The Holiday Hiatus

My Muffin
It’s funny sometimes how the Universe knows what you need better than you know yourself. I had semi-planned a visit to see my daughter and my grandbaby, whom I haven’t seen in two years. However, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, so I tried not to make a big deal out of it. That being said, everything went just fine, except for a couple of snafus that were annoying, but not ball-breaking. Which is a good thing, seeing as I don’t have physical balls. Heh.

It was a fabulous visit, and the first holiday since my momma passed away I didn’t sit in a pool of my own salty tears, wailing about poor me. So that is definitely an improvement. While I will never, ever be a fan of the holidays, at least this one was more than tolerable, mostly because of my GirlChild and my Muffin.

The drive down was supposed to take three hours. It took eight. It took eight frakkin hours because MapQuest LIES ABOUT WHICH DIRECTION YOU SHOULD GO. I ended up westbound for way too long, necessitating a longer and more southerly route. I actually had to stop and buy a PAPER MAP. Yes! With red lines and everything!! Can you even imagine the horror?

The good news is I arrived in one piece. The bad news is my ass was totally numbified. But, once I saw my kid and Muffin, my ass was the least of my concerns as I hugged and kissed and maybe let a few tears loose. The last time I saw Muffin he was a wee baby, and now…he’s an actual walking, talking (and “mewing” — sometimes he thinks he’s a cat) PERSON. With, like, opinions and everything. Oh yeah, definite opinions.

Up until now, Muffin was convinced I lived in the phone. I talk to him every day, to the point when his mama puts him on the phone with anyone else, he looks at her in total puzzlement and says, “Noni? Noni?” and she’ll tell him, no, that’s not Noni, that’s *insert poor sucker here* and he won’t have anything else to do with said poor sucker. Now, he knows that Noni doesn’t just live in the phone, and that Noni will feed him marshmallows and Peanut M&Ms for breakfast. Heh.

If I had known being a grandmother would be so much fun, I definitely would have done this first.

We had a great visit. Cooked, baked, shopped, watched Baby Einstein videos and cuddled, and had one of The Best Times Ever. It was worth the wait, although I really don’t want to wait that long to visit again.

****

The proof for the work-in-progress arrived while I was otherwise occupied, so when I got back home I dived in. It was thrilling to hold an actual copy of so much work in my hands, but upon further inspection there were a couple of things that I felt needed tweaking. The print on the back cover was a tad too large; a word misspelled; the graphics on the front needed a little rearrangement. Since the word was misspelled, I took the opportunity to tweak out the other stuff because the whole file will have to be re-uploaded anyway. That’s okay — that’s why you order a proof. I took a look inside, and there were some other little things that really needed to be fixed, as well — such as centering the page numbers and going over the material one more time for a little judicious editing. Remember, I told you that you could never go over it enough. So, a request went in to the Cover Dude, and I am concentrating on tweaking out the interior a bit more while he does his magic.

Oh, I suppose I could have let it fly — but the thing is, I want it to be perfect. I know it will never be exactly PERFECT — but I want it to be as perfect as I can get it. I owe it to the readers who will (hopefully) be plunking down their hard-earned dollars for it, and I owe it to me. Once I’m happy with it, I’ll upload, wait for approval, and order another proof. Hopefully, this will do it and I can release it for distribution.

I hope this information is helpful to those out there contemplating self-publishing. I will say that so far I’ve enjoyed the process and learned a lot.

****

In the meantime, I hope you all had a great and non-ass-numbed holiday. Heh!

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Link Heaven and an Update on Self-Publishing

First of all, I’m so excited to announce my volume of flash fiction, “Not Nice and Other Understatements” will soon be available for purchase. I am waiting by the mailbox for the proof to arrive, and once that’s received and approved, it’s off to the races! Did I mention I’M SO EXCITED???? Heh.

PUBLISHING NEWS

I have come across a multitude of interesting, entertaining, and informative links that I’d love to share with you.

