On a Book-Makin’ Tear!

Deep, cleansing breath.

Folks, it’s been a crazy two weeks. Crazy in a good way. I took a five-day weekend over Labor Day to focus on Caffeinated Press stuff (as well as this past Friday). I managed to get done:

  • Advance review copy of Ladri, a dark urban fantasy novel.
  • Interim and final copies of Jot That Down: Encouraging Essays for New Writers — an anthology of essays by published writers, about the craft of writing. (Which will be released this coming Friday!)
  • Advance review copy of Isle Royal from the A.I.R. — an anthology of poems, short stories and art by people who have previously served as the artist-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park.
  • Contracting and editing assignments for the third installment of our annual Brewed Awakenings anthology.

These things take time. Lots of details. Lots of cross-checking. Lots of back-and-forth with the author. It’s a double-buttload of work, but it’s great to see such wonderful material being prepared for readers in West Michigan and beyond.

I have a few more projects to wrap up over September and October: An art/poetry collection. My contributions to issue 3.1 of The 3288 Review. Production for the third installment of the Brewed Awakenings anthology. Two other novels need ARCs by October. Fun stuff!

On a Book-Makin' Tear!

Deep, cleansing breath.
Folks, it’s been a crazy two weeks. Crazy in a good way. I took a five-day weekend over Labor Day to focus on Caffeinated Press stuff (as well as this past Friday). I managed to get done:

  • Advance review copy of Ladri, a dark urban fantasy novel.
  • Interim and final copies of Jot That Down: Encouraging Essays for New Writers — an anthology of essays by published writers, about the craft of writing. (Which will be released this coming Friday!)
  • Advance review copy of Isle Royal from the A.I.R. — an anthology of poems, short stories and art by people who have previously served as the artist-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park.
  • Contracting and editing assignments for the third installment of our annual Brewed Awakenings anthology.

These things take time. Lots of details. Lots of cross-checking. Lots of back-and-forth with the author. It’s a double-buttload of work, but it’s great to see such wonderful material being prepared for readers in West Michigan and beyond.
I have a few more projects to wrap up over September and October: An art/poetry collection. My contributions to issue 3.1 of The 3288 Review. Production for the third installment of the Brewed Awakenings anthology. Two other novels need ARCs by October. Fun stuff!

Zen and the Art of Home-Office Relocation

Over the last few weeks, we at Caffeinated Press have slowly migrated up a flight of stairs. Our two-year lease in Suite 104 at the Ken-O-Sha Professional Building expired June 30. Instead of renewing, we opted to move to a smaller unit within the same building — Suite 102, which comes at roughly a third of the space and roughly 40 percent of the per-month rent. Given that we previously enjoyed a very large office that two people used for less than half time, this change frees working capital for the publishing company while preserving a central hub for files, inventory, a workstation and a small conference space. We paid a heck of a lot of money for a space that would sit vacant for days or a week at a stretch, so this transformation is fiscally prudent.
Good change, right?
The caveat is that I had a large U-shaped desk there, with a filing cabinet and sundry other things (like a reading chair, a microfridge, a whiteboard) that couldn’t fit in the new suite. So I had to bring them home. But as configured, I didn’t have space at home, either.
Long story short, I hired a moving company (Quick & Careful Moving, a Local First member) to schlep the big furniture from the old suite to the new suite and to bring my stuff home. To accommodate it, I flip-flopped my bedroom and my office. Until yesterday, my office was a long, narrow room overlooking the front porch, filled with “temporary” furniture I built and stained myself. And also until yesterday, my bedroom was the house’s original solarium, with a fireplace and built-in cabinetry and terra-cotta tile flooring.
So yesterday I moved rooms. Fascinating experience — not least, because of how much trauma such a move inflicted upon the feline overlords, who are not accustomed to change. But also fascinating in the sense of how one choice leads to a cascade effect:

  • To accept the desk from the movers, I needed to clear out the solarium
  • To clear the solarium, I needed to partially clear the front room
  • To clear the front room, I needed to relocate roughly 80 linear feet of books from the front room to the solarium
  • To relocate the books, I needed to move the stuff from the solarium cabinets to the front room.

