Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Silence Is a Good Thing Sometimes

How is it good? The online world can be so distracting and a time suck, especially for writers who now have to focus on marketing and social interaction like writers in the past never had to. While I miss conversations and keeping abreast with what everyone's up to, I realize there are times when a writer needs to be silent or they cease to be a writer, at least in regards to novels. I'm working hard and more hours than I normally get on a couple of projects right now, that is why I haven't had time for new blogposts. I hope you'll bear with me. For those who read what I write, I hope you see this as great news. I'm so excited about the stories I'm working on and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and for those of you who write, very productive and joyful days ahead.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Writing Update for December

How did I do during NaNo? Okay. I didn't reach 50K words, but that was due to getting sick. And I'm still sick. However, I can't gripe too loudly because I have managed to get the first third of the book into a cohesive format. My focus now is editing and filling in gaps. That's good news for my beta readers because I'll have something for you to read soon.

I admit I've struggled a bit with book 2, even though I already knew where it was going and had many key scenes written out long ago. When you write a first book, you set a bar. You then have to go higher than that for the next book, and then the next, and so on. The moment you don't go higher, you lose readers.

Book one had some great world-building experiences for me, great discoveries with the characters' personalities. Book two is suppose to take those same elements and go deeper, farther, and better. One nice thing about writing a sequel is you already know the characters and the conflict. You slip back into writing them as easily as putting on a favorite jacket. Making sure they are experiencing growth and change, and not becoming redundant is the harder part.

I know a couple of people mentioned that not everything was resolved in book 1, or that some things weren't explained satisfactorily. So I find myself smiling as I work on book 2 because those things unfold there. That's where they were meant to. Book 1 and 2 were originally one book.

I've had people ask me when the ebook version is going to come out for book 1 (Trefury: Mendi's Curse). The simple answer is, not until book 3 is written. Ebooks are easy to download and consume. Considering the nature of this story, which comprises three books, you'd find it more frustrating to zip through an ebook version of book 1 then have to wait for the rest. I know it slows sales and buzz momentum, but I've always said story comes first. I want to write a great story. It takes three books. And they won't be ebooks until I have the whole thing done and presentable.

Last week I was deep underwater in the story. I was exploring legends and necessary backstory. And I rewrote my TOC based on the corrected timetables I had to draw up to keep things straight. This week, if my cold goes away, I expect to be meeting survivors on an outer Callorin island and getting back into the battle of wills between Cortnee and Thssk. For the latest up-to-date news on my writing progress be sure to follow me on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Secrets to Keeping Things Straight in Big, Complex, Epic Novels

I've been asked a time or three how I'm able to keep facts and events straight when I write a big, complex novel. First off, kudos to the querier because they recognize there is more work involved in such a novel. Secondly, everyone who tackles these types of novels will have their own system. Here are some hints from mine.

1. Write things down.
I have multiple files that are generally categorized as Notes and Structure. When I get an idea or a snippet of conversation in my head, I write it down. Don't leave these precious tidbits floating around in your head until you get to writing that part of the story. You'll most likely forget them by that time.

I don't always write the story chronologically or linearly. I certainly don't edit that way either. That means I have to have written notes as a backup. Granted, I have a pretty good memory for just about everything I write, but why leave it to chance?

I have backstory notes files as well. I find that the more of these I have, the richer the story becomes. Some complex novels stay within one person's POV, but not usually. Most deal in multiple POVs, and that means you need distinguishable backstories, vernacular, personalities, and quirks for each POV character. And then you have all the side characters.

I have note files and picture files sometimes to help me with my world building. It's been so handy to reach a part of the story and just pull up the description of the setting to pull from rather than try to remember or create it on the spot. Especially when you don't want to present the setting the same way each time it's shown. Setting, as I've said before, acts like a character or mood setter for the scene.

Writing things down also helps you remember them better. The act of writing, literally writing not typing, has a peculiar effect on memory in the brain. I tend to jot things down by hand and then transcribe into digital files afterwards.

My notes files tend to be twice as large as the novel by the time I'm through.

2. Chunking and Recall
Chunking is a great term I learned last January when I took a course on the human brain and how to utilize it better in order to learn. In regards to writing, chunking would be taking an element of the story and associating it with other things in order to have better recall.

