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Jan. 17th, 2011 @ 11:39 am 2011
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
So...we’re two weeks into 2011, and I’m doing a New Year’s post. But I have an excuse! My brother and his wife (and I) couldn’t get time off until halfway through Jan, so my family had Christmas last week. We went to the Everglades with my parents and then came back and checked out the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal. A good time was had by all. My guests left yesterday, and this is my last day of vacation. As far as I’m concerned, the Holidays just ended, and the new year has begun.
 
So I’m gonna do a bit of review.
 
A decade ago, in 2001, I’d graduated with my first degree (in biology) and been accepted to Purdue school of veterinary Medicine. However, by the end of the year (the first semester), I’d decided that I didn’t want to be a vet. It was one of the toughest (and best) decisions I ever made. However, I was deeply depressed and directionless for months afterward. I ended up in counseling and on medication. The horrible uncertainty would not end for another two years as I tried lit grad school, then teaching, and then finally set out on the path to anesthesia via nursing. I did all this to find a career that was compatible with my art.
 
In 2010, the academic chapter of my life finally came to a close. It was a big year for me - a lot of major transition. In Dec of 2009, I graduated from anesthesia school - probably (hopefully) the last and most stressful academic achievement of my life.
 
I don’t remember Christmas. I was studying for boards. I had an expensive degree and no way to use it until I passed that test. It wasn’t the hardest test I’ve ever taken, but it had the most riding on it. If I failed, I wasn’t sure how I’d keep it together economically or mentally. I have never felt so alone as I felt walking in to take that exam. It’s impossible to adequately articulate my elation and relief when I got that last question and knew - KNEW - before I even saw the piece of paper - that I’d passed. My New Year started Jan 15. A very difficult chapter of my life was over. 
 
Then things got busy. I’d already signed on with JLR in Orlando, but I couldn’t bring myself to initiate any of the relocation process, or even take their money, until I knew I’d passed boards. Once I had my license, everything kicked in to gear. I moved from Oregon to Florida with my two cats. I bought a car, rented a house, and bought livingroom furniture - all for the first time in my life. I wasn’t able to start work until April, due to the credentialing process, but I had plenty to do. After I started working, I honed, tweaked, and practiced the skills I’d learned in school. I insisted and was finally put into OB service. I gained a new respect for my academic program. They taught me well. All that stress paid off.
 
I created a podcasting closet in my new house and insulated it. I bought new and better recording equipment. I had started releasing Cowry Catchers on the day I graduated. It seems odd, even to me, that I created so much audio during the busiest years of my life, but that creative outlet kept me sane. Over the course of 2010, Cowry Catchers earned me the most engaged audience I’ve ever had. Over the course of 2010, I released the full cast audio of the first 2 books of CC and got a better handle on marketing and advertising.
 
In April, I tried selling a short story on the Prophet podcast with moderate success. In Oct, I took what I’d learned from that and tried selling a Cowry Catchers story. That story has paid me 10 cents per word at this point, after all expenses. In Dec, I started selling eBooks. My writing has grossed about $670 this year. I’ve spent far more than I’ve earned (don’t get excited, IRS!), but this is still a landmark. I’ve never received that much for my writing. No magazine would pay me what I can generate for myself. I built a platform, launched a piece of fiction from it, and it flew! Near the end of the year, I taught myself to create eBooks, and by the beginning of January, Cowry Catchers 1 and 2 were available in the Kindle store and elsewhere.
 
In addition to all that, I adopted a 3rd cat, dated a guy who was not an Adventist (a rewarding experience, if kind of a sad finale), took a trip to Greece in a sailboat with 4 other people, and told my parents something important, but difficult. I went to my first sci-fi convention (Dragon Con - LOVED it), and got much more involved with the podcasting community as I involved more voice actors in my projects.
 
It’s been a really good year - hectic, stressful, satisfying, jumbled, terrifying, and glorious.
 
I hope 2011 will be a bit calmer and more focused. I have a contract wtih JLR, which will keep me here until at least April of 2012, and that’s the time frame that I’m looking at for some of my current projects. I podcasted 2 (of 5) Cowry Catchers books last year in fullcast audio. Fullcast is a lot of work, but tremendously rewarding. I’d like to get Books 3 and 4 out this year and then Book 5 done by April of next year. The illustrated eBooks will have to wait on the audio, because I don’t typically get all the illustrations until near release time. However, I may release the entire text as a package for $9.99 around the end of Book 3’s podcast.
 
I’ve got ambitious writing goals for 2011. My plan is to get up an hour early each morning and spend 20 minutes exercising and 40 minutes writing. On some days, I’ll probably write more than that, but even if I don’t, I can finish books at that rate. I’d like to write one novel, one novella, and write or finish at least half a dozen short stories.
 
