Archive for September, 2018

I’m having trouble getting traction with MAGE STORM. Not really sure why. I know the story. I have an entire previous version to use as an outline, after all. I know what should happen in this chapter. I’ve done the character backstory. But . . . it’s just not flowing at the moment.

Probably time to drop back and do something else for a bit until whatever’s stuck comes loose. Maybe the cover art. And, of course, studying up on keywords.

Meanwhile, here’s the backstory of the character in question, Katria:

Sixteen. From Sawyers Oaks. Three brothers, two older (Darin and Ferd), one a year younger (Natan). One younger sister, Rosella.

Her family does not have deep roots in Sawyers Oaks. Her father had been a young child there, but his family had moved to Marketown after the Great Mage War. Before that, they had owned the sawmill in Sawyers Oaks. After the recent death of his mother, Katria’s father has brought his family—and his elderly father—back to Sawyers Oaks. His older brother is now managing the carpentry shop his father started in Marketown.

Katria’s first magic is fear-based, trying to save family members from the mage storm. After this, Katria’s family is attacked by villagers afraid of the return of magic. The father of the young man (Jeld) Katria had begun to have feelings for leads the attack and Jeld joins him. Her father and Ferd are injured. Angry, Katria uses magic to drive off the attackers—which only makes matters worse. Knowing that she could only cause more trouble for her family and guilty about what she’d done, Katria slips out in the middle of the night and starts west, drawn by Mastan’s Calling. She and Rell meet on the way.

She is best at fighting, reasonably good at healing (when in the right mood), only okay at Calling.

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I will be working on figuring out keywords for some time, I’m increasingly sure. In my last post, I mentioned making a couple of changes to my keywords. It’s still really to early to tell whether that had any impact–though my sales have gone up this week. There’s some reason to think it had nothing to do with the keywords. Still, at least it’s a change for the better.

The change I made was to pick out my two lamest keywords for each book–and lame is the only word I can think of to describe some of them–and replace them with NobleBright or Noble Bright (to cover both possible spellings).

Why’d I pick that? What is this NobleBright?

Well, NobleBright, like its opposite GrimDark comes originally from the world of gaming, from which it cross-pollinated over to books.

In GrimDark fantasy, the setting may be more . . . grim. More importantly, the characters are mostly out for their own self-interest–material or personal gain or revenge. More like the characters from some Sword and Sorcery than like classic epic fantasy. G. R. R. Martin’s SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series (more popularly known as GAME OF THRONES) is a pretty good example. Quite a lot of recently published–especially traditionally published–fantasy partakes of at least some of this.

NobleBright fantasy may–or may not–have a setting that is less grim (some have coined the term NobleDark for that), but the main attribute is that at least one of the principal characters acts out of noble motivations.

There’s an argument to be made that GrimDark is more realistic and more accurately portrays what a medievalesque world would have been like. I won’t dispute this. I will say that if I want reality, there’s 24/7 news on cable TV.

I think there’s a much better argument–perhaps especially in our current world–for stories about characters who behave more nobly. For characters who just maybe make us aspire to be better and to make the world better.

In any case, that’s the kind of story I write. So, maybe they’ll find a better and bigger audience with those keywords. I can hope.


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I’m still doing some research to help me with my keywords problem. I did make a couple of changes to the keywords. I haven’t seen any impact so far, but then I only made the changes yesterday. My chronic impatience aside, it probably is too soon to tell. Wait and see. More on that when I’ve had a little time to assess it–and, hopefully some data to assess.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten restarted on the rewrite of MAGE STORM–a chapter from the point of view of another character. One I finally have enough of a feel for to write from her perspective after doing the character backstories. It’s not that I didn’t know who this character was in the earlier version of the story. But she never had point-of-view chapters and so she was mostly seen from the point of view of the only character who did. The original version of MAGE STORM had only one point-of-view character.

