Tag Archives: Tad Williams

Elements of the Story: the story arc

Elements of the Story 1st Quarter of the MSWhen I first began writing, I wasn’t concerned with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of a tale–I wrote stories to read to my children, and I wrote stories I wanted to read. The stories lived in my mind, and I got a great deal of pleasure from writing them. It never occurred to me to submit them to a publisher, and I wouldn’t have known how to do that anyway.

It wasn’t until my youngest child was in high-school that I began thinking about writing as a vocation, and began looking for places to submit my work. So my evolution as a writer was: I began by writing songs in high-school and also writing poetry, graduated to writing fairytales for my kids and short stories for myself, and finally began my serious attempt at a novel in 1996.

2nd quarter of the manuscriptI began writing for my own pleasure, and had no idea of how to plot a novel. Since that first attempt at a novel, I have completed six novels, and am working on 3 more at this time. Each book has been an improvement over the previous one. Through working with good editors and educating myself,  I feel like I finally understand how  a good novel is constructed.

In my early books, I didn’t understand the way a good story worked. I knew one when I read one, but I didn’t really understand what made that story immersive and memorable.

I had a grasp of how to create characters, and I had a good idea for the basic plot,  but I was weak in the area of structuring the novel. Once I realized that weakness, I set out to resolve it.

For the last two years, that has been the area I’ve worked hardest on putting into practice, and for those who have beta-read my yet to be published work, that change in my understanding of how to write a novel is clear.

Now, I have an instinctive understanding that the evolution of the story can be graphed out in an arc–the Story Arc. I had heard of this concept, and in writing groups some authors will talk about it as if they understand it, but when you read their work it’s clear they don’t.

It wasn’t until Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home gave a seminar on it last year that the pieces fell into place for me.

The Story Arc copy

Some books are character-driven, others are event-driven. ALL of them follow an arc.  For my personal reading pleasure, I prefer Literary Fantasy, which has a character-driven plot. Events happen, often in a fantasy setting, but the growth of the characters is the central theme, and the events are just the means to enable that growth.

3rd qtr of manuscriptI write literary fantasy, with some emphasis on the fantasy. My own books, as in Huw the Bard, tend to be more character-driven than action oriented, as the Hero’s Journey is what intrigues me, but large events occur that cause personal growth. Whether your books are character- or event-driven, there must be an arc to the story.

We have talked about the way the manuscript can be divided into quarters.  Let’s consider the midpoint. The midpoint of the story arc begins the second half of the book. The first calamities have occurred and up to this point, the characters have been reacting to the antagonist’s moves.

The midpoint of the story arc is the Turning-Point, the place where there is no turning back. Consider J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit: At the midpoint, Bilbo is committed to seeing the Dwarves regain their home, and Smaug is routed, but at great cost. Now, he can see only disaster ahead of them, if Thorin continues down the moral path he has chosen.  Bilbo has been changing, but now he shows his true courage, by hiding the Arkenstone. Then he takes matters into his own hands in order to head off the impending war.  Bilbo tries to ransom the Arkenstone , but Thorin refuses to see reason. He banishes Bilbo, and battle is inevitable.

This arc is the same in every good, well-plotted novel: in the first half of the book everything had gone to hell, emotions were high, and the situation was sometimes chaotic, but the protagonist thought he had a grip on it. The Midpoint is the place where the already-high emotions really intensify, and the action does too. From this point on, the forces driving the plot are a train on a downhill run, picking up speed, and there is no stopping it or turning back now. The characters continue to be put to the test, and the subplots kick into gear.

4th qtr of MSThe second half is where the villain shines–the evil one is on a roll and it’s his ballgame. The truth underlying the conflict now emerges, and it culminates in the third calamity, the third plot point. This is also where the villain’s weaknesses begin to emerge, and the hero must somehow exploit them.

The third quarter of the book, from the midpoint to the third plot point is critical. These events tear the hero down, break him emotionally and physically so that in the final fourth of the book he can be rebuilt, stronger, and ready to face the villain on equal terms.

The third quarter of the book frequently sets the hero on the path to enlightenment, but first he must undergo a symbolic death and rebirth.

