Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Know More than You Think You Do

As you may or may not already know, I'm a freelance writer, editor, and web coder. I even do some document formatting and HTML conversion over on Fiverr. I actually enjoy being handed a PDF and making a website that matches, insofar as matching is possible.

Although I can build things from scratch—my website is a case in point, and this blog is likely going to get an at-its-roots overhaul, itself, one of the next times I'm sick—I'm generally a fixer. A tweaker.

You hand me this thing that doesn't work quite how you wanted—some writing, a website, a document. I hand you back something that's working as close as possible to what you wanted.

Tweaking's how I learn.

For instance, I recently had reason to want to take all hyperlinks in a document and convert the URLs to footnotes. I found a macro that converted them to endnotes. I took the macro, copied it, and changed the "Endnote" in the script code to "Footnote". Worked like a charm. Then I found another macro to deactivate all live hyperlinks. (These two steps are useful for converting an e-book ready file into a p-book ready one.) Considering how long my macro lists are getting, I'm likely going to end up combining the two into a single macro…which could eventually grow into automatically setting page size and margins and such, too, but I'm out of practice with that side of VBA.

Programming = code that does stuff. Coding = HTML and CSS, which describe stuff. I'm good at coding. But I'm not an expert writer of macros or user of any other programming.

I've had some people assume I'm better with programming than I am, because I have a solid foundation in the Find & Replace functions for 2 different programs (MS Word and TextWrangler) + how those functions work with 3 different automation languages/programs (VBA, AppleScript, Automator). I'll even use some simple Terminal codes (namely ones that convert file types and sizes).

Analogy for you readers who don't know what I'm talking about: I essentially have people who think I'm a FANTASTIC baker because I can make chocolate chip cookies. But don't ask me to make cake.*

*Actually, seriously: don't ask me to make cake. Egg yolks make me unwell, so I'd have to use an egg replacer, which makes the texture difficult to get right. I also don't particularly like cake, so I'm disinclined to figure out what to do instead. (Though I have been craving the traditionally dense and rich pound cake. Is it worth the two-day ache? Hmm.)

I tend to think of myself as so far from expert that it's not funny, but…

I know more than I think I do.

I've been pounded over the head with proof of this, lately. (It can take me a while to accept a hint.)

For example, I know far more than the average person about MS Word alone. I didn't fully realize that when I set up my Fiverr gig to help with formatting cleanup. I was expecting to get more folks who had some idea of what they were doing but didn't want to be bothered with the details, or maybe who had an idea but who had a few details that they didn't know yet.

I have gotten a few clients of the type I expected. At least once, someone has asked me, "Can you fix this?" and my answer was, "Right-click on it and select X." Which made them not need me at all, but I'd rather garner goodwill than money now + annoyance later once they learn how simple it is. At least once, I've delivered screenshot instructions of how I fixed something.

But far more often?

I'm getting "Is this possible?" queries about things that I thought were basic.

When I respond to such queries, I try to use enough of a description of how it's done so the person can look it up and do it themselves, if they're so inclined. I'm not sure anyone has, so far.

That's not to say that those people are stupid. They aren't. They must know plenty of things that I don't.

It's just been awkward and blindsiding to realize just how little many people know about those things I can function with. I'm no expert in macro code, but I can comprehend the logic of how to piece one together and even adjust one that's comparable to what I want. It's like being able to understand someone's Spanish and answer them, while your ability to monologue on a topic of your own choosing is limited to specific things.

There are several things I think of myself as able to "get by" in or with—with "get by" sometimes meaning that I can do X, Y, and maybe Z—but don't ask me to do more. Things like macros. PHP. Unix shell codes. Cover design. Cooking. Understanding Spanish. Knitting.

Am I actually an expert in those things? No.

But there's a huge spectrum of ability between "inability" and "expert". There are "beginner" and "passable" and "adequate" and "moderate" and…

When we think about skills, we so often consider ourselves no more than "average" at best, until or unless we hit "expert" level. But here's the thing.

Moderate ≠ average.

In fact, the average person? Doesn't have your skill at all.

So sit down and consider what skills you have. Not the ones where you think yourself an expert (if there are any of those). But the ones where you're middling or passable, somewhere between beginner and expert. What can you do with them?

I've intentionally started working more with macros, myself. It's helping all sorts of things. And after I recently was able to untangle some PHP and comprehend what I was looking at (more or less), I might intentionally work on that, too, but I think studying Spanish is gonna take precedence, there. (I have plans in place that mean I'll need the language—and I want to get stable in it and study something else.)

Your skills might not be as easily applicable as mine.

Or maybe they'll be even easier to implement.

Or maybe you're just too busy, right now, to want to do that or even care.

That's all okay.

But next time someone asks you what you're good at? Don't insist you aren't good at anything (which I know some of you reading this do).

Remember that "good" doesn't mean "expert", and those things you're middling at or with count, too.

What skills do you have that you're "adequate" or "passable" or "moderate" in?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

…Annnnnnd it's out! (A Fistful of Water, + some other notes)

It's out! It's out! It's finally out!

