Sunday, December 29, 2013

1000 Creative Writing Prompts by Bryan Cohen

Writer’s block has never really been much of a problem for me, but I do know people who wrestle with it every day. This book may well be one of the best answers I’ve ever seen. There are seven chapters with a hundred categories scattered among them, and each category has ten questions. Answering these questions is an excellent way to get the juices flowing. One of them might even help you though a difficult point in your story. Heck, it might even be the spark of the next big blockbuster. You never know until you try.

In an effort to showcase the book, I thought I’d do something of a self-interview by answering a few of the questions.

Chapter 1: Time and Place

The Past

#9. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from studying your own past experiences? Would you consider teaching that lesson to others? Why or why not?

Probably the most important lesson I learned was how to be strong, how to be my own person. After suddenly being shunned in first grade for a reason I never learned, I had to do my own thing, walk my own path. At some point I determined that it wasn’t my fault, whatever it was, so I took on the attitude that I’d be anyone’s friend, I’d help anyone, but they had to ask me first. If they didn’t want to be my friend, fine – their loss. It might sound cold, but it’s not, not really. You see I wasn’t cold to anyone. I wasn’t mean to anyone. I treated everyone I met like I would want to be treated if our positions and circumstances were switched. I guess you could say I live by the Golden Rule.

Would I teach this if I could? Sure, but the Golden Rule has been around for a long time, and it’s very simple. Treat others as you would have them treat you. There you go, lesson taught.

Why would I teach this? Because if everyone did this, just imagine what our world would be like.

The Present

#23. It’s been said that to be happy, you have to live in the moment. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not? How well do you think you live in the moment and why do you believe that?

Living in the moment is something I think I do all the time. The past is past and to be learned from but not to be agonized over. It’s pretty much the same for the future. You can’t agonize over tomorrow; all you can do is do the best you can today with tomorrow in mind. Tomorrow will get here soon enough.

The Future

#31. What are you most looking forward to in the immediate future and why? What are you looking forward to in the next couple of years and why?

Ever since I published my first book, I have looked forward to the next book coming out. It has always been a thrill to know someone I never met is reading my books. In the very near future, I of course have another book coming out, and this coming summer will see my trilogy out in full. That one has been a long journey, but then begins the next one. I thought once I might get used to this feeling, but it doesn’t look like it, and frankly, I don’t want to. Yay for more books waiting in line so I can feel this yet again.

Chapter 2: People and Creatures


#233. Did you ever have a teacher who had no idea what they were doing? What was it that made the teacher so clueless? How did having a teacher like that make you feel and why?

In college, I wanted to go into the computer field. I was very logical about my decision, computers were up-and-coming, and they would be going places. However, I needed more math. The math class I signed up for had a teacher who was incredibly well versed in her field, but she had no clue how to teach what she knew. She’d scrawl these equations across the board and that’s the way it was. She never explained why it was that way. It left me in the dust. Asking for help was no better. her inability to teach, quite literally cast my future adrift. With a teacher like that, the computer field was out of reach. Now I had to figure out what to do next, and I didn’t have a clue.

Chapter 3: The Body and the Brain


#383. Think back to all of your most memorable dreams and single out the scariest recurring dream you ever had. What do you think it symbolized? If you had complete control over the dream, how do you think you would have conquered such a fearful night of slumber?

I have recurring dreams all the time. They are usually steps in solving some kind of puzzle. They also might not necessarily take place in the same location. These kinds of recurring dreams are seldom scary, but I have had a few very vivid dreams that would startle me awake; those, most of them, ended up in one or another of my books in one form or another. Probably the scariest one was of an asteroid destroying the moon. That too is in a book, in fact, that occurrence sculpted the entire world of that book. Imagine, Earth with no moon. The only control one can have in such a dream is the decisions of what to do next. Survive.

Chapter 4: Concepts

Good and Evil

#510. Would your morals change if you were in a life or death situation? What would be different if you or your loved ones were at risk and why?

Your morals are what define you, and maybe best in a life and death situation. However, there needs to be priorities. In a life and death situation, you must protect yourself first. With yourself safe, then you can save those most important to you. It’s very logical. Get yourself killed and there’s no protecting your loved ones.

Chapter 5: Money


#745. Contrary to popular belief, the wealthiest people don’t tend to live extravagantly. In reality, they live well below their means and save up, while those who appear to be the wealthiest are often riddled with debt. How do you think you and your family might be able to live this truer definition of wealthy? If you came upon a lot of money, would you be prone to spend it quickly like these other seemingly affluent folks?

Money is what it is, but I live in the wilderness of Alaska in a little house in the middle of nowhere. Frankly, I can’t see myself changing much. With money, however, might come a new house – this one is starting to have unfixable issues. Money might also see me being able to have a few more book signings as well. It’s not easy coming and going from here. It’s about as expensive just to go to town as it is to hop a flight to some city half way across the country.

Chapter 6: Love and Entertainment

On the Road

#891. Where have you always wanted to travel and why? What’s the first thing you would do when you got there?

I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland and England. I’ve always wanted to explore all those old castles I see pictures of.

Chapter 7: Mixed Bag

Air Travel

#937. Have you ever taken a helicopter tour of a city or island? If so, write about your experience about seeing the world from a much different view.

I work at a fishing lodge and one of our guests would come in his own helicopter. He brought his brothers to go fishing but he loved flying better. He’s taken me on more than one ride, but my first is probably my most exciting. I’m not sure what it is about helicopters, but I think it’s the rotor overhead. I’m not one to get airsick but in a helicopter I tend to feel dizzy. Like I said there’s no reason for it, I just need to steel myself for the feeling. This guy flies with a smooth and sure hand, no funny business – all safety. It’s an awesome experience. I’d fly with him every chance I got. I wish I could afford lessons – he teaches too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Writing About Yourself

Take a wallflower and tell it to toot it's own horn. There's nothing more painful for a wallflower to do than to attract attention to itself. I know, it's no fun talking about yourself, but if there is going to be any kind of meaning behind that name on the cover of that book, there has to be a person attached to it. Well, that's my opinion anyway. And isn't that the point of creating a fan page on either Facebook or Google+, or maybe some other forum? Isn't the whole point of attracting attention to sell books? Why else would it be called an author platform? To grow a following, to attract notice, to make friends?

Through my various interviews, I've told my story multiple times in various formats, and it always seems to sound the same to me. Of course, it's my story, so I suppose it would sound the same to me. Maybe I'm just getting tired of telling it and not getting much response. Maybe I should take my own medicine. Maybe I should write up a blog post about me and what moves me to write. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have ever done that, though I've done a few things about me. Hmmmm

But then again, as I think back, it occurs to me that there are incredibly few writers that I know anything about (not counting those I've met on Facebook, following the same advice I am). Names don't come to mind, mostly because I'm incredibly bad with names. However, the author stereotype is the alcoholic mess, and that has to come from somewhere.

So now I'm beginning to doubt my strategy of helping writers in these blog posts. They don't want to talk about themselves anyway, and books are out there doing far better than any of mine, of course they've probably been doing this since they were kids, so they have experience and exposure on me. Anyway, how much does anyone really know about the authors of the books they read? Yeah, we all try to help each other, so some of us know each other, but I'm talking about all the others? Are you at all curious? Should I just drum up a list of questions like everyone else and leave it like that? Or should I forgo Author Spotlights altogether?

I asked this on Facebook and one reply I got differentiated between the list of question type interview and the blog post type interview. She preferred the questions, saying the blog post would put her in a bad light. I fail to see how, but that's her opinion. For her the the list of questions was easy, taking only a few minutes, while the blog post was too hard. Is my strategy just me being lazy? I do know that can crop up in me in the oddest ways.

