Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Club

I'd heard about a book club that some people I knew were doing, and I finally got the nerve to ask to join in. I was nervous at the prospect of going to a book club. A large part of that nervousness was due to where I went to college. At St. John's College, every class was pretty much a competitive book club. That means that I know how to argue a book's meaning, but the methods are pretty combative. Not something I would want to bring to a friendly group of women with whom I hope to become or remain friends.

So I knew that I would have to restrain some of my instincts to talk when at the book club, but that's something that I have to do in most of my life. It has taken me a long time, but I've learned that I absolutely do not need to say everything that comes to my mind, especially in company that I'm not especially close to (or at work, yeesh). And I will make mistakes now and then, but if I didn't put a firm filter between brain and mouth, I would have embarrassed myself more than twice - a week -maybe a day.

I had actually considered attending this book club back in December. I even checked out the book for that month from the library. But I couldn't bring myself to get into the book. I love reading, but I'm aware that there are finite hours in my life and, relatively speaking, infinite books to read. I used to be a bit obsessive about finishing every book that I started, but I've gotten over that impulse, and that book I chose not to read beyond the second chapter. Now, I've heard that many people go to book clubs without doing the reading, but doing that on my first time rubbed me the wrong way. I thought that maybe it just wasn't for me if that was the kind of book that was being read.

But the book for January was one that I found appealing. I skipped the foreword before I read the whole thing, and I understood when some of the group expressed that the book didn't seem to have a plot or really go anywhere, but I really liked that about it. It was a portrait of life, not a procedural or thriller. Makes me wonder if that's the kind of thing that I might be more inclined to write - the trick being that something like that must be very well-written in order to be interesting and retain a reader's attention.

At any rate, I went to a book club meeting, and I managed not to turn it into a St. John's seminar. I contributed where I could - mostly in remembering details and rephrasing points that others made - and tried to listen more than I talked. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, even though I burst into tears as soon as I was alone in my car.

I'm not sure why I cried, but I think I was just trying so hard to have a social interaction that I deemed acceptable that I wound myself up and had to release that tension through tears. Next time should be easier - and I am planning on there being a next time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book Bits

Well, it took Ambrose a while to read through the printed copy, but he finished over the weekend. I like to think he was being thorough, but I was a bit frustrated at the wait - especially because there were less than half a dozen errors. With all the time he was taking, I thought it would be a whole lot more.

Now the ball is in my court; I've got to make corrections to all four templates (standard print, large print, Kindle ebook, and Smashwords ebook - because of course the ebooks have to be formatted differently). Oh, and before I send the mailed copies off, I've got to make manual corrections to those, which, of course, will only increase their value as they will be limited editions, right? Hand corrected by the author, that's fancy.

And then I can get all the copies mailed out, and then I can republish everything. Once everything is republished, I'll go ahead and start putting my books onto the Books by Johnnies website, to give some additional reach to them. And also post on Facebook that the book is done and oh-so-pretty.

And after I've gotten all the publishing busy work out of the way, I'll just have to get back to writing, taking what I've learned and trying new stories. I did not come anywhere near writing twelve stories last year, and I'm alright with that. But I think the goal is worth shooting for again, this time with the focus being on trying different things with each one. To focus, here on character, there on setting, here on layers, there on mystery...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Printed Proof Required

I'm thinking that I'm going to have to fire my copy editor...

Well, not fire really since he works for free :)

In all seriousness, now that we have the physical copies of the books, Ambrose has been giving them a read and he's already found typos. As much as I prefer to review the electronic version instead of waiting for a proof copy to get printed and shipped, I think I'm going to have to go back to ordering a proof because both Ambrose and I are better at catching printed mistakes.

I'm going to make corrections to the published books as soon as he's done with his review and I won't do any announcements until that's complete. Plus, I'll make some manual corrections on the copies that I've already received before they get sent out to family.

I don't know why, but this time around I really wanted to publish before 2020. I've ended up publishing in January before, but I prefer when I can get things done in December. Which means I need to make adjustments to my process, because there's no reason I couldn't have been ready to publish at the end of November. I just needed to manage my time a little better in September and October, if not throughout the summer.

It's kind of hard to believe that I've been putting out the Hike with Me books since 2014 (which was actually one of the years I published in January, so it's more like since 2013). I don't sell a lot of books, but they are out there, and I have sold some. It's a long game. The books are a lot of work, but it's work that I enjoy. It seems like every year I discover some new trick in the image software that I use to make things simpler to do or cooler to look at.

I don't plan on stopping any time soon - but I'll be investing a bit more money in proof copies in the future.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Food Testing - Complete Cookie

Since I was not able to complete my planned hike last year due, in part, to my food choices, this year I'm doing something a little different. During this off-season time of year, I'm going to be testing out bars on a weekly basis. I'm spacing them out so that one "bad" bar doesn't impact how I feel about the other bars.

I started yesterday with Lenny and Larry's Complete Cookie, Snickerdoodle flavor. And my initial impressions were good, though not enthusiastic. Within an hour of eating it, I'd written up my thoughts: The cookie is easy to eat. It is soft and does not require a lot of chewing or a lot of water, though some water is good because it can get a little dry. I felt some tummy upset while eating it, so I don't think I'll be eating it again. I think the culprit is a bit too much fiber (10g).

Yeah, I should have heeded what my body was trying to tell me as I ate that cookie. By lunch time, my tune had changed from a mild review to a vehement hell no.

Turns out my instincts while eating it were correct. It does have too much fiber for my particular needs. That fiber created a conga line of gas bubbles in my intestines that tormented me all afternoon and into the evening. I got very bloated and passed gas far too many times for being in an office (thank goodness I'm not in a cubicle right now, but I had to hope that no one came to my desk to ask for something that would involve them sitting hear me). It seems to have triggered a small IBS flare up, involving pain along with the bloating and gas, as well as some constipation. I'm really hoping this passes quickly, but I might have to resort to liquid diet to clear myself up.

It's good to be able to cross something off the list, and I'm glad that it wasn't something that I bought a whole box of. So far, there's only one of those, and I already had Ambrose try one so if I can't eat them, he'll be able to. Next week, I'll be trying something else, and I really hope that even if it doesn't work for me that it doesn't trigger anything like this one did.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Book Publication Complete!

It's amazing to me how fast this project starts to move once I have all the pieces laid out in front of me. The arrangement of the photos and the words into the Word document template takes time, but not nearly as much as the prior steps of writing and creating the photos and captions.

I wanted to get the book published before 2020, and I did. The large print first, then the standard sized print, and then the ebook through Amazon and then the ebook through Smashwords. The only snag in the execution of my plan was that I found a typo in one of the photo captions as I was working on the ebook document - and AFTER I had submitted the two paperback interiors. So I had to wait until they were approved and then resubmit so that the typo would be resolved before I ordered copies to give for late Christmas gifts.

The book is laid out initially for the large print, and because there are so many photos, I have to really retool the entire look when I change over to the standard sized print. I end up with a book that has some long page runs of photos, but I think it still works. I'll have to reserve judgment until I get one of those copies and hold it in my hands.

My next little project will be to create standard print sized versions of all of my Hike with Me series books. And to re-submit the covers for the existing large print editions with a "Large Print" sticker that I created for just that purpose. Maybe I should start publishing public domain works in large print and see if there's a market. . .