Writing a Postcard

Most of y’all know that I submit regularly to the “Postcards” series from Raconteur Press. For those aren’t aware, it’s an open submission call that happens from time to time whenever the gang go to a convention. They send an AI generated image to anybody who asks, and you must write a story of precisely 50 words, no more, no less, inspired by the image. You only have until the Monday after the con to submit the story, so there’s a time pressure added to the word count. It’s a fun challenge, and I’ve made the cut for two of the four volumes.

I thought I’d share my process for any of you that are interested. (BUYER BEWARE: This story did NOT make the cut.)

Weekly Update: Week 1

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday season and are approaching this new year with energy, enthusiasm, and appreciation!

Now, to the update!

  1. Weight – I weighed in at 268 this week. I gained 3 pounds over the holidays. I didn’t want to gain anything, but three pounds isn’t the end of the world. I set a goal for this year to hit 215 by my birthday, June 14. That’s 43 pounds in 26 weeks, or just over 1.6 pounds per week. That’s a very realistic goal, particularly since I’m going to front load it with a short term goal of 15 lbs this month. We’re leaving for vacation Jan 28, and I want to look good for our destination!
  2. Non Fiction – I took some time off over the holidays, but now it’s back to work! Maintaining and growing social media, starting a newsletter and building a mailing list, and posting here regularly are all high priorities. I haven’t set any metrics yet for followers and such. Right now, I want to establish the routine, and build a reservoir of material for new readers to read through. Once I have a solid presence, then I’ll start working to build up!
  3. Fiction – Like I said, I took some time off for the holidays. I sat on the couch and watched TV with my wife, and then watched some football with the cats. I may have scared them a time or too, yelling at the screen. But now it’s time to get back into the harness and start putting words on paper. The weekly short story group started yesterday, and I plan on posting a story to the group every Friday, even while I’m on vacation. We’ll see how that goes! As for novel(s), it’s time to start working on those as well. The paranormal romance still sits at roughly 24k, and I want to have it completed by Jan 28. Then I’ll dive back into Calder Sharpe’s world and see what he’s been up to!
  4. Ukulele – One of my goals for the new year is to learn a new song each week and record at least one per month. This week, I’m concentrating on finishing “Hallelujah” and next week, The Rose (Bette Midler.) Other songs on my short list include “California Dreaming,” “All of Me,” “After the Goldrush,” “Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World,”and “Does your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight?)” If there’s any song you think I should add to the list, let me know!
  5. What I’m Reading – Since I had time, I finished several books. First, “The Debare Snake Launcher” by Joelle Presby. This is her first solo novel and it is a good one even though it isn’t what I expected. I thought this would be more of a hard SF novel dealing with the construction of the first space elevator. Instead, it turned out to be more of a character study of the family given the contract to oversee construction of a support launcher to put supplies into orbit to build the elevator. We get to watch as the family fights deadlines, supply and construction issues, a volcano, and each other to complete construction of the launcher. Next up was Thief of Aether, by Bree Moore, book 2 of her “Shadowed Minds” series. Like the first book, this is another page turned as Lee is increasingly tangled in schemes and crossed loyalties as she tries desperately to find her way free of the magic that is killing her. Be warned, the book ends on a cliffhanger and we’ll all have to wait for book three to find out how it gets resolved. But it will be worth the wait! And right now, I’m reading Graphite and Turbulence, book two of Jami Fairleigh’s “Elemental Artist” series. It picks up immediatel after the conclusion of “Oil and Dust” as Matthew, a young Artist with the ability to alter things in the real world with his paintings continues his search to find his birth family.
  6. Audio books – The reviews are in (all two of them) and, based on thier feedback, I will be releasing an audio version of “The Name of the Moon” on Amazon to go along with the story. I have a few edits left to make on the audio, then I have to figure out how to post an audio to Amazon, get everything set up, and then it goes live. My goal is for it to go live before we go on vacation, but we’ll see.

And that’s it for this update!

Have a great week!

Crow Moon cover

Weekly Update

First of all, do you like the new digs? If you’re reading this via the link on Facebook, awesome! Welcome to my website. I plan on moving more and more of my posts over here. I’ll post links on Facebook back to here, but I prefer doing mjost of my longer posts fropm here.

