it's often a problem that only experience can cure -- experience that has to be won through writing lots of different stories, not endlessly polishing one's first story in hopes of getting it Just Right. And that means that a lot of stories may well be written only to bounce around until they run out of possible markets, and then vanish into a trunk to stay there forever, or until your family decides it's time to clean out the trash. Not what you want to hear about stories that have meant a great deal to you as you wrote them, full of enthusiasm for the ideas but not yet ready to execute them with the facility to tell an enjoyable story.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Talking to an Empty Room

Earlier I wrote about how obscurity and indifference are the writer's greatest enemies, especially at the beginning of one's career. Obviously, if people can't find you, you're going to have a hard time growing your audience -- and there's only so much self-promotion can do before it becomes off-putting and counter-productive. But obscurity and indifference can also be detrimental to a writer's career in a more subtle way.

Imagine that you've been asked to give a speech. When you arrive, you discover a rather unusual arrangement: the podium is brightly lit, but the rest of the room is in darkness. You're having to speak to an audience you cannot see.

Or at least you assume you have an audience you cannot see. As you proceed with your speech, you become uncomfortably aware of how quiet everyone is. No whispered comments, no little rustlings of papers as someone fidgets with their program, just silence. Maybe the rumble of the building's HVAC or other mechanical sounds, but nothing human.

And then you finish and the lights come on to reveal row after row of empty seats. And you wonder: did the announcement not go out that I was giving a speech? Did nobody consider it interesting enough to be worth their time? Or worse, were some people out there in the beginning, but found it so terrible that they tiptoed out without a sound and left me standing there talking to an empty room?

Most of us who've tried the traditional publishing route know how disheartening it is to get one after another say-nothing form rejection. But we could always comfort ourselves by noting how many stories that did get published were nothing we wanted to read. Maybe they just weren't to our tastes, or maybe they struck us as overly lit'ry or just plain badly written. But their presence in the markets we were trying to crack let us comfort ourselves with the idea that the gatekeepers really didn't have a clue about what they were doing and were picking stories by guess and by golly, and if we could just get our writing on the right editor's desk, things would start happening. And that thought enabled us to keep pushing on past rejection after rejection.

But for those of us who've decided to go indie, putting something up and seeing no evidence anybody is even interested can be particularly disheartening. We're not dealing with gatekeepers who may be flaky or beholden to clueless suits in the corner office. We're dealing directly with the reading public, and none of them are coming. It gets to the point we'd almost welcome a harsh critique for the simple reason that it means that someone actually cares. And so it becomes harder and harder to scrape together the enthusiasm to write the next story, the next chapter, the next novel. That little voice in the back of your mind starts asking whether it's time to give it up, if nobody wants to read what you're writing.

Which means that it may not take that much to rekindle one's enthusiasm -- just evidence that someone out there is reading and likes it can be enough to get the words flowing again. On JukePop Serials,  just getting a few +votes here and there have been enough for me to be able to get the words flowing on that next chapter and have something new to put up again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shadows of the Past

When I first got the idea of pulling out The Steel Breeds True and getting it ready for publication on KDP and other online e-book platforms, I thought it would need little more than a quick polish to get it into shape. Maybe a few changes here and there to bring it in line with some developments in some other novels, particularly in the relationships between some of the people in Tsar Joseph's court. And I figured it'd be good to break up some of the really long chapters for online reading. But I was pretty sure that I'd left it in decent shape when I last sent it out to a novel market in 2003.

But when I got it out and started working with it, I was astonished to find that it wasn't in nearly as good of shape as I'd remembered. The first couple of scenes in Chapter 1 weren't bad, needing only a couple of names changed. By the time I came to the third scene, I knew I was going to need to do some substantial work, and in later chapters I found whole scenes that needed to be restructured or cut altogether and summarized in some other scene.

By the time I got to the seventh chapter, I decided not to even try to plan in detail. There was a very real possibility that major changes in an earlier chapter would invalidate everything I was planning for later ones. So I decided to focus on doing the detail rewriting.

