Tag Archives: writing

The Crack of Dawn

So, um, I had plans this morning. They involved getting up way too early, rolling over, fooling around with my husband and later, while he made coffee, my writing a post for here.

Yeah. We all know what happens to well-laid plans. They become unlaid plans, and sadly, that is the condition of my day. The First Reader is no happier about this than I am.

It all started about a week or more ago. I scheduled a technician to install internet at the new house – because as you all know, having the ‘net is just as important as the electric and running water (which we didn’t have until yesterday due to some confusion on my part and the landlord not communicating with the property manager, but I digress. There will be a lot of digressions.) So anyway, the only time I could get the tech was for the 8-9 am time slot, and that meant we had to be over at the new house this morning far too early. Still, I’d planned on posting before we went.

Why hadn’t I posted last night? That part of the story involves a trailer, a pile of boxes my kids dubbed ‘boxtopia’ and a hyperactive 11-year-old boy. Let’s just let that fade into the mists and say that I was very happy this morning while unloading at the new house that we hadn’t lost a box off the trailer, and nothing was broken, not even from the box of booze that had been packed with no protective wrapping. My son is excited about the move, to say the least.

Still, even knowing we had a ton of work to do, I thought I could write this morning. Except that at 7 am, as we were stirring ourselves, I got the call saying that the tech was on the way. um. Ok, we can do this. Where are the tie-downs for the trailer? Dang, it’s dark and foggy out at this hour. Is that frost?

Some time later, we made it safely there, to find the tech waiting, and a bit after that, we had unloaded, made coffee for the first time in the new house (a milestone!) and had internet. Now, I’m not blogging from the new house. Maybe next week. Because by that point (sorry!) I’d forgotten all about you guys, since my dear man was arthritic (we don’t have the heat on there, yet), cold, cranky, and hungry. We drove into the little town we’re local to, and discovered a very nice diner/restaurant, and enjoyed a lovely meal (ate way too much. So much food…) before hitting the local hardware store (you know the kind I mean. Crowded aisles, old-school, but they have one of everything) and returning to the old house. Where I remembered that I hadn’t made a post for today.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, a little bit of everything, and nothing. When you’re writing, let your characters make plans. Get as detailed as they want to. And then, cackling, rub your hands together, and smash them all to smithereens. Because if you don’t, your readers won’t believe it. Honestly, in my life I’ve had things go perfectly, and it was still stressful since I was holding my breath waiting on the other shoe to drop. The other thing this has to do with writing is that at some point this morning I turned to the First Reader and said “I have to write. We need money, this move is expensive!”

So, I know most of you are familiar with my work. But if you haven’t read it yet, check it out, and if you have, feel free to share the word with friends who like this sort of thing.

pixie-for-hire-coverPixie for Hire

He’s a pixie for hire, and she’s just another job.

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?

This omnibus edition includes the full text of all three books in the Pixie for Hire trilogy: Pixie Noir, Trickster Noir, and Dragon Noir. With a new author’s foreword, you’ll be introduced to the books and then plunge into the world Underhill.

“The unlikely love child of Monster Hunter International and the Princess Bride, this book … is unalloyed fun all the way.”
-Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Darkship Thieves

“If Dashiel Hammett, Larry Corriea and Jim Butcher had a love child, it would be Pixie Noir. A wonderful mix of mystery and fantasy with just the right touch of noir.”
-Amanda S. Green, author of Nocturnal Origins

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON

NaNoWri. . . why?

Ah, the first day of November is here. The little ghosts and goblins of Halloween are a memory and now is the time when many of us sit down at our computers with shiny faces — okay, mine’s a bit bleary right now but go with it for a moment — and eagerly poise our fingers over our keyboards, waiting for the words to pour out. NaNoWriMo is officially here. Just like New Year’s Day when we are sure we can live up to all the resolutions we’ve made, now we are convinced we can write 50,000 words in a month. We can do it, we tell ourselves. We can.

And, yes, we can.

Too many of us — and, yes, I’ve been one of them — start out with the best of intentions but we wind up focusing on the big number and not the more realistic daily word count number. So let’s break it down.

50,000 words in a month. That is a novel in some sub-genres. It is most definitely a good rough draft word count. But still, that looks like a lot of words. But is it?

Yes and no. Yes, because it is more than many of us write in a month. No, because, when you look at it in smaller increments, it does become more doable.

