Weekly Roundup – Plot vs. Characters

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

I had an interesting discussion with a co-worker recently concerning the merits of certain Sci-Fi films. For me, the only ones which matter are Star Trek and the three original Star Wars films. Many will disagree with me and that’s OK. The point of our discussion was what made them great movies, and I believe it’s the development and interaction of the characters which made them fun to watch and created loyal fans. The plot was important and the action exciting, but they only really mattered because of the way they affected or involved the characters.

What does this have to do with my writing? A great deal! I must confess, at the beginning I was convinced that the plot and action were key, while the characters were only so much window-dressing. Frankly, I was wrong – guilty of both ignorance and arrogance. As I became more comfortable as an author, a curious thing happened. Each book I wrote became progressively more character driven and I was then forced to reevaluate my basic assumptions on what constituted a great story.

It’s now obvious that the plot and action points become the vehicle for character development, interaction, and growth. It isn’t either/or, but both, and in the process they merge together to create a memorable reading experience. When readers finish a book, it’s the characters they remember and what they experienced along the way. Of course, writers cannot neglect a plausible and interesting plot or neglect to include sufficient drama and action. The story will fall flat without them, but it’s the characters which bring it all to life and are remembered long after the book is finished.

###

Traitor’s Moon is almost ready to publish! I have made some terrific improvements and cleaned up the manuscript in a dozen different ways, thanks to some terrific beta readers. One of the sticking points was the need to streamline the final chapters and improve the end matter. After three or four configurations, I finally got it right. It was necessary to write some additional material, relocate portions relating to book three (teasers), create an additional chapter, and simplify the Epilogue. Whew! I’m glad that work is done, and I’m very pleased with the results. Unless I hit a major snag, the release date should be sometime before the end of February.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am also re-editing Expectant Moon. I want the first book to benefit from everything I have learned since it was released, so I am reading through it and making changes. Most of it is correcting small spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors which were missed somehow. I also changed a character’s last name (he appears briefly here but has a much larger role in Traitor’s Moon), made minor phrasing changes, and provided more detail between breaks in the action. In addition, the Prologue was tweaked to make it easier to understand.

All in all, the book will be in much better shape for new readers to the series. Obviously, I’m hoping those who purchase Traitor’s Moon will also purchase Expectant Moon, and I want them to have the best version I can produce. The terrific new cover design should also attract attention. I wish I already had book three written and ready to go, as I have a feeling readers will be demanding MORE. Not a bad problem to have…

Weekly Roundup – Surviving the Polar Vortex and Mediocre Movies

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

Well, that was fun.

Much of the U.S. was slammed by the polar vortex last week, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see it gone! I suspect this “winter on steroids” is going to be our new normal, if ANY weather patterns can still be regarded as such. Personally, I missed two full days of work and was almost clobbered, twice, by other cars. Even at home I was bundled up trying to stay warm while the gas company asked everyone to turn their thermostats down. Still, I was most grateful to get through it with my health and automobile intact!

This week, we are supposed to get three days of ice, but without the bone-chilling temps and wind. I don’t mind winter, I simply hate having to drive in it. I suppose it’s the price I pay for living in such a beautiful part of the country, enjoying all four seasons. Fortunately, there is little threat of fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, or extreme heat waves – yet.

Enough about the weather! A few weeks back I went to see Mary Poppins Returns, and wanted to share my thoughts about the film. It was fun to return to her world, and the sets, costumes, and acting were all top-notch. Even so, Lin Manuel Miranda smiled too much and seemed to have nothing to do except show up whenever the script called for another song and dance. Emily Blunt was a wonderful Mary Poppins, though she was a bit too grouchy for my taste and over-played the character’s vanity.

My biggest disappointment was in the totally forgettable songs and musical numbers, some of which should have been cut altogether. There wasn’t a single tune such “Spoon Full of Sugar” to keep me humming after the film was over, or even immediately after the scene was finished! Overall, it was a pleasant film and not a bad sequel considering how long it’s been since the original.

