Friday, December 28, 2012

The Business of Publishing

What do I really know about business? Nothing really, just the logic of following the money. My first book was published through AuthorHouse - they are a subsidy publisher. Until recently, I always concentrated on the 'publisher' part of that label, and that was further helped by the 'Author' in the company title. Recently, I learned that I may have been grossly mistaken in my assumption. I never really could understand why they never did any advertising. I mean, they already had this awesomely long list of email contacts, all they needed to do was send out a monthly newsletter, but that's not what AuthorHouse concentrates on; they are merely a service agency.

Five years ago, I paid them nearly $12,500 for my book. I knew from the start I was going to have trouble promoting so $4,000 of that was for the best advertising valet (that's how they promoted it on my contract) AuthorHouse had to offer. For my mega$$$, I got a single mass email notification to all the people on their awesome list - yeah, I said single. To her credit, she also turned me on to Facebook and Twitter, but she did nothing else to help me get my book sold.

Am I being strange when I expect some sort of results for my $4,000?

Logic tells me to follow the money. They do it on TV all the time. Want to solve a crime? Follow the money. So, for $12,500 I got a cover (I recently paid $100 for a cover), I got a copyright number (I got one for free a while back), I got an ISBN number (I found a place where I could get one for like $50), My book was edited (yeah okay, that one costs a bit - my editor would do this book for $1,119.34 as it stands today), and my finished document was converted to a publishable gallery pdf. So, for all that, my $12,500 was a bit pricy, but it's the $4,000 price-tag I'm having such an issue with.

$4,000 for sending out a single mass email - the rest I got only because I got no results from that email so I called and complained, only then did she suggest Facebook and Twitter. She didn't tell me what to do with those sites; I had to figure all that out myself.

Why am I complaining about a five-year-old business decision? Recently, AuthorhHouse contacted me - they do that from time to time - about once a year or so - My new advertising 'valet' wanted to tell me all about this new thing he had to offer me. AND he was offering it to me for the discounted price of only $7000. Since I have already invested $12,500 into my book, for only and additional $7000, he would guarantee my book would be read by no less than five agents. Did you catch that incredible offer? He was going to guarantee that five agents would read my book - that's all. Well, actually that's not all for the $7000, but that was all when it comes to the agents. There's no way anyone can guarantee that an agent will take me on and promote my book to a big publishing house.
I would also get:
1 - A professional query letter writer would write up the query to those agents.
2 - I would get a one-time listing in two of the biggest book distributor's catalogs (one of them is Ingram where I should already be listed).
3 - I would get a single multi-author slot on the New York Times Sunday Book Review (I just looked them up and didn't see much there from AuthorHouse. Don't get me wrong, there were some listings, just not much, and I had to do a word search to find it)
4 - I would get a radio interview by Stu Taylor (I'm really bad with names so I don't know who this guy is). His radio programs are Equity Strategies on the Business Talk Radio Network, Equity Strategies (a different show) on the Radio America Network, and Stu Taylor on Business aired in Boston. Hmmmm Maybe he does a regular author interview thing, but I certainly never listen to those kinds of programs, though I suppose a lot of people do.

Now, I know advertising costs money, and sadly I just don't have any money to spend. However, the way I see it, if you're going to invest money in an advertising company, it is reasonable to expect some kind of return on your investment. A total of 21 books were sold through AuthorHouse during the five years of my book's life. 20 of those books were bought by my sister when I sent her the link after it was finished and available; she bought them for Christmas presents that first year (2008). Outside of that, despite all my advertising, AuthorHouse sold no more books of mine - 0 sales - whereas 69 books were sold from probably Amazon, but my statements don't specify. Now I didn't have internet until 2010, so other than those first 21 books, only one other book was sold before 2010. From then until now 13 more books were sold.

Early this last spring, AuthorHouse released my book as an eBook (without informing me, but that's minor). Also early this last spring, I had another book come out through Bucks Country Publishing with a much better cover, if I do say so myself. My second book was a pretty good hit, though sales were mostly eBooks. Since I also advertise my Amazon Author page where both books are listed, I believe people who liked my second book decided they could afford the $3.03 for my first book in eBook format. 38 of those sold during the last quarter, and not through AuthorHouse.

Follow my logic. Do you think AuthorHouse has shown me enough return for my $4,000 in advertising to warrant another $7000 investment, whatever they offer? I don't. The offer is good, the plan is good, but the price is simply too much - I can't afford it anyway. The guy I talked to kept saying that it wasn't the money, that it had nothing to do with what I'd already paid, and that advertising costs money (I'm paraphrasing), but all I can do is follow the money. I paid them $4,000 specifically for advertising and over the last five years they made me just a little over $40. Or we could look at it this way; if I pay myself a round figure of $2 per book (I get less than that for sales through Amazon, and I get a little over $1 for an eBook) and include ALL sales, I made $180 over the last five years. Break it down and that means I pay them $22 so I can make $1. In case you hadn't guessed yet. I'm firing this advertising agency. Wouldn't you?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life is a Circle

In the newness of our time, we swim
In the first quarter of our time, we crawl
In the fullness of our time, we walk
In the last quarter of our time, we rest
Life is a circle
We rest, that we might remember how to swim

Death walks at our shoulder
He reaches for some of us sooner than others
The touch of Death can be a quick slap
The touch of Death can be a slow caress
Life is a circle
Rest, ye weary soldiers that you might remember how to swim

God is our Lord
His plans for us are a complicated weave
In His wisdom, He plucks one from here that He may place one there
Sometimes the thread of our life needs must be short and sometimes long
Life is a circle
Swim the long strokes that your next thread will hold God's weave

In the dawn of our time, we curl in the security of our womb
In the morning of our time, we learn to laugh and cry at our world
In the noon of our time, we learn to rile and rage at our life
In the evening of our time, our touch has been felt
Life is a circle

 It is time for us to teach the young to laugh
It is time to shed a tear for all those we have lost
We shed a tear so that we may remember how to swim
For without tears, there is no swimming

By Anna L. Walls

Friday, December 14, 2012

One Foot in Front of Another

Most days lately, I have a chunk of the day between when my computer's battery runs out and when we start the generator, to read whatever books I have around here. Some of those books I've received from fellow authors most of whom I met on Facebook. Most are books that have been around here for a while. I just don't get to a bookstore very often. One thing I've noticed in nearly all of them is the varying degrees of attention to one important detail. You wouldn't think it's all that important, but if you ask me, it's one of those subliminal things that can really trip us up if we're not careful.

