Category Archives: Writing

I’m Sick of the Sound of My Own Voice – But I Hope You’re Not!

Well, I’ve finally done it! I’ve finished editing the audiobook of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened. I confess it was a much more laborious process than I had originally anticipated, and even now I’m not sure I’m quite going to meet ACX’s specifications. I suspect that I may have to do a bit more digital manipulation and possibly even some re-recording before they give it the go-ahead, but with only three days remaining until my book release, I’m thrilled just to move it to one of my two dozen back burners for a while.

I’ll admit that I was surprised to learn that my book cover would have to be reformatted for the audiobook. I mean, I understand why they want a square cover – presumably to mimic the look of a CD, laserdisc, or vinyl record – but in the current digital age, it doesn’t really seem as if it should matter, particularly when the cover is for browsing purposes only and no one is actually going to receive a physical product. Evidently technology moves faster than consumer preferences over what their book covers, whether audio or eBook, ought to look like. Anyway, here is the adjusted cover. As you can see, although the execution differs, the “empty chair” theme remains:

Mother's Death Audiobook

But more on the audiobook production and publishing process later. For now, here’s the five-minute sample recording I submitted along with the rest of my files. I would really appreciate any feedback you could give me on this, because I’ve just noticed something very strange – when I play it back on the desktop computer on which I did the editing, it sounds pretty clean, but on my laptop there are quite a few annoying clicks and pops, and it also seems a lot quieter. I thought you weren’t even supposed to get degradation on a transfer of a digital recording, so maybe it’s my crappy laptop speakers or my even crappier internet connection.

So what do you think? Could you listen to me read for two and a half hours? At this point, believe me – better you than me!

Words Reveal What Masks Conceal: An Essay on Halloween

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned us a creative writing project for Halloween. We were to compose short stories, which we would then read aloud before the class, coupled with a competition of sorts in which the students would vote on who had written the best one.

Now in my pre-teen years, I was not what you would term the most popular kid in school. Perhaps it was those horrible “Student-of-the-Month” photos of me hanging in the main hallway, which they somehow always managed to take right after gym when my hair was flying every which way, or perhaps it was the oxford shirts and corduroy trousers in which my mother dressed me because I refused to participate in ridiculous wastes of time like school-clothes shopping. It certainly didn’t help that in addition to being smart and studious, I was also very, very shy, which led many to believe that I was stuck-up. I suppose if you’re naturally adept at making conversation, it’s difficult to understand that other kids might not be.

You can therefore easily picture the scene in the classroom that day: the anxious adolescent girl slouched in her seat, sweat drenching the armpits of her button-up shirt as she watched the clock, fervently hoping that time would run out before her turn came. You can imagine my nervousness when, five minutes before the bell, my teacher called me to the front of the class, the last reader to go; my terror as I stumbled up to her desk clutching the half-sheets of paper on which I’d scrawled my assignment. As usual, I had pushed the limits on the suggested length – my story was at least twice as long as anyone else’s – and the only saving grace of this enforced public humiliation, I thought, was that I would undoubtedly run out of time to finish it before the lunch bell rang.

Tucking my loose hair back behind my ears and focusing my eyes firmly on my papers, I began to read. It turned out that reading wasn’t so bad; unlike giving an oral report, you didn’t actually have to look at any of the other students. And it was a decent story, I reflected as I flipped through the pages, concentrating hard on not losing my place. At least my classmates were sitting silently, which made them easier to ignore.

At last I reached the climax of my tale, which was where it turned gruesome. The main character had gotten trapped in a fire, and I remember describing, in disgusting detail, the sizzle of the hairs frying on his arms as the hot flames neared. I remember describing the flames devouring his flesh, great flaps of it falling from his skeleton as his skin seared away. And I remember the silence of the classroom; I remember it breaking, the moans and groans that swelled all around me as I depicted my main character’s excruciating demise, only to be interrupted by the harsh clanging of the bell.

No one stirred; no one rose; no one left. I glanced at my teacher, who nodded. The other students sat rapt while I finished my story, and they applauded when I was done. There was no question that I had won the contest.

I was pleased that my story had gone over well, of course, but it wasn’t until the following week, when other kids were still coming up to talk to me about it, that I understood that I had somehow made an impression that went beyond my gruesome, graphic horror story. It was as if I had revealed that somewhere beneath that classic nerdy exterior was a real honest-to-goodness person, a kid who thought about things like destruction and death, and flames eating flesh, and how best to describe such horrific events.