Something for me to think about. Your opinions most welcome.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Wanderess, by Roman Payne

The Wanderess, by Roman Payne. Told as if the main character was narrating the story to an author, not the writer, a unique point of view in my experience. It was beautifully told.

I have been to quite a few different states across the Midwest with Colorado as the center of my world of experience, but I've never been overseas anywhere.

Saul and Saskia wander, either chasing each other, or together, through France, Spain, Northern Italy, and beyond, and unlike some books I've read, I was able to enjoy the journey as well as the drama.

Saskia's drive to see the fulfillment of her prophecy, and Saul's stubbornness as he determined to keep just as many secrets as Saskia did, even the one that would see the fruition of her prophecy that much sooner, kept me enthralled and entertained from cover to cover. I was drawn into their love, the passion and the turmoil of it, as it progressed through the growing pains of jealousy and trust, as it was tested by manipulation, betrayal and entrapment.

One thing easily overlooked is the background world. The world Roman Payne allowed me to see was full of life of all types, all types; do you know how hard that is to do? The world isn't overwhelming, but it's there; the stage was well set, ready for the actors to play their part. From peasants and common workers to aging actresses, from charlatans to royalty. They were all there. From Spring in Paris to the dry heat of Tripoli.

One of the most amazing things about the story was that it was a true romance. None of this 'jump into bed at every opportunity'. No hot and heavy, sweaty sex. ROMANCE, love, petting, hugging, comforting, tender feelings, tears. It was all there, simple, pure and honorable. The best kind if you ask me. Most of the time I'll turn away from what passes for romance these days; they are all so blunt; no teasing, very little tenderness, just sex, and if there's not at least one episode in every chapter, then the story lacks. Well, not really, but you get my point. Many is the 'romance' books I've read, those few I've read, don't have much of a story behind all the hopping from bed to bed like rabbits in heat. Do rabbits have a 'heat'? The Wanderess is such a beacon in a dark closet, such a lighthouse shining across the hot and steamy seas.

Probably one of the hardest things I had to overlook was that nearly all the book was 'telling'. I had to remind myself that of course it was 'telling'. Saul was telling his story to a writer who was taking notes. After working so hard to learn how to show the action and emotions in my books, changing this channel was just a little hard for me. It did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. I just had to park my brain in a different time. Do check this book out. It is for sure worth your pennies.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Where is Your Passion

I was looking forward to this post being about an editor I met on FB, but she didn't seem to have the time, stating a busy family life and the coming holidays. She wanted to post a short list of generic editing tips, whereas I wanted you to get to know her, to get a feel for her passion for the job, her love of taking a rough diamond and turning it into a polished gem. I wanted to showcase her to her advantage, but she didn't want to, didn't have time, sadly.

So...what is your passion? Where is your passion? Have you thought about it? It doesn't matter if you are in the writing business or not, are you passionate about what you do?

Writers? What of your soul do you pour into your stories? Are you excited (and terrified) to put your labor of love out there for people to read? Are you thrilled at every review, good or not so good, or even the bad ones? Even if you've written twenty or more books, is the passion still there? The excitement? The love?

Editors? Do you like taking that labor of love, that rough work, and turning it into a gleaming gem to be proud of? Are you thrilled every time you hear about or see a book that you know you had a hand in making it what it is?

Cover artists? Do you love putting together that perfect picture together and hearing how thrilled the writer is about it. Does it make you smile when you see it on a shelf somewhere, or on Amazon?

Publishers? Do you love taking these beautiful gems and putting them out there under your moniker? Does it make you proud knowing that book is such a culmination of so much work, and there it sits, glowing, waiting to reward everyone for all their hard work.

Notice I didn't mention money until the very end. Publishers are in the business end of things and so money is a large part of their concern, but the rest is no less important. Writers, editors, cover artists, and publishers too, if you are only in the game for the money, you are cutting yourself short. Of course, we all need to make a living, and yes, we should all get paid for our work, but if there is no passion, no excitement, why are you doing what you are doing? Life is too short to commit yourself to a job you have no love for.

I don't care if you are 'good' at telling a story, and being 'good' at editing can't be good enough either. I've worked with a 'dry' editor; I even spoke with him on several occasions. He always sounded bored on the phone, or maybe he was just tired. Creating an eye-popping cover takes attention to detail and a desire to create something beautiful. The bland, barely good enough cover simply isn't going to generate any sales. Believe me, I know. I have one like that.

If we all work together, with passion, excitement, and pride, the end product can only be a wonder to behold. You low budget publishers who can't afford to hire an editor for what they deserve to be paid, need to hire one passionate enough to make up the difference; your business depends on it.

So where is your passion? Is it somewhere here in the writing world? Is it perhaps in the reading world? Or somewhere else? Whatever it is, are you passionate about it? Are you proud of your work?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Under Cover or Old Soul

Have you seen the movie John Carter, based on the book, Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs? We watched it last week (we own it, much to my pleasure), and because of that, I decided to start reading the book again. We bought the movie, which prompted my buying the series of books from Amazon for my Kindle Fire last winter when we were in town.

I might prefer books, but my kindle has made reading so much simpler for me. Until last year, I've needed to have a candle to read by, and though I like candles and have lots of wax to make into them, with my kindle I don't need candles anymore. The best part, I don't have to wait until I go to town and maybe get to go to a bookstore in order to find fresh reading material.

But I digress

Anyway, I started reading Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, my absolute favorite author when I was a kid (meaning preteen). As I look back on that in regards to this author, I was already developing my obsession for collections as I must have read every book the man ever wrote, those that I could find anyway. I know I checked them out of the library multiple times as I read them over and over again. Tarzan was equally a favorite back then.

As I am reading the book, it occurs to me how the style varies so very much from today. The writing is almost lyrical and somewhat verbose by comparison. As I remember my own first writing, I wonder if I was imitating Burroughs. I think most beginning writers do that, imitate their favorite author in their style. At any rate, it was forever since I've read those books and I had completely forgotten about any style change over the years. I was just a reader; what did I know about writing?

When my first writings came out all sort of lyrical and somewhat scattered and verbose, I totally missed the connection and saw it only as something to overcome, a habit to be broken in the interest of writing a book people will find easy to read. Anyway, as I'm reading along, it occurs to me that I kinda like the style, though it's not something I'll ever imitate. If you've ever read Tolkien's books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can easily see how a writer's style can change.

Some years ago my husband bought me those books in a single binder. Reading through that book was pretty much the first time I'd read it for at least a few years, and at first I thought Tolkien intended the older style for the whole series, but then 'got into' the telling of the story and the lyrical style fell by the way side.

ANYWAY a few days ago, a friend of mine from a forum other than Facebook, finally published his book. I knew he'd been working on it for some time, and even having some financial difficulties along the way. I'd love to hear his story. But anyway, it was finally done and published. Originally planned for hard cover only, I couldn't hope to afford it any time soon, but I did my best to give him all the support I could. Then I get an email from him. Could I take a look at the kindle edition? Oh my, I was so honored and accepted the offer immediately.

Now there were some formatting problems with the edition I had but they were known problems so I offered to help there too however I could.

But again, I digress

Guess what? Upon my first glimpse of this book, I'm right back into the same style of Burroughs and Tolkien at first, that lovely, lyrical, verbose style that just sings to me. Oh and by the way, the friend I mentioned, he's better than either of them. The words flow smoothly and the picture is well painted. I can just see this proper gentleman with maybe an umbrella or cane swinging from his arm (or leather-bound notebook in his hand) walking down the street. Maybe he's wearing a top hat; at least he is in my painting. Oh yeah, completely enjoying this book. It's almost going to be hard to go back to Burroughs, though I will. I even stopped over to Amazon and bought the first two books of the Tarzan series. I'm curious if he kept the same style. I honestly don't remember though I remember the story well enough.