If you want to read classic fantasy where this type of story arc is really clear and yet the stories are strongly character driven, you should read:

magii of cyador

 

 

Magi’i of Cyador and Scion of Cyador by L. E. Modessit Jr. (2 books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pawn_of_Prophecy_cover

 

 

 

The Belgariad by David Eddings (5 book series)

 

 

 

 

Green_Angel_Tower_P1

 

 

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams (4 paperbacks, 3 hard bound or ebooks)

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Elements of a story: Identifying your protagonist

War_of_the_FlowersGreat plots drive great stories, but the best stories start with a character that really moved me. The trouble is, when we first begin to write a story, one character leads to another and soon, each character is vying to tell your their own story. It’s sort of like a family gathering, where they all talk at once, and you love them all.

This makes writing a true stand-alone book difficult. Tad Williams managed to do just that in 2003 with The War of the Flowers.  Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year-old lead singer in a marginally successful rock band. Fearing he is past his prime, he seeks refuge in a remote cabin in the woods. There, he reads a memoir written by a (perhaps) dead relative. This relative claimed he had visited the magical world of Faerie. A series of strange events occurs and before Theo knows it, he too is drawn into a place that is both strange and yet familiar to him, revealing the truth about many things that had always puzzled him.

war_flowersWilliams had another great character to draw on in his little fairy, Applecore, but he kept it contained in one wonderful novel detailing Theo Vilmos’ adventures rather than going too far afield and having to serialize it. This is a model we lesser-known fantasy authors might want to take a closer look at and somehow revive: the stand-alone novel.

We might have a great story in our head, and we may have an awesome cast of characters dying to leap onto the page, but until we know who the hero is, we have no story. From the first page to the last, Tad Williams knew who his hero was in The War of the Flowers, and it’s clear that he never doubted it was Theo Vilmos.

Sometimes  identifying just whose emotional and physical journey you will be following is easier said than done. When faced with a pantheon of great characters, ask yourself these questions (listed here in no particular order):

  • Who among these people has the most to lose?
  • Which character do you find the most interesting?
  • Who’s personal story inspired this tale in the first place?
  • Who will be best suited to taking full advantage of all this plot’s possibilities?

Dragonbone_ChairFrom my point of view, one of the best fantasy series of all time is Tad Williams’  epic, three-volume masterpiece, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It opens with volume one, The Dragonbone Chair. This is a very different tale than The War of the Flowers, much larger, and encompassing several entire cultures on the edge of disaster.

In this opening volume, Tad had many great characters to draw on, all of whom had strong stories. Indeed, there is a large cast of characters with incredible possibilities, but as a reader I liked that he managed to tell their stories without losing sight of the original story that sparked the series in the first place.

The fact that Williams was able to weave the many threads of such a large cast of characters into one enthralling story and still leave (Seoman) Simon Snowlock as the main protagonist with a gripping story-line  is amazing.

Green_Angel_Tower_P1Yet in this series, Tad Williams does just that. He could have written it as the story of Prince JosuaPrincess Miriamele, Binabik the Troll, or even the Norn prince, Jiriki. They are each compelling characters, with deep, intriguing back-stories, and any of them would have been an awesome protagonist.

Each and every one of the many characters in this series was strong enough to warrant a book of their own, but Simon the kitchen boy remains the central character, and the other story-lines are detailed but remain subordinate to his, fleshing it out and defining his ultimate fate, driving the plot to the final denouement, and the cataclysmic events in Green Angel Tower.

To_Green_Angel_TowerThis juggling act, this ability to not become sidetracked by your wonderful side-characters while telling their story is critical to the progression of your plot. It’s excruciatingly easy to become so enthralled with the story-line of a minor player that you derail your novel in the first draft.

I’m a gamer and I play Final Fantasy type RPGs. I adore side-quests, and I love a little back-story to flesh out whatever tale I’m reading, but just like in a game, the protagonist and the core plot has to stay in motion. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn has a lot of side-quests, and a lot of back-story, but despite the opportunities for derailment, it is propelled irresistibly toward the final catastrophic event, and does it in three admittedly large books.

A_Memory_of_Light_cover (1)As much as I adored the Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan seemed to fall into the trap of loving all his characters too much, and wanting to tell each of their truly epic stories in the one series–and it couldn’t be done without aggravating his fans.

Consider this: although it was originally planned as a six-book series, The Wheel of Time grew to encompass fourteen volumes, a prequel novel, and a companion book.  Jordan began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984. It was published in January 1990. With Jordan’s death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question, but Brandon Sanderson stepped in and did a masterful job of taking Jordan’s incredible mass of notes and background, along with the rough draft and finished the series’ final three installments.

