Archive for April, 2012

It’s a fact of life when you publish something that not everyone is going to like it. And some of them are going to say so in the form of reviews on Amazon or some other forum. Brace yourself for it.

As a writer, I just have to get used to that, the same as I had to get used to taking–and using–critiques of my work in order to improve as a writer.  And, especially when it comes to reviews, the one thing you must not do is argue about it. That only leads to a downward spiral. Doesn’t mean that’s easy, though.

I had to remind myself of this earlier this week when someone gave my novelette “Heart of Oak” a one-star review. Ouch.

Now, by definition, a reader cannot be wrong about their experience of a story. It’s their experience, after all. So this reviewer read some things into this story that I had actually tried consciously to suppress. To me, it’s a story about an outsider trying to cope with a world she doesn’t understand and a bit of a romantic fantasy (as in, yes, there’s romance in it, although not ’til the very end). This reader found an environmentalist message that had not been my intent. But that’s what they read, so I won’t argue with it.

The part of the review that stung a bit was where the reviewer referred to me as a “beginning author”. Well, yes, this is the first thing I’ve published. But it’s not close to the first thing I’ve written. I didn’t just jump in without first practicing and honing my craft, as the reviewer implies. I’ve been working at this for four years now. Believe me, the first short story I wrote (the first that actually was a story and not a vignette) won’t ever see the light of day again.

I don’t, in fact, write very many short stories. I’m more comfortable taking my characters on longer, novel-length adventures. But I wanted to put my toe in the e-publishing waters with something that wouldn’t be too complex to format. Short stories, even novelettes, don’t have things like hyper-linked tables of contents.

I selected “Heart of Oak” as my first attempt at e-publishing for a couple of reasons. Most everyone who had read it, liked it. And, yes, I do have critique partners who will tell me if I accidentally turn out complete drivel. It happened earlier this year with a misguided attempt at science fiction. I’m just not comfortable playing in that sandbox, yet and it showed.

“Heart of Oak” had been submitted to most of the paying publications that will accept that genre and length (almost 10,000 words is a tough sell). And, although it hadn’t sold to any of them, it had gotten some personal rejections and kind words. Including, from a well-respected and professional-paying market, that they liked my writing and characters, inviting me to send more stories.

Between what my critique partners said and that rejection, I felt confident that “Heart of Oak” was good enough to be the first thing I put out. If anyone found it a disappointment, I’m sorry.

Nothing will kill sales faster than a bad review. I always think about that before I post a review on a book that doesn’t work for me. Just because it’s not my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it won’t be the best thing someone else has ever read. So much depends on personal taste. (Which is a topic I’m going to take up next time.)

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In celebration of having e-published BLOOD WILL TELL last week, here’s a snippet of my next writing project. Here’s the first page of THE BARD’S GIFT:

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating her threadbare woolen dress and even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak. What she longed to do was lay down and curl up around her empty belly. In sleep, she might forget how hungry she was, but that wouldn’t keep them warm through the night or put any food on her father’s table.

She’d been hungry before. It wasn’t even unusual at this time of year, but this had been the hardest and longest winter in her memory. The dried cod was all gone and there was still too much ice out in the fjord for the ships to go out to fish for more. The schools no longer teemed just offshore, as they had in her grandfather’s day.

The force of the wind doubled as she rounded the headland, almost knocking Astrid backward. She had to go farther and farther afield to find anything these days. An overpowering stench assaulted her nostrils. She looked up, seeking the source. The massive grey shape in the shallows was not a rock; it was beached whale. Food for weeks. Maybe even enough to get them through until the ships could get out of the fjord again.

She dropped her few sticks of driftwood, picked up her skirts and ran back for the long house. It would take every hand to harvest this windfall. No one would mind because they’d all have full bellies tonight for the first time in over a month.

Do  please check out the link over on the right to BLOOD WILL TELL. That isn’t just a pretty image of the cover.

Now, I’ve given myself an assignment to do something marketing related every week (besides querying FIRE AND EARTH, that is). This week it’s author’s pages–Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads.


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Well, it appears that the reason I was having trouble figuring out how to make “Heart of Oak” free on Amazon is that they don’t let me do that. It’ll only be free if they decide to price match Smashwords. If you don’t want to hold your breath for that, pick up a free copy at Smashwords. And, of course, I hope you like it enough to buy BLOOD WILL TELL at only $2.99.

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BLOOD WILL TELL is now available on Smashwords






and on Amazon.





It should be available on Barnes and Noble in a couple of days.