"A Fistful of Water (Chronicles of Marsdenfel: Book 3)" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy

A Fistful of Water is available now, for $2.99—and that price is going to change back to $4.99 any day, now, so if you want to get the e-book, now's the time. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, elsewhere

Not in print, though. I've been, um, slacking a bit on that. (I have reason! I've been having a formatting detail that I can't quite get right.)

The first draft of the sequel, A Fistful of Life, is hitting the climax on Wattpad, too. That means I'm likely to have the first draft done this month, and it's possible that I'll have the book out by New Year's. Possible. Don't know if I'll make that deadline, though.

…And I really do intend to post things other than release announcements. I even have another lengthy, thought-provoking post (with definitions!) all drafted up, which likely won't get posted until December. (The reason will make sense when you see it.)

But anyway, the first note I really have to address is that I may not be able to post much until December, even if I manage to keep on target with my goal of releasing something every 2 weeks. I pretty much have some major things I'm working on, which mean I need time and energy, which means I have to give something up. (Having said that, watch me post somewhat regularly over the next few months…)

Second note: As I type this, I am feeling better than I have in weeks or months. I pretty much have realized a few details were leaving me vulnerable to infection, so I'm working on correcting those things. I have energy. I was able to do some cleaning and not feel as if I needed a nap afterwards. (I actually stopped yesterday before I started feeling worn by it, for fear that I'd drive myself into a relapse. I'll be doing more today.)

This comes after discovering a really weird remedy for a cold, which I'm going to try using as a general preventative: onion. Specifically, onion against my feet, in a pair of socks.

Erm, Huh?, right? That's what I was thinking when I first heard it. But I'd tested just having pieces of onion out by me when I was sick, and that had resulted in palpable improvement, so I figured I might as well try a piece of onion in my sock. I was peeling a new one, anyway, right? So I broke two palm-size pieces off the outer layer of onion, stuck one on each foot, put socks on to keep them there, and…

I was feeling noticeably better within the hour.

How/why does it work? I've seen various explanations, but one is something to do with the sulfur. Maybe it's aromatherapy, or maybe the released vapors have an immune-boosting effect, or maybe folks are right when they say onion absorbs bacteria. I don't know, and I don't care. It works (for me, so far—I haven't tested it thoroughly, nor had enough other folks try it to get a sense for its general efficacy and limitations).

Presumably, white onion works better than yellow onion works better than red onion at this. Which is interesting. Red onion is best for allergies.

And then if the effective agent is the sulfur, the root should be more efficacious than the main part of the onion. I plan to test that.

Now, to jump back into a publishing topic… I've completely changed the covers on my Overhill stories again. They look a lot more professional now.

See? So much more professional.

But even with "For Want of Cruelty" being free, the stories essentially don't sell. (Small surprise, considering the old covers really sucked.) Hugh Howey's recent post on exclusivity presents the data on going exclusive with Amazon vs. being on all vendors, and per his math, being on all vendors costs him readers.

I do not plan to go exclusive on Amazon with my Aleyi or Darkworld writing, but it occurs to me that if I'm going to unpublish anything from all other vendors and make it exclusive on Amazon—and I really cringe at the thought of doing that—then those stories are a fantastic choice for doing so.

I'm currently reformatting the innards of the stories to use the new covers. Once that's done, I'm thinking I very likely will pull them from other vendors and put them in Amazon's KDP Select program (and in the Kindle Unlimited program), unless you readers convince me otherwise.

So… Do you think I should make the stories exclusive to Amazon (for the time being)? Why or why not?

But if you don't want to influence my decision, here are some other questions:

Have you tried (or will you try) the onion remedy? Are you staying healthy? Are you looking forward to the finishing of A Fistful of Life?


Thursday, September 4, 2014

On Progress, Plans, and Pain (…and Patreon?)

There's a Yiddish proverb, "Man plans and God laughs." So true. Plans can go awry so fast.

Case in point: I planned to have A Fistful of Water out and A Fistful of Life done months ago. I planned to not miss any updates on my Wattpad postings. I certainly didn't plan to spend intermittent hours on the floor in pain, over the past two days. I didn't plan to spend last night tempted to take four or more ibuprofen.

I was smart this morning and took all the various herbs that stop/prevent that pain first thing, before it knocked me to the floor. And I took booster doses at lunchtime.

As far as progress goes, I haven't updated my website yet (bad author, I know), but newsletter subscribers have gotten the short story: "In the Hands of the Smith", whose narrator was picked by Pneumarian.

See, every 3 months, I have a drawing, where newsletter subscribers can pick a PoV character they want for a story. I'm behind on the writing of them, but I have that one done and 2 more in the queue. Want a chance to pick a narrator, yourself? Sign up for my newsletter.

Winning once doesn't disqualify you for another round. Pneumarian won "Mrs. Strongman" for a short story (from my flash fiction "Butterfly Boots"), and so he was the first person to receive an e-copy of the story of how Mr. and Mrs. Strongman met. Newsletter subscribers also got the story before it was available for sale.

That short story came out two weeks ago today. Today I released "A Badge and a Bully" (a Darkworld short story preceding "A Blackmail and a Birthday"—and you might want to hold off on buying, since I plan a mini-series with those that will end up in a bundle, and you'll eventually get to see what happens when a raised-as-human selkie meets Destiny in an emergency situation). Two weeks from today, I'll be releasing A Fistful of Water.

