Sunday, April 26, 2015

Writing Tips - Down with Obese Books!

What's the most obese book you've read? I'll nominate "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" at a hefty 1024 pages. BBC is making a TV mini-series out of it because it's too hugely overwritten to fit into a 2-hour movie. What is with people writing bloviated books? But what do I know? It's a best seller, so my dislike of it is irrelevant. I did read the entire thing and was queasy for days from all the lard. Not that I'm averse to reading long books. I found Neal Stephensons' Baroque Cycle trilogy absolutely top notch entertainment.

Apparently, Susanna Clarke (note she even has an extra letter at the end of her name) had no use for Stephen King's good advice for writers in his book "On Writing." The one that struck me the most is to write your book, then cut 10%.

I have the opposite problem. I need to add 10% (at least) because I tend to write tersely. That's my 35 years of tech writing kicking in. Say whatever you have to say in the fewest words possible. A couple of reviewers thought my murder mystery, "Missing, Assumed Dead," moved too fast and resolved too quickly. Go figure. An action story having too much action and not enough lolling around in bed or describing the view.

In reading many of my fellow authors work, I tend to think Mr. King's advice is not followed often or well. Here, in my opinion, are the areas in which writers should just learn to shut up.

Environmental Description: Let the reader use their imagination a bit. You don't need to mention everything the protagonist is seeing everywhere they go. If your hero is spending two minutes in a village asking questions, then we really don't need to know everything about the village from its inception to the current time.

Is the description furthering the storyline? If there's a building with many columns and open windows, you had better have a darned good reason for mentioning those details. If the hero isn't scaling the columns or climbing into or jumping out of the windows, why would we care? Less is more.

Dining: The hero does have to eat on occasion, but he or she doesn't have to stop for three meals and an afternoon snack every day. If the villain is poisoning food, then the dining experience might be important. Otherwise, a simple statement that the hero (or villain) took a moment to snack is fine. We don't need the details. A SciFi I read many years ago described the characters eating at least once in every chapter. Good story, but the constant chowing down was distracting. *See "Bathing, Sleeping, Eliminating Below.*

Clothing: Aside from weaponry or armor, we really don't care. The exception to this rule is if the character's attire plays into the plot. High heels on a female sleuth are only important if she can't run down the creepy guy because stilettos are impractical for hot pursuit. Not being a fashionista myself, I rarely consider what my characters are wearing unless it has a plot-driven purpose.

Secondary Characters: If the hero stops to inquire if the villager has noticed any unseemly activities recently, we really don't care what said peon is wearing, the status of his facial hair, or the curviness of the barmaid's figure. This is excess information. Leave it out or I'll leave it out by dropping your book in the virtual wastebin.

Sleeping, Bathing, Eliminating: You can mention these activities only to allay the readers' fears the character doesn't perform any of these functions. They sleep because they're exhausted from plot-worthy activities. The cleanup when they've been splashed with blood or other vile matter. The eliminate only if they're pissing on their defeated enemy's body.

I mentioned Missing, Assumed Dead at the top of this essay, thus it wins the tail end honors.

MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
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Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets. 

When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Writing Tips: Making the Big Cuts

I've read lots of writer blogs which talk about "killing off your darlings." This means, of course, you shouldn't be afraid of getting rid of characters if they need to go.

The same can be true about research. Not every interesting tidbit you discover when you're researching background has to be in the final product.

When working on Scotch Broom, I did a lot of research on Thurso, a small town on the northern Scottish coast. It's where my main character, Kat, arrives in Great Britain. One thing I discovered was a Bed and Breakfast, which was just too cool to not include. Alas, it was a diversion from the plot. A fun diversion, but really not needed at all. Hack, slash, wince. Goodbye cute Bed and Breakfast and 1200 words of interesting, yet useless research.

My opinion mirrors that of Stephen King, who said after finishing your draft, cut 10% of the words. The best place to find those excess words is where you fell in love with your research and just HAD to include it.