In celebration, “Heart of Oak” is free on Smashwords. And will be free on Amazon shortly.

I hope you enjoy it. And, if you do, look for the further adventures of these characters in BLOOD IS THICKER this fall.

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Almost a month ago, I posted this set of priorities:

  1. Finish the revision to “The Music Box” and decide what to do with it.
  2. Get ready to query FIRE AND EARTH.
  3. Start THE BARD’S GIFT.
  4. Revisions to MAGIC’S FOOL.
  5. Prepare BLOOD WILL TELL for e-publishing.

I’m doing pretty well on these goals.

  1. I’ve finished the revisions to “The Music Box” and have it out to one reader. I’ll probably seek more readers at the beginning of the month, and then decide what, if anything, I need to change before e-publishing it. There simply isn’t any other market for a romantic fantasy novella. I’m also waiting to hear about a novelette, “Becoming Lioness”. It’s currently out on submission and I expected to hear back almost a month ago. Maybe that’s good news. If not, I’ll be e-publishing that one, too.
  2. I’ve now sent out nine queries on FIRE AND EARTH and gotten one request for a partial.
  3. I’ve started THE BARD’S GIFT, but only barely.
  4. I’ve just about completed the revisions to MAGIC’S FOOL. I’ll be looking for new readers soon.
  5. I haven’t yet done anything about preparing BLOOD WILL TELL for e-publication.

So, here are my current priorities:

  1. Keep querying FIRE AND EARTH.
  2. Complete the revisions to MAGIC’S FOOL and find a couple of new readers to see if I’ve solved the problem of the slow beginning. The revision should be complete by the weekend.
  3. Mark up the revision notes for the last segment of BLOOD IS THICKER. That’ll only take a couple of days at most. I’m not ready to actually start on the revisions, yet, though.
  4. Then I’m going to concentrate on getting BLOOD WILL TELL e-published. That’ll also involve getting way more serious about some marketing.
  5. And once all of that is out of the way, I can go full bore on the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT.
  6. I’ll probably tinker with the first draft of MAGIC’S APPRENTICE during any slow spots on THE BARD’S GIFT.

That’ll do for at least the next month, don’t you think?


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The other side of querying, of course, is waiting for the replies. When you open your mailbox and see a response to one of your queries, there’s a moment of anxiety, because, statistically, most of those replies are going to be some variation on “Thanks, but no.”

Then, every once in a while, you open the response to find a partial or a full request and your heart starts beating a little bit faster. There’s a chance.

I had both experiences last Friday. I have to say it’s just a little nerve wracking to be getting query responses on Friday the 13th. The first query reply I recieved was of the “no” variety. The second, though, was a partial request–my first partial request for FIRE AND EARTH (formerly known as SEVEN STARS).

I sent off the partial and did a little happy dance for most of the rest of the day. It always feels really good that one of these busy professionals wants to see more of my work.

Now, for a few weeks, I get to day dream about getting a second request for the rest of it and maybe, just maybe, that offer of representation. The next step on this path I’ve set myself on.

I will get there one of these days. And I really believe FIRE AND EARTH just might be the one.

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Query Time Again

I’m always more nervous when I start querying a new story. Not as nervous as the very first time I started querying, but much more nervous, or is it anxious, than when I’ve been querying the same story for a while.

I started querying FIRE AND EARTH (formerly known as SEVEN STARS) a week ago. I’ve sent out six queries so far. I already have a couple of form rejections racked up, too.

Here’s the query:

Now that she’s lost it and gone berserk, seventeen-year-old Casora is doubly cursed and there’s no going back.

Born with the mark of the berserker, she’s been sent away to learn war craft. Those skills are no use when her home is invaded while she’s far away. She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors looking for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders.

What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she’s told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, third prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he’s determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he’s trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there’s no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It’s just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others’ prayers.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 76,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. I have included the first three chapters per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.

Fingers crossed for the four queries that are still out and for the queries I plan to send out in the coming weeks.

If this one doesn’t work–get me at least a partial request–after a few more tries, I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and try to revise or rewrite the query. That’s the way this process goes.

In other news, Mary Robinette Kowal published this terrific guest post on writing sequels. I just wish some of those points were more adaptable to my sequels to either BLOOD WILL TELL or MAGIC’S FOOL. I’m definitely going to have to put some thought into how I could incorporate at least some ot those tips.

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I can’t over emphasize the value of critiques–both getting and giving them. They’re not only how we make a story better, they’re also how we grow as writers.

