Monday, July 27, 2015

What is a Website to You?

Everyone knows what a website is. It is different things to different people, but mostly you are trying to sell something to someone. I try to sell my books from my website as well as my writing services. But really, what kind of information should you have on your website? That too depends on the purpose of you site.

To put it simply, you website is your on-line face. It is a representation of you and your business. Every business is different, but your customers need to be able to go there and have any of their questions answered.

There's no guarantee they will read the information offered, but it still needs to be there. If your customers call and asks a question, the answer needs to be on your website - especially if more than one customer happens to ask some version of the same question.

I have a dream of one day running my own little lodge. It is only a dream, but I've devoted some time to the concept and I've created another weebly website for the idea. Though I've never advertised it in any way, it still gets a hit or two now and then. I copied some of the information from the lodge website where I used to work - things like pricing and such, but I wanted it to tell my wishful-thinking customer everything he or she might want to know. What will I offer - what you might be able to expect at certain times of the year - and most importantly, how much will whatever cost. There's also a list of recommended things to pack. I'm a realist; I'm no spring chicken so it's fairly certain that this dream will never come to fruition, but it's an exercise in pleasure. Every once in a while I'll stop in there and make sure it still says everything I think it should.

Does your website represent you? Have you answered all your customers questions there? If not, you should, and the sooner the better.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting into the Groove

It's hard to get into the groove. Lately all I seem to want to do is read. Of course editing is a perfect opportunity to do that, as long as I don't let my desire to read get in the way of the editing process. Lately, that's been kind of hard cause the stories really were very good.

Getting back into my own story has been really hard lately. At this point I can't tell if it's just because I'm so far behind on it, or if I'm getting tired of it. Both issues are very frustrating; add to that the fact that I go back to work in a week, which is another delay, makes it kinda hard to pick up the groove. The last couple days has been the hardest of all. I don't seem to be in the mood for anything - not even Facebook. Aaaahhh

Anyway - I think I'm due for a break. This blog will take a summer vacation, unless I rally by next week. Don't worry. Nothing holds me down for long. At best, I'll be back next week like usual. At worst, I'll be back by September. I certainly won't be off for long. I remember before I started blogging - I didn't have a clue what I'd write about. I've grown to love it, even if only a handful of people ever stop by. This, and my other blogs have all become something of a chronicle of my writing journey as well as my life.

So - no worries. I'll be back. I have more books to publish.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do you communicate with your readers?

Do you communicate with your readers? Those who are other than Facebook friends that is?

I remember when I was a kid, I'd read some book and there was an address in the back. As I recall, it was something like 'you can contact the author through the publisher'. Being impressed I guess, I fired off a letter. I don't even remember what I wrote - probably some kind of gushy fan thing. Anyway, I have no idea if the letter ever got through - I never got any kind of reply. For all I know, the publisher chucked it in the trash.

When I first got internet out here, I put some thought into what kind of online presence I wanted. Since we got internet primarily so I could make a stab at marketing my own book, my goal was to promote myself as a writer/author. And since I fully believe in helping other writers like me, I went to great lengths to find and share important writing tips and tricks. I also vowed to be as communicative with my readers and fans as I possibly could.

I have always believed that honesty really is the best policy, and I put a good deal of effort into trying to be diplomatic about it. I won't blurt out the truth, knowing it will hurt someone's feelings. However, I learned early on that telling a writer their work had mistakes, hurt some feelings. I also learned early on - it is big advice out there - that a writer needs to grow a thick skin for that very reason. Their baby just might not be the gem they envisioned it being - not yet anyway.

Not long ago, I got an email from a writer, asking me to read and review their book. Early on, it sounded like the main characters were gradeschoolers, but I suspect someone told him that he would sell more books if the characters were older. So, pretty much the only change he made to the book was the age of his characters. He made a few more changes that were age-appropriate like one of the characters could drive. The biggest mistake he made with this story was not changing any of the behavior of his characters. Ten-year-olds just act different - like kids, and where twenty-year-olds might make some of the same decisions - a few might even act like they were still ten, but on the whole, they have outgrown the adolescent behavior. Not so with these characters. The story read like he'd made a quick alteration and then threw the book out there. Needless to say, I sent him an email saying as much long before I was even half way through - I mean, really, the book was very annoying, though really there didn't seem to be anything wrong with the story premise.

Did I hear back from him? Not a peep. Were his feelings hurt? Probably. But it was better he hear this from me in an email rather than have me post what would have been a rather scathing review, not that I would have listed a bunch of details, but like I said, I believe in the truth - I would have said as much.

Most recently, I contacted two different authors to inform them of mistakes I'd found in their kindle edition books. One was an entire scene repeat of two or three pages, as if the scene had been copied twice in a row. The other was a hyphenated word that happened to fall at the end of a page and the second half was just gone. I didn't know if the word was the end of the paragraph or not, and I wasn't sure what the whole word was - for this one, I went to Amazon and looked inside the sample available there. It was the last word of the paragraph too, and apparently it didn't occur in the paperback edition.

Just so you know, if you ever spot a mistake in one of my books - LET ME KNOW. I want to go fix it as fast as at all possible. Frankly, I'm surprised no one ever contacted me about anything in my first book, though I did get one review that told me the writing was rather rough - Thanks for that. When I read back through it, I could only cringe - I'd learned a thing or two since publishing that book, mostly since we got internet here.

Over the years, I've gotten a handful of emails concerning my books. So far, those notes have all been good, and to show that I am approachable, I replied to every one. I fully intend to continue in that vein. You will get an honest review from me, and if it's going to be a bad review, I'll let you know in an email, or if I can't do that, I won't post anything. I have no desire to hurt another writer's sales. I also generally don't review a book that already has hundreds of review. What's the point?

What do you do? Do you talk to your readers? Do you hear from any?


Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Next Book

Sorry this is late - I found myself distracted by Facebook yesterday. It happens sometimes. When the TV is on, thinking kind of takes a hiatus and time slips away while my finger surf through my game on Facebook. Bad me, bad me.

Anyway, this week I planned to tell you all about my next book. I won't even mess with it until next fall after I'm done with work. 12-hour day-7-day weeks tend to suck me pretty dry in no time at all.

By popular vote (only 3), my next book will be Lord of the Land. You can read a detailed accounting here. Anyway, a trio of young men, more boys really, passing as soldiers, enter an inn to escape the weather and recover a little from some battle they'd endured a short time before. One of them can't go any farther, and there's a chance that he will never go any farther anywhere, but he's lucky. In the mean time, his two friends hurry on in an effort to warn the king, who is the father of one of them, of an impending coup. They don't make it.

With father and son displayed over the gate, everyone is confident that the tyranny is over, only it isn't really. You see, the son displayed beside his father was the second son born to the king, but no one knew of the first born, he'd been sent away and his existence expunged by the queen.

As the country crumbles under the factions squabbling with each other over the throne, our young prince seeks to earn his keep, but he can't stay at the inn forever. The old innkeeper won't let him. He sends for another old friend who takes the prince under his wing and tries to teach him how to be a knight and a prince, hoping that one day he will take his rightful place on the throne and put order to the chaos.

However, their plan didn't work out quite like they planned. The prince fell in love and settled down to raise cattle and a family. He was quite happy, until his past came knocking on his door when he wasn't home. Not that his past knew whose door they knocked on, but the result was the same. After burying his family, he went after revenge, but the one man wasn't enough. An entire web of revenge surfaced and it needed tending to.

Along the way, he learned a lot about his true roots and the tattoo on his chest. It's quite a journey. Along the way, he discovered a deep attachment to the land, one that superseded his efforts to rule his country and to raise another family, but there was no choice. The magic pulled - He was the first Lord of the Land in generations, and it wasn't just his country he was committed to look after. He was compelled to protect all of the land. That didn't stop him from returning home frequently, and as a result his bloodline was more than certain, and his legacy was too.


There are places in this book that always brings me to tears, no matter how many times I read it. I really tortured this poor guy, but he so blossomed. I'm curious what will happen under a rewrite. You'll know when it gets there. If you'd like to beta-read, let me know. I can send a copy now or later after the rewrite. I really do love the feedback, no matter what it is. Heck, you might even have a good idea for a cover.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Slang, you say?

A friend of mine from across the pond asked me a while back if he should change the spelling of his book in order to market it here in America. I told him I wouldn't worry so much about the spelling - it's not really all that different - only the occasional extra u here and there. No, I told him that the biggest issue I had with reading books from around the world is the area-specific slang.

Language is such a melting pot, and it's very likely that English is the biggest melting pot of them all. Of course, I don't really have much experience with many other languages. I know that the Swiss language, spoken, is very region specific, being a mix of German to the north, French to the west. Russian to the northeast, Austrian to the east, and Italian to the south. The Swiss language, written, is German. At least that's how I understand it. I can't speak it. I took German when I was in college, but I could never remember the vocabulary. But I also took a class on Old English, which I found fascinating, but which I also failed.

At any rate, regardless of my ineptitude at languages, I love listening to them, and because I'm good at listening, I can hear similarities between them. As we (humans) mixed and moved around over the centuries, our words also left their mark wherever we went, and as an end result slang took different forms in different regions. I read (or tried to read) a book once where the slang was so unfamiliar and so liberally used, that I lost the content of the story from time to time. As I recall, that writer was somewhere in the south of Ireland, I think.

It's not that slang is a bad thing. Quite the contrary. It adds a flavor and it adds character to one or more characters. You just have to be careful to make sure all your readers can understand it. If you have someone who is from the out back of Timbuktu whose slang is so stiff it's nearly another language, you might want to add in a new friend from somewhere very proper (and yet within reach). That way you can have someone constantly asking for clarification. Might add a little comedy too if misunderstandings can abound. If it's just the odd word, make sure the surrounding content adds definition.

At any rate, don't lose your reader to slang.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Other Side of the Page

Imagine, if you will, that the page you are filling with words has something else on the other side. On the other side of that page, your words are creating a movie. Of course if your words are unclear, your movie will be unclear as well. Not that it's bad, just slightly out of focus, and maybe only here and there. Maybe no one will notice, and maybe they will refine the blur with something from their own imagination, and this is just fine in most cases, but once in a isn't.

Most of the time you can allow your reader/movie-goer to fill in the gaps and your movie will be everything you both are quite happy with, but where the reader's imagination might hit rather off in left field is when the lack of description leaves them to assume. I'm reading a book (yeah, most of these posts come because of a book I'm reading) where the 'people' aren't the normal kind of human you and I see every day. With Trolls as a part of this world, I can accept that things are going to be very different. The fact that much of society is dictated by a 'crest' grown at puberty, also tells me that the 'people' aren't quite normal.

The thing is, with this book, I don't really know what this crest - any version - looks like. I have no problem picturing the Trolls - they're various degrees of big. They have tusks. They have three fingers and a thumb. They have huge feet. They stink. But appearances can be deceiving - they are not stupid. One race - crystal clear.

The crested race was also perfectly clear - all except the crest. Bald until puberty. Five fingers and a thumb (assumed). Standard facial features (assumed). Two legs and two arms (assumed). A full range of body sizes and shapes (assumed). What lead all of my assumptions? All the pronouns - he - she - woman - man - you get the idea; we use them all, all of the time. They lead me to picture yo average Jo or Josephine of whatever position in life. The fact that growing hair was the height of bad luck, and that such a person would be utterly shunned was brought up early on, as was the waiting for the cresting. The main character is 14 and his cresting is late. He's VERY anxious about it. To remain a 'moon-head' for the rest of his life was only a little better than growing hair. What teenager doesn't worry about how they are perceived by those around them?

