Month: July 2011 Page 1 of 3

New WIP of DESTINY!

Writing on my new #WIP starts today.

With taking on more freelance projects, I’ve been doing a LOT less writing.  Funny…I have the time, all I need to do is cut back on dithering with emails, social networking, etc.  Same old, same old.  I’m going to install some wordcount tracking software on here next week to increase the embarrassment/accountability factor (funny, how being held accountable is a lot like being embarrassed), but for today to prevent too much further dithering, here’s the plan:

2K on days when I’m working freelancing projects or when Tony/Brittney are here.

6K on days when I’m just doing my own writing.

Project:

I’ve been working on a kids’ series for Ray that started when she was eight and didn’t like to read anything that wasn’t a) picture books or b) grown-up picture books (comics).  She reads a lot more now, but at eight, she was bored silly with Junie B. Jones, Ramona, etc., and didn’t give a rat’s ass about books for kids who were older than her.  I could get a few Magic Treehouses down her, but that was about it.  She read mostly nonfiction about animals.

So.  I asked her what kind of story she wanted, and she said “an adventure story with spies and magic.”  I started telling it to her verbally, but I couldn’t keep track of it all in my head, so it got turned into a book…that she read in two sittings, hogging my computer.

As she gets older, I write more books.  Each book is about a kid who shares the same name, is the same age, and has the same problems, the same concerns.

So.  This is book 4 of 5, will be about 50K, and needs to have the next book right after that.  So I’ll probably be writing 100K of the rest of the series, right in a row.

Book 1 has been on submission for over a year and has received nothing but rejections:  middle grade (10-14)  sells.  Chapter books (for kids 6-9) don’t.  It’s not a perfect story, but it apparently hit the spot and has continued to do so, so there might just be a market for it.  Book 1 is the next book I’m putting out, after I get the POD of Chance Damnation all wrapped up.  I’m going to put up the whole series in a row, because they’re kind of like Harry Potter in that each story can stand alone, there’s an overarching plot.  I, myself, have been known to wait until all the books in that kind of series to come out before I let myself get invested in them, because it’s annoying.

Word count for the day: 6070.

Free ebook this weekend: Monsoon

Now at SmashwordsBarnes and NobleAmazon.com, and OmniLit.

Rain on someone else’s parade by getting your copy free this weekend using code PR29Rat Smashwords.

Monsoon

by DeAnna Knippling

Imperfections only exist after you finish a project; until then, they’re opportunities.  After Randi finishes her latest project, she runs like hell and winds up at a ten-day Buddhist retreat in India.  Instead of providing her with a distraction, it exposes her to the terrors of her unplanned, wasted life:  middle-aged, loveless, and translating pulp fiction into Tibetan at bargain-basement rates.

Monsoon season is over.

One day, you’re hoping that the ledge in front of your door that’s meant to keep out ghosts is also high enough to keep the rain on the steps from blowing under your door; the next, you’re thinking, I think I saw a monkey on top of the next roof down the mountain; the day after that, you’re thinking, I have to get out of this place.

The water…the earth gives birth to water, screaming and thrashing and threatening her husband. The instinct to hole up in a safe place until it’s over, but of course you can’t. The storm lasts for months, and the lack of refrigerator in my apartment is a kind of hell. Real Indians act like it’s nothing big. I drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of dal. Sometimes I scuttle from overhang to overhang, watching the tiny cars slewing through the streets. Water running down the street shoves them into the opposite lane, but they don’t slow down. The drivers who slow down too much have their engines stall and have to have their cars dragged out of the way by small groups of men cheered on by the old women from the laundry at the bottom of the hill. Two days ago I jumped over the runoff on the way to the market but was almost knocked off my feet on the way back, because the rain was coming down even harder than before, if that’s possible.

I pushed through the first draft of translating the trilogy on the advice of my neighbor downstairs, who is from Nepal but has been living here for nine years and promised me the monsoon would be over soon. I sent the “final” version off. Cult Sci-Fi surrealist novel in three parts, now safely ensconced in the Tibetan tongue. It was complete and utter crap. Aliens come to earth to worship (and destroy) HHDL based on a mistranslation of a radio transmission made in 1959 by Allen Ginsberg. Commando monks. The Deadly Lotus. Murder by sutra. Apparently HHDL thought the little bits that the author read to him via translator were funny. I hope he likes it, but I think if he does that it’ll kill my respect for him a little.

