NaNovember and Inconstant Moon ~ Update

Orwell at NaNoWriMo social, Symposium 2010

I seem to have gotten horribly behind on my NaNoWriMo manuscript. Heck, I haven’t even got cover art yet. (Irony: I had basic cover art for the contenders I decided to pass on. C’est la vie.)

If this was my first NaNoWriMo, when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage to write fifty thousand words in the month of November at all, that would have been serious cause for alarm. But for me in the here and now, I’m fine with it. Having done it twice, I am aware that I can do it, and in fact would be able to make the count if I devoted myself to it. So knowing that I may not make the 50k in during NaNovember is in the back of my mind, but just getting a good start on my third novel this year will be enough of a return for my 2011 NaNo participation.

I’ve been to a few write-ins and will attend a few more, and NaNoWriMo can certainly be a valuable experience even if you don’t finish it. This year my region’s ML’s have decided to help our Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph mascot, Orwell the Piggy Bank, to try his hoof at writing a novel. So people are taking turns at writing bits of the chain story for the little oinker. So far, not me. I am so far behind that I can’t afford to write for Orwell, until/unless I manage to get my wordcount caught up. Hah. How’s *that* for motivation 🙂

There are just too many other things I have to do this year, particularly in regard to launching its predecessors. What is happening with the new book, “Sans Seraph,” is that the story is coming together and the characters are beginning to grow into their own voices, so that’s alright.

a graphic banner reads Inconstant Moon. rendered in the Rebel Caps font with a gibbous moon nestled between the words

But the first November over-scheduling casualty was the Thursday special feature for the Inconstant Moon blog. Ouch!

That comes from having a too tight time budget, without any contingency to allow for sickness. Although it’s possible to write/blog with some illnesses, migraine is not one of them. So when my brain recovered enough to allow me to turn on a computer last night, I remembered that today was Remembrance Day but forgot my Inconstant Moon Special Feature! I could probably cobble one together in a rush, but since Friday’s half gone, I think I’ll just call it a miss, and undertake not to miss a deadline again.

Today’s email was cause for a happy dance; the New York Times best selling author of LEAST WANTED and IDENTITY CRISIS, hard boiled fiction writer Debbi Mack told me she enjoyed reading Inconstant Moon and has agreed to write a cover blurb! That is fabulous news. It will surely be a terrific addition to the cover art when I release the re-engineered versions (fingers crossed) of Inconstant Moon in December.


[Now I need to go write something on the order of six thousand words…. ]


Happy Earth Day

Moonscape in foreground, looking at planet earth rising
home sweet home

Between trying to get my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon,” ready to launch, computer technical difficulties, and the current federal election (I’ll be posting an #elxn41 piece to Oh! Canada later today) it would have been easy to forget all about Earth Day.

The weather is fairly miserable this year, but it is still an important day. One of the common themes in science fiction read in my youth was the caution that if we mess up the planet irreparably, without space travel humanity will be, ahem, screwed. Personally, although I am in favor of space travel, it is still important not to destroy this planet. Even if I could move to Mars or the Pleiades with Desdemona, I’d still want the option of coming home to visit.

a tiny chipmunk with eyes closed is held in child's hand while feeding from medicine syringe

Earth is my home.

As it is home to other forms of life.

One day a few years back I found a baby chipmunk stumbling around, wandering into the street.  A closer look showed that his eyes weren’t open yet.  A few days before I’d seen a dead chipmunk on the side of the road, so it was a very good guess that this little guy was an orphan.

So I brought him home.

Amazingly we managed to raise him.  I had been advised to start him on goat’s milk with acidophilus to help digest it, and that did the trick. As he got older, I fed him husked sunflower seeds and grass &tc. but his favorite was tender dandelion greens, which fortunately were not covered in pesticide in my yard. So Chippy Baby grew up.

chipmunk with eyes open, held in child's hand

I got him a large cage so he would be able to build muscle so that when released he’d be able to run away from predators and survive.
Chipmunk in cage about to enter clear plastic climbing tube

Chipmunks live underground, but ours was raised in a hamster cage with a climbing tube.  He could sit at the top of his cage and look around, secure from being picked up by human hands.

