Archive for the ‘books’ Tag

Untold Damage, Well Told Story   Leave a comment

Hi, Gang.

It’s been awhile, I know. But, as I said in my last blog, I’m sick of yakkin’ about myself. I’ll have plenty to to bore you with once I write a story that I think you might want to read. So, I went looking for other ways to use my blog. (Before you all think I died and forgot to tell you.)

One of the best things I could think of is to help a few of the authors I know get some web presence. Particularly if they have a published work. I consider self-published as published, by the way.

Now, I will warn everyone that I will never, Evvvvver, say I liked a story when I didn’t. But do remember. I’m just one joker in the deck. And most of you know what I think of a single person’s opinion. Even mine. We all have one, and they all stink.

Beyond that BS: I’ve been doing some heavy reading. Recently, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Robert Lewis’s Untold Damage. I will say that I am a fan of a well told ‘cop’ story. Particularly when the tale isn’t really a ‘cop’ story. Untold damage, at least as far as what I got ‘out of it, is a human story. The same kind of story that made hits out of shows like Criminal Minds, Or CSI, (Pick one, they were all pretty good.).

Yes. Mark Mallen is a cop. Even though he is a junkie and in disgrace―he is a cop. But Mr. Lewis also makes it plain. Mallen is a human being who made some bad choices, and wants nothing more that to be the police officer he once was. Be the man he once was.

Now add to this mess a dead best friend; two goons who want nothing more than his ass dead, (Once they get bored with torturing him, that is.); an estranged wife and daughter; and a mystery that gets deeper with each page. Now as crime dramas go. That’s a damned good combo.

By the way. Publisher Midnight Ink, a division of Llewellyn Worldwide, lists Untold Damage as a mystery. And they’re right. But ya ain’t getting any spoilers out’ta me, Chuckles. Besides, you maniacs would want to parboil me if I ruined the story for you.

The only thing that bugged me a bit are the flashbacks. This is a personal thing, Folks, but I’m not a big fan of flashbacks, or dream sequences. Mostly because they pull me out of the story the author got me interested in. Which is where I want to be. Mr. Lewis has quite a few flashbacks woven into his novel. And to his credit, they are necessary to understanding the story. Kudos. But, I wanted to stay with the main story, and slightly resented being pulled out of that story. I honestly think a lot of the flashback info could have been woven into the main story for a much better effect.

If there ever was a litmus test for a story―This is it, Gang. Can a story interest the reader enough to make them forgive violating a pet peeve, and keep reading?

For me, the answer was yes. I honestly wanted to know what the heck was going on. I rooted for Mallen to keep going and solve the crime. In short, I wanted to finish this story. More important, I want to read the next novel.

Now, I’m just a storyteller… I hope… so this is the only compass I can go by when reviewing a story. I’m not college educated, and I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my tailbone were set aflame. But, I know when I like a story, and I like Untold Damage.

I also recommend Untold Damage. Even if you’re not inclined towards crime drama, or mysteries.

Now, remember guys and gals, I am a Book Ho. Actually, I’m a Story Ho. I liked Piccadilly Cowboy author, Terry Harknett’s Edge series. That would get me hung in some circles. Or at the very least, looked at as the village idiot. But I like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, as well. Go figure.

Now, I don’t believe in thumbs up, or star ratings, (What? Are we still in kindergarten here?), so I don’t use them. Either it’s a good story, in my opinion―or it’s not. Untold Damage is a good story.

Later, Gang. 😉

Why Am I Doing This?   Leave a comment

Well hi there, brothers and sisters.

Since Aaron kick started me with the blog I did last week, I figured it might be a good idea if I got back to keeping up with my responsibilities’ around here. I mean there’s no sense in having a blog if you don’t blog, is there? The only problem is, I tend to run out of subjects to blather on about. But I’ll give it a shot and try to get at least one blog in a week… maybe two if I’m lucky.

