July 4 Memories

Not the real Ginger of this story, but as close as I could get!

Looking back, July 4th was always a fun family day with an evening cookout, homemade ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks!

Before the sun set, Dad would dole out the snakes, smoke bombs and parachutes, since none of these were any fun in the dark. It kept us busy for a while while he set up the bigger fireworks display. They were illegal where we lived, so he would drive to a neighboring state to buy them. His job was to light them while we kept an eye out for the cops! Bottle rockets, roman candles, fountains, pinwheels, firecrackers – he always bought a variety of cool stuff for our private show.

After the main event, he handed out the sparklers and we enjoyed trying to write our names in the air with them (you have to move really fast!). I recall some years we also created floating lanterns made out of newspaper and straight pins. We had a lot of fun every year, and I don’t recall anyone ever getting hurt. Except for Ginger….

Ginger was the mutt my Dad adopted as the house dog – as opposed to Sam, the yard dog. About to be put down at the animal shelter, my father came along to rescue her, and after being treated for distemper and spayed, came home to live with us. From the beginning she showed signs of a nervous condition, most obvious during thunder storms and – you guessed it – fireworks displays.

At the first spark of noise she would start shaking and lose control of her bladder. Often, she would creep upstairs (a big no-no) and shiver in the hallway outside our bedrooms until someone noticed her. More than once I stepped in cold puddles of dog pee on my way to bathroom, or spot her glowing eyes in the dark and almost peed my own pants!

Dad’s solution on the 4th of July was to tranquilize the poor dog and lock her in the laundry room for the duration. We couldn’t trust her anywhere else in the house or let her outside. Ginger had other virtues we valued such as running away to raid the neighborhood garbage cans, farts that could clear a room, shedding 365 days a year, eating ONLY buttered pieces of popcorn, and chasing squirrels. She actually caught one once and seemed so surprised by success that it got away!

July 4th always brings back good memories for me, including those of a weird little canine companion who deserves to be remembered.

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So, what have I been doing during my blogging absence? Writing my next book, of course. I removed as many non-essentials as possible in order to get the MS done faster, and am happy to report it’s working! I have only a couple chapters left to write, then edit, send to my beta readers, re-edit, and launch! The book cover is in hand and is beautiful! Check out the Abundant Moon tab above. I expect to release it later this month or early August.

On a more personal level I am working and healthy, as are my kids and extended family. So very much to be thankful for as the country winds up for another blast of the virus. Like everyone else, I am weary of the restrictions and wish we could get through this and out the other side. Meanwhile, my writing keeps me busy and grounded. My hope is that all of you are faring well these days and taking all the necessary precautions. Be safe, my friends!

When Something’s Gotta Give

I’m stepping back from a weekly blog post. I have a self-imposed deadline with my current WIP and need every spare minute to reach it. This hiatus may extend even longer, since I seem to have so little free time to do what I love – write.

Let’s face it – I don’t have much to say of interest and there are tons of other bloggers out there who do. I started it to share my thoughts as a new author, adding other things along the way to make it more relevant to a broader audience. Success, shall we say, has been elusive.

So, for now, new posts will appear when I have the time and something I feel compelled to share. I’m going to focus on two things: writing new material and marketing my already-published books.

I’ll still be around, reading and commenting on the many fine blogs out there and engaging with my readers. Feel free to contact me if you want to say hello, ask a question, or share what’s going on in your world. Another way to follow my progress is to check the “Books in Process” page on my website.

I’m grateful for the engagement of faithful readers and for your understanding regarding this change. You’re the best!

Email: aelliottbooks@gmail.com

Books in Process: https://aelliottbooks.com/books-in-process/

Me or Thee – For Whom Do I Write?

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Do I write for myself or my readers? There’s only one answer – both, yet it’s a balancing act affected by a number of ever-changing variables. If I only write what my readers want, I run the risk of stifled creativity, boredom, and resentment. Eventually, the personal sacrifices necessary to write in the first place would no longer seem worth it. If I write only what interests me, readers may move on to someone else, and without an audience for my work, what’s the point?

Series are popular, yet I’ve found them both a blessing and a curse. Once the foundation is laid in the first book, I have a clear road ahead for more stories. Readers fall in love with the world and characters I’ve created and they naturally want more. Great! Who doesn’t want happy fans and increased sales? Strangely enough, it may be the author!

