Friday, October 26, 2012

My Turn at the Blog Hop

A good friend of mine, S.M. Carriere, stopped by here the other day and left me a gift. She tagged me in a blog hop. You should check out her website, it's really quite a site. I think you like all the cool things you'll find there.

This is how this thing works. I've been tagged, and so I must re-tag the person who tagged me. Then I get to answer the list of questions below, and then pass this along to four other awesome authors. That's the hardest part, deciding who to pick. Hmmmmm

While I think on that, on to the questions

What is the working title of your book?
Most of my ideas get dubbed with something; after all I have to have some means of identifying all those documents in my file of ideas, but to keep things simple, I'll talk about what I happen to be working on now. At the moment, and likely permanently, my book is called Druid Derrick.

Where did the idea for the book come from?
The idea came from a roll-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons. It's pretty much the only roll-playing game I have ever liked. With rolls of the dice, the characters come alive and develop a look and personality. More rolls of the dice and they develop skills. During the course of the game, other rolls of the dice determine the outcome of whatever the character-player has decided to do. Handled correctly, the game can be every bit as fun as a good book where a group of friends are gathered to read and each person reads a particular part. It can end up with a lot of laughter and extend into the wee hours of the morning.

For this book, I rolled up a druid, and following the rules, I gave him all the things the dice said he was. Even random encounters in his world were rolled up, though it was up to me to put a face and a purpose to the encounter, and to breathe life into Derrick's story.

What genre does your book fall under?
I classified all of my work under fiction, mostly because I have a poor understanding of the different classification. This one might also fall under paranormal though, since Derrick does eventually gain the ability to shapeshift, and of course, he works magic at need. His world is also peopled with elves, centaurs, pixies and dryads among other D&D creatures. Though fortunately, over the centuries since the time of dragons and monsters, most monsters and other plainier creatures have been eliminated from the world, and the D&D history has been reduced to legend.

Which actors would you choose to play for your characters in a movie rendition?
This was a hard one for me. I pick movies to watch much the same way I pick books to read. If it looks and sounds like something I might like, I give it a shot. Who the actor is or who wrote the book have nothing to do with it (or very little anyway). So I did a google image search looking for someone I thought might fit the part of Derrick. I see him as a somber, even guarded, young man with dark hair and blue eyes, and wouldn't you know it, I found someone to match, though I've never heard of him before. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is an Irish actor, take a look. Other actors and actresses play distant and mostly unseen, or passing rolls, and of course the rest of the creatures will need to be computer generated. For this job, I want to get the guy who did the Narnia movies. Those centaurs are simply awesome. I'm sure he'd do just as good with my creatures.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
(Eewww The one question every writer dreads hahaha)
"What happens when one of the most powerful druids of ancient times is growing up in the twenty-first century?"
How's that for a one-liner? Pique your interest yet?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Now that's a good question. This book is too long to present to a publisher. It's already over 700 pages long and a little less than half way to it's planned ending. Maybe someday I can get it published as a television series. It's either that or something like a series of really short books, since the only place I can think of to divide it is whenever Derrick gains a level. It's kinda like the Harry Potter books - every school year was a new book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started this book way back in 2008, but then publishing and advertising and editing and platform-building kinda got in the way of much real writing. Grabbing bits and snatches of time to write made this project drag out. And when I did get the chance to do some writing, I was so lost, I had to do some reading to get back in the groove and that too cut into the actual page progress. Recently I've started a new strategy and it seems to be working. At least this will work during the winter. I'll have to see what I can work out during the summer when work gets in the way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmmmm - my comparing my work to someone else's isn't something I'm willing to do. If I happen to be imitating anyone, it's purely by accident. If someone else has written a D&D character into the twenty-first century USA, I haven't heard of it. Of course, to have someone else compare my writing to one of my favorites is always a thrill.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Ever since I first started writing, creating the next story has always been so much fun. All I needed was an idea and they came from anywhere. It seems my muse sits on my shoulder all the time, and she can get quite inpatient with me sometimes, even to the point of demanding more than one story at a time. She's been getting rather neglected lately, and hasn't been as demanding as she once was.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I certainly hope this book is interesting to more than the average D&D gamer. Derrick is your average American teenager who grew up in your average American dysfunctional family. After a physically traumatic event, he abandons all memory of his past and steps into his life as a full-fledged druid, only it turns out to be far more real than anyone had any right to expect. It turns out he just might be a clone of an ancient druid, one of the last to have any real power with magic. Why was he created? The people who knew the plan are now dead, taking their plan with them to the grave. Can Derrick put together the puzzle of his existence? Does it matter anymore? Only time will tell.

