Looking to the Future posts

Looking forward: 2017

Sometimes when the tide is rising, you just gotta keep walking
(Picture: credit unknown)

A new year, a fresh start, an eager jump off the blocks. That’s the idea, right?

After the marshy struggle that was 2016, I’ve decided to approach this year’s goals in a slightly different way. Part of it is that I know that focus is going to be key; too many things have been left unfinished, and this bothers me.

So, line ’em up and knock ’em down. That’s the plan. Here’s the list!

Vampire Electric

This novel is what I’m currently working on, and that’s where my focus is going to be at first. I’m in the last section of the second draft now, typing onwards to the climax of the story, and it’s flowing well. This has taken several years to get to this point, and I’m excited that the end is in sight!
So, first goal is to get to the end of the story. Then, to complete the second draft of the novel. Sadly, these are not the same thing: there are a couple of holes I know I need to go back and fill in (hindsight is fantastic), and there is a flashback sequence that needs to be completed and then woven into the main narrative.

Once that’s all done, I’ll be passing it to a couple of alpha readers for initial impressions and feedback to help guide the third draft work.
After that, there will be decisions to make about how much work there is left to do, and what publishing option I’ll be pursuing. But sending it out for alpha reading is where my initial plans for this project stop for the foreseeable future.

Writers’ Asylum

The Asylum is due in April or May, so will probably be the next thing I work on after (or possibly during) Vampire Electric. I’ve got some ideas for this year’s challenges, but I still need to write them up and get them ready. After that, it’s a case of setting up the scheduling and running the day.

This will be the fifth Asylum (!!!), so I’d like to take a bit of time to go over the things I’ve tried, identify what works well and what works less well, and do a bit of an analysis. That will help me plan the next one, and maybe come up with something new to try, too.

Everyday Heroes

This project has languished for far too long. Writers who submitted their stories have been waiting for feedback, and because of that, I’m pushing this up my list. I’ll be looking to firstly chase up the stories on my plate to edit (they should all be with their writers for reworks), then I’ll be chasing up the rest of the edits. I may wind up taking on more of the editing myself, depending on what’s happening with the other editors on the project.

I’ll be aiming to get edits back to the writers at a steady pace. It’s a process that takes a few rounds, and is reliant on the writers being able to get reworks back to us in a reasonable time frame, so we’ll see how it goes.

Adventures of the Detachable Penis

Get Part 2 out! It’s all but ready to go. I might go on to write Part 3, you never know. It’s all planned out. I shall see if the naughty mood strikes me!

Boomflowers

Finish the last few entries, get it scheduled and up. I’d like to see this one finished off. I might look into collating it into an ebook and releasing it (self-published), but the main goal is to get it finished on Inkspired first.

NaNoWriMo

No particular plans for this year’s November adventure in novelling yet. I’ll be scheming with my co-MLs for what we might do this year, things we want to do again and anything new we want to try.

I want to look into doing a roving write-in on the trains again this year, but that’ll take a bit of research to see if it’s feasible with the current ticketing system.

At this point, I have no idea what I might write as my NaNo project. I guess it depends where I’ve got to on the list above! Who knows, it might even be Starwalker Book 5.

 

And I think that’s it! But that doesn’t seem like much, right? And where’s Starwalker in all of this? Aren’t I ever getting back to it? And what about all those other little projects?

Starwalker is still on my list, but my struggles in trying to pick it up again in 2016 showed me that I needed the break. That particular story isn’t talking to me very loudly right now, which tells me that I need to do something fresh with it. I’m pondering ideas – it is always percolating away in the background – and toying with some options. But I’ve learned that this sort of thing can’t be rushed or forced; it doesn’t go well.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get a wonderful idea and dive in sometime this year. Same goes for other languishing projects, like the VVSG. Never say never!

No promises at this point, though, just hope.

Always onwards, with hope.

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Looking forward: 2016

It's time to step out into new light! (Picture from Dark Beauty Magazine: “The Journey” — Producer: Miss Aniela Photographer: Mercia Moseley Photography Stylist/Designer/Headpiece/Jewelry: Minna Attala Hair/Makeup: Grace Gray - Model Model: Carmen O. Model)

It’s time to step out into new light!
(Picture from Dark Beauty Magazine: “The Journey”)

Okay, so I’ve gone over how 2015 went. I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my plate and a whole new year spread out before me. While yearly boundaries are arbitrary, they do afford us an opportunity to reflect, to plan, to redirect, and to attack things with renewed commitment and energy.

That’s the hope anyway. Let’s lay out what I have in store this year and see where we get to. For something different, let’s attempt this in possible chronological order.

This is because I’m aiming to have more focus this year. With my health and energy levels in their current state, juggling multiple things at the same time (as I have tended to in the past) is not a great idea right now. So instead, I’m going to try lining them up and knocking them down.

My goal is for 2016 to be the year of Getting Things Finished.

Editing

I’ve got a pile of editing work on my plate, and my plan right now is to work through it before I turn my attention to anything else.

The new-look Apocalypse Blog Book 1

The new-look Apocalypse Blog Book 1

Why am I putting this ahead of my own writing, I hear you ask? Because other writers are waiting on me to do things, and that matters to me. Also, editing other people’s work is a shorter job than writing something new, so best to tackle it first.

First up is the editing for Carnifex under the Blade Editing banner. The first edit is almost complete and ready to be sent back to its author. The first edit is the heaviest; subsequent edit rounds will be much quicker to turn around.

Next is the editing for the Everyday Heroes anthology. This is a project that has languished over the holidays, and will be kicked back into action shortly. There’s still a way to go on this, but I’m hoping to get it released by the middle of the year. My first focus will be to get the ball rolling on the editing side again; after that, I’ll mix it in with other stuff.

