Information Deluge

One thing I’ve noticed while marketing my book(s): we live in an information deluge. We swim in a sea of facts and details to process. Despite our attempts to categorize every single person and lump them into groups that notice and care about this or that, at the end of the day, it’s individuals who are doing the swimming in this vast and restless sea. Human beings aren’t widgets, and their individual tastes and cost-benefit analyses are real things

I do not think this is new to our digital era or social media use. It just increases the information flow as it is easier to put info out there. The real challenge lies in the human ability to process information and care about it. That’s been around a long time.

How to stand out in this wild sea? I don’t know really. Even outrageousness and sex don’t stand our, frankly, so going out if your way there is no guarantee. I don’t recommend selling your soul to gain influencer status; it won’t last and even the money is not remotely a guarantee, to say nothing of the eternal consequences to yourself and others.

The old days are gone where you could be Jim Butcher, where you have an experiment catch the eye of a publisher and have them do the leg work. Publishers are no longer willing to do the leg work of finding such works very often or promote them on the rare occasions they do, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they, too, are getting lost in the vast sea people now navigate. Not that their egos will allow them to admit that outright.

Mind, in Butcher’s case, that was a double-edged sword: he didn’t really want to be writing urban fantasy in the first place, let alone forever and ever, but now he is stuck with it, and you can tell some part of the man hates Harry Dresden. The only real benefit to fame for many of us is the money.

My current approach is just committing to trying. I am perpetually disheartened in this endeavor. It’s not fun to see badly made things get attention and money because of the connections of their creators, but them’s the breaks. I write trash, frankly, stuff you read for fun, not intellectual or spiritual growth, but damn it, it’s decently well-done trash, certainly better than a lot of the trash with big backing that is able to stand out for at least a brief, profitable moment- leading to many other such moments.

I won’t say I write for money, but it’s a dream to make money while writing, to get some kind of real acknowledgment for my skill as a writer and storyteller. Kudos on fanfiction feel great, yeah, but money means people are willing to give you something they really value in return for your hard work. It’s another level entirely.

So I shall throw stuff and the wall and attempt to see what sticks. Like so: I’m giving Vocal a go for some short bits. You can find me and my work on Amazon. I’m publishing a weekly updated work on Vella, a platform I’m taking notes on to assess once it’s been out for a month, which might be a postmortem. I’m fairly confident all of these works will provide you with entertainment.

Sometimes, I wonder what is even the point of me. I guess that’s reassuring in a way because that means I intuit that there must be a point to me.

Announcing Gray Eye: The Paragon Conspiracy on Kindle Vella

Many thanks to Douglas Alves for providing the basis of this picture on Unsplash. The sketchy editing job is all me via FireAlpaca.

My most recent project, Gray Eye: The Paragon Conspiracy, is finally releasing with the all-new Kindle Vella, which you can find on your Amazon app or Kindle!

Gray Eye: The Paragon Conspiracy

All Connor Vex wants is to be left alone. Unfortunately for Connor, he is one of the Grayed, children abducted by aliens and given super-human augments, then dumped back on earth decades later as adults. His Gray eye gives him super sight, but causes more problems. After shooting a psychotic Grayed, he is drafted by the Extraterrestrial Monitoring Agency to uncover a conspiracy by a Grayed cult to set off a massive bomb powered by Grayed tech. Hell of a way to get people to leave you alone…

Kindle Vella is Amazon’s most recent reading innovation. Longtime readers of Archive of Our Own and Wattpad will be familiar with the format. Stories comes in episodes, which are chapters in the way I’m approaching it. The first three chapters of Gray Eye are free. Expect updates weekly, starting next week. Subsequent episodes will be unlocked with tokens, which can be purchased in bundles for various prices. How much an episode costs is determined by the word count; an episode is limited to 5,000 words, which is a very hefty top word count for a chapter in this writer’s opinion. Episodes can be limitless, though I cannot do that to my readers, all…we’ll be optimistic…dozen of you, or myself for the sake of both integrity and sanity.

You can give stories you like a thumbs up to let people know you liked them. You can also vote for a story as a fave each week, which can get the story highlighted by Amazon.

I do not doubt that Vella will be dominated by a certain kind of story I don’t write. I’m hoping Gray Eye (#1, I hope) offers something fun and even a bit wonderous for readers, a modest twist on old ideas. I won’t say it’s ideal for all ages, but I think if you let your kids watch Marvel movies, you can let them read this. I like writing Connor and the rest of the cast and I hope you’ll like their adventure and continue on with me as I write it.

This is a huge experiment for me. Gray Eye is still in progress while I’m publishing, but my word count goals are pretty modest and I’m approaching this like I did in fanfiction (not that kind, for the love of…). I’ve seen a lot of success in that area, not that I can get paid for it. Or tell you my pseudonym (beware, beware the wrath of the Mouse, who owns all and has no mercy). There’s a lot of questions I have about Vella and even more unknowns about how to best navigate it.

