Music: The Other Writing Muse

 

I once read that you should never listen to music with lyrics while writing. Naturally, I ignored that suggestion and later learned that it is truly a sound piece of advice.

Luckily, besides my towers of classic rock CDs, I have a cabinet full of classical music. There’s Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Prokofiev, Chopin, Wagner, and many others. Classical CD’s are quite the bargain as well. You can get a stack for the price of two or three of the stuff charting on Billboard. Not sure if they’re a bargain on iTunes, but I’m sure someone will post in the comments about it (psst…that’s a hint).

trebleBeside a broad paintbrush approach, think about music that compliments your subject. Listen to Chopin while writing something romantic, Wagner for a major battle scene, Grieg for a morning scene or writing about Dwarves. However, if you need to listen to something between writing spurts, then go ahead and break out that classic rock catalogue.

At those times, when I take a break, out comes The Beatles, Yes, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Dylan, or ELP. Yes, I’m a classic rock child of the ‘60s and ‘70s and I hope you are one too. If you’re wondering about my classic rock choices, then check some of those artists out on YouTube. There’s a plethora of uploaded music and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Another Inspirational Source

Last November during #NaNoWriMo, I wanted to complete the first draft of my second #fantasy novel. The second book in the Tales of Tyrennia Series is set in the Dwarven Kingdom of Eismark. At one point I became stuck. I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block episode, but rather a malaise. During NaNoWriMo 2016, I caught a bad flu and didn’t write for weeks.

So, I thought about what could serve as a healthy push about Dwarves. In a flash, I had an idea. I created a Dwarf toon on Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). After running around Thorin’s Hall and a few quests in the mines, I found myself itching to write again. Suddenly the last three chapters flooded onto my screen. They poured out of me and practically wrote themselves.

The #LOTRO gaming experience turned a fledgling NaNoWrimo into something of a success.

What music or other media inspire you to write?

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW

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2017: A Prolific Writing Year

Hopefully, 2017 will be my most active year as an indie author.

The first novel in my fantasy series, “The Tales of Tyrennia Book One: An Easterly Sojourn” will be (not should be) released this year. The editing is cruising along. The problem was continuous editing. We would get about seven chapters done, and then either the Queen or I would learn something new and start over again.

2017

 

The reason we would jump into repetitive editing was simple. We were not satisfied with the end product. Therefore, after learning something new about editing, it seemed obvious to go back to square one.

I’m happy to report that I am satisfied with the quality. As we complete each chapter, I create a manuscript file. I can’t wait to print out copies and send them off to beta readers.

Draft version 0.5 of “The Tales of Tyrennia Book Two: The Frozen War” is done and waiting in the wings. I call it version 0.5 because of my scant writing style. A strange habit, but rather than cutting the first draft down, mine tend to swell.

What About Short Stories?

I’m so glad you asked. Two short singles will be released as well in 2017, “Little Red Revolution,” and “Psychic Confidence.”

“Little Red Revolution” is a best described as a satirical-vampyrical-romp. I had some compañeros from my former critique group who enjoyed #writing vampire fiction. So, I put this piece together mostly as gag and to poke some fun at the genre. In the end, they loved it.

“Psychic Confidence” should finish up at around five-thousand words. It’s a thriller with a complicated plot, coupled with characters that have aliases. I had worries that I could lose a reader too easily, but my first reader breezed through it without any problems.

There will also be a new collection of #shortstories called “Wondrous Stories: Seven Vile Uplifting Tales.” The stories are quite an assortment. However, there are some binding themes running throughout. Like, what happens when the iron fist of government points a finger at you? Or what happens when individualism clashes with a mob mentality?

Although I’m talking about a lot of work, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a very good year.

What are your goals, writing or otherwise for 2017? Are you #PoweredByIndie?

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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A Week in the life of #NaNoWriMo 2016

Hello Peeps!

I know I should have posted earlier about a very busy 1st week of #NaNoWriMo2016. However, I picked up a particularly nasty bug that takes seven to ten days to run its course. This is the first time that I have been feeling well enough to tickle my keyboard.

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Week one started on Oct. 30th for the Treasure Valley group. We had a kick off dinner at the Black Bear diner in #Boise. Quite a few wordsmiths turned out for some fun and writer’s talk…too bad there wasn’t any whiskey around.

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I made it to a write-in at Barnes & Noble in Boise on Tuesday, Nov. 1. A fairly decent crowd once again. Big thankies to B&N and our coordinator Kelley Thibodeau for arranging those write-ins and the kick-off dinner.