There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, this is going to be my home on the web. Facebook is fine for short posts, sharing memes, and interacting with folks, but my posts tend to run longer than Facebook readers typically like. Most Facebookers are looking for 20-30 second interactions that they can like and then scroll along. When I write one of these updates, or post a review, I like to take a bit of time and space, and that simply works better here.

Second, I have a much greater degree f control over how my posts look. I can add inline images, host a video, link to a book or somebody else’s page, and all without worrying about Facebook throttling the post because I’ve triggered one of the algorythmically generated and unidentifiable landmines.

Which brings up the third reason, Facebook tends to be somewhat arbitrary in applying their standards and I’m putting too muich effort into these posts to allow them to just disappear becaue a bot doesn’t like a particular word choice I make.

Of course, as I post more here, I’ll be tweaking things to make them work better, and look better. I’ll be doing some other things, like building a mailing list, creating a newsletter, and stuff like that along the way, so keep your eyes opened!

Now, to the update!

  1. Weight – I weighed in at 265 this week for a loss of 3 more pounds. That’s a total of nine pounds lost. We leave for vacation in under 6 weeks and I’ve got a ways to go yet. Onward!
  2. Non Fiction – Everything is still on track. I’m hitting my goals and making my deadlines and interacting on social media. Growth is very slow, but it will come with time and persistance!
  3. Fiction – Horrible week. Truly horrible. And it’s all my fault, of course. I just had to write a post on maintaining a routine. Yep, things happened and my routine took a huge hit. Monday, I had family things to deal with, Tuesday and Thursday I lost to illness, Wednesday, I guess I’ll blame on illness as well. Friday, I got some writing done, but my word count really suffered for the week. But a once established, a routine has it’s own momentum and the only way to really lose that is to sit back and let it happen. So I wrote on the weekend and made up for some lost time, and I’ll be right back at it tonight at 9pm.
  4. Ukulele – I’m working on Hallelujah still. Such a powerful song about love and loss! I’m trying to meld a strumming pattern with fingerpicking, and singing at the same time. If I can nail this, it should be awesome!
  5. What I’m Reading – I finished Cedar Sanderson’s short story collection, “Crow Moon” this week and it is amazing! My full review will post tomorrow, and I’ve submitted an Amazon review as well. The short version is simple. Buy It! Each story is like an artist’s sketch; there’s enough detail to protray the story and to evoke an emotional response, but it invites you to supply details from your own imagination and emotions from your own experiences until it almost feels like you are collaborating with the writer in crafting the story. I’ve started “The Debare Snake Launcher” by Joelle Presby. Presby spins a tale of old and new cultures coming into conflict as the world’s first space elevator is being built in Africa.
  6. I mentioned before that I was working on an audio version of my short story. I finished the raw recording and did a basic edit last weekend and it has gone out to my alpha listeners. Based on their feedback, I will either continue to pursue recording my own stories, (and maybe do some recordings for other writers) or retire from voice work, never to be heard from again. (No pressure, alphas. Just my career. That’s all!)

And that’s it for this update! Remember, tomorrow is a full review of Crow Moon, then Wednesday will be my weekly craft post, then Friday, writer’s choice. WHo knows?

Have a great week!

unreeled movie film for nonlinear storytelling

Tangled in Time: Non-Linear Storytelling

As writers, we’re told that we must hook our audience as quickly as possible or we’ll lose them forever, and that’s not wrong. But how far should we go to hook the reader?

The LibertyCon Challenge

My LibertyCon Challenge!

I will have a novel completed and ready to sell at LibertyCon.The LibertyCon Challenge

Yeah, I know. It’s ambitious. Or insane. Take your pick. So let me tell you where this is coming from.

I Am the 95%

I just finished reading Titans Rising, as well as Have Keyboard, Will Type (both highly recommended by the way and TR is reviewed here.), and I joined the 20Booksto50k(r) Facebook group (Also highly recommended.) One piece of advice has been consistent in all three places: You have to finish your book before you can sell it.

It seems obvious, right? But it’s no less true for that. You must finish the book. And by finish, I mean get it out of your writer hands and into the reader’s hands, with everthing that goes along with that. Covers, formatting, book design, marketing and so on.