I’ve never been big on Halloween, myself. I’ve never liked the pressure of having to pick out a costume and then explain why I chose it; I’ve never even understood the appeal of dressing up and playing pretend. I have other ways of exploring my dark side. Nowadays you won’t find me in a starched, striped shirt, or in old-fashioned slacks, but don’t be fooled by the sweats and sports bra in which you’ll typically see me lounging about the house, because that’s not who I am, either. It’s just a costume; an innocuous mask meant to show nothing, to reveal nothing, to suggest nothing. My thoughts are inside me. They can never be exposed by a mere choice of outfit.

Jack-O-Lantern

 

Book Bloggers Wanted to Host My Forthcoming Memoirs!

Are you a book blogger seeking content for your site? Would you like to host a guest post or author interview, maybe even do a book review?

I am seeking bloggers for an informal blog tour to promote the November 7th release of my forthcoming memoirs. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness commemorates my adolescent experience of my mother’s psychosis, while Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past is an autobiographical collection of short stories and essays inspired by real-life events.

Both books are short (about ninety pages), are suitable for audiences from teen/YA on up, and will be available in paperback as well as eBook and audiobook. I will be happy to provide whatever type of content you desire, whether it’s a blurb, an excerpt, a guest post on a particular topic, or an interview (either written or oral), and I am also open to offering copies to your readers if you’d like to host a giveaway. Also, although I do have a number of reviewers lined up, I will gladly take more – lots more! – so if either of these books sounds interesting to you and you have time in your schedule to read and review one or both, I will be delighted to send you a free digital copy at your request.

Not a formal book blogger but think you might want to host a stop on my blog tour anyway? Great! In the interest of friendship, I’ve refrained from asking my social media acquaintances who are not book bloggers for reviews or guest posts, but I’m delighted to appear in almost any venue if you think your readers will enjoy my story.

You can contact me via email at lorilschafer(at)outlook(dot)com or via Twitter @LoriLSchafer if you’re interested. I look forward to hearing from you!

Bunny of Doom

The blog hop bunny. I know he looks ponderous, but watch out once he gets moving!

 

The First Review Is In – and It’s Five Stars!

The first review is in – and it’s five stars!

Yes, I am very excited to report that my very first reviewer (and new favorite person), fellow Goodreads author L. F. Falconer (http://www.lffalconer.com/) has rated On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened five stars! Here’s a link to her very thoughtful review on Goodreads; I am also reproducing it below.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1071102909

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

Oct 06, 2014 L.F. Falconer rated it 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review, and when I initially opened it up to quickly peruse a few pages, before I knew it I had reached the end of the first chapter as I sat back with a “Wow!”

Lori Schafer delivers a poignant tale in this memoir of life endured with a woman deep in the grip of mental illness. A tight, eloquent writing style paints each scene with tints of disquietude which enable the reader easy access into the trauma of the moments revealed. A seemingly erratic mix of memories subtly uncovers the sense of paralyzing helplessness inflicted by the parent/child relationship. Schafer managed to fully capture her past without turning it into a “pity party” or a spiteful tirade.

This story touches the heart with its haunting, straight-forward intimacy. While easily read in a couple of hours, its echo will linger much longer in the mind. Excellent read!

 * * *

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have happy dancing to do!

Good Morning Twitter

Goodreads Giveaways!

I have just made autographed paperback copies of each of my forthcoming books available as Goodreads giveaways. Both giveaways end on Sunday, November 23rd and are open internationally. You can visit the links below to enter:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Stories from My Memory-Shelf by Lori Schafer

Stories from My Memory-Shelf

by Lori Schafer

Giveaway ends November 23, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Good luck and good reading!

EBook Formatting Troubleshooting – Style Issues

Recently I got into a discussion with some fellow writers regarding eBook formatting. Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject – far from it – but as I am in the process of finalizing the eBook files for my forthcoming books On Hearing of My Mother’s Death and Stories from My Memory-Shelf, I guess I figure I must know a little something about it, especially when it comes to troubleshooting.

Because I had trouble. Oh, I had big, big trouble. When I first started writing about two and a half years ago, I knew nothing about “styles” or the proper way to format a document for eBook conversion – I just started typing. I manually indented new paragraphs and used hard returns whenever I felt like it. When I wanted to change the font, I changed it. These methods work fine for creating ordinary Word documents, but they spell disaster for eBooks.

It isn’t uncommon, of course. Many writers are just like me – they know more about writing than about technology and screw up their files just as badly. And often the best way to fix those files is simply to create a copy, eliminate all of the formatting, and start fresh. The problem for me was that these first two books weren’t written like novels, in one single file, but were rather compilations of individual pieces that I wrote at different times and at different stages of my formatting re-education. In addition, the structure of each book – particularly Stories from My Memory-Shelf, which features author commentary on the individual pieces included in it – meant that I had already spent a lot of time formatting, and would have to redo all of it if I started over.

