Friday, January 27, 2012

Teaser - The Speed of Dreams - To be Published Soon


Kaz took pictures of everything and everyone around him, even total strangers – all laughing, drinking and dancing – celebrating the peace. Strangers introduced themselves, or not, and toasted the talks; the more people they met, the more reasons to have another drink and laugh a bit more. Everyone was giddy with the prospect of peace and freedom so close. Rumor had it that the negotiations were going well. There was going to be peace for the first time. He’d never heard of there being no war. What would they do with themselves if they stopped fighting? But this moment, this possibility – he wanted to record every second.

The long, triangular spaceships were everywhere he looked – the eye of his camera allowing him to see the guns that bristled from every vantage point along their surface. The small, two-man, surface-to-space scouts and fighters were scattered everywhere, either resting on the ground or hovering in the atmosphere at any of a hundred different levels, and the cruisers that shipped thousands were very visible as they hung low above the atmosphere. Everyone waited for the outcome of the peace talks. They all kept an eye on the single earthbound complex in the center of the valley.

A runner came up with a sheaf of flimsies. “Aaitt’Kaz?”

Kaz waved and took pictures of him as he approached, and the runner danced a jig for the camera before handing Kaz one of the sheets from his file. Using a runner was an unusual occurrence, but what with all the ships gathered around, communications and single-man runabouts may have been curtailed.

Kaz glanced at the flimsy he’d been handed; he was being assigned to a new ship. “Where is it?” he called after the man as he danced off to find someone else.

“It just arrived.” The runner pointed to a ship now resting on the hill behind him; it had found one of the few patches of green grass. Each ship was keyed to the pilot’s orders and would have been simple to locate, but following a pointed finger was easier, and it gave Kaz a chance to take another picture of him.

Kaz looked up at the new ship with admiration; it was sleek, made for speed, though not defenseless by any means. He estimated it might hold a crew of ten, or even twenty if they were cozy, but the new design made it hard to tell; he’d have to see once he got inside. After adding its image to his growing collection, he panned his camera around, looking for more. He found a few, maybe twenty or more, but ships littered the horizon. It would be impossible to tell how many new ships there were without careful analysis of the crystal some other time, definitely, some other time. Right now, it was time for a beer, if he could find some still in a bottle.

Just as he turned to begin such a search, his sub-dermal receiver came to life. “Bad news, people; Ssark left the table. The talks have failed. Get to your ships; this is going to be bad.”

Stunned, all thoughts of a beer were wiped from his mind, shattered on a rock along with someone’s dropped bottle. “No!” Many of the gathered ships were beginning to shoot at each other already. People ran. At this range, it would be wholesale slaughter. Had it all been just a trap?

He ran for his new ship. He charged into the open hatch yelling, “Where is everyone?” He hoped the crew was close.

“Everyone is present and accounted for, Pilot Aaitt’Kaz,” replied the calm voice of the ship.

He slapped the panel that closed the hatch. “Ship wide. Everyone, buckle up. Gunners, prepare to return fire. Lift off in five…four,” as he counted, he vaulted into his seat, which automatically enfolded him with its padded arms and slid him to within reach of the controls. “…Three,” he flipped the array of switches; turning on force fields, gun ports, grav-plating. “…Two,” sensors, life-support and a number of other ship systems. “…One.” The controls came into his hands and he boosted hard, dodging lasers and solid rounds. His gunners returned fire smoothly, doing a fair job of keeping anyone off their tail and out of their immediate path. “Ship, enhance inertial dampers; we need to go faster. How are you doing back there, gunners?”

“Inertial dampers, enhanced,” said the ship.

He always found it amazing that the voices of these ships were so calm. None of the gunners answered, but they were all still shooting.

He kicked his thrusters and they leapt into high overdrive, whipping past the last of the cruisers in the upper atmosphere and into clear space. At least his little piece of it was clear enough at the moment. He allowed himself a moment to marvel at the maneuverability and speed of this new design. “Captain, what’re our orders? What’s our heading?” He waited for a response, but none came. “Captain. Captain? Ship, you said everyone was present and accounted for. Why can’t I talk to anyone?”

“I have fed your course into your navigation system, Pilot,” said the ship.

He glanced at the coordinates. It must be some kind of prearranged meeting place – somewhere to regroup. “Where is the rest of the crew, ship?” he asked again as he boosted onto the new course.

That is where his control ended.

“Ship, I’ve lost control.”

The ship began to accelerate beyond his parameters.


It went faster and faster.

It was running.

“Good night, Pilot Aaitt’Kaz; sweet dreams,” said the ship. Her voice sounding quite condescending just now, though nothing about it had changed, or ever would.

“What are you doing? Ship, explain.”

He didn’t know whether the ship replied or not. He didn’t know anything anymore.

The ship encased him and his seat in a force field, and then all other systems shut down. All that was left was speed.