In this post about small presses Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives quite a comprehensive look at how Big and Little publishing works. Her entire blog is excellent, with tons of information about the changing face of the book business, and I highly recommend you read and take notes.

Bob Mayer also pontificates on the future of publishing, or as he says, “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”

FOR SHIZ AND GIGGLES

If you own a dog, you will really appreciate this post about the reactions of a stalwart dog owner’s dogs and the experience of moving. I literally laughed until I cried.

And for people who are involved with Facebook, this video about the Queen of England and her #Facebook Fail is just too funny to miss.

Some days suck. There’s just no two ways about it. When you are feeling low, sometimes a smile can help you get over the hump. That’s what videos like this are for.

NON-FIC NEWS

I will admit this post needs a good edit, but the list of available writing opportunities is quite comprehensive. I warn you again, my poppets, to do your own due diligence when considering places to submit your work. Investigate and choose carefully.

FREE FICTION

Who doesn’t like free fiction? Here is a simple contest with a free giveaway and all you have to do is comment on which rock-and-roll band is your favorite. That’s it! I can vouch that the fiction offered as a prize is Most Excellent, and Susan is very generously offering three books in her series in the contest. Go on, one comment about your favorite band and you can score big. WIN!

While you’re out and about in the fiction world, take a look at Eric J. Krause’s Writing Spot for some excellent suggestions about the writing process.

For another look at the writing process, bestselling author Peter V. Brett also gives us a peek into a process that works very well for him.

MISCELLANEOUS

This is so disgusting I don’t even have words for it. It makes me despair for the human race.

Then I run across simple opportunities to make a difference and I feel better.

The whole issue about TSA screening, especially during the heavy traveling season has garnered a lot of attention, but it seems there is a way, and Florida is in the lead.

Last but not least, politics and popular reality TV meet and it’s not pretty. I’m keeping my mouth shut on this one. *sigh*

These links ought to keep you busy for a bit. I hope you find them as useful, entertaining and distracting as I did. Heh!

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Wednesday Bits and Pieces — Judith Griggs Rides Again

I have been following the saga about Cooks Source from the beginning and have been infuriated, angry, bewildered and flabbergasted all the way around. Today, I ran across the home page from Cooks Source thanks to a Tweet from @victoriastrauss.

To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement. Somehow, it was fatigue and Monica’s “rudeness” that is to blame for the whole situation. Somehow, exhaustion and extensive travel is an excuse to steal someone else’s work without compensation or permission. Somehow, it’s okay to type something out of a printed work but failing that, you can gank material off the web as you like.

Aside from the terrible grammar, sentence structure and punctuation, the mind-set of Judith Griggs is what really makes my brain hurty. I can appreciate the challenges of running a small magazine. I can appreciate 12 hour days, because as a freelance writer trying to eke out a living it’s a rare day I put in less than 18 hours. I can’t remember the last day I had off. I’m not complaining — it’s my job and I chose it and I LOVE it. But not for one minute do I believe being exhausted gives me the right to steal someone else’s material because I’m just…so…tired.

I wonder how that defense will work in court when Cooks Source is up against the Food Network. Or Martha. Or Disney.

The fact is, the situation with Monica is not an isolated incident for this publication. The fact is, Judith Griggs had many opportunities to make this situation right, and just kept making it worse and worse. And she’s still making it worse.

Sometimes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It makes me sick that she can’t just stand up and say, “You know what? I fucked up. I really did — but I’ve learned better, I’m very sorry, and I will make it right.”

She has apologized, made the amends Monica requested, but all that really means nothing because she has not taken responsibility for her actions. “I was TIIIIIRED. Monica was RUUUUUUDE. I’m being persecuted and all the little people I do so much good for are SUFFERING. Oh, and Monica was RUUUUUDE.”

Well, let me put it this way. If someone breaks into your home, steals your jewelry and you see them on the street wearing it, would you be nice and polite? Hell to the No. So for me, whether or not Monica was rude is a moot point. She had a right to be rude. IF she was.

