A Short Camp NaNo Update

Posted on April 2nd 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

Apologies for being late on the posting today. What’s 12 hours, right?

This is just a quick update post, nothing super fancy. Today is Day 2 of the April Camp NaNoWriMo. So far I have managed to keep up the meager word goals I have set for myself. I think it’s a wee bit early yet to say that things are coming together, but I am feeling good about the draft so far.

My goals for April are fairly modest. I’m shooting for 23,000 words of Finding the Dragon. I was roughly 4,000 words in at the end of March and I haven’t written yet today, so April 1st was surprisingly productive.

My total target word goal for the book is 80,000, so even after camp is over I’m going to have a long way to go. Still, I think this is a nice start.

Anyways, I will be back to my regular time and content on Monday with another indie book review.

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DIY “Fancy” Coffees

Posted on March 5th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

Like many writers out there, my best writing sessions are often resemble caffeine fueled hallucinations. When I want to set myself up for a great writing session I usually start with a great cup of coffee. These same recipes are also great for a break during a long work-from-home day.

Break-room Mocha, but make it fancy

Have you ever heard of a “break room mocha”? It’s a cute way of describing the practice of making cheap work-provided coffee taste like a treat using powdered hot chocolate. It can be the perfect pick-me-up during the 2PM post-lunch slump.

When I make a “break room mocha” at home though, I like to kick it up a notch.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 to 1 whole Swiss Miss packet (or 1 Swiss Miss k-cup)
  • 1 “cup” (standard coffee mug or k-cup) of your favorite coffee (I recommend dark roast for this)
  • Milk or non-dairy alternative (I recommend cashew)
  • Chocolate syrup, like Hershey’s.
  • Toppings, such as whipped cream or DIY cold foam (see below)

Step 1:

Put half a packet of Swiss Miss (or the contents of a hot chocolate k-cup) in the bottom of your coffee mug. Mix with about two fingers worth of milk.* Microwave for about 20 seconds if able.

Step 2:

Add your coffee. If using a k-cup, use the middle or regular size option.

Step 3:

Top with your choice of topping, sweet cold foam or whipped cream. Drizzle or doodle with chocolate syrup.

DIY Cold Foam

What you’ll need:

  • Milk, or non-dairy alternative
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Frother

Directions

Add about a finger to two fingers of milk in a clean mug. Add a tiny amount of vanilla to taste (this may take some experimentation). If using, add a bit of sweetener. I have used liquid stevia and maple syrup with great success.

Froth until doubled in volume. Add to favorite DIY “Fancy” Coffee!

Here’s the frother I use, but any electric frother will do the trick. From what I have tried, oat milk foams better than cashew, but adding cashew as your milk for the mocha gives it more body. I don’t have a report on almond milk at the moment. Nothing works as well as real dairy though. If you don’t drink dairy due to lactose, I would suggest using lactose-free dairy milk, like Lactaid. If you’re non-dairy due to a different sensitivity or personal ethics, I would suggest oat milk for the foam.

If you have a favorite frother or more tips for the non-dairy folks, please leave them in the comments!

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Technical Difficulties

Posted on February 8th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

Today was supposed to be a book review post with an accompanying video on YouTube. However, due to some unforeseen technical difficulties in both the recording and editing processes, I was unable to get the editing completed to post today.

At first, I thought the audio wasn’t going to be salvageable, but through some tweaking in Lightworks I got it sounding okay. I was at the point of working on transitions and adding image overlays when it happened. Lightworks crashed. I thought “no biggie, does that all the time.” So I reopened it and double-clicked my project. Crashed again. I tried a few more times because I’m stubborn like that, but it just kept crashing. I can open other saved projects just fine, so it’s something about this project specifically that it doesn’t like, which means I’ve probably lost 6+ hours of editing work. Needless to say, I’m a bit deflated by this development.

The good news is, I haven’t lost the footage. I still have all the clips, I just don’t have a good way to assemble them into a meaningful video. My Mac Mini is too old to run iMovie (which doesn’t have great reviews anyway). I tried copying the files to my iPad and using iMovie there, but the sound isn’t working and, quite frankly, I don’t want to be doing video editing on my iPad; that just doesn’t seem like a good time to me.

It may be that I’ll end up running the Windows version of Lightworks on Matt’s gaming laptop. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to import my existing project file and pick up where I left off.

I thought about posting the blog post for the review anyway, but I decided to hold off. I usually end up making changes to the blog post after filming because I never stay on script. After playing back all of the footage from Sunday afternoon, I can say definitively that this is still true.

The worst-case scenario here is that I post the blog version of the review sometime this week and the video gets put up whenever I can get the editing completed. The worst-worst-case scenario is I don’t get a video review up until March. I’m going to do my level best not to get into that situation. Thank you for your patience.

