Sunday, April 21, 2013

Editing, Formatting, Cursing

Things are rapidly heating up in Writing World - I had a few wonderful souls come over last week to help me read through Steam on the Horizon for typos, grammatically awkward sentences, periods meandering where they shouldn't go, and all other matter of boo-boos:

Featured: my mom, my oldest brother Seth, and my friend Matt, all studiously at work. Erasmus is filling in as Editor in Chief and helping by whining a lot because he is not getting enough attention.

Because I wanted everyone to focus on sentence structure and punctuation, not plot and organization, I took my manuscript and made a spectacular mess on the floor.

Then I had everyone pick up random sheets of paper to read them out of order. I also advised them to read each page backwards, starting with the last paragraph and working up from there. My mom amused us by occasionally reading the last line of one page, then the top line of the next page she had in her stack, the resulting sentence usually comically mangled.

Once this was done, I set to work correcting all issues and making a final copy. However, there is no rest for the weary for I had to set to work at formatting the manuscript for Kindle. Kindle has a clear formatting guide and the work was tedious but not difficult: I mainly had to take out the manual indentations and replace them with automatic ones. All was going fine and dandy until I turned my attention to the table of contents: for Kindle, you need to have an active Table of Contents that is hyperlinked to each chapter heading. Kindle thoughtfully provided this Microsoft guide to making active Table of Contents, and I urge you to look at this link and see if you can pull any moiety of sense out of it. I hazily stumbled through it for almost an hour, making no progress but a lot of mistakes until in desperation I turned to this extremely helpful thread on the Kindle Publishing Community page which explained the process. Boom - about ten minutes of work and I have a correct table of content!

I am currently waiting for my graphic artist to color in the cover - here is the latest version he sent me. Pretty awesome, huh?

My goal is to have the Kindle e-book available by the end of the month! Basically, I need to get the cover finished, buy an ISBN number, finish any editing to the manuscript, then get it up on Amazon. Exciting, exciting!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Publication and Steampunk Rap

I was hoping that today would end with a pile of paper lovingly scribbled over with corrections, courtesy of some trusted friends who were primed to look over the final draft of Steam on the Horizon and hunt for egregious spelling errors, comma splices, appalling grammar, and other irksome impediments to silken prose. However, the Fates and the dear Lord himself saw fit for other plans, so another week will pass before I can have a collection of eyes look over the manuscript in a final hunt for boo-boos. Luckily, two good friends have already scoured it fairly thoroughly, so I am fairly confident that few mistakes exist, but just today, I spotted at least three that had escaped my eyes in the last several readings, so I am sure that more still lurk in waiting. As small consolation, I have caught at least two errors in every e-book of the estimable Terry Pratchett, and if he can get away with it, I can as well.

A friend of mine at work is putting me in contact with an editor who can format the e-book version, a task I had assumed was relatively simple but after talking with my friend, I see the merit in forking over $150 for someone else to do it. If all goes well, the e-book version of Steam on the Horizon should be available before April is over. Oh, how exciting!

Cover art is being constructed as we speak, and here is a rough draft of what is happening so far:

I sent my artist some things I wanted changed, such as the Horizon scooting over to be on the front cover more, but so far I am very pleased. I love the way the artist captured the city of London at the bottom of the book.

And, as if I didn't have nearly enough with which to occupy myself, I have decided to make a steampunk/gaslamp costume from this pattern:

I have a hat I adore:

but alas an overly pastel theme does little for my complexion except wash it out. Therefore, I am thinking of a black and white skirt (fold the pleats so that one side is black and the other white and they will "pop" as you move) and a pink jacket. Or I may spy some fabric at the store that I passionately adore and will have to adjust my plans accordingly.

If I had no job and no need for sleep, I would also be auditioning for a choral part in Opera Omaha's upcoming Carmen: I took voice lessons in college and although I have not formally trained in opera, I have a fighting chance of landing a part, but without a wibby wobbly timey wimey machine, there is no way I can work (48 hours a week twice a month), publish my book, exercise, and maintain some sense of sanity.

