Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Release Day for Trefury: Mendi's Curse! Info, Soundtracks, and Quizzes

Copyright 2014 Nicolle Raty Murray; original artwork
My debut novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse, is now available for purchase in hardcover format.

The land of Callorin is dying, cast off from divine aid and adrift in cold seas, with dark powers swooping in for the kill. As they have for thousands of years, Callorin turns to Thssk to fix the problem, but Thssk wants to avoid everyone. He failed last time, and his human handler put a curse on him as he abandoned her on a battlefield. She would be avenged through the next girl Thssk forced to become his handler.

Thssk is sent on a mission to another world to rescue the long-lost heir of Origiba, in the hope of developing outside support for Callorin. While there, Thssk tries to thwart the curse by taking Cortnee, a tech savvy, arts major as his new handler. It is only when Thssk has gained the upper hand over his enemies and everything seems to be working out for a change that he discovers he is not the game changer anymore—Cortnee is.

On a world where starships are born, homes grow, and flowers can flatten entire cities, millions of lives are at stake. More importantly, Thssk’s notorious past comes back to bite him. The girl who has become a catalyst politically and astralgically won’t communicate with him, and she has some crazy ideas about how to get their job done. With her, Thssk may fail for a second time, without her, he may never attain the great future he was promised.

You might like Trefury if you are into:
1) Adventure stories.
2) Stories spanning multiple worlds.
3) Diverse characters in both gender and race.
4) Fascinating, exotic, and mind-boggling settings.
5) Entwining plot lines.

 Trefury also fits into a rare niche, it's clean speculative fiction. No sex, no profanity, no graphic violence. The readership age range is from 15 on up (based on vocabulary and themes in the story).

While I am very excited to finally share this story with everyone, I am mostly feeling a sense of relief and calm. It is very satisfying to complete a project like this. And it's also nice to realize that achieving a dream is neither a summation of who I am, nor is it a place of arrival. This is a milestone in my life and I'm grateful that I have it as a foundation for writing future novels and improving my talent as a storyteller.

I want to thank the many people who helped me brainstorm, revise, edit, and who supported me in this effort. You've made me a better writer and have helped me make this story something to be proud of.

And to finish off my writing soundtrack, at least the big highlights, here are the last two tracks, including the song that epitomizes the whole thing.

First up, "Whiplash" by Selena Gomez. (No pun intended, for those of you who have read the book.)

This song became my "Trefury mode" anthem.

And here is the song that is my book, "What You're Thinking (Pure Energy)" by Information Society. While I listened to the original version a lot, the remixed version is my favorite. If you listen to any of the soundtrack songs, make it this one.

Original Version:

*Remixed Version:

For more soundtracks and previous Trefury posts click here.

And finally ...
Read the book and think you know it? Try out one of the new quizzes about Trefury: Mendi's Curse on Goodreads.

Today's the last day to enter for a free copy here on my blog, but starting tomorrow you can get a second opportunity to snag a free copy on Goodreads. The link in the sidebar will be updated to direct you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Trefury: The Other Side of the Story

By now you've probably read the official story summary of my book, Trefury: Mendi's Curse, but what many of you don't know is that that summary only spells out one side of the story. There is another big storyline going on and there are other character threads which are woven into both sides.

May I introduce you to three of those other main characters?

1 - Ientadur
He's a young adult with a heavily-monitored medical condition who just wants to marry his childhood sweetheart and become independent. But his parents don't approve and are doing everything they can to prevent him from marrying. Then Ien's old history teacher gets in contact with him and reveals that everything he's been told is one big lie and that Ien has a genetic legacy that will allow him to save the lives of thousands of people as a war with another country threatens his home. Life will never be the same again. He is separated from the one he loves, estranged from his family, and hunted by the most powerful and dangerous group on the planet. Ien must grow up, become pro-active, and face obstacles and decisions that could tear him apart. If he does, everyone else needs to watch out. The legacy of the half-murlynn is nothing to be trifled with.