What am I talking about?

The order of events. No matter what kind of events you want to talk about, it's vital they happen in order. Just try to picture yourself walking across the living-room putting your front foot in front of your back foot - that might be fine for the very first step, but it will certainly hang you up by your heels if you try to do that with any following steps. Last time I checked, to make it across the room, the back foot needed to go in front of the front foot in order to make progress across the room.

This order applies to nearly everything we do. Words are strung along in a particular order as dictated by the language you speak, but there are many things you might not be so aware of that also follow an order. You notice, see, and look at things all in something of an order too. First you notice something, say, out of the corner of your eye, then you turn your head to locate it, and then you actually look at whatever it is, and maybe study it in detail, if it's interesting enough, not that every step needs to be included, but you just can't study some object and then notice it a few moments later.

Okay, so I'm getting just a little too obvious in my examples, but I'm hoping you are getting my point. At the moment, I'm reading a book where the writer has a very coiling style to the way he tells his story. It's all good; as his characters go round and round in their path through the story, they are moving forward, but everything they do or think is generally hashed out in one manner or another at least once or twice before the actual action takes place. It's not quite repetition, something I advise against if I have the opportunity, and yet it is. His story line is more like a spring someone has flattened out across a table. To help you visualize this, lets take a spring from your mattress and then drive the car over it, and lets assume the spring remains flat after the car has gone on. This style took some getting used to, but the story is one I'd read again so it's pretty good. However, if his style was slightly less coiled, the book would be less than 725 pages long.

Why do I mention this book if I'm not going to review it?

Because of his coiling style, he sometimes gets his order of events - whatever they are - kinda turned around. I've only noticed it a handful of times, so he's pretty good at keeping things in order, but it did trip me up a time or two, and made me go back and read a passage through again. Yeah, I'll do that sometimes, if something gives me an unexpected swing. So, my advice to all you budding authors out there, pay attention to the order of events. Even things that don't seem to matter, can end up making a difference to the overall picture.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meet S.M. Boyce

Blurb: Ourea has always been a deadly place. The lichgates tying the hidden world to Earth keep its creatures at bay—for now.

Kara Magari ignited a war when she stumbled into Ourea and found the Grimoire: a powerful artifact filled with secrets. To protect the one person she has left, she strikes a deal that goes against everything she believes in. But things don’t go as planned.

Braeden Drakonin can no longer run from who—and what—he is. He has to face the facts. He’s a prince. He’s a murderer. He’s a wanted man. And after a betrayal that leaves him heartbroken, he’s out for blood.

To survive, both Kara and Braeden must become the evil each has grown to hate.

Meet S.M. Boyce: Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction author who likes sarcasm and cookies. By all means check out her author page on Amazon, and on Barns and Noble.

In her own words...

Anything that’s worth doing is a little scary. It’s a little intimidating. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it in the end for whatever reason.

That’s been my experience in the publishing world. For me, being a career author was my dream, and now I’m living it.

I never thought writing the book would be the easy part, yet here I am: two years of platform-building, six years of plot design and world building, and a host of blurred successes and mistakes later, I’m published. I’ve been a published author since October 15, 2011. And it’s awesome.

It’s no cakewalk, either. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, mishandled a few email correspondences, and lost followers. But I’ve also gained invaluable contacts in the publishing industry, sold novels to complete strangers, reached the Amazon Top 100, and even designed a blog exclusively for authors to discuss the technical aspects of our craft (Boyce’s Guide to Writing). I’ve inspired others, I’ve been inspired by others, and I’ve pushed through.

The tricky part when it comes to writing a book is that there’s no right way to do it. There’s no guaranteed way to market yourself and no right way to find followers. There’s plenty of wrong ways to do it, but there’s no set right way. If you want to take a look at my thought process, feel free to check out my writing and editing process and the timeline to publication. Hope those posts help, but we ultimately all do it a little differently. The trick is to find your way.

Bottom line, though, is that success as an author isn’t possible without the fantastic people who read my books. The authors, bloggers, and readers who have reached out to say hi make my day every time. So thank you for reading my books, for reaching out, and for being awesome.

A little hope for the road [by S.M. Boyce]

With the holidays fast approaching and the cold already here, I wanted to give you a little hope to help you through scraping the ice off your front windshield.

It's easy to lose hope, especially in the winter: it's dark most of the time and cold all day long. It's easy to forget how wonderful you are, or what you bring to the table. I think we all push ourselves too hard nowadays--we're striving to achieve, to be better, to succeed in something before we die. We sometimes lose track of the why. Why bother?

It's in those spiraling moments that we need a trampoline--something bouncy and a little soft. Sometimes, we're just not strong enough on our own to remember what makes life so beautiful, or precious, or funny as all hell. So we need some help.

The trampoline can be a person. It can be the teddy bear no one knows you still have. It can be a solo hike through a forest, or an hour spent looking at adorable pictures of cats. It can be an evening laughing over dinner with a good friend.

Trampolines--and the hope that comes with them--are everywhere.

I'm analytical. So when I'm low, I write a list. It's just for me. It's a list of everything I'm good at doing. Things I know I can do well. It ranges from the big to the small, and it's just for me. I'm not allowed to be modest when I write it, because that can turn into self-deprecation that makes me start to spiral again. But here's the truth: we're all amazing at something. A lot of us are amazing at several somethings, and it's easy to forget. It's easy to lose hope in ourselves and forget to love who and what we are. And if we can't love ourselves, we can't love anyone.