I’ve always resisted being trapped into long-term commitments with no exit strategy. I want options, and with a series there don’t seem to be any! Spending years writing about the same world and characters feels like prison, and I have to get away for a while and do something else. There are other ideas to pursue and genre’s to explore. Give me variety or give me death! OK, that’s over the top, but you get my meaning. When I explained this situation to one of my beta readers, this is what she said:

“Most of us hate it when we find a book we love and can’t read a second book for many months or years. If something is popular now, you should keep writing it or they will lose interest and you will never get them back because they won’t remember how much they liked it.

“I understand that when you have more stories you want to write, you would rather go on to something new that has been waiting. But, I think that authors have to write what will sell to some degree, or they won’t make enough to do it for a living. Tough decisions!”

I think she’s right, but even if I did as she suggested, it takes me around nine months to complete and publish a full length novel. So, I’ll still end up disappointing some current readers who don’t want to wait, but satisfying future readers who have the benefit of my backlist! There’s really no way to “fix” this, given my personal limitations and time constraints, but I’m going to see if I can do better.

At the moment, I’m working on a shorter in-between story for my Gladstone Shifters series. Fans have been waiting for over a year since book two came out, but I set the series aside to do something different (insert Rise of the Draman here). At the time, book two wasn’t doing all that well, and along with craving something new, I hated the thought of wasting time on a series no one was buying.

Due to an influx of new readers, and insistent pleas from established fans, I’m back on track with Gladstone Shifters. The plan is to finish book 2.5 and then move directly to book three, which is a concession on my part. After that, who knows? A second volume of dragon stories is possible (creating yet another series!) or I may move on to one of several other ideas bubbling away on the back burner. Tough decisions indeed!

As a writer, do you have a similar struggle trying to balance your needs with those of your readers? As a reader, do you lose interest in an author if the series you like is still in process? Let me know your thoughts!

The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction

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We don’t know what the real future looks like yet, but it’s almost certain the world will not return to the way it was. What effect is this going to have on writers of fiction? I suppose works considered “contemporary” would almost have to reflect what’s really going on in our world, but should they? Must they? How do authors in the middle of a series handle this crisis? Do they incorporate current events or continue the series as originally planned?

I assume some readers will actually prefer stories that make no mention of the pandemic and it’s wrenching and unwanted effects on our lives. Most people read to escape reality for a while, and with the pandemic literally everywhere, there’s little stomach for more of it in their reading material!

Admittedly, I would be hard-pressed to craft a compelling story where everyone is trapped at home, can’t meet face to face, or really do much of anything without fear of dropping dead! (Well, Stephen King could probably come up with something even more frightening, but I would have no interest in reading it.) On the other hand, how can I get away without at least mentioning the life altering affects of the virus in my work?

Some claim this will be over soon enough and relegated to the dustbin of history. If so, it might be unwise to focus on the pandemic in our current and near-future books. Instead, we could offer a mix of fleeting references alongside the familiar setting of  a world in which life as we knew it still (mostly) applies.

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It’s right for us to ask questions, yet I don’t claim to have the answers. Only time will tell what readers want and expect, and of course, the new normal is evolving as we speak. Going forward, perhaps book descriptions should include a content label such as “Pre-Pandemic” or “Post-Pandemic”  to help readers make an informed decision before they purchase. Realistically, what works today may not fit the world of tomorrow at all. By  “dating” our books amidst a very fluid and quickly changing situation, we risk publishing stories with what could be a very short shelf life.

As a writer, what changes will you be making, if any, to your stories or the way they are marketed? What about a series already in progress? Will the pandemic and it’s effects show up in your writing – a little, a lot, not at all?

As a reader, what do you expect your favorite authors to do in response to recent events? Do you vote for escapism, realism, or something in between? How might this affect your decision to purchase?

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

PS – until things have settled down, I don’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into my writing, including existing series. 

Go ahead – brighten my day!

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I ran across an older post by Susan M. Toy entitled “How YOU can invest in authors and books… without spending any money!” In it, she lists ten ways to help, including borrow and read their books, tell your friends, talk about them in your own blog, and my favorite – contact them personally.

