Weekly Roundup – The Long Road to a Short Story

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Next week I intend to introduce the first installment of the short story I have been working on, entitled DRAGON CHILD. It’s a fantasy tale set in the quasi-middle ages about a young orphan boy, a kingdom at risk, and nest full of dragons. I’m going to release it here FREE, in serial fashion, with a couple chapters each week. Depending on reader response, the story may serve as a prequel to a full length novel later on, so be sure to share your thoughts with me!

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish with this project. The first, as I mentioned last week, was to prove to myself that I was capable of writing a short story in the first place. I have numerous future projects riding on successfully reaching that goal, so it was critical for me to learn how. In addition, I wanted to have something to use as a give-away for promotional purposes or as a thank-you to my beta readers.

The idea for Dragon Child presented itself all at once and I was hooked! There are several first’s with this one:

  • First foray into the fantasy genre
  • First dragon story
  • First child as the main character
  • First time using the middle ages as a setting

With a plethora of dragon books out there, there probably aren’t too many new ideas to introduce. I wasn’t about to let that stop me! One recurring theme is a dragon’s love for treasure – especially gold, but few authors want to explain the reason for this strange obsession/hoarding behavior. I decided to use the premise but add a twist of my own by introducing a perfectly logical explanation for their love of gold. All dragon stories include a little bit of magic to make them work and mine is no exception. I think you’ll like it.

I don’t want to give away all the goodies, so you’ll have to read it for yourself. Join me next week for DRAGON CHILD!

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Today is not only the first day of spring, but my sister’s birthday! With ten siblings, it’s almost always somebody’s birthday and I enjoy sending cards and chatting on the phone. In person would be better, but she’s 600 miles away and I don’t get back home very often. Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS – your little brother loves you!

PS – be nice to me, or you’ll end up as a character in my next book…

Weekly Roundup – Blast From The Past 2: A VALENTINE

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I just rediscovered this one mixed in with my early work. It’s a Valentines Day poem I wrote for my mother in 1976 – cheesy, sappy, and poorly executed. I still love to write rhyming verses but clearly poetry is not my strong point! In the next to last line you will see my mom referred to as “Moo”, and, no, it’s not a backhanded insult. While the exact origin remains buried in the mists of yesteryear, it was a term of endearment we all used for my mother. Unfortunately, Moo did leave me back in 2000. I’m still blue.

 

A Valentine

On this Valentine’s Day of ’76,

When hearts and thoughts and lovers mix,

I thought of you, ma, and what you’ve been,

Not just to me but all our kin.

 

We’ve been through a lot over all these years,

Many a problem and a bundle of tears,

But through it all we’ve learned so much,

By your lovely smile and caring touch.

 

I picture you a gentle dove,

My thoughts of you are all of love,

And if you ever leave me, Moo,

You better believe that I’ll be blue.

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I completed at least one very important task last week by gathering and combining all of my notes and ideas for Forbidden Moon. The next step is to assemble them into rough chapter divisions and then start writing – something I wanted to have begun on the 1st but was sidetracked by dragons. Yes, I said dragons. I have a short story (and beyond) idea I can’t shake, so I’ve taken a short detour to see where the concept leads. If anything comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

Sales of Traitor’s Moon have been steady but slow and I must admit to being disappointed. This book deserves so much more! If you are a fan of Freebooksy, you will see it listed this Sunday. I expect it to do well and hope it generates interest in Expectant Moon at the same time. If you happen to pick up a copy, please be kind enough to leave a review. Many thanks!

Weekly Roundup: Gladstone Shifters Part 2 – The Writing of EXPECTANT MOON

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Before I actually started writing the first Gladstone Shifters book, Expectant Moon, there were certain things I wanted the story to do. Shifter history needed to be explained – where did they come from, how do they live, what are their relationships like? In addition, I wanted a reasonable explanation of their ability to exist in modern times without being discovered. Lastly, I had to create the major dramatic elements which would keep the reader engaged from start to finish.

Sound like a lot? It was, and I didn’t realize at first how grand and extensive my goals were for the story, especially when it was supposed to be crammed into a single book! I seem to have a penchant for biting off more than I can chew, but I dove into the project, blissfully ignorant of what I was supposed to do, and did it anyway. In the end, my readers loved it, even if it was bit long, (at 110,000+ words, it’s at the upper limit of a full length novel). The few who mentioned it didn’t care because they couldn’t stop reading – a wonderful problem for any author!

