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Author: Kelly

The 5 stages of nearly losing a manuscript file

At some point in any writer’s career, he or she has the hapless realization that a manuscript into which blood, sweat, tears, caffeine, and other vices were poured into is GONE – whether through erroneous deletion, #technologyandstuff #fail, or act of gods.

I had one such moment last week with the novel that I’m 51,000+ words into (working title COMMUNITY KLEPTO for those not in the know of all things Kelly I. Hitchcock). Its primary storage location was on our family NAS (network-addressed storage) device, which my husband – who is vastly superior in the realm of tech savviness – informed me underwent and update and subsequently crashed. Below is an account of the 5 stages of anxiety I experienced at this news and prospect of losing my manuscript.

Phase 1: Overhear spouse downplaying outage

“The device is down, but I don’t think there’s anything important on there…”

YES HUH! IS TOO! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be using the NAS as my primary location for my 50,000+ word manuscript, but it’s a little late for that.

Phase 2: Realize the last time you backed up drives was 5 months ago

We have a pretty retentive backup system that involves swapping out the drives every so often and putting the backups in a safe deposit box at our bank. Somehow, though, we hadn’t done this since before we left for Christmas vacation and other things besides running the backup were top of mind.

Phase 3: Realize your local backup is 4 months old

So at one point there was a time that I needed to work on my manuscript offline, but that time was four months ago and I had written several chapters since then, which pretty much made my local copy useless. Phase 3.1: eat an entire bag of potato chips while crying.

Phase 4: View stack of printed chapters with lament

While the prospect of losing four months worth of work is almost unbearable, the idea of re-typing your lost chapters using only the stack of printed chapter-by-chapter manuscripts you’ve been bringing to your workshop group is somehow worse.

Phase 5: Restart device and hope for the best

This phase took some time and it’s a bit like waiting for water to boil while watching it. “I see green lights. That’s good right?!” Then watch the cursor spin and spin and spin as you wait for all the file folders to load up so you can navigate down the 12 levels you need to in order to get to the one file you care about.

Phase 6: Dodge a bullet

When you finally get down to the file itself and see that the modified date was a mere two hours ago, you can indeed breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your work for the past four months hasn’t been obliterated as happens in your worst nightmares. When you’re finally done wiping your forehead sweat away, slowing your heart rate, and downing a couple shots of tequila, move on to the next phases to ensure this never happens again.

Phase 7: Back up locally

After all, this is where you should have been working in the first place. The network device is where you should be backing up to after you bang some words out. Besides, Micro$oft Word will be more performant locally anyway.

Phase 8: To the cloud!

No, don’t go take a bong hit. Download Dropbox (if you don’t have it) and enable two-factor authentication before creating another backup in the cloud that you can use in the event of nuclear disaster. You’ve learned your lesson, after all, and you can use all the help you can get to make sure you never have to deal with this again.

Needless to say, the last four chapters I write will be completed with far more intention to disaster recovery. And hopefully they won’t be a disaster themselves.

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In search of a genre

I’m always impressed by how specific writers in certain genre and non-fiction can be with pinpointing their sub-genres: paranormal romance, slipstream mystery, speculative post-cyberpunk, satirical basketweaving history. For me though, this is an area that I’ve always struggled with. As I get closer and closer to finishing Community Klepto, I’ve been challenged by people both inside and outside the literary community to be more specific about how I classify my own genre; trouble is, the genres I’ve always considered myself to most closely identify with aren’t at all specific

Literary fiction

Thanks to the infallibility of Wikipedia, I can actually give a definition of what this means for people who don’t know what this means, which is most people. Now when people ask me “What type of books do you write?” and react with confused puppy dog faces when I say “literary fiction,” I can tell them that I write:

“…fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression.”

Clear as mud, right? And sadly, those who do know what literary fiction is typically have a negative opinion of it. They see it as plotless drivel that only university professors to teach grad students to write more literary fiction could appreciate.

Women’s fiction

In the past when I’ve described my work as “women’s fiction,” I’ve been met with “Oh, so romance?” Why, if a book is written with strong female characters and a female audience in mind, do people jump to the conclusion that it’s a romance novel capable of hosting a male Fabio and a scantily clad lady in a heaving bodice on the cover? It’s not as though all women read nothing but stories about sexual tension and romantic entanglements. Nothing I write could be further from this; for one thing, I have far too immature a sense of humor to write sexytime scenes.

Still, this seems like such a broad label to apply to works that can be so different in nature. At least I have Wikipedia to back me up on this one:

“These stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds them together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.”

Contemporary fiction

Again, a genre I feel fits my work but is so vague it’s useless in classifying it. Any work of fiction that’s happening in contemporary times could be classified as “contemporary fiction,” even if it’s got a woman in a heaving bodice frenching a cyborg on the cover.

True or not, I don’t know that any reader ever sets out to pick out something with the contemporary fiction label on it.

Literary humor

My latest book is meant to be a humor work that riffs on the tropes people find at the gym, but it’s told through a literary lens with elevated prose. You know, fart jokes told by painfully introspective fuddy-duddies. Humor can be smart and raunchy at the same time, right?

