Thursday, May 24, 2018

Taking Stock

It's wild to think about, but 2018 is nearing the halfway point. I had some writing goals to complete before the end of the year, so I'm spending a few moments to take stock to see where I am on that.

My main goal was to publish four works--it didn't matter what form it took, I just wanted to get four pieces out there. So far this year there has been a novella, a poetry collection, and a story on the Episode app. The first one is getting pulled soon, and those last two are not completed, but since the finished parts are live and available to the public, it still counts towards my goal. I just have to find one more piece to finish, submit, and find success with.

Speaking of submissions--all of those submissions I was waiting to hear back on in January all died in April. Every last one of them, including the rhyming poetry I submitted to a contest specifically for rhyming poetry in which all of the winners and finalists were not rhyming poems. That's what I get for not realizing they lumped rhyming in with "traditional" so top prizes went to those instead. My poor rhyming poem... it's been through it all, and still no one takes it seriously.

Anyway, the two submissions I was waiting to hear back from when I last wrote about it were also rejections, but specifically rejections because they had each received a record number of submissions for that submission period. Both publications pointed to being featured in Submittable's weekly emails--and of course that's where I was getting my submission leads, so apparently it's completely counterintuitive to use that weekly email. Who knew?

My next step will be getting back to finding a home for my poetry chapbook. I don't think I'll be aiming for contests anymore because they simply don't work out (and can get pricey with entry fees). I'll be targeting micro-presses instead, which may give me a better chance at getting that fourth publication before the end of the year.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Death of Kindle Worlds

If you haven't heard the news yet, Amazon is shutting down Kindle Worlds over the next few weeks. This comes after Amazon shut down all of its other programs for writers such as Write On and Kindle Scout. This was the last entity that writers still had an option to work with, and now that its shutting down, what is left for writers over at Amazon?

Although I currently have three Kindle Worlds titles, this news isn't the end of the world, so to speak. When Kindle Scout shut down, I knew that Worlds wouldn't be far behind, but I thought I would have at least until 2019 before they decided to close. I'm going to miss my $20-$25 a year in royalties from these titles. Even though it wasn't much, I recently had been looking into revamping my backlist to boost sales with new covers, better formatting, and a nice clean edit for each title. Now I have less titles to do that for, so that will save me a little time and effort.

I don't think that there's ever a good time for a book or a series of books to become obsolete, but this wasn't a great time for me to hear this. I was finally trying to get real plans in place to relocate, not just wishful thinking. A big part of that was getting my passive income streams up to par. I needed these novellas not so much for the direct royalties, but for the higher tiers on my Patreon page. My highest tier ($15) now looks a little silly, because the bulk of what patrons were paying for was digital copies of my entire backlist, which is going from five titles down to just two. No one in their right minds would join at the $15 level (even with access to all of the additional amazing lower-level perks) knowing they could pick up digital copies of my backlist for about six bucks. I'm trying my best to get more work out, but insert your favorite tired Rome-related cliche here.

The Legal Bit...

All hope is not lost because some rights do revert back to me upon the closing of Kindle Worlds. The problem is the Worlds Licensor (the author of the original series) also holds onto some rights because those who submitted a story, novella, or novel to a world was required to use characters and locations from the existing series. What it boils down to is that if I wanted to revive these novellas, I would have to have explicit permission from the author of the original series in order to do so, which isn't likely to happen.

Under the bubble of the Kindle Worlds label, the Worlds authors were getting royalties from someone else's work and probably a bit of promotion for their own work in a roundabout way without doing anything other than offering authors like me the ability to play with their characters. Without that bubble, offshoot works have the potential to dilute the power of their series, especially if you run into readers who don't understand the difference between the original series and the fan fiction titles. If I were on the other end of this, I could see why I wouldn't want former Kindle Worlds titles competing with my series.

I signed up for Kindle Worlds knowing full well I was tying up my hard work with copyright restrictions, but right now I have the feeling that it was all a waste of time. I'm sure that feeling will pass, eventually.

Titles Are Still Available... For Now

Amazon isn't pulling all of its Kindle Worlds titles until "on or around July 16th" so if you still want to check out my Melody of Love novella series, you can still get them. Unfortunately for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, they have already been removed from the program as of yesterday--the day the email was sent, so thanks for that heads up, Amazon. It's probably because they were promising proactive payment for borrows, even if the book hadn't met the reading threshold. Smart business move for them, I guess.