For example: When I bring up the word "red," based on the series I'm currently writing and publishing, I automatically think of one of my main characters, Thssk. I also think of blood, lava, anger, fire, dominating personalities, and power struggles. These next tier words lead me to specific scenes, character development, and backstory events - most of which revolve around Thssk, but also lead and connect to other characters and their story lines.

By chunking, or associating elements of the story to other elements, it just takes one word or phrase to recall much more information at once.

3. Make lists.
This one might go up under the Writing Things Down category, but I like to treat it differently. Lists are more compact, easier to read information, the overviews of the story.

In a complex novel I will use lists for:
i. Characters
I list characters by whether they are main characters, significant level B characters, C, and so on. Writing down everyone who has a name and assigning them their role in the story lets you see if your cast is too big and if you can't combine characters to have fewer people doing more in the novel. The danger with big, complex, multiple POV novels is making it difficult for the reader to remember who is who.
ii. Places and Settings
Listing your settings down gives you a great overview of what the story is doing. Do you use the same settings over and over again? Is there variety in your settings? Do you have too many settings? How can you reuse the same setting and portray it differently to help the mood of the story?
iii. Chronological order of events
Not all stories are told linearly, in fact, many really good ones aren't. Yet, it's important to know the chronological order of events as the author to avoid discrepancies in your writing. You don't want to use the scene where character A discovers the bad guy is really character Y before the scene where character Y declares they are in love with character A.
iv. Chapter and scene orders, including a list of POV characters for each
In a multiple POV novel, this list is vital, particularly for keeping track of how well mixed those POVs are. It lets me know if I've gone on too long with one story line at the expense of another.
v. Language and dialect
This has been valuable when I'm making up the words and phrases. I'm able to keep them straight, including their spellings and meanings.
vi. Historical events
A chronological list of historical or backstory events goes hand in hand with your story chronology. Backstory fuels character motivation and plot lines. Know what happened before the story and keep it straight with a simple timeline.
vii. Nodes of conjunction
This isn't one everyone uses but I have to. Nodes of conjunction are where story lines or characters connect. Say information about character D is discussed between characters X and W that will lead the reader to understand character D's actions in the next chapter. Or, characters F and G are going to finally collide with each other, when and where does this happen and how does it change the story? By using Nodes of conjunction in both a list and in my notes, I've found my stories get fuller faster and have more vitality in character development. 
viii. What still needs to be written
I'm a to-do list sort of person sometimes, and with big, complex novels, it helps me feel like I'm making a dent in the writing if I have a checklist of what needs to be done. Completely changeable as the story develops, this checklist works hand in hand with my outline and if I get stuck, I make a note about it and move on to the next item.
ix. Inconsistencies and places that need further research and development
All writers end up with inconsistencies in their stories, especially in the early stages. When I find one, I'm usually engrossed in working on something else. It helps to make a list of what the inconsistency is and where it is so that I can go back and revisit the issue.
x. How one scene or chapter segues into the next
Another list others may not use, but I like to. When moving from one POV character to another or one story line to another, I may have a cliffhanger, but something in the scene or chapter preceding the next needs to have a segue. It can be an object, mentioning the conflict or the next POV character, or even a theme. This list has been crucial in helping set chapter order.

4. "Put it together and what have you got?"
I've made mention before on this blog about creating a Story Bible. In essence, once you've created all of the things I've listed, you have made a Story Bible. The essential ingredient to successful orchestration of a complex novel.

When really considering how I keep things straight, my most personal answer is I like a challenge. I enjoy diving into multiple character and plot lines and playing with them. I love making connections between them and exploring the results. To me, it reflects life. Our actions or failure to act have an impact on others. It's never been about creating a glut of characters, events, or settings just because I could. People are complex. We're never completely good or evil. To me a story isn't about creating one hero that does everything, but celebrating the many heroic acts happening at different levels. The same thing for the mischief and malice created by the characters bent on being antagonists.

