Tag Archives: indie publishing

Julian Lackland #new #amwriting

Tomorrow, September 22, 2020, would be my father’s 96th birthday. In honor of the man whose library of speculative fiction and classics inspired me to write, I chose that day for my new novel, Julian Lackland, to leave the nest.

Lackland began life in November of 2010, as my NaNoWriMo novel. Since then, he has been through many changes.

This is the original novel from which both Huw the Bard and Billy Ninefingers grew, and it was both my greatest joy and my worst mistake.

In 2010 I made my word count and became a firm believer in the principals behind NaNoWriMo—that if you sit down and write at least 1667 words every day, you will complete your novel.

What I didn’t know was that while that novel might be complete, it isn’t finished. The year that followed was filled with mistakes and struggles. There were some low points, a devastating falling out with my first publisher, and the grim realization that the book should be left in a drawer to rot.

When we formed Myrddin Publishing Group, our lead editor, Alison DeLuca, gave me great advice. Rather than abandon it, I should completely dismantle it and start over. It was a low point and seemed like a mountain. Alison’s courage in the face of disaster gave me the strength to put the publishing nightmare behind me and rebuild the novel from the ground up, writing it the way it should have been done in the first place.

I’ve been fortunate to have a village of brilliant editors along the way. My dear friend, sci-fi author Dave Cantrell, gave so much of himself to this project. Dave was the structural editor for Billy Ninefingers and The Wayward Son, and his eye for flow and logic influenced the first two drafts of this new manuscript.

Unfortunately, Dave was ill for most of 2019 and died this last summer. But a part of him lives on in the shape of this novel.

Once the new manuscript was in the final stages, Johanna Flynn was a kind but firm beta reader. I was fortunate to have Irene Roth Luvaul’s eye on the final draft, as the Texas Tornado is a brilliant line editor.

The support and advice from my writing posse has been and always will be invaluable. The international group of authors and editors at Myrddin Publishing are a well of knowledge, support, and advice.

Here in my local community, I am a member of a professional writer’s group, The Tuesday Morning Rebel Writers. The group is comprised of about nine novelists. Several are successful and award-winning authors, like Lee French, Ellen King Rice, and Johanna Flynn. The rest of us are in various stages of our writing careers.

I can’t thank these authors enough. Between them, Myrddin Publishing and the Rebel Writers dragged me gently to the finish line.

Julian’s story was born on November 1st, 2010. Two days before the start of the month, I had accepted a challenge to “do” something called “NaNoWriMo,” a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month. I’d never heard of it, but a challenge is a challenge.

I had written the storyline for an RPG and many short stories. A proto novel was rambling along at 250,000 words, so I thought, “How hard can it be to write 1667 words a day?”

I had the vague notion of writing a story about a rollicking band of mercenaries, so I began with no outline and no plot. In the way that NaNoWriMo novels often go, I got caught up in the character of Julian “Lackland” De Portiers, but also in several others.

I soon discovered that writing 1667 words a day is easy.

I also discovered that writing a coherent novel with no plot, no outline, and no maps is not my strong suit.

But there was a good story there, buried beneath the crap. I began by dividing out the stories that didn’t pertain to Julian, and that was how Billy Ninefingers came into existence.

Then I focused on the core of the story, and gradually I came to realize that the true adversary in this tale is Lackland’s naïve belief that good will always triumph.

Julian is the landless second son of a minor baron and relegated to the sidelines at court because he has no land. His own brother, jealous of his knightly skill and charisma, named him “Lackland” as a way to keep him in his place.

Lackland embraced the name, realizing that it meant he had the freedom to do as he wished and owed nothing to anyone but the king. King Henri just happens to be his second cousin on his mother’s side.

Julian leaves the court and joins the mercenary crew known as the Rowdies. He intends to do a little good in the world, and Billy Ninefingers wants more knights like him in his Rowdies. They have an arrangement where Julian will be available whenever his royal cousin needs him.

Highly skilled at arms and cursed with the ability to plan a war better than anyone, the king pulls Julian Lackland out of his toolkit whenever the job is impossible or too dirty for an ordinary knight to accomplish.

Lackland has a remarkable knack for finding trouble, but he meets good people along the way. Love is always a problem, but Julian Lackland just lives as well as he can.

Julian is and always will be my favorite character because he is so complicated, so conflicted, and so ethical. His story is that of perseverance in the face of catastrophe, but it is also the story of human frailty and resilience.

Originally, I wanted to write a epic fantasy novel that my father would read, one that I might have stolen from his nightstand.

I believe I have succeeded.


Julian Lackland by Connie J. Jasperson

Julian “Lackland” De Portiers is the last good knight in Waldeyn. Everyone knows he’s brilliant…

…Everyone knows he’s mad.

How does a Hero gracefully retire from the business of saving the world?

Once upon a time, Julian “Lackland” De Portiers had the strength to save what mattered most. Once he had companions and twice, he fell passionately in love.

One terrible night in the forest, everything changed.

Who will rescue the rescuer when darkness falls, and the voices begin?

Julian Lackland is an enduring tale of confusion, sorrow, and triumph set in an alternate medieval world.