Et cetera. It’s like playing a game of Jenga: To do X, Y must be moved first, and Z has to be yanked out before Y’s in play. The living room — the no-man’s-land between the two rooms — can only hold so much stuff as a staging area, so a lot of this move required sequenced swapping of items in fixed spaces.
But after about 15 cumulative hours’ effort, and the muscle of the movers, I got ‘er done:

Some conclusions:

  • I have a heck of a lot of filing to do, some of which reflects holdovers from when I left my apartment in Kentwood nearly a decade ago. Yikes.
  • I need “real” bedroom furniture, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a small dresser and perhaps a tiny secretary’s desk and chair. I relied on the cabinets, before, but the new bedroom features a shelved alcove and a closet but not much else.
  • I think I want a recliner for my reading chair instead of my more spartan cushioned wooden chair.
  • Holy hell, I need curtains with blackout fabric instead of just blinds. I have no clue why the neighbors think the nighttime outside requires 1 billion candela of auxiliary lighting.

And on the bright side, although I still have to deal with cats, they have more places to sleep and play in the new office, so at present, they’ve left me mostly to myself. Except for that one time Murphy jumped off the desk hutch, without advance warning, and used the back of my neck as a landing strip. It took a full 15 minutes for the bleeding to subside. Anyway — now, all my stuff is put into one convenient room, so regardless of what work I’m doing, everything’s concentrated within the same four walls. There’s something to be said for efficiency.
I’ll miss being able to decamp to the CafPress office to work long periods without feline interruption, but I’ll adapt.

A Month in the Life

The onset on seasonal fur-shedding by my feline overlords reminds me that summer’s coming, a welcome reminder in the mid-winter gloom. The characteristically goofy weather in the Upper Midwest has contributed to a sense of change: Last night, we were in the low 20s F, but a few days before we enjoyed the upper 60s.
Some updates, in no particular order:
Ziggy and Tiger. So speaking of cats, my two neighborhood friends, Ziggy and Tiger, continue to be a near-daily presence around the property. Of the two, Tiger — a neutered male, and sweet as molasses — is probably an indoor/outdoor cat for someone. He’s obviously well cared-for, with no signs of injury or illness, and he’s extremely friendly to strange humans. Ziggy, a black tuxedo female, is a bit worse for wear. She’s also adorable, with a chirpy meow, but she’s underweight and is now showing occasional signs of injury (perhaps from fights) as well as patches of fur loss and ear damage. She has a collar, and I texted with the phone number on the tag a few months ago, but the response was cagey. I suspect she was abandoned last fall. If she starts to appear to be in real distress, I’ll probably scoop her up and take her to the vet, and then look into having her put in a shelter. She deserves a loving forever home.
Chicago. Just got back from an unusually warm and sunny Windy City for the semiannual commission meetings for NAHQ. Great experience. The four commission chairs met Wednesday for a day of planning with the executive director and the president and president-elect. My commission met Thursday and Friday. Went well. Flights were also pretty good, although I was thiiiiiis close to starting an angry tweetstorm with American Airlines. Apparently, AA swapped the plane type. The plane arrived into O’Hare on time, but it was a different model with different weight-and-balance requirements. I was one of nine passengers pulled aside on the “you’re probably gunna be bumped” list. Ultimately, we all were able to board, but — THE PLANE WAS ONLY TWO-THIRDS FULL. Why we’d be over-weight on such a de-populated flight defies reason.
Caffeinated Press. We’re entering a make-or-break year. We’ve mastered the art of making books, but the bigger challenge is selling those books. Although we’re in various catalogs, and we do a fair amount of hand-selling on our own, the real trick is networking with independent bookstores. So it appears that we’ll be doing our own state-wide distribution operation. With Partners having closed, and other distributors being big and expensive, I think that divvying up our target market and personally serving participating bookstores is probably the key to success and the next evolution of our business. Meanwhile, we’ve got exciting changes coming for our literary journal, The 3288 Review, and nine new titles in various stages of completion. And also: Most of the heavy lifting of our tech migration has now concluded. New project-management tools, new email server, new learning-mangaement system … yay!
Grand River Writing Tribe. The Tribe continues to meet. It’s going well, so far. Great participation and engagement, and a wonderful group of people around the table. We’ll be re-opening the door to membership at the end of March, so if you’re local to the Grand Rapids area and wish to join, consider our Grand River Writing Tribe online application.
Poetry. Poems are funny things: When you want to write them, you can’t; when you don’t have the time to write, inspiration strikes. I’ve been working on a collection — a chapbook provisionally titled Whiskey, Cats & Poems — for a while. Got a half-dozen poems or so complete. Then … nada. But, this morning, eight new ideas struck me, like the cars in an out-of-control freight train. At least I had the foresight to take notes. I’m not a skilled poet, by any measure, but I’m working on it. Very relaxing, especially writing by candlelight with (you guessed it!) a cat and some whiskey. But working more with poets and reading much more poetry, thanks to my time with the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters, has proven instructive.
Get Published! and UntitledTown. We at Caffeinated Press have been invited to participate again in the Get Published! writers conference, which this year will be in Holland in mid April. Then, in late April, I’ll be off to UntitledTown in Green Bay, WI, to present a session about publishing. Exciting!
State Convention. I went to my political party’s state convention earlier this month. Got to meet some great new people from mid-Michigan. Stayed the night with Tony and his wife at their palatial estate in Dimondale. Great weekend all around! I went to my political party’s state convention earlier this month. Got to meet some great new people from mid-Michigan. Stayed the night with Tony and his wife at their palatial estate in Dimondale. Great weekend all-around!
Personal Goals. During my Christmas vacation, I did a great job of more carefully planning my 2017 goals down to the month level. That approach seems to have paid off — progress and visibility are now more “in my face” than they were before, leading to more deliberate decisions about how I spend my time and what I choose to prioritize.
Ash Wednesday. Lent’s coming this week. I’ve had a personal goal of returning more actively to regular liturgical life. Perhaps this year will be the year.
All for now. Enjoy the rest of the winter!

