Who said that?!

Warning – this post is an attempt to distract you from current events. Read at your own risk.

I love collecting quotes. Whenever I run across something worthwhile I jot it down (because heaven knows my memory is an untrustworthy stinker). The following mashup comes from a variety of sources. Citation is provided when known.

******************

“Imagination is wasted without a creative outlet.”

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” Charles Dickens

“Rip was so straight you could level a picture frame with him.”

“The feeling flitted across my mind like the shadow of a bird, but it never stayed to sing.” Neenah Ellis

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his mother.”

“Right…Stun the bitches tits off and apologize later.” James Gardner

“The room looked as if it were channeling its inner museum.”

Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens

“Just like a zit, she kept popping up – unwanted and refusing to disappear.”

“You’re not old as long as there’s a little bit of whipper left in your snapper!” Hallmark

“It was a wet, burbly sound, like a fart with attitude. The equivalent of a rectal raspberry.”

“I wouldn’t trust them to organize a drinking party in a distillery.” David Weber

“Nothing like a a little judicious levity.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

******************

Author update – The upheaval caused by Covid-19 affects all of us, even if we remain healthy. I am still working, despite the stay at home order now in effect, and, so far, my immediate family is weathering the storm just fine. A friend recently lamented that the world will be forever changed, and I must agree. We have an opportunity to learn, grow, and change for the better, but will we?

My current project is keeping me busy, and providing a blessed distraction! Rise of the Draman is undergoing a final beta read and I am closing in on a publication date. As usual, I’m struggling with the book description and having an awful time of it. So much to say with so little space! A dozen different ways to approach it, yet which one will hook the potential reader?

I didn’t write this book with any specific purpose in mind. Somehow, it turned out to be chock full of timely lessons for what is happening right now, including adversity, sacrifice, love, unity, and the greater good. Getting it out there ASAP is my goal, and I hope it proves to be both entertaining and helpful. Book launch is tentatively set for the middle of April.

Wishing you peace and safety, my friends.

Stuck Inside? Get some great reads!

STIRCRAZY

AuthorsXP is a site I highly recommend and use all the time for promotions. It’s run by a fellow author, so she knows her stuff – GREAT for indie’s who need need a wide array of services from list building to reviews. Prices are very reasonable and Amy offers great customer service.

Not an author? No problem! Sign up on the site and load up your eReader with books for FREE or .99 cents.  Great for those sheltering in place who need something to read! Now through April 30th. What are you waiting for??

 

Fantasy Maps – From Brain to Page

My next book, Rise of the Draman, is a fantasy dragon tale set in medieval times. After writing began, I sketched out a rough map (we’re talking grade school quality here) to use as a reference point. Eventually, I ended up with four, detailing the kingdoms and places where most of the action took place. They not only ensured consistency, but imbued the story with a sense of reality.

As things became more complicated, I toyed with the idea of including maps in the book. Why? While I did my best to describe the world in sufficient detail, words on the page will only take you so far. A good map will enhance the story, help the reader understand action and character motivations, and simplify complex scenes.

“Like a good novel itself, a map draws the reader into its created world, but still leaves room for imagination to fill in the rest.” Clay Andres

Now comes the tough part. I knew I couldn’t draw them, and the available do-it-yourself software was either too expensive or hard to use. What to do? I mentioned the desire for maps to one of my faithful beta readers, and she volunteered to create them for me! The before and after images below speak for themselves.

 

Dramanshire Map

 

Dramanshire - darkened

Created by Kari C.

 

The artist and I exchanged many emails and texts to fine tune what I wanted, clarifying various features and making changes which reflected the story as written. The process was exciting and not nearly as stressful as I imagined. In the space of one week, she churned out four completed hand drawn maps! In her spare time!

I’m even more excited about Rise of the Draman now and can’t wait to see what my readers think. While I would love to share all four, you’ll have to buy the book to see the others! They’re beautiful, super COOL, and take my story to another level.

“One of life’s greatest treats, for a lover of books (especially fantasy books), is to open a cover to find a map secreted inside and filled with the details of a land about to be discovered. A writer’s map hints at a fully imagined world, and at the beginning of a book, it’s a promise. In the middle of a book, it’s a touchstone and a guide. And at the end, it’s a reminder of all the places a story has taken you.” Sarah Laskow

Publication is tentatively set for early April.

 

(Don’t) Say that again – Dealing with overused words

I’m on the hunt.