The Mountain Home Writer’s Guild hosted a write-in at Common Ground Coffee on Sunday, Nov. 6th. I prepared a German luncheon. We offered assorted links with flavored sauerkraut, German tater salad (What’s taters precious?  J), a cool refreshing beet salad, and some homemade pretzels. We had six writers. I really expected more, but we all had an enjoyable afternoon.

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I still managed over 2K for the week. Too bad I caught this flu and my word count sank to nothing.

Anyway, how was your first NaNo week? Do anything interesting? Meet any new authors? Did you host an event? Attend a write-in? How’s your writing and word count?

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Hooked by Les Edgerton

I’m somewhat selective when it comes to craft books. Sometimes I feel like most Indie-Authors spend more time reading craft books on writing than they do writing. And let’s not forget about the money spent. As for self-help books for authors, I have a scant but awesome collection. I usually spend a lot of time reading blogs, taking notice of titles mentioned, and then taking aim for that special book.

My first chapter was bugging me. After we (The Queen and I) would edit about eight chapters, we’d discover something new and start all over again. Well, I can comfortably say that now I feel as if we’ve finally “got it.” Yes, the “Queen” and I were doing an awesome job, but we were still treating the first chapter like any other…big mistake, and thank God we had the intuition not to publish.

I took one of Kristen Lamb’s on-line seminars concerning “Your First Five Pages.” As I look back upon the seminar, it was very informative and helpful. Later, she made a blog post about first chapters and recommended “Hooked” by Les Edgerton.

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Like a vigilant and eager student, I clicked over to Amazon and purchased Edgerton’s “Hooked,” and a copy Kristen Lamb’s “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a digital world” (still reading this one).

After reading “Hooked,” everything that Kristen explained during the seminar became crystal clear. I guess I needed time to absorb at my own pace. After all, I haven’t been a student for a millennium or two…well maybe three. O.k. you can stop laughing at me now. 🙂

Within Hooked by Les Edgerton, the “crafty” author-coach will explain to you the importance of an opening line, the first page, the first plot points, and yes, how they all coagulate into a rockin’ first chapter. Also, how to introduce a character, and the incredibly sticky subject concerning backstory, i.e., when to use it and when to avoid it.

On another note, Edgerton delivers with a style that keeps you reading and entertained. It would seem that he took his own advice.:-) Let’s face it; this subject in the wrong hands could turn drier than dust faster than a teenager can answer a text-message. But with Edgerton, the read is smooth sailing.

I can give “Hooked” by Les Edgerton a hearty and well-deserved recommendation. Also, you should check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and take one of her classes too.

What are some of your favorite writing-craft books?

When Authors Break the “Rules”

I think I’ve actually got a handle on most of the rules of writing. I’m not talking about punctuation, grammar, plot, character building, or anything in that venue.  What I am talking about are the finer polishing points that turn my pages from talking to singing.

My latest editing discovery concerned “echoing headwords” for lack of a better term coined by the writing website Immerse or Die. In other words, repeating consecutive sentences with the same first word or more than one paragraph per page doing the same.

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Spring has been a busy time for me and I have not done as much reading, writing, and editing as I should have. Therefore, now that I feel like I’ve got this whole “rule” thing clear in my head, I’ve decided to sit down re-read one of my favorite books. After all, isn’t that a piece of advice you see all over author blogs? Good writers read a lot. This re-reading would of course be a different experience, because I have new eyes.

Good Writers Read

I am not going to name the book or the author, and I am not offering this as a form of criticism. It is simply a moment when you throw your hands up and roll your eyes and say, “Just when I thought it was safe to read again.”

I lounged back in my favorite recliner and opened the book. Alas, everything that I have learned about “echoing headwords,” overuse of “to be,” and naming too many people and places in the first chapter, was completely ignored by the author.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Probably something like, “Well you know, once an author is an established thoroughbred, s/he can break all the rules they want to break.” Cough…gag

Did I happen to mention that this great book (and a major seller) was the author’s first book?

I put the book down and went for another one from my trusted overcrowded shelves. Another first book from another famous author that flaunted all of the rules again!

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What’s a little-ole-self-pubbing-indie to do?

Well…perhaps I should offer those rule breakers some admiration.

Thus far, applying some of these tried and true methods has improved the quality of my writing, and I am quite happy and contented with the results. If someone else wants to throw some rules out the window…let them. I have no problems with another author nestled in their “comfy zone,” as long as their formula is working well for them and their readers.

Despite my confusion, I’ll maintain a “live and let live” attitude.

