Nanowrimo! Nanofimo! Nanoo Nanoo!

So for the last few years, come November, I have been doing my own little version of Nanowrimo called “Nanofimo”—National Novel Finishing Month.

Actually, I rarely actually finish anything in November, but what I try to do is slam a few more thousand words on existing works and get them a little farther along. My work method involves keeping a dozen stories going at any given time, abandoning for months or years, coming back, working on them more.

It works for me. Stuff does get finished. That’s the important bit.

There are authors who get very snooty about Nanowrimo and say things like “Yeah, well, I have to sit down and write every single day because this is my job.” 

To this I say, “Oh, put a sock in it. It’s my job too, and I think it’s awesome.”

I do sit down—when my schedule is not completely travel-destroyed, as it is currently—four days a week and put down a minimum of a thousand words. But November is special and I double down and try to do 2.5K a day and drag out old stuff and say “This doesn’t suck” and throw words at it. (And the next time I drag it out, I have often forgotten that I added to it and am pleasantly surprised.)

And then there’s the corollary, where people say “You know that’s not ALL there is to writing a novel! You still have to edit it!” and I will not insult your intelligence because duh. (Certainly there are people who don’t know this—but I am guessing they do not read writer’s blogs and see all the bits with the weeping and the editing. Heck, the last few DAYS around here…)

Now, if you want inspiration, here’s what I’ve got.

Last year, I sat down and did that, and while I was fooling around trying to make word count, I started a new thing from a vague germ of an idea I was having. I put about twelve thousand words down, poked it a few times over the succeeding months, and finally send it off to my agent with my standard “So there’s thing I’ve been fooling with…”

She sold the book three days later.

It took longer than that to get the details done, of course, and I still had to finish the book, which took a few months, and no contract on earth has ever moved faster than the snail flies, but it’s tentatively scheduled for Spring 2015.

Would I have written it eventually? Probably. Would I have sat down and hammered out as much as I did, if I wasn’t trying to make wordcount for Nano? Probably not. So, y’know. There’s that.

If you like Nanowrimo, if you like Nanofimo, do it. Kick ass, take names, drive your verbs before you and hear the lamentations of their prefixes.

If you finish, great! If not, you still have more than you started with.


(I will be starting it when I get back—we have a Disney family vacation next week, which means that if you follow me on Twitter @ursulav there is a good chance you’ll see some Tweets! Of! Interest!)


Learning Experiences!

So the new novella has been out for three whole days now, and I have learned a few things, which I will inflict on you in case any of you have ever thought of self-publishing, or in case you already self-publish and want to point and laugh at someone else (or perhaps nod knowingly and reach for the bottle.)

Doing this right is hard.

I have burst into tears once, sulked twice, screamed multiple times, ran out of a coffee shop like my ass was on fire and my head was catching, and uploaded at least six versions to Smashwords.

We shall not number the hard drinks consumed, for yea verily, the path of the author is strewn with dying liver cells.

It may be easier with practice (I hope) or for some other people (I suspect) but seriously, every typo has filled me with burning shame before my ancestors, and I know for a fact some of my ancestors thought “wash” was spelled with an R.

Which leads me to the second point–oh my god, so many errors!

And I was GOOD! I hired a copyeditor and she is a very good copyeditor and caught hundreds of them before they could do more than squirm and hiss on the page! But two people going over something with a fine-toothed comb doesn’t cause perfection.

Now, I sort of suspected that, because hell, there are typos in the Dragonbreath books—the paperback version of Book One has two About the Author pages facing each other, and a whole print run of Digger 2 went out missing a page. So even meticulous professional publications go out with typos. I expected that.

I did not expect how mortified I would be by each one–oh god oh god everybody can see this they will see I am an unprofessional hack who didn’t care enough to go over it enough times to fix it oh god oh god the goblins deserve better than to have me for an author oh god-–and never mind that we DID go over it. (I take all the blame—a couple of the typos were even knock-ons from me having fixed other ones she caught in the final draft!)

