The Coming of NaNoWriMo 2019

I just posted a video about NaNoWriMo 2019 and how we can prep for it with Scrivener. This comes with the idea that I may actually record my writing progress this month, for those of you who want to see a story written in real-time.

Will this likely end in disaster?

Probably! So, now you gotta watch, right?

In the video, I reveal two new templates I’ve developed this year: one for planning a story (and is still a work-in-progress), and the other a basic template for NaNoWriMo that includes options for journaling, tracking progress, and writing a postmortem when all is finished.

If you’d like to use either template for your own prep or writing adventure, you can find them both here.

If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, then comment below and talk about it.

Good luck!

Of Pirates and Whales: A Tale of Corporate Glut and Consumer Punishment

Today, Google’s “Recommended by Pocket” blog roll (shown whenever a new tab is open in Firefox, as well as in maybe other browsers that I never use) showed an image of a younger Nicolas Cage holding a baby up to the camera, taken from the classic film Raising Arizona, a movie that I used to catch in syndication on my local FOX station back in the early ‘90s. The headline, “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying,” worried me, so I checked it out. The article by Matt Zoller Seitz, published in Vulture, goes on to tell the tale of big corporate Disney sucking out the lifeblood from theaters who rely on classic FOX films to cover 12% or more of their annual income and eating their bacon.

The thesis is that Disney is applying its scarcity model to old FOX films that were previously available to any theater that requested them for special screenings, and it’s costing the theaters big time. For instance, before Disney acquired FOX last spring, if a theater wanted to screen, let’s say Die Hard, at Christmas time to provide some nostalgia to, let’s say, men in their mid-forties who may have seen it in theaters back when they were teenagers and were like, “Boom! Pow! Yippee-ki-yay, moth—” and, well, you know the rest, then FOX typically let them. The theaters, in return, could give these fortysomethings and their teenage sons an opportunity to relive the experience of seeing John McClane throw Hans Gruber off of the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza—on the big screen!—while the rest of their family go Christmas shopping. It’s a model that boosted theater income whenever the current run of films outlived their welcome.

According to the article, Disney’s model prevents theaters from doing that anymore.

It reminds me in part of what Amazon has done to the book industry, but in a reverse kind of way. While Amazon has gobbled up the New York publishing market and spat it onto the shores of the River Styx, those stores that subscribe to the New York model, like Barnes and Noble, have taken to a standardization model that may actually perpetuate their demise.

I think the real worry here, as far as movies are concerned, is that Disney may fall somewhere in between these two models: Kill the competition, as Amazon does, but through a standardization practice like what New York and Barnes and Noble does. My question is, what happens if the whale gets super huge, and then somebody comes along and kills it? What if that somebody is consumer apathy?

In the end, I hope Disney knows what it’s doing.

Though, I guess I’m okay with the outcome either way because I don’t love movies today like I used to. I still have a few franchises that I look forward to, like Mission: Impossible, The Fast and the Furious, James Bond, and Batman. But even those aren’t enough to get me interested in movies like the ones that came out in the ‘90s did. Disney has its hand in too many of them, and it’s beginning to show, so I’m getting a bit bored. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate a good Marvel movie. I’ll stick with that series for as long as it doesn’t suck (which, hopefully, won’t be anytime soon). This isn’t even to say that I’m not interested in the Disney+ service because I sort of am. But I’m also skeptical. I don’t think I watch enough content to justify spending a monthly fee. And even if I did, I don’t own the content. If they decide I can’t watch something I want to watch, then I can’t watch it without help from a pirate, and I don’t deal with pirates. So, rather than get upset, I simply put the movie out of mind. By the time they decide I can watch it, I don’t want to. I choose when I want to watch something. Not Disney.

Anyway, here is the article about Disney.

And here is the article about Amazon.

And for kicks, here is an article about Barnes and Noble to really hit the point home.

All three are worth reading and comparing and using to draw your own conclusions about where the world of entertainment and commerce is heading. Do you care?

Comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to be notified of my next article.

Cover Image: Pixabay

October 2019 Update

It’s October, and you know what that means!

No, not Halloween. I mean, yeah, sure, it does mean that, but no, I’m not talking about that. And, no, not pumpkin spice lattes, either, even though those are awesome, and I don’t know why I’m not drinking one right now. But not that, either.

No, not scary movies. Not Oscar-bait films.

Why all of these off-topic guesses? Don’t you know me by now? You know what October really means! Right?

You do know what that means.

Right?!

Time for an update?

Familiar at all?

*blank stares*

Okay, yeah, I guess that was not at all obvious since I rarely post updates except for the exceedingly rare Friday update that I do every twentieth Friday or so in an even-numbered year, and my last monthly update was not in September or August. It may not have even been in 2019. I’d have to go back and check.