How do you feel about those who not only break a few rules, but do it well?

***Visit Ernesto San Giacomo’s Amazon Author Page and check out a short story for your e-reader today! Choose one or all – Night Flights – Stasis – Ragged Souls – Gematria²***

 

Indie-Author Stigma Part III: Are 5-Star Reviews Meaningless?

Like many indie authors, I only sport small sales and a scant number of reviews. And like many indie authors, I’m fairly sure that’s not a reflection on the quality of my writing, but rather the state of the current market. Here’s the harsh reality: it’s difficult to sell a 12-20 page short story for 99 cents when others are selling full novels for that price, or even offering them up for free.

I used to chalk my low sales up to just that fact. Flooding the market with so many inexpensive books has muddied the waters, if you will.  But after a recent experience on Twitter, I’m seeing that there’s much more to it than numbers.  The water’s not just muddy, it’s outright toxic.

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Scanning Twitter one evening, I noticed quite a few author Tweets plugging their latest works and their 5-star reviews. Naturally, I clicked on their provided link, took a look at their glowing reviews and then used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature (I think most quality indie-authors already know where I’m heading).

My first horror went something like this…

The prologue heading read “Many Millennium’s Ago.”

How can you call yourself an author when you don’t know the difference between a plural and a possessive? Of course, removing the apostrophe doesn’t correct the matter either, because the plural of “Millennium” is “Millennia.”

Then I read the first paragraph. The author used the tags, “I readily agreed,” and “I say,” within the first three lines. They’re not the standard “I said,” which is fine, but they’re also in two different tenses.

But this book had three 5-star reviews. Cough…gag!

And for my next horror…

I saw another author’s promo Tweet for a short story collection. I jumped at the chance to see this one and clicked over. This collection had about 110 pages and six mixed reviews.

There were five P.O.V. shifts in the first ten lines, including internal thoughts from different characters. I know that such a technique is possible, but it should only be done by the hand of a master. Like Dune, by Frank Herbert. If you’re not Frank Herbert and you don’t have a manuscript to match Dune, then don’t even try it.  This particular author was clearly not practiced in the art of P.O.V. shifts, as it was clunky and impossible to follow whose head I was in.

Yet the collection had one 5-star and nothing below 3-stars. Cough…gag!

If I’d purchased either of these, I would’ve shut off my Kindle and sent out a 1-star review. Does it make anyone else ill that shoddy works are being advertised with 5 stars? I have a very hard time believing that those reviews weren’t paid for, or solicited from friends and family.

I do not cajole, pester, arm-twist, guilt-trip, beg, plead, finagle, nag, or purchase reviews from anyone; what you see on my books is honest feedback from real readers. Between the poor workmanship and the misleading reviews running rampant on Amazon, is it any wonder that indie authors are stigmatized? Doesn’t that get under your skin?

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The Reality

While writing this post, I surfed the internet in an attempt to find others who feel the same way. After all, sometimes I second-guess myself and think I’m being a meanie. Sure enough, I did find a myriad of posts that confirm my sentiments.

This one from Catherine Hoover sums things up:

“When a self-published author doesn’t take pride in their work and just slaps a book up for sale that isn’t even close to being ready for publication…it reinforces the notion that self-published books are of a lower standard.”

I completely agree; poor quality is what has muddied the waters of indie publishing. Now that the “shoddy-ne’er-do-well-wannabee-hacks” are recruiting people to leave misleading glowing reviews, they have turned the water toxic.

In today’s market, being good just isn’t good enough, and if that is not a sad enough reality then consider the following:

Being meticulous, talented, artistic, and making a painstaking effort in order to turn out the finest quality product simply isn’t good enough either. Because through no fault of your own, you had a tainted reputation before you began.

For Readers and Authors

How do you deal with the stigma? Can anything be done? How do you think the community of quality indie authors can fight back?

***See all the titles from Ernesto San Giacomo on Amazon***

A Narrative Balancing Act

Some stories advance by plot or character or both. Certainly, the character of James Bond doesn’t grow because spy thrillers are plot driven.

Sometimes a character gets swept up by outside events, goes through a traumatic adventure, and then tries to regain the solace and peacefulness of their former life. The film The Outlaw Josey Wales (which is a loose re-telling of Candide by Voltaire) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood would be an example of such a narrative device.

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There’s More Than One Way To Balance

Reversals create a balancing as well. In The Natural, Roy Hobbs is a star pitching prospect. His agent bets that he can strike out “The Whammer” (a Babe Ruth figure). He does it and later in the story he becomes a famous Home Run hitter. In a play-off game, the Pirates bring in a Nebraska farm boy with a blazing fastball to strike out Roy Hobbs.  It’s a role-reversal of the bet that happened years earlier.