This experience actually makes me cringe a bit because “typo-ridden” is so commonly thrown around as one of the big problems with much self-published work and I thought “Ha! I shall be better than this!” and then, oh god, like ten errors. Each one a small, mistyped dagger in my heart.

So, I’m probably less judgy now. That’s probably good. I guess. Or at least I have judged myself.

It’s like being Catholic AND an editor. God help us all.

I have also learned that if I do this again, the day it comes out is a total loss. No work will be done. It will be all putting out fires and tearing out hair. I will make a note of it.

Now, the good bits!

The nice thing about this is how nice everyone has been—y’all have been wonderful about reporting errors without going “Write it better next time, jackass!”

The other nice thing is that it’s fixable. I admit, I did not expect how many updates I’d have to do–I THINK I just sent out the last set, which had an exhaustive list of teeny changes—THANK YOU, DRAGONLADY!—but of course someone could turn up tomorrow and say “Yeah, so, that last update did something weird and Sings-to-Trees is now named “Craw-bob” and all the scenes with the trolls have been replaced with an ad for Liquid Plumber.” And that would be bad.

One nice thing—it earned out quickly and is now making money. (I had about $500 worth of expenses.) So in that regard, it’s a great success–we’re well over 300 copies, which is respectable for three days of self-publishing under a pen-name in a weird little niche market (and yes, I did just call you guys a weird little niche market, but I mean it in the nicest possible sense.) I have high hopes that it’ll crack a thousand. (And we were actually in the top 20 epic fantasy on Kindle for a bit there, so that was neat! Obviously George RR Martin was most of the other 19…)

That said, obviously I’m not throwing over Dragonbreath tomorrow–I mean, Book One is cruising towards the 200K mark at a good clip. Different worlds entirely.

However, it’s actually really gratifying to get this weird little story out there. (Heck, it’s just nice to write for grown-ups again—I am good at writing for kids, but I do occasionally want to start throwing corpses around.)* No, it’s not a huge sum of money (although a few thousand dollars and a long tail is absolutely nothing to sneeze at–a novella that pays the rent for two months and buys me occasional coffee is VERY SUCCESSFUL compared to a novella that lives on my hard-drive and moulders!) but finally I’ve inflicted the goblins on other people. And mostly people seem pleased with it. And that’s pretty cool.

So thank you all for being so patient with the typos and my flailing around like a panicked bird on a window-pane. I hope to do this again soon!

Like…err…next year or something.

Anyway, latest version available at:



and still hoping that it will hit iBooks/B&N/Kobo at some point. (If you can’t wait, Smashwords has many formats available, it’s just a matter of delivery to various devices.)


*Somewhere, my editor just twitched and isn’t sure why.

Like A Real Author With Pants

Soooo….let’s just sweep the chaos of the last twenty-four hours aside for the moment…

Hi, internet! I have a new novella out! It is live and there are no more horrifying errors with chapter duplication! You should read it!

On Smashwords

On Amazon

It will propagate out to other sites when Smashwords gets around to it, so Nook, Kobo, and (god willing) iBooks versions will be coming soon. (Watch this space! Or Twitter!) If you’re impatient, however, you can get an ePub version on Smashwords that will work just fine on an iPad. (Easiest way is to either buy it and e-mail it to yourself, or buy it using the iPad.)

Now, as to what the story is about…well, it’s about goblins. And Sings-to-Trees the elf. (Remember him? This takes place before the Elf/Orc thing, though.)

This is a small epic fantasy, if that makes any sense. It is fun. And because I am starting to think such things need warnings, this story will not force you into painful personal growth, it will not tear your heart out, it will not unmake you. These characters are hopefully people you’ll want to spend a few hours with and maybe come back to occasionally when the world is being unkind…that’s all.

There is nothing wrong with those other things and the world is better for them existing, but sometimes I just want a fun little book with goblins and kittens and elven veterinarians, so that’s what I wrote.