Stone_of_FarewellIt occasionally happens that you have chosen a protagonist, but another character suddenly seems to have a more intriguing way about him. It is up to you to make a decision–who will be the central character? If, after all is said and done, a different character than the one you originally thought was the protagonist comes to the fore, you must go back and rewrite your beginning to to reflect that.

Deciding who that protagonist will be is a matter of knowing which character has the most opportunity to take full advantage of all the possibilities. The other characters serve only to propel him/her to the final conflict.

Sometimes, as in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, that character is the 14 year old kitchen boy on the verge of manhood, and not the battle-hardened prince with the tragic history.

 

 

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Comfort books, a three-course meal: 1st course, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Dragonbone_ChairI’ve been reading a lot lately. I know, you’re surprised, right? Mostly I’ve been revisiting my old favorites. I have a group of what I call “comfort books.”  That is not to say these books are comfortable, because they’re quite the opposite: challenging, involving,  and at times a little horrifying. But they are books that I can go back to again and again and never be disappointed in either the writing or the tale. I always find some new thing, along with the themes and characters that enchanted me the first time I read them.

These are the books that inspired me to write, not because I thought I could write better, but because these authors were unable to keep up with my reading demand. So, in the lull between “real books” I began writing the stories I wanted to read. Today begins  the first course of this three-course meal. Two more will follow!

First up is Tad Williams’ epic masterpiece, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. This tale was so large he couldn’t fit it all into one book. Each book is quite large, and believe me, there is no fluff in any of them.

Stone_of_FarewellIn this gripping tale, Williams takes a traditional tale of a kitchen-boy turned hero, and turns it sideways, giving it depth and power. He puts his protagonist, who begins as Simon Mooncalf, though hell,forging strength of character and courage in a boy who always dreamed of adventure. Simon the dreamer is real, human; a man with flaws as well as strengths. As a boy he is afraid, but he is courageous when it counts. And as a warrior, Simon Snowlock is strong, and not always forgiving. He is a multilayered hero, as is the story in which he is set.

The quest for the swords of power, and the larger quest to save Osten Ard from the grip of Ineluki, the Storm King, are enclosed within the real dramas of human (and not-so-human) affairs.

What made this  series of books strike such a chord within me in the first place, was the way the world of Osten Ard reflects the history and folklore of our world. Several characters’ elements and experiences mirror the legends and mythology of Great Britain and other European cultures. I felt I knew these societies, and yet they were seen through a fractured mirror, similar, yet so different.

At the outset, the Erkynlanders are are the dominant society, and are ruled by King John Presbyter, also known as Prester John. He united them, but they’re still slightly clan-based and resemble the early medieval English of around the fifth to seventh centuries, with names that are  Saxon-ish and Biblical. It is a castle-based, feudal society right out of the dark ages. They have a religion that is similar to Christianity, as if they are a parallel reality.

To_Green_Angel_TowerPrester John is the man who united Osten Ard, and carved their society, but he is dying. Like the great Plantagenet kings of our history, he has two strong sons who have a deep-rooted quarrel, and this sets up the conflict that evolves and encompasses an entire world.

After his death, the dark secrets of Prester John’s own checkered history drive the plot, sweeping Simon up in events which he has no control over.  His growth over the course of this series makes a gripping, compelling story, as does the parallel story of Miriamele, Prester John’s granddaughter.

Green_Angel_Tower_P1The other people of Osten Ard who have recognizable real-world parallels in their names and cultures, and who have strong, absorbing story-lines are:

Binabik—a Qanuc (based on Inuit, or Eskimo)

Jiriki—Sithi (distinct from a branch of their culture, the Norns, who are the root antagonists.  Based on Asian, Japanese) Ineluki, the Storm King is Norn.

Maegwin—Hernystiri (Celtic, perhaps Irish or Welsh)

Sir Camaris—Nabbanai: I just fell in love with this tragic man. These people felt reminiscent of Renaissance Italy, quite Roman

Tiamak—Wrannamen: Indigenous tribal  people who live close to the earth,

Sludig—Rimmersmen: Norse and early Germanic , quite Viking

Also included is another culture, the Thrithings: Horse nomads, reminiscent of the Mongols.

This is not a series you can read in a day or even a week. It is easy to get completely caught up in this tale, to the point that you forget to eat, and don’t hear when the dog wants out. I originally bought The Dragonbone Chair for the artwork on the cover. It was created by the brilliant fantasy artist, Michael Whelan. All the covers in this series are incomparable, and to my great joy, so was the story within.

