Category Archives: Coronavirus

Help for Writers in Covid Times

From The Authors League Fund: “With the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of writers across the U.S. have seen a sudden and dramatic loss of income. Overnight, writers lost writing, teaching, and editing jobs, as well as speaking engagements, school visits, and other paid appearances. Many have spouses who also lost work, and many face the difficult transition to schooling young children at home.

“We immediately shifted our focus to address this need. While we typically help up to 80 writers per year, since mid-March 2020 we have helped 300 authors, journalists, and poets. Our support is used for rent, utilities, groceries, and medical bills. We continue to help writers enduring medical crises and older writers living on a fixed income.

“Thanks in large part to generous support from donors, we are doubling our budget and hope to do so again in 2021. … We hope you will support our work with a tax-deductible donation of any size. Make a secure donation by credit card at https://authorsleaguefund.org/donate/.

“We understand if you are not in a position to give. If you are struggling, do not hesitate to apply for support at https://authorsleaguefund.org/apply/. … We also recommend this detailed guide to COVID-19 resources from our sister organization, the Authors Guild: www.authorsguild.org/covid-19-resources-for-authors.”

(Please help if you can. Writing, always a precarious career, has been a particularly difficult way to make a living in these strange times. —Deborah J. Lightfoot)

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When Characters Speak

I’m having a great time working with a skilled, extraordinarily talented professional narrator to turn the first three books of Waterspell into audiobooks. The way the narrator has moved into the body of my wysard is uncanny. The man sounds exactly like the voice I heard in my head during all the years I devoted to writing Books 1 through 3. I look forward with eager anticipation to each newly recorded chapter the narrator sends me. He’s finished Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock and is approaching the one-third mark of Book 2: The Wysard. We plan to release both audiobooks together or within about a month of each other, since Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger and I believe listeners will want to move immediately into Book 2.

For me, an unexpected side benefit of hearing my characters’ voices come alive in the real world, is the inspiration this experience has provided to finally get me writing again. After my husband’s sudden death in 2012, I had no impulse to write. People would ask about a possible Book 4, and all I could tell them was that Life with a capital L had kicked me hard, and I wasn’t writing. Then came 2016, and the shock of discovering that I wasn’t living in the country I thought I was living in. The country of my birth was, in fact, a breeding ground for the absolute worst in human nature.

Therefore, after spending four years trying to patch together my life, I found myself obliged to join the Resistance and spend the next four years attempting to save the soul of my nation.

Then came 2020 and Covid-19, and a months-long self-isolation that has been a godsend for me. I hate the pain, the loss, the suffering that this virus has heaped on other people’s heads. I’m a walking example of white privilege: I get to stay home, safely isolated out in the country, ordering stuff for delivery to my gate and going into town only to pick up groceries and my mail. My pandemic experience has been 180 degrees from the devastation that others have experienced.

After years of no motivation followed by years of exhausting nonstop effort to resist the tide of fascism, I suddenly found myself with both the time and the desire to create something of my own again. Almost immediately upon entering my bubble of self-isolation, I hired my audiobook narrator. After six or seven weeks of listening to his breathtakingly good interpretations of my characters and their story, I placed my fingers upon the keyboard and started pounding out Book 4.

I started Draft One on May 6, and completed Draft Two on September 6. Record time for me (Books 1–3 took me 16 years to write and publish).

The second draft will need to sit for a couple of weeks. I do still have obligations to my state and my nation—I’m supporting candidates and contributing to Get Out the Vote efforts. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks engaged in that effort.

But then I’ll be looking through my notes again, and settling down for a close reread and re-edit of Draft Two. I’m tentatively planning a Summer 2021 release date of the Book 4 ebook, to coincide (I hope) with the release of the Waterspell Book 3 audiobook.

How good it is to be writing again. Strange, how inspiration will arrive unexpectedly, and opportunities may arise from cataclysm.

 

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Support for Creators in Covid Times

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I’ve become a patron of the arts. I have been for years, actually, as a monthly Sustaining Member of KERA, my local PBS station. But now I’m supporting a musician, Tim Easton, who impressed me mightily with his recent WoodyFest presentation on Folk Collusion, his book with a companion album of songs detailing his folk-music journey through Russia. I’m giving Tim a few bucks a month through Patreon.com.

To quote Wikipedia: “Patreon is a membership platform based in the United States that … allows creators and artists to earn a monthly income by providing exclusive rewards and perks to their subscribers, or ‘patrons.’” Writers are getting a monthly income through Patreon, too. Novelist N. K. Jemisin is shown as receiving a not-too-shabby $5,986 a month.

I’m disinclined to sign up right now, since I’m doing OK financially and would prefer that people give their philanthropic dollars to folks who are struggling during the Covid crisis. (Feeding America is one good option.) But modern-day, crowd-sourced patronage is an interesting idea, one that I knew nothing about until hearing Tim Easton speak at WoodyFest 2020. If you’re a writer or creator, you might want to check out Patreon.

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Having Fun Again

How great it is to read that Far Side creator Gary Larson has published his first new cartoons in 25 years, and he’s sort of coming out of retirement – though with no deadlines. Larson said he is having fun, “exploring, experimenting, and trying stuff” – without the pressure of daily deadlines.