So I opted to fix my errors one by one, which worked out fine until I got to one last problem that I just didn’t know how to solve. Most of the mistakes were easy enough to find once I did the conversion because they were items I had simply overlooked, but these last few were incomprehensible because when I went back to examine at my original files, everything seemed fine. The file looked perfect. The font was correct, the spacing was correct; there was nothing in the document to suggest that there should be a problem, except that in the converted .mobi file, there clearly was.

Well, I finally started looking at good paragraphs side by side with the funky paragraphs to see if I could spot a difference, and Hallelujah, there it was, a little blip of movement near the top of my screen that caught my eye. Even though I hadn’t used styles to begin with, by the time I’d worked my way through this process, the bulk of the document was coded to “Normal.” The funky paragraphs were not. So even though I had manually adjusted all of the text to read properly, the underlying code (or whatever’s going on down there) was still transferring into the .mobi file under Microsoft’s default of Calibri Size 11 with 1.15 spacing, which, I’m convinced, they invented just to make our lives difficult, because who actually uses that?

Now it isn’t my intention here to go into all of the details on prepping a file for eBook conversion, because there’s an abundance of great literature on that already. I particularly recommend Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide , which will tell you almost everything you need to know about proper file formatting. However, you can see how a small but nagging little issue like mine could be very difficult and frustrating to trace when there’s absolutely no visible indication that there’s an error, and therefore I thought it would be worthwhile to record my process of how I found and uncovered it.

Hence these two videos. I made them using CamStudio, which is open-source software that permits you to record visually what you’re doing on-screen, as well as add audio through a microphone. I discovered it when I was leaving my last job, which was incredibly difficult, complex, and involved heavy use of a very obscure software program. Since I was literally the only person on the planet who knew how to do my job, I thought it would be nice to make a library of training videos before I left that could be used as backups, just in case. It took me well over a hundred hours, but what a great resource to leave behind! More informative and way faster than trying to write out procedures, too. And although the software has some practical limitations – I’ve had errors making recordings that were too long or with too high a refresh rate – it’s tremendously useful for a little project like this, where you want to be able to both demonstrate and describe something on your computer while. You will notice that if I move the mouse too quickly – I tend to use it as a pointer – the screen blurs because it doesn’t refresh quickly enough, but then it settles out again.

I know that this specific situation probably won’t apply to most of you who are reading this, but I’m curious – is it helpful? I’m considering making more recordings like this for other common “modern writer” situations like audiobook editing, print book formatting, etc., if those would be useful to people. Apart from the video management, it isn’t all that much additional effort – basically I’m just talking my way through my own work – so if there’s interest, I’m happy to do it.

You can also access my training and other videos via my new YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb5RugrJMSHh6_4hkgHmkMA.

Why I Write

First, let me thank writer and born buckaroo Charli Mills for introducing me to this blog hop. You can read her “Why I Write” post here:

http://carrotranch.com/2014/08/19/why-i-write/

Like Charli, I have no single explanation for why I write. I am not one of those writers who feels internally compelled to write, as if it’s as necessary to me as eating or breathing. For a long time – fifteen years, in fact – I didn’t write at all, unless it was for school or work. I’ll never know the reason why I stopped – I simply lost the creative impulse, I suppose – but I do know why, two and a half years ago now, I started again.

A few years back, I found myself with an inexplicable yet incredibly powerful attraction to a married man. I suppose it’s quite common at my age, because by the time you get to be my age, most men and women of your acquaintance are married. I was, of course, painfully aware that nothing could ever come of it, and naturally I never had any intention of trying to make anything come of it, either. Except in my mind.

Yet the attraction persisted. And what was more, in spite of the impossibility of the situation, I found, to my surprise, that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed thinking about it, I enjoyed considering the possible scenarios, I enjoyed the idea of it probably as much or more than I would have enjoyed actually doing it. And one day it occurred to me that instead of wasting my time with idle fantasies – because I am at heart a New Englander, and it goes against my nature to engage in activities that are unproductive – that perhaps I should try to write them down. Perhaps, I thought, it might be entertaining to tell our story, the way it would happen, if it ever could happen.

What would happen? I wondered. How would that actually pan out, if he and I got together? What would it be like if we had an affair? Not just the sexy parts, although those were important, too, but the nitty-gritty everyday details of it. How would it begin? Where would we meet? How would we cover it up? Would our relationship be about sex or love or something in between? What would happen when the passion fizzled, as it inevitably must? What if there were an emergency when we were together? How would it finally end?