So, are you an author undercover as a writer from a previous life? Or are you an old soul very comfortable with a much older style of writing? Me - I'm beginning to wonder.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Publishing Lessons

I've traveled quite a journey during the publishing of my books. My first book was published through AuthorHouse, a subsidy publisher. As subsidy publishers go, AuthorHouse is probably one of the better ones, and I do have a few good memories with them, but mostly the experience was a disappointment for me. Like all publishing houses where you hire them to publish your book, for a rather high fee, if you ask me, they run your baby through their mill and "BAM" you have a book, but really, what exactly do you have? Here is something of what I ended up with.

If you know what you're doing, AuthorHouse can do you good, especially if money isn't much of an issue, but my journey wasn't so simple. You can get a small taste of it here. AuthorHouse puts out a good quality book, mine happened to be error free, and there were a few things their editor caught that had slipped past me. However they did not go any farther than they absolutely had to. My baby was merely $$$ to them and nothing more. I got a cover that could have been better with a tiny bit of coaching on their part. Also with a modicum of effort along the line of word find and replace, they wouldn't have left behind the formatting errors I found AFTER the book was already approved and published.

This book was my first - I mean I knew nothing at all about writing let alone publishing, I was hoping to learn something. Boy, did I. My very expensive lesson? Don't pay for publishing. Don't pay for advertising. And if you are joining a publishing house, don't pay for copying fees, editing, not even the cover. If you are being asked to pay for any of these things, you better also be paying an independent contractor hired for the service BY YOU. If a publishing house offers these things at all, it should be free. A real publishing house makes their money from book sales, not from the writer.

Living in the wilderness can present problems in this writing/publishing journey, so I took my new knowledge and my new internet access and started searching for something that would work for me. I was blessed to find a very understanding publisher who has since published the first two books of my trilogy. Book 3 is due out next summer, and the next book is already sitting there waiting it's turn. It seems he either likes me or he likes my writing - hopefully both.

With this small victory under my belt, I confess to being a little impatient. Without actively searching, I still kept an eye peeled, and upon the recommendation of a friend of mine, I went ahead and submitted to yet another publisher, and low and behold, they too accepted and the publishing process was under way again. Now, while this publisher was a fine publishing machine, I find I preferred the more personal approach I got from my first publisher. I'm not sure I'll publish through them again. Sales haven't been all that great either, while my trilogy is doing very well by comparison. So, is it the publisher? Their advertising? Or is it the book, classified science fiction rather than general fiction? I have no way of knowing. They are all sold on Amazon.

To round out my publishing venture, I took the plunge and, thanks to a very generous donation, I was able to buy an awesome cover for my blog novel. Now that I had a cover, I wanted to turn it into a real book. I tried very hard to make reading the blog as easy as I could, but a blog is what it is, and unless you actively keep up with a blog novel, catching up is kinda awkward. It's still there though if any of you care to take a look. Just follow the link on the right.

At any rate, I couldn't afford an editor so I did it myself with utmost care, and then off to CreateSpace I went with my manuscript and my cover picture. I discovered that it was incredibly easy to do, just follow the directions. The most important part is to take your time and make sure it looks like you want it to. You are given the chance to flip through the pages and check every one. It is my advice that you look at EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Doing so allowed me to discover a tiny mark up near the title of one chapter. I was going to ignore it, it was just a little line, but then I found a couple other little things so I backed up and fixed it all. It's a year old now and so far no one has informed me of finding any errors (whew). The best part, even though I priced it nearly as low as I could, sales were good enough to pay for my internet for two months in a row. It's kind of settled down among the slush pile now even though I advertise every day, but with every new book, the older books seem to awaken a little, and every new friend I make on Facebook just might see my advertising and check out my books, and MAYBE they'll tell their friends and so on.

And so it grows, slowly but steadily. I plug away at expanding my platform. Of late, I've taken to offering what I've learned to anyone who might be interested. I know the value of another pair of eyes and officially offer the service on my website. Most recently I've added ghost writing as well, thanks to negotiations with a friend. I am fully aware that starting writers are seldom financially comfortable, and hopefully I charge accordingly. I'm not trying to get rich, just trying to earn enough to pay for my next cover or to pay for my next book to be edited.

This is my journey so far. Share some of yours.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Head Hopping

What is head hopping? Here is a great place that describes it very well. As you all know, I'm reading this four-book series, the first two books of which I have read before. Now, there are right ways to do head hopping, and the way it is done in this series is one of them, but I still have an issue with it.

If you've read any of my posts, you know that I can be rather OCD when it comes to consistency and logic. In this series, there are three main characters. Written in first person there is the main POV, the girl, and then there are her two guys. Lets call one, her 'Addiction', and one, her 'Perfect' match. If you've read these books, you probably know what books I'm talking about now, because this distinction is in the third book.

I've been in a trio like this exactly once and believe me, I have no desire to ever repeat it. For one evening I thought it would be nice if an ex-boyfriend/still friend returning from basic training in the Air Force could come along on an evening out with me and my current boyfriend. Boy was I mistaken. Current bo driving, me in the middle, ex-bo on my other side in a truck. I don't even remember what we did. There was so much tension in that vehicle, I could have cut it with a knife if I had one. To draw this torture out through all four books is insane, but I digress.

Back to head hopping.

All the way through the first three books, the story follows the girl as she struggles to maintain her relationship with both guys. From her point of view, they fill different places in her heart, but the two guys couldn't possibly be worse enemies. Their feelings for her are all that keeps them from killing each other. There is of course lots of outside drama going on in these books, but this triangle is the core of the entire series.

So, like I said, all the way through the first three books, the story is told from the girl's POV and in first person, then suddenly, in the very last chapter of the third book, we find ourselves in a different location talking to a different character, and saying things that just don't fit. Not that they are not possible, I was just left struggling as to how we got there and why we were talking to this other character, and why they were saying what they were saying. Turns out we were suddenly in the head of Perfect.

There is nothing wrong with the way this POV was changed, it's just ... why wait all the way until the very last chapter of the third book to do it? And why make me struggle for like two pages before telling me I'm now inside the head of Perfect? If you're going to go head hopping in your book, by all means do it right, but also be consistent, and please bring on the clues very early on. At this point, though Perfect's drama was very well written, and I did feel incredibly sorry for him, that feeling was nothing new. I already felt sorry for him, in my opinion, this chapter did not further the story. Nothing would have been lacking if that chapter were left out of the book.

Begin book four and we're back where we are used to being, at least for a little while. Now to a degree, I can understand the structure of book four, but there were opportunities throughout the series for other head hopping that would accentuate the agony of these two guys and give us a window into their thoughts and concerns rather than keeping us guessing like the girl has to. Why are we now sharing only with Perfect? There was a super opportunity to get inside the head of Addiction in book two, but no, we only find out what was happening with him after the girl gets involved with him again, and even then, it's only bits and pieces.

Now that I am this far along in these books, I look back and think that there surely should have been at least one chapter devoted to each guy in each book, course I would have preferred more. I mean, if you're going to do it at all, get into it. Either that or leave out the other POVs altogether. I'm sure us readers could have struggled along just fine, even into the fourth book, with only the one POV as she learns what happens around her like always.

Things like this make me wonder if the publisher was paying attention. Of course, big publishers can't pay intimate attention to any one book, but really, one series should at least have the same editor. I'm convinced this was not the case. A professional editor isn't likely to allow such a drastic change in story structure so late in the course of a series. Or would they? Hmmm Maybe her editor isn't as picky as I am.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Does Carelessness Cost Sales

So what do you think? Would carelessness in formatting cost sales? It's just a formatting issue and not a typo-riddled manuscript.

