Monday, February 25, 2013

Stories and Characters

I don't know what it is about this time of year but ideas for short stories keep bubbling up. No sooner have I put to bed all the short pieces I've been working on than a new one has started forming. As it did, I realized that I need more characters if I'm going to keep doing this.

I've known this from the beginning. Last year when I set out to write as many short stories as I could before the edits for Book 1 hit, I decided that these stories would feature characters from my novels only at a time before the novel takes place. So a scene from someone's life so to speak.

But having done that several time now, I'm realizing I need more characters so I can feature them in a stories and perhaps even put them in a novel.

The process of character creation can be hard work. You really need to know what makes the character special and unique and how you will show that to the reader. If we look at real people for a moment, we can say that everyone is special and unique, the problem is you don't know it. It is usually hidden or masked. We do this for lots of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post but the point is the best parts of everyone are hidden. It is only when something happens that we get even a glimmer of what someone is capable of.

In fiction, my job is to show these qualities and to create situations where a character's traits shine. Then you see them and you take a liking or disliking to the character. And even with all the variation in the world, and all the possibilities, it can be hard to develop a character that is different and that you can write well enough to be believable. Often, you have to spend time with the character and that's not something I have in abundance.

Still, I need to start developing characters independently of stories so they will be ready when an idea comes my way.

Where's my notebook?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Another Writer Trap

I've discovered another writer trap, one so sneaky and clever it doesn't look like one. Here's how it works:

I write a story and polish it and send it out and it gets rejected, causing me to go back and revise it. See? It doesn't sound like a trap at all. But when I revise it, I see things I don't like that I should've fixed before, but I didn't so I waste time now fixing and improving the story, which shouldn't be broken. And that's the trap.

Of course, you can argue that this is not a trap, just the normal way writing works sometimes. But I maintain anything that waste writing time is a writing trap and that includes bad writing, bad plot, or bad story elements. And I realized the issue the other day while revising a story that needed work, even though I had sent it out and thought it was done and ready to go.

In my case it was bad plot, which I changed so the whole story works better as a whole. I don't understand why I didn't see these things before. But I didn't. The good news is I've got a new take on the piece and I should have fixed for a March release.

On the other hand, some believe that no writing is bad writing. Sometimes you need to clear cobwebs or ramble around until you figure out what you are trying to say. And that's true. In that context, writing that you will toss out isn't bad or time-wasting; it is more like stretching exercises before the big run. But bad writing happens when you think you know what you are doing only to find it is a mirage.

That's the trap to avoid. So know what you want to say; make sure your purpose and intent is clear.

And above all, keep writing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Something for Nothing

I checked my dashboard in Smashwords the other day to see how all my short stories are doing there and was surprised to see about forty downloads for my latest story. Since I only released it at the beginning of February, that's pretty good.

Then I checked the stats on my other stories they are all showing activity. I assume that's because most of them are free now. But I also assume people who take the risk of reading one story, like what they see and are coming back for more.

Another factor may be that the number of offerings keeps growing. This shows I'm not a one-hit wonder. That's something that I look for and I'm sure that's something that other readers look for too.

Of course, the activity here could be better and the number could be higher. But it's a start. I expect at I release more stories, the number will continue to improve. And all of this is part of my plan make something happen ahead of my novel's release. My thought is that if people like my short stories, they will be more likely to buy my novel. Not sure if that will work but it's worth trying.

So for the next several months I'll be releasing one story at a time. I'm hoping to be able to keep that going even after the novel is out, but what happens after that is a little fuzzy just now. I'll have to figure that out as I go.

Keep writing everyone.

Friday, February 15, 2013


It has taken a few days to feel better after all the shoveling and headaches associated with the blizzard that came through here last week. But I'm on the mend. I've been using the time to construct a new short story. I've had the idea for this story for some time but was unable to pull it together.

That changed this week. Most pieces fell into place. The story is about a magic horn, the kind made from a ram, not the kind you find in a orchestra. Once I knew this, I wrote a small piece of backstory to get the history of the item in place.

Then I focused on the present. Who were the characters of the story and what are they doing it and why? This was the hard part. I knew the horn was in a secluded place so I put in a hilly location, hard to get to. That immediately suggested that I use a young James Claymont, from my novels, who I've established as someone who climbed sheer cliffs and mountains as a young man. In this story, he is a journeyman, bard-in-training, and his master is the guide into the hills.

That only left the person being led. I struggled with this for days going back an forth. I settled on a man who is without scruples, who seeks the horn to buy it. Most people don't do that because the horn is said to grant the user the one thing he wants most. In reality, it passes judgement and gives the person the one thing is deserves.

So when the merchant is unable to buy the horn he uses it figuring it will grant them more money. But that doesn't happen. And in fact it isn't until later that the merchant discovers that the horn has turned his riches to dust, forcing the man to live like all those he swindled for years.

And it was the sense of justice in dealing with the merchant that took me a while to sort out.