Gah. Cry me a river. For years, Judith Griggs profited by stealing other people’s work. I guess that would wear anyone out.

***

Update on the Self-Publishing Saga: I fixed the little tweak requested and re-uploaded the file, but neglected to hit “Continue and Save”…DUH. There went two days. Finally figured that out, and received a response today — even though the file was fixed, I got the same error. I emailed CreateSpace’s customer service, and they indicate I will receive a response within one day.

I think it’s taken me longer to get this thing printed than it did to write it. Jeez.

***

Paying worked has ramped up quite a bit. I’m happy about this and scrambling to get all the bases covered and so far, so good. I’m a little irritated because one job, which has repeatedly warned me not to depend on them for a steady source of income, has now imposed quotas. Big ones. I can’t help feeling hey, wait a minute. When I need YOU, that’s a no-no, but when you need ME, I’m supposed to drop and run? That’s not strictly fair. Then I hear my Momma’s voice in my head saying, “I never told you life was fair.” Point taken, so noted, and onward. Because it’s all about the client and juggling the eggs in my basket. Thank you, Momma. <3 That's the status update. Stay tuned...our heroine is not bald yet, but there are some patches of hair missing. Fortunately, most of the damage can be hidden under strategically placed head-wear. ****ADDENDUM**** Apparently, the Cooks source webpage has been taken down. You can read the entirety of the entry to which I was referring here.

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Self-Publishing: The Saga Continues

Not Nice and Other Understatements
Well, it looks like all the care and attention to formatting BEFORE uploading to CreateSpace paid off. The cover passed right away, and just one tiny tweak to the interior — which had to do with mentioning “Available through Amazon and other retailers in the introduction by Joseph Paul Haines — and I uploaded the corrected copy and fully expect it to go through with no problems.

Some notes about the interior for next time:

* It helps if you choose the size of your book and the font first when putting it together. Saves time later on. I chose 6×9 as the size, and Garamond 12 for the font.

* Everything goes on one document.

* Formatting for print is vastly different than formatting for the web. You want your book to look professional. Although, if you are a writer primarily for the web, you will need to resist the temptation to include all the white space and eschew the indents. That’s not how it’s done professionally, so think about that.

* Page breaks after each chapter or story. This way, when you’re tweaking out a chapter, it doesn’t throw off the rest of the formatting you’ve done.

* Page numbers start AFTER the front matter — meaning the title page, the copyright page, the table of contents. Page numbers will go in the footer of the page.

* Chapter titles (or story titles) go four paragraph spaces down the page and centered.

* There’s no such thing as looking through it too many times. I’m sure there’s stuff I missed, and I’ll kick myself when I see them, but at some point you have to let it go. It helps to let it sit for a couple of days in-between picking, because you’ll see a lot more when your eyes are rested. You’d think being a professional editor would be a help — but when it’s your own work, not so much. Heh.

* I used Open Office because for one thing, I hate M$ and Word drives me nuts. Plus, with one click of a button, OO transforms your document into a pretty .PDF file. One click. Love it.

* Label your versions like, Working Title 1.0, Working Title 1.1 to keep track of where you are. After each editing, I exported to .PDF to see what it would actually look like. Sometimes you catch things in the .PDF that you don’t see in the .doc form.

Notes about the cover for next time:

Let someone else do it.

Seriously. I am not good with graphic programs, photo programs, or anything remotely looking like a combination of art and computers. I’m totally lost. I can barely take a digital picture and upload it to Photobucket. Therefore, I know my limits and tapped my good friend to format the cover for me. I commissioned my daughter to take a photo for the cover — something she is very, very good at — supplied the copy and photo for the back cover, sent it to my friend, and he did the rest. For which I am eternally grateful.

Yes, I probably should learn to do that myself, especially since I very likely will go through this process again.

Random thoughts:

When putting together a collection of shorts, flow is very important. You want one story to flow into the next, and you want to vary the placing of long stories with shorter ones.

