The writing of RISE OF THE DRAMAN

The book launched two days ago on April 6, 2020. Here’s how it came to be.

Over a year ago, tired of the series I’d been working on, I decided to take a break and try my hand at a short story. Up to this point, my smallest work came to just under 34,000 words – in the mid-novella range. Could I actually write a short story? I had no idea. Would it be the same as writing a novel? Turns out the answer is a resounding NO!

So, how in the world did my foray into shorts end up as a 109,000 word five-story collection, spread out over 400 days? I’m glad you asked, and as it happens, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Hang on – this gets a bit convoluted.

I’d been toying with the idea of a fantasy story involving dragons, which meant a new topic AND genre. The “Grand Experiment” began with Dragon Child, a medieval tale about an orphan boy who accidentally becomes part dragon. I finished it in just under three weeks and quickly realized I had a problem. The manuscript was way too long to qualify as a short story (at nearly 12,000 words!), and there was so much more to say! This wasn’t too surprising, but it left me in a quandary.

My theory has always been to write until the tale has finished telling itself, no matter the word count. Obviously, I was not cut out for short story writing, so I decided to forge ahead anyway with a series of “shorter works”. At the time, I loathed the idea of writing another novel length book, and thought the novelette idea was much more manageable. And so it began, and continued…

By the time books two and three (out of five) were finished, I needed to make a decision about how to market them. The original idea was to publish each one separately, releasing them one at a time over a six month period. All the self-publishing gurus said it would result in greater sales and more recognition for my brand. Exactly what I needed! What I hadn’t figured on was the enormous expense of publishing five titles in quick succession.

With a very small writing/publishing budget, it soon became clear I would never be able to afford the original plan. Instead, I decided to finish the five stories bouncing around in my head and then sell them as a collection. As the months flew by, a number of things (work, health issues, a major move, the holidays) got in the way and slowed my progress considerably. To remain motivated, I decided to serialize the stories and feature them on my blog.

In the end, very few people actually read them, but it gave me the impetus to continue and finish the project. Somewhere in the middle of book four It dawned on me I no longer needed to worry about word count restrictions. This resulted in story number five being three times longer than the others! It also became clear I would have to go back and fix the first four, fleshing them out with all the detail I’d withheld earlier in my quest to keep them short.

It took over two months, but I ended up adding over 28,000 words of new content. In addition, the book now has four beautiful hand-drawn maps to guide my readers! My biggest disappointment is probably the book’s cover, as it is not what I imagined it should be. My go-to cover artist could not even come close to what I wanted, so I went with a pre-made cover site and found one that was workable but not very exciting. Someday, I hope to switch it out for something better.

As I look back now, I recognize how many things I learned in the writing of Rise of the Draman.

  • Creating short stories is talent unto itself, and one I do not have.
  • Fantasy (and dragons) are fun to write!
  • The medieval period is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the research.
  • I consistently underestimate the time requirements for my WIP.
  • Book descriptions are hard to write, especially for a collection.
  • Though I love my books, I’m sick of them by the time they’re done!
  • Characters really do take on a life of their own, and I come to love them.

I don’t know what the future may bring, but I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll be returning to Croft’s world before long. After all, there are a lot more story ideas waiting in my files!

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE! Rise of the Draman

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Orphaned as an infant, Croft spent his early years in the harsh confines of the Abbey, dreaming of befriending a dragon. When the day finally came, an accident leaves him utterly changed and bonded to a beast named Rueloo. Facing prejudice and fear, Croft builds a quiet life in the nest among his dragon friends – unaware his unique abilities would soon be needed.

With a powerful foe marching towards their borders, King Augustus appeals to the dragon child for his help. Croft’s example of sacrifice, kindness, and bravery inspire the people of Spiredale to unite and overcome. With the dragons, they forge a powerful alliance and embrace an entwined future neither were expecting.

In this five-story collection, join Croft and Rueloo through a series of adventures filled with intrigue, survival, love, sorrow, and triumph. Their bond is only the beginning… (Suitable for ages ten-adult.)

Now available for purchase at Amazon!

 

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

 

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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!

Photo Prompt – FOLLOW ME

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The letter arrived shortly before the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s disappearance. We’d always been very close and his sudden absence from my life left me bewildered and lonely. He vanished like a fart in the wind, as he used to say, and no one could explain what happened. No body, no note, nothing.

I discovered the plain white envelope mixed in with my usual mail, no stamp or return address, and handwritten with a familiar script. If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny, and my hands trembled as I carefully sliced it open. For a fleeting moment I imagined him getting word to me he’d run off with a rich widow to some foreign country and was having the time of his life. What was in the enclosed letter was more fanciful by far and I had to sit down to keep from falling over. 

My dear James,

 Forgive me for leaving you so abruptly, but it could not be helped. In a few days time you will have a chance to see me again, but it will require you to leave everything behind and start anew. Despite what you are about to read, this is not the babblings of a crazy old man!