When he told us it was time to go, we released him.

Happily he survived, and can be seen checking on us from on high.

Chipmunk on the rooftop

Happy Earth Day.

Image Credits
“Earthrise” NASA image photographed by astronaut Bill Anderstaken on Apollo 8 mission. All NASA photos are released into the public domain.

All other photographs are by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

“Inconstant Moon” update ~ final proof has been shipped!

CreateSpace logo
Ubuntu logo

I got the email from CreateSpace yesterday that the proof has been shipped. Unfortunately an actual real human being from create space had to process my order because it wouldn’t work for me online. This did happen with the last one as well. I suspect it’s a Windows XP conflict. Yes, I am still mired in XP. 😦

When I ran into the font problem I tried to go back to Ubuntu (my desktop machine is set up to dual boot) but it won’t boot at all.

Even though the computer science students in my novel are devoted Ubuntu users, at this point I myself am seriously considering switching to Trisquel, because I am not the only person I know that is having Ubuntu problems. I suspect it’s a case of the latest version being released to schedule although unready. Besides, my friend Alexandre Oliva tells me that Trisquel is supposed to be “more free” than Ubuntu.

So. I hope to dump Windows for good this weekend, hopefully my computer guy will be able to fit me in.

Trisquel logo

Meanwhile, I’m currently wandering through the CreateSpace site, in search of my CreateSpace storefront. [When you self-publish through CreateSpace you get access to a web page where people can order your book-book. I started working on it a little while ago, and I began working on it earlier, and now I’ve lost it… I just can’t quite figure out how to get there from here….]

But being the distractable gal I am, I seem to have created a CreateSpace blog called “Laurel L. Russwurm on CreateSpace”

Naturally I had to write an inaugural post. This is, I believe, designed for CreateSpace denizens, but I’ve checked and it is not locked behind a registration wall, so you can take a peek at my Adventures In Self Publishing post without having to sign up with CreateSpace.

So, now I’m heading back to work on the Inconstant Moon serialization blog. Once that’s in hand I need to start in on formatting for the various ebook versions.

Later! 😀

february status update

Inconstant Moon - photo of gibbous moon - Laurel L. Russwurm

My beta reader @larryrusswurm made a small suggestion which means I’m toying with adding a few little scenes.

I’ve a lot more to say about copyright & freedom, but I’ll not be able to find time ’til later in the week, as I’ve some last few tweaks to make to Inconstant Moon. Don’t look for anything new in any of my blogs before the first weekend in March.

As for the cover photo, I’m going with the one I liked, rather than one of the more conventional ones. But definitely Inconstant Moon will be ready to launch in March:

woo hoo!

Oh, I’m so excited!


the “specter of e-book piracy” is a crock

Copyright "c"Instead of just adding this to My Comments links I think it deserves a post of it’s own. I’ve no time to get into it further, as I’m working on self publishing my debut novel Inconstant Moon just now, but I know I will need to revisit copyright in depth as soon as IM is released, since Canada is looking at making our already dreadful copyright law worse, and I need to do my bit to try to stop it.

So this is an expanded version of a comment I’ve made to the article:
TeleRead: Specter of e-book piracy looms large on horizon

Seems I missed it last fall, but is still circulating online, so clearly it needs to be addressed. We need to stop the misinformation. I have already written a fair bit about copyright in this blog if you want more, but this is a capsule rebuttal to the piracy fallacy.

Piracy is a Red Herring

red herring cc by laurelrusswurm

Oh please.

Used to be copyright was justified as an encouragement to creators to create more. The thing is the terms have become downright silly… extending copyright terms from fifty to seventy years after the death of the author is not going to encourage the author to create more. Once you’re dead that’s it. The current trend in ridiculous copyright laws don’t benefit the creators, but rather the corporations, who have never been particularly beneficial to creators. Corporations do NOT have the same objectives as creators.

The copyright maximalist contention that shared digital media is equivalent to lost sales is ludicrous.

