Studio Musings

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I've Caught Up!

For the first time since my trip to see family at Walt Disney World the second week of November, I have caught up to the suggested cumulative word count to finish NaNoWriMo on time. Yeah!

At the worst point, when I returned from my trip, I was 10,862 words behind. The tracking stats helpfully informed me that 'at this rate' I'd be finished on December 19th. Ouch! Definitely not good! Since then I've been steadily whittling away at the wordcount, trying to average 2000-3000 words per day.

And just a moment ago, I passed the recommended word total for today. Exciting enough I had to share. I'm now sitting pretty at 45,065 words. Only three days left to reach 50,000 and a Nanowrimo win. Too bad I'm only half-way through the actual story. Sigh. Back to writing....

Conversations at the Coffee Shop

Conversations with Warren, one of the baristas at El Diablo, can range the gammit from modern events to great literature to regional cuisine to points unknown. This morning, it was literature, begun with Warren's comment that when he got snowed in, he planted paperwhites. As opposed to say Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein over the course of a 'wet, ungenial summer' as part of an informal writing competition.

Talk then turned to Percy's Ozymandias which, Warren shared, was the product of yet another competition. Warren's comment that the runner-ups poem wasn't shabby either led me to an internet search. Here's the competition, also titled Ozymandias:
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,"
The King of Kings; this mighty City shows"
The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

by Horace Smith

I liked the poem, so I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tracking Amazon Sales Rankings

Sunday, I finally had the bright idea of doing a google search for 'tracking amazon rankings'. Turns out, there are number of options. Some are free, some by subscription. Some update hourly; many of the subscription services have a free version that tracks on a less frequent basis.

I decided to try out two different free services to start: NovelRank, which works on a donation basis, and TitleZ, which is free while still in beta. Why these two? Because I could test drive them for free, and because they promised frequent updates.

I have to say, of the two, so far I'm impressed with NovelRank. It has the most frequent updates, their data is well-formated and easy to read, and matches up well with my own tracking. To top it off, I like the site and their blog has some great ideas for authors.

At left is a screenshot from NovelRank, taken just a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I started tracking well after my lowest (best) ranking Saturday morning, but at least we're set going forward. Guess what that dip means?

In comparison, here's a screenshot from TitleZ, taken just a few minutes later. The updates are obviously less frequent and only provide best and worst 'snapshots' (the best is inaccurate in this case) and running averages. I also couldn't find controls to change the dates shown on their graphs, either.

Neither seem to track rankings when a book hits the top 100 list in its category, which is too bad. But at least this is a start!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Click of Doom

One click. That's all it took; just one misplaced click of the mouse and I've just sent spam to over one hundred souls whose sole misfortune was to have sent email to my gmail account. Ouch!

It all started with Amazon this morning. With a few minutes to spare before I had to catch the bus, I logged on to Amazon to check my book's rankings. And couldn't believe my eyes. For that brief moment, my book, FreeForm Peyote Beading, was ranked #34,059 in Amazon's bestseller list, not bad for a self-published book in an extremely niche market. But more amazing and wonderful, it was ranked #34 in my category! Oh my god! I did a little happy dance. I did a major happy dance.

And it answered the question I'd asked myself a couple weeks before - if I were to set up a Facebook page for my book, what would I post? Many authors are doing this these days, but books don't change much, so I was at a bit of a loss. Now I had something definitely newsworthy. And no where to put it. Hmmm.....

Fast forward to mid-day. I had carefully crafted a letter to an editor of a beading magazine I particularly admire, asking her to consider reviewing my book. But before I hit send, I thought it wise to have a writer friend look it over. Calling her to discuss the letter, she suggested that rather than sending it cold, I should use Linked-in to find a connection to a publisher/editor and send it that way as the current 'socially acceptable' way to make a cold call.

Sigh. I'd never considered, when I decided to write a book just how much I'd need to learn about the internet. I consider myself fairly computer savvy. I maintain my own website and this blog, I have a facebook account. But as a solo-artist and landlord, I've never really worried about Linked-in, until now.

So, this evening I sat down and set up a Linked-in account. It connected to my gmail account and suggested a whole slew of email addresses, many of which I didn't even recognize. I spent a good ten minutes paring the list down to people I knew. Great! Then I logged onto my yahoo mail to track down an Linked-in request I'd received some time ago. In the process of accepting the invitation, Linked-in made me sign in again, then threw up the same list I had just processed at the same time my cat (yes, I was working on this at home on my couch) jumped in my lap. Really. And I clicked. The send all button. Oh no!

No 'are you sure', no opportunity to change my mind. Just done. Now I'm almost afraid to check my gmail account.

So, if you happened upon my blog trying to figure out who in the world this Karen Williams you received a Linked-in request from is, mea culpa. I'm not usually in the habit of sending spam. But since you're already here, feel free to check out my blog. And if you happen to know a magazine editor interested in books on beading, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Passing of an Era

Monday, the giant elm at the corner of our rental property on Capitol Hill came down. It was a planned take down, luckily, orchestrated by Seattle Tree Preservation. Well over a century in age, with a trunk diameter estimated at 60" by the city arborist and a ninety foot canopy spread, our tree was one of the neighborhood landmarks.