Treat yourself today, whether you're low or not. Write a list of everything you can do well, whether you have a sweet laugh or can pick up socks with your toes. You don't have to be the best in the world at it, but you're good. Works for me. Write it down.

There's always hope. Sometimes we just need help remembering where we left it. Hold on tight. You'll get through the low spots. And love yourself, damn it. You're awesome.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Wrong Bus by John Noel Hampton

Are you in the mood for a really touching Christmas story? Please allow me to entice you to read this one.

Here we have a sweet little old lady (white, by the way) living a lonely life with only her best friend and house keeper (black, by the way) as company. With the anticipation of her son finally returning from the war she decides to go shopping, and being a very proper lady, she simply dress properly, no matter if her shoes hurt her feet. It was such a lovely day, she decided to take the bus.

The times having changed since the last time she rode the bus and her hearing not what it used to be, our sweet little old lady ended up a long way from home, tired, footsore, and very confused.

Enter our second main character

This young man (black, by the way), despite all the hard knocks the deck of life dealt him, wanted very much to make his grandma proud. However, to accomplish that, he has to make some hard decisions, like keeping his mother from coming home to visit. He's been trying to save up enough to go to college. There's also her pimp who keeps looking him up whenever his mother goes missing.

Needless to say, boy meets girl, so to speak, but all is not roses. There's quite a few thorns mixed in, and you know thorns draw blood, a little. Is black and white an issue? Since I mentioned it? No, not as much as you might expect. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Read it - you won't regret it. Take my word for it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lammas Night by Mercedes Lackey

A waning moon conceals her face
Behind a scudding wind-torn cloud.
(a wind-torn shroud)
She wraps herself in its embrace
As in a tattered cloak.
(a shadow cloak)
The wind is wailing in the trees.
Their limbs are warped and bent and bowed.
(so bleak and cowed)
I stand within my circle now
To deal with what I woke.
(I wake--I see, but not yet free.)

A wanderer of wizard kind
I was, until a month ago
(so well I know)
The headman of this village came
And begged that I should stay.
(so cold and fey)
"For since our wizard died," he said
"And why he died we do not know--
(so long ago!)
We have no one to weave us spells
And keep the Dark at bay."
(the dark, so deep: so cold the sleep)

"His house and books are yours, milady,
If you choose but to remain."
(remembered pain)
His offer was too tempting
To be lightly set aside
(remembered pride)
I'd wearied of my travel, being
Plaything of the sun and rain--
And I said that I would bide.
(I hope--I pray--and you must stay)

Perhaps if I had been a man, 
And not a maid, perhaps if I
Had been less lonely, less alone,
Or less of magic folk--
(the spell-bound broke)
Whatever weakness was in me,
Or for whatever reason why
(my reason why)
Something slept within that house
That my own presence woke.
(You dream so much--I try to touch)

A half-seen shadow courted me,
Stirred close at hand or by my side.
(to bid you bide)
It left a lover's token--one
Fresh blossom on my plate.
(a fragrant bait)
I woke to danger--knew the young
Magician still to Earth was tied--
(for freedom cried)
And tied to me--and I must act.
Or I might share his fate.
(I need your aid, be not afraid)

I found a spell for banishment--
The pages then turned--and not by me!
(look now and see)
The next spell differed by one word,
A few strokes of a pen.
(and read again)
The first one I had seen before,
The spell to set a spirit free;
(so I will be)
The second let the mage-born dead
Take flesh and live again!
(one spell and then I live again)

Now both these spells were equal
In their risk to body and to soul.
(I shall be whole)
And both these spells demanded 
They be cast on Lammas Night.
(the darkest night)
And both these spells of spirit
And of caster took an equal toll,
(task to the soul)
But nowhere is it writ
That either spell is of the Light.
(to live and see and touch, to be)

Can it be wise to risk the anger
Of the Gods in such a task?
(yet I must ask)
Yet who am I to judge of who
Should live and who should die?
(don't let me die--)
Does love or duty call him?
Is his kindness to me all a mask?
(take up the task)
And could I trust his answer
If I dared to ask him "Why?"
(give all your trust--my will [you must])

So now I stand within the circle
I have drawn upon the floor--
(the open door)
I have no further answer if
This spirit's friend or foe
(nor can you know)
Though I have prayed full often, nor
Can I this moment answer if
I'll tell him "Come" or "Go."

First there was this song, and then some friends got together and wrote up some endings. The end result was a delightfully varied collection of each author's interpretation of how this song might end. All of them are fairly short scenes, some covered only a couple days, some covered some months of story time. Some were only a handful of pages, but I don't think any of them were more than twenty pages long. The endings they all chose were as varied as the number of writers. 

I found Mercedes Lackey on Facebook. I even messaged her and asked permission to continue the concept, making something of a blog hop was the idea, but I got no reply. So consider this merely a book review. A good one. It is obvious that each story is tied to the song, but there is no danger of getting mired in the same old story over and over. The only sameness is, as would be expected, the main players as outlined above, but the hows and whys, and of course the endings make for a delightful collection of opinions. I highly recommend you pick this up. It's a delightful distraction from the full length novel.

Friday, November 16, 2012

DRUID DERRICK - How it came to be

Most of the time when I start a book, I have an idea or a scene in mind. I then create a character and give him or her a goal where the book can end. At that point, it's like getting in the car and driving across the country - you know where you want to end up, but the trip, the places you might pull aside to visit, are completely impromptu. You gotta love that kind of journey, especially if there is no real deadline to worry about.