50,000 words in a month. That breaks down to 12,500 words per week (if my math is right. Never a sure thing since I haven’t finished my first mug of coffee). That still looks a bit scary so lets break it down a bit more. It breaks down to 1,667 words daily. Hmmm, that doesn’t look so bad, does it?

For those of you who blog, consider how many words your usual blog post runs. Mine rarely come in under 1,000 words. Now, add in the number of words you input into your various social media accounts PLUS the time you spend checking Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, whatever. That daily word count suddenly starts looking more doable, at least to me.

Okay, Amanda, you’ve proven that the word count is doable, but why should I do NaNo?

I’ll be honest, that’s been a question I ask myself each year. Each year, I come up with the same answer: accountability.

Writing is one of those professions/avocations/activities/whatever you think it is where it is easy to find a reason not to put butt in chair and just write. There is always something around the house that needs to be done. Most of us reach a point in any book we’re writing where we’d much rather be writing something else. NaNo holds us accountable, even if only to ourselves, to push through the distractions and finish.

And finishing is what’s important. No one expects what comes out of NaNo to be publishable without additional work, be it filling in the details or editing or all of the above. What is encouraged is meeting the 50,000 word goal. In other words, finishing.

Now, NaNo isn’t for everyone, at least not the “official” NaNo. However, for those of you who want to sign up and get the daily or weekly encouraging e-mails, who want to find local groups to meet up with, mosey over to the official site and sign up. It’s quick and painless. You choose a screen name, name your project, fill in as many details as you want and off you go. Each day (recommended), you input the number of words you wrote.

I’ve tried NaNo officially once and real life interfered. Most years, I set the goal for myself and run with it. I’ve succeeded more often than not. However, what I’ve found is that I tend to work on more than one project when I don’t do the official NaNo. There’s nothing wrong with that. The writing is what’s important. But still. . .

So, this year, I’m doing it officially. The main reason is I have a book due to come out the end of the month and I have to put the butt in gear to finish it. I’ve had the rough draft finished for some time but something about it kept bothering me. It was a good book but there was something wrong. It took me a bit to figure out what it was and then, when I finally, did, I wanted to pound my head against the wall.

You see, I’d made a fundamental mistake. I had forgotten a thread I’d woven into the first book, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). Worse, it wasn’t a thread that I could do a quick nod to and everything would be all right. I’ve made notes about how to fix the problem but it comes down to this: I have to add a new section to the beginning of the book, one that looks like it will be approximately nine chapters. Then I have to go through what I already wrote and rewrite a lot of it to fit the new opening. So, this book is now my NaNo project.

Do I have a full 50,000 new words to write? Probably not on Dagger of Elanna. But it will be close to it, especially when you look at editing. Besides, there will probably be one short story being written this month as well. So, yeah, I’m aiming for a minimum of 50,000 words and will be tracking it on my blog. I’ll try to remember to update it here throughout the month.

Now, all of this is a long-winded way of saying I blame Sarah for this. Don’t listen to her when she says it is my own fault. You see, we were talking the other day and I told her I was setting a new goal for myself, something I was going to try for the next six months to see how it impacted my sales. My goal is to try to bring out at least one new title a month. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy enough to try to bring out a new novel a month. However, I do think it doable to bring out a short story or novella one month and a novel the next.

Why? Or maybe, more importantly, how?

It’s simple really. I can pound out a short story in a day if the plot is already firmly in mind. If not, it may take a couple of days. So that doesn’t take any real time away from the novel, especially not if I’m disciplined and use the time I’d normally be browsing the web to write it. The purpose is simple. I want to see if bringing out something new every month helps stop the sales dip that happens approximately 6 weeks to 2 months after a new book comes out.

Oh, getting back to blaming Sarah. I expected her to tell me I was insane. Instead, she said she needed to do the same. So it has become a mutual butt-kicking deal. She is supposed to kick my butt when I slack off and I get to return the favor. Since it also corresponds with NaNo, it just seemed reasonable to add that to the “encouragement” chain.

So, NaNo, here I come.

Oh, btw, to show you that it isn’t impossible to meet the daily word count, this blog post is going to come in at approximately 1400 words. It has taken me half an hour or so to write it.

Here’s my challenge to you. Even if you don’t officially take part in NaNo, set yourself a goal for the month. Post it in the comments below and, when the month is over, let us know how you did. For those of you who have done NaNo before, post your impressions and any suggestions you might have for those who are newbies to to. Finally, tell me why you are — or are not — doing NaNo.