I own thousands of books. Books that I read before purchasing. Either other people’s copies or library copies. I’ve read some terrible library books and not bought them because didn’t like them. I would NEVER have bought them. I only buy books I like. There are some books that I buy over and obver again so that I can give copies away. (I’m old enough to know I don’t always get copies I lend out back.) Sometimes I’ll take a flyer on writers I have come to like. Still, two consecutive turkeys and I’m done.

Cody & Pif

[No offense to turkeys. Sandra Boynton has embedded turkeys as an analogy forever in my mind.]

But I want the creators I like to make a living so they can continue to entertain me. I’ve read a lot of dogs to get to the point of knowing which writers I want to read. That’s right, dogs.

[No offense to dogs. Some of my best friends are dogs.]


All those terrible or merely mediocre books, or sometimes books that might have been alright had the advertising not misled me into thinking it would be something else. All those books that the publishers, the so-called ‘gatekeepers.’ have decided were worth printing… I despair when I think of all the books that have been or will be lost from the sum of human knowledge due to copyright. And all the books that were never shared because some idiot who had no idea decided it wasn’t worth printing. Just knowing how many unfortunate books I’ve read, I am certain that there are rather a lot of those.

Pirate Bay buttons

The combination of digital technology and the Internet is win-win for both creators and audience. The only ones who suffer are the distributors who are trying to pretend that nothing has changed until legislation to turn back the hands of time can be imposed.

I’ve heard this over and over again, because it’s true:

Piracy doesn’t harm writers, obscurity does.

Title Tracks: Inconstant Moon

Monkey Blog Badge for NaNoWriMo 2010 Participant

I’m still working to self-pub last year’s NaNoWriMo novel, Inconstant Moon. I had hoped to be done before NaNo began so I could start serializing it during November, but there just wasn’t time.

When I decided to get down to it and finally write a novel for NaNoWriMo last year, it was a last minute thing. I didn’t have much time to think about it, and so I pulled the title out of one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare. This line was important, because my debut novel is partly a coming of age story, and it’s a little bit crime fiction, with a look at relationships, and a bit of suspense, the real underlying theme for me has always been honesty.

Juliet cautions Romeo not to swear his love on anything as changeable — untrustworthy — as the moon. She’s telling him he bloody well better not lie to her.

Although I most certainly would have read Larry Niven’s story of the same name, and probably still have the paperback of his Inconstant Moon collection somewhere since I was a voracious science fiction reader and a big Niven fan back in the day, it was a huge surprise to be told that my debut novel inadvertently shares the title of a Larry Niven short story and collection. It’s been so long since I read it that I had forgotten Larry Niven used it as a title.

"Gibbous Moon" used on the cover of my INCONSTANT MOON

But of course, he will have swiped the phrase from the same source I did: “Romeo and Juliet”. Niven would have chosen the title because it references the physical moon, I chose it because Juliet’s speech from the balcony scene was wonderfully appropriate. Funny thing is that my big worry was that people would read my title and look at my book cover and think it was a vampire story.

My Inconstant Moon isn’t SF or a vampire story either…. at least not in the literal sense anyway. Not that I haven’t read my share of both, just that it’s not.

😀 It’s amazing how many titles the Bard has provided.

NaNoWriMo is …

NaNoWriMo Crest: November

I was writing an email to my friend Cindy when it occurred to me it might valuable to share, so here goes.  I will be participating in NaNoWriMo again in 2010.

Last year I wrote the first 50,000 words of the first draft of my novel, “Inconstant Moon” as a NaNoWriMo project.

NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month”,
and the month is November.

NaNoWriMo began as a small group of people who wanted to try their hands at writing a novel, but it quickly exploded into an International Internet novel writing extravaganza.   Now it is a very large group of people all over the world who want to try their hand at writing a novel.   (Love that Internet!)

. . . whatever you want it to be

You don’t have to devote every waking moment of the month of November to writing a 50,000 word manuscript (unless you expect to get their winner goodies).  You don’t even have to write 50,000 words.   You can use as much or as little of the official NaNoWriMo to suit your needs.

I was telling my friend Cindy that even if she doesn’t think she has any hope of completing it this year, participating is valuable even if you don’t use it as intended.

Because NaNoWriMo is flexible.