5. Index cards
Sometimes I need a visual representation of the story, especially when dealing with multiple POVs or plot lines. That's when I get out my index cards and put down information scene by scene. By keeping to scenes it makes it possible to rearrange quickly or play with the order. Usually my card looks something like this:

(Name of Scene) (Scene #)
List of key points
POV character
Key objects

I name my scenes. In a large novel it makes it easier to refer to if I've given a short clue as to what the scene is about. The scene # relates to where I have it listed in my overall outline or Table of Contents. The list of key points is pretty self-explanatory, as is point-of-view character. Rituals or themes help me classify the scene. For example: Outward Conflict, or Barter Ritual, or Point of Humiliation. Key objects refer to literal objects in the scene that have meaning or purpose to the story. They might be a weapon, or a green dress, or a tree. They are often symbolic and reoccur in the story.

Once I've compiled all my index cards I put them up on a blank wall in my office. Usually right in front of my treadmill so that when I'm taking a break and releasing endorphins I can also be brainstorming and reviewing the basic story material.

In Conclusion: 
My love for exploring every aspect of a story makes it easy to keep things straight in my head. I like to live and relive the moments. It's not a matter of knocking off a scene or chapter in order to reach a quick writing goal and then move on to the next novel. I prefer to savor and revisit. And that is why I know my stories so well and can write big, complex, epic novels.

Have a further question about anything you've read here or regarding more info on how I keep things straight? Please, ask me. Or tell me how you keep your material straight when you write. Do you do some of the same things I do?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Music to Write By #9: Adiemus

It's been awhile since I posted one of these. How about some good mood music? This one's a bit older but because the words are all made up it can be about anything you want. Here's Adiemus by Karl Jenkins:

A personal favorite of mine because it's not only uplifting but a bit mysterious. Take a moment to listen. And despite all the wild internet speculation, it is NOT an Enya song. (I'm a long time, die-hard Enya fan so I should know.)

And if you have a second moment, tell me what song is inspiring you this week. I'm always looking for new music.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why is Writing So Hard?

The simple answer is: because writing is nothing more than making lots and lots of decisions.

Think about it. First you decide you want to write, either because you have come up with a great idea or simply because you enjoy the written word. Then you have to decide to make time to write and how you're going to write: computer or pencil and paper, or perhaps out loud into an audio recorder.

Once you're sitting down facing that blank screen or page then the hard work starts. Some decisions you may have made mentally while brainstorming your idea, but most others will happen while you are actually writing. Whose point of view is the story from? What tense will it be in? What is the setting or time period? Who are the characters? What are they like? What do they want? Is there conflict? What is their individual vernaculars? What words do I choose to use to describe? What if the plot goes this way - no wait, what if it went in the opposite direction?

Every moment of writing is decision making and that is what makes it hard. Unless you've brainstormed a lot mentally, it's not going to be easy to just start writing and knock off a hundred pages in a day. In fact, even with all your prior preparation, you're going to find that putting those images and scenes down in actual writing isn't as glib or smooth as you thought it would be. New ideas will sometimes bombard you, changing the course of what you've previously decided. Characters won't behave the way you originally envisioned. And sometimes you write yourself into a corner and get stuck. Getting unstuck can utilize some of the hardest decisions. It may mean cutting out a lot of what you've already written to go in a new direction. Or perhaps you need to decide to do some research to help solve the problem your characters are facing.

Character A is on one path, should they collide with Character B? When, if at all? How will the arcs of both these characters affect each other? How much action versus explanation should go into this scene? Do Characters C and D hate each other? Do they secretly love each other? Will the fate of Character E end in death? Will the villain win? Is there an identifiable villain? Decisions.

There is an accountability to writing. A law of the universe not often discussed is that for every decision made there are consequences. For your characters, and yes, even for you as the writer. Decisions about the words we use may either draw readers to our work or push them away. The point of view we choose will often determine our target audience. What elements we choose to put into the story will also draw or repel readers. Whether or not we choose to get feedback and improve our writing can have some very powerful consequences over how successful our novels may be.

It is not a mere moment of deciding "I am going to write a story today," although that is always a starting point. We can just as easily decide "This is too hard; I'm going to quit." Once you are determined to set down the winding path of writing a story, you will stop frequently - more often than you'd like - to assess, rethink, and choose. It's not a path for the fainthearted or lazy.