One last thing, here’s a post from Pat Patterson that I love. He hits the nail on the head when it comes to what being a writer means. You don’t have to write novels. You don’t have to write in a certain genre. What you have to do is write. So, my friends, go out and write. If you don’t think you can, then read and do the author a favor. Leave a review. (Do that often enough and you will realize that you are a writer. You might not be a novelist but you write reviews and authors will thank you for it.)

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING

Parasite load

“So nat’ralists observe, a flea

Has smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em.”

Jonathan Swift, On Poetry: A Rhapsody

We’re all a cheerful heaving mass of parasites.  Parasites on parasites at times. A delightful thought, one of the joys of having a biologist write about writing…

Some of these parasites do no real harm – we can survive them, although we might do better without them. Some of course, do harm. They can maim, hobble, weaken and indeed kill. There are tales of cows being killed by mosquitos, by sheer blood-loss (not, thank heavens where I live). Other parasites stray a little… or even quite a lot into the area of commensualism, and right through to outright symbiosis.

It might, for example be said that the male anglerfish particularly in the deep-sea ceratiidae (the sea devils) is perfect example of parasitism that is essential to the survival… not of the host but the host’s products – well, offspring. Genes.

You see out in the deep blue desert – well, ocean, but it is de facto rather like a desert in that food is sparse and scattered (although there is plenty of water) – but it’s nutrient poor, deep and cold. The possibility of finding prey is small, and find sex when you need to breed, well, let’s put it this way, you’d have more luck finding a nudist colony in Riyadh. So the sea devil females have a way around this. They keep one… well I was going to handy, but it more like hanging around their butts.

Now, as I said food is scarce, and taking someone for dinner down there is well, usually digestive, for at least one. If you have ever seen an anglerfish you’d know they are like banks – a little dangly ‘bait’ on the end of the illicium – held just above a vast mouth full of evil teeth to make sure dinner doesn’t leave undigested. The males are more like politicians, they can somehow – despite having lousy noses or eyes or anything else except testes, find females in watery waste. Perhaps there is a sea-devil pub.

Once they find a female… they bite her. This may be just as well as she’s all too well equipped to bite them, and they’re small and feeble compared to her. Females need to be big to accommodate a lot of relatively large eggs – males do not.

And at this point things get really, really weird… as he bites and then releases an enzyme that digests the skin on his mouth, and her body, where he has bitten… and the ‘wound’ heals up with the male and female joined in sense humans can never experience. The male and female join at the tissue level, and share blood-vessels.

He gets what he needs to live directly from her bloodstream. The bits he no longer need atrophy. He’s there to be sperm when she needs it. Sometimes as many as eight males can be found like ticks that have actually grown into the host (and you see why biologists look at arts graduate sf writers blathering about ‘non-binary sex’ with amusement.).

I suppose too many would kill her, but it is a system that works, despite the fact that the parasitic males draw all their nourishment, and indeed oxygen from the host. Without them, the species would die. With them, individuals may.

It has parallels in our lives (and no I don’t just mean the waste of space who does little more than father children) and of course in the writing world.

Most of life involves ‘carrying’ a ‘freeloading parasite’ load which may do you (or at least humans in general) some good – or not. There’s a fine line between the benefits (if they exist) and the sheer cost of carrying this load. Governments (national and local) and bureaucrats with their slew of petty rules and associated costs and taxes are good example. Yes, they might protect you from being eaten, but they’ll make up for it by devouring much of your subsistence without doing much positive, most of the time. Still, rather like the male anglerfish, they’re supposed to be there when you need them.

In writing there is some difference of opinion as to who the degenerate freeloaders are. From the point of view of agents, traditional publishers, and at least some of retail, we are. We’re interchangeable widgets, sucking their blood and giving precious little in exchange. Without them, we are nothing, and while they need us as a group, as individuals we’re worthless, instantly exchangeable if we want too much of their precious lifeblood for doing the trivia we do. After all, any fool can write books. Look at Freer for example… It’s one point of view.

As with so much of writing, the point of view makes quite a difference, as I for one am reluctant to see myself as an exchangeable widget. However, while I may want and benefit some – or all – of the services that agents, Trad publishers, and retail provide (almost as an afterthought it seems at times) – I can do without them. Some writers can do very well without them, selling directly. You can certainly cut some of them, and benefit a lot from carrying less of a parasite load, and simply do what they do yourself, or contract it out for less. The agents, traditional publishers and retailers can do without me, but they cannot do without writers.