Last night my wife and I curled up on the couch and watched The China Syndrome. This particular movie used a balancing device that I sometimes like to use in my short stories. The opening and ending shots of this film are the same. Yet, the end shot conveys much more meaning and emotion than the opening image.

And In My Writing

In some short stories, my opening and ending paragraphs are almost identical. Of course, just like in film, the ending carries a weightier meaning and evokes a heightened emotional response. I can think of two examples, “Night Flights,” and “A Purveyor of Odd Things,” from the Ragged Souls collection.

In “Night Flights,” when Peter hangs a new painting at the end, the reader has a deeper understanding of the odd visions the character has been experiencing.

In “A Purveyor of Odd Things,” the transformation of character is complete, yet he is standing in the same place as the beginning and performing the same task.

I wish I could do this in all of my stories, but not every plot lends itself to this particular device. My forthcoming fantasy novel An Easterly Sojourn uses one of the above Balancing acts. However, I’m not ready to give anything away just yet.

Do you use a form of balancing in your writing? Have you tried to use it? Have you noticed it elsewhere?

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 (Final)

The thirty days of furious quill scratching is now over. I know that we all use keyboards now, but didn’t that sound quaint?

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We had some good write-in sessions and got to meet and exchange a few ideas with new authors in the area.

 

Of course I didn’t reach the 50K word milestone, but I did get to the point where I wanted to be. The second novel in the “Tales of Tyrennia Series,” is now taking on definite form. I made it to 10,249 words or 50 pages.

Now I can relax (I hear you laughing) and get back to editing the first novel and another short story collection.

The shorts collection “Pressure Points,” is very close to completion. However, I’m going to get more of the novel “An Easterly Sojourn” edited before going back to the shorts collection. Breaking up the work at hand helps me to deal with it.

How did Camp #NaNoWrimo 2016 turn out for you?

 

Camp NaNo 2016 (Update)

I always find the #CampNaNoWriMo  events to be more difficult because of the time of the year. In November it’s easy despite the minor distraction of Thanksgiving and the coming Holiday Season.

Springtime makes the April NaNo more difficult. There are many home projects that demand attention. Besides the age old “Spring Cleaning” tradition, landscaping and gardening tend to dominate April and May.

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I promise to do a post next month with pictures concerning my landscaping and gardening projects.

Despite all the chores, I have managed to attend two “write-ins” and have a word count of about 10K completed for my second #fantasy novel in The Tales of Tyrennia series. However, I am not done with NaNo. The novel has taken off in a new direction, therefore I #amwriting more. Also, I released a new short during the NaNo season, which means mucho social media time.

Did you get much writing done this month? Did spring get in the way?

The Twilight Zone of Reviews #4

I’ve got a real whopper to tell you about. As most of you know, I’ve just released a new short story called Night Flights.

I went to Goodreads to notify the librarian to list Night Flights along with my other works. To my surprise, it was already there. Huh? Who did that? Then came the next surprise, or should I say horror. It was listed with a one star review. I gasped and my heart jumped into my mouth.

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Pixabay Public Domain Image

 

Who would do such a thing? I mean a one star review is something that you give to unreadable trash. Normally a piece of writing that has miss-spelled words, bad or no punctuation, incoherent and incomplete sentences, is the type of work that would receive a one star review.

Now I know Night Flights might not be appealing to everyone, but one star….get real!

The name associated with the review seemed vaguely familiar, and noticed someone that I know personally from the Boise Treasure Valley Writers Group was listed as a friend of my review troll. I also noticed that the person who left the review lives in Boise. Hmmm, perhaps they really know each other.

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***Put NIGHT FLIGHTS on your e-reader***

Like a flash I notified other author friends asking if they could help. I’ve learned early on from others that you never ever engage with someone who is obviously trolling. Never, ever open a dialog with a troll. Instead get others to leave reviews to negate the work of the lone trouble maker.

I found their Facebook pages and left messages requesting help. Then I decided to see if my review troll had a Facebook page. Sure enough, she had one. As I looked at her picture, I realized there was something familiar about her. Oh my God! I know her! I’ve had her over my house for a critique. I offered her hospitality, food, drink, and waited on her hand and foot.

Now, my mind raced. Did I do or say something inappropriate? Did I offend her in some way?

I get back a few messages. My author friends from Boise knew the individual and would speak to her privately. It was the sister of one of the authors from the group. Holy $hit Batman!