Anyway, I'm reading this four-part series, and I am half way through. I think I'm into the third book now, I honestly haven't kept track since it's all together. I've read the first two books before; I was able to borrow them from a friend shortly after they were published a few years ago, but those were paperbacks and I honestly can't recall this issue with them, but I no longer have access to them so I can't check. Now I have the whole thing on my Kindle, and I wonder what documents they used for the kindle edition.

I wish I could contact someone, but the author leaves no means of doing so that I can find, so I was forced to mention it in a short review on Goodreads. This issue wouldn't bug me so much if the author wasn't one of those people who went from rags to riches before my eyes (or rather, since I've been online, which isn't long). Me being still on the 'rags' end of that range, I find it incredible that this was allowed to slide. I certainly couldn't afford it.

Here's the issue. An ellipse is '...'. Typed together like that, Word will convert it into a single punctuation mark. When I first started using it, I spaced it out like this ' . . . ' because the single punctuation held the adjoining words together and didn't break across a line like I wanted. Notice there is a space both before and after the spaced-out periods. I since learned that all together is the accepted way so a simple 'find' and 'replace' took care of most instances, and if a line break was called for, a simple space took care of that.

My issue with these books is that appears to be where they stopped in making this correction. Finding ' . . . ' and replacing it with '...' will get you most of the changes, but the 'finder' isn't really very smart; it will only find exactly what you tell it to find and nothing more. I also used ellipses occasionally at the beginning of sentences where the first part wasn't heard, so this search wouldn't touch '. . . ' because there wasn't a space in front of the ellipse. The same goes for those coming at the end of the sentence for much the same reason - no space at the end.

Being a real nut for consistency, this really bugs me. And that's not all. It seems these books were also formatted for SmashWords, or maybe they just wanted to optimize the page breaks, at any rate, rather than uncheck the Windows Orphan control, they inserted page breaks manually. This works just fine in some formats, but sometimes the break shows up out of place as a missing space between words. I'm thinking when they did the incomplete 'find' and 'replace', they didn't go through and fix their manual page breaks. These are few and far between, but they are still there, yelling at me that someone in the editing and formatting department wasn't doing their job. If it were up to me, I'd fire this person and hire someone who cared.

This author is already rich (compared to me anyway), and she has moved on to other books, but unless I am mistaken, this is the series that got her there. To allow it to remain out there full of so many careless errors, is very nearly a writerly crime. I have a first book too. Though it launched me thrillingly into the published world, it has beginner issues I fully intend to fix, so order your copy now so you can have this collector's edition, because you will never see it again. One day, it will reemerge under a shiny new cover, and hopefully all those pesky beginner issues will be weeded out.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Threads We Weave

What is a thread? Or better yet, what is a thread to you? Think about it. Just as your shirt is held together by millions of threads woven and sewn together to make a fine and colorful article of clothing, your story can be constructed much the same way. Each thread adds strength and color to the finished product. So how many threads run through your stories?

There is of course the main thread, where your main character makes his or her way through the pages of your book (or books). But what about the cloth of your story? Where does all the other threads work in? What is a thread?

A thread through your story can be several things. Main ones will of course be your different characters. Everyone has a life, and though secondary characters are far from up front in your story, they still need to have a life. Even if you never mention it, I strongly advise you spend at least a little time on every character in your story and nail down life issues that are more than just appearance. If for just a little while, you consider every character as the main character of their own story, when they walk into your character's story, they will have goals and desires of their own that will dictate or conflict with the choices they have to make as long as they are involved with your character. Can you see how secondary characters with a life can enhance your story? They have an agenda. They have their own plans. With this in mind, it is no longer just a convenient bend in your story to have them work with your character; your character now needs to work a little bit in order to sway them to his side.

Other threads come from events that you plan for your story. Lets use an example here. Lets say your character suddenly needs to know how to ride a motorcycle. It kinda came out of the blue, but for him to chase the bad guy through the open back country, it would be out of place for jeeps, or maybe jeeps couldn't go where your antagonist went with his little dirt bike. So, needing to know how to ride a bike is a thread. You have a decision to make here, weave this thread through your story or just make it so, as Picard used to say on Star Trek. Then again, if this is an all guy kind of story, making it so might be just fine.

Lets try a different example. Your character is on a treasure hunt and he finds several items. Lets say he finds ten items, and together they weigh one hundred pounds. What is the decision he needs to make here? How can one move one hundred pounds of valuable, irreplaceable, irretrievable items? Does he leave some behind anyway? He might have to. Or maybe, he has his truck just outside. Hmmm Can he do it? Can he move them all? But the thread is preparing him for this find. Where did the truck come from? How did he get it there? That is the thread.

Every decision your characters make can turn into a thread. Every detail has roots and branches, and it all weaves together to make a tapestry with depth, color and strength, a tapestry comfortable enough to snuggle in with for the long haul. So how do you weave your story?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Names You Choose

So what is your world like? Is it Earth-like? Extraterrestrial? Extradimentional? Or completely fantastical in one manner or another? Regardless, how do you generate the names you use in your world?

Tom, Dick, and Harry would work fine for an Earth-like world, but you still need to consider last names, unless you don't ever use them. There are also lots of options and resources when choosing names for your Earth characters and places, but what about those off-world stories. Now you can fall back on those same resources if your world happens to be an Earth colony, even if they have been long since cut off from Earth. But what about the completely fantastical, totally disconnected from Earth, world? Lets start by considering the history of names.

As I understand it, most names originated as a means of identifying a person by their job or status, but there can only be so many Carpenters, Smiths, and Carters, so they started attaching first names. Of course language and custom would have quite a bit to do with what names were chosen. Now how they decided on first, or given, names is unclear to me. Maybe some of them were just made up, maybe some of them were a bastardization of something they heard from another language as people started to travel, following the latest war or trying to run a trading route of one sort or another. Another thing to remember is that in many cultures, gender has an affect on the spelling of whatever name is chosen.

If your characters have never originated from Earth, there may be different customs involved in choosing names. For the names in my book, The Speed of Dreams, I went to a Dungeons & Dragons name list I have, and those with an apostrophe in the middle caught my eye, I morphed them some to fit the rhythm I wanted. I then decided on the custom that the clan name, or last name as we know it here, comes before the apostrophe. I got this idea from oriental names where the family name traditionally comes before the given name.

I've referred several times to my D&D list of names. It's extensive, including dwarven names as well as place names. It's great for sparking ideas when my mind draws a blank.

Now I've talked a lot about naming your characters, but character names isn't the only thing you need to consider. If your world is totally disconnected from Earth, it is highly unlikely they're going to give other things the same names we have. For the gist of your story, you can allow such things as buildings, mountains, and grass to exist, even trees can be called trees, but there's no reason to believe they'd be called Birch trees, or Spruce trees, and the flowers your hero is giving to his girl probably wouldn't be called Daisies or Roses, so you'll have to get creative all over again.

Naming these things, whatever you decide to name, isn't the only option. Who knows, there might even be cultures somewhere where a person has no name at all until he or she does something spectacular. In my soon to be released book, Half-Breed, in a culture where twins are common, identical twins were given the same name.

“When twins are born who are alike, it is common for them to share a name. It is thought that since the ancestors caused them to share a soul, it would be presumptuous of us to separate them by a name.”
Choosing names can have so many layers of meaning, so have fun creating the foundation for your names. Even if you never explain what you've done, the detail will show, and it will also add life to your story.

What customs underlie your names?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

So You Wanna Write a Story for NaNoWriMo

So you've never written a story before and all your friends talk about NaNoWriMo so you thought you'd give it a shot. What do you do? Where do you start? And have you looked at that number? 50,000 words by the end of the month. Oh My God!!!! How do I write that much? Well, I'm here to tell you, it's not as bad as it sounds. The book I'm looking to publish now is 140,419 words long, that's 516 pages long. Popular books that you might be more familiar with are The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 204 pages long, Brave New World is 196 pages long, and The Great Gatsby is 144 pages long. Not so bad, now, right?