But is this a genre that’s specific enough for readers, something they actually seek out? Will they stop reading if they’re not bursting at the seams with laughter after the first page?

Chick lit

If none of my female characters have their storylines driven by male love interests or shopping for designer clothes, can my work still be considered part of this genre? After all, my books do fit the bill according to our friend Wikipedia:

“Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.”

My problem with labeling my work this way is that I don’t see shoe shopping as a real issue of modern womanhood (although I do have a $10 credit at DSW burning a hole in my pocket).

 

Maybe I could just create my own hybrid genre label from a combination of all of these. Does Contempowomen’s Lithumor sound like something you’d go looking for in a bookstore?

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I have a fan club!

… and believe it or not, it’s not the first time.

My BFFF created a fan club for my authorisms on Facebook if you’re into joining the fun.

Interestingly enough, I once had a Facebook fan club way back in college. I have no idea how it started, but it became a thing and I eventually dissolved the group due to the fact that I no longer interacted with any of the people in it. This time, however, the fan club is run by someone other than myself, so it will actually be a legitimate fan club and shit.

Maybe there will even be a P.O. Box so you can send fANthrax mail.

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Novel Night at Malvern Books

Mark your calendars, Austin peeps! I’ll be making an appearance at Malvern Books for their June Novel Night event, reading from Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook and talking about my work. Come join in the fun and you can say you saw a rare appearance by the one and only Kelly I. Hitchcock (though not rare entirely by chance).

What: Novel Night at Malvern Books
Where: Malvern Books 613 W 29th St, Austin, TX 78705
When: June 11, 2015
Who: Myself and author Christopher Brown

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The Importance of Being Earnest (with shameless self-promotion)

I know I’m not the only one who has that one Facebook friend who always seems to be selling whatever the latest fad is and wants everyone to know ALL about it, multiple times per day. For my part, I can tell you that at any given moment, I am actively hiding posts from people inviting me to buy Jamberry (crap for nails), Thirty-One (crap to put your crap in), Pampered Chef (kitchen crap), Premier Designs (blingy crap), Nerium (expensive skin crap), or wanting me to visit their Etsy store, their DJ set, their band’s show at a seedy bar on the opposite end of town on a Tuesday night at 11 PM… you name it. Earlier this week, I got a notification from a family member I see maybe once a year, inviting me to buy from his girlfriend’s Etsy store because she makes beautiful baby and toddler gear. Dear family member, I’m not even a damned parent, but I’ve been trying to become one for nearly a year now, so you are particularly disconcerting and annoying to me at this moment.

As authors, we have a duty to not be a disconcerting, annoying, rotten spammer when we promote our work to the people we know. If there’s anything you can do to lose friends and alienate people quickly, it’s to assume that your work is for everyone. It’s not. You can’t assume that just because people know you, they can’t wait to run out and support you by buying your novel about a crime-solving lesbian urologist. Not everyone likes mysteries. Not everyone likes lesbians. Not everyone likes characters who also happen to be penis doctors. Just because you happen to go way back personally, it doesn’t mean your friends want to be bombarded with your commercial endeavors. If you were constantly being pushed to buy something that didn’t apply to you in the least bit, you’d get annoyed after a while, too.

Knowing you personally and liking you isn’t enough. Shameless self-promotion is only effective when it’s used on people who like you AND actually stand a snowball’s chance in hell of reading and enjoying your work. For everyone else, you should be respectful of their annoyance levels and create a separate author page on which to shamelessly self-promote. The people who are genuinely interested in your work will follow and won’t mind when you spam them with your latest cover concept art or work in progress word count. Don’t be the family member who annoys everyone with your shameless self-promotion. You’re better off trying to build a relationship with a stranger than to keep annoying your friends who haven’t seen the inside of a book in years.

Also, I’m having a Tupperware party later this month and I really need all of you to be there so I can more host credit and buy more shit!

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Author Feature in the Buffalo Reflex

Oh, hello! You came to find me but today I’m over at my hometown paper, The Buffalo Reflex, talking to the good folks there about what I’ve been up to in my author career since I departed the halls of Buffalo High School 15 years ago.

Check the story out here.

Side note, it was hard to do this interview. My first book, The Redheaded Stepchild, is set in a small town in Minnesota but anyone who knows me could easily figure out that the portrait of this small town in heavily influenced by Buffalo, Missourah. Yes, the book is fiction. Very very very much fiction. That said, the fictitious characters in the book bear more than a passing resemblance to the people who helped shape my formative years, and my formative years were all in Buffalo. I have a feeling my ears will be ringing as people in my hometown pick up the Friday paper and see what I’ve been doing with my life.

P.S. You may or may not have noticed that I got myself a sassy new head shot. A big thanks to Danielle Selby of PASADYA for the great work! (She’s a freelancer for hire if you need some design work of any kind!)

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According to Amazon, I should dump all my friends

Something odd happened to me earlier this month. One of the developers I work with is creating a video game and wanted to know if I would be a good fit to help him with his game’s character dialogue. To assess this, I sent him a sample excerpt of my latest work in progress. He enjoyed it, and took it upon himself to buy a copy of Portrait of Woman in Ink, completely unsolicited. After finishing the book, he expressed his undying love (okay, moderate enjoyment) for it and asked me to sign on for his video game project. In return for this (apart from monetary compensation ‘n sitch) I asked if he’d be so kind as to post a review of my book that reflected his honest opinion of it.