These were all interesting questions that were well worth exploring. Nonetheless, I didn’t intend for the idea to grow and emerge the way it did. I saw it is merely an exercise, not as My Life with Michael, the 110,000-word novel that it eventually became. But somehow in the course of writing that novel, I felt as if I’d had that affair. I had been with this man, from the crude beginnings of our forbidden courtship through our bittersweet parting some four years later. I no longer wondered what it would be like to be with him. In my imagination, I already had been.

Possibilities began to open in my mind. I didn’t only have to write about my own personal secret wishes and fantasies. There were many fascinating scenarios to explore; many non-traditional relationships rife with their own potential for comedy and drama. I began another book, Just the Three of Us, a very funny and surprisingly sentimental romance involving three friends who somehow find themselves in a three-way love relationship.

How I loved writing that book! How deeply I submerged myself in that story, in the humor and unlikelihood of it; how well I got to know those imaginary characters, even the main one, who is startlingly similar to me. How protective I became of my time on the roof in the sunshine with my laptop; how cranky I’d become when stupid, meaningless irritations like work took time away from my sun and my writing. How much my life revolved around that book while I was writing it; how easy it was to center my world around those three people and their problems, which were amusing, instead of around me and mine, which were not.

Yet I didn’t know then what was happening to me. I couldn’t have guessed that my need to sit quietly for long hours in the sun was about more than a desire to write, about putting my feelings and fears and fantasies down where I could read them. I couldn’t have known then that within two years, there wouldn’t be much else that I could do without pain. I couldn’t have suspected that whatever undiagnosed form of arthritis – most likely rheumatoid – that I’ve got would have debilitated me to the extent that it has; that it would have reduced me to trying to squeeze in just a few more months of travel before I’m unable to do things like hike or drive. As often as I had daydreamed about leaving my jobs, I never could have dreamed that I would be forced to leave them, that I would be unable to perform simple tasks like shuffling papers around on my desk without pain. I couldn’t have imagined that writing would become not merely a source of comfort and solace, but my only source of comfort and solace. I couldn’t have anticipated that the fantasy life I was living in my books would become more precious to me than my real life, that it would become virtually the only means I had of truly living.

It was fortunate that we found each other again when we did, writing and I. Because before I got sick, I could have imagined a life without it. I had a life without it. Perhaps some part of me knew that that was about to change. Perhaps subconsciously I guessed that something was wrong, that soon I would need something to occupy the new wide-open spaces in my once-active life, that soon I would have a compelling reason to write. It is rather a funny coincidence, at that. Every once in a while I suppose we do get what we need, when we need it.

At times the course of my life has felt like traversing the Badlands of South Dakota. Every time I manage to fight my way over one rough, craggy peak, another looms larger before me, more ominous and treacherous than the last. They aren’t obstacles in my path. They are my path.

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Writing cannot smooth the way for me. It can’t solve my problems, or reverse the progress of my illness, or alleviate the physical pain that is, at times, nearly all-consuming. But it does make it easier to bear. It does make it possible for me to forget it for a while. It does let me pretend that little has changed for me, apart from the normal changes that come with aging. It lets me dream of a world in which my problems are larger than my hip waking me in the middle of the night or not being able to hold a pint glass that’s full of beer. My characters have fun, happy problems – about sexual desire, about getting older, about finding love and keeping it alive. My novels give me dilemmas I can manage and resolve, not the absurd yet constant difficulties that pervade my life now, like how many days it’s going to take my joints to recover from a hour’s walk, or how many trips I must make up to the roof to get all of my stuff up there so that I can write.

Writing is like a gift to me now. It gives me another life, an alternate reality, a world in which I can do and be anything I want to do and be, a world in which I have no limitations except those of my own imagination. In a time in which I’m struggling to accept the me that I now am and one day will be, it is the last remnant of the me I used to be, of the me I always thought I could and would be.

Why do I write? Because writing is all I have left.

No, I take that back.

It’s what I have left.

