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The Beetle in the Bathtub

Fable for a Monday Morning

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One night a big black beetle fell into a bathtub, trying to reach water. The people who lived in the house watched the beetle attempt the impossible climb up the slick sides of the bathtub. But it was only a beetle, so they watched for a while and went to bed, leaving the beetle to continue its insurmountable task. Even the cat left the beetle alone, for it had learned months earlier that beetles taste nothing like spiders.

In the middle of the night, one of the sleepless people noticed the beetle again. It was still there in the bathtub, still making a valiant attempt to climb out of its prison. It hadn’t given up, wasn’t sitting in the bottom of the bathtub waiting for rescue. Having attained a magnificent height of an inch and a half, the beetle clung to the bathtub wall, waving one foot in an attempt to find the next secure foothold.

Admiring the beetle’s patience, the person finally moved the shower curtain inside the bathtub, thinking the beetle might be able to climb out that way. Then the person went to bed, leaving the beetle to figure things out on its own.

In the morning, the person went back in the bathroom, only to discover the beetle had climbed all the way up the shower curtain and was clinging to the very top. Not wanting to share the shower with a strange beetle, the person flicked the beetle off the shower curtain, and it fell down, down, down, into the very same tub from which it had recently escaped.

As the beetle paused to recover from the long fall, the person felt sorry for it and scooped the beetle up into a red plastic cup. Then the person took the cup outside and turned it upside down, dropping the beetle into the soft dirt of a garden bed. The beetle crawled away and found itself a new home in the garden, before anyone else tried to kill it.

Moral: Never, ever give up. Even if persistence doesn’t get you where you want to be, someone might feel sorry for you and give you a hand…especially if helping you is easier than disposing of your dead body.

 

Starting on Catspaw

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I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today, but in a good way. I’ve just ordered the proof copy of Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories. And a few minutes before that, I finished reading through the rough draft of Catspaw. For anyone who has finished reading the e-book version of Persnickety, this is the story that Gina was writing in “Giant’s Gold.” I wrote Catspaw as a Camp NaNoWriMo novel in June 2012, and hadn’t looked at it since. I was afraid that I would start reading it and discover a ton of errors that would require a major rewrite.

I was pleasantly surprised. I kept finding forgotten treasures in scenes and bits of dialog I had forgotten. I had to force myself to put the manuscript down and go to bed last night, because I was only half-way through by 10:30. I corrected a few typos, made a couple of minor changes, and gave the manuscript to my first beta-reader. Lacking the funds to pay a content editor, I’m hoping he can help me decide if the story works as well as I hope. I’m now waiting for him to read it and get back to me. And if he doesn’t get on it soon, I’ll have to go into the other room and bug him about it. 🙂 The disadvantages of helping family members….

About Catspaw… In June 2012, I had a ten-month-old kitten named Persnickety, who liked to sleep on my bed. (These days, he prefers cardboard boxes and my easy chair.) One day, I looked over at the cat, and thought, “What if he suddenly turned into a human? Well, he’s a boy, so he’d turn into a man. And if I was sleeping, and woke up to find him in my bed, I’d certainly freak out.” Up to that point, I had only ever finished the rough drafts of two Young Adult fantasy novels, so I planned that type of story again. And the story emerged from there.

Catspaw is about a young prince, who is turned into a kitten to save him from a murderous uncle. He finds a home with the daughter of a woodcutter, who lets him sleep on her bed. That is, until Percy turns eighteen, and turns back into a human, with no memory of anything that came before. As his memory of his human past starts returning, he sets off in search of his past, in company with the son and daughter of the woodcutter. But the more Percy learns about his past, the more he discovers that things are not always as they seem.

While I’m waiting to finish Persnickety for publication in paperback, I will be working on getting Catspaw ready to publish as well. Which means I get to go through all this nit-picky, time-consuming editing, formatting, cover creation, and proofing process all over again. I can’t wait.

Other projects on my to-do list are:

  1. Finish outlining Time Will Tell, so I can write the rough draft. I’m hoping to write that one for July Camp Nano. And maybe I’ll be able to write the sequel to that for November Nano.
  2. Get a store plug-in set up on this site, so I can sell my e-books directly. This will allow me to give my readers unlimited access to their purchases for all their reading devices without having to repurchase the book for the new device.
  3. I’ve also got some new short story ideas that I want to work on. I’ll share more on that later, if it works out.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader or proofreader for Catspaw or my other stories, please send me a message privately.