After you've crossed the finish line on your first draft then comes the next big decision: "I am going to go through it and rewrite it, edit it, and improve it." Subsequent drafts of editing and revision require even more decisions, some of them painful. Deciding to get feedback from others in order to improve your story has powerful consequences at well. Ideally, you should be given sound advice from people who read a lot and know a thing or two about writing and editing. Sometimes the feedback is unhelpful. You have to decide who to listen to. You have to decide which advice will make your story better and then choose to make the appropriate changes.

You choose if you want to go after publication or not. You choose which publication route you want to take. If going the traditional route, you have to choose your words carefully for a query letter and choose which agents and publishers you are going to solicit. You have to choose whether to keep going that route as rejections come in. And hopefully you'll get to choose who'll you'll work with and help make decisions in the publication of your novel. If you choose the indie route, you have even more decisions to make. Who will your printer service be? What format(s) will you publish in? Who do you get for cover artwork or do you do it yourself? You need to choose good editors and copy editors. You have to choose fonts and layout. And with either route there's all the marketing choices you'll have to make to let people know about your book.

And then you have to choose whether or not you will start all over with a new novel.

Writing isn't some blow-in-the-wind hobby, not if you're serious about it. Writing takes decision-making skills and lots of determination. Many people have taken up writing this month for fun. For those new to the game, you're probably finding out it's not so easy as you probably thought. I would hope that by trying it out, you'd gain a better appreciation for the books you've read and those determined people who have moved forward by the hundred thousands to make decision after decision to create the stories you read and love.

And for those of you who are not new to the game, I share your frustration and joy of the process. The hours seem to slip by so quickly and yet so little seems to make it to the page. I believe at least 75% of our writing time is spent up in our heads making decisions.

This is why NaNo's word count is a true challenge for those taking it seriously. Writing is hard.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

First November Ramblings, OR, Going Into High Gear and My Wheels are Burning Rubber

It's November!!!!

I'm psyched to get started.

It's hard to do the regular things I have to do first.

Good luck to everyone else who is NaNo-ing this year.

I'm hoping to have something for first beta readers to look at by the end of December.

Does anyone else's skin get all prickly and tingly just thinking about a glut of writing?

I'm binding the inner editor with duct tape, rope, and chains, sticking her in a dark closet and throwing away the key!

Have to remember to breathe.

I apologize in advance if blog posts are sporadic and crazy this month.

I swear I didn't eat any Halloween candy but I feel like I did:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Update for October

I love autumn, and this year has been more lovely than any I can remember.

Autumn is also one of my busiest seasons, between sewing Halloween costumes, teaching, beta reading for contests, and all the other sundry things that tend to fill up my plate. I love it, though. It is good to be employed with worthwhile things, especially if those things help other people.

Naturally, one can assume that's left me little time for writing, and that's correct. However, I have been able to squeeze in some profitable brainstorming sessions and planning. Everything is aimed at next month when I firmly plant my feet and say, "This is my month for writing!" (Of course, there are many every day things I can and won't ignore next month, but I won't be taking on any extra projects or assignments.)

I have four novels to work on:
Trefury: The Secrets of Callorin - and boy have I thought up some particularly chilling and great scenes for this one! I'm excited to get back to work and see how much I can iron out.

The Princess of the Winds - a NaNo project from last year that I need to fill in some gaps and do some refining with. This story is very dear to my heart and has been since I first came up with it as a child.

The Nivyd - This is the story I am drawn to every autumn because of the setting. I can't help myself; I have to work on it.

After a Rainbow - My very first novel that I wrote all the way through. I'm dusting it off, totally redoing it, and it should end up being a fun, yet not fluffy, MG. The first volume in a short series. My daughters pushed me to revisit this one. I had them draw up a list of things they looked forward to when choosing novels to read and when I through their lists I realized I had a story that contained most of those elements.

I haven't set a word count goal for NaNo. 50,000 is typical, but I've gone past it the last couple of times I've done it. I think it's safe to say I just want to get as much done as I can on all four. If I get stuck with one novel, I can jump to one of the others until I'm unstuck. That way I keep moving forward. I know a lot of people can't juggle stories like that, but I'm a weird duck. I can read multiple novels at the same time and never get them confused with each other either. The same goes for writing novels.

How about you? What are your NaNo plans/goals this year? Are you in the middle of working on a story that demands to be written? What is your favorite thing about autumn?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reflections: One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of the publication of my debut novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse the first book in the Trefury trilogy.