I really need to stay on top of this blog more often.

Okay, well, that all said and off-topic, I think it’s time to give you an update about all of the writing-related stuff you either missed or I didn’t share this past month (or year). Given that it’s not yet the end of the month, calling it the “October 2019 Update” is probably weird. If I do a “November 2019 Update,” then I’ll fill in the details that we missed in the weeks between now and November. I may post that update sometime in mid-December. We’ll see.

The point here is that it’s update time, regardless of what we call it, and if you’re a reader of this blog, then hopefully that means you’re interested in what I’ve been doing. And let me tell you, what I’ve been doing is playing lots of videogames.

Kidding. Most of my games are passive and don’t require me to interact with them that much.

Outside of that, I’ve been dealing with pain in my right arm for a number of weeks now. I haven’t gone to the doctor about it yet because I don’t want to deal with pain medication or any other quick fix that could potentially create new complications, nor do I want to deal with the issue that I’m supposed to see the doctor about but have been putting off because I’m tired of getting stuck with needles. But this is not a unique problem. Since about 2014, I’ve been dealing with occasional bouts of long-term muscle strain in both arms (not at the same time), usually brought on by thinking I can do more than 20 push-ups a day or more than one pull-up. This new pain is especially difficult because it’s primarily in my thumb joint, which can affect my typing, but it does seem to hurt less than it did a couple of months ago, so I may be doing better. Either that, or I’ve just gotten used to it by now. Fortunately, I have support gear to help me minimize further strain. So, as long as I remember to wear it, I’m fine. At the moment as I type, I’m not wearing any of it.

Anyway, this isn’t a medical blog, so you don’t care about any of that. You’re here for the writing updates. Or you’re here because you meant to click on something else and your aim is a bit off. Not sure which, so let’s assume you’re here for the writing updates.

Snow in Miami

For those of you who remember that I’m still working on my second series of Christmas fables, Snow in Miami, I’m happy to say that I’m almost finished with the first draft. Yes, after three years of working on it, I’m finally near the end. I think. I’m writing the final section this week, but it’s taken a turn I hadn’t anticipated, and I may end up with a lot more story by the time I finish than I originally planned to have. Hard to say. As of now, the story has over 43,000 words. I’d expected about 25,000 for the whole thing. Not sure why anymore, as it clearly needs every word it has and more.

I’ve also come to realize that the smaller stories that make up the larger tale are in need of details that I don’t yet have, so the final product will likely top 50,000 words, well over twice the length of its Christmas fable predecessor, The Fountain of Truth. Part of what I’m dealing with here is that the three fables are not separate stories like they are in the previous collection but interwoven tales that help form an outer narrative involving a storyteller who must learn from his family how to prioritize their needs better so he can become a better husband and stepfather. This story was always intended to frame the smaller tales, similar to Peter Falk reading The Princess Bride to a 12-year-old Fred Savage, but the story’s final act has taken a life of its own, thanks to the realization that the narrator’s story means nothing if he doesn’t have his own active arc to deal with. So now I’ve effectively turned Snow in Miami into four stories, not three. And because the three smaller stories need more details to really work (to the extent that they’re stories within a story), I know I’ve got a bit more to write before I can start the revision process.

That said, here’s what I have left to do:

The McCray Parables: This is the main story, the narrative hub for Snow in Miami. As of now, I’ve got the story’s narrator, Douglas McCray, wandering around downtown in the middle of the night, searching for a toy to give to his stepson before Christmas officially begins. I think I need a bit more story in the transitional sections to really land the change that he and his family make along the way, but most of what I have left to do is to simply finish it. I’m nearly there.

Unexpected Weather: This is the first fable (and the base story where the name “Snow in Miami” comes from). It’s basically finished, but it needs some continuity checks and possible transitional sections to keep it sensible. I haven’t yet read it from beginning to end, so I’m not completely sure it even works, but I’ll get it to work, even if I have my doubts that it works right now. I can say that it’s comfortably absurd at least. It’s partly about an unexpected change in weather patterns, but it’s also about one man’s adjustment to a new city as he vapes his way to happiness and Christmas.

A Black Friday Tale: This is the second fable and pretty much exactly as I want it. The only work I have left to do here is to edit and revise it. It’s a mashup of clichés in story form, involving a bet that two people make about who can score the best flatscreen television on Black Friday, using the classic clichés in motion: “The Early Bird Gets the Worm,” “Cheaters Never Prosper,” “Crime Doesn’t Pay,” and “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.” There’s actually a fifth part to this tale, but that’s hidden until the great reveal at the end. Anyway, I’m happy with it.

