Category: Uncategorized

Sleep Deprivation

It kinda went like this.

This week has been a sucky week in the Small household. Yes, the weather was gorgeous (until today). Yes, aren’t the pretty fall colors amazing? Yep. Don’t you juts want to bundle up and bake some awesome cookies? That sounds nice.

What’s not nice about the Autumn is the inevitable sickness/lurgy/disease that hits you like a Mack truck.

What’s worse than that? When said diease wipes out the whole family at once.

That aside, disease also makes for interesting book writing because on one hand you don’t want to leave the comfort of your easy chair, yet at the same time, you really don’t have the energy to use your brain for anything other than rummaging around the pantry looking for soda crackers and some old cans of ginger ale.

But in a peaked state of nervous energy I decided to delve further into Chapter 10: Conspiracy Theories at 12:30AM in the morning.

Which brings me back to the subject line.

Why is it that authors feel compelled to write at some seriously crazy hours? I understand that most people work a day shift and therefore have to type away in the few hours of solitude that they can actually get in a day, but honestly, it’s brutal. I mean seriously f*@ks you up.

I finished at 2:30AM when my fingers sort of just stopped (it was very odd). For some reason my brain was still switched on, but my body was like “enough already!” If my fingers hadn’t seized up and begged for mercy I probably would’ve written for another couple of hours. There is some sort of euphoric runner’s high that writer’s get. I think I might’ve almost gotten there.


And this is the kicker. I only wrote 4 pages in 2 hours. And it was 4 so so pages. If you had asked me at 2:30 how much I had written, I would’ve told you about half a chapter. For me that’s about 12-14 pages. Four pages is far from that mark.

This is what I mean about sleep deprived writing. You think you’re on top of the world, writing the best chapter of your life, when in actually you’re crawling through average writing at a slug’s pace. It’s tragically funny in some ways – I expect it’s a bit like being strung out on drugs and thinking that you are Albert Einstein when you’re more like Juan Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter.

My point is write when it makes sense to write. And by sense, I mean when you are really going to write your best stuff that’s not going to take twice as long to edit as it did for you to write it. For me, that’s first thing in the morning after I walk the dogs. That’s when my brain is alert, it’s had some sleep, and I can write coherently and pretty quickly. Even if I had to get up early before the family gets up, I’d still choose this time to write. Writing at the end of the day when you’ve already used up most of your good, positive energy is a recipe for disaster or at least a slow, agonizing and frustrating experience.

My attempt to write in the wee hours kicked my butt. Next day I felt like total crap – even crappier than I felt with just being sick. And to top it off, I had to be up by 7AM to run an errand. What was I thinking?

Never again.

The Ebook principle – vol. 1

So. I felt after my last post, I might’ve misconstrued where my post was going by using a graphic image that depicted the sales of hardback books vs. ebooks. It will not come as a shock for some to learn that ebooks have outpaced the sales of hardback books on Amazon. I can’t remember the exact date of the press release that Amazon put out about it, but I do remember hearing gasps of amazement from some normally cynical punters. I don’t blame them, and in fact, I’m sure there’s some marketing guy somewhere who got paid a big fat bonus for skewing the stats to put the Kindle in a favorable light. Let’s not kid ourselves – Amazon’s out for blood. And book publishers are scrambling faster than a bunch of Johns caught in a raid on a whore house. Yep, I actually used that analogy.

This woman might’ve said it better. (Go read the article, it’s a good summary of what’s happening in the world of publishing if you’re interested.)

Where am I going with this you may ask?

Publishers aren’t the only ones panicking. In fact, I’m trying not to panic, but you know me, I’m a professional worrier. If MacMillan is forced to take on the juggernaut (MacMillan won, but now we have ludicrous situations where some ebooks are more than HB) then what are the chances of the other publishers getting into the mix? What happens for the smaller houses that are more likely to pick up my work? Hell, what if I can’t get a deal and I have to think about ebooks? Do I want to deal with the trauma and the drama?

I would find this whole struggle between good and evil more interesting if my personal interests weren’t caught up in it. (It’s probably more like evil vs. evil as the author loses IP and money either way -ed.) A publishing deal is the golden chalice for most aspiring writers even if they get crumbs for royalty payments. These days any budding writer should count themselves lucky if they get a deal and/or advance at all. When I start to hear about experienced, published authors getting 5K advances, I start to hyperventilate and sweat profusely. That’s what I mean about equal doses of hysteria and euphoria although the latter seems to be lacking in this blog thus far.

I get the ebook model, sort of, once you look past the panic-stricken publishers. After all, it’s not much different from what’s been done with ESD in the games industry. Some indie developers are making great money from going solo from major game publishers and have never looked back. It takes perseverance, arrogance, and some good marketing tactics. Oh, and some handy dandy contacts in the OEM sector doesn’t hurt either. So I guess you could say the same could happen for aspiring authors if they were savvy enough and ambitious enough to run their own show. I’m not sure some authors have it in them and their chances of survival may be slim to none (unless of course, you’re already a famous author then you’re probably not reading this blog).

In the end, I’m still holding out to make a final decision about ebooks. And honestly, until I have a final submittable manuscript then there’s no point to speculate. I still have a way to go – complete the manuscript, revise like a lunatic, and grovel to the agent before getting to the publisher part. I know, ain’t life grand?

Anyhow, I promise to post more of the euphoria stuff. Hysteria is best served in small doses, me thinks.

The woes of a first time novelist


There will always be the lucky new author whose first novel ignites a hot auction. But more often today, many debut novels that would have won lucrative advances five years ago today are getting $15,000 or less, says Adam Chromy, a New York literary agent. Mr. Chromy was recently disappointed with the immediate response from editors for a debut novel he thought was exceptionally good.

