Stuff! New stuff, old stuff, stuff!!

I updated the website today, finally! Bunch of new stories up. Some are not exactly new, but I hadn’t got around to putting them here. There’s even a brand new one, “We Need You!”, never seen before.

I’ve been frantically looking for a job, now that the book is done (not really frantically, more like leisurely). And I also have been spending a lot of time working on the book, now that the book is done.

Here's a drawing of a penguin.

Here’s a drawing of a penguin.

It’s a weird thing to say, but the fact is that there’s lots of work to be done, once you finish the first run. I really thought I’d have a finished product by the time the book was fully written (yes, I thought I was so amazing my first draft would be perfect). Turns out I actually don’t like lots of the stuff I wrote and when I look at it, I just want to change it all.

Ok, not it all, but good chunks of it. Which is enough to make me realize that I would never get away with just one draft.

I never understood when people said “you have to let the characters speak to you”. Speak to me? I’m the one who makes them talk, bitch! I speak for THEM!

Indeed, in the surface, that’s what happens. But in the more profound meaning, something I clearly don’t grasp, what these people meant was “characters are people and people have personalities, so each of them reacts in different ways to the stuff that happens to them throughout the story.” It sounds obvious, now that I realized it, but it went right over my head all the time.

Surely, I knew my characters weren’t going to do things the same way. But now, reading parts of the dialogue between two of them, I notice how uncharacteristic some of the lines are. She’d never say this, he’d never reply that and so on. It’s as if suddenly someone asked me if I would like some aubergine and I said yes very enthusiastically. Not in this lifetime.

Anyway, it’s something I wish I knew at the beginning. It’s a good lesson I learned the hard way. Perhaps there’s no other way to learn it.

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On mildly related news, I’ve been drawing some comic strips. Once they look acceptable, I’ll upload them.

How to be a writer and make money in the process

tl;dr version: Everyone can write a book, not everyone can make money out of it.

“So many feet walked by this place, all with stories to tell”.

I forgot to take a picture of this phrase, which I saw stickered on a wall near my house. I said I would do it on my way back, but I was too engrossed on the bunch of books I got from the library to actually remember what I said to myself on the way in. So, there, you’ll have to take my word for it, that this is there and says this very phrase (or something to this effect).

arte

here’s a picture to entertain you, since I forgot to photograph that wall.

 

I write a lot, so people approach me every now and then and ask me how to become a writer, what do they need to get started, and so on. 

Is it true that everyone has a story to tell? I think yes, everyone has a story to tell. And it’s easy too. If you put the words down you’re a writer. A good or a bad one isn’t really important.

There are at least 24,285 articles on the internet trying to help people with the classic question “how do I become a writer?”.  This is my all-time favorite: How to Write a Book – The Short Honest Truth.

But despite of this being the question spoken out loud, what most people really want to know is “how can I make a living out of this thing that’s free for me?” It’s the old ‘something for nothing’. They think being a writer is an easy life, since you don’t have to source materials, pay suppliers and so on. It’s free money.

It’s not.

It’s true anyone can write a book. As true as “anyone can become a violinist” or “anyone can learn Arabic”. You can do whatever you set yourself to put in the hours and the work on. You just need to commit. 

But still, writing doesn’t pay off right away, or ever. You don’t spend half an hour daily working on it then head for the gym or go have lunch with your other writer friends who have so much free time. If you don’t put in the hours and the effort, you don’t get anything in return. And, I have to add, even if you do, you might get no money for it.

Writing books and stories for a living is probably worse than any other job you could get. There’s no salary, there are no vacations, there’s no one to blame if it doesn’t get done in time. There’s no team. It’s a lonely effort that can only be pleasant or, to say the least, productive, if you’re in love with it. Otherwise you’re screwed.

The money making part of a book is not just the writing. It’s making sure people know it exists and are able to buy it. For that, you either get a deal with a publishing company, or you self-publish.

Getting a deal with a traditional company does not guarantee a lifetime of royalties being sent to your bank account. I know one writer who’s had eight books released by a mid-sized publishing company, and still, he cannot make a living out of it. He gives lectures, courses on creative writing, writes for magazines, whatever you can think of, to support himself.

Publishers have to fight for shelf and promotional space inside the book shops, on Amazon, everywhere. They will do it for you for a while, but they will keep moving on to the next new thing and you might get sidelined and never sell a book again, because there’s no promotional effort being done.