Well, those were the questions. What did you think of the answers? Would you read this book? Would you watch this TV series?

Now to pass this on to some other great writers.
Alisha Page's blog - Addicted to Genre Bending
Siggy Buckley's blog - Siggys Omnibus
Alan Place's blog - Here I am at the edge
Jacqui Murray's blog - Jacqui Murray's WordDreams

Friday, October 19, 2012

Breaking the Rules, or Not

Time and again, I've read that you should know the rules of writing before you break them, and that is some really great advice. Here is a great site for looking into some of those rules. But what is it that you go by to determine whether or not to break these rules, or others?

For me there is only one rock-solid rule I refuse to break. Whatever I write, I strive my hardest to make sure my reader understands what I write. I look at my writing like painting a picture. I want you, my awesome readers, to see the same picture I'm painting with my words. Something I've apparently managed to miss in my latest book (according to the reviews). It seems I was lacking getting across just how the magic works in my world.  

I've always said feedback is invaluable, but helpful feedback can be hard to come by. That is why I comb through my work several times just to make sure what I've written paints the same picture just as clearly as I want.

The last time through is read to me by my computer. My computer might spell out the occasional odd name, or pronounce something that's supposed to be spelled, but these can be easily overlooked. Where it helps the most is finding those small spelling errors my brain refuses to see, or the missing endings my brain always adds because I want them there. It is also a tremendous help in the placing of the illusive comma.

Occasionally, on Facebook, someone will post something showing the tremendous misunderstandings that can arise from the lack of proper punctuation. The latest one was a magazine cover listing some of the articles on the cover. Without a space between those titles the magazine had someone cooking and eating their dog and cat (sorry I don't remember the name - it was about a talk/cooking show). There are many examples, and generally they are certainly worth a chuckle, but it's not something you want in your book. I read one place where one person refused to use any commas - he didn't understand their placement and never got them right. Whatever rocks your boat, but I won't be reading any book he writes, though I might struggle through a blog post or two.

Fortunately, the very nice computerized voice of my computer helps me with comma placement too. The old rule, if you need a spot in your sentence to breathe, put a comma there, but it's more than that. Sentences have a rhythm, and commas help foster that. Even though the comma is a subliminal thing, our brains need that moment to breathe. Without it, the run-on sentence risks confusion, and you never want to confuse your reader.

I've been told I use too many commas, but I've also been told that my reading is very easy and quick. I think, if the reader doesn't have to struggle with their own punctuation and breathing, the writing is smoother. At least that's what I strive for. There's also a possibility that my writing is too simplistic, though both my boys say it's too complicated. Now you know why you have to pick and choose what feedback to take to heart, though whether my stories are too complicated or too simple is something I can't do much about. I try to tell a story that is clean enough for your kids to read, but I want a story adults will enjoy too; I'll leave it up to you to decide if you want their kids to read them.

So how many rules do I break? I have no idea - hopefully not too many. How many rules do you break?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Are you a Bard

What is a bard? In my mind, a bard is pretty much the first example of today's author - someone who HAD to tell their story. The story could have been anything from sensationalized history to complete fiction made believable. Is it any different today? Not really. There's more history to draw upon, and a bigger field of fiction to sculpt into our tales, but the need to tell the tale is the same.

