The state of … my book

Room flooded with paperI finished the first draft of Mirrored near the end of November. If my rudimentary math skills still serve me that was over two months ago. I should be pretty close to getting it into your hands by now, right?

Wrong.

You see, I love my story. Upon starting to edit it, I realized that my book looks like it was written by a guy who had a) never written a book before and b) never written in the third person. Let me throw in a c) too. c) My book looks like it was written by a guy who has never had any formal or informal training on writing fiction. In short, Mirrored is not as good as I want it to be.

In fact, I was so discourage when I first began editing that I completely turned away from it out of equal parts disgust and intimidation. How could someone who reads as much as I do produce something so .. unpolished? I mean, it’s not even just plot or structure or theme. It just looks rushed.

Which I suppose it was.

NaNoWriMo gives you thirty days to get something down. And when you’ve never written before a lot of what you put on paper is probably going to be, well, junk. The bones of a great story are there. I love my protagonist. I love my story. I don’t know that I’ve done enough to make sure YOU love them yet.

I’ve been kicking myself, figuratively, of course, about wanting to get this done by early March. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. If I have only one story in me – which I’m feeling is seriously doubtful – but if I do only have one, I want it to be the best that it can be.

So the state of my book is: In Progress.

I’m about 25% of the way through the second draft and the first stuff has been terrible. I’m hoping that as the second draft writing continues that I will find that I got better over the course of those thirty days.

At the very least, I’m hoping that I didn’t get worse.

My Take: Kindle Paperwhite

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Let me begin with the caveat that this story is unfinished. It’s a work in progress and I’ll post additional details on my blog as the story continues and (hopefully soon) concludes.

I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite. It was my first Kindle. I was a staunch Barnes and Noble NOOK guy. Is that a NOOKer? In any case, I got tired of defective charging cables. I got tired of customer service giving me the runaround. I got tired of being told to go purchase things with my own money and then mail in receipts for a refund.

I just got tired, alright?

I decided enough was enough and that I had to at least give Amazon a chance to wow me. And in some degrees they have and in others they’ve done so for the wrong reasons.

When I ordered my Kindle Paperwhite on November 3rd, I was told I could expect it on December 24th.

Happy Christmas Eve to me.

To my wonderment and delight, it arrived on November 20th. I was super excited but my enthusiasm was tempered pretty fast. I noticed there was the shadowing that I had heard others mention. Basically it looked like the screen wasn’t purely white, it looked like there were darker spots on the screen, like a shadow. Nothing big. I could deal. It wasn’t exactly as advertised, but it would do. But then I noticed something else.

There was a pinhole in the screen. Not a top layer because it was smooth to the touch but on a sub-layer of the screen and it allowed light to shine much brighter through that tiny hole.

You know how when you get a crack in your windshield how sometimes the sun hits it just right and it magnifies the light right toward your eyes? It’s sort of like that. I mean it’s not blinding like the sun, but it is a bit of a distraction. When I’m reading in that area of the page my eye always catches on it.

I called Amazon and they were very apologetic. They offered to send me a second device. They even sent it two-day delivery. I was impressed.

And then I got that device. It was worse than the first. It was pretty white, but it had three larger holes where the light came through. I called Amazon and again got someone great. They apologized and sent another device. I asked if I could hold onto my first while we worked it out and they said absolutely I could. I was pleased.

Device number three came 2-day delivery just like device number two. Another good experience. I opened the box. This one had terrible color and it had a pinhole of light too. In a different place on the screen but still there nonetheless. I called Amazon and got a woman this time who was nowhere near as nice as the first two I dealt with. She wasn’t mean or argumentative by any measure but she seemed uninterested and just going through the motions. The first two people I had dealt with seemed like they genuinely enjoyed their job, so she just paled in comparison is all.

Device number four came 2-day and it was the worst yet. It was like half the screen barely lit while there were still the light holes, also in a new place.

This time I was frustrated and took to Twitter and said: “Latest @amazonkindle Paperwhite is 2-tone. White on the bottom, brown on the top. Fourth Paperwhite is the worst one yet. So disappointed.”

I sat down to watch TV with the family when I got a call on my cell phone. It was Kindle Support. They indicated that they saw my Twitter comment and they were once again apologetic and offered me a couple of options. I could return my Paperwhite for a full refund or I could try another replacement. I told the guy that I want the Paperwhite, so please send a replacement. He said that he was hoping I would say that.

