Wrapping up my latest short story, The Sand Runner

The Sand RunnerI’ve been dividing my time lately between editing all the chapters of Robot Awareness that I’ve written, and writing new material. Most of that new material is coming in the form of short stories.

So I’m happy to say that I’m nearly finished with my 10,000-word story, The Sand Runner. I couldn’t have told you how long it would be before today; but now I can, because I only have the ending to finish.

What’s The Sand Runner about? It’s basically the story of a woman training to be a military ultra-runner scout, on a desert planet where earth’s forces are fighting an alien named the Veraqui. The caveat is that a dampening field surrounding the planet nullifies any technology, so the fighting is fairly primitive. But our main character, Gina, discovers the Veraqui may have a weapon that operates in the field. The war may depend on her getting the information to her superiors without her enemy killing her, or worse: capturing her.

Gina is one of my favorite characters I’ve created, because I think she’s very real. She’s driven but full of self-doubt. She’s not the best of the best; in fact, she’s one of the worst in her training class. But she has the heart to keep going, no matter how tough things get. It’s not a story about how she keeps training to become the best; it’s that she trains to become her best, and has to hope that’s good enough.

So, the story should be finished soon. Look for this in early 2015!

Facebook needs to seriously revamp its reporting policies

Facebook stalking, facebook identity theftSo I discovered a Facebook message a friend had sent the night before while laying in bed reading my iPad. Some clown apparently thought it would be a good idea to use my images (along with someone else’s) to creep on women (apparently bartenders at one particular bar, it seems). The message went something like “You’re pretty, why don’t girls like you date me.”

I was more annoyed than anything. One more thing to deal with, I thought. But what I would find later made me realize how Facebook’s reporting policies do nothing to protect women.

What? You’re wondering. How did you make that leap? Read on, good reader.

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Why I don’t do NaNoWriMo (and why I’m glad it exists)

Working on my novelYour Twitter and Facebook feeds are likely full of people posting their word counts for NaNoWriMo, that yearly 50,000 word scramble of the indie writer world.

I’m not participating.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I’ve been tempted. Briefly. After all, the concept makes some sense. By the end of a one month period, you’ll have 50,000 more words than you did when you started. Even if you fall short, that’s still a lot of progress.

Here’s why I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. As a writer, I’ve spent a lot of time finding out what kind of schedule, output, and situations work for me. It’s something all writers do. Each writer has to decide for herself how writing fiction fits into their lifestyle.

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Robot Awareness Part II is done

ebook, robot awareness, robot, sci-fiGood news, Farven Pointers! I just finished self-editing Robot Awareness, Part II!

That means the book just needs to go to an outside editor for notes. I will take those notes, incorporate what I get, then send it off to magical Amazon land, where it gets turned into a book.

If you missed Part I, please check it out here. It’s only $0.99! Here’s a description:

Isellia dreams of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming the greatest XR racer around, and popular media exploded with predictions of her success early on. The only problem? She never finished a race. Sponsors of the spaceship racing circuit quickly shied away from her after each race ended in calamity. To earn money she teams up with a crew of smugglers (aHEM – Cargo transporters): Porter, a caring and protective man with a bit of a messiah complex; Joey, a boy they rescued from a mining planet; and the obtuse robot Joey repaired which now follows him around loyally. The crew barely makes ends meet and Isellia’s dreams appear to be on permanent hold until a pair of mysterious passengers introduce them to people and situations beyond their imagination. While Porter and the crew grow increasingly concerned what they’re being drawn into, Isellia could care less; this looks to finally be her shot at breaking into the XR circuit.

You can also check out reviews for Robot Awareness here, here and here.

Check it out, and wait patiently for Part II, which I expect out within the month!

The review that made writing Robot Awareness worth it

ebook, sci-fi, robot awareness, ebook, indie publishingSomeone I know once told me the reason they hadn’t read my book is because they were afraid they wouldn’t “get it.”

I found this interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it struck me that someone would be afraid to read my book. I never expect friends to read my book. It’s a lesson I learned early on. It’s a burden to place on your friends, and puts them in an awkward position. Some people will read it, and some won’t. For many reasons. It’s best not to worry about it, and I don’t ask people about it or ask the reason why.

But this person volunteered that information, and I found it interesting. Because I thought, what’s to get? I’m writing a story about robots and spaceship racing and a domineering corporate environment. Everyone can take what they want from it. They can read deeply into the themes and subtext, or they can just enjoy a fun space adventure. Because that’s mostly what it is, I think.