“Contact the Author privately (usually their websites will offer a way of connecting) and tell them how much you enjoyed their writing and books. It’s one thing to receive a positive public comment from a reader, but if you make the effort to tell that author, one-on-one, what you really think about their writing and their books… it is so, so much better than in a public review. Because again – it’s honest and heartfelt!”

I couldn’t agree more! In a more recent post, Susan shares a quote from Graeme McGaw’s newsletter which sums up the idea nicely:

“Take a minute to write to your favorite authors and thank them. Thank them for the books they have written, the adventures they have taken you on, and the worlds they have allowed you to escape into… thank them for pouring months and months of their life into their stories. Authors have it rough. Not only is it a lot of work, but they’re also putting themselves out there. Think of all those negative reviews an author receives on a book. That sort of thing can be crushing… So yeah, take the time to write to your authors. It will make their day.” 

I’ve received several personal contacts from readers lately, and each one put a long-lasting smile on my face, chased away the doubts, made me feel good, and strengthened my determination to keep going. It only cost a few moments of their time, but meant so much.  

“First of all please allow me to congratulate you for your writing. You just acquired another fan!!! I have immensely enjoyed the first two books Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon and I loved the way you made me feel reading them. I started the first two days ago and I just finished the second and I was so sad that the third is not out yet. In these difficult times, reading about Ben and Evan and their friends and family is giving me a glimpse of hope, and I thank you for that. I hope you will get the necessary inspiration to allow me to dream a little longer.” John from Belgium

“I loved Rise of the Draman. Clean language, wonderful nonstop adventure. Interesting take on dragons and their bonded. It was nice to read about good dragons and kindness throughout. It’s how we should be with each other. I really hated for it to come to an end. Thank you for sharing.” Romae

“I thoroughly enjoyed the book (Rise of the Draman). You are a talented writer and hope I get to read many more of your works.” John

 Aren’t these great? Interaction with my readers is one the big perks of being a writer. When I get notes like this, I doubt the people sending them realize the positive and powerful impact they have. The cool thing is – YOU can be part of it! 

Authors – make sure to provide an email or snail mail address where readers can reach you. When they do, be sure to respond and thank them.

Readers – never underestimate the power of a personal contact! Even if you can’t leave an official review (also really great), make a habit of letting your favorite authors know how much you appreciate their work.

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Tripped up – A pantser’s confession

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Yes, I’m one of those.

Despite the fact that I tend to be very organized, thrive on consistency, and pride myself on never being late, it’s not the way I write. Usually, things move along swimmingly with only minor hiccups and the pantser’s life serves me well. Once in a while I end up being tripped by those pants and have to scramble to fix the mess. One could say I’ve been hoist with my own petard.

As you’ve no doubt surmised, I’m busy unwrapping my ankles so I can get to where I really need to be. After releasing my latest book three weeks ago, it was time to begin the next project – book three of my Gladstone Shifters series. Before I could begin writing something new, I needed to go back and re-read the first two books. I’ve been away from the series for more than a year, so a refresher was essential. No big deal, right?

This is where a plotter or planner has the advantage. Why? Because they would already have the series “bible” close at hand with all the needed information: names, dates, ages, physical descriptions of characters, timeline, etc. It was something I should already have done, but thought a cluttered file folder and my memory were good enough. Who has time for all that when there are more books demanding to be written?

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So I began to read, taking copious notes of all the information I might need for book three and typing them up properly for future reference. It turns out this wasn’t the only problem. It quickly became apparent the manuscripts needed yet MORE editing and minor changes. Things which slipped by unnoticed before were now glaringly obvious and must be fixed. Cringe worthy, embarrassing, unacceptable! There’s no way I could release (or begin writing) a new book without cleaning up the first two.

So, my simple task of re-reading morphed into constructing the series handbook I’d neglected, along with a new round of editing and corrections. I should have seen it coming. Since when does one of my easy-peasy tasks NOT become a time consuming black hole? Jettison the goals! Forget the “done by” dates on the calendar! Lower the sails and deploy the anchor! You get the idea – I’ve fallen behind, mired in a to-do list of my own making.

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For me, there was no choice at all. Once I recognized what needed to be done, I had to go back and fix things before starting new material. I know how my linear brain works by now, so trust me, pulling up my pants was the only option if I wanted to keep walking! Not to worry – I have made progress. It’s just going much slower than I’d like.