No big hoopla, no big internet splash planned. I'm a rather simple person at heart. I'm marking the occasion with the release of the book in trade paperback format. You can find out the details by clicking on the Trefury button at the top of the page or clicking on the sidebar cover to enter the giveaway.

It's hard to believe it's been a year. I remember how stressed I was, how much time was consumed in the production of the book. All the details that go into a publication ... just wow. And I'm by no means an expert on the subject. Donning editor-mode for so long nearly killed my love of writing anything new. To make the switch from demanding perfection of yourself to freely spilling word vomit in a rough draft is hard. It took me months to let go of the iron fist.

I want to thank again those who contributed time, expertise, and a sympathetic shoulder to my endeavor. Sometimes writing is a very solitary process and it's easy to feel alone, abandoned, or forgotten. You're constantly mixing reality with the fantasy scenario and world going on in your head. People ask what is preoccupying you and then have a ho-hum attitude when you enthusiastically or shyly admit you're writing a novel. Everyone's a critic. Some people love the story concept. Others just don't get it. The world continues to move on with their day-to-day lives whether you meet your deadline or not. So it's the wonderful few who support and encourage you that make all the difference.

I've been asking other people for years why they write what they write and what inspired them. Lately I've turned the interrogation on myself. Why? Why did I write this book? Why do I intend to finish the other books piling up on my desk? And why in the world did I decide to publish? There is a difference, you know, between writing a story and publishing one.

I literally dreamed up Trefury a little over twenty years ago. I was a teenager, already engrossed in writing novels, sometimes with friends. I wrote a very short, very summarized rough draft as soon as I woke up. The first official draft came soon after. I wanted to share this cool idea of an invisible girl and the living whip she worked with to protect a country and the young man destined to lead it, with my circle of friends and family. I remember sitting on my bed with my sisters at the other end listening as I read it out loud to them. I always end up reading out loud to someone. Seeing and hearing how excited they'd get with each development in the story made my day. Trefury was the first story that got enthusiastic approval from my cousin, who was my harshest critic and first teacher in the art of good storytelling. That felt wonderful. To have her care and even demand more of the story meant more than any review, rating, or high-acclaim I might receive now. I had reached my audience and touched them.

Trefury went into a 3-ring binder and took up space on a shelf while I pounded out several other novels in the years that followed. Then I took a ten year hiatus from writing. I jotted down a descriptive sketch or brief scene or two, but for the most part I was too involved with living life and learning from it. It wasn't until soon after my third child was born and I was cooped up at home, because he was under quarantine for six months since he was a preemie, that I pulled out some of my old novels to read. I wanted to see if they were as entertaining then as they had been when I was younger. I'd like to say I'd been a brilliant writer in my youth, but I'll be frank, some of those manuscripts were awful. The stories were pretty sound but the execution *shudder*.

I didn't have a circle of writing friends at the time. They'd all grown up and moved far away. Every once in awhile one of my sisters would ask me about her two favorite stories. I read through the critiques I'd been given for Trefury and decided that if I were to jump back into writing, I'd pursue doing it professionally, not as a hobby. This manuscript had received the highest praise. It was a good place to start.

Many drafts ensued. Many revisions. Many heartaches and sublime moments where the inspiration was so good I surprised myself. I developed an online community of writing friends. And I'll admit I'm terrified of most of them because of their talent, ability, and the way they can socially navigate the online world a million times better than I can. I had moments where I felt like a total fake, a fraud, like dross among so many stars. Always in the back of my mind I felt grateful for the kindness of these other people, all the while worrying they knew how inept I was and were too polite to say so. Well, some did come out and say so in critiques, but that's good. You want to know where you are inept so you can fix your writing.

I had a lot to learn, but I'm a pretty motivated person once I set my mind to something. I dived into the pool of learning with both feet. I read blogs, books, followed authorities, experimented with so many different techniques. Sometimes I think Trefury ended up being a patchwork of these things. I hesitated to let people read it. I was a small fish. I knew I could always make my writing better. I didn't want anyone to read it until I deemed it palatable. Eventually I did let others read. How my heart skipped a beat when the first two critiques came in after reading my first three chapters! While there were things to fix, my two beta readers were mostly impressed. I climbed to the sky then.

