Friday, May 25, 2012

Prince in Hiding - PUBLISHED

I now have more than one book out there in the world. Having been through this publishing process once before has only prepared me for the excitement, it hasn't dampened the excitement one whit.

In the super wee hours of the day today, Prince in Hiding made it to pre-order status. Available until June 1 through Bucks Country Publishing for $16.00. After that, it will be available through Amazon for $17.95, and like my other book, King by Right of Blood and Might, it will be available directly from me through my website for $20.00 as soon as I get some out here. The mark-up is to pay for postage. But it will be signed. Keep an eye out; I will be announcing it all over Facebook as soon as that happens.

But enough about the business. Now on about the book:

Isn't that an awesome cover? And the greatest part about it is the colors. You see there are six types of magic: Red magic is fire, Green magic is earth, Pale Blue magic is air, and Dark Blue magic is water. But I did say there were six. White magic and Black magic are both internal and physical. White magic is primarily healing, but it can also be seeing places and people somewhere else. Black magic is harsher; it involves controlling some person or creature, or causing pain or even death. Red or fire magic involves the control of fire or heat. Green or earth magic involves controlling or altering objects, or touching something within a seeing. Pale Blue or air magic, of course controls air, which can mean hearing something out of range, but also teleportation. And Dark Blue or water magic, bringing on a storm or calling water in a desert.

One of Sean's ancestors discovered that certain stones can focus certain of the magics. These stones, of course matched the magic they augmented and at some point, likely to facilitate carrying them around, he or she shaped them into circular wedges not unlike sections of an orange. All six stones put together made a fist-sized ball, just the right size for holding in the hand. Just right for using to magnify all the magics, creating a very powerful weapon. There must have been a need for such a weapon once upon a time, but what it was, was lost to a time before recorded history. The stones could be used individually too, to augment a particular field of magic the holder happened to be weak in.

Over the centuries, as people mixed and matched during the course of their lives, the magics became diluted. Few of the major families tried to maintain any strength in magic. The royal family was the strongest, but even they were only strong in black, red and green magic. There was another powerful royal family who leaned heavily in the other direction, being relatively strong in white, light and dark blue magic. The White House of Healers, in the hopes of balancing the magics within the royal family once again, encouraged the royal house of Barleduc to marry into the ruling family of Ruhin. They had high hopes that a child born of such a union would be strong in all the magics and therefore capable of wielding the stones the way they were intended, to protect the country and it's people.

Not long after the wedding between the crown prince and the young Barleduc lady, disaster struck and the very pregnant crown princess was forced to flee with only a few trusted friends and protectors. Prince in Hiding begins seventeen years later. They had been found. It was time to go back and reclaim the throne. It was time for retribution. Is the son of the Ruhin/Barleduc union the mage the White House of Healers was striving for? Will he be the savior they so desperately need? Only time will tell. You'll have to read to find out. I will tell you one thing; he gets the girl. But can he retain his sanity long enough to see to the next generation? You'll have to read the book to find out. The hard part might be waiting for the next book to come out. Due out about this time next year, The White Star, Book 2 in the Making of a Mage-King series.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beginners Mistakes - Appearance Part II

I'm reading this book... Yeah, I do that sometimes - as often as possible. This book is obviously a beginner's book. Since I started swimming in the waters of writing and publishing, what with the advent of easy self-publishing, I've seen some pretty poor examples. Fortunately those were few and far between. Perhaps it was with the ease of self-publishing came the ease of hiring an editor - I can't say on that one.

We are all fallible. There are few books out there that are totally error free. I just finished Changes by Jim Butcher (an awesome read) and I think I spotted a typo in there, but heck I don't even remember what it was at this point and I just finished the book. That goes to show you how trivial it was. This book I'm reading now, also has very few typos. Such being mostly in the form of two words that should be one or hyphenated, or vice versa.

If such were the only problem, I figure it could be overlooked, but when I came across the first hyphenated word, the hyphen was an underscore. Well, this is a beginner's book, I can overlook that too. Now that I'm around half way through the book, I have yet to encounter a hyphen that isn't an underscore. How can a writer, even a beginner, allow such a mistake to escape their notice?

Another thing I've noticed, especially when reading a few samples of eBooks. Occasionally I've seen paragraphs intents either doubled or missing entirely. This book has that too. It's not a big thing, but it's there.

There are other more normal beginner's mistakes. Things like extra and/or repeated information, characters jumping to the desired conclusion way too easily and for no apparent reason, and decisions made by the characters that were totally out of character. I'm sorry, military people should think in terms of security and they don't in this book - not even remotely.

I was going to review this book - and I may still - but that's not the point of this post. I can understand beginners mistakes, but in this day and age, there's almost no excuse for these kinds of errors. If you can't afford an editor, there are tons of knowledgeable people out there who would be willing to take a look, if not at the whole document, then at a sample - a chapter or two, and for free.

My book, King by Right of Blood and Might, is my first book, and I'll admit it could have been better. I wasn't so confident in my skill that I thought I could bypass an editor. And though it pains me to admit, there are some appearance goofs in there too. A font change that didn't get changed and a sizing issue that also didn't get changed. One of the issues I discussed with the guys who were putting my book together was what font to use on the cover and for the chapter headings. Another issue was the size of the text for the body of the book. I was rather stunned that they didn't do a 'select all' and change the text size, or 'modify style' and change the font for my chapter headings. Sadly, I didn't catch everything they missed so it's still in there.