This is the final few lines of the chapter in Scotch Broom in which Kat arranges train transportation southward:

* * *

“Can I buy my ticket now?”

“That you can. It’s an open ticket; you can use it whenever you want. Maybe you’ll enjoy Thurso and want to stay a few days.”


“That’d be nice, but I do have people to meet in Inverness.” Kat handed over the twenty-pound note, and the clerk counted back her change. “I’ll come back this evening.”


“There’s a good fish and chips place right down the road if you’d like a bite to eat.”


“Thanks. I’ll try it out.”


This is the original scene in which I burned my lovely Bed and Breakfast. Fun as it was, it just didn't further the plot:

“Can I buy my ticket now?”

“That you can. It’s an open ticket; you can use it whenever you want. Maybe you’ll enjoy Thurso and want to stay a few days.”


“I do have people to meet in Inverness.” Kat handed over the twenty-pound note, and the clerk counted back her change. She turned away from the ticket window and took a few steps, when the clerk called out to her. “If you’re needin’ a room fer the night, you might try the Waterside. It’s decent and not too dear.”


“That’d be great. Which way?”


“Head north on Princes Street. That’s the street right out there,” he replied pointing to the street on the opposite side of the train platform. “Turn right on Sir John’s Square, then left on Sinclair. Walk quite aways, and take a right on Sir George’s Street, a quick right on Janet and keep going ‘til ya see it. Ye’ll be right by the river.”


“Um, north then Sir George—.”


“Nae, lass, right on Sir John’s, then Sinclair, then Sir George.” The station master paused, and seemed to notice the expression on Kat’s face. “Here. I’ll draw ye a map.”


Kat grinned. “That’d be perfect.”


She followed the map the station master had drawn. On Janet Street, she stopped in front of an old brick, two-story house. Windows on both floors faced the street, and a single door led inside. Since it looked so much like a private home, she wasn’t sure whether she should knock first or just go inside.


When she got close to the reddish door, she saw a beautiful brass doorknocker. Taking that as a need to knock before entering, she reached toward it. When she touched it, the knocker spoke. “Welcome to Waterside House. Please come in.” Kat jerked back, surprised. While talking doorknockers were the norm on Galdorheim, she didn’t expect to find one in the mundane world. 


The door didn’t open on its own, so she grabbed the handle and pushed it. Stepping in, she found herself in a small lobby. To the right, an archway opened to a wallpapered, well-lit dining room. The wallpaper was a little too flowery for her taste, but it was overall a pleasant room. Turning back, she saw a dark-haired woman standing behind the small counter, wearing a dress straight out of the 19th Century MacSears catalog. Kat was certain she wasn’t there when she came in.


“Good day, may I help you?” the woman said in a sweet contralto voice. 


Kat stepped to the counter. “I’d like a room for the night. I’m waiting to take the train south tomorrow. I missed today’s.”


The woman consulted a watch hung on a gold chain attached to a brooch. “Just missed it seems. I thought I heard the train pull out, but I’m so used to the sound I don’t notice.”


Pulling a big leatherbound ledger from beneath the counter, she opened it facing Kat. “If you’ll fill out the information, I’ll have the maid check your room. A single, yes?” She tapped on an old-fashioned bellhop bell, which dinged pleasantly. 


“Yes. Just me.”


Kat wondered how anybody in the house could hear it, but a door behind the counter opened right away, and a young girl stepped in. She also wore a 19th Century maid’s costume, complete with a frilly white cap over her thick red hair. “Is the single ready?” the woman asked.


“Yes’m, but I’ll go check.” The girl lifted the hinged counter on one end and headed for a stairway to the left.


Meanwhile, Kat had been puzzling over the questions in the Guest Book. Where should she say she was from? Auto plate? What was that? Maybe she’d only fill in the things she knew and see if that sufficed. She wrote the date and her name. That was all she did know. The woman leaned forward to read the ledger upside down, a talent of innkeepers all over the world.


