Cover art and self publishing

I have uploaded my first draft of Climbing Yggdrasil to CreateSpace, designed a cover, and ordered proof copies for scribbling in. They’ve estimated I should have them by June 2, in time for me to start a second read-through looking for problems to correct. The book is not as frighteningly bad as I expected it to be, I actually came up with some good stuff somehow! I was most concerned about the end, because I kind of rushed through the last few chapters. The chapters themselves don’t feel rushed, but it’s clear there ought to be more chapters between the ones I have to flesh certain things out so that the reader doesn’t think, “Wait, when did that happen?”

climbing yggdrasil

This generic cover won’t do for final publication; I’ve done some looking into professional cover designers and really liked what I saw over at Creative Digital Studios, but it comes down to being able to justify paying for it. There are other avenues to pursue, and I believe I’m still early enough in the editing process that I shouldn’t be rushing to have a nicer cover done just yet.

I think in the beginning of this whole adventure, back in November when I realized I would actually make it to 50,000 words and finish a book for once, I wanted to try getting it published through traditional channels. Then one of the winner goodies from NaNoWriMo was a code good for two paperback copies of my book through CreateSpace, so I started checking them out and learned how easy it is to self-publish that way. After a message to customer support, I learned that this code is not valid for proof copies; I would have to submit my book for publication in order to redeem two free copies of the final product. I don’t think I’ll be ready by the time the code expires.

The more I played with CreateSpace, the more attractive the idea of self-publishing my first novel became. This wouldn’t mean I couldn’t try a later book through a publisher; it might even help to have a self-published book floating out there (assuming it gets positive reviews; I’ll have to make sure it’s good enough to do that). I could be entirely wrong, publishers might look at a self-published author as some kind of terrible amateur who has no business trying to gain traction in the world of traditional publishing.

I just want to get my work out there for people to read, though. I’d like to have a final draft polished and ready to go up on CreateSpace by November. I should probably figure out what I’m going to do about a cover in the coming months, then.

Anyone have experience with publishing, self or otherwise? What has that been like for you?

 

100 words: Water

Be it the gentle slosh or the constant hush, there is something calming about water. The whirls and swirls as it parts around the pylon of a bridge, the whisper as it falls over a weir, the strange and fragmented reflections of light it throws back. The curious patches where currents move under the surface, or the glasslike peace broken by a passing craft, sending silvered ripples out in a vee behind it. The countless impact of raindrops as they fall upon it so that nothing is reflected. I like walking best beside water, for my soul is at rest.

The difference between talking and writing

Well, one’s talking, and one’s writing, right?

I feel like I have two internal voices: the one that gives words to my mouth, and the other that gives them to my pen (or keyboard). My speech voice has gotten all tangled up in recent years as I immerse myself more and more in the French language. Nowadays, I spend roughly 35 hours a week speaking almost exclusively French, and when I switch over to English I find remnants of that in my speech. The word “bien” is especially sticky, and it has no English equivalent in certain contexts. I also sometimes get mental blocks where I can’t think up the English word for something. “I’m going to have some toast with… wait… dammit… what’s the word for ‘confiture’?”

This used to upset me at first. I’ve been speaking English all my life, why should that get pushed out for French? I don’t actually think either of them has had to make room for the other, and I have enough bilingual people around me that if I automatically say something in French or English because it’s more efficient that way, they understand. Often it’s subject-related: I speak French at work, so if I talk about work it’s easier for me to do so in French. Sometimes it’s random, or not even proper French. The two languages have slightly different grammar structures, and I’ve been known to say something entirely in English, but using the French structure instead.

When I am writing, this is almost never an issue. The writing voice remains clear on what is English and rejects the rest. I never falter or spend time searching for an English word that I’ve temporarily forgotten because the French equivalent comes to mind. Perhaps it’s so easy to separate the languages because I don’t do any creative writing in French. I’ve done some for a university course, but they were very short pieces riddled with grammar issues. I simply haven’t done enough reading to have the vocabulary necessary to try any serious creative writing en français, never mind the fact that there are literary verb tenses I won’t touch. The ones I know already are complicated enough.