* * *

Please be sure to visit the following three lovely authors, each of whom will be posting their own “Why I Write” essays within the next few weeks:

Hi! I’m Brianna Soloski and I’m an English writing graduate student, focusing on editing and publishing. I’m an avid reader and writer and have self-published a few things on Amazon. I have a BA in Humanities and an MA in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College. When I’m not writing or working or going to class, I can be found with my Kindle in hand. I also love spending time with friend and traveling. I run a freelance business and am the editorial assistant of DAVID Magazine, a Las Vegas city lifestyle magazine.
Blog | Facebook Author Page | Facebook Personal Page | Twitter

Penny Wilson is a writer whose skills span fiction, mysteries and poetry. While juggling her career in Fort Worth, Texas with family and friends, she tirelessly devotes time each day to her true passion…writing. Having spent her youth in a transient family, Penny believes that her many unusual experiences, including meeting people from a variety of backgrounds and environments, have helped to shape her outlook on life. These experiences continue to enhance her writing, creating characters that readers can connect with in her stories and poetry. Penny is currently working on three books: a fictional story based on fact about American migrant workers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, a fairy tale that will appeal to the tween set, and a fictional adventure/mystery that will soon be completed. Penny’s blog, http://pennylanethoughts.wordpress.com/, has a number of loyal followers and explores her childhood memories, poetry, and other topics.

Paige Adams Strickland, a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is married with two daughters. Her first book, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, is about growing up in the 1960s-80s (Baby-Scoop Era) and searching for her first identity. It is also the story of her adoptive family and in particular her father’s struggles to figure out his place in the world while Paige strives to find hers. After hours she enjoys family and friends, pets, reading, Zumba ™ Fitness, gardening and baseball.
Website: www.akintothetruth.com.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AkintotheTruth

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me That Being Unemployed Was Going To Be So Much Work??!!

Unemployment Beach Large 2

I simply must be doing something wrong.

As some of you know, I quit my jobs a couple of months ago. Yes, I said “jobs” and yes, I do mean all of them, even the private tax and bookkeeping clients. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it an adolescent rebellion, call it a cry for help; I don’t care, just don’t call upon me to do your financials anymore!

I didn’t kid myself when I made this decision. I knew perfectly well that being a full-time writer was going to be just as much – if not more – work than being an employee, and also that the pay was going to be a lot less, a starting salary of zero dollars per annum being fairly easy to beat. But I thought, heck – if I’ve written half a million words in two years while I was working my day jobs, imagine what I’ll be able to do when ALL of my time is my own!

No, no, no! And no!

The sad fact is, in the two months since I’ve been working at home, I’ve barely written anything at all. Ironically, I simply don’t have the time.

It started to go bad about the middle of June, just two weeks after I kissed my last job goodbye. I decided to release several free eBooks of some short stories and essays that I’ve written. Now eBooks aren’t really that hard to put together once you know how to do them, but they do take time. There’s the interior formatting, writing and assembling the front and back matter, and let’s not forget the all-important cover design. Of course, my logic was, these are free eBooks; I’m not about to drop hundreds of dollars having professional covers designed for books that I intend to be permanently gratis, so I supposed I should just suck it up, learn some basic image-manipulation software, and design them myself. Easy, right?

No, no, no!

I suppose you might say my foray into graphic design was more time-consuming and less rewarding than I had hoped, although I did at least get the job done and was relatively pleased with the results. I’m also confident now that I can assemble a fairly decent-looking free book cover or fancy picture-tweet when called upon to do so, which came in incredibly handy last week when the books came out. More on that later.

However, learning some basic cover design turned out to be only the first crack in the iceberg. My dream of being a full-time “writer” really started to come apart a few weeks later, when I decided to record audiobooks of my forthcoming short memoirs, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened and Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. Doing my own recordings sounded like a fabulous idea. There’s a certain appeal, I think, in having a memoir read by the person who wrote it, and in some ways it actually sounded like less trouble than auditioning narrators and coordinating with the one I chose.

No, no, no!

Well, okay, maybe. If you’re in it for the long haul, I would say it’s generally worth the trouble, particularly since, if you’re your own narrator, you earn both shares of the royalties – assuming you sell some books. Here’s the problem. It’s not just the money you have to drop on equipment and soundproofing; it’s the time you have to spend learning what type of equipment and soundproofing you need, and what kind of setup and software you want to work with, not to mention the many hours it may take to construct a home studio if you don’t want to fork over the cash for a professional space, which I did not.

And then, of course, you still have to record the books. I’m going to do a whole separate post about all of this sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience may prove invaluable to any of you who are considering recording your own audiobooks, and I want to be able to describe the process with more objectivity than my current overwhelmed-and-exhausted state of mind will permit me to do. For now, let me just say that deciding to build an audio studio from scratch and then record two books in the four weeks before I was supposed to go out of town for two months was not the smartest decision I have ever made.