Hmm. Methinks this looks like a pattern…

And it is! I've decided to do something about the many short stories sitting on my hard drive in various stages of incompletion. I have a specific, hmm, setup that I want before I start bundling them. I could go ahead and do a bundle of what I have—I certainly have enough short stories for it—but the prospect makes me grimace. It doesn't match. My plan is to bundle when I have several stories with the same narrator or in the same mini-series, maybe including a "bonus" story that's another narrator at the end.

But to do that, I need to write more short stories. They don't take long—"In the Hands of the Smith" took me about 5 hours to write and edit, and that was with a false start. (Of the 4438 words I wrote in coming up with that story, I kept 3186 of them.) Add in the cover and formatting, and that was 9.4 hours total. If I'd gone the KISS route on the formatting, it wouldn't have taken that long. (I both made it fancier than necessary and made a template, which is included in that time.)

Theoretically, more time spent on short stories means less time spent on novels and other things. But more time spent on short stories (and finishing them) means better morale and improved mindspace for working on novels and other things, so that might just lead to more time spent writing overall.

All I can do is try it and see what happens. ^_^

I've gotten the "oops" checks back for A Fistful of Water, so that'll be going up for pre-order soon, to be released 9/18/14.

As another "*poke* *poke* Huh" item, I've set up a Patreon page. (Patreon, for those who don't know, is essentially a way to treat your relationship with artists as a patronage. Patrons voluntarily pay X per release or per month, which can be adjusted at any time, and a payment cap can be sent for those donating per release.) Feel free to look at it, poke around, and tell me what you think.

How are you? What are you working on?


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Now Available! Twice Bold by Cara Lee

And it's only $0.99!

Sorry for the super-short post today. I had other stuff I wanted to say, but this is ending up a REALLY busy time for me, plus I got sick last weekend (funny how that always happens exactly when you don't have time for it), which is also why my newsletter is late. Agh. I've not forgotten it, I promise. Week after next should be slower… As things stand right now, even this week's Wattpad updates are gonna be delayed.

But I'm looking at the to-do list with an attitude of, "Hmm… How do I arrange these pieces to get everything done?" rather than "AHHHHHH! TOO MUCH!" So that's good. :-)

I also discovered that one of my car problems was that it needed a new battery. Replaced that today. Cost more than I hoped, but less than I feared, so that's all good.

How are you?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coming Tuesday: Twice Bold

Twice Bold, the sequel to Thrice Uncharmed, is coming out 8/5/14 (and will cost $0.99 US)!

Wynne Imaguman doesn’t dislike Hector Primuman the Fourth, heir to the governor of the Arzon space colony. She’s just terrified of what she’s managed to learn about the colony and wants to flee as soon as she can. She’s been groomed to be Hector’s Partner, though, and he’s all but admitted he loves her. She doesn’t want to be cruel, but if she doesn’t make everyone think she’s falling in love with him, they’ll change her so she does.

Hector Primuman the Fourth has known the truth of the colony for as long as he can remember, and he’s also known that Wynne would be terrified once she figured it out. He doesn’t blame her—he doesn’t care for it, either—but there’s nothing he can do about it, other than let Wynne, the only person he’d consider a friend, break his heart.

And that’s if they can get her out before either of them ends up dead or psychologically altered.

In the meantime, the first one is only $0.99 US, and the centuries-earlier short story “Full Rune” is even free! If you’ve not read them yet, why not pick them up now?

In other news…

AKA "Why today's post is late"

I’m fighting some illness and my car decided it didn’t want to start, today, when I wanted to go to the store for a remedy to help my body fight this off. So forgive me for saying little, today. I'm tired, cranky, and not the best company. :-) I am functional, though, which is good. Just…slow. (And praying that my car decides to start up again.)

Are you interested in Twice Bold? Why or why not? And how are you?


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Help Me with Fistfuls of Food—the Aleyi COOKBOOK!

A Fistful of Water will be coming out soon, and to celebrate it, I'm making a cookbook with foods and such mentioned in the Aleyi stories that are available to read online now: A Fistful of Fire, A Fistful of Earth, A Fistful of Water, “Driven by the Deadline”, “Of Her Own”, “Associated Accidents”, and “Bewildering Boundaries”.

I already have functional recipes and variants for some things, like the tapioca bread of Breidentel and Wight's licorice root tisane—but I still need to perfect recipes for others, like apple pretzel salad and barley bread. My myriad allergies mean anything I come up with may necessarily be on the creative side, but I need reference recipes to work on my own.

So of the foods you’ve seen in Aleyi so far, what are your favorite recipes?

E-mail with Recipe in the subject line, and include a link to your favorite recipe. (If it's offline-only, please include it in the e-mail, no attachments, and tell me your source for it.)

For copyright reasons, I won't be able to use anyone's recipe exactly, but if I use your recipe to help build mine, I'll give you (and your recipe's source) due credit. You'll be named (by legal name or username—your choice) and get a link to a safe-for-work website or site profile.

This cookbook won't be completely thorough because there are things that are frankly beyond my resources to make, right now, like tarragon jerky. And then the series isn't done. This is a project that I foresee being expanded, improved in the future.

