Category Archives: Authonomy Related

Posts related to Authonomy

Write a Novel in 3 Days? Why Not?

For the past 3 years, I’ve been booked Labor Day weekend — no picnics, barbecues, hikes or drives to the country.  You’ll find me out on my balcony (weather permitting) with my laptop and a cup of weak coffee by my side, churning out a mini-masterpiece for the  International 3 Day Novel Contest.  It’s a simple premise — start and complete a novel over the 72 hour holiday weekend.

On the honor system.  It’s Canadian.

The first year I entered, I did  hope to achieve the ultimate prize: publication.  The first prize is a book contract with a small press.  They don’t announce the winners till January.  I drove myself nuts waiting.  It was a more intense experience than any previous contest I’d ever entered before.  The reason now seems clear.  This isn’t a normal situation where you enter using something that’ you wrote long ago.  The 3-Day demands that you create something new and create it under intense pressure.  You are allowed to write an outline in advance though mine have proven useless once I started.  One emerges at the end with a sense that one has been through, if not an ordeal, then at least an intense ritualistic experience.

In my case, I’m not the only one going through it.  My better half  has been a devoted partner, acting as a caregiver, cook, sounding board,  personal assistant , and massage therapist.   He’s also signed off on the “affirmation” statement that the novel was started and completed within the time frame.

This year life issues were getting in the way of the creative flow. Ten days before the big day, I had no clear idea about what I even wanted to write.  The BH demanded I show him some outlines and pick a plot so that I would not spend the first few hours staring in horror at blank screen.  I came up with two ideas — one was a sort of As I Lay Dying set in present day Queens, the other a strangely lighthearted lad-lit tale of a youngish man getting romantic advice from an old man/ghost haunting his basement apartment.   Thank goodness, he advised me to go for the latter.

Have I ever won?  Not exactly.  But winning isn’t everything; in fact, it’s not even relevant.  I’d compare it to entering the New York City Marathon.  It’s much more about personal best and achievement than it is about getting first place.  (Though it would be nice if like a marathon they gave prizes in categories.  I’d settle for best novel in the under 25k words category by a woman over 40.)  However, that’s not how I felt the first time I entered.

My first entry, The Death Trip came in at a bit above 20,000 words, barely a novella.  They say size doesn’t matter, but then they say it might be a factor.  I didn’t even make the shortlist.  My better-half who loved the story, is still bitter.  But here’s what I did get out of it:  I got a novella draft in need of little (but not much) revision.  I not only got it quick, but I got it with a story that I might never have bothered with otherwise.  I learned that I could crank out something coherent in 3 days.  I also used the obsession I developed waiting for the results as the basis for a story I told at the Narativ Story Workshop which was filmed, and then used by 3Day on their website.

I revised the novella and realized after a couple of rejections there wasn’t a big market for it at that length.  I had no desire to either shorten or expand it, so I decided to put it out as an e-book. To date I’ve had over 1,800 downloads.

My effort the second time around, Hungry Ghosts, actually made the short-list.  It too barely made it to 20k, but I fell in love with the story and although other projects have gotten in the way, I’m still working on expanding it to a full novel length.  With its combination of erotica and horror, I’m hoping it may even be commercially viable.   I’m sure it never would have been written without the contest. All I had of it before Labor Day was a first line (which I wound up changing), a premise that wasn’t completely thought out, and a list of characters.

This year, I promised myself I would somehow get up to 27k, and somehow made it to just that point.   Of course I’m still hoping that the third time is the charm, but even if I don’t make this year’s short list, I’m still feeling high from the writing.  As a way to jump start a first draft, the 3 Day can’t be beat.

It hasn’t gotten easier over time.  I had a tough first night or more literally morning this go-round,  but the spirit of the thing kicked in — the idea that in some way, I’d been “preparing,” anticipating this special weekend, reserving it for a purpose.   I felt like I had nothing to lose by continuing, so there was no reason not to push on to the end.

I wound up with something unlike anything I’d written before — a lighthearted view of gentrification that almost celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of people who buy and develop property, a romance that might even work, a happy ending!