I got Paperwhite #5 in the mail yesterday while I was at work. When I got home I opened it and found that it was better than the last one. It had the same pinhole my first one does but it was far into a corner. I could live with that but when I went to turn the brightness up on it I found that it was already at its brightest setting. It was what I’ve affectionately coined a Kindle Paperbrown.

And that’s where I’m at currently.

Props to Amazon for issuing me Paperwhite after Paperwhite without friction. It’s a pain that I have to drive to the UPS Store to drop off my bad units, but I guess it’s better than them just telling me I should return my Kindle and be done with it. B&N has done that to me before. And I was in store next to a friend when the manager said it to him too regarding his NOOK Tablet. I also give Amazon props for calling me. I’ve never once complained about a situation and had that company contact me by phone to see how they can help. It’s just an amazing testament to how seriously they take their customer service. Well done.

So Amazon, I really want a Paperwhite that is pristine. I want one that is actually white when turned up. I’ll understand if there is a little shadowing. It’s not truly what was originally advertised with the whole “perfect uniformity of light” but I’m a reasonable guy. However, I cannot tolerate the pinholes of light. What do you say, Amazon? I’ve had four refurb’s now. How about a new unit?

To be continued…

Update 1: Amazon representative tells me that he is pretty sure they have been sending me new units all along. I doubt this since there have been “R”’s on the UPC AND they don’t come with the paper flier that my brand new one did. In any event, Paperwhite #6 is on its way.

Why I’m doing NaNoWriMo

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Alright, it’s a question that’s been asked exactly zero number of times, Why are you doing NaNoWriMo? Since this question is so obviously popular I decided to save myself the trouble of answering everyone who has asked it and just write a much longer blog post.

Well.. before we jump into why I’m doing NaNoWriMo, let’s talk about what it is. November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo advertises this time as thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon. The goal is to write 50,000 words over the course of those 30 days in November.

Here’s the catch, you can’t have any written material prepared in advance. You can have an outline. You can have character sheets filled out. You can have research completed but you can’t bring any previously completed work that you hope to count toward your 50k. I mean, technically it’s all on the honor system so you could go ahead and say “I did it” and get your prize, which is discounts on writing stuff and a little web badge to place on your website that says NaNoWriMo Winner but it’s not like you’re getting a cash prize or anything.

50,000 words seems like a lot to write in 30 days.

Well, it sort of is. If you break it down into a daily goal then you need to write about 1,667 words a day to make it to your goal. That’s no small number. In fact, if I count how many words I’ve written in this article so far, including the title it would be 272 words. So it’s no small feat to win NaNoWriMo.

So why are you doing it?

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year because for years I’ve heard “you’re a really good writer. You should write a book.” I usually always smile because I enjoy writing and it’s something that I actually feel I’m pretty good at too. BUT – there’s always a but – BUT, writing an amusing blog post is a lot easier than keeping folks interested for a couple hundred pages. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for folks to finish a full length book and all of that work is intimidating.

But so is running a half-marathon.

I remember waiting for my first race, a 5k, to start this spring. There was a guy who I’d classify as overweight despite him being smaller than me at the time wearing a hat that said 13.1. If you’re not a runner, 13.1 miles is how far a half marathon is. I remember thinking to myself, yeah right. That guy has never ran a half marathon before. And then I got to thinking that maybe he had. Maybe he just had that kind of endurance. At any rate, I was just hoping to finish this 5K without embarrassing myself. 13.1 miles, I thought, was something crazy people do. Well, half crazy people. The fully crazy run marathons.

But then at the end of September I ran a half marathon. I ran the entire thing. I didn’t walk a step. And then I wondered what else was I capable of that my mind was pretending was too hard. What else was I capable of that I wasn’t even giving myself an opportunity to do? And writing a book came to mind. I started reading books on how to write fiction. I started reading about how typical fiction works, it’s basically just doing really terrible things to your protagonist, helping them overcome it and then finding something even worse to inflict upon them.

Be thankful that you’re not a protagonist in popular fiction.

Then I heard about NaNoWriMo again. And I thought, I’m going to do this. And I’m going to win at my first attempt. In reading over the forums I discovered stories of folks who’ve been doing it for years – it started in 1999 – and have never won. I am going to win my first year out. That’s going to allow me to say something I’ve always wanted to: “I’ve written a book”.

