Friday, March 28, 2014

Writing Tips - From Groupon

I belong to Groupon, an on-line coupon service. I've bought quite a few coupons for half-price meals through it. It's a great way to get to know eateries around your town, without paying full freight.

Anyhow, Groupon always has something interesting in a section on every page titled "Groupon Says." These are hilarious for the most part and I'll pop over to look at coupons I don't even want just to read this little article.

Due credit to Groupon and whoever writes the column. I thought this particular column apropos to my author visitors.

The Groupon Guide to: Writing an Urban Legend

Everyone secretly wants to believe in scary stories that might be true. Indulge your friends' gullibility with these tips to crafting the perfect urban legend:

• Make sure the story takes place somewhere nearby, on a similar night—ideally exactly 100 years ago to the night. Or on the devil’s birthday.

• Always include an animal that turns out to be a different animal or an animal where one does not belong—like a dog that is actually a rat, or an alligator in the bathroom of the Museum of Alligator Safety.

• Tweak the details—it's only a few letters’ difference to change "gardener" to "murderer," and only a small white lie to change "was valued by the community" to "possessed double hook hands and a thirst for marrow."

• Always carry "proof"—this can be a monster's tooth carved from soap, a faded newspaper article created in Photoshop, or a scrap of the victim's clothing that is actually just a scrap of clothing you ripped off a terrified hiker you chased through the woods.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing Tips - Not Your Usual Advice Column

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. More recently, I've been trying to put something up every other day.

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 that, 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 a couple 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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

#Pubtips - Twitter #Hashtags for #Writers

Blatantly stealing this information and passing it along since I use Twitter. I'm repeating this #pubtips post because I keep forgetting to use #hashtags in my own tweets. I'll admit I'm not much of a tweeter or tweet follower. Tweet streams are even more boring than Facebook streams, except it's harder to catch anything useful in Twitter. #Hashtags help you find things of interest and tag things you tweet to send a metasemaphorical(TM) flag for others to find.

Read the entire article at Daily Writing Tips.

Here are a few that I'll be using in future posts:

#amediting posts from people who are editing
#amwriting posts from people who are writing
#novels
#novelists
#pubtips
#publishing
#audiobooks

I also recommend using genre hashtags if you're linking to your book buy site:

#fantasy
#scifi
#romance
#sfr
#historical

and any others you can add. Hey, make up a new one and start a trend!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Writing Tips: Point 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, but don't expect to sell a lot of books.

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 continue 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"

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.
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005EN73FI/
PRINT: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1479270202/
Audio: http://www.audible.com/pd/B00HZSMTI6/

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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Free Short Story Sampler - Happy Spring!

GIVEAWAY COMPLETE - OTHER FREE DAYS COMING SOON - WATCH THIS SPACE.

FREE TODAY! FISH STORY PLUS. Three story sampler containing a whimsical fish tale, a mentalist who accidentally sees a real vision, and a meet up with a cryptozoid in a small town bar.


And on every Amazon in the world since free is free all round the world. Time zones may affect when the book becomes free.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flash Flash FLASH!!!!


Check out the MuseItUp Publishing blog for some hors d'oeurve stories: Little bite-size flash shorts only 100 words long (yes, I said 100, not 1000).

Here's the deal. Vote and win yourself twenty-five bucks. And, whoever wrote the flash you voted for which made you a winner gets twenty-five bucks too. Here's the easy 1 2 3:

1- READ the flash fiction posts - You'll find something for everybody. Funny, sad, sweet, naughty, goofy, surprising, and punny. You decide.

2- LEAVE a comment in the story or stories you loved the most.

3- VOTE for your favorite in our poll on the left side (only 1 vote per person).

4- COME BACK to the MuseItUp Blog on March 28 when they announce the winner of the most votes. If you happened to have left a comment in that winning entry's posting, then you may be the reader who will win alongside our author.