The process allows writers to take risks and encourages them to follow Elmore Leonard’s maxim and “skip the boring parts” because there’s simply no time to write them.  Whatever I think I learned getting my MFA is useless.  More useful is the storytelling  technique practiced at Narativ.  Although that method was designed for oral storytelling of true stories, the method of focusing on “what happened” and not explaining it, kept me from getting lost in my story and forced me to keep going, even when I wasn’t sure of where.

Thanks to the contest, I now have one novella out in the world attracting a little bit of attention, and I have two projects  that need development and expansion, so I don’t have to face the dreaded blank page.   I have confidence in my ability to crank out material under pressure and I’ve further honed my skills.  The contest allows you to turn your home into a writer’s retreat at a much lower cost than actually traveling to one.  It costs $50 to enter, waived if you got a prize or honorable mention the previous year.

So to anyone who writes fiction or has even thought about writing fiction mark your calendar now and start thinking  about the book you’ll be writing Labor Day Weekend 2011 (thinking is not against the rules).

Here’s the clip of me talking about my first  3- Day experience:

My Kindle — Week Two

So after endless discussion and debate — internal and external, I finally bought a Kindle DX.  As my regular readers (I’m talking to you Kirkland and Walsall) know, I love books – the look and feel of them, the way they turn to dust and crumble in your hand. I love used books that have yellowing paper that breaks off if you try to fold a corner to save a place. But there’s only so much room in my apartment.

Why a Kindle? Why not a Nook, or Sony E-Reader, or Brand X, or I-PAD?

After reading the recent New Yorker article on Bezos v. Jobs and Big Publishing, I decided maybe it was worth supporting Amazon. If we’re all going to be reading e-books in the future, it would be nice to be reading them cheap, and Bezos at least acknowledges that it costs much less to produce an e-book than a print book and some of those savings should be passed on to consumers.  As a print consumer, most of the books I buy are discounted or more likely used. I like the idea of more cheap content, and Amazon offers droves of it. As a writer, I love that Kindle offers easy access to self-publishing with 70% royalty, which also deserves supporting.

I get the utility of the I-PAD as an easy display to show off your photos, watch movies, surf the web, etc.  It’s great for reading art books, graphic novels and those “books of the future” with lots of live links including to video clips, photos, etc. However, for reading words on a page,  the Kindle is far superior. No backlight, good contrast, and lightweight.  It doesn’t give me a screen headache.  Call me a relic, but I’m fine surfing the web on my computer, and if I had unlimited income I’d buy an I-PAD as well, but for reading books and other texts, this works best.

I chose the DX, a big price jump from the regular Kindles, because I wanted the screen size. The Nook, by the way, doesn’t come big.  I’ve always been farsighted and since passing into my decrepitude, small print has been a lot of work. The DX allows me a full screen of text displayed in a reasonably large font.  It’s a nice size for reading and storing work-related PDFs and an alternative to printing them out.

What I’ve Learned So Far:

Proofreading. Who knew?

One thing I didn’t even think would be useful is the “text to voice” feature. Just as an experiment, I turned it on to listen to my  novel, Loisaida. Despite having proofread several times the old-fashioned way and with friends as readers, I was suddenly “seeing” a ton of errors and formatting inconsistencies I hadn’t caught before. I was able to note them using the mark-up feature. It’s awkward for editing as you can’t directly change the text, and the keyboard isn’t great. But the combination of being able to read something that looks like print and hear the words clearly (albeit mechanically) is a terrific proofreading tool.

Sharing, not encouraged.

I’m enjoying my two-week free trial subscription to The New York Times on Kindle.  It’s great to browse through the articles one at a time and not have to move from page 1 to page 13 to finish reading something. I thought I’d be able to save some trees and chuck my home delivery subscription, however, here we run into a problem. I am pair-bonded.  Even if my better-half had his own Kindle, he’d need his own subscription to read The Times on it.  I suppose the idea would be for him to get his own Kindle and we could each trade off with different subscriptions, but this is not happening anytime soon, Mr. Bezos. While my husband says he’s fine reading the paper on the computer screen, he says it in an “I’ll just read in the dark” tone, so for now at least we’ll stick to the paper version of the paper.