As a writer with a vivid imagination, I still want to know what Mary really is: witch, paranormal being, umbrella goddess?? Where did she come from? Why doesn’t she age? Who else is getting her attention? Is she single? Where does she live when not floating through the sky? Most important of all – why does she wear those ugly shoes?

###

My beta reader feedback for Traitor’s Moon is still trickling in, so I’m really not much closer to finishing the book. Rats! I really wanted to release it by next weekend, but it doesn’t seem realistic now. A problem with the concluding chapter and Epilogue was pointed out, and I am busy adding and deleting material to strengthen the ending and create a better bridge to book three. The work needs to be done, and I’m thankful a beta reader pointed it out, but it seems every time I turn around there is one more thing I need to tweak. I’m at the point where I simply want to be FINISHED with this book, get it out there, and move on!

By the way, last week’s bad weather and time off work allowed me to get my taxes done. I eagerly await my refund…

PS – Happy Birthday Sue!

Weekly Roundup: FICTION – It’s Good for Your Brain

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

Neuroscience has some good news for both readers and writers of fiction – really. “Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy appeared in 2012, but I wasn’t aware of the article until recently.

“Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”

Why is this significant? In the age of gaming and constant visual stimulation and entertainment, it seems the old standby of reading has more value than we thought (yes, even eBooks!). Did you ever wonder why you enjoy reading? This article goes on to explain what it is about fiction which activates the brain and brings pleasure. Authors take note – this research has direct bearing on story creation and character development!

To be honest, I am still trying to fully integrate the use of all five senses in my writing and have made some progress. On the surface, it is understood that doing so makes a better story and promotes the “show vs. tell” concept writers are continuously reminded to use. Now, research lends credence to what the writing gurus have been saying.

  • Science provides concrete evidence that the use of descriptive terms with strong odor associations, for example, such as cinnamon, lavender, and coffee, light up the olfactory cortex.
  • A similar brain response was noted in the sensory cortex in phrases involving texture, such as “The singer had a velvety voice” or “He had leathery hands”.
  • Sentences which describe motion like “John grasped the object” or “Pablo kicked the ball”, activated regions of the motor cortex.

Apparently, the brain makes little distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life, since in each case the same neurological regions are stimulated. Fiction actually goes above and beyond, providing a replica of reality by allowing readers to experience their characters thoughts and feelings. Even more intriguing, the brain tends to treat the interactions among fictional characters something like real-life social encounters, improving empathy and social skills.

“Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.”

For fiction writers, this research provides powerful encouragement and motivation. We must craft our stories with care, paying special attention to word choices and descriptions which engage all the senses, thereby transporting readers directly into the narrative. They crave it, demand it even, and we have the ability to give it to them. Our work then becomes more than mere entertainment but an exercise in brain stimulation and improved social interactions.

In the process, we create loyal fans who will not only enjoy our work but who will spread the word to others looking for a great piece of fiction. Think about that the next time you prepare to write!

###

As I stated last week, Traitor’s Moon is currently being dissected by my beta readers. I have some feedback in hand, and so far they love the story! I have been busy correcting small errors, tweaking phrases, adding additional text where more information was needed, and debating the best location for the cast of characters list (it’s going in the back).

Let me give you an example of something one of my beta readers caught that no one else, including me, noticed. One of my mid-level characters is named Caleb, but in seven places I somehow changed his name to Jacob! Don’t ask me, because I still haven’t figured out why or how. The scary part is that my beta reader only noticed the switcheroo one time and almost didn’t mention it to me. I shudder to think how many bad reviews would have resulted from this single snafu. (It would be most helpful if scientific research could reveal why writers often don’t see their own mistakes.)

The quest for an attention-grabbing book blurb is ongoing, though after multiple re-writes I finally have an acceptable version. If you have never tried to condense a novel-length work into two hundred words or less, I challenge you to give it a go! It does no good to grab a potential reader’s attention with a wonderful cover, only to lose them with a ho-hum description of the book. This is one of those learn-by-doing skills which should come easier over time and, apparently, I need more time.

