Archive for March, 2014

Well, the computer problems I had earlier sort of took the wind out of my sails for a while, but I’m starting to build up steam again.

I’ve gotten through a slow patch in THE IGNORED PROPHECY (sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE) and into a section where more is happening. Things are moving faster now, both in the story and in my rewrite of the story. That slow patch is a section I’m going to have to revisit in the next patch, of course. I’ll need to either punch it up or delete a fair bit, probably some of each. But rewrites, like revisions, are an iterative process. The key is not to try to fix everything all at once, but concentrate on a certain aspect in each pass. This pass is more about technique (and a little bit about adding emotion as I improve things like dialog mechanics and internal dialog).

Meanwhile, I’m about ready to start on the final edits and formatting of “Wyreth’s Flame” for publication next month. I’ve pretty much got the cover:

Red Wyreth Cover Small

The plan is for “Wyreth’s Flame” to be free everywhere (which will probably take some work to bring about on Amazon). This short story was the germ that eventually grew into THE BARD’S GIFT.

TheBardsGiftCoverSmallThe ebook for “Wyreth’s Flame” will include a bonus section with a substantial portion of THE BARD’S GIFT.

Oh, the first five chapters of TBG are available free on wattpad, if you want to take a look. I’m putting out a chapter a week, which means it’ll take 33 more weeks for the whole story to be available there (around the middle of November).

So, things are moving well again. Just in time for me to start work at a new job (part time) tomorrow. I’ll be a crossing guard. Wish me luck.


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I’ve never really done a proper cover reveal. Not the kind of cover reveal that’s meant to start raising awareness and interest for the forthcoming story.

Partly, that’s because the cover has often been one of the last things I did in preparation for epublishing. That’s something I’ll have to change. Probably for my next book (THE SHAMAN’S CURSE).

I’m not going to do that kind of big cover reveal with all the associated fanfare today, either, for a couple of reasons. Mainly, this cover is for a short story, “Wyreth’s Flame”, which is intended to be free. (We’ll see how easy or hard Amazon makes that when I get there.)

The point of publishing this short story (which was where the inspiration for THE BARD’S GIFT came from) is to provide a free entry point. The ebook will contain the story and a fair-sized excerpt from TBG and hopefully be a cost-free, resistance-free way to get readers interested in the bigger story.

So, without further ado, here’s the cover as of now. There’ll likely be a few tweaks before I’m done, but it should look pretty much like this:

Red Wyreth Cover Small

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Lately, I’ve been working mostly on rewriting THE IGNORED PROPHECY, which is the sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. Now, TIP is the second book I wrote (third, if you count that thing back in college, but let’s not talk about that one). I learned more from writing TIP than I ever did from the first version of TSC.

TIP is the book that made me into a modified discovery writer, because I managed to write the whole first version, over 100,000 words, without actually telling a story. I knew it wasn’t a story as I finished the last chapter of the first draft, but I didn’t know why. It took quite a few false starts and incorrect diagnoses before I figured it out. It was missing a central conflict–the thing that tells you that the story starts here (when the problem is first made clear) and ends there (when the conflict is resolved). The central conflict is the river current that pulls a story forward. Without it, you have characters doing things, other things happening to characters, but you don’t have a story.

Now, I will say that I’ve seen that particular problem in plenty of traditionally published sequels, even some popular ones. I call those bridge stories. The point of the middle book of a trilogy sometimes appears to be only to get the characters from the end of book one to the start of book two. And there are always those stories (think LORD OF THE RINGS) where no individual book is really meant to be a story. They have to be taken as a whole.

Still, I want the book of my series to be able to stand alone. And the first version of TIP didn’t. I believe I fixed that problem years ago. (In this case, it’s a mystery. Just why is my main character’s magic behaving so strangely?) Still, it won’t hurt to heighten that central problem as I go through the rewrite.

There are clearly a lot of things I hadn’t learned, yet, though. Quite apart from it being a sequel (which I’ve posted about before), there are many facets of this rewrite that are possibly harder than writing a first draft from scratch. And, of course, some things that are easier.

The easy, first. The characters and the plot are already set. While I will certainly add some scenes as I go, and I may delete others, the plot itself is already there.

The hard part. Well, there’s a lot to clean up. I clearly didn’t have a great understanding of dialog mechanics. I didn’t begin to know how to show emotions. And don’t get me started on the number of point-of-view violations I’m finding. In fact, point of view is going to be an issue I’ll need to tackle in a later draft. I’ll need to decide whether to give certain pov characters their own chapters, or just use scene breaks.