Of course that didn't last long. My opening chapters weren't as well received by the next couple of beta readers. I went back and made cuts and changes. The feedback was better. New people read. Everyone had suggestions. It got to the point where I didn't recognize chapter one anymore at all. It was no longer fun to read or work on it. I was a hack who apparently wrote in alien gibberish because no one understood what was going on. I put it aside and finished up the rest of the book. The next beta readers were as enthusiastic and excited as the first two. They loved the opening. They loved the rest. I was ready to pull my hair out.

Back and forth, back and forth. I didn't know who to believe and came to the conclusion that clearly this book wasn't a mass appeal book. Either you're going to love it or it's not going to be your thing. I had to come to terms with that. I revisited the beginning and put the love and fun back in. I had reached the point where I knew the story was what it was and that was enough. Like dealing with me in person, you're either going to want to love it or keep your distance.

I was Thssk. I was Cortnee. I split my personality and then let them develop in their own directions, becoming less like actual me. Anyone who communicates with me will find traces of both their vernaculars in my writing and speech. That was fun. They had to have very different and distinct voices. How I agonized over Ientadur! He's a necessary and huge part of the story, yet my first chapters with him were wooden and lackluster. I remember writing on a sticky note: Make myself care about Ien. And I did. I drew deeply from the people around me composing the other characters, especially Damon. Without realizing it at first, I copied many of my father's mannerisms into him. It became especially poignant as I neared publication and my dad died of cancer. He'd helped me often with research and making sure I wasn't too far fetched with the science-y things I included in the book.

I went for hardcover first, which is the opposite of what writers are advised. You have to understand, I wanted the best version of this book for my own bookshelf and for the bookshelves of my core, original audience. I knew it would mean very limited sales because of the cost. My marketing budget was ... well $0.00 and still is. I wanted to give free copies to those closest to me, I just couldn't afford to do more than a couple of giveaways. The paperback version's cost allows me to do a bit more this time around and when the ebook comes out, there will be a lot more giveaway options.

I got lucky with editing help. I also took a crash course, building upon what editing skills I already had. I had to do extra jobs to earn the money to pay my cover artist, although she gave me a fantastic first-timer deal.

Basically, publication represented a mountain with sheer vertical sides and very few handholds. But I climbed it and I have the scars to prove it. I proved to myself that I could finish a writing project completely. The view on top of that mountain has brought me enormous peace, even though I know my view is not as breathtaking as it is for others, yet I'm content.

I learned a lot about myself and what my priorities are. For so many years I was convinced I had to get an agent and a traditional publisher, especially to get vindication that I wasn't a fraud and a hack. I did the research, I went through the query trenches. And then I discovered I was miserable and not because of the inevitable rejections everyone gets. I wasn't connecting to any of the people I queried. The ones I thought would match up with best, I found that the other books they were putting out I didn't like at all and they certainly weren't like my story, or the agent's personality and goals clashed with mine. We didn't fit. I couldn't find an agent who did so I stopped querying. I didn't like the dating feel of the whole process. The trending, the favoritism for certain elements and styles, and all the suck-up courting going on from writers. The thought of actually signing with someone and dealing with publication negotiations made me physically ill. I realized I didn't want the traditional route, vindication or not. I dreaded the thought of possible book signings, public appearances, all that extra marketing, the short deadlines that would stifle my creativity and clash with the pressing schedule of my actual life ... I absolutely don't want it and I'm no longer envious of anyone who has chosen to go that route. If that's what my friends wanted and got, I was happy for them. But I don't feel one bit jealous.

So where am I now? I'm a writer who has learned to enjoy the ride again. If I never make it onto anyone's list, that's okay. If my stories resonate with you, they will. I don't seek for online reviews and ratings, I got my five stars long ago. I intend to keep on learning and improving my craft, to strive to put out high quality projects but not at the cost of my self-respect, my integrity, or my sanity. Writing should be a joy. Sharing what we write should also be. The world is large enough for many more stories and more types than the trends and bigwigs of the business allow. Perfection and what is deemed professional quality - the standards are always changing. Give me a story to read that I can connect with and I can forgive a number of things on the technical side.

Once upon a time ...

It's still magic.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Trefury: Mendi's Curse Book Birthday Giveaway!