“Where do you live?” she asked.


“On an island north of here. I rode a boat down from the Shetland Islands.”


The woman nodded. “Just write Shetland Islands in the space then. No car? That’s fine. Not many people have them.”


Kat did as requested, then the woman turned the book to face her and made a notation of the check-in time. “One night will be nineteen pounds, sixty pence, including tax, of course.


Kat unslung her bag from her shoulder and rummaged into the foldbox for another twenty-pound note. She handed it across the counter. The woman handed her a few coins in change. By that time, the maid had come back down the stairs.


“Here’s the key to your room,” the woman said, handing over an old brass key. “Tara will show you the way.”


Kat picked up her bag and followed Tara up the stairway and down a hall to the end room. “The bath is through that door,” she said, pointing out the obvious, since it was the only other door in the room. The room was already opened, so she walked in and laid her bag on the single bed. She turned to hand the forty pence to Tara, but the maid was already gone.


She wondered if the woman at the desk had chosen the decor for the house. A faux wainscot separated the top and bottom of the walls. The bottom wallpaper had vertical stripes of lavender and green wallpaper. The top was lavender with little flowers all over it. The one window looked out onto a pleasant garden.


She flopped down on the bed and bounced a couple of times. Her first hotel room! Kat felt more grown up already. She glanced up to see a black box. It took her a moment to recognize the first television she’d ever encountered. The Witches' Council had an LCD flat screen. “Well, might as well get cleaned up then find someplace for dinner.” She didn’t have to go far for dinner. A Fish and Chips walkaway sat directly across the street.


* * *

After a good night’s sleep, Katya rose early, repacked, and went down to the dining room. Her room tariff included breakfast. She intended to eat a lot to keep her going all day on the train. She sat at a table for two by the window overlooking the street. The same maid she’d met yesterday, Tara, came to her table and set down a teacup and small teapot.


“Would ye be wantin’ coffee, Miss?” she asked.


“No, tea is fine. Do I get a menu or—?”


“Nae. We serve the full breakfast. It’s what we offer.”


“Okay, but isn’t it wasteful if I don’t like something. Wouldn’t it have to be thrown out?”


“We collect the leftovers to feed to the pigs. Missus has a cousin with a farm.”


“Okay, then. Bring it on.”


Tara curtsied and left the dining room by a swinging door in the back. She soon returned with a huge tray balanced in both hands. Katya watched as Tara laid dishes on the table. Sausage formed in a square, something fried and brownish, scones, another kind of muffin, and a fruit cup.


“What’s that?” Katya asked, pointing at the brown stuff.


“Fried haggis. Will that be all?” Tara asked.


“Um, no, this looks like more than enough.” Wanting to get the flavor of the countries she visited, she thought she should try the haggis. She’d already set the sausage aside since she didn’t eat meat any longer. She stopped before biting into the haggis, remembering that they cooked it in a sheep’s stomach or something like that. Sometimes it’s better to be a vegetarian. She wished they served eggs, but found the scone delicious, especially with the thick jam that came with it.



SCOTCH BROOM
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good. Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches' arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Writing Tips: More on POV

One multiple POV method not mentioned is called the Rashomon effect because of the excellent way it was used in the Japanese film, Rashomon. A Wiki article lists several more examples of the technique used in popular culture.

This quote from Wiki is quite good: The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it.

In "Missing, Assumed Dead" several characters are telling the main character, Kam McBride, what had happened in the past (a flashback). To avoid simple telling, I switched to another character's POV. I delineated these flashbacks into scenes, and even made them italic to set them off from the narrative.

The fun part is that the characters are relating the same incident to Kam, but each one has a slightly different view of the events, usually making themselves a bit more heroic than the other people in the same scene. This allows the reader to be suspect of the truthfulness of the characters.

It's not my original idea. That's why it already has a name, Rashomon Effect, in honor of the great Samurai movie of the 50s, directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring the wonderful Toshirō Mifune.