But I recently got a review that really made me rethink that positions. In Robot Awareness’ latest review, from Miss V. Loasby, it says the following:

It is not the robots who are becoming aware in this book, it is us who are beginning to understand them.

When I read this on my phone I nearly dropped the darned thing. I mean, it took me a while to come to the same understanding through the writing process, but that’s EXACTLY why I named the title what I did.

But it also bothered me. Because, I thought, I don’t necessarily want people to think they have to “get” my book. I don’t think reading is about either “getting it” or not. I think it’s about enjoyment, and I think each reader can take from a text what they like.

That being said, I really enjoyed receiving a review like this. In fact, I feel like it has made all the time I spent writing my book and editing it and working with a cover designers and editors worth it. That someone could understand what I wanted to say with Robot Awareness is a really great feeling. It’s a special connection, and not one I feel a reader needs to have to understand the book.

But I’m glad at least one person did.

Maintaining ebook motivation

fuel-2741_640So I have to admit I went into a bit of a funk lately. After the high of releasing by sci-fi robot ebook, Robot Awareness, my motivation came crashing down after slow sales.

What happened? It wasn’t sudden. A number of things slowly added up. First off, new authors have a hard time getting noticed. It takes time, and effort, and willingness to stick to it. Even the famed Hugh Howey didn’t sell many books until he had quite a catalog of titles stacked up.

To date, I’ve sold about 35 copies. Not bad. Not enough to pay for the cost of putting the cover together, but at least people bought it.

I think the more difficult part was the lack of response. Even among the people who bought the book, I’ve heard little. I’ve gotten two 5-star reviews, but other than that, I’ve heard nothing. Even among people I know were reading it, I’ve not heard anything.

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Writing an ebook: It requires discipline

child-360791_640Back when I was first getting started in writing, I took over the editor role at my college newspaper. I was excited: who wouldn’t relish the thought of shaping and re-imagining an entire publication, giving advice to young writers? The previous editor had basically made a mess of things, so I had a pretty low bar to jump over.

I quickly learned that new writers joining the staff could be categorized into two types: People who genuinely wanted to become writers, and those who joined because they thought writing or being a writer sounded cool, or that it was an easy A.

The latter category typically failed the class associated with the newspaper’s production. It often came as a shock to them, when they hadn’t turned in a story the entire semester, that they earned an F.

I always wondered why this was. Surely they would have expected a failing grade if they didn’t turn in any math homework or taken any tests. Why did they assume they could do nothing in a writing class?

I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work and discipline writing actually takes, whether it’s writing an ebook or writing for newspapers. I’m often mentally exhausted at the end of a day working as a reporter. The exactitude required taxes my mental concentration, so I often have to spend time zoning out or doing something either physical or something that requires little to no mental effort.

I find fiction takes that same requirement. Instead of gathering facts from the real world, I’m gathering facts from the universe I’ve imagined. But there are facts – once that world is established, it requires accuracy and attention to detail. I have to both choose a reality and then stick to the facts within that reality. At least in journalism, I have one truth to stick to. In fiction, I have to stick to the truth that I’ve established. There isn’t anyone else I can ask for the back story. I have to find it in my head or re-read to find what I said earlier.

And don’t even let me get started on the concentration of editing. I can’t imagine how editors complete entire days editing. I can handle maybe an hour.

I was a little surprised at some of the reaction to my “Why Writing Every Day is Bullshit” post, in which I admonished advice that says people have to write every single day or you will fail. Instead I talked about the principle of 80/20, being 80 percent perfect is still pretty good. (And no, I didn’t claim to invent the idea, as one commenter suggested. It’s in use by a lot of different people in a lot of different disciplines, including money, as evidenced by the post I linked to.)

What surprised me was that a few people said I was advocating laziness, that you wouldn’t succeed without a sincere effort. But let’s be clear: 80 percent is still a pretty strong effort. It’s still discipline. The point I was making, is that each writer has to figure out how to fit that discipline into her own life. For some people, that means writing every day. For others, once per week.

For myself, I typically work on my fiction 3-4 times per week. Sometimes less, but that means I make sure to stick to that. I might miss a day or two, but I try not to let my writing output drop below that.

Will I make as much progress as someone writing every day? Of course not. But I do make progress. And I’m working at a rate that I won’t quit.

But it also means I still have to be disciplined. That means forcing myself to sit down and get to work. It means telling myself to get started on days in which I might not feel like it.

My novel, Robot Awareness, Part I is out, and Part II is being edited and will be complete by fall. So I’d say it’s working. But make no mistake: It still requires discipline.