Formatting for Paperback Part II

I have spent the last two days attempting to format my novel for paperback. Let me tell you, this is not a process for the faint of heart! And if you are not good with computer software, or possess an unlimited amount of patience—if you are not good with detailed, boring, repetitive tasks, or obsessed with persisting until you get it right—I recommend that you either pay or trade for someone to do your formatting for you.

That being said, it wasn’t that bad—but there is a learning curve. I spent hours yesterday trying to format Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories for printing through CreateSpace. I was using LibreOffice, a free word processing program, which probably increased the time and level of frustration. I tried using a template, I tried using Page Styles and Text Styles and Paragraph Styles. I even tried using Scribus, a free desktop-publishing program. But having made a little progress, taking the time to actually learn Scribus was not something I had the patience for, and I went back to LibreOffice. Someone somewhere probably knows a better way to do this, but I didn’t have the benefit of their expertise.

It seemed that every time I changed a page style, several other pages would change as well. I tried creating three custom page styles, and that seemed to work. But then when I reopened my document yesterday afternoon, all my custom styles had been renamed Convert (Number). And there were over seventy Convert styles! I had no chance of figuring out which ones to use, so I ended up deleting all of them and starting over.

What it finally came down to was knowing how to use the formatting tools properly. I had to use one Style for the Front Matter, Left Page and Right Page for the actual story, and then a Default Style for the back matter. In many cases, I kept having to reassign each page with the correct style. Because I wanted each story to begin on a Right Page, I had to insert a few blank pages. And blank pages shouldn’t have headers or footers, which meant they also had to be the Default Style, which would mess up my Left and Right pages for a bit. Sometimes I ended up having to delete the blank page, then create a new page break with Default Style to fix this. Then I discovered that despite following the instructions to imbed my fonts, CreateSpace’s Interior Reviewer kept telling me that I had a problem with fonts that weren’t imbedded. However, exporting to PDF solved that problem.

Thinking I was nearly done, I stayed up to keep working for “just a few more minutes.” I kept finding problems—that one blank page that had somehow picked up a header and footer—the headers that I had inadvertently put on the wrong pages because of the way LibreOffice shows the layout—the huge spaces I had created between words when I justified the text—the page numbers I had forgotten to update in my Table of Contents. And of course, part way through, I just had to decide to change my page size and add in the running headers along the top of the pages.

But I learned—A LOT! I learned that some decisions need to be made in the beginning and then I need to stick with them. Page size, headers, and footers fall into this category. Font decisions are also helpful, but using Formatting Styles, it’s not so difficult to change them. Just make sure that both sets of page numbers use the same font and font size. And be prepared to spend a lot of time on this while you’re learning the process. I’m glad I formatted for e-book first, so I already had most of my front and back matter ready, and had already learned how to use Formatting Styles. And most importantly, don’t get obsessed with this project, if you can help it. I ended up staying up two hours past my usual bedtime before I finally uploaded a good-looking PDF to CreateSpace. And then I woke up again around 5:30 a.m., thinking about what I had accomplished, and how I was going to create my cover, which has to be a separate file. So yes, I’m more than a little tired this morning.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to the next formatting project. I want to see if I’ve actually conquered the process, if I can do it faster next time. I also want to spend a couple of days learning Scribus, so I can try using that for the next novel. I wish I had InDesign, because Hugh Howey has a wonderful Youtube tutorial on formatting with InDesign. But Adobe programs are expensive, and my budget currently only allows for a little more than free. But yes, I am just crazy enough to want to do this again. I’m not happy with this part of my personality. I think it’s the same part of me that loved Accounting classes in college, that delights in crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. I wish I still got this excited and obsessed while doing the actual writing. I think the logical side of my brain likes the nitpicky production stuff, and the creative side likes generating the ideas. But they don’t want to work together enough to do the actual writing. Perhaps that too will come.

Formatting for Paperback

I keep meaning to write a new blog post, just in case anyone is reading them, but I’m either busy or completely unmotivated.

I’m supposed to be writing a new novel for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I’ve barely started it. I’ve written 30,000 words this month, starting with two new short stories that I meant to finish before camp started. The rest was basically character development and world-building for Time Will Tell, the novel I decided to work on after I lost interest in the romance novella I had planned to write. So far I’ve got a lot of quirky characters, a world with twin suns and a mixture of modern and old-fashioned lifestyles, and the faintest hint of plot. I’ve got an inexperienced Sand Witch who sets out to find the answer to her clan’s water shortage, and a jealous Immortal who wants to destroy the twin Earth Goddesses who keep the world from falling apart. There’s also a Professional Stalker whose only friend is the narrator, a wizard with a British accent who dresses like a cowboy and rides a wyvern who only eats Oreos, mermaids, female sailors and pirates, a wish dragon, and a whole lot of chocolate. It should be a lot of fun, if I can just flesh out the plot a bit more.