In the film, a crime occurs, and the film maker presents it four times, each from a different character's POV. Needless to say, the versions of the events vary, sometimes wildly, from each other. By the end of the film, you still don't know exactly what happened since none of the characters can be fully believed.

In addition to the contradictory retelling of the events by the different characters, there are two additional flashbacks. By the time they appear in the book, I hope the reader will be looking at everyone with suspicion.

Here are a couple of excerpts from "Missing, Assumed Dead," illustrating the Rashomon Effect in action. Two characters, Ray and George, describe their meeting to discuss the disappearance of Salvadore Vasco, the missing man of the title. Same event, but a big difference in the perception.

Ray's Story:

Ray went up the three steps into the Courthouse and turned left into George’s office. The self-appointed police chief sat behind his desk with his boots propped up on it. He raised his eyes from the Zane Grey novel he’d been reading.

“Hey there, Ray. What can I do you out of?” The fat man’s belly jiggled when he laughed at his own stale joke.

“I come about Salvadore.”

“Vasco?”

Ray shifted his weight from one foot to the other and glanced at the chair on his side of the desk. His legs ached, but he didn’t want to settle in for a long chat. George tended to run on some. “Only Salvadore in these parts far as I know. Anyways, has a habit of comin’ to town once a week, but he didn’t come last week nor this ’un.”

“So, what do you want me to do about it? Man’s gotta right to come to town or not.”

“True thing, but you know us old fellas like to stick to a schedule. It ain’t like him to not come in. I think someone oughta go up there and check on him.”

George glanced at the copy of Riders of the Purple Sage on his desk. “Why don’t you go, Ray? You’re his friend.”

“Yep, but he’d think I was buttin’ into his bizness if he’s okay. If you go, you can say sumthin’ about looking for someone else or what not.”

“So, I should lie to him but really just be checkin’ on his welfare, eh?”

“Yep. That’s what I’m thinkin’.”

George's Story

George sat in his office reading the latest statewide all-points bulletins for wanted criminals and stolen vehicles. Old man Ray from the Jack and Jill’s came in looking worried.

“Chief, I ain’t see Salvadore in a couple a weeks. I thought I’d better tell ya, since you’re the police and all.”

“Now, don’t get yourself all worked up, Ray. Old Salvadore prob’ly just don’t want to eat no more of your burnt burgers.”

Ray shook his head. “I don’t know what to do, George. Can you go check up on him?”

“Why sure, Ray. I’ll head up tomorrow morning for a welfare check.” George stood and walked around his desk. He patted Ray’s shoulder to comfort him. “You go on home and don’t fret. George is on the job.”

* * *

Missing, Assumed Dead is available in ebook, print, and audio.

Paperback

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Audiobook (purchase with the ebook on Amazon for a great deal)


Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Did the Author Know What Happened?


You've heard the phrase "A Legend in His Own Time." That's when somebody does something so extraordinary they create a legend around themselves. As time moves on, the legendary aspect grows and morphs into something bigger and, well, more legendary. That legend is helped along by authors writing about the person. Some people have reputations built on very little reality.  19th Century writers hungry for audience share exaggerated the feats of such legendary characters as Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody. These mostly untrue stories made good press for the city folks back east.

Then there's another type of legend. It's when an author bases a book on a real person nobody has ever heard about, but exaggerates the person's feats to make for good reading; the writer creates the legend. Can you think of a case where this has occurred? I imagine there are many, considering possible biographers who hero-worship their subject past the point of reality.

Then I come to my own mini-legendary person: Little Eddie from Tales of a Texas Boy. The stories are mostly based on some brief vignette passed to me from my father. Those of you who have read the print edition might have slowed down enough to peruse the Foreword where I lay out that Eddie is my father and some additional background on his life. Nothing too exciting there. He just happened to have a few incidents in his life that I could turn from a passing comment into a short story.