It took a lot of research, but by using the actual history of gray wolves in the U.S., I was able to weave it into the experiences of the shifter community. Logically, the only way for wolf shifters to hide from humans was to do so in plain sight among the natural wolf population. This grew more difficult as the U.S. population grew, and especially after the great purge of wolves which began in the 1800’s. This tension and tragedy provided the background for nearly everything in the world I created, imbuing the story with drama, structure, and continuity.

Natural wolves are confined to a few of the northernmost states, Alaska, and Canada, narrowing my choices for a primary location. Since I was already familiar with Michigan, I decided to place most of the action at Gladstone, in the upper peninsula. Instead of creating imaginary places and names, I used the real thing, and in the process, lent the story a measure of believability. When I mention cities, parks, roads, lakes, rives etc., and even the distances between them, it’s virtually all from real life. This, too, took a lot of research, but it actually saved me time and influenced some story elements.

From the start, I intended to focus on the two main characters – Ben (Gladstone’s Alpha) and his future mate, Evan. After introducing Jack as the long-lost True Elder, (and eventually his mate), it became apparent I would have to widen my vision a bit! As the story progressed, I simply had to provide more background and interaction of the MC’s. As a result, the book was longer and far richer than I ever intended – all to the good.

Though it began as a romance, Expectant Moon grew into a story about acceptance and taking a stand in a hostile environment. Gay shifters, like their human counterparts, were experiencing the same issues, and I wanted to show how it affected them and what could be done to correct the situation. This dramatic element formed the story’s foundation, driving the action, discoveries, and love interests through the book. It was my desire to give the shifters a victory, though hard won; unlike the real world where people are still being rejected, bullied and killed because of their sexual orientation.

One of the fun elements I introduced was the shifter way of allowing same-sex couples to have children. Many of the stories I’d read included male Omega’s who could somehow get pregnant and pop out babies (mostly unexplained), but I found their approach lacking credibility. Important questions remained unaddressed: Other than same sex couples, why would a male wolf-shifter need such an ability? Where was his birth orifice? How could you keep a pregnant man hidden from prying human eyes? I was able to answer those questions, and more, leaving the reader with an imaginative and plausible explanation.

As mentioned earlier, an important part of the series is the romance, including the sex, and this author makes no apology for the explicit M/M content. Wolf shifters are famous for their libido, stamina, and overall enjoyment of sex, and my characters were no exception. For the most part, I place the sexual scenes within the context of a loving, committed relationship; something many humans, quite honestly, are incapable of doing. A healthy, vibrant relationship will normally include sex, so I saw no reason to be squeamish about it here. (For readers who may object, I provided a very clear warning in the book blurb.)

While more could be said, the best way to experience Expectant Moon is to read it for yourself. If you do, please leave a review or drop me a line at aelliottbooks@gmail.com to let me know what you thought!

Next week, without revealing too much, I want to discuss the writing of Book 2, Traitor’s Moon.

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Traitor’s Moon is FINISHED!! Wahoooooooooo!!!

I’m now in the process of rereading the entire manuscript, followed by submission to my beta readers. If I’ve done my job properly, there shouldn’t be many corrections to make and then it’s time to publish it. I anticipate a February release, but stay tuned for a more exact date! Meanwhile, I need to create the book blurb, which is a difficult process all its own, and figure out the launch promotions. Also – check out the cover art for Traitor’s Moon on the main page of my website!

Even as I finish up the process for Traitor’s Moon, ideas are flowing for the third book, entitled Forbidden Moon. Despite the extended length of time it took to get Book 2 finished, I’m eager to get started on the next. Yes, I would dearly love a break, but I need to keep going lest I lose my momentum. I swear – writers are nuts!

 

Weekly Roundup: Remembering 2018

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

While it’s certainly true I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to in 2018, it was still a good year! Below are some of the highlights, both personally and as an author.

Author Stuff:

  • In April I published my first paranormal, wolf-shifter novel Expectant Moon. Reviews have been very positive! Book two, Traitor’s Moon, is nearly finished.
  • Instead of scrambling to post something new all the time, I began the Weekly Roundup to keep my readers informed.
  • My writing has improved due to some great and timely advice from a number of sources and I continue to grow and learn.
  • Some fabulous story ideas are now waiting for me to find the time to write them!
  • While it was a difficult decision, my books have been enrolled in KDP Select for most of 2018. Along with other marketing changes, I’ve been able to earn a fairly stable (but meager) income from my writing.
  • My most popular post, the Odious Apostrophe appeared on April 16th.

