Monday, January 30, 2012

A to Z: Sign Up Today!!!!

Yes, today is the day you can sign up for April's event, the A to Z blogging challenge. I'm not only excited to participate but am looking forward to seeing how many people sign up this year.  It can be a lot of work, but most of it is fun labor.  I didn't get all my posts ready ahead of time last year so I had to scramble a few weekends to get ready for the next week. I learned my lesson with that.

I also didn't get much writing done during that month, but it was worth it to double the number of my followers and find so many interesting and helpful blogs. I wouldn't recommend signing up if you have a deadline for an editor sometime during April.

So I'm already gathering up ideas for my blogs already. As recommended by bloggers more experienced than me, I'm keeping my posts short so my visitors can read them quick, comment and hurry on to visit someone else. 

Last year I stopped in a few blogs who had signed up but weren't participating. I hope everyone keeps up this year because my goal is to visit every blog at least once. But how many will that be? I'm expecting an amazing number. 

Are you signed up? Did you participate last year? Was it fun or work?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Influence From the Past

I loved to read from the first day my first grade teacher gave us those 'Dick and Jane' readers. Our little country school didn't have kindergarten, so we dove right into reading. When our little school added a real library a few years later, I spent every morning before school searching the shelves. I couldn't get enough. Entering high school and discovering a library many times the size of my previous experience, I made a good friend of the kind lady who ran the place. How I envied her job, spending the entire day among all those books.

I read nearly every type of fiction I could get my hands on.  My English teacher introduced me to Tolkien but in my early reading career, like many young girls, I read every book I could get my hands on that involved horses. I wanted to ride The Black Stallion or Flicka.  I read those books over and over again. But as time passed I started reading books where the main characters were people, the plots more about mysteries or the battle of good versus evil.  But I never forgot my love of horses and I find myself entering a few animal characters into my own writing.  In my epic fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, my lead character, Marshal Cage Stone, rides a warhorse named Bayard.  There's nothing magical about Bayard but he shares a special connection with his half-elven master.  He's a minor character in the books, but he adds another layer to the mystery that is Cage Stone.  By having the horse in the story, I get to indulge my childhood love of animal stories but still have my novel be character driven and the plot remain the fantasy mainstay of good versus evil.  However, I still want to ride The Black Stallion.

Do your youthful reading habits shape what you write today?  What kind of stories were your favorite growing up? Did you read 'Dick and Jane?'

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

They Know Me Here

From FB
Later today I'm going to finally make one of the writer's meetings organized by some other writers in neck of the woods. The meeting place is a little inconvenient for me, a library on the other side of a tangle of traffic. I'll have to traverse the busy highways at rush hour to make it to the meeting.

I've only attended one of these meetings before but it was great. Everyone brings a few pages of their current WIP with enough copies for everyone.  We take turns reading each other's writing, mark it and give a brief oral critique. There's a great variety of genres represented, thrillers, romances, fantasy, and cross genres between them all.  The writers present are at different places in their writing careers and our goals vary as well as our backgrounds. Such a mixed bunch are perfect for getting lots of feedback from different perspectives. I learn as much from listening to the critiques of other people's work as I do from critique of my own.  It's a nonthreatening, comfortable bunch of people who are really supportive and nonjudgmental of each other.

There's always a little time before and after to share our thoughts on the world of the word.  We talk about publishers, editors, agents and the ventures into self-publishing many of us have made. We'll also likely discuss the upcoming conferences most of us will attend. 

Our current meeting place is a meeting room that's part of a library so we'll have to bring our own drinks, but that's fine.  It's great to socialize with other writers but most of our time will be spent doing actual work. 

Do you have a supportive writers' group you spend time with? Is it mostly for social reasons or does your group concentrate on work? What do you need from a writers' group?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stormy Predictions

The weather reports for this past Saturday called for our area of Penns Woods to receive 1-2 inches of snow followed by a short period of sleet and freezing rain, all to end by the middle of the morning.  For lots of different reasons including our day jobs and our recreational interests, my family always checks the weather forecast a number of times per day.  As experience weather watchers, we didn't trust a thing the TV said.  How often are those reports correct, after all?  Around six inches of snow fell upon us with no sleet or freezing rain.  We weren't shocked.
From FB

I'm not one of those people who get mad at the weathermen because they're so often wrong.  It's a tough job filled with so many variables beyond a mortal's ability to predict.  It reminds me of the publishing industry right now and writing in general.

Who can predict what genre of book will be the next hot thing? Zombies, hobbits, fairy tale characters, angels, or something other than fantasy characters? Maybe the entire paranormal thing will go away. Will dystopia lose its appeal if the economy improves? What is next after ebooks? Interactive books? Can everyone become a published author? Will the big NY publishers be able to stay in business?