Now you may suspect that the above title pertains to this blog, but it doesn’t. Instead the title is a paraphrased version of a question I have been asked a few times about my nearly finished novel, Wolfsong. It generally gets asked when the person posing the question discovers that I plan on giving away a novel that I’ve been working on and revising for the past three years.

Usually the actual question is, “You worked on this story for three years, and you’re going to give it away for free? For God’s sake why?” Or something along similar lines.

Putting aside the look on the questioner’s face at the moment, (The one that makes me suspect they have the local mental health clinic on speed dial and are thumbing the button.), it’s a legitimate question. Why am I basically working for free over the last three years? The truth is… I’m not.

Wolfsong actually began as something of an experiment, and a bet between my wife, Tammie, and myself. She had found a few short stories that I did ages ago and kept for sentimental reasons. She also discovered an online story I co-wrote on a renaissance festival site that encourages such things. Which prompted her to ask why I didn’t write anymore.

I went on to explain that writing was one damned hard profession to make a living at, and made certain to include all the negative things that I’d come up against back in the 80s. I might as well have been discussing advanced quantum mechanics with the Statue of Liberty. Not that she didn’t understand… she did. But, the poor dear has more faith in me than I have any right to expect.

So, just to prove my point, I went back to work and created Wolfsong. To be fair, I did my best at the time, and put every outdated thing I remembered about writing into it. Then, I tried to sabotage the whole mess by making the book a POD, (Print On Demand), and doing absolutely as little as I could to promote it. My evil plan was to be able to say, “See? I told you so.” It didn’t quite work out that way. The darn thing double crossed me and sold a few copies, (So, you see, I already did make a couple of bucks off the story.).

Ok. So she was right, and I was wrong. If I’d have known at the time such a thing would happen, I would have done a better job on the story. Now that I know, I am doing just that. I pulled the title, treating it as a rough draft, (And believe me, boys and girls… it IS a rough draft.), then set to work rewriting and revising the story. The difference now is, I want to attract some readers. To do that I need to put my A-game forward instead of just a half-hearted attempt to prove myself right and my poor wife wrong. I never win at that one, anyway. But I keep trying.

Now, I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I did realize that the story had some potential to attract that many readers with no promoting. A couple even left me nice reviews. So I decided to put my blood, sweat, and soul into the story and polish it to a flawless diamond shine. Or, as close as I could get it.

I found some beta readers, a few critique partners, and let them rip into my baby with both barrels. If you happen to be a writer who hasn’t done this yet with your story; you’ll soon understand why Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a writer.

In the meanwhile, as I worked on the seemingly endless revisions, I got back into relearning the craft. My dear aforementioned wife presented my with a library of books on writing, and I began getting back into the swing of things.

All of this preamble aside; Why am I doing this? To improve my writing? Yes. In the hopes of gaining a larger readership? Yes. To have a chance of making a living? Honestly. Yes.

But most of all; I am doing this to provide what readers I can get with the best work I can possibly turn out at any given moment. I kind of think they deserve it, even if it is free. And win, lose, or draw, I will always believe that.

Later, Gang. 😉

The Next Big Thing (Week 23)   Leave a comment

Hoo, Boy!

Looks like I’ve been neglecting my duties here, again. But to my defense; I have been working my hairy fanny off, trying to get my WIP polished to perfection before I turn it loose on the unsuspecting minds of readers everywhere. And believe me, brothers and sisters, if you care about what you do, that takes up a major chunk of your time.

Unknown to me, there is a longstanding blogging tradition among authors known as So You Think You Can Write A Novel. At least it was unknown to me, until my awesome fellow author, and good friend, Aaron Bradford Starr, Tagged me to do this myself. And if you don’t believe me that Aaron deserves the title awesome, take the Pepsi challenge and check out his work through his blog, Imaginary Friend. I’m more than willing to take wagers that you’ll agree.