I think I wrote a grand total of just under 400 words today. My excuse is that I didn’t sleep well last night, and that never helps me write. I finally gave up on the writing for today, and started working on formatting Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories for a paperback edition. As a result, my brain is even more fried right now.

It turns out that formatting for paperback is quite a bit different from formatting for e-book. I also can’t finalize the cover until I know exactly how many pages the book is going to be, because I need to know the exact thickness of the spine. CreateSpace tries to simplify it for us, but they can only do so much.

First, I had to decide on the page size, choose a font, and decide if I wanted a header on my pages. I ended up flipping through several paperback novels, and decided that headers are more or less optional. The hardest part of today’s formatting session was figuring out how to get page numbers on the story, but not on the front matter or the back matter. I finally had to create three separate page styles in LibreOffice, but it ended up being a simple thing. I just had to use the page breaks with the page styles. So I’ve gotten that much done today. Now I’m just hoping when I open my document again tomorrow, everything will still be there!

Progress Update 4/8/15

Today is not going so well for me. I’ve made some progress this year, as far as writing. But it’s certainly not all unicorns and rainbows and fluffy pink bunny rabbits.

Last month, I made the decision to switch webhosting companies. I made the transition to the new service, got my website all set up, then decided to try setting up a second website. At that point, the additional website had problems, which required additional technical support, and caused problems with the entire account, which took this website down as well. After waiting over a week for someone to fix the problem, I still hadn’t had anyone get back to me. So I made the decision yesterday to cancel that webhosting service and switch to this one. Which means that I spent a few hours yesterday and today setting up my website again and adding my book information and blog posts back in. Not that my blogs are all that valuable, but I had saved them in Scrivener, so they were there. So that’s basically done.

I did finally get Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories published as an e-book. I even got both books published to Smashwords, so they can be found on barnesandnoble.com and other sites as well. But I still have to figure out the cover for the print book, and get everything together and formatted. And then of course, the next important task is to get something else written, polished and published.

It’s currently April Camp Nanowrimo, and I’m trying to get something new written. I used the first week of camp to finish writing two short stories. Each of them is meant to be a thank-you gift for readers who review my books and send me a link to the review. So far, most people haven’t even collected their free book copies, let alone requested the free story. I’m starting to wonder if I’m just wasting my time here, if anyone even cares about what I write, or if it’s just more crap in the crap-filled universe of e-book publishing. So please, if you’ve read any of my stories and liked them, I would really love to hear from you. I feel like I’m spitting into the wind today. I know part of that is just the insatiable need we writers have for approval, and part of it is that I’m having a hard time planning my current project, and therefore questioning everything I’ve already done or ever hope to do.

I’m also trying to work through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course. April camp was supposed to be my motivation to get the story outline done and start the writing. It hasn’t worked out that way at all. I started off planning to write a clean Christmas romance novella, but I’ve lost interest in that story for the time being. There are a few reasons for this, I think. First, I had those short stories to finish, and that pretty much consumed my every waking thought until I got them done. Then I ended up dealing with website issues. I also got ideas for two fairly large projects.

One of them is a writing project, an idea for an insane fantasy story that involves a world with two suns and a two-day time zone system, a Sand Witch who travels the world looking for Time to ask him a question, a cowboy wizard with a British accent, a magic hat and a pair of bizarre pets, a professional stalker whose only friend is the narrator, mermaids, a revenge-seeking raccoon with a pop-gun, female pirates, and so much more. I’m still working on plotting this story out, to see if I can give it some structure.

The other idea is for a website dedicated to clean romance novels, since it’s difficult to find clean romance novels that are not inspirational fiction. At least, it’s difficult for me, since I read so much and so fast. So I still have a website to put together for that, books to read and review, lists to collect. It’s not directly related to my own writing, since I don’t currently have any romance novels ready for publication, but it still takes time. I’m excited about having a project that has to do with reading rather than writing, but there’s only so much time, and I feel very strongly that I should be writing first. Except that some days, like today, that just isn’t going to happen.