On vacation!

Not that I’ve gone anywhere, but today I decided what I was going to call this unexpected break of mine—something without negative connotations, a name that’ll help me fight off the guilt I don’t need to feel for taking some time for myself without stressing over what I “should” be doing.

What I decided was that I was on vacation. :) I don’t take vacations often enough as it is, so instead of feeling guilty about not feeling like writing, I’m counting this time as vacation time.

Now, back to Midsomer Murders and the “Days of Misrule.” ;) As an introverted homebody, this is the best kind of vacation.

Building better writing habits

I’ve had a slow start to the year and that’s not what I want, so now that I’ve caught up some publishing stuff I needed to get caught up, I’m turning my focus back to writing.

I want to write more this year. Write more words, write more books, write more often.

Unfortunately, my word counts this year aren’t that great.

1/1/17 1/31/17 3,507
2/1/17 2/28/17 22,886
3/1/17 3/31/17 689

It’s time to focus on writing more by writing more often. :)

I’m going to spend some time and energy trying to build some better writing habits.

Taking a break from the big challenge

I’m just updating to mention that I’ve put the challenge to reach 6,000 words in a day on hold for a while. I might try it out on specific days, but as a daily thing, I’m putting the brakes on it. I need to concentrate on getting back into a daily writing habit and that takes a more relaxed attitude than I have when I’m chasing something like 6,000 words in a day. :)

Made it to the end with the web reading challenge

February has come and gone, and I’m pretty happy with how I did with my web reading challenge. I cut out a lot of infotainment reading for more than a month.

Here’s what I think I learned. It might not be what I actually learned, but I don’t have any real way to distinguish. ;)

I didn’t write more fiction.

I didn’t read more fiction.

Not being able to read anything I wanted frustrated me.

I enjoyed writing more without all the other writers’ voices in my head telling me how I should run my career.

I got up earlier some days, but some days it didn’t seem to make any difference at all. I just found other things to read in bed.

I realized I mostly did the clicking and refreshing when I needed a break anyway. I didn’t concentrate better, or make better use of my time.

Habits take a ridiculously long time to break and if I want to break them I’m going to have to find an alternative behavior to cultivate into a habit instead of just trying to stop doing something.

That’s it, really. I don’t think it benefited me in the way I had hoped.

So come March 1, I ended the restrictions and I still managed to finish the work I needed to finish just fine. Some of it took a lot longer than I planned but clicking and refreshing articles, forums, blogs, and news sources had nothing to do with it at all.

In fact, I haven’t noticed anything different at all since I ended the restrictions, except a marked lowering of my frustration levels. (I was getting pretty frustrated there in the last few weeks of February.) Part of me wonders if this mindless reading is a coping mechanism for me, when stress starts to get to me. Possible, I think.

Here’s one other thing I learned but only after I let myself go back to clicking and refreshing: if I’m in a working mood, the clicking and refreshing stops. What this all means is that the clicking and refreshing is a symptom of whatever it is causing me not to want to write, not the cause.

That’s something worth knowing. :)

Anyway, consider this challenge done. It was a success, but not in the way I hoped.

 

 

I’m stressed, so of course I decided to rename all my files

I’ve been feeling stressed this week, after a book release that’s going nowhere fast. I expected this one to do better and it hasn’t. So as usual, when feeling stressed, I turned to my computer for solace.

I decided it was imperative that I rename all my files.

Yes, I know I just renamed them all barely more than a month ago, but at least I’m not reorganizing email again. :)

I spent most of yesterday and all of this morning and early afternoon renaming 12,000+ files. I used a bulk renamer where I could, and then went through every directory and tidied up where necessary.

Basically, I abandoned Pascal case and went back to dashes between words. I also stopped putting the full title of my books in most of my supporting files in my publishing folder.

I really wanted shorter file names, if only because I found myself annoyed at the long file names in the file tab in Adobe Photoshop Elements and GIMP when I was working on those paperbacks. I want (need!) to be able to see the differentiating parts of the file name when I’m working with similarly named files and I couldn’t, but I also still wanted my files named in a logical order.

So I went from files named like this: MyBookTitle-Cover-PaperbackBackText.psd to this: cover-mbt-pb-back.psd

pb = paperback (everywhere)
mbt = acronym for My Book Title

All lowercase and dashes for ease of reading.

And I use that acronym in my daily word count log and a few other places so I recognize most of my books right off the bat from those letters. :)

Then, of course, they’re in folders named for the title of the book so there’s really no reason not to use the acronyms to shorten those file names.

I tested a couple of folders side by side with files named in various formats, and it was obvious at a glance which one I found easier to read. Skimming is easier when the first part of every file name isn’t the same book title!