TadWilliams200And the best part is: Tad is writing another trilogy based in Osten Ard, set thirty years later. Quote from his blogpost of April 3, 2014 : “I guess the cat has been debagged. Several of you have seen and shared the news that, yes, I am returning to Osten Ard for a series of books called (collectively) “The Last King of Osten Ard”. It will feature many of the same characters a generation later (and many new ones as well). The book titles will be (as of now):

The Witchwood Crown
Empire of Grass
The Navigator’s Children

This is assuming I don’t do my normal try-to-squeeze-two-books-into-the-last-volume trick.”

I don’t care how you do it Tad. I am just glad you are still young, and still writing amazing books in a kijillion settings. I am waiting patiently for the emergence of this series. Do your crazy thing, madman! Take your time and do it right! I will have it on pre-order the minute it becomes available, and when it arrives on my doorstep I will dance all the way to my cozy sofa, where I will sit and read until I am forced to set the book down in order to feed the hubby. Then I will continue reading until the next meal must be served.

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Cover Reveal Darkness Rising 5–Broken, by Ross M. Kitson

Darkness Rising 5 - BrokenOne the best aspects of my life is to be involved in the process as some of the finest fantasy authors out there make their work ready for publication. A longtime friend of mine is Ross M. Kitson, author of the Prism Series. Several years ago I had the privilege of working with him on Darkness Rising 3–Secrets, and I recently had the absolute joy of working with him on the soon-to-be-released Darkness Rising 5–Broken, the new cover of which has just been unveiled.

This new cover completely speaks to what is inside this book. And let me just say I LOVE that series of books–Kitson’s world is dark and dirty, and yet it teems with vibrant, colorful life. His characters leap off the page, and for those like me who love a really deep fantasy read, he creates an epic-fantasy that is truly original.

The Blurb:

‘Beneath the veneer, beneath the beauty, there is always the coldness of stone.’

Tragedy has torn apart Emelia and her companions, a terrible betrayal instigated by the Darkmaster, Vildor. A devastated Jem struggles to control the fearful power of the crystals, becoming distant from his closest friends. Hunor and Orla are tested by a secret from the past, a revelation that will change everything between them. In the Dead City, Emelia begins a search for her past, a journey that will plunge her deeper into the darkness of Vildor and his twisted schemes.

Desperate to seek aid in their battle against Vildor, the companions travel north to Belgo, capital of North Artoria. But everything is not what it seems in the palace, and danger lurks in every shadow, whether cast by friend or foe.
Separated and alone, can Emelia, Jem and Hunor hope to prevail? Or will the evils of the present and the past overcome them at last?

Darkness Rising 5 – Broken is the fifth in the epic fantasy series that reviewers are calling  ‘epic and spellbinding.’ It is a must read for fantasy fans the world over.

That’s pretty intriguing. But let me just say that Ross Kitson doesn’t rely on the great bastions of fantasy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn for his inspiration, although he is a great fan of theirs. Kitson’s world is nothing like anything I’ve ever read, yet it is familiar enough that the reader becomes immersed. His characters are  uniquely individual, with great strengths and each with weaknesses that can and do create tension within the group.

If you are looking for a new, truly epic fantasy series, book one of the Prism Series is currently on sale for .99 for the ebook

Darkness Rising (Book One: Chained)

 

Ross M. KitsonAuthor Bio

Ross M Kitson is a published author in the fantasy genre, with an ongoing series (The Prism Series), a number of short stories on Quantum Muse web-zine and several stories in Steampunk and fantasy anthologies.

His debut series for Myrddin is due for release in October 2012, and is a sci-fi series set in modern-day York. It is written for ages 12+, although its combination of killer androids, steam-powered airships, kick-ass heroines and action packed chases will appeal to all ages.

Ross works as a doctor in the UK specializing in critical care and anaesthesia. He is happily married with three awesome children, who nagged him incessantly to write something that they could read. His love of speculative fiction and comics began at a young age and shows no signs of fading.

Follow Ross on Twitter:          @rossmkitson

Find Ross on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/TheNuKnights

http://www.facebook.com/ross.kitson.9

Websites:

For the infinity Bridge:         http://thenuknights.weebly.com/

Blogs:

http://mouseroar.blogspot.co.uk

http://rossmkitson.blogspot.co.uk

http://skulldustcircle.blogspot.co.uk

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Finding demographics is not finding Nemo

My New Year’s resolution this year is to identify who I am writing for, and tailor my marketing strategy to that segment of the population.

