Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo!

May and June snuck up on me. I am pretty sure they were in cahoots. Plotting all throughout April to ambush me and catch me unawares. Before I realized it, July was here. And boy, did July drag.

While May and June flew by with the speed of a thousand irate wasps, July has plodded along, kind of moping, really, like an uninvited guest that has overstayed its welcome, that cannot just take the hint and seriously you need to leave before I throw you out of MY HOUSE. Ahem.

August comes as a bit of a relief. August, I think, will be An Improvement.

One reason is the very title of this entry: Camp NaNoWriMo. The very title makes me want to parody the theme song from that old Nickelodeon show, Salute Your Shorts. (Y'know... "Camp Annawanna, we hold you in our hearts, and when we think about you...")

Camp NaNoWriMo is basically NaNoWriMo in the summer. Rather than having to wait all the way til November to recklessly go where few novelists have gone before, though, you can pick the summer month of your choice - June or August (or both) - and use your novel as an excuse for not having more of a tan and avoiding the life-threatening rays of the sun during these sweltering times.

I tried to do Camp NaNoWriMo last year but failed kind of miserably. I had a major surgery a couple days into it and never quite recovered the word count (though my health recovered quite nicely, it just took longer than expected). I've successfully defeated NaNoWriMo: The November Version on a few different occasions, including with the book that I'm currently editing to publish by the end of the summer, which I wrote during my first NaNoWriMo back in 2007. I'm hoping lightning will strike a second time as I plan to write the sequel over the next 31 days.

If you're interested in taking on the challenge yourself, hop on over to the Camp NaNoWriMo website to sign up. You'll get assigned a cabin, which will be your support group for the month, and the tools to track your noveling progress. The goal is the same as traditional NaNoWriMo: write a 50,000 word novel in the span of one month. In August, which is a 31-day month, that equals 1,613 words per day, which is roughly two and a half pages, depending on font/font size. This entry is currently about 400 words at this point. And now it's more. And more. And more. And more. And...


Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year?

CreateSpace: And then...

So Sunday night I pulled the trigger and requested the package I wanted from CreateSpace, including some basic cover design, some publicity materials, a book review, some layout help, etc. On Monday, the consultant I'm working with put everything into my CreateSpace account shopping cart and I logged in last night to purchase and set up the logistics.

That part was fairly simple - you just log into your account, go to your cart, pay, and there you go. What happens next is a change in your Member Dashboard. Backing up a second, CreateSpace has a certain process for setting up books. You create your "project" (i.e. one of your titles), upload some files, select some settings, etc. When you sign up for the extra features, you have to go through one of their publishing consultants to get them activated, but then it just expands your dashboard for that project so you have more options.

I had to fill out a questionnaire with details about the options I picked - things like what I envision for the cover, what I want the tone of my promotional materials to be, summaries of my book, etc. I also selected my internal formatting templates, fonts, and how I wanted my front matter to appear (those are the first few pages inside any book stating the author, title, dedication, copyright, etc).

This has all been pretty intuitive so far, so I'm looking forward to the next steps and seeing what my project team puts together. After making your selections and filling out the questionnaire, little clock icons appear next to those segments of your project dashboard to show that your project team is working on their different elements and will notify you when you need to do something else. So now it's just some hurry up and wait.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CreateSpace: the next step

A few weeks ago I sent my wish list to CreateSpace of what kind of package I wanted for my upcoming novel (which is really more of a novella). This includes cover design services, formatting, some promotional odds and ends, etc.

It took them a while to get back to me, and since then, the email containing their suggestions and pricing has been sitting in my inbox. Taunting me.

The truth is, the price tag is pretty high, at least for someone like me. It'll be tough to recoup my entire investment, and I've been waffling back and forth, weighing the pros and cons.

Well, tonight I finally decided to go for it. 

To be honest, the reason is that I am really looking for a more turn-key operation, and I can't think of a better way to do it. All of the successful projects I've ever started have usually involved me hiring someone to take care of the parts that I know I just don't have the time, patience, and inclination to do myself.

Example: I wanted to start a Facebook app. I thought about it for a year. I bought a book about Facebook app programming. I made sketches. I tried to learn about design work. Finally, I just bit the bullet and hired someone to program and design it for me. I launched it. It didn't do too badly; but it wouldn't have even launched if I hadn't had somebody else program it for me. Once all I had left to do was the marketing, I actually enjoyed it. The same is true here. I could try to learn about cover design, how to do the artwork myself; I could mess with my manuscript software until I manage to successfully export a properly formatted document; I could find a way to outsource printing properly branded bookmarks, business cards, and other materials; I could agonize over promotional text for hours.

Or I could have some of those tasks done for me, and focus on the parts I like to do.

Granted, I understand I have lots of work ahead of me. But it's nice to know that at least some of these details can be taken care of by people with (hopefully) better taste and more experience than me.

