Saying Goodbye to an Underperforming Book

This week, I made the difficult decision to pull the plug on one of my books – Second Chance Earth. For months I wavered back and forth, wondering if I should keep it, change it, or take it off the market. As my very first novel, it holds a special place in my heart and yet deep down I knew there were serious issues I could no longer ignore.

So what really happened? Since the book was written, I have experienced a steep learning curve as an author and came to realize Second Chance Earth was fundamentally flawed. I still love the basic story line and characters, but the POV is skewed, there’s more tell than show, and it needs significant editing. To put it simply – it’s not my best work and has become a liability. To protect my brand, it had to go.

Honestly, I do not know if the story will ever reappear. If it does, it will most likely be unrecognizable! It needs a complete makeover, including a new cover and title, and I don’t have the time or money to invest in it right now. There are so many other books I want to write, and with limited time and resources, I have to be really picky about which projects get the green light.

I want to express my thanks to those who loved the book despite its many faults. You were able to understand and appreciate the story, and I am grateful for your kind words and support. Perhaps someday, Second Chance Earth will get a second chance!

 

Putting The Science In Fiction – A Book Review

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

 

This compilation of articles from various authors/experts has the lofty goal of helping authors create more realistic stories. It includes advice and information on medicine, the human body, wildlife, computers, planet earth, rocket science, and space travel.

This volume would serve most authors well as a reference tool and even as an idea generator. Writing a whodunit? Check out chapter seven on toxins and poisoning (my favorite). How about an apocalyptic story? There’re a couple chapters on pathogens and plagues on how to wipe out the population. Need an alien with tentacles, a hologram, or faster than light travel? This book covers it!

While “Putting The Science In Fiction” fulfills its purpose and is worth purchasing, I have two main criticisms:

  1. Since the chapters are coming from various experts, their writing styles range from boring to delightful, creating an unpleasant mental whiplash. I’m not sure how much editing Koboldt actually did with the book contents, but it would have been helpful to have more consistency
  2. Despite the title of the book, some of the contributing authors were too vocal in their disdain for fiction. “You can probably get away with a lot of stuff, but you want your novel to be authentic, don’t you?” Along with the hardliners were some who simply chided authors to be more accurate, while a few encouraged creativity and suggested story possibilities.

The reason this book initially got my attention was its possible ties to the SciFi genre. I wanted to see where it stood in the hard science fiction vs. soft science fiction debate. The answer? It was a mixed bag of playful “do what you want” and “get it right or don’t bother”. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m writing fictional stories about space, space travel, or aliens, I can do whatever I want. Our current scientific knowledge and ability are far too limited to make interesting fiction, and most readers would throw back their heads and howl if authors restricted themselves to it.

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My second fantasy story, Dragon Valley, is now in the hands of my beta readers. What’s up next? I am trying to decide of I should move ahead in the current timeline or do a prequel to Dragon Child, providing back story for the dragons. On the other hand, perhaps I am wasting my time entirely! I don’t have the funds to publish the work in any format right now, and the target audience is “iffy”. Should I re-work the entire idea to include more action and drama? It’s also possible to allow the main character to grow up, which would then shift the appeal to older readers. Decisions, decisions…

I think I’m going to put the angst on hold for little longer and simply enjoy writing. That’s not such a bad idea, is it?

WEEKLY ROUNDUP – Mom Stories for Mother’s Day

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

My mom passed away in 2000, so Mother’s Day is always bittersweet. The best gift she gave me was sense of humor and I miss her knee-slapping, foot stomping laughter more than anything else. A few years after her death, my siblings and I exchanged a series of emails with memories of our mother. Eventually, I collected them all and they became The Mom Stories. The incident below is one of them and happened when I was 15.

 

AVIANCE AND A BRICK

I was in the laundry room filling the washing machine, and Mom was in the kitchen or family room. The TV was on, and I could hear the commercial for Aviance perfume in the background. If you don’t remember that one, it went like this:

I’ve been sweet and I’ve been good, I’ve had a whole full day of motherhood, but I’m gonna have an Aviance night.

Evidently, Mom was in one of her playful moods, because all of a sudden she opened the laundry room door singing “I’m gonna have an Aviance night!”, and then tried to snap me with a rolled up towel. The first couple of tries missed, and she was giggling like a little girl while I tried to jump out of the way. Finally, she landed a vicious snap on my rear end. I hollered, and at first she got a shocked look on her face, covering her mouth with her hand (still smiling of course). I think it surprised her that she actually nailed me, along with some concern that I might be hurt.

Thinking fast, I grabbed a towel from the floor and snapped it in her direction. She took off toward the family room squealing and shouting my name and laughing to beat the band. I was right on her heels snapping away – around the corner, past the little bathroom and down the long hall toward the front door; the same door that was being held open by a needlepoint-covered brick.

Unfortunately for Mom, she either wasn’t watching or simply got too close and rammed her foot, full tilt, into that stupid brick. She yelped in pain and started crying, hobbling far enough to sit down on the bottom step near the door. Well of course I thought she was just messing around, trying to keep me from exacting my revenge. I was laughing at her, and she was yelling at me that it wasn’t funny…until I finally figured out she wasn’t kidding and really did hurt herself. It wasn’t until later on we discovered she had broken her big toe. I think it’s safe to say that when Dad got home, they were not going to have an Aviance night!