Once that is off and running, I’ll be finishing off the new editions of The Apocalypse Blog ebooks. This isn’t a huge job: mostly requires some time and concentration (it’s hard to do piecemeal; or at least, hard to do well that way). Two books have been done (one of them the short prequel); two to go. Looking forward to launching the new covers, editions, and pricing!

I have a few other editing bits coming my way over the course of this year, and will fit them in accordingly. Looking forward to getting into the swing of this!

Writing: Small Fry

Cover by the wonderful Willsin Rowe

Cover by the wonderful Willsin Rowe

With Starwalker Book 5 stuck in what the movie industry refers to as ‘development hell’, I’m going to turn my attention to smaller projects to start with. Again: line ’em up, knock ’em down, and compulsively tick them off my list.

Once the bulk of the editing work is done (or at least significantly shoved in the right direction), I’ll be looking at some smaller projects first. I’m thinking particularly of Boomflowers and Vampire Victim Support Group. My goal is to finish the first one completely and get the entries scheduled up and posted, as it’s the shorter of the two, and to get phase 1 of VVSG completed (phase 1 is the first entry from each of the characters; I have 2-3 phases planned).

I’m also hoping to get more of the comedy erotica (The Adventures of the Detachable Penis) written and released. Part 1 is out, Part 2 is written and getting ready for release, and there are 6 parts planned in total. It’s a fun departure from my usual stuff, so makes a nice break. Plus, they’re short (5-7 thousand words each) and pretty quick to turn around.

Writing: Big Stuff

Starry

Starry: she go ‘zoom!’
(Picture: mine)

While all this is happening, Starwalker will be bubbling away in the background. I’d like to get some test-writing done for some of the new material, and pull together a coherent plan for the next book. It was outlined before NaNoWriMo 2015, but given the changes that I want to make, that’ll need to be updated.

I’m aiming to pull together the test-written stuff into an actual backlog of posts, so I can start with a buffer this time around. It should help in those times when I’m having a bad week and am struggling to put a post together, smoothing over the rough patches. (Of course, this is a nice theory; maintaining a buffer isn’t one of my best skills.)

At this stage, it’s hard to know timescales, but I’m hoping to restart Starwalker by the start of the second quarter of 2016. My intention is not to rush this, because I’d like to get it off to a good start.

It’s also entirely possible that the buffer I build up ends up being half or more of Book 5. With the desire to focus this year, writing in my usual serial fashion might not be a good idea, and this could be a chance to change how I approach my writing time. I will still post it serially, but how it’s constructed on the back end is going to be different. That might delay the start of the posting but I hope not!

However, I do have a list of Starwalker shorts that I intend to look over and attempt to revitalise. At least one of the yet-to-be-published ones has been drafted! So one/some of these might pop up in the meantime.

Writers’ Asylum

This tends to be an event that requires some attention from me in the early part of the year, because setting up a day of writing challenges for a bunch of writers can be a tricky beast. However, good news! The bulk of the work for this has already been done.

When setting up my calendar of events for the year, I sorted out a suitable weekend in April in which to host it (working around other events that tend to attract my writer peeps). And thanks to my skittering attention in NaNoWriMo 2015, the challenges for this year’s day of madness have already been drafted. The page has been updated and everything.

All that’s left is to polish the challenges, get them scheduled to go up on the blog so online people can join in, and then run it. Easy.

(I know, I know: famous last words. Shh.)

NaNoWriMo

Skipping towards the end of the year, it’s hard to predict what my project will be for NaNoWriMo this time around. It might be focussing on pushing Starwalker forward and building up that buffer. It might be returning to Vampire Electric to continue the second draft.

Right now, given that the theme of this year will be focus, I’d like to say that it would be Starwalker. I won’t make a decision now, though; I might need a break from the serial by then and take the opportunity to do something different.

As far as NaNo events and organisation goes, this year looks like it’s going to be a tricky one. My co-ML (Municipal Liaison, the fancy title they give those of us who organise the local events) is gaining a baby this year, so it’s possible that we’ll both be pretty time-poor when it comes to NaNo stuff. On the other hand, we might gain a third pair of hands to help out with the ML side of things, so you never know.

At this stage, I’m intending to keep NaNo stuff fairly simple and straightforward. No big Retreat or Overnight to organise takes a lot of the pressure off, as well as a lot of the time and stress in the lead-up to November. This year, changes and experiments are likely to be small in scope (which in itself will be a change!).

Other Stuff

As part of my push to streamline things, I’m also making some changes in my home life to ease various burdens, including financial and housekeeping effort. I’m planning to downsize my home situation, which means going through all the stuff I have in storage and ruthlessly cleaning it out, paring it back, and, ideally, shrinking the raft of stuff that I have to move to a new, smaller house.

I’m not planning to move soon. Given all those things that I’ve mentioned above, from health, to commitments, to all the things I really want to get to, plus the fact that I’m a pack-rat and keep everything, I knew that I’d need time to get something as ambitious as downsizing and packing done. So the plan is to spread it out, chip away at it regularly, and be done around the end of the year.

Honestly, just making this decision and forming a plan to make it happen has lifted a bunch of stress off me. This is mostly a preventative measure, so there’s no pressure to get it done soon, which means I can do it my way. So I shall.

 

And that’s it! That’s my set of goals and ambitions for the year.

Laid out like that, it looks like a lot. But a year is a long time and a lot will probably change in that span. There are a few factors that might pop up and spoil this, but that’s okay: we adjust and move on.

Fingers crossed, 2016 will be a better year than the last. I’m already feeling more positive about things than I have in a while. Let’s get to it!

Onwards, my friends, into the breach, heads up and hearts strong.