So what does this crest look like? It will decide his standing in his society. It will influence the standing of his family. Above all, it will dictate what class of magic, if any, he'll be able to access. At first I thought it might be something like a stiff mohawk only maybe stiffer. They come in all shapes and sizes, and there was some mention of temper engorging them will blood so I picture something like a rooster's crest. However, a comment of 'running fingers through it lead me to think of something more spiny. I mean, all the other details have to still apply.

Having found this book on Twitter, I asked the author about this. His vision was something primal to the Minbari from Babylon 5. Interesting. Now I have a new detail to add to my still-blurry view of these crests. Ah but this is really only a minor detail. The kid's crest is supposed to be something unique; I'm sure I'll get a proper focus eventually. So, stay in focus. Questions, distract your reader - remember that.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Appearance of Your Work

I've always been very picky about what my books looked like. That's inside; covers were a learning curve - I certainly made my mistakes with the first one. To date, the biggest issue I've had was keeping the fonts I like. I'll frequently use some sort of handwriting font in notes shown in the books.

My biggest hurdle in preserving my fonts is the Kindle edition, but I've come to accept that there's never going to be anything fancy there. That doesn't mean I don't try for the best appearance I can.

For my latest book - my ninth book - a number that still amazes me - I had an additional problem. I used star symbols to clue the gaps, and in a couple other spots. I really, really liked them. My story, after all, was a science fiction story. By the time kindle made the translation, they looked like some kind of Chinese writing. It was really quite bewildering.

My first effort was to try loading a pdf, though Kindle doesn't really like that. When that didn't work, my next option was to turn these symbols into small pictures. What a pain. Well, not really but still... I only have Paint, and Paint for MAC isn't as good as what I had on my PC, but it works well enough. It has a habit of quitting if I get to complicated with it, but with patience I can usually get it to do what I need it to do.

So - I was working my way through my manuscript, pasting in my little pictures, when I discovered another spot that needed like attention. Using Futhark font - font that looks like elven writing in Lord of the Rings - I used that font to identify the monsters in my book. It is a very angular, harsh, font - fitting, I thought, for how my monsters would see themselves. The point of needing to keep that font was that the subsequent name of my monsters evolved from how it looked translated into equivalent letters in our language. There was no way around it and keep that thread in tact. Of course, Kindle translated that font to Times which killed the whole thread entirely. I had to turn that into pictures too. Fortunately there was only three places where that was needed. The tricky part was cropping my image down tight enough to not cut off any part of a letter, and still not have the image take up too much space in the line of typing. That was a toughie. It's not perfect, but I don't think I can do any better.

My biggest problem with all this was that Word didn't always put my star symbols pictures where I wanted them. Most times they allowed a space under them (which I wanted), but sometimes they didn't - every time I tried to add that space, the picture would jump to the middle of the paragraph - I couldn't figure out why, and there was simply nothing I could do to change it. And of course Kindle picked up on that. So upon occasion, you'll see those stars sitting close to the next paragraph, whereas most of the time there's a space above and below them. Inconsistency annoys me no end, but not so much so when I can't fix it.

How much do you pay attention to the appearance of your books? Sometimes I wonder when I see all manner of formatting inconsistencies in the books I buy.


Saturday, April 11, 2015


My latest book - can you believe it? I mean, I had them all written already, years ago, but actually getting them published and out there is such a wondrous concept for me. I really can't explain it. I've devoured these kinds of books since I was a kid, but I never really thought I'd be writing any. And when my son gave me that old laptop way back when, I didn't really know what else to do with it. We didn't have any internet at the time, and what do you do with a glorified typewriter. Oh yeah, and it had Paint and I had an Encarta encyclopedia on it too. Couple that with the desire to read something I hadn't already read and this is what you get, I guess. Well now - I got four more to go and then I'm down to a large fistful of short stories. I guess we'll be talking about those somewhere along the line.

Anyway - I digress - my apologies

Guardians is my second (so far) science fiction story. Idea elements came from the video game, Final Fantasy VIII, which gave me my first soldier, Reed, the dark haired guy, and all his abilities. Like in the game, I needed an enemy, but the enemy in the game was too ambiguous, so I turned to my favorite movie for that idea. Starship Troopers had the perfect enemy for me, but I needed them to be just a little more believable so they aren't exact, and of course they had to be different in other ways too.

During the course of writing this book, the enemy evolved. Being space-faring, they had to be highly intelligent, but running up against humans proved to be more than they expected. I'm going to assume that somewhere in their distant past, roaches somewhere gave them fits so they took on the bug form and it served them quite well for a very long time, but against humans, it wasn't good enough; they were being pushed back, and they couldn't have that. The next logical step (I love logic) would be to create one of their own.

Enter my second character. Reed found him at the age of maybe two way down in the bug hive and named him Adam. He was human in every way except his DNA. Reed raised him like his own, right along with his family, and he was normal in every way right up until his magic developed.

Born with an ability that could not be genetically transmitted from parent to child in any way, he had to learn how to use it, and he had to keep it quiet - he wasn't entirely successful, but he never found himself under some dissection knife. He had too many friends in powerful places. He could, however, fly the pants off anything with wings, and was a well-known in all the simulator hangers. After he joined the Air Force, he became a force to be reckoned with in his own right.

I know that all sounds so peachy, but no journey through life is easy. It seems a family relative wanted him. She tried to get her claws on him when he was a kid, but that didn't succeed. By the time she found him again, he was essentially untouchable, but there were other ways. There's no knowing all of her reasoning, or if her reasoning was even rational, but they do eventually meet, much to her dismay.

Read it - leave a review.