These early bards chose to travel from town to town telling their stories for their next meal, rather than finding a much more lucrative career that would likely have kept them a little farther from the brink of starvation. Of course, only the best story tellers could survive relying totally on their tales to get them through the tough times. How many authors today can say the same?

The next evolution was when some storyteller did well enough to earn a sponsor. This development cause the artist to expand their repertoire. Whereas before, they could move on to the next town and tell their tales, maybe altering some details or strategies a bit as judged by the reactions of previous audiences. Now, though some tales might remain popular, especially those that flattered their sponsor, they had to entertain the same audience night after night. The pressure must have been tremendous.

Then came the printed word, and with it, a whole new kind of audience, but getting it to that audience took a massive step back. Who was it that took those books from town to town? Was it the author? More than likely. And what did he do with them once there? There were no bookstores back then, nor any other kind of store that could spare the space for something aimed at entertainment rather than survival. So our struggling artist likely sat in the town square hawking his book, hoping to make enough money to print of more of the same, or something new, to sell in the next town.

But whereas the struggling life of the bard evolved to him having a sponsor, so too did the life of those very first authors, and they too acquired a sponsor - someone willing to take on the printing and distribution of great stories.

With the life of those first bards evolving through the generations, there is no reason to believe it won't continue to evolve, and if you want to be successful, you too, if you are a bard at heart, need to go with the flow. When I first started writing, I had no reason to think any of my stuff would be published. I had no way to become noticed and no real expectation that my stories were good enough to attract any attention in the first place; I was merely stroking my need to tell a story, even if no one would ever read it. When I finally did go for broke and hire a publishing house, eBooks were a distant and very new invention, but that certainly changed quickly. Now, only a few years after the first one, I've published a second book, and it debuted as an eBook. Much to my delight, it sold well, being easy to buy and instant to get to, no need to wait for a book to come in the mail. I still have one foot in the 'past'. I still struggle to get my books on a shelf somewhere. At the very least, I will keep a supply here, so I can send them off on the most incredible journey any book ever takes in order to make it to your bookshelf. I mean really, how many books ride in an open boat in order to get on a bush plane on floats, just so they can get to a post office?

Are you a bard?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Social Media

By now we all have our view when someone mentions social media. For you writers and authors out there, it's all about building your platform, but if you look at social media as a machine or even a car, you may understand it just a little better.

Lets take a car: Everyone knows that a car needs a little tender loving care on a regular basis. Oil change, new spark-plugs, a seasonal change of tires if you live where the roads get icy, or just checking the pressure from time to time if not. Such things will keep your car purring along for some time. And looks: a little Turtle Wax will keep it gleaming, and inside, there are all manner of products made for cleaning all the different surfaces inside your car. Keeping your car clean inside will make your trips near or far that much more pleasant for you and your passengers.

Why do I go into all that? Because giving your social media as much attention as you would your car is very important in building your platform. To keep your 'engine' running smoothly, your profile needs to be updated regularly, a new, or at least your best picture, preferably of you, is VERY important. Your readers want to see YOU, not your kids or your pets. It might even be worth your time and money to make the trip to the beauty parlor (yes, even for you guys) to get your hair all prettied up. And if you're anything like me with no facial color, see if someone might be able to work on your face too. Take special notice of your blouse or shirt - is the color flattering? In my latest picture I went out and bought a new shirt special for the occasion. Sadly, I chose white, and it wasn't until I had it posted up that I realized how pale it made my face. I'll do better next time. Live and learn, I always say. For me, the color of my shirt has always been an issue. Blue makes my eyes more hazel whereas green makes them lean toward blue, but not far enough for me. Black makes me look old, even when I was a young teenager. I remember once when I was around 16, just for fun I tried on a black suit set. It was one of the best-fitting suits I'd even worn before or since, I believe. However, I took one look in one of those three-sided mirrors and felt I should have been hunched over with a cane in my hand. I looked positively ancient. Now that I'm in my 50s, I don't need any help.