2 - Sabriel
Everyone's heard of the damsel or princess in distress, well this time the one in distress is a man. Sabriel has just graduated from university, ready to take on a career as a composer. He's handsome, young, and independent. But then he's kidnapped twice, nearly dies in transit, stuck in a life-support chair, and people are trying to kill him. He can't catch a break. Well, except one. He's got a girl with a powerful weapon who has stepped up as his bodyguard. Maybe together they can piece the clues to find out why someone's after him and more importantly, who. If the bad guys don't get to him first.

3 - Damon
Haunted by his wife's mysterious death, Damon is a single-parent determined to make a decent life for himself and his daughter. But then his life starts unraveling. Financial accounts are closing without his permission, his job is being taken from him, and both friends and strangers are bringing up his wife's name. On top of that, his daughter has become a target as her anonymous involvement in a drug sting is leaked. When she goes missing, things get really surreal. Damon is soon forced to leave his world for another, forced to rely on strangers to track his daughter's whereabouts. It's hard to know who to believe and who to trust. Lies unravel and new lies are formed. For Damon, only one thing is clear, he's got to do whatever it takes to get his daughter back and find out the truth about his wife's death.

Hee hee, and now you're probably wondering why these aren't separate books and how in the world they fit in with the main storyline. Trust me, they all come together and are interwoven. I take a lot of pleasure in working with complex storylines, but I won't lie, it isn't easy or quick to do. Trefury has been a massive undertaking, I mean years of development and revision. And this book is only the first part of the story. There is more to come. I hope you enjoy it.

There's still time to sign-up for a free, autographed, hardcover copy of the book. Click on the picture of the cover in the right sidebar to find out how.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 9 - 10

There's still time to sign-up to get a free, hardcover copy of my debut novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse. Just click on the picture of the cover to your right and it will take you to all the details.

Continuing to highlight some of the music that helped me stay in the zone while writing the novel, both of these songs were done by Delerium, a group I highly recommend for mood music.

These songs had that international, especially eastern vibe that I wanted. This is a reflection on the country and planet my character Cortnee comes from. I had a fun time meshing different eastern cultures, while retaining some western foibles and customs in this half of my world-building.

Trefury is a novel taking place on two very diverse planets. That meant I had more than the average amount of world-building to do. Fortunately, I've been working not only on this story but many others from two different (yet connected) collections of worlds for over thirty years. It's not something I just threw together overnight. There is a giant scheme behind every planet I've made and they are all connected through a special passageway that I call, in simple English terms, The Beltway. (It has another name in one of my made-up languages.)

I've found it's good not to overuse my languages and dialects because it can alienate readers. A smattering will do, and eventually, the more they read my books, they will be able to handle more and understand more. But the point of world-building and making up languages is more for originality and authenticity rather than reinventing the wheel, and the focus of my novels is telling the story rather than showing off what worlds I've created.

So first up is "Terra Firma," a song many of you have probably heard before:

The second song is "Remembrance," which probably isn't as widely known. I love the deep horns at the beginning. They were an inspiration to me for the "prayer horns" that go off every night on Cortnee's world. The song then evolves into eastern/western mix and then goes techno. It couldn't be more perfect.

I'm very excited to share a very small piece of my world-building with you. Those who have already read earlier versions of the novel, or who have followed the blog for awhile know that world-building is very dear to my heart. And while world-building is a magnificent skill to possess, bear in mind that it is no substitute for storytelling. I've read many manuscripts where the writer put all their thought and effort into creating their world and the story (what little there was) dealt with showing the world and everything in it to the reader. A tragedy. Worlds that well drawn should have great stories revolving in them and characters not only unique but that are relatable and compelling populating those worlds.

What do you think?

You may also like to read:
World-building: Think Big, Be Creative, Have Fun!
How Much World-Building Do You Need?
Falling in Love with Your World
What Justifies an Epic Series?
What Makes Epic Fantasy Tick

Cover reveal for Trefury: Mendi's Curse, including book summary.
Behind the Scenes #1: Forbidden Without Knowing Why
Behind the Scenes #2: Let's Talk Hair
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 1 
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 2 - 3
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 4
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 5 - 8 
BOOK GIVEAWAY ON THE THIS BLOG from Sept. 2 - 30, 2014 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rethinking the Process: Formatting Your Novel for Print

*Note: This post is a compilation of what I've learned while putting together my first book, and is in no way authoritative. Everyone's experience is different, but hopefully this post will help those of you thinking about indie publishing, or who are trying to figure out the ropes.

