Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Vanishing Magic of Snow: Back Again...For the First Time

If you've ever had an ugly duckling you'd meant to be a swan, then you can relate to this story.

My first ebook, The Vanishing Magic of Snow, had special importance for me:
1) After 25 years in The Desert, ignored by all agents and editors despite four published novels, it was the first all-new project I'd completed in roughly a decade. And I'd set out to prove that I still had the stuff.
2) It spearheaded my master plan to lay siege to EBookLandia with a razzle-dazzle blend of new work, rewritten versions of the work that I'd done in The Desert, and reissues of my four novels published under the name Kelley Wilde.
3) Though it's a work of fiction, TVMOS was sparked by a true life nightmare: I'd lost my job, could not find work and found myself faced with the dual threat of eviction and starvation. The first part of the novel was written in a white heat: I wanted to leave something, in case I didn't make it, to tell the world how it felt to go down without a prayer. When a miracle occurred, I continued writing: a fantasy about one man's desperate efforts to manifest his salvation through the power of positive action and thought. The theme had been on my mind since the 1970's, when I lived in Canada--and for the first time I found myself writing about my Canadian decade. Part fantasy, part thriller, part horror, TVMOS became part personal testament too.

Enough about me, though. My thoughts turned to you and my growing awareness that good writing is translation. More and more I realized that talk about Me comes to nothing--unless it is grounded in thoughts about You as a reader. No one cares--and rightly so--about Reb MacRath losing his job. So many of you have lost yours or know someone who has lost theirs. Somehow we need to translate our tales into universal terms. Where is the real terror that all of us can relate to? How can a wealthy CEO, an actress or a best-selling author relate to the tale of an old call center clerk who's made a mess of his life? The universal lingo had to be something that all of us share. And the book began to write itself the instant I thought of a premise that all of us could relate to: things in the hero's apartment begin to disappear--while he is in the apartment. The job loss is simply one more loss as his entire life begins to vanish piece by piece.

So, then, then book represented a writing milestone as well. Onward with next to no online connections, little knowledge of ebook publishing--and no needed skills to format my Word text for Amazon.  And this brings us, at last, to the part of the story I wanted most to tell: I succeeded in finding a formatter for only $25. The results appeared...well, a little strange when I viewed her work on the Kindle previewer: faulty indentations and line breaks...extra spaces between words...etc. She insisted, though, that the problem lay in the previewer. The published text would be perfect.

No such luck. The published version looked a little like a tone poem.  And though I acquired some five-star reviews, though nobody groused of the formatting, TVMOS became my ugly duckling I seldom talked about. The book I felt ashamed to tout.

So much for the bad news. The good news is this: my new formatter, Yvonne Betancourt, will  reformat the manuscript within the next week. And I've used the last few weeks to really bring the book to life with polishing and tweaking.

Result: TVMOS will soon take its proud place among my seven other ebooks. And I'll stage a free event for as long as Amazon will allow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Preview

Coming tomorrow: a short, true account of how an ugly duckling succeeded at last in becoming a swan. My first ebook, The Vanishing Magic of Snow, had a lot going for it--including a beautiful cover, a story line that hit home in the Great Recession and a few glowing reviews.

But the formatting had been bungled badly. And the TVMOS became the one book I couldn't bring myself to tout,

The post will tell you of the book's reformatting and my plans for a proud giveaway event.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Dreadful Clash of Symbols

So, there you are, blissfully ensconced in the new thriller you're reading. And suddenly you feel...creeped out. Yes, yes, there it is again! Once again the author has gone out of his or her way to beat you on your noggin with The Escalator. This is the seventh time in the novel that the action has come to a screeching dead stop to describe The Escalator: its history, its manufacture, the number of trips up and down every day, the ever-escalating rise of the hero's daily trips...And, worse, on the book's very cover is a graphic picture of--you bet, The Escalator, Though it has nothing to do with the action--the reason you're reading, to start with--and is never explained...still, The Escalator is established as a symbol and it gains in stature with every new appearance.