The NaNoWriMo children’s program doesn’t expect kids to write 50,000 words.   Kids are encouraged to pick a word count that’s more appropriate for their age and experience.

And there’s no reason why anyone else can’t do the same.   You can participate in NaNo any way you want.   You don’t have to go to a live Write-In or participate on a forum.   You don’t need to tweet about it or anything else.   Maybe all you want is the word counter to help spur your writing on.

Some writers are verbose, some write fewer words.  I always found Theodore Sturgeon to be one of the more accomplished science fiction writers, yet his stories were very short, his volumes slim, but so beautifully constructed and richly written.   NaNoWriMo probably wouldn’t have been for him unless he decided he didn’t have to make the 50,000 words.

Adults have different things ongoing.   People have family obligations, work obligations.   Sickness and other unforseeable things rise up and smite us when we least expect it.   I know a teacher who longs to participate but her schedule doesn’t allow.   [Yes I’m talkin’ to you Elin!]

Maybe pick 10,000 words.   Maybe don’t even set a wordcount at all.   Just do it.

If you’re going to fail, fail gloriously.”

—Gord Davis, high school drama teacher

It’s easy to be too cautious.   If you’re a student of Yoda, you might come to the conclusion that its better not to try at all if there is little or no chance for success.   But if you don’t try, you certainly won’t do.

Back in the day, Mr. Davis wasn’t counseling us to expect failure, he was encouraging us to give it our all.   To aim for the stars.   And I think he was right.   A spectacular failure is much better than a mediocre success.   Perhaps I’m weird, but I have always learned best from my most spectacular failures, and least from my successes.

Even if there is no reasonable chance of success for any reason, you can still participate in NaNoWriMo.

If you have pressing engagements like small children or a multi-week trip to another continent, tailor your NaNoWriMo expectations to fit.   Life isn’t one-size-fits-all, and NaNaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be either.

If all you want to do is see if you can write a novel, that works too.

Writing is by its very nature one of the lonliest arts, which is probably why there are probably more writers than anything else holding live chats on Twitter.   Participating in naNoWriMo can give you access to both a virtual and real world writing community if you’re interested.   Or not.   You don’t have to post a word on a forum or attend a single write-in.   Even so, you can visit the NaNoWriMo site and cruise around and use the resources.   Even if you don’t want to connect with the community, the pep talks alone can make visiting the NaNo site worth while.  I’ll suggest the same thing they do though, if you get something out of it, put something back.

NaNaoWriMo can be whatever you need it to be.   My only regret is that I didn’t sign up for NaNoWriMo sooner, in one of those years that I just “didn’t have the time.”   Don’t make the same mistake I did.   Get out there and have fun with it.

One last quote, one that got me through college:

It isn’t a learning experience if you can’t make a mistake.*”

— David Gerrold, author of “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “Martian Child”

Even though I have a background as a professional writer, NaNoWriMo offers me the one thing an Independent Self Publishing author can have a really hard time getting anywhere else at all:

a deadline.

Stuff I’ve learned about NaNoWriMo

[note: if you’re a veteran WriMo you might want to give this bit a miss 😀 ]

NaNoWriMo website

photo of the book

If you decide to be an official NaNoWriMo participant register on the NaNoWriMo website.   You’ll find a wealth of helpful information on the NaNo site.   You can make yourself a profile and participate on the forums, which allows you to connect with other writers.   You can find forum groups for whatever genre you wish to write, or just get tips and what not from old hands.   NaNoWriMo offers an ever growing quantity of novel writing resources.   NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty has written a book people can buy called “No Plot, No Problem.”   There are guides to novel writing for young writers (that can be used just as easily for older writers.)

Through the website you can probably also find a geographically local NaNoWriMo group.   These form up in many locations around the world in time for NaNoWriMo.   Experienced (and brave) NaNoWriMo participants volunteer to be the local ML (or municipal liaison) for the municipal location.   The ML is your NaNo guide and organizer.   Our ML wore a neon orange hat, so we could always find her in any venue.   In addition to writing 50,000 NaNo words of their own, these volunteers organize real world NaNoWRiMo events.

