Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors July 27

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Shayla, codename "Shark", has rendezvoused in the forest with two members of a terrorist cell, Cobra and Tiger. We now meet the final member of the party...


A shrunken figure, swathed in a grubby, threadbare cloak, stood to greet them.

"Eating again, Weasel?" Cobra said with a laugh.

Uneven teeth flashed through straggly whiskers. Shayla realized there was a faint smell of cooking hanging in the air, reminding her stomach how little food it had seen recently. Her pack held a small supply of concentrated rations, enough for minimal sustenance, woefully inadequate for a body stressed by long hours of hard slog.

"Shark, meet Weasel," said Cobra. "He doesn't say much, but he is very useful to have around."


If you enjoy these snippets and would like to read them properly in context, they are all from early chapters which can be sampled for free on most of the online stores listed in the sidebar.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors July 20

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Shayla, codename "Shark", has met Cobra and noticed he was keeping a line of sight clear between her and the side of the forest clearing. She challenged the hidden observer to come out...


The bushes hesitated, then rustled. A woman emerged, scowling. "You're late!" Her hand rested on a holstered pistol. Small, precision beam weapon. Deadly in the hands of an expert, but it took an expert to use it properly.

Shayla bowed low. "Shark, at your service."


If you enjoy these snippets and would like to read them properly in context, they are all from early chapters which can be sampled for free on most of the online stores listed in the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SOULLESS cover reveal

Today I'm handing over to fabulous writer, blogger friend, and avid cheese-lover Crystal Collier, whose new book in the Maiden of Time series is due out in October...


Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

"SWOON." --Sherlyn, Mermaid with a Book Reviewer

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and "friend" (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

COMING October 13, 2014

PREORDER your print copy
Sign up for Crystal Collier's newsletter to receive release news and freebies.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Goats on the roof

No Weekend Writing Warriors this week, and although I managed a couple of posts I haven't been visiting or commenting in a while. Just got back from a few days' camping up at Coombs, famous for its goats on the roof.
We love pottering around the crowded market, stacked high with delicacies, and browsing the little shops lining the pedestrian avenue and plaza behind, though we are saddened to see some of our favorites disappearing to be replaced by homogenized cheap clothing boutiques - now at least four of them in different spots all selling identical crap. Oh well, progress anyone?

We stayed at Coombs Country Campground, thankful for a well-shaded pitch now that summer has kicked in with a vengeance.

Me and Matthew preparing supper...

And the man-made lake where we spent most of our time...

Special announcement

This Wednesday, I'll be joining other bloggers in hosting Crystal Collier's cover reveal for SOULLESS, book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy. Please drop by and say "Hi."

The first book, MOONLESS, will be on sale during the cover reveal week: $0.99 July 14, $1.99 July 15-17, $2.99 July 18 & 19.

The pre-order link for SOULLESS is now live. Check it out!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Show those documents who's boss

Continuing from yesterday, on tips for organizing files on your hard drive. I talked a bit about using naming conventions to augment the use of folders. Here are a few more naming tips.


A slightly less structured form of naming, but which can be handy to organize files within a folder, is to use a prefix. In yesterday's example... see each file is prefixed with the book title. This means they will stay together as a group if I drop files from another book into the same folder.

A more subtle technique is to use numbers. I make use of numerical prefixes in two different ways in the following examples.

First, to keep files in sequence while still having a free hand in the rest of the name.

When I draft a novel, I find it hard to work with one large document so I split it up into a dozen or so more manageable files. I give the files names that relate to that section of the novel, but tag on a prefix to sort them into order. I choose to go up in increments of 10 so I can easily slot in new scenes if I need to without renumbering existing files, and I jump up in 100s to show the broad structure of the novel - beginning, middle, and end.

Second, to create a pseudo folder structure when I want a large set of files handy all in one list.

I took this approach in my "Writing planning" folder.
Here I am organizing a mixture of documents of different types in such a way that they can easily be found. I chose ranges of numbers to denote different types of files.
  • The 100s are common and persistent planning documents that relate to my writing business as a whole.
  • The 200s are reserved for specific projects with each project having its own number. These are only relevant for the life of the project, and there is only one showing in this example, but if I were to work on several at once this prefixing would keep them separate.
  • The 300s are research and resources with sub-ranges allocated for different topics. The prefix helps me quickly find, for example, everything related to marketing.

Yes, I could instead have set up sub-folders instead but that would mean another layer to navigate with very few documents in each. Your filing system - your choice.

One added bonus with this concept - it's transferable. I use the same numerical prefix in my mailbox folders, so whenever I see a "202" file or folder anywhere, I know it's a project file that relates to publishing Ghosts.

This example also shows use of a feature on the Mac which allows you to add color to file and folder names. The way I use it here just makes it easier to pick out related blocks of files in the list.


If you have a scheme that works for a particular purpose, you might want to repeat and re-use next time you do something similar. My novel folders all follow the same structure, and have many similarities even down to the file level.