So, I had originally anticipated writing my first bit of trivia about my manuscript today or perhaps had a little moan over Hazel’s (the small furry child) eye surgery. Maybe even combined them together into a nice little excerpt, but I couldn’t resist posting about the WSJ’s recent article about the publishing world.

I’m not afraid to admit that my soul dies a little bit inside every time I come across one of these articles. For those of you who keep up on these things, it’s not new news to you. If you are a budding writer trying to get your first book out into the market, you’re screwed. Okay, maybe not screwed, but frankly you probably have a better chance of winning next’s week Lotto. It’s brutal, I know, but I think it’s worse than that. Much, much worse. It’s no longer about separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s about the loss of cultural identity for every generation past ours.

So you might think that I’m a bit crazy. And I wouldn’t blame you. But I do believe that every age has books that help define the world in that moment, in that fleeting second of history. Books articulate a feeling, a notion, they imbibe us with a memory that we hold onto. And those books don’t necessarily come from the same old top selling author. Is James Patterson reaching the youth of today? What about John Grisham?

Think about this for a moment: what would’ve happened if no one had been willing to take Harper Lee’s first (and only) manuscript, To Kill a Mockingbird? Can you imagine a world without Scout and Atticus Finch?

What I’m trying to get across is that we need those new, undiscovered talents. We need to keep bringing new writers into the gene pool. And I don’t just say this with myself in mind. No. Variety is the spice of life, it what makes things interesting, compelling. Who wants to read the same old authors all the time. Isn’t it refreshing to pick up a new author that you’ve never heard of and actually like what they’ve written? I make it a point to go to my local book fairs and buy some random fantasy or sci-fi fiction authors I’ve never heard of. Yes, many times I’m disappointed, but sometimes, I’ll come across a real gem that I would’ve never found if I only stuck to the NY Times best seller list. (authors’s note: Listen to me people, loosen up and try it sometime. Go into a bookstore, go to your favorite section, shut your eyes and randomly place your finger on a book. Buy it, read it, and them let me know if you enjoyed it. 7 out of 10 times I reckon you’ll say it wasn’t bad.)

So you may ask me, “So Shawnee, if it’s so bleak out there, why on Earth are you setting yourself up for disappointment and the poor house?”

Because I can’t help myself and because I’m hopelessly optimistic that I will be one of the few. Because I really want it. Because I think I might be good at it. There’s a whole host of reasons, but mostly, because I have a story to tell. It may not be a story for everyone, but it’s my story, my characters, my little world inside my head. So there you go.


When it Rains, it Pours

So, we needed the rain. The grass was a shade of brown that I didn’t even know existed. The first day of rain was lovely. I baked beautiful cinnamon rolls. We’re on Day threeish and frankly it just sucks now.  Or it could be that my father couldn’t even be bothered to friend his only child on Facebook. Imagine that for a moment. I could go off on a rant about how socially dysfunctional FB can be these days, but then that would be boring. Like a maddened hornet with a meme complex, everyone’s been stung by FB at least once, I’m sure. Karma is a bitch after all.

Anyhow, so the book, right?

I guess I cheated a bit and actually got about 250 pages into the manuscript before I actually created this blog. For those interested, I’m actually up to Chapter 9. Given that there are 24 chapters in the outline, I still have a ways to go. And in case you haven’t done the math, I’ve got a problem in writing too much stuff, not too little. I find that slightly amusing since when I started this project I thought that there was no way that I could write a 400 page book. I’m over half way there and yet I haven’t even hit the half way point in the story. I can see there’ll be a whole heap of editing in my future. However, I’d always prefer to have too much to say then too little. I guess that’s par for the course. And those who know me know that I can do some serious talking when I’m in the right place.

The bad news in all this is that I haven’t written in about a month. With relatives coming and going (including above-mentioned father who forgets about his child) and with harvesting of vegetables and herbs, I’ve come up with every excuse not to sit down and write. Once I get going, I can knock out a chapter in a couple of days. So theoretically, I could be done in the next month or two if I could make myself stay in one location of the house for long enough. This is what you call writer’s procrastination. And unlike what one of my heros, Mr. King says, I do believe that you can really want to tell a story yet somehow fidget around it until finally you shackle yourself to your desk, turn the phone off, crank up the tunes, and blot out the rest of the world. Today should be that place. It’s almost 1PM. Ask me how much I’ve done today. Actually, don’t ask. I’d like to live in denial a wee bit longer.

Today is a day of lists

I’m probably the last person on the planet with a blog.

Well, perhaps, not the *very* last person, but I’m also the same person who had the same “no frills” cell phone for 5 years until about two months ago (texting keyboard, how I love thee). Oh the irony especially coming from a household with

  • 1 x laptop
  • 1 x netbook
  • 1 x iPad
  • 2 x iTouch
  • 2 x Mac mini
  • 1 x Mac book
  • at least 3 monitors over 24″ in diameter
  • God knows how many PC towers
  • and let’s not even start on the gameware

If we ever lost electricity, well, it wouldn’t bear thinking about.

But I digress.

So why the blog now?

Well, in case you haven’t talked to me in a while, I’ve had a bit of a life changer this last year with an incurable disease. Yep, afraid so. And while I’m not supremely comfortable with said disease, it has put things in perspective for me. I am extremely thankful for what I have, which is

  • 1 loving and completely supportive husband
  • 2 zany and somewhat neurotic dogs
  • a great house and garden
  • brilliant neighbors
  • some sorely missed UK chums who put up with me on FB
  • and a group of terrific girlfriends known as the musettes

And on top of all that, I’m writing my first novel, which in case you haven’t noticed is the real reason for this blog, but I was hoping to quietly sneak in that part.