The Pear Tree: This is the third fable, and I just finished the core story a week ago (finally!). This is the story that’s held up production for the last two years. I’ve always known what I wanted out of the first two fables, but I’ve had a much harder time thinking about the point of this story, especially since it’s not Douglas’s story, but his wife’s, so the heart of the fable had to come from a different place than the previous two. The story itself, I more or less knew what I wanted out of it since the beginning, but the theme has been elusive until fairly recently. I think I’ve got the angle now, so I’ll be spending the revision process making sure the details fit that angle. That said, I have more to do in the first draft, as the early sections of the story are vastly underwritten compared to the late section, and it’s clearly become more character-involved than I had originally intended.

So, what does this all mean? Will it be ready for Christmas?

Probably not. Even though I expect to have the first draft finished very soon, I don’t expect to have it ready for readers until sometime next year. The good news is that once the first draft is finished, I’ll be able to see the whole thing for what it really is, and then I can make sound decisions on how to shape it and make it better. But I won’t be racing through the process like I did for The Fountain of Truth. I want to make sure that every product I release from this point forward is actually ready for readers. Snow in Miami won’t be ready for readers until I get readers to tell me it’s ready. I can’t expect to finish, edit, revise, find cover art, and get several beta readers together before December, not if I want a strong first impression. So, this update is basically to let readers of this blog know that the story is nearly finished, but I probably won’t release it until sometime after September 2020. It doesn’t mean that it absolutely won’t make a 2019 debut, but the likelihood is so low at the moment that it’s probably not worth holding your breath for it. I do think 2020 will be the year it finally makes its debut. Four years after its target release ain’t bad!

Sigh.

What I may do if I can’t get the book done and ready by December is post the first section here for you all to read sometime in the days leading to Christmas. I think that’s reasonable.

NaNoWriMo 2019:

NaNoWriMo is coming up in a couple of weeks, and though I’ve told myself to skip 2019 and focus on completing my second editions for current e-books, I do have a story in my head that needs to get out, and I would like to start it in November, if for no other reason but to get something on paper. But, I’ll talk more about that soon. Until I actually work on it, it’s probably not the right time to discuss it. The most I’ll say is that it may or may not be a pirate adventure in the same universe as A Modern-day Fantasy, and it’s possibly the first in a trilogy. Okay, that’s all you get.

Unless I record my progress for YouTube, in which case you may get to watch me write the thing …

No promises, though. Not unless you ask for one.

Second Editions:

Speaking of second editions, let’s talk about those for a spell, as I’m still putting a few of them together.

First of all, I’m still exploring a new angle for Cards in the Cloak that will leave me more satisfied with the final product than what I currently have. I’ve got one new chapter already written, and I know what I want to do with the rest. I just have to sit down and write it. Once it’s finished, I’ll likely discontinue the current version (on Amazon and the major retailers; Smashwords will continue to host all editions for anyone who really wants it), and make the next update the official story.

Gone from the Happy Place is still in a holding pattern. Because The Computer Nerd is fine as it is, I haven’t been in a hurry to “fix” it. The improved version will come eventually, but probably not before I invest in my own ISBNs. I would like to push out the newer story sooner than later, however. Not much has moved on it since 2018, unfortunately.

Shell Out has a new opening chapter, but I don’t think I’ll attach it to the current story that you can find online. I’m pretty sure it will be part of a from-scratch retelling of the current story, told as a novella, or even a novel, with new stakes, premise, and everything. It will likely endure the same treatment that Amusement and The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky are going through, with the same story receiving a much greater expansion into a much greater world. I’m still trying to figure out how to prioritize certain stories for the backlist so that they’ll be better prepared for my front list series releases.

The Fallen Footwear is probably the next story to receive an emergency update. Because the current e-book is a major update to the original short story that I wrote in college, and because I wrote that update during my ultra-prolific release period of May 2015 to May 2016, which meant I released it before really taking the time to decide if it was actually ready for release, including skipping the time I needed to set it aside and read it later to see if I even liked it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my worst public story, and I need to redo it (though I still really like Chapter 1—it’s that dang rest of the story I can’t stand at the moment). So, that’ll happen soon. I’ve actually begun the update already, but I hated so much of what I’ve read that I had to stop and take a break from it. That was about two months ago. It’s another reason why I won’t be doing any more release blitzes in the future. I can give better first impressions.

The Audiovisual Book Experience:

In other news, last month I recorded myself reading Amusement off of Scrivener and uploaded the video series to YouTube. As of now, each episode has views in the low single digits. Basically, it wasn’t a successful experiment, so I probably won’t do another for a while, but I might if more people discover it. If you’re reading this blog, you can jumpstart the Audiovisual Book Experience series by checking out the videos. The playlist for Amusement contains nine videos, including one overview and one introduction that includes legal information (which I read in a funny voice because legal information is lame otherwise).

If you want to see more of these, please leave me comments and feedback, and maybe vote for the story you’d like to see me read in public next.