The hard truth is that even though I’m working through a completed draft, it’s going to take several passes to bring this manuscript up to my current standard. Well, that’s just another way to learn–and drive the lessons home for my future stories. And I will make TIP into the story it’s capable of being–eventually.

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I don’t want to speak to soon, but it looks like things might be stabilizing around here.

Oddly enough–and odd things do happen in old houses–it’s possible that at least part of my computer problems may have something to do with variations in the electricity. Both computers (even the one I would have sworn was dead) have improved when plugged in in a different room. That’s how I was able to recover my files earlier this week. Big sigh of relief.

I can’t leave whatever computer (both deskt0p models) I’m currently working on in the other room because the internet connection is here. (No WiFi here, yet.) But, that’s something that can be changed and I’ve been intending to set up an office in the other room anyway. So, it looks like those plans just may have gotten a higher priority.

Also, the reason I’m posting late today is that it looks like I’m actually about to rejoin the ranks of the employed (part time, anyway). That’ll make a huge difference around here. And, not coincidentally, still leave me time for my writing.

There are still a lot of things on my plate, but maybe, just maybe, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

So, now, it’s back to work on my current projects. And next time, hopefully, I’ll be able to actually post about writing.

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Well, the saga–and the drama–continues. The backup computer that I’ve been using for the last several weeks has died. I think it’s the power supply. I’m back on the other computer. The one that died before that. So far so good. Fingers–and everything else crossable–crossed that it stays that way. I could really use a turn in my luck right about now..

I spent pretty much all day yesterday getting this one back up and running. The next burning question is whether I can recover the last two weeks worth of work since my last back up. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the hard drive, so it should be doable. (I suspect it’s the power supply, actually.) The question is how hard or how expensive. I looked at some instructions online. I’d rather not do that myself, but I may not have a choice.

You can believe that one of the first things I did was download a free trial of an automatic backup service. This can’t go on.

I really wish I could just afford a new computer, but that’s not possible right now.

And now I have to decide. If there’s a chance I can recover those files, maybe I shouldn’t work on the things I’ve been doing for the last two weeks. Maybe I should work on something else until I get that settled. But what?

Maybe back to some revisions on MAGIC AND POWER. I’ve received a very good critique on that. Usually, I wait until all the critiques come back, but this isn’t exactly a usual situation. Or maybe I could start on the sequel to M&P.

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I’m currently involved in two different rewrites. Very different–and not just because of the stories.


The two different kinds of magic–one acquired by initiation and one inherited in the blood–have always been completely separate. Until now.

Not quite epic fantasy. I’d call them sword and sorcery, but there aren’t any swords, really. Spear and sorcery?

In these, I’ve gone back to one of my very first stories. It’s actually a four-book series. I’d written the first two before getting stuck on the third. I’m a much better writer now. Part of what these stories need is craft-related. Some of it is streamlining the story, which is still basically the same. I’ve already done the rewrite on THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and I have it out to some beta readers. I’m on Chapter 5 of THE IGNORED PROPHECY, which is where I’m running into the interesting issues of starting a sequel I wrote about in my last post.

In both of these, the story has remained almost exactly the same, although in the rewrite I’ve chosen to expand some things and reduce or delete others. It’s almost more like a really deep, extensive revision than a rewrite, although scenes do have to be rewritten to fix the craft deficiencies in the original. That’s why I can work on this at the same time I’m working on my other project.


I don’t have a good log line for this one, yet. It’s changed so significantly. Part of it explores aspects of the Hercules legend that fascinate me. (I mean, this guy never succeeded in anything in his life except killing monsters. And then he became a god. How did that work out?) Except I’ve turned the whole legend on its head.

But now that’s only the beginning of the story. The first part will stay basically the same. Again, it needs a rewrite/revision to bring it up to the current level of my writing craft. But after that, everything will be new. Completely re-imagined. Two thirds of this will truly be a first draft–and I’m almost to that part. Looking forward to it.

This one is going to provide some interesting challenges in structure. It has three main characters, but one character’s story starts several years before the other two characters are born. Right now, I’m just writing chronologically. I’ll think about whether I need to rearrange things after I’ve got the story down.

Two very different kinds of rewrites.


In other news, I’ve decided to put THE BARD’S GIFT up on wattpad, one chapter a week, so you can start reading it for free. (Hint: You’ll get the story much faster if you just buy it. It’s only $2.99 on Amazon)

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I’ve written about this before, but it’s what’s at the top of my mind again today.

As a reader, I love a good series.  I already know I enjoy the author’s work, the setting, the characters. As a writer, it’s something I really want to do. So far, I’ve only got one (very short) series: BLOOD WILL TELL and its sequel BLOOD IS THICKER.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10567743Eventually, there’ll be a third volume in this series, but I’m not ready to write it just yet.