Here are equivalent sections from Ghosts of Innocence...
And from Tiamat's Nest...
The similarities mean that when I move from one to another I feel at home and can find everything easily.


In the examples I've posted here, you may have noticed folders called "Archive" and "Dustbin". I find these useful in keeping my main folders tidy. I create a dustbin for files that I don't need but am reluctant to delete altogether - just in case. Archives are for more deliberate retention, for example I want to keep project documents for future reference while not having them crowd my active folder.

Another housekeeping tip is versioning. I keep back versions of manuscripts, copying the whole set of files into a new folder whenever I embark on a major revision. You can also distinguish versions in your file naming - e.g. "My file v1.doc"

Eventually I'll get around to tidying these up, but these easy tips all help to keep things under control by distinguishing current from old documents.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Whip those documents into line!

A bit more of what I've learned going through the self-publication process...

Last time, I talked about some things to think about in devising a filing system. This was all conceptual - how to choose which documents to keep together and which to store separately. This post is a bit more practical - some tips to put those filing ideas into practice.


The most obvious and intuitive technique for organizing documents is to file them away into folders. This is the computer analog of filing papers in folders in drawers in a cabinet.

One of the big advantages computers have over physical filing cabinets is the ability to build complex folder structures, nested as deep as you want. This is great if your conceptual scheme involves groups within groups within groups because you can mirror your thinking in the folder structure.

...Use with care
As with most things, of course, you can have too much of a good thing. Something that drives me crazy is delving deep into many layers of folders, only to find one or two (or maybe zero!) documents at the end of each tortuous road. My personal preference is to only organize a given collection of documents into sub-folders when there are enough of them to make it worthwhile.

A useful rule of thumb I use is to aim to end up with somewhere between 5 and 20 documents and/or sub-folders in any given folder. As with all rules, this is only a guideline and there are always exceptions, but my thinking is that if you are consistently finding fewer than 5 or more than 20, then the chances are you are either over- or under-organizing.

What's in a name?

I guess I don't need to mention that it helps to make your file and folder names meaningful. But the next tips are all about ways to make use of names in an organized way to supplement the folder structure. These tips rely on the default behavior of folders to list items alphabetically, and are especially useful if you want to bring some additional organization without introducing a new level of folders.

Structured naming
When you choose a meaningful file name, you will usually find it contains a number of elements. If you have several related files in your folder, you will likely find they have some elements in common. Structured naming is simply making a conscious choice to apply some consistency to those elements and the order in which you use them.

This is best illustrated by a simple example. I have a place in my "Writing business" folder to keep the final production versions of files to be uploaded to various publishing outlets.

I have uploaded files to Amazon KDP, CreateSpace, and Smashwords, and each one needs separate files for cover and text. I also have some common files for the official blurb (used to describe the book in online stores) and versions of the cover at a resolution suitable for use on blogs and websites. In this case, you will see that I have five different versions of the cover alone, and it's essential to use the correct one in the correct place, but the naming convention makes it clear which is which.

Important features here are that:
  1. I am consistent in the order of words. I decided to put the usage first, then the type of file, so all the Amazon files are together etc.
  2. I am consistent in the words themselves. I chose to abbreviate CreateSpace and Smashwords to CS and SW, and I stick to it.
Neither of these decisions are important in themselves. What's important is consistency. And that is the essence of structured naming.

More on naming conventions in the next post...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Organized chaos

A bit more of what I've learned going through the self-publication process...

I've talked about the mechanics of setting up as a business and getting a book through the publication process. There's a lot involved and, as I discovered early on, documents start accumulating like they're breeding on the hard drive.

I already had the actual novel contents and working notes - characters, setting, timelines etc. - sorted out long ago, but I now found lots of new stuff cluttering the place that didn't quite belong anywhere: research on various business and publication topics, business records, correspondence, and to-do lists up to the eyeballs.

Luckily, this bears a lot of similarities to documentation issues facing IT projects and systems support, so I recognized the symptoms early on and took draconian action. What I came up with may sound heavy-handed and regimented, but it helps me keep things straight, and I've learned the hard way that if you wait until you realize you need a filing system, you are already in a pile of trouble!

There's a lot to talk about here, so I'm going to break this into two posts. Today I'll look at some high level concepts of separating documents into different kinds - designing a taxonomy for your filing system. Next time I'll show some actual filing techniques for keeping the hard drive tidy.

The big picture - choose your themes

Picture your kitchen. Whatever the size, whether you have ample storage or feel cramped, you probably at least have a home for everything. And you probably have some organizing principles at work - whether you thought things through or whether things organized themselves organically over time. Plates and bowls here, pots and pans there, cutlery in that drawer, cans and jars in the larder shelf by shelf.

Or maybe you have things for everyday use together, and the good china somewhere else. Different factors are important to different people, but the key thing is that they make sense to you.