I hate finishing things. Until you sign off on something, a project never has flaws, only development opportunities. So, as usual after “finishing” a big project, I panicked and ran.

If you enjoy reading about a) India, b) spiritual seeking, or c) funny things that happen with monkeys, check out Fighting the Good Fight (by JC Andrijeski).  She recently went on a, ahem, very similar trip…this is the imaginary diary of another one of the women at the retreat.  I’m not really intending to portray anyone, just fascinated by her experiences.

 

Monsoon

Now at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and OmniLit.

Rain on someone else’s parade by getting your copy free this weekend using code PR29R at Smashwords.

Monsoon

by DeAnna Knippling

As Kate Jenkins pointed out, this book is Eat, Pray, Love for sarcastic people.

Too old to flirt with the Norwegian meditation teacher.  Too young for menopause.

Imperfections only exist after you finish a project; until then, they’re opportunities.  After Randi finishes her latest project, she runs like hell and winds up at a ten-day Buddhist retreat in India.  Instead of providing her with a distraction, it exposes her to the terrors of her unplanned, wasted life:  middle-aged, loveless, and translating pulp fiction into Tibetan at bargain-basement rates.

Monsoon season is over.

One day, you’re hoping that the ledge in front of your door that’s meant to keep out ghosts is also high enough to keep the rain on the steps from blowing under your door; the next, you’re thinking, I think I saw a monkey on top of the next roof down the mountain; the day after that, you’re thinking, I have to get out of this place.

The water…the earth gives birth to water, screaming and thrashing and threatening her husband. The instinct to hole up in a safe place until it’s over, but of course you can’t. The storm lasts for months, and the lack of refrigerator in my apartment is a kind of hell. Real Indians act like it’s nothing big. I drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of dal. Sometimes I scuttle from overhang to overhang, watching the tiny cars slewing through the streets. Water running down the street shoves them into the opposite lane, but they don’t slow down. The drivers who slow down too much have their engines stall and have to have their cars dragged out of the way by small groups of men cheered on by the old women from the laundry at the bottom of the hill. Two days ago I jumped over the runoff on the way to the market but was almost knocked off my feet on the way back, because the rain was coming down even harder than before, if that’s possible.

I pushed through the first draft of translating the trilogy on the advice of my neighbor downstairs, who is from Nepal but has been living here for nine years and promised me the monsoon would be over soon. I sent the “final” version off. Cult Sci-Fi surrealist novel in three parts, now safely ensconced in the Tibetan tongue. It was complete and utter crap. Aliens come to earth to worship (and destroy) HHDL based on a mistranslation of a radio transmission made in 1959 by Allen Ginsberg. Commando monks. The Deadly Lotus. Murder by sutra. Apparently HHDL thought the little bits that the author read to him via translator were funny. I hope he likes it, but I think if he does that it’ll kill my respect for him a little.

I hate finishing things. Until you sign off on something, a project never has flaws, only development opportunities. So, as usual after “finishing” a big project, I panicked and ran.

If you enjoy reading about a) India, b) spiritual seeking, or c) funny things that happen with monkeys, check out Fighting the Good Fight (by JC Andrijeski).  She recently went on a, ahem, very similar trip…this is the imaginary diary of another one of the women at the retreat.  I’m not really intending to portray anyone, just fascinated by her experiences.

 

Indypub: Burnout

I would like to talk about a topic very near and dear to my heart today:  burnout.

There are days that I crave the blessed mindlessness of a dayjob.  Show up, be a robot, go home.  Evenings and weekends that I spend without panicking that I’ve wasted five minutes doing…nothing.

To be able to say, “Oh, I don’t feel like writing today” and not be a nervous wreck for the rest of the night.

To not feel like I have 1001 publishing tasks to take care of.

To be ignorant of the constant second-guessing that is marketing.  What if something I’m doing or not doing is costing me sales?  Should I be patient…or should I panic?

To be able to hang onto my work until I “know” that it’s perfect instead of having committed to putting up something every week.

