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Survival of the Indies

Dark_EchoesIt’s no secret that, beyond the cover, people judge books by their reviews. Not everyone does it, but enough people do for it to make a huge difference to an author.

It’s with that in mind that I ask you to consider reviewing Dark Echoes – and/or any of my books, for that matter. Reviews can help a book to thrive – especially when you’re an ‘Indie’ author. Here are some direct links to where Dark Echoes is listed:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Echoes-Echo-Falls-Book-ebook/dp/B00KZNDZCW/
Amazon.com.au: http://www.amazon.com.au/Dark-Echoes-Echo-Falls-Book-ebook/dp/B00KZNDZCW/
Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Echoes-Echo-Falls-Book-ebook/dp/B00KZNDZCW/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455266

This Is What Happens…

…when your workspace doesn’t have air conditioning.

Heat

I ended up hooking my desktop up to the television for a week or so because it’s a lot cooler in the lounge.

Dark Echoes Progress

So CloseWell, despite pulling some multi-thousand word days, I wasn’t able to finish Dark Echoes before 2014 rolled around. Part of me is disappointed, as both Echo Falls and Fading Echoes were finished mere hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve in previous years. It seemed an odd tradition, but a tradition nonetheless.

But, part of me is okay. Dark Echoes is a different book to the first two in many ways, and I don’t mind taking more time to get things right. Lily is a lot angrier than Phoebe and Charlotte. The overall tone of the book is darker with the grittier side of Echo Falls – and its inhabitants – coming into play. Where illness stopped the writing process in early 2013, now a dedication to detail is slowing me.

That’s not a bad thing, but people are beginning to wonder where the book is.

I may have promised someone earlier that I would have the book finished by next Friday, though, so it’s time for me to put my word count where my mouth is and pull some more marathon days. I want to post more here, but the next week may still be a little quiet.

Until the next post…

(PS. The image is a glimpse from Scrivener. I am close to the end!)

An Open Letter to Grammarly

****In regards to my concerns about putting in credit card details, I have been gifted a premium account to test with no details required of me. This is part of Grammarly’s blog partnership program. I will put up a review of the program/process soon.

A few months ago, I wrote a post called Grammarly Blog Sponsorship! Or Not… after receiving an offer from the company Grammarly. An Amazon gift card in return for a post. I did a little Googling and found, amongst others, The Blasphemous Homemaker’s thoughts on the subject. I decided to post a little response and call it a day.

However, only hours ago, I received another email from the same person regarding my post and the blogger partnership program Grammarly has. After reading the letter, I wondered if I’d been too harsh and not given Grammarly a chance. I decided to test out the site and do some more thorough research.

I’d originally meant to send this via email, but I spoke to the other author of the house… He encouraged me to post the email as an ‘open letter’ if for no other reason than to save other people some time when researching. Without further ado, my open letter…

Hello,

You’ll forgive me for having an ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it is’ approach to life – especially when it comes to people offering me rewards for very little work. While that’s a lifestyle I’d like to become accustomed to, it’s also a fantasy. I like the idea of Grammarly and the fact that you also offer free services (something I think should be pushed a lot more if the company would like to prove its legitimacy and to stem the tide of negative blog posts and reviews).

Because I received this second email from you, I decided to go further in my research of Grammarly to see if my previous Google search didn’t give me enough information. A series of posts on Street-Smart Language (http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/2010/04/grammarly-misleading-website-kills-my.html) makes it appear that Grammarly is interested in changing things so as to become more user friendly.

With this in mind, there are a few things that concern me in regards to the Grammarly sponsorship offer:

To ethically post up ‘I used Grammarly to check this post’, I would actually have to use it. I went to the website and popped in the post I wrote about the first email I received and discovered there are errors. However, Grammarly provides a ‘report’ with no specific examples. I have read elsewhere that some people find the report useful, but the practice of a site saying ‘you have seven errors, sign up to find out what they are!’ runs along the same track of malware in which they claim your computer has seven viruses and, if you sign up, they’ll clean out your computer. If Grammarly wants to appear as anything but spam, this is a feature that desperately needs to be changed.

****(See first paragraph of this post.) I was curious to find out more about the errors in the post, but I discovered that I would be required to put in my credit card details to do so. This is required for the free 7-day trial (and the specific results of the report). This action – requiring details – in and of itself puts the potential customer in a mindset of skepticism. Given that the majority of the complaints registered on the Better Business Bureau website are Billing/Collection Issues (http://www.bbb.org/greater-san-francisco/business-reviews/computer-software-publishers-and-developers/grammarly-in-san-francisco-ca-386175) this makes the practice even more suspect. There are many ways involving cookies and downloadable demos that Grammarly could share a ‘test’ of what they do – including a run down of the actual errors – without portraying the software in such a negative light.