My manuscript was overrun with the nasty little boogers and it’s taking precious writing time to stop and cull them from the herd. You know what I’m talking about, though they go by many different names: crutch words, filter words, overused words, tired words, lazy words, needless words, filler words, repetitive words – and don’t get me started on adverbs! I’m tempted to use a different term altogether, but it wouldn’t be acceptable in polite company.

I prefer the term “crutch words”, but what are they?

“They are words or expressions that an author’s brain defers to like a default setting (and therefore, they become overused). These repeated words/phrases should not be obliterated from your writing, but rather, their frequency and usage need to be reduced.” Sam Giacomo

I found at least three things worth mentioning in Sam’s simple definition.

Default setting – every writer tends to overuse certain words and phrases, but it’s part of your unique writing voice. They spring from your upbringing, education, region of the world, and personality. Relax. You come by it naturally, you can use them, and you’re in good company.

Not be obliterated – When I was first confronted with my own repeats, it surprised me! (Had, that, but, was, & would are some of my worst.) Removal of every single crutch word is neither required nor desired, but you will have to cull them. The effort is more than worthwhile, as it will improve sentence structure and the overall quality of your writing.

Reduced – Here’s the hard part, and none of my research revealed how many occurrences of a word or phrase is acceptable or excessive. Shouldn’t the magic formula look something like this? [20 uses of “X” per 1000 words = disaster] I wish it were that easy! I use MS Word for my writing, so I take advantage of the “Find” feature. If I see a whole bunch of repeats clustered together, I go hunting. If the overall number is large, I look at each one and winnow it down.

For example, while working on story number three of my current MS, I punched in the word “was”. Whoa! Two hundred forty four occurrences in a document of just under twenty thousand words. It took hours of eliminating, replacing, and re-writing to get the number down to one hundred three. The process is subjective, but once you know what your crutch words are it’s easier to find an acceptable balance.

Beware – the little stinkers are tricky! The list of offenders never goes away as old ones are replaced with new ones. Always ask your beta readers to watch for them, as they are more likely to catch them than you are.

Happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

Self Pub Book Covers – A Review

Every book needs a great cover. It’s one of the most important decisions you will make, and indie authors have a fair number of options available. The process for my current book, Rise of the Draman, took an unexpected turn and I ended up using a pre-made cover from SelfPubBookCovers. Let me tell you how I got there and offer a review of their services.

The covers for all seven of my previous books have been designed by the same graphic artist. I assumed she would also take care of number eight and began the process. It became clear after a little back and forth that we were not on the same page! The problem this time was the nature of my book – a medieval-ish fantasy tale requiring a dragon on the cover. This was not her forte, as she mostly deals with modifying photographs or pre-existing artwork. She gave it the old college try, but in the end I had to admit defeat and look elsewhere.

I searched through a passel of websites offering both pre-made and custom covers. Some were very limited in scope (romance books only, for example), others lacked quality, and prices were all over the map. After a while I narrowed my search to those specializing in fantasy, and while this helped, most of them were too expensive or I didn’t care for their blood-thirsty, demon-eyed, dragon-on-the-rampage images.

The first one I contacted offered both pre-made and custom covers at a somewhat reasonable starting price, so I made an initial inquiry. While it wasn’t quite bait and switch, they quickly discouraged a pre-made and pushed for a custom job beginning at $900.00. Sorry, this indie author doesn’t have that kind of money!

In the past, I had looked at SelfPubBookCovers.com, and decided to give them another try. They claim to be the “world’s leading marketplace for high-quality, affordably priced, pre-made book covers”, with 30,000 to choose from. Once you create a user name and password, you can save your favorites as you search – essential, given the number of covers available. After much debate, I made my selection and then the fun began. The one I wanted required a modification. Here is their process:

  1. Please send us the file name of the cover you are interested in, along with a sentence explaining the modification you are looking for.2. We will contact the artist to see if it can be done for our minimum fee of $50 (which is in addition to the cover purchase price).

    3. We will get back to you with a confirmation. At that time we will ask you to purchase the cover and for you to take care of the modification fee.

    4. You will see the modification, and will have 2 rounds of comments/adjustments. If additional changes (more than 2) are requested, there is a $25 per round fee.

    If this is acceptable, please send us the book cover file name and how you would like it modified.

    NOTE: Please DO NOT buy the cover you are interested in having modified until we confirm that the modification can be made.

Seem clunky to you? It did to me, as I was used to dealing directly with the artist myself via email. I also did not like having to pay before seeing the end result, but I understand why it’s necessary. In the end it worked out fine, and the next time it won’t seem quite as daunting. The modification I needed was very simple – exchange the silhouette of a little girl to a boy. After one more minor adjustment, their work was done, AND they kept their promise of a 5-day turnaround (including Christmas day) – impressive!