But all that said, somebody has to get the cookbook first—and I'll be hosting a giveaway for that. ^_^

So what are you waiting for? Get to finding your favorite recipes for foods (and beverages) that you noticed in the released stories so far? (If you need to read them again, they can all be easily found on Wattpad, right now.)


I've been poking at the Patreon website lately, and I discovered it isn't only for music artists making videos. It's for all sorts of creatives, even writers, so I now have a page on Patreon. It's not entirely done—it needs video, for one thing—but feel free to poke about, tell me if it sounds interesting or stupid, if it is (or isn't) interesting for you. I'm not sure how effective the site is for text-only writers who don't also vlog or anything like that, but I see no harm in finding out. Hope you're doing well!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Status of Wattpad & Related Things: July 2014

I <3 Wattpad.

Before you start worrying that I've reverted to fifteen years younger, due to the company I've been keeping online lately—I haven't. And Wattpad isn't all teens, anyway. (But even among the teens… *squee* This girl's off to a great start at 13 and already able to write a coherent, cohesive piece with proper grammar!)

Anyway, I've learned three major things about Wattpad, since my last update.

  1. No updates in the first draft of book #4? Even book 1's "read" frequency will tank. Fast.
  2. Updates in the first draft of book #4? Book 1's "read" frequency will hop up and start skipping within 1–2 weeks
  3. And—learned this past weekend—Wattpad HQ actually allows and approves of updates on stories that are merely announcements. This means I can, for instance, add a post on A Fistful of Fire with A Fistful of Water's launch party news, when that comes out.

Um, oops. You didn't hear me just admit that there's gonna be an actual launch party. ALL in your imagination, yupperoo.

(I may have eaten a brownie in the past few hours before I wrote up to this point of this post. Make of that what you will.)

Okay, now on to sugar-free writing—that is, written while I don't have sugar in my system.

My Wattpad offerings are A Fistful of Fire, A Fistful of Earth, most of the Aleyi short stories, Destiny's Kiss, the short story "Full Rune" (which is now free on various vendors), some poetry I don't really have anywhere else, the first draft of A Fistful of Water, the in-progress first draft of A Fistful of Life, and a sci-fi project getting updated once per month.

The major thing Wattpad has done for me is prod me, making sure I get those first drafts done and giving me a pick-me-up when I'm stressed or tired or whatever. Just seeing that people have liked my story enough to read it through helps—and then those who vote and/or comment encourage me further, and it's helpful to see what people notice or connect with.

That said, it's most useful for me for works in progress. I intend to post the entire Aleyi series (which currently looks as if it'll have 6 books)—both for First Draft Fridays and as final projects—but I don't know if I'll repeat that process with anything else, not in that way.

In part aided by Wattpad's Twitter integration, I've also resurrected my Twitter account. I kicked out the spammers, cleaned out my contacts (and I'm about to do another purge round, just to check for anyone else I don't recognize).

This week I've started tweeting lines from something I'm editing or writing, sometimes tweaked so it isn't nonsense out of context. Right now, my tweet might be about A Fistful of Water (tagged "#amediting" and "#AFoW") or A Fistful of Life (tagged "#amwriting" and "#AFoL"). Those will probably be the only two getting tweets until I'm done with one or both.

I also finally succumbed to Pinterest. You may or may not find my pins interesting, though.

But finding Pinterest also has me thinking more about the *cough* thing-I-never-mentioned *cough* and what, exactly, I can (or want to) do for a launch party…and what I want to be doing in the future. For instance, do I really want to rely on Wattpad as my only host, or do I want to have some stuff on other places, like JukePop? (Looking at the ToS for JukePop, I think I'll eventually try to get A Fistful of Fire on there, but I doubt I'll put much else.)

I have another project or three on the back burner, though, that might end up self-hosted. Still mulling on that. It's a moot decision until I've more Aleyi and Darkworld stuff done, anyway. If I hit even my minimum wordcount goals for the next 6 months (which I'm actually on track to do), I may be able to get some special stuff together as early as 2015. We'll see how it goes.

That still has me keeping an eye out on things that might prove useful, like the Patreon site/support model. I've been familiar with it for a while, due to YouTube musician Peter Hollens, whom I discovered due to his collaborations with Lindsey Stirling.

What I did not realize about Patreon: It isn't just for musicians.

I have yet to see how it actually works for any writers, but I intend to look at it to consider in the future, after I'm all nicely caught up on the challenge short stories, and preferably after I at least have 5 of the 6 Chronicles of Marsdenfel out.

(Oh, shoot. A 7th just occurred to me—just now, as I was typing this. Replete with a narrator and title, and it would address something that's I've been concerned about, wondering if it would make it into A Fistful of Air. But any #7—and, actually, A Fistful of Air—might be a novella rather than a novel, so…)

I do have a project I hope to work on in a few years that would fit Patreon or a subscription model pretty well. (It would be a serial of at least 36 episodes total. Possibly 78.) But since that is at least a few years out I have time to figure it out and what method will be best to get it to readers. I did read an interesting post this week about how someone uses WordPress for that sort of thing.

What do you think of Wattpad? (Do you write or read there?) Does some model of reading or writing sound particularly intriguing (or appealing) to you? Do you have some other idea to share, pertinent or not?