To be able to give up after an umpteenth rejection because I feel like I’ll never get published again and I’m not getting any better.

To be able to take a vacation where I don’t spend an hour a day doing work.

To be able to spend days and days and days reading other people’s stuff.  Without having to ration my reading time in order keep my life balanced.

To be able to look at something and go, “I want it; I think I’ll buy it,” without weighing it against independence.

None of these things are good for me.  They don’t make me happy.  They don’t make me feel like I’m doing anything challenging with my life.  They don’t make me fit.

Nevertheless, my head swims with can’t can’t can’t anymore.

How do you resolve something like that?  How do you energize yourself, when every second you spend energizing yourself makes you feel more anxious and less able to go on?  Do you push through?  Do you concentrate on making everything magically all better…using nothing more than the power of your mind?

I don’t know.  I do know that some people are genuinely burnt out and need to find something else to do, and some people just have a weird feedback loop going on in their heads and everything really is just fine.  Too many things to do, can’t do them all, no point in doing any of them, even more things to do…

Either way, I suspect the first thing to do is make sure you aren’t being dominated by those feedback loops.  Make sure your body is rested, fed and watered, and exercised.  Make sure your physical surroundings are cleaned up (my brains get scrambled if everything looks messy).  Resolve any outstanding emotional problems that have nothing to do with writing and publishing.  Read a book, indulge in a few luxuries.  And then look at the situation.  When you first start, it will feel like you’re wasting time, but if you’re going to force yourself to do something, this is what you should be forcing yourself to do:  give yourself the resources to think and feel clearly.

I’ve been through this cycle maybe ten times, to a greater or lesser extent, since I started freelancing.  Often the reason that I go into this cycle is that I’m trying to tell myself something that I don’t want to hear or have identified a problem for which I have no solution.  For instance, I recently went through a period where I learned how to stop obsessively outlining every damn thing I wrote…by not being able to come up with story ideas until it was deadline time and I had to write something.  I felt like a total loser until I figured out what was going on

Emotions are there to tell me things that logic cannot comprehend.  Logic, unsurprisingly, has a hard time understanding and doesn’t handle it well.  Is it burnout or is it your heart’s way of saying, “you’re just not listening”?

Probably the latter, most of the time.


How to Edit Your Own Ebooks, Part 7: Capitalization, Acronyms, Spelling

Grammar books:  there are tons of grammar books that point out commonly misused words, punctuation, trivia, etc., like Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Bill Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, or The Transitive Vampire (complete with hysterical examples and Victorianish line drawings).  And Joseph M. Williams’s dreamy Style:  Toward Clarity and Graceno, I’m going to cut myself off there.

Consider it a professional investment to read books about grammar, vocabulary, style, and language in general–how we use it and how it uses us.  One, you’ll edit better.  Two, you’ll make better choices when you’re writing your first draft, and reduce the amount of time you spend editing.  And writers would rather spend more time writing than editing, yes?  But do try to pick language books with some sense of joie de vivre in them.  Language is too much fun to kill with pedantry, this blog aside.  Also, the books with a sense of humor tend to allow that rules are there to be broken, as long as you do it consistently and with panache.

If you need to get more granular than what I’m writing here, go to your style guide.

Capitalization

Sentences with missing initial capitalization and titles like Mr. and Mrs. will likely be caught by your spelling grammar checker.  But keep an eye out.

Capitalize names and words that stand in exactly for a person’s name:  “Grandmother, where are you driving so fast?”  “All the better to get to the drive-in early, my granddaughter.” Note that when you put “my” in front of “granddaughter,” you are no longer exactly replacing that person’s name.  You wouldn’t say, “My Tina” or “My Laurie” to address someone, unless you’re an Interregnum twit.  Nicknames do the same thing.  Angel but my angel.  If you have to stop to think about which to use, add it to the list.

Capitalize days, months, and periods of time like the Sixties or the Meiji era.  No need to go into title case (The Meiji Era) unless it’s a title.

Capitalize places but not cardinal directions:  the West; we’re heading west.

The first letter of a direct quotation (rather than just a “funny” word that you put in quotes) should be capitalized, unless it’s “an integral part of the sentence and can’t stand alone,” as said by, well, me.