Following the tradition for a moment I’m supposed to wax all philosophical about being a writer. Well… I would, but those of you who know me know it would be 99 and 44/100s pure BS. In short, I’m an old hack who seems capable of telling stories. And I’m OK with that. Creating entertaining stories that people might enjoy is all I’m really after, anyway. Should something good, (Like making a living.), come out of all of this; I’ll be jumping on my own couch like Tom Cruise on crank.

But enough of this, let’s get to answering the traditional questions, shall we?

1- What is the working title of your book?
Wolfsong: Child of Fenrir. The book is a stand alone story that I propose to expand into a trilogy. Awwww. Who am I kiddin’? It is a trilogy, but you can read one book and it will be a story all unto itself. No tricks, no BS. No having to wonder what comes next, unless you happen like it and want to know what else I have in mind for my characters.

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?
My love of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I wondered if I could create a swashbuckling hero along the same lines without making a carbon copy of Conan. At least that was the initial challenge, and like all ideas, it ballooned into something else from there. Did I succeed? I’ll leave the answer to that up to you dear readers. I happen to agree with Mark Twain: Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

3- What genre does your book fall under?
That’s a toughie. It has nearly equal elements of Fantasy, History, Action Adventure, and Romance. I guess if I had to pick a genre for it, it would probably be Historical Fantasy.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Morgan Wulfsson: Cris Hemsworth. Nivia Gwynn: Uma Thurman. Marcus Octavius: Tom Hiddleston

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
During the Roman occupation of Britain an unlikely hero arose to stop the expansion, and in the process gave England its most enduring legend.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. As a matter of fact, I plan on making it free. At least as far as the e-book goes. The Print On Demand hard copy I plan to cut to the bare bone on price, if anyone would prefer a traditional book to an e-book, that is. On Amazon, Smashwords, and hopefully all the other e-book venues I can get into, it will be free, though. The idea being that I hope to attract readers who will enjoy my stories, and the ones who don’t won’t lose money by taking a chance on me. No one can please everyone, but i hope to please as many as I can. Hence all the work I’m putting into the project.

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
One year. And BOY! Was it R-O-U-G-H draft. A lot of it was a good idea, but quite a bit was just plain silly. I could have probably sold those parts to Monty Python.

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Another tough question. (Hey Aaron! I thought you said these were easy?) I would have compared Wolfsong to the Conan stories at one time, but things have deviated so far that I don’t think that would apply, except for superficially. I do know what movies it would compare to, though: Dragonheart, Troy, Alexander, and Kingdom of Heaven. (Hope that qualifies.)

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?
My wife, Tammie. She found some of my old short stories, and a story that i co-wrote on a Renaissance festival website. She was the one who encouraged me to get back into the game. I resisted for a while, then did it just to prove to her it was a dead end. I ended up eating crow on that one and made some sales that put real money in our pocket. Ya know something? Considering how things have gone so far, crow don’t taste all that bad.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a lot of research into the culture of the Celts and their reaction to Rome in the book. I also did my best to present an accurate picture of how Celtic life could have been in those days. Considering that the Celts did not have a written history, and I’m certainly not saying that I hit the nail on the head, I think I’ve presented a story that is imaginative, and plausable. More than anything, even though it is a fantasy and contains the traditional elements of fantasy, (Magic, mythic beings, etc.), I think the reader will come away thinking, “You know, that could have happened.”

OK, Gang, here is where I let you all know who I tagged to do this with their stories next week. Now, since Arron and I move in pretty much the same circles, we share pretty much the same author friends. So, when I say the pickin’s are slim, you know I’m not just flappin’ my gums at ya. I’m waiting to hear from a few other great authors I know. However, since I have a week to fill this up a bit…

I do have the incredible Joyce Alton of Yesternight’s Voyage on the hook for the 21st of the month. Be sure to check out what she has to offer on the above subject. I also have the amazingly talented Alisha Marie Klapheke, and her blog, I Heart Words. So be certain to check what they have on their own great works. That way you’ll be sure to catch The Next Big Thing.