The novel is The Scarlet Albatross - a dirigible story that happens in Wefrivain right after the end of the events in Cowry Catchers. It’s a stand-alone with a different set of characters. They may run into some characters from CC at the end. I will try VERY HARD to keep this under 100,000. I can write 100 word stories, 1,000 word stories, 5,000 word stories, and 300,000 word stories. But I have a hard time with anything between 5,000 and 300,000.
 
The other is a novella about what happens to the surviving characters in CC after the end of those books. While the plot arc of that series is definitely over at the end, the characters are still doing things. It may end up reading like a 6th book and will definitely be intended for fans of that series. Then, in the first half of 2012, I can hopefully edit Walk Upon High and be done with CC-related books for a while.
 
I’d also like a new website, and I will be putting out an anthology of Panamindorah short stories in eBook and audio later this year, as well as another paid short story on the website.
 
I could go on, but that’s enough. Happy New Year, all! May your 2011 be full of hope and creativity.
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shores beyond the world
Dec. 16th, 2010 @ 10:35 pm have not actually died
Current Mood: contentcontent
Hello, Livejournal! I have sort of abandoned this blog. Most updates about my writing go into my podcast. However, I do plan on reviving some kind of blog in 2011, and I'll probably cross-post it. So... If you missed me, stay tuned!

Breif update: Cowry Catchers podcast is between books 2 and 3 with around 2000 listeners. I've started selling stuff. People buy it. Yay! The Silveo short story has paid me 9.5 cents/word so far after all expenses (that includes quality artwork, Paypal fees, and paying the voice actors). T-shirts have been designed and are being tested. I will have swag soon! I've got several other paid shorts planned and a choose-your-own adventure app, and buncha contests. Also, the eBooks are in beta.

And of course Book 3. The end of Book 2 is a terrible stopping place, but I can only work as fast as I get audio. I'm guessing I'll launch that puppy sometime in Jan.

In the real world: I graduated for anesthesia school almost exactly a year ago, and this year has been emessurably better than the last. I love my job. Nobody is screaming at me. They send me regular paychecks. Life is good.
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dreaming
Jan. 10th, 2010 @ 10:08 pm A review of 2009 from a creative standpoint
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Creative work for 2009

--The Prophet of Panamindorah Podcast (solo read) - the novel plus several related short stories that haven't appeared elsewhere, was a Parsec Finalist
--The Guild of the Cowry Catchers Podcast (full cast audio, illustrated)
“Miranda and the Butterfly” appeared on August 3, 2009 on The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine.
“Forests of the Night” appeared in the spring 2009 edition (#4) of The Greatest Uncommon Denominator.
--"A Cat Prince Distinguishes Himself" is a Panamindorah story that appeared March 11, 2009 on The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine.
“Squid Ink” were dramatized on The Drabblecast, episode 134.

Cowry Catchers is off to a swifter start in terms of listener numbers, both because of the audience I built for Prophet and because I involved so many other podcasters (who then shopped it to their audiences). We're 5 episodes in, and I just ran across the longest, most detailed review of my work I've ever received from a total stranger. This guy was really paying attention! I also ran across a nice little review of the short story that was published in GUD. It's cool when Google Alerts turns up a nice review out of nowhere from someone to whom you've never spoken.
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happy pirate
Jan. 10th, 2010 @ 09:32 pm Happy 2010!
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Tags:
I passed my boards!!!!! EEEEEE!!!! I'm a licensed nurse anesthetist with a job waiting for me in Orlando. For me, this is the true start of the new year and of the new decade.

In 2001, I graduated with my first degree. I had gotten into a difficult program, and I thought it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my professional life. It wasn't. I spent the rest of the decade in search of a profession that would give me the freedom and flexibility I wanted (mostly to write books). I moved a lot. I tried a lot of things. I traveled every chance I got. I kept writing. I discovered that, although I can do anything, I can't do everything. Endless possibility becomes exhausting. I became depressed. In 2004, I decided to become a nurse anesthetist. There were a lot of steps to that process.

Around the end of 2005, Hughes and I moved out to Portland. We spend 2 glories years with our friends here, and I remembered how it feels to be happy. I had almost forgotten what that felt like. I wrote a book I am exceedingly proud of in 2007. Then Hughes and I accomplished our goals, and everything changed. He married the girl he was chasing. I married the program I was chasing. He and Laura moved into their first house, and I moved into a little one-bedroom apartment to spend 2 1/2 years in intensive study. We were deliriously happy, but in retrospect, it was the end of something precious. I wouldn't change a thing, but I'll miss that time. My other friends here all bought houses and started having babies about the same time. Suddenly, I was the only single person in our group. I was terribly busy, still not as lonely as I'd been for the first half of the decade, but stressed and tired and isolated.