I have a few more details to sort out, like the title, but it is mostly put together now. I'm hoping to finish work on this and then go back to Book 4, which stalled just before the storm hit and which I've not looked at since. That's not a problem. I needed time away from it. But I really need to go back to it once I finish with this new project.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Little to Say

I've have very little to say at the moment. I haven't been writing because the blizzard that came through has sap my strength for the moment. I've been forced to dig out from snow banks up to be knees or hips.

The storm also knocked out the power to the entire town and I spent all most of Saturday without power or heat. Then when power was restored, I had to sit with to furnace to get the heat going again. The pilot light keeps going out and it took several hours of relighting it to get to stay lit.

And yet I've been lucky. There are many in nearby towns who still have no power or heat. But I don't feel lucky. I'm tired and sore and in no mood to write. Not yet. But I will eventually.

Meanwhile the publisher is still trying to get the color of the gem right in the cover samples they are sending me. I'm sure it a color calibration thing but I until I see the physical proof, I can't sign off.

Keep writing, if you can.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Just Can't Seem to Get it Right

My publisher sent me a new cover. It had the corrections I wanted except for the color of the gem. I don't know what they can't get that right. I sent them a mock-up of a golden gem and they gave me something lime green.

It may be our monitors are calibrated differently. So to give them the benefit of the doubt I said I can't approve the cover now. I need to see the physical proof, which they told me was planned. It is the only way I'll know for sure.

But it is odd that the color is so far off. And I would show the cover here but I can't do that yet. It still is only an internal draft. But I did look at the image on different computers and each one give me the same lime green.

I suppose the artist could be color blind or perceive greens in an odd way. But I've never heard of that. And yet I have no other explanation. I know my eyes are good because I've had them checked recently.

Guess, I'll wait for the proof like I said.

Keep writing everyone.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I've reached a stopping point in Book 4. I've gotten the characters through one disaster after another and then I checked the word count. That's sort of like counting your chips at the poker table -- never a good idea. But I did it anyway because I was trying to project the word count for the novel.

I was short by about 15,000 words. That's more than I can easily fudge with an added description here or a paragraph of clarification there. So I decided to add an new scene. I was thinking about it yesterday.

The issue isn't that they must now have some new unplanned encounter. The entire series is features all types of encounters. The issue is this new encounter must be relevant to the story or the series because nothing is included without a reason. Nothing. And there are no exceptions.

So I got to thinking about it. I was sure they needed to meet a person stuck out in the middle of the swamp in which they find themselves. Why is the person here? Because she has no choice. A curse! She is cursed to live out here alone until some condition is meet. Okay, that works -- classic fairy tale stuff.

Now as it happens I've been skipping ahead in my planning to Books 6 and 7. Both books have an issue with the plot: how do the characters sail from point A to point B with horses in tow? You see the original outline of these books has the characters sailing to various places to save time and to skip weeks of overland travel. But it never occurred to me that the horses they would use in the first books would need transporting too. Small problem there.

Of course, they could leave their horses in some town stable but they never go back there. Plus several of the horses are named and Ahlan's horse in particular is not about to be abandoned somewhere. I hadn't worked out how to resolved this but figured I could wait until I start writing Book 6 to worry about it.

But I was now adding a new scene and needed to make it relevant. What if as a result of satisfying the condition, which the character help with, obviously, they are rewarded with a way to teleport themselves and their horses from point A to point B? That was very neat and clean and since I'm introducing the teleportation bit in Book 4, no one will suspect that I've planted the magic here to resolve plot issues later.

Very nice. Problem solved. Now I just have to write the scene and hope it is at least 10,000 words. It might be. We'll see.

Keep writing, everyone.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Promotion on the Horizon

I recently the revised cover for my book. It had all the elements it needed and looks much better. But the color of the gem looked greenish not yellow. So I mocked up a new version and sent it to them. I don't think I'll see the cover again until I review the physical proofs. No idea when that is.

I would post a copy of the cover here but I've been told not to, at least not yet. So everyone will have to wait. Sorry.

But what that means is the publisher be starting to focus on promotion. This is the part of the process I've been waiting for because I know so little about it. I'm hoping to learn a few things on this subject in the next month or two.

Currently, my plans are meager. I made some business cards and I will make some 4 x 6 postcards too with the image of the cover one side and the back cover text on the other. These are giveaways; promotional flyers if you will that I can give to anyone.

Beyond that I'm told I need to spend tell in various online forums creating a presence. This seems to me to be the weakest part of the whole process because I've tried that and frankly who has time for such things?

I also need to think about interviews and I've got some ideas along those lines. There's a media kit to finish, a book launch, and subsequent signings, a book trailer, and my web site to update. The publisher will be helping with all of these except the web site update. I can do that myself.

I'm sure there are other things to do too but I don't know what they are yet. Hopefully I'll learn about them as the promotion goes forward.

Keep writing everyone.