Self-publishing is just as difficult. The difference here is that you get a bigger slice of your cake, given you don’t have to share it with the publishing. The downside is that you will have to do the promotional part yourself if you want to see any money. It’s good and bad. It’s good because you can control it and you can keep it alive for longer than a traditional company would. It’s bad because you have to perhaps do a type of work you’re not familiar with. Unless you’re a marketing writer, in which case, you’re in your comfort zone.

You need to get in touch with your fanbase, grow it, make sure you get your name out there. You need to be in constant control of your image and you book’s image, find out where is your audience and so many other things that a publishing house would do on your behalf.

So, yes, everyone can be a writer. But not everyone can make money out of it, and certainly most people won’t be a JK Rowling, sitting on piles of cash while writing another best seller.

I don’t want to be rich. I don’t really care for money that much. I need to pay bills so I can keep a roof over my cats’ heads, I need to buy food so I don’t starve. All the rest is optional. And if I get people to read what I write and that makes them feel better about life, about themselves or even just laugh a bit, well, then my life is pretty much awesome.

Like any art, if you don’t make any effort to earn money with it, it’s a hobby, a form of expression, but not a profession. Might be a bit of an utilitarian approach to art, but I’d rather be happy now writing books and making some money out of it than suffering my entire life on a job that makes me unhappy and being recognized only when I’m dead. All other approaches are valid, this is mine. 

It takes a village to raise a child. Even more to raise a writer.

While the novel doesn’t come out, I’m trying to come up with ways to support myself and the cats without working for McDonald’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

One of the things I’ve done is to join Patreon. Imagine Kickstarter but for people who are producing constantly, instead of specific projects. In Kickstarter you might support the launch of my novel, in Patreon you invest long term, in me providing you with reading material on a regular basis. It’s like getting a newspaper subscription, except I’m not gonna bore you to death. Not always, anyway.

Here's a totally related gif of a seagull playing with bread

Here’s a totally related gif of a seagull playing with bread

I started it this week, so I’m still working on the reward system and whatnots. I still am unsure of how much production I want to provide. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone, so I thought of one short story per week, at first. My stories have a length that would be similar to watching a dozen cat videos on YouTube, so I’m sure most people can find the time. Every now and then I might come up with longer stories. Ones that are equivalent of two-hour loop videos of Nyan Cat. 

So, if you’re feeling like it, please come by my Patreon page and take a look. There’s some samples of my writing, in case you need some encouragement, and there’s some simple rewards. I am thinking of making some real palpable stuff in the future, to offer as rewards, but for now, you’ll have to be content with being a star in one of my stories.

And while you’re there, check out other projects. There’s tons of cool stuff!

Mood Indigo and the beauty of imagination

I have a vase full of tulips sitting on my desk. Some are missing petals, like their mouths were open, and they spoke to me. The others are quiet. They don’t sing like the open ones.

I went to the cinema today, saw Mood Indigo. If you haven’t seen it, please direct your browser to your friendly local torrent download legal paid streaming website. Of all Michel Gondry’s films, this one is the most vivid. The one with the most capability for joy and for sadness. It is impossible to be indifferent to the world created on the screen. The colors, the stop motion, the actors, everything is popping out and coming at you, and he didn’t need no stinkin’ 3D to make that happen.

ecumedesjoursWhen I watch a film like that my first impulse is to want to read the book that inspired it. The screenplay as well, but screenplays, in my view, are easy. They describe more than they evoke feeling. The book, however, need to provide the emotion that made the film what it was. And how the hell does someone write the kind of setup that was going on in there? A house that’s living, breathing, where the doorbell crawls annoyingly until the chef kills it. Repeatedly, throughout the whole thing. I wanna see the words that generated such images. And could even be that this came from Michel Gondry himself, instead. Then I’ll take back my idea about screenplays. But despite how the film may have come about, Boris Vian has to be a genius. Who thinks of a water lily growing inside someone and slowly killing them? I wish I had.

There are so many things to note about the film, visually as well as story-wise. At the beginning, it’s an explosion of color and movement. It’s the happiest film you have ever seen in your life. Happier than Amélie Poulain. Happier than any movie featuring a brave puppy who helps a basketball team of misfits win their first game thus restoring their confidence in themselves and making us know that they have great futures ahead of them. Happier than that, I swear. The guy has a piano that will mix you a cocktail depending on the song you play. A pianocktail. And nothing goes wrong. Everyone (that matters) is happy and everything works out just fine.