Twelve Quick Updates from a Whirlwind of a Month

What an interesting — and busy! — few weeks it’s been.

  1. Las Vegas trip. I got back this past Monday from a two-night trek to Sin City to meet up with friends surrounding the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic event. VIMFP is an annual confab featuring Vegas-focused podcasters and bloggers. Lots of attendees. Lots of fun. You can listen to me and Tony discuss my trip report on episode 290 of The Vice Lounge Online.
  2. Nicole’s wedding. My cousin Nicole married Corey on the 14th. Lovely wedding and reception. I wish them the very best for many years of wedded bliss!
  3. Horseshoe Hammond excursion. Tony and I trekked to Hammond, Indiana for a day trip to this lovely Caesars Entertainment casino on the outskirts of Chicago. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold! You can hear the highlights in VLO’s episode 289.
  4. Essay contracted.  I’m pleased to announce that I’ve recently signed a publication agreement for a short essay, “A Moment of Clarity,” intended for publication in a volume titled Staying Catholic When You’ve Been Hurt in the Church. The book — edited by Eve Tushnet and published by Wipf and Stock Publishers — is currently in early production status.
  5. Brewed Awakenings 2 released. I’m delighted to share that Brewed Awakenings 2, the annual house anthology of Caffeinated Press, is now on the market. Buy your copy today to support local literary excellence! This collection features 15 stories by 14 different authors, ranging from just a few hundred words to more than 20k words; the stories cross genres and styles.
  6. Grayson Rising released. And speaking of releases, Grayson Rising also hit the market this month. This delightful YA novel, partially set in Grand Rapids, is the first major fiction release by local author AJ Powell. In fact, AJ hosted a small launch event at his place of employment that was well-attended and greatly enjoyed by those who dropped by.
  7. The 3288 Review, Vol. 2, Issue 1, released. And now the trifecta: We recently printed the fifth iteration of our quarterly journal of arts and letters. It’s a flourishing property that is already drawing attention across the state. Quite proud of it!
  8. NaNoWriMo is coming. November looms, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. I will participate again. I will also continue to host my Saturday-morning write-ins. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to write, a point I’ll expound upon in greater detail over the next few days. Let it suffice that I’ve developed a good skeleton for a literary novel augmented by some detective-genre conventions. The working title is The Catfish in the Shallows. Do not expect to see/hear much of me between 10/31 and 12/1!
  9. Site5 shenanigans. Although it didn’t affect this site, I had a world of trouble — as in, five days of unexpected downtime — with my longtime Web host, Site5. Outmigration is on the near-term horizon, unfortunately.
  10. Health quality glossary. Spent a fair amount of time recently as a subject-matter expert for NAHQ as we fine-tuned a comprehensive glossary of terms specific to quality improvement in healthcare. Much of this work entailed the alignment of definitions across existing products. Good intellectual exercise.
  11. SIP lines for Caffeinated Press. For years, the CafPress toll-free phone number (888-809-1686) went straight to a voice-mail box. I’ve now set us up with a SIP provider (i.e., a voice-over-Internet phone service) so our toll-free number actually rings in the office. I even have a desk phone, now, with my own extension and local number. Not that I actually use the phone much. But still. Progress.
  12. Outdoor kitties. A pair of felines have been lurking around my house. One of them has a home, and I’ve ensured that she’s been returned to it. The other — a fluffy black tabby, neutered, and sweet as molasses — keeps visiting. He likes it when I give him some Meow Mix. So I do. So far, he looks like he’s in good shape: his coat is fine, he looks well cared-for, his weight seems constant. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for signs of neglect as the cold-weather season sets in. I get the feeling he’s someone’s cat and that he might be an indoor/outdoor dude.