I made my father a legend. The stories I wrote about his experiences are so enhanced, they have become the stuff of legends. Yes, a very small part of the population know the stories. However, how long will the Tales books be out in the world? I published the first edition in June, 2007. Coming up on the 3rd anniversary next month. In three years, more than 2000 people have had possession of the book in some form. They may have even read it. If I keep the book in print, how many people will get to know Eddie in ten years? I should mention that the majority of those potential readers picked up the book in the last year.

What's my point here? Not sure other than to state my realization that even not so famous people can become legendary to some extent from some author deciding to write about them.

Tales of a Texas Boy is available in ebook, print, and audio formats. Side note: this book in large print is a popular Mothers' or Fathers' Day gift for those who may have lived through the Great Depression themselves or simply grew up in a rural area. They'll feel right at home.

Large Print at Amazon

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Audio Book at Audible (also available through Amazon)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Writing Tips: POV (Points of View)

Many newbie writers have trouble maintaining a consistent point of view (POV). It's entirely possible to develop scenes and chapters in different POVs if you don't allow your mind to meander all over the place. Clean POV also requires a consistent use of person. First, second, third, etc.

FIRST PERSON

Suppose you write in first person. That means you say, "I walked down the path." Third person means you say, "She walked down the path." Let's forget about verb tense for now. If you want to write in present tense, then go for it. However, you're not as likely to have me as a reader.

SECOND PERSON

Second person is possible, but incredibly awkward. Speaking to the reader is sort of like breaking into their apartment and acting like a serial killer. "You are walking down the path." The poor reader might think, "No, I'm not! Wait! Am I supposed to be walking someplace? But I'm sitting here reading. I don't want to walk elsewhere. It's hard to read when I'm walking!"

So, let's just say that second person is out of the picture. I really couldn't advise you on how to do this with any grace or style. If you insist upon second person, then I commend you for your chutzpah.

VOICE

Okay, 1st person and 3rd person are both fine, but what if you want to get into the head of another character, perhaps the villain? Can you do this when writing 1st person? If both your main character and your villain are talking aloud referring to themselves, it might be a tad confusing, but it's doable if you carefully divide scenes and chapters and make it entirely clear who the "I" is in each. Also, you'll need to be watchful of voice. Oh, right. Voice. Did you think everybody talks exactly the same way? Of course, your MC is nice, good, heroic, etc. and your antagonist is mean, awful, and villainous. Here's some first person examples if you decide to present both MC and villain in first person:

"I walked down the path, my heart yearning for any sign of my beloved, but I continued to be ever watchful of signs that Mr. Blackness had passed this way."

"I stood in the shadows, watching the poor, sad sucker meandering down the path without a clue that I've got his beloved stashed in a dungeon guarded by ogres."

These examples, of course, are exaggerated to make the point of voice incredibly important when you're writing with multiple points of view.

THIRD PERSON

Easiest to do is third person. Everybody can have their say with little difficulty for the reader recognizing who's the star of a given scene.

Thing is, 3rd person is the writer's voice, the omnipotent story teller from on high (imagine your god-like presence hovering over the characters in your work).

Still, separation of points of view by scene or chapter is the best, easiest, cleanest way to keep the reader on track. You can change points of view between paragraphs, but expect your reader to have to backtrack to figure out who is out front in the story.

If you think you absolutely need to change POV without a scene or chapter break, then your last resort is a paragraph break and a time or place changing word to allow the reader a moment to switch gears.

Fred walked along the path, hoping to find some clue to Hilda's disappearance. MEANWHILE, Hilda pounded on the bars and screamed, desperately hoping to attract attention.

Here the time/place changing word is MEANWHILE. It signals the reader that the story is jumping elsewhere.

RECOMMENDATION

Stick to 1st or 3rd person. Change POVs only on a scene or chapter break. Keep the voice consistent to the character.

See? That's not so hard, is it?

