Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Getting that Book Into Print

I've had a lot of fun the last few years -- fifteen books, a bunch of writers' conferences, many book signings and...most important...many new reading and writing friends.

Indianapolis Barnes & Noble. Yea BN!
At a Sisters in Crime Book signing at an Indianapolis Barnes and Noble in December, another author asked how I had published so many books in just a few years. I love this question, because the answer is simple. Write every day, or as close to that as life permits.

The question prompted me to write (in three weeks) Writing in Retirement: Putting Your New Year's Resolutions to Work. I was told the title might limit sales. However, the point is that those of us of a certain age have lots of experience and hopefully more free time than in our thirties and forties.

Writing in Retirement takes you through the "do I want to do this" thought process, discusses types of writing, lets you know how to put your books for sale at online retailers, and provides guidance on marketing your books. While geared to self-publishing, the ideas apply to those who want to get a publisher.  

Writing can be fun. I enjoy it, but I also treat it as a part-time job. The ideas come fairly easily. Getting them into decent shape for a book, which I'm asking readers to pay for, take a lot of time. And a couple of cuss words now and then. I try not to have too many of those make it into books.

Writing to sell is a major commitment. I don't say that to scare people. The nice thing about semi-retirement is that our deadlines are largely our own. If a sick child or grandchild needs attention or some volunteer work
 becomes more pressing, those are important. Once those obligations clear, writing can be prominent again.

If we wait for the perfect time to write, the so-called large block of time, there won't be too many finished projects. Writing is a lot like learning a foreign language. You need to spend a consistent amount of time regularly, and you can't worry about doing it badly before you do it well.

In case you say you don't know where to start, I can recommend another of my books: Words to Write By: Putting Your Thoughts on Paper. The premise is that we have done many things well, so we may not want to tackle something (writing) that seems daunting. The book offers an approach.

Just take it in pieces, and start with something you know. Or begin with something you want to learn about. That's even more fun. Just get started Writing in Retirement.
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Check out Elaine's web page, look at online classes (more comprehensive than this book), or sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing in Spite of Technology

Sometimes technology gets the better of me so much that I have to laugh. Mostly because it beats crying.

Here are my system failures, so to speak, of the last couple of months. Most are in the last two to three weeks.

1)   Laser and ink jet printers die almost simultaneously. I figure one was mourning the other. Problem solved by buying two new ones, with a dent in the wallet where bills used to be.
2)      Hard drive died on the laptop. I don’t own a PC, though I have one of the original Acer notebooks with one gig of RAM (honest). After much help from Office Max staff, I decided to buy a new hard drive. Reasonable price (on sale, even labor!), but the wallet is again lighter.
3)      Cell phone (which also gives access to email, though not a smart phone) won’t retain a charge. Find a battery for $5 online (because of course no local store has it). Yea! Battery does not help. Turns out when a phone is dying, it won’t hold a charge. Boo!
4)      Buy a new phone, not a smart phone. (Like I could really learn to use GPS on one.)  The voice part of my new touch phone transfers immediately. Not so data in any form—text or email. Spend more than two hours on live chat. (I did like that direct access.) After many resets and “is it working now?” exchanges, two technicians decide I have a dud and they will replace it. At least the old phone can be turned back on. It works when plugged in and for 15 minutes on battery.
5)      Return envelope arrives to send back nonworking new phone. Ask me if the replacement phone is here yet, after ten days. Nope.
6)      Buy another new phone, this time online so it’s just like my old phone (which is kind of like a Blackberry). It’s coming via FedEx today. I figure it will arrive too late for me to go run errands. Odds are the original replacement new phone will arrive in two weeks. No acceptance signature for that one!
7)      In the midst of phone fun…remember that new hard drive? The computer dies.
I’m talking no booting, RIP, time for burial. (See hammer, which I would like to use on the laptop.)
8)      Good luck here. It’s the day before Thanksgiving (yes, that’s good luck, no 
computers used during dinner). That means sales afterwards, and I get an HP Laptop for a really, really cheap price. And no one got trampled. Wallet is now very light.
9)      Gee, computers need software. I’m 900 miles from home and don’t have any of mine with me to load, so try the free 30-day Microsoft Office 365 trial. It lets me work but – and this may be the biggest advantage to the computer meltdown – I don’t like it at all. So, good old Office 2010 awaits me upon return home.
10)   Are you laughing yet?
11)   Take RIP computer to Office Max. Ask them to migrate my many gigabytes of files to a 32 gigabyte flash drive – for no charge. They agree, and will also study the dead computer—likewise for free.
12)   Just had a call from the Office Max staffer who installed the new hard drive. Computer is fine. Hard drive came loose. He has added more screws. (No, I did not say screw you, he’s young and has been very patient in explaining many things to me over the last couple of months.)

Is there a moral here? A couple of people have suggested yellow pads and pencils, but I compose at more than 100 words per minute on a keyboard.

The moral is: email yourself important files. I had all the fiction I was working on stored in my yahoo email account. Yes, one can use Google Drive or some other online storage system. Ask me how. Go ahead, ask.

I have no clue. I’m sticking with email (and flash drives) because my mind is so tired of learning new technology.

When the Fed Ex truck comes with the second new phone, I’m going to pick up my now-fixed computer. All wagers on the next breakdown will be accepted. Prize is a dead phone.
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Check out Elaine's web page, look at online classes, or sign up for her newsletter.