And in doing so, I realized that I was going to need to do some thinking about the deep-level concepts. The Steel Breeds True is one of my oldest novels. Although the current text dates back to the early 2000's, having been begun shortly after the September 11 attacks, I originally started writing it way back in 1995, when I was a freshman at the University of Illinois (where it's set). When I first wrote it, I thought it was going to be a short story, but it soon grew, drawing in more and more characters and goings-on around it, at least partly in response to various issues in my own life at the time.

In 1990 I finally ended up setting it aside, thinking it unsalvageable. It was partly the result of a particularly blistering critique, complete with snarky and condescending comments that seemed deliberately intended to wound rather than just to point out problems. But a big part of it was the changing world, which I thought had left it behind so thoroughly that it simply no longer had a market, and thus there was no reason to even try to do another rewrite. Better to just put it away and move on to other projects, of which I had plenty.

When the crumbling of the Soviet Union turned into full-out dissolution and the various union republics became fully sovereign states, I was certain of that judgment. Not just about the novel, but about the entire world in which it was set. Even when I wrote stories that were supposed to be part of the same continuity, I tried to minimize or conceal the connections. In the early 1990's, when I wrote Shapeshifter!, set in the middle of the Sharp Wars era, I avoided any mention of the Russian political landscape. Instead, Japan became the principal external enemy of the dictatorship that had taken over the US, a state of affairs that perfectly suited a story in which the protagonist takes the form of a World War II admiral and the antagonists are constantly making references to events he was involved in. Of course it helped that the first-person protagonist was a teen and thus not particularly aware of the world scene.

Yet it was still there at the back of my mind, even when I carefully avoided mentioning the Russian monarchy or anything that might draw awkward attention to what had become Yesterday's Future. Hardly surprising, considering that the world in which The Steel Breeds True is set was already several years old when I started writing that novel.

The Lanakhidzist Revolution timeline had its beginning when I was in junior high, when it still seemed unimaginable that the Soviet Union could fall from within. It was too strong, too well controlled by the iron fist of the Communist Party. If it were to be brought down, it would have to be by military force, which might well mean nuclear war and the post-apocalyptic future that was featured in so many books ranging from the hopeful Alas, Babylon through the grim Canticle for Liebowitz to the downright hopeless On the Beach. And through the 1980's, it was still possible for me to write it as a future history, although as Gorbachev's Perestroika progressed, it became increasingly Zeerusty. But when the Wall fell and when the Soviet Union dissolved, I could no longer imagine anybody buying it as science fiction.

When I did finally decide to pull it out and tackle it afresh as alternate history in response to an online discussion in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks (basically, the thesis that old-style Cold War novels might well have a sudden resurgence in the market, either as straight-up historical fiction or as alternate history, as comfort reading for people longing for the certainties of a faceoff between two nation-states in this uncertain new world of non-state actors carrying out attacks in secret, without allegiance or accountability), all that internal history was still bubbling under the surface. All that unconsidered stuff left over from my high-school exuberance, which was then overlaid with an only slightly more mature exuberance of my college years, particularly when I was studying Russian.

And now, as I'm pulling The Steel Breeds True out yet again, I'm seeing places where stuff established way back in high school was simply assumed as background. Now, looking back with the eyes of a middle-aged married woman, I find that a lot of it just doesn't hold together under closer examination -- yet I have no idea what should be put there in its place.

I'm finding that I have a great deal of sympathy for JRR Tolkien's struggles to put The Silmarillion into publishable form after the success of The Lord of the Rings. How could he reconcile the sometimes whimsical elements of his youthful exuberance with his new stature as the author? In his case, death cut short his dithering and the process of putting his papers into order was left to other hands, not always in a completely satisfactory fashion. Which on reflection could serve as a warning against letting the best become the enemy of the good.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Considering Strategies to Proceed

Right now I'm at a point where I need to decide how best to allocate my writing time, especially now that I'm trying to maintain some level of forward motion on my book reviewing site, my jobhunting site
and my economic awareness site. I have a number of writing projects in various states of completion, and I need to decide how to prioritize them.