Purchase Julian Lackland in eBook for $4.99 or paper for $12.99 at Amazon

Not a fan of Amazon? Purchase Julian Lackland from these fine eBook sellers for $4.99

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The Indie Cooperative #amwriting

In May of 2012, the indie publishing cooperative that I am a part of, Myrddin Publishing Group, was formed. As a group, we originally met through a now-defunct literary contest. We have members all across the US, the UK, and Australia.

The way we communicate is through a private group page on Facebook. We numbered twenty-five when we first began, and while we have lost a few members to traditional publishers, we have also gained a few.

Membership in our group is closed at this time. We don’t seek new authors, and as a company, we do not control any author’s royalties.

Each of us is an indie, in that all funds earned by our books go directly to the author from the point of sale.

That storefront could be Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Books2Read (Draft2Digital’s storefront), or Ingram Sparks. The individual author uploads their books to the sales outlet of their choice.

I publish through both Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital. Amazon is the big kid on the block, and so far, I’m satisfied with their print book services. Some in my group use Amazon KDP for print, and others use Ingram Sparks for their print books.

Draft2Digital partners with a wide variety of digital storefronts, including Bibliotheca, which gets my books into libraries around the world.

Each member author has sole responsibility for their book. They must pay any local or federal taxes owed on their royalties and are responsible for marketing their own work.

The publishing co-op model we use is quite simple. We pay $25.00 a year to be a member.

One of our members lives in Wales, and her husband is employed in internet security. She manages the website and he is our IT man.

  • Each member author is each responsible for creating their own author page on the website, listing their books, and keeping their author page updated.

We have a nominal leader since every group needs a person in charge. She manages our tiny bank account and makes a full report of how the money was spent every year. Usually, our funds are spent on services the group can use and benefit from.

For us, the main benefit is low cost ISBNs that are not provided by Amazon KDP. Some people don’t mind using Amazon’s ISBNs, but we like having our own.

When we first started in 2012, we bought 1000 ISBNs. A member who is a retired bookkeeper in Essex, England, manages those for us.

In 2012 those ISBNs cost us $1000.00, and we divided up the costs ($40.00 for each of us). I believe the cost for ISBNs has doubled since then, but don’t quote me on that.

All our financial transactions are through the Myrddin PayPal account to our leader, and each Myrddin member can ransom back the  requisite number of ISBNs (Kindle, Draft2Digital, and Print, etc.) for $1.00 each.

We have enough ISBN’s for all of us to create books for many years to come.

  • We trade services within the group.

Several of us will edit or beta-read as needed. I and several other members do book covers, digital maps, banners, bookmarks, and logos as needed.

There are some things to consider before you start your own publishing cooperative:

  • Member participation is what makes the group functional.

Not every member will be an active participant. As time goes on, you may find yourself doing more work than you want and getting little in return from some.

  • At the outset, the group should develop and vote on a list of member responsibilities ( a group charter).

This list should detail what sort of behavior is expected or discouraged in online interactions.

That charter should also explain clearly what the group will do for its member authors, and how membership is obtained.

You will need two Facebook pages. One should be private for group discussions. The other should be public for posting entertainment pieces, such as memes that relate to writing and books.

  • The public page is where book launches can be advertised.
  • Also, the public FB page is where you publicize information about events individual member authors will be at or forthcoming book releases.

I suggest that you have two or three people in charge of posting things on the Public Facebook page and several other people in charge of your group’s Twitter and or Instagram account.

  • Someone with good bookkeeping skills should act as a financial officer.

This person manages any funds generated by member dues or anthologies and pays for the group’s website hosting.

  • The financial officer should have two assistants to review the financial records and ensure transparency.

Financial reports should be posted regularly, so the member authors know how the group is doing. The assistants should be authorized to step in if the financial officer is unable to fulfill their duties for any reason.

  • All decisions should be voted on by the group.

When things need to be discussed that affect the group as a whole, my co-op will hold a “meeting thread” over the course of a week on our private FB group page. That is where we decide what we want to do with the fee-money.

  • Google any publishing names you might want to use before you settle on one.

Don’t choose a name that is already in use as it may be trademarked. Be unique and be clever, but be careful.

Editing, beta reading, proofreading—these services are why a co-op is a good thing and should be traded freely.

Some members may have skills in graphic design and will design book covers, or logos.

  • You must be able to politely express that you can’t use a service, such as a cover design you don’t like. At that point, be prepared to quietly seek and pay for professional services outside the group.

Remember, all of these are time-consuming services. When you trade services, those who provide them for you are not earning money. Be gentle with those who are helping you.

I can’t stress this enough: Even if you don’t use a service that a fellow member offers to you, be a good friend. Give back to the group and help them when it’s their turn to seek services and help.

There will sometimes be rough patches in the group’s overall Zen.

I mentioned that each member of our co-op is responsible for listing their own books on the website and keeping their author page updated.

Sometimes we have problems with people who are less website savvy not being able to figure out how to update their books on the website.

Also, people get sidetracked by life and forget what they’re supposed to do for the group.