On a parting note, I am begging some creative soul to create a steampunk version of "Thrift Shop Feat" - minus the swear words, this practically defines steampunk. "I'll wear your grandfather's clothes. I look incredible" and digging through second-hand stores for cool broken stuff: how can this NOT be steampunk??     (here's the clean version of the video)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Modern Airships and Final Edits

Yesterday afternoon, I trundled into work to find a helicopter sitting on the lawn outside the building. One of our Omaha helicopters had just finished a mission, and the crew decided to drop by company headquarters. Upon spotting the aircraft, I burst into delighted squeals like a teenager girl meeting Justin Bieber. My brother, who had come along for the ride, obligingly snapped a few pictures as I clambered inside the helicopter, grinning like a fool.

This particular rotor wing is an A-Star which means the interior is about as big as what you'll find inside a Volkswagon. I am sitting behind the pilot seat (where the nurse would sit) and besides me is a seat for the medic. To the left of the pilot's seat is the patient's gurney. Needless to say, this is not a job for the overly tall or big-boned: I met the medic and he was maybe my height, if not shorter, and no heavier than 140lb with a brick in both hands. How they manage to get four people inside this A-Star is beyond me, but somehow it works!

Next step: getting to ride in one of these things. My work has a "ride along" program where I would go to the closest base and hang out with the crew for a shift. If they get a flight, I get to ride along. Hopefully in the next few months I can do this!

This week, my goal is to finish a final run-through of Steam on the Horizon in preparation for turning it over to a band of trusted friends to edit it for me. I know there are spelling errors, slightly confusing sentences, extra spaces, and little things scattered here and there which need correcting. In all reality, I could easily spend the next six months fiddling with areas, adding in extra details, and seeking the advice of others, but there comes a point when a piece of writing needs to be released from further tampering. When I taught writing, I advised my students, "A piece of writing is never truly finished: you can always do something more to it, so you just eventually need to let it go." I have gotten some wonderful feedback and assistance from people and have truly appreciated all the phenomenal people who have helped me. At this point, I feel like more assistance or advice would start moving the story out of my control, so it has come time to publish.

I am sure that in five years and several more books, I will look back on this first one and think, "Oh geeze, what was I thinking?" Writing is such a developmental process that I am interested in seeing what I will put together in ten years and how much my writing style will change. However, for my first book, I am pleasantly pleased with it and hope that others enjoy reading it.

Another task for this week is finalizing the summary and my bio. I have chosen this picture from the talented Guy Rish  to accompany my bio. Guy and I did a photoshoot at Joslyn Castle several months ago: this is a wonderful Victorian mansion in Omaha. You can see more pictures from this shoot on Guy's Flickr page.

So, the publishing date is drawing to a close, and I am becoming quite excited! The e-book will be relatively easy to put together: Amazon has a fairly simple layout for the e-book version that I should have no problem completing. The print book, however, has much more rigorous standards, and I will probably pay Amazon to format the book for me. Amazon's CreateSpace has several different packages for self-published authors, and the more you pay them the more work they will do for you. Since formatting the print book will be such a tricky process, I think it is worth the time and money to have Amazon do it for me.

It will be a momentous occasion when I finally hold a copy of Steam on the Horizon in my hands. However, I am cognizant that this is only half the battle and the next task of self-promotion will begin. In my work with my Indiegogo campaign, I discovered that Facebook ads worked the best. Using a variety of factors, I had a Facebook ad with a target audience of eight million people. For this next Facebook ad, I am thinking that a graphic picture of the Horizon and the tagline "99 cent steampunk novel!" would grab attention.

I also plan on doing a couple book signings around Omaha and will be canvasing independent bookstores to see if they will be willing to carry the book. Fairy Tale Costumes is one of our Omaha costumes stores that is quite popular with the steampunk group is open to holding a book signing, and it helps that I know Linda the owner. I have a general plan in mind for marketing, but for now my main focus is on getting the book done. Then, I figure out how to get people to buy it!