I actually have three other stories that should be series.

MAGIC AND POWER will probably end up being the series title and there’ll be at least one more book following GREEN MAGIC (which is the current title for what used to be MAGIC AND POWER). That one will explore the same world through a different set of characters.

I have ideas for at least three more stories following MAGE STORM (or STORM OF MAGIC). Middle grade is a particular problem, though, that could be the subject of another post.

DUAL MAGICS starts with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE (TSC) and should be four books when complete. (Look for TSC later this year.) I’m currently working, part of my time, on the rewrite of the second book, THE IGNORED PROPHECY (TIP).

And that’s where the trouble with sequels comes in. It’s hard to start a sequel. You, as the author, already know these characters, the world you’ve created for them, the magic system. But, here’s the deal: you can’t assume your readers do.

When a book is launched out into the world, the author loses a measure of control. One of the things you can’t control is whether a reader starts where you want them to. TSC is the beginning. But somebody just might ignore that and pick up TIP for whatever reason. Maybe they just like the cover better. Maybe Amazon suggests that one. Whatever. You can do everything in your power to encourage the reader to start at the beginning and it still might not work.

Or, you know, some time might elapse between reading the first and second volumes in a series and readers may have forgotten a lot about the characters and the world.

So, you have to do the very best you can to make each book as easy to start as possible. Ease readers into this world and the characters.  And there’s the problem. I ended TSC with the main characters in a part of the world that probably needs the most description. It’s not even remotely a typical medieval fantasy setting. As I start TIP, I need to find a way to introduce that without boring readers who already know all of this because they just read TSC.

And then there are the characters. There are about a dozen important named characters present at the point where TSC ends. I don’t want to dump all of them into the first couple of chapters. That just becomes confusing, especially since some of them have complicated family relationships to each other. Ideally, I’d like to introduce them a few at a time.

I’ve chosen to start with the two main characters taking some private time when a situation develops. That’s fine. I was able to refer to a couple of other characters and bring two more in to help deal with the situation. Good so far.

Now, I’m confronted with the need to break off and go to another setting and another group of characters for a chapter. I know how they relate to the first group. It’s not going to be so easy to figure out how to make that clear to the reader.

This is just one of the things that makes sequels so hard to get right.


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It’s going to take a long time to really process–not to say try out–the things I learned at IndieReCon. (BTW, almost all of the content (minus a few twitter chats and one facebook chat) is still available on their website.

I’ll focus on a couple of things I’m putting into action now.

Amazon Book Description:

This is the description that appears second on your book page, below the cover and price. It’s your chance to tell readers what the book is about, similar to a query letter in some ways. In fact, back-cover blurbs are very often what’s seen here. But you can do more than that.

What I didn’t know is that you can use some HTML tags in the description. I don’t know what all of the allowed tags are, but I know a few of them:

  1. <H2> </H2>This is a heading tag. On Amazon, it will make the text inside the tags appear larger, bold, and orange.
  2. <B></B> Bold

These are the only tags I’ve tried so far. I used them on the description for THE CHIMERIA OMNIBUS.


Take a look. Kind of snazzy.

Free Books:

This one’s kind of interesting. I’ve heard before that free books, particularly making the first book in a series free, can enhance sales. I kind of worked around this with BLOOD IS THICKER by making THE CHIMERIA OMNIBUS (containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER) temporarily the same price as either book alone.

That turns out to have been me, well, not quite getting the point. Not the first time. It was the Write, Publish, Repeat podcast that made it clear to me. It’s not just giving the reader a bargain. It’s giving them a friction-free way to try before they buy. Something they don’t even have to think about, or not much. “Friction-free” as they described it.

It’s not the same as a free sample. Free samples, by their definition, end somewhere in the first fifth of the book. They aren’t complete. Now, if you have a series of three or more books (which I don’t yet), it can make very good sense to make the first book free. If people like it, they’ll likely buy the rest of the series. But that’s not the only way this can work.

What I’m working on now is polishing up the short story that was the genesis of THE BARD’S GIFT. The plan is to publish this for free, probably with a sample of the first couple of chapters of TBG at the back. It’ll take some time. I’ve sent the story out for some more critiques. I’ll need to find a new title for it. (“The Bard’s Gift” would likely be confusing.) Then there’s making a cover and formatting. Plus the time it will take to ask Amazon to make it permafree. Look for this some time in April.

When I get around to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, “Becoming Lioness” will only need a brush-up to fulfill the same role. It’s already in the same world and involves some of the same characters as TSC.

More to come.

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