Now all this still leaves me with three more spots to fill, and if I can sucker… Uhhhh, con… Uhhh talk three more fantastic authors in my circle into doing this, I’ll be sure to update the post. So check back here over the next seven days, and be sure you don’t miss Joyce, or Alisha giving you the lowdown on their books. Who knows? You could be saying to your friends. I knew about that best seller before you did.

Later, Gang!

Digital Self-Publishing and DYI   Leave a comment

Keeping up with the changes to the world of writing over the past couple of decades or so, seems daunting enough. Between Print On Demand technologies, Epublishing, Kindle, Mobi, Barnes&Noble getting in on the ebook reader bandwagon, as well as the ever shrinking advances and support from the traditional publishing houses; it can feel more than a bit overwhelming for the aspiring author. Particularly if you happen to be completely new to the business.

To make matters worse, if you do decide to go the self-publishing route you will discover that everything is left in your hands. This means that you are responsible for Graphics, (your cover art); Typesetting, (the look of your book), Proofreading (finding all those niggeling little gaffs that people will point to and say, “What a dumbass.”); Editing, (I don’t really have to explain this one, do I?); Marketing, (Advertising, promoting, etc.); and Formatting, (making certain your ‘baby’ looks just as good in Kindle as it does in Mobi, etc.).

Unless you happen to have major bank to hire a pro to do these jobs for you, you are stuck with Do It Yourself, (DYI). The problem here is, not all of us are Graphic artists, Salesmen, or typesetters. (Plus one points if you know what kerning is. If you have to look it up, then you know what I’m rambling on about.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a big bankroll to spend on any of these necessary endeavors. To be honest, with my medical bills I’m doing well to ensure we get to eat something besides soup beans once a month around the old homestead. That fact alone leaves me in pretty much the same situation as most of you out there.

And lets face it, most of us are not computer programmers. So formatting in different reader languages holds the same frustration as trying to write a gaming program in C++, Pascal, Cobal, and Assembly simultaneously. Which doesn’t take into consideration that most programs are notoriously stubborn about reading another programs files. In fact they’re downright prejudiced about it. One of the reasons that webpages view differently between browsers.

But, take heart. Although this all seems to be akin to climbing Mount Everest with nothing more than a bag of rosin and a pair of tennis shoes for equipment, there is much we can learn to make the task easier. We might not be able to do every one of those tasks that go into publishing a book, but what we can do will go a long way towards “rolling our own.”

For this round let’s focus on formatting. Since most of us are trying to make a living as writers, we need to build as large a readership as we possibly can within our chosen genres. This means that we can not rely on Amazon, or Smashwords to do the job for us. Well, we can with Smashwords, to an extent. But that seems akin to allowing someone else to breathe for us. It might work, but it probably won’t work as well as breathing for ourselves.

Unless you are proficient in HTML, XML, or Mobi, you’re going to have to find a way to accomplish this task for ourselves. As you probably guessed, this means a couple of programs to do the job for us, and a way to check our results.

First off you will need at least two separate ebook reading programs, one for Kindle and one for Mobi, (Barns& Noble use the Mobi format). The Kindle reader program is free for your PC, and can be found here from Amazon. Mobi format reader for PC can also be downloaded for free here. And if you want to make certain that you have as many possible versions to cover as many bases as you can, here is where you can find out about The Top 4 Free ePub Readers for PC.

Ok. Now that we have a way to actually see what our ebook will look like in pretty much all the top ebook readers, it’s time to get down to some serious DYI formatting.

The easiest way to get this part of the job done also involves two free programs. One is Sigil, a What You See Is What You Get, (WYSIWYG), ebook editor; the other is Calibre, an ebook manager capable of doing a pretty good job of changing an ebook’s format without messing up the book’s look… most of the time. To fix any problems you may have in this, and other areas of useing these two programs to format your own ebooks for self-publishing, here are some links to a few tutorials that can help you over those rough spots:

IT Connect/Creating ePUB Ebooks.