All for now.

Laborin' on Labor Day

I took off Friday, and this coming Tuesday, from the day job to focus on stuff at Caffeinated Press. Making hella-good progress, too.
Some updates:

  • Book Projects Complete.  Yesterday, in an all-day marathon, I performed my finishing touches on the Brewed Awakenings 2 anthology. The project is overdue by almost exactly a year. Yesterday evening, I sent full/complete proofs of the interior and cover to all 14 authors; so far, three have responded, all positively. Except in the highly unlikely scenario of a major edit request, this collection will be released in about three weeks. Today, keeping the theme alive, I did final wrap up on Grayson Rising — also horribly overdue — and sent the proofs of this delightful YA novel to the author. And I finished the first-pass cut of the interior of Ladri, although I have about another hour or two of work on the cover, which I’ll complete when the author gives me a few pieces of info I need. And, John advises that he’ll wrap up the initial layout of Vol. 2, Issue 1 of The 3288 Review this weekend. So September looks like we’ll be wrapped up with four major projects. Which is a relief — the rest of the stuff in the production queue doesn’t hit until winter-ish. I’ll be able to head into November’s NaNo-fueled writing frenzy with a clean conscience that at least I’m not delayed on anything else.
  • Kerrytown Book Festival.  In a few weeks, I’m headed to Ann Arbor for the day to shop our wares at the KBF. Should be a good time. I’ll put the sales education I got from AmyJo to good use. If any of my peeps from East Mitten feel like stopping by ….
  • Submissions. I pulled a few more items from my vetted personal slush pile to submit to a pair of writing contests. I’ve got another submission due tomorrow, then a few more sprinkling through September. It’d be nice to win something, or to at least grow my publication list for fiction/poetry stuff. The current flash piece I’m shopping, Regret, is fairly strong thanks to the workshop I attended in July at the GLCL.
  • Birthday Lunch with Mom. Three weeks and a reschedule later, I finally took my mom out for lunch for her mid-August birthday. It was fun. But it’s funny that it took so long. We’re actually closer to my birthday than we were to hers. And I got to see Gunner, the happy-go-lucky but health-challenged German Shepherd.
  • WriteOn! Flash Critique. Last month, our illustrious writing-group leader, JCBAH, was gallivanting around Ireland and Scotland, so I offered the group an assignment: Prepare a flash piece of no more than 800 words for vetting by the group. As if by magic, eight of the nine participated (and the lone holdout has a really good excuse). The event went well. It’s good for the group to feel the pressure of critiques. We do really good on the pizza-and-socializing part, not always so good on the writing part.
  • National Novel Writing Month. Speaking of writing, I’m looking forward to the frenzy of NaNoWriMo again. I don’t have a fully fleshed idea yet, but some concepts are rollin’ round my noggin. I’m hosting, again, a kickoff Halloween event at Caffeinated Press: Show up after 6p on 10/31, bring a dish to pass, wear a costume if you want, and prep — with a word war to follow at 12:01 a.m. on 11/1. Should be a good time.
  • VLO on Schedule. Tony and I are back on track for weekly podcast releases. We went to every other week in July and August.
  • VIMFP.  I had discussed it briefly with Roux a while back, but it’s looking increasingly likely (odds now above 75 percent) that I’ll be attending the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic in October in Las Vegas. Tony, however, cannot attend. Which means the VIMFPers get an upgrade. 🙂
  • Outside Stuff. Jen (and her husband) and I have rescheduled our diving trip to Gilboa, Ohio for later this fall. And I think I’m going to take a late-September weekend — because I have some free time — to do an overnight backpacking trek near Cadillac. Neither of these are set in stone, but if I can do both, this marks the first year I’ve hit the diving/hiking/kayaking trifecta in a single season. Which will be nice.
  • Ye Olde Catholic Church. Last week I had the chance to meet a new friend, Jane, who’s an author we’ve worked with at Caffeinated Press. She and I enjoyed several beers and nachos at The Cottage one night. She and I spent the bulk of our time talking religion. Reminds me of the value of having a church home, but also reminds me of how painful the state of homiletics remains within Mother Church. No matter where I go — St. Anthony, St. Andrew, St. Robert, St. Mary — I’m struck by how superficial things feel. Perhaps a self-directed renewal during Advent will help.
  • Virtual Desktop. I created an account at PaperSpace.io — the company offers cheap but robust virtual Windows desktops. I picked a Pro offering and created a surprisingly awesome experience out of it. When I need to run the full Adobe Creative Suite on my Surface 3, it’s no problem. As long as I have Wi-Fi, that is.