Until it doesn’t.

Then it’s the saddest film you’ve ever seen, and the colors match the mood, dying slowly until the dreary black and white ending. I’m not gonna spoil it for anyone. I’ll stop talking about it.

I left the cinema thinking of how brilliant it would be to write  a story that would make people think of it in colors. At first, I thought, it had to be someone like Gondry to think of something like this. Then it hit me that it’s not so simple. Maybe yes, a guy like him will take any story to a different level of perception. But the reality is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has one hell of an imagination. We just don’t always use it for the same stuff.

I could never conceive of systems/machines to produce a specific car part more economically or faster. It takes a type of creativity I haven’t really developed. But I can image a world in my head like the one I saw in the movie, given a few words. I do this every day, even in my dreams, which I try to record so that I can use them later when writing.

Which brings me back to my tulips. They don’t really talk. Or sing. But when I look at them, it’s like they would, if only I took a moment to listen very closely. That’s my kind of imagination. Tulips don’t scream, don’t even speak loudly. They whisper, softer than roses, who are bigger show-offs than we are usually led to believe.

 

 

 

The book is done! Except it isn’t

Everytime I meet someone I haven’t seen in a while, they ask me “what’s going on in your life?”, as is customary.

Lately, I reply: “nothing much, I finished writing my first novel.”

They go all: “wow! That’s great! Can I buy it?”

And then I start a whole litany of why the book, although finished, is not available yet.

Writing the book now seems to be the easy part (it wasn’t). Getting it to people is a whole other kettle of fish. If you don’t have a traditional book contract with a publishing house, you have to figure out your own distribution and marketing devices.

There are great books out there that focus solely on this topic: getting your book out as an independent author/publisher. I don’t like the term self-published so much, as it’s got a bit of a taint, making it feel like an amateurish egotrip of a book, when in reality you’ll see loads of great writers who are self-publishing. So, independent publishing. If you’re not a judgemental person, feel free to read self-published whenever I use the other term. ;)

Anyway, I wrote the damn book. It’s been a long time coming and now I can finally say I did it. So why can’t I just upload it to Amazon KDP (they independent publishing platform) and start collecting the money people will want to shower me with for my incredibly awesome writing skills?

There are a number of things you need, before you upload it, so you don’t burn your chance to make an impression. Be it a book or a person, a first impression can be powerful, and I learned a bit from my previous experience publishing ebooks.

 

The Review Process

I think I am an excellent writer. Really, there’s no point pretending to be modest in this regard. I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t think what I do is worth reading. May not be to someone’s taste, may not be the best book yet, but it’s something I’m proud of, and you have to be proud of yourself and your craft. If you don’t love it, how can you ever convince anyone that it’s worth it?

But the one thing I don’t claim is to be perfect (see, I can also be modest!). I write and fall in love with specific sentences and chapters. I fall in love with dialogue and refuse to change it and think it is the single most amazing part of the book. If you’re that crazy in love with some words, you need an editor.

In the course of writing the book, you end up thinking it can do no wrong. It’s a baby. And you don’t see the flaws. Maybe with years and years of experience I’ll get to the point where I’m more detached and able to look at it objectively, but right now I love my book and I wouldn’t change a thing. That makes it hard to see when there’s a sentence that is convoluted, or a situation that doesn’t really add up. Enter the editor, someone who’s in charge of bringing you down to Earth and making you realize there are things to fix. There’s always something to fix.

After that, there’s a need for a proofreader. You could be your own proofreader, but from experience, I can tell it’s a terrible idea. You know the sentences so well you end up speed reading it even if you don’t mean to. You’ll skip over typos without thinking twice. A fresh pair of eyes is the best bet here.

 

The Design

You don’t judge a book by its cover? Maybe you try not to, but just like packaging on a product, a good cover helps you make a decision. An indie author doesn’t get the support of a publishing house, with cover artists that will work on your book and bring you a semi-finished product. You need to make it happen on your own. This is equally a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you get to decide what’s gonna happen on your cover. And it’s a curse because you get to decide what’s gonna happen on your cover.

Seems like fun and all, but this is the business card of your book and, ultimately, it’s your public face. The book represents you and it can be maddening to try and do something that’s interesting, enticing, different, but not confusing and overwhelming for the reader. It feels awesome at first, but it turns into frustrating very quickly.