I will say this much for French, though: pronunciation is pretty standard, and that’s a blessing to anyone learning it as a second language. I have so much sympathy for anyone learning English as an adult and struggling with all its irregularities (see “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité).

100 words: Crimson

I used to belong to a community on LiveJournal whose only rule was that every post had to be exactly one hundred words. It was one of those fun constraints that forced me to say things differently, to reduce a very short piece to its most essential message, to cut words that did not add to the feeling in order to bring my count down. This blog is particularly lacking in creative writing; I write quite a bit about writing, but I’m hesitant to post excerpts from my big projects since they’re very much works in progress. What would be nice is to start a regular exercise, something like 100 words, that I would post here once a week or so.

Of course, I could just shut up and do it instead of making a big deal about it beforehand. Here’s a try:

Sometimes the words don’t come out right. You open your mouth and wish you could take back the stings and barbs your tongue spits out. You gush reassurances, but what’s said can’t be unheard, wounds become scars, reminders of monstrous utterances. Regret and shame fill you, you wish you could go back, tell yourself to stop, take a moment, reflect on your pain and anger, transform it into something less harmful. Make it into art, burning crimsons and angry oranges. Embrace it. Own it. Let it go. Breathe it out with a sigh of relief instead of a hateful hiss.

So I’m no good with poetry. I’m terrible with rhythm and breaking things up into nice lines and stanzas. I do like to play around with imagery and emotions, though. Prose poetry seems the way to go… 100 words of prose poetry.

What is Project: Destiny?

It’s been months now that I’ve been writing here about my baby, my oldest project, and how I aim to finally complete it this year. I’ve been annoyingly vague about what it is, though. The page I’ve created for it still doesn’t have a proper description. I suppose that superstitious part of me worried that if I wrote up a finely-detailed résumé of the project, it would sink my chances of actually getting it done. I think I have enough forward momentum to chance it now.

Project: Destiny tells the story of a young man who has been hidden all his life by his mother, who feared her enemies would try to harm him in order to manipulate her. She travels to the far south on a journey and does not return. When he learns of her death, he is determined to continue her work and find out what happened to her. He recruits a well-read companion before setting out, realizing that he knows nothing of the world and that being a gifted shadeweaver may not be enough.

This much of the story has remained constant since the beginning. In the first version, though, the protagonist had a different name and was not a shadeweaver but a sorcerer, one who casts spells by drawing magic circles inscribed with particular symbols depending on the desired effect. Sorcerers were identified by their golden- or amber-colored eyes. There were also wizards, whose eyes were blue, and magicians, whose eyes were green. Wizards had nearly limitless power and could move mountains at will. Magicians had extremely powerful talents, but their abilities were constrained to one single skill.

Shadecraft has changed all this. It is the study of the natural energies of the world, broken down into eight color-coded categories: four for the material aspects of the universe, four for the abstract. One who weaves the energies of these eight Shades into patterns to work wonders is called a shadeweaver. They view their work as art or science, and do not appreciate having the word “magic” attributed to it by common folk.

I first began writing this story when I was fourteen. Between actual drafts (that would eventually get scrapped before completion), I dreamed up elements of the world, details to lend it more realism, many of which I suspect won’t get used in this book. A book only needs enough detail for the reader to have the illusion of being able to see interesting things in the distance as they follow the path of the characters, like a tunnel painted with elaborate scenes depicting what’s going on beyond, or what has happened before. I don’t necessarily need to come up with a culture for a people never seen in the book, their homeland never visited by the characters. It’s been almost fourteen years since the start of this, though, and I think I’ve done a bit of that, some of it as an excuse to procrastinate and delay writing the actual narrative.

My goal with this is to write an interesting story set in a world with a rich history, a diverse span of cultures and peoples, and a system of magic that doesn’t involve characters pulling instant solutions out of their hats by doing things the reader thinks them incapable of. It’s an adventure, the characters will struggle and face danger, possibly death or dismemberment. It’s also the story of a young man trying to discover who he is as he enters the world for the first time.