I took a break from the disturbance to make dinner for my wife. It would be better to calm down before doing or saying anything further.

A message comes back from my one star troll’s sister. They were unaware of the review. Apparently, the account was hacked. It must’ve been the same day that I made a promo post in the NaNo Treasure Valley FB page. My one-star-troll was certainly no troll at all.

They assured me that they were actively working on it and were going to make everything right again. Later that evening, the review was changed to 4****, and it lasted for a few days, then it reverted back to 1*. Our little hacker was at it again.

I notified the party concerned and now the review has been completely removed. The whole experience rattled me, but I’m glad it’s over.

And Now For Something (Not) Completely Different

On a happier note, I discovered a five star glowing review on Amazon that I absolutely wasn’t expecting for Night Flights so soon with just a handful of copies sold (which has nothing to do with the previous debacle). Then a second 5**** review appeared a few days later.

 

I wrote the other “Twilight Zone” blog posts because other reviewers have used the words Rod Serling, and / or The Twilight Zone in the same sentence. Well… it has happened once again.

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***Put RAGGED SOULS on your e-reader***

(***Important Note: Some of those Twilight Zone references were for short story singles that have since been taken down because they are now part of the Ragged Souls collection***)

Night Flights now has two five star reviews under its belt, one of them states “…surprise ending that is comparable to any script written for The Twilight Zone.”

Also of note, I haven’t been on Goodreads for a while, but when I logged in to discover the aforementioned catastrophe, I also discovered a 5 star review for Gematria‎².

So fellow Indie Author compañeros…got any juicy review stories to tell? Have you ever been trolled? Have you ever had a surprise slama-dama-ding-dong review?

Thoughts on Chapter Titles

Is it better to title a chapter or just number it?

The gurus, sages and soothsayers of the publishing industry really don’t seem to have a clear answer on this subject. I’ve done some searching and still haven’t found a definitive answer. It all boils down to taste.

Even among readers this question can’t be answered. Some readers get enticed by the titles; it may prompt them to purchase the book, or to press on into the night way past bedtime. Other readers prefer numbers and imagine their own title.

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Open Book by Dave Dugdale used under CC License

It would seem like this is a parallel phenomenon to the character description conundrum. Some want a total description, while others want to create their own mental picture.

I truly believe this lack of concrete answers permits me to simply apply my own taste and work from there. Chefs do that all the time. They might add, substitute, or remove an ingredient based upon their own taste. I’ve admitted to doing that for some of the lovely meals from my Best Recipes Ever section on this blog.

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***Put NIGHT FLIGHTS on your e-reader at AMAZON***

Personal taste time

I always skim through the table of contents when I’m browsing in a bookstore. Yes, I find the chapter titles to be a curious enhancement and enticement. They act as a builder of anticipation and help to give a coherent organization to the story. Each chapter becomes a mini-story in itself yet contributes to the whole. I think they are more telling than a blurb. Also, I have to admit that there is a unique charm that stems from chapter titles. After all, Tolkien did it, and it was his works that put me on the path of the fantasy genre.

Some naming conventions

A Place Name

Name a place where something important to your plot or main character is going to take place, like a clandestine meeting or a battle. This is great for fantasy authors, because you get the hidden benefit prompting readers to study the map of your world. Tolkien used this technique in The Fellowship of the Ring: Book Two Chapter V: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm.

A Character Name

This is a good way to introduce a new character or to shift the point of view. I’ve seen a few novels where different characters experience the same event and each chapter is dedicated to how each of those characters perceives or is affected by the event. Tolkien did this to introduce Aragorn under his alias in The Fellowship of the Ring: Book One Chapter X: Strider. George R.R. Martin does this all the time in the Game of Thrones series for different P.O.V.’s

Your Main Character’s Thoughts or Quotes

This could be a great retort, a simple quote, inner thought, or a surprise for your main character. From Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged comes Part III Chapter 7 “This is John Galt speaking.”

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***Put RAGGED SOULS on your e-reader at Amazon!***

In the end

I believe the bottom line should go something like this. Chapter titles are not going to transform a ho-hum novel into a page turner, nor will it turn a great novel into unpublishable trash. Just do what your artistic instincts lead you to do.

Do other authors prefer to create titles? As a reader, do you prefer them?

Physical Descriptions of Characters

Feedback from a reader/ critique can range from dispute over a plot point to nitpicking over a single word. One that I usually receive has to do with physical descriptions of characters, or at least in my case, the lack thereof.

Isn’t it called a short story for a reason?