(Of course, I’m hardly the first to notice the sharing issue  and there is a less than perfect fix. Apparently, if we bought another Kindle and kept my name on the account for both devices, The Times could go to both. But that would destroy our sense of individuality and hence the marriage itself, leading to a court fights over custody of the content when we divorce.)

Thumb fatigue and the Plight of the Left-Handed

I wish there were a better way to turn the page. The button that needs to be pushed, feels counter-intuitive. Why not a touchscreen (like I-PAD) for this one feature?  I noticed also when I was reading intensely (my proofreading binge), my right arm from thumb to elbow started to ache.  I’m a righty, but would have liked to switch hands. The only way to do that is to turn the image upside down and then turn the Kindle itself upside down. This means, however, that the page turning arrows will be pointing in the wrong direction and the keyboard — in case you want to make notes, adjust the font, etc., — will also be upside down. I don’t know whether or not the other devices are more “left-hand friendly,” but I wouldn’t recommend this one to a lefty.

One Click Buying Adds Up

I’m no expert on the  economics of the Kindle, but I imagine the main money is not in the sales of the apparatus itself, but in all the Amazon products bought once you own one. While the Kindle doesn’t surf the web, it does surf the Amazon store quite easily and allows you to purchase anything you want with just one-click. Impulse buying is encouraged and just about every periodical and blog comes with a free two-week trial, which you have to remember to cancel before they start charging you.

And Finally: The Kindle Community — Are we just talking to ourselves?

Another glitch, probably worthy of it’s own dissertation or at least a post — the Kindle of course comes with its own “Kindle Community” of forums because  couldn’t we all use more social networking?  There are tons of threads.  Some are about Kindle devices.  Many are about content, and most of these  seem to be self-published Kindle authors hawking their wares. This leads me suspect that in some ways, the “Kindle Community” isn’t very different from the “Authonomy Community” with one exception.  Whereas, Harper Collins allows writers to display their work for each other to see and comment on free of charge, Amazon charges for downloading other people’s work, counting these as “book sales” and gets a 30-65%  (depending on price) piece of the action. While there are tens of thousands of self-published books available on Kindle,  it’s not at clear who is buying other than other self-published writers.

I’m calling this neologism

I’ve just invented a word although that seems very unlikely. If you can prove a usage prior to mine, let me know. The word is: ghostpuppet.

You may know about sockpuppets . Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

“A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an online community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about himself or herself, pretending to be a different person,[1] like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet.”

You may have also heard of meatpuppets. Meatpuppets are other people, friends, relatives, employees, slaves whom we get to promote us online while they keep their relationship to us secret.

Ghostpuppets are different. Say you find yourself spending too much time online at a “social networking” site. Someplace like authonomy maybe. And finally you break away and leave. Only the real world is a cold and lonely place where no one wants to hear your theories about literature and speculation about publishing. So you go back. Only you tell yourself it’s just to play, just to forumcate a bit. But you’re not quite out, not quite yourself. Some people know who you are. Some don’t recognize you. You’ve got a new screen name and a gender neutral avatar. You are in some ways a shadow of your previous self. Not a sockpuppet as you have nothing to promote and no other identity. A ghost.

Like it?
Also do I get bonus points for forumcate? The noun form is forumcation. The definition is “to spend endless hours on a forum posting shit.” Or as my British friends say “shite.”

Coming soon to a blog near you…

We just got back from our Guatemala trip and I’ve got grants to write and errands to run, so for now just a preview of the posts-to-be-written:

The Most Dangerous Moment on our trip was at about 5 in the morning on the tourist shuttle mini-van to the airport on the road from Antigua. The road is curvy, but newly paved and well-lit. Up ahead a truck is turning on to the highway. The truck isn’t moving fast. Suddenly, we are stuck in a moment. The van hasn’t slowed down, but time decelerates as we are very closely approaching the metal wall that is the side of the truck. I am sitting in the middle seat of the second row with no seat belt, perfectly positioned to fly through the space between the driver and the front passenger seat and crash through the windshield. The moment lasts long enough for me to experience the irony of my coming death. My husband is the uncomfortable flyer. I’m the one always arguing that you can trust the pilots who are for the most part professionals. It’s the idiots on the road who will kill you. The van suddenly without even the screech of breaks comes to a halt about a foot from the truck bed. The truck pulls onto the highway, and then we keep going.