DRUID DERRICK came about in much the same way and it yet was very different. Growing up, I was never much of a game playing person, meaning board games then, though I do enjoy playing monopoly from time to time. I have the game on my computer but I haven't played it in ages. When I came online and discovered Facebook, as what I think of as a natural progression of the discovery, I tried out a few of the games I found there. In favor of my writing I have blocked whatever games I've been invited to, keeping my distractions down to only three and maybe soon just two. Outside of that, my most favorite of all games I have EVER played is Dungeons & Dragons. Never before or since have I had so much fun or laughed so much during a game. I still have all the books though I no longer play because there's no one around to play with and it is really difficult to play with only two people. Plus, just like all my other games, I'd rather write.

So the next best thing is to mix the two. Here's how I started. Following the rules of the game I rolled up a Druid. Now according to the rules that I had (the rules are constantly evolving so I know what I have is rather archaic), a player character couldn't become a druid until he was already a level nine Cleric. Then I had to determine some sort of timeline. Out of curiosity, I figured I'd take my druid all the way to the highest level. Now how can I determine how long that would take?

From time to time, as Dungeon Master, I have been asked how long a character needs to spend on studying a spell, thus giving the rest of the characters in the party the problem of what to do in the mean time. So I decided to give spell study a time value. I figured a level one spell would take a month to learn, a level two spell, two months, and so on, so a level seven spell would take seven months.

By the D&D rules, each character advances in level when they acquire a certain number of experience points, and with each level came a certain number of new spells. There is a different list of spells for Wizards and Druids or Clerics just as there is different rules involved with these characters and how many of what level of spells they get, but how many spells a character can use per day is handled the same way - this is one rule that always bothered me, but the rules were the rules and at the time I had no idea what to do about it.

Wizards went off to school or to some higher wizard to learn their new spells (all behind the scenes) - hence the need for a time span, but Clerics, Druids, Paladins and I think one or two other character were bestowed their spells by their god(s). Because of this major difference I wanted there to be a difference between how spells are recalled and used. I was okay with Wizards being able to memorize only so many spells per day, and as they gained experience, they became better at this and could therefore be able to memorize more spells per day.

According to the D&D rules, Druids' spell casting was handled the same. I suppose, in the interest of simplicity, that was best, but it never settled well with me. Recently (long after I no longer played) I decided to make another small change to the rules. Just as I assigned a time span to learning a spell, I assigned an energy value to those spells bestowed by the gods. Now there's a little difference here because there are level zero spells so I assigned them one point, level one spells got two points, and so on, so level seven spells got eight points. Using these points, my character had 41 energy points as a level nine Cleric turned level one Druid, and he could spend these point rather like hit points on any spell he has been given. That means he could cast up to eight level four spells or forty-one level zero spells before needing to rest and reconnect with his god (meditate). I stay with the rest of the spell restrictions when it comes to acquiring a new level of spells. So as a level one druid he can only cast up to level four spells. At level two he can cast level five spells. At level four he can cast level six spells. And at level nine he can cast level seven spells. He reaches Grand Druid before he can cast level eight spells, and since that is where my book ends I didn't take my table any further.

Enough of that - back to my timeline

Going back to the need for time to pass, especially since I didn't have experience points to go by, I went back to what I gave a Wizard to learn a new spell. I also went back to the original table listing how many of what level spells a Druid gets when he advances a level. Using this information I determined that it would take an average of 7.6 months (sometimes seven, eight, or nine months) to advance a level. That was the backbone of my timeline. Now it was time to fill in some details. How many and of what level spells he gained determined how many spell energy points he gained.

Here was the beginning of my biggest problem. My timeline would cover ten years. But what did I know at the time - onward with my planning.

According to the rules, there were special skills acquired as time went on so those had to be added in, and there was what was called feats where over time he becomes better at some skill or another. There was also set times when he is can figure out how to use a new weapon or he has managed to get better with one he already has. The best is the special skills, the most notable of which is his ability to change shape, but there is something to go with every level.

Okay, so that is the meat and bones of my timeline, but that is by no means the end. According to D&D rules, I'm supposed to roll the dice for wandering monsters every day, and twice during the night; it served to fill the game day, as the character party was going to or from some dungeon, or even within a dungeon for that matter. Now here's another thing I changed in the game. I figured in the 'real' world, a level nine character stood just as good a chance of finding a level one monster as anything, but since I didn't want my level one characters to be immediately squished by some level nine monster, I figured they weren't really going where the big monsters were anyway, however, I was rather more brutal than the game rules called for, meaning level nine characters could meet level nine monsters. The pesky rats and bats might annoy a level 36 player but I figured if they ever existed in their world, they would always exist in their world, so why not include them. If any of you gamers out there would like any of my lists and tables just shoot me an email and I'll send it to you. As you might have guessed by now, I've spent a lot of time thinking on this game even though I no longer play it.

I didn't want to clutter up my book with wandering monsters on every page so I altered the world. Since my druid was walking around in USA today, I put the recognized D&D history, battles and most of their monsters and magics into a carefully hidden past. The war was ultimately won and most of the monsters were wiped out. Much of the magics that enabled extra-planier monsters to come over was outlawed along with any magic involving animating the dead. Also in some great council of magic users, everyone agreed that humans could no longer be trusted with the skill - yes even the human Wizards agreed, besides by then they were likely in a minority. At any rate, because of all this, and what with a little extinction along the way, my list of monsters narrowed down to something far more manageable. So, to free up the pages of my book, I decided to roll for 'monsters' only twice a month, once for sentients and once for animals.

Now I had my timeline. Now I could start my book.

Now I needed an event, a trauma, a reason for my character to turn druid being as he's only a normal fifteen year old American kid. To sculpt this, I gave my character an unpleasant home life - not so bad that he was driven from his home, allowing enough ties to keep him home (his friends and perhaps his mother) with enough enticements to wish for things to be different (the D&D game he played with his friends). The trauma I picked was a rape, something I figured would be particularly traumatic for a boy. I've been told from a couple different sources that this is way too cliche, but I can't think of anything better. At any rate, I used that to tip the scale, that and a little magic to hide his memories, not that he wanted to remember his life, and my character was heading into his life as a Druid.

