I'm delighted to share the news that book two of The Candidate's Maid, The Colonel's Secret Service, is out on paperback!
As I write this, I have the link to Amazon.com. As the distributor's info propagates through the various systems, you'll be able to get it through Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore. Of course, you can also buy it directly from the publisher, Toot Sweet Ink.
This book continues the action of book one, A Spy in Stilettos. Melody, our hero, gets into even deeper shit as her life plans continue to unravel.
I hope you get a few laughs out of this series. Let me know what you think!
Last week I posted Chapter 1, where we meet Melody has she has to handle a drunken guest at the mansion where she's working as a parlor maid.
In chapters 2 & 3, we learn a bit of how she ended up in that predicament—as a parlor maid for the 1% of the 1% (aka the 0.1%).
I hope you enjoy it.
A Spy in Stilettos
Eighteen hours earlier... [read more]
Thank goodness that this political season is bringing about change. Every presidential candidate still in the running has vowed to wipe out corruption. Yay! They are going to keep America safe. Double yay! They are going to minimize the effect of money in politics (if not wiping out the influence altogether). Yay x 100! These and all their other promises can give us reason to relax and feel happy about the future. Whomever we elect will fix all the problems!
So why not sit back and read a novel?
I wrote one. I have the first chapter right here. It just came out last week and is available in paperback and on Kindle. (Links below.)
A Spy in Stilettos
I suppose I should tell you how I ended up here... [read more]
So this happened this week. The book (as in my book) is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle. (Other ebook platforms to come later.)
I’ve actually been in something of a state about this all month. And last month, too. As a classic Type B personality, I tend not to show it. I didn’t even see it, myself. Not very observant of me, was it?
I’m not very good at touting myself. This entire blog post feels something akin to going to the dentist. (Did you ever have horrific dentist experiences? My childhood dentist believed that baby teeth didn’t have nerves and thus didn’t need novocaine. Wasn’t that lovely? Imagine my shock when my family moved and my new dentist did this little “pinch and a squeeze” on my teeth—a clever way to distract me from the fact that he was jabbing my gums with a big-ass needle—and he was able to drill without causing pain.)
This book (as in my book) is obviously part of a series. (The “Book One” on the cover is the giveaway.) I like to think of it as a serial. I’m not sure what the difference is, except an epic like Game of Thrones is a series, and this book (as in my book) has no iron throne or dragons or dwarfs or undead zombies (except metaphorically)—though it does have a few lying, cheating, scheming, conniving weaselly bastards, insufferable self-righteous prigs, cold-blooded opportunists, vengeful twits, and a smart, high-minded but inexperienced strong woman at the center.
Oh, and there’s no wall (yet).
And nobody rises from the dead (except certain idolized politicians).
What is this book (as in my book) about?
Melody Baker needs a job.
She gets one as a parlor maid in a mansion--actually, a castle. Does she know what she's doing? Of course not.
She has to deal with entitled aristocrats, Washington wonks, delusional dilettantes, a chauvinistic charlatan, and myriad other odd birds who dominate this new world in which Melody is a stranger.
But she's smart. She even has a PhD.
And that's important, because her new boss is an eccentric billionaire who has political plans and she's going to need to think fast in order to survive as...
The Candidate's Maid: A Spy in Stilettos (A Comedy of Manners, Politics, and Sex)
This blog has been too quiet. I’ve been typing words elsewhere. This changes now.
So a couple of years ago I wrote my first novel
It was intended to be a comedic political satire. Many of my readers liked it. Some didn’t. One or two just didn’t get it. As I learned from one of my editors, comedy is a matter of taste (or lack thereof). I had no perspective on the text, and life at that moment was getting a bit too interesting, so I put the manuscript into the metaphorical drawer for a while, shifted gears, and wrote a science fiction adventure (which is another story—more on that soon).
Now here we are in a political season that, at the very least, redefines “weird” and “outrageous” on an almost daily basis. Some of the most ridiculous farcical events in my novel have come to pass in real life. Satire became documentary.
A little bit of crazy
Thanks to encouragement from some friends, or perhaps an innate recklessness on my part, I decided to revisit that novel, spruce it up, hack off some bits, build up some others, and release it as each section is completed.
