Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Simile

Simile: A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave a a lion, crazy like a fox).

I'm reading a romance, and really enjoying myself. At the moment I'm around half way through so I won't be posting a full review here - maybe next time. suffice it to say, just the thought of reading another chapter or two brings a grin to my face. If you're interested find Wonderful by Jill Bernett, you won't regret it.

I bring this subject and this book together because there's a few instances where Ms Bernett's use of simile was just a tad off. Here's the one example that sticks in my mind the most:
"...her blood raced through her body as if it were poured from a vat of boiling oil." 
Comparing racing blood with pouring, boiling oil - well, it just didn't bring up the right picture for me. Better might be to say her blood boiled like flaming oil ready to pour off the battlements, or some such thing, but really hot oil pouring anywhere, compared to one's blood, just doesn't sit right. It's the action, you see. Her blood is pumping through her veins and the oil is pouring out of its container.

I guess what I'm getting at, is you need to be careful when you use similes. You want to create a clear picture with a positive comparison. Avoid comparing something to the way something is NOT if at all possible.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

White Star

Back of the book blurb:

When the long dead kings gave Sean their approval for to wear the crown, they also gave him a mission.

…the thing is, they didn’t tell him what it was.

Feeling like a giant hand was pushing him between his shoulder blades and pulling all his nerves and muscles into a hard fist in the process, Sean was driven.

Accomplish what?

All he knew was that he had his dear uncle’s mess to clean up, and he only had until the snow flew to accomplish it all.

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Woohoo!!! It's almost time!! Another book is nearly ready to hit the virtual shelves, can you believe it. Wow!!! I'm not too sure I do. Not too long ago, writing never entered my head, now I have four books already on Amazon, and soon a fifth. It still amazes me when I think of it. 

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(Here's the first day as a teaser)

Training Horses and Men

When Sean and Charles returned from the palace, Seth and his crew were already moving among the horses, slipping nooses over their heads and handing them off to one of the men waiting for them.

When all the horses had been handed off, Seth spread everyone out over the valley around the camp. The day was spent working with the horses. Fortunately, almost everyone had dealt with horses a good deal of their lives, so no one was utterly inexperienced. Thanks to the expertise of Seth and his men, the first day of lessons progressed with few hitches.

From now on someone would care for the horse in every tiny way as often as possible so the horse would quickly get used to the activity. The horses were touched everywhere, they were pushed and pulled. They were led around then lunged in first one direction, then another, then they were handled again. Their feet were picked up again and again. Seth and his men made their way through the throng and taught the men how to pull the horses to lie down on the ground where they were again handled and caressed, then they were let up only to do it all over again.

There were more men than horses in need of this training, and those men who didn’t have a horse to work pulled camp duty. Firewood was gathered and a stew was prepared. When it was ready, everyone filed past with their horse kept close, collected a bowl of stew and then moved off to eat where the horses could graze close by.

The afternoon was much the same as the morning, though the horses were all handed off to someone new. That night, the horses dozed next to their handlers.

Sean’s supply wagons started arriving near midmorning and as soon as they stopped, Sean set to making packsaddles. Elias and Ferris must have stripped every place in the city of every available piece of leather they could find. He worked all day and managed to turn out one saddle about every two hours. Having never made a saddle before, he took one apart so he could copy the parts. Charles helped him keep track so he didn’t make too many of one part and not enough of some other part. Seth pulled him away when supper was ready, and Larry saw to it that he went to bed after, rather than go back to working on the saddles.

Hélène told him once that working magic was a lot like doing it with your own hands; it takes energy. It’s easier with magic, but it still takes energy. He could never have turned out a saddle every two hours with his hands even if he was the best saddle maker in the world, but he had still worked leather and shaped wood for ten hours almost nonstop. He was lucky he was making them from existing material; his turnout would have been somewhat less if he’d had to make them from nothing. He was wiped by the end of the day.

Elias had been able to scrape together thirty-two packsaddles and another dozen riding saddles. Sean was not sure why he sent riding saddles, but they would use them one way or another.

Seth immediately set aside two of those saying they were broken, then he held up one that was less bulky then the rest. Looking directly at Charles, he said, “Looks a little small. We’ll just have to find a horse that’ll fit it.”

Charles looked like he was about ready to burst with the intensity of his excitement, though he didn’t moved a muscle. Seth just smiled and waved his hand in a ‘come on’ gesture and they went looking for a horse that Charles could ride. They came up with a dainty footed little bay mare with long white socks. She pranced a bit, but it looked to Sean like she was willing to learn and willing to please.

They worked the horses with and without saddles every day for long hours while Sean made more saddles. More supply wagons came into camp every day. By the fourth day, the saddles were loaded with sandbags and extra tents or blankets, and even some pots and pans so the horses would get used to flopping material and noise. Sean hoped they would never pack so sloppily, but Seth didn’t want their supplies packed and have the horse bolt because something worked loose and spooked him.

Seth kept Charles and the horse he named Dancer close by his side. Both Charles and Dancer were just learning how to ride, and he didn’t want anything to go wrong.

When Seth was finally satisfied that the young horses were trained well enough, they packed up their gear and headed west; further training could continue on the trail. At first, the men wanted to form up in a military block, but the need to tend the remounts precluded that by a long shot. It wasn’t long before they were strung out in what looked like a loose herd. Larry thought it looked rather funny and chuckled every time he looked around to check their progress.

Their first night on the trail, they were making camp and Larry was pulling the saddle off his horse. In his best western drawl he turned to Sean. “Weel Hoss, this shore ain’t Noy Yok.”

“Naw, Festus,” Sean replied in kind. “It shore ain’t.” He hooked his thumbs in his sword belt with an exaggerated swagger and then hawked up a loud spit. Then both of them burst out laughing when the move didn’t turn out quite the way Sean planned and he had to wipe off his chin.