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Imagination Open

This is the sort of thing I'm talking about! (Picture of the Open Book store by Trint Williams)

This is the sort of thing I’m talking about!
(Picture of the Open Book store by Trint Williams)

Quite often, I think about what my perfect writing situation would be. Because we all like to dream, right? Dreaming is easy and free.

I love to write. I love to share my writing. I love books: reading, sorting, shelving. I love to talk about books and writing. I love to curl up on my own with a book or a laptop and let my imagination run. I love to read and write with company.

So what would be perfect is my own little dream bookstore. It would stock fiction of all kinds, from regular fiction to science fiction to horror to mystery to erotica to graphic novels. There might be a small non-fiction section, stocked with books about writing and with a selection of choice research materials that changes on a regular basis. There’d be as many indie books as I could get my hands on, as well as traditionally-published offerings.

It would be a store of nooks and corners, with armchairs and beanbags scattered among the stacks for reading and writing purposes, along with little tables with chairs and powerpoints. Each nook could be themed according to the genre it is located in or near, for extra fun (horror beanbag, steampunk armchair, romance love-seat, scifi desk!). There’d be a selection of random stationery available – pens, post-its, notecards, journals and stickers (writers love stickers) – so writers can brainstorm and plan stories if they wish.

There would be a little cafe in the back serving copious amounts of coffee, cookies, and cupcakes. Next to it would be an open space with tables, chairs, and sofas, easily pulled into groups for: book clubs, writing group discussions, brainstorming sessions, write-ins, or workshopping stories. The chairs would be squishy and comfortable for hours of occupation at a time, because writers can be sedentary creatures. In the corner, there’d be a little stage, for readings and maybe the occasional visiting musician.

The tables and chairs would spill out onto a deck at the back, looking out over a back yard with a half-wild, barely-contained garden. The garden would be trees and bushes and those flowers brave enough to survive (and it would probably come with a ‘don’t pet the wildlife; this is Australia’ warning). It would extend back from the deck some way, the foliage thick enough to hide its boundaries so it feels like an entrance to a jungle wilderness.

Little paths would wind through the garden, daytime dimness and night-time darkness alleviated by strings of colourful lights, leading to little half-grown-over fountains and mossy parts of someone’s spaceship and a statue of a wingspread griffon rising out of the weeds. Here are there, along the paths, would be areas to stop and settle with a story to read or write: outdoor tables under canopies, with lights and power points for writing; a hammock cradling cushions; and a little grassy bit for blankets and sprawling.

Roaming through all of these areas would, of course, be a cat or two. At least one would have ‘free hugs’ on his/her collar (it’s worth a try, right?).

The store would be open 24/7, so night-owls can come in and write, and restless readers can come find something to read when sleep eludes them. After-hours, the lighting would be dim and cozy, gathering in pockets around the store and garden. It would grow quiet with a goal of peacefulness.

The store would run on an honour system, particularly at night: people can scan and pay for their books themselves, and leave an appropriate donation when helping themselves to coffee/cupcakes. There would be somewhere for them to leave notes and requests for us, and there’d be a place for us to leave the book they were looking for, for them to pick up when they’re in next. We’d probably only have staff on during the day, to keep the place tidy, help customers, and restock books.

I’d live over the store, with a shady balcony above the deck for alonetime, but I’d probably spend most of my time downstairs.

I think I’d call it something like Imagination Open.

What do you think? Would you enjoy a place like this? Would you come hang out, spend time, dream here? What do you love about it, and what would you change?

What would be your perfect place to read and write?

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How to make the best of a hiatus

You might expect this to be a how-to guide, given the title. Consider it more of a question that I’m currently pondering. I won’t promise that this will be a useful guide for everyone. It might not even be useful for me. Let’s see!

So, the reason for taking my current hiatus was equal parts:

  • Taking a break from Starwalker
  • Catching up on projects that I have been delaying for a while
  • Trying some new stuff
  • Moving things to a new server
  • Doing something with the first four Starwalker books
  • Planning the next phase of the Starwalker saga.

Like with battle, plans for how to spend my free time tend to fly to the wind as soon as you engage the enemy (with ‘the enemy’ being ‘life and reality’ in this case).

Currently, I am successfully taking a break from Starwalker. Tick!

Let’s see about the rest…

This. So much this.  (Picture: not mine)

This. So much this.
(Picture: not mine)

Catching up on delayed projects

I’m not sure if this blog counts as a ‘delayed project’ (it’s probably more of a ‘neglected outlet’ for me), but you’ve probably noticed that I’m posting more often again. My goal is to build up some momentum here, along with a nice, healthy backlog of stuff scheduled up, and to knock over some of the posts that I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I’ve got over a dozen draft posts here on the site, capturing thoughts that were relevant when I had them: it’s time to go through them, sort them out or throw them away. Expect more posts to come! For at least the next little while.

As for actual fiction-writing projects, the VVSG is going well, and looking good to keep going that way. I haven’t looked at any other existing projects yet. Boomflowers kinda snuck up on me, so that could count as a bit of ‘new stuff’, but is also something that has been percolating for a little while. Half-and-half, really.

The other projects that I am hoping to work on soon include the Apocalypse Blog. The ebooks need a fresh go-through, edit, and new covers applied. I’ve been talking about doing this for ages. It’s about time I just did it! Now that I’m in a good place with the new short-serials (VVSG and Boomflowers), I’m hoping to dedicate some time to this over the next couple of weeks.

I’d also like to get back into the Starwalker shorts. I have a whole list I’d like to do, and a couple of tickling ideas here and there. It would be nice to post something on the Starwalker site for the readers to enjoy while I’m taking this break from the main story! However, that’ll be once I’ve had a stretch of a break from that world. I want to knock over some of the big stuff before I delve back into that universe, and I’ve got to be careful of not starting too many things at once.