Fine print: You must have a Paypal email in order to participate. That's how you get paid.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Audience Share

I host quite a few writers on this blog. I sometimes (constantly) wonder how some of them can get hundreds of hits and lots of comments, while my own brilliant and delightful posts get crickets.

Here's the deal. PLEASE tell me (and anybody else who happens by here) what you're doing to get all the traffic to your posts. It's sure as heck not my blog they're visiting, but YOUR post. Does that traffic and interest result in sales? Inquiring minds want to know.

You know who you are. You visited here and got a ton of hits and lots of comments. What did you do to make that happen?

Some of us really would like to know.

Here's a nice picture for the post display. It will be Saint Patrick's Day tomorrow, so I suppose a Leprechaun or some other Irish St. Pat's pic should be used, but I'll show you something much cooler than a cartoon character. An ancient Irish castle gives me pause as I think of the history weighing so wondrously on us all.



Friday, March 14, 2014

To prologue or not. That is the question.

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.
Those are my rules, and I live by them. Here's an example of a prologue opening the first book in my Witches of Galdorheim series. First, I want to say why this is a good prologue. It's set hundreds of years before the beginning of the events in the books. It has no characters who appear in the book. It's very short. Because of the time frame and lack of character overlap, it HAD to be a prologue, not chapter one.

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

Prologue
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.

* * *
You can see I followed my own rules, 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.

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, March 12, 2014

Character Voices - Female Narrator as an Old Man

MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets. 
Audio Book: http://www.audible.com/pd/B00HZSMTI6/
Kindle Ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005EN73FI/ (link to Audio from this page)
Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1479270202/

When a book is produced in audio format, a single narrator plays all the parts. That means, the narrator has to have some acting talent to pull off several roles. The narrator for "Missing, Assumed Dead," Lisa Baarns, got to play the main character, the main character's boyfriend, an insane teenager, and a few old men. Not an easy job by any means. Here's a bit about one of the characters in the book and a sound bite of how he sounds in the audio version.

RAY JOHNSON

Ray Johnson owns the Jack and Jill Diner in the little town of Rosewood, OR. He had been a good friend of Salvadore Vasco, a Basque shepherd, until Vasco disappeared. Ray knew Salvadore couldn't just get lost; the old man knew all too well the rocky hills leading toward the Steen Mountains.

When Kam McBride is named Salvadore's executor after seven years he'd been missing, one of the first people she meets in Rosewood is Ray. After all, she was hungry after being lost in the high desert country and that cute Deputy Mitch invited her for a bite to eat.

Ray's a crusty old guy who stays in Rosewood because his wife is buried there, and he wants to stay near her. That, and he's got the only place to eat in the tiny town. Bev scoffs at Ray's cooking ability, but just about everybody else in the area eats at the Jack and Jill's regularly.

Audio Excerpt
Click for the audio presentation of a scene between Kam and Ray. Add a comment to this blog to receive a coupon for a free copy of this book on audible.com or a free ebook.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Fickleness of Gods

FAIZAH'S DESTINY borrows heavily from Persian mythology, but the gods pretty much match up to the Roman and Greek gods. Essentially, every civilization re-uses the same gods, but give them different names and their own special flavor.

The heroes are often the mighty warrior types: Hercules, Gilgamesh, Samson. Since I’ve written this book for kids, my heroes are teenagers, not at all like the legends (but they might become legendary themselves). They’re not in already in the mythology, so you’ll just have to read "Faizah's Destiny" to find out about them. Available in print and ebook at Amazon.

THIS IS A GIVEAWAY. WRITE A COMMENT TO WIN A FREE EBOOK.

As usual, the "real" info is from the Encyclopedia Mythica.

Ahura Mazdah
In Persian belief, Ahura Mazdah ("Lord Wisdom") was the supreme god, he who created the heavens and the Earth, and another son of Zurvan. Atar, his son, battled Azhi Dahaka, the great dragon of the sky (note that Azhi shows up in "Setara's Genie"), and bound it in chains on a high mountain. The dragon was, however, destined to escape and destroy a third of mankind at the final reckoning, before it was slain. Ahura Mazdah was the god of prophetic revelation, and bore both Ahriman and Ormazd.