Postscript – The offending brick now resides by my front door.

The Brick

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Current project – I am just about finished with the sequel to Dragon Child, entitled Dragon Valley. After a beta reading and final edit, it may appear on my website. I’m still having fun with it, so plan to continue the series for now. I received some great feedback from one of my beta readers who read Dragon Child to her grandkids – they loved it and wanted more!

What about my Gladstone Shifters series? I haven’t forgotten about Forbidden Moon, but it’s on the back burner. Still hoping to get started on it this fall.

Publishing? Well, I need money for that and don’t have it, so I have to focus on writing only instead. Maybe next year’s tax refund will enable me to publish the Dragon stories in one volume. Of course, it’s always possible I will win the lottery or marry a millionaire, so you could see something much sooner!

WEEKLY ROUNDUP – Medieval Maundering

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

 

My current project is a series of fantasy novelettes which began with Dragon Child. While not true period pieces, the stories are heavily influenced by the life, language and customs of medieval England. When I set out to write a dragon story, it seemed fitting to place it in the days of kings, castles, and mythical beasts. As a piece of fiction, I am free to alter the particulars to fit the needs of my story, yet I wanted to keep it anchored in history.

Let me tell you, researching the medieval period has been an interesting experience! I needed information on nearly everything: language, clothing, food, occupations, religion, government, common names, housing, transportation, weapons, education, marriage, childbirth, farming, entertainment, and monastic life. Mind you, this partial list only covers the first two stories in the series!

This era is often romanticized in book and movies, but life was short and hard, holding few comforts – particularly for peasants. Did you know:

  • 30% of children died before age 5
  • peasants shared their one-room windowless homes with their animals
  • bathing was rare and streets were filled with excrement
  • medical care was virtually non-existent
  • average lifespan was around 45
  • marriageable age was 12 for girls, 14 for boys

I purposely ignored or altered some of the disturbing/depressing facts when building the world for my stories, but the medieval period provided a wonderful foundation. It’s easier, I think, to imagine dragons living in a mostly forgotten age of long ago, and it’s certainly more fun to read and write. In addition, this strange “new” world of pseudo Middle Ages provides me with a much needed break from contemporary settings.

Weekly Roundup – I LOVE TO SNEEZE!

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

I’ve been sending short letters, silly poems, and balloons to my granddaughters. Ages 3 and 5, they live too far way for me to visit, so I rely on phone calls and U.S. Mail to stay in touch. I LOVE TO SNEEZE is one of my recently delivered literary masterpieces. Enjoy!

I LOVE TO SNEEZE!

Achoo! Achoo!

I love to sneeze,

Just close my eyes,

And feel the breeze.

Standing tall,

Or on my knees,

There’s nothing like,

A lovely sneeze!

*

Achoo! Achoo!

I love to sneeze,

better than candy,

Or eating cheese!

Hand me a tissue,

If you please,

I love, I love,

I LOVE, to Sneeze!

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Currently, I am working on the next installment of my dragon novelettes. Not only am I enjoying something different, but the quasi-medieval setting has been fascinating to research. I’m not going for historical accuracy, simply enough to create the look and feel of the times. More about that next week!

 

I read constantly, but between work and my writing, it’s never enough. The book I just finished was disappointing due to a number of completely preventable errors. In this case, I suspect he has succumbed to the “crank them out” philosophy and has become complacent. The author has 60+ published titles, all in the same genre, and all with terrific covers, but apparently can’t be bothered to edit them carefully. Shame on you! Your readers deserve better and I won’t waste my time and money on an author who doesn’t care.

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 – Novel vs. Short Story: What’s the Difference?

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

For a reader, the most obvious difference between a novel and short story is the number of words. For a writer, it’s so much more!

Since I started writing seriously in 2015, the desire and opportunity to craft a short story have been curiously absent. My novels have kept me inordinately busy and it took me a while to recognize the need for short story material. Mix in my fear of failure and you have a wonderful recipe for procrastination.

What’s so scary about writing a short story?

  • I’d never intentionally tried before and couldn’t face the music of failure.
  • Which idea out of a hundred would I start with?
  • Where would I find the time?
  • What if it morphed into a novel?
  • What would I DO with it if successful?

Perhaps my fears seem silly, but they were/are quite real and prevented me from trying – until now. Yes, you heard me correctly. I am smack dab in the middle of writing a terrific short story and am cautiously confident of success! Why the change?

During the interim between my recent release and starting the next book in the series, a great story idea presented itself. As usual, I wrote it all down, intending to pursue it some day when I had the time. Trouble is, I couldn’t let it go and decided to take a short detour to test drive a short story project. If it turned out to be a miserable failure, no one would ever know and I would continue on with my novels as before.