Two books, one year

I was able to get about half of a chapter done last week. I set myself up in a Second Cup downtown, ordered a small chai latte, and plunked down in a chair near a fireplace display. This was another of those writing sessions where I discovered things as I went along, reasons why things work, explanations, etc. I also wrote a major contradiction, but staying true to NaNo rules, I ignored it and told myself it will get fixed in editing. Also, I didn’t want to cross out a whole paragraph of text. On a computer, it’s nice to pretend it never existed, it stays pretty. Here, every mistake shows up as a bar of black ink, or a furious scrawl.

I really enjoyed the latest NaNo mail I got. The beginning of it reads:

I recently met a woman named Ruth who approached me with her head hung low. “I’m sorry, but I failed NaNoWriMo,” she plaintively said. “I only wrote 10,000 words.”

I hate to hear such words. They disturb me like few others.

“You didn’t only do anything,” I replied. “You bravely signed up to make creativity a priority for a month in a busy life. You dreamed up a fantastic novel idea. You wrote thousands of words. You established creative momentum in your life. That’s huge!”

– Grant Faulkner, executive director

I wasn’t beating myself up over not having reached my goal of 50,000 words in one month, but it’s always nice to have reassurance. NaNoWriMo is such a supportive group and I don’t know that I would be working so hard to finish another book right now if I hadn’t participated last year and then again last month. Before NaNo, I was under the illusion that writer’s block was real, that the best time to write was when inspiration struck, that somehow I would find myself flooded with ideas and thousands of words would come pouring out in an afternoon.

Also, their attitude of plunging ahead and never looking back helped me realize that the elements of a rough draft do not have to be perfect. They have to lead from one scene to the next until the end of the story is found. Then the heavy machinery can be brought in to polish and clean and reshape until a scattered mess of points resembles a journey, until the characters are consistent and defined, until a pile of words resembles a book.

By the time this post goes live, I should be applying these lessons over another chai latte, continuing the journey of my characters. As I write this, I’m just shy of 20,000 words. If I continue at this pace, I’ll hit 100,000 by the end of August. I’ll have two rough drafts, or perhaps one rough draft and one second draft, all in the space of one year. It’s hard to believe I could go from having so many unfinished drafts to two complete rough drafts in such short time. All because I decided to try something different and challenge myself. (Okay, because my husband got tired of my whining and told me to do something. Thanks, dear. I really appreciate it.)

Your regularly scheduled visit to the sandbox

I have decided to update Thursdays at 17:00 Eastern Time (GMT -4:00), which means I will be writing my posts in advance and scheduling them to publish at that precise hour. It’s what I did for my last post. I never feel right announcing any sort of plan until I’ve sort of succeeded at it, that way I never end up saying, “I shall do this!” and then it doesn’t happen.

I haven’t been keeping up with Camp NaNoWriMo unfortunately. People must have been validating their word counts since yesterday, while I have accepted a defeat of sorts. It’s not a real loss, though; I’m still writing most days at my snail’s pace, taking advantage of the train ride home. I find I’m lousy with my promise to write more on the weekend, though. I have a table set up in the corner of my living room with everything I need to write, including a pair of speakers I can plug my phone into so I can put some mood music on. So far this weekend, I’ve been playing Minecraft. Building towers is fun, building worlds is better… I have to remind myself of that.

I have reached a point in my story where most of the major characters have appeared. I have made some drastic changes from previous attempts; there is a master/apprentice pair, and this time, on  whim, I’ve decided to have them be romantically involved (the apprentice is of an appropriate age, don’t worry). Elsewhere, there is a murder, and the murderer then masquerades as his victim while all assume that he (the murderer) has fled. I am embracing inspiration, letting it take me a little off course, telling myself that if these changes don’t work out, I can fix them later.

The rough draft is my sandbox, where I can play and experiment and try things I might not dare to do if I take myself too seriously. This is my hobby, and I should have fun, right?