No one knows. I eagerly read blogs and articles in writing magazines as industry professionals advise wielders of the pen what paths they should take, what preparations to make, to stay afloat and ahead of the stormy weather to come. 

But storms, while dangerous, can also be lovely, exciting things. The rapid changes in the world of publishing is thrilling to be a part of as long as one keeps running to keep up with it.  So like the weather forecasters, I don't expect anyone to be able to predict exactly what will happen next and how I should guide my career to be safe and successful when changes come.  I can only listen and then make my own calls and judgements based on my experience. 

Does the rapidly changing world of books leave you feeling adrift in a storm at times? Are you enjoying the thrill of being part of these sweeping changes and the progress of technology overtaking the writing world?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's Up and What's Down?

I recently visited my elderly mother and helped her understand her bank statement. New technologies allow the banks to include more and more information on something as simple as her monthly feedback from them.  If she would use a computer, she would even need to get that paper statement. Along with her bank statement, she also had her electric bill waiting to be paid.  She lives in a small apartment and only heats three rooms yet her bill was nearly $200. Taking a closer look at the bill, I saw she used only $54 dollars of electric and the rest of the bill was fees and delivery costs from the electric company.  It was crazy. 

From FB
Everyone us can probably come up with many other examples of the price of services and products spiraling upward out of control. Everything seems to cost more.  Except for the price of good books.

More and more authors and small publishers are offering excellent products at bargain prices.  Books for less than $5 dollars are available in the hundreds and thousands.  And lots of them are great.  I'm sure there some poor quality stuff among the bounty, but there's also some gems.  As more and more people read on electronic devices, writers and smart publishers are going to answer their demands for affordable books.  After taking back my rights to my epic fantasy series, I self-published them and have started making some money on the first two books.  Even at $1.99 for The Keepers of Sulbreth and $2.99 for Beyond the Gate, I'm seeing profits better than from my previous publisher who held back 75% of all sales against returns.  Do you think I'll ever see any of that money?   I'm happy to be selling books and the reader is happy to be able to buy quality books at a reasonable price. I wish the rest of the things I have to buy would be priced within sane ranges.

What product's rise in price is really bugging you lately? Are you keeping warm this winter, or cutting back on utilities due to the prices and freezing like me?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The World As Our Characters Know It

One of the really fun parts of starting a new fantasy series as a writer is creating the world the story will take place in.  Some created worlds are so different from ours the world is a story unto itself.  Brandon Sanderson is a good one for creating settings that are more than just background noise for his characters.  In the first three books of his Mistborn series, the world is a gloomy place on the verge of total annihilation.  Only as the reader gets toward the end of the novel, does one come to understand that the reasons behind the harsh conditions of that world and what it will mean to the beloved characters struggling to survive.  Sanderson's novel, The Way of Kings, is another great example of a world very alien to ours and I know as that series progresses, the physical and political aspects introduced in the first novel will slowly start to make sense and become like another character in the books.

As an author of fantasy, there are lots of decisions to make.  A big one is how much different do you want your world to be from ours? Will gold and silver still be precious? What will the political system be? Will the sky be blue and the sun yellow? Are apple trees still apple trees?  It's fun, but also a challenge and that's without getting into how magic will work in the invented world.

In my Futhark series, Beyond the Gate and The Keepers of Sulbreth, some of the creations in the fantasy kingdom of Futhark are demon creatures.  I've pulled them from my imagination but made most of them similar to beasts we often fear as children.  Some are wolf-like but with bigger teeth.  Some run in packs and are like rats with poisonous bites.  Some fly and are similar to pterodactyls but all the demons have a taste for human blood and destruction. They're fun to write about.

Scifi authors have fun things to create too, though I would guess they have to follow some scientific rules.  But since none of us know what other worlds are like or what ships that zip from galaxy to galaxy will use as fuel, they can dig deep into their own imaginations for their stories also.

What author do you think creates exceptional or memorable worlds? Do you enjoy doing it as an author? Have you read a novel where the world differences bothered you?

Monday, January 16, 2012


We all have things about the writing process we're not thrilled about. Promotion if the big one for me, but I also have a small thing that slows me down writing not just in my 'fun' job but in the day job that  pays the bills.  I can't spell.

From FB
I've have my theories about my weakness.  Even in elementary school when we had weekly spelling tests I scored only average on the durn things even though I led my class in every other subject area. This continued right up through high school and college.  And thank the world of technology for spell check. Sometimes though, I've spelled a word so far off the correct mark, spell check laughs at me and asks, 'is this the English language?' 