So now that you have your word program sitting there in front of you, where do you start? A beginning is a great place to start. You are telling an imaginary story about you, only you aren't really you. Who are you? Do you have blue skin? Do you have four arms? Oh gee, as I write this, I'm reminded of the movie Avatar. I'm sorry that wasn't what I had in mind, but at this point it doesn't really matter. You could have four legs, three opposable fingers on each hand, and one eye - or you could just be human - what you are kinda depends on what kind of story you want to write.

That brings us to the next decision you need to make. Where are you? If you have blue skin, you probably aren't on Earth, at least not on the Earth we are all familiar with. Then comes the narrowing down of some kind of when. Time would be relative to location. If you are on another planet, the length of a day, the turning of the seasons, even the ambient temperature, may all be very different. But Earth is familiar and we know all the natural laws. If you are on a different planet, all natural laws might be very different. Who knows, magic might be the norm rather than engineering. Hmmm now that's a thought. Whatever you choose, the natural laws need to be understood so your character can function within their restrictions.

Now, special powers solves all such problems. I mean, if you could do anything, what would you do? But though it might be fun, don't you think it would make things too easy? or maybe too hard?

Okay, so you have your main character (or two), your home on your world with it's level of technology and environment. What more do you need? You need a goal, and along with that, you need a plausible reason for needing to accomplish that goal. In my next book, I started out with a small boy, small for his age. He was scooped up on the street and dropped into slavery because he had ice-blue eyes. His goal? Well, it's complicated and changes as the story goes along. At this point, freedom from the metal chains is the goal. His knowledge of the world is highly limited. Later, his goal becomes learning everything there is to learn about swordsmanship, but that becomes complicated too. For some of the story, his goal is to become old enough to repay a debt. His journey to accomplish that goal is a healthy chunk of the story. He has to traverse a glacier, keep an unplanned companion from suffering from possibly fatal frostbite, not to mention stay out of trouble for the duration of the trip, and there at the end, he was nearly foiled. Ultimately, his intended goal, to repay his debt, wasn't necessary after all (sigh) but such is the stuff of stories.

So where do you start? Start by walking out your door (metaphorically). The bad guys have kidnapped your daughter and you need to rescue her. You were the one who was kidnapped in order to keep you from claiming your crown. You need to escape, bring all the kidnappers to justice, and claim your crown all before you reach the age of eighteen in thirty days. Can you think of other scenarios? Have at it, and have fun.

So there you go. You've made all the pertinent decisions, now sit down and write. All you need to do is walk out your door.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say. 
-- The Road Goes Ever On - The Hobbit

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Have a Winner

The correct guess was To Become Whole in Land and Soul. However, having learned from my first book, as you can see, I've changed the name.

Here's the blurb for the back.

When Slave Master Patro first laid eyes on the child’s ice-blue eyes, he knew he would be the most sought-after slave on the market. The fact that he didn’t seem to be able to talk was a minor frustration.

Canis couldn’t tolerate the collar though. It not only contained his body, it strangled his soul. When this turmoil turned dangerous, Patro agreed to free the boy, but there were conditions, conditions Canis couldn’t hope to meet, not if he wanted to be truly free.

Once again, for an awesome cover of your own for a great price, see Candice Bowser. She's just awesome.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Name That Book

What do you think of my latest cover? Candice Bowser does such an awesome job. And don't you just love those eyes?

Anyway, enough of my drooling over this. Since I'm going to read through the book one last time before putting it under this awesome cover, I thought I'd spend the time with a little give-away contest. The prize will of course be this book signed.

Once it's in the system on CreateSpace, it'll take it a couple days to be available as an eBook and maybe a week for it to be up as a paperback, if everything goes smoothly. At that time, I'll order a box and as soon as it is here, the person who can guess the name of the book will get a free copy.

This contest will run until I load it up on CreateSpace. You will be competing with people from Google+ and my Facebook friends and fans. The people from LinkedIn and Twitter will see this only if they click on the link when I advertise this blog.

You get as many guesses as you like until someone gets it right. Just to make myself perfectly clear. This book has already been written. It has been waiting patiently for this opportunity. Figure out which book it is, and it will be yours as soon as possible.

Have fun

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mind the Details

  1. She just knew she wanted him to touch her.
  2. He never knew what hit him.
  3. They had no idea why they were getting in that car.
  4. He had no idea what was coming.
  5. For some reason she just knew she had picked the right direction this time.
  6. For some reason, he liked what he saw.
  7. For some reason, no one believed her.
Have you ever read phrases like these? Have you ever said to yourself, 'Of course he or she had to know, but what clues did they have?' 'Of course they had a reason to get in that car, why would you get into a car for absolutely no reason?' 'And if if he had no idea what was coming, then were his eyes closed? Was he unconscious?' 'Of course there was a reason to go that direction, or to like what he saw, or to believe her.'

Every moment we are flooded with assorted input, and at any given moment we are reacting or making decisions based on that input. To be a good writer, you need to be able to break down that input in order to make actions and reactions believable, rather than your character's actions just coming out of the clear blue sky.

Are these better? Maybe - maybe not.
  1. Her skin tingled with waves of goosebumps as his imaginary hands caressed her body. (and I don't write romance)
  2. (The blow was completely unexpected) The blow took him totally by surprised, giving him no chance to even attempt blocking it.
  3. (The choices of why they got in the car are many and varied; here's one) They were bored stiff and the sun was shining; it was a good day for a drive.
  4. He hadn't planned beyond this point, and he was apprehensive about opening the door, but there was nothing for it; one simply must put one foot in front of the other, come what may.
  5. She had already explored every other route she could find. Despite the fact that it seemed inhospitable, it didn't look like there was any other way.
  6. When she walked into the room, suddenly he found it hard to breathe, and his mouth turned up in a grin of its own volition.
  7. (There had to be some reason why they wouldn't believe her. Either it was what she was saying or her delivery) She rattled off her tale and then rolled her eyes in exasperation when everyone just looked at her. She gave an exaggerated sigh and flounced out of the room.
So, as you walk your character through your story, remember the little details. I'm not talking about big flowery paragraphs about what is happening at any given moment. Most of the time, it's only the occasional word or two. Sometimes it's something as simple as seeing all the steps.

Take a fight. During a fight adrenaline is pumping and your perception of events slows down. It's okay to conduct your fight one step at a time - blow by blow - insult by insult - act by reaction.

Remember the details. They are all important to the life of your story. Without them, your story just might not be able to take it's first breath.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Managing Your Time

So how good of a manager are you? I bet your better than you think. You set the alarm clock Monday through Friday, unless you're lucky and don't need to work. Even so, every day comes along and you decide how much time you're going to spend doing whatever. Common household things need managing every day - dishes, laundry, and meals to name a few of the most basic. For those of you who have a yard, that too needs some management. Somewhere in there time to write is squeezed in.

At home, I manage all of the above, but as my husband concentrates more on his chair and computer games, I've taken on more of the outside chores. Picking up things that might become lost under a snowfall is paramount this time of year. I also have taken on more of the managing of the boats, though I insist on my husband's help for some of that. Not really because I need the help, but to get him out of his chair more. Managing the boats involves keeping them bailed if it's raining and if they're in the water. This time of year, the boats are high and dry with their plugs pulled so bailing isn't an issue, but they still need some managing. In preparation for winter, they need to be cleared out of their summer clutter and the seats need to be covered. So I make a trip down there every day, mostly because I like the walk and I like watching the river do whatever it's doing - every year is different, but in the process I work on getting things ready for winter.