Now you might think that an average American boy taking up the life of a Druid, no matter how close to a D&D Druid he wanted to be, would be little more than a hermit, but not only did he have help during his first few steps, but there was a reason he had help, that reason being rather sinister, after a fashion, and planned since before his very conception, believe it or not. Ah but now I'm getting into some of the threads I've woven in since I started the story. Always a puzzle - the whys of the things that happen, and the stumbling upon the clues as we go along. Also, if he was only a hermit, no matter how glorified, there would be no dryads in the grove, no Chrystal Palace somewhere in the Rockies full of elves, no pixies living under his bed, no centaurs, halflings or dwarves either.

This is the foundation of this book. In another month (book time) year seven will begin, so in book time I'm a little over 2/3rds of the way to the end. Here is where the problem with my ten-year time span comes in. As of today, my document is 793 pages long and the last month of my timeline is on page 818. Those last 25 pages is not all simple timeline with small notes to tell me who or what he meets, there's also notes on ideas for parts here and there. Though not many, they can be anywhere from a paragraph or two to a page or two. In most of my timeline, each month takes up only from say 4 lines to around 8 lines. Then there is section breaks for when a new 'level' is reached - these levels are the only place where I start the chapter on the next page.

This book is the only book where I constructed any kind of an outline. Notes like what creature he meets or what skill he learns all need a plausible reason to occur, therein is the text of my book. I hope to finish it this year, or rather by this time next year, but there is no real hurry. Like I said I really love the impromptu journey to a known end. I figure when Derrick takes his seat as the youngest Grand Druid in centuries, at age 25, he's going to outline some drastic changes that will change the entire druid society.

I'll have to get there though. You never know what might happen along the way. I certainly don't.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Books Not to be Finished

We all run across them sometimes. Some of us even manage to buy them once in a while, either because the blurb on the back was enticing enough, or because someone we trust recommended it. Fortunately for me, both of these books were gifts given so long ago I'm not even sure where they came from.

Desperate for something to read, I gave them both my very best shot, but really couldn't stomach more than a third of each one. What books am I ranting about?

The first - Puerto Vallarta Squeeze by Robert James Waller

This book is about an author, Danny, declining in popularity. An ex-journalist, he turned to fiction with a brief flair of success and moved to Puerto Vallarta to indulge his depression with the best looking girl in town and a lot of sex, partying and of course alcohol.

His life takes a turn toward the interesting when he witnesses a professional hit. The hit man had gone to great lengths to go unnoticed; if Danny hadn't been looking in exactly the right spot at the right moment, he'd have missed it too. In the excitement of the two suddenly dead people out in the street, Danny and his really good-looking girl decide to go somewhere else.

Coincidentally, our professional hit man decides to follow our American to ask if he could take him to the American border. With the right amount of money incentive, plus Danny gets the brilliant idea to  grill the guy with the thought of his next stab at fame in mind. And so began their journey. I didn't get much further.

There was all manner of back story concerning the hit man, really a rather sad case, but rather than have it come out for some reason during the interaction between him and Danny, this information was completely disconnected from our author and his thoughts, for that's pretty much all we got from him, that and his impressions of the so very dangerous man riding in the car with him.

As a completely background character, the girlfriend was nonetheless everyone's eye-catcher.  She rode in the back seat playing no bigger part than to be an extra thread of actions, someone to wait for upon occasion, someone to make a comment now and then, certainly not a source of local information. Her biggest attraction was the occasional head-hop where someone admired her ass in passing. Really annoying if you ask me.

Now I've never been to Mexico, but rather than taking me on something of a tour, seeing this or that point of interest along the road, we got road numbers and miles to the next intersection, and the occasional comment on a choice of roads that would lead them to this destination or that one. This story was such an opportunity lost. I couldn't take anymore.

The next book I tried was Wild Animus by Rich Shapero

This book opened up at a college protest it sounded like some time in the 60s but I'm not at all sure; it was a minor issue to me. My brother went to college during that time, so for me it started out as something of a curiosity into the time. That didn't last long. Right off guy main, Sam, and girl main, Lindy, spent most of their time as high as they could get, likening their trips to touching god, and when that wasn't enough, they focused on an Alaskan magazine with a ram on the cover. This ram, the description of which waffled from that of a Dall Sheep to that of a Mountain Goat, soon became Sam's 'totem'. Now I'm all for totems; I happen to believe mine is a cat, a tiger or a mountain lion, but that's beside the point. Sam went so far as to become completely obsessed with the creature, and of course the illegal drugs made sure the two of them did little else, even forsaking friends and family.

Eventually, authorities started cracking down on the drug trade, so Sam and Lindy left town and college and headed west. Now bereft of whatever funding they used to have, they had to get jobs. There was little mention of this other than the fact that Sam couldn't keep one, leaving the burden of supporting them and their habit up to Lindy. To her credit, she seemed to be growing up, but she couldn't manage to say no to Sam, even when he spent all their money on mountain climbing and camping gear.

On one such 'trip', Sam changed his name to Ransom for no reason I could determine, but he also decided he and the ram were so united, he was now the ram's prophet or something of that nature - in other words, Sam decided he was about as close to godly as it was possible for a two-legged human could be.

Eventually, Sam traveled to Alaska so he could get to know his god, and at some point Lindy was able to go too. Up in Denali park they got their wish. They also had another revelation. Upon hearing the call of the wolf, Lindy came to the conclusion that the wolf was her totem. The reasoning behind this was that the wolf always followed the sheep and she was always following Sam/Ransom. Weird but okay - whatever floats your boat. But then they decided to consummate this revelation with sex right there on the mountain, doggy fashion. If you mix their totems in there, and how could I not, that's just freaky to me.