Along with all of this, I have yet to go back and make some minor editorial improvements to Expectant Moon. I’m hoping to attract new readers to the first book during the promotion phase of book two, so now is the time to do some housekeeping and make it really shine.

If that weren’t enough, it’s now tax time! Since I REALLY need my refund, this is going to get my full attention until it’s done. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Oh bother”. Fortunately, he doesn’t know any swear words…

Meanwhile, I am not only gearing up for book three, Forbidden Moon, but am collecting information and ideas for the project which follows it (probably in the fall). WHAT? Yes, you heard me. Right now it’s a disjointed mess, but when thoughts come, I write them down! I’ve been known to run from the bathroom, dripping wet, to jot down an idea before I forget. Same goes for the middle of the night when I get up to use the restroom and end up scribbling notes for twenty minutes until my brain quiets down again. Hey – I can’t control when genius strikes, so give me a break!

Weekly Roundup: Gladstone Shifters Part 3 – The Writing of TRAITOR’S MOON

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

Traitor’s Moon, scheduled for release next month, is the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series. In some ways, this story was easier to write, since the foundation and main characters were already established. The plot was a natural progression of what took place in the first book, so ultimately I knew where I wanted things to go. Getting there turned out to be far more difficult than I anticipated!

Nolan, the primary love interest in this book, finally meets his mate but they are forced to remain apart for much of the story. Figuring out how to create this tense situation and integrate it with the rest of the action was something of a nightmare, and I had to replace the original plot points with something quite different. It all worked out in the end, and though readers will never know about the cool twists and turns I had cooked up, letting go of my original ideas was disappointing.

With an upcoming battle and lots of babies on the way, I decided to add a pack doctor to the Gladstone family. She was supposed to be just another minor character, but her importance grew as the story unfolded and I chose to expand her presence in the book significantly. Not only did I name her after my mother, but she finds her mate – another minor character who will have a greater role in book three of the series. Anyway, her expanded presence was one of the reasons my plans for Nolan and his mate went off the rails. It took a while to figure out how to keep all the good stuff without a major re-write.

Adding new characters, or expanding the role of established ones, is a delicate balance. Gladstone is a growing pack, so a mix of new and familiar faces is expected. While it’s crucial to remain engaged with the MC’s, new blood can make for lots of interesting action and sub-plots, and this is one of the things I really enjoy as an author. As the characters come alive and interact, I get to shape their experiences and bring in unique personalities, including all their baggage.

One of the most difficult and emotionally challenging things I had to do with this book was kill off some of my characters. Reality demanded the good guys take a hit this time, and I had to decide who and how they were going to die. Getting rid of some of the villains was kind of fun but planning the death of the others was neither pleasant nor easy. There’s a good reason I have a box of tissues by my computer, as the action brought me to tears more than once. It’s true, I did NOT kill off any of the MC’s, but the battle scene and it’s aftermath was heart wrenching.

On the lighter side, I had a tremendous amount of fun reuniting Jack with his mentor’s journals and introducing a newly discovered True Elder in Alaska. Both of these sub-plots became significant additions to the story, and the research required was both interesting and enjoyable. While these sections lengthened the book considerably, they brought needed scope and breathing space from the drama going on everywhere else.

The repartee between Nolan and his mate was something I really hadn’t planned to include. Once the two of them were finally brought together, it was Nolan’s smart-ass personality which made the dynamic between them come alive. The zingers, name calling, and pranks set them apart from their packmates and injected a bit of harmless fun. Since I’m always looking for ways to insert humor in my stories, this was a welcome addition and hoot to write.

There were a number of issues at play which made completing Traitor’s Moon difficult. It took almost eight months before the manuscript was finished, and while that’s far too long between books, it couldn’t be helped. I was under a great deal of stress at work which left me burned out and lacking the time or energy to write. I also completed a major move last fall, putting me further behind and exacerbating my lack of progress.