Now the point of NaNoWriMo is to write a book, yes, but it’s not necessarily a goal to write a GOOD book. In fact, NaNoWriMo is more about that first draft. They recommend you skip editing all together. Editing, they say, can wait until December. November is for getting the words on paper. So that is my goal.

And you probably want something from me, right?

Gosh, it’s almost like you’re reading my mind. So NaNoWriMo is put on by a non-profit organization called The Office of Letters and Lights. Not only do they do NaNoWriMo for adults, and other creative writing programs like Camp NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy for folks who want to product scripts, they also provide 2,700 classrooms with stickers, work books and lesson plans to make creative writing fun and rewarding for our young people. Oh, and it’s all free for those classrooms. I don’t know about you but I love reading and it’s important to spark that love of writing early too.

So here’s my pitch. I set a goal to raise $250 for The Office of Letters and Lights by the end of November. And some very generous folks swooped in and made that a reality. But this is for a good cause, we can’t stop now. I went ahead and doubled the goal. Let’s try and make $500 for The OLL. If anyone could help me out, no amount is too little, I’d really appreciate it. My fundraiser link is here:

http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=212696

Thank you so much for considering supporting The OLL and me.

Dusty

(PS. That whole thing – minus this blurb – was 972 words. Did I mention I’m going for 1,665 words a day?)

Review: @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers

@WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers@WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers by Kevin S. Kaiser

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

@WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers is to NaNoWriMo participants what water stations are to distance runners.

This summer my wife pulled me into her world of running. She signed us up for a ton of 5K’s, an 8K, a 10-mile and a half-marathon. There were times in each of those longer events when I felt like I had enough. I felt like I needed to stop running. I had to slow. I saw the distance that was still in front of my goal and I was disheartened. But a voice in my head urged me forward. “Just one more water station. Get to the next station, get some water and see how you feel then. But make it to that station!”

This will be my first NaNoWriMo but I get the impression, based on my time in the NaNo forums and talking to past participants, that NaNoWriMo is a lot like distance running. You’ll have days when the words spill from your fingers effortlessly, these are the days when you feel strong and you just KNOW you are your personal best. But then there are days when nothing you write seems to work, or worse, the words just won’t come at all. You find yourself behind the pace you’ve determined for yourself and you’re ready to walk or quit all together. You are tired. You are worn out. You need encouragement. You need one more water station. You need Kevin Kaiser’s @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.

This book isn’t a tutorial on NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t teach you strategy, tips or tricks for getting to 50,000 words. It isn’t an introduction to the Traveling Shovel of Death nor does it introduce you to the mysterious Mr. Ian Woon. That book was written by someone else. This book is about water on your brain. Wait. No. It’s about water for your soul. It is the guy on the course who has clearly ran 100 half-marathon’s in his life who slows next to you and tells you “head up, it’ll help your breathing and keep you running longer.” @WriMo is the guy who pats you on the back and says “you’re doing great, keep it up.” @WriMo is your water station at each mile.

The book is split into 30 separate readings. Each day has a new message to help you on your journey. There is advice on how to start (set a schedule, find a place to write and eliminate distractions), a manifesto to remind yourself that YOU ARE A WRITER. Are you a U2 fan? There is a story about lessons you can learn from Bono. And one of my favorite features of the book is that each chapter has a quote appropriate to the craft. There are quotes from Stephen King, James Patterson, Neil Gaiman, even Steve Martin.

I think I’ve gone on long enough. I think you get the picture by now but there is one more thing I want you to know about @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers. 100% of the profits from the book go to The Office of Letters and Lights (OLL), the non-profit organization that encourages creative writing in adults and young people alike. OLL’s Young Writers program supplies 2700 classrooms with free posters, stickers, workbooks and lesson plans. Not bad, huh?

So if you are a participant, or know a participant, do yourself or them a favor and help a fantastic cause along the way. Pick up Kevin Kaiser’s @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.

View all my reviews

Sneak Peek: Kindle on Windows 8

How could this happen? How could Microsoft and NOOK allow Kindle to release a Modern UI app before NOOK? Microsoft is in a partnership with NOOK now. I mean they spun off the NOOK business to a whole new company. I should be doing a sneak peek of NOOK on Windows 8, but I’m not. So let’s take these lemons and make lemonade.