I should have picked something simple, like losing weight, or bringing about world peace.

I would be lying if I said I write for one particular type of person–although Huw the Bard falls into the not-for-children category. I like to think my books can be enjoyed by both men and women.

Who are youIt’s just that I write whatever I’m in the mood to read, and I read everything, Fantasy first, sci-fi second, then mystery, historical, paranormal, books of political intrigue, books filled with naughty vampires. Romance, YA, hard sci-fi, epic fantasy–I read it all. This makes it difficult to categorize myself .

Looking in the mirror doesn’t help.

At IHop, I am a 55+, getting discounts and a special old people’s menu. I am a senior, according to AARP, and am entitled certain discounts when I produce that all-important AARP card.

These things tell me I am an older person, as does the mirror.

However, these visible signs don’t show the woman with mad kick-ball-skills, who plays Lego Star Wars until the grandchild says she’s had enough games for one day, and he’d like to play outside now. They don’t shed any light on me. the person who will read and reread a book until it is nothing but shreds–if I fell in love with it. The gray hair, the slightly less-than-svelte physique–these clues don’t offer a hint about my obsession with Final Fantasy XII.

And that is the problem.

I write for me, and I don’t know who I am.

The Creative Penn offers 5 tips to assist me in this process:

1. First we must isolate what types and/or groups of people the content of the book would interest.

Well-that is just the problem, isn’t it…but they do give an idea on how to approach that:

 "Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

“Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

“Example: If your book is about an archaeologist who uses Stone Henge to travel into the future, your book would probably interest history buffs as well as fans of speculative fiction/sci-fi.  If that hero happens to be a former Marine, your book might also interest military personnel and/or the families.” (It’s a direct quote, so I am ignoring the terrible itch to edit out the misspelling of Stonehenge.)

Okay–I think I can do this. My book details the adventures of a bard who is forced to  flee his comfortable existence and who finds himself running from one disaster to another with death-defying regularity.

2. Second, we must: identify other books that are comparable to your book and look at the profiles of those books’ main buyers/readers.

They also explain that concept a little further “The target audience isn’t always who the book was written for, but rather, who it ends up appealing to.  Twilight draws in tween and teenage girls with its premise involving a normal, everyday girl falling into a romance with an young, attractive male (the bread and butter of many young girls’ dreams), but it’s appeal stretched to the cross-section of middle-age female readers who love romance and enjoyed Anne Rice in her heyday.”  

Alrighty then–I was heavily drawn, as a reader, to David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, P.D. James, Carl Sagan, Agatha Christie, Piers Anthony, and Fritz Lieber–so I suppose my books reflects a certain amount of their (rather jumbled) influence.

Oh, and don’t forget Roger Zelazney. And Mercedes Lackey.

Well that has narrowed it down quite a bit! (Sarcasm–I know, it’s a nasty habit.) I could have included Tolstoy, James Joyce, Horace Walpole, and Louisa May Alcott, but I didn’t have time.

330px-Pin-artsy3. You are next encouraged to pinpoint what is special about your book.

Again, the Creative Penn offers us some insights on how to go about this: “If you tell someone you’re writing a book about a witch who uses her power of communing with animals to rescue a lost dog from an evil dog-napper, then A. Wow, you have an interesting imagination!  B. You may or may not have taken in 101 Dalmatians too much as a child and C. With such a premise, chances are, your story is more light-hearted than scary, so your target readers to which the mystery aspect of your story will entice are more cozy-type mystery consumers.” So what are the few key words, the hook I can use to sell Huw the Bard? How do I boil the plot down to a few key words? This could take a while, but I’m sure I can do it.

Honest.

4. Now we need to determine some demographics.

That’s the problem–I am the demographic, and I don’t know who I am. Mature Audiences, definitely. There is some graphic sex, although it doesn’t devolve into a porn-fest, There is violence, a witnessed rape, and murder. These are all there because they are watershed moments in Huw’s life, things that change his view of the world. There are also a haunted village and a bisexual knight who talks to his horse, so there is humor midst the misery.

chekhov's gun5. Finally, the Creative Penn suggests we feed the previous four tips into each other to gain even more insight and narrow down who our target audience/s is/are.