I have multiple novels jockeying for my attention. I've been serializing Holovideo at JukePop Serials, and I'm rapidly closing in on the ending. My original outline from the early 1990's called for 28 chapters, but I've just combined chapters 19 and 20, and I'm looking at the possibility that several other planned chapters should be combined because there just isn't enough material in them individually to make a solid chapter. That means I may well have no more than 25 chapters, and if I do the remaining ones on a weekly basis, I'll be done with the novel by the end of the year, leaving me with the question of what (if anything) I want to serialize next.

However, interest in Holovideo has really fallen off. I'd had some good interest in September, but since the beginning of October I've posted three chapters and haven't received a single +vote on any of them. This lack of interest may be partly the result of new-chapter notifications not getting to the people who've put it on their bookshelf (I have not received a single notification for it, and neither has a friend who has it bookmarked), but it's not exactly conducive to enthusiasm about getting Chapter 20 written.

Meanwhile, I've been wanting to try out KDP and some other e-book programs that some friends have been having good success with. Rather than try to write a complete new novel from scratch, I had decided to rewrite an old novel, The Steel Breeds True, on the theory that it would be easier to spiff up something that already had a complete text.

However, I've been rather surprised to find out just how bad the existing text looks after ten years. It's going to take more than just a little surface spiffing of the text to get it into shape. A lot of the chapters need to be broken up into shorter chapters for electronic reading, and there are places where scenes need to be presented in a different order, and a few scenes may well be eliminated altogether or reduced to a quick summary at the beginning or end of another chapter.

So it's going to take a lot more time than I'd anticipated to get it done, and with all the trouble I'm having with Holovideo, I'm not able to give The Steel Breeds True nearly as much time as I'd like. So what I thought would be a quick and easy polish has turned into a stalled major reconstruction job.

Not to mention Last Moondance on Farside, which I was making such good progress on back in 2013, but then stalled on me when I needed to take care of other projects, particularly a couple of short stories for invitation-only anthologies (both of which were subsequently rejected, and I've been shopping around in hopes of finding some home for them). Chelsea Ayles and her adventures among the community at Shepardsport keep tugging at the back of my mind, wanting to be finished, but I keep feeling that my first obligation needs to be to finishing Holovideo.

And speaking of short stories interrupting novel progress, I'm working on a short story for an anthology with a deadline at the end of this month. I've got a full outline for it, and I've got it moving, but it's still time I don't have for any of the novels. And there's another, related story I want to write for the Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. That's not due until the beginning of February next year, but it just keeps tugging at the back of my mind, wanting to be told, to the point it's a distraction. So I'm wondering whether it'd be better to just give in and get it written, then hang onto it until closer to the actual deadline so I could look at it with fresh eyes and give it a really good polish.

So that's where I stand right now on my writing projects.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bad Words

It's been said that learning to write publishable fiction is a matter of getting all the bad words out of you so the good words can take their place. But what did they mean by "bad words?"

I think most of us know what comes to mind when we think of "bad words." Swear words. Cusswords. The seven words you can't say on television, and all their variations. Words dealing with the deity, with supernatural punishment, and with those messy pelvic issues of elimination and reproduction.

And yes, there are good reasons to want to keep those kinds of bad words out of our fiction, for they tend to be empty venting of anger, no more meaningful than the barking of a dog or the quacking of a duck. JRR Tolkien suggested that his orcs were far more foul-mouthed than he ever portrayed, but that such detail would appeal only to "those to whom the sordid seems strong." Herman Wouk artfully suggested the crudity of sailors' speech in the first shipboard scene in The Caine Mutiny without dropping a single f-bomb (or even specified it as the word that became like a haze in the air, although one familiar with servicemen's slang would be confident in identifying it as such). But there can be places in which one cannot elide over one or another forbidden word without weakening the scene, especially if it somehow reflects the shock or horror of a situation in a way that nothing else will do.