Sept. 30th marks the one year anniversary of the publication of my first book, Trefury: Mendi's Curse. To celebrate, I'll be launching the book in paperback the same day. For the best prices offered on either the hardback or paperback, be sure to click the Trefury tab at the top of this blog or click the cover of the book in the sidebar. It will save you time and money.

Is this story right for you?

Cover art © 2014 by Nicolle R. Murray
An ancient legend is about to be remade.

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, he 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 and over his enemies and everything seems to be working out for a change that he discovers he is not the game changer any moreCortnee 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.

“Trefury is a mental feast for those who crave science fiction with well-crafted world-building, intriguing characters, and an unusual partnership which defies the odds.” —Angie Sandro, author of the Dark Paradise series.

Recommended age: 15 and up
Genres: science-fantasy, adventure
Profanity: none
Sex: none
Violence: yes, non-graphic
Tags: bio-engineering, alien worlds, magic, weapons, mind manipulation, ghosts, invisibility, cultures, home schooling, geology, war, kidnapping, natural disasters, political struggles

Want to read before you buy? No problem.
Read a sample.
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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Update for September

This month has been less productive writing-wise. I've had a lot of family come up to visit as well as a death in the family. Most evenings I've been too exhausted to think straight let alone write. I haven't let myself get too frustrated though. I used to get so uptight when I'd gone a handful of days without writing. There was an invisible taskmaster hovering in the back of my mind shouting at me that if I didn't take the time to write nearly every day that I'd fall under condemnation. Condemnation for what? Well, that's the thing; I don't have a set date to have book 2 out. I know when I'd like it to be, but I'm not going to put myself in a bad mood (and consequently make life miserable for my family) by trying to force the words.

I use to. Force the words, I mean. Then I found that I wrote a lot of drivel and in return had to spend three times as much time editing it. I'm taking a different approach, one that requires more thought and planning so I'll have less to edit when I'm through. The other thing I'm trying to do is relax and have fun. A story tends to be blah when you don't enjoy what you are writing. One of the major storylines has been singing to me. Ironically, it was the storyline I struggled with most in the first book. Enthusiasm for the storylines have flipped and now I'm analyzing why and coming up with strategies to learn to love my main storyline again.

Of course, all that is practically gibberish to you. Sorry. Unless of course you've read the first book and have a better grasp of what my storylines are.

Getting a copy of Trefury: Mendi's Curse is about to become more affordable. Check back in next week to find out why and how. I've at least been able to spend some time and effort on that.

Have you ever had to struggle to like a storyline or a character? Do you give up on the project at that point or have a strategy to persevere through? If you could summarize in one word what you look for in a story to make it enjoyable to you, what would that word be?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Extended Deadline to Submit your Book Spotlight!

The Speculative Fiction Book Spotlight Blog Swap is coming up fast. I'm extending the deadline to get your book spotlights submitted, if you are an author. You now have until Sept. 26th to get them in. Please help spread the word. It's free publicity. You don't have to write categorized "Christian fiction", or even be an advocate of squeaky clean books. Any book (in the speculative genres) that is considered clean, ie. free of swearing, sex, and graphic violence, is eligible for the book spotlight. This isn't about censorship. We're targeting a large demographic of readers that usually don't get considered. Take advantage of this marketing opportunity.

Bloggers: You don't have to be a book reviewer, a writer, or anyone associated with the book industry in order to participate. You just have to have a blog.

Contact me by email:
Bloggers: to get on the participation list
Authors: to get a copy of the spotlight worksheet you'll need to fill out

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Interview with Compass Book Ratings

I'm excited to present today's interview. As I've said in a previous blogpost, there has been a growing number of people who struggle to make reading choices based on the content of books. It's frustrating to get a book many people have recommended or raved about, only to find that what they are desensitized to, you are not, and you end up tossing the book. I remember abandoning all books of a certain genre for a number of years because every book I looked at had things in it I didn't want to experience or read about. I wished there were rating systems for books, or some kind of guide to let me know in advance what I was borrowing or buying. A little prevention at the get go saves lots of bad reviews later on. So I was recently delighted to find that I wasn't the only one who felt that way. In fact there were entire groups and websites springing up of like-minded people. Their reasons may vary, but this growing community is not something that can be lightly brushed off.