How To Easily Write and Publish Ebooks with Sigil.

Getting Started with Calibre.

Now, before you get to thinking this is easy, don’t. It is easier than learning HTML, or Mobi coding language, but your still going to have to do some serious work. The upside is, you will know for certain how your book is going to look to the reader. The more proficient you become in using these programs, the more professional your ebook will look.

Good luck, and I hope this makes it easier for you to get the results you want.

Ever;
Pete

Tough Enough   6 comments

Working through the AQC Speculative Fiction Marathon is an experience in itself. As a result some things have gotten away from me. The blog, for example. It’s probably not a good idea to let it lay fallow for such a long time. Assuming I still have any readers out there, I’ll try not to do so again.

Jumping back into the blogging fray, it occurred to me that one has to have an extreme degree of toughness to consider becoming a writer. Either that, or just enjoy the sensation of pain. It’s a small wonder that Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was an Austrian writer and journalist. The namesake of masochism couldn’t have chosen a better profession to feed his need. (Short of volunteering to be a human target for a knife throwing class, that is.)

All that said, I will say that I am not a friend of pain. The less I experience that sensation in any of its myriad forms the better. But, like death and taxes, it is impossible to avoid completely. In particular when it stands between you and something you want. Such as becoming a published author, for instance.

When I have often heard a non-writer, and on occasion an aspiring writer, comment on what an easy job writing is; I come to two conclusions. One being that they have never tried to seriously become an author. The other is, they need to stop eating those wild mushrooms before they loose all sense of reality, or accidentally kill themselves.

The truth is, the moment you decide to pursue the career you have set yourself up for more work, and abuse, than you could possibly imagine. Not only is your ‘finished novel’ nowhere near as finished as you think, but the task of polishing your baby into publishing quality is one long hard road to travel. Until the book actually sees print you will be rewriting, revising, and rethinking every nuance in it. In short both your baby, and your ego is in for one hell of a beating.

Don’t think for a moment that self-publishing will save your tail, either. Not if your serious. In many ways self-publishing is harder than traditional publishing. Especially if you ignore any well meaning advise you may receive on your work. Since you won’t have the aid of a seasoned editor to help you, you’ll have to take the advice of your beta readers and peers. Ignore that, and I guarantee your reviews are going to chew you a new one. If you are lucky enough to get a review in the first place.

Even better, none of this so far takes into account the massive amount of work you will have to put into marketing your book, promoting your book, and advertising your book. Then, when all that is said and done, it is still quite possible that you’ve done little more than waste your time, effort, and money. The book can still fail simply because the reading public doesn’t want it.

As I said on AQC recently, (A phrase Darke liked so much she tweeted it.): The publishing business is a dog eat dog world, and we are all wearing Milkbone underwear.

Now, I do have to say that it is not my intention to scare anyone away from a career in writing. Instead I’m just trying to give a heads up. This job isn’t the sweet, work-less deal that many take it for. It is hard and brutal. To have a chance of success you have to be tough. You must be willing to wade through Hell just to sandpaper a wildcat’s ass in a phone booth.

It all boils down to one thing. How bad do you want it?

For myself, hand me a sheet of #6 grit, and close the door on the phone booth. 😉

Ever;
Pete

Envisioning A Story   14 comments

Technical aspects of being a storyteller aside, one of the greatest talents a writer can develop is their ability to visualize a story. Now I’m not talking about spending hours with your legs crossed, visualizing a publishing contract, or best seller, landing in your mailbox while chanting, “O Mani Padme Hum”, here. Although if it does work out that way for you, let me know. I’ll be more than happy to risk major leg cramps to achieve the same effect.

No, what I mean about visualizing the story is bringing the tale to life in your own head. Why? Because that ability can, and often will transfer to your readers. And it’s not only aspiring authors who use it to achieve their goals.

How many times have we heard a great actor talk about living the part, or listened to a singer totally enthrall the audience with the emotional power they are putting into a song? It’s pretty much the same thing with telling a story. The more ‘alive’ you can make the tale, the more ‘alive’ it becomes to the reader.