Leave the Table of Contents for the last thing to do. *sigh*

I included an introduction written by Joe, who knows my work very well; an acknowledgment page; an afterword and a publication history. I copied the format (but not the content, that’s my own) of a copyright page from an actual book. I gave credit to the photographer, the cover artist, and the introduction-writer.

I had to choose a name for my own press. :)

The next step will be waiting for the proof to arrive in the mail so I can approve the printing. That will take about six days to three weeks. Then, I can start setting up for pre-orders, autographed copies, and start a marketing campaign. But, that’s for another post, although you can see some of my thoughts about marketing in this post.

“Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” will be appearing shortly. I’ll let you know how the next stage progresses.

For now, my brain is really hurty!

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Veteran’s Day

Photo courtesy of Beverly and Pack under the Creative Commons license
I don’t have a lot of time today — deadlines loom, and my plate is pretty full right now. But there’s no way I could let this day go by without expressing my thanks and love to all who have and continue to serve this country.

I realize there are a lot of things about the US receiving heavy criticism, and rightly so. However, just the fact that we can express those concerns, loudly, without fear of being censored, thrown in prison, or worse is a direct result of the sacrifices our people in the Armed Forces are willing to make. Not only them, but their families and the people who love them.

My time with my Chinese student this past summer really drove this point home to me. We take so much for granted in this country.

A close friend of mine who served in the Vietnam era goes to the military graves here and with his fellow soldiers, places flags on all the graves on this day. They do it every year. He said to me once, “We’re all getting older. Who’s going to do this when we’re gone? Who’s going to remember us?”

My uncle served in the Navy, my father in the Marines, and my love in the Army. To them, and all others who have and continue to serve, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I remember. We should all remember.

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The End of a Saga – Or is It?

Photo courtesy of JKim1
It seems as if Judith Griggs has finally issued a much-overdue apology to the writer she wronged by stealing her stuff, but I feel the same way John Scalzi does. Whatever. Nevertheless, however lame the apology seems, Griggs bit the bullet (finally!) and did the right thing.

But it’s not over.

Aside from the legal battles Griggs and Cooks Source may face from heavy hitters such as the Food Network and Martha Stewart for the material she stole from them, this whole debacle has had one positive outcome: people are actively talking about copyright infringement, exactly what it is and how it affects artists everywhere.

I have seen comments that compare what Griggs has done to the practice of downloading music or movies from the internet using peer-to-peer software. It’s not the same thing, and I’ll tell you why.

Recipes do not fall under the law as it pertains to copyright in one vital area: the listing of ingredients is not protected. Meaning, the list itself is all right to copy — but the accompanying text is not. That part is under copyright. (That’s where poor Ms. Griggs made her spectacular mistake. Among many.)

She also used the stolen material to make money. There is the key difference from sharing music. Most people who download music from the internet are doing it for their own use. They’re not manufacturing CD’s and selling them on the street corner and making a buck. What they’re doing is no different than what people have done since vinyl records and cassette tapes came out — making an extra copy for their car, or their mom, only now, it’s digitally done. Is it morally right? Is it legal? The issue is still in flux as far as legalities go, so I guess the jury is still out.

Thankfully, the copyright laws regarding written material are more clear cut, although they can be confusing. Still, the basic premise is write your own material. I guess that’s simple enough.

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about copyright law, although after the last week or so I’ve taken it upon myself to increase my knowledge base. Most of the material I write for clients I sell for full rights. This means they can take what I’ve written for them and do whatever they want with it. They can include my byline or not; insert their own byline; chop the piece up any which-way they desire. They can even package it and sell it to someone else. I can’t use it again — it’s theirs.

The research, however, is MINE and I can spin as many articles from that as I wish. This is how freelancers can make a living.

Or, I can sell the piece for unique rights. This doesn’t happen very often since full rights are available, but what it means is the client cannot alter the article in any way, has to keep my byline intact, but I agree not to publish the article anywhere else. It’s exclusive to this client. Usually priced lower than full rights.