After three false starts I almost gave up! Book three in my series was clamoring to be written, leaving me little time to waste for this experiment. Finally, things fell into place and I began to figure out the other things (besides word count) which made a short story different from a novel. The process is something like writing a three hundred word jacket blurb for a hundred thousand word book. It ain’t easy folks! Gone is the leisurely description of back story, character history, and general background material.

With a short story every word and sentence counts. The extraneous must be whittled down to the essential, leaving little descriptive elbow room – not quite bare bones but awfully close! It’s all about finding the balance between what the reader MUST know and what I really want to tell them (which is so much more). At the forefront of my thinking is the goal of telling the entire story in 7500 words or less without the reader feeling they’ve been cheated.

As of today, I’m about half done with a fantasy tale involving a kingdom at risk, very cool dragons, and a curious child. Once it’s finished and edited, I will be sending the story to some select beta readers for feedback. The plan is to release it as a mini-serial here on my blog, so you will be the first to see it! Depending on reader response, it may become the prequel for a future novel. More important, success with this project assures me I really can write short stories and move ahead with some exciting plans later this year.

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Last week I ran a FREE promotion for Traitor’s Moon and had over 3300 downloads. On Sunday, the book reached the #1 spot in three categories and #49 in the top one hundred free eBooks! Now, if I could just make a little money and get a good number of those folks to write a review…

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 – Routine Housekeeping

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

Some weeks simply don’t have a lot going on and this was one of them. I have managed to keep myself busy, mostly with small projects which were shunted to the side while I was finishing my last manuscript. As has happened every time during the transition from one book to another, I feel guilty for not having started on the next one! Seriously – I just spent the last ten months of my life creating Traitor’s Moon, so you would think I deserve a small break, but my author-self isn’t happy with the lull in action.

One of the projects was to create an author page on Goodreads. My books have enjoyed many reviews since 2016 and I felt it was time to make myself more available to my readers. There were, and are, reasons I didn’t want the exposure. Let’s just say it’s all wrapped up in my desire to remain anonymous and leave it at that. Yes, it’s true, Alexander Elliott is a pseudonym (gasp!) and I intend to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

I’m also looking into making my books available in print! The main reason I haven’t up to now is the cost, but I believe I’ve found the solution in The Book Patch; a print on demand service. Many people prefer an actual paper book, including me, and believe it or not, some refuse to read eBooks at all. Print versions would provide broader exposure and give me something to autograph! Besides, my bookcase is crying out for physical copies I can admire and show off.

Now that the decks are mostly cleared I can focus on getting the next manuscript started. First, I need to combine and organize all my notes and ideas, gathered over the last several months. Some are on the computer while the rest are hand-written, residing in a manila folder. (What can I say? I am a curious mix of old/new school, but since it works I’m not prepared to change the process.) After that, I will create a rough outline to make sure I have the major plot points accounted for, followed by the actual writing. There are some exciting goodies in store for the Gladstone Shifters, and I’m eager to let my ideas loose on the page!

Weekly Roundup NEW RELEASE! Traitor’s Moon

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

Traitor’s Moon, book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, went live on Amazon as of Monday! If you’ve been following my blog, you know how long I struggled to finish the manuscript. With the help of some wonderful beta readers, the book is in great shape and I am very proud of it. It’s a shame I will be unable to market it effectively.

It’s probably safe to assume most indie authors do not enjoy the business side of writing, and marketing is a large part of the angst. It requires computer savvy, money, time, and comes with no guarantee it will work. Will readers buy the book? Will they like it? Will I recoup my expenses? Will I get some great reviews? The only way to find out is put it out there and see what happens. Scary. Risky. Discouraging. Exciting. Uplifting. Rewarding. it’s really a mixed bag.

The hard part for me is not wondering if my book is any good – I truly believe it’s a wonderful story and it represents my best work to date. The difficulty is knowing my marketing efforts will be largely ineffective in reaching my potential readers. Why? Because I lack the know-how, money, and time to do it “right” if I go by all the articles I’ve read. I’m left with doing the best I can with what I have and hope it sort of works out in the end.

So do I continue or throw in the towel? I could give up, but I’m not going to yet! I truly enjoy my writing, and over time I hope to build up enough titles to start bringing in sufficient income so I can hire a marketing professional. What if it never happens? Then I will still have a hobby I love and the pleasure of creating great stories. My dream is not to become rich or famous, simply to earn enough to quit my day job.

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As soon as the promotions for Traitor’s Moon are in place, I can get busy writing again. I wish I could crank out a book every four months, but if the pattern holds true, it will be the fall before the next manuscript is ready. Meanwhile, I have lots of great ideas simmering on the back burner.

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this week, after finding out he was an avid reader. I don’t know him very well yet, and I had him pegged as the kind of guy who loves nothing better than to park himself in front of the television and watch sports – preferably with a can of beer handy. It was a pleasure to find out I was wrong, and he thought my assumptions were amusing. I told him he was like an onion and I was just now learning things as the layers are peeled away. I enjoy the instant connection with people who love to read – even virtual strangers!

Just a reminder – both books in the Gladstone Shifters series will be on/off sale over the next several weeks, so check my website or book listing on Amazon if you want a good deal.