I've discovered you develop an entirely different perspective when you decide to indie publish, especially when it comes to formatting your manuscript.

When you are getting your manuscript polished, formatted, and ready to be viewed by agents and publishers, you get stuck on guidelines like these:

1 - Double space
2 - Use Times New Roman or Courier font only (or else!)
3 - Page numbers go in the upper right hand corner
4 - Use a header to state the title of your book and your name
5 - When printing it out, print on only one side of the paper
6 - Don't add spaces between decorative breaks in the narrative
7 - Word count

And so forth. There are lots of tailored guidelines, depending on the publisher or the agent, but the ones I've listed are pretty general.

But, once you've decided to become the publisher, it's a whole new ball game. You can throw out those guidelines once your manuscript is completely polished, edited, and proof edited.

1 - Double spacing serves to help your editor, or critique partners make notes in your manuscript. You won't need it for your print copy. 14.4 pt. or 1.5 pt. spacing is your new target range. You still want enough white space so your lines don't look crowded, but you don't need as much white space as when you double space. (Different fonts have different spacing built in.)

2 - If you're using MS Word, the Styles and Formatting section becomes your best friend. If you aren't familiar with it, you must do the tutorials to get familiar. It will save you tons of time, and avoid a lot of mistakes and irregularities in your manuscript. You can find Styles and Formatting by looking up at your top menu bar and clicking on Format. Under the Format menu, you'll see Styles and Formatting. Click on it. From there you can set your font and font sizes for different parts of your manuscript. Things like chapter headers, or special pages where you want things centered or in italics; you can set these in Styles and Formatting.

3 - Understanding fonts. Just because your writing program comes with a list of fonts, doesn't mean you have permission to use them. Fonts cost money. And depending on where you are publishing your print book, your printing company may or may not have the rights to print in the fonts you want. You need to check. I went through Lulu.com, and they make it clear which fonts you can use and which fonts you need to purchase. They'll upload a MS file and convert it to a PDF. If you don't use one of their recommended true-type fonts, they'll change your font. If you have purchased a specific font, you need to embed it into a PDF file. Check with the company you are going through to make sure you're following their guidelines and are using a font legally.

Make sure when you choose a font for your text that it is easily readable. Decorative fonts are pretty, but they're better used for party invitations and banners. It's your responsibility to choose a font that reflects the genre/tone of your novel and that is essentially invisible to readers, meaning, they aren't going to stop and stare at your pretty or complicated font instead of reading the actual story.

Some authors like to use a slightly more decorative, or a different font for their chapter headings. You don't have to. It's a style choice.

Likewise, don't make the size of your font so tiny it's hard for most people to read. You'll alienate potential readers. If you've written an extremely large book, think on the possibility of breaking it into two books versus keeping it together. Some printing companies have limits on the number of pages you can have for a book. Don't freak out and try to make your font smaller or reduce your margins to nothing, in order to cram more words on the page. That screams "Unprofessional!" A good average for lines on the page is between 30 - 35.

4 - Forget about the standard 8 x 11 inch paper size. You need to go into your document and resize your paper to the size it will be printed at. For me, that meant resizing to 6 x 9 inches. And boy, does that open up your eyes regarding the size of your book! Forget about word count, you'll be dealing with page count now. Printers usually print 4 pages per sheet. If you don't want unnecessary blank pages added to your novel, make sure your total page count is divisible by 4.

5 - Watch out for widows and orphans, those bits of text that end up on a new page all by themselves, whether it's part of a sentence, or just one sentence or small paragraph. You're using up an entire sheet of paper for that one little bit. You'll either need to take out things from your chapter to get rid of them, or add things to make use of that extra page.