Then there’s the usage. All this means is when a client purchases a piece for usage, my byline and article stays intact, but I can sell it more than once to more than one client. This is typically the lowest price of all.

Full rights is most popular and if you’re selling articles for full rights, you should get top dollar.

That’s the deal on non-fiction. Fiction can get a lot more complicated, and you’ll have to wait for another post for that. My brain is hurty.

****

Progress on the collection: almost ready to upload to CreateSpace, it’s going through one last check and waiting on the cover. Timing is killing me here, because I have a lot on the non-fiction plate (this is a GOOD thing, because this means I can pay rent and eat and all that other annoying stuff) so I have to fit in what I can. I’m hoping to have it all sewed up by the beginning of next week, and I can then inform you of how that goes.

After it’s uploaded to CS, I will then embark on formatting it for Smashwords, which according to One Who Has Gone Before Me (bless you, Susan!) is the best thing to do before going on to formatting for Kindle.

The title is….drumroll, please….

Not Nice and Other Understatements.

I can’t wait. :)

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Nearing the End: Self-Publishing and a Note on Stealing Other People’s Stuff

You know, it always seems to happen that when I’m neck deep in a personal project, the paying work comes piling in. I’m not complaining, mind you — I’m ecstatic when I get all busy-like, and in some ways I feel more productive.

The collection has been revised and re-vamped to meet professional standards for a publication by a friend who is much more knowledgeable than I am about such things. What he told me (and I took notes) is that titles of chapters (or stories) should be centered and 4 paragraph returns down on the page. Each section is ended with a page break, so you can format the stories without messing up the rest in the line-up. Also, page numbering starts AFTER the front matter.

He’s busy and I’m busy, so this was info shared on the fly. Eventually I’d like to get all this information in one place to make it easier for those starting out to find out what they need to know. And that’s the Master Plan.

In the meantime, I need to go through the manuscript one more time and fix any boo-boos, get a final page count, and submit that to my photo-shopper for the cover. Then, I shall upload and let it rip.

As a side note, I have decided to upgrade to CreateSpace’s Pro Plan for a mere $39 to take advantage of the expanded network for distribution. I should make that back if I sell even seven or eight copies, and I think I can do that :)

***

Yesterday, the Internetz blew up over a case of blatant copyright infringement and subsequent snarky arrogance. The word spread like wildfire, with pieces appearing almost instantly from BoingBoing, John Scalzi, and even Gizmodo. The news even hit the LA Times, was picked up by NPR, and by some accounts, re-Tweeted by none other than Neil Gaiman. There are many more links out there; this is just a small sampling.

The Facebook page of “Cooks Source” was bombed and flamed in true Internet flaming fashion (man, I LOVE the Internet). Editor Judith Grigg’s assertion that everything on the Internet is Public Domain and therefore up for grabs is an error in judgment so huge the mind simply boggles. And yet, plagiarism is one of the most insidious and hard-to-police hazards of a writing career. It’s happened to me, with a story that won a contest. When the offending material was found (through a friend — I had no idea) I contacted the gentleman and we exchanged a few words, polite in the beginning. He eventually took the content down, but honestly, I was aghast that someone would be so brazen to snarf someone else’s work without their permission. If he had simply asked and provided a link, I would have been more than happy to let him use it. But he didn’t even do me that courtesy.

A writing career is a lot to handle without having to worry about people stealing your stuff when you’re not looking. In future posts, I will be exploring the options available to writers and other providers of content designed to help protect digital rights. I am aware of something exciting on the horizon, and I will be sure to update y’all when it goes live. I know I, for one, work too damned hard to have my stuff padding someone else’s pocketbook.

****

And so, the race is on. My Friday is stuffed full, with a “To Do” list that makes my head hurty. But, I like it that way. I guess that makes me a masochist, heh!

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Self-Publishing: In Which Our Heroine Wrestles With Formatting

I feel like I just ran a 60 mile marathon. Holy shitkes, I’ve been at it since just about 7:30 AM, and except for a couple of breaks to take care of other pressing business, I have finally stepped back for a breather.