I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but our group also had three non-writing events.   The first was a kick-off party for everyone to get acquainted, in the middle there was a half-way party, and after the dust settles a wrap-up party at the end.   The ML also organizes weekly physical “Write-Ins” so area Wrimos can come together to write their novels in the same place.

This year our kickoff party (no writing allowed) is happening on the afternoon of the 31st, so dressing up is an option.   How cool is that?

before november

You can do as little or as much preparation as you like before November.   You can decide what you’re going to write.   You can make an outline, create characters, make up the back story, decide what grisly crime you want to try out, or what planet you’ll be visiting, invent your universe, do research, and then assemble the music you want to write to.   You can even create the cover art you want for your novel.

The only thing you can’t do is write a word of your novel until “the flag drops” on November 1st.

during NaNoWriMo

November 1sts begins whenever it does in your time zone.   Even if it’s November 1st somewhere else in the world, if it’s still October 31st where you are, you have to wait for it. Like the second or third heat in the Indy 500.

The main NaNoWriMo goal is to write a 50,000 word novel.

Triangular Orange Sign: Caution: Novelists at Work

That is about right for a small novel, a good starter size.   Your novel does not have to be finished at 50,000 words.   The 50,000 words is simply the arbitrary NaNo objective.   It’s a reasonable amount for the dedicated NaNo to write over the 30 day period.   People have managed this over the years whilst getting their university degree, holding down full time employment, or raising kids.   Looking at it one day at a time, if you write 1,667 words each day, you’ll have succeeded in meeting the challenge.

You can decide to write a Tom Clancy sized novels, but even so, you still only have to write 50,000 words in the month of November to be a NaNoWriMo “winner”.   Your novel: does not have to be coherent.   It doesn’t have to be complete.   It doesn’t have to be publishable or even make sense at the end.   There is no room for writers block.   The goal is simply to see if you can write 50,000 fictional words.

The best way to do it would be to make sure you write something every day.  One of my favorite tools available on the NaNoWriMo website was the wordcounter.   After you’re done writing for the day you log onto the site and log your word count.  Most any program you chose to write your novel in will happily provide you with that information.

But of course there is no rule that says you have to write it on a computer.   You can use a typewriter or even do it longhand.  (I’m not quite sure what you would do about word counts in this case, but your ML will probably b able to tell you.   Or know where to go to find out.

You can write in the privacy of your own home, but if you decide to connect up with your local group, there will be NaNoWriMo Write-Ins.   It sounds absolutely crazed, and I don’t know what it looks like on the outside, but as a writer I found it exceedingly helpful to sit in a room full of strangers who are all following their dream.   I was amazed how productive the Write-Ins were.

NaNoWriMo writers at work
NaNoWriMo 2009 Write-In (me-in-the-middle)

These gatherings take place wherever your ML can find a space big enough to accommodate the group.   So a write-in can happen anywhere from a coffee bar to a public library, just so long as the WriMos can plug in their computers and ignore each other while they quietly work on their individual novels.   Pretty much you need places to sit, places to plug in your laptops (and perhaps power bars) and if you’re really lucky you’ll have some kind of WiFi connection so people can log their wordcounts.

Often the ML will announce a “word war” so the writers in the group who thrive under pressure compete to see who can write the most words over a five minute period.   Even if you don’t ‘win’ you win, because you have that many more words logged in your manuscript.   But mostly people sit in the same room and write.   Chatting and socializing take place before and after, and if the write-in is being held at a commercial food venue, it is generally expected that everyone will purchase at least a beverage from the commercial establishment in lieu of rent.   Apparently some libraries are very hospitable as well.   Our group is fairly new, so we’re just looking into that for this year.

NaNoWriMo Novelists at Work

To my way of thinking the chief benefit of both the writing forums and the physical get-togethers is the shared experience and the moral support.   It helps just knowing other people are writing novels too.   Because the main thrust is achieving your wordcount, there is discussion and comparison of tips and angst.

Towards the end there will be a “Night of Writing Dangerously” where an overnight venue is arranged and WriMos gather together for a Write-In all-nighter.   If you’re really far behind this is often a means to catch up, but the human element is certainly important here too.   Because writing is solitary work.