Trying new stuff

This is something I chase on a semi-regular basis. Most often, it applies to the events and things that I do locally, rather than with my writing itself (keep an eye out for some NaNoWriMo-related posts coming up soon, for this year’s fun in the works). Overall, I guess I’m pretty happy with my writing itself (though I always look to improve my skills): it’s the periphery that I tend to experiment with. For example, how I publish, or my editing work, or events.

What does this mean for the hiatus? Well, I guess the first new thing I’m trying is Inkspired, and seeing how that works as a serial outlet. I’m spamming them with feedback and suggestions, so I guess we’ll watch that space.

I’m also in the process of setting up an editing and ebooking service. I’ve got skills in those areas and a good friend who’s building it with me. I think we can make a good go at it, and are in a good position to do well with it.

Linked with that but not entirely under that banner is an anthology idea or two that I have. I’m putting together a project to create an anthology with some local writer friends, capitalising on some research I did a while ago with a publishing/editing contact of mine. I’m confident we can put together something pretty awesome. After a suggestion from a local writer, we’re going to make the first one with a view to raising money for our NaNo community writing events.

This is going to be a bit of work, but it’s not going to be just me working on it, and it’s something I really want to have a go at. Ideas abound, and I’m hoping to get the bulk of it off and running pretty soon, so I can make the most of my hiatus time (that is, so it doesn’t wind up sucking up too much time once I’ve restarted Starwalker!).

There’s also some movement in the serial writing circles about setting up an endeavour to expand and promote quality serial fiction. I’m involved in a few conversations there, and I’m really keen to see where that goes. I think I’ve got useful experience to lend to the cause there (mostly in editing, layout, ebooking, and so on). This could explode somewhat, which would both be exciting and potentially derailing.

I’m going to have to be careful what I commit to! For now, I’m enjoying all the opportunities that are spreading out before me, and generally trying not to get too distracted by all the shiny things.

The server move

I started the process of moving all my websites over to a new web host recently. This blog was one of the first things I moved, and is the only one that is also changing its domain name. For the rest, I have a whole slew of domains that need to be shifted (most of which are reserved for projects that I plan to serialise or otherwise put online someday), a couple of websites that I host for family, and lastly the rest of my websites with content.

I’m planning to use the hiatus to shift the Starwalker site over to the new host. There’ll be a short downtime while things get moved across, but it should be quieter on the activity front, so there’s less chance of losing data (comments, etc). It’ll be nice to move to a fresh WordPress install, because the Starwalker one has been a little broken ever since it got hacked. This has been something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time; it’s nice to have the opportunity to do it!

After Starwalker and the Apocalypse Blog sites are moved over (the last big websites to shift), I should be able to close down the old hosting account. Then dust off hands, all done there.

Starwalker so far

I have four whole books of Starwalker shenanigans. What to do with them!

This is something I’m planning to sit down and figure out. I would really like to get them published but I’m still tossing up what kind of publishing I should go for. I could self-publish ebooks again. I could try the traditional publishing world. I could run a Kickstarter and do an actual physical print run.

This particular story is positioned in a way that would make it a good candidate to sell to a traditional publisher. Hybrid authors tend to be the most successful: traditionally-published books bring in the exposure and breadth; self-published books bring in greater revenue. All the stats from the past few years tell us this. And I still have that lingering dream to see my books on bookstore shelves.

However. Starwalker is already sprawling into a fifth book. There are shorts and spin-offs planned. I’m a little bit leery of selling all of that to a publisher.

Pros and cons are yet to be fully weighed. We shall see!

In the meantime, I am aiming to get the first four books collated, edited, and cleaned up, ready to be published. That’s going to be a huge chunk of work on its own, and I may or may not get it done before the end of the hiatus. Let’s start with getting the first book done and go from there, shall we?

Starwalker Book 5

The last big bit of work that I want to get done while I’m on hiatus is to plan out the next phase of Starwalker. Currently, I’m calling this Book 5. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the story creeps out beyond a fifth book: not only is this me we’re talking about – I’m good at sprawling stories – but also I have some suspicions that there are enough questions left to answer to take our favourite little ship on a few loooong journeys.)

I’m not quite sure what it’ll take to do this planning. Hopefully just a couple of days dedicated to laying out the pieces I’ve got to play with.

After that, I need to figure out the timing of the writing. With all the stuff that’ll be in progress over this hiatus, I need to work out when I can responsibly restart the serial. Too soon, and I’ll be too overloaded to do it well. Too long, and I’ll lose a chunk of my readership. It’s a balancing act.

One option might be that I start Book 5 as this year’s NaNo project. That would mean sacrificing the next scheduled chunk of progress on Vampire Electric (which is still halfway through the second draft). I’d have to weight up the pros and cons of that.

This would be a departure in how I write the serials. I tend to write and post as I go, literally week to week. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had mixed success with this, and been far more unreliable than I like. Spending a month writing nothing else, powering through a huge chunk of it: this is pretty attractive. I could have a buffer again!

There’s 6 months between now and NaNo, so I’ve got some time to figure it out. Let’s see what happens.

 

So there you go: that’s what I have planned for this ‘break’ I’m taking. Ambitious? Maybe. I’m enthused and happy to be able to delve into all these things. There’s a lot to get through and I’m trying not to take my time too much. Wish me luck!

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Rise of Short Stories?

Squirrels, distracting people since... what was I saying? (Picture by pepion11)

Squirrels, distracting people since…
what was I saying?
(Picture (including grammatical error) by pepion11)

I recently read an interesting article about how the shortening of our attention spans was causing the rise of short stories. The internet’s easily-consumable morsels mean that our attention spans are shortening, and therefore short stories are becoming a lot more popular.

