Using Scrivener, once again

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There comes a point when you’re (I’m) typing a long comment somewhere and a simple thought suddenly springs up: I should be posting this to my own blog!

Well, I’ll link to it instead. Author Sherwood Smith is working on a switch from her old word processing program to Scrivener, and I thought I would share the (rather simplistic) way that I use it. It’s not exactly in-depth, but it’s what I’ve managed to kludge together from all the bells and whistles the program contains.

Anyway, check it out. If you use Scrivener or are thinking of switching to it, there might be something useful there.

Also, if you haven’t read Sherwood’s work, I liked Inda but she has newer stuff, too.

This is how it happens

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I took my son downtown to see a movie and we missed the start. So, to kill some time, we wandered into the Barnes & Noble to browse around and pick up some books. This is what we came back with:

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EX-HEROES was for my kid; I’ve been pretty upfront about my distaste for zombies in all forms. The others were for me. You know what I didn’t realize until later that night when I took them out of the bag? They were all books by dudes.

It’s just too easy to stay in a comfort zone. It’s easy to stick with habits that we don’t even recognize as habits. I don’t talk about it much, but some time ago I decided that I was going to be more mindful about my book purchases; it’s super-easy to just buy books by all men. It’s pretty much the path of least resistance. Oops.

So I’m going to pull Dark Places off the shelf next. And I’m not doing it because it’s the right thing to do (although it is) or that it’s what other people think I should do (they don’t actually care). I’m doing it because carelessly limiting myself will weaken me when I need to make my writing stronger.

If you’re someone who only reads one type of writer, you should try new things, too.

You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

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In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

In which I am interviewed.

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Yes, that’s right, I was interviewed for the podcast Tell Me Another. You can listen here on their site or in iTunes for the low low price of nothing at all.

Tell Me Another is about stories and storytellers, and I talked about that, I guess? Actually, I pretty much forgot everything I said except: I recommended a book I read recently, I recommended a noirish movie on Netflix Streaming that I loved, and I went into my rant about vampires and vampire lore at some point. Presumably, I said other things, too.

Also, if you go the the podcast site, you’ll see a picture of me. Go ahead if you want. I’m not ashamed. (Much.)

Time to ruin my blog again

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I’m going to make my blog inaccessible for a while while I try to install a new theme, fuss with it for way too long, then give up and go back to how it is now. Again. The main page, www.harryjconnolly.com will still be available.

Added later: Yep! Changing themes is a pain in the ass and I can’t be bothered to waste time on it. Back to the same old boring look.

2013

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This was a tough, weird year.

It started off badly. I was in the dumps, THE WAY INTO CHAOS was not getting any bites from publishers, and the computer we got for our son (which he swore would not be a source of obsession) became an obsession. As the year went on, it became a bigger and bigger source of conflict.

In April, I signed on to a themed Kickstarter anthology called “Walk The Fire 2″ (theme: certain people are able to enter special fires and emerge from a fire elsewhere and elsewhen. They’re space-faring/time travel/whatever you want stories about travel) and it was funded. I turned in my story “A No Without A Thank You” but am still waiting on the edits (for perfectly understandable reasons).

I also tried an experiment in April: since sales of the ebook for Twenty Palaces had been waning, I dropped the price to $2.99. End result: no advantage. Sales were slightly better but the money it brought in was pretty much the same. This was a problem because it didn’t look like my agent was going to sell THE GREAT WAY and my only ebook was bringing in $100 a month, approximately.

I’d hoped to finish the zero draft of THE GREAT WAY in the spring, but it actually took me until August. While I was wrapping it up, I was also busting my ass trying to get the Kickstarter ready. I wanted it to run from August to September, but I couldn’t get everything ready in time.

As it turns out, pushing things back a month was a good idea.

The thing is, this was a very stressful time. Money was tight. I kept asking my wife if she wanted me to go back to temping, and she kept reassuring me that I didn’t have to, not yet. Also, it was looking like Christmas was going to be pretty thin.

The Kickstarter turned that around, but I’ve talked about that here at length already.

While the campaign was ongoing, KING KHAN finally came out. It’s the rpg tie-in for the Spirit of the Century game that was a stretch goal for a completely different Kickstarter from last year. (Or the year before, it’s hard to keep this straight.) It’s a fun, upbeat, bright book, but I wish I’d had a chance to give the text one more polish.

I also got invited to submit to a John Joseph Adams anthology of sf/f Kickstarter campaigns, which seems like a weird idea but I wrote up a love potion KS and PUA satire called “Beyond the Game.” JJA sent me his notes last week and the story is almost ready to return. Royalties! Boy, it sure would be nice to get some royalties.

Kickstarter is sorta running my life right now.

Anyway, things went from omg we have no money and this Kickstarter goal is too large omg can’t sleep feel sick all the time I should get a job mopping floors somewhere to Holy shit! for the last few months. We’re still pinching pennies, but I managed to replace my aging laptop with the cracked cover this Christmas, and I’m hard at work on revisions.

For 2014, I have to get the books out to people… and onto the market so they can start earning money again. I’ll also have to publish the two stretch goal books, which will take some revising. Someday soon I really hope to write original long form fiction again.

Christmas Secular Symbolism: a guide

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If, like me, you really enjoy Christmas but are not a Christian, it can feel a little weird to fill your home with Christian symbols of the celebration: the tree, the star, the candy canes, the wreaths, the whole deal. A fair list of those Christian symbols can be found here and here.

I figured it was long past time we came up with a list of explicitly secular symbols for the modern Christmas decorations, so that they can not only be beautiful decorations, but meaningful to non-Christians as well.