My biggest theory about my spelling-challenged mind is that I don't care.  Spelling is easily corrected, especially on a computer, so I don't feel the need to fill my brain with memorized spelling rules. I'm more for higher thought processes like analysis and application.  And how's that for rationalization of a weakness?

Do you have a minor weakness you have to keep an eye on in your writing or in your 'other' job? Is spelling easy for you or do you rely on the computer like I do?

Friday, January 13, 2012

If You Want Easy...

If you want easy, play Wheel of Fortune. If you want challenge, play Jeopardy.  Not every night, but many evenings, three or four members of our family sit down and watch Jeopardy on TV. My daughter cleans up on the art categories thanks to her AP art history class. My husband is a retired history teacher and has an unfair advantage. Most of the family has some sports knowledge and I specialize in science and health issues. It's fun and competitive, but it's not easy. None of us would beat any of the champions on our own, but we do pretty good as a team.

The challenge of the game is what makes it fun. Having played sports through most of my youth and young adulthood, the contests I remember are the ones where we had to work for victory. Getting to the top of a mountain is more rewarding than climbing the hill in my backyard.

This is my monthly pep talk to myself.  Being a successful writer will be that much more fulfilling for the struggle I've endured to get there.  It's not easy to write a novel.  It's hard work to edit and edit and edit it.  It's time consuming to promote and build a platform.  For me, coming up with stories and plots is the only easy part of the process I find easy. The rest is work, hard work.  But hopefully the end product makes it worthwhile.

What part of the writing process is easy for you? Do enjoy the challenge of the business or does it overwhelm you at times?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Next Week

Sorry to talk about my daughter so much. Wait until next fall when she leaves for college.  I'll be crying on here every day.  But she inspires me a lot for subjects on my blog. Two nights ago she was studying for a history exam and took the time to post her status on facebook.  She listed all the ways she was procrastinating on her homework.

How often do we procrastinate when we should be writing? I'm always telling myself my life will be less busy next week.  My son will be back at college so less laundry, more writing time.  I'll have my doctor's appointment out of the way, so more writing time.  I'll be caught up on some overtime stuff I need to do for the day job, so more time for writing.  I'm always telling myself next week will be less busy than this week.  And it seldom it.

Procrastination is human, but for writers it can be a real career staller especially if you don't have a definite deadline. Doing work on a computer can provide lots of distractions and some of those even let us feel like we're actually working instead of playing.

So I'm not waiting until next week to get back to work on my edits for Book #3 in The Futhark Chronicles, Beneath the Mountain. Because I'm sure next week will bring its own 'extras' to take up my time.

Do you have a favorite procrastination sinkhole? What have you been putting off?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Always the Bad Guy

I was watching a TV show recently, one of the cops and crooks things, and the good guys were trying to figure out who dunnit.  As soon as a clue led them to a state senator, I knew who the offender would be. It's always the politician.  It's so easy to paint just about any part of the government as someone looking out for their own personal interest instead of the welfare of the people they're sworn to serve.

It happens in books also. The leaders in the government are seldom portrayed as anything other than self-serving, arrogant and without ethics or morals.  This holds true in most genres of fiction, contemporary, fantasy, scifi or historical and perhaps especially dystopian. Why?

There's probably lots of answers to that but I think today's economical and political climate allows for the easy acceptance to the possible reality of our own government being the cause of all our misery. Corruption and greed make for some great conflicts in a novel.  In fantasy, a little magic is usually added to complicate the battle of good citizens versus bad rulers. 

So do you see the theme of the government as bad guys in lots and lots of novels and other entertainment media? Do you have a theory as to why it's so widely used as the conflict in fiction?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 Goodies

I was very busy with blogging this week and some deadlines fast approaching on the day job. Two meetings after school and one before made for three long days out of five. Then it was so cold most of the week until today.

But on the writing side, I felt pretty good about putting together a blog for the TBR blog kickoff week. I'll announce the winner of my giveaway later this week.  Then it was the fun first Wednesday blog for The Insecure Writer Group.  I met some new friends and learned how much writers have in common.  I feel I should take a sick day from school the first Wednesday in February so I can visit blogs all day. 

I visited a blog, forgive me but I don't remember who it was, and enjoyed her list of what she's anticipating for 2012.  What a great idea. There are some things I'm looking forward to, professionally and personally.

My daughter will make her decision shortly about what college she'll be attending next year.  She's an excellent student with limited only by what we can afford. It will be tough on me when she leaves and I'll miss her twenty times a day, but it will also be a bittersweet joy to watch her move forward toward the dreams she's worked so hard to make reality. 