When I got a good job offer in Orlando a few months ago, I decided to go for it. The market for CRNA's in Portland is poor. In Orlando, I can pay my loans off faster and live near friends I've missed. I hope that I return to Oregon eventually. Portland feels like home to me like no other town ever has, and I will miss Hughes and everyone else here more than I can say. Still, I'm excited about a change of scene, about sunshine and warm seas and tropical plants and awesome people I haven't seen much for the last 4 years. You never find Narnia in the same place twice. If I am happy in Portland again, it will not be in the same way or the same situation. No point trying to recreate what I had 2 1/2 years ago. Time to do something different for a while.

Anesthesia boards are hard. They have gotten harder recently, as the council on accreditation makes an effort to give them more teeth. I have been studying since Thanks Giving for 4-12 hours/ day. I spent most of the Holidays telling people that, even though I'd graduated, I really couldn't spend a lot of time doing stuff with them. My masters is worth nothing without a license. So, I'm half-crazy from being locked in my apartment with my textbooks for the last 6 weeks, but I now it's over, and I passed. Now I've just got to pick up the pieces of everything I've been neglecting here and say good-bye.

I haven't written any new books since I started anesthesia school, but I have written short stories and I have done creative projects. Over the last two years, I sold some stories, podcast one novel (The Prophet of Panamindorah), and began a full cast audio production of another novel (The Guild of the Cowry Catchers). I got involved with the podcast community, have done voice work for The Drabblecast and The Dunesteef, went to my first convention with fellow podcaster Chris Lester, and cannot wait to go to Dragon Con this year and meet more of these people! I feel like I have an extended family scattered all over the country. I have several hundred devoted listeners and several thousands casual listeners, and I I LOVE creating content this way. My apartment in Orlando will have a podcasting studio.

In addition, I think I'm going to love my job. I truly enjoy the complexity and responsibility of what I've been trained to do for a living. I'm looking forward to getting back into it, while also having more time for my hobbies and personal life. 2010 will be a good year and a good decade. I wish everyone who's still reading my journal a very happy New Years!
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squeeing inside
Sep. 5th, 2009 @ 08:11 am Parsecs tonight, et al
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Tags:
Writing stuff, in no particular order:

1. The Parsec awards are tonight at 1900 at Dragon Con in Atlanta. Prophet Book 3, Fire and Flood is a finalist. Norm Sherman and crew from The Drabblecast will be representing me. Exciting!

2. I've got another Panamindorah short story up on my feed. This one is a vignette about Sevn. I had not shown it to a soul when I posted it, so I guarantee you haven't read/listened. If you like my work, go have a listen. (And if you don't listen, I'll eventually post the PDF, but I haven't had time to clean it up.)

3. I set up Panamindorah Discussion forums for Prophet, and people are actually using them!!! :-O Folks, I cannot tell you how cool that is. In my experience, getting forums off the ground is one of the hardest things to do when you're trying to build an online presence. The special thing about forums (the thing that sets them apart from email or blog comments) is the ease with which fans can talk to each other. Not just to me. To each other. That is imposable for an author to produce on her own. You make the space, and it either happens or it doesn't. Often, people set them up, and they just die because no one talks.

These are still nascent forums, but at least they weren't stillborn. They went live 5 days ago, and half a dozen people are talking. If you have a few minutes, drop by and say hello (better yet, say something that people will want to respond to).

4. I've voice acted in all kinds of stuff lately. Most recently, I had a part in eugie's The End of the World, produced by the Drabblecast. This was so cool, because I knew almost everyone involved, but there was no intent to collaborate that way. Norm sent me the story, asked if I'd voice a part, and I was like, "Oh, it's a Eugie Foster story! Awesome! She has a pet skunk and I read her blog!" Then, when I got his thank you email after the story had finished, I saw that the cast included Rish from The Dunesteef and Kim from Geek Pantheon - all people I've corresponded with (also all people who are in Cowry Catchers).

5. Norm did a Geek Speak interview a while back for Drabblecast, and he read one of my drabbles live and talked about my podcasts. So cool. :)
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Tell me a story
Aug. 28th, 2009 @ 09:54 am how to sell short stories
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Tags:
As I've gotten involved in the podcasting community, I've run across a number of talented writers who've never placed a short story and are sad about it. The process of placing short stories seems mysterious to them.