Writing a Scene in yWriter6:

As of this writing, my YouTube video “Writing a Scene in yWriter6 (yWriter vs Scrivener Part 7)” has 164 views, the third highest in the series, in spite of it being over an hour long. Its total retention rate is at 6.3%, which is pretty amazing given the type of video it is. One commenter liked it so much that he wanted to see more. I don’t know if he’s ever come back to my channel to see if I actually did make more “Writing a Scene in yWriter6” videos, but he did get me thinking that it’s a good series worth continuing, so I’m probably going to make more of them in the near future. So, if you like the video and want to see more of that series, let me know in the comments either here or on the video’s page. It would also be useful to let me know if you want to see the outlining process included or just the scene writing.

Either way, the scene series will continue with Pop Goes the Waterbed.

Conclusion:

So, that’s what’s going on in writer’s world at the moment. Keep checking this blog for new updates about the stories you care about and the life events that you don’t. Leave a comment if you have anything that you want to ask that I can answer and won’t feel shame about later. As always, click the blue button at the bottom of the page to subscribe to this blog.

And while we’re at it, let me know if you’d like these updates split up into multiple releases. Looking at the word count, I can see I’ve given you a lot of information today. Raise your hand if you’ve read this far.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Fun with Cover Design Using PaintShop Pro 2020, Corel Painter 2019, and GRFX Studio Corel Edition on My Ebook “Lightstorm”

This weekend, as the title implies, I ran my concept cover for Lightstorm through another round of edits, this time by employing the services of a few new programs that I picked up in the Painter: Create with Confidence Bundle over at Humble Bundle (available until Wednesday at 1pm EST).

The bundle, which includes a number of designer products, including PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate, Corel Painter 2019, and Pinnacle Studio 23 Ultimate, cost me just $25. Individually, I would’ve spent over $250 for them, maybe much more, and finding the bundle was perfect timing, as my copy of Paintshop Pro 2019 (normal edition) kept bugging me to upgrade to 2020 for just $47.99 (a 70% discount!), which I was planning to do anyway until I found the bundle, but now I don’t have to, though doing so would’ve meant I would also get a video editor program, VideoStudio Pro 2019 (noticeably absent from the bundle, but hopefully Pinnacle Studio will work just fine), which probably would’ve been nice. But I ended up getting a lot more for a lot less, and I’m typically fine with that.

So, just to give a little backstory, I released Lightstorm in September 2015 with this cover (created with my old copy of PaintShop Pro 9, which is probably 14 iterations of PaintShop Pro ago):

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

As you can see, it isn’t very good. I needed to upgrade it, but I didn’t have any software that would be particularly useful for the job.

Then last year I found another photography bundle at Humble Bundle that included PaintShop Pro 2019, and I thought, Yeah, I’ll buy that for a dollar! I think I actually paid $25 for that bundle, (a dollar would’ve gotten me just the cheap stuff) and I got a load of decent software for designers that I haven’t really used yet outside of PaintShop Pro 2019. I plan to use them eventually. Maybe.

A few months after getting that bundle and practicing my cover design on other covers, particularly Eleven Miles from Home, by locating free stock photos and manipulating and combining them for effect, I decided it was time to upgrade Lightstorm. This is what I made:

lightstorm new background 8

And when I wasn’t fully satisfied with that version, I kept toying with it until I got this:

lightstorm new background 10a

So, that’s the version I have online at the moment. I thought it was pretty good. But I still had my doubts. Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece. But compared to other book covers, it’s meh. I figured I could do better, but I didn’t know how if all I had at my disposal was PaintShop Pro 2019 and other painting programs I hadn’t actually used yet but probably should’ve looked into. Oops.

So, then came along the Painter Bundle, and now I’ve got programs that can do more than simply adjust the visuals of an already assembled composite photo (I used four different images and a lot of blurring to make the above image). With Corel Painter, I was able to add particles, including glow brushes, make my title font (Vallen) much better detailed, and I ended up with this:

lightstorm new background 12.png

Now it’s looking more thematic, but I admit I wasn’t fully satisfied. As much as I liked the new particle effects, I worried they were cluttering the image too much.

So, I doubled-down and opened up GRFX Studio Corel Edition (included with PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate) and added a bunch of light flares:

lightstorm new background 13a.png

So, that’s the state of Lightstorm‘s cover and what I did this weekend with my new design programs. Just to recap, I went from this:

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

to this:

lightstorm new background 13a

I’m sure PhotoShop and a proper graphics designer would’ve made this cover even better, but as I say on this blog from time to time, I’m not rich, and while that remains true, I won’t throw money at high-priced subscription software or someone I can’t afford.

For the resources and skills that I have, I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Can you do better? Hopefully the answer is yes. Comment below if you have an opinion!