Usually, when I write from multiple points of view, I start out that way from the beginning. Coming at it from the other direction, I needed that dive into the other characters’ backstories in order to do them justice. It will be a much better story now.



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Well, while going through all ten of my previously published books during the transition from CreateSpace to KDP Print, I realized something. I’m really, really bad at keywords. I mean, pitiful. Part of the reason for that is that I can’t ever recall searching for fiction with a keyword. Non-fiction, yes. But . . . that’s just not how I find my next read. So I haven’t given it the attention that I possibly should have. That’s something I can–and should–do something about.

I’ve bought one e-book on the subject and started working through it, but I’m not entirely sold on the methodology. The method proposed is cheap–well, unless you count the opportunity cost of the time spent on it, anyway. And it sounds reasonable, but . . . .

The method so far–caveat, I haven’t finished the book yet–consists of making an exhaustive list of possible keywords or phrases and then searching to determine 1) how many other books turn up on that keyword search and 2) what the sales ranking of the top paid book on the list is. The idea being that if there are fewer results, a given book will have less competition and be more likely to place highly–on the first or second page–of that search. And that if the top sales rank is good, that might be a worthwhile thing to do.

I see several problems with this.

  1. It doesn’t account for the fact that some keywords–though they may be horrible as search terms–are necessary in order to place a book in a certain category. On Amazon, there are some sub-genres that can only be accessed through specific keywords. For example, you can’t choose to put a book in the Sword and Sorcery category directly. It’s necessary to use either “sword”, “sorcery”, “magic”, “dragon” or “quest” as a keyword in order to place a book in that sub-genre. And those keywords should probably be avoided if a book doesn’t belong in that category.
  2. It takes a heck of a lot of time. Time I could be writing.
  3. If my list of possible keywords is still awful, will this actually return the best results? Or only the least bad?
  4. Some keywords are just going to return things that really aren’t direct competition. For example, if I use Hercules as a keyword for BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, which is an epic fantasy inspired by the legend of Hercules but not a retelling, StormCover2I’ll get results from books on mythology, other fantasy stories that are more literal retellings of the legend, and, interestingly, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery series.
  5. It doesn’t–as far as I’ve gotten, anyway–account for how many people are using that keyword in their search. That top-rated book may be getting found in some other way entirely.

This last makes me think of one of my books, THE BARD’S GIFT (which I usually refer to as TBG).


TBG is deliberately placed in one of those sub genres that has to be accessed by Keywords. In this case, that’s Kindle ebooks–>Teen and Young Adult–>Science Fiction and Fantasy–>Fantasy–>Myths and Legends–>Norse. As of this morning, TBG was ranked 105 on this list.

This category has only 595 entries and the top book in it has a very, very good sales rank. Now, TBG, at 105, is not on the top 100 list. But it is in the top 20 percent. Now, the thing about TBG is that I have sold 251 copies since it was published in 2014. Not exactly my top seller. I haven’t checked it’s exact sales rank, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s not a good number. This suggests to me that an analysis based solely on number of entries and sales rank of the top entry is . . . insufficient.

Nothing to do but keep trying, I guess.

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Maps and More

I finished (at least for now) the map for the series that will start with MAGE STORM. I really need to come up with a good series title, too. Well, there’s time for that.

So, here it is:

Mage Storm

I’m not entirely thrilled with it, yet. It feels a little busy. But it’s enough to go forward with, at least. I’ve done a black-and-white version, too.

Mage Storm BW.JPG

Right now, though, I’m working my way through the transition of all of my paperback books from CreateSpace, which is closing, over to KDP Print. As soon as I finish that, I’ll be ready to start–again–on the first draft of MAGE STORM.

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I decided to start with character profiles/backstories for the principal characters in MAGE STORM. This isn’t something I usually do, but I thought it would be useful in this case since I’m trying to get a new start on a story I wrote some time ago. Also because I’ve changed the roles of a couple of characters–actually switched the competencies of the two principal allies. I needed to give them better and more extensive backstories to support their skills.