At this point the plan is to write a shorter in-between novella to pacify my demanding readers. (It’s not their fault, as I’m a year overdue releasing book three). After that, I’ll get to work on Forbidden Moon. I’m not going to promise anything though – after all, I am a pantser!

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Laughter is the best medicine

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Look, how many times do I need to remind you? Six feet – now back off!

 

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Hold on! You DID wash your hands, right??

 

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It’s scary out there!

 

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What?! I’ve been watching Gilligan’s Island reruns all day!

 

 

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What do you mean, we’re out of toilet paper?

 

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I can’t take any more…

 

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I’m staying right here until this is all over.

 

I know, there’s nothing funny about this epidemic. People are dying, losing their livelihoods, suffering from depression, are stressed to the max, and there’s no clear end in sight. On the other hand, we have a choice to laugh or cry and today I wanted to laugh!

I don’t know your situation, though I hope you are healthy and staying as upbeat as possible while the world goes cattywompus. I’m still working, which is a financial blessing, but I risk exposure every day. I’m very grateful for my writing, as it’s keeping me busy and sidetracked from the news and overall stress. So far, my kids and extended family are all OK.

A lot depends on how long the restrictions are in place and whether or not they come up with a vaccine. Now, there’s talk about one or more resurgences of the virus and that it’s going to be another year or two before things get back to normal. Will they though? Seems to me they never really will, which means we all have to get used whatever the “new normal” looks like. Ah well – one day at a time.

Hugs from me to you!

PS – pick up a copy of my new release if you need something to read!

What to do before starting your next WIP

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Your latest book is hot off the press. Now what? Suddenly finding yourself with unstructured free time can be downright scary. After all, you’ve become accustomed to that persistent little writer voice in your head demanding that you write, Write, WRITE for months on end. Of course you have another book, story, or project to work on, but what about the time in between the last one and the next?

Now’s the perfect time to C.R.O.P. – Celebrate, Rest & Reconnect, Organize, Promote

 

Celebrate

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Go ahead! You’ve worked hard and deserve a treat. Binge watch your favorite shows, order takeout, soak in a bubble bath, go shopping, plant flowers, eat chocolate – whatever floats your boat. Preferably, it’s something you wouldn’t normally have the time or energy for. You have permission to spoil yourself, and if anybody gives you grief, I’ll take care of it.

Rest & Reconnect

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This is your chance to catch up on sleep, read a book, take a walk, eat regular meals, and give your mind and body the opportunity to re-charge. You’ve run yourself ragged for too long, and you’re best (future) work depends on being in good shape.

Don’t forget your supportive friends and family who have been patiently waiting (or not) for you to re-join the land of the living. Make some phone calls, respond to emails, write a letter, and say hello to your neighbors. They deserve your attention, so reach out and find out what’s going on in their world. They’re more likely to tolerate your weird habits and continue to be supportive if you give them a little TLC.

Organize

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If you’ve ever watched a new house being built, you know it goes through many stages. Even when the structure is finished, there’s more work to do. The site has to be cleaned up, fill dirt brought in, concrete poured, and landscaping done before the job is complete. The contractor can’t move on until everything on the list has been checked off. Only then is he free to move ahead and focus on the next one.

Your work space is probably a shambles, and maybe the house, too! Use the downtime to clean and organize your notes, research, files, story ideas, or any other data you may need in the future. Do it now while the information is still relatively fresh in your mind. This will be especially helpful if you’re writing a series, or think the book you just finished might become a series. Names, dates, story threads, web sites, helpful articles – they all become a blur over time if you rely on memory alone, and doing a bit of housekeeping now will save you grief later on.

There’s another benefit, too. Wrapping up your last project provides closure so you can focus on the next one without distraction. Even if you continue in the same genre, the next book will be hampered if you haven’t put the last one to bed properly and set yourself up for a fresh start.

Promote

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The dreaded promotion phase kicks into high gear once the book is done and available for purchase. Get all your ducks in a row before starting something new, or you risk  constant interruptions and frustration. Done properly, marketing won’t require huge blocks of time, enabling you to ease into your next project.

There’s a wonderful feeling of satisfaction when you send your latest creation out into the world! The early days are filled with waiting for those elusive reviews to appear and watching the sales figures. Unfortunately, the “New Release” excitement quickly fades amid all the other things you have going on, so enjoy it while you can.