That’s why I decided to ask a real designer to make mine. I couldn’t trust myself to make a decent cover, after my two short stories collections. Both were made by me, to the extent of my abilities, and using my total lack of visual talent.

If you’re an unknown, like I am, and will be fighting against thousands of titles on Amazon and other ebook stores, you need to stand out, and you need to be instantly recognizable by your audience. There’s no point making a super sober and discreet book cover if you’re writing children’s books, for example. And I could not reach this balance, I needed someone to help me get my book looking the best it could. After all, I want to sell it. It’s not just vanity, this is my income now.

 

The Marketing

Thankfully, distribution has been taken care of by online sellers and ebook readers, so we can skip this boring part. But marketing is essential. If no one knows your book is available, how will they buy it?

This part is a work in progress. I am still studying exactly what needs to be done so that I can get the right (mostly free) publicity for my book, and how I can make readers aware of it. Right now, I’m glad I haven’t finished the review and design steps. It gives me more time to work out the marketing plan.

 

So, maybe, in the near future I’ll just print cards with a link to this post and give it to people who ask me when is the book available.

Brace yourselves, changes are coming

If you’ve been here before you can tell something has changed.

The new look of the website, incorporating my branding and a fancy new portfolio will be live soon. Meanwhile, the blog is still operating as normal and you can come here to interact with me and read about the book and so much more.

And if you’re not doing anything special, why not check out my books on LeanPub?

CBYK – English/Portuguese content job

I’ve finished a while ago a wide bilingual job for a new company. Finally, it’s fully online and I can share with you.

cbyk

CBYK needed content for their full website, and since they’re looking to approach clients in different countries, they needed content not only in Portuguese (they’re based in São Paulo), but also in English. The goal here was to provide them with content that would help prospective clients understand the benefits of the services CBYK has to offer. It should be easy but not simplistic, as their client focus comprises some of the top companies in several markets.

For me, by far, the biggest challenge was producing the “Industries” profiles. Meanwhile I was trying to find the right voice for this new company, some heavy research needed to be carried on, to ensure I had data that was relevant and could still be relevant for a while, since this is not blog material, but corporative information that might stay put for some time. Numbers and tendencies may vanish once the year has gone by, so it was a matter of weighting each set of data and analyzing the probability of it becoming obsolete too soon. Time will tell if I made the right choices, but so far it’s holding up!

 

 

Novel update!

Since I came back from Singapore, I went from complete suffering because I couldn’t write a word to hysterical excitement for being able to write 5,000 words a day.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened, but I have some clues:

  1. Found the right story, with characters I sometimes like and dislike, but that I care about.
  2. I have changed my writing environment. Being at home was sort of “cramping my style”.
  3. I stopped being so judgemental about how bad it was.

I think there’s more to it, and as soon as I have some insights, I’ll let you all know. But at least I am getting stuff done. And I came to terms with the fact that it’s not amazing, but it’s a first draft, so it’s alright. At least I’m halfway through the first draft, which was unthinkable a year ago. Or even two months ago!

Now I need to keep going. And finish some short stories that came up in the middle of it.

Double rainbow all the way across the sky, so intense!

I was walking. When I walk I usually sing. But I don’t really sing, I just move my lips, don’t want to bother the rest of the world. Other people probably have their own songs in their heads.

When I walk I get lost. In thought, and music and life in general. Looking at people going by, and at the traffic, because I don’t want to die of a stupid cause, and at houses and buildings and everything else.

I was in the middle of my walk, lost in how strong the setting sun was in front of me. Going down (or up, not sure, streets here are flat as pancakes) Nassau Street I was marveling at the shadowed buildings and churches, and how wonderful they looked, very sharp black figures against a very strong, yellow-white sun. I took mental pictures, because I didn’t have my camera, nor any proper knowledge of how to take great pictures in these conditions. And I was listening to music, which makes me very very happy, and I even have some dance moves I use while I walk. To other people going by I must look really positive or completely deranged.

A guy was stopped in front of a pub a couple meters ahead of me, probably smoking his cigarette. I did notice him from the corner of my eye, but you don’t pay attention to every single person that comes within your field of vision. Until the moment they start waving their arms and trying to talk to you.

I get out of my walking lostness and ask him if I can help him. He says: “look at the sky.”

I was gonna say “that was exactly what I was doing!” when I noticed he was pointing to the sky behind me. And there was the most beautiful double rainbow I had ever seen, I kid you not.

Click to see the larger version. It’s worth it.