Last year there was also an IRC Chatroom, so Write-ins could happen online either according to schedule, or on an impromptu basis.   That’s the thing with Write-Ins; throughout the month, quite often people will post a notice that they are going to be writing in a corner of this or that coffee shop at such and such a time, which results in unofficial Write-Ins.

showing the graph statistics

NaNoWriMo has an account on Twitter, where the organizers occasionally post interesting stats, like how many words all the WriMos in the world have written to date.   Or the URL to the NaNoWriMo music video someone who dropped out made instead and posted to YouTube.   For users there is alos a NaNoWriMo group where participants can also log their status, wordcount, trials and tribulations.   This was only a small group, but a few of us kept it going long after NaNo as we struggled with editing our novels.

There are also pep talk emails that are sent out to those who want them.

It all helps.

after NaNoWriMo

When you hit your 50,000 words you upload your manuscript for validation.   I suggest doing this as soon as you hit the number, because that way you immediately become a winner.   Computer programs always work better when everyone isn’t trying to do the same thing at the same time.   If you’re like me and end up writing a 100,000 word novel, even after you hit 50,000 words and are officially a “winner”, you can keep up the momentum and continue writing and posting your wordcount to the end of the month.

logo says: CreateSpace put creativity to work

If you “win” you are entitled to various winner’s goodies.   The one that I wanted was a printed CreateSpace proof copy of your novel.

Some wrimos just have their November product bound so they can add it to their bookshelves.   Others edit it and get copies for family and friends (makes good Christmas gifts for family.)   Still others (like me) venture into self publishing.   (Caution: if you choose this route, I strongly urge that you look into professional editing services, either from CreateSpace or an Independent. )

Even if you aren’t going to edit it, even if you don’t ever want to read it again, if you’ve written your 50,000 words, as a “winner” you can have your book printed by CreateSpace as a souvenir of a month well spent.

You can transfer your free proof to someone else, or use it to publish a different book… your recipes say?   Your memoirs?   Just so you know (I didn’t) this is a time limited offer. Last year you had 6 months to collect.   I just got it done in the nick of time.   I’m not done yet but CreateSpace is truly awesome so far.

validation: No human will read your Novel

As I understand it the validation is performed by software; so no human actually reads your novel.   Nor is it posted on the NaNoWriMo website for all the world to see.   It is just a wordcount, really.

Although I managed to run my wordcount almost to 60,000 words, I was not finished my novel.   So after NaNoWriMo was officially over, a few people who were not finished continued holding “Non-NaNo Write-Ins” for months afterward.   And our local WriMos began planning Non-NaNo write ins before the NaNoWriMo website was given it’s annual clean-up at the end of September before starting fresh for the 2010 edition on October 1st.

NaNoWriMo is free.   Anyone in the world can participate at zero cost.   They hope for donations, and if you get anything out of the experience, it’s good to support them with a donation or by purchasing a NaNoWriMo merchandise.   If people didn’t do this, NaNoWriMo couldn’t do what it does, which is awesome.

on my desk

I hope to get out for at least one of the Non-Nano Write-Ins as I intend to have my outline and hopefully most of the prep done before NaNo starts this year.

This would have been a certainty if I wasn’t working hard to get last year’s
NaNoWriMo novel, Inconstant Moon,
self published first. Including, but by no means limited to:

  • Final polish & proof…
  • building a blog…
  • writing promo material….
  • author photos…
  • trying to get video editing problems resolved so I can do a book trailer…

[And that’s not mentioning important copyright issues… like ACTA …keeping an eye on and fighting against the dread Canadian DMCA, Bill C32, which is about to enter seconf reading in The House of Commons… or blogging to help Free Byron, Canadian G20 political prisoner being punitively held without bail…]

reading the proof copy

errata: I quoted David Gerrold above from memory; and it seems memory can be imperfect. The actual quote (found in David Gerrold’s book, “The Trouble With Tribbles” was actually this:

It’s not a learning experience, unless you can make mistakes.”

— David Gerrold, “The Trouble With Tribbles”