SMALL-72dpi-1500x2000

Afterwards, you are free to log in and use their software to add the book title, author name, tag line, etc. This can be done any time following delivery of the finished file, though you are limited as to color, font, and placement. Remember – once you make the purchase, that cover will never be sold to anyone else in the future – it’s YOURS.

So what about the cost? Was it truly affordable? Yes. Most of the covers run around a hundred dollars without modifications. Mine was priced at $78.00 + the $50.00 modification fee, for a total of $128.00. For an indie author on a tight budget, this was a terrific bargain.

Will I use their service again? Yes, I expect to at some point. Would I recommend it to anyone else? Again, yes. Even if you are not concerned about cost, they have some wonderful covers available. Give SelfPubBookCovers a try!

Note – if you have found a pre-made cover shop you like, let me know in the comments!

W.I.P. = Weary, Impossible, Provoked

It’s no surprise I am still working on Rise of the Draman, though I REALLY want to get it finished! Why does every project take longer than I estimate?? Can’t I just write and ignore everything else? It’s not all doom and gloom, as I am making significant progress – even squeezing in the holidays and tax preparation. Speaking of taxes, my book income went way down this year and I overspent on promotions. I’ll have to be even more careful – it’s going to be tough.

Anyway, back to my WIP. I completed story five in late November, so what have I been doing for the last eleven weeks? When I started the project, it was supposed to be a series of short stories, released one at a time over several months. Those goals were jettisoned when I realized:

  1. I’m no good at writing short stories. I do just fine with flash fiction or novels, but short story writing is a special ability I don’t seem to have! A bit discouraging, but a good learning experience.
  2. Publishing and promoting five separate titles is WAY more than I can afford at the present time.

By the time I got to the last one (Dragon Rescue), the decision was made to combine the stories into one volume. By doing so, it freed me from word count restrictions – and set me up for a lot more work!

Dragon Child went from 11,172 words to 19,803 – a 43.5% increase.

Dragon Valley went from 14,214 words to 22,634 – a 37% increase.

Dragon Bonds went from 11,722 words to 16781 (so far – not finished yet).

At 13,000 words, Dragon Quest will most likely get a hefty increase.

At 30,00+ words, Dragon Rescue shouldn’t need anything.

Adding new material isn’t the only reason I’m behind,  of course, as there are now internal consistency issues to address and small but important changes which affect all the stories. Oh, and don’t forget a thorough round of editing and another beta read for each one. At some point I also have to create character lists, maps, a terrific blurb, and apply for the copyright. The joys of self-publishing are on full display here, and I haven’t even reached the promotions stage! Whoopee!

Yes, I’m very eager to get the book finished and launched, but I won’t cut corners – even though it’s taking MUCH longer than I thought it would. I’m tired and want to reach the finish line right now, but the race isn’t over. Giving up isn’t an option, no, no, no. I’m going to birth this baby if it kills me, and then promptly forget about the pain as I start on the next one. Yep, writers are weird.

Photo Prompt – SHADE

Shade

His shadow reached me long before he did; shifty blackness with more life than the man. Untouchable, yet a felt presence, nonetheless. It washed over my skin, filling pores and raising goosebumps. I should have run; wrenched myself free and fled from him again, but I could not.

Something in this strange creature touched my soul in a way no other ever had. Could I stay with him? Give myself freely? Get lost in this dichotomous being who simply wanted to love and be loved?

As he neared, shadow merged once again with flesh and the feeling of otherness faded. He smiled at me and extended a hand. I took it with gentle pressure; warm and soft. Together, we sought the darkness, for it was only there he found peace and I could forget what it was that captured my heart.

2019 – A Retrospective

A few thoughts on last year, both personally and as a writer.

ME

  • Renewed a twenty year old friendship – what a blessing!
  • Welcomed another grandson (four grandchildren now)
  • Celebrated my younger son’s birthday, in person, for the first time in MANY years
  • Took on a PT job for several months to help with the bills
  • Moved to a different apartment with better amenities

WRITING

  • Celebrated my two-year publishing anniversary in August
  • Experimented with some flash fiction/photo prompts on my blog
  • Published one full length novel and almost finished a second (see below)
  • Incorporated more show and less tell in my writing
  • Got really good at low-cost book promotions (!)
  • Added yet another genre and audience to my portfolio

 

****************

My writing plans for the year fell apart! I published my second wolf shifter novel, Traitor’s Moon, in February. The idea was to keep going with book three, but I couldn’t do it. I was burned out and needed to write something different for a while. With no desire to commit myself to another long project, I decided to write a fantasy short story. This turned into a series of five novelettes spread out over the last ten months of the year!