Finally I had made enough progress where I felt comfortable making my annual trek down to Ventura County. Although I desperately needed a break, I didn’t kid myself about this trip, either. I planned on working the entire time I was there; I just figured it would be nice to work on the beach for a change, and enjoy some ocean noises and views while I was at it. I even bought one of those keyboard protectors for my computer so I could start the intro to my next memoir, The Long Road Home. I took a picture that I might have shared with you, but I found something strangely sad about a woman in a bikini sitting on the sand in a chair with a laptop, so I deleted it. Not, perhaps, my most relaxing week at the beach.

But the real problem was that while I was down there, I received an offer from videoblocks.com for a week’s worth of free downloads of stock video footage, up to twenty clips a day. Great! I thought. I’ve been meaning to begin assembling some video trailers for my upcoming books; this will give me a good start.

No, no, no!

First I had to research clips that I thought I might want. Then I had to wade through the seemingly endless results to find the few I thought I could actually use. Then I had to download them, which, what with the lousy wireless signal I had at my motel, took numerous attempts. And finally, of course, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the clips I was finding weren’t quite what I’d had in mind. And that maybe what I really ought to do is just buy a video camera and some basic recording equipment, and shoot the footage I want myself.

At this point, I’m sure you can already envision the horrible hole into which I’ve dug myself. Because now, of course, not only do I have to learn how to use this wonderful new camera, I have to learn how to edit, and add text, and captions, and music, and oh, by the way, then I have to go searching for music I want to use, and what if I can’t find what I’m looking for?

Forget it. My skills on the clarinet were never that good. Besides, I’ve taken music theory and I know I don’t have what it takes to be a composer. I suppose I could use music that’s in the public domain, but who would perform it? Somehow I’m not convinced that two minutes of me humming Beethoven’s Greatest Hits is going to inspire the mood I’m seeking for my trailers…

And if all that wasn’t enough? My free eBooks finally came out last week. Frankly, I hadn’t planned on doing much to promote them because I figured they’d be mere drops in Amazon’s vast bucket of indie-published work and would entirely escape notice. I was merely hoping to get some reviews, and maybe earn a few new readers. You can therefore imagine my very great surprise when all five of them, without any effort on my part, landed in the Top 100 Free (and some as high as the Top 20) in their respective categories – which, granted, isn’t saying much, not when Amazon has categories as narrow as “Kindle Books – Kindle Short Reads – 30 minutes or less – Romance.” Still, that’s certainly way better than NOT appearing in the Top 100, so I thought, oh, what the heck, I wonder what would happen if I did do a little promotion? Several hours a day of it later, I was in fact able to get each book into the Top 20 in its category, which is, of course, very cool because that means you’re on the front page of the Top 100 list, which means more people see your book, which means it gets more downloads, and so on – it’s a partially self-perpetuating cycle. I’m actually going to do a whole separate post about this, too, sometime soo – um, sometime – because I think my experience with this was tremendously educational and I truly have some awesome and very concrete insights to share.

Unfortunately, since I used a third-party publisher instead of going through Kindle Direct, I lost most of my “new release” window – which I will explain in this other post I will someday write – and in the last few days my eBooks have subsequently lost a ton of ground in their rankings, which takes some of the satisfaction out of putting in the time to promote them. The best performers (for the curious) were my romance shorts “Anything Can Happen” and “The Sublet,” which reached #9 and #10 respectively in their category, although the eBook version of my essay “Is Your Anxiety Real?” climbed as high as #16, and my short story “Squirrel Revolution” did well enough to rank in Literature and Fiction as well as SciFi and Fantasy. Links to the Amazon pages are below if you want to check them out.

Each of these free eBooks is, or soon will be, also available on ITunes, Kobo, etc. – I simply haven’t had a chance to assemble the links yet. How lazy am I? you may be wondering. Well, not very. Fact is, I’ve been working my you-know-what off nearly round the clock trying to get things done to the point where I can take them with me. Because you see, this past Monday was when I was scheduled to leave on my big trip through Canada and Alaska for the next couple of months. That clearly didn’t happen, for the simple reason that although I can edit on the road if I must, I can’t very well record audio in my truck or out in the noisy wonders of nature. And if I still want to do this trip – and gosh darn it, more and more ever day, I do – there are certain things I am simply going to have to let go. I accepted this a couple of weeks ago, when I took days off of Twitter so that I could get other work done. Late last week I finally closed the windows on all of the blog posts I had hoped to read from the two weeks prior, so that now I have no idea what’s going on with any of the people I’m following (I hope there haven’t been any major disasters). And, as I mentioned, I gave up on the idea some time ago of actually doing any writing – except for tweets.