I could put up a post that displays the ‘check’ rather than the report itself for no cost to me and go on my merry way with my gift certificate. That would be seen as an encouragement to buy, though, which is something I am not comfortable doing when I have not done it myself.

The next is the price. At the “Best Value” level, it’s $11.66 per month. To be frank, I don’t make that much every single month on end with my book sales at this point so I wouldn’t be able to break even with the cost of it. So I can tell you that, at this point, I won’t be buying it. I would have to tell my blog readers the same thing in the interest of full disclosure.

On the topic of books, I am a fiction author. I know that some writing advice – even in the land of formal versus casual/entertainment writing – works across the board. However, rules are often broken in fiction writing for effect. Fragments create drama. Dialogue is often grammatically incorrect because people don’t often speak in grammatically correct sentences. There are stylistic choices – to Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma, single quotes inside double quotes or the opposite – and Grammarly doesn’t appear to have the versatility to let users select such stylistic options. Something like Grammarly would no doubt chew my work to bits and point out things that don’t, in a fiction work, need pointing out. It’s very likely it would create unnecessary work. I think the program is better suited to formal writing – something I don’t currently do.

I also have a small concern with the software itself. Having pasted in the post and received a check of the errors, I am left a little confused. The check picked up one spelling error. I had another look over the post, and there are three potential culprits: Grammarly, Googling, and favourite. While I wouldn’t recommend adding “Grammarly” in, it is a company name and could be accepted as correct by the software. “Googling” is actually a word with a definition (it’s the common verb form of ‘to google’). One score for netspeak. Which leaves ‘favourite’. I’m not native, but I am in Australia and plan to be here for the rest of my life. I can’t seem to find anywhere on the site whether Grammarly caters to US English spelling, UK English spelling or both. (Both at the same time would present some unique troubles.) An in-depth review of the software at Grammarist (http://grammarist.com/articles/grammarly-review/) shows that one can wander from UK to US English and back again without notice by the program. This is especially a problem for someone like me who is bi-English (to coin a phrase) and tries her best not to do that.

On the topic of me living in Australia, I have been trained as an editor for UK English even though I have a US background. This may be a useful trait, but it also makes working for a United States company complicated – especially in the realm of taxes…*

With all this in mind, I think you can understand why I feel that I would not be the best fit. As much as I would love that Amazon gift card, I would have to write my post in a way that wouldn’t provide any real value either to my website or Grammarly.

Cheers,

Jaime

*In the email I received, my proofreading services (advertised on this website) were mentioned.

Editing: A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

**This is a short paper I wrote for my Editing class, and I thought you would enjoy it.**

In her piece Stet By Me: Thoughts on Editing Fiction, Mandy Brett examines the role of the editor not only in the ‘slightly schizoid’ relationship to the novel and the author but to the publishing industry as well. She examines the levels of editing – from the piece to the individual words – as well as some of the balancing acts editors must do to be successful in their work. However, these examinations do not operate as a how-to for potential editors. Her detailing goes to strengthen her main point: the importance of editors in publishing. In a world where slashing budgets is the new norm, Brett argues that the largely ‘invisible’ role of editors is not one that should be discarded because of its lack of time in the spotlight.

Brett says that the purpose of publishing is “to transmit meaning from a single mind to a large number of minds”, so perhaps it is only appropriate that the editor’s experience is such a schizoid one. The editor must play translator between the one and the many while working with the one and being the many. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, it only stands as the tip of the iceberg in a strange – and somehow glorious to those who do it – world.

If Brett’s experience is to be taken as the standard experience of an editor, then it’s not a leap to conclude that all great or potentially great editors are slightly mad. The madness comes not in trying to find some balance between, for instance, reading for editing and reading for pleasure but in learning to move from one to the other and back again without, as Brett puts it, “thinking your gallbladder is going to explode”. (As I no longer possess my gallbladder, perhaps I’m safe.)

Despite all the madness, there is still a certain mystique to editors and editing (though, perhaps, only in the regard of those who aspire to the profession). Editors are word-bearers, the keepers of small and seemingly dangerous knowledge about authors and the work required to bring their novels to publishing standards. They see novels as they are born – often noisy, messy, somewhat unappealing (depending on whom you ask). Along those lines, the editor must play parent to the author, in a way, delivering criticism with enough encouragement so the authors don’t lose their gallbladders.

Perhaps all I have really written thus far is a rehash what Brett has already written. In that case, I will sum up my reaction in a single sentence:

In the end, it appears as though editors are the stay-at-home parent of the publishing industry: invisible and often unthanked when everything goes right and yet sharply noticed in their absence.

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Local news today:

TWO good Samaritans shepherded a runaway camel through the busy streets of Bendigo on Wednesday afternoon.

Giving chase to capture the half-grown female, the good citizens managed to capture the ship of the desert, on the corner of Bridge and Bayne streets.

That’s right. A camel running around town.

Read more at The Bendigo Advertiser.