I’m looking forward to the next few months. September — besides being my birth month — marks a pivot from summer into autumn. So far, the month looks to be fairly sedate, now that I’m fundamentally caught up at Caffeinated Press and the outlook for the next year does not include massive boluses of work I have to handle. October sees the transition into a glorious #PureMichigan autumn, with prep for NaNoWriMo and (presumably) VIMFP on the docket, leading toward my family’s kickoff of the holiday season with Halloween. November is a busy writing month, culminating with Thanksgiving and another five-day weekend. Then December, with a NAHQ board event in Orlando (I know, rough) and then two weeks’ holiday at the end of the month.
I think my anticipating is growing because more and more things are firing on all cylinders. The norovirus-induced weight loss continues. I feel better. Less stress at the day job and at Caffeinated Press, one vexing writer notwithstanding. My writing is solidifying. My financial situation is stable and healthy. I plan to get my Christmas shopping done by the end of this month. Life with the feline overlords remains pleasant. The podcast is doing well. The governance transition within the NAHQ board is starting to gel.
A couple of things are missing — a tighter degree of spiritual centeredness, perhaps acquiring a Significant Other — but those are solvable problems, and they’re not immediately pressing.
The Starks remind us that Winter Is Coming. I say, bring it on.

Laborin’ on Labor Day

I took off Friday, and this coming Tuesday, from the day job to focus on stuff at Caffeinated Press. Making hella-good progress, too.

Some updates:

  • Book Projects Complete.  Yesterday, in an all-day marathon, I performed my finishing touches on the Brewed Awakenings 2 anthology. The project is overdue by almost exactly a year. Yesterday evening, I sent full/complete proofs of the interior and cover to all 14 authors; so far, three have responded, all positively. Except in the highly unlikely scenario of a major edit request, this collection will be released in about three weeks. Today, keeping the theme alive, I did final wrap up on Grayson Rising — also horribly overdue — and sent the proofs of this delightful YA novel to the author. And I finished the first-pass cut of the interior of Ladri, although I have about another hour or two of work on the cover, which I’ll complete when the author gives me a few pieces of info I need. And, John advises that he’ll wrap up the initial layout of Vol. 2, Issue 1 of The 3288 Review this weekend. So September looks like we’ll be wrapped up with four major projects. Which is a relief — the rest of the stuff in the production queue doesn’t hit until winter-ish. I’ll be able to head into November’s NaNo-fueled writing frenzy with a clean conscience that at least I’m not delayed on anything else.
  • Kerrytown Book Festival.  In a few weeks, I’m headed to Ann Arbor for the day to shop our wares at the KBF. Should be a good time. I’ll put the sales education I got from AmyJo to good use. If any of my peeps from East Mitten feel like stopping by ….
  • Submissions. I pulled a few more items from my vetted personal slush pile to submit to a pair of writing contests. I’ve got another submission due tomorrow, then a few more sprinkling through September. It’d be nice to win something, or to at least grow my publication list for fiction/poetry stuff. The current flash piece I’m shopping, Regret, is fairly strong thanks to the workshop I attended in July at the GLCL.
  • Birthday Lunch with Mom. Three weeks and a reschedule later, I finally took my mom out for lunch for her mid-August birthday. It was fun. But it’s funny that it took so long. We’re actually closer to my birthday than we were to hers. And I got to see Gunner, the happy-go-lucky but health-challenged German Shepherd.
  • WriteOn! Flash Critique. Last month, our illustrious writing-group leader, JCBAH, was gallivanting around Ireland and Scotland, so I offered the group an assignment: Prepare a flash piece of no more than 800 words for vetting by the group. As if by magic, eight of the nine participated (and the lone holdout has a really good excuse). The event went well. It’s good for the group to feel the pressure of critiques. We do really good on the pizza-and-socializing part, not always so good on the writing part.
  • National Novel Writing Month. Speaking of writing, I’m looking forward to the frenzy of NaNoWriMo again. I don’t have a fully fleshed idea yet, but some concepts are rollin’ round my noggin. I’m hosting, again, a kickoff Halloween event at Caffeinated Press: Show up after 6p on 10/31, bring a dish to pass, wear a costume if you want, and prep — with a word war to follow at 12:01 a.m. on 11/1. Should be a good time.
  • VLO on Schedule. Tony and I are back on track for weekly podcast releases. We went to every other week in July and August.
  • VIMFP.  I had discussed it briefly with Roux a while back, but it’s looking increasingly likely (odds now above 75 percent) that I’ll be attending the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic in October in Las Vegas. Tony, however, cannot attend. Which means the VIMFPers get an upgrade. 🙂
  • Outside Stuff. Jen (and her husband) and I have rescheduled our diving trip to Gilboa, Ohio for later this fall. And I think I’m going to take a late-September weekend — because I have some free time — to do an overnight backpacking trek near Cadillac. Neither of these are set in stone, but if I can do both, this marks the first year I’ve hit the diving/hiking/kayaking trifecta in a single season. Which will be nice.
  • Ye Olde Catholic Church. Last week I had the chance to meet a new friend, Jane, who’s an author we’ve worked with at Caffeinated Press. She and I enjoyed several beers and nachos at The Cottage one night. She and I spent the bulk of our time talking religion. Reminds me of the value of having a church home, but also reminds me of how painful the state of homiletics remains within Mother Church. No matter where I go — St. Anthony, St. Andrew, St. Robert, St. Mary — I’m struck by how superficial things feel. Perhaps a self-directed renewal during Advent will help.
  • Virtual Desktop. I created an account at PaperSpace.io — the company offers cheap but robust virtual Windows desktops. I picked a Pro offering and created a surprisingly awesome experience out of it. When I need to run the full Adobe Creative Suite on my Surface 3, it’s no problem. As long as I have Wi-Fi, that is.

I’m looking forward to the next few months. September — besides being my birth month — marks a pivot from summer into autumn. So far, the month looks to be fairly sedate, now that I’m fundamentally caught up at Caffeinated Press and the outlook for the next year does not include massive boluses of work I have to handle. October sees the transition into a glorious #PureMichigan autumn, with prep for NaNoWriMo and (presumably) VIMFP on the docket, leading toward my family’s kickoff of the holiday season with Halloween. November is a busy writing month, culminating with Thanksgiving and another five-day weekend. Then December, with a NAHQ board event in Orlando (I know, rough) and then two weeks’ holiday at the end of the month.

I think my anticipating is growing because more and more things are firing on all cylinders. The norovirus-induced weight loss continues. I feel better. Less stress at the day job and at Caffeinated Press, one vexing writer notwithstanding. My writing is solidifying. My financial situation is stable and healthy. I plan to get my Christmas shopping done by the end of this month. Life with the feline overlords remains pleasant. The podcast is doing well. The governance transition within the NAHQ board is starting to gel.

A couple of things are missing — a tighter degree of spiritual centeredness, perhaps acquiring a Significant Other — but those are solvable problems, and they’re not immediately pressing.