It sounds so very logical, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near that simple.

Now, I can completely believe that the internet and the vast array of content that is begging for digital consumption is changing the way we approach and digest information. Items online, whether text, image, or video, have a very short window with which to grab our attention, but I don’t think this is ADHD-related, and I don’t think that we get bored and wander off, unable to maintain focus for more than- SQUIRREL.

Online, people are becoming increasingly savvy in making quick judgements about whether or not a piece of content is worth their time. It’s not possible to absorb the whole internet and it’s actually pretty hard to find the good stuff. If you’re looking for something new, you have to dip your toe in and try the water, before you find what you want to dive into.

In that way, online content is its own advert, and the same kind of snap-judgement methodology applies: grab them quick or lose them forever.

So how does this all apply to fiction?

It means that the opening to your story is crucial. If you don’t have a kick-ass hook in the first paragraph – preferably the first sentence – then readers are less likely to read your story.

Is this new? No, this is advice that I have been hearing my whole life, and wasn’t new when it was first given to me (I am, sadly, old enough for this to have been before the internet became a Thing). It’s good advice whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, and whether you’re going to sell/distribute on paper or electronically. The old-fashioned version of clicking away is putting the book back on the shelf, or flipping the page to a different short story.

What about the rising popularity of short fiction online? Personally, I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘people prefer bite-sized fiction’. That might be a factor, but the truth is, short fiction has always been popular. Anthologies have always existed, and magazines and newspapers have hosted short stories for centuries. They are a mainstay because people like and read them.

However, it has never been lucrative nor easy to publish short stories. An author couldn’t publish individual short stories, because they were too small to form a viable print run (usually due to cost but sometimes also on physical or practical level). They were forced to combine stories into anthologies to make it worth putting them through the printing press, or submitting to newspapers and magazines. (There’s nothing wrong with any of this!)

With the rise of the ebook, however, things changed. ‘Book’ length was no longer an issue, because ebooks don’t go through printing presses. The reliance on ‘preferred novel length’ for a published book fell away and authors can freely publish ebooks containing individual short stories. Add to that the ease of being able to post a short story on a website, and you have two very fundamental changes to the way that short stories have been made available to readers.

Similarly, novellas are now much easier to make available to readers, for the same reasons. Printing a novella was always tricky (unless you’re writing for Mills and Boon), but digital copies are much easier and less restricted.

Side note: let’s also not attribute any of this to Kindle Singles as the article linked above does; it may have helped, but it was only jumping on the bandwagon that was already in motion and picking up speed. Ebooks have been flexible in their length since their inception and Amazon haven’t pioneered any of this (my short prequel ebook, approximately 7,000 words, was out before Kindle Singles was announced).

Long story short (ha ha), it’s much easier for authors to provide and for readers to find short stories online than it was when they were on paper. Is it a surprise that readers are consuming more short fiction now than they were pre-internet? Not really.

What about a rising preference for short stories? I haven’t seen any evidence that this is happening. Yes, readers may be consuming more short stories than in the past, but not to the detriment of longer fiction. In fact, the sales statistics suggest the opposite is true: ebook consumers prefer longer books, according to the statistics that Smashwords analyses annually. This has been the case for the past few years.

So what does this all mean? TL;DR version:

  • Fiction is now more accessible in all of its forms, including short(er than novels)*.
  • Readers love bite-sized stuff
  • Readers prefer long (100,000+ words) fiction overall
  • There is a healthy, rich market for short stories and novellas, and authors should go out and make the most of it!

* And poetry, flash fiction, epics, serials, etc.

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Looking Forward: 2014

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time. (Picture by Mykl Roventine)

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time.
(Picture by Mykl Roventine)

We’re already a couple of weeks into 2014, but it’s not too late to set goals! Let’s see what I’ve got on my list for this year.

I should perhaps add a caveat that I’m going to be a bit more conservative than I was last year. Struggles with my health and energy levels are forcing me to be a bit more realistic, as goals I know I can’t reach just depress and discourage me. If I go above and beyond, then fantastic. But this is what I’ll be happy with achieving. Maybe a little more. I like to aim high, even if I’m pulling my focus in slightly.

Home / Work

Might as well get this stuff out of the way! My goals here involve:

  • Keeping up with the day job as I am currently. It’s going well, I’m always learning new stuff, and it enables me to do all of those other things that make me happy. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people around me, too, and I’m thankful for that.
  • Finishing up the big change-around at home. The first phase of this is done, and it’s going great. There’s still some tidy-up work to do and the next phase to knock over before I’ll be content with how things are. This will make things easier for me at home, releasing more time and energy for other things.
  • Beating my health with a stick until it behaves. Worth a try, right?

Writing

Starwalker

Ah, the beloved web serial. Book 4 is well underway and I’m aiming to finish this particular story arc (and book) this year. Will there be a Book 5? At this stage, I’m honestly not sure – there are a couple of places the story could go after the end of the current trials, but I don’t have any set plans for that yet.

It’s also possible that it’s time to put a pin in that particular project and move on to one of the others on my list. Do I have much more story left to tell there? Would it benefit from a break? All good questions, and no doubt I’ll be asking them right up until it’s time to make a decision. Which will probably be around the end of Book 4, whenever that happens.

Could that be the end of Starwalker? Unlikely. It just might change from its current pattern.

Here’s what I have in mind for this year’s tasks:

  • Finish Book 4. Unless it extends beyond the end of this year, but right now that’s not looking likely.
  • Edit Book 1. A light edit is partially done; I’m looking to finish the edit off and tidy it up for potential submission to publishers.
  • Do more shorts. Elliott’s one is fighting me, but I’m determined to defeat his story and release it into the wild. I have a list of others to do, too, and aim to get to some more of them as well.
  • Look at publication options. By the end of the year, I’d like to have sorted out my options and decided what I want to do. The Kickstarter is still a possibility.