Live and learn. The beginner's issues with this book I'm reading, I will take up with the author privately. As for the story, beginner issues aside, it has a lot of potential. I like a good quest.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Appearance of your Document

Okay, so you've proofed your work. What more is there to do? Aside from doing every bit of research you can find to do in order to make your content the best that it can be, there is one thing I do. I look at the appearance of the text. Yes, I said appearance. I reduce the magnification of the document down to 10%. This size is helpful mostly with the placement of pictures; it allows you to see at a glance if your pictures are aligned properly and not breaking across a page. Any red or green lines are also visible, just in case you missed something.

Another thing to do with appearance is to begin a new chapter on a new page. This may not be such a big deal. I don't own an eReader, and I've heard that some of them don't have 'pages' so much as a constant scroll down. Pardon me if this is incorrect; I've seen only one up close and it did have 'pages'. At any rate, starting each chapter on a new page makes your document cleaner.

Now, back to appearance. Here is where 25% magnification can help you see how your document looks. I aim for approximately ten pages per chapter. This is not a hard and fast rule, just something I aim for. If my chapter is way more than that, I try to find a place where it can be broken; if it is too short, I look to add content, or maybe it can be melded in with another chapter. At 25% magnification, there are eight pages across a full screen. This allows me to spot the chapter headings, and I should have one on almost every line.

Most writers who work with Word know how to insert a page break before a chapter heading, but this is something I had to learn on my own. Before I learned that little trick, I used the 25% magnification quite often to make sure I had my chapter headings where I wanted them. For those of you who don't know how to do that, go to 'insert'; in the drop-down window you will see 'break' and from there you can choose several kinds of breaks. A page break will start whatever is after it on the next page, and even if you add content before it, enough to fill the page, your break will move along, pushing your next chapter heading to the beginning of the next page. There is also the section break. This is very helpful in numbering your pages. Using section break allows page 1 to be on the beginning of your story, not on your title page, which makes your table of contents work properly too.

In my latest and longest work in progress (it keeps getting shelved as other projects come up), I have two levels of chapters. As per the plan, there will be 16 main chapters spanning ten years of my character's life as a druid. Each main chapter has approximately 10 secondary chapters covering incidents and events along the way. Yeah, this one is a long one, and it has me worried. It's almost in a format to be a television series. At this point, I'm near the end of the second season of four, possibly five seasons, and if we cover each season as one year within the book, it'll be ten seasons - now wouldn't that be fun?

One thing that makes navigating this, and all of my documents, is the 'document map'. To make it work, your chapter heading need to be actual style headings, and you can modify your heading so they appear the way you want, and are consistent. These headings are another thing that makes your table of contents work. Another little thing a document map is good for is if you happen to number your chapters, you can easily see if you've skipped a number or repeated a number. Of course this will show up in your table of contents too.

In my opinion, appearance is every bit as important as good spelling and grammar. Inconsistent formatting, font and size is something a reader will notice.

Do you check your document's appearance, or do you leave that up to your publisher?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Watch What Your Character Sees

Yep - do everything you can to resist the urge to paint that awesome deadly scene at night. Don't line up those vampires and werewolves on opposite ends of a Roman stadium and fill the seats with ghoulish spectators dressed in pink and green sequins (or whatever). Of course, your hero enters the scene at the fifty yard line and sees all the fine details. It is an awesome scene, designed to make the brave quake and the romantic quail. Of course, his lady love is going to be ripped limb from limb if he doesn't save the day, or rather the night.

Okay so that is a totally over-the-top scene, but you get the idea. Paint your scene to the hilt, and then step back and consider just exactly what your hero can see. Consider the lighting. In this case, night time. Most colors at night are washed out to shades of gray, though there might be something more around a campfire or by flashlight. If you aren't sure, do a little experimenting. Go outside during the middle of the night, and if the city night isn't dark enough, take a drive until you run out of streetlights. Pick a full moon night, just so you know. Take my word for it, a new moon night is very dark; you'd be doing good to see your hand in front of your face.

Once you have the lighting and coloring down, the next thing you need to consider is how much of your fabulous scene your character actually can see. Is there any artificial lighting? Add some torches around your stadium to show it up a little, but be careful of placement. Torches set around the field, if not carefully shielded, will dazzle the eyes of your spectators and they won't be able to see the bloodshed. So you shield your lighting so it spotlights the field; that means your hero can't see the people in the stadium. He might be able to see black silhouettes but I seriously doubt he'd be able to count them.

Oh, but you really love your scene in all it's macabre details. That's fine, all you need to do is find a way to walk your character through it all. Parade him around the stadium in front of the audience. Evil people like to show off all their power and glory; it can really cut into the self esteem of your hero, making his challenge that much more daunting. It also gives us all an up-close look at all the fine details of your sizzling scene, and don't forget, all that showing off can really puff up your bad guys. There might be a tiny shred of advantage in there somewhere.

Now, your hero is standing in the middle of the stadium with vampires gathered on one end and werewolves gathered on the other end. We have lit the grounds pretty well, but now the stress has greatly increased. We all know they are mortal enemies but your hero is the focus of attention and his lady love is stretched spreadeagled in the very center of the field. What is your hero's next move? I don't think he's going to count his opponents, nor is he going to pay much attention to what they are wearing, or not wearing, as the case may be. Yeah, he's going to see them. He's probably going to glance at the werewolves and say something like, "Christ, there must be twenty of the bastards." And then he'll glance at the other end, and maybe do a double take, and say something like, "Are those suckers wearing purple?" Then he's going to concentrate on trying to get his girl untied before they can close on him and shred them both, but that's your part of the story.

Have you ever painted a scene only to discover there's no way anyone can actually see it? What did you do about it? Let me know; maybe you have a trick or clue, I haven't thought of. Share a little; it feels kinda nice.