The book I’m currently reading is Larry Harrison’s, Glimpses of a Floating World. Here’s the mini-review, I posted on Amazon: “1963, London, Soho, sex, drugs and yes even rock and roll. Ronnie is like a strung-out, hipster, Holden Caulfield if Holden had been a seventeen year old working class Brittish junkie. Harrison perfectly portrays Ronnie’s world, “the scene” that Ronnie will do anything to get back to — the “floating world” of illusion so expertly shown that the reader will never forget the journey. This is an amazing story and a very addictive read.” I promise to write a better, longer-one soon, but please buy the damn book.

State of the Union — I so want to believe in Obama. Travelling, I kept thinking about the President’s mother and how she was a woman who if she hadn’t spent so much time in Indonesia, could have loved Guatemala and isn’t it remarkable that the son of a woman like that could be President of these United States? And then tonight I’m watching that speech hoping for something that doesn’t sound like the sos, and he says how he’s going to “work with Congress” on repealing don’t ask don’t tell? Work with Congress, my ass. This is an easy one. Executive order Mr. Commander in Chief. Harry Fucking Truman did it with integration.

The Writing Life — So I come back to the good news that I’ve got honorable mention for my 3 day novel entry! No money or publication but the possibility that if I turn the damn thing into a full length book, I could at least mention the honor in a query. Needs work but think Lolita from Doleres Haze’s POV meets The Shining or maybe The Lovely Bones for cynical adults without a happy ending. Meantime, Loisaida is sitting, requested as a full on some agent’s desk.

My addictions — Honestly think that the internet/social networking may now have taken over my life more completely than even the television machine. Still experiencing authonomy withdrawal. Having just got back from a vacation to a previously “remote” part of the world, I’m more and more concerned about how the net (and easy access to it) may affect how we experience travel. Anyone remember the ritual of the picture postcard or letters? Stopping to write them on the road. Maybe if you could find a place to make a copy in case they got lost or mostly you took your chances and sometimes finding the post office was an adventure itself. If you came across a phone, you probably used it to check in same as you would a clean toilet whether or not you needed to go. You were forced to talk to people or to no one because you didn’t have IM or the office party atmosphere of facebook at your disposal. (We didn’t have laptops with us this trip and actually didn’t spend much time on the web, but it was available everywhere.) I remember meeting people simply by asking for directions which I’m sure in a couple of years won’t be done when every street in every town in every country is instantly on google maps and accessible on a variety of devices.

More to come. Stay tuned boys and girls.

Adventures in Independent Publishing

I hope you didn’t find your way here via a search and are expecting something useful.

There are so many blogs and people I should link you to, but if I had to prepare all that, I wouldn’t have time to do the important things like take out the dog and change the cat’s litter box.

It’s probably a generational thing, but term self-publishing still sounds like the old vanity presses to me so I’m opting for calling whatever it is I think I’m doing, “independent publishing.”

The truth is the big houses are dying not having prepared for the digital age or followed what was happening in other industries affected by it. In a few years it’ll all be “independent and self” publishing and people will start referring to what is now “traditional” publishing with some retronym like “corporate publishing.”

In any case, I guess I joined the digital publishing age back in February when I put an excerpt of my novel Loisaida up on Authonomy. I’ve just taken another step and put my novella, The Death Trip on Smashwords ( It’s free and you can download through this link: Take a look!

I’ll clean up this blog later and add some links, and in the coming weeks I’ll keep you posted on my experiences with kindle, starting my own micro-imprint, and the world of POD.

Feel free to leave a relevant comment.