For me, I need a deadline in order to finish. A drop dead, no-shit, end of the world deadline. One of the things Bill Webb talks about in Have Keyboard is the army of people who “are going to write a novel” or “are writing a novel” that never quite manage to finish writing a novel. AS he says, 95% of the people who start to write a novel never finish. I think he’s optimistic in that assessment and I say that as somebody who fits that definition. I have two different novels “in progress” and a third percolating in my head. The first novel has roughly 25,000 words, the second about 12,000.

I’ve been working on them for years.

That’s bullshit. I’ve been playing with them for years. The LibertyCon Challenge is my way of escaping the 95% trap.

Leaving the 95%

When I was encouraged to submit a story for an anthology, there was a deadline, and that made it real. I worked on the story, wrote a couple of false starts, then found the voice and tore through the first draft in less than a week. I gave it to a couple of alpha readers who made some good suggestions. I revised accordingly, fixed typos, and submitted at the deadline.

It sold.

This did a couple of things for me. First, it made me squee out loud, scaring the cat. Second, it gave me a sense of affirmation. I can tell a good story. People will pay to read what I write. I CAN do this.

But I need a plan and a deadline.

Taking the Next Step

I have set a few goals.

  1. Submit a short story to the Baen Fantasy Contest
  2. Submit a short story to the New Mythology open call
  3. Submit a short story to Sanderley for the next Going Home anthology
  4. Have a novel published by CKP, either shared universe or stand alone. (Or both)
  5. Have a novel published by Baen.

You’ve probably noticed these are not monetary goals. These are what I’m going to call craft goals; they aren’t signs of a successful professional career because they don’t include the ultimate metric for professional success: money. But they are important to me nonetheless as measures of how well I am mastering the craft of writing. If editors and publishers I respect find my work worthy of taking on, that’s confirmation that I am continuing to learn and grow my ability as a writer and a storyteller. (Hmmm. The basis for another post. What’s the difference and why does it matter?)

Now, as important as that is, I also need to pay attention to the business side, and that means looking at revenue. Like I said at the beginning, a book is finished when it is getting into the hands of readers, and that leads to a different set of goals, the first of which is my LibertyCon challenge.

Minimally Viable Products

The mantra of 20Booksto50k(r) is write-publish, write-publish, lather, rinse, repeat. Quantity has a quality of its own. They refer to their books as ‘minimally viable products.” In short, a poorly edited book that’s on the market will sell more copies than a perfectly edited book that’s still in revision. I get what they are saying; a book can’t earn money until it’s published, and editing/revising takes a huge chunk of time, during which you aren’t making money. The model comes straight from Microsoft, which is famous for releases that are buggy as hell. Microsoft uses its customer base as beta testers, fixing bugs after deployment.

Everybody knows this; everybody gripes about how buggy Microsoft products are on launch. Yet everybody still uses them.

Of course, Microsoft has the advantage of operating in an area with a limited number of competitors; books aren’t like that. If I piss off a reader with a poorly formatted, poorly edited book, that reader has a million other options for their next book purchase.

I won’t put a book or story out that’s filled with typos, continuity errors, etc. On the other hand, they aren’t wrong. A tight deadline will force me to work fast and clean in order to have enough time to edit/revise the manuscript, find a good cover, write a blurb, design the book and so on.

The LibertyCon Challenge

LibertyCon is just 9 weeks away. Many 20booksto50k writers generally aim to put out a novel every 5 weeks or so. That’s not a viable option for me right now; I have too many other projects (none of them sold, mind you, but one with a fast-approaching deadline) plus real-life commitments. But 5 weeks to write, then 4 weeks to revise, format twice(ebook/print). then do everything else to have physical copies available for sale at LibertyCon..

This is going to be interesting!

Rich Hailey head shot, smiling

Becoming a Titan

Cover of book Titans Rising

Titans Rising: Publishing in the 21st Century

Titans Rising is a manifesto combined with a how-to book on writing and publishing. I am not exaggerating when I say it may be the most important book on how to succeed in today’s everchanging climate. Independent presses are springing up everywhere. Amazon has crashed the gates of traditional publishing and the few major houses left standing are reeling, trying desperately to hold onto control of the market.

And failing.