As leader of the Heavenly Host, the Amesha Spentas, he battles Ahriman and his followers to rid the world of evil, darkness and deceit. His symbol is the winged disc.
Anahita
The ancient Persian water goddess, fertility goddess, and patroness of women, as well as a goddess of war. Her name means "the immaculate one". She is portrayed as a virgin, dressed in a golden cloak, and wearing a diamond tiara (sometimes also carrying a water pitcher). The dove and the peacock are her sacred animals.

Anahita was very popular and is one of the forms of the 'Great Goddess' which appears in many ancient eastern religions (such as the Syrian/Phoenician goddess Anath). She is associated with rivers and lakes, as the waters of birth. Anahita is sometimes regarded as the consort of Mithra.

My Mashup

I use Ahura more or less as described in the mythology site. Because he was the leader of the Amesha Spentas (the good guys), I decided to portray him like Zeus or Thor, just another god amused at the foibles of humankind, but rarely steps into the action. He is also equated with Mithra, so I have him married to Anahita. Ahura shows up in only one chapter ("Demons and Deities") and he chats with Anahita about the progress of the heroes. He claims to have set up the whole situation (just like a man).

I made Anahita my main character’s supporter. She appears to Faizah hovering over a lake. She tells the girl that one or more of her companions (three boys, wouldn’t you know) will be seduced to the dark side by demons. In typical godly fashion, she can’t give Faizah a straight story; she only hints at what might happen.

Excerpt:

Each time the light dimmed, it returned brighter than before, pulsing in time to the beat of her heart. As the shape within the light grew more and more distinct, a part of Faizah’s mind wondered if she should be afraid. Somehow she wasn’t. Instead, she felt a strong attraction to that glowing figure and walked to the lake’s edge to get a better look.

The apparition hovered a few inches above the surface of the lake. Faizah could now see, through the shimmering aura surrounding her, the figure was that of a woman. She was looking out over the lake to the point where the shooting star had disappeared over the caldera rim. Clad in a golden cloak, a diamond tiara adorned her brow, and two small lions lay at her feet. The figure turned slowly to look directly at Faizah, and a gentle smile curved her lips.

Faizah gasped in sudden recognition. This was the goddess Anahita! She did exist! Faizah stood entranced as the patroness of all women, the goddess of water and fertility, and of war, came gliding smoothly over the surface of the lake toward her.

As the figure halted before her, Faizah glanced quickly over her shoulder at their campsite. The boys hadn’t moved, and she could hear Menog’s rumbling snore. She turned back to face the goddess.

“They will not awaken, Faizah,” Anahita’s lilting voice sounded in her ear. “I would speak to you alone.”

“Why...what...why have you appeared to me, Goddess?” Faizah stammered, her voice trembling.
“My husband has listened to your thoughts, Faizah. Ahura favors your purpose. He sent Menog to guide you through the cavern.”

Faizah’s eyes widened as she struggled to grasp what she was hearing. Ahura, too?

“Ah...we are grateful to Ahura for his favor. But...but, if he is protecting us, why did the boys become ill? Why didn’t I get sick, too?”

Anahita’s musical laugh was the tinkling of bells in a breeze. “Pazuzu of the southwest wind controls this valley. He guards it jealously and blows illness toward all who enter. This is why no one lives here.” Her smile widened. “And I might have had some small part in keeping you from getting sick.”

“I have read that Pazuzu can kill,” Faizah ventured, “yet the boys only have a cough. Did you do that, too?”
“No. That was your doing. Pazuzu can indeed kill. The medicine you made is what saved the boys. There is magic in you, Faizah, which is stronger than you know.” Anahita looked over Faizah’s shoulder at their little camp then back at Faizah. Her smile vanished, and her face became serious.