Grammarly Blog Sponsorship! Or Not…

**Please check out Part Two where I further list my concerns about Grammarly, and the Grammarly contact addresses those concerns.**

Alas, the saying that ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ is proven yet again.

Given this is the first time I have posted in a few weeks and my last post detailed how I’m not posting much (if at all) due to depression, you can imagine why I was a little bit skeptical about anyone wanting to sponsor anything on this blog…

Hi Jaime,

You know better than most that putting your writing “out there” takes a tremendous amount of courage; readers will find and comment on even the simplest mistakes. At Grammarly we know the feeling – and we’ve made it our mission to improve writers’ confidence. Putting our money where our mouth is, we’d be honored to sponsor your next blog post with a $50 Amazon gift card.

In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that finds and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as a second pair of digital eyes that can spare you the cost of hiring a proofreader. If you’d like to join our 3 million users and try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I’ll make it happen!

Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate blog post (ideally something about writing) so I can give you all the details you need in time.

Cheers,
[Name]

P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. :)

Nevertheless, I still felt some hope and decided to get Googling. Bam! Post after post about Grammarly blog sponsorship that turned out not to be what they seemed. My favourite is from The Blasphemous Homemaker, who received the same (mostly).

Kudos to Grammarly for changing the first paragraph to suit my blog, but it’s still a big fail button for you, sunshine. Down to the ‘Let me know if…” PS at the end, it’s the same thing. Oh, sad face of disappointment.

Apparently I’m not good enough for them to offer $100, which is what some people are getting. Pfft. No points for being a ‘starving’ author, I guess. Ah, well. It amused me enough to get me out of my cloud and blog post, so yay for them. Or me. Mostly me.

Writing with Depression

I wrote one sentence today.

Believe it or not, I am more proud of that one sentence than I am of the previous 8,000 words or so I have written in the third book in the Echo Falls trilogy.

In the beginning of May, I was taken into the hospital for emergency appendix surgery. A recovery that should have taken a week or two stretched out to about six weeks, thanks to complications. Winter arrived, end of term tests and papers hit. I had a lot of support and understanding from my teachers, but I still had work to do. The winter blues, more commonly known as SAD, hit with a vengence, and I found myself terrified of writing a single word. I had to spend so much energy on remembering to eat and shower that I didn’t have the strength to face even the weakest of my writing fears.

I am not the first author to deal with depression and anxiety, and I certainly won’t be the last. So why write about it?

Whether you are aspiring or published, it is easy to get caught up in the news of and feel intimidated by the authors who can churn out thousands of words per day. I know. I do. But, in the end, you need to do what you can do. Yes, challenge yourself. No, do not let yourself get lazy. Always keep learning about your craft.

But don’t compare yourself to other authors. In that path, misery waits.

Whether you are dealing with depression, classes, work, a combination or a big laundry list: you are unique. No one has a life just like yours, so how can you expect anyone – including yourself – to live to someone else’s schedule?

It’s a big ask, but be proud of what you can do and of what you are trying to do. That is all that really matters, after all.

Blank Page Intimidation

novelwriterWriting my first novel, Echo Falls, was intimidating. After all, I’d come out of my teenage years, moved to Australia, gotten married and done a lot more between finishing my last novel (still gathering virtual dust) and completing Echo Falls. I started plenty of novels, but finished them?

I wish.

About the time people started asking for a sequel to Echo Falls, I started reading blog posts by authors in regards to their second novels. In a way, writing a second novel can be harder than writing a first novel; you have all the feelings from writing a first novel compounded with trying to convince yourself it wasn’t all just a fluke.

Once I’d launched Fading Echoes, I felt relieved. I’d written another novel and brought it down the path to publication. It had to get easier after that, right?

Not so much.

I’m not whinging, by any means. Being a little intimidated to start your third novel is not a bad problem to have. But, now that I can speak from experience, I can say it doesn’t get easier. At least, not for me.

Some things that are different include knowing a lot more about how I operate best. I need a little pressure (aka a deadline). Having a word-tracking spreadsheet helps a lot with motivation. Writing during the day is okay, but I work best at night.

I feel like I have come a long way just to know those things. Sure, they may seem simple, but it took a lot of experimentation to figure out how I work best. I think figuring that out is a big part of the difference between successful authors and unsuccessful authors (defining success as continuing working).

In a way, though, it’s almost a comfort that I still find the blank page an intimidating thing. Surely I can’t be the only author out there who looks at the screen and has to shake off that sliver of fear before working. But the exhilaration wins out over the intimidation, the fear, and even the bad reviews.

Because in the end? Writers write. It’s as simple as that.

First Review of Fading Echoes

The first review of Fading Echoes is up at Read Me. Lisa enjoyed the second Echo Falls novel, and wrote:

This book has lots of twist and turns that you will enjoy and hot werewolf action…

Get your copy at Amazon.com or Smashwords!

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Dark Echoes: Cover of the Year!

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