It then becomes – for the writer, anyway, an equation of can he survive and have his work thrive alone in the deep blue sea of making a living from writing, or does he need all, or some of the ‘parasites’ so they’re there at the right time, so his work does not fail to find readers. That equation varies from writer to writer. Honestly, I believe if you can, you’re wise to outsource proofing. Unless you’re a wiz at covers or the cost cannot be met, well, they’re your display. If you can afford – and if you can find a good structural editor, take this opportunity with both hands. They can turn a mediocre or even bad book into something great, just by finding where and how to tweak it. This is difficult, because most Trad publishing houses don’t have them either. Copy editors have value, but seriously, most of them are widgets. If you find one that isn’t, hang onto them. Marketing… well IF you can do it well, great, if you will probably do it better than any publisher’s employee, even though they have the contacts etc. You will work only for you. He or she will work for the publisher – who has lots of irons in the fire. Even outsourcing here is tricky – so much marketing these days is social media.

When it comes to retail – unless you have a social media platform par excellence and/or a mailing list, retail still are ‘have to have’. That’ll cost you. But some parasite load has to be carried.

It’s always good to know what you’re carrying, and to work out if it has value relative to the cost.

Otherwise ditch the sucker.

As the anglerfish didn’t say, ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea.’

And biology is very useful for designing implausible aliens.

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Filed under DAVE FREER, point of veiw, Uncategorized, WRITING

Oh my, are they protesting too much?

Yesterday, when I started looking for something to blog about, I made my way over to The Passive Voice. TPV is an excellent source of information for every author out there, traditionally published or indie. One post in particular caught my eye. It asks the question we have heard asked so many times over the last few years: Are self-published books inferior to professionally published books?

Now, without even reading the article, I knew I wasn’t going to like the post TPV had linked to. The title of the article itself shows a bias, not by TPV but by the author of the article TPV linked to. It assumes that self-published books, what we call indies, aren’t professionally published. Take that one step further. By phrasing the headline the way it did, the author of the article signals from the beginning that indies aren’t as professional or as good as traditionally published books. Otherwise, why not rephrase the title of the article as “are self-published books inferior to traditionally published books?”

So, without even reading the underlying article, my back is up. I can’t speak for anyone except myself but I am a professional writer. I make money from writing, enough to pay my bills. I simply chose not to take the traditional publishing route. That does not make me any less of a professional than any other writer who has chosen to try to find an agent, get a contract and publish with one of the Big 5 publishers.

But let’s move on and see what the article itself says.

Let’s see, the original appeared on Quora. The author of the post is Archie D’Cruz who, according to his byline, has “been involved in publishing all my working life.” Hmm. Could this be another indication of a bias? We’ll see.

So overall, how do the books compare? For the most part, self-published books do not even come close to what a major publisher puts out.

Wow. That’s a very broad statement without any sort of qualifications. It also sets the tone for the rest of the article. Our so-called expert has just told everyone who might be looking for good information that indie books don’t come close to what a “major publisher” puts out. Now, while this is true on some levels — indies aren’t restricted to writing to what publishers want to fill their catalogs, for example — it also skews away from the topic as put forth in the headline to the post. Remember, it wanted to know if self-published books were inferior to “professionally” published books. Now, suddenly, we have gone away from the “professional” aspect to “major publisher”.

Let’s see what else he has to say.

His first knock against indies is when it comes to editing. According to the OP, he is surprised “so many” indies see no need for an editor or proofreader, etc., to have a look at their work. I don’t know what indie authors he’s been talking to but I don’t know a single indie author who is serious about her work who doesn’t have beta readers, proofreaders and and editor look at her work.

What they [traditionally published authors] benefit from is having multiple sets of eyes review and make edits; often many rounds of edits. Copy is also checked for spelling consistency and reviewed using a style guide (typically the Chicago Manual of Style).

Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. Yes, there are some good editors out there but they are few and far between. I know several traditionally published authors who have taken to hiring editors to go over their work before they send it to their publishing house because the level of editing there has gotten so bad. There are stories from authors where their editors have not only missed errors but have made changes that were flat wrong, whether it was changing a foreign language word into something different and inappropriate for the context or using modern maps and landmarks for historical fiction. As for making sure the book follows the CMS, I think one of the commenters at TPV had it right. Most readers couldn’t care less if the CMS is followed or not as long as the book holds their attention and the grammar and punctuation isn’t so bad it throws them out of the narrative.