This is what your new Windows 8 Start menu looks like. Well, give or take a few apps that I added.

You can click to enlarge many of the images in this sneak peek.1

I downloaded the Kindle app from the Store app.

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Once you install Kindle, you’ll have an app tile that looks like this:

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Click on that and you’ll launch into the Kindle Modern UI app. Logging in is the first order of business. Fill out your Amazon account email address and password and click Register this Kindle.

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It is going to spend just a quick moment Loading… your Amazon library. You can see that there are a couple of initial options: Cloud, Device and Kindle Store. These function pretty much as you’d expect. Cloud represents the whole of your Amazon ebook purchases. Device represents just what you’ve downloaded locally to your Windows 8 PC. Kindle Store is where you can purchase more Kindle books.

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After the Loading… has finished you’ll default to your Cloud library. I went ahead and downloaded some books locally so this next screenshot actually shows you what’s on my Device (Windows 8 PC).

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“Wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “You skipped how to download books?”

Well, yes. But it’s very easy. Double-click the book to read it and it automatically downloads. Alternatively you can right click on a book and a menu will popup along the bottom and give you some options. Here, I’ll give you a screenshot.

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There is something in Windows 8 called pinning. It allows you to pin things to the new Start page similar to how you’d pin things to your Start Menu or Taskbar in previous versions of Windows. The Kindle app lets you pin books to your Start page. You right-click on a book and that menu I just showed you will pop back up. I’m going to pin a new book by Benjamin Wallace called Dumb White Husband vs. Babies: A Guide for the Unsuspecting Father. There is an icon labeled Pin. When you click it you’ll see the following popup. You are free to name the book whatever you want. I decided to change the name of mine to Dumb White Husband vs. Babies.

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The Pin icon turns to an Unpin icon and you’ve created your Start page shortcut to the book. Here is a screenshot of what that looks like.

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And of course you can move things around to your liking.

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If you click that pinned book shortcut then you’ll launch right into the book where you left off.

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So that covers the launching titles portion of the event. The Kindle Modern UI app is pretty full featured too.

When you are in the text and right-click you’ll see the following menu:

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Library takes you back to your book library.

Back takes you back to the previous page. Since I launched right into the book, I have no “back” to go to.

Go to takes you to a particular place in your book.

View gives you display options.

Bookmark will place a bookmark. Is that too “stating the obvious?”

Notes/marks will display any notes you’ve taken as well as show you where you’ve bookmarked.

Sync will sync both your reading location and your library. So if you just bought a new Kindle book on your PC and told it to deliver to your Windows 8 Kindle App this should force the process of download it. That said, I haven’t needed it. Newly purchased books have shown up as I’d expect.

And we’ve already covered Pin to Start.

Let’s look closer at some of those options.

Here are the Go to options

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Here are the View options:

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The least exciting option of all, Bookmark. Kind of a throwback to the days of paper, eh?

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They also have a nice dictionary feature that pops up when you right click on a word.

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Of course, it’s not perfect. There is no recognizing context.

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Somehow I doubt the author was told that his heart would melt the first time his children called him a style and technique of a group of early 20th century artists. Or maybe he did. Who am I to say?

Now you can also select a whole block of text and choose to Highlight it or write a Note by right-clicking.

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Highlight does exactly as you’d expect. It smears a nice highlighter yellow line over the text. In case you were wondering I wasn’t able to figure out how to change the color of the highlighter. Maybe they are saving that feature for another revision of the software.

Right-clicking and choosing Note brings up a Create Note textbox. Just fill it out and click Save.

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The area you just noted gets highlighted in the same highlighter yellow as choosing the highlight text. The only way to distinguish the two is the fact that there is a blue note icon above the highlighted text.

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The software keeps all of your highlighted and noted text organized in the Notes/marks option I showed you earlier on that option bar that slides down when you right click in the text.

The Notes/marks option will produce something that looks like this:

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I think the Amazon folks did a great job of producing a very functional Modern UI app. I have to imagine that NOOK’s will be similar if not almost entirely the same. It’s hard to do too much radically different when considering what an eReader is supposed to do. But in this case, I’d be happy with a NOOK offering that provides this same functionality.