Another type of bad words are the ones that have fallen out of fashion, especially those that have done so as a result of overuse and abuse. The most obvious of these are the -ly adverbs, which are often treated by critiquers, especially the amateur variety, as being The Work of the Devil. And to be honest, it is true that overused words have often had their power sapped by that overuse, such that they no longer have the power to conjure up imagery in the reader's mind. Yet they too have their place, especially to capture the flavor of a particular character's speech, but now and then because there simply is no single verb that can do the job without the qualification of an adverb.

Yet another possible candidate would be those words that have become more heat than light. You know what I mean -- the ones that have been co-opted for political purposes, to the point that daring to use them in any but the Approved Sense, with the Approved Attitudes, will bring down the shrieking hordes to tell you in great detail how Eeeeevil you are. Race. Culture. Prejudice. Even seemingly innocent words like "cure" have taken on a taint of Bad Words among certain disability activists (who seem to be advocating more for the disability than the people dealing with it). Just avoiding them altogether often seems to be the best way to avoid having your time and energy sapped by the sound and fury signifying nothing crew.

Yet it might be possible that we need to drill even deeper, especially in relation to the saying about the "million bad words" we need to get out of us before we can start writing really good stories, publishable stories that people actually want to read, and most importantly, to pay money to read. It can't be just the dirty words, the disfavored words, or the politically charged words we need to get out of us. Maybe it's not even specific words at all, and it's not a matter of purging them from our vocabularies.

Instead might it be ways of using words -- the sloppy, unthinking words that don't do anything. The colorless words that sap the life from a story. The bland words that, like small plans, lack the power to stir the soul. And getting rid of those is a lot harder, because there's no simple, easy way to identify them, or even to know how to replace them with good words. It's something that comes only from lots and lots of writing, and even then it's not guaranteed. Many would-be writers have simply kept churning out more and more bad words, thinking that they were making headway.

But there's one sure way to see if you have been making progress. Take out an old story, one you stopped working on a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, and haven't touched since. Re-read it. Does it  make you wince? Do you want to grab a red pen and rewrite sentences and paragraphs, even cut whole scenes? Then you've been busily pushing out the bad words and replacing them with good ones.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Writers are told again and again to write what you know, but taken too literally, that advice can be excessively constraining. Limited to our own personal experience, we'll soon run out of things to write about -- not to mention that it pretty well shuts out the possibilities of speculative fiction. Who among us has commanded a space fleet or led a conference of magic-users?

Obviously we can draw upon our knowledge of familiar things to understand by analogy. But there always will come a time when we need to extend our knowledge beyond personal experience.

That means doing research. Google, Wikipedia and other online sources can be excellent starting points, but often you need to go beyond them. There are numerous guides to doing library research, but depending on what libraries are available to you, they may not be adequate to provide the information you need. It may be necessary to contact and expert and request the information you need.

Cold-calling a stranger for help is a scary process. Might they consider your approach an affront? Might they brush you off or shut you down? The fear of being rejected in a humiliating manner can be paralyzing.

In fact, there's no reason to fear the process. If approached properly, most experts are happy to talk about their subject of expertise. After all, they often become experts because it's a subject they're genuinely interested in.

The key is, approached properly, which means presenting yourself professionally. And it's not just the old "a writer is an artist, and therefore suspect" canard. Since the rise of the Internet, there has been a growing problem of students at all levels in the education system writing to experts in various fields effectively trying to get their homework done for them.

As a result, you need to be careful not just to introduce yourself in a professional way, but also to make it clear that you've pulled your weight and have reached the end of the resources available to you. You probably don't want to disgorge a huge laundry list of books and websites you've used without success, but you probably want to mention the most critical sources.