His next issue where he thinks indies fall short is cover design. I’ll admit, there are a number of really bad covers out there. Whether it is because of bad cover images, the use of totally wrong fonts, or what, indies have done some terrible covers. But so have the traditional publishers. I don’t remember the title of the novel right now, and I think it was a romance, but the woman on the cover had three hands. He does, grudgingly, admit that sometimes trads use stock art. But that is buried after he talks about photo shoots and multiple attempts to find just the right layout, etc.

I’ll even admit this is probably the one area where most indies are the weakest. However, a smart author, one who is serious about their work, will find someone who can help with cover design. It isn’t something that has to cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. What it does take is someone who understands how to signal the right genre with images and fonts. It is also something that an author has to understand.

Moving on.

Design and layout is the next area where the OP thinks indies fall down on the job.

The production values for the interior of the book are just as important. I cringe when I see the ghastly Times New Roman used as body type in a book. The same goes for type set too close to the binding (something that needs to be taken into account while laying out the book), or when hyphenations are set to ‘On’ when the type itself is justified, or when the type is set so close to the page borders that it is not allowed to ‘breathe’.

Now, do you see what I see here? Notice, nothing is said about e-books. Either he doesn’t think e-books are a valid form of publishing or he doesn’t think there is such a thing as production value for e-books. Or could it be that he realizes that indies know, often better than trads, how to put out a good looking e-book?

When it comes to print, it isn’t as difficult as he wants to it seem. Again, he is using very broad strokes to condemn a large number of authors for mistakes made by only some of them. He also doesn’t mention the problems I have personally seen with some traditionally published books where I’ve had the pages suddenly turned upside down or have had a section of the book missing when I bought it.

Here’s the thing, folks, I hate articles like this because not only are they a comparison of apples to oranges but are so overly general in their application that they don’t offer any valid data to support their allegations. Here’s the thing, there are some bad indie books out there. Bad in production values, bad in style and bad in cover design. But there are also bad traditionally published books out there as well. How many times have publishers given huge advances to some politician or celebrity only to have the book tank? How many times has a publisher put out a book only to find out the co-called true story wasn’t or to learn the story had been plagiarized?

As indies who want to be viewed as professionals, we have to treat our work as just that: professional. We have to make sure it is edited, proofed, well laid out and has the best cover we can find. It is our job to not only meet but to exceed the quality readers have come to expect from traditional publishers. It is our job to prove that folks like the OP are wrong.

***

wf3withtagLast week, I posted a snippet from what was then an untitled work. Since then, a title — as well as a series title — has been decided on. Witchfire Burning will be published later this week as an e-book. The print version will be available in a few weeks. Check here or at my blog for updates and a link when the book goes live.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

What happens when your muse hijacks you

I’ll admit it. I’m drawing a blank on what to write this morning. I think part of it is because I’ve been deep in editorial mode the last few days. Another part is I made the mistake of reading an article that continues to equate indie publishing with vanity presses and telling those who would listen that the only way to prove yourself is to make it past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. So, until I can come up with something that doesn’t involve me getting on my soapbox and screaming profanities — I try not to do that here because it embarrasses Monkey — I’m going to inflict, er, treat you to a snippet from the work that hijacked me last month. It is untitled so far and, as I’ve said before, something of a mash-up of Slay Bells Ring (a romantic suspense) and Skeletons in the Closet(UF/modern fantasy and still unpublished). That’s mainly because it demanded it take place in the same setting as Slay Bells but it has elements of modern fantasy/UF. Oh, and it has a semi-sentient house. There are also character overlaps between the books. And I have no idea how or why this book decided it had to be written, much less by me.

Now, this is the rough draft. There will be changes made, including fixing spellings and punctuation, before the book goes live. Also, the usual cautions apply. This is my work, copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green.

***

 It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cell phone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Mama, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, not recognizing the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a man asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. He might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about his voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, he had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Peter Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Mr. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want her involved.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there is no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I had moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mama belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” She thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they have heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I did not wait for him to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cell phone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case and then dropped it inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Mama, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

***

As for the book I’m supposed to be finishing, Dagger of Elanna, I am. One thing this hijacking did was it let me come back to Dagger with a fresh set of eyes. I figured out what was hanging me up in the book and have pushed forward. Hopefully, I will have it finished in another three weeks or so. In the meantime, check out the first book in that series, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

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Filed under AMANDA, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING

Slog

I see in today’s paper that Australian research identifies me as a ‘slogger’ – a bloke who would like to work less but needs the money. And there I thought I was just a lazy beggar who would like to fish a bit more often.