Those are minor irritations.

Overall, I have found this publishing model to be the best fit for me. I write short stories and submit to traditional publications, but I prefer to go indie for my novels.

As group, Myrddin certainly doesn’t have all the answers. We have evolved more independently than from where we began, but we are all still good friends. This is not a one-size-fits all kind of thing.

Use the internet and research other small press models.

If you are considering forming an indie publishing cooperative, I hope this has answered some questions you might have had.

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The path to becoming an author #amwriting

People often say they want to write a book. I used to say that too.

In 1985 I came across my first stumbling block on my path to becoming a writer. I didn’t know it, but to go from dreamer to storyteller is easy. Anyone can do it.

But if we choose to become an author, we’re taking a walk through an unknown landscape.

And the place where we go from dreamer to storyteller to author is the hardest part.

At first the path is gentle and easy to walk. As children, we invent stories and tell them to ourselves. As adults, we daydream about the stories we want to read, and we tell them to ourselves.

That part of the walk is easy. At some point, we become brave enough to sit down and put the story on paper.

The blank screen or paper is like an empty pond. All we have to do is add words, and the story will tell itself.

The first impedance that would-be authors come to on their way to filling the word-pond with words is a wide, deep river. It’s running high and fast with a flood of “what ifs” and partially visualized ideas.

If you truly want to become a writer, you must cross this river. If you don’t, the path ends here. While this river flows into the word-pond, the real path that takes us to a finished story is on the other side of this stream.

Fortunately, the river has several widely spaced steppingstones. Landing squarely on each one requires effort and a leap of faith, but the determined writer can do it.

The last thing you do before you step off the bank and begin crossing that river is this: visualize what your story is about.

The first stone you must leap to is the most difficult to reach. It is the one most writers who remain only dreamers falter at:

  • You must give yourself permission to write.

We have this perception that it is selfish to spend a portion of our free time writing. It is not self-indulgent. We all must earn a living because very few writers are able to live on their royalties. If writing is your true craft, you must carve the time around your day job to do it. All you need is one undisturbed hour a day.

The second stone is an easy leap:

  • Become literate. Educate yourself.

Buy books on the craft of writing. Buy and use the Chicago Manual of Style. You can usually find used copies on Amazon for around $10 – $15, passed on by those who couldn’t quite make the first leap.

I freely admit to using the internet for research, often on a daily basis, and I buy eBooks. However, my office bookshelves are filled with reference books on the craft of writing. I buy them as paper books because I am always looking things up. The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most well-worn there.

Most professional editors rely on the CMOS because it’s the most comprehensive style guide—it has the answer for whatever your grammar question is. Best of all, it’s geared for writers of all streaks: essays, novels, all varieties of fiction, and nonfiction.

The third stone is the reason we decided to write in the first place:

  • Good writers never stop reading for pleasure.

We begin as avid readers. A book resonates with us, makes us buy the whole series, and we never want to leave that world.

We soon learn that books like that are few and far between.

The fourth stone is an easy leap from that:

  • We realize that we must write the book we want to read.

As we reach the far bank, we climb up and across the final hurdle:

  • We finish the work, whether it’s a novel or short story.

Over the years since I first began writing, I’ve labored under many misconceptions. It was a shock to me when I discovered that we who write aren’t really special.

Who knew?

We’re extremely common, as ordinary as programmers and software engineers. Everyone either wants to be a writer, is a writer, has a writer in the the family, or knows one.

Even my literary idols aren’t superhuman.

Because there are so many of us, it’s difficult to stand out. We must be highly professional, easy to work with, and literate.

Filling the pond with words and creating a story that hooks a reader is as easy as daydreaming and as difficult as giving birth.

Because writers are so numerous, every idea has been done. Popular tropes soon become stale and fall out of fashion.

A study by the University of Vermont says there are “six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives.” These are:

  1. Rags to riches (protagonist starts low and rises in happiness)
  2. Tragedy, or riches to rags (protagonist starts high and falls in happiness)
  3. Man in a hole (fall–rise)
  4. Icarus (rise–fall)
  5. Cinderella (rise–fall–rise)
  6. Oedipus” (fall–rise–fall)

No stale idea has ever been done your way.

We give that idea some thought. We apply a thick layer of our own brand of “what if.”

It’s our different approaches to these stories that make us each unique.

Sure, we’re writing an old story. But with a fresh angle, perseverance, and sheer hard work, we might be able to sell it.

And that is what makes the effort and agony of getting that book published and into the hands of prospective readers worthwhile.

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Thoughts on the Industry #amwriting

Indie authors sometimes feel pressured by Amazon and the publishing industry as a whole to write fast and publish often. Certain genres are more prone to this sort of pressure than others. The push to produce a new book every sixty days (or less) has spawned a scandal and prompted a debate about ethics.

First of all, why are authors writing in some genres pressured to produce new work so quickly?

Let’s look at Romance, as it is the most visibly dysfunctional of the popular genres right now. There is a root cause to this, something all Romance authors face, whether traditionally published or Indie. Financial rewards favor Romance authors who publish frequently, which drives the emotions behind this free-for-all.