There is some debate as to whether you should name the specific institutions where you've done your research, especially if they would indicate your location. Some people have a vastly different idea of what constitutes a reasonable travel distance, especially if your circumstances are constrained by responsibilities or finances. I still remember writing to a departmental library at a major university and getting a snippy answer that I could "just hop onto (road) and drive over to visit in person" because I'd mentioned our local public library by name. At the time I did not have a vehicle of sufficient reliability that I'd want to make a three-hour drive (each way, not round trip) alone, and my husband was working full time and not available to travel with me unless he used up a vacation day.

While it may be acceptable to shade the truth a little, soft-pedaling some facts and emphasizing others to enhance your appearance of a professional researcher who has exhausted local resources and is not able to travel, don't outright lie about your credentials or your situation. Don't claim degrees or institutional affiliations that you don't have. Don't give a big sob story about nonexistent misfortunes that  make it impossible to travel even a short distance. People in a field generally know enough other people in it that lies will catch up to you, and while you may get results once or twice, eventually you'll get a bad reputation that will make it impossible to get anybody to help you.

Presenting yourself as a professional is only the first part of the proper approach. The second is presenting your question in the proper way so that the recipient will welcome it, rather than feel it is an imposition and become annoyed. Typically the student trying to get out of doing homework will present an overly broad "tell me everything you know about X" type of question. As a result, you want to be as specific as possible in formulating your question. Again, show you've done your homework by using the correct terminology -- but avoid name-dropping or using big words just to impress.

The best questions are the ones that are closed-ended, requesting a very specific but obscure piece of information. For instance, recently I was writing a story with a scene in a building at a university I once attended. However, I couldn't remember where the department's main office had been located, and when I went to the university's website, I discovered that the department had moved to a building that had been built since my last visit. Unable to locate any historical information on something so specific, I wrote to the university library and asked for the room number -- a very specific bit of information that could be easily researched in older directories and catalogs that they would have on hand but were not available to me.

Finally, be sure to communicate your gratitude for the expert's assistance. Close your initial contact letter or e-mail with a thank-you, and when they answer, make sure to thank them again. There's some question about whether that final thank-you note needs to be handwritten and posted, even in the case of a contact that was initially made by e-mail. I'd say it's a generational thing. If your informant is older, you may well want to post a longhand thank-you note, especially if this person has given you extensive help. Younger people who've spent their entire lives communicating electronically will probably consider an e-mail thank-you note more than adequate, and might even find a snail-mailed note vaguely stalkerish, since it means you found out their physical location to send the note.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Gnawing Porcupine of Self-Doubt

In the beginning of The Steel Breeds True, Amanda Lordsley-Starcastle is struggling with her internal editor, who has taken to carping criticism and faultfinding instead of anything useful. He alternates between two forms, sometimes appearing as a tiny Nikolai Yezhov and at other times as a literal hedgehog.

Since there are no native hedgehogs in North America, mine takes the form of a porcupine. And unlike the insectivorous hedgehog with its generalist teeth, the porcupine is a rodent, with specialized gnawing teeth. And oh gods, but does mine ever gnaw at everything. Sometimes just getting words on paper is an uphill struggle as he gnaws away at every word, every phrase, every image.

And now that I'm beginning to prepare The Steel Breeds True for indie publication, it's getting even worse. Not just is my writing good at the word and sentence level, but is the story any good? What if the whole thing is so stupid that people will laugh and point?

It's the problem of finding the balance between being relentlessly self-critical in order to attain our best and being able to believe in ourselves when nobody else does. I wish I could offer a nice pat answer for everybody out there who's struggling with the same problem, whether in the form of an unending stream of say-nothing form rejections or a serialized novel posted to a reception of such utter indifference that one is left almost wishing for a blistering review because it would mean that someone actually cared. But all I can offer right now is fellow-feel, the knowledge that you are not alone in your uphill struggles, and at least now you do have options beside struggling to fit through the narrow door that is so carefully guarded by the gatekeepers of traditional publishing.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Putting the Pieces Back Together

The last several months have been difficult for me. At the beginning of June, I was trying to get serious about my writing and promoting it. I'd had some moderate success with my serialization of A Separate War, and I wanted to make my new serialized novel, Holovideo an even bigger success. In addition to keeping up with a regular posting schedule, I wanted to get to blogging regularly on the several blogs I maintain.