I gotta go work on the document some before I can put it up as an eBook, because Kindle doesn't recognize the symbols I used to mark gaps - I need to turn them into pictures and see if that works. Sigh - Too bad pdf doesn't work for kindle publishing.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Best Word

There a best word for every situation. I'm reading a book now - just started it today, and I think I'll like it, but every once in a while, I come across a word that just creates the wrong picture for the content of the sentence. The latest one that comes to mine is how steam from the hot shower 'engulfed' the bathroom mirror. We all know what the picture is supposed to be, how steam had turned the mirror into a frosted panel, but 'engulfed' says the mirror is now gone, it has been eaten by the steam. I know, it's a minor thing, but there were quite a few of these sorts of things so far in this book.

At any rate - since I'm late with this post, having been distracted by an editing job I wanted to get finished last night since I was so close to the end. The task caused me to forget what day it was, and really, I hadn't thought about what exactly what to write.

Well, that's my 2 cents on that subject.

Another book I've been reading presented a different sort of problem, namely how old you say your characters are and how old they act. A book was given to me to review, and well within the first handful of chapters I knew the three main characters, a brother and sister and a male best friend, were most assuredly not the 18 & 20 the author said they were. By their actions they were maybe 8 & 10 at the most. The subject matter would dictate that they be no younger than that, but some of their actions were extremely juvenile. I got the distinct impression that just maybe the story had originally been written for the younger age range and then hastily converted to aim for an older age group. At any rate, I sent the guy an email saying as much, but I haven't heard back from him. I am not going to post a bad review. I do wish him luck. I like the snarky voice of the story; this writer, I think, will go far.

And, that's my 2 cents on that subject too.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Author Spotlight - Richard Milton

Visit Richard's Amazon Author Page at - - I'm so happy to have crossed paths with him. Find him on FaceBook too -

Enjoy the interview. I sure did.

What inspired you to become a writer? Why did you go from non-fiction to fiction? Why did you choose this particular genre?
I wanted to be a writer since I was nine or ten. I would make up treasure maps and bury them in the garden hoping someone would discover them and dig them up. Sadly, they never did. When I was 15 I bought an old cast-iron typewriter from a junk shop, lugged it home on the bus and taught myself to type. The books I wrote in the evenings were not very original and, like the treasure maps, remained undiscovered.

Eventually I managed to get a job as a journalist and worked on business magazines and newspapers. I developed an interest in geology and spent my spare time visiting cliffs and quarries collecting rocks and fossils and this started me investigating Darwinism. My first book was Shattering the Myths of Darwinism, which didn’t go down too well with some sections of the scientific community, who started foaming at the mouth and chewing the carpets. Richard Dawkins called me ‘loony’ and suggested I needed ‘psychiatric treatment’, although he didn’t trouble himself to respond to any of the scientific questions I raised.

I wrote several other non-fiction books. Alternative Science looks at the curious phenomenon where some scientists are averse to new discoveries and declare certain subjects taboo. Bad Company looks at why large corporations sometimes behave in insanely self-defeating ways. Best of Enemies examines Anglo-German relations through two world wars and the birth of the PR industry.

I started writing fiction because I find it the most challenging and the most satisfying form, but in my stories the factual background is never far away and I like themes that introduce the unusual, the exotic and even the paranormal into everyday life.
What’s your strongest point as a writer?
I consider myself very lucky to have been trained in old-school journalism where you are compelled to express the facts as economically as possible and still tell an interesting and engaging story. I was given one tip early on that I find very useful in fiction. I always draft a novel first (mainly) in dialogue, like a screenplay, and add the exposition and descriptions later. This makes your story lean and mean and stops all the throat-clearing and long-winded descriptions.
As Author, what do you consider your most difficult obstacle?
The biggest obstacle to writers is the traditional publishing industry which now works against us rather than with us. The big publishers have squeezed out mid-range authors in favour of books “authored” by TV celebrities, sports stars and models, and will no longer even look at unagented manuscripts. The good news is that the reservoir of writing talent that traditional publishers have sponged off for so long now has an alternative outlet in the form of professional self publishing and especially Kindle.
What new projects can we look forward to from you, and where and when will they be available?
I’m putting all my books, past, present and future on Kindle. So far, I’ve published Dead Secret, The Glass Harmonica and Conjuring for Beginners, as well as my non-fiction book Shattering the Myths of Darwinism. If anyone wishes to review any of these, please email me and I’ll be happy to email you a complementary copy.

My latest Kindle novel is Conjuring For Beginners (only put up last week and at the time of writing no-one has yet reviewed it at all). It’s a story about a woman magazine journalist, Rosa Daniels, whose father - Ferdy Daniels - is a legendary con artist living out his days in Switzerland. When Ferdy dies alone and penniless, Rosa, inherits his victims who are convinced she was his partner in crime. To stay alive, Rosa must unravel Ferdy’s web of deceits. But to understand her father’s past, she must learn to become as quick-witted and cunning as Ferdy. She must learn to become a conjuror like him.

In the next few months, I’ll be publishing a fourth fiction book, a collection of short stories called True Stories, and more non-fiction, starting with The Ministry of Spin and then a follow-up to my Darwin book titled Darwin Doesn’t Work Here Anymore.
Where can we find you?
My website, with more details of all my books is at If anyone would like to contact me directly my email is (note the site has a different domain name from the email).


Friday, March 20, 2015

Dead Secrets by Richard Milton

This book was given to me to review. It was presented as a paranormal romance. Cover unseen at this point, those two words brought up a couple pictures in my mind. Paranormal of course usually brings up something to do with vampires or werewolves, not that I mind much, but the subject is getting rather old in my opinion. And then there is romance. Most romance I've seen lately involves a whole lot of "love at first glimpse" and "I just can't live without him/her". The rest of the book, in my opinion, too many of them fall just short of erotica as the erstwhile pair struggles to hate each other while at the same time they can't stay out of each others pants. The whole point of the story is to get from point A-in bed to point B-in bed to point C-in bed... You get my point.