“So here goes,” he wrote. “I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo [a digital tablet], and I’ve got no deadlines. And – to borrow from Sherlock Holmes – the game is afoot.”

While I’m not in the same league as Gary Larson, I completely identify with the delight he’s taking in all the creative potential contained in new technology. He wrote: “I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there – a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run …”

I feel the same way about my Waterspell books. I began writing the story in 1996. Created my first website for it in 2000, using what was then a modern app called Web Express. I attended writers conferences and pitched my books to various editors who invited me to submit the manuscript. Some of them never gave me the courtesy of any reply, afterward. Several did reply, but every one of them rejected it with some version of: “Definitely captures interest, it’s beautifully written, it’s very cinematographic” … but, “The first book of the series must be a standalone. We won’t commit to publishing all three books of a trilogy.”

In other words: Every major publisher who looked at it wanted to publish only the first book, and if it wasn’t immediately as profitable for them as the Harry Potter series, they’d kick me to the curb. I’d be on my own to publish Books 2 and 3.

That being the case, I decided my only rational response was to publish all three books on my own. How fortunate for me that I went the indie route! Have I made any money? Nope. My royalties have not come anywhere near covering the time and effort I’ve put into these books. But I’ve retained control, which has me in a great position to enjoy the benefits of new technology. Like Gary Larson, I’m having fun exploring modern tech’s creative potential, while freeing myself from deadline pressures.

The creative spark for my current project began in December 2019, when my sister-in-law gave me an Audible audiobook gift membership. I immediately downloaded The Lord of the Rings, the unabridged edition narrated by Rob Inglis.

My god! What a masterpiece. Inglis’ narration is astounding. He speaks Elvish, Dwarvish, and Orkish. He sings the songs. He correctly pronounces unpronounceable words. I found the whole audiobook experience to be far superior to rereading the books myself, and even better than the movies. The audiobooks combine the best of both: the dramatization of movies, with the completeness of  books.

My readers had been encouraging me to produce audiobooks of the Waterspell series, but I thought the cost would be prohibitive. After so immensely enjoying The Lord of the Rings, however, I decided to look into it.

And that’s when I discovered the creative potential of new technology.

It turns out that Audible has this nifty “Audiobook Creation Exchange” (ACX) by which writers and narrators can find each other, and work together easily and affordably. I’ve been astonished by how simple it was to post an excerpt, invite auditions, and immediately find the world’s most perfect narrator.

(More about him in a later post. We’re still working on Book 1. When we’re nearing the end of Book 2 and the books are set for release on Audible, I’ll be launching a bragging campaign about the extraordinarily talented narrator I found through ACX.)

My delight with new technology extends also to the ease of getting book covers designed these days. Even in 2011, when Waterspell Book 1 was initially published, getting decent covers proved difficult. I was never satisfied with the covers on the first editions, and I’ve been thrilled to discover that things have evolved to the point where writers can easily connect with talented graphic designers who’ll create good-looking covers using stock images. The new covers, created by Vila Design, are vastly more appealing than the books’ first-edition covers.

And like Gary Larson, I’m now doing this work for fun. I’ve got my coffee. I’ve got no deadlines to meet except those I set for myself. I’ve got no one to please but myself. No editor’s opinion counts with me now, for “Book 1 must stand alone” has been established as the fallacy that it is. Readers and reviewers have described the Book 1 cliffhanger-ending as “wonderful” and the series structure as “getting bigger and bigger.” I always knew that I knew what I was doing.

Having a new collaborator, however, in the person of the professional narrator who’s hard at work on the audiobooks, has sparked my creativity in an unexpected way. Hearing the narrator give each of my characters a distinctive voice has made the entire story seem new to me again. I swear the man has become Lord Verek — he voices the wysard so powerfully, and so close to the voice that I’ve heard in my head for years, that it’s simply uncanny. You just wait ’til you hear him.

Working with the narrator has proven to be such an inspiration, I actually cranked out the long-neglected Book 4 in a mere two months: May 6 to July 6. It’s a roughish first draft, it’ll need fleshing out — particularly as I work through the existing trilogy with the narrator, and recall details that I’ve forgotten. But it’s a solid start, and by this time in 2021, I expect to be publishing Book 4, which ties together some of those threads (not really loose ends) that remained from the first three books.

That’s how I’ve been spending the 2020 coronavirus lockdown: working with an excellent audiobook narrator, working with a talented cover designer, and writing a fourth novel. Like Gary Larson, I’ve been freed by the creative potential of all this new technology. It’s making my life fun again, after several dark years of grief, and feeling like I’d never write another word of fiction.

I wasn’t actually sure I still could write fiction. But I’ve shown myself that I can. And I’ve got my sister-in-law and other family members, my narrator colleague, my graphic-design colleague, Audible, ACX, Rob Inglis, and all my lovely and supportive readers to thank for pulling me out of my personal black hole and getting me creating again. Love you all! ♥

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Waterspell, a fantasy trilogy by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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Filed under Audiobooks, Books and Readers, Coronavirus, Cover Design, On Writing, Waterspell fantasy trilogy, Writers