And how's your July going?


Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm alive! (State of the Author: July 2014)

…And actually feeling better than I have in months, if not years. Plus my computer's motherboard has been replaced (…twice), and I have a (…slow) backup computer, now, in case that happens again. *whew*

So that means it's time to come back to this blog and resurrect things. I definitely want to revisit the site appearance and maybe even start hosting it on my website, which has gotten a pretty overhaul—but beyond that… *shrug*

What do you want from me?

I have some ideas for what I want to do with the blog now, but hey, y'all are my readers. What do you want to see? Let me know!

In the meantime, here's a snippet from the prologue for the in-progress A Fistful of Water, which should have a release date announcement in the next few weeks:

All Runners know proper court decorum and are necessarily hard to rattle, so William’s expression makes my mouth go dry. “What? What’s wrong?” My voice quivers. “Is it Silva?”

William drops his gaze to the floor for a long moment, then glances pointedly at the side table by the fireplace, where Father keeps his chess set.

A chess set that’s no longer there.

I draw a sharp breath. “Father’s leaving?”

“Likely so,” he says quietly. “Some of the hunting party’s returned, and they found…”

I flinch. I know what they found—or rather, whom. I was an infant when the family made the arrangements that mean I see my father rarely enough as it is, and once she gets here…

My eyes burn, and a sob catches in my throat. “Don’t I get to say good-bye?”

William and my aunt exchange another meaningful look. Even this boy my age knows more about what’s going on with my family than I do, and he’s just a castle hireling. I try not to think about it, but my stomach sours.

“He isn’t back yet,” William replies, “but your mother’s prepping everything for him to leave as soon as possible. We’ll try to get him to stay a day or so, to say good-bye, but Elwyn’s a stubborn one.”

“We?” And since when was my father on a first-name basis with the Runners?

He pauses, glancing again at my aunt. “His Majesty has tasked me to help delay your father’s departure.”

“You?” I ask stupidly, not comprehending. “Not Head Matron Morgana?”

“It’s best she be left out of this.” William’s expression softens. “People ignore Runners, for the most part, so we can be good for certain…quiet jobs.”

“Just be careful,” Aunt Trelanna says. “That woman is vicious.”

If she’s so problematic, why doesn’t Uncle fire her?

William smiles, though it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Yes.”

A Fistful of Water

What do you want to see on this blog? More snippets? More writing process and news? More everyday life stuff? Something else? Let me know!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Write? 2 Online Writer Conventions This Month (February 2014)

The first one, WANACon, has the open house tonight (Thursday, February 20) and then kicks off tomorrow, February 21st, at 12 p.m. EST. I'll be there, because I'm one of the volunteer moderators.

I didn't think to mention it last week due to the price tag ($149), which is a lot cheaper than an in-person conference. Speakers include Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan, Jami Gold, and some other people whose names you (and I) might or might not recognize. If interested, the registration page is here.

The second conference is FREE. I just found out about 2 days ago. That one has Rachel Aaron (known for her 2k to 10k book), David Vandagriff (the guy behind the Passive Voice blog), David Gaughran, and others. I'm looking at the class list and salivating, but my grandparents are coming in town—

*blinks at screen and double-checks dates*

Hey, that's Tuesday through Thursday, next week. Grandparents aren't coming into town until Wednesday, probably evening, so I might be able to slip a class or three into my work schedule. Maybe. So maybe I'll be at that free one, too.

Does this news interest you? Do you wish I'd mentioned the first one sooner? Do you have any plans for the coming week or so that you want to share?


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Trusting God's Providence

As you may or may not be aware, I'm Christian, and I specifically identify as reformed presbyterian. On one hand, "reformed presbyterian" can be summed up as "Calvinist". On the other hand, there's a lot of misunderstanding and propaganda about what, exactly, that means.

One area that gets lot of flack is the believe in God's Providence…which a lot of Christians actually believe in. They call it things like "God's provision" or "God's blessing". Same concept; different names. (Though, to be fair, "God's blessing" has a slew of potential meanings of its own, depending on whom you ask.)

Some people actually do expect God to provide them nice cars, great wealth, and amazing health…which leads them to be lazy about their own pursuit of it…which gives the concept a bad rap.

But in Matthew 6:25–34, , Jesus does famously say not to worry, that God knows our needs and will provide them.

Our needs, now. Not our wants. And considering God's outside creation, what He knows we need and what we think we need won't always coincide. In fact, they probably won't coincide. I knew one lady whose husband's death led a man to Christ…who ended up being her second husband, several years later.

(Side note: I think this is at least part of why I like the fantastical so much. The powerful creatures or inhumanly knowledgeable characters are a dim, shadowy peek at the discrepancy between a human and an omnipotent being. They're also a pointed reminder that even the most perfect thing we can imagine is still imperfect, and they demonstrate how humans' attempts to perfect themselves fail…but now I'm getting off topic.)

Some claim that this belief in God's Providence/provision/blessing leads to laziness, but the Bible also says that a person who doesn't work won't be fed (II Thessalonians 3:10, KJV, which I'm paraphrasing).