Just give me Chekhov’s gunnow. I need to shoot something.

Several times.

Seriously–the article I’ve drawn these suggestions from is a good article, and it goes on to discuss how to use your target audience, which I did find somewhat illuminating.

At this point, if I can get even ONE concrete idea that works, I am feeling good about it. After all, it’s January! I’ve got a whole year to get this down, before I have to admit that this New Year’s resolution has gone the way of my weight-loss dreams and visions of world peace.

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The author’s voice

Brunhild_(Postkarte),_G._Bussiere,_1897All authors have a voice, although many can’t sing. I have 8 good notes and I’m not afraid to use them in singing the odd song now and again. Tad Williams can sing, and has the cd to prove it.

But what do I really mean when I speak of an author’s voice?

We become attached to certain authors because when we read their works, we hear their “voice.” We hear them speaking to us.

Each author writes with a certain style, or in other words, the words he or she habitually uses that makes his or her writing unique. “Voice” conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.

You have all heard me say that having a manuscript properly edited before publishing it is crucial for the indie author’s credibility. You may ask, “what is this process, and how do I retain my voice, and control of my work when someone else is intent on hijacking it?”

First of all, a good editor will never try to hijack your work. Writers intentionally use symbolism and thematic consistency. We sometimes intentionally repeat certain words for emphasis. These things are significant to us, and a good editor will recognize that.

So what does an editor look for in a manuscript?

Indies are looking for an editor who “helps a writer develop a book from idea or outline or initial draft. Makes sure the book will meet the needs of the publisher and its readers. Will work with the author through any number of drafts. Often works with writers of non-fiction. Guides the writer in topics to be covered in or omitted from the book.” quoted from the Editors Blog.

In other words indies want a structural editor.  What will this editor do for them?

The professional freelance editor will read your manuscript, looking for the rough spots and inconsistencies that work their way into every final draft. They will suggest you correct certain grammatical errors and habits that interfere with the flow of your work, and give you an idea of how those corrections could be made. They will also point out things that are unnecessary background–info-dumps that have slipped through, and suggest you remove them.

Also a structural editor may suggest that a section be moved to a different, more appropriate place in the manuscript. This editor will devote a month or more of their time to your manuscript. This is a hefty commitment on their part, and is one that is not lightly made.

Raymond chandler quote split infinitivesA good editor will not try to take over your manuscript and erase your voice.

You, as the author, have the final say on your manuscript–it is after all your intellectual property. If you don’t want to change something you feel is intrinsic to what you are trying to express, you don’t have to.

Sometimes editors don’t see the forest for the trees–and a good conversation with the author will straighten those areas out. If your editor does not respond to your emails, or indicate in some way that they have heard your concerns, you should not work with them.  

The best part of being an indie is having the control of your work. A good relationship with your editor is crucial to turning out a good product.

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But let’s talk about books for a while

I noticed something this weekend–I’m obsessed with books.  No, it’s true! Apparently, and I have to agree, it’s all I can think of to discuss. Not only that, but my friends are all obsessed with what they are reading, too.

What a surprise!

So what have I read lately that really rings my bells? Several things, actually, in a wide range of genres.

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day Tad WilliamsI just finished the third book in Tad Williams’s Bobby Dollar series, Sleeping Late on Judgement Day. Wow, my favorite bad angel, Bobby Dollar, finally gets a break. I love the twists and turns of William’s prose, as his hard-boiled angel gets down to the dirty business of cleaning up the mean streets of Heaven. He uses ordinary words in an extraordinary way, but never commits the sin of dropping the reader out of the story.  THIS is why I read his work.  I highly recommend this book to all those who like a bit of a hardboiled-detective twist to their paranormal fantasy. It is a smart, well-crafted journey into the human condition, set in an environment guaranteed to keep things interesting, and peopled with unforgettable characters. I gave it 5 full stars on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy.

Better You Go Home Scott DriscollI also read Better You Go Home, by Seattle area author, Scott Driscoll.  This is not fantasy, it is literary fiction and a medical thriller. Chico Lenoch is an intriguing character. The tale is told in the first person, which I usually find difficult to get into as a reader, but didn’t in this case. Also something I usually find off-putting but didn’t in this case is the way Chico occasionally ‘breaks the fourth wall’–he sometimes addresses the reader directly. It works, because you are in his head the whole time and it feels perfectly natural. Driscoll is a professor at the University of Washington, and is work is both literate and intriguing. This is not genre fiction, instead it is written for mature, dedicated readers who want substance in a book. No fluff here, just good solid craftsmanship. I also gave it five full stars in my review.  But let’s be real–I don’t go to all the trouble of reviewing books I don’t love.

