Month: February 2014

Kindle Singles update

Back in January I submitted my novella, “The Bazaar,” to Kindle Singles. It’s been a little over six weeks. The Kindle Singles program advertises a six week response time. Since I haven’t heard anything yet I dashed off a quick email yesterday to check status. While I understand they are dealing with a large number of submissions I don’t feel the need to make an open-ended commitment to a billion dollar company. I received a prompt response assuring me the usual response time is six weeks but in this case it was taking a bit longer and I could expect a decision in two business days.

I appreciate the quick reply and specific time frame, but I suspect it means I’m due for a form rejection. As such I’m starting to plan my next move.

To be clear, this was always intended to be an indie project. The Kindle Singles submission was a long shot. It was always going to be a long shot. So I fully intend to pursue this as an indie project. I dabbled briefly in self-publishing about a year ago but didn’t properly invest in production. As a result the results (both product & sales) were decidedly less than impressive. I promised myself I would try again with the benefit of having learned some hard lessons. Now that time has come.

From experience I know I the areas I need to invest in are:

  • Cover art
  • Copy editing
  • Formatting

I will definitely have to pay someone to copy edit. I haven’t made up my mind about cover and formatting. On one hand I’m tempted to go with a full-service, fee-based company like Telemachus Press. But then I look at the $1,500 price tag and start to wonder how far I could get on my own. I plan to look at a few tutorials in the coming weeks and will report back on my progress. In the meantime any words of wisdom from anyone who has been down this road would be much appreciated.

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You are what you write, not what you dream

I read a great post the other day on writing, inspiration and the importance of discipline to the creative process (in terms of actually finishing anything). Christina Escamilla is the writer. I encourage you to read her full post. In the meantime here is an excerpt of what most resonated with me:

Writers are a weird bunch. It is one of the only professions where finishing the job is often guided by that one spark. The notion that, until you get that lightbulb moment, you just can’t go on. Can you imagine that with anything else?

“Okay, ma’am. I’m finally ready to change your oil. I had this amazing dream last night about running my fingers against the oil pan and I just…I knew that I finally had what it took to be a mechanic.”

“I’m sorry, sir. It’s non-operable. Well, actually, it is operable, I just don’t think I have it in me. At least not right now, you know? I think I’ve hit a surgeon’s block or something.”

And a little later:

Getting in that mindset will kill you. Or, rather it will kill any dreams you have of finishing your piece. Inspiration is great, but it’s a motivator not a conductor. A lot of the times, it can even be a downright hindrance. It can cause you to wait…and wait…and wait. The result of this waiting game is that you will become stagnant and the world will continue to tick on by.

Funnily enough, if you want to be a writer you have to actually write things. Writing is not a process through which you transfer beautiful, fully-formed ideas from your imagination onto the page. In my experience most ideas have to be torn kicking and screaming from the comfort of the subconscious with the creative equivalent of forceps, and they often come with plenty of nasty by-products. Becoming a writer takes many tens of thousands of words of effort – and that’s just to get to the point where you are no longer writing sentences a precocious middle schooler could produce.

As Christina concludes:

We write because we were meant to, but we should also write because the very act itself is going to make us better writers. The more we write, the more we get less terrible at it. So, when you do hit that dreaded period known as writer’s block – ignore it, and move on. You’ve got words to spit out and miles to keep going.

Site changes

I am making some organizational changes to the blog. From now on this blog will focus solely on creative pursuits (writing and my amateur attempts to learn to code). All the finance and personal improvement stuff that’s been posted on here will remain, but future posts will appear on two separate blogs.

So for the record:

Writing & Programming: Sex & Violence

Finance & Economics: The Naked Short

Personal Improvement/Motivation: We Are Not Special

My five favorite business books

I try to read both fiction and non-fiction. Most of my non-fiction reading is history. But sometimes I also read business books (e.g. The Little Book of Valuation, Secrets of Question Based Selling). Sometimes I even read books that are a little of both. Here are my five favorite business books, in no particular order:

  • The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean – The rise and fall of Enron in epic fashion. Also a powerful illustration of how divergent accounting earnings and business can become when investors, analysts and media fall prey to hype.
  • When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein – This is the story of the world’s most famous hedge fund meltdown, and an example of “experts” being too smart for their own good (see also #5 below).
  • Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar – Specifically this is a book about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. But in a much broader sense it’s also about the massive change in corporate cultures that occurred in the 1980s, and how dangerous it is for successful organizations to allow stability to turn into complacency.
  • The Prize by Daniel Yergin – Everything you would ever need (or want) to know about the history of the oil business.
  • Fooled By Randomness by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – More of a collection of essay-like musings, Taleb argues evolution has programmed us to make really poor financial decisions.

Happy reading!

A fresh “perspective” for my writing

I am trying a new strategy with my latest fiction project. I am writing the whole thing in first person in the first draft. Then I’ll go back and change the POV as needed (I think the final product will work better in third person).

Why bother with all that trouble? Writing in first person POV has some major advantages:

  • It helps me “get into” characters’ heads
  • It makes it easier for me to write sensory detail
  • For whatever reason I feel like I write with a stronger voice in first person (in college a theater major asked me to write her a monologue for an audition so there might really be something to this one)

Generally speaking, I find the most difficult thing about any new writing project to be finding a way “in.” Adopting a first person POV in the early stages should make that easier.

“Like Killing A Mockingbird” rewrite

Sent my rewrite in to Every Day Fiction yesterday. As I noted in an earlier post, I really appreciated the initial round of editorial feedback. It definitely pushed me to improve the story. This second draft is an order of magnitude better than the first. A decision on the rewrite should come much quicker than the original submission. Will update when I hear something.

I really dig WordPress reader

I really appreciate WordPress Reader. I think it’s elegant in both appearance and function. I say this is a simple user and not a tech expert. I am nothing of the sort.

Of course, even WordPress Reader can’t handle the most important task related to news feeds: careful curation. The more interconnected our world gets the more important it is to filter “news” from “noise.” To get an idea of what I’m talking about you should look at stock charts. These two will do. The first chart is noise. The second is news.

The best filter you can every apply to any news source is time. Unfortunately we as human beings don’t have nearly enough of that.

More and more I try to practice information discrimination. As far as I know that’s a term I made up myself. What it means is to think critically about your information consumption – particularly your digital information consumption. Identify agendas, biases, etc. This requires a great deal of critical thinking. It also means you need to be aware of digital pollution – toxic information that, to put it bluntly, makes you stupid.

Some examples of digital pollution:

  • Vicious blogs shouting into the political echo chamber
  • Chain letters that propagate on social media (particularly those with a political agenda)
  • Redactive memes (again I’m talking mainly about those with a political or social agenda)

The internet has put enormous megaphones into the hands of every member of the great, ignorant mass of humanity. Some of this stuff is quite funny, but it’s the digital equivalent of junk food. It shouldn’t dominate your information consumption (just like you shouldn’t make Twinkies a staple of your diet). This may sound elitist. Rest assured that it is. I am a firm believer in technocracy.  I do not believe Average Joe is equipped to manage a world of ever-increasing complexity.

What does any of this have to do with WordPress Reader?

Despite how slick it may look, WordPress Reader is just a tool. It’s only as good as your reading list.