While I have some goals in mind for the new year, I’m not going put pressure on myself by creating a list of resolutions. Aside from publishing Traitor’s Moon, I hope to write at least two novels and perhaps some short stories. If time permits, I may look into joining a local writers group. Much will depend on my work schedule and finances, so we’ll see.

Personal Stuff:

  • I completed a major move across country to live closer to my kids.
  • My oldest son welcomed a third child, my first Grandson, this year!
  • My younger son got married and they are now expecting their first baby in August!
  • I am blessed with a decent job, lovely apartment, good health, some caring friends, and my extended family. God has been very good to me, as always.

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Current Manuscript – Traitor’s Moon hit a couple of bumps at the end of the year, and I’ve missed my goal of finishing by December 31st by just a few days. One problem was the need for an additional chapter, which is now nearly finished. The other issue involved not being able to get a full night’s sleep for many days in a row. The old brain simply shut down, and I needed all my resources just to get through the work day. I think I’m back on track now! Word count stands at almost 117,000.

Even though I’m still writing book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, I’ve been busy jotting down more ideas for book 3. Some pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place, which makes it easier for me to finish the current manuscript, since it will include hints for the next book. I don’t want to commit myself to any major plot lines unless I’m certain I’ll use them, hence the need to plan ahead and consider the shape of the story carefully.

I don’t like cliffhangers, but I do enjoy giving readers a few hints about what may be coming in the next book – call them teasers if you will. Building in a little bit of anticipation creates interest and hopefully brings readers back for the next installment.

My posts for the next few weeks will be mostly about the shifter world I’ve created for my current series. In conjunction with the release of Traitor’s Moon, I want to share where it all came from and answer some reader’s questions. So get your wolf on, baby, and let’s get furry together!

Weekly Roundup 12-19-18 Becoming a Full Time Author

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Some months ago I saved a post entitled “What It Takes To Go Full-Time As An Indie Author”. Unfortunately, the post is now “marked private by the owner” so I can’t tell you who wrote it. The writer claims to be making four figures per month through hard work (not luck), and following this must-do list:

  • Study your market. No that isn’t selling out, it’s making sure you understand what your readers want.
  • Get top quality, genre-appropriate covers. They should look like the bestsellers in your genre.
  • Learn how to write a really hooky blurb. Copy writing is a completely different beast to fiction writing.
  • Write books that people want to read. Yes you can write for yourself, but that’s going to make going full-time, far, far, more difficult.
  • Learn how to market. I don’t mean that stuff about getting a big Twitter following, I mean CPC ads and newsletter marketing. There are plenty of books and resources out there to teach you the ropes for both of those.
  • Target your readers and only your readers. Some people go for the spaghetti approach, but that has been shown to drastically screw things up. You need tight also-boughts that are relevant to your book. Don’t waste money marketing your dark UF to humorous UF readers.
  • Publish regularly. You don’t have to publish every month, but 4 books a year is the ideal minimum. You’ll need to run ads between launches to keep eyes on your books though.

Wow! While this formula apparently worked for the author, I will never be able to afford the time or expense to make it happen. Even if I could quit my job today and do nothing but write, I would need professional help with all the aspects of marketing, which involves four of the seven suggestions in the list above. I would guess most indie authors share this same struggle and despair of ever reaching full-time author status.

One additional objection is the whole “write what people want to read” mantra. While I understand the concept, and agree in principle, I dare say most authors want to write what appeals to them, not simply what will sell. Cranking out garbage simply because people will buy it gives all authors a bad name. On the other hand, churning out book after book with no personal appeal seems like a soul-sucking waste of time. Much of my joy and satisfaction as an author comes from writing about what speaks to me, interests me, or what stirs my passion. All of that is very personal and cannot be reduced to “write what people want to read”.

So, am I ever going to go full-time as an author? I’m sure you’ve already guessed the answer. Unless lightning strikes or I can retire with lots of extra cash, I don’t see it happening. Discouraging? Yes. Will it stop me? No. I write because I enjoy it! I have things to say and stories to tell, and readers like my stuff. In the meantime, if anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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Update on Traitor’s Moon – I’m about two-thirds of the way through the last chapter! Next comes the Epilogue where I tie up loose threads and drop some hints for the next book in the series, but the end is near (in a good way)! I’m still on target for finishing by the end of the year, with a tentative launch in late January. Word count stands at 104,000+.

The final chapter deals mostly with the primary antagonist receiving his comeuppance, and I’ve been editing and re-editing the manuscript to get it just right. This person has been a thorn in everyone’s side since the middle of the first book, and now the time has come to give him what he deserves. I must say, it’s been most satisfying, and I hope my readers will be pleased!