“I, too, favor your journey. But your friends,” she continued with a gesture toward the sleeping boys, “have lost their purpose. Be always on your guard, Faizah, for powerful forces oppose you.”

“If you favor our journey, Goddess, can you not tell me where to find Master Wafai?”

“A fair question, but the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no, I cannot.”

“But...but, you’re a goddess! Surely?”

“Master Wafai is safe; you needn’t worry about him. You are destined to follow a different path.”
Faizah’s brow wrinkled with concern. Why would she be selected by Anahita? She stammered, “What path?”

Anahita’s gaze lowered. “Many no longer believe in us, the gods and goddesses. As their belief wanes, so does our influence in the world. I, my husband, Ahura, my brother and sister goddesses, none of us are as strong as we once were. There are those, like your Master Wafai, who serve us still, and so we retain some of our strength. Even you doubted our existence, but your hope that we were real allows me to appear to you.”

“I’m sorry I ever doubted, Goddess,” Faizah whispered. “What must I do? Is it right that we go first to find the Simurgh, or should we be doing something else?”

“So many questions!” Anahita’s musical laugh drifted across the water. In the distance, a peacock’s raucous shriek seemed to answer her. “Listen, my pet calls to me,” she said. Then her smile faded, and her eyes mirrored the seriousness in her voice.

“Know this, Faizah. I will protect you as much as I can and lend you what assistance I am able. Even so, your success or failure depends on you. Your own wits and your own strength are far more important than any aid I may give you.”

Faizah trembled at the thought that a goddess would depend on her for anything. “Who opposes us?”

“Dev, for one. He relishes the darkness. Darkness begets ignorance, and ignorance begets folly.”

“Dev?” A cold chill ran down Faizah’s back. “The god of war? He is against us? Master Wafai said Dev plots the final war that will destroy the world!”

“This is true. Now you see why it is so important that you succeed in your task.”

Faizah took a deep breath. This was serious. “What else can you tell me? Will we have to face Dev? We’re not heroes. We’re kids. How can we fight a god?” Faizah chewed her lower lip with anxiety.

“I doubt Dev will oppose you directly; he would think that beneath him. Instead, he will send his minions to do his bidding. You must be ever watchful, Faizah, for you cannot know what form they will take. It could be an animal, a human, even a demon sent to turn your friends away from you.”

Anahita’s words did nothing to ease Faizah’s mind. A demon! What could they do against a demon?

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Developing Alien Languages

I've not tried to make up alien words for my science fiction. I'm a fan of the Star Trek universal translator notion. I know somebody who not only tosses in a word or two, but develops extensive languages for her stories of an alien species of giant termites. I've read several of Lorinda J. Taylor's books and enjoyed them a lot for their uniqueness.

What I really admire her for is the richness of the language of the termites (and for an alien bird species as well). Called 'conlangs', constructed languages have a surprisingly large number of human adherents. Not satisfied with an occasional mix-up of consonants with an apostrophe or two, writers like Lorinda build complex vocabulary and grammar.

I mentioned Star Trek earlier. As you might know, Klingon is one of the conlangs the Star Trek fanbase developed from the seeds planted early on. Why Klingon? I think because everybody just can't resist saying Gagh! with gusto when dining. (If you'd like to see a fun list of Star Trek foods, click on this link.

Read Lorinda's informative blog post on constructed language building for beginners. Don't just toss in some odd punctuation for your alien beings. Be brave. Build the entire language. Or at least build a consistent base for a language as the writers of Star Trek did for Klingon. Then let it loose on the fan world to fill in the blanks. The Klingon Language Institute fills in the blanks, including an alphabet! Read this article for the interesting background that brought Klingon to life.