All right – now you’re ready to start listening to your writer voice and allow the persistent little taskmaster to bully you back to work. It may have been anywhere from a few days to weeks, but your C.R.O.P. time set you up for success. Go on! Your fans are waiting…

 

 

The writing of RISE OF THE DRAMAN

The book launched two days ago on April 6, 2020. Here’s how it came to be.

Over a year ago, tired of the series I’d been working on, I decided to take a break and try my hand at a short story. Up to this point, my smallest work came to just under 34,000 words – in the mid-novella range. Could I actually write a short story? I had no idea. Would it be the same as writing a novel? Turns out the answer is a resounding NO!

So, how in the world did my foray into shorts end up as a 109,000 word five-story collection, spread out over 400 days? I’m glad you asked, and as it happens, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Hang on – this gets a bit convoluted.

I’d been toying with the idea of a fantasy story involving dragons, which meant a new topic AND genre. The “Grand Experiment” began with Dragon Child, a medieval tale about an orphan boy who accidentally becomes part dragon. I finished it in just under three weeks and quickly realized I had a problem. The manuscript was way too long to qualify as a short story (at nearly 12,000 words!), and there was so much more to say! This wasn’t too surprising, but it left me in a quandary.

My theory has always been to write until the tale has finished telling itself, no matter the word count. Obviously, I was not cut out for short story writing, so I decided to forge ahead anyway with a series of “shorter works”. At the time, I loathed the idea of writing another novel length book, and thought the novelette idea was much more manageable. And so it began, and continued…

By the time books two and three (out of five) were finished, I needed to make a decision about how to market them. The original idea was to publish each one separately, releasing them one at a time over a six month period. All the self-publishing gurus said it would result in greater sales and more recognition for my brand. Exactly what I needed! What I hadn’t figured on was the enormous expense of publishing five titles in quick succession.

With a very small writing/publishing budget, it soon became clear I would never be able to afford the original plan. Instead, I decided to finish the five stories bouncing around in my head and then sell them as a collection. As the months flew by, a number of things (work, health issues, a major move, the holidays) got in the way and slowed my progress considerably. To remain motivated, I decided to serialize the stories and feature them on my blog.

In the end, very few people actually read them, but it gave me the impetus to continue and finish the project. Somewhere in the middle of book four It dawned on me I no longer needed to worry about word count restrictions. This resulted in story number five being three times longer than the others! It also became clear I would have to go back and fix the first four, fleshing them out with all the detail I’d withheld earlier in my quest to keep them short.

It took over two months, but I ended up adding over 28,000 words of new content. In addition, the book now has four beautiful hand-drawn maps to guide my readers! My biggest disappointment is probably the book’s cover, as it is not what I imagined it should be. My go-to cover artist could not even come close to what I wanted, so I went with a pre-made cover site and found one that was workable but not very exciting. Someday, I hope to switch it out for something better.

As I look back now, I recognize how many things I learned in the writing of Rise of the Draman.

  • Creating short stories is talent unto itself, and one I do not have.
  • Fantasy (and dragons) are fun to write!
  • The medieval period is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the research.
  • I consistently underestimate the time requirements for my WIP.
  • Book descriptions are hard to write, especially for a collection.
  • Though I love my books, I’m sick of them by the time they’re done!
  • Characters really do take on a life of their own, and I come to love them.

I don’t know what the future may bring, but I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll be returning to Croft’s world before long. After all, there are a lot more story ideas waiting in my files!

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE! Rise of the Draman

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Orphaned as an infant, Croft spent his early years in the harsh confines of the Abbey, dreaming of befriending a dragon. When the day finally came, an accident leaves him utterly changed and bonded to a beast named Rueloo. Facing prejudice and fear, Croft builds a quiet life in the nest among his dragon friends – unaware his unique abilities would soon be needed.

With a powerful foe marching towards their borders, King Augustus appeals to the dragon child for his help. Croft’s example of sacrifice, kindness, and bravery inspire the people of Spiredale to unite and overcome. With the dragons, they forge a powerful alliance and embrace an entwined future neither were expecting.

In this five-story collection, join Croft and Rueloo through a series of adventures filled with intrigue, survival, love, sorrow, and triumph. Their bond is only the beginning… (Suitable for ages ten-adult.)

Now available for purchase at Amazon!