I did a little skipping ahead and not much changed. Sam/Ransom ended up following his ram up to the edge of some active volcano where he died, while Lindy tried to rescue him having drummed up a helicopter somewhere somehow, I didn't read that part. There is a disclaimer of sorts on the back, the very last sentence, where it says "Shapero's focus has been on the exploration within. The real goal, he maintains, is a fresh discovery of ourselves."

While some drugs may spark this 'exploration within', I have my doubts. I will not go into my thoughts on illegal drugs. I never tried any; I never saw the logic in skewing reality, but reading a 300+ page book of drug-induced delusional haze was way too weird to be interesting.

As I walk back to my bedroom after posting this, I do believe these two books will end up in the trash. And I never throw books away - until now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Meet Virginia Alison

A couple days ago Virginia Alison asked to join my writing group on Facebook. As is my habit with both my groups, I go to the profile to make sure they are some kind of fit. For my writing group, the potential member needs to at least want to write. Now, mind you, erotica is not my kind of writing, but I just adore a good muse tale. Virginia is a prolific writer; take a look at her website for a long list of stories. I certainly will.

Here's how she came to be where she is today.


Where to start? The question is the easy bit; the answer is still unknown.

The Heaven Scent Trilogy is the culmination of a year's work, which all started with a poem. In July 2011, I met a Cowboy online, from Texas and yes, one of those meetings where you feel you have known this person all your life. Three weeks later he sent me a poem called –On Finding Someone– by Joel Nelson, the Cowboy Poet, and I immediately saw a story in it.

If on some better than average day 
I should be riding along 
 Observing—not expecting—well maybe 
And should see just as hoof swept by 
One flawless arrow point 
If on that bright shining morning 
I should step down to lift this point 
Turning it delicately—feeling its smoothness 
Beneath my fingertips 
I would marvel at its perfection 
At the way some ancient one 
Had tempered and crafted such beauty 
At how it came to lie there 
All these centuries—covered—uncovered 
Until it came to me 
To happen by this place 
On this day made now more perfect. 
And I would ponder such things 
As coincidence and circles and synchronicity, 
And I would pocket this treasure near my heart, 
And riding on I would recall 
Having seen such treasure as this elsewhere 
But not this one—not this one. 
And for one brief moment I would stiffen with fear 
At how one quick glance in another direction 
Could have lost this to me forever, 
And I would touch my shirt over my heart 
Just to make sure. 

With permission of © 1998, Joel Nelson 

I began writing and the ‘chapters’ just poured out, and ten days later I had over 20,000 words, at which point said Cowboy disappeared. I duly put the short story onto my website, Breathless Nights Erotica, which I co-own with Keith David – my writing partner of three years. Then I started writing something different. Within a month an editor I knew from Facebook, messaged me and suggested I make the short story into a novel. It took me about two weeks to look at it again, but eventually thought ‘what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound.’ (Good old English idiom haha) Removing the last 1000 words to keep for the ending, I began filling in the middle.

It took until September to complete the novel. When finished, I decided that the book would benefit from having the poem printed in the front so set about finding the poet. It did not take long and after a few emails and phone calls, he kindly agreed to let me use the poem in the book. Joel also suggested that I attend the ‘Cowboy Poetry Festival’ in Alpine Texas at the end of February. That thought appealed even though I live on a little speck in the Atlantic Ocean known as Madeira Island – over 5000 miles away! Needless to say, not only did I attend the event, I also wrote two more books before I left for the USA, which made up the trilogy.

The Festival was an emotional time. I felt as if I belonged in that little Cowboy town situated in the middle of nowhere in West Texas. During my time there, I discovered all sorts of coincidences pertaining to the book. I described places I had never seen, people I had never met; it all became a little spooky. By the time I got back on the coach five days later, I had decided to buy a house there.

I arrived back on the island and this is where things went downhill. I asked my husband of thirty-two years for a divorce and put my house up for sale. My friends thought I had lost my mind, my family thought I was having a midlife crisis.

In July, I returned to Alpine with my daughter and mother in tow. They understood why I loved the place, which was a bonus, and have supported me with my decisions. Joel and his wife are now great friends and I look forward to returning there soon.

So here I am, my life turned upside down because of a poem. I published the first book on Amazon on 31 October, and hope to finish editing the other two and put them out before Christmas. Something is telling me to do this, I do not know why; I am just going with the flow.

They say people come into your life for a reason. The unknown cowboy who sent me the poem did just that. However, the person I owe everything to is Keith, I could not have done this without his constant nagging, poking and support. A fourth book is now on its way, based on another of Joel’s poems called ‘The men who ride no more’. I wonder where this one will take me…

Don't you just love a good Cowboy poem? Stop over and say hi to Virginia; she's a real sweetie.

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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Quest for the Talisman - A Book Review

The Quest for the Talisman
Michael A. Faris

As stories go, I liked this one. A group of people come together to retrieve a valuable item for their king. As you might guess from the cover, Zeppelins were the main mode of air travel. The rest of Michael's world is an interesting mix of technical/mechanical and not, even all the way down the social ladder to what might be considered modern neanderthals. As the main team encounters each society or people/person in their search, the mystery grows. Just exactly what is this talisman and what does it do? Yes, it does something.

As to the author's skill in writing, it was very rough. Actual misspelled words were very few, but there were more in the latter chapters, telling me he spent more time worrying about the front half, than the book as a whole. The most annoying 'error', and it was consistent throughout the book, was every hyphen was an underscore. I have no idea how that one could have escaped notice, as it was frequently used.

Would I recommend this book? Sure, but only if you lock your inner editor firmly away behind many chains, hasps and deadbolts. Like I said, there are many issues with the writing that would drive an editor up a wall.

Though scene changes are duly marked, there were many that were single-liners at best and would have been better left out entirely or lumped together to make at least a page or three, so us readers can have a chance to change channels. Though the changes were sometimes quick and short, they were easy enough to keep track of if you paid close attention to who was who and where they were. As the story progresses they all mix and mingle, and find their own way to the end goal.