This book has paranormal more along the lines of precognition and the romance is the kind that makes you cringe with fear. Yes, I said fear. Almost as soon as Tony meets Miss Eve Canning, he loves her, but he still carries on with his research. His goal, to debunk scientifically one wealthy psychic. However an inheritance from his mother opens a puzzle-box that he can't resist. When his work starts to cross paths with the mystery surrounding his mother, he has to dig hard, and when his psychic ends up dead, Tony starts mixing with the rich and rather freaky. I mean, when some old lady with a title can shell out 7 million for a skull... Yeah - scary.

Have I tweaked your curiosity yet? This book is well written and well researched. If I didn't know it was fiction, I could have easily taken it for some kind of diary. It lead into realms, London, that is, I'd never been to before, and yet I had no trouble following in Tony's footsteps, nor did I have any trouble following his logic. I don't believe I would have made the choice he made at the end, but then again, I was more than a little scared of Eve, and I wasn't in love with her.


Friday, March 13, 2015

The Trials of the Youngest Princess

My next book. Isn't that face awesome? She is so out for revenge.


I see Princess Anella as a tom boy (like me) before such an idea every occurred or was tolerated by anyone. That means that her interests and talents weren't quite feminine, but she tried.

So why is she out for revenge? Well, you see, even though she was willing to accept that her growing skill with a sword could never be seen beyond the midnight lessons in the arms-room, an uncle she'd never been told about had other plans - not that he knew anything about her first hand.

Thanks to her passion for the tournament (like her father and her brothers), she wasn't in the palace at a time when everything fell apart. Her uncle somehow was able to smuggle a sizable force into the palace when everyone was busy preparing for the ball that would take place after. Anella came in after the coup was successful to find her father impaled and her brothers hung from the rafters. That is enough to give anyone nightmares.

Since she is in disguise as a boy, she is able to see and then get away before anyone is the wiser. And then she is on the run. Until she can figure a way to drum up an army and undo the damage, she's just a girl, seventeen years old, who happens to be pretty good with a sword.

One thing evolves to another and someone comes up with the idea of following the tournament circuit. Just following wasn't good enough either. Passing as a boy of roughly fourteen, she needed to sharpen her skill with the sword enough to win each event. She could accomplish two things this way. First, competing in every district around the land would almost certainly see her presented to the new king personally, but almost might not be good enough; placing well would very likely seal the deal and she would be able to confront the man who had killed her father and brothers face to face. The other thing she could accomplish is a private meeting with each of the lords who were attached to her family via marriage. Everyone could make an appearance at the grand tournament in the capital, and lords could bring an entourage of guards; they would even be invited to the ball, and could bring an escort. With luck, her army would be enough. With luck, she would be presented to the king. Everything - the entire house of cards - depended on if the new king, her uncle, was as passionate about the tournament as her father had been. It depended on how much of the customs he'd changed and how much he'd much he'd kept the same.

Need I say... Yeah, she got the bad guy, but that's not where this story ends. You see, he's had an entire year to import his own personal army. Now she had to go after them. No way could she just let them wander around uncontested.

I'm working my way through a final edit and waiting for some feedback from some pre-readers, or beta readers as they are commonly known. You'll be seeing this book on Amazon hopefully by the end of the month. Look for it.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

How do you Walk?

I just read a really cute book. It was about a guy who can't have kids so his wife divorces him. He's going through a bad patch, struggling with depression and lack of motivation. A bad day can't get any worse when he gets a flat tire. And then a space craft crashes nearby. Well of course he and the tow truck driver simply have to explore, and the open door is so inviting. I mean, it was a crash; someone might be hurt. Deep inside they come face to face with gun-toting green folks and of curse the logical thing to do is pick up the closest thing that looks like a weapon and arm yourself. Um yeah, it didn't work out that way. Turns out this 'weapon' was a pregnancy inducer and it was pointing backwards, and yeah, it goes off. Now we have two guys who are pregnant with alien babies. Not written as a comedy, it was nonetheless very entertaining as this poor guy struggles with all the things us women go through - morning sickness, cravings, being unable to reach things on the floor, and emotional swings, among other things.

The biggest drawback about this book, little that it was, was the inexperience of the writer. Don't get me wrong, I loved the story. I recommend you read it, but the reason for this post is because many times other words for movement could have been used to improve the story.

I googled for a list of words one might use instead of walk and found this. Each word elicits a picture or an emotion, and it is key to your efforts to show rather than tell. Anyone can walk from point A to point B, but the word conveys just that - any-old-one. It says absolutely nothing about your character. Let's think about a few of those words and see what they say:

Amble: Who would you picture ambling? What does this stride say? I picture a cowboy as he makes his way across the corral. Such a stride would keep the contents of that corral calm because it is a smooth stride.

Hobble: This might indicate someone who is or has been injured. It might also indicate age as in very old. Think about it; if you saw someone hobbling along in front of you, what's the first thing you would think of that person. Environment would have a deciding factor in your judgement but found on Anystreet USA, you'd likely think old.

Mosey: This might, if you're paranoid enough, make you think of someone up to no good.

The word used frequently in the above mentioned book is:

Wander: To wander is to be aimless in your direction and intention.  It might also indicate a head injury, or disability such as severely retarded.

These are only a few of those words so you should go there and maybe copy the list. It's important that you use the word that best conveys the attitude of the person you're writing about. Think about it. how many soldiers do you think wander around the battlefield? How many little girls walk down the hall? You get the idea. Now run with it.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

To Rush Your Editor

Have you ever read a book that felt like all or part of it had been rushed? I have. There's a difference between ramping up the drama of things like a fight scene and a car chase, and simply rushing through a scene, skimming over the details with only the ending in sight and no care given to the journey to get there.

But there's another rushing you should really avoid, and that is trying to rush your editor. I know how anxious you can get when you've finally written those final words - The End - and then you ship your baby off to the editor. Some marketing strategies aim for certain holidays in the hopes to catch those shopping for Christmas or Valentine's Day because the content of the book is relevant. But if that is the issue, it would be better to hold off till the next year than to rush your editor.