Excerpt from "Missing, Assumed Dead" - Using Flashback

These scene fragments illustrated changing POV using a definite break between the first part which is in the 3rd person point of view of Ray. It's a flashback to a time when the main character isn't present. Rather than just having Ray TELL Kam what had happened, the point of view shifts to Ray in the past. Both the scene break (* * * *) and Kam asking Ray a question, returns the POV to the main character.

George glanced at the copy of  Riders of the Purple Sage on his desk. “Why don’t you go, Ray? You’re his friend.”

“Yep, but he’d think I was buttin’ into his bizness if he’s okay. If you go, you can say sumthin’ about looking for someone else or what not.”

“So, I should lie to him but really just be checkin’ on his welfare, eh?”

“Yep. That’s what I’m thinkin’.”

George swung his legs off his desk and thumped his boots on the floor. “Well, I s’pose that fits under the category of law enforcement.”

Ray suppressed a smirk. “That’s what I thought. Somebody official should do the checkin’, and that’d be you.”

“I’d be happy to do my duty, Ray. I’ll head out that way tomorrow morning. He prob’ly just got tired of your burnt burgers.” George leaned back in his chair and put his feet back up on the desk “When I get back with the good news he just didn’t want to come to town, I’ll sure as hell let you know.”

Ray nodded. He left George’s office and headed back to the café and his living quarters in the back.

* * * *

Kam leaned across the counter. “What did George tell you?”

“He didn’t tell me nothin’.” Ray shrugged. “I asked, but he just said the judge was takin’ care of it.”

Mitch’s heavy, black brows formed a V. “Ray, if you know something the sheriff should hear about, you need to say.”

The old man took Kam’s drained glass and refilled it from the pitcher. “I don’t know nothin’ for sure, so’s I’m not sayin’ no more.”

**********************************************

MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.

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When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Model for Nyra and Remy

*** I just heard from Dawn after years apart and decided to re-run this post in her honor. She didn't know she was a role model.***

In honor of my friend Dawn, I've lowered the price from $2.99 to $0.99 on
Amazon:  First Duty and Ultimate Duty 
Smashwords: First Duty and Ultimate Duty

Tall, redheaded heroines kick ass. Yes, they do. But mostly only in fantasy and science fiction. When I wrote a redheaded heroine in my books "First Duty" and "Ultimate Duty," I used as my model a real-life person I had known years ago. She was a natural redhead, close to 6' tall (and more in her Frye boots), and she kicked every single ass while barely moving a muscle.

I hung out with Dawn a few years of my college life. Her brother was a temporary boyfriend of mine (also a redhead and quite tall). When that relationship ended, I kept his sister. One excellent reason for doing so beyond her being a funny and witty woman, was her ability to attract men. They flocked to her, growling at each other like the wolves they thought themselves to be. Dawn would laugh.

She flat out told me she could get any guy (who was looking for a hook up, and some that weren't) just by standing up in a room. As that magnificent mane of red hair rose above the crowd, it was as if somebody threw a bucket of chum in the ocean. The sharks circled for a few moments then moved in for the kill.

Dawn would laugh. Place her ringed index finger gently on the chest of the closest and give the guy a tiny push. She had just kicked his ass...big time.

I miss Dawn. She went off to Alaska, then on to places unknown. She's still out there and, even at our age, she's probably still kicking ass even with a few gray hairs peeking through the red. She contacted me recently and is no longer a lost friend - YAY!

When I released "Ultimate Duty" after it ran for more than three years under the Eternal Press banner, I found another kick-ass redhead to adorn the cover. She looks a lot like Dawn. Dawn would laugh.

So all you other SF/F writers with your tall, redheaded kick-ass heroines, find yourself a real live one like my friend. I have the rights to her (whether she knows it or not), while you all are probably just thinking how cool a tall redheaded kick-ass heroine would be. Have you actually met one? I thought not. Dawn would laugh.