The capitalization of titles (a.k.a. Title Case) isn’t truly standardized.  Look it up in your style guide and do it consistently.  Write titles on your style sheet so you don’t have to do it twice.

Is it french fries or French fries? Is it guinea pigs or Guinea pigs?  Look it up in the dictionary, which is for more than just spelling.  If you look it up, put it on your style sheet.

Keep an ear open to the possibility that different groups of people will handle capitalization differently, and this might be reflected in your fiction.  For example, when I worked as a technical editor for the government, I had to write “Government.”  Now I don’t.

Acronyms

Ah, the favorite subject of my life as a technical editor for the government.  We had a list of over 5000 acronyms, and we used it on a daily basis to look things up.

Pick a method for defining acronyms and stick to it.  Decide whether to formally define acronyms or not.  “FDA,” he asked. “What’s that?” “Food and drug administration,” Bets answered. = not formal.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be on your ass quicker than you can say, “Chicken snot.” = formal.

Find out what, truly and exactly, an acronym means if you’re going to use it.  Yes, sometimes your characters will misuse them.  However, for the most part, it’s better to know that it’s Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time.

Find out exactly how the acronym is capitalized.  Some acronyms have lower-case letters within them; some don’t.  SoHo in New York has mixed case.  POTUS does not.  There is no rhyme or reason to this; just look it up.

Find out whether your acronyms need to be punctuated, like Ph.D. (which might also be PhD).

Again, if you have to look it up, put it on your style sheet.

Spelling

Look it up!  Assume that your readers will verify any verifiable fact.  This is one case where being consistent will not save you.

Do not trust your spell checker further than you can throw the OED.  It’s a blessing in that it saves time and helps keep you from getting burned out

If you think you’re going to use a word more than once in a document, add it to your computer’s dictionary as well as to your style sheet.

Keep in mind that the spelling of words is no more immutable than grammar; if  dictionary lists several versions, use the first listed one (generally).  However, if your setting requires a different usage, do that.

Plurals, possessives, and tenses are listed in the dictionary; if you’re not sure, look it up.  Is it burnt or burned?

I would, unless it’s vital to your world, avoid using variant spellings from other countries, e.g., colour instead of color.  If it’s vital, do your research on how to use spellings (and read up on how to do punctuation, too, because it’ll be an issue).  Readers are more likely to accept a book where a British guy wants to know the color of a woman’s undergarments than they are to buy a similar gent who can’t make up his mind whether he’s following British or American spellings half the time.  In the gray areas of editing, consistent is better than right.

If anyone knows of a good guide to explaining the differences between American/UK/Australian usage, let me know.  I don’t bother with them, but it might be useful to list here.

Should a word have a space in it or not?  Nevermind or never mind?  Ah, the dictionary knows, even if spell check sometimes looks the other way.

Should a word be hyphenated or not?  I’ll cover that later, in punctuation…mostly.  However, some words are hyphenated for reasons having nothing to do with punctuation:  orang-utan (sometimes); hurly-burly.  Look them up!

Weird West Mythology

I have to start writing more reader-oriented blogs.  I keep writing author/publisher focus blogs.  Writing blogs directly intended for readers?  Terrifying.  Why?  I don’t know.  But it’s down in my gut, the feeling that I can’t do this, it’s stupid, etc.  Fear of failure.  I hate it.  I’d rather talk about the writing process instead of the end result.  So, apologies if this doesn’t work.  I did it; that’s the big thing today.

When I was a kid, people would ask me to tell them interesting things that I had done or had happened to me.  I never had any. My world was caught up in the books I read, not in the stuff I did every day.  Books = exciting.  My life = boring.

The older I was, the worse it got. Other people went overseas, had interesting jobs, met famous people.

And then I read The Gunslinger, the first book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

I enjoyed the book, read the next two (I think the next two were out then), and was heartbroken when I found out that he was probably never going to finish the series.

But shortly after that, I started to be able to come up with interesting things about my life.  The fact that I grew up in the middle of nowhere started to mean something; I could start seeing it from other people’s perspective.