I'm no pro (literally; I've never sold to a pro market), but all the stories I thought I could place in the last couple of years have found homes. It's been a while since I had a short story that I believed was marketable and just wasn't.

I remember that feeling of frustration, though. Some people helped me by answering questions, cmpriest particularly, and I spent a lot of time online puzzling it out. So here's Abbie's recipe for getting those first publications:

1. Start with about half a dozen short stories. Make them as good as you possibly can (beta, re-write, blah, blah, blah). If you're still fumbling with grammar and plot, you're not ready to start selling stories at all, but it seems like a lot of the people I meet in podcasting are actually competent writers. They may not be writing Asimov’s level stories, but they're writing stories that strangers enjoy reading, and that's all you need. I say to start with half a dozen (or 3 or 4 or 5...something more than 2!) because you probably have some stories that seem marketable, but just aren't, or they're going to be a lot harder to place than you think. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you'll get discouraged.

2. Get on http://www.duotrope.com/, plug in the specs for your stories, and start looking. I suggest screening for markets that pay something (contributor copies do not count). It doesn't have to be much. $5, even $1, but something. There seems to be a quality/respect line between markets that pay something and markets that pay nothing, and you want sales that will look good on your query letter and help you sell future stories. On the other hand, don't turn up your nose at markets that pay very little. It's unlikely that you will make more at this than you would working the same number of hours at minimum wage. This is true, even if you're selling to pro markets (unless you're eugie :) You're gonna spend a lot of hours and not get a lot of $ back. If publishing stories is not worth that to you, then don't do it.

You will find markets that appear promising. Go to their websites and find their submission guidelines. Never rely on Duotrope alone. When you submit, follow the guidelines exactly. Do whatever stupid formatting thing they tell you to do. If the site has an "About Us" section, read that. Find the editor's name, and address them by name in your submission. Over time, you will develop a standard query/submission letter, but always be willing to retailor it for any specific market. Follow directions.

3. Develop a submission/query letter. I do not claim to be an expert on query letters, but for short stories, they can be very brief. If you have no previous publications, just do something like this:

Dear [editor's name],

Thank you for considering my [word count] word story "[story's name]" for [market's name]. [Optional 1 - 3 sentence bio, depending on what the market seems to want.]

Sincerely,

[your name]
[contact info]


If you've had a few sales, it gets a little longer, but not much. Here's a recent successful query:

Dear Mr. Sherman,

Thank you for considering my drabble "Squid Ink" for _The Drabblecast_. You included my drabbles "Sacrifices" and "My Cat was Killed by Fairies" in episodes 69 and 82 respectively. _The Dunesteef_ played my story "A Cat Prince Distinguishes Himself" on March 11. I also have a story in the Spring issue of _The Greatest Uncommon Denominator_, and my worked appeared in the April 2008 edition of _Beyond Centauri_. My free podcast novel, _The Prophet of Panamindorah_, is available at podiobooks.com and on my website. I have another podcast novel launching in December.

I live in Portland, OR. I have been known to dissect roadkill in the name of science. I would totally get a squid ink tattoo.

All the best,
Abbie


If you can remember, always send these letters in plain text (hence the underscores instead of italics). Many publications read all their email in plain text, and sometimes things that are formatted in rich text break up into awkward, unprofessional-looking chunks when they get converted.

A query letter is not a magic bullet. Either they'll like your work or they won't, but at least you can make sure that they don't hate you before they even start reading.

4. Create some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of things. Mine includes the name of the market, name of the story, date submitted, method of submission (email, snailmail, website), date and nature of response (usually rejected and the date). That's all you really need, but you do need to keep track. You can also use this to keep track of interesting looking markets that you haven't yet had time to submit to.

5. Start submitting. Most markets are going to tell you that they don't want "simultaneous submissions," which means they don't want anyone else looking at your story while they are looking at it. I think this is unreasonable, and here's where I'm going to tell you to do something naughty. I usually have my stories out to 3 places at any given time. Not dozens. Not everywhere I could find. Just 3 places. Invariably, one or two of those places will sit on it for months, sometimes as many as 6 or 8. Some will never respond at all. If you actually went one-by-one, it would take you years to exhaust the markets for even the most insignificant of short stories. These places should not be able to stop you in your tracks that way. They don't get to hold your work hostage forever. If a market has a reputation for swiftness and they really emphasize their no SS policy, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I'll submit solo and wait for a few weeks and see what happens. This isn't a blanket policy, but it's one that works pretty well for me. It also staves off despair. If your story is rejected at one place, you can say to yourself, "Well, it's still under consideration at those other two places."