Crazy idea? Of course it is! But it beats yelling at the television.
Cover reveal in the next few days. (Newsletter subscribers get first peek at everything.)
She trundles across the grass, not fast, going by hope (as much as poor sight) that she might not smite the black cat who bats his paw more out of play than of malice but comes away nonetheless with spines teaching regret, or the happy love-hunting hound whose nose bears scars from quills. She, in turn, so small behind her coat, trembles at their approach for causing nothing but pain. She trundles across the grass, not fast, alone. [Photo: Andrew Butko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Following up on my review of three ergonomic keyboards last year, I pass along now Marco Arment's review of the Matias Ergo Pro Keyboard, which he's liking. From the features he describes, it sounds similar to theThe Goldtouch Go!2 keyboard I've been using, but with some differences, including one that would drive me crazy.
[T]he Ergo Pro’s two halves are physically separate and connected by a cable. This is a mixed bag: it provides flexibility, but it’s also frustrating to have no way to lock in your preferred setting, leaving you to figure it out again whenever it’s moved.
It does come with wrist pads, though, which are nice. Me, I'm sticking with the Goldtouch, but I thought I'd pass this along in case this new offering strikes someone's fancy. Preorder links are in Marco's post.
This is a question our culture seems to be still trying to figure out. Yesterday Kate Lawrence explored this question in a blog post about her books' main character, Yamabuki, a historical woman samurai in 12th-century Japan.
Last year, I took some rather timid steps into NaNoWriMo — which is to say I signed up on the site. I didn't provide a name (Did I want to use a pseudonym?) or project title (Which did I want to write?). I did, however, start writing. I did not reach the officially sanctioned 50,000-word target, but I did put down some 7,000 words or so. And I kept writing, arriving at around 11,000 words by New Year's Eve.
—By which time I had driven the story into a ditch. I needed to get some distance from that one before continuing, so I climbed out, walked back home, and started anew.
NaNoWriMo 2013 didn't result in a draft. But what it did do was get me into the habit of writing, and I loved it.
And so, on January 1, I picked up out of my archives a single paragraph I had written years ago, and decided to run with it. Every day I wrote, piling on the word count, not really knowing where the concept implied in those words would take me. It was an agonizing adventure. Before completing the draft, I started rewriting — which some would say is a fatal mistake, but for me it was essential so I could continue to build upon what had happened before. And so it went, rewriting old words, writing new words, cutting, editing, expanding ... and crying, screaming, growling, laughing, at times despairing, but always determined to keep going.
After setting aside the previous novel, I was not about to give up on this one.
Some nine months and 75,000 words later, I completed my “first draft” and sent it off to “my” editor (about whom I'll write in another post). In about a week, I expect to get her edits and notes back. And then I will be diving into revisions, which will keep me busy through the rest of the month, and who knows how far beyond?
And so, no NaNo for me. But it's where I started, and, indirectly at least, it's what's keeping me away.
Its done! Not done done, but done — a “first draft.”
Not an actual first draft — I revised it so many times I lost count — but it's the first I actually sent to anyone who wasn't a friend or alpha reader.
Now I wait. And start on the next book, which is going to be something completely different. Different genre. Different "person."
This shouldn't be so hard. I've reached the point where it's time to compile my manuscript from Scrivener into Word format, in preparation for The Great Editing. Now the Compile part is easy. (Well, I say "easy" in that it's pretty complicated, but in a Scrivener way, and after you've been using Scrivener for a while, well, you eventually become something akin to a taxi driver in London; you eventually learn where those dead-ends and obscure addresses are.)
Dealing with the Word document output is another matter. This is because, while Scrivener has the ability to define and use all kinds of nifty Styles for your formatting (e.g., regular paragraph vs. blockquote vs. chapter title), it strips all of those Styles out in the export. What you're left with is a document where the entire thing is defined as "Normal" Style, with a plethora of individual formatting overrides creating everything you see.
But we all know that we all need to use Styles in our manuscripts, right? Because from Word they can convert to html elements in your ebooks, and they carry straight through into InDesign styles for print layout. (And if you're submitting to an editor or publisher, they will get very annoyed with you if you don't give them a clean document, defined entirely by Styles and not by a zillion one-off format settings paragraph by paragraph.