Thank you to various parties who jumped on the various bugs from yesterday–you were all gracious and awesome and helpful. (And again, if you have downloaded a Kindle version before midnight, it may have the chapter bug–download the update, should be all good. Sorry for the inconvenience–I’m new to this!) As always, my readers are the coolest ever about being dragged along the Learning Curve with me.

I will post more about Horrifying Learning Experiences another day. Until then…well, hey, novella! And if it does well, and as the chaos of yesterday fades in memory, perhaps there will be more.

Thank you to everyone who bought a copy–you rock!

And–oh, yeah, I’m supposed to do this marketing thing (sorry, I’m bad at it.) If you have a review site and would like a review copy for the reviewing, shoot me an e-mail at ursulav (at) with a link to the site and I will happily send you a free copy!

Is that everything? Am I doing this right?

ETA: Ah, right–two quick things! Kindle version on Amazon is arguably better than Kindle version on Smashwords, due to Smashwords Meatgrinder formatting, which hates things like “Table of Contents.” However, other than some slight centering offsets, it shouldn’t be too disruptive to read either version.

I arguably make about the same amount of money either way, so pick whichever one you like if that’s one of your concerns–if you don’t want to support The Evil River, I quite understand!

One Down…

I spent today in the bowels of the beast, by which I mean Amazon and Smashwords. Most of the Amazon time was spent trying to figure out how I tell it that I don’t want to be exclusive to Kindle and just hitting “Save” until it told me it was in review and I couldn’t poke anything any more. I guess that’s how that works.

Theoretically the Goblin novella is up on Smashwords. I am looking at it and it looks like a thing that is up there.

I am frightened.

So as I understand it, Smashwords is mulling it over now and I guess they decide whether or not it meets the standards for kicking out to iBooks (which is the major reason to go through Smashwords at all) and I have no idea how long that takes.

Meanwhile, Amazon is also mulling it over and theoretically it will be up in about twelve hours or so.

And….err….that’s what I have done.


So I guess that’s me having self-published the first T. Kingfisher book.


So that’s that?

Anyway, if Smashwords is the thing you use, I guess you can buy a copy here. And I will try and do a big self-confident LOOK AT MY SHINY NEW BOOK RELEASE thing like a real author who wears pants and everything when all the formats are up and running.  (Please do not ask for an ETA. I don’t know either. I am starting to think this was all madness.)

ETA: It thinks it is live on Amazon, but in a horrifying twist of fate, the front end is live and buyable, while the backend thinks it hasn’t been published yet, so I can’t fix the big format bug that duplicates a chapter! ARRRRRRRGHGHH! If you bought it in the last few minutes, um…I’m very sorry. It will be fixed as soon as Amazon lets me!


(Incidentally, if you find any freakish formatting errors that destroy the reading experience, PLEASE tell me here, and I’ll do what I can. I can’t fix presentation on some of the weirder formats (Sony e-readers, looking in your direction!) but this is the sort of thing I’d like to know!)

ETA: AAAAARRGHGGHHHHH!  If you bought it before, um, 2:30, you’ll need to get the new version, because GODDAMN SCRIVENER DIE IN A FIRE duplicated a chapter. *sobbing*


I have a shiny edited file of the Goblin novella in my hot little hand.

I am trying to format it for self-pub.


I stripped everything out in a text editor and then Kevin said “Hey, you can do that much easier in Scrivener and it will compile it to ePub” and then we spent four hours figuring out how to do that and then I went to Smashwords and OH LOOK, THEY ONLY TAKE WORD DOCS.

So I spent the last two hours formatting the Word doc to go into Smashwords. Will it work? I don’t know. I’ll find out tomorrow, I guess.

I feel it is important to know how to do this so that I can either do it myself in the future or farm it out with a clear conscience forevermore. This is important. This is building character.

And at the moment, I would kinda like to set the entire Internet on fire and sow the ashes with salt and bleach and vinegar and maybe some Round-Up.

