The Odious Apostrophe

I’m pressed for time this week, so thought I would re-post this ditty from April 2018. I still struggle with the crazy thing from time to time, but it’s no longer my kryptonite. Who knew a teeny-tiny punctuation mark could cause so much grief? Enjoy!

 

The Odious Apostrophe

 

Apostrophe, Apostrophe,

or should I say catastrophe?

You make me nervous, angry, mean,

You’re Satan’s punctuation scheme.

I put you in and take you out,

Confusion reigns, along with doubt.

Unlike the period or comma,

You thrive on messiness and drama.

English would be much less rotten,

If you could only be forgotten.

 

Alexander Elliott

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…

 

Every Author Needs A Sounding Board

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A great story begins with a fertile imagination, but developing that terrific idea into an equally terrific book involves a whole lot more. Perhaps your story lacks a whiz-bang ending or there’s an embarrassing hole in the plot. Maybe you’ve plotted yourself into a corner and can’t see a way out. Possibly, you wonder if anyone else will find the basic idea as interesting as you do.

The solution is easy – get yourself a sounding board. Several, if you can. Something magical happens when discussing ideas with another person. They see it with fresh eyes and their own unique mix of personality and experience. I’m not talking about a “professional”, simply someone who is well-read, trusted, and has a good imagination.

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Just the other day I presented a seed idea to one of my sounding boards (who happens to be a co-worker). Not only did she improve on the basic idea, she helped me nail down the major plot points, improve the ending, and gave me a lead-in to a follow up story in the series! I literally could not have done it without her help, and the story went from “cool” to “WOW” in three short conversations.

Everything I have published or am currently writing has been improved by my sounding boards. I don’t always take their advice or run with their ideas, but the simple act of discussing it opens up new paths to wander and concepts to explore. We communicate in person, on the phone, or via email and I love the way our interaction jump starts my creative juices! Since these are people I respect and trust, I feel safe sharing my struggles and new ideas. At the same time, they are happy to support my quest to improve and grow as a writer. Double win!

Don’t have any sounding boards? Ideally, you will want readers (not fellow writers) who are well-read in multiple genre’s, are supportive rather than pushy, and can be trusted to keep your wonderful ideas to themselves. They’ll save you time, improve your work, and stimulate your own creativity – so start looking!

Weekly Roundup – CELEBRATING INDIE AUTHORS!

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

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Sunday, October 13 is Indie Author Day – something well worth celebrating! While I have a great deal of respect for authors who choose the traditional publishing route, it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and tenacity to land a book deal. Frankly, I can’t imagine ever joining their ranks, so indie author it is! Here’s what it means to me:

Exposure – I have the ability to actually publish my work right now, instead of sometime, maybe, in the future. Am I where I want to or need to be yet? No, but I have the freedom to grow and improve as a writer while putting my stuff out there. Traditional publishers aren’t going to allow that!

Control – This is important and I’m not willing to give it up. The work is mine and I choose what to write, when to write and publish, how to market it, and at what pace I can produce new work. With traditional publishing, the author has to relinquish an enormous amount of control to conform to someone else’s ideals, timetable, and goals.

Responsibility – Going it alone carries a heavy weight of responsibility. I consider it the price I pay for being an indie author, and yes, sometimes I wish I had the money to hire out some of the more onerous tasks. But you know what? The joy of publishing my work and receiving feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.

I have a simple theory regarding who I am as an author and what kind of books I currently produce. There are three categories: Walmart, Target, Macy’s. Right now, I’m a Walmart author, but getting better with each book. Within a couple years I expect to graduate to Target, and if I keep at it long enough, I may reach the Macy’s level and we can talk about a traditional publishing deal. Meanwhile, I’m happy with who I am and what I’m learning. The most important thing is that I have a creative outlet for my stories and readers who enjoy my work. Being an indie author makes it possible, and I’m more than OK with that.

Want to join in the celebration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy an indie book. You’ll encourage the author and perhaps find a new favorite.
  • Leave a review. If you normally skip ’em, make an exception for indies.
  • Send an email. You have no idea how much it means to hear from readers.
  • Spread the word about your favorite indie via social media, bog posts, book share sites, or word of mouth. 

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What I’m working on:

  1. Dragon Rescue (book 5 in the series). Yep, I’m still trying to finish up the manuscript. It’s turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and may end up as a novella. The difficulty is my writing time has been severely curtailed by long work hours and exhaustion. Plus, I’m gearing up for another move in early November. As with the first four books, Dragon Rescue will appear in serialized format on my blog as soon as I can manage it.

 

  1. I have a great idea for a gay romance series involving senior characters! Everybody celebrates youth, vigor, and hot action between the sheets, but the reality is there are many older gay men looking for love. They still have a lot to offer the right person, and I want to address that need with a series of humorous stories with HEA’s. I think they would be well received.

 

  1. The collection and refinement of ideas for a new fantasy series is an ongoing process. While each installment will be novelette length, I intend to publish them as collections. I can’t tell you much more without revealing secrets, but this project will probably follow the publication of  Rise of the Draman.

 

  1. Somewhere in the murky future I want to release my books as print on demand through Draft2Digital. I can still do that and remain in Amazon’s Kindle Select program for eBooks. Do I expect to make a lot of money? No, but giving readers a paper option is important to me and broadens the reach of my books a little more. I don’t have the time to deal with it right now, but I’ll get there.

My Publishing Anniversary

On August 14th, 2017 I launched my first five books. Green, uncertain, excited, and overconfident, I made myself the promise to give this writing thing two years. Time’s up!

The desire to throw in the towel is strong, and I came very close to quitting. Being an indie author takes more time, money, and skill than most people realize. The never-ending list of things I still need to learn remains ever out of reach and I am tired of the fight. Amazon has a death grip on indie authors, and I resent having to play their games. It is very difficult to remain motivated and productive without getting something in return – yes, I’m needy! I could go on and on, but you don’t want to hear it and it’s discouraging to lay it all out here.

While I am very tempted to chuck the whole dream, I’m not going to – yet. Honestly, I wish I could pull the plug for a couple years, write like crazy without the distraction of publishing and promoting, and come back with a vengeance! If I did that, I’m afraid of losing what little knowledge and skill I have, and starting over from scratch is not an appealing option.

The biggest reason to keep going is because I enjoy writing so much. I may be a failure on the business side of things, but I’m a good story-teller with tons of great ideas. I still have an awful lot to learn about the craft, but the readers I have are asking for more despite my shortcomings. How can I possibly disappoint them?

So, what’s next?

The money crunch means I will be doing more writing than publishing for the next year or so, but there’s no way around it. I intend to focus on shorter works rather than novels, and will probably set aside romances for more sci-fi and fantasy. In addition to improving my writing skills, I want to set up my backlist for print-on-demand and build my blog readership. I’m also considering a withdrawal from KDP Select and returning to D2D as a distributor. Once I have enough new material written, I need to work on building a newsletter email list and possibly open a Patreon account.

The short-term goal is to make enough from my books to keep writing and publishing. Long-term, I hope to generate a modest income to support me in my retirement years. If it all falls apart, you will be the first (and last) to know, but it won’t be because I haven’t tried. If it were possible, I would write myself a HEA and call it good! Too bad the real world doesn’t work that way.

Postscript – There is a strong possibility I will have to get a second job. If I do, it will severely curtail what I’m able to accomplish with my writing. It would break my heart to have to stop altogether, and I’m afraid if I do I’ll never start back up again. Somehow, I must find a way to keep my fingers in the pie while going through this rough patch.

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!

 

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 – 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 – 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.

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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…