My circle (Calvinists) describe that as "God uses means"—using a definition of means that isn't really used anymore by anyone but us and some classic literature buffs. (We Calvinists use a lot of out-of-date verbiage, which I think contributes to the general confusion about what, exactly, we believe. It's a side effect of a lot of us reading more centuries-old classics than modern-day works.)

So when I say "God uses means," what am I saying?

something (as a step, stage, connection) intervening, intermediate, or intermediary
Source: The Unabridged Merriam-Webster, online edition

So to update that reformed presbyterian saying "God uses means" for the 21st century: "God uses intermediaries." So yeah, I gave my pastor cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños and cherry juice last week, a snack he could actually eat. (He has celiac disease, as well as other allergies that make it hard to provide him things he likes.) But my pastor might well say, "God provided me with a snack." (I don't know if he would, in that context, but some Calvinists would.) From the purely human standpoint, I gave him that. But if you assume God's omnipresent, omnipotent, and outside of time, then I was the intermediary used to provide the pastor with a snack when he needed/wanted it.

Neither negates the other. It isn't an either/or. It's a both/and.

That dichotomy of how things look from our side and how things look from God's side is another reason why Calvinists are often accused of believing things we actually don't. Because for some of those either/or theological questions, we see the answer as "Yes."

In one sense, it's as convoluted as it sounds. From a logic standpoint, it's simple…but it builds on more details that others disbelieve, call by other names, or don't think through. Nothing wrong with that, but there's a reason presbyterians are stereotyped as cerebral. We are.

But the entire "anti-fun" or "anti-smiling" stereotype? It refers to maybe 0.3% of us, in my experience…and it tends to be a phase, not a lifestyle. God did give "wine that maketh the heart of men glad" (Psalm 104:14–15, KJV).

Now, why am I mulling on this now? If you've been following me for a while, you know I have some health issues—but that's doing better, praise God! I'm feeling better than I have in quite some time, and even when I do get sick, it isn't as bad. I'm happy and loving my apartment. So is my cat, for that matter.

My cat, asking for a belly rub.

I have work, and I can pay my bills—which is what matters, right? My needs are met.

What caused me to think about this Monday evening (which is when I'm typing this up) is that I'm currently facing the choice between paying over $500 to fix a 20-year-old car or driving it to death and figuring things out from there. Because I rarely use my car, but in some ways, I do "need" one…to get to places like the chiropractor or the farmer's market. Technically, I could probably get rides most places, and there is a bus system that stops in front of my apartment complex that could get me to some places I shop, but…

Where I live is very convenient for getting all those places I need to go. It is not so convenient for someone to pick me up and then take me, unless that driver is my brother…who I don't think shops anywhere I do, except the pet store, because we feed our cats the same thing. (My brother lives in the same apartment complex I do.)

So although a car makes my life a lot easier and makes shopping and appointments a lot more convenient, I don't actually need one. That means I can't expect God to provide me with one.

By that same token, I can't expect any of you to do anything but pat me on the back and say "Poor you; sorry to hear it." And I'm certainly not asking you to open your wallets for me. (If I ever put out a "Help!" post, it'll be for something far more important than a car I could actually survive without.)

I'm trusting God'll provide what I need right when I need need it, not when I want it—something He's done, consistently, in my years as a freelancer.

But that doesn't mean I fold my hands and wait for a handout. Remember II Thessalonians 3:10? If I don't do my part to meet my needs, I can't expect that someone else—God included—will meet them for me.

So on one hand, this is an explanation for why I'll be…busy. Very busy. Because I have bills to pay and need means to fill it. Lord willing, I'll be able to get A Fistful of Water to you in the next few weeks. (At which point I also may or may not have some interesting news, regarding something that popped up this week.)

I may not reduce my posting frequency here. I've not decided yet. We'll see. I do want to revisit the site coding and possibly port it off Blogger and over to my web host, but with my schedule at the moment, that might be delayed a year or so.

Update, as of Wednesday night/Thursday morning:

My car wasn't in as bad condition as I'd feared. It was an attack of the littles that got the bill so high, and multiple maintenance guys at the shop commented that my engine was in remarkably good condition. (I am thanking God for that.)

Do you have any reaction to or thoughts about this post? Is there anything in particular you'd like to discuss in future posts, or to see in a story or something?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

So I've Been a Bit Busy Lately…

You may remember my short story bundle "PRIMpriety", with a novelette and two other short stories, which is set in a completely different world from my other work. The cover for that has always been…meh, at best, so I've been wanting to change it, preferably in a way that made clear who the MC was for that particular story (because I have more in that story-world).

I also had a few unreleased stories with her just sitting on my hard drive.

So a side comment from one gal I know produced the light bulb moment (…which she's done several times for me in the past few weeks…) for how I could handle the covers, so I did, and I decided to split up the stories while I was at it…

And I now have the novelette and two short stories released independently, plus two short stories on the longer end (5k words and 7k words) available. The covers still aren't fantastic, but they're better, which is what I was going for.

This particular series is fairly gruesome and has some R-rated language, so be warned.

Easiest place to see it all (and pick up the short short story I pulled out of the bundle—which may be the only one of them without the cursing) is on Smashwords.

(Speaking of Smashwords, if anybody likes clean romance, Lindsay Buroker's romantic suspense title Wounded is only $0.99, as of this writing.)