The artificial tree: Long reviled by purists, fake trees look better and better each year and they’re becoming more popular. Of course, they’re made of serious plastic, so they have to be in use for some 15 years or so before they offset the effect of cutting down trees every year. But an artificial tree reminds us of what we make out of the world and that we have to be mindful of how we use it. As human beings, we make our lives better by creating joy and beauty, but we have to remember that it comes at a cost.

The natural tree: Except for the part about “serious plastic” and fifteen years, same thing.

The star atop the tree: Stars are the source of all life (well, ours is) and they also represent the future. As we celebrate this annual holiday, we need something to remind us to keep moving forward.

Multi-colored lights on the tree: It would be easy to say that these stand for the need to keep a wide variety of people in your life–not just variety in the color of their skin but also in their political beliefs, their gender, their sexual orientation, their hobbies and preferences. That would be easy but it’s not enough. The colorful lights should also remind us to seek out a wide variety of experiences, too, and to do so brightly with exuberance. And, of course, they’re all strung together, because it’s important to share those experiences with the important people in our lives.

Little white lights on the tree: These symbolize a need for uniformity, conformity, and a desire to withhold powerful emotional expressions to give the appearance of good taste. (Sorry, white-lighters, but ugh, go for the color.)

The wreath: Everything that comes out of the Earth must return to it someday.

Garland: A strand or rope of bright reflective stuff, garland represents the connection we feel with the people closest to us all year long. Sometimes that’s family, sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s a family of choice. And best of all, garland is easy to break when it has to be broken.

Stockings: I’m told that once upon a time, the stocking hung by the chimney with care were actual stockings sized to fit actual feet, and people received their gifts in them and were grateful. Now they’re sized for giants, are sewn to hang flat (to be decorative) and are made to hold gifts. What’s more, the gifts inside stockings have become the little things we get for each other, trifles that we don’t have to wrap or put a lot of thought into. “Stocking-stuffers.”

Those giant, oversized stockings should remind us all of the *stuff* we can make now, and how cheaply we can make it, how little we really value most of it, and the poverty of some of those people who actually do the manufacturing.

Mistletoe: Once again, I refer to the olden days (of not that olden ago): Women were mostly forbidden from expressing overt interest in a guy if she wanted to be treated with respect. She wasn’t allowed to *want* to kiss, not at first. So you had bullshit like mistletoe, which gave people an excuse to kiss someone else, and hopefully that someone else actually wanted to be kissed and was glad for the excuse.

Nowadays, that stigma is reduced to the point that we don’t need excuses like mistletoe anymore, which means it now represents people taking liberties they would not otherwise be offered. Mistletoe: a tradition we can do without.

Santa Claus: Santa represents generosity, which is especially important for little kids. Generosity can be very difficult for little kids to grasp, and all the myth and story around Santa Claus present utterly selfless generosity to them in the best possible light. Among the other benefits of believing in Ol’ St. Nick, he’s a role model for very young kids that their parents can never be.

For you very young child, everything comes from their parents and/or guardians: clothes, meals, TV time, a special milkshake all your own–getting stuff from your parents is how the world works. But Santa is different. Yeah, he is also giving things to kids, but it *feels* so different. It feels like a special occassion.

Finally, when a kid gets old enough to figure out that Santa is just a story, what do they discover? That their parents have been behind it all along and taking absolutely zero credit.

Secret kindness. Generosity without expectation of being repaid. Just talking about it makes me want to watch the end of HOGFATHER again.

What else? Are these too dour? Is there a decoration I left out? Do you want to defend little white lights (as if)? Comments are turned off on my blog but you can add them on LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook, or G+ if you want.

Best Gingerbread Houses Ever, An Annual Post

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Yesterday, I took my wife out for our Giftmas trip through downtown Seattle. Our son is almost 12 and old enough to stay home, so we did without him rather than drag him along while he complained. Sadly, without the kid our time turned more toward shopping for him than anything else.

We started with a really nice lunch at the Michou Deli in the Market, followed by a tiny egg nog cheescake on a stick from The Confectionary. We hit Kitchen Basics for stocking stuffers, the walked up to the Sheraton to see the Gingerbread houses.

Everything there is edible. And it rocked back and forth!

The cow jumped over the moon, via a motor.

You can see them all (including close-ups of some sections, video of the moving parts, and a candy version of our downtown library) at the set. A few are a bit blurry; my one-shot camera seems to be on its last legs viewfinder.

Then we dropped by Pacific Place to listen to a church group of male singers muddle through some Christmas songs and enjoy the indoor snowfall. There was much fun to be had, but my wife is still recovering from an injury so we cut things short.

It was a nice time, but I wish we could have brought the kid (and he would have been cool about it).

How I planned my Kickstarter and why I think it worked out so well

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So! As many of you know, last September and October I ran a Kickstarter for my new epic fantasy trilogy. My goal was $10K, which was barely enough to cover the cost of cover art, interior design, a map, printing, copy editing, etc. In my original budget I had about $80 worth of wiggle room, which I figured would be safe enough; if costs went over, I could cover them with the Twenty Palaces POD edition which is coming out soon.

Then this happened:

The project hit its goal in about 8 hours and doubled it the next day. This post is going to be about what happened, why it happened, what I did right and wrong, and what I learned from it. Continue reading

Things I have to do today before I watch Netflix:

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    Revise one chapter
    Complete two blog posts for the week
    Clean kitchen floor
    Load dishwasher
    Pseudo-clean bathroom
    Take out trash and compost.

Not to self: Twitter will not help you get any of these things done more quickly.

I’m trying out a new mopey British detective series, and if they main character is surprised by the twist I’ve seen coming for 40 minutes, I’m deleting it from my queue. In ep one he said he goes where the evidence leads without jumping to conclusions. If the twist comes and he does not say “I knew this was a possibility from the start,” I’m out.