Also, though these were relatively few, story threads were started and led nowhere, or appeared from nowhere to make some tie-in more convenient.

There were also issues with the characters that annoyed me somewhat. People making decisions based on no foundation I could determine was one thing. Another was, military people doing things no person with military training would ever do.

But, if you can manage to overlook these things, do read the book. It's a touching story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Gift of El Tio - A Book Review

The Gift of El Tio 
Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans 

Until I cracked this book, I looked upon any memoir with a good deal of trepidation. Like a history text book, those memoirs I've read were always a rather dry recitation of facts and dates. As you might guess, I haven't read many memoirs. Now we come to this book. The Gift of El Tio isn't quite a memoir and yet it is, after a fashion. This book chronicles the change the people of a tiny remote village of San Cristobal, Bolivia went through when an enormous silver deposit was discovered beneath their little village. But that's not the only changes chronicled in this book.

In order for the silver to be mined, the backwards villagers of San Cristobal had to be moved. Their entire village had to be moved - something they were thrilled to do. You see, El Tio promised them a gift, a gift of wealth and a new life. All because the silver discovered by Larry had remained hidden despite all other ventures to find it. The time was right for it's discovery. It was time for the prophecy to come true. El Tio and the silver had waited for hundreds of years for Larry to make his discovery.

Can you imagine, a prophecy, a real prophecy? Really! But like in all things, even prophecies have a flip side of the coin. What is it? Just like Larry had to wait 10 years to find out, and just like I had to wait until the end of the book to find out. You too simply have to read this book to find out. Now that I've tweaked your curiosity. Fuze Publishing is the place to go. The Gift of El Tio is listed under non-fiction and well worth your money. 

As most of you know, my reviews find their way to a writerly subject eventually. We all strive to write in a character arc when we craft our stories. In this book, you will find so many arcs. There's nothing like real life for seeing such a thing. In this book, the villagers of San Cristobal are not the only people to change. They went from a simple people worshiping many minor gods as well as the Catholic God brought to them by the Spaniards. They also saw demons in every dark crevasse and cave along their mountainous roads and trails. Rituals and sacrifices saw them safely through their life. They became very different by the end of the book. Modern, working hard, even harried - too busy to honor the gods.

But they weren't the only people to change. Follow Larry and his wife Karen as they too change. Larry, the stark realist discovers religion, after a fashion, and Karen, who saw the world through rose colored glasses, learned to take the glasses off once in a while.

So, if you want a lesson in character arc, or if you just want a really good read, buy this book. You will laugh out loud and you will cry; I did both, and that too is something every writer strives to accomplish.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Chaos of Change

The difference between my summers and my winters is enormous. The greatest cause of this chaos is my need to go to work. Most of you work a 9 to 5 job, 5 or 6 days a week, year round, so the struggle for time for you is constant. Finding time to write falls into a fairly stable slot of the day or week. For me, shifting from the summer crunch of seemingly no time to the far more lax schedule of winter can present it's own chaos.

The things I need to catch up on, or take more time with, seem to abound not only in my online work, but also in my real life. I still have supplies to put away, so boxes clutter my little cabin making navigation perilous. Today, it was raining, so I spent most of my afternoon catching up on burning trash. A whole summer's worth of trash for just the two of us isn't really all that much but it refused to burn hot until the very last, so it took longer than I had planned. Tomorrow I plan to organize the woodshed and make room for the lawn mower and the weed-eater, and likely some other summertime tools. That task will generate more trash so, wind permitting, I'll be burning again. That's a sample of the things I need to do before snow comes and gets things lost.

Online, I need to take more time with Twitter and actually read, and maybe reTweet, some of the posts. Same with Facebook where I moderate two groups, a blogging group, and a writing group and am a member of over a dozen more, both for blogging and for writing or reading. It's rather rude to merely drop a link and move on, something I've been more or less forced to do all summer long. Then there's the other forums I am a member of, and that's not even mentioning the books I'm supposed to read and review.

Oh and lets not forget my own writing. At the moment I'm giving The Making of a Mage-King a final polish before sending it off to my editor. My publisher has expressed an interest in some of my other works so at this point it is a toss-up whether I'll continue to polish another selection or I will pick up my work in progress, Druid Derrick, of which there are several samples already posted earlier on this blog. I do know that later this winter, I'll be going through the edits Whiskey Creek Press' editor will have for me. That is always an exciting thing to do; I so look forward to learning from an editor. I've never spoken with him/her, so I look forward to this with some trepidation as well. And lets not forget about book 2 of my Mage-King series. I'll be getting that one back from my editor too at some point this winter. Having 2 books going at the same time is a bit much to handle, but I can do it. Depending on how things go with Whiskey Creek Press, I may submit another book to them. I haven't decided yet. At this point, I feel a little like a cog in a wheel, but if they do good... We'll see.

Catching up is going to take a while, hopefully not all winter long. Then again, is there such a thing as 'catching up'? Sometimes I wonder. Are you ever 'caught up'?

Friday, September 7, 2012


I got my first 2-star review ever the other day, but though it was low, I won't call it a bad review. He went to the trouble of enumerating what he thought my book lacked and that's great. Mostly, he saw cliches everywhere he looked. One of the first things I heard was that every story possible has already been told, all you can do is mix it up a bit and tell it anyway. Something I hope I've done. But that's not what this post is about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and all I can do is hope to learn something from every bit of feedback. What I want to address is his comment about the magic.

"Magic is uninspiring and not explained well or described in any meaningful way. The main pretty much just does stuff with no take on how he does them or even what it looks like. Things are never really shown you are just kind of told he does such and such."

The way I see magic is that it is a skill of the mind. My character does not live in Harry Potter's world where magic requires certain moves with a wand accompanied by a properly pronounced word. Though I've never seen it, Uri Geller could move objects and bend spoons. He didn't need to do anything but concentrate on his desired task and it happened. This is how I see magic as it is portrayed in Prince in Hiding.