The next person who says that self-pub lets you have more control gets my laptop in their teeth. I have total control over this file, and you know what? IT SUCKS ALL THE ASS IN THE WORLD.

*muffled sobbing into gin bottle*

This Is A New One

Today I received a brand-new never before seen piece of spam.

Sent to the Red Wombat Studio Form:

Kathie wrote:
Hello, I am writing in an unusual case ... Some time ago, I used your services,
and one of your employees face was familiar to me. At dinner with my wife, it
turned out that he was a burglar, who 5 years ago broke into our home!!! This is
ridiculous!!! How you can hire criminals? I found at least 3 bad entries for him
at website for background check !! I am sure there are
more!!! Please do something about it, things like that are ridiculous!!!


Let’s unpack that, shall we?

I have no problem with the fact that “Kathie” is having dinner with her wife. It’s totally cool. Century of the Fruitbat.

I do kinda wonder how this hypothetical conversation went down, though.

“Hey, honey, today I was using Red Wombat Tea Company’s services. You know, that company that doesn’t really exist and hasn’t sold tea for years. One of the non-existent employees looked vaguely familiar. I wonder where I’ve seen him before?”

“Did he look like the burglar?”

“I’m a little troubled at how you always return to the burglar, hon. I mean, you did it last week to those Mormon missionaries.”

“They could have been casing the joint.”

“…and the UPS guy.”

“He had hair! The burglar had hair! What, do you just WANT us to be robbed again!?”

“Well, no. But it’s been five years. Maybe we should just move on.”


“Honey, we never even got a look at the burglar. We were in the Bahamas. The neighbors called the cops.”

“We saw his mug-shots. Let me get them. We’ll settle this right now!”

“I’m a little disturbed that you keep his mug shots in the vegetable crisper.”

“It’s easier to get them that way when there’s a chance you might have seen him at some point during the day. Kathie, look at this man! WAS THIS THE MAN YOU SAW!?”

“That’s a piece of lettuce.”

“No, not that! This one!”

“…sure. Might have been. I dunno. He had hair, anyway. Can we just have dinner?”

“Kathie, you are sending that awful place an e-mail tomorrow telling them that their hair-wearing employee has a criminal past!”

“…sigh. Yes, dear.”

Hell With It

I have been trying for three days to make Real Art. Art that was interesting and complex and which I could look at and go “I have made a Cool Thing and the world is better for it.”

After one questionable and one outright miserable failure that self-destructed, I have returned to my artistic roots.



Horrifyingly, I actually feel a little better now.


There’s a small painful lump in my left armpit and I THINK it’s a clogged pore because I don’t think you get cancer overnight but maybe it’s been there forever and it just started hurting today except it hurts exactly like a zit but maybe that’s what cancer hurts like I don’t know so I am alternating between trying to pop it and telling myself it is totally not cancer except that what if it IS cancer and I’m trying to pop it and that can’t possibly be a good idea and when I asked my nurse practitioner about that a few years ago she said that knowing me, I would try to pop it but she didn’t actually say if that would make the cancer worse, like it would make it angry and it would start punching me in the vital organs and I’m pretty sure it’s a clogged pore and oh god what if this is how I’m going to die and all the chickens of absurd good fortune I enjoy have finally come home to roost and I can’t go to the doctor right away because if they try to do a biopsy and it’s just a zit I’ll be in excruciating pain just so the techs can laugh at me.

You know, I bet that happens all the time.

I think it’s just a clogged pore.

Columbus Day No More

The Oatmeal has a great thing up about Columbus Day. Go read it, I’ll wait.

This was rather relevant to me today because I’ve been on planes a lot, and was reading A Voyage Long and Strange by Horwitz, which is about the stuff that happened in America between 1492 and the Pilgrims.

Spoiler: There’s a lot of it.