Kaz dreamed; he dreamed of taking pictures, of people laughing and drinking, toasting the peace. He was taking pictures – lots of pictures.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Describing Your Surroundings

When you step out your door, what exactly do you look at? I mean really look at - direct your eyes at long enough to see color, shape or position? I'm willing to bet very few of you do more than step out your door, scrutinizing your keys in order to get the right one for the car door, or maybe you're looking for the little button on your keychain that turns off the car alarm. Would you notice a different car parked across the street? How out of place would that different car have to be in order for you to notice it? How about if it was a bright red Ferrari, when every other car on the street was some Subaru or Volkswagen, or some other average car of debatable heritage. Or in contrast, how about if the street was some very rich neighborhood and the strange vehicle on the street was a scruffy pickup? It's possible you would notice these misfits eventually, but if you are anything like me, I'm not a car person. I might notice a pickup amongst cars, or a fancy car among mediocre cars, but wondering whether it belonged or not, would never occur to me, and I wouldn't be able to tell you the color later, unless it was maybe red. For some reason, I notice red.

What I'm getting at is in writing, your characters would be no different. Going into detail has to be handled with care; you don't want to bore your reader with the scenery especially if your character doesn't notice. Point out details such as the gravel driveway by having your character drop their keys and then break a nail on the gravel when they pick them up. A thought about the gardener getting the pleasure of hauling all the gravel away and paving the driveway will give your reader all they need to know about what class your character belongs in. As far as the strange car across the street, let's put it in the way somehow. Maybe not in the way of a good and conscientious driver, but maybe your character is in a hurry and nearly rearranges the car's fender by taking the corner too fast and skidding on gravel tracked out onto the street.

I'm not a car person, nor do I write much about high society. As I've heard in many places, 'write what you know' and I was born and raised in the country on a cattle ranch and now live way out in the wilderness. If you live in the country, you learn to look to the horizon at least some. With animals to tend, it's important to be aware of things much further away than the keys in your hand. I remember listening for coyotes. If the coyotes were singing a lot we were frequently driving through the pastures, though at the time I couldn't have put the two together. Now, especially in the summer, there's the very real threat that a bear might be on the trail as I walk to and from work every day. I don't see one very often, but believe me, I look. This time of year, with feet of snow on the trails, bears are long since sleeping, but that doesn't mean danger is totally gone. If the snow gets deep, moose might decide to argue trail rights. I've only had that argument once. Something I will never forget. Mostly what I look for in the winter when I'm out walking is tracks. Ooh have I got a story on that, but I digress.

Wherever your character is in your world, he or she needs to fit. They will notice whatever they notice and for whatever reason they notice it, but they do need a reason. No one steps out their door and looks around thinking to themselves 'hmmm the grass is green and the apples aren't ripe yet and if it rains tomorrow the wheat fields won't be harvested.'

Did you see what I did there? Too much irrelevant information. Is there an apple tree in the yard? If so your character might think on waiting a few days before baking that fresh apple pie. If the grass is green they might grumble to themselves about having to mow the lawn again and they only did it a few days ago. That little piece of information might hint at rainy days, or the thought might cause your character to look up and see if they can get the task done before it starts to rain again, but unless they are a wheat farmer, concern of fields somewhere out of town would never occur to them.

If it's winter, how much snow is there? Does it need to be shoveled? Is it icy? These are all scenery problems that clue your reader into the surroundings without inundating them with a panoramic description.

Another restriction is to keep your description confined to what can be seen, heard, touched or smelled, and remember that some people might have sharper senses than others. The other day, while splitting wood, my husband looked around puzzled, he smelled something he couldn't quite identify. He said it smelled musky. When I later went to burn the trash I discovered ermine tracks just off the edge of our packed yard. On another chore I found martin tracks. Though I did not see a connection between these two trails, it is entirely possible the martin caught, or tried to catch, the ermine and both have quite a musk gland. Or, as my husband suspects, maybe the ermine tried to scent one of our dog's pee marks. Who knows. What I'm getting at is, I didn't smell a thing except the exhaust from the generator.

Do you have troubles describing some types of scenery? Sometimes two heads are better than one. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review - Battle Sylph by L. J. McDonald

Not long ago, my son gave me this book. Lately it seems like I don't have much time to crack a book, but once in a while, one comes along that simply demands to be read. This is one of those books. Sylphs are a race from another dimension. They are nothing like us, and unless I miss my guess, even their society is massively different from anything we might be familiar with, at least anything of a sentient nature. Man, or more closely, a priesthood of sorts, have learned to bridge the gap between the world of the sylph and this one. Using the lure of a girl, a love-starved battle sylph is enticed through the gate. To complete the rite, the girl is killed and the sylph is named; he is then enslaved to the man who named him, forced to do his bidding in any and all things. Like any sentient society, there are all kinds of sylphs who perform all sorts of functions, but only the battlers are drawn through in this manner.

The king's son needs a battler - he is the heir, and the protection of the kingdom will be up to him someday. A girl is scooped up off the road as she is in the process of running away from home to avoid a marriage to a much older man of her father's selection. Unknown by her captors, her aunt has had some influence on the girl, teaching her to defend herself, at least a little. Stripped and tied to the sacrificial alter,  Solie's mind races. Her only defense is a hair-clip no one found in their haste. Desperate to save her life, she succeeds in getting it free and using it on the prince just as the battler comes through. For the very first time, a battler is bound to a woman and boy does this take the reader for an amazing ride.