The interesting part to their whole schpiel – which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because I am not a pigeon and they have a desperate need to put everyone in pigeon-holes – was that it seemed to hinge aspiration and reward… and that it was plainly very, very viewpoint orientated.

According to them, I would be less well socially connected, and less adept at it than any other group. Now I’m no Kim Kardashian (just in case you failed to notice the beard) and I’m a failure at twittering my every moment and movement (including bowel, or, after alphabet soup, vowel). But I have if anything too good an actual social life and chat to too many people the book-of-faces.

I’m a writer, I like to watch, to listen, to study people, to think about what they say, and why they say it. This means I can better grasp what a character – who is vastly different to me in every imaginable way, and possibly some I would rather not imagine – would plausibly react in the bloody awful mess I put them in my books. I am kind like that. I mean, here I am playing god, I could at least have them win the Lotto, meet Mr or Miss Right, and live happily ever after with a large library and enough Chateau Lar Feet (as this is Dave Freer writing, not something common like Chateau Lafite) and Magret de Canard with a black cherry reduction, to at least die happy. Nooo, instead I put them in awful positions (some not even in Kama Sutra) facing certain death, usually sober and before dinner. Yes, I am a miserable bastard. Being one is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Of course, tough jobs are supposed to pay well (which would put me on the wrong side of the pigeon-hole margin). Sadly, no one else seems to think it a tough job (one of these point-of-view things I alluded to). In terms of aspiration, however, I’ve never come across an author who didn’t aspire to being rich and successful. I’ve met an awful lot who aspire to be Castle on TV – rich famous and living the good life without all the tedium of actually writing. I’ve met others – and I’d put myself among them, who would do the job if they didn’t get to write, and fair number who could certainly have been richer than an author is likely to be, if they’d chosen a different path. Some of them even realized that before they went down the writer’s path.

Now, sloggers (according to pigeon-holers) work because they must, and don’t earn much, or ever hope to earn much. Yet… all novelists, for at least for a substantive part of their job are literally sloggers. Producing a book (let alone a career as an author) is a long-haul process. And part of any long haul process is sheer dogged determination – or plain old-fashioned slog (unless you are Castle, and that only happens on TV.) Even if somehow you do make every ounce of writing your twentieth novel a thing of joy (and yes, I manage to end up loving my books, even those I wished I had never agreed to write), there is still editing and proofs, and then inserting the proof corrections.

And even those of us who love the writing itself are faced with horrible parts of it. For me the most difficult is writing the ‘links’ between the scenes which I have to make sure maintain continuity – usually complex – and yet must be short, clean… and the reader is barely aware of. There is always a resentful part of my mind that says ‘I am working my butt off to make this slick, clear… and virtually invisible. You would only know it existed at all (if I have done it well) if it wasn’t there. Like the servant who actually did the cleaning in the society hostess’s home (and listens to her being praised for it), there is a degree of resentment that my hardest and, IMO some of my best work is something that is only good if no one knows I’ve done it.

The times of sheer dogged slogging is an unavoidable fact of life for 99.99998% of any author who makes a career out of it. You just can’t let it show in your writing, because your readers are paying you for tedious attention to detail in your work, not for tedium in their entertainment.

Like my laziness… it’s a question of perspective and perception. I’m not much good at just sit-and-do nothing. Hell for me would be sunbathing. I do work long hours, but I have slowed down from 5 hours sleep a night – which is when I wasn’t being lazy. I’ve actually got a rigid system of self-bribery and corruption worked into a structured calendar, word counts – which have timed ‘rewards’ of checking facebook, or working in the garden, or going fishing – yes, I really do book the hours, and even try to enforce some reading, research and even free time. I’m not very good at the latter, but there is a point where you’re either staring at the screen or writing crap you will delete. It is, compared to most office workers, terribly regimented and disciplined – and the boss watches every damn thing I do.

Of course to the reader who is waiting for the next book I’m also a useless, lazy scut who never gets around to it.

So: as usual this is all about writing and technique. And as usual I have been trying to do what I am informed is wicked colonial imperialism – showing not telling. If that’s wicked imperialism, bring it on, I reckon, because it works for readers. ‘Wicked’ is a point of view issue too. What I was trying to explain is a layer of complexity that many writers never quite grasp.