In closing, I’d like to thank Benjamin Wallace for letting me use his book’s text in my blog post. He’s a great guy who writes some truly funny books. You can reach Ben in the following ways. [ Twitter ] – [ Facebook ] – [ Website ]

And don’t forget to pickup his latest Dumb White Husband vs. Babies.

I’d be missing an opportunity to promote us both if I didn’t tell you to check out dumbwhitehusband.com and read my guest post on my wife trying to kill me running [ here ].

While I’m in the process of promoting some worthy folks let me also mention the woman who designed the cover for Dumb White Husband vs. Babies along with many (all?) of Ben’s other books. That woman is Patty Wallace and you can see her samples and contract her to design your book cover or branding all from MonkeyPAWCreative.com.

What is on your bookshelf?

bookshelfIt’s been a while since I posted so I figured I’d better write something. I could write about school starting again soon – yay! I could write about completing my first 10-mile race last weekend; which I’ll cheer for only because it’s done. I could write about writing. I’m 8,000 words into my story. I read a couple of days ago that if I were writing a novella that I’d be almost halfway done!

But I’m not going to write about that stuff. Well, at least not anymore than I already have. I figured I’d write about the tiny little bookshelf in my desk.

Here is the inventory from the picture you see here and the reason it’s on my shelf.

Red by Ted Dekker is the second book in the Circle series. I bought this book at a Barnes & Noble in Brandon, Florida. It was November 7th, 2011. We were down in the sunshine state cleaning out my dad and grandma’s place. My sister and I had a long drive home to Michigan in a U-Haul. I was still up to my neck in grief over dad’s passing and I needed something to read that gave me a picture of something larger than myself. This book will remain on my shelf as that reminder.

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart is an advanced reading copy book that I got from Barnes & Noble book club. The idea was that the participants of the club would get a copy of the book, read it, review it and get a chance to discuss it with the author before its official release date. It wasn’t the type of book that I would normally read but I thought it was fascinating. This book thrilled me because it was my first ARC book and I was geeked about seeing the notices on the back and inside of the book that it was not for resale. review only. etc. I felt like a member of a pretty exclusive club.

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson is an ARC book that I won from a Goodreads giveaway. I read the book’s blurb and it sounded interesting. When I started to read it I just couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t get into it. It may have just been a case of the right book at the wrong time. I have every intention of giving it another shot when I have the time to do so.

CSS, DHTML & AJAX by Cranford & Teague is a college book that I held onto from my web design days. I don’t code anymore but I do occasionally find myself looking at code upon request and it helps to serve as a refresher.

Angst by David Pedersen is one of the first indie books I gave a chance to. I have no clue how I discovered this book or what led to me following David on twitter but I’m glad I did. I read it, reviewed it and then won a contest for an autographed copy. Inside it says: “Dusty, Thank you for the support and the amazing review!! Best regards,” It’s also a collectors edition as it’s sporting an older cover than the latest printing of the book.

Wild at Heart Journal by John Eldredge is a leather-bound journal to complement the book of the same name. I loved the book but only made it a few pages into the journal. Still it’s leather-bound and adds a touch of class to my shelf.

Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez is a great resource for writers who use the brilliant Scrivener software. I admit that I haven’t had a chance to open the book yet for more than just a glance at a particular function of the software but I don’t know if most “for Dummies” books are meant to be read cover to cover. Perhaps this one is. I’ll have to look closer.

ESV Study Bible is a study bible. It’s definitely not as worn as it should be but I do use the online membership that came with it far more often than the actual printed copy.

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy is a book that came highly-recommended to me and I can understand why. Just over halfway through and I’m seeing issues with my own story that this book has helped right. I’m eager to reach the editing phase so I can work on sharpening my scenes with the tips I’ve been given so far.

Latest issue of Wired.

Programming in Visual Basic .NET by Bradley and Milspaugh is another college textbook that I’ve hung onto. I haven’t done much VB coding since college but this book was fantastic. I thought it taught the content brilliantly. I’ve hung onto it for that reason.

And that’s it for now. I have a few laptop hard drives on the shelf, a Zune HD music player, an iPad smart cover, some papers, a deck of cards from Poland and my NOOK Simple Touch with Glow Light. That last item has a tens of dozens of more books I could share but that list would be a novel in and of itself.

What have you got on your bookshelf? Are any of those books special to you? And for what reason?