Amid the plot changes, work drama, and move, I was blessed with a constant source of encouragement – one of my beta readers. She was not only willing to read the manuscript one chapter at a time, but freely shared ideas (many of which I ended up using) and kept my spirits up when I wanted to quit. I’m not sure the book would have happened without her, so I just want to say how grateful I am for all she did. (I love you TMC!)

###

The manuscript for Traitor’s Moon is now in the hands of my beta readers. Hopefully, I will have their input soon and can make all the necessary changes by the end of January. This is wishful thinking, since it took twice the time I allocated for the last book and this one is even longer. I’m just in a hurry to get it published and want the world to cooperate with me.

Meanwhile, I am working on the book blurb, jotting down ideas for book three, and making a few editorial changes to the first book, Expectant Moon. I’m really glad to have the new covers in place and hope they will help drive sales of both books. I wish I could do more in the way of a book launch, but my finances are really tight right now. The gurus would all say I’m doing it wrong, and while they may be right, it’s the best I can manage with the knowledge and resources available. Some day, I’m going to pay someone to do this stuff for me.

While I am gearing up to publish and promote Traitor’s Moon, my mind is busy with book three. It will probably be a few weeks before I get started in earnest, but it’s coming together now that my mental energy has been freed up to think about something else. I’ll let you know as the book starts to take shape.

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.

###

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: Gladstone Shifters Part 1 – Creating Their World

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

My children were strongly encouraged to read when they were young and used to make frequent visits to the library to load up on books. Somewhere in the ‘90’s they started bringing home the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, and since the idea intrigued me, I began reading them too. An Animorph is a person who can absorb the DNA of any animal by touch, and thereby be able to morph into that animal. The early books were very imaginative and fun, and my boys and I had a great time talking about the stories.

That long-ago introduction to what is now generally called “shifters” was reawakened when I received a Kindle Fire tablet as a gift and started to search for something to read. Some of those shifter books were wonderful, while others were just plain silly or of poor quality. After I began writing, it was a foregone conclusion I would create a shifter story of my own. The first decision was what type of shifter, as there were many to choose from including wolves, bears, dragons, birds, cats, foxes, etc.

As I recall, most of the books I read were about wolves and I was annoyed by some of the ridiculous plots and nonsensical abilities given to the characters. By this time I knew I wanted to write about wolf shifters, and that it would be a gay romance, but I also wanted to correct some of the deficiencies I’d seen in so many other books. To do that, I had to establish the ground rules of what wolf shifters were, how they lived, and what unique abilities they possessed. Re-inventing the wheel wasn’t necessary, but the tires definitely needed some new tread!

As a first step, I created a list entitled “Common Traits for Wolf Shifters in Current Literature” and then noted after each one whether I wanted to keep it or change it.

Here are some examples of traits I kept:

  • Enhanced senses (hearing, smell).
  • Hidden from the human population.
  • Physically superior (stronger, faster, healthier).
  • Can control when they shift.
  • Live in packs.
  • Well-endowed, usually horny, love sex.

Here are some traits I decided to change:

  • Born in human form/shift at puberty – can be born in either form and start shifting after being weaned.
  • Fast healing – unnecessary, as a shift re-sets the original DNA, thus repairing any injury.
  • Super long life span – all live about one hundred years, with one exception (see below).
  • Some males can bear children – no, with one exception.
  • One true fated mate – no, but Luna (the moon) matches up mates.
  • “Werewolf” and silver – werewolves are Hollywood nonsense and silver has no effect.

I found most of these traits to be quite fluid, varying from author to author, so I kept the ones I liked and changed the others to form a more consistent and logical set of rules. Naturally, I added a number of new things to my shifter world, not found anywhere else.