Conlanging for Beginners by Lorinda J. Taylor

Try out Lorinda's Writing with this FREE Book on Smashwords: The Blessing of Krozem

An Article on Alien Language (xenolinguistics) with some good links

Reddit Articles on Conlangs




Thursday, March 06, 2014

Audio and Foreign Languages

Here's something you probably haven't considered when you're writing your book. If you use foreign phrases (even the obvious stuff like "tortilla"), you might discover your narrator coming back and asking you, "How do I pronounce this?"

This was evident when "Missing, Assumed Dead," was in the midst of audio production. I used some Basque words since the Basques were involved in the plot. I did discover when writing how to pronounce txicoli, a Basque wine. I conveniently had the waitress tell my characters how it was pronounced, but it was right there in the written part before the pronunciation. 

Discussing this with the narrator, we decided to leave out the first mention and go more directly to the pronunciations. Here's the original:

Kam scanned the selection of mostly Oregon grown wines and was delighted to see an imported Basque wine called txakoli. “This tixa, um, is this red or white?” she said, pointing at the menu.

“Cha-co-li,” the waitress provided helpfully. “It’s a white but tends to taste bitter to an inexperienced person,” she said. “I’ll fetch the open bottle to give you a sip before you decide.” The waitress bustled away.

To get around that written word, we left out txakoli in the spoken version:

Kam scanned the selection of mostly Oregon grown wines and was delighted to see an imported Basque wine. “This tixa, um, is this red or white?” she said, pointing at the menu.

“Cha-co-li,” the waitress provided helpfully. “It’s a white but tends to taste bitter to an inexperienced person,” she said. “I’ll fetch the open bottle to give you a sip before you decide.” The waitress bustled away.

That was pretty easy, but some other phrases or words were a little harder to work around. 

Here are my rules, then:
  • Don't use the word unless you're prepared to tell your narrator how to pronounce it properly.
  • Check on-line (or if you speak the language, be ready to make a sound bite) to have someplace for your narrator to HEAR how a word or phrase is pronounced.
  • Do not blather on in a language other than the one in which you're writing.

Here's a place where I blathered a bit. In "Scotch Broom," my heroine is in the Scottish Highlands. She meets with an augur named Seonaidh. First, I had to let the reader know how to pronounce the name. I had my characters do that work:

“Who is Show Me?” Kat asked.

“SHOW NEE,” Cait snarled. “Can’t you get any of our names right?” 

That worked out fairly easily, but later Seonaidh gave Kat an augury of what was to come:

“Aan gille, mayhap an bràthair. I dunnae ken him. Ye’ll hae ta be sleekit tae win. Dinna pay heed ta da mingy duine dubh.”

That is a tad more difficult for the narrator since this is a mix of Scottish Gaelic and modern Scottish brogue. Fortunately, I had a friend who could figure it out and provided a phonetic translation. 

What would we do without our friends? 

Thank you, big time to Renee Duke and her Scottish grandmother for helping me in my time of need.

Be careful what you say in your books. Somebody might someday ask you how to pronounce something.

Buy "Missing, Assumed Dead" in audio format at audible.com. It's cheaper if you buy through Amazon if you're not an Audible member.



Monday, March 03, 2014

I Got Nothin' But a Camel

So I will do a re-run. I kind of enjoyed writing about THE CAMEL, an extremely minor character in the book, "Setara's Genie."

The camel is known as the ship of the desert and is one of the most common draft animals in the middle east. A 1001 Arabian Nights style story like Setara's Genie must have a camel somewhere in the mix.

In one scene, Setara is attempting to learn to ride a camel. She doesn't see the purpose since she had a perfectly wonderful horse, Nasreen.

We looking in from the outside know something Setara doesn't. A tradition of the Sultan of Semidor (the area in which Setara lives) sayst young girls coming to a marriageable age (sixteen) ride into the city on the back of a pure white camel.

Setara doesn't add two plus two and realize that the ceremonial arrival marks her as a woman ready to be wed to some merchant or even the Sultan's son (who's in the market for a bride).