Here in the yard there's the generators to manage. We run a 3000W when we're running the freezer and then switch to a 1000W later in the evening after the freezer cycles. Every day around noon I go out and fill both then start the big one. Sometime shortly after dark, we switch over to the smaller one. When winter comes to claim us in full, our freezer will be moved outside where it won't need to be ran quite so often - saves gas.

For the winter, I've taking to sitting down at my computer first thing (with a cup of coffee, and maybe after lighting a fire as it gets colder). This time is dictated by the life of my computer's battery so I spend most of it writing, or at the moment editing for a friend. Sometimes I need to look something up so I turn the internet on. Of course such a move generally leads to checking emails and then ultimately Facebook. When my battery is used up, it's time for outside chores until sometime after the generator is started. By then the chaos of the day is too much for writing so once I'm on in the PM, I'm usually on until I start yawning, though sometimes the internet gets boring enough that I can get off and do a little reading. I have a book on my kindle going and a book on my computer, both written by friends. 

Summers, especially next summer, things will be different. At work I take care of the cabins and rooms. At my old job it was much the same with the addition of managing the garden and yard. There is no garden or yard to manage at my new job but I'm going to do some sprucing up anyway. There's not nearly enough flowers or grass there - and no, by the time I'm done, there won't be any more work involved than normal.

The changes I needed to refine was my time during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I now work the dining room during those times, something I seldom did before, so I needed to time myself through the rest of my day in order to be at a certain point at the right time. Fifteen minutes per cabin means I have an hour to get the downriver cabins done. The rooms are smaller and closer so another hour means I can get the rooms done and give the dining room a touch-up most days. Next summer it is my goal to get the other four cabins finished before lunch too, which means I am going to need to see where I can pare down some time just a bit.

After lunch clean-up, I finish whatever needs doing in the cabins and then I have about three hours or so to myself. Last summer, I spent most of that time napping, but it looks as though this coming summer I may not have a hidy-hole for that. My going back and forth to work means someone else can use the housekeeper's cabin. I might find me a corner somewhere though - time will tell. As it stands now, I'm planning to take my computer with me every day. At the very least, I can do my advertising at this time, but I'm also planning to get in some writing. Afternoons are very quiet since most everyone takes a nap during that time. I think the time spent writing would be nearly as restful as taking a nap, though given an empty guest cabin, I'll be catching a wink or two too.

So the management of my time is a learning experience, and I am constantly trying to refine it. Finding a place where I can squeak in some writing time is important to me. Plus, wonder of wonders, even though nearly all of the clientele of this lodge is Swiss, they are buying my books. Who'd'a thunk?

How do you manage your time to write?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Does Your World have a History

I'm currently reading this brand new book, written and now published by an online friend of mine. The first time I read it, it was all over the place with lots and lots of characters and tons of world history. Pretty much the first thing I had him do with his manuscript is weed out the world history, then we had to decide who the story was about.

Knowing your world's history is vital though, and I told him to most assuredly keep it. It was rich and detailed, definitely worth keeping. I mean, take a look at the four books of The Lord of the Rings. First you have this hobbit who might dream of adventure, but well, no respectable hobbit would ever have anything to actually do with one. Then he gets swept away on the adventure of a lifetime where he finds a magic ring and returns home richer than anyone ever dreamed - end of story, and likely that was all that was planned at the time.

The Hobbit was published in 1936 but I can just see it - there was this magic ring. Where did it come from? What kind of magic ring was it? How did it get into the bowls of a mountain? How did Gollum become what he was? Why was he all alone? All these questions niggled and picked at the inside of Tolkien's skull but he was a very busy man, and it wasn't until the prompting of publishers that The Lord of the Rings began to emerge (published in 1954 and 55).

As with all epics, and most any book really, it was vital to understand why people were where they were located, why they believed what they believed, and why this group of people thought one way, while another group thought another way. All of these things, and many more, dictate why people do and say the things they do during the course of your book. It is very important that you, the writer, know these things so your characters can make sense. Tolkien knew this too and the history of his world came out in The Silmarillion, written at the same time as The Lord of the Rings series but not published until many years later, in 1977 by his son. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings and you haven't yet read The Silmarillion, I recommend it, but take time with the names. If you skim over them hoping sight recognition will be enough, you'll get lost very soon.

Back to the issue of your world's history: Even if you are writing about two men meeting in a town in small town USA in the year 2013, world history will have effect what they say and how they posture toward each other. Pick two men, each of any race you like; according to Google, we have 3 or 4 major races on this earth.
Australian (yeah, I was surprised by that one too)
You might list a few others in there, but mostly, they're just a slight variation of the above, changed by location more than anything else. Whatever your list, it really doesn't matter in this example, but you know that each man will react to the other differently for one reason or another. Heck, have both men be of the same race, and depending on the race, they too will react differently to each other. So, knowing something of your world's history will keep your characters real.

Knowing your world's history is different from writing it down. Yes, you should keep notes of some sort. Heck, do like Tolkien, and write out entire stories. Why not? The exercise helps, but where you, the writer, needs to know this history, and maybe your characters know some of it, your reader doesn't always need to know it all. Such information included in your book will only weigh it down into the bog of boredom.

I was pleased to come across a spot in the book I'm reading where a long-lived person came to a clifftop overlooking a city. This person had been around when the city was laying it's first foundation stones and raising it's first gleaming walls. The only mention of world history here was 'and then came the orcs came'. So can you imagine what happened to the city then? That was enough. The character did not go into the city. There was no further thought on it. Just one of those heart-string tugs. I thought it was a very nice touch.

Things of that nature are all you need to include as far as history is concerned. Someone might know something about somewhere, and they might spare a thought about it at some point. More would be too much, unless there was a reason to explain it to someone else. Be careful with such explanations though. There needs to be a reason and most people don't go into long, drawn-out stories of history.

How well do you know your world's history?
How do you use that history?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meet your Character

So tell me, just how well do you know your characters? Tall, dark and handsome, or a curvacious blond might be good for starters, but is it enough to get you through an entire book? Far from it. Your characters need a personality. They need habits, quirks, and twitches, and above all, they need faults. No one is perfect.

The person who looks perfect on the outside may have an eating disorder, but that is so common, if you pick that, you may be leaning pretty hard into cliche. No, it's best to pick something else.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

One good thing you can do is Google 'interview your character'. There's at least one entire page of choices. Select one and fill in the blanks or answer the questions. Another thing you can do is take notes. Go ahead and start out with tall, dark and handsome. Give him a physical description, covering everything as if you were painting his picture and/or designing his next wardrobe (or both). Then as the story progresses, details might develop, like maybe he's near sighted but refuses to get glasses, or he's like me and has a hard time remembering names and dates.

Think of people you know, even if you only know them on Facebook, model your characters after them, or mix and match traits until you get something your character is willing to wear.

Most of the time, my characters quickly pick up a life of their own and my stories take on the feel of a movie playing in my head. Just like in a movie, my characters are who they are and they look like they do. I've never really had to model them after anyone, not consciously anyway, though I will sometimes pick traits from family members. In truth, my most frequent model is myself, or at least bits and pieces of me anyway.

Recently my character has been quite stubborn when it comes to scenes with his wife. It seems he wants to protect her from all the things and all the people in his world. Not that she is in any danger, but he takes his oath to protect her very seriously. Really, he and I are going to have to sit down and talk about this. I mean, his stubbornness is really getting in the way of telling the story.

A friend of mine once asked me to write a story around a female character so I came up with The Trials of the Youngest Princess. Like my other characters, she is something of me. And like many of my main characters, the traits I end up with are difficult to write around. My characters tend to be reserved at best, sometimes painfully shy, and sometimes a complete loner. So this little princess spends most of her time avoiding the things her mother wants her to do and lurking in the background. So I had to figure out something for her to find. I mean, the story had to go somewhere. Sometimes a character's traits and habits can be the driving force of your story, or at least the guiding force, since they will dictate what your character will do or will not do.