I’ve almost finished that. I need to do a very little more research into a certain personality type for my antagonist/villain. So far, I’ve got a much better feeling about those two characters in particular and–unlike the last attempt–I actually feel ready to write in their points of view.

I’ve also decided to go ahead and create a map for this series. I’ve had a really basic hand-drawn . . . thing . . . that I used as a writer’s aid for the first version. Believe me, this is even less ready for prime time than my usual hand-drawn maps. But, it’s been a while since I last worked on a map with this software, so I’m having to go back through the tutorials.

Then, when that’s done, I should be ready to start writing/re-writing this story. I still haven’t decided on the sword and sorcery vs. epic fantasy question. This story sort of lives in the grey area in between. But, that doesn’t have to stop me from writing the first book. The question will only come up in how I build–or fail to build–the greater arc in the later books.

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I’ve finished what I do with the revisions on BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM.


Now it’s time to see what my critique partners can find that I just didn’t see. And then revise for the problems they found. I’m thinking this one might get published as early as December. If not, January.

And, while I wait to hear back from them, I need to restart work on MAGE STORM, including deciding if it will be epic fantasy or sword and sorcery.  And take care of some housekeeping things, like getting my print books moved from CreateSpace to KDP Print.

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Second Read-Through

So, I’m well on my way through the second read-through of BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM.


Catching a few things. Some changes are almost more like a polishing edit, which is premature. But I did catch a small consistency error that I’d missed on the first pass. I wonder how many more my critique partners will find when I pass this off to them. Small errors can be amazingly hard to find in your own work.

Still think this may be the best story I’ve written yet. Of course, authors always think that about their current work, but this time I think it’s true.

I’m even considering the possibility that that’s what was causing my trouble getting into MAGE STORM–a feeling that it wasn’t up to the same level. Well, I wrote the original several years ago. In some ways, I wouldn’t expect it to be.

I may just have to use that previous version as a very long outline and just completely rewrite the story. Ultimately, if I think it’s not as good as BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM, well, it’s up to me to make it as good–or better.

Challenge accepted.

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Woo Hoo!

I just finished the revisions on BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM!


Well, not completely finished. I still need to do another read-through to make sure I didn’t mess anything up with cut and paste, etc. Probably best if I wait a few days to start that, though. And then it’ll be ready to go to my critique partners–always assuming I don’t find anything else in that read-through, of course.

There was one minor plot thing that I decided to change at the end of the story and a few places where I needed to get deeper into the characters’ emotions. One revision of an unnecessarily complex sentence into two. And a couple of additions that just mirrored something earlier in the story.

But the revision I saved for last was neither of those. In his first POV chapter (Chapter 3), I had deliberately left one of the characters  from the first book anonymous in his first POV chapter. Deliberately because he’s been “lost” so long he doesn’t even remember who he was. In the next chapter in which he appears (Chapter 7), he’s asked who he is and dredges up a name that’s almost–but not quite–right. Then the question emerged: which name should be used in narration until he finally recovers his right name? Especially in his POV chapters. There was a difference of opinion among my critique partners and I had to decide how I wanted to handle it. In his POV chapters keep using the wrong name, or use the right one?

Using the wrong name in his POV chapters felt like highlighting his confusion, but also like it might be overly confusing for readers who might have picked up Book 2 first or just not remember Book 1 all that clearly.

Then I took a look at the chapters. Well, the first time this character gets called by his right name to his face is Chapter 17–and he’s very confused by it. And the first time he actually accepts that that is his real name is Chapter 31. That skates way too close to withholding for my tastes. Withholding is one of my big pet peeves that makes me (as a reader) feel that the author isn’t being honest with me. And that ruins the willing suspension of disbelief. And so, now he’s called, in narration at least, by his right name right from Chapter 3.

I think that’s much better.


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