Then we got an unexpected call that upended everything -- a medical emergency that turned into a death in the family, and all the emotional fallout that flows from that. On the top of that, our book and t-shirt business had several major events which took an enormous amount of my time.

Now that things are calming down again, I'm wanting to get back on track again. I have gotten some fresh chapters written and posted on Holovideo, and I'm getting some more +votes, but I want to reach more readers. So I'm wanting to get back to blogging, both here and on some other blogs I run.

Which means that I need to figure out how to keep everything moving forward and not have forward motion on one thing come at the expense of everything else grinding to a halt. So that's my new challenge.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pushing Through

Anyone who's been writing for any length of time knows the ups and downs. Sometimes the words just seem to flow from your fingers to the page, every one glistening with perfection. Sometimes each word has to be pried loose and dragged kicking and screaming onto the page.

And then there are the times when Life gets in the way. It's one thing to force yourself through a daily set time period or word count when the words all seem dull and lifeless, when you've become convinced that your story is the most boring thing ever written and everyone who reads it will yawn their way through a page or two before wandering off, that your alpha reader is just being polite to drag through it. It's quite another when it feels like the world is crashing down around your ears.

Recently I had to deal with a death in the family, and another family member who needed a listening ear for their grief and uncertainty about the future. I'd gotten a good momentum together with Holovideo, and it was more than a little frustrating to barely have a chance to write a sentence or two now and then. But at the same time, I just couldn't shut this person down and sit there writing while they needed someone to listen to the anguish that they were feeling.

And looking back, I don't regret the two-week hiatus. Sometimes we do have to put the writing on pause for a while when genuine emergencies intrude. So don't beat yourself up when something major like sickness or injury, of yourself or a family member you're responsible for, puts the writing on the back burner. Think about your stories when you can, and when the situation passes and you can write again, re-read your existing text and you'll be surprised at how quickly and easily you'll be able to pick things back up.

In fact, your biggest problem may actually be having too many projects all demanding to be written Right Now. With so many worlds, so many characters tugging at your sleeve, how can you get any of them done?

In that case, the best thing is often to choose one project and concentrate on it until you've re-established your rhythm. Perhaps something relatively short and closed-ended, so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish it, and move on to the next project or projects with renewed energy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Say What?

Every now and then somebody says something outrageous that you just blink in astonishment. Did they really say what you just heard coming out of their mouth?

Just recently The Guardian, which used to be one of the respectable British newspapers, published Self-publishing is not revolutionary -- it's reactionary , which tries to claim that the rising trend of independent publishing is in fact a step backward which helps neither writers nor readers.

When I first started getting serious about writing, you had basically two choices -- traditional publishing, or vanity publishing. And the latter term pretty much speaks for itself -- if you were to turn to one of these presses, paying them for the privilege of seeing your book in print, you were obviously doing it solely to tickle your vanity. You thought so highly of yourself that either you couldn't bear to lower yourself to submitting it to a publisher and accepting their judgment of your work, or that you couldn't accept their determination that you weren't as good as you thought you were. In either case, your book and you as author would bear the ugly stigma of Loser, and quite possibly of Poseur.