I recently took a job where publication was aimed for Valentine's day. The writer told me that from the beginning. She was aiming to be done with the first draft by the end of January. Knowing that it can take 3 or 4 days to see a paperback up on Amazon, that didn't give me much time. I did try. she was asking for chapters almost every day. It was a good thing she had another reader to go through it, and with screen shots, things I'd were pointed out to her.

Me, I'm a stickler for picky so I was utterly mortified at the list - crazy little things like missing words and extra words left over from sentence adjustments. Now I will admit that there were a couple there I might have missed no matter what. Those annoying words that look very similar and are even pronounced alike but with a slight spelling variance making it mean something entirely different. I'm not perfect.

Anyway, she sent the document back to me, even offering to pay me for a second round, but I won't take pay for a document I've already been paid for. Now six months after the fact might be a different issue.

At any rate, I have a wonderful trick I discovered way back when I had my first computer. Back then - seven years ago now - my PC would read a pdf if you told it to. On a later computer, I could tell my computer to read whatever text I selected. I'm sorry, I don't have a PC anymore and I don't remember how I did it then. There should be a text to speech option for selected text. On my MAC I had to set up a key command, and if you're a computer whiz you can figure out how to do that too. I had to be talked through it by a tech over the phone. I'm sure, even with a PC, you can call up someone who can help you too. I'm having my computer read this document and I've found much more than just those caught by her other reader.

I encourage you to try it out. You'd be surprised the little things this trick will help you find. For me, other than those annoying words that look so close to something that should belong in that sentence, this helps me with coma placement and sentence rhythm. It's a rhythm that the brain puts in there most of the time, but with a little literary help, the end result is less work for the reader, affording them more enjoyment in the content of the story. Try it - you'll like it - I'm sure of it.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chapters Seven and Eight

According to the book, before going any farther, I should haven written up my script. However, I have other goals I need and want to accomplish before taking that step. First is to get my next book, The Trials of the Youngest Princess, polished and off to a critical reader, and hopefully published very soon. Also before actually diving into this particular script, the book itself need a facelift. I simply don't want AuthorHouse to claim any credit for the movie in any way, shape, or form. They may have gotten me my book, but they did nothing to help me thereafter, and despite the top dollar I spent on the project, I have yet to recoup my losses. I'm sure, under a new cover, and with an accompanying script, it will do much better. I have to admit, I learned things from AuthorHouse, but mostly I learned what not to do.

Even though I am not writing this script at this time, the last two chapters were just as informative and the rest of the book.

Chapter Seven is another polishing checklist. Sometimes you just can't see things until it's all written out.
  1. Does the lead character actually lead? Well, in my case, no he doesn't, not until he figures out that the bad guy is actively searching for him. Only then does he take charge, but it's also part of his character arc. Will I be able to pull that off? Only time will tell. Somehow I have to make Harris likable enough to keep those who decide engaged.
  2. Is the script showing or telling? Just like in writing fiction, showing is vital, maybe more so. And back-story can be the worst to deal with. NEVER have your characters tell us all about how sorry he is about breaking momma's favorite cup. You get my point, I think.
  3. How bad is the bad guy? Blake says make him (or her) as bad as possible. Have you noticed how evil blond women are? Good thing my demented queen has black hair (I pictured Cher with her long black hair when I wrote her), but she's not the real bad guy.
  4. How does your plot progress? Your plot needs to do more than simply progress from point A to point B, it needs to spin and intensify, rather like a dust devil that turns into a tornado.
  5. How emotion-ridden is your movie? Have you ever noticed that the best movies leave you wrung out and exhausted? That's what you need to strive for. Just like in writing a book, if you can make your reader laugh or cry (cry is the hardest), you're on the right track. And if you can do that to yourself, especially if you're not really the emotional type, you're really on a roll.
  6. How lively is your dialogue? You don't want your watchers to fall asleep over your what your characters say. Make sure what your character says is more than merely a place holder, or a means of taking up time until the next page. 
  7. Has your characters actually made a journey through the movie? Don't get so wrapped up in reaching to the end that you forget about getting there.  Remember, all books or movies are about the journey, not what the ending will be. When I start writing a book, one thing I plan is an ending, more often than not, I don't always hit the mark. My Princess book is a good example of that. I'd planned that the book would end when she killed the man who killed her father and her brothers. Needless to say she still had to find and eliminate his army.
  8. Can you tell the difference between your characters? If you were blindfolded and someone read dialogue of different characters to you (you can't cheat and remember what this or that character says), could you tell the difference between them? Does the girlfriend sound exactly like the father? There is a point in The Ghost and the Darkness where two different people say exactly the same thing. I can't remember exactly what the phrase is just now, but it was such a blatant fopah, when two people from very different backgrounds and pasts talk the same, it just blows the entire thing.
  9. And of course, as throughout the rest of the book, is it primal? Primal emotions drive us all, and in a movie it has to be intense. There's just no time for subtleties.
The last piece of advice for this chapter was to take a step back. Give it a rest. Good advice for your book too. Put it away for a while

The last chapter is all about tips and pointers on how to sell your finished product, to include some resources that I'll probably get at some point. Herein is another example of how living out here in the middle of nowhere is a liability. Selling myself, whether to a producer or to an agent, is every bit as important as the script itself. This goes for selling books too. I know my books would sell much better if I could get out there and do book-signing. I can't count the number of books I've sold simply because the person met and liked me, even if only online. I can't imagine how many I could sell if I could get out among people. salesman I am not.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Chapter Six

Now that I have a rough outline, and now that I have plotted out my scenes (I hope), chapter six is rather like a checklist to the final polish. Blake Snyder lays out a list of ironclad laws he has developed over the years.