6 - Set your margins, including the side ones (gutters). One inch all around is pretty standard. Decide where you want your page numbers. For hardcover books, page numbers are usually centered at the bottom. For paperback, they are in the right and left corners. Some books have even put page numbers in the center of the side of the page. It's a style issue.

7 - Learn something about book design. Follow book designer blogs and pay attention to what they are sharing. Get a feel for what you like and what elements reflect the tone and subject of your novel. Realize that you probably won't be able to do all the bells-and-whistles on your own (unless you are book designer). There are a lot of style elements you can do, but if you want something really unusual or spectacular, it would be a good idea to hire a book designer to help you.

8 - Learn recto and verso. From The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition:
"Publishers refer to the trimmed sheets of paper that you turn in a printed-and-bound book as leaves, and a page is one side of a leaf. The front of the leaf, the side that lies to the right in an open book, is called recto. The back of the leaf, the side that lies to the left when the leaf is turned, is the verso. Rectos are always odd-numbered, versos always even-numbered."

Certain pages are expected to be either recto or verso. For instance, your half-title page and title page are always recto. Your copyright page is usually verso. The first chapter of a novel is always recto. I have divided my novel into three parts, so I had to make sure the Parts pages landed recto with a blank verso page after them before starting the next chapter. (Don't forget to factor in your blank pages into your overall page count!)

9 - More on page numbers. Your front matter (the pages that come before your actual story starts) aren't numbered. The same goes for your back matter (the extra pages that come after your story ends). You will need to learn how to use section breaks to divide up your novel in order to start and stop your page numbering. There are online tutorials for using section breaks and adding and altering page numbers. I didn't know before that there are two ways to add page numbers and that one way is trickier than the other.

10 - Use page breaks for each of your chapters. If you go up to the top of your MS Word toolbar and click on Insert, choose Break, then you can access both page breaks and section breaks. Page breaks are handy because they keep the text of one chapter from bumping the text of the next chapter down the page. So your chapter heading formatting doesn't have to be double-checked and realigned. Don't use hard returns (hitting the Enter key on your keyboard) to separate one chapter from another because it's a formatting nightmare (time wise) to fix.

11 - The pilcrow button is your friend. If you look up at your toolbar, you'll see a button with what looks like a colored in, backwards P with a line running parallel behind it. This is the pilcrow button. If you click it, is shows the formatting in your manuscript; nifty things like spacing between words, hard returns, page breaks, and where you've used the tab key. This is a great tool to help you spot places where you have hidden formatting issues.

12 - Want a drop cap at the start of each chapter? (A drop cap is the over sized first letter at the beginning of the first paragraph.) Highlight the letter, go up to your toolbar and click on Format. There should be a Drop Cap button. Click on it and you're taken to a little window with drop cap formatting options. *Note: Not all fonts work well with drop caps. Some fonts will make the drop cap letter too high or low compared to the regular letters. You can click and drag your drop capped letter to realign, but it doesn't always come out right when you print the page.

13 - For easier uploading to your printing company, keep your entire novel in one file instead of a bunch of little ones. (Learning page and section breaks will help you format everything just the way you want it.) *Note: Do not include your cover art in the same file. Just the interior of your novel.

14 - If you have illustrations or maps, make sure they're resized to the proper page size and that you've inserted them properly into your manuscript. Don't use a link and hope it sticks. Also, bear in mind, that if you want them in color, it's going to cost more to print the book. If you want to keep costs down, make sure your color pictures are converted to grayscale or black-and-white.

15 - You've been used to using a left alignment in your manuscript. Guess what, you'll need to change it to justified before sending it off to the printing company. And along with justifying the text, is deciding where to break up larger words to avoid huge gaps in your lines. Don't go overboard with dividing words. It's okay if there are some small white gaps, you just want to avoid really big ones. Another thing to watch out for is having the same word right on top another. This usually means reading through your newly formatted manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, slowly, with your focus on spotting gaps, too many broken words, or stacked words.