When it comes to short stories, I know that I am going to be on a strict “word-diet” before I type the first word. Every keystroke carries a greater weight than in a novel. Therefore, if a character’s physical appearance has absolutely no bearing on the story or the theme, should I bother with it?

From another point of view, I’ve only mentioned a gun in one story, because it is the only story that has a shooting scene. Wouldn’t it have been ridiculous to put guns in the hands of every character in every scene in every short story when it will never be used?

Literally speaking, short stories should be tight, compact, and economical.

Are physical descriptions too formulaic?

Physical descriptions seem that way to me. At times, they are an almost obligatory boring formula. However, that doesn’t mean that I avoid them completely. After pondering this question and taking a very critical eye to my past and current writing projects, I stumbled onto an article in Writer’s Digest.

Within the article, one point brought out was an example of how not to describe a character, called an “All Points Bulletin.” Well, it would seem like my gut feelings were right about shunning the dreaded APB style of description. I don’t pretend to be an expert or writing guru. I merely document what I’m learning. However, I get especially excited when I read something by an expert and discover that my artistic instincts led me to do things correctly.

What about minor descriptions?

Now I am guilty as charged. Sometimes I do offer drips and drabs concerning description. But only just enough to let the reader fill in the rest or to make a character or story aspect stand out without drawing heavy attention to it. In this manner, a reader can take a few hints and finish off the character’s description.

For example, in the short A Purveyor of Odd Things, Detective Renner Branson’s complexion is described as ruddy. That minor piece of description signifies that his budding relationship with Hannah Dixon is inter-racial.

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***Buy Ragged Souls at Amazon***

In Martha’s Kitchen, I made a significant description of the diner, the clothing, and the hair styles of Martha and Jillian. Everything was 1960’s “retro” to demonstrate their desire to cling to the past. Here’s the fun part, I’d say about fifty percent of the readers have asked me why I portrayed them as African-American. To which my answer is “I didn’t…you did that.” My only goal was to firmly establish them as southerners through dialog.

In the latest release Night Flights, I shied away from description and naturally got chided about it by a two beta readers. However, instead of adding a physical description of Jane, I decided to describe the quality of her appearance.

From “Night Flights”: An older series of nude studies completed last spring filled the left side of the studio, depicting Jane as an alluring but gentle nymph, charged with high-powered sexual energy, her face radiating a unique virginal innocence.

I also gave a small tidbit about Peter having very long hair. Perhaps a reader will create a bohemian artistic lifestyle and looks.

From “Night Flights”: Peter rubbed his forehead, untied his pony tail, and ran his fingers through his hair before releasing an exasperated breath.

In a forthcoming collection of six shorts called “Pressure Points,” I included a very detailed description of the main character in the story “An Internet Troll.” I’m still editing, therefore the following excerpt may change a bit before the release.

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***Buy Night Flights at Amazon***

From “An Internet Troll”: Her rotund body waddled as she walked. A round face and upturned nose tip gave her face a porcine quality. Thin legs projected a body image like two toothpicks supporting a misshapen meatball. Dirty clothes and greasy matted hair completed a distasteful compilation of unattractiveness coupled with unkempt hygiene.

In Conclusion

For me, character descriptions have always been something of a sticky point in my short stories. In my novel I do go through a battery of descriptions, both physical and mental. Although they are presented here and there to slowly build characters up.

How deep do your descriptions go? Are you going back to look over a few things now? Was this somewhat helpful?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

I know that some don’t give the April #CampNaNoWriMo the same attention as the main NaNoWriMo event in November. However, I am going to approach 2016’s Camp NaNo with all of the same seriousness as the November event for the first time.

Editing can be a more grueling process than writing a first draft. To be honest, I’ve had it up to here (my hand is under my chin) with editing. I’ll gladly switch hats for the next thirty days.

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To Display My Sincerity

My writer’s group has decided to change our April meetings from critique sessions to write-ins. We are also going to make the pilgrimage to Boise in order to write with our comrades in the Treasure Valley Group. They tend to sponsor a lot of write-ins in the local Barnes & Noble. A perfect situation, I get to write, and my wife gets to browse. Rather, she’ll say she’s going to browse, but will wind up with a stack of books at the cash register.

What Will I Write?

Well, I did not finish the draft of my second fantasy novel, “The Frozen War.” Although the first one, “An Easterly Sojourn” is not yet edited, I decided to start the second. Remember, you can’t edit a blank page. Of course how much better will it be that after publishing the first novel, I can jump right in and start editing the second one.