So, I'll report back once I really get the ball rolling and let you know how everything goes. I believe my next step will just be selecting each option that I want as I go through the setup process on CreateSpace, but I may get a few extras for buying the package I want to buy, so it's worth speaking with the consultants to get suggestions and a few little perks here and there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In defense of getting fat

I am considering making the conscious decision to let myself get fat.

Just hear me out for a second.

I understand the health implications. Being overweight puts you at risk for, well, many things. But I also have to ask - why do I know smokers that are likely to live til their 90's or beyond? I bet anyone reading this knows people with bad habits - smoke too much, eat too much, drink too much - that have lived longer than others who've done everything right.

Furthermore, I'm not interested in becoming morbidly obese. I'm thinking a comfortable 190 lbs or so (I'm tall for a woman, a bit over 5'9", so that's not too terribly fat). Yes, I'll look a bit heavy, but not to the point where people will make beeping noises when I back up.

Aside from the health implications, though, I'm having a tough time thinking of any reason not to completely embrace being on the heavy side.

First of all, it's not like I'm limiting my clothing options. The main thing that pisses me off about gaining weight is that my clothes feel tight. But if I were prepared for it, I think I could probably find a way to dress that would still look attractive. Fashion has come a long way. Am I going to be able to wear the same styles as the supermodels? No. But curvy women aren't limited like they used to be. Hell, I can think of three stylish places to shop right off the top of my head. Plus-sized these days doesn't need to equal frumpy.

Secondly, it would save me lots of angst. I spend a lot of time worrying about what I should or shouldn't eat, and whether I've exercised enough recently, and if my butt looks big, or if my thighs look too jiggly. If I just let myself go, I wouldn't really have to worry about any of that crap. Does my butt look big? Why, yes, it does, thank you for asking! Have I exercised enough recently? Who the hell cares, we can go for a walk while we search out some cake!

Third, and this is a really big one: I. Love. Food. Going back to the angst for a second, you don't understand what kind of thought process goes through the typical woman's head when going out to eat at a restaurant. "What can I eat? Well I don't want another salad. But everything else is deep fried. And really, the salads aren't much better with all the crap they're loaded with. So I may as well indulge and get the burger. But I've been eating so much crap lately, it's all going straight to my thighs. Why don't they have some plain broiled chicken or something? Wait, we're getting appetizers? Deep fried mozzarella? Aw, hell. Well maybe just one." And on. And on. And on.

Followed by the ensuing guilt. And don't get me started on the internal monologues associated with whether or not to get dessert. Really, it'd be great if I could just look at food without arguing with it.

Food is an experience. I love it. And while I've had some success, it's pretty tough to find food that's satisfying without also packing on some pretty hefty pounds. I just ate a dinner roll covered with garlic butter. Don't tell me I can replace that with romaine slathered in a low-cal balsamic. I'm sick of having to settle for cardboard just because I'm on some frivolous, pointless, never-ending quest to have a six-pack. Particularly when other things in life are going wrong, it's nice to know that at the end of the day, you can go home, settle in with the libation of your choice, and devour an entire plate of pasta smothered in Alfredo sauce, and it will be delicious. Food is always There for you.

Plus, I don't have to stop trying to have good nutrition. I like veggies. I prefer them covered in ranch. Or drizzled in olive oil. Maybe it's better to eat them like that and enjoy them, rather than to agonize over whether I've shoved enough raw carrot sticks in my mouth for the day.

Fourth, I can still exercise. There's no ban on exercising just because you've decided to stop worrying about your weight. There's yoga. There's gentle resistance training with elastic bands. We're getting an elliptical soon. I like going for walks with my husband around the neighborhood. Really, I think I'd enjoy exercising more if I wasn't always concerned about whether it's narrowing my waistline. I mean, it's not like I'm consciously trying to get fat. I'm just going to stop trying to prevent it from happening. But exercise makes me feel good and have more energy, and it's fun, so why not?

So, really, what's the big deal about being overweight?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

That downright horrible, no good nasty week

It has been a toughie. Note that this won't be a "writing" post - I am in need of a good venting. This should perhaps explain my lack of recent progress on my book. Or perhaps not. Either way, I need to get it off of my chest. I will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

It actually started on Friday the 13th. Figures, huh? How utterly cliche. I got a traffic ticket in the mail for one of those video cameras that catches you running a red light. So that's $100 I'm out. Truthfully, I brought it on myself, but that doesn't make it less annoying.

That day, I also got some very bad news for one of my clients. It was a combination of factors I can't really go into, but all of it boils down to me not being in control of everything or even anything when it comes to this client. The complete lack of professional courtesy from the other side's attorneys also did not help.

The weekend was actually fantastic - I got to be with my family for my grandmother's birthday, and it was so incredibly good to see them. I even stayed in a hotel like a grown-up or something. I got the room to myself (hubs had to stay home) and just kind of spread out, made a mess I wouldn't have to clean up (ok, don't worry, not THAT big of a mess), used the gym facilities, etc.