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Reviews Matter

Posted on January 24th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

This is kind of a heavy blog entry. Before I get into it, I’m not looking for pity. If anything, I’d just like people to read this and think about the creative people in their life who may at times feel like no one sees their work. Okay, so with that disclaimer out of the way, here goes…

One of the hardest things about writing to self-publish, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually have anything to do with writing, per se. It’s more about the parts that come after you hit “Publish.” It’s what comes after marketing campaigns that seem to get you… nowhere.

I didn’t really expect much when I published Saving the Dragon. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t much. And yet… it was more. I thought I’d get more reviews. Double digits, at least. Which I have on Goodreads and I’ve very grateful for that, but Amazon has sat at eight for years. Other platforms have no reviews despite some sales. The audio has had zero despite the promo codes I’ve given out. And that makes me feel awful because I feel like I haven’t just let myself down with my marketing, but the narrator as well.

Saving the Dragon isn’t an earth-shattering, amazing, life-altering book. But it’s fun. It’s light. A small bit of escapism in a world that sucks right now. And I thought more people would enjoy it. Granted, I haven’t really made any effort to market it recently, aside from the occasional interaction on Twitter. But the truth is that it doesn’t feel worth the effort. I don’t expect to recoup the money I’ve spent on FB ads and the like in the past. Yet, I had hoped for more of a pay-off.

Today was an amazing writing day for me. I wrote a complete flash fiction story. I started on a short story for an event next month. I got some revision done on a project that I’m keeping under wraps for now. And yet— I feel worthless as a writer. Because it feels like no one is reading my work, and no one will because it’s fallen so far down in the search results. And no matter how much I beg and plead with people who actually care about me that have read it I can’t even get them to write a review and help me improve visibility.

Feelings aside, reviews drive algorithms and recommendations. If you liked a book and don’t review it, you aren’t helping other people find it. You aren’t helping that author grow their audience.

So, the next time Amazon sends you an email and asks you to rate that book you read last week… Please. The time it takes you to write a sentence and click a star rating could totally turn some author’s day around.

 

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Whatever Happened?

Posted on February 5th 2017 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

Many of you are probably wondering whatever happened to Courting the Dragon, my sophomore novel that was supposed to go on sale last December.

Presently, it is a quasi-finished draft in my Dropbox, waiting for me to crack open a word processor and finally get to the serious business of revising it, as I should have done months and months ago–but still have not.

Why?

Last November, whilst I was in the midst of NaNoWriMo and working on cleaning up CtD’s draft, my husband left. It was shocking at the time, although it really should not have been for a whole host of reasons. The first two days afterwards can be best described as one big, long anxiety attack followed by a week of numbness in which I wrote exactly one scene for my NaNo project, The Foundling. And that was it. I haven’t really written a word since, unless you count countless text messages and work emails.

Why?

For many writers pain is a driving force for their art. A spur for their writing. Their writing gives them an outlet for their anger, their grief. I don’t want to say that that isn’t true for me. In some ways The Foundling’s roots are in some of my own feelings. (Those who know me and the subject matter of that project are probably scratching their heads trying to figure that one out). However, for me it seems that the act of writing tends to be more of a reflection on feelings already processed than the actual act of processing them. When in the midst of something overwhelming, the words just… bottle up.

Side note: I think I wrote the world’s worst poetry right after my dad died. To those who were taking poetry class with me in high school at the time, I apologize.

But, my writerly constipation aside, there’s also the subject matter of the book in question. The book is literally about marriage and events leading up to multiple weddings. Sorry, not sorry for the spoiler there, but I mean, it’s in the title. Call me crazy, but my characters suddenly became completely unrelatable to me there for a few weeks. Here I am, my marriage crashing down around my ears, trying to write about a couple defying magic, politics, parental disapproval, evil villains and a whole bunch of other crap just so they can be together (oh, okay, and save the kingdom, too, I suppose).

Even after the initial shock wore off about a week and a half later, the facts about the plot stated above made even looking at the draft uncomfortable. It felt fraudulent on my part.

Now, in January, as the time to finally sign the divorce papers is drawing near, I think I’m finally ready to put fingers to keyboard again. I’ve had time to reflect on why that particular relationship went south and to recognize that it was over long before he walked out that door. And I say that with no malice to my ex-husband. It was a relationship built on the wrong things that made us into people we neither recognized nor liked very much.

But, with that understanding, I think I now understand why Salarath and Penelope’s relationship will work. Funny how that happens, right? From my own mistakes and my own growth I now feel equipped to grow my characters into the people they need to be for each other. So, with that in mind, I will begin working on CtD again with ambitions to have it completed and on sale this summer. It is going to take some time and some heavy revising, but I think it will be a better story for all the time it has spent waiting for me to grow up a little more.

Adulting is hard.

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