The Gunslinger, while not being about South Dakota and feeling just a bit off to me, made what I felt when I was out on the prairie something I could almost put a finger on.  Over the next hill could be something completely surreal.  The hawk sitting on top of the fence post over there might start talking.  In the dark, people might change into something different, like werewolves, or even something weirder.  The grass might cover up all kinds of strange things that went down into the earth.  The gentle waves of grain might be a skin for some great beast, dozing in the July heat.  Making the July heat.

The place I had lived as a kid became a magical place, when I was in college.  Because of somebody else’s book.  The power of reading.

I struggled with it.  Stephen King had never lived in South Dakota, after all, so he couldn’t exactly be trusted to come up with a myth that described it so well, the way that the Dark Tower series described the further West or Children of the Corn” described Iowa.  (Later, when I lived in Iowa, I couldn’t escape the thought that something in the corn was watching me.  I admit to being overimaginative.)

I wanted to be the person who came up with the defining South Dakota myth.  Of course, I know that it’s not really possible; I’m too late.  The Wizard of Oz wasn’t really written about Kansas, but about Aberdeen, South Dakota, where L. Frank Baum worked as a newspaper reporter.  He never lived in Kansas.  And The Little House on the Prairie books are as mythological as anything containing dragons.

Nevertheless, even after I figured that out, I continued.

My first book was about the prairie and the way it was fundamentally unreal.  The world had become a collection of fantasy lands that faded out around the edges; the center one was a prairie populated by werewolves who were trying to stay human but failing miserably, and about to be destroyed by an invading country, the fairy-like Summerlands of Minnesota, led by a renegade werewolf.  However, the real problem was that the world had been destroyed a few generations ago, and the only thing keeping it together was an old woman’s imagination; one of the werewolves had to give up his humanity in order to inherit the job of keeping everything running.

I’m making it sound better than it was, because I’m a better writer now, and I can’t help sprucing up the description:  I think more in terms of stories than I used to, so it sounds more like a real story now, when I describe it.  It was a first novel, of the usual type.

I tried; I failed; I got better.

Eventually I realized that it would be better if I spun off small bits of stories from that first novel:  too many things going on.  I thought and I thought and I thought…

After a while, I realized that I’d been around for the end of an era.  The Old West had been dead for a long time, but I was there for the end of the Middle West, that mythical time that happened, for most people, on TV with shows like Gunsmoke and the fantasies of cowboys and Indians, red bandanas, silver stars, and capguns.

Independent ranchers and family farms.

Reservations before the casinos came.

Kids driving tractors for their families at stupid-young ages.

Johnny Cash was still alive and raising hell.

I mean, come on.  I had my own horse at one point.  He scared the crap out of me, and I rode one of the other horses instead.  But there you go.

It’s a different kind of West than the Old West, but it was still a mythical time.  Now, it’s all 80’s music with steel guitars, casinos, the Oscar Howe museum (where white kids take tours), feedlots, and industrialization.  People have internet access and cell phones.

My childhood.  Why not write about that?

Or even just a little bit earlier…

I wrote about 1960, the year the Big Bend Dam was being built.  It flooded all kinds of Indian lands.  (Back when I was growing up and riding the bus through the reservation to get to school in Chamberlain, it was both a compliment and @#$%^& insulting to call an Indian a Native American.  Why would you want to be named after your own @#$%^& conquerers?  Native was the important word.  And people hadn’t taken to identifying first with their particular tribes at that point, at least, not in front of a white kid.)

I wasn’t born yet; my only real experience with the era was clips of movies shot on my grandpa’s movie camera, of branding cattle, riding horses, going to rodeos.  Everything was sepia tinged, because the light was so bright and the film was so old, and in my imagination, everything was colored like that.

In my imagination, none of it was real, and yet all of it was incredibly important, like a dream that you had better get right, or you’re never waking up from it.

So I ended up putting together a story about a family of cowboys and ranchers, under the thumb of one of the giants of the earth, a veritable Zeus among cowboys.  And a half-blood Indian girl who is the lynchpin of the universe (not quite making it all up the way that old woman from my first novel had, but close).  And shotguns and pickup trucks and the wide open prairie, which might swallow you up at any moment, and the nearly-extinct buffalo thundering over the prairie.