It seems kind of silly that wasting all this time on renaming my files has made me feel better, but it really has. I feel lighter and less stressed now and I’m about to get started on a story.

By tomorrow, I expect to be ready to get back to my challenge to write 6,000 words in a day. But today is out.

I have a few obligations to deal with that preclude me being able to put in the time I’d need to even come close this evening to a high word count, so I’m just going to work my way back into a story and enjoy that—and maybe click through my folders a few more times and enjoy the neat and orderly look of my files. ;)

Paperbacks are done

I still need to proof them, order the print proofs, and proof them too, but I am done with formatting.

Tomorrow I start writing again, and I’m happy about that even if I still don’t know exactly what I’ll be writing.

I need another day before I restart my 6000 words in a day challenge, because I also need quite a bit of time free tomorrow to go over those digital proofs.

But yay for the fact that I’m finally caught up with that. :)

No time to ramble tonight so toodle-oo. Be back tomorrow.  :D

And that answers that question about my paperback covers at CreateSpace

Got this just a short while ago:

Congratulations!

Your interior and cover files for xxxxxxxxxxxxx, #xxxxxxxx meet our technical requirements for printing.

The next step in the publishing process is to proof your book:

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GET STARTED:

Which I assume means the embedded fonts in the paperback cover are A-okay.  There was no additional message about corrections made for me, on my behalf, or anything like that, so this answers the question of whether or not the PDF cover files would be accepted by CreateSpace with fonts embedded instead of being flattened into the image. Should’ve guessed, really, but I just wasn’t sure.

I’ll be ordering a proof to check this out and compare the quality of print to the covers I didn’t embed fonts for (sending only a flattened image PDF to CreateSpace), and scouring over the digital proof from CreateSpace. If the quality of the text appears better, I’ll definitely be doing this extra step from now on. If it isn’t any better, then I’ll just use GIMP, and only add Elements into the mix when I need to use a font that brings out that unfortunate GIMP text rendering (?) bug.

Also, I discovered something with this round of paperback creation. I’ve consistently had a problem with my PDF cover as exported from GIMP having a transparency that CreateSpace fixes for me. I’ve not had that problem this time. The difference? This time when GIMP popped up the little message during the PDF export, I unchecked all the little boxes for things GIMP was offering to do for me during the export. And now, no transparency warnings from CreateSpace for the three covers I exported directly to PDF from GIMP. Pretty happy to have figured that out. I was exporting a completely flattened image to PDF so there shouldn’t have ever been any transparency anyway, but obviously something GIMP was doing during the export on my behalf was creating it.

New text justification bug in GIMP is bugging me

I think I’ve found a bug in GIMP’s text justification feature. I thought about reporting the bug, but I do not have an account and don’t want an account and don’t have a spare email address where I’d enjoy getting spammed even if I did. The create a new account page warns of that possibility and I chose to take that warning seriously. (Updates below.)

So I’m just putting it out here because I’m frustrated. I spent all day yesterday trying to fix an issue with an installed font that I used for a book cover that turns out isn’t usable in Word for my title page headings because of some bug. If I’d known at the time, I’d have never used the font in GIMP for the book cover.

Lesson learned: when using a new font I haven’t used in Word before, test it in Word. Save the file. Reopen. Is the font still there? If it isn’t, delete the font, because I don’t want to run into this problem again.

I’ve been buying more font licenses lately,  but I still have a pretty big selection of fonts from fontsquirrel and Google fonts on my system that had the right kind of licenses for what I do and I guess I should have expected to run into a problem like this eventually, but I didn’t. I honestly thought fonts just worked or they didn’t. I didn’t realize they could actually be buggy with only certain software. :o

But back to the GIMP bug. Here’s what’s happened. (Update: Definitely a bug. I’ve figured out why it’s happening and I am sure it’s a bug.)

Yesterday I noticed that some of my back cover copy was getting cut off on the right side when I justified the text. I scaled it down a bit from 12 pt to 11.7 pt and it fixed it. This was with Adobe Garamond Pro. Today I have a different book cover in the works and I’m using Adobe Caslon Pro. I tried the same trick when I noticed it was also getting cut off on the right side but scaling it down hasn’t worked to fix this one. I’ve tried every pixel/point size I can in the range I’d be comfortable having this text and it just won’t stop cutting off the very right edge of the fonts.

It’s very frustrating! I definitely haven’t noticed this previously and I updated a few weeks ago to the 2.8.20 version of GIMP. I’d go back to the older version but I truly don’t know if it would fix it, because I’m so behind on putting out my paperback books and I haven’t created one in more than a year until I started doing these.