Sometime after submitting his review, he got a form rejection email from Amazon saying that his review could not be posted. He appealed to the Amazon gods, asking why they chose to keep his review from the public, to which Amazon said, and I quote:

“We cannot post your Customer Review for “Portrait of Woman in Ink – A Tattoo Storybook” to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted.”

My book has a whole seven reviews from its nearly two years in the Amazon marketplace (I know, I know, I need to market more/better), and MOST of them are from people I know. In fact, most of them are from people I know far far better than a guy I’ve worked with for the past 6 months. This rejection leads me to form the following questions:

1) How does Amazon know who I know in personal life based on Amazon account activity? I never did any business with said person over Amazon, and like I said, I’ve only exchanged reciprocal me@mine.com emails with this person a small handful of times.

2) Does this mean that Amazon can infer that anyone I email from my personal email account is someone whose book review cannot be trusted? I email a lot of strangers, especially in my volunteer work with Velma Magazine. If they”re not snooping on my email, does this mean that any time I gift a book blogger a copy of my book in exchange for a feature on his or her blog as a Kindle gift (which is the preferred method nowadays), Amazon is going to reject that review based on the fact that “account activity indicates that you know the author”?

3) If someone who happens to know me in real life legitimately purchases my book and reads it, what difference does it make? Whether they enjoy it or hate it, the fact that they know me should have little to no bearing on their honest review of my work.

4) Why would a review by a individual with a personal connection to me in real life automatically be branded as “advertising, promotional, or misleading”? I have a hard time believing this person’s review contained any content that could be construed as such.

5) Why you gotta spy on me, Amazon? I publish on your platform and order lots of your retail goods and not-so-goods so as to take advantage of the two-day shipping I pay you for with my Amazon Prime membership. People have badmouthed you and I have always defended your awesomeness. WTF Amazon?

So for those of you know me as a close friend, Twitter follower, or anyone I’ve emailed ever, I regret to inform you that if you want to read my next book and give an honest review of it, I will have to sever all personal ties with you and go back to communicating through a middleman like the resistance did on New Caprica, since Amazon is going all Cylon ruler on me.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? Am I overreacting or is Amazon being all big for its britches?

P.S. The Cylon above is an image from Amazon. So take that.

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Cause I’ve got a bad habit…

January is the month where two things are certain – everyone is focusing on New Year’s Resolutions, and everyone’s crowding the hell out of the gym (but more on that later). I’ve never really been one for resolutions; I’m more one to focus on something more tangible: goals and habits.

Everyone knows that habits are hard to form, and even more difficult to break. For all the habits I have around writing, I don’t make a habit of actually sitting down to write, which was by far my biggest cause of falling short of my writing goals last year. So it goes without saying that creating this habit is one of my primary goals for the year.

It’s amazing how powerful habits can be. Years ago, my writing routine looked something like this:

– Shut off all the lights in the house

– Find a playlist of music I can write to (this was the era before Pandora and SomaFM.com)

– Pull up the manuscript document

– Grab an ash tray, because I was about to chain smoke a lot of cigarettes

Then I decided to break a bad habit and quit smoking. I beat the habit, even overcoming the overwhelming desire to smoke after meals, while drinking, and in the car. But then a weird thing happened; I’d sit down to write, and become completely paralyzed without a cigarette in one hand. My brain wouldn’t let the words flow onto the page without a steady stream of nicotine to help them along.

I traded in one bad habit for another (no one’s ever done that, right?); I stopped smoking and I stopped writing. I was convinced that I’d never be able to write another word without smoking, until one day I realized just how ri-goddamned-diculous I sounded to myself. Like forming any habit, I just needed to put on my big girl panties, stop making excuses, and keep writing without smoking until it felt natural. Did I do it? You’re damned right I did.

Now my writing routine looks something more like this:

– Put the teakettle on

– Open all the windows to let the natural light in

– Turn on a Pandora or SomaFM.com station

– Pull up the manuscript document

Next step? Make it a habit to bring daily writing into my routine, even if it’s just to sit down in front of the screen and derp some words around only to delete them minutes later. That is, until I have to kick the caffeine habit, at which time I’ll have to revisit my routine all over again…

How about you? What bad habit do you have when it comes to your writing that you’d like to break? What bad habits have you broken? What good habits have you put into place?

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Reading Redux: Indies First at Bookwoman

Small Business Saturday was a big day for me. I did my second book reading at an “Indies First” event at the first bookstore I had the guts to approach about Portrait of Woman in InkBookWoman on North Lamar. It was a fantastic event and I had such a great time sharing with this great group of people and reading from my book.

Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I got to drag the whole family along – my husband, my mother, and my sister. I’m tweeting here, not playing on my phone, I swear.

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A big thanks to BookWoman for having me, to the other authors for making this a great event, and to all the people who came out to join in the fun and support these local authors!

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