Vampires aren’t (un)dead—they’re just what result when an unseelie fae messes with a human. Most vampires don’t know about their fae origins, but Lyn’s special. So special that she's lethally allergic to sunlight, that she’s lived nearly two centuries but still has to work under the table, and that she REALLY can’t afford to be snacked on. It’s a long story. Here’s part of it.

The 3 from the bundle:

The newbies:

Unfortunately, some other things I'd intended to have ready by now haven't happened, but at least this is something. ^_^

Does this series interest you? What about the covers? Have you written/done anything lately that you'd like to share?


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Context, Context, Context

As you likely know if you've followed me for long, I'm a fan of the Business Rusch posts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and I also read all her husband's posts on writing as a business. (Along with reading Jami Gold, Janice Hardy, Passive Guy, Courtney Milan, and more recently Hugh Howey; if you aren't a writer, Passive Guy might be of most interest to you.)

But in any event, Kris Rusch has been running a series on Discoverability where, much like me with my old Realities of Self-Editing Series, she drafts out her topic on her blog and then will later reorganize it and all into a book (something I still need to do for Realities of Self-Editing).

Kris makes no secret that's the plan and that she's coming up with parts out of order, which means there are naturally transitions missing entirely from how one week's post connects to the other. She's also a targeted communicator—she picks a specific point and spends a few thousand words or so expounding on it.

Kris Rusch has decades of experience in the industry, as an author, editor, and publisher. She knows how quickly the scene of publishing can change; that's why her old company Pulphouse Publishing closed, unless my memory's off. Her focus has always been on making a sustainable living as a writer without relying on gimmicks or luck to keep your career going—and she also focuses on how broad audience and readership actually are.

Last week, she wrote a blog post that got a lot of, um, pushback on one forum where I'm a member.

The bulk of it seemed to come from folks reading her week's post without the context…some of which hadn't even been written, which is why this week's post is a clarification one, detailing some of the basics that she was speaking from but that she'd forgotten a lot of her readers wouldn't know. (I knew the gist, at least, which may explain how I understood her original post fine.)

Okay, omission of a particular context is a legitimate reason to miss her point. I already knew what she was talking about, so I automatically filled in the gaps.

But some of the reactions seemed…extreme, and based more on the person's preconception about what they expected her to say rather than what she actually said.

For instance, in Kris's misunderstood post, she said, "All business books recommend that a limited number of loss leaders," which has a variety of sales psychology aspects behind it, but she was speaking of the self-publishing practice of setting the first book free or highly discounted for an unlimited time. (This practice is called "permafree".) Kris pointed out that temporary deals are more valuable to the reader and prevent reader stockpiling of the product, like readers are now doing with freebies, filling their e-readers with freebies that probably most don't read.

Now, the thrust of her post was talking about the effects of permafree and loss leaders on the self-publisher's income: delayed recompense, if any.

You'll need sufficient product (books in a series) or time (for readers to get through it and buy the next) to get your money back. Using free to goose the Amazon rankings and therefore sales of a single product can work, but it's a crapshoot—one that Amazon will surely make less effective as time goes by. She explicitly "recommended" against buying an ad to promote a free book "unless" you had several titles in the series and could afford to lose the money.

Several people somehow read those above points as "Never put your book free, EVER! You're goosing the rankings, and it won't be effective forever!" and "NEVER buy an ad for a paid book! It's not worth it!"

Erm, right. (And on that topic, I sometimes wonder about writers & reading comprehension…)

So this week's post clarified some things that they should've known already (I and others have pointed it out on the forum before), and corrected some of the "common sense" that they spouted, like critiquing her right to comment on pricing when her Amazon sales rankings were so low*…

*(If you don't see the faulty logic there, consider that "discoverability" = "ability to be discovered", not "high sales volume on one vendor in the time period being referenced whenever a person checks out the author".)

But that lack of paying attention to context (and definitions) seems to be getting increasingly frequent…or maybe I'm just getting less tolerant of it. Maybe it's the cold or economy or stress or something, but people in general seem to have had more of a "jump on the bandwagon" mindset, lately.

Do you observe more people omitting context? What do you think of taking things out of context, things taken out of context, or things written out of context?


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Free short story!

I know it's not the same of a nice Thursday blog post, but I have a new short story out, and it's a free download today. (It's only available on Amazon at the moment, sorry; it'll be available on other vendors in about 3 months.)

"Full Rune" (free today, 1/28)

This is genuinely a short story—about 3k words, plus an excerpt from Thrice Uncharmed.

It'll show up on Amazon in a few days, but shipping costs mean I doubt anybody's going to grab it unless they're already placing some orders. In any event, if you're shopping on the CreateSpace eStore anyway, use the coupon code G55ELYAK to save $2 on the print version.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Murphy's Law Strikes Again

And now that my computer problems are evidently resolved, my Internet isn't working for more than 15 seconds at a time (not exaggerating), so please forgive the lack of post today. :(

ETA: But does it help to know there'll be a new short story released soon? It's in proofreading now.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Common Wisdom

Ever happen to overhear a question on something you know about, so you approach them and join the conversation?