For those interested in Paladin #2, work continues apace! It’s admittedly a slow pace…I am rewriting a key section as a matter of fact and my editor will continue edits when she returns from summer vacation. I’m hoping for a fall release.

Fourth of July 2021 After Action Report

I am a tired woman, but I am on the other side of a lot of work for a Fourth of July/birthday party. Let none say I do not love my husband. My back had been in pain this past week and I think the party might have been a contributing factor.

Really this is an excuse to post pictures of my patriotic ice cream cupcakes.

They were a lot of work, and the recipe produced a lot of cupcakes.

It isn’t complicated.

Below is a slightly modified recipe based on that of Taste of Home; their frosting recipe did not work for me and their recommended cupcake cup full ratio is too much. I also changed up the ice cream used. I’ve also included some videos for the frosting-uninitiated.

You need:

  • 1 normal sized box of red velvet cake mix
  • Cupcake cups, lots (I had 42 and there was still batter left)
  • Cupcake pan(s)
  • Vanilla ice cream (I just bought a gallon from Trader Joe’s; there’s a lot left)
  • Fluffy frosting, made or store bought (It took me three containers of the standard store bought size to get them all)
  • Blue food coloring
  • Gold star sprinkles
  • Open star frosting tip

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Make the batter according to the directions on the box.

2. Pour the batter into the cupcake cups. You’ll want them about a quarter full.

3. Bake the base of your cupcakes. I recommend starting with 11 minutes and testing them with a toothpick- poke a toothpick into the cupcake and if it comes out clean, they are done. (On my oven, it ended up taking 15 minutes.)

4. Give the cupcakes 10 minutes to cool. Once cool, spread ice cream on the top. I recommend using a cookie dough scoop and butter knife for this. The scoop was used to put the ice cream on the cupcake and the knife to shape it and fill in any gaps. Work fast, as softer ice cream is harder to work with.

5. Freeze the cupcakes for at least an hour (I froze them for about 3 hours). I recommend spreading ice cream on small batches of cupcakes, then immediately putting them in the freezer before you start on the next set.

6. When the cupcakes are ready, add blue food coloring to your frosting and mix to the desired shade of blue. Prepare a piping bag (you don’t need an expensive one- or even the tip! Use a plastic bag as a piping bag by cutting a corner out and shoving the frosting tip through, or even do it without a frosting tip as shown here.) Fill with frosting (how to do that for the less than kitchen-coordinated like myself).

7. I followed these directions to frost my cupcakes. Sprinkle the gold stars on top as soon as they are frosted. Work in batches again and put the batch back in the freezer when done.

They were quite the hit, which I am so happy about, because I am but an adequately domestic person. I woke up very early to start these on the Fourth and do all the other things I needed to do.

I could see mixing up the colors, sprinkles, and kind of ice cream for different holidays, though I admit I’m a sucker for traditions and would rather do something different for different holidays.

We also had a 1776 drinking game! If you haven’t seen 1776, you are missing out. It is a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It takes quite a few historical liberties, but not as many as some things, and is very fun. I watch it every Fourth of July. It’s great.

Here are the rules, stylishly formatted:

I had to write them myself because no drinking game rules for this movie exist on the internet. They need refining, I think. I’m open to suggestions.

All in all, a success. Yeah, we could use a bigger house, bigger grill, and more decorations, but I think it went well for our first party.

Not Really A Book Review: Seven Days to the Perfect Puppy

I sympathize even more greatly with those who work from home with toddlers than I did before. I have been tired. This blog post will probably be written in fits and starts.

Tiberius, or Ty, is a very wonderful puppy, and a growing one. My brother gave us a book by the late Dr. Sophia Yin and said we should read it in advance, since it helped him with his dog. I did, and while I have failed to follow the instructions exactly but it was helpful.

The instructions essentially tell us to do what we’ve been doing- constant vigilance- but they have you tie them puppy to yourself, which is really inconvenient when you’re job is not dog training. I do have him under containment and surveillance, though, while I work.

The most useful thing has been about the doctor’s Learn to Earn program. It boils down to “give the puppy a treat when he does something you want”. This is intuitive, but the unique thing about it is that treat is often his food. We did that for the first few days, but then we got busy. I think it made a difference, however.

The information about how dogs think and grow has also been helpful. We’re leaning towards caution with taking him out, as puppies are at severe risk for parvo which is a very dangerous disease, but I try to get him to experience new things every day. Young with puppies are at the best age for socialization with people and dogs before they’re fully vaccinated.

I’m hitting a wall on how to get him to meet new and different kinds of people. By now, he is probably over 20 pounds and carrying him around for any distance requires a lot of effort. We’ll see what I can do.

Another great thing the book emphasizes is controlling the puppy’s environment. He can’t get in trouble if trouble is not accessible. Except when he figure out how to escape…

The book has been helpful and I’d recommend it. Get it on Amazon here.