  • In addition to Alpha, Beta, and Omega, I added a new class of shifters called Delta’s. They exist to serve or guide the packs, filling roles such as doctors, historians, ambassadors, counselors, lawyers, politicians, and judges.
  • One very special type of Delta is a True Elder. True Elders are longer-lived (about two hundred years) and gifted with tremendous memory and recall. These specialized historians are charged with collecting and teaching shifter history, customs, and wisdom. Only a few are born each generation.
  • Luna – the mysterious moon force which guides all shifters. The moon is prominently featured in most shifter stories but other than being howled at, doesn’t seem to do much of anything. In my world, Luna has more direct influence on shifter life via True Elders, the use of dreams/visions, and the selection of mates. It is not a deity per se, but all shifters acknowledge its power and can physically feel it (especially during full moons).
  • Because I wanted same sex couples to have families, I created ways for it to happen. Luna is directly involved in the conception/mating/bonding process for Change Mates, Honor Mates, and Triad Mates. (If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the books!)

A very basic premise which influenced some of the changes I made had to do with keeping shifters hidden from the human world around them. Their history, customs, and way of life, (explained in Expectant Moon), needed to fit the whole idea of a secret existence under the noses of an unsuspecting human population. You still need to stretch your imagination to make it all work, but I like to think I’ve made it much more logical and almost possible. This delicate dance is seen throughout the story line in both books, and maintains a mysterious tension, adding spice to the “what if it were real?” vibe.

Next week, I want to dive into the writing of Expectant Moon, the first book in the Gladstone Shifters series!

###

Current manuscript – I am agonizingly close to finishing Traitor’s Moon! I ran into another issue which needed to be fixed, hence the delay. IF, and I say again, IF life doesn’t get in the way, the book should be complete and in the hands of my initial beta readers by this weekend. Cross your fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes (and hold your breath too). I want to get this thing done!

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.

###

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 12-26-18 Having Fun With Obsolete Words

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

The English language has a boatload of obsolete words we rarely or never use, and I find it interesting to get reacquainted with some every now and then. Writers, take note of these gems and look for ways to put them back in circulation. I have added helpful explanatory notes for each.

Farctate – completely satiated or full to the point of bursting. (Usually followed by flatulate. I’m sure the words are related somehow.)

Philodox – a dogmatic person who is especially fond of his/her own opinions. (This term is especially useful when describing elected politicians.)

Gramercy – an exclamation of pleased surprise. (See also “Lordhavemercy” for unpleasant surprises.)

Cavil – to raise trivial and oftentimes irritating objections or to find fault unnecessarily. (Marriage counselors use this one a lot.)

Churlish – a rude, boorish, or miserly person. (Normally, we simply say “stop being an ass”, but that requires four words.)

Frisson – a sudden, passing shudder of emotion or excitement. (I believe romance writers could get some mileage out of this one!)

Gargalesthesia – a term given to the sensation caused by being tickled. (Hmmm…I was sure this meant a fear of gargling.)

Beldam – a term for “grandmother”. (Related to Ohdam which means “mother-in-law” and Hotdam which refers to one’s wife.)

Defalcation – the act of misusing funds or embezzling. (Similar to defecation or “Oh Shit”, the expression used when one is caught defalcating.)

Vulpine – crafty and cunning. (This is less confusing than saying “foxy”, which may be confused with “Hotdam” above.)

Buccula – the fold of fatty tissue under the jaw, commonly called a “double chin”. (Related to Buttula, Guttula, or any other sagging body part.)

Brontide – a rumbling sound like distant thunder. (Do not confuse with “farctate”, above.)

Morosoph – a learned fool, or one who puts up the pretense of knowledge or wisdom. (Most of us either live next to, or work with a Morosoph. See also gasbag, jackass, moron.)

Hypermnesia – having an exceptional memory. (A little less clumsy than “memory like an elephant” and the opposite of amnesia or “can’t remember a damn thing”.)

Factotum – a person having many diverse traits and different responsibilities or serving in a wide range of capacities. (Replaced in modern English with “Mom”.)

Virago – a large, strong, or domineering woman. (See note on “Ohdam” above.)