The takedown was a very noisy, big toys sort of ballet involving at least six guys, dueling chain saws, a cherry picker, a crane, two shredder/chippers, a couple of pickup trucks and a more ropes than a tall ship. The level of coordination was impressive; they actually made it look almost easy. Almost.

This all started back in August, with a certified letter from the city. I can say from experience, it was rather daunting, signing for that envelope, wondering what's inside. Turns out, the city arborist had condemned our tree and sent the letter giving us 30 days to have it removed. Of course, the letter arrived while we had guests, and just before we were supposed to leave on vacation. Panicking, I called Nolan, city's arborist. Turns out, just by calling him, I gave myself more time. He used the deadline to create a sense of urgency so that people would actually respond to his letters. Well it worked.

According to Nolan, the tree was beyond saving. In a very patient voice he explained that before writing his letter, he had taken a core sample and sent it to a lab which confirmed the diagnosis of Dutch Elm Disease.The tree was effectively dead, and would pose a hazard once the winter wind storms began.

But I still wasn't sure I believed him. Sure, in July I'd noticed that the tree didn't look as good as it had the previous year, that it had fewer leaves and looked a bit 'sad'. But I chalked it up to summer drought, especially as the leaves seemed to be coming back.

It took me a month, and visits by independent arborists to accept the verdict and collect bids. Taking down a tree that size is not cheap! Nor is it something you want to leave to the lowest bidder. I selected Seattle Tree Service based upon price, their proposed plan of action, and their willingness and interest in working with another local company to salvage as much of the wood as possible.

It then took another month and a half to coordinate the shindig. Once I had the permit from the city, which Nolan helpfully provided free of charge, Seattle Tree Preservation took it from there. Before they could schedule the work, Seattle City Light had to come out and trim branches away from some power lines. More delays. Then we had to submit a traffic plan as the street would need to be closed for the day. Another wait. Finally, a little over three months after the initial letter, down it came.

And that evening, safe at home, I listened to the winds blowing outside and reflected on how grateful I was that I didn't have to worry about falling limbs. But it will take a while before I get used to the new skyscape.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Have the Power

Brainstorming about my writing while riding the bus last week, my secondary characters started acting in surprising ways, going in entirely new directions I hadn't envisioned during my initial plotting. As I played with what might happen and repeatedly asked the question 'how would this character react if....', the results differed significantly from other versions of the story. Trying to decide what to do, it suddenly sank in that this version is my story and I have the ultimate control. I actually laughed out loud, it was such a wonderful realization.

Up until then, I'd felt constrained by previous versions. But that's not necessary; just because characters acted one way in another version, doesn't mean they have to act that way in mine. So simple, and so powerful!

There will be similarities in plot, otherwise it wouldn't be a retelling. But HOW they react to the circumstances in which they find themselves, and even the particulars of those circumstances; those are entirely under my control. I knew this to be true for an original story, but somehow I hadn't quite believed it of a retelling.

Woo Hoo! I have the power; if I can envision it, I can try and write it. That has to be one of the major lures of becoming an author. Let's hope for clear vision!

Halfway Point

Work on the choker is about at the halfway point. The stitching is starting to fill out and I've begun actively moving colors. I've added some freeform right angle weave to give a few areas a more open, airy look, though I haven't yet decided how I will finish those areas off.

This and the following closeup both show the start of some right angle weave lacework. It needs another layer to be really effective. And I may outline the lacework with more peyote stitch. Will have to see as we go.

I'll work the next layer of right angle weave offset a half step from the first row.

A doubled cupped curve emphasizes one of my smaller accent beads adding a nice three-dimensionality.

I've finished the stitching around the Jasper focal bead. Now I simply need to build up the beadwork to either side until it balances and visually supports my focus. Once I've got that, its time to add some surface bridges.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

6668 Words

That's my word count goal for today. Before my head hits the pillow, I hope to be 6668 words into my NaNoWriMo project. 7,000 would be even better. After three days of writing, I'm currently sitting at 4417 words.

To say the first two and a half days were a struggle would be an understatement. I made it through Day One by sticking to a narrative voice, telling myself I was writing the prologue, Beau's history. The voice matched the old fairy tales perfectly. And would have been a perfectly dreadful way in which to write a full-length novel.

"The babe chose to make its appearance in the depths of winter during the worst blizzard in living memory. Knowing his wife’s time was near, the merchant had sent for the midwife before the winds had risen above a murmur, as the first flakes danced earthward on the swelling storm. "
Now mind you, I'm not saying that my writing's good - far from it. But, having reread several of the earliest versions of Beauty and the Beast just before I got started, I can say it matches that style quite nicely.

What I wanted was to get inside Beau's head, to see and write about the world through his eyes. But he remained stubbornly mute, staunchly allowing the narrator to do all the work. I started to doubt I could even write from his perspective. Or any other character's perspective for that matter.

So I took a detour, and opened one of my other project files instead. This file was scarcely longer in terms of word count. But here was the third person perspective I'd been seeking. What's more, much to my surprise, I rather liked the writing. Turns out, I hadn't bothered to finish that particular scene. So before I knew what I was about, I was writing. I wasn't supposed to be working on THAT project, but I was writing. Something that had been a slog for two and a half days was suddenly proceeding with ease. So I stuck with it until the words slowed and the scene drew to a close.

And the amazing thing is, when I returned to Beau, he was ready to talk. Our relationship is still a little rocky, but I think we're getting somewhere. We'll see how writing goes today.