Emotions are hard to conquer when it comes to your career.

You might ask why readers of Romance feel they have the right to demand new books from an author every month? Do they not understand that the kind of work they will get will be stamped from an established mold with the names changed and decorated differently?

The fact is, a large majority of readers in all genres don’t know what it takes to get an original idea from concept to print, and don’t care. Readers of Romance like the comfort of the predictable plot and the sureness of the happy ending. The books they crave are devoured and then forgotten as the reader moves on to the next Romance fix. These readers demand a new book regularly from their favorite authors, and if not immediately satisfied, they move on to a new author and forget the old.

Amazon has placed an added burden on all authors, not just indies. Regularly releasing new work helps an author when it comes to Amazon algorithms. See Mindy Klasky’s post, Rapid-Release Publishing: How to Do It, and Whether It’s Right for You.

To meet this challenge, Romance authors must develop a work ethic that would daunt even the most driven CEO. They must have several formulas, a one-size-fits-all basic plot outline, and a set of stock characters they can repurpose to fit any scenario. The author limits their word count to 50,000 or so words, has a set length of time to write the book, a short window in which to edit, and then they publish. Some authors write in the morning, send the morning’s work to an editor and make revisions on the previous day’s work in the afternoon. These authors inject as much creativity into their work as they can and put in long office hours to meet this challenge.

Some authors hire ghost writers to help with the workload.

A few desperate authors resort to plagiarism.

That someone could be so desperate to keep their name up in the rankings is a scandal that has had repercussions throughout the industry, as it affects traditionally published authors as well as Indie Romance authors. See this Inside Hook article, This Plagiarism Scandal Has Rocked the World of Romance Novels by Reed Richardson 24 Feb 2019.

Big name, traditionally published authors like George R.R. Martin, the late Robert Jordan, and Patrick Rothfuss are regularly treated to a landslide of verbal abuse from anxious, misguided readers because they choose to write at their own pace.

Some fans don’t understand that if you love the quality of an author’s first works, you must allow them the time to write the succeeding novels the way they want to, no matter how long it takes. After all, it’s their creation.

I’m not what you would call prolific. Fortunately, I don’t have a large fanbase, nor do I have to sell books in order to eat, so I don’t feel this sort of pressure. It takes me four years to get a book from concept to print. For me, short stories and novellas fill the gap, but even those can only emerge once or twice a year.

Fortunately for me, readers of literary fantasy and epic fantasy are more patient, willing to wait a year or two if that is what it takes. These readers understand that authors are not machines.

I have friends in the industry who are prolific compared to me, and their work is both original and well-written. They aren’t spewing a book a month, but they have established a publishing schedule and are able to stick to it.

My next series will focus on how these successful Indies work. We will explore ways to write successfully with a co-author in an interview with USA Today bestselling author, Lee French. I will also be looking at the careers of several other well-known authors, and show how method and discipline are the backbones of their success.

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The Pitch #amwriting

On Monday we talked about the synopsis, which you would send to lure a prospective agent. Today we’re talking about the pitch and how it differs from a synopsis.

The front cover of your book is important, but great covers alone don’t sell books. The back of a paper book is critical because it contains the all-important pitch—also known as a blurb.

For an eBook, the pitch is on the seller’s product page. Either way, the shopper will read your pitch and decide if they want to know more. If they open the book or use the “look inside” option, you have a good chance of selling that book.

But how do we write a pitch?

First, you want to identify the key elements of your book (or series of books).

Consider a fantasy that features themes of friendship, family, romantic love, honor, and duty. In this story, the obvious theme might be the successful resolution of a quest. Identifying the core plot device around which your story revolves is important.

  1. Who or what is your book about?

You can emphasize either the idea of the book or the main character. Once you choose what you want to sell, main character or idea, stick to that. If you choose the character, use only the main character in your description, and forget the others, because it is that character’s story that you are trying to sell.

  1. Keep it short. It’s easy to be long-winded about our work but not here. You only have about 60 seconds to sell that book.

Since length is bad in a pitch, we must learn to write concisely. I learned to write drabbles—100 word flash fictions. I wrote one every day for nearly a year. I did this because you really have to choose your words wisely if you want to tell your story in such a short space.

Besides helping me learn how to write concisely, writing drabbles was a great way to build a backlog of ideas that became short stories later.

  1. Use power words. Don’t use “telling” words—make every word in that pitch count.
  2. Be visual. Use words that create a visual image in your reader’s mind.

Give us just enough intriguing insight into the main character and the story to make us want to know more about them. Make us curious.

Consider the 69-word pitch for Wool,’ by Hugh Howey. Howey was an indie when he published Wool in 2012.

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

Howey opted for powerful and visual right out of the gate: clawing for survival. He packed his blurb with persuasive, graphic words that spark curiosity and make you feel that you are holding a powerful story in your hand (or your eReader). He chose not to go with a tagline, but the final sentence is so powerful, it doesn’t need one.