16 - Spacing between gaps in the story. Some people will insert an extra return so there is one line of space to indicate a change in the setting, POV, or that you're heading into a flashback. More common for the first two is to insert something symbolic or a tiny illustration between story sections. You need white space above and below these so they don't look crammed. It's a style issue. Keep your readers in mind. If you use a tiny illustration, make sure you own the rights to it.

A lot of these tips are good for formatting for ebook too, like using the pilcrow button, learning Styles and Formatting, etc. I've included some resource links to help get you started in your research. Don't be frustrated by all you have to do and learn. Once you get it down, your next published book will be easier. Take your time and do it right.

Helpful Links:
Front Matter, Back Matter, Why Does It Matter?
Indie Writers: Make MS Word Work  for You Instead of Against You
The Book Designer

*Note: Createspace is the more popular printing company, but I went with Lulu because they put out hardcovers as well as paperbacks, and I liked their simpler pricing and payment structure.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Giveaway with No Strings Attached

Today starts my blog giveaway for my debut novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse. Trefury comes out in hardcover Sept. 30th, with a paperback edition to follow and eventually an ebook version. I prefer the good, old hardcover for my personal library, but I know they can be expensive. So if you're serious about wanting to own this book and want the best print version of it, you'll want to sign up for the giveaway.

No strings attached. Simply enter to win through any of the available options. I'm not asking for reviews or ratings. If Trefury sounds like the kind of book you want to read, then read it. If it doesn't, then don't. At the moment I'm offering one free copy of the book here through my blog, but if there are a lot of entries, I'll add more.

And to my writer friends: You're under no obligation to buy or read my books just because you know me. In fact, if after reading the story summary you're truly not interested, I prefer it if you don't. Life's too short and there are too many books out there; no one should have to read fun novels by obligation. I write because I enjoy telling stories and I'd rather reach my target audience than a superficial one. Thank you for the support and help, but know it won't hurt my feelings if you pass on my novel.

If you read Trefury, love it, and want to help promote it, thank you. The best promotion is simply word of mouth. If you want to read the book, but aren't sure you want to plunk down the money for a copy, request it through your local library.

Here's the story summary:

Meet the oddest, most-likely-to-fail partnership the planet Niyhel has ever known. He’s cunning, intelligent, and dangerous. She’s slow to trust, reckless, and loyal. And both of them have their own ideas about how to do things.
Thssk, a six-thousand-year old norhendra, has unwittingly caused the near extinction of his kind. Then he abandoned his handler, momentarily forgetting that she was an astral. She curses him as he flees the battlefield: the next handler he chooses will avenge her. Hunted by his past, it takes a divine summons and a volcanic eruption to rekindle Thssk’s competitive spirit after a long hibernation. Racing against his enemies to rescue a boy from another planet?—he’s the only one capable of pulling it off. But there’s a catch, he has to select a new human partner to work with.

Tech savvy Cortnee Feyandihar is tracking down the people responsible for her mom’s death while trying to gain a footing on a career path in the fields of music and dance. But when she goes too far with a corruption exposé, a last-ditch effort to salvage her future sticks her in the middle of an inter-world showdown and right into Thssk’s coils.

On a world where starships are born, homes grow, and flowers can flatten entire cities, the fates of two lands hangs in the balance, as do the lives of millions of people. Yet it all pales in comparison to Thssk confronting the repercussions of discarding his previous partners as he struggles with his unpredictable new one. Everything Cortnee thought she understood has turned inside out and she must utilize every skill in her arsenal to get a grip on her new reality. If they can’t learn to communicate and work together, he won’t achieve the great future he was promised, but if they do, Cortnee could fall like her predecessors—into madness.

If you enjoy books with multiple points of view, complex plot lines woven together, detailed world-building, intense adventure, and characters that aren't strictly good or bad, then you'll probably enjoy this one. And this book is clean: no sex, no profanity, and no graphic violence.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don't win this time around, there will be a second opportunity through Goodreads that starts at the end of the month. More details to come. 

Contest is closed.
And the winner is ....


 Congratulations! I'm sending you an email with the details.