The spice girl, Najda, who is the listener to Abu Nuwas's tales about Setara, is in the same predicament. She's on the verge of a forced marriage to an old man. As a fourth wife, she knows she will not be treated very well by wives 1, 2, and 3. But she's stuck in a society which gives her no choice on her potential bridegroom.

This all comes back to the camel Setara must ride the camel to display herself as a possible member of some man's harem.

Excerpt

Setara screamed and flung herself from the saddle. “Ow! Ow! Stop! Whoa! Stop!” She dropped six feet, right on her tailbone, screamed again, and burst into tears. Setara’s faithful companion, Sheik, ran circles around her, alternately barking at the camel and whining at his mistress.

Dukak, the camel driver, rushed over and grabbed the dromedary’s reins. He tapped the big camel’s knee, and the beast obligingly folded its long legs. On his knees, the camel turned his head to face the crying girl. He drew his head back then snaked it forward, spitting a huge wad of cud between Setara’s shoulder blades.

Mistress, you should wait for the camel to kneel. You fell from so high, no wonder you are hurt.” The camel driver pulled out a handkerchief and plucked the wad from her back.

Setara stopped crying and struggled to her feet. Dukak offered his hand, but she ignored him. She glared at the camel, which continued chewing his cud. “He stinks, too!”

Are you injured?” Dukak’s brow furrowed with concern.

Not much,” Setara said, rubbing her abused backside. “A horse is a much finer means of transportation, Dukak. I fail to see why I need to learn to ride a camel. They sway and bounce around too much and that saddle! Why is it made of wood, not padded leather?"

Dukak ignored her question and waved his hands as if fending her off. “It’s expected, Mistress Setara. Women must enter the sultan’s palace grounds on the back of a pure white camel. So it is written, and so it shall be.” Dukak spoke as if this explained it all.

I won’t be going until next week, so I have plenty of time to learn how to ride later...much later.”

Dukak ignored her statement once more. He looked at the camel’s saddle, rubbing his chin in thought. “Perhaps I could modify a horse saddle to fit. It requires a much longer girth and padding to protect the camel’s back.”

How about some padding to protect my...back?”

Dukak didn’t bother answering since he was busy measuring the camel for a new saddle.

Setara limped away in a dark mood. It was stupid to go through all this just for a ten-minute trip through the city streets. She didn’t want to meet the boring old Sultan of Semidor anyway. Setara sighed. She did look forward to seeing Hasib, the sultan’s flying horse, again, but she had no interest in the sultan...or his son. When she thought of Hasib, it reminded her of their grand adventure the last time they met. Fighting pirates and rescuing Hasib’s mate, Habiba. Setara thought fondly of the good times.

* * *

Setara's Genie is available in ebook and print formats on Amazon.




Saturday, March 01, 2014

Seriously...

I need some audio book sales! You can join audible.com and get a month free with your choice of two audio books as your joining gift. If you pick either or both of my audio books in your first three audio book selections, my producer and I split a $25 bonus.

STILL on sale for only $1.99, TALES OF A TEXAS BOY, is three+ hours of down home goodness and humor. That's such a low price, I'm really wondering about Audible's sanity. There are very few audio books this cheap.

My second book, a mystery titled MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD, is longer and more expensive, so a great bargain getting it free when signing up at Audible.

To sweeten this deal, write a comment on my blog, on the Facebook or G+ links to my blog, send me an email, or just yell really loud (I have to be able to hear it, so you probably live next door). You will receive for your minimal effort a coupon to use at Audible.com which doesn't even require a membership. You just get a free book.

Do I sound desperate? Yes, I am. I want somebody to notice the QUALITY of these books. My narrators talked their asses off and would probably like an attaboy and an attagirl, too. I'm tired of being The Cellophane Queen. Give me some attention! At least go listen to the sample.

Note: I'm in the process of uploading a three-book series, and three additional individual titles for audio. You should really buy my books now before I get too famous. Where's that winking smiley face?