Next, let’s look at the pitch for Roadmarks,’ a classic sci-fi fantasy written by the late Roger Zelazny. It was published in 1979 by Del Rey Science Fiction, so the publisher wrote the blurb. I was in the grocery store when I first saw this book, and the cover art caught my eye. I picked the book up and turned it over to read the pitch.

The pitch made me curious and was what sold me the novel:

The Last Exit to Babylon

“The Road runs from the unimaginable past to the far future, and those who travel it have access to the turnoffs leading to all times and places—even to the alternate time-streams of histories that never happened. Why the Dragons of Bel’kwinith  made the Road—or who they are—no one knows. But the Road has always been there and for those who know how to find it, it always will be!”

Zelazny’s publisher, Del Rey, opted for a mysterious pitch, but they also used powerful words in the first sentence:  “The road runs,” “unimaginable,”— words that pique curiosity. They began the pitch with a great tag line. When I bought that book, I ignored the glowing reviews the publisher plastered beneath the pitch because I don’t care what reviewers think–I make up my own mind.

A word of caution: Indies should never put glowing reviews on their covers unless they are reviews by big-name reviewers or authors.

Del Rey got away with it because the book had been a bestseller in hard cover for a year before the paperback came out, and Zelazny was brilliant and sold books as fast as they could print them.

We don’t put a synopsis on the back of the book. A synopsis is a bald recounting of the novel’s bare bones—why should the reader buy it if they already know the story?

What sort of pitches lure you into buying a book? We write what we want to read, so chances are, you are writing a book along those lines. Go back and read those blurbs and start creating your pitch.

Pitches give away no secrets but hint at the mysteries within. For this reason, you want to ask your friends and your writing group to look at your blurb. If they tell you it’s too long-winded and doesn’t sell the book well, don’t be angry. Be glad they were honest.

Rewrite it, pare it down again, and rewrite it until your pitch is a concise enticement that sells the mystery of what lies within your book. Make the prospective reader open the book or click on the look inside option to see more.

Once they have sampled what’s inside the book, you are halfway there. At that point, your writing and your voice is what will clinch the sale.

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Carving time for #writing

Time management is crucial for me. I don’t claim to be a great housekeeper, but I do need some order in my home, so it gets one hour of my attention. Laundry, dishes, dusting, picking up—one hour is all housekeeping gets. Period.

I have developed mad skills at carving out time for writing because every November, I participate in NaNoWriMo. As a municipal liaison for the Olympia area, I must get a minimum of 1,667 new words written each day. I usually average 3,000 to 5,000 words per day during that month. The rest of the year? 500 to 1,100.

I do this by having my daily prompts all set out in advance, and then I lock myself into my office and just wing it for at least two hours. Some of what emerges is good, and some, not so much. But it is an exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing at its most extreme, and it’s a good challenge for my elderly brain. Some of my better work was produced in its raw form during NaNoWriMo.

During the 1990’s, when I was working two jobs, I wrote every evening while my kids did their homework. Some nights I didn’t get a lot of words written, but many nights I did. Some days I wrote during my lunch half-hour. Countless afternoons were spent sitting in the car waiting for one of the kids to finish their after school activities, and I wrote then.

Every half-hour I spent writing was a gift in those days.

After the kids were out of the nest, I still wrote every night. I missed a lot of TV that way, but I had to choose what was important, and writing won.

Now I’m retired and write full-time. One of the most difficult parts of being a full-time author is the fact that we “work from home.” This means we’re on call at all times for any family emergency. It’s difficult for people to believe you are working if there is no tangible, visible reward such as a paycheck for your efforts.

However, once people can see that, yes, books have been published, they know that you really do write. But often, people still don’t understand how much time it takes to do this sort of work properly, or how difficult it is to get back into the writing mind after an interruption.

Time management comes into play for me because authors, both traditional and Indie, must be their own public relations team. I am very bad at this, but I use every automated assist available to me for that—Hootsuite has been a great help to me in scheduling tweets on my non-blogging days so that I don’t fade completely out of the Twitterverse. I care about that because much of my traffic here to this blog comes from Twitter.

WordPress’s “Publicize” tool is a real help. Thanks to that tool, this blog posts automatically to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and my author Facebook page. I also went out to Amazon’s author central and linked it to my Amazon author page. I keep forgetting to post it to my Goodreads page because I don’t like the climate there and rarely visit that strange place. One of my other blogs posts there—a book review blog.

Of course, time management occasionally flies out the window. I drop everything to go sit with my grandkids, who all live a two- to three-hour drive away, or to help when a family member is dealing with difficult times. I have two kids with epilepsy, so difficult times happen with no warning.

But we handle those episodes and I keep writing because my laptop travels with me. Writing is my refuge, at times. But when life is uncomplicated and going well, writing is still my great joy, and the time I have to write is really important to me on a personal level.

Life in all its random glory is why good time management is so important for me. I schedule my writing time now that I am retired just as I did when I was working in Corporate America. If I didn’t, life’s little demands would eat away at my ability to just sit down and write.

After I finish editing on Sunday morning, I open Hootsuite and preschedule a week’s worth of random tweets on vegan food, favorite books, life observations, etc., which takes about ten minutes. Then I write at least one blog post, but usually, I write all the posts for the week. Being able to preschedule everything takes much of the work out of this gig.