There is a list of commands a sylph must obey from the very first moment they are bound, but Solie didn't know any of this. You really must read this book. Everyone reviews by awarding stars, so I'm giving this book four to four and a half stars. The only thing keeping this book from a full five-star award from me is that the girl, Solie, act far younger than her stated age, meaning that though we are told she is eighteen as I recall, she acts more like she is twelve, if not younger, most of the time. Nothing major really, just some things that struck me from time to time. I know that some girls can act rather childish at that age, but still, telling myself that didn't seem to help.

I do hope you like this book as much as I did.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Get Your Book Out There

You've spent months writing your story, then more weeks, if not months, editing it - sometimes you have the help of a publisher and sometimes not. Now what do you do?

So far, I haven't had any help from my publisher. And though I have two other publishers now, I haven't reached a point where they will or won't help with the promoting of the books I have with them. Promoting my one published book is all on my shoulders.

As I have advised other writers along the way, tenacity is the name of this game. If you're searching for a publisher or an agent, or if you're just trying to get better exposure for your book, you have to keep at it every day. No weekends, no holidays - and find out when you can cross the most eyeballs with your promotion (that one isn't easy). Figure when you have time to shop around. That's the time to get your book seen.

There are several things you can do. One very good thing is to get your book reviewed by as many bloggers as you can. In my opinion, you should be willing to give books to these bloggers for this purpose. Occasionally they'll ask for a link where they can buy it. I have a list of book bloggers - just send me an email asking for it and I'll send it to you. Take their contact information and send them an email telling them a little about your book and ask if they'd be willing to review it. I've met some really great people this way.

Other things you can do is get yourself a fan page on Facebook and a Twitter account. I also recommend Goodreads.

On Facebook, I try to keep my profile clear of clutter from games (I've taken to playing too many these days); your profile should be about you as a writer and as a person.

Rather than promoting a single book, my fan page is where I post all the links to where my book can be bought, and to my blogs. I also share links to the editor who worked on my next book and that publisher as well. As soon as I get to a point where there's something to promote with my newest publisher, I'll be adding another link to my list.

Facebook is pretty much the core of my socialization and advertising. Along with my fan page, I am a member of several groups where I also share my blog links.

You can now use Facebook as your fan page, which is a slightly different perspective. You can add other fan pages to your's as favorites and there are a few groups there too. I post my blogs in that way on a handful of such pages.

Twitter isn't really a social network so much as an advertising network. I follow most anyone who follows me. My philosophy is that you never know who is behind the tweets, no matter how automated they are; they are still people and they just might notice one of my tweets and maybe they'll buy my book or at least spread the word.

Goodreads is also a good place to get your book noticed. Join groups that interest you and make friends wherever you can. You should also look for groups that offer for writers to meet readers. There are hundreds and hundreds of different groups - heck, start one of your own.

Google+ is the newest platform for promotion and exposure, and recently they have the equivalent of a fan page there too. Google+ doesn't agree with my connection much so I only post there a couple times a week, and though I have a page, and I have posted all my links there, I haven't done much else with it.

There are things you can do in person too, things I can't do because I live clear out in the wilderness. You can visit the different bookstores and malls in your area and talk to the appropriate people. See if there is some way you can get a few of your books on their shelves. There are different offers you can make. They may be willing to buy a few books, or you could offer that they pay you only for books that sell and you'll pick up what doesn't sell.

Set up a schedule for book signings anywhere you can - be sure you have enough books to sell there. I'm trying something new in this department. My book has been around for three and a half years now so I decided to offer it for sale through an event on Facebook. I have to use snail mail but it's what I can do. My offer is to send a signed book back. If it works out well enough, I'll be doing it again with other books.

This is my weekly advertising schedule:

Twitter offers my links in a nice neat line-up so I open my twitter profile on the first tab. On the second tab is the twitter home page. On the third tab is my facebook profile page, and on the fourth tab is my fan page.

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I copy from the list on tab one and paste to tab two and then tab four.

My website I post on tab three on Mondays and Thursdays, on tab four on Tuesdays and Fridays.

On Mondays I post my writing blogs to the different groups on Facebook. I used to do this on Thursdays too, but I started posting as my fan page so this is the day I post my writing blog on the different page groups.

On Tuesday I post my blog novel to my groups. I used to do this on Fridays too, but I now use my fan page to post it around on page groups.

On Wednesday and Sunday I add Google+ to my tabs.

Since I blog late on Friday night, Saturday is my day to sleep in and taking a day off. I take the time to update my list on Twitter; it is the only place I advertise on Saturday. Mostly is my day for socializing. It's always a good way to get yourself noticed. Read blogs and leave comments. We all love comments.

What do you do to promote your work? Leave a comment and share so we can all learn.