The Starks remind us that Winter Is Coming. I say, bring it on.

Two Brief Reflections: Winning NaNoWriMo, and Governance

I did it — I crossed, barely, the 50,000-word mark on The Children of St. William’s to earn my third consecutive “win” for National Novel Writing Month. The story isn’t finished, of course; my detailed scene graph pushes the final word count much closer to 85k. But working through the story when you’re at 50k aiming for 85k is much easier than starting from zero. Which, I believe, is the whole point of NaNoWriMo. And as I finished, I figured I’d change the book name, too, to the less cumbersome Six Lost Souls.

Some take-away observations about writing this past November:

  • I wrote my last 10,000 words in a single marathon day. That’s a lot. I couldn’t have started the month with that kind of productivity, mostly because — for me, anyway — I have to get north of 30k to 35k words before scenes start to roll off fluidly. Prior to that, and I’m still spending too much time thinking about structure and characters, so the writing process is slower: I’m making follow-up notes, thinking through the finer points of character voice, making decisions about scene details, etc. I tend to plan in detail, but you can’t plan for everything.
  • Much of my writing in the moment focuses on dialogue. I usually have to swing back after I’ve finished a scene to insert environmental details.
  • I don’t write much action — most of my scenes tend to be people arriving at a place and talking. I varied it this time around, however, and had a fight scene and two scenes of extended narration while a character does something alone. On rewrite, I’ll chop things up a bit. But, as they say, just knowing you’ve got an authorial quirk is half the battle.
  • For the first time, I was deliberate from the get-go about my point-of-view characters, and which scenes led with a specific POV. By default, I tend to write Third Person Limited, with a small number of POV characters.
  • I couldn’t write nearly as efficiently without Scrivener for Windows. With this app, I can condense notes and research and plot my story on a chapter-and-scene basis, with target word counts and synopsis cards. I can also configure various status flags for each scene (I customize my own) and set color codes to indicate which character’s POV governs a chapter or scene. I don’t think I could be nearly as successful if I had to rely on a generic word processor.

State Leaders’ Summit

I spent some time last week in Chicago, for the State Leaders’ Summit sponsored by the National Association for Healthcare Quality. The event went off without a hitch. I drove, which was fine, although I managed to hit eastbound I-90 around O’Hare just in time for Friday-evening rush-hour traffic. Took a full two hours to get from the airport area (Cumberland Avenue) to the Skyway Bridge. That said, there was much fascinating discussion to be had, including a valuable two-hour presentation by an association-management attorney about the basic principles of governance and legal/tax compliance for small non-profits.

Board members have three duties: A duty of care, a duty of loyalty and a duty of obedience. I think this tripartite distinction offers a good framework not just for business endeavors, but also for how we nurture personal relationships. More to ponder about that, I think.

Strategic Planning Retreat

Tonight the Caffeinated Press board of directors conducts a four-hour annual strategic governance retreat. Lots on the agenda. We’ve had a busy year, with a great mix of successes and … ahem, opportunities. We’ll cover Governance 101, plus look at our board composition, 2016 editorial strategy, the annual budget, and ways to grow the market.

The retreat starts after the regional TGIO party — celebrating the end of NaNoWriMo — so it’ll be a long day. But worth it.

Cars and Offices and Books — Oh, My!

It’s Sunday night. Tomorrow marks a return to the day job, after Facilities tore down half the cubes last week to install smaller workstations and our I.T. department upgraded Office and Windows for everyone. In other words: Tomorrow should be interesting. Apart from a five-minute drop-in today, I haven’t been at the Waters Circle office since Tuesday.