Early on, Sean was advised to learn how to work his magic without the use of his hands. I can see a beginner wanting to reach out and pick up a stone with his hand while intending that the actual task be accomplished with only his mind. And yet I can also anticipate his need to keep his actions secret, or maybe it's just a matter that his hands are preoccupied in some other way.

And finally, what does magic look like? You don't even 'see' magic in Harry Potter's world. There's no sparkly zing of lights that stream off the tip of the wand and lights up whatever it hits. In The Sorcerer's Stone, when Hermione was being attacked by the troll, Ron lifted it's club up out of it's hand. There was nothing to see but his word, the wave of his wand, and the club levitated. Take away the wand and the word, and you have the same thing in my book.

So tell me, if you were to be able to do magic, how would you do it? Really, I'm curious. How do you see the skill of being able to work magic? Everyone's idea or view of the subject is different. What's yours?

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Next Book Maybe - What do You Think?

Reed strode down the familiar halls of the Mercenary School toward the auditorium. Since he'd been taking assignments, he hadn't been around much, but the place had been like a home to him since he was a teenager. He knew little about his father; he hadn't seen him in years, but he knew his father had close ties to this school. It was what had prompted him to apply. His foster parents and his caseworker had objected hotly, but he was sixteen at the time and they couldn't stop him. With an acceptance letter in his hand, he walked away from the foster system and into the life of a mercenary. Six years later, he graduated at the top of his class, and now he was just returning from his third assignment to see a bulletin requesting all the school members, those of age anyway, to attend a meeting.

The auditorium was filled with familiar faces. Most were familiar enough to greet by name, but there were new faces there too, some young enough to be new students, but some older graduates too, just not on Earth all that often. The school was more than just a school; it was a hub of their existence. When the school called a meeting, everyone came if they could.

As the last of them finished their greetings of old friends and had shuffled into available seats, the school commandant stepped out onto the stage and waved for silence. "Good evening, gentlemen." There was an audible 'ahem' from the audience "and ladies," Quigley amended with a nod in the direction of the sound, winning a chuckle from those nearby. "Nice to see you all here. I'll get right to the point since I know you are all busy. As you all know, the war with the bugs drags on. There's not a one of you who hasn't lost some family member or someone you know to this war. I called you all here tonight to ask for volunteers. I can't go into all the details here. Suffice it to say, should you decide to volunteer, it will change your life. Think it over. I know you all have obligations. Not volunteering will have no effect on your career. Should you decide you would like to know more, I will meet with you in my office in an hour.

Reed knew such an open-ended invite would likely turn out very few volunteers. Then again, that might have been the point. Reed was curious though, plus he'd never been to the commandant's office. He'd never believed in rocking the boat. Doing so attracted attention, and that was something he'd always avoided. He did put off the visit as long as he dared; he didn't want to appear too eager either, only to discover the job something he'd want to avoid anyway.

Reed entered the outer office to find eight other people there, six of them, the three girls and three of the men looked to be in their last year of school, the other two men were older than Reed by at least a couple years.

The students and one of the older men sat around a coffee table talking about simulator scheduling, while the other man was looking at something on one wall. His attention drew Reed's and he realized that the entire wall was carved marble. Curious, Reed moved closer, seeing MIA engraved at the top of a long list of names. Next to them were places and dates.

At a glance, Reed recognized many of the place names, but then he saw something that took his breath away. The name 'Rafe Meyers' was on the list. Why would his father's name be on this wall? The date beside it was nine years ago, and then Reed realized that was about the last time he'd seen his father. My father died and no one told me. It's not as if they didn't know who his father was. Every time he visited, the system would find some reason to move him to another home, and sometimes even to another city. The moves made making friends nearly impossible, accentuating Reed's already strong desire to do things by himself, to depend on only himself. 'Loner' appeared in his file many times.

Reed was only four when his mother died, but he still remembered his father carefully explaining why he had to go with the nice lady and that he would come find him every chance he could. He gave him his big ring to show he intended to keep his promise. And he kept his promise, finding him at least every year as close to his birthday as he could manage. Reed turned the heavy ring on his finger.

Reed's thoughts were interrupted by Commandant Quigley entering the room. "Hello ladies and gentlemen. I'm glad you've come. Have a seat and I'll try to explain what this is all about. Feel free to ask any questions; it's very important that you understand every aspect of what you may be volunteering for. I reiterate - you can back out with absolutely no repercussions, all the way up until the last moment.

Reed raised his hand, and at Quigley's nod, asked, "What are those names?" He pointed at the marble wall. "Why are they listed as MIA and yet there's a place listed with them?"

"A very good question to start our discussion with, but let me go back just a bit further before answering. You all know from your history how, after the capture of a bug queen, we were able to turn the tide on the war and begin to push them out of our territory. What really happened was obscured, and in many cases, outright hidden." He pointed to the wall Reed had asked about. "Thanks to what we learned from our captive bug queen, we were able to turn their magic against them." He gestured to the marble wall again. "Because of our captive queen, we were able to create those men and women, and many others like them. We have come to call them Guardians; they are the linchpins of the war. As you can see," he indicated the wall yet again, "being a Guardian can be quite hazardous."

"Why are so many of them listed as MIA, and yet have a location listed as well? Reed asked again.

"Guardians are our most powerful weapon, and as such, they are pitted against the worst the bugs have to offer. Sometimes they lose. Those people listed here are volunteers from this school who died protecting the federation and pushing the bugs back. The date and place are where they were when they died; the MIA listing is because nothing could be recovered, despite our best efforts."

When Quigley paused, one of the girls rose, muttered an apology and left, followed closely by one of the young men.

Quigley watched them go, remaining silent until the door was closed behind them. "Being in the line of fire isn't the only reason this is voluntary," he continued, now scrutinizing those remaining in the room.