But there are certain things I cannot let go. Packing, for example. Rather an important detail, particularly since I plan on sleeping in my truck a fair portion of my nights on the road and therefore won’t have the space to simply “bring everything,” as I often do. Picking a route? Not quite as vital – although I probably ought to have at least the first day planned. But then there’s the shopping, and the laundry, and figuring out what clothes and books to take, and organizing all of my wonderful new office equipment so that it doesn’t get squished or bumped around but is readily accessible when I need it. And then I still have to install that fancy new voice-to-text recognition software I bought so that I can dictate while driving – one more thing I have to learn how to use.

But that, of course, is the one saving grace of this whole dreadful summer of overwork and underpay. Because as stressful as this “holiday” is going to be, with as much work as I will be hauling along, and as many projects as I’m now committed to complete, there is one aspect of it to which I am eagerly looking forward, and it has nothing to do with any activity I have planned, any sights I want to see, or any scenery I intend to enjoy. Because when I climb into my truck on Sunday – perhaps, at the worst, on Monday – and begin wending my way north, there will be one aspect of being unemployed for which I can be truly grateful. I will finally, finally, have time to write. And do you know what I say to that?

Yes, yes, yes!

***

NOW AVAILABLE! The following FREE e-Books by author Lori Schafer.

Anything Can Happen: A Romance Short

“I figured I’d better backtrack fast before he started thinking I liked him or something. But it’s hard to backpedal when you’ve got your foot in your mouth.”
Is it really over when it’s over? A self-contained short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Anything-Can-Happen-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WVGA/

The Sublet: A Romance Short

“On my other side, a man I’d never expected to see again was crawling into bed with me.”
When there’s nothing tying you down, how do you decide whether to stay or go? A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Sublet-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WVDI/

Careful: A Romance Short

“On bad days I wondered how old people ever even did it. Sometimes walking seemed like too much effort, let alone all the aerobicized contortionism that went with sex.”
How older people do it. A short story excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged.

Careful JPG

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

http://www.amazon.com/Careful-Lori-Schafer-ebook/dp/B00M77WUHA/

Squirrel Revolution

A whimsical look at the long-term effects of human activities on our furry little neighbors. Short story / speculative fiction.

Squirrel Revolution JPG

Awesome Indies Seeking Short Story Submissions for Anthology

There’s no money involved, but they are offering priority for reviews to authors who don’t currently have a book listed on their website.

http://awesomeindies.net/2014/06/04/request-short-story-submissions-awesome-indies/

Awesome Indies<

My Writing Process: The Roof is the Place to Work!

Greetings, and welcome to the writing process blog hop! I was introduced to this blog hop by Author S. Evan Townsend:

S. Evan Townsend has been called “America’s Unique Speculative Fiction Voice.” After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives in central Washington State with his wife and has three grown sons. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel. He currently has five published fantasy and science fiction novels.

http://blog.sevantownsend.com

Like the other participants in this blog hop, I’ve answered four assigned questions about my writing and how my writing process works. Please also take a moment to visit authors Jayne Denker, Briane Pagel, and Elise Abram, whose bios and links are at the end of this post. They will be answering the same questions next week.

1. What am I working on?

What am I not working on? ;)

But seriously, I have a variety of projects in the hopper. I’m putting the finishing touches on my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, which is being published in October. I’m 40,000 words into a new romance, a sequel to Just the Three of Us, which I’m hopeful will be just as sweet and funny as the original, and 120,000 words into my mega-monster of a novel Shipwreck Island: How One Woman Spent Twenty Years on an Island with Sixteen Sailors and Lived to Tell the Tale, which, frankly, is probably only about half done.

Although I’m not able to spend as much time on short work as I would like, I’ve also got twenty or so shorter pieces out on submission, and I’m preparing several e-book compilations of short stories and essays in a variety of genres, which I hope to release independently before I go out of town later this summer. In August and September, I’m planning a lengthy road trip across the United States and Canada, during which time I will be beginning my second memoir, The Long Road Home, the idea for which was inspired by this trip.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Easy – it doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. My novels have too much sex to be women’s fiction, too much humor to be erotica, and too few alpha males to be romances. But they’re entertaining nonetheless, and I like to think that rather than forcing my work to conform to a specific genre, maybe I can instead gently nudge the accepted conventions in new directions.

Now that I think of it, though, my memoir also suffers from some genre confusion, as segments of it are written as if they’re fiction. There are good reasons why I wrote it that way, as I explain in my book, but I suppose it also doesn’t read like typical nonfiction.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I don’t think about that very much – I just write what comes to me. My novels became novels because they were such big, long ideas, involving in-depth characterization and fairly complex plots. When I have shorter ideas, they become flash fiction or short stories. Of course, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my longest works revolve around relationships and sex – which seems to be mostly what I’m into right now – but I can easily see that changing as time passes and I become interested in other things.