But the last week has been quite an adventure:

  1. I bought a new car. Jimmy 2.0 — a 2000 GMC Jimmy — suffered another infirmity a while back. Fixable? Sure. But other problems loom. It’s an old vehicle and after the drama in January of a persistently misaligned belt, other failures are inevitable. So on Tuesday morning I picked up a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. It’s small, but nimble, and relatively inexpensive. Great on fuel. And this summer I think I can rehab Jimmy 2.0 enough to keep it, and its solid 4×4 performance, for the worst of a Michigan winter. There’s something to be said for having two cars, even if the insurance is a pain.

    cruze
    2013 Chevy Cruze. New wheels.
  2. We moved into our new office at Caffeinated Press. After much drama with Office Depot, I finally got all the desk stuff I ordered, as well as a sweet deal on furniture in storage from PeopleDesign (thank you, John). Looking good. My part of the office is mostly done. The main gathering space has tables, chairs, a café table, a futon, a huge white board, rolling bookshelves, coffee/tea makers, a microwave … the essentials, basically, and it too is largely complete. The editor room in the middle is, however, a bit under-loved for now. We’re working on it.

    office
    A view of my part of the Caffeinated Press office.
  3. Anthology edits galore! I’m running through author notifications for Brewed Awakenings 2. Lots of work — much of Friday and Saturday, and into Sunday, was spent doing detail reviews (again) with an eye toward compiling the final list of included stories. I’ve run through maybe 50 or so of the nearly 70 submissions and have accepted nearly 110k words over 11 (I think) contributions.
  4. … Profiles galore, too! Have you checked out the current issue of Grand Rapids Magazine? Caffeinated Press has a brief write-up. And we were profiled last week in Awesome Mitten, too.  As John remarked a few days ago: It’s starting to feel real.

The coming week should be peaceful: Priority Health will be mostly routine work, with just a handful of interviews for two of my open analyst positions. Wrap up the anthology notifications and then begin contracting. Work on our photo book, provisionally titled EN72. A meeting of the editorial board for The 3288 Review.

The summer may prove a bit more peaceful than the late winter and early spring. Next weekend, we have a board meeting and a visit to Indiana for a family picnic. Podcasting the weekend after. August should be quiet(ish), with maybe a brief Vegas trip on the horizon. September and October will be busy with book releases. Then, November for NaNoWriMo. But despite the stuff to do, things feel calmer. A big part of it is actually the new CafPress office, I think. I find it hard to work from home because Cats; there are, however, no cats in the publishing office to thwart my concentration or my productivity. So there’s that.

Recent Writing/Publishing Posts of Note

I’ve been doing a bit of blogging to flesh out the content on the Caffeinated Press site, mostly about writing/editing and the business of publishing. Synopses of my recent posts follow.

  • How Much Scene-Setting Is Too Much … Or Too Little? – Scene-setting isn’t easy. There’s no magical paint-by-numbers approach for getting it right. When done well, a perfectly described scene can make a story; when done poorly, the story collapses.
  • 21 Books That Moved Me – The world benefits when authors tell their stories. But the stories that move us the most are informed by a deep understanding of the trends and ideas that undergird them. This understanding comes from reading or otherwise experiencing each individual plank on the scaffold of our story.
  • On the Effective Attribution of Speech in Fiction – Balancing diction and tone and rhythm to generate a character’s authentic voice makes for tough work for any author. But perhaps even more important than a character’s voice is the structural framework into which that narration sits.
  • Points of View – One of the most common structural reasons a person’s manuscript may receive the cold shoulder from an agent or publisher follows from the apparently random admixture of narrative points of view within a story.
  • Reflections on Fusion Genres – The technical term for a novel that blends more than one genre or sub-genre into a single story is fusion genre. Very many fusion books are good. But because there’s a higher barrier to market than with straight-genre work, very few publishers are willing to take them on, and in the crowded self-publishing world, the sheer volume of available works means that any one story almost assuredly will be lost in the crowd.
  • Every Voice Matters – Few would deny the truism, but the underlying lesson is observed more often in the breach: That every voice matters and deserves a chance to be heard.
  • Handling Feedback with Grace – Good writers know that the trial-by-fire from beta readers or professional editors is what brings our newborn manuscript through its long, painful adolescence known as “rewrites” until we finally have a mature product ready for the market.
  • How to Query Like a Pro – To find a publisher, you’ll need to perfect your query package.
  • Tips for Robust Self-Editing – Before you submit your work for a peer critique, give yourself a robust self-edit. Look for common punctuation or grammar challenges that often burden less experienced authors.
  • The One Mistake That Thwarts Aspiring Writers – Before you submit your work for a peer critique, give yourself a robust self-edit. Look for common punctuation or grammar challenges that often burden less experienced authors.

Send me your ideas for post topics related to writing, editing and publishing — I’d be happy to draft something that answers your questions!