I don’t know what version of GIMP this issue started in or if it’s been there all along and I just didn’t notice because I wasn’t using these fonts. :(

Maybe I should be doing my paperback covers in Scribus or Inkscape but I do a lot of tweaking of stuff and I don’t want to learn another program with a steep learning curve.

So I guess I’m going to be using a different font for this book cover’s back cover copy.

UGH!

FYI: I’d still recommend GIMP but this kind of thing does make me rethink whether or not it’s worth it to keep putting off converting to Photoshop. I just HATE subscription services. I’ll almost certainly deal and just find a way to work around this problem, but I have to ask myself why I’m being so damn stubborn about it. I do not know.

Update: I figured out why GIMP is cutting off a bit of the right edge of the fonts. It has to do with fonts that have edges that are supposed to fall outside of the margin, in the same way some punctuation is supposed to fall outside of the margins. For example, in my specific case for this text block I was trying to use, the first letter of the paragraph is a “J”. The scoop that makes the bottom of the letter should hang over the edge just a teeny tiny bit (it does in Word and in Scribus and in Photoshop elements. It doesn’t in GIMP. In GIMP, that little effect causes the entire block of text to shift a minute amount to the right, making all the edges of those final letters susceptible to being trimmed by that same minute amount because they’re falling outside the bounds of the text box. And because this is happening no matter the size of the text or the text box, there’s no way to counter it, other than using a different font.

For me, what it meant was that I created my cover in GIMP as usual, saved as a tiff file, opened it in Photoshop Elements 14 (which I had honestly nearly forgotten I had), and added the text for the back cover there. Saved as a PDF, and realized at that point that Elements saves the text as embedded instead of flattened, and decided I’d try that out.

(Scribus did the same. I did get it to work, finally, but it was a PITA, and I don’t like using it. That was when I remembered I had bought Elements last year when it was on sale and that it was on my computer, ready to be used if I wanted to.)

If embedding the fonts produces crisper text on the cover, I might do all future books this way even though it adds another program/step to my workflow.

On the other hand, I don’t know if Createspace will even accept this, because I’ve never submitted a completely non-flattened PDF before. I flatten everything in GIMP, text and all.

But the reason I decided to give this a shot was because I read a paragraph of a page today on the Createspace website that says to make sure your fonts are embedded in the pdf file for the cover. So obviously it’s an expected thing, right?

We shall see.

I am not going to finish those paperbacks today

Dang it. I’m not going to finish those paperbacks today. I got caught up with tweaking the look of the interior and spent too much time on the cover of one of them today (perfectionism is a trap), and here it is just about bedtime for me (oh, my tired eyes!) and I’ve submitted the files for only one paperback today.

So 2 down and 5 to go. Except I’ve realized that I still need to correct a book I found an error in a few weeks ago, so that means 6 to go. But that one doesn’t need a cover, just a few changes to the interior.

I’m very close to finishing a second tonight, and I think I’ll try to get it submitted before I call it a night. The other paperbacks are just going to have to wait. I want to do some writing tomorrow before I come back to them, maybe in the later afternoon. We’ll see.

I definitely want to wrap these up ASAP, because they’re one of the few things left that I need to do sooner rather than later, and when I’m done with them, I can truly focus for a while on just writing my books.

I’m going to finish those paperbacks today

I’m going to finish those paperbacks today. All of them.

I’m not going to batch process them the way I’d planned either. I’m just going to start one and work it all the way to the end. Format the book, then make the wraparound cover.

Since I’m not worrying about creating the perfect paperback style set in Word, things are going much more smoothly now, and faster. I swear, that perfectionism bug is hard to get over. I’m going to quit looking for the perfect system (in anything I do) and just concentrate on finding one that works, something that makes my work easier, even if it’s not the easiest it could possibly be, because setting things up to be the easiest it can be is fraught with trouble. One little thing breaks and I’m right back where I started (example: the paperback style set for yesterday’s book).

What happened, you ask?Ah. Let me tell you. :)

Since I use a slightly different paperback interior look for every series, I had to create a generic set of styles and then modify the set for each series. So I ended up with six sets. It was a lot of work. And I’m not sure I finished it, because as I said yesterday, when I went to use the style sheet for the paperback I was creating, the set for that particular series didn’t work right. My copyright page styles were all messed up, my paragraphs indenting where they weren’t supposed to, things like that.

I’ve decided it just isn’t worth the trouble to maintain these style sheets. My ebook style set works great and I’ll just modify those styles on a per book basis going forward. It’s just easier that way. Sure I do a bit more hands on adjustments, but sometimes easier doesn’t turn out to be faster when you look at the entire picture.

So I’m moving on. I’ve got a system now that is working and I’m just going to keep doing it this way for the foreseeable future.