I do any editing I may have for clients first thing in the morning. After editing, I get that one hour of housekeeping in. If you go fast enough, you actually get a good workout—dusting and vacuuming can be quite invigorating when done at top speed. Laundry looks a little haphazard when folded that quickly, but hey—once it’s shoved in the closet, who’s gonna notice?

Once I have put in my one hour of housekeeping, I put on my writing music, and that is my time to get some writing done. This time is inviolable—God help the neighbor who interrupts me to borrow an ax—they might get it, but not the way they hoped.

(Bad author! Bad! Bad!)

(No neighbors were harmed in the writing of this blogpost.)

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Information and Misinformation #amwriting

This week, I am involved in editing for clients, hosting a writing meetup, and working hard on a first draft.

Over the weekend I made good headway with new material, and now I am putting much of what we have previously discussed into action as I expand on those chapters.

I’m ensuring that within the larger story, I have a structure of smaller arcs,  scenes that will come together to create this all-encompassing two-volume drama. If I do this right, I will keep my readers’ hearts invested in the narrative until the end of the second book.

I’ve talked before about the arc of the scene vs. the overall arc of the novel.

The end of the scene is the platform from which your next scene launches. This means each scene begins at a slightly higher point on the novel’s narrative arc than the previous scene did, driving the narrative. That pulse is critical to creating the necessary tension.

At this point, I’m still fine-tuning the plot, deciding who has the critical knowledge. The fact that some characters are working with limited information is what creates the tension, a concept known as asymmetric information. This a situation in which one party has more or superior information compared to another. In business, this can prevent other companies from effectively entering and competing in an industry or market. The company with the information has a monopoly.

In real life, a monopoly of information creates a crisis. In the novel, it creates tension. A conversation scene should be driven by the fact that one person has knowledge the others need to know at that moment. Whether or not they receive the information in time is up to you in the plotting stage.

So, this is what I am doing now, making sure the information is divided up disproportionately. No one ever has all the knowledge, and what my protagonist doesn’t know at the beginning is central to the plot and the final confrontation at the end of the second half.

The reader must get answers at the same time as the other characters, gradually over the first 3/4 of each novel. Book one has the first half of the story line and a satisfying conclusion, and book two is the protagonists’ ultimate destination and final meeting with the enemy. Dispersing small but necessary bits of info at just the right moment so there are no info dumps is tricky but by the final draft of both books, all will have been smoothed out.

As I said, I am creating small arcs, scenes that pose questions, but also provide answers to previously posed questions. Large and small events occur but are linked by conversations because events don’t happen randomly. Sometimes an incident is self-explanatory, but action alone wouldn’t be enlightening.

My characters are charismatic, as they exist in my head. My task in this first draft is to show them in such a way that the reader sees the magic in them that I see. I have to create a pulse of each character’s desires and objectives, laced with information and misinformation. I am creating a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the first conclusion at the end of book one.

Book one’s final confrontation has to be good and resolve the first conflict. I hate cliff-hanger endings so there will be none of that in my work.

I will finish both books before I publish book one, with book two in the final editing stage when book one goes to press. By planning out my production schedule like this, I hope I can achieve what I envision, an epic fantasy that hooks the reader with small rewards of emotional satisfaction along the way to the big event.

My trusty beta readers will “politely” inform me (with a brick to my head) if I don’t somehow accomplish just that.

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Thoughts on revisions and self-editing #amwriting

New and beginning authors often (loudly) assert their ability to edit their own work. If you are “editing” your own manuscript, you have a fool for a client. There is no such thing as self-editing—the best you can do is make revisions and admire your work. For that reason, we need other eyes on our work.

As authors, we see what we intended to write rather than what was written. We misread clumsy sentences and overlook words that are missing or are included twice in a row.  If you are in a critique group, you have a great resource in your fellow authors—they will spot things you have overlooked your work just as you do in theirs.

The first draft of any manuscript is the story as it flowed out of your mind and onto the paper. Yes, there is life and energy in your words, but your manuscript is not publishable at this stage, no matter how many times you go over it.

You need an unbiased eye upon your work, or your book will be published with typos, awkward sentences, dropped words—the list of inadvertent errors goes on.

Every author needs someone to read their work before it is published. Just because I can see six instances of the word ‘long’ in one paragraph of someone else’s work does not mean that I will spot it in my own.

To the author in the first flush of victory, the completed first draft of his manuscript is a thing of beauty, a flawless diamond to be cherished and adored.  It is the child of their creative muse and is perfect in every way.

Let us consider the word ‘that.’ The following passage is from one of my original manuscripts as it emerged from the first draft in 2008, ten years ago.

 Jeanne was not upset over something that he had not done or not said. Now he sensed that it was a mixture of anger, hurt, and guilt that she was feeling.

In just two sentences, my stream-of-consciousness writing included 3 instances of the word ‘that’ and 3 of ‘not.’  Yet, in my own mind, it was as good as I could make it. I didn’t see those unnecessary words.