Now, of course, there are great herds of bison (their proper, if non-mythological, name) out in the Black Hills; you can drive out to Custer State Park and see them.  Times have changed.

But that sense of the grain being a skin over something else that you can’t quite see–nope.  That’s still there.

Indypub: Linking to ebooks on the iBookstore

(Via Mike Jasper.)

Click here for a tool that will build you a link for your ebooks in the iBookstore, so you can link directly to them from your webpage.

By Russel Phillips.

Apple iBookstore Links…

Here’s the list of books that has made it over to the iBookstore:

De Kenyon:

A Picture is Worth 1000 Chomps
Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster
Bunny Attack!
Class Pet from Beyond the Grave
Zombie Girl Invasion
 

DeAnna Knippling:

Abominable
A Fly in Amber
Death by Chocolate
Haunted Empire
Mother & Child
The Business That Must Be Conducted in the Dark
The Debt:  A Zombie Tale
 

Kitty Lafontaine:

Tales from the Pirate Moon 1
 

Updated Haunted Empire Cover!

Check it out!

Jeremy Martinson of Ponies Studios built a new cover image for my novella Haunted Empire.

(Any problems with layout and font are mine, all mine.)

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Anyway, I put it on sale at Smashwords from today to the end of July for $1.50, using code SSW50.  A SF Adventure in the vein of Firefly/Serenity…

Story – Things You Don’t Want…

Now on Sale at SmashwordsB&NAmazon, and OmniLit.

Feed your fear of snail mail by using coupon code SC54Q at Smashwords…

Things You Don’t Want But Have to Take

by DeAnna Knippling

She hid from the thing for years, but it found her and came to her in a box with no real return address and her own handwriting on the label.  She knew what would happen if she tried to fight the cold thing with its claws in her neck.  Her only hope was to hide it from her husband…

When it’s time, you know.

I opened my front door.  The deliveryman, a guy of about twenty with sun-streaked hair and the musculature of a young god, had his fist up in the air; either he was going to hit me, or he was just about to knock.

“Hey, Joe,” I said.  I plucked the signature pad out of his other hand before he could say boo and signed for the package.  “Do you want some chocolate chip cookies?” I asked.  “I made them last night.”  In fact, I’d had such a bad nightmare last night (about the box) that I hadn’t been able to go back to sleep.  I know, cookies, right?  But cookies are wholesome.  And they smell good.  I’d eaten about a dozen already.

Joe gaped at me and retrieved the signature pad.  “How do you know my name?”

I pointed at his nametag and walked into the kitchen.  The cookies were still a little bit warm.  “Want some milk?” I yelled into the hallway.

“No thanks,” Joe called back.  “Uh—”

I put the cookies on a paper plate and wrapped it with plastic wrap.  “You sure?”

No answer.  I brought them back out.  Joe had picked up the package and was staring at it.  He looked like he was about to vomit.  Probably from the smell emanating from the box.

You know, Joe reminded me of an old boyfriend I had, who was always trying to keep me out of trouble.  Hadn’t worked.  Joe looked up at me, and I knew he was going to try to run off with that box.

I hate it when people try to be noble.

“Trade you,” I said.

Joe hesitated.  “I—”

Damn it.

“I know,” I said.  “It smells.  It’s some really stinky cheese.”

“It isn’t cheese, ma’am.  Let me get rid of it.  Nobody needs to know.”

I hate it when people call me ma’am.  But I’m married to a company man and stay home all day.  I wear color-coordinated pants and sandals and get matching manicures.  So I guess I can’t complain.  It’s what I’ve made myself look like, after all.  Protective coloration.

Something heavy in the box shifted across the bottom, rattling the packing peanuts.

I wrote this story a while ago; it seems to be the one that consistently almost gets picked, but bounces, but I’m actually quite proud of it.

The story’s about a thing in a box that comes to a woman who’s been living the life of a perfect suburban housewife. However, she has secrets…

The thing is, I never really clarify what those secrets are, or what’s going on. I like to ask people what they think the thing in the box is.  Click for more if you want to see what other people have said, and what my theories are.  I really recommend that you read the story first, though.  Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.  There’s no right answer.

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