At the bottom end characters are WYSIYG (what you see is what you get) which is lovely when translating e-books, but a bit weak as a character. The character is as they are portrayed – both in how they see themselves, and, identically as they are seen by anyone else. IE. Joe is a hard-working, clever, kind man. That’s how Joe sees himself, and how other characters see Joe. That is also how the readers see Joe. And oddly, comments like ‘unrealistic/ dull/poor/one-dimensional characters’ will creep into the reviews. That may be true, but I have often found this really is an inability to express something the reader is aware of without grasping quite what causes the disconnect.

The disconnect is of course, that what the character perceives themselves as – from their own point of view – is never what others see them as. Many writers manage this reasonably well. Joe sees himself as a hard-working, clever, kind man. Mary (another character) sees him as lazy, dim-witted, and un-feeling.

This is real life. Listen to any dispute and you may think that the two principals are describing a separate set of events. Divorce cases, doubly so. And when you get down to poltics… Well, looking at it from Australia, ardent Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s supporters plainly live in widely separated alternate universes which branched off from each other just after there first was light.

Dispassionately, and from neither point of view… exists another real story entirely, with more or less elements from both and things which are in neither viewpoint. Just so with the story in the READER’S head. This is the stage which great authors get to. They understand that they’re working with each character’s perception of themselves, and the other (often multiple) character’s perception of themselves AND of the other characters. All of this adds up to the author carrying his or authorial perception of the character to the reader. Joe sees himself as a hard-working, clever, kind man. Mary sees him as lazy, dim-witted, and un-feeling. Mary sees herself as not popular, and unhappy about this, and far brighter than Joe. Joe sees Mary as happy, loving and understanding, and not too bright. Both of their actions and responses are shaped by own perceptions… and by reality (in this case, authorial reality) The clever author manages to carry through the ‘reality’ that Mary doesn’t care for Joe, but wants to be liked, and is manipulating his feelings. She’s not actually as bright as she thinks she is, or she would realize that her un-lovable-ness isn’t how Joe sees her. But she’s brighter than Joe think she is. Joe, on the hand is hard-working, none-too-bright, but is actually kind.

It’s a multi-dimensional maze, which the reader SHOULD be unaware of as they’re led through. It’s a slog, getting it right, because to do so you will have to enter (at least) three different head-spaces.

This is why head-hopping is a poor idea. It confuses most authors, and that in turn confuses most readers. That is why the discipline exists, not for its own sake.

Of course, it’s never that simple. The ‘authorial’ head-space will quite possibly be not quite the way the reader sees it. When I was writing JOY COMETH WITH THE MORNING I wrote the book from a single point of view (hers) but made it clear by the responses of the other characters to her, that her perspective was not theirs, and that they saw her quite differently – and of course, I as the author saw all of them quite differently.

What I should have been prepared for… but wasn’t, was the range of very different ways readers saw her.

It’s a complex web we weave.

But we set out to deceive.

That’s why it is called ‘fiction.’

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Filed under characterization, plotting, point of veiw, Uncategorized, WRITING, WRITING: CRAFT

It’s a business

There are times when I feel like I’m the crotchety parent sitting the kids down to tell them the facts of life. No, not those facts of life but the facts of life about business. It seems like almost every week there is a blog post or newspaper article about a bad contract or troubles in publishing or writers thinking about hanging up their keyboards. Why? Because all too many forget that publishing is a business and it needs to be treated as such.

I’m not going to discuss, at least not much, the publisher side of writing as a business today. Oh, there is plenty out there. Bad publishing decisions coming back to haunt the publishing company abound. But that’s not the point of today’s post. No, today I’m back on my soapbox reminding everyone who wants to be a writer that you have to remember that this is your business and you have to treat it as such.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked with writers, some traditionally published and others indie published, who went into this business with stars in their eyes and rose colored glasses firmly in place. The ones traditionally published just knew that once they signed the contract, the publisher would be spending all sorts of money to promote their book and make it into a best seller. The indie writers who are now wanting to go with a traditional publisher because — duh — they will get this huge advance and will be sent on tours to sign their books and will soon be playing poker with other best selling authors ala Castle.

That sound you hear, that slow thud-thud-thud is my head pounding against the wall.