If you have modeled your tall redheaded kick-ass heroine after a real person, tell us about her in the comments. I'll give you a copy of both of my tall redheaded kick-ass heroine books.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Writing Tips: Miscellany Divsion

I'm not sure how many of the writers I know manage to post a daily blog. I tend to forget about blogging entirely unless I have news to report. Now that I no longer have new works to report, I'll advise, review, or promo for friends' books from now on.

Cute Kid
I'm supposed to give tips on writing, encouragement to perservere, and funny things that happen in my writing life. Oh, and I absolutely must have a picture of my cute cat, dog, child, or whatever every couple of weeks. Here's one now to fulfill that obligation.

Every once in a great while, I'll post something like this, and I duck my head and wince. Nobody should care what I think about writing unless I have some credentials to prove I know what I'm talking about. Yes, I've published a bunch of stories and ten books of books, but that hardly makes me expert.

Still, it is expected, so here I go.

1. Use all the adverbs and adjectives you want. They are perfectly good words in the dictionary. Go ahead. Look them up. Nowhere does the dictionary mention that words are on a scale of 1 to 10 in worthiness.

2. If your book doesn't attract an agent, it's not your query or synopsis; it's because your book isn't the current hot thing in publishing. More teen angst, gorgeous vampires, loving werewolves, and (I don't get this) angels.

3. Money flows from the writer to the writing/publishing world. How many blogs tell you to take classes, go to conferences, join certain professional organizations. All of that costs money. In the long run and on the average you will spend more than you receive in royalties. Writing is NOT a money-making proposition.

4. Write if you must, but don't expect the world to give any notice to you.

5. Writing is a hobby. Treat it as such, and you'll be happier in the long run.

6. "Its" is the possessive form. "It's" is the contraction of "it is."

There. I've done my bloggerly duty and given you a bunch of stupid advice. Use it wisely, grasshopper.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing Tips: #Prologues

I've seen plenty of discussions on prologues. Whether they're a good idea or not. Arguments may be made in either direction, but I'll come down firmly on the side of ... maybe.

For what it's worth, I think prologues can be useful, but I have some definite rules:
  • A prologue shouldn't run more than a couple of pages.
  • If the prologue concerns events immediately before or simultaneous to the first chapter, then it's the first chapter. Realize that a prologue reeks of literary pretentiousness, especially in a genre novel. 
  • Prologues are good for background set way before the events of the book and, if possible, with completely different characters.
  • Background information in the prologue should be difficult to deliver by a character without it sounding like a lecture.
You can see I followed my own rules in this example excerpt, and this prologue works. It's set 400 years in the past. It has no cross-over characters. It quickly explains why the witches are living on a remote arctic island. In chapter one, I can move ahead with the specific problems facing my main character, and nobody is wondering why the heck she's living on an ice-bound island. 

Go ahead. Tell me why I'm not right. Or, give me an example of how a prologue can work when it breaks my (arbitrary) rules. Don't argue against my rules. They're mine, and I'm keeping them. What are your rules? If you don't have any rules, then you'd better do a bit of soul-searching. That's the premise of jazz. Know the rules, then you can break them.

Now to the prologue of Bad Spelling, Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim series.

Prologue from Bad Spelling, Witches of Galdorheim Book 1

November, 1490—Somewhere in Germany

“They took Helena,” Edyth whispered, grabbing John’s arm the moment he walked through the doorway.

Wide-eyed, John looked at Edyth. “But she has never–”

She shushed him. “I know, I know. They’ve cast a wide net. It shan’t be long before they suspect us.”
John gazed around the one-room, thatched hut they called home. “I’m afraid ‘tis nothing else we can do. We must flee.”

Tears welled in Edyth’s eyes. “What they are doing to us, ‘tis hateful. Why cannot they just leave us be?”

He took Edyth’s shoulders, pulling her to his chest. “‘Tis not just us. The inquisitors condemn many not of the craft. They find black magic where it does not exist.”

His eyes darkened. “‘Tis the fault of that wretched Heinrich Institoris and his cursed Malleus Maleficarum. Even the Church has banned it, yet the so-called citizen courts use it to condemn any who disagree with them.”