Back to your profile: Make sure the bio is up to date and interesting. Check it out often, just to make sure the information is relevant. Mostly, I copy and paste my bio from one site to another, but be careful doing that. What might be relevant in one place, may not be in another place. Most media sites have some sort of personal information to fill in. This is information your readers will look for in order to find out more about you. This too is important to keep up to date, and really important - make sure all your links work. Treat these like your spark-plugs. If they don't go anywhere, your reader will quickly lose interest and move on somewhere else. Be wary of contact information though. I have my email posted around everywhere - I want my readers to find it easy to contact me, but to the best of my knowledge, my phone number is nowhere. My phone sucks and I don't check messages very often. It is my means to call out. If you want to talk to me, I'm on Facebook a lot and chat works there just fine. My satellite connection makes most other forms of connection impossible or at best teeth-gritting.

Advertising: I just counted - I have 22 links I post around almost every day. I promote my editor because I think she's awesome. I promote an agent even though she is not mine because her blog is chocked full of the most awesome information on the publishing industry I've found so far. The rest is devoted to my books and where they can be found. Three of those links go to online bookstores where you too might be able to list your books. It's worth taking a look and getting your own book listed. The more places where your books can be found, the better. Another pair are the Freedo widget where a reader can read a sample of my books. It looks like a real book, plus I have control of how much a reader can read. I could allow a reader to read the whole book if I wanted to - something I will do with my blog novel as soon as it becomes officially published. All I'm waiting for is the perfect cover to show up. The rest of the links are where to find me - my fan page on Facebook, my website on Weebly, and my writing blog (here).

The order of my posts is important to me. Where all my first book can be found - where all my latest book can be found - where both books can be found - the latest news of what is happening to me and future books take you to different tabs on my website - and lately I'm pushing The Fortunes of Magic so there's a grouping of links where that can be found. > IMPORTANT < If you click on someone's name on Twitter you will see their latest three posts, so with that in mind, my last three posts for any given day are my FB page, my writing blog, and my website. From any of those three posts, one can easily find my other places.

Also, patience is a virtue. No platform is going to explode over night. There are groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn where members post their fan page for other members to like, and they all do. I stop by these sites once in a while in an effort to garner some new fans, but mostly I make myself as visible as I can and let fans find me. Those likes from those kinds of groups are kinda like a sugar rush. Suddenly dozens of people drop by, hit 'like', and move on. Yeah, they will now see your posts in their stream, but any real interaction drops off as fast as your link drops down the page. I want the honest interaction and friendship - it means more to me. As far as returning the favor, I do. I check out every liker's profile, if I can find your page (see profile update (your 'about' tab) - if your page isn't there, I can't find it anywhere else unless it's by accident), I'll like it if it interests me. I don't want to clutter up my stream with a bunch of stuff I have no interest in, and I expect no different from my fans. I want my fans to be real fans and friends, not empty likes. One time, I checked out a page from a recent liker from one of those groups. I don't remember what it was, but it was probably something techy - it's all Greek to me. Anyway, I left him a message thanking him for liking my page, but letting him know I wasn't going to return the favor, I just wasn't interested. He got all upset and asked me why I bothered to participate in the group if I wasn't going to like his page. He probably also unliked my page, which was fine with me. Like I said, I want fans who are interested in me, not empty likes. They simply have no meaning.

Another way you can get more notice on FB is to browse around AS your fan page. You'll see all the other pages you've liked if you've added them as your page's favorites. You can do this by going to the page and clicking on the little gear in the upper right-hand corner. As your page, you can't see your normal stream nor can you interact with normal profiles, but you can share posts and pictures from them - you'll have to go find them to do that though. You can, however, interact with all those pages you've listed over there. So remember, when you like a page, if it's relevant to your fan page (or not) add it over there too.

Facebook isn't the only place where I promote myself. Daily, I post on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Recently, I've posted my links on, Agent Query Connect and I figure I'll do those maybe once a month or so, or as things change. We'll see. I haven't decided whether I'll post them on Goodreads or not. I'm not as active there as I once was.