It would be wonderful to live the life of Castle — less the murderers and other crooks trying to take pot shots at you every week. But that isn’t reality. The reality is that the vast majority of writers who have signed with traditional publishers see little if any real push from their publisher. In fact, the publisher — and the author’s agent — expect the author to do their own promotion. Oh, you might get reimbursed for your expenses if you go to a con or do a book tour but don’t bet on it. Don’t believe me that publishers aren’t spending as much on promotion of those authors they haven’t pegged as best sellers or the newest “best thing ever”? Think back to the last time you saw a book signing at your local bookstore. Now ask yourself how many times a year your local bookstore has such signings. How many of those are authors who aren’t best sellers or local authors?

Now, look at your local newspaper and tell me how large the arts section is and how many book reviews appear per week. Oh, wait. Sorry. Part of the reason there aren’t as many reviews is that there aren’t as many people reading the newspaper. Reviews, especially book reviews, were some of the first things cut when newspapers started cutting costs to make up for the lower advertising revenue and lower subscriptions rates. Few newspapers have their own book reviewers any longer and the books being reviewed are either best sellers or the newest best thing. Hmm.

But, Amanda, you get those huge advances and you don’t have to work any longer.

Wrong.

And this is where you have to remember that this is a business. Most advances, especially for “new” authors fall in the four-digit range. Yes, some new authors get more but they are the except and not the rule. You don’t get the advance all at one time and you aren’t going to see any more money from the publisher until you have earned out the advance and, believe me, that doesn’t happen very often. How can it when publishers use Bookscan to determine how many books are sold instead of a simple inventory tracker program?

That means you have to make sure you have a way to pay your bills between advances. This is why the vast majority of writers aren’t full-time writers. They have families to feed and are like me. They like having a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. Even if your first book is a success, you don’t know that the second book will be. More importantly, if you are publishing traditionally, you have no guarantee that the readers will remember you two years or more after your first book by the time the second book comes out. Remember, when you publish traditionally, you have no control over when your book is released and you are just one of many the publisher is having to slot into a finite number of slots per month.

I can’t repeat this often enough. Writing is a business and the writer is the business owner. Yes, you might sign a contract with someone to distribute your work (a publisher) and promote it (publisher or someone else) but it is still your responsibility to make sure the job is being done. You can’t just sign the contract and sit back and wait for the money to roll in, trusting the person you contracted with to do the job. You need to understand the supply chain for bookstores and the reality of how long a book is left on the shelves before it is pulled. You need to understand the financial aspects of the business and you need to study the numbers when it comes to sell through, resigning authors, etc.

What started me thinking about this again today was this article. The author in question signed a contract with a major publisher for her first book. It was critically acclaimed and not long before it was released into the wild, she quit her job. Yep, you read that right. The author quit her job — the job that helped support her family — so she could promote her book and write full-time. She did so after signing with the publisher for only this one book. There was no second book that would bring in additional advance payments. Nope. Just the starry eyed vision of living the life of a writer.

Now, I don’t want to kick this woman when she’s down but her story is illustrative of the problems so many writers — and folks who start their own businesses — face. They get a great review for a product before it hits the shelves and based on those reviews, quits their regular job to do this full-time. The problem is that reviews don’t always turn into sales and sales, especially for books, will slow down if the author doesn’t bring a new title out in fairly short order. For those authors going the traditional route, that very likely means no payments after the book is released because the advance isn’t earned out. So what are you going to do for money?

This particular author did finally go out and get a job — for awhile. But what struck me is that she doesn’t really seem to want to work. She would rather be writing but the worry and stress of not having enough money has shut down the writing. But a job makes her too tired to write. You see the circle. I feel for her but, to be honest, she needs to man up — or woman up — and realize that the situation she is in is the same one so many of us face on a daily basis. We face it and learn to live with it as we continue to write and put our work out there.

The lesson to be learned is that if you don’t have at least six months — preferably a year or more — of living expenses in the bank, do NOT quit your day job. If you are worried about putting food on the table for your kids or if you are worried about how you will pay the bills, do not quit your day job. It makes it more difficult to write, yes. But this is a business and you learn to adapt. You find the way to carve out time to write. But having all the time in the world to write isn’t worth anything if you are worrying about losing your home or having your utilities cut off.

It’s a business, damn it, and you need to look at it that way. Have your business plan. Have your promotion plan. Know that you aren’t going to get a regular salary that is the same from paycheck to paycheck.

And since I am a working writer, check out Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Dagger of Elanna, the second book in the series will be released soon. You can check out snippets from the book starting here.

 

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Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, PROMOTION, Uncategorized, WRITING: PUBLISHING