Melody of Love (#1)
Haunting Melody (#2)
Melody's Valentine (#3)

I also want to quickly thank those who have downloaded any of these titles since they first went live on Amazon. I do appreciate the support and the book reviews. Now I have to get back to work. Gotta build up that backlist again...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Big Dreams on Tiny Shoulders

Thoughts Hulu's Tiny Shoulders

I wasn't sure I wanted to watch Tiny Shoulders when it came up on my screen while browsing through Hulu. I didn't want to watch mostly because I didn't know what angle the documentary would take, whether it would be to praise the global phenom that is Barbie, or whether it would be a tool to continue to tear it down. Quite simply, I didn't want my memories of playing with Barbies to be sullied by someone else's opinion.

Thankfully, Tiny Shoulders is a relatively balanced look at the history of Barbie and how it has fundamentally changed in the last couple of years. It covers everything from Ruth Handler's initial struggle to get anyone to design and manufacture the doll to today's dolls that come in varied heights, sizes, colors and hairstyles to better represent the girls that are playing with them. 

My Barbie collection, 1991

The biggest question that the documentary poses is the struggle on how to see Barbie. Is she a vapid Valley Girl with nothing better to do than wear fabulous clothes and keep her stunning figure? Or is Barbie one of those accidental feminist icons—after all, she's had hundreds of careers, she makes her own money, and she doesn't need poor little Ken to marry her in order for her to feel worthy.  

Paging Dr. Barbie.

The documentary does set out to correct the record. In the beginning, Barbie was a progressive toy. It was the first doll for girls that she didn't have to take care of like a baby doll. She wasn't using Barbie to learn how to be a wife and mother. She was using Barbie to explore all of those other options out there, like having a career that is fulfilling beyond family life. There are plenty of missteps in Barbie's history that do point to her as being more superficial and not as progressive as originally intended, but the fact that this toy continues to evolve is a testament to its original intention. 

Barbie and Ken as ice skaters.

For me, Barbie was just always there. It was something I loved playing with, but not because I thought I was going to grow up and be a six-foot-tall tan supermodel with blonde hair. I loved Barbie because she had so many options—when it came to clothes, accessories, and careers. Not so much with the look during my peak Barbie years (late eighties to mid-nineties). That's why even though I loved Barbie, I always wanted the other, lesser known dolls. Where I went to pick out Barbies—I have to sadly say that it was at the now-defunct Toys'R'Us—seemed to never have Barbie's brunette friend, but always had her redhead friend. So instead of just picking up Barbie's friends, I gravitated toward Skipper, Courtney, and Kevin. 

Kindergarten graduation presents, All-American Barbie and Babysitter Courtney.

Skipper was supposedly Barbie's teenage sister. I bought that story for awhile, but when I got into my last months of playing with these dolls, I was convinced that Skipper, along with Stacey and Kelly, were not sisters but Barbie's kids, because what forty-something year old woman didn't have kids? Sexist idea, I know. Forgive me. I was thirteen, growing up in a conservative Midwest, and trying to hide the fact that I still played with Barbies. I had my own issues to deal with. 

The latest in Skipper accessories.

Skipper had this friend named Courtney. She was what I considered the perfect doll because she wasn't blonde, she didn't have the pointed toes to wear high heels, and she was a teenager. Because at six years old, that's the next huge milestone you are looking forward to. I, like most children, wanted something I could really relate to. Hair color might be superficial, but her having brown hair was the reason I loved her so much. I even loved the fact that Kevin, Skipper's boyfriend, came in both blonde and brunette varieties. I had both, which worked out well because that meant Skipper and Courtney could both date guys named Kevin, who by the way was captain of the basketball team (the blonde one, not the brunette—that one was a skateboarder). Win-win! Out of every doll and accessory I had, Courtney and brunette Kevin were the only two dolls I have kept all these years.

I also enjoyed the Stacey and Todd dolls. That's because I liked having a doll that was around the same age as me while I played with it. They had awesome soccer uniforms, party clothes, and had fun accessories (I would have killed to have a real-life version of Stacey's loft bed that I had with the wardrobe/desk combo underneath). I ended up getting a couple of Kelly dolls as well, but that's when the fictional bubble burst for me. Barbie and Kelly had a 30+ year age gap. No way were they sisters. But because of that, I started making up better and more complex stories when I played. At the ripe old age of eleven, I decided I was going to be a writer. For the next two years, Barbie and all of her friends, sisters (“sisters”), and all of the other players became a way for me to storyboard all of the things I wanted to write.