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The Best Part

I don’t mercilessly push myself during a NaNo event. There’s no sweating of blood or feelings inadequacy due to not meeting a goal. I simply look at the files at the end of the month and get a sense of satisfaction from a stack of pages that wouldn’t exist were it not for NaNo. That doesn’t mean that I approach it half-heartedly either. I simply allot more time for writing and attend write-ins.

What about you?

What writing project will you work on?

Cover Idea for “Night Flights”

Mimicking the style of certain movie posters for a book or short story cover can be an entertaining challenge. Of course I’m not talking about copying, but rather imitating a style. If you were to look at the posters for these films ( Barry Lyndon, Anatomy of a Murder ) you’ll see what I am talking about. Many other films have used this type of cut-out cartoon, and I’d like to try it out for my new short story single called “Night Flights.”

I distinctly remember this type of artwork used in movies from years ago, but when I went searching for them, they were updated. For example, the cover for “The Longest Day” went from the cutout style to a new version that oddly resembles “Saving Private Ryan.” So much for nostalgia. There are other reasons why I want this cover to look like something the 1950’s or early 1960’s, but then I’d be spoiling part of the story.

Here’s a “first-draft” of the cover.

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I made this image using Adobe Photoshop, but I’d like to make a better version on a tablet with a new drawing program, or on power point. If someone were to zoom in or if they look at it on a large tablet, it would pixelate. Also, Power Point and other drawing programs have more font options.

Does this cover design get a “thumbs up” from you?

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Hosting a Write-In

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Image Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

I live in a small town. The writer’s group is not a large one, but we do have enough members to host a write-in for #NaNoWriMo 2015. I also belong to a larger group based in #Boise, Id. My goal was to get the two groups together.
First I needed a venue, which turned out to be an easy task. The local writer’s group meets in a coffee shop. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there are #Indie-Authors, there’s coffee. The owner loved the idea for the write-in and told us to go ahead and spread the word.

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Yes! I made that Cannoli

Now that I had the place, I had to come up with an idea to attract writers from Boise as well. This was going to be a difficult task, because there are many writing events taking place in Boise. Therefore I needed to concoct a way to entice others to take a 40 mile drive. The answer was a free-lunch.
I made up a tray of baked ravioli, chicken salad sandwiches, and cannoli. For the most part, it worked. One of the Boise members took the drive. Also, a few writers in town not normally associated with the local joined in with us. I would have liked more bodies to show up, but in the end it wasn’t a disappointment.

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We got together, stuffed our faces, and banged away at our respective keyboards. I completed almost 2,000 words that day for my second fantasy novel…woohoo.
How did NaNoWriMo 2015 go for you?

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#NaNoWriMo 2015: Week 1

Well the first week of #NaNoWriMo is over. It could’ve been more productive but there are extenuating circumstances. 1) My wife is home from deployment and was still enjoying leave time. It would’ve been really wrong of me to shun her and spend selfish time at the PC. 2) Also she’s on a renovation quest. The kitchen needs an overhaul, so we spent a lot of time at Lowe’s & Home Depot.

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Image Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

Aside from domesticity, I did manage to squeeze in some writing time and made it to a “write-in” in Boise, Id. This is my first attempt at NaNoWriMo from scratch. I did participate last year but only to finish off my manuscript for “An Easterly Sojourn.” Book one in my #fantasy series called Tales of Tyrennia.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, I started the manuscript for Book II: “The Frozen War.” So far I’ve managed 6,232 words. Already the book has taken off despite my planning. I love it when a plot or a character takes on a life of their own and moves away from my notes in a different direction. Don’t you love that too?

I’m though the first six chapters and had to update my notes because the subject matter of Chapter six was never planned. So back to my notes and change the chapter numbers.

Stay tuned…I’m hosting a “write-in” at a local coffee shop for the #Treasure Valley Group. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How far along is your NaNoWriMo 2015 manuscript?

For the Sake of It: An #Indie-Author Dilemma

Should an independent author break with traditions and standards or follow them? That is the question. I can’t discuss all of them but I would like to mention that one shouldn’t do either if it is only for the sake of doing it.

When your heart, gut, and artistic judgment tell you to go in a particular direction, you should listen and do so. I’m sort of going through this situation with my editor. She’s insisting upon a trilogy that follows the exploits of my main character, the master thief Daggorat and his confidant Cyril the mage.

I can foresee my fantasy world of “Tyrhennia” giving birth to 12 or even 15 novels. Different characters, races, and Kingdoms of an entire world can support a long series.