In other Tiberius the puppy news, Ty is fast learner. I admit I’ll miss his puppy cuteness but I also admit a calmer dog who isn’t out to destroy everything or bite us will be nice. I look forward to him being done with his vaccines so we can go have adventures outside the house.

He’s also been emotionally helpful. He grounds us. We all spend too much time living in a digital world and a puppy simply doesn’t and needs you to take care of him. He’s been really great for that, will be more so when we can walk, and weirdly he’s been helpful for getting me writing.

Do I Have a Perfect Puppy?

No, to be honest. Tiberius is great during the day (now that I gave a pen to keep him away from furniture while I work) but he’s an absolute monster during the evening when my husband gets home.

However…

So, I have an awesome puppy.

Characters Who Fit

I should get back to writing book reviews…unfortunately I haven’t been reading much lately, between my recent wedding, the immense number of follow on chores and errands that came from that, finishing an old profitless and pseudonymous project, my new project, and the fact that I work on Eastern time but live in not merely a western time zone, but the one western time zone that has rejected the tyranny of Daylight Savings Time (as one should). There’s also the Oncoming Puppy. I did read a book about training him, so I guess I’ll have to let you -all four of you, and Mom- know if it was worth reading.

So that leaves me with writing about writing, which makes me focus on the new project more, at least. I had an idea for how this story would play out some time ago, but one of the major characters never seemed quite right. Now that I’m putting it properly together, I actually came to realize that, due to her position in the story and the backstory and attitude that required, I did not like her very much. The best I could wrangle for a personality was something very bland, and on the dislikeable side of bland at that.

This project is not really one that breaks any boundaries. In a lot of ways, it’s a chance to play with concepts that have been around awhile, but on my own terms. And it was looking at those concepts- I’ll admit it’s superheroes, I guess- that I found a place to fit this character that made me like her.

It was not a place I like, I want you to know, because it involves a profession I despise, a profession so far up its own rear end that the sure why to win its acclaim is to praise it shamelessly. There are too many movies and shows and book where someone does this for a living or aspires to be one. But it worked so well and allowed me to give this character a fun personality so that’s what she’s going to be.

They tell you to kill your darlings, but what you should mostly do is keep an open mind when developing characters. People, and more importantly you, should enjoy your protagonists. Don’t try to force them into roles or places that mean they must be unpleasant to write or read. The result is going to be jarring for readers, if you can even make yourself write it.

Life is Research

I’m working on a new project, which was not the project I meant to work on but it wouldn’t leave me alone after I did some thinking about the Kindle Vella (which will arrive…eventually).

I had to reach out to a gun nut friend (far gun nuttier than I, alas) to get clarification on something to do with bullet velocity. I appreciate knowing her and the time I worked at the range where I met her, not just because it was interesting and fun, but also because it has been very useful for writing.

A lot of things in my life have been like that. I did not choose to stick to my comfort zone, which was in a comfy spot, reading, with a beverage. I went out and did things, including things I wasn’t comfortable with or even good at doing. Sometimes I grew comfortable, sometimes I got better at doing them, but sometimes I never did either. Or I grew comfortable but am still terrible at some stuff, like video games, which I enjoy but am not good at.

These experiences have made me a better writer. I’m not an adherent of the ‘write what you know’ school. How dull that would be, at least for me, though God knows the modern suburban woman’s dramatized life subgenre is a best seller often enough (bonus points for her being a victim who is also a psychopath). But I do believe in knowing what you don’t know, and knowing you need to learn about what you don’t know when you encounter it, and nothing really teaches you that like having to go live outside of your comfort zone.

Not all experiences you write about will be one-to-one for experiences you will or even can have. But you can find analogues.

I don’t mean that in a trite way. Living outside of my comfort zone included multiple occasions of dragging a third of my body weight across twelve miles and still missing the time goal by half an hour all six times I tried. It meant making a public fool of myself many, many times in so many, many ways. “Living outside your comfort zone” is not a quote on Instagram accompanying a picture where some girl sits on a cliff. It is lifting an artillery shell (not. light.) in front of a crowd of cadets who are laughing at you, tiny slip of a thing, because you look ridiculous- but the NCO with his combat patch is nodding approvingly, probably because of some girl power slogan you don’t believe in. Meanwhile, you are aware that none of this means a damn thing to anybody in the long run because who in the real Army is going to ask you to lift an artillery shell?

On top of that, you get to meet different people and go different places. Human creativity never reaches its full potential alone. Others can inspire you (some of them are villains, true). The world is a place full of wonders, natural and manmade, and they can definitely give you ideas. For me, there’s something about travel itself that helps gets the creative juices flowing. You also get to really meet different kinds of people. It’s funny to me, sometimes, reading modern books from Big Name publishers and wondering if the author had ever met the kind of people they’re talking about.

Research is a key part of writing, and the best kind of research is going out and living life. You can do that and still find time to write, you know.