And that's why I played with my dolls for longer than was socially acceptable. It was simply a tool to make up these stories, to see where I wanted it to go before I wrote it down. Those last few months of play are what make Barbie special to me. It was fun, and I'm glad that even though Barbie as a brand has had its ups and downs, it doesn't take away the joy that any of us had exploring the world with them. 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Various Directions

Now that Camp NaNoWriMo is officially over (I happily left with 10,345 words) I have shifted my attention back to other projects. The first on the list is of course that script I wanted to use to apply to a script writing program. I'm still not happy with it, so it's in a serious revision state with only three weeks to go until applications close, but on top of that, I've never put a TV episode into the proper format before, so there are a lot of little annoying things I have to get just right. Usually I just write TV episodes in feature format, which is wrong, but everything else is still first drafts, so I guess I would have had to bring them up to this standard at some point anyway.

I also jumped into the world of Episode. I downloaded the app just because I was bored and needed something to do for ten minutes, and I've always loved the choose-your-own-adventure format. Once I opened the app, I noticed that there was a write tab, so I checked it out. It turns out that you can write your own story on Episode, and that intrigued me. Most of the stories are geared toward flirty romance and light mystery (the target audience being female 13+). I thought, why not? I could come up with something fun, and it says there is a paid program for writers.

A sneak peek of Love Bites the Big Apple (I promise, it does get better!)

I started my story, but then I found out there is a lot of other aspects of writing a story for Episode that I wasn't thrilled with. First, you can't just plug a script into a form and get it animated. You have to control the movements, directions, and facial expressions of all the characters. Some people compare it to something like coding rather than simply writing, but I think any true coder will tell you it's nothing like coding either. I found that it's closer in comparison to a technical script--where it has camera angles and specific shots along with all of the dialogue.

It is tedious to do all of the directions, set changes, and clothing changes, but once I really got into it, I was starting to have fun. The story is still working itself out--since the look of the characters seems a little Barbie-esque to me, I decided to plug in the story I used to use when I played with my dolls. I can't publish anything to the app until I have three chapters that meet a certain length requirement, so it may be awhile before it goes live.

And about that payment program. I'm pretty sure this is going to be a passion project rather than a paid project. To qualify for payment, a writer must get 500,000 reads in only 60 days. Once you meet that, then the payment program signup is available. Anything about what you get paid per read after that is information that I have yet to get my hands on. I'm going to say that even if people fall in love with my story and clamor to get more chapters, I would still have less than a twenty percent chance of qualifying. Half a million is a giant number. I still have to get through the popular stories on the app to see what it takes to really get noticed--and since I started this journey on my Kindle, which hasn't had an Episode update in the past four years, I'm going to have to switch to my phone to read more of the recent stories for research. With only a small chance of ever turning this into paid work, I've been trying to restrict myself to an hour a day working on it.

Even with all of this work, I managed to think up a short story idea in the shower this morning. Today is looking to be a very long writing day.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

April's End

If you can believe it, it's almost the end of April. National Poetry Month has been fun, even though this year I didn't attempt to do as much with it as I normally do. Camp NaNo is almost over too. And no,  I'm not going to meet my goal (sneak peek of what I did write will be posted on Patreon May 4, if you're interested). Although it was only 25k, I kind of get that wanderlust feeling every April, like I'm supposed to be someplace else and there's some really arbitrary deadline no one told me about. So I scramble to work overtime on paying gigs instead of my creative work. It doesn't get to the point where I actually leave, but this time I'm doing a little more with actively getting plans in place, like getting someone to take my resume seriously even though I'm out of the local candidate range.

There's also the issue of that script I was writing for a fellowship program. It was so much better in my head than it is on paper. Applications are going to be accepted through the end of May, so I have a very short window to transform it into something I would want to put my name on. Of course being accepted into that program comes with its own issues, but I need to stop that type of thinking--that's what gets me to convince myself that earning an opportunity like this would bring more headaches than it's worth. I'm not going to dive head-first into personal affirmations, but I am going to check myself when necessary to keep this career moving forward, whatever shape that takes.

So do your worst, May. I'm still going to keep writing.
(No, May. Please--I didn't mean it. Be nice to me!)