Edyth shook her head, her face grim. “You speak the truth. ‘Tis shameful they accuse whoever dissents, be they witch or not!”

John nodded. “We shall have one last coven gathering. All true witches must leave this place soonest.”

“But where will we go, John?”

“North. So far north that no mundanes could live there. If we move away from their grasp, we can make our own way in the world.”

John dropped his hands from Edyth’s shoulders. “Come. We’ve messages to send. I do not think it wise to wait any longer.”

The witch and the warlock gathered foolscap and invisible ink. As they penned each word, it faded and disappeared from the paper. They wrote in the Old Runic language as an additional safeguard from prying eyes. Only a true witch could read it.

That very night, the ashes of the messages flew up the chimney, carried by incantation to the far corners of Europe, to all known witches and warlocks. Within the month, the trek northward began. The Wiccans reached the ends of the earth then went further. Finding a tiny island, completely removed from any other piece of land, they stopped and laid their claim. They named their island Galdorheim: Witches’ Home.

* * *


BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.  

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

#99cents Ebooks with Book Match

Buy the print book and get the ebook for only $.99 on Amazon. If you EVER bought the print version, then the ebook is #99cents. If you bought a different version of the print book than the one currently advertised, let me know and I'll send you the ebook free.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Exclusive! Coupons for #Free Audiobooks

ALL COUPONS HAVE BEEN TAKEN. I'll try this again sometime. 

I have dozens of coupons available for anybody who would like to try out audiobooks without any obligation except to let me know if you used one. You'll only see the codes if you click through to read this post.

Since contests and rafflecopters are a waste of your time and mine, here's one bunch of coupons. If you use one, just make a comment indicating which one you used. Or two or three. Just note that once a code is used, since it can't be re-used.

Oh, yeah. I prefer you use the coupons to get my audio books, but you can use them for any book you want. Let's see how well this works. If it goes well, I'll dump another bunch of codes in a few days.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Smashwords 67% Off Coupons

The only place to find these coupon codes is on this blog. $2.99 books are only $0.99 using the codes.

See this page on my blog for the links and coupon codes.

The latest addition to the list is "The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2 - Faizah's Destiny" which creates a two-book series of The Tales of Abu Nuwas along with "Setara's Genie."




Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Goodbye, Farewell, and Peace Be


'Cause you can look right through me, Walk right by me and never know I'm there... "Mr. Cellophane from the musical Chicago"

I have decided to stop writing for publication. I don't like doing things I don't do very well. Readers have let me know by their silence my work is mediocre at best. I don't like being mediocre, so I'll go find something I do better. Now where did I put that oboe?

Goodbye, Farewell, and Peace Be. The Cellophane Queen signing off.


Monday, March 30, 2015

$1 Per Book at #Smashwords

Smashwords ebooks on sale for $1.00 each. Catch the bargains while you can. Prices will normalize on April 1st (that is, they'll become what they should be).

Witches of Galdorheim Series

   Bad Spelling
   Midnight Oil
   Scotch Broom
   Spellslinger

The Tales of Abu Nuwas

  Faizah's Destiny (free on Amazon Kindle March 30th-31st)
  Setara's Genie

Mystery

  Missing, Assumed Dead

Kids' Adventure

  Eagle Quest

Science Fiction

  First Duty
  Ultimate Duty

Miscellaneous

  Tales of a Texas Boy
  Mixed Bag Short Story Collection
  Mixed Bag II: Supersized








Exclusively on Kindle and #free til the end of the month:

  Lemons and Other Kid Tales

  Fish Story: A Three Story Sampler

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Final #Free Book Days

Since I have three ebooks still under the Kindle Select plan, I'll use up the free days for them all this month. Here are the freebies for the last days of March. When the KDP expires, these books will join my others on Smashwords for broad distribution:

March 29th-31st:

Faizah's Destiny - The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2








Lemons and Other Kid Tales

Fish Story - A Three Story Sampler