Vampire Electric

I’m loving how the second draft of this story is coming out. This year, I’d like to continue with the second draft and see if I can get closer to finishing it. It’s falling into 3 parts and the first part is almost done. One more NaNo should give me the second part, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on it a bit more than that, but that will depend on other commitments (and potentially whether Starwalker is still running as a serial).

I’m also considering putting this up as a serialised novel, once the second draft is done. Effectively, I’d be serialising the third draft, as all I’d be doing is editing and posting. However, considering how much more there is to write in the second draft, I have no idea if I’ll even start this in 2014.

It’s entirely possible that I have already bought the domain for such a serialisation, however. Ahem.

Tales from the Screw Loose

Recently, I had a little squee moment when my brain stumbled over the missing piece for this story. I finally have everything I need to start writing this one! Except for time and opportunity, of course.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write this one as a serial, or as a background project to be serialised later (like I’m considering with Vampire Electric). I’m pretty sure that I will serialise it somehow. A lot will depend on Starwalker and whether I keep that going as a serial, as that will dictate my capability for writing another fresh, off-the-cuff serial. (Trying to write two serials at the same time would be a recipe for disaster for me. Let’s keep things realistic!)

I’d like to get all of the groundwork laid for this story this year. Maybe even start the first draft (or set of posts). A lot will depend on how the two projects above are going!

Apocalypse Blog

Ahh, the good old Apocalypse Blog. I’ve got new covers and fresh edits to apply. I mean to sort these out! Get the books all redone and shiny, and publish them on all the outlets I can get my e-fingers on. I’ll also be changing up the pricing structure to reflect the latest trends. I’d like to rejuvenate the sales for my beloved trilogy and see my graphs go back up again. That would be lovely.

I’m still getting requests for a fourth book on this series. Which I love! I’m so happy that people are enjoying it. I don’t have any fixed plans for a fourth book, but I have notes lying around for some shorts. No promises at this point, but if an idea from this world bites strongly enough, I’ll write it.

Anthologies

Last year, I wrote a couple of shorts for anthologies. This year, I hope to see them published, but that depends on the projects in question. Watch this space!

I’m also looking at putting together my own anthology this year. I’ve got a few themes in mind to choose from, and the kernels of ideas for stories. Still working out details, but I’m aiming to have one released (to the public! to buy and read!) this year. This will be a collaboration effort, rather than an anthology of my work – I’ll be writing one story for it, maybe, and editing, collating, and typesetting the whole thing for release. I have a couple of friends I’ll be working with on this, so it’s not just me.

This is a first for me. I’m not sure how it’ll all go, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to find out! Need to polish up my ability to write short stories. Also need to figure out more of the back end side of doing a project like this.

I love learning new things.

Writing Community

I adore my local writing community, and that I get to help shape it. I have no intention of stopping, because of all the wonderful help, support, and encouragement I get from the awesome people around me.

Creative Writing Group

Into its sixth year now and still going strong. This year, we have a new time-slot to experiment with, later in the evening, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I took a poll of the subjects that the group wanted to talk about at the end of last year, and I’m curious to see how that list works out. I have a few topics to research so we can talk about them, and that’s all good.

Writers’ Asylum

This was an experiment last year and went so well that I’m doing another one. Preparation for this is going well (I got the prompts written recently), and I’ll be lining this up for April soon. Watch this space!

NaNoWriMo

Can’t go without mentioning this. I fully intend to resume my Municipal Liaison mantle for the 8th year, and we’ll be having fun with the usual events. Plus, there are plans for a new-style Kick-off Party and another Writer’s Retreat. The ball for the Retreat will probably start rolling soon (organising an event this big has to be done well in advance). I’m looking forward to the awesomeness already.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything.

Oh, except that a friend and I have been sorting out setting up an editing service. It’s a way for us to do what we love and raise some money in the process. I’m both eager to get going on this and reeling at the thought. Right now, it’s on a pause until I can get stuff at home more settled. Then I’ll be able to give it the attention and devotion it deserves.

More on this in (hopefully) the near future. For now, I have a set of goals before me. So enough talking about it: let’s get going. Onwards, my friends!

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2013: plans and dreams

I’ve done the retrospective for 2012; now it’s time to look to the future. Now is the time for possibilities and ambition.

I usually like to aim high at a time like this. I know I probably won’t do everything I put on this list, but if it’s not here I’ll never do it. I’ll most likely get to most of it and that’s all good.

Let’s get the boring, necessary stuff out of the way first.

Work

This is settling down for me at the moment. I’m hoping to stay with my current team for a stretch and make a bit of a home for myself, and the management have assured me that this is likely (as far as their current plans say, but, well, you never know with these things). Some stability would be nice.

The stress is a lot less than it was and I’ll be aiming to keep it that way.

Financial Issues

Now that our house move is complete and we’ve reduced some of our overheads, I’m hoping that this will plateau as well. We’ve got a bit of work to do on this front but, with luck, our situation should be sustainable for the next few months at least.

I’m working to worry less about this stuff.

Health

The CFS isn’t going away anytime soon, and as long as it doesn’t get any worse, it’s manageable. I’m used to dealing with it (I was diagnosed over 7 years ago), so not a big worry there.

I’ve got some testing coming up in a couple of months to investigate some other issues I’m having. I’m nervous about the tests (mostly because they’ll put me out and anaesthetic doesn’t get along well with me), but I’m glad at the possibility for answers and, hopefully, treatment. I won’t say ‘cure’ because I don’t believe in unicorns and there’s no way I’m that lucky. Progress is good, though, and it’s moving in the right direction.