Through trial and error, I figured out how to run searches on particular, peculiar formats and replace them with Styles. It's an Advance Search & Replace function in Word. (Someday Word may approach the power and simplicity of WordPerfect 4.1, but that day has not arrived yet.) It was a kludgey process, but one by one I found my various document components visually, picked out a peculiar formatting characteristic about it (e.g., uses Courier, font-size 14pt), and was able to run a global replace to tag all of those instances instead with a Style.
I worked my way through:
- Section titles
- Chapter titles
- Blockquotes (I have a few variations, representing text from various sources)
- Direct thoughts (a character Style, to preserve the italics I'm using for these)
Note that if you are using italics for things like direct thoughts, or for emphasis or whatever, you want to find and define those first before you do the process on your Normal text style, or bye-bye italics!
As I said, for a semi-professional longform document app, Scrivener's export to Word should not be this hard. I hope they address this in upcoming releases, because it's one thing to do this every couple of months in preparation of publication, and even that's a pain, but clearly this will not scale. And right now it's the suckiest step in the entire workflow getting text from brain to print and digital.
PS—If you're curious about the manuscript itself, I'll be talking about that first and more informally in my newsletter.
[Photo: Karen Roe (Creative Commons)]
The place: The Facebook website thingie. The time: A moment of weakness (escaping from my manuscript).
The assignment: "Exercise!!! 250-500-100 words (some kind of narrative). No "to be" verbs!"
The inspiration: This great photo....
My jotted whatnot:
Has anyone seen my sneakers? They walked off with my soul, and now I wander the earth, barefoot and in mourning, experiencing a life bereft of meaning.
Who knew shoes could take so much merely through their absence? Those soul-stealing soles completed me. Betrayers!
Tomorrow I have a date with a pair of sandals. In my younger days, I feared them. I thought they would tie me down. Those doubts plague me still.
Enough! No more whining! I shall pick myself up by my bootstraps—
Now where did THEY run off to?
—LLS, June 2014
Placed here for posterity. Now back to real stuff.
As a writing tool, I love Scrivener. Unfortunately this comes with some hindrances:
- Scrivener is not a standard format, so you have to compile and export anything you do to to anything with it.
- Microsoft Word is a standard format in publishing—obviously people in publishing are a bunch of masochists—but Scrivener's exports to Word are unstyled.
- Scrivener's exports to the .mobi format are barely adequate. Scrivener's exports to the .epub format are famously incompatible with ebook retailers and need to be cleaned up.
- Scrivener has no export to InDesign—perhaps to be expected, as InDesign can import Word docs.
What I'm realizing is that I'm going to have to use Scrivener for a first-draft tool only, and then export to Word and finish every work in Word. For someone who loathes Word, that's a sad prospect.
But what's more sad is that before I can get going on the Word doc, I have to go through and define all the Styles in the manuscript. And it's not easy, because the process results in loss of tabs, loss of italicization, loss of any and every special style I defined in my Scrivener manuscript (e.g., styles for text messaging). I have to spend hours going through a novel-length document looking for words and sentences that should be italicized, sentences that should be styled as text messages, and so on.
This has me questioning my entire workflow.
Scrivener » Word (garbage) » Word (manual cleanup) » [final delivery formatting app]
And it's a huge distraction from writing.
I never met Jay Lake. I stumbled across Green when it came out in trade paper in 2011, and loved it. Aside from reading the sequels and other books by Jay, I started following his blog. It was at times heartbreaking to read about his travails with cancer. Yet he was also inspiring with his battling spirit (always with a degree of cheer, even when it must've been bravado). When he crowdfunded the sequencing of his genome and registered for NIH drug trials—the NIH loved that he had the sequencing done, what an opportunity!—he won even more of my admiration.
When we learned that the trial treatment did not work as hoped, my heart sank. Having watched my father die a couple of years ago—an experience that still haunts me—I felt all too keenly what would be next.
By all accounts, Jay was much loved by his many friends. I loved him virtually, through his blog, and through his dreams shared in his books.
49 is too young. Fuck cancer.