Doublesight--Terry PersunThen, in July I read a fantasy by another local author, Terry Persun: Doublesight. This was the most intriguing twist on the old shapeshifter theme I had ever read. Wholly human or wholly crow depending on what form she is in, Zimp is a great character, both endearing and aggravating. At first, she is weak and allows a less qualified, but more aggressive clan member, Arren, to make decisions for her. This book is as much about personalities and the need to remember their own commonality as it is about the great evil that threatens their kind. Each individual is sharply drawn, and has presence, struggling for their own place in their society while their world faces calamity. Zimp and Lankor, who is a doublesight dragon,  struggle to do what they know is right, in the face of treachery and occasional bad judgement.

The MArtian Andy WeirMy mind is still blown by The Martian, by Andy Weir. This is hardcore science fiction and may well be the best book I read all year. Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative. A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission.  During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief-stricken at his sudden death. However, Mark is that rare breed of human, an astronaut, so of course he is extremely resourceful. He does what he has to in order to survive his injuries, and then figures out exactly what he must do to stay alive until the next mission.

I definitely read a mix of self-published and indie authors, but I like authors who take chances with their work, and who eschew the hamster wheel to hell of the Big Six publishing giants, who mindlessly chug out sequel after boring sequel. Tad Williams writes like an indie, rebellious and defiant. Scott Driscoll is also ‘a bit out there’ in the approach he takes in writing Chico’s story.

I love my job!

 

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My manuscript is a Doorstop

Saint_georges_dragon_grasset_beguleI give up.

I need ideas, and they–recalcitrant beasts that they are– will not appear.  Please, ideas…have pity on me and put yourself into this manuscript.

I woke with a new book in my head and now I can’t work on the one I am SUPPOSED to be doing…the one my nephew, Robbie, will beat me for if I don’t get it written…

The one that has been in limbo for more than a year.

Outline of Book: done.

First 1/4 of Book — done, done and then done some more — done to the point that there are 160,000 words: TWO books worth of done-ness to sort through and condense into no more than 50,000 words so that the total length of the Book won’t be so big that the paperback is a doorstop.

To_Green_Angel_TowerTad Williams can get away with a book  520,000 words long (To Green angel Tower) and David Foster Wallace could with Infinite Jest (543,709) –but I’m an indie.

I have to calculate my production costs, and believe me, it’s hard enough for an indie to sell work that is priced reasonably. Once an indie’s paperback increases to more than $14.99 it won’t sell at all, and at anything over 120,00 to 130,000 words your costs are well over the optimum of $12.99.

 

What to leave in? What to cut?

What the heck?

Second 1/4 of book mostly done, and looking good.

Last half of book nearly done, pleased with the way that is going.

Still drowning in flood of first 1/4–> think there may be a book of short-stories there.  Must decide who will live…

…and who will end their days in an anthology of tales of Neveyah….

Sigh.

map of Neveyah relief 3-4-2013 001

 

 

 

 

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The Girl With the Tolstoy Tattoo

extra small caricature of connie  by street artist Stacey DentonYour blog is up. The Template is as well laid out as you could make it. You have your books or relevant social media listed in the sidebar. You have the catchiest blog title on the block. Now all you need to do is start blogging!

1. If you are using WordPress CHOOSE A CATEGORY NOW for your post–do it 1st so that you don’t forget to do it. I published this blog in the categories of Blogging, Self Publishing, Books, Fantasy, Literature, Humor, Publishing, and Writing.  Each blog post may have a different category. If you should forget to choose the category, it will go into the ‘uncategorized’ pile–the dreaded WordPress slush pile where blogs go to die.

Also in WordPress, chose a few TAGS now so that you do not forget to tag the post. That button is below the Categories list. Chose tags that most represent the core of your post, so that searcher for that subject will find it. For this post I am using ‘Blogging, Writing, Self Publishing, Humor, WordPress, Blogger’.   Also, ‘The Girl With the Tolstoy Tattoo.”

blogging 1.1

If you are using Blogger, PICK YOUR LABELS NOW–Blogger doesn’t use categories, so your labels are very important. On the right hand side, click on ‘LABELS’ and simply type your key words into the BOX, separated by commas. In Blogger, LABELS are what TAGS are in WordPress, so use words that are the core of what you are blogging about so that interested searcher will find your blog:

blogging 2.1

Now that you have that out-of-the-way, it’s time to blog!