Stage magicians, although they will be the first to pooh-pooh the idea of visualization, do the same thing. The good ones make themselves believe that they are really pulling coins out of thin air, or making doves suddenly appear under their handkerchiefs. And the more they believe it themselves, the more the audience believes it with them.

Think not?

Richard Osterlind, in his seminal book ‘Making Magic Real’ gives this bit of advice to the novice conjurer:

“If you can truly believe what you are pretending to do is really happening, then your audience will believe it, too.”

The same holds true for good story telling. It doesn’t matter if you are writing Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Romance. It doesn’t matter how implausible your circumstances are, as long as you can make it real for yourself first. That’s where visualization comes in.

When you can see, hear, smell, and feel the story in your own mind, you can write with an added measure of conviction. This allows you to develop an empathy with your readers, because you ‘lived’ the story as you developed it. Consequently, the reader will live the story as they read it.

Your story begins with you, and it will only be able to carry the life that you breathe into it.

I know there are a few who will say, “But, I can’t visualize.” The truth is, you are lying to yourself. Anyone can, and does, daydream. A daydream is simply an uncontrolled visualization. The trick is to take control and direct the daydream, and the New Age shelves are filled with books that teach just that.

I’m not saying you have to believe the metaphysical side of these books, but the techniques and exercises that develop your ability to visualize what you want to are invaluable. Barring that, Tony Robbins makes heavy use of visualization techniques in his self-help books and gives many exercises that do the same thing. So, if you are uncomfortable with New Age, at least you have an alternative.

No mater way you choose, developing your ability to visualize your story will make you a much better writer. Your tale will have life in it and be far more to your reader than just words on a page with a few sneaky plot twists.

You will still need all the technical aspects of writing such as grammar, spelling, style, etc. But, at the least your story will have more heart and that is probably the most important part of being a good storyteller.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go sit cross-legged on the floor and start chanting, “O Mani Padme Hum”, now. (Gee, I hope this works!)

Ever;
Pete

The Entertainer   7 comments

Hello and welcome.

Although I can’t say for certain just how many people out there will be interested in watching a aspiring author as he struggles to get his foot in the door of the publishing business, there is one thing I can guarantee; it will be entertaining to watch.

Being that I am something of a hambone, I’ve always loved to entertain people. So much so that for a short number of years I was a pro wrestler on the independent circuit in west Tennessee. I never made it to the big boys, I wasn’t quite massive enough, but I had a ball in the independents. Until my back gave out on me, that is.

I was also a part time magician, as well as a graphic artist. And I hocked short stories in the eighties. Some would probably call me an attention hound, and in a way they would be right. However, I can assure you that unless you knew who I was, you would have never recognized me outside of that wrestling ring, and graphic artists are rarely allowed to sign their work in the t-shirt biz.

All that really mattered to me was that I could entertain some people. I really didn’t care if they knew it was me, or not. I still don’t.

That being said, if you do happen to follow my blog I’ll do my best to make you laugh, maybe give you something to think about, or just provide you with an easy target that you can giggle at as it goes down in flames. Either way, I win, because I was able entertain you. And, yes, I did just stick my tongue out at the computer screen.

Of course, what I am really hoping for is to be given the chance to entertain you with my books. Assuming that I can entertain you with my books.

Writing is a tough business, and I harbor no illusions about it. I do keep hopeful, and like most people I hold onto the dream until it crumbles to dust. What I will not do is regret it if it fails. That’s not my job. My job is to try to do my best for you as a storyteller and hope you like the story… or, again, give you something to make fun of instead of politicians.

Either way, I sincerely wish you the best life has to offer and the ability to see your own dreams come true. They are always worth pursuing and often they can be caught.

If you happen to be an aspiring writer, come visit my good friends at AgentQuery Connect. You’ll find a whole lot more there than just how to query an agent.

Ever;

Pete