Now, this is a very old business with writers trying to gain extra mileage from tales that are usually thin. The monolith in 2001? What the hell was that about? Ask and you'll be answered by a scribe with a pipe in his mouth: It is what it is...Your private truth is in your mind...Etc., etc., etc.

To which I respond: Balderdash. And I propose a simple rule: If anything smacks of a Symbol, it should be bounced from the story. Why? Because it's attempting to carry more weight than it can actually handle. No borrowed strength should be allowed: The Escalator must also work as an escalator. The symbols that work and do not creep us out are those we perceive on our own. Fools can beat us till we're blue with Escalators and Monoliths and Whatevers. But nothing can compare with the reading magic we feel when we perceive a connection barely even hinted at.

Sayyy...Suddenly I'm thinking of that escalator scene back in the first chapter...or the monolith I briefly saw...and I'm seeing a new layer here...I don't want my noggin pounded with a silver hammer. I want to discover, as if on my own, new meanings to the story.

When in doubt, be subtle and let the readers have their joys.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How's it feel? The pleasure ought to be illegal

Not that I don't have anything else to do--including giving The Vanishing Magic of Snow an edit and polish before reformatting...this after launching Red Champagne--but I'd still been dogging it on beginning the next book.

Oh, the itch kept growing...and ideas kept coming...but I might as well have just sat in a bar talking the book to death with drunks.

Today, though, the itch refused to go unscratched another day. Out came the new notebook with a growl--'You lazy friggin' bastard!'--and I began the grunt work that may go on for months: taking notes, asking questions, outlining possibilities...

Reb MacRath, back in the saddle again.

The thing is to trust in the process: one question breeds another...I have been through the same cycle so many times. And yet the great challenge remains ever new: simply to trust in the process. We defeat ourselves by thinking that we need to reinvent the wheel each time.

If a wheel has worked for decades, get out of its way and, by God, let it roll.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I Gave a Post I Liked a Pair of Cement Shoes

When we're active on more than one blog, we have to consider positioning. A post I'd had high hopes for--paralleling cutting our own hair with formatting our own ebooks--didn't attract many readers. Rather than tout the post through daily ReTweets--netting me 100-200 readers--I chose to analyze my 'failure' and consider where else I might place it.

Conclusions:
1) Southern Scotch, this blog, is an occasional potpourri of short or shortish posts on whatever strikes my fancy. At least half the posts have to do with the writing process or publishing industry--but not necessarily ebooks. The other half include posts on Feng Shui, film reviews, inspiration, positivity, martial arts, other writers, etc., etc., etc. So a much longer post about formatting ebooks wasn't tailored to my audience.
2)  Then again, Authors Electric--the British collective blog consisting of 29 writers who all publish a post once a month--might turn out to be ideal. AE posts range in length--the ideal ranging from 1000-2000 words--but if a writer needs more room, the moderators are cool about that. The AE membership and readership share an interest in literary-minded posts. And: as the site's name suggests, the main focus is on 'electric' or digital authors. All in all, I had better chance of reaching more folks on AE.
3) My AE posts appear on the 12th of each month. This gives me a full month to Tweet and ReTweet, steadily drumming up interest. With care and correct application, I'm more likely to read hundreds of readers--maybe break a thousand--on AE than here on Scotch.

Why I changed the title:
The original title was On Cutting Your Hair and Formatting Your Own Ebook. But I had more room on AE and wanted to have more fun with it. At the same time I'd learned that even the cutest of titles had better deliver the goods--and be seen to relate pretty quickly. It might be fun to draw one other, shocking parallel: cutting your own hair...formatting your own book...and--what?
\
The new title after a few days' debate:

On Cutting Your Hair, Killing Your Spouse and Formatting Your Ebook.. 

I think it's found its proper home. Now I'm left to find a replacement post on this blog--since my fans don't like to wait too long between entertainments,.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Coming 12/3: New Post About Publishing Ebooks

Though it's been a while between shots of Scotch, the next one should prove worth the wait. I'm culling my experience from working with four different ebook formatters into a summary called:

Four Ways of Getting a Haircut...or Formatting a Book.

We'll also discuss designing our own covers as another form of self-cut hair.

See you here on Wednesday.