With me so far? The initial idea was to publish them individually, thereby increasing my backlist and pull in lots of new readers with all the extra exposure. Not a bad plan – except it was too expensive. (I also tried putting the stories on my blog in serial format, but very few people read them.) There was no way I could afford to publish and promote five different titles, so what to do? The only thing I could do with a basket full of lemons – make lemonade!

RISE OF THE DRAMAN is a collection of all five books and is presently undergoing a final series of edits. I’m adding new material, replacing tell with show, and correcting mistakes. My beta readers are loving it, and I will end up with a much better novel by the time I’m done.

The cover for this one was another challenge. The designer I’ve been using all along just couldn’t come through for me on this title, so I was forced to look elsewhere. Fantasy cover art, particularly with dragons, is harder to come by and can be a lot more expensive. I finally found a few possibilities on a pre-made cover site, and with one slight change (which cost more), settled on one which will do, but just doesn’t POP the way I had hoped. Check it out here and tell me what you think! If things go as planned, I intend to publish RISE OF THE DRAMAN sometime in February or before.

Every book brings new opportunities to learn and improve, and this latest one certainly did! Overall it’s been a great experience. My biggest regret is not being able to publish the thing in 2019, as it puts me behind my goal of at least two novel-length works per year. If I work hard, maybe I can squeeze out three in 2020 to make up for it!

Author Update

The last few weeks have been brutal! Pre-move, move, post-move. It’s all been very moving, but at last I’m settled in my new place and can stop for a breath. Obviously, my writing has taken a back seat and I’m eager to get caught up.

Story five of Rise of the Draman is almost complete. The last of the story threads are being carefully tied, and then it’s off to my beta readers. When that’s done, it will appear on my blog in serialized format, and your anxious wait will be over! Leaving readers dangling from a cliff this long was never my intention, though be prepared for a much longer installment this time.

I received a wonderful note from a reader recently regarding my Gladstone Shifters books. The poor soul is hooked (yeah for me!) and wants to get her hands on the next in series – only it hasn’t been written yet and I have no idea when it will be. I have three new series begging to be written, and am still deciding what to do. Given my crazy work schedule and limited writing time, any novel-length project I choose to tackle means at least a nine month commitment. My tendency is to get bored and antsy to move on to something else long before I’m done!

Winter made a rude and unwelcome early start here and I’m faced with unfamiliar routes for shopping and work. I don’t mind the change of seasons, but driving on snowy/icy roads makes me tense. In 2014, I hit some black ice and found myself upside down in a snow-filled ditch. The car was totaled, and neither my back nor my nerves have fully recovered. Maybe I’ll work that into a book someday…

 

Weekly Roundup – What a Summer!

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

I cannot express, in polite words, how relieved I am to see the end of summer. Hot weather, work hassles, financial woes, writing issues – yikes! It’s time to put it all behind me and focus on what promises to be an interesting fall. I welcome the cooler weather, despite being hay-fever season, as my personal life and writing enter a different phase.

I’m moving again. Yes, you heard me correctly. In about five weeks I’m relocating to another part of the metro area. I was able to secure an apartment which not only offers more amenities for less, but is closer to my jobs and my son. This move will be well worth the hassle, as it should improve my living situation, reduce commute times, and make it easier to see my grandson.

I got a second job. What? Yep, I’ve taken on a Saturday job cleaning offices to help sort out my finances. Last weekend was my first solo appearance and it just about killed me! Cleaning sounds easy, but my body reminded me of all the muscles I hadn’t been using. Aside from aching head to foot and being bone tired, I slept poorly two nights in a row. Reporting for work on Monday looked iffy at best, but thanks to pain medication I made it. Hopefully I’ll get used to the new routine quickly and be able to enjoy at least a little of my weekends in the future. More important, the extra money will relieve some financial pressure and provide much-needed breathing room.

Given the above, it’s no surprise my writing has taken a hit. I don’t expect much to change until after the move, but a lot depends on how much overtime is required at my full time job. It will be a challenge just to produce a weekly post, let alone anything else. I’m going to focus on completing the Rise of the Draman series, including a very thorough edit & polish. The tentative goal is to have it finished by December, and if I have the funds, publish the stories as one volume. Anything else I might have time for is simply gravy.

Things are a bit crazy right now, and certainly not what I wanted, but I know the sacrifices will be worth it in the end. Margo Channing knew what she was talking about when she said, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”