Let me clarify:
  •  Save the Cat is that moment very early on where the viewer gets to see why your main character is likable. It's that moment where, no matter what bad-ass thing he or she might be doing, he or she takes a moment to do some tiny good thing. A good gesture isn't the only way to get your viewers to like your character; humor works too. you might go this route if your characters are somewhat less than likable. 
  • Pope in the Pool is a way of showing us the back-story without boring us with dialogue. Just like in writing, you need to decide what is vital and figure out how to show it efficiently. This tactic is to make the scene interesting enough that we don't really notice the back-story being fed to us.
  • Double  Mumbo Jumbo is the unbreakable law that says you can only have one kind of extra ordinary something per movie. For instance, if your movie has cyborgs as a fairly common ability, you can't also have super-heroes like batman to combat them. In other words 'keep it simple'. Now Blake admits doubling up on the mumbo jumbo is done all the time in comic books, they are really in bad taste for any serious movie.
  • Laying Pipe is another way of saying you're laying the groundwork leading to the gist of the story. When you sit down to a movie, how much of this movie are you going to tolerate if the start-up drags? It's the same consideration when writing a book. I'm sure you've all read books that just don't get interesting until half way through; I've read a few basically never 'got into it'. This is why Blake limits his scripts to 25 pages to lay the pipe. Can I do it? I hope so.
  • Black Vet or Too Much Marzipan is kind of like a tiny inside joke. Most people might not get it. The description he gives in the book refers to clips made for Saturday Night Live. The clip showed a black man cavorting with animals but he was also ex-military, so he was a veteran who was also a veterinarian. Like eating Marzipan, a little goes a long way. I don't get the joke as outlined in the book, nor have I ever had Marzipan, so this made little sense to me. Another example was to name a character Lefty. The moniker was to be a reference to his leftist political leanings, likely hinted at here and there through actions or comments, however, others decided to try to take it farther. They wanted to also make the character left-handed, and then they decided they'd make him an ex-boxer as well. Just pick one. It's better that way.
  • Watch Out for that Glacier is about approaching danger. You know it's there, but too many clues with little or no reaction is making your viewer want to kick in the TV and yell at the movie. "There's danger just around the corner, you idiot. Get ready already!" These glaciers are things like a volcano, or an impending asteroid, or some kind of plague. It's there, hanging in the background waiting until the very last minute to be dealt with. 
  • The Covenant of the Arc is another way of talking about character arc. Characters need to change. I watched a movie yesterday where this kid was thrust up front in one of our nasty wars (WWII I think). He wasn't prepared for all the killing. His sergeant forced him to kill a captured soldiered, and it was as if whatever humanity that was in him just melted away, or maybe he was losing his grasp on his sanity. I don't know, I found the change too fast, too abrupt. It was, to me, unbelievable. That's not to say it wouldn't happen; I'll blame it on the script writer or the director. There wasn't enough arc between one end and the other. Character arc in a book is hard enough. Knocking down to a movie script, and it's a lot harder.
  • Keep the Press Out is exactly what it says. Once you insert the press everything gets defined by news releases. If you keep the press out of your story, it can remain personal and private - a problem one has to deal with. Once the press is involved, well then the problem is happening to everyone and therefore not a problem at all - and there goes your story.
Have I included all this? The only one I can see I need to work on is that I need to Save the Cat. I gotta think of some scene where Harris saves the cat in some way. Anyone have any ideas?


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chapter Five

This chapter was the hardest for me, but that's not the only reason for the delay of this post. My waited-for editing job came and has gone; she had a deadline of 'by Valentine's Day' so I devoted all my time to that project. The timing was tighter than I like, so I hope I didn't miss anything. I'll go through a section, and then I'll go back and read through it again with the changes in place.

But enough about that job.

Chapter Five was all about 'The Board'. The board, in movie making is the bulletin board where all the scenes are mapped out. This is the ultimate outline for movies. Hard for me because I don't generally outline my work. Harder still because of all the things I wanted to have in and plan around all the things I needed to leave out. Ooohhh what a pain.

But I did it.

Every script is broken into four parts: Act One, the first have of Act Two / mid point / the second half of Act Two, and Act Three. According to Blake Snider, you have ten slots per section to fill up, and no more, and you absolutely must fill up at least nine of them - the tenth is there for just in case.

As it turns out, Act One is pretty much Chapter One of the book.

The first half of Act Two gets me to page 23 - slow going but expected. Things got rearranged a little from this point on. Every vital incident had to happen before reaching the home castle, whereas in the book he was able to winter there and we get to meet the queen and see how delusional she is. I still might be able to work her in somewhere; we'll have to see.


The second half of Act Two gets us to the border, but before we can get that far, three different armies must be assembled into one. At the end of Act Two I inserted an attack that came after the winter layover, but we can't fill up a movie with a winter full of pacing and waiting for the snow to melt.

With Act Three we need to see just how destitute the home country is, so after Harris recovers from nearly being killed, they find a refugee family trying to scrape a living without it all being stolen by the collectors. This jumps us to page 158 in the book. And then we need to jump to page 319 for the rest of it.

Meeting all the lords who used to manage the districts that made up his country have all been left out. I hope I can still assemble them in a believable manner; they need to be there for Harris to be properly crowned.

It's not going to be easy. I seems each part can have only a couple pages devoted to it, give or take one or two here and there. Wish me luck.