I’m starting to work through the critiques of MAGIC’S FOOL so the topic of how to make the best use of these critiques is very apropos.

Some critiques are like ringing a bell. They start an avalanche of ideas that makes the writer jump up and down shouting “Of course. Of course, why didn’t I see that.” Those critiques are precious. Sometimes you have to work a little harder for that same insight, but it’s just as valuable when you do see it.

Often a critique or a group of critiques will point out a problem that the writer isn’t aware of. After all, as the writer, you know all sorts of things about the story that didn’t make it onto the page and no matter how long you let it rest you can’t ever completely come to the story the way a reader would. If three or more people say the same thing, you probably ought to pay attention because there likely is a problem there. But, and here’s where things get interesting, it isn’t always the problem that the critiquer points out. It might be something deeper. Occasionally, it’s something much simpler that leaves me saying to myself something like, “Yes, but if I hadn’t been an idiot and cut this paragraph, that would have made much better sense and you wouldn’t have been confused.”

In this case, I’ve got an interesting mix of critiques. One reader says that I need an external antagonist. Another keeps asking me to show not tell and says the first half was slow, but the second half was great. Still another says that the story has potential, but lacks excitement. As a writer what am I to make of this? 

The first thing is to wonder if they’re all reacting to the same thing and just saying it in different ways. I think they are. I think what they’re trying to say is that they’re not feeling the protagonist’s problem, at least during some parts of the story. I haven’t done a good enough job of ratcheting up the conflict.

 And now I have at least some ideas of how to make my protagonist’s conflict much stronger. I’ll need more, but that’s what revision is all about. So, thanks to my great beta readers. It’s going to be a much stronger story when I’m through with this revision.

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Lucky 7

I’ve been tagged. The rules are:

Go to page 77 of current WIP

Go to line 7

Copy down next 7 lines/sentences/paragraphs & post them as they’re written

  • Tag 7 other authors
  • Let them know

Since I’ve barely started THE BARD’S GIFT and haven’t gotten to a page 77 yet (haven’t even gotten to page 2 yet) and I finished the revisions to FIRE AND EARTH and started querying it yesterday (fingers crossed), that leaves MAGIC’S FOOL. I’m starting the next round of revisions based on the critiques of my beta readers, so that counts as a WIP, too.

Going backward just a bit to start in a place that makes a little sense:

Vatar took a step back. As a Dardani, every instinct told him to keep that secret. Especially not to tell a stranger. “Why? I don’t want to.”

“Because Veleus understands these things better than any of us. He can help you, if you let him.”

“I’ll help you in any way I can, . . . son,” Veleus said.

Vatar scuffed one toe on the path. “It was just a dream.”

“We all thought that at the time. But not any more. Now I think you were actually talking to someone in your mind. Tell him.”

“What’s this?” Veleus asked, looking at Vatar again.

Seeing no way out of it, with everyone’s eyes on him, Vatar reluctantly recounted his three conversations with Thekila and how they had happened. And, at Mother’s prodding, he also told about the incident with the lions. Veleus listened with interest, asking pointed questions.

Hmm. Just looking at this makes me think I need a few more dialogue tags or beats. This bit comes at the point when Vatar first meets the person who may help him to understand the magic he’s been desperately trying to hide.

Now, if you’ve read this far and you haven’t already been tagged–you’re it.

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Well, now that I’ve got a toe in the water on e-publishing, it’s time to think about marketing.

I haven’t done much of that, yet–and my sales show it. Frankly, with only “Heart of Oak” published so far, I think it’s a bit premature. “Heart of Oak” is a novelette (roughly one-tenth of a full novel). But more e-published stories are coming, so it’s not too soon to think about marketing.

Smashwords publishes a very good, free e-book on marketing, so I’ll just post the link to it, here. There are some really good ideas in there that I’ll want to consider when I e-publish BLOOD WILL TELL at the end of this month or the beginning of May. That’s when I plan to take marketing a lot more seriously. Even better, every idea in there is also free to implement. And a lot of them would be really easy, too.

One of the big tips is to have multiple titles out there. I have that underway. “Heart of Oak” is out. As soon as I hear back about “Becoming Lioness” (assuming the market that currently has it on submission rejects it), that’s going up. I have a romance novella “The Music Box” that will be e-published as soon as I’ve gotten a little feedback on it. Then the full-court press for BLOOD WILL TELL and get cracking on revisions to BLOOD IS THICKER and a draft of the third book in the series, BLOOD STAINS.

Hmm. One of the things I need to do is to come up with a title for that series as a whole, too.


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