The same holds true for documents. Birds of a feather flock together - but what constitutes "like" and "unlike" in the document world?

Here are a few things I bear in mind when designing a filing system:
  • Scope: Does this apply to a narrow scope - just one novel, for example, or one step in the publication process - or does it speak in more general terms?
  • Lifespan: Is this a temporary working note, for the duration of a project, or something longer lasting?
  • Purpose: Manuscript, character or setting notes, research, correspondence, etc.

As a rule of thumb, things that are most similar most likely belong together but this is not a rule to be slavishly followed. I find it better to start by putting together things that appear to make sense, then ask myself the above questions to see if I'm mixing dissimilar things together. That is not necessarily a problem, but it is something to be aware of and revisit if you find yourself having trouble with your system.

The biggest thing to remember is that there is no single right answer. Anything you come up with will be a compromise, so don't agonize over unattainable logical perfection, just set up something that works for you - and use it!

What I ended up with

Here's a snapshot of the top level of my writing folder.
Most of the folders I already had and are related to particular works or ongoing activities - novels, online groups, blog and website etc. These are my working areas - where I actually produce words - and they were working well enough so I didn't see a need to change anything there.

The new additions are related to feeding the end results into a publishing business: "Writing business" and "Writing planning".

"Writing business" is where I choose to keep my persistent business records - things like accounts, ISBN log, log of distribution outlets and other organizations I have set up accounts with. Here I also keep the final published versions of manuscripts. Pulling these out from the working areas means there is no question of which version did I put out there.

"Writing planning" is where I keep two different kinds of files: Planning notes relating to particular projects (e.g. publish Ghosts of Innocence), and results of research into various topics (such as what are the different elements that go into front and back matter). Note that here I am choosing to combine documents that differ in scope, lifespan, and purpose, but it works for me at the moment because a lot of my project activities both generate and use research results, so it's handy to have them together. The is something I might revisit at some point in future.

The last folder, "Writing resources", is a hangover from previous days. It holds notes and references that I am gradually migrating to a proper home in one of the other folders. This might yet get reincarnated if I decide to split projects from research/resources in future.

But remember

I am not advocating this as a scheme everyone should use. I'm just using it to illustrate some of the taxonomy principles I mentioned earlier.

The important thing is to decide on a system that works and makes sense to you.

It also helps to decide that you need a filing system in the first place!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors July 6

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Shayla, codename Shark, has just met Cobra in the middle of a forest clearing...

Slightly modified punctuation


Cobra led them back the way he'd come. Shayla noticed that he was always careful to keep to one side of a line between her and the bushes cloaking the base of a tree on the edge of the clearing. Not complete amateurs then, good.

As they reached cover, Shayla stopped. "You may as well join us," she said to the bushes. "If I wished you harm, your weapon would be of little help."

Cobra grinned. "C'mon, Tiger," he called, "they said she was good."


If you enjoy these snippets and would like to read them properly in context, they are all from early chapters which can be sampled for free on most of the online stores listed in the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lost and found - part deux

A few days ago I posted about the missing paperback. What I didn't mention then was all the other stuff going on as well. Do you get those overwhelming spells in life when everything seems to go wrong at once? Yeah, that sucks, but I often find those spells are compensated by things resolving themselves all at once, like sunlight breaking through storm clouds.



Our two old cats, the last two survivors of our move to Canada ten years ago, both went within weeks of each other and in much the same way. First Susie went blind and deaf overnight, then half paralyzed a couple of days later. Old age - they were both approaching nineteen years! Mere weeks after we laid Susie to rest, Willow, her litter-mate, went blind and deaf too. She pottered around the house for a couple more weeks, not in any distress and still with a good appetite, but when that went we knew it was time.

And found

Two more rescue cats to add to the family. At first we were planning to get kittens after the summer, but backtracked and went for adult rescues instead, and now, to get them used to their new surroundings while the rest of the family is off for the summer.

So meet Callie

And Cleo


Just as we brought these two into the house last week, our previous newbie, Lucy, got very ill. Off to the vet, held overnight - she was so pissed she had to be sedated before he could even examine her - and dosed with painkillers and antibiotics. Clearly not an injury (which we'd feared) but a nasty infection. Returned home but no improvement the next day, so back the vet where they found her temperature was dangerously high.

And found

It was touch and go for a couple of days, but she rallied and is making a good recovery. Back home and more-or-less her usual self.


A major section of indoor plumbing!

The basin in our master ensuite has always drained slowly, but now stopped draining altogether. Worse, the blockage must have shifted because draining the kitchen sink now backed up to the bathroom below (our house is upside down) - as we discovered the hard way - so sink and dishwasher both off limits.

We unleashed enough Draino to breach several international arms limitation treaties, to no avail.

And found

Ali phoned around and found a friend with a snake. A spell of DIY plumbing later and we are back in action.

Have you ever suddenly realized how much your everyday actions depend on these little things that you take so much for granted?
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