I do—and so readily do it that, if I want to go work at a coffee shop, I have to keep in mind that I might not get much done. Sometimes I end up distracted for hours, chatting… It can also happen, to a lesser degree, when I happen to be shopping. I recently spotted someone eyeing two types of sock knitting looms and helped her figure out which she wanted…and we ended up chatting for quite a bit about knitting and crocheting and some other stuff.

Now, common wisdom is that butting in on others' conversations is rude, yes?

I actually got called "charming" yesterday. And people I've chatted with before, if I happen to run into them again? Are, more often than not, pleased to see me.

So I am a living example that butting in on others' conversations is not necessarily rude.

Can it be? Yes. Need it be? No.

It's all in how you handle it.

An example in the writing world is the question: Should an author respond to their reviews? A quite vehement group of people insist that no, an author should never respond to their reviews—reviews are intended for fellow readers, not for writers.

But I know of some authors like Hugh Howey who answer every single review, and what's interesting about that?

Those authors are all bestsellers.

Now, very few authors answer every review, and the sample size is far too small to assume correlation indicates at least partial causation, but I've noticed something about my own practice of review responding.

See, I only respond to reviews 1. that have been sent to me, or 2. are put on Wattpad. I respond to essentially every single review on Wattpad.

And with that practice, I've become solidly popular on that site. I'm one of the most-followed users, though my number of "reads" is lower than others—but that's to be expected, because I post my stories in fewer "parts" than most. Each post gets a single read for each unique reader, which is why A Fistful of Water has so much more reads than A Fistful of Earth, over there—because AFoW was posted in first draft form, it has a lot more sections, so each reader counts for about 3.5x as many reads.

Responding to reviews—even negative ones—takes a specific personality type to be able to handle it. I can read a harsh review, wince, and calmly analyze where the reviewer's coming from. A lot of writers can't do that.

The second problem with responding to every review is that text can't hold tone. No matter what you write, someone will misread you, and there are some readers who will think you defensive even when you aren't. And some will refuse to read your work on principle, so you'll lose those particular readers.

But if it's done right, the evidence seems to suggest that an author who responds politely to reviews will gain more readers than they lose. So while the common wisdom is correct in that most people can't respond well to every review, it's apparently wrong for assuming that it's not worth doing if you can.

I've been considering going back and responding to my reviews on various vendors, myself, though it's been nearly 3 years for some of them. But if I start doing it, I'll have to keep doing it, and I can't be 100% sure that the correlation I've seen between responses and popularity has any bearing on causation.

The thing about common wisdom is that it's common wisdom for a reason. Figuring out what those reasons are…that's the hard part.

What do you think of common wisdom and its general applicability? What do you think about joining others' conversations uninvited? What do you think about authors responding to reviews?


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Murphy's Law Fun

My computer's been having problems with software (program) AND hardware (physical parts), so sorry for the quiet today—I'm backing everything up to prepare for a stop at the computer shop tomorrow. I suspect I'll probably end up doing a software wipe and reinstall. Ulgh.

Oh, and I'll also be cooking a fairly involved meal for my brother's birthday dinner. Two days early, but the next two nights are spoken for. Lord willing, I won't completely screw up my first attempt to gut a fish and fillet it.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome the 2014!

Well, the year's off to an interesting start. I've slept in the past two mornings (which means I got up at 8-ish). Probably because I stayed up comparatively late on New Year's Eve, and then last night I got woken up in the middle of the night by my cat because she was thirsty. (Either there's a fissure in her water bowl, or it's so dry in here that her water's evaporating, because I'm filling that bowl 2x per day. She isn't drinking that much.)

I didn't make as much progress on Grandpa's slippers as I wanted (I'm crocheting him a pair), but that's partly because I kept being not counting how many stitches I had and mostly because I read a lot yesterday. (1 novelette + 2 novellas + 2.5 novels. The 3 shorter titles were in one compilation: Lindsay Buroker's Swords and Salt mini-series, which is priced at $2.99 [Smashwords | Amazon | B&N])

Goals for the year include getting healthy enough to be able to exercise (and then to exercise once I am). I'm making progress on that front, at least. Last time I exercised, I actually got a slight energy boost while exercising, rather than tanking while in the process of exercising.

But that's life. You want to know about the writing, yes?

I've temporarily posted the sequel to Thrice Uncharmed on Wattpad, which won't stay up for long. (And Thrice Uncharmed itself is $0.99 on at least one vendor, right now. I don't know how long it'll be that way, because I'm not the one who sets the prices, but you can find the links to the story on various vendors here.)

As for the drawing for those who signed up for my newsletter…the random number generator picked Pneumarian! He chose to have a story written about Mrs. Strongman. (For those who don't know, she's a character in a story I've since unpublished because it was a can't-stand-alone flash fic. I plan to release it again once I have a good story or collection to put it with.)

As for other things, I'm trying to avoid making specific plans, because life's been kicking me off-track lately whenever I've made those, lately, but I'm looking to have at least 1 new title under each of my pennames either published or to a publisher by the end of the month. Pneumarian's promised story might take a bit longer, but I'll be endeavoring to have that done ASAP.

I have some other "plans" which are more "ideas" at the moment, so I'll wait until they get more solid before I talk about them.

How are you? What are you planning for 2014?


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