Every time I read anything about American history, I want to go back to high school and punch my teachers in the head. (Although they are largely not at fault, given that they have tests to work to. But they could have at least said something to the effect of “By the way, this ranges between misleading and blatantly untrue and we are leaving out whole centuries.”)

Mostly this era in question involves the Spanish doing impressively horrible things. And we did indeed get a few minutes on Cortez and Why He Was Bad, which passes for enlightenment in the public education system, but the things they glossed over…

Dear god, that they reduced De Soto’s horrifying, bizarre, doomed trek all over hell to “Discovered the Mississippi.” Which is kind of like saying that Genghis Khan’s great feat was popularizing the yurt. And I would have been fascinated and horrified by De Soto the way that I was fascinated or horrified by very little in my American History class. Maybe if that sort of thing were taught, we would have learned something useful about How Being Imperialist Dicks Means Lots Of People Die Horribly, instead of spending a week trying to memorize the first three stanzas of “Paul Revere’s Ride.”*

And the Salem witch trials were interesting and cautionary and all, but did we need to rehash them three times over the course of my education, at a week apiece? Leaving aside that there were other American witch trials, one of them involving a relative of mine, we spent more time on Salem than on smallpox. I do not question that mass hysteria is bad, but seriously, smallpox.


Well, anyway. Columbus. Most of what I knew about Columbus was from a series of books called “Value Tales” which I had as a little kid, which gave all these historical figures an imaginary friend and told a bowdlerized version of their life. Columbus’s was called “The Value of Curiosity.” (I think his imaginary friend was a talking seagull. Can’t recall.)

They kinda glossed over the bit where he started dragging natives back to Spain as slaves, and all the people he killed looking for gold. Also the bit about how everybody knew the earth was round already. Also that he got his math from the Bible.  Also the bit where he went to his grave thinking he’d found India. Definitely the bit with the full boatload of atrocities, rape, murder, dismemberment and genocide.

Lots about the Sargasso Sea and how everybody was scared of sea monsters and sailing off the edge of the earth, though. Plus, y’know, talking seagull!

This was still arguably more than I got out of school. Make of that what you will.

Bartolome de las Casas, incidentally, got two lines in my history books. (One more than De Soto!) He was a priest and he advocated better treatment of the natives, but ha ha, he initially advocated for the African slave trade, so what a jerk, right? (They conveniently left out the bits where he recanted that and began advocating against slavery of any kind. Presumably they needed more room to talk about the Salem witch trials.)

As your products of European Imperialism go, not remotely perfect, but a helluva lot better than most of the other historical figures at the time.  If you were looking for someone European to celebrate from that era of American history, I doubt you’ll find anyone better. Certainly better than Columbus. But there are people currently serving time for armed robbery who are better than Columbus.

I don’t know. About all I know is that I actually looked up the Value Tales books for the first time in years, and man, those things were kinda messed up. Giving Marie Curie a talking X-ray for her imaginary friend seems…um…a little awkward, given how she died? And Johnny Appleseed should have been “The Value Of Making Hooch.” And why was Louis Pasteur, who was French, injecting people with tiny British soldiers to kill rabies?

Let’s not even start in on the one about Cochise. Or Sacajawea. Christ. (I think she had a talking raccoon or something. Cochise might have had a vulture. Maybe it was supposed to be an eagle. The artist was not great with birds.)

I must have read those books a dozen times apiece. Sigh. Of such small things are our later disillusions made…


*One if by land, two if by sea,
Three if by TARDIS, four if you’ve run out of lanterns and will send a note.

Coping with Stone

Well, the government has moved into spoiled brat mode, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. So I’m gonna go build something with stone.

I have a nice load of rough cobbles at a manageable size, should be just enough to put up a swale. I’ve been wanting to build a swale. Today seems like a great day.

Tomorrow I pack. Day after that, I get up at the crack of godawful and go fly to the wilds of Upper Peninsula Michigan. (Gallery Boheme! Calumet! October 4th! Be there or be someplace that isn’t there!)

The air is particular fine today.

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