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A Thinking Man by Wesley Nitsckie used under CC Licence

Will there be a trilogy within that body of work? Perhaps there will be. I haven’t started to write about or even think about any other locations within Tyrhennia, so I can’t say how it will go.

My editor is not insisting on a trilogy because I’ve compacted too much in too few pages. I would understand that bit of wisdom and follow. However, she’s insisting on a trilogy because “That’s what everyone else does.”

I refuse to compromise the quality of my work for the sake of “what everyone else does.” I have two interesting plots for Daggorat and Cyril, and that’s all I see at this moment. I could have a flash of inspiration and move toward a trilogy. But as of now, forcing a trilogy would mean stuffing extra useless filler material into two novels simply for the sake of it.

Does The Godfather Part III or the latest movie trilogy based upon the Hobbit ring a bell? Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Jackson are no slouches when it comes to the director’s chair. Also, they have gobs of funding and skilled artisans working with them; and yet look what happened.

Always follow your heart and artistic intuition.

Are you ready to compromise your artistic creations simply for the sake of following everyone else?googlecov2

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Star Trek Fan Fiction

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Star Trek Telephone by Alex Kerhead used under CC License

“The Green Gas Giant,” is a Star Trek fanfiction short story based upon the original series during the five-year mission, and it went over well at my critique group. Even younger members who don’t know anything about the original series were snorting and chuckling. It was odd that the day after presenting this piece did the news start circulating about the death of Leonard Nimoy. A few members of our group noticed the eerie connection and mentioned it on our Facebook page. I guess it was just “one of those things.”

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by NBC Television [Public Domain} via Wikimedia Commons

My first visit to a fanfiction website was quite an eye-opener.

I could say that besides traditional publishing there’s the world of independent authors, and then there is the third world for authors, fan fiction. The amount of work was staggering. Then what caught my attention was the size of some of those files.

There are many short stories, which could be expected, but there were also entire novels and trilogies. Besides lots of stories concerning Star Trek, I had to sift through a long column of subject matter from “Glee” to “I Dream of Jeannie” and everything in between (psst…and that’s just the amount of fan fiction dedicated to TV shows).

Naturally, I couldn’t resist but to dive head first into this vibrant literary sub-culture. But what should I write about? For me, the answer was obvious; I decided to write a comical short story based upon the original Star Trek series.

Please remember to drop a few comments after reading about “The Green Gas Giant.”

#Writing Resolutions for 2015

A new year has just been born, and like most other authors, I’m making a list and checking it twice. Except this list has nothing to do with presents or the holiday season. I’m assessing what #writing projects can be finished and marketed in 2015.

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2015 Calendar Template by Sheri Oz Used under CC License

Of course I’m checking the list twice because I don’t want to set up a bar that seems impossible to accomplish. After all, there’s no reason to put oneself under unnecessary stress to complete a mountain of work. I made that mistake last year, and I shouldn’t do it again. Currently, my list of goals for the New Year seems quite possible to complete.

My first and most important goal is editing and publishing my #fantasy novel “The First Light.”

Finish and publish my second short story collection called “Stasis and Other Dystopian Tales”

I also have two comedic #StarTrek fanfiction pieces that need to be edited as well.

Lastly, I have several short stories and a few flash fiction pieces that I’d like to try to publish traditionally. These stories can’t be put into a collection because they vary in genre. Therefore, I’ll finish what I can. I consider this part of my list to be the “cherry on the cake” so to speak.

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Happy New Year Everyone!

What’s on your list for 2015?

 

Quality Editing: People Will Notice

I have a very strict and grueling editing process. After my first draft is complete it goes to my wife (The Queen) for a cleaning. I’ll make any suggested changes for clarity, verb choice, descriptions et al and pass it back to her. She’ll make another pass and then it’s ready for a critique group (I’ll go into these processes in detail in later posts).

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After the critique group (about 4-7 readers) is done, I’ll address any changes that I deem necessary.

Then it goes back to “Queen-editor and chief” for any further corrections. I’m still not done.

Now it is time for the beta readers.  The piece is mostly “clean” for beta readers, so their concerns can be addressed with a few minor tweaks.

Finally the piece is ready for public consumption.

All of my Amazon and Goodreads reviewers have been impressed. They’ve mentioned that they love the quirky stories and characterizations. However, some have also called attention to the quality of the work, i.e., the quality of the prose, the lack of passive voice, or no grammatical errors. They recognized the time and trouble taken to create a quality product.

Therefore, do not ever skimp on your editing process, because people will notice.

Have others ever remarked about the process that you’ve put into something?