The Board
The Crown of Steel

+/- = emotional up/down or -/+ down/up
>< = conflict
ACT ONE [p. 1-25]

1. Harris on the roof
+/- curiosity frustrated 
>< empty but lush landscape

2. Fredric, the librarian
+/- hoping to find out what a king does/ unable to locate any
>< during a game of chess, Harris asks what a king does. Fredric gives him a lecture on family bloodline

3. Balion, the arms master
+/- love of the music of the sword/Balion interrupts with his version of a lesson
>< Balion trying to play tricks to ‘teach’ him to expect the unexpected

4. Duff, the stable master
+/- Harris disliked the man, but had to deal with him if he wanted to go riding
>< Duff seldom allowed Harris to ride the first horse he picked

5. conversation with father
+/- curiosity vs. fear
>< father believes things are fine – Harris can’t see how

6. watches his father be king
+/- father tells of betrothal offer – Harris is appalled
>< questions father about papers signed without reading

7. Jonathan arrives
+/- meeting someone new/learning he’s being sent away
>< won’t allow himself to protest

8. Harris and Jonathan compare worlds
+/- Harris getting excited/Jonathan determined to whip things into shape
>< quickly become best friends

9. Harris and Jonathan go to the stables
+/- beginning to suspect he is nothing but a figurehead
>< Harris is told what he will be taking

ACT TWOa [p. 25-55]

1. Harris heads south
+/- dreading to go/ determined to conduct himself with pride
>< seeing his father standing at the door – realizing he’d never seen his father outside before

2. after river crossing
+/- wonder at seeing the farmsteads and herds
>< wonders about goat’s milk and wool – learns where it comes from – Jasper getting low on patience – Harris asking questions like a curious child

3a. Harris meets his new family
+/- hard to get used to many brothers and sisters
>< Kandice sticks her tongue out at him – doesn’t like him at first

3b. Harris meets with the king who outlines his expectations
+/- eager to start – appalled at the requirements
>< wants to go home – no not really

4a. heads out again
+/- happy lessons will be put off – only they aren’t
>< not at all used to be in the saddle day after day

4b. Jonathan is bored
+/- was determined to learn more about the country/ can’t even find a map
>< sends a messenger home with news and request – the man gets waylaid

5. training for the military
+/- eager to set aside lessons/not so lucky
>< arms master starts to teach him military management and strategy

6. working his way up the ranks
+/- new rank/more responsibility
>< corporal in charge of 4 men

7. patrol – meets ‘the enemy’
+/- his men very serious about the exchange/the enemy laughing as if it’s all a game
>< only some wounded – Harris watches enemy vanish as if into the dust of their trail

8. camp ravaged
+/- tired from the patrol and fight – eager to get back/finds home camp has been breached and ravaged.
>< brought to Sorsha’s cabin for questioning

9. nightmare
+/- happy to be going home, seeing father again/sees giant cage closing in on him.
>< tells Sorsha the dream - pack up to go back – changing of the guard

ACT TWOb [p. 55-85]

1a. battle
+/- Harris, still dusty from patrol, sees a very sorry train of wagons and mounted.
>< tries to bolster morale riding up and down the line. Spells a wagon driver with a concussion from afternoon sun

1b. battle
+/- surprise / tries to defend
>< Attack comes and overruns the train. Harris’s wagon is overturned.

2a. Magg
+/- at death’s door / Magg heals him and then gets him onto his horse and away
>< Magg must get Harris away but realizes her little donkey isn’t nearly enough.

3a. Sorsha - battlefield
+/- enemy killed / bitter victory
>< calls for report – can’t move – Harris unaccounted for

2b. Magg
+/- arrives home / Sholeh there to help
>< drag Harris inside – heal more – begin to recover

3b. Sorsha - home
+/- worried about Harris / reports say her post the only one attacked
>< goes to royal medium to find him

4a. Jonathan
+/- meets the queen for the first time
>< the queen sends him home – supposed to be to his death

5. Harris
+/- needs to learn more but can’t leave everyone hanging
>< sends his horse home with a message

4b. Jonathan
+/- makes it home with another message from the queen
>< the message wasn’t for Harris at all

6a. Harris
+/- into the desert / no way of knowing if he’ll ever find anyone
>< meets Juan – they fight. Treacherous blindside shot puts Harris under Juan’s protective wing.

6b. Harris
+/- meets with clan leader, Duncan
>< witnesses the punishment dealt out for treachery.

6c. Harris
+/- Convinces the nomads to tell him who his enemy is. Their honor commits them to his cause.
>< messenger is sent home to arrange supply lines – first learns of shapeshifters.

7. Evan
+/- finds the castle. Finds Kandice
>< Evan is shot out of the sky

8a. King Carroll
+/- reads the message Evan brought
>< questions him extensively

8b. King Carroll
+/- discussion with Kandice
>< Kandice heads off in search of another fairytale. Brings back the truthsayers. King calls for an assembly of military forces.

9. Harris
+/- arrives home
>< meets his first truthsayer bodyguard. Safi??? Kanon???

10. Harris
+/- at the head of his unusual army
>< at the border, an insane group attack, trying to hit Harris personally. Almost succeed.
ACT THREE [p. 85-110]

1. Harris in a coma
+/- choice – live/die
>< vision – Kandice dancing around the Maypole = unite the people.

2. Harris wakes - blind
+/- learns of Kain’s capture/ learns of death of his bodyguard
>< funeral – new bodyguard – Saarloq

3. paces camp – vision blurry
+/- wants to start marching again - has to defeat Kain’s monopoly
>< time is short – winter is closing in

4. Servern and Claire
+/- learns things
>< battle with collection team

5. divide and conquer
+/- sends messengers to districts asking for reinforcements/can’t wait
>< Jonathan leads Harris to the back door.

6a. taking Castle Penn
+/- finding hostages inside in the rooms
>< finding opposition as well

6b. taking Castle Penn
+/- finding hostages outside in the tents
>< finding opposition as well – sending wolves ahunting

7. verbal battle with Kain
+/- learns that no enemy can touch him with harmful intent.
>< must get close enough to touch. Saarloq won’t let him touch yet.

8. wedding and coronation
+/- says it all
>< lords swear fealty

9. turns Kain over to his lords
+/- Harris’s touch removes block
>< lords pull the struggling man out to his fate

10. final image
+/- the town is abuzz with business
>< sees off wedding guests