My brain feels like oatmeal. Although, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a blast. That is, if you ignore the bald patches, the chewed up fingernails, and the list of things that remained undone today because I’ve been totally obsessed with getting this thing just so.

First off, let me say I believe I probably saved myself a major rupture and hemorrhage by working in Open Office rather than in Word. I used to be in love with Word, but Open Office made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That would be free. Not only free of charge, but free of annoying bugs designed to drive you straight to the looney bin or nearest bar. (Sometimes, they amount to the same thing, heh.) The other reason I chose OO is because it is supposedly much easier to transform to a .PDF file, and this is a requirement for CreateSpace files. Being somewhat technologically challenged, this is definitely a plus for me.

To begin, I had to format my files into something that looks like a book. I had the material chosen — an assortment of 36 short stories and flash fiction. I had them in a line-up with which I was happy — I added a story and flipped the order around a bit. Then, I had to add a title page, choose a publishing name, and type up the copyright page to include the two people working on the cover (more later) and a disclaimer about everything thing being fictitious and one that prohibits people using the material without my express permission.

I figured out how to add a footer containing the page numbers, which thankfully sorts itself out as you format, add, and subtract pages. Go me!

After that came the table of contents, although I don’t have the page numbers entered yet. Next, the acknowledgments, and two pages reserved for the introduction, to be written by a friend of mine.

Then, the stories.

I had to decide on the font for the titles, which I did to match the title page. Then, decide on the spacing for each story. I kept an eye out and adjusted so no widows showed up on the next page (you know, that odd word or sentence that looks all alone and “widowed”) and added blank pages where appropriate. For instance, a 100 word flash fitting all on one page I’d place on an uneven page number with a blank behind it, because that’s how it looked best to me.

I had to ask for some help with setting the margins, as this was a trifle confusing to me — easy to do on my best days, I have to admit. Heh. Then it was endless re-arranging until the text looked even and consistent. I even managed to pick up a typo or two, which is Very Good at this stage, although I face-palmed at how I missed them in the first place. See? I say it over and over, you just don’t ever see all your errors the first, second, or even seventeenth time through.

Insert the after words, the publishing history, and voila.

That sounds easy, right?

What I learned through this part of the process:

1. Patience is definitely a virtue. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and I don’t know if it’s my flash background, editing background, or just plain old anal-itis, but you really do have to be picky and take your time, often going over and over and over yet again to make sure everything is exactly where you want it. I have long believed in flash it matters a great deal to the story how it appears on the page, and I am quite anal about that.

2. Format the page size before you start formatting everything else. I made this a lot more difficult than it had to be because I was working in an 8×11.5 page size when my book is going to be 6×9. Starting at 6×9 means you don’t have to reformat AGAIN once you realize you need to re-size your page.

3. The inside margin corresponds to the “left/right” margins and the outside margins are everything else — namely, “top/bottom”. I didn’t have to worry about inside bleeds because I have no images in my book.

4. Every time you move something, even something as small as a punctuation mark or to add a space, the whole she-bang shifts. That’s just a fact of formatting life, and you’re gonna have to come to terms with it right quick or you’d better hide the sharp implements and flammable materials.

5. Creating a .PDF from Open Office is as easy as falling off a log. One click. That’s it. HALLELUJAH!

6. I have the most patient friends a girl could ask for.

Is the formatting done, you ask? Oh, hell no. But the bulk of it is done, I believe, although I just took another peek at it and I see some minor things that need fixing. However, my eyeballs are bleeding right now and need a break. I have passed the copy on to someone with un-bleeding eyes to take a look and see if I’ve done the majority of items correctly (not fooling myself for one minute I have) and to get back to me regarding any corrections.

The photo I was waiting for arrived, and it has also been forwarded to a volunteer to morph it into a cover. So, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At least, this particular tunnel. More tunnels ahead, I’m sure, and I’ll let you know all about the next one.

:) Yep, still smiling!

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