This is how that paragraph read in my mind and is how I would write it now, ten years on:

Jeanne wasn’t upset over something he had done or said. He sensed she felt a mixture of anger, hurt, and guilt.

I began working with an editor in 2012, and that is when I truly began to grow as an author. Each time they showed me where I had gone wrong, I learned from it and gradually, my stream-of-consciousness writing improved. I use fewer unnecessary words, and my prose is leaner.

Better writing habits are learned over time by writing regularly and by consciously applying the tricks and tips you learn from other authors.

Once your writing/critique group has given you their best opinions on your manuscript and you have revised it to your best ability, you need an editor. Ask other authors who they might recommend as an editor and see if you can work well with that person.

Your editor will likely point some things out that you didn’t see, but that a reader will.  At that point, you might be slightly shocked and hurt, but if you’re smart you’ll consider each comment and make your revisions accordingly.

Once you see your work through someone else’s unbiased eyes, you will be able to take your story to the next level.

The fact is, unless you can accept criticism, your work will never be what you want it to be. You must be open to viewing your work the way the reader will see it. You’re not obligated to follow every suggestion an editor makes, but 9 times out of 10 I make changes along the lines they suggest because when I look at the problem area, I can see exactly what they meant.

Writing seems like a solitary craft, and much of the time it is. However, joining a local writing support group or a critique group will give you a sounding board that costs you nothing, but from which you will reap many benefits.

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Creating your author blog part 3 #amwriting

Today marks the end of my three-part series on author blogs. (Edited to add: Parts 1 & 2 can be found at these links:)

Creating Your Author Blog, Part 1

Creating your Author Blog, Part 2

One of the comments authors make most often when explaining why they don’t keep their blogs updated, is that they don’t know what to write about. One well-known author told me she sees it as a job that is as exciting as doing laundry.

I think it’s because it hasn’t occurred to her to write about her passions. She is a woman who has many different hobbies—climbing, cooking, and kick-boxing, as well as writing. It just hasn’t occurred to her to write a 500-word article about what she did over the weekend and post it for her fans to read. As a fan, I’d love to hear about her trip to the Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge and get her opinion on the various bands that played there.

However, my friend regularly tweets about her hobbies. The fact is, many authors who use twitter to connect with fans don’t think that their lives are worthy of more than the 280 characters you must work with in a tweet. But a blogpost doesn’t have to be long. Think of it as a long tweet or Facebook post, and you will have 300 – 500 words written in no time.

That is an acceptable blogpost. My first posts averaged 400 words.

A great many of us are quite adept with Facebook as a medium for connecting with readers. The work you put into a Facebook post for your author page or a tweet could easily be turned into a short blog post.

If you fall into that category, even a bi-monthly update on your works in progress and where you will be signing books is a good option. We just need something to  keep our fans engaged.

Needing a blogpost is also an opportunity to quickly dash off a flash-fiction, a drabble, or a haiku. Authors need to write and keeping our blogs updated is a good way to keep those juices flowing when we are having a creative lull in other areas.

Life, my family, and the nuts-and-bolts of writing craft are my inspiration. I am always educating myself in this craft, and since writing is my obsession, that is usually what I riff on for 500 – 1000 words at a time.

However, I sometimes write about the challenges life hands us. I will talk about the worry of having two adult children who live with epilepsy. I have discussed how being vegan adds culinary adventure to attending conventions. I also have many creative grandchildren, some of whom who give me career advice, some of the more hilarious of which have made fun posts.

Sometimes, during the week, interesting things will come up in conversations in the writing groups I visit on Facebook. Often these little questions and how they relate to my own works-in-progress are subjects that I think might make a good topic for a blogpost. So, I keep a sticky note up on my desktop and note my ideas for topics as I come across them.

Usually, the only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day. Sometimes, I write them the day before I intend to schedule them, but I like to do them well in advance, so I can proofread them with fresh eyes before their posting.

Sometimes there is research involved, and I need to quote other websites. When that is the case, I make footnotes at the bottom of my composition document as I go. Pretend I need to quote from an article on Gallows humor. Footnotes or attributions are written like this:

Wikipedia contributors, “Gallows humor,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gallows_humor&oldid=759474185 (accessed January 30, 2017).

If you are using images or quotes found on the web, only publish those you have the legal right to use. Do the right thing, and source your images and quotes responsibly. To find out more on that subject, see my article of September 4, 2017, Citing Sources and Image Attribution.

Some people wonder why I make footnotes at the end of most of my posts. I didn’t always do this, because I didn’t understand that even public domain and royalty free images found on Wikipedia should be attributed correctly. It’s our legal obligation, but there is a moral one here too: photographers and artists are as proud of their work as we are of ours—if you wrote something good and someone quoted you verbatim, wouldn’t you want to be credited? When you see your book offered for free on a pirate’s website, don’t you feel anger?

After my post is written in a document, I open WordPress or Blogger and select new blog post. Then, before I do anything else, I insert the title and schedule the date for publishing, so the post is prescheduled for the right publishing date. Prescheduling allows my blog to post a new article three times a week at 06:00 am my time (on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) which is 09:00 US Eastern time. It updates without my having to babysit it.