Writing

Ah-ha, here’s the important part! Here’s the section of my life where I get to have fun, where I aim for the stars and am quite happy with landing on the moon. So, what’s on my list for 2013?

Starwalker: Web Serialising

First up, I will finish Starwalker. I keep saying that there’s still a lot to come, and while I don’t want to put a date on its conclusion, it will definitely finish this year, probably in the first quarter.

When I say ‘finish’, I mean that I’ll get to the end of Book 3, which is the end of the original story arc I planned when I set out on this journey. Will that mean the end of the web serial completely?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t believe in stringing stories out for the sake of it (which is why I haven’t gone back to the Apocalypse Blog in so long: I haven’t felt like I’ve got more story to tell there). However, I’m pretty sure my readers will have something to say if I kill it completely and I’ve come to love my readers a lot.

I do have a follow-up story in mind. There has been a notecard with the name of the story-arc on it pinned to my planning pinboard for a couple of years now. I don’t think it’ll be a full novel-length story – it’s a novella at best at this stage – but maybe it’ll make a good interim story for me to tell while I ponder the future of the Starwalker and her crew.

Starwalker: Ebooks

This is something I’ve had my eye on for a while now. I’d really love to package the Starwalker saga up into ebooks and release it.

However, that’s not a quick process. Firstly, they have to be edited. I already know of some rewriting I want to do (nothing major, but it’s work that needs to be done), and I’m sure there will be more honing and polishing that I’ll do as I go through. This all takes time, and how much I continue the web serial will impact on how quickly this happens.

Next up, I need covers. That will probably cost money, which I’ll talk about later. I have some base graphics already but I want something really slick and professional for the book covers. Which means no home jobs by me (I freely admit that I suck at graphics).

The formatting and releasing parts are easy once all the above is done. I’d like to get at least one book out this year.

Starwalker: Shorts

I made a start on this in 2012 and I mean to continue it. I have stories planned for almost all of the crew (the shorts are character-focussed stories) and I’d like to get through all of them eventually.

It’s hard to have a fixed goal with this, because so much depends on other commitments. Shall we say one a month? That’s probably a bit ambitious; one every two months is more realistic.

My end goal with this is to compile them into an ebook – a Starwalker ‘get to know the crew’ anthology – and release it. Possibly for free. (Having a freebie available really helps draw people into paying for the series: this is what the Apocalypse Blog ebooks have taught me!)

Alternatively, I could release them individually, but that depends on being able to get the covers for them. On the plus side, I would be able to release them sooner if I didn’t have to wait for the anthology to be complete. Also, individual character covers would be awesome.

Vampire Electric

My goal for this year is somewhat simpler here: finish the first draft. I already have a pile of notes for the second draft, including a bit of a restructure, but I really need to get the first run-through finished. I’d love to find out how this story will end! (Yes, yes, I have something in mind, but as always with me, it’s a general, blurry picture that I won’t truly figure out until I get there.)

Tales from the Screw Loose

This is, potentially, the next web serial on my list to pick up. It’s set in the Starwalker universe and is the first spin-off that I have in mind to tackle (I have a whole list of spin-off ideas for the Starwalker universe!). You may have heard me refer to it as the ‘robot brothel story’: Tales from the Screw Loose is its proper name.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to this over the next year. A lot depends on whether or not I keep Starwalker going (as a web serial), because I have a strict rule of one web serial active at a time. I know my own limits well enough to know that both stories would suffer if I tried to keep two going in tandem.

Regardless, I still have some work to do before I can get started on this story. I have made a start on the worldbuilding (it’s set on one of the colony planets) but I need to work out the cast and some of the plot elements before I start putting fingers to keyboard.

I also need to sort out the website and I’m pondering some custom graphics/design for it. This may cost money, so is dependent on a number of factors. On the plus side, I’ve already got the domain: screwloosetales.com (yes, it’s a bit early, but I’m determined like that and I didn’t want to lose the domain while I sorted the rest of it out).

For this year, I think I’d like to have the prep all done and the story ready to go. Actual words on the page will be a bonus!

Apocalypse Blog

The ebooks are going pretty well. I’d like to capitalise on some of the good reviews and see about marketing it, but I’m pretty bad at self-promotion, so I won’t make any firm plans about this.

I would like to do paper book editions of it, however. Most likely through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which will link nicely up to the ebooks on Amazon (and it seems like a better and cheaper system than Lulu).

I’ve had a look at the work required to do this and it’s not as easy as the ebooks were. It’ll take some time to get the formatting done for printing, and I’ll also need to get the covers redone.

I’d also like to get the books re-edited, and will most likely refresh the ebook editions when I do that.

I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing an omnibus edition, at least of the ebooks, so I’ll look into this, too.

There have been many calls for another (fourth) book in the series, and a part of me really wants to satisfy this desire. However, I’m not sure what that fourth book would entail. I’m letting it rest in the back of my brain for now; if inspiration strikes, I’ll be sure to let you all know. Never say never!

NaNoWriMo

Ah, my annual nuttiness. I don’t have a huge amount planned yet, but we’re all pretty sure that there will be another Writer’s Retreat. This time, up a mountain! I’ll be heading on a roadtrip soon with my lovely co-MLs (I might have two this time!) to check out the options. I’m sure that it won’t be long before that ball is off and rolling.

The rest of the NaNo stuff will be worked out over the months leading up to November. No other firm plans yet, but there will no doubt be plenty of write-ins at our favourite Coffee Club, drinkies, and possibly a write-out or two.

Crowdfunding

This is an option that I’ve been looking at lately. I know other writers have had success with platforms like Kickstarter and have raised money to allow them to develop a new story, pay for covers and printing costs, and that sort of thing.