If you do submit to more than one place and your story is accepted somewhere else, always be polite and immediately send other markets an email saying, "I would like to withdraw my submission of thus-and-such." You do not need to explain; just withdraw it. I have never had anything accepted in two places at once, and the likelihood is tiny. However, you still don't want to waste their time. Be polite to them, as you hope they will be to you.

However, if they appear to have no consideration for you, limit your consideration for them. I count stories rejected by default after 3 months and move on. I have had one accepted outside that time-frame, and for a long time, my default was 6 months. Whatever you chose, I would suggest having a cut-off point beyond which you consider it a default rejection. This will give you closure and tidy up your bookkeeping. Do be aware that pro and semi-pro markets are the worst about sitting on your stories forever and ever, and sometimes they do accept them after a year. *shrug*

6. Expect rejection. Expect loads of it. For me, it's often the 8th or 9th or 10th market that accepts a story. And you're doing this times 6. Say to yourself, "I'm going to send each of these stories to at least a dozen places before I retire them, maybe 15 or 20. I'm going to see a LOT of rejection letters."

7. Be flexible. If an editor tells you that he/she liked the story except for X and X is something you can change, offer to do so. That's how I made my first fantasy sale. The editor might not go for it, but if you're polite, they won't fault you for trying.

8. Be persistent. If you exhaust the markets for a story, especially the kind with limited markets available (such as a drabbles or really short flash), put the story on hiatus and return to it in 6 months to a year. Do an edit, and if you still think the story is good, do a new search. New markets crop up all the time. Submit again.

If you throw enough darts at the board, you are going to hit something. As you get more experience, you'll get better at aiming.
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dreaming
Aug. 21st, 2009 @ 05:01 pm I can has spellchex
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Fan decides to correct spelling errors on my website - is fine, helpful even. These are backwaters of my website that don't really get beta read by anyone.

Same fan decides to correct spelling errors on my twitter posts via Facebook. *sigh* You give'em an inch... I have a hard time expressing how obnoxious I find this. I twitter with my iPhone from the break room at work, usually on a lark and in a rush. The spellcheck is hit or miss. If you don't like my spelling, don't read my tweets and FB cross-posts.

I really want to reply to him in LOLCat. I'll probably just ignore him, though, and hope he goes away. This person also insists on calling me "AH" even though he knows my name, and I never sign anything that way.

/end rant
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you've got to be joking
Aug. 4th, 2009 @ 05:02 am Another short story lose in the wild
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
"Miranda and the Butterfly" appeared on the Dunesteef! :)
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dreaming
Jul. 27th, 2009 @ 11:58 am Parsecs et al
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Tags: , ,
I haven't been around LJ much lately, because I've been really busy, but stuff has been happening, so I thought I'd better post before I forget it all. My Mom and Grandma are here to visit this week-end, and we've had a great time. Nonee (my grandma) has not been out to OR before, and we were hoping she'd have a good enough experience that she'd want to come again. I'm also in my last 4 months of clinicals and desperately busy. Boards are looming on the horizon, and I have a handful of final projects.

Writing stuff:

1. The third Prophet book (Fire and Flood) was nominated as a finalist in the Parsec awards in the novella category. (EEEEE!!) This is a big deal. The Parsecs are an award for excellence in podcasting. They are, arguably, the biggest podcasting award, especially for fiction, and nearly everyone who has any sort of podcast gets entered. 5 finalists are selected for each category. Even if I don't win, I can display the Parsec finalists nominee stamp on my website and wherever my book appears, which is a significant endorsement. The winners are announced each year at Dragon Con in Atlanta. Competition is fierce, so I'm not holding my breath, but I'm so excited to be in the running! If you want to listen to the sample I submitted, it's here (the third clip).

2. I read a story for The Drabblecast - a podcast of the delightfully weird. I've been a fan for a while. Norm is Silveo in Cowry Catchers. This isn't my story; I just narrated.

3. I had a poem on Wander Radio. It corresponded nicely with the Parsec announcement. It's at about 32:30 minutes in.

4. The Dunesteef accepted the Miranda story! Yay! It's coming out August 3, I think.

I also read lines for a Dunesteef story a while back called In Absence Of Mind Wiping Thingies. It made me laugh.
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Calvin box
Jul. 9th, 2009 @ 09:35 pm purty pictures
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
I'm back from Grants Pass. So tired. Had quite a day on very little sleep. I gave my phone number to a medical student (I'm definitely very tired).

Cool thing dropped into my inbox - I've got another artist filling in some of the holes for the Cowry Catchers podcast illustrations. She did some delightful initial sketches for me. Here's one of Silveo, for the few of you who know who he is.
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exhausted