Lalochezia – the emotional relief gained by emitting vulgar or indecent words. (Huh! And all this time I just thought it was someone who lacked self control, manners, or a proper upbringing.)

And there you have it! English is fascinating, and it’s too bad we restrict our word usage to the tried and true. So, good luck preventing your churlish beldam from farctating in public. Gramercy!!   (click HERE for the source article)

###

Traitor’s Moon – Chapter thirteen is now complete! Word count = 109,800.

Somehow, this book turned out to have fewer chapters, but each of them is longer. I don’t like interrupting the flow of the story in odd places with chapter breaks. The problem is that readers have been trained to expect not only shorter chapters, but shorter books overall (eBooks, that is). Another way to address this is to make two books out of one with a cliffhanger, but again, I don’t like that approach. Sure, it’s possible I could make more money, but it’s not my impression that readers like to be taken advantage of this way. I know I wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, chapter thirteen didn’t turn out to be the last chapter as I predicted earlier! I’m not surprised really, as this seems to happen at the end of very book I’ve written. Too much information I still need to include, necessitating an additional chapter to fit it all in. I’ve always maintained the book isn’t finished until the story is complete, and I refuse to cheat my readers or characters by leaving things out. There are a lot of plot threads in a novel this size, and I simply can’t leave them dangling with no resolution.

So, what does this mean? It means I may not meet my goal of completing the manuscript by December 31st. It also means the book will end up being a bit longer than I anticipated. I don’t think it will cause a significant delay in the release date of the book, but that depends heavily on when my beta readers finish doing their thing.

Anyway, I had fun wrapping up one of the main story arcs and fixing the little red wagon of a certain odious character. What’s left is the above mentioned threads, as I carefully tie them off with some sort of resolution or satisfactory follow up. I don’t want my readers to start saying, “Wait! What happened to so and so?” I spent an awful lot of time and effort developing those lovely sub-plots, and I want to see them through to the end. Honestly, without them the book would be flat and rather uninteresting, so I don’t begrudge the time it takes to do it right.

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.

###

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!

Weekly Roundup 12-12-18 Jump-starting Your Creative Flow

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

Sometimes the well of creativity and imagination runs dry and it’s up to you to find a fresh source. There are many ways to get the juices flowing again, but it may not be from the comfort of your favorite chair. Great material is all around us if we are paying attention, so try these the next time you need new ideas or inspiration:

  • Conversations – go ahead and eavesdrop at work, home, or the grocery store. The breadth of topics is astonishing.
  • The news – always full of colorful characters and interesting story ideas.
  • Dreams – sounds crazy I know, but as your brain cleans house every night you may pick up an idea or two. Keep pen and paper on the nightstand to record them before they disappear!
  • Books – you aren’t the only one with good ideas, so feel free to borrow from other writers (not in a plagiaristic sense of course!)
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, TV, even your 5 year old’s school play.
  • People watching – go to the Mall or search your favorite magazines to find your next hero, romantic character, or bad guy.
  • Advertising – there are signs everywhere and many are clever or amusing. Churches, businesses, yard signs, billboards, and posters abound.
  • Change of Venue – get out of the house on a regular basis. Try visiting a library, cafe, park, museum, Botanical gardens, aquarium, pet store, or even a subway ride.

Sometimes the greatest story ideas come from a single word, a new face, or a familiar smell, jump-starting your imagination. So get to it! We’re all waiting to see what that creative mind of yours can come up with.

###

Traitor’s Moon – Chapter twelve is finished! Word count stands at 100,498. (I love crossing the 100,000 milestone!) I have at least one more chapter, plus the Epilogue and then the book is done. I’m still hoping to have the writing finished by December 31st.

I had a blast working with Everet in this latest chapter, one of my sub-plot characters who is about a hundred years out of date. As it turns out, I probably could have written an entire novel about him alone, but this wasn’t the time. The Gladstone Shifters is primarily a romance series, with a healthy dose of intrigue and drama thrown in to keep things interesting, and Everet’s journey hasn’t reached the romance stage (yet).