The sky was dark with the rain that was probably happening further south of Dublin and the bow was just perfect. You could differentiate every single color, and could see the second bow dimly formed on top of it. My picture does it no justice.

And I just stood there, beside the guy, he was simply amazed, just as me. We just awed for a minute, and then I thanked him for showing it to me. He replied “no one should miss this”. I said cheers and went walking, but I couldn’t stop turning around.

That’s when it gets magical. A delicate rain, as if a million tiny flecks of light decided to come down to Earth, started falling. And the rainbow became stronger and brighter. And I felt like I was in a fairytale. Just missing the prince to come in a white horse and fetch me. Not that I was in any sort of danger, but I certainly wouldn’t mind.

I then noticed every single person on the street with a camera or phone trying to capture it. No one thought of opening umbrellas, or putting raincoats on. The rainbow was hypnotizing everyone.

I went back to my music, and to my walking, turning around every now and then to look at it again, until I reached Grafton Street. From there, I stopped for a minute and looked. As soon as started going up Grafton I wouldn’t see the rainbow, because of the buildings. So I said my goodbye to it, smiled, skipped a little skip, and went on my very merry way.

This was a great day. But still no sign of the pot of gold.

You can’t see the rain, but I swear it was there

 

Turin, Torino, however you prefer

I had a few days in Torino, Italy, with my brother and sister. I would not have thought of going there, because it’s not exactly Rome, but my sister lived there at a certain point, and she was looking forward to see her friends, so I hitched a ride on her vacation plans.

Citta' di Torino

I’ve got some pics that you can see by clicking on this beautiful pic of a piece of concrete with a sign on it.

Torino (or Turin, in English) is a small city by Italian standards, but full of attractions. The public transportation is plenty and well distributed, and you can get anywhere with the buses, subway and trams. It’s also cheap, especially if you consider I was coming from Dublin.

Palazzo Madama: like a bad haircut, it’s business on the front, party in the back, only more socially acceptable

You have to start at the center of things, in Piazza Castello. The collection of important buildings in this part of the city is second to none. You have, at the dead center, Palazzo Madama, a half castle-half baroque building that houses the Museum of Antique Art and has been the residence of many a Savoy royalty throughout the years. From there, you will see Palazzo Reale, with its imposing statues, and the Royal Gardens on the back. This palace houses temporary exhibits and also provides tours of this main rooms. Right beside it you’ll see The Royal Theatre (Teatro Regio), under a archway, with its gates being a sculpture and attraction by themselves, the work of Umberto Mastroianni. There are operas playing regularly. This piazza also houses the Royal Armory and the Royal Library.

Basilica di Superga, which is not mentioned anywhere in this post, but that you should visit on a sunny day

You’ll also notice at the back of the Piazza a very out of place building, a reddish construction that reminds me of any random residential building in São Paul. Thi was to be the headquarter of the Fascist party. The population has come to accept Torre Littoria as part of the landscape, even if it detracts from the city’s medieval beauty.

But the same hasn’t happened with their newest skyscrapper. The future headquarter of bank Intesa Sanpaolo would have been taller than the tallest building in Torino: the Mole Antonelliana, a sculpture of a building that houses the Cinema Museum (more on that later) and represents Torino. This left a sour taste on everyone’s mouth so the total height has been lowered from 200m to 167,25m, 25cm less than Mole.

For some fancy Italian shopping you can’t go wrong with Via Roma. There’s high fashion in the form of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hèrmes and similar names, and also affordable fashion, such as Zara and OVS. Right at the middle of Via Roma is Piazza San Carlo, where you will find the iconic Caffè Torino, a favorite spot for movie stars and royalty alike from the 1930s to the 1950s. It was one of the few structures that survived unharmed the Allied bombing in 1942. Stop for a (expensive) coffee, rest your feet and admire the wonderfully preserved decoration.

At the back, Mole Antonelliana, the tallest building in Torino

Leave the best for last: Mole Antonelliana. The building that was meant to be a synagogue, and today represents the city, even on the 2 cent Euro coins. Its imposing dome is visible throughout the city and houses the impressive Cinema Museum. Be prepared to spend a whole afternoon there, among hundreds of kids on school tours. It’s not just a regular “don’t touch anything” museum, but has a huge interactive section, explaining image, how the eye works, how we perceive light, and so on, not to mention the amazing collection of moving image apparatuses that you can play with. You cannot, seriously, cannot not go there.

 

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