Truth be told, by the latter decades of the twentieth century, there was a very good reason to place a heavy stigma on subsidy publishing, and not just on the grounds that it represented a failure of proper humility on the part of the author. Although there had been a time when it was perfectly respectable for an author to pay to have a book published, and many gentleman hobbyist writers of the Victorian Era and Gilded Age got their works in print in this way, during the twentieth century a large number of unscrupulous actors entered the industry, preying on the hopes and dreams of unsuspecting writers. These predators would acquire large numbers of books with little or no editorial oversight and do the minimum legally required to be able to fulfill their contracts. Often the quality of the books were grossly inferior to industry standard. Sometimes the wouldn't even bind all the books the author paid for unless additional fees were paid. There was no effort on the part of the publisher to actually market the book, and the author generally ended up with a basement full of books and had to hand-sell them -- which generally meant bugging friends and families or haunting flea markets with a pile of unwanted books.

There was a sort of third path of genuine self-publishing, in which the author did all the layout and design and contracted the production of the actual books with a print shop. However, that required skills that most authors didn't possess, and it still required the author to do all his or her own marketing. So it was really only a viable option for a book that had a clear niche market, such as how-to books or histories of very small organizations (frex, veterans writing up the history of their unit). For fiction your only real choice was still to struggle through the endless rounds of rejections and probably end up with a huge pile of trunk stories that had worn out their welcome everywhere. After a few rounds of that it becomes harder and harder to convince your family that your writing is anything but a hobby for your spare time, as opposed to something that should be taken seriously and given time. Lots of promising writers became discouraged and wrote only for their own amusement or gave up on writing altogether.

By the turn of the millennium, the growth of the World Wide Web made it possible for ordinary people to create webpages that could be accessed by anyone, anywhere that had Internet connectivity. The old barriers that made it almost impossible to market your work without a publisher's access to distribution channels began to crumble. But the old stigma remained -- if you were sticking your writing up on a website, you were obviously doing it because it wasn't good enough to make the big time, and therefore you were a loser. Aspiring writers were warned not to kill their careers before they began by marking themselves out in this way.

And then something happened. A lot of the midlist writers who'd once been publishing houses' small-but-solid sellers but were squeezed out as the industry moved to a "bestsellers only" model discovered that used copies of their books were selling quite briskly on Amazon and ABEbooks. Obviously there was still a market for their writing, if they could just re-tap it, but the big publishers didn't want to reprint anything that wouldn't sell millions. So these authors began bringing their books out on their own, either through various small presses and co-operatives or entirely independently.  Some made electronic editions, and others used xerographic-based print-on-demand systems such as LightningSource to create hardcopy editions. And since these were books that had already gone through the editorial vetting process but had just fallen out of print, a crack appeared in the wall of stigma against self-publishing.

That crack widened when established authors began releasing new books through these channels. Some of these authors had been squeezed out altogether by the publishers because their sales numbers, while decent, just weren't growing fast enough to keep the bean-counters happy. However, some were authors that were still enjoying success in traditional publishing, but couldn't get this particular book to sell. Editors would tell them that the book was wonderful, but nobody in marketing knew how to sell it, because it didn't fit neatly in any of the established genre slots.

And guess what -- the books didn't sink like a stone on the marketplace. In fact, some of them quickly rose on Amazon's best-seller lists and became rousing successes. It became obvious that no, self-publishing a work of fiction was no longer the kiss of death, the admission that you were a Loser who simply couldn't hack it in the real world of publishing and had to pay someone to publish your lousy, boring tripe.

At the same time, I can sort of understand the sour-grapes sentiments that underlie these attacks on the new dawning of independent publishing. I've spent the last several decades struggling and straining to get my novels and stories accepted through the traditional publishing system, and now, just as I'm beginning to see a glimmering of success, the brass ring for which I've spent so much time and energy striving seems to have been rendered worthless.

And then I remind myself of the days when I wished there were some way to use the Internet to reach readers directly instead of having to jump through the gatekeeper hoops of getting published, and being told that it might be possible Someday, but that would be a long time down the road and right now I needed to buckle down and focus on doing the things that were necessary to make my works acceptable to the gatekeepers, even when it hurt.