Remember the grand sundial I was so fond of in Centennial park? Quite by accident, I discovered it is actually a portal to another place and time. When the dial reads between noon and one o’clock, you have only to slip into the shadow behind it and you will be transported. There are wonders you cannot imagine, and I long to share them with you.

I cannot be certain there will be another opportunity like this, so if you decide to come, be there Saturday without fail. I beg you, set your affairs in order and come to me, James! Destroy this letter and tell no one what you intend to do.

 If you choose to remain, know that I love you with all my heart. Be happy, my boy, and remember me.

 Pops

 I read the letter through several times before putting it down. Even as I acknowledged the far-fetched madness of it all, my mind was busy. If anyone could have found a way to leave this crazy world in such an unconventional fashion, it was my grandfather! He certainly sounded happier than I’d ever know him, yet he wanted me with him. How could I disappoint the old man?

Saturday turned out to be a lovely day for an adventure…

PHOTO PROMPT – Just One Kiss

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With a quick shove, Prince Hadrian landed on the road in crumpled heap, still woozy from a long night of drinking and debauchery. His companions threw a fearful glance at the nearby cottage and rode away quickly, leaving him alone in the dust to nurse an aching head. A quick glance told him he had not been taken back to the palace by soldiers as he’d first thought. Instead, he found himself outside a simple peasant cottage at the edge of an oozy pond.

Hadrian stood on shaky legs just as the door opened, revealing a dark-haired woman he did not know but looked familiar. Simply dressed and unremarkable, she approached him slowly muttering under her breath. Though his brain warned him to move away, he found he could not. With a gasp, he looked down to find his feet and lower legs encased in swirling tendrils of yellow-green fog, holding him fast.

The woman came closer, circled once, and stopped to face him. Her black eyes were hard as flint: challenging, angry, determined. Normally confident and brash, Hadrian heard the unfamiliar temerity in his own shaky voice.

“Who are you? Why have I been brought here?”

The woman’s glassy orbs widened; a small triumphant smile gracing her ruby lips.

“Your indiscretions have become well-known, O Prince, and while your father looks the other way, I will not. How many maidens have been soiled in your bed? Who will love them now? The girl you ravaged last night was my only daughter. What you have taken can never be replaced, and now you must pay!”

Hadrian almost laughed. Yet another peasant family looking for a bit of gold to keep them quiet. This was easily fixed.

“Release me, woman, and name your price.”

She responded instead with unintelligible whispers, long fingers gesturing strangely in the air. The serpentine fog at his feet began to wind its way higher, powerful tendrils stealing his breath and replacing it with fear. Now encircled completely, the terrified prince could barely see through the greenish haze. Finally, she spoke and sealed his fate.

“A loathsome creature you shall be. A kiss of love shall set you free.”

She watched with satisfaction as his body shrank, changed color, and lost all semblance of humanity. The arrogant prince was scooped up and taken to the slimy pond behind her cottage. There she released him to preside over a watery kingdom, and there he remained – ever watchful, waiting for just one kiss.

BOOK REVIEW – Midshipman Henry Gallant in Space

I was drawn to this book by the cover and title, expecting a good old fashioned space adventure. I also found the primary plot idea intriguing – a “natural” human having to prove himself among genetically advanced shipmates. Finally, when the description mentioned “for fans of Honor Harrington”, I was sold!

All too soon, my excitement turned to disappointment.

The book originally appeared in 2013 but is now in its fifth edition. It must be self-published, since a traditional publisher would never have released it in its current condition. I suspect the author re-released it with a new cover and some expensive marketing (how else can you explain 235 reviews?), but left the manuscript untouched. The book desperately needs to be edited, proofread and turned over to a team of beta readers.

This was Alesso’s first book and it shows. As a former scientist turned author, he heavily favored plot over characters, overwhelmed the reader with unnecessary techno-babble, and included trivialities which did nothing to further the story. As to genre, I have no problem categorizing it as science fiction, though the “science” it contains is actually fantasy. Most readers will ignore errors of this sort in favor of a good rousing story, but a number of disgruntled hard science fiction fans made note of it in the reviews. (Don’t get me started on that whole debate!)

Another let-down involved the central idea that the MC was a natural human, while all his shipmates were genetically enhanced. I expected this thread to have a far-reaching influence on the story from start to finish. It didn’t. Yes, it was mentioned from time to time, but the reader is never really told why it was important or how the MC miraculously turns out to be better at his job than everyone else. Great idea, but so poorly executed as to leave the reader wondering – is that it?

With such a shaky foundation, I find it incredible that the author is about to release book five in the series. Apparently, there are plenty of folks out there who disagree with me, willing to accept both the manuscript errors and clumsy storytelling. Of course, even a poor quality product can be successfully marketed – remember pet rocks? So I wish you luck, Henry Gallant, but you’ll have to conquer the universe without me.

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Coming next week: looking back on my first two years as an author and hopes for the future.

August 21st – the first installment of Rise of the Draman book 4, Dragon Quest!!

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.

(Author update April 6, 2020 – The book was published today as RISE OF THE DRAMAN, a five story collection.)

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…