Other characters of mine:
A couple were orphaned
One had his memory taken away - the sacrifice needed to be able to cast spells
One guy was the only person from a planet of shape-changers who couldn't change to a human form off planet - where did he work? you guessed it.
One guy was born royal, but then he was denied and then shuffled off to grow up not knowing, not until he was suddenly heir.
Another guy was raised to be hated and assassinated only he survived - now what?

I also have a bunch of short stories, but you see the trend. My characters are more wallflowers than they are social flowers. Something is always in the way of life as it should be for them. But then that's what makes a book.

Let's look at it mathematically >>---> Character + goal / problem = book

Now these stories were all finished some time ago. They came out at a rate of 10 pages a day most of the time. Why don't I write like that anymore? Well, you see, I have this dozen or so books already finished, in need of polishing and editing, AND I also needed to develop my fan base and start blogging and all the other stuff that clutters up a writer's time. Back then, I didn't have internet and had no idea I needed to do these things. Back then I wasn't even planning on publishing - it was one of those unreachable things, so I didn't spare it a second thought. All I was doing was reading a new book. The fact that it was coming from my fingers instead of some bookstore made them even better. Therefore I didn't really need to take notes on my characters. It was like plugging in a movie and watching like ten or fifteen minutes of it and then writing it down. Now, I really need to take notes, especially when some detail dictates that something like eye color needs to change.

So, how do you keep track of your characters? Do you write it all down quickly? Or do you take notes of one sort or another? Or better yet, do you have another method? Let us know how you do it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Taking the Time to do it Right

Ever since I started on this road to publishing, I heard people lament how long it takes to get published. First there was the grueling effort to achieve an agent, and then there was another grueling wait, hoping they could squeak their baby in the door somewhere. The journey could take years, and there was no guarantee of ever succeeding. Many writers were impatient with this. I admit it, I was too. I'm no spring chicken and I had a dozen manuscripts to get out there. At an average of one book per year, provided that ball got rolling, that was 12 years. Add an unknown number of years just to get an agent (hoping that agent wanted all of my work, but possibly not), then add another unknown number of years to get into a publishing house. I would never see my last book published, if any of them.

With the advent of CreateSpace, SmashWords, and yes, Barns & Noble's NookBook, publishing became incredibly easy, even free, not counting the cost of a cover, and if you can do your own cover, the profits are all yours. I published one book through CreateSpace and B&N NookBook and have recouped my cover cost by 200%. One happy camper here.

However, those first indie books were a shining example of why the long, grueling route was the way to go. Fortunately, some indie authors were aware of this and acted accordingly. They went to the trouble of finding a good editor and multiple readers to help them iron out the issues in their baby. They also worked hard to spread the word that such action is vital to the success of their books. Me? I was very picky to begin with. I wanted my books to be the very best they could be. My first book, published through a seemingly reputable subsidy publisher, was error free, but certainly less than it could be, but what did I know?

Now, I've come up in the world. I have my own Kindle now and have read quite a few books so far. Not a lot yet, but I'd say maybe a dozen since getting it last Christmas. So far, by comparison, writers still need to slow down and take the time to ensure their book is the best it can be.

Reputation is still important. The reputation of the big publishing houses is still that they turn out great books, as as far as I can tell, they do. The indie publishing pool started out with a very bad reputation. Rife with errors and bad formatting to boot. Today, I think writers are slowly dragging the indie reputation up out of the mud, but we're not there yet.

Recently, I was asked to promote a book offered free, in an effort to spur interest in the rest of the series. Personally, if this had been my book, I might have made the mistakes at first (though seriously, less than I found), but I'd certainly have gone through the book again before trying such a promotion. Heck, even the reviews on Amazon should have been a clue to the writer that something needed to be done. I rated it 3 stars, but before I posted a review, I read a few of the other 3-star reviews. They too said the book was frustratingly full of errors. I didn't read all of those reviews, but when the top handful of 22 3-star reviews mention many errors, you'd think she'd have taken the hint. But no, she went ahead and pumped out another five books in that series, and has 18 others. Like I said, reputation matters and first impressions are paramount. I will not be reading any more of her books, and I actually liked the story, but if the writer doesn't care about the book, why should I?

So gee, people. Slow down. Even if you can't afford an editor, there are ways to ensure your baby is as polished as it can be. I have my computer read aloud to me. That nifty little trick is priceless. Even if you read aloud to yourself, you'll say the words your brain wants to be there; it's up to your eyes to catch the difference, and if they can't, the error slides by. However, your computer isn't so talented. It will read exactly what is on the page and even pause for commas or sound run on if a comma is needed. It also finds those pesky words that look almost the same but sound and mean something entirely different. As you can see, it is a very cool tool. I recommend you figure out how to use it ASAP. That aside, a good editor is still highly recommended, even if you think you can be your own editor, it's best to turn your baby over to another professional. You know, kings used to do that with their sons; it was too easy to overlook some kind of vital training or be to lenient with your own offspring. The same goes for your book.

Do you take time?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ducks all in a Row

I just finished a delightful book written by a member of a writing forum I belong to. I think it might have been her first, but I didn’t check. In any case, her ducks weren’t quite all in line.

We all know how much fun it is to catch those pesky little errors in our writing, heck, even good editors miss things once in a while, but those aren’t the ducks I’m talking about here.

There were three main threads running through this book:
  1. There was the girl meets guy thread, where she sees him and falls madly in love.
  2. There was the handsome cop who was investigating a murder and somehow figured the #1 girl was somehow connected and that her father’s murder was too.
  3. And then there were the teasing thoughts of the murderer inserted here and there along the way.
  4. There was even the beginnings of another thread concerning a batty old lady.

I talk in threads because I liken my telling a story to weaving a tapestry. Words paint pictures, and a tapestry is a plush picture with many layers of story, but lets get back to our ducks.
  • Primary thread – Romance – the story is always the same. Girl meets guy, guy meets girl, they fall helplessly in love. All that remains is how the story is told. In this book, we have a girl who was abused most of her childhood, and even sold as a sex slave where she was abused even worse, a fate she escaped from after a week. She returns to her first abuser, her father, and he very nearly beats her to death, only now does her grandmother whisk her away from this fate and she spends the next eight or ten years gallivanting across the country, and even going to America at some point. But that’s all back story revealed along the way without weighing us down with it all. The details need to be what they are to support the story being told.

The story starts with her return home after her father is murdered to settle family affairs and to locate and sell off her father’s prized collection of artifacts; she’ll need to money to survive. She doesn’t want to sponge off grandma for the rest of her life.

To do that, she needs a good fence. Insert handsome dude with tons of money, shady and not connections, and the reputation of a pirate, though nothing can be proved. His dealings with her were of a very different nature, preferring to tempt and tease her into falling in love with him. You see, he’d fallen for her long ago, but we don’t know that until later.

It’s a quaint thread, a little dramatic in my opinion, but I generally don’t care for romance. However, there’s only so many pages in a book and we did have to get abused girl all the way from ‘afraid of being touched or cornered’ to ‘craving at least his touch and much more’. I think it was pretty well done, however I’d have gone with a few more pages and a slower progression with this romance. Considering the parameters, I think it went to fast.
  • Secondary thread – murder investigation – handsome cop with a very charming smile has a desk mounded with files and papers. I’m not sure what they’re all for, but we can’t all be neat. He’s being pressured by his boss to solve a murder because the girl was the daughter of a titled member of society. The trouble is, there were no clues. The girl had gone missing for a few days, and then she ended up quite dead, where her family could find her, with a long-shafted brass key imbedded in her heart. Trying to determine her habits proved to be impossible since preserving her reputation and modesty were paramount.