And now Someday is here, and quite honestly, the crumbling of the stigma and the growing success of self-published writers took me by surprise because I was still operating in circles that assumed you had to have that imprimatur of a publisher's acceptance to be any good. So it's frustrating to have so much catching up to do, to shift gears from shopping stuff around in hopes of finding someone, somewhere who'd like it to getting stuff out there in front of readers in this brand new marketplace and trying to get it on their radar so they'll Find It, Like It and Buy It.

It's a whole different ballgame, and I've just barely begun to get into it with A Separate War and Holovideo. There's a whole lot more I still need to do -- and I'm feeling like I'm torn a dozen ways with all the projects that I've had lying around in various states of completion while chasing the ever-shifting editorial whims of publishers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Obscurity and Indifference

Writers worry about a lot of things, but oftentimes we end up worrying about the wrong things. We minutely agonize over word choices when we need to consider whether we're telling an interesting story. We worry about writing the perfect cover letter for the market when we should be considering whether the markets we're looking at are even worth bothering with. We worry about piracy when we should be thinking about the problems of promotion. And we fear a hostile reception when we should be concerning ourselves with obscurity and indifference.

Recently I began serializing a short novel, A Separate War, at JukePop Serials. When I took that first chapter live, I felt more than a little trepidation. I'd heard all the horror stories about writers offending someone and having their e-mail inboxes fill with angry messages, even outright death threats. And I could see all the possible things that could set someone off: would someone accuse me of spitting on the graves of the Apollo 1 astronauts because I portrayed a world where they escaped in the nick of time as one with a more expansive and advanced space program, including a moonbase by the 1980's and at least one trip to Mars? Would someone find my portrayal of the Muslim police officer as less than perfectly deft and accuse me of racism?

Instead, I got nothing. No angry diatribes, no nasty accusations of hidden wickedness revealed through my prose. It was almost as if my novel were invisible -- in fact, even a sharp criticism would've been welcome because it would've showed that someone cared.

It got to the point that I had to really struggle to keep writing further chapters, when the initial few +votes were not followed up with subsequent +votes on new chapters. I wondered why I was getting so little response, so little evidence that anybody was even reading my novel. Was it falling under their radar, and if so, what could I do to increase its visibility without becoming shrill and turning people off? Or were people finding it and deciding it wasn't something they wanted to read -- or something they didn't want to make an issue of, lest the Streisand Effect make it a success? With no response, I was operating in a vacuum, so I began to second-guess myself.

After much struggle and toil I finally completed A Separate War, and moved on to another novel, Holovideo. I'd chosen it specifically because it would be similar to several other novels that were enjoying success there, so I was hoping to see interest pick up on it fairly quickly.

However, it too has been slow to attract attention, and I have no idea whether it's staying under the radar of potential readers, or if they're finding it and not liking it. It's a very frustrating situation to be in, but it's a very real proof of the problem of obscurity, and the need to break into people's awareness -- but without turning them off in the process.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Pulling Teeth

That's how it's felt to write the latest chapter of A Separate War, which I've been serializing at JukePop Serials. My plan was to put new chapters up on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, but Friday night I was still stuck so hard on it that I could tell there was no way I'd get it done in time. I didn't even know how I was going to get it done at all.

So I printed it up and decided to take a second look at it, away from the computer. Sometimes looking at the text in different format will shake something loose in the subconscious and the words will start flowing again.

After a little consideration, I realized I needed to redo the beginning. Instead of having Nora and Deniz get the water rescue call in the middle of the chapter, it would start out with the call coming through and them racing off to respond.

However, although I got some good momentum going Saturday afternoon, I couldn't maintain it all through the evening. I'd been hoping to get the chapter done and up by Saturday evening and be able to start on Chapter 6 Sunday, preserving some semblance of my MWF schedule. But that wasn't happening, so I decided to give this one some extra time and make it my Monday posting.

So I'm now a little behind, but it's not a disaster. I'm hoping the next several chapters will prove less difficult to get written.

Assuming of course I don't have to deal with Life Happening.