My memoir actually began quite unintentionally. I had composed a number of short pieces – fiction and essays – depicting certain events in life with my mother, who became violently mentally ill when I was sixteen. At some point it occurred to me that it might be interesting to tie them together somehow – with a frame story, if you will. I’ll admit I was fairly stunned when it came together the way it did – it wasn’t something I had expected to write.

4. How does your writing process work?

It’s constantly in flux. I believe quite firmly that forcing myself to work on something when I’m not in the mood for it is not the pathway to greater productivity. You will never catch me committing to a certain number of words or hours per day, and I will likely never participate in NaNoWriMo or similar events. If I feel like writing, I write; if I feel like editing, I edit; if I feel like working on my latest novel, I do; if I feel like writing a blog post, I do that instead. There are always so many things I’m working on – and so few strict deadlines – that I rarely feel obligated to go against my mood, which I believe is one of the reasons I’ve been able to generate so much work in the past two years. Every so often I have to force myself to forego writing in order to complete “administrative” tasks, and that’s the one time my natural sense of discipline and New England work ethic have to kick in and make me do things even when I don’t want to. But I do enjoy the satisfaction of metaphorically crossing those types of tasks off my list, and I’m always happier afterwards to go back to writing.

In terms of how I write, I’m all over the place. A short piece I will generally compose from beginning to end, with at least half a dozen revisions before I’m happy with it. My books I’ve mostly started in the middle, writing individual scenes when I feel inspired to do them, and simply positioning them in the text in the order I plan for them to appear, so that I can tie them together later. When I get to about a hundred pages, I go back to the beginning and start revising, editing and adding new material as I go along, the end result being that I never really complete a “rough draft.” After I finish another hundred pages or so, I’ll go back and do the same thing, from start to finish, which means that different sections of my manuscript will often be at different stages of polish. Some chapters I will intentionally not complete because I haven’t yet decided exactly how they’re going to go, while others might be virtually in their final form very early on in the process. And then of course when the whole thing has been written from start to finish, I go through it several more times, picking out awkward sentences and those that could be funnier, more clever, or more meaningful or poignant, and re-working them accordingly.

This is where I usually work:

Writing Process I

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Last year I bought this stand-alone greenhouse that’s bolted down to a small deck on the one flat part of the roof. As long as the sun’s out, it stays comfortably warm in there, even in winter. This is wonderful for me because I do prefer to work outdoors, and besides that, it gives me a natural schedule – mornings and evenings are for desk work, afternoons are for writing. There’s a power outlet right by the window where I can plug in my laptop, and that chair is pretty comfortable – although I do end up spending quite a sum on sunscreen! So, if you’re ever flying over the Bay Area and you spot a strange green contraption perched on a rooftop for no apparent reason, give me a wave! You’ll know that I’m hunkered down inside, generating my next – well, whatever it’s going to be! :)

Please take this opportunity to check out these three authors, who will be blogging about their writing processes next week!

Jayne Denker:

Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies (By Design; Unscripted; Down on Love, A Marsden Novel #1; and the upcoming Picture This, A Marsden Novel #2, publishing July 17) and raising a young son who’s way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels. When she’s not hard at work writing another book, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author), Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor), and her blog, JayneDenker.com.

Blog: http://JayneDenker.com

Briane Pagel:

Briane Pagel is currently writing this biography for this blog. In fact, he’s typing this sentence right now. Now this one. Now he’s thinking this biography isn’t the most compelling one, and that perhaps he should make some stuff up to jazz it up a bit like say he went skydiving one time, only that’s actually true. He did go skydiving this one time, back in 1994, when he made a list of 25 things to do before he turned 26. He completed the list, too. It included skydiving, and the Polar Bear Jump where he had to go into Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day… great, now he’s starting to ramble. You can read more about him on “Thinking The Lions,” http://www.thinkingthelions.com“, and he publishes “lit, a place for stories,” which is an online literary magazine at http://www.nonsportsman.com.

Elise Abram, B.A. B.Ed., M.Ed:

Teacher of English and Computer Studies by day, wife and mother by night and author whenever she can steal some time, Elise is the proud author of Phase Shift, The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, and Throwaway Child, available on Amazon and KoboBooks. She pens a blog about literature, popular culture and the human condition whenever the muse moves her.

Elise’s fourth book, a young adult paranormal thriller entitled The Revenant will be released in eBook and in print on July 10, 2014 by Black Rose Writing.

Connect with Elise at http://www.eliseabram.com