Now here is where some of those duck go missing. For some reason, handsome cop feels that the murder of the main girl’s father was somehow related. I like logic, but I can’t even see gut instinct linking these two events together. The fact that two murders within high society occur within (lets say) a month of each other (no timeline is given on this) simply isn’t enough for me. Considering the pile of work on his desk, these two murders aren’t the only things our cop trying to solve.

He also jumps to the conclusion that somehow our main character is also involved, but I see no connection there either. Father dies before she returns to the city. Girl dies after. The only connection between the girls is that they are possibly peers in society and of an age. hmmm

Then a short time later, another girl is killed in the same manner, with a brass key shredding her heart. By the time a third girl turns up dead, eye color is mentioned. Still no real connection is made. It would have been nice if the connection, by the second murder at least, was physical resemblance, but that is never done anywhere, so you can see why I’m having trouble following this cop’s investigation. Then of course our main character goes missing like all the others, and our main guy gets involved.

Clear clues led them to her old torturer and his son who rented her father’s house. Once there, logic dictated they search for a cellar. Then came the fight scene and the rescue. Our hero saves the day and whisks the love of his life off to the hospital, leaving the cops to clean up the scene and solve the crimes – job done – murders solved – society’s daughters are safe again. Short of the final love scene, the book is finished.
  • The third thread I mention is more the kind of thread inserted for texture more than anything else. Occasionally, at the beginnings of some of the chapters, are the thoughts of the murderer as he is planning his action and rationalizing what he is going to do. He is of course completely wackadoodle.

Here again we learn that our main girl was ‘the right one’ all along, but if so, why did he try out three others first? They weren’t practice. You don’t ‘practice’ finding ‘the right one’, not when you know which one is ‘the right one’. So, as his work progresses and fails, he goes from searching to practicing. Even a wacko doesn’t do that, do they? I don’t know; it felt just off to me. And considering who this dude ended up being, a physical resemblance between the girls would have been more in keeping with everything.
  • I mentioned the beginnings of a fourth thread concerning a nutty old lady. It seemed as if her involvement was merely to serve an end, and yet she was so delightfully developed. Batty old ladies are fun to work with though, so I see this as opportunity missed.

She was having our main girl solve the problems of the girls and ladies of society because she was free to do the things society dictated those ladies dared not do. After solving one problem our girl learned that this batty old lady had a book she needed for research, so she felt confident enough to go ask for it.

Here too, I would have added a few more pages to make this thread just a little stronger. It could have enlightened us into some of the troubles society’s girls and women can get themselves into that would completely ruin them and their family’s reputations among that same society if they ever found out. It could have added plenty of humor to the whole book while at the same time not really interfering with the main threads. I like threads. Can you tell? Threads can add depth and texture to a story if given the chance.

Though I gave this book 4 stars, you can see how the fine details can make all the difference. Pay attention to the details. Your tapestry needs to be more than piece of cloth with a picture painted on it. It’s much more valuable if you can run your fingers across it and feel the texture, the hills and valleys, the rough spots and those that tickle, even the blood, sweat, and tears.

Are your ducks all in a row?
Happy writing

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Show and/or Tell

Hmmm so which should it be? Show? Tell? Both? When it comes to the gut of the story, telling is good. I mean, that's what we do, right? Tell stories? But when it comes to your characters, we need to switch to the visual. When you encounter someone, friend or stranger, on the street, the first thing you do is make a visual assessment. There are a ton of different things we notice when we do this, but one of the subliminal things is emotion. Is that person afraid? Happy? Angry?

There are several tells that give us a clue to this. A woman who is afraid but not wanting anyone to know it might have her arms crossed, maybe clutching her purse very close. She might also glance over her shoulder frequently and be walking hastily. A man might have many of the same tells. It's not likely he'll have a purse to clutch, but he might make fists instead. Think about it. What do you do when you're afraid?

Happy is pretty easy to tell. Grins are uppermost, a bounce in their stride might be another. Other than that, conversation could be chatty and possibly more bubbly than normal. Angry, might be nearly the opposite. A stomping stride, a stiff face, unwilling to talk about it, maybe unwilling to talk at all.

There are other things, but the point is you don't want to tell your reader that your character is afraid or angry, you want to show them, you want to involve your reader in your character's life, the closer the better.

Anything your character is feeling, be it an emotion or a physical issue needs to be shown. Talking about physical issues, let's say your character stubbed his toe. How long should you have him hobbling around? A stubbed toe might be rather minor but still, if you're going to introduce the injury, deal with it for an appropriate amount of time. If he or she is in a car wreck, it would be a much larger issue. Still, you don't tell of the accident and then overlook any of the physical repercussions, even if the character was able to walk away from the wreck, there would be bruises, maybe cuts. Maybe they don't need much attention, but really, at least an assessment is necessary, maybe an improvised bandage to keep blood from dripping all over whatever work needs to be taken care of before more practical care can be sought out.

So, while telling your story, don't forget to show us the things we cannot possibly know in any other way. Visual tells are vital to get your reader involved with your characters. For those of you whose characters are emotionless or highly controlled, this issue is also rife with tells. To tell us your character is hurt and then leave it at that is two dimensional and that character is then easily forgotten. If you can involve your reader in your character, earn their sympathy or even hatred, that is how your stories stay with your reader long after the cover is closed.

So do you tell? Show? Or do you do a liberal amount of both? I'm still learning. Tell me your secret.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya

Book 1 of 6 - Initiate looks like an awesome teaser. I haven't read it yet, but I fully intend to. Here's a little more about it:

The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya


Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

Blue-skinned rusalki grappled Dindi under the churning surface of the river. She could feel their claws dig into her arms. Their riverweed-like hair entangled her legs when she tried to kick back to the surface. She only managed to gulp a few breaths of air before they pulled her under again.

She hadn't appreciated how fast and deep the river was. On her second gasp for air, she saw that the current was already dragging her out of sight of the screaming girls on the bank. A whirlpool of froth and fae roiled between two large rocks in the middle of the river. The rusalka and her sisters tugged Dindi toward it. Other water fae joined the rusalki. Long snouted pookas, turtle-like kappas and hairy-armed gwyllions all swam around her, leading her to the whirlpool, where even more fae swirled in the whitewater.

"Join our circle, Dindi!" the fae voices gurgled under the water. "Dance with us forever!"

"No!" She kicked and swam and stole another gasp for air before they snagged her again. There were so many of them now, all pulling her down, all singing to the tune of the rushing river. She tried to shout, "Dispel!" but swallowed water instead. Her head hit a rock, disorienting her. She sank, this time sure she wouldn't be coming up again.

"Dispel!" It was a man's voice.

Strong arms encircled her and lifted her until her arms and head broke the surface. Her rescuer swam with her toward the shore. He overpowered the current, he shrugged aside the hands of the water faeries stroking his hair and arms. When he reached the shallows, he scooped Dindi into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the grassy bank. He set her down gently.

She coughed out some water while he supported her back.

"Better?" he asked.

She nodded. He was young--only a few years older than she. The aura of confidence and competence he radiated made him seem older. Without knowing quite why, she was certain he was a Tavaedi.

"Good." He had a gorgeous smile. A wisp of his dark bangs dangled over one eye. He brushed his dripping hair back over his head.

Dindi's hand touched skin--he was not wearing any shirt. Both of them were sopping wet. On him, that meant trickles of water coursed over a bedrock of muscle. As for her, the thin white wrap clung transparently to her body like a wet leaf. She blushed.

"It might have been easier to swim if you had let go of that," he teased. He touched her hand, which was closed around something. "What were you holding onto so tightly that it mattered more than drowning?"

Tara’s blog
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Initiate is free everywhere except on Barnes and Noble (where it’s $0.99). You can download a free .epub version via Smashwords.

You can expect a review on this book in the future.