NaNoWriMo Update, A Change in Book Distribution, and Holidays

It’s been a busy November, as it always is with NaNoWriMo. This year, however, I was co-municipal liaison for the Shenandoah Valley Region, with some added responsibilities, like write-ins (online and in-person) and cheerleading. On top of that, I made some changes to how my ebooks are sold, and there’s the whole holiday thing.

NaNoWriMo Update

I passed 50,000 words on November 17 and officially validated my win on November 24. This year’s NaNoWriMo was my first as a co-municipal liaison for my region, Shenandoah Valley. I had a lot of fun, met some great writers online and in person, and  hope to do it again.

My project this year was a bit different from my usual work. It takes place present day, instead of in the past. And a couple of interesting and unplanned things happened–NaNoWriMo just does that.

First, I reached the logical conclusion the existence of my super-secret, fictional intelligence organization, The Directorate, needed to be acknowledged. Without spoilers, I’ll simply quote one of my characters, Alexei Bukharin, “The time for that secret is over.” That freshens things up a bit and adds a new protocol to any further stories about it.

Second, I created a character initially for perhaps two or three scenes. I had no intention of making her a permanent character at all. Remember, your NaNoWriMo project is a rough draft. I’ve removed whole threads of plots and characters in subsequent edits. However, as I was writing what I thought was the character’s final appearance, my other character, Mai Fisher, and I recognized something interesting: This character deserved to have a future.

Enter into my canon, Cybill Fleming. For now, all I know about her is she’s a Directorate operative-in-training and that Mai Fisher spotted something of herself in Cybill. This coming year while I work on publishing two books (Books One and Two of A Perfect Hatred), I’ll be fleshing Cybill Fleming out a lot more. Stay tuned.

As of today, this year’s NaNoWriMo project stands at 70,776. Four days to go and four more planned scenes. I like it when a plan comes together!

Going Wide

No, not talking about a football play or race cars passing each other. Last month I decided to take all ten of my published ebooks out of exclusive Amazon distribution. After seeing the success others had had using a service called Draft2Digital, I decided to give it a try. Coincidentally, two of my ebooks were nearing their automatic KDP Select renewal, so I “unchecked the box” and a few days later uploaded Spy Flash and Who Watches the Watchmen? to D2D. An easy process over all, though formatting was an issue in places. That is, you can’t simply take the Kindle version file and upload it; you have to make certain the formatting imbedded in the file doesn’t glitch. I’m pleased with D2D and its ease of use and may use it for the release of my second novel next April.

Not long after, three more ebooks were due to automatically renew in KDP Select. I unchecked those boxes too. Now, the ebooks of my novellas My Noble Enemy and The Yellow Scarf, as well as my first novel, A War of Deception, have wider distribution.

Some of the places where the ebooks will appear are Kobo, iBooks, Barnes&Noble, SCRIBD, among others. You can also purchase ePub versions of these five books via PayPal right here on my web site. From the home page, look for the tab, “Shop for Books.”

Let me say, I have nothing at all against Amazon’s distribution of my paperbacks and ebooks. KDP Select is optional; however, it is one of those “opt in” processes with an automatic renewal unless you take a physical action to change it.

As with the new directions my NaNoWriMo projects took me with my characters, my other books will be going off in new directions as well.

Change is scary but good.

Happy Holidays

No flames please. December happens to be the month where a lot of religions celebrate winter holidays. Unlike KDP Select, I don’t want to be exclusive, rather inclusive.

I’m not a fan of the winter holidays. Lots of bad childhood memories abound, and the crass commercialism turns me off. The holidays also take a lot of time away from writing, but family is family. I’ll do the shopping, I’ll wrap the gifts, and I’ll take delight in watching my grandchildren unwrap their presents. As six-year-old Emory says, “It’s about giving not getting.” Love her.

What holiday traditions do you fondly remember? What are those you’d just as soon forget?

Formatting an eBook’s a B***h

Before I get into the topic for the provocative title of this post, let me take your time to discuss a few blogging changes.

If you come here on Wednesdays to see “Politics Wednesday,” well, I’ve changed things around again. I’ve decided to separate my political blogging from my writing blogging–not because I’m ashamed of either or because I don’t want them to be associated, but because logistically it makes sense. For months I’ve been putting the same post on this WordPress site and on a Blogger site. That led to a lot of confusion, not to mention work. For me.

People have often commented that they like both sorts of postings, some like only the political, and some like only the writing. Now, it’ll be easier for me and for the reader seeking just one type of post.

From now on, this site remains as “Unexpected Paths,” and will feature my posts about writing and the writing life on Mondays and Fridays. So, if you visit here to read the writing posts, you don’t have to do a thing. However, if you want to see my political commentary, you’ll have to go to my Blogger site and follow “My Musings” there.

Now, on to eBook formatting. I recently transcribed my print book Rarely Well Behaved, published in 2000, and separated it into two files for two eBooks. I finished polishing and editing, had someone proofread, got eBook publishing advice from an experienced indie author, downloaded an excellent guide for formatting your file for eBook publication, spent several hours Saturday night following that guide to the letter, uploaded the first book, Fences, did a preview, and was discouraged beyond description.

Despite my careful following of directions (anyone who knows me, knows I operate from checklists), there were a plethora of formatting errors. Now, I could have been the typical indie author and clicked on “Submit,” but I withdrew the file, went back over the formatting process, and uploaded it again. (No offense intended. I’ve found from reviewing indie published books, the conscientious indie authors are atypical.) The same formatting errors prevailed. I took it down again, and did a Scarlett O’Hara–as in, thinking about it tomorrow, because tomorrow is another day.

Now, it’s two days later, and I’m about to give it another try. The issue may be that the guide was written for MS Word for Windows, and I have Word: Mac. This guide is excellent, as I said, because it includes illustrations for various formatting menus, i.e., “This is what it should look like.” But they are slightly different in the Word for Windows and Word: Mac versions. In some cases, I had to give it my best guess.

The other issue is the file you upload goes through a conversion program, in my case, to make the file viewable on Kindle. (Smashwords, for example, calls its conversion program the Meatgrinder. How apt.) That means you can have some basic formatting–e.g., font type and size, first line indents, and centered text–but not much more. One indie publishing friend who received a discouraged DM from me suggested perhaps I’d left in the “curly quotes” instead of using “straight quotes,” and that may have caused the formatting issue. The formatting problems did involve multiple lines of dialogue; all lines of dialogue were indented, instead of the second line’s being flush left.

Today, then, is attempt number three, from the beginning through 30 steps and uncounted sub-steps and then another upload and preview. Wish me luck. If it doesn’t work this time, I may have to resort to something drastic. Like hire a professional.

As my indie author friend said in trying to console me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”