As mentioned above, some of what I want to do requires paying for services. I’ve had donations through the links on my websites and I am endlessly grateful to the donors for their generosity: they helped to pay for the Starwalker graphics I had done in 2012. But what I have in mind is going to take rather more.

Due to being based outside the US and UK, I can’t run a Kickstarter campaign. However, there are other options available: most notably, Pozible and iPledg look promising, but I haven’t gone through all the crowdfunding platforms available to me yet.

A campaign seems like a lot of work but I think I want to give it a go. I am terrible at asking for money (see previous comments about self-promotion), but I have always been astounded by the generosity and support of the online community. I approve of the notion of the rewards you can offer to supporters, too. And at the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen?

It’s good to know that I have this option when I’m looking at commissioning covers for Starwalker, or a website for Screw Loose. All those things that require money for me to achieve could actually be possible!

Now all I need to figure out is what to ask for and what I can realistically offer as rewards. And then the time to do it all.

Other Stuff?

Wow, I’m not sure. What else might 2013 hold for me? No doubt I’m forgetting about something. These are the things that are buzzing around in my head right now. This is what I’m taking with me into 2013.

Now excuse me, I think I’m going to go away and write something.

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From Text to Oral Tradition

No, this isn’t a post about porn. Hush, you. Not that kind of oral.

A few years ago, I went to a talk about the future of publishing. It was at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, but other than that, I can’t remember much about it except for one thing that stood out for me: one of the panel was convinced that the future of fiction was oral.

This notion really stood out for me because it was so bizarre. I went home thinking, “Really? Is that what experts really believe will happen?”

She (sadly, all I can remember is that the speaker was a she, and possibly blonde) put forward the assertion that the digital age meant that eventually, text would drift into disuse and all we would have left is speech. Audio books, aural directions. There would be no physical words at all, recorded anywhere.

She was very convincing. To her, it all makes perfect sense; I got that feeling very strongly. But I can’t help but question: where the hell did that idea come from? Are we really heading that way?

Our world is full of text. Not just books: signs, buttons, instructions, warning labels. Would that really all go away? Would that be feasible, practical, safe? My instincts tell me ‘no’ (and my brain tells me ‘that’s just stupid’, but that’s what her fervour implied).

I’m sure she didn’t mean that. She was speaking mostly about fiction, about how digital books would all become audio and the ‘written word’ as us writers produce it would no longer exist.

I have to say, I struggle to see how that would come to pass.

Reading and listening are very different activities. Listening is passive and done with only one part of the body, but reading is active and done with our whole selves. All of our senses are involved (though with ebooks, the smell and textures are quite different). It demands all of our attention, in a way that listening to the spoken word doesn’t. A reader can curl up with and around a good book, but how would you do that with an audio book?

For me, the difference in involvement makes listening to an audio book quite a different process. There’s nothing for my eyes to do, so they’d get bored and look for something to examine. A portion of my attention just wandered off my gaze. And my hands would be free, so maybe I’d be knitting (or wait, this is the future – I’d be sculpting the cat’s fur with a laser, or sliding my car through four layers of sky-traffic). All these things would pull more and more of me away from the story.

I have a suspicion that reading and listening involve different parts of the brain as well, but I haven’t gone as far as looking it up. I’m sure someone somewhere has done a study!

Then there are all the things that would be lost in an audio book. You get the actor’s interpretation of the story; there is no opportunity to have your own reading and understanding of the material. Different people read things in very different ways, and this is fun to play with as a writer. But when a single voice is reading it out, how can you put in all those double-meanings when a simple inflection can bleach them away? How do you go back and ponder a single line three times, trying it out differently each time? How do you skip the boring bits?

How do you cater for the deaf?

The whole notion of losing text as a storytelling medium scares me. It is such a beautiful art form that I think the world would be a sadder, duller place without it. The impact of a single-word paragraph would be lost in an aural presentation, reduced to lameness and cut.

Gone.

Just having someone say that like it means something isn’t the same.

Text and audio are qualitatively different, in my opinion. You can get lost in text. You can let your imagination run wild over its possibilities, paint wild pictures that make sense only to you, but in an audio book, someone has drawn the outline and coloured parts of it in for you.

Let’s not forget that an oral tradition would be a huge step backwards in human evolution. We might have once happily told stories around a campfire, but the move to literacy wasn’t because we lacked the iPads to speak to us when our voices got tired. We sought something better and still do.

We are developing more and more ways to record our thoughts and stories, but, curiously, we haven’t lost any. We just keep adding more dimensions to our archives: visual representations in text; sounds in audio; movement and visualisation in video. And telling stories is still a big part of who we are.

A part of me wants to rebel against the whole idea of this change to an oral society. I suspect that it’s a gut reaction to losing something that I care so deeply about (and am so heavily involved in!). Just because I think it’s a horrible idea, doesn’t mean the world won’t lean that way.

I mean, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of ebooks either, because I love how paper books feel and smell and age with us. But popular opinion will drive things the way they go, so who’s to say?

But I don’t think that it’s just pure dislike on my part. I can’t logically see how such a change would come about. We live in more text now than we ever have before, largely because of the internet and progress, but this speaker is proposing the opposite. I’d love to know where she got her prediction from (if only so I can feel more authoritative in shooting it down).

I hope that a purely oral society doesn’t come to pass. I fear the future that is nothing but a babble of voices telling us truths and lies. I dread the day when a person can’t escape into a fictional world and have wondrous adventures in perfect privacy. I fear the death of personal imagination.

No, I defy such a prediction. I disbelieve.

Video killed the radio star, but book sales will always go up.

Musing on the likelihood of reading moving to listening in the future.

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