But then I came home on Sunday to find my husband nursing our dog. Our poor, poor old boxer. He has been bed-ridden for over a year now as he aged to the point where he could not walk. He's been on various pain medications due to arthritis. Well, on Sunday he couldn't keep any food or water down, and he gradually got to the point where we could just tell it was time. None of the vets were open, so I had to call around and find someone who could make a house call. We sat with him and petted him and told him what a good dog he was as he went to sleep for the last time.

I can't tell you how unbelievably sad it is to watch the dog who has been such a good friend to you for years slowly stop breathing and grow still. But to other dog owners out there: do not let your own sadness get in the way of you being there for your pet. Your voice is the only thing that is good and familiar to them, your presence is the thing that they understand. The fact that you are there with them is more important to them than anything else in the world. Be there for your pet if you have to put them down - it is the least you can do for them. They love you more than anything else; only you can make the transition easier on them as they leave this world.

Compared to that, the events of the week following seem fairly trivial, but it all just served to create a low-grade nastiness that followed me around the entire time. Our home is grieving. My work was stressing me out and exhausting me as I attempted to fix this problem for this poor client all week, struggling to find guidance and help. Another situation also deteriorated for another client - it was over quickly, but certainly didn't help my outlook. (Isn't it great reading a lawyer's blog? We're always so specific.) My rotten attitude has also triggered some physical symptoms - exhaustion, soreness, a feeling like I'm slightly sick. It's amazing how the cycle perpetuates itself. You feel bad mentally, so you start to feel bad physically, which only makes you feel worse mentally, and so on. It's a hard thing to kick.

Yesterday was better. We gave a free legal seminar in the community, and people really appreciated it, which felt good. I came home and slept some more - I think I'm suffering from some really mild depression and the sleep has helped. Then we went out for sushi and bought some goodies at Trader Joe's. Nothing exploded. It feels like things have settled down a bit. In the off-chance that karma is real, I'm contemplating buying a lottery ticket to cash in on all the crap that happened last week.

Today has also helped. Singing at church was uplifting and I really felt moved for the first time in a while. Other than the beer I'm currently sipping (what?? it's 5:00 somewhere), I've eaten pretty healthy so far. I feel well-rested. I'm thinking of making it to the gym later today. Recovering from a crummy week is a weird thing - it's not like I've been seriously injured, but I'm approaching life gingerly as if I had been. How do you cheer yourself up when you've had a rough patch?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Maybe it's the holiday

Well, with my own multiple rounds of editing done on my novel, I don't have much to do at present while I await my fabulous volunteer editors to send me feedback. As such, I decided to try and make some progress on other areas of the self-publishing process, namely familiarizing myself with how exactly to publish an eBook, make a book available for print-on-demand (POD), cover art, a little publicity, etc.

Given my unpredictable work schedule and my lack of patience for technology when I can't seem to get it to work properly, I decided it might be a good idea to pay somebody to do some of this stuff for me. In particular, I'm pretty sure I have no idea what constitutes good cover art. I can barely dress myself in matching colors every morning, let alone design something visually pleasing for an entire demographic. So I looked around, but the easiest services seemed to be with CreateSpace, given that I'll be targeting Amazon mostly with my first go. I don't know how they compare price-wise and I haven't been able to find too many reviews on the quality of their work. I'm hoping to document some of my experiences just so other people navigating their services might benefit from knowing what to expect.

So, I went on the CreateSpace website, which was pretty easy to navigate, and I started looking at what they offer. They provide services in various categories from marketing to editing and other miscellaneous tidbits, so I compiled a list of what I was most interested in. A few areas indicated you can get favorable pricing if you bundle services, so I then hopped on over to their "contact us!" link and composed my inquiry. I explained a bit about my book (genre, small synopsis, etc) and listed the services I was interested in.

The next morning, I received an email from a CreateSpace Publishing Associate thanking me for my interest and attempting to put me in contact with a Publishing Consultant that would work with me to determine which package would be best for my needs. The Associate also left me a voicemail on the phone number I provided with pretty much the same information. This was Tuesday, the day before the 4th of July. I didn't get any contact from the Publishing Consultant that day, so on my day off on Wednesday, I sent her a quick email to see how we could coordinate a phone consultation (obviously not anticipating a same-day response due to the holiday).

Well, it's now Saturday. They work M-F 9-5 EST. I haven't heard anything back since that initial email. My guess is that the Consultant I was paired with is probably out for the week on vacation for the 4th of July holiday. It's just odd that for a big company like Amazon they wouldn't have to put up an email auto-responder if they are out of the office. My plan is to give it til this coming Tuesday before I get fussy (I can give it a day for someone to catch up on emails after being out of the office).

Sadly I don't really have anything else to report. Looking forward to getting the ball rolling. If CreateSpace doesn't pan out and anyone knows of anything comparable, at the very least for book cover & formatting services, please let me know!