Thursday, October 23, 2014

Notes from the Cave

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I just don't know what's been wrong with me for the past six months or so in regards to blogging.  I just haven't been making the time for some reason.  I will say that part of the reason for the lack of blog posts is that I have been working on my political parties book and FINALLY, after two years, almost have it done.

I'm working on the Epilogue right now, and then will still have a short Afterword to write, but will then be finished.  Then it'll just be editing and formatting it for e-book publication, and designing a cover.  I might actually pay someone to do that for me this time.  In the past, I've designed and created my own covers using various photo editing services.

I might also make this one available in print format as well.  When you publish independently through Amazon, they have an option for print publishing as well as e-book publishing, but I've never done it before.  From what I know about it, it's free to do, just like the e-book publishing, and their publishing house simply prints the books on demand.  So when someone orders through the website, they print the book, then ship it.  So there are no up-front costs for stocking books in the warehouse.

Another thing that has been taking my time over the last six weeks in particular is that I have begun learning Spanish.  I started on Labor Day Weekend and have been steadily learning each day since then.  I've always been good at languages and picked up German very quickly in high school.  I ended up taking four years in high school, then several more semesters in college.  My college professor actually tried to talk me into minoring in German, simply because I was so good at it.

So anyway, I've never regretted taking German, but have always wanted to learn Spanish too because it would be so much more useful in day-to-day society.  Like it or not, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people in the U.S., and they are here to stay, language and all.  I'd like to be able to communicate with them when necessary, especially since they are sometimes my patients at the hospital.

My goal is to get reasonably fluent in Spanish, then bone back up on my German, not because I ever have much opportunity to use German, but simply because I want to.  Heck, I might even tackle a third language (French?) after that.

Back when I was in Radiology school, I bought a book and learned some Spanish basics, but I never went beyond that.  The reason I finally started learning now is because I discovered Duolingo.  This is a website (Duolingo.com) that is totally free, and teaches you how to speak the language of your choice.  They also have a very useful app for phones and tablets.  I use the app on my phone for about 90% of my learning.  I have supplemented this app with several other Spanish-teaching websites and apps, as well as a Spanish-English dictionary and a Spanish verb conjugation dictionary, all on-line and by app.  Since Spanish is the widest taught and widest studied foreign language in the U.S., there are tons of free teaching resources online.  I had never realized this before now.  I always thought it was Rosetta Stone or a taking a class.  I didn't realize there were other options out there.  I'm only about 20% through Duolingo's lessons right now, and I am already as far in Spanish as I was in German by my third year of high school, or thereabouts.  That's the thing that's great about self-learning...you don't have to go at the classroom pace.  I'm already able to converse in Spanish, which is nice, since it's only been six weeks.

I've also been supplementing my learning by listening to Spanish stations on my satellite radio, and occasionally watching Spanish TV.  Of course I can't really follow any of it, but I can at least practice listening and picking out words and phrases.

The only drawback to self-learning online, versus taking a class, is that you miss out on that face-to-face interaction with a fluent speaker who can correct you and answer your questions.  This is one reason why I listen to the Spanish radio and watch Spanish TV...just to practice hearing the language spoken.  I also try to think in Spanish sometimes as a way of practicing speaking.  The Duolingo app certainly does have you do both those things - listen and speak - but it's not the same as actually conversing with someone in Spanish.  There is a nurse at work who speaks Spanish and I do talk to her a little bit, but not much more than a "Como estas?" "Muy bien, y tu" sort of thing.

Enough about that.  I am also in the process of revising and rewriting one of my old novels.  I haven't actually started the writing process yet...I want to finish my political parties book first.  But I have started reading through the old manuscript and making editorial plans.  I'm doing this because I have signed up for a writer's conference being held in Louisville next February.  It's an all-day workshop for learning how to get published.  Four literary agents will be there, and I have paid for a ten-minute one-on-one session with one of them, to pitch them a book.  I have also paid to have a professional editor - a guy who I actually follow on Twitter and who is the chief editor of Writer's Market, which is a major industry publication - to read and edit my query letter (which is the letter you send out to agents and publishers pitching your book).

So this is a really good opportunity for me, and it has given me the motivation I needed to pull out one of my old novels and get it ready to pitch to this agent in February.  I had to choose an old novel, rather than a new one, simply because I don't have enough time to finish any of the novels I currently have in progress (I have two in progress...I started one in 2004 and the other in about 2007, and both are only partially completed; I also have two or three others partially outlined but never started).  I would frankly rather use one of those in-progress novels, but I know it will be unrealistic to expect myself to finish one of them by February.  There's just not enough time.  So I'm taking one of my old novels - the last one I actually completed, in fact - and reworking/rewriting it to update it and try to make it the best it can possibly be.  It's a book I finished in 2003 called Walkabout.  It's a relatively short thriller about a fugitive hunt in Australia.  It needs a lot of work, but I think it has good potential to be sell-able.  It's certainly in line with some of the small-time thrillers I have read this year.

Amazon, in addition to offering independent publishing for authors, also has its own traditional publishing house for professional, published authors with agents.  Every month, they offer Amazon Prime customers a newly published book by one of these authors for free.  So I have read several thrillers this year published by "real" authors (not Indie authors) on Amazon's publishing imprint, and I can say for certain that Walkabout is as good as any of these books I've read. It certainly has that potential.

So there are two questions I face: can I draw the full potential out of the book in my rewrite; and can I pitch it well enough to an agent (whether the agent I meet in February, or some other agent), to get them on board with it?

Time will tell I guess.

It seems like there should be other things worthy of talking about, but I guess I've rambled on long enough.  Oh yeah...I did want to mention that I deactivated my Facebook account last week.  I've been sick of Facebook for a long time, and I finally just decided it was time for a break.  I'm sure I'll eventually go back...in fact I know I will, because I like to be able to stay in touch with certain people when I want...but for now it's kind of nice to just not be on there.  As a result, I can't share this post on Facebook, so a lot of my friends and normal readers will likely never see it.  Oh well.  If you're reading this, you must be a true fan, who either routinely visits my blog, or gets an email notification, so thanks :)


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