So polish your car and tune up your engine, and get out there and promote yourself. You would be surprised how many of my friends ask me for help regarding promotions. Sure, I'll help anyway I can, but there's only so much I can do, and frankly I'm a bit selfish. I work very hard promoting myself; I'll help you, but if you're not working on promoting yourself, your request for help is leaching from me pure and simple, besides my platform may not be what you need.

There are many other ways to get yourself seen. YouTube has become popular, as have Pinterest, and I'm sure there are many more. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Don't be afraid to check them out and take advantage of them if they fit your needs. I don't do YouTube because I can't do videos, and from what all I've heard about Pinterest, it's all about pictures anyway.

Get out there. Do the work. If you don't, who will? And above all, don't be afraid to ask questions. I may not know all the answers, but just maybe I know someone who does. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Discord's Apple - A Book Review

Discord's Apple
Carrie Vaughn

With the world, and certainly the United States falling apart under the horrendous pressure of war, cartoonist Evie Walker strives to keep the candle of hope lit with her Eagle Eye Commandos storyline, but it all falls apart when she learns that her father is sick. Using all of her fuel rations, she heads half way across the country to be by his side. But food and fuel rationing and checkpoints are not the only thing she finds in the near ghost town she calls home, nor is her grandparents' house, where her father has lived ever since he retired, what it seems.

I have always liked to toy with religion and magic, and obviously Carrie Vaughn does to. In this book, the Greek gods were really just people with really powerful magic. But just how did we get from there to here? And what really happened to the Greed gods? I love the chain of logic presented in this book, and Discord's apple was the core of it all.

according to Greek mythology, the goddess Discord inscribed "to the fairest" and tossed in the midst of the festivities at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, thus sparking a vanity-fueled dispute between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite that eventually led to the Trojan War. What does this have to do with the story? Everything.

This review would be very long if I tried to tell you all the story threads woven through this book, and I can't tell one without telling all of them. I'll give you a hint though. What do you know of Hera? When I think of her, I picture a rather witchy person, vindictive and jealous, but by the end of this book, I kinda like her. Why? Oh man. you really need to read this book and find out.

As most of you know, most of my reviews head in a writerly direction at some point, but really this book is an example of the difference between traditional publishing and self publishing. The self published author needs to take great pains to learn the craft, and in my opinion, also run their work past a professional editor. The author who gets accepted by Tor Publishing is blessed with a team who makes sure their work is everything it can be. And this is one of those kinds of books. I am most pleasingly impressed.

I even went to Amazon and looked up her author page. I would say Carrie Vaughn is a successful author. I would be very surprised if she still had a day job.

Do read this book. You'll love it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Demons of Justice - A Book Review

Demons of Justice
Regis Schilken

This story follows Kathryn Comstock from her position as an emergency medical technician to her getting the job as sheriff in her home town, but that is mostly background information, nicely written but I would have preferred the story get on to the point hinted at by the title. The chapters became relevant but I didn't understand that until somewhat later. There were other chapter like that, relevant, but seeming just filler until much later in the book.

I don't write investigative stories. I don't know enough about police investigations to do that. Sometimes I wish I could do something like on the TV show, Castle, but that's not going to happen any time soon, so you're going to have to take what I say with a grain of salt.

In my opinion, such that it is, this story would have been better if it merely started with Kate stumbling in to an unusual chain of missing people and started the investigation from there. There was plenty of people she talked to who remembered sad events, and there were lots of old reports to read through and maybe talk with her brother about - he too, as a cop, had missing people to investigate.

There were a couple flashbacks too, and in my opinion they were irrelevant to the story. We already knew people had died, we knew who they were and how they died, and we knew how devastated their family was; we didn't really need to see the event from any other POV.

Though somewhat awkward, this was a good and quick read. And you won't believe the ending. Seriously - I had no idea until the very end. I started to have a possible clue near the end, and a little later, a possible accomplice, but really the ending will blow you away. My only wish in that department was that it went at least another page or two. Why? Read this book and find out. You'll like it too.  I may one day read this book again, just to see what details I might have missed.