Personally, I'm not out to censor books or burn any author or genre at the stake. Everyone has different tastes and the cool thing is you can usually find books to match. But with rating and review services specifically geared towards informing readers of book content, it makes the finding easier.

So today I'd like to present:

Let's get right into the interview:

1. How did Compass Book Ratings get started?

In 2009, two sisters, Melissa and Shelley, started SqueakyCleanReads.com, a book website providing detailed content reviews in the areas of violence, profanity, sexual content, and mature themes.  The hope was that those reviews could help people choose books that were appropriate for them and their family.  SqueakyCleanReads.com went through several transformations as site users provided feedback.  At the end of 2011, it became clear that it was time for SqueakyCleanReads.com to go through another transformation.  Cindy, a reviewer, assumed management and ownership of the website and Compass Book Ratings was born.  The website went through a major re-design in early 2012 and a searchable database was created.  We have gone from 228 book reviews on March 19, 2012 (the launch date of Compass Book Ratings) to over 2,000 book reviews today.To learn more about us visit our ABOUT US Page and our MEET THE REVIEWERS Page

2. How has Compass Book Ratings been received? Has there been a lot of positive feedback?

From site users we have had positive comments.  Our website is often referred to in articles that are against the rating of books, so that could be interpreted as somewhat negative.  The literary community seems very set against any kind of rating system for books.The rating of books seems to be a polarizing issue with many parties on both sides of the issue.

3. What is Compass Book Ratings’ criteria when selecting books to review?

We review books for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers.  We found that adults concerned about content levels in books for their children also were interested in finding low-content reading material for themselves.We review all the main genres.  Obviously, we don’t pick up titles like 50 Shades of Gray that are widely known to be high in content.We accept website user requests for title reviews.  We are also sent titles from publishers for review.  Our reviewers pick up many titles on their own that they are interested in or that are popular for their review demographic.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing/experience to come from establishing Compass Book Ratings?

Fan mail!  It is a big web out there and sometimes you wonder if anyone cares or even finds your website.  When a site user takes a moment to thank us for our service (which everyone at Compass Book Ratings is doing out of the generosity of their heart and which is currently free), it is very encouraging.

5. What goals for the future do the people behind Compass Book Ratings’ have, in regards to their services and website?

We have over 1,900 reviews in our database and we look forward to adding to that number substantially in the next couple of years.  We don’t have a number goal because we see no reason to stop. We would especially like to make technological improvements to our site to improve speed and provide other functions, but that will have to wait until site traffic is high enough to generate advertising revenue sufficient to cover those pricey programmers.

6. How can others get involved in promoting clean books?

The first thing you can do is talk about it; let your children, teachers, and friends know how you feel.  Next, support the websites that provide information about content with your Tweets, Facebook Likes, etc. and by purchasing through the links on their website to give them financial support.  Tell your friends about the websites you like. An increase in traffic to websites usually leads to an increase in revenue for that website which provides more resources for content review. We have noticed that a lot of sites start, but then are short-lived.  Finally, if you are passionate, there are occasionally petitions floating around requesting book ratings and you can always join those campaigns.

You can find, support, and follow Compass Book Ratings on:
Their website

I'd like to publicly thank Cindy for responding to my request for an interview. And I'd like to say thank you to her and the others at Compass Book Ratings and other like sites and groups for the volunteer work they do. It's a lot of work, organization, and time.

It should be noted that Compass Book Ratings are not accepting requests to review self-published books at this time. You can find their submission guidelines here.

I love how they've organized the site to search based on title or author, or you can weed things out based on your criteria. They also sponsor book giveaways and post reading lists. Take a few moments to check them out.

For authors and bloggers who'd like to participate in the Speculative Fiction Book Spotlight Blog Swap, this is the week to make your decision and submit your information. Take advantage of the free publicity and opportunity to get your book(s) spotlighted, or to support authors who have written clean speculative fiction. You can find out more about it here. Your information won't be added to any mailing lists or given out to anyone. What do I get out of it? Nothing but the satisfaction of helping some of my fellow authors, and that's a reward in and of itself.

Other groups and sites that help make book content known:
There are a number of groups on Goodreads
Clean Indie Reads on Facebook