Those closest to them looked at them as if they had suddenly gone stark raving mad.

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I hope your wait for book 2 was not too long, but above all, I hope you enjoy it. Book 3 will be out next year at this time, and then you can have the whole set. Now that's a milestone too.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Impossible Body

You've heard all the expressions. Swing a leg over. Throwing an arm out. Dropping your jaw. Keeping an eye out. And there are many more. It's important to watch for these expressions. We use them all the time in our speech, but they don't belong in descriptions, though it's entirely possible most of your readers won't notice a thing.

Consider carefully the motion possibilities of the different body parts. While body movement is very useful in showing action as well as attitude, making the body accomplish outlandish feats is something to use with extreme caution.

The legs can do quite a bit. They perform walking, kicking of objects, and an assortment of stands that can indicate attitude. When mounting a horse, it's quite common to 'swing your leg over the saddle'. This is probably the worst example I could come up with, especially if you read westerns or were brought up around horses (or both), but it still illustrates my point. Taken alone, it sounds like this guy had a prosthetic leg and he just detached it in order to hang it over on the other side of the saddle somehow.

Arms are much the same. Very useful as far as body movement. In fact, arms and hands are always in motion unless the hands are tied behind the back. In fact some people might find it difficult to make a point if their hands are bound - possibly - depends on how dependent they are in the use of their hands during talking. Hands are almost always in motion, but you can't 'throw them out'. I see this rather frequently when someone is talking about directing traffic or signaling a turn. There's also 'throwing a punch' to carefully consider.

Every hear this one? "His jaw dropped" You're better off using something like, 'He was gape-mouthed' or something similar. In the interest of future dialogue, it's best to keep the jaw attached to the skull.

Now eyes are probably the easiest to misuse. 'Keep an eye on, or out for, someone or something' may well be the biggest example. 'Rolling eyes' is another, after a fashion. Eyes are very talented; in fact, I like to call them the window into the soul. They are full of expression, but they can't go anywhere on their own. I'm sure you all can come up with many examples of your own. If fact, I would appreciate it if you would post your examples, and possible alternatives, for all of us to share.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cover Conundrum - Some Feedback Please

I've found a little time lately to work on my much neglected, much abused work in progress. Druid Derrick is coming along. Still four years of story line to cover, I'm fast approaching 1000 pages at the moment. So, at a very rough guess, I figure this MS just might reach 2000 pages by the time I reach the planned end.

This is what I did to construct this book. I created an outline based on the Dungeons and Dragons rules creating a timeline around spell levels to give me a clock to follow. This timeline covered ten years, short a month at the beginning.

Since this story is about a druid, and since one of the more important rituals is observed on the full moon, I took my years and divided them up by the phases of the moon. Full moon, first quarter, new moon, and last quarter. Going back to the D&D rules for wandering monsters, I rolled for wondering monsters once for each phase of the moon. I made some adjustments there too. I figured over the centuries since the days of D&D a good many of the nastier monsters had been successfully wiped out, leaving only a few of the more peaceful sentient species, the assortment of normal creatures and of course the different groups of humans. Now, according to the game rules, I should be rolling for wandering monsters twice during the day and at least once at night, but I figured, for this project, four times a month was more than enough to give me something to write about. And as you can see. It certainly has.

Since this book has grown to be so long, I am left with a bit of a conundrum. Books this long are rather hard to publish all in one piece, and books twice this long, even harder. I knew this by the time I reached 500 pages but I wasn't sure what to do about it. Over time, as opportunity presented itself, I've asked more than one publisher about this, and I have been advised to break this book up into several short eBooks. But where to break? I could break it at the beginning of each year, but that's not really a breaking point. It looks like this book will be broken at each rise in level, even though such an event isn't much of a break in the story; I suppose it can be though, with a minimum of sculpting.

So with that decision mostly made, that leaves me with 16 planned eBooks. Now comes the cover issue. I'm fairly certain I can't use pictures of the main character, because it would be next to impossible to find different pictures of the same person spanning ten years, with enough variety to use on 16 different books. Recently I had the idea to use some druidic symbols. I spend all day yesterday looking for symbols with the help of a recent friend and druid. I finally came up with enough symbols, all black-and-white line jobs. Most of them will need to be redrawn to standardize line thickness and size, but it's a starting point.

Okay, so now I have this symbol that will dominate the center of the cover - what about the rest? Do I put a title on the books at all? How about just a number?

Here is what each section is called at the moment, and you can see my problem:

  • Crossing the Boundary
  • Aspirant
  • Ovate
  • Initiate of the 1st Circle
  • Initiate of the 2nd Circle
  • Initiate of the 3rd Circle
  • Initiate of the 4th Circle
  • Initiate of the 5th Circle
  • Initiate of the 6th Circle
  • Initiate of the 7th Circle
  • Initiate of the 8th Circle
  • Initiate of the 9th Circle
  • Druid
  • Archdruid
  • Great Druid
  • The Grand Druid

Would these titles be okay as they stand? Your opinion please. Maybe written to fit across the top of the book? Or just down the spine? I'm open to any suggestions.

And this discussion brings us to other details regarding the covers. Appearance. Color. At this point I'm seeing something like an aged leather cover with gold lettering. If you Google 'leather bound books' there's many nice looking choices.

Okay now, lets imagine for a moment we have all these eBooks published. I'd still like to have the entire thing published as a paperback - all in one piece. I'm not sure CreateSpace can handle such a thing. I'll cross that issue when I get that far, but the idea once again brings up the cover issue. What should I use for this cover? The title of the manuscript? Druid Derrick (unless that changes between now and then)? Same leather style cover? What do you think?

I'm looking for a little feedback on this issue.