I do have to be observant when I am scheduling my posts. Occasionally, I accidentally hit the “publish immediately” button, which means I end up with an extra post that week whether I meant to or not. When that happens, I sometimes use naughty words. When I get done cursing, I either skip the Monday post or write an extra one.

Once I have the post scheduled, I select the categories and tags.

For an author who is posting once a week or twice a month, it won’t take an hour to put together a post if you write in a word document, spell-check it, and paste it into the body of the post. I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Blogposts don’t require an editor, but you should, at a minimum, check for these things:

  • We need to look for incorrectly spelled words and doublecheck the spelling of proper names. We also need to look for words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
  • We need to use good grammar—when we are blogging, it doesn’t have to be perfect but do your best. It will sound like you, and that is important.
  • Also look at sentence structure. Did you use complete sentences? What about run-on sentences? Lo-o-o-o-o-ng sentences can make reading a post confusing.
  • Numbers. This is especially an issue when using digits, as the difference between 10 and 100 is substantial.
  • Look carefully for dropped words or repeated words—my big bugaboo is the extra and or to in a sentence: and and.

Once I have my post edited as well as I can, I paste the document into the body of the post. It is a good idea to use the preview function and read your post. It looks different there than it does in a word doc, so you will find many things you want to change and can make any adjustments needed before the blog is actually posted. Even so, I always miss a lot of typos and other bloopers, so don’t freak if you have to go back and take the apostrophe of a plural word that is not a possessive: sharks vs shark’s (as I regularly have to do.)

Blogs look nice with an image, so insert pictures. I love looking for images on Wikimedia Commons and other free public domain sites, or sometimes I use my own photographs/graphics.

Blogging is where I come to talk about things that are on my mind, which are usually ideas about writing craft. Having the ability to write each post ahead of time, edit them, and select the date for publishing allows me to work the rest of the week at my true job, which is writing novels.


(07 June 2018) Edited to add the links to the previous posts:

Creating Your Author Blog, Part 1

Creating your Author Blog, Part 2

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Beta Reading VS. Editing #amwriting

Once again, the question of the difference between beta reading and editing has arisen in one the many forums I frequent on Facebook. So, I feel the need to revisit a post from 2015, Beta Reading VS. Editing. If you’ve already seen this post, nothing has changed in the world of editing and beta reading since this first appeared. But thank you for stopping by!


Indies rely heavily on what we refer to as beta readers to help shape their work and make it ready for editing. But in many online forums, authors use the term used interchangeably with editing, and the two are completely different.

And unfortunately, some indie published works are clear examples of work by authors who don’t realize the importance of working with an editor, although it is apparent that they have had assistance from beta-readers.

What is quite disappointing to me, is the many traditionally published works that seem to fall into the same lack-of-good-editing category, and I am at a loss as to why this is so.

So, what is the difference between a beta reader and an editor?

Well, there is a HUGE difference.

Editing is a process, one where the editor goes over the manuscript line-by-line, pointing out areas that need attention: awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote-marks, or a myriad of things that make the manuscript unreadable. Sometimes, major structural issues will need to be addressed. It may take more than one trip through to straighten out all the kinks.

  1. In scholastic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully and making sure that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction mustbe resolved.
  2. In novel writing, editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective. Weak sentences are made stronger, nonessential information is weeded out, and important points are clarified, while strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.
  3. The editor is not the author She can only suggest changes, but ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.

Beta Reading is done by a reader. One hopes the reader is a person who reads and enjoys the genre that the book represents. Beta reading is meant to give the author a general view of the overall strengths and weaknesses of his story.

The beta reader must ask himself:

  1. Were the characters likable?
  2. Where did the plot bog down and get boring?
  3. Were there any places that were confusing?
  4. What did the reader like? What did they dislike?
  5. What do they think will happen next?

Beta Reading is not editing, and the reader should not make comments that are editorial in nature. Those kinds of nit-picky comments are not helpful at this early stage because the larger issues must be addressed before the fine-tuning can begin, and if you are beta reading for someone, the larger issues are what the author has asked you to look at.

This phase of the process should be done before you submit the manuscript to an editor, ensuring those areas of concern will be straightened out first.

Editors and other authors make terrible beta readers because it is their nature to dismantle the manuscript and tell you how to fix it. That is not what you want at that early point–what you want is an idea of whether you are on the right track or not with your plot and your characters, and if your story resonates with the reader.

Do yourself a favor and try to find a reader who is not an author to be a first reader for you. Then hire a local, well-recommended editor that you can work with to guide you in making your manuscript readable, and enjoyable.

If you notice a few flaws in your manuscript but think no one else will notice, you’re wrong. Readers always notice the things that stop their eye.

In my own work, I have discovered that if a passage seems flawed, but I can’t identify what is wrong with it, my eye wants to skip it. But another person will see the flaw, and they will show me what is wrong there.

That tendency to see our writing ‘as it should be and not how it is’ is why we need other eyes on our work.


Credits and Attributions:

Beta Reading VS. Editing, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2015 first published on Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

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