2. Hook me with that catchy blog post title!  Today’s post is called “The Girl With the Tolstoy Tattoo” — for a multitude of reasons. I have a tattoo (it’s not Tolstoy) but we are all struggling authors, even those of us who blog on the most random subjects. And if you are ever at a writer’s convention, there is no better icebreaker in the autograph line than to offer to show Tad Williams your Tolstoy tattoo. (If you have one, and if you are insane.) (Be sure to add ‘Tad Williams’ to the Tags or Labels for that post.)

3. Put that catchy title in the White box at the top of the page:blogging 3.1

Now there are two paths for you.   You can wing it, keying directly into the Post box as I am doing now, or you can write it on a WORD document and copy and paste it into the body of the post.  I don’t do that often, because word is rife with HINKY FORMATTING that screws up your blog posts for both Blogger and WordPress, and then you have to use the handy “REMOVE FORMATTING” button that is located in the ribbon (tool box) of both Blogger and WordPress:

blogging 3.2

blogging 3.3

Both Blogger and WordPress have spell check functions, and both will save at times as you go, but as in everything, it is up to you to click “SAVE DRAFT” and save your work fairly frequently.

Play around with it. Practice uploading images and inserting them, playing with it until you feel comfortable and know how to ensure the image will appear where you want it, and will be the size you want it to be:

In WordPress, place your cursor in the body of the blog post and click once at the spot where you will want the image. Then scroll up to the left side of the ribbon (tool box) and click on “ADD MEDIA.” This menu will appear:

 

blogging 4.1

If this is your first blog post, you won’t have anything in your media library yet, so Click on “Upload Files.” Select the image you want to post,  then check your alignment, i.e. left, right, or center. Adjust your size options to fit your need for the image in that post (those requirements vary from post to post.) Then click ‘INSERT INTO POST.”

blogging 5.1

 

In Blogger you click on the little Picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’). A pop-up menu will appear, and then you will upload the image, decide the placement and the size.  This nearly foolproof simplicity is why most people who have “never done this before” like Blogger.

blogging 6.1

 

Now your picture of your Tolstoy tattoo is right there, illustrating your hilarious post where you discuss why getting that tattoo while drinking vodka shots at the “Fans of Great Russian  Authors” convention wasn’t as good an idea as it seemed at the time, and that maybe the T-Shirt would have been a better investment.

leo_tolstoy_t_shirt-r207720cff4e14b059c7bba5cdb41c6c9_804gs_512 from Zazzle

 

All you have to do now is post your links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and all other  social media you can think of and Voilà! You are a blogger. Do this regularly, and you will build up a following, and you will develop credibility as an author. Your name will be searchable on Google and Bing, and all other search engines.

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Name that Kid

fist_names_generatorA Facebook friend of mine whose given name is ‘Tad’ remarked that he had never liked his name, that he had always felt more like a Christopher. I can totally relate!  I was stuck with a not-too-goofy first name, Connie, which I never really liked,  but my middle name…. To this day I can’t spell it with out concentrating really hard: Lieuettice.

In a way I understand my mother’s dilemma. Good names are hard to think up! My friend, Irene, is always hammering at me to give my characters names that don’t all start with the same letters…which I wish I had thought about earlier on in the Tower of Bones series (doh).

_72982736_vikings courtesy of BBCSo lately I’ve had to resort to my handy  list of Saxon Names. Or my list of Popular Viking Baby Names.   “Come here, BRÖKK, my fine, strapping hero…put on this armor and at least look like you want to go out and wrestle a dragon….you and DAGFINNR can pillage the village when you’re done.”

Runes001So, my dilemma in my current work in progress is that two of the female characters have names that begin with the same letter. When I began writing the series, I didn’t realize the second character would become so important in the story–and now, three books into the series, I CAN’T CHANGE HER NAME!  (bangs head on desk.)

But, instead of sitting here, wailing “Why, why why?” I suppose I should just get on with writing the story.

Note to self:  Always name your character names that begin with different letters–there are twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, for the love of Tolstoy…and if we get into the Elder Futhark we can use all those lovely runes….

names

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