Some of my favorite TV shows will be back in 2012 like Justified, White Collar, Haven and my new love, Person of Interest. In April HBO will bring us the second season of Game of Thrones.  Can't wait for that one.  Add to that some movies like the next Batman movie and The Avengers. And I can't forget The Hobbit.  I'll have eyes on the screen for a few hours this year.

I'm really hoping it doesn't rain so much this year.  Our area of the USA had nearly twice the normal amount of rainfall this past year.  I hope when warm weather arrives I'll be able to keep up with the outside chores.  I usually love doing them, but with all the rain last year the weeds won.

And perhaps my biggest source of anticipation for 2012 is starting my last year of teaching.  I'll be retiring at the end of the 2012-13 school year.  I love teaching teenagers but there's so much bulls*** surrounding the profession today and it's only going to get worse. I'll be glad to be out of it and be, hopefully, a full time writer starting in June, 2013. I'm sure I'll write more about this in the coming 17 months.

In the book world, I know a number of my favorite authors have books coming out I'll purchase the first day they're available.  I'll give shout outs when they happen and maybe some reviews.

On a slight continuation of my vow to do more promotion, I must mention that Beyond the Gate, Book #2 in my epic fantasy series, is finally available on Barnes and Noble for Nook.  It's been for sale on Smashwords and Kindle for a over a week but now it's everywhere.  That's a lot of places.

What are you looking forward to with great anticipation this year?  Will it arrive before the world ends in December?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecure Writer: Me, Me, Me

When I first starting writing, I thought all I had to do was sit down at my keyboard and spew out my creativity for all the world to read.  Then I joined a writer's group and learned how much I didn't know about editing, submitting, and the publishing world in general.

The glorious day came when a publisher offered me a contract for one of my manuscripts, and I thought the fame and royalty checks would soon be flying my way.  Little did I know how much work I had yet to do. That awful nine letter word, promotion. 

Promotion is time consuming, frustrating and difficult.  I know some people who do a great job of promoting their work, getting their name out there and building a reader audience.  I've tried to absorb the advice they offer so freely and generously and apply it to my own promotional efforts. I admit, except for blogging, I don't much enjoy promotion.  Appearances in person are usually fun but I find facebook, twitter and most everything else a chore. I'd rather be writing.

I've noticed some authors appear all over the web when they have a new release, but I have to push myself to even promote on my own blog. This I must get over and do more to make sure my books are seen, lots of places and lots of times.

One of the places I'm doing this is a new blog, called TBR.  TBR was started by Cate Masters, my heroine for promotional genius, as a place for a few authors each week to talk about writing and their latest works.  We all have 'To Be Read' stacks of books, and after you check out the lineup on the TBR blog for the next few months you're going to add a few more.

Today I'm appearing at TBR promoting my latest release, Beyond the Gate, the second book in my epic fantasy series.  Beyond the Gate follows The Keepers of Sulbreth, book #1.  To help celebrate, I'm giving away a print copy of Keepers to one commenter over at TBR and for those of you who prefer digital, I've reduced the price of Keepers to only $1.99 on Kindle and Smashwords. 

So for today, I've managed to do promotion for my books here and over at TBR, as well as helping other authors by directing my readers to TBR. 

So how do you feel about promotion? Are you confident in your commitment to it or do you think you could do more?

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year: New Deal

One of my goals for 2012 is to do more promotion and I'm starting today.  To celebrate the release of the second book in my epic fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, I'm offering the first book at a bargain rate.

Today you can purchase The Keepers of Sulbreth for only $1.99 at all your favorite retailers including for Kindle and at Smashwords.  

I've followed closely the debate on the pricing of digital books. It's definitely an ongoing discussion and the decision are tough to make. Hopefully, I'm doing what's best for my career by making my first book more affordable.  The plan, of course, if that people will love the first book so much, they'll flock to get the second book.

Beyond the Gate, book #2, takes up the story of Marshal Cage Stone and Keeper Sabelline Shelton the moment after the first book ends.  Despite all the training and preparation the two soon face dangers and situations beyond anything they've been led to expect. Meanwhile King Jonared and the remaining Keepers and Marshals discover they have more enemies than their swords or diplomacy can handle. Even should Cage and Sabelline succeed in their quest, they may never be able to return to the lives and families they've left behind.  You can get Beyond the Gate at Smashwords and Kindle, soon at B&N.

Ebook pricing if going to be the center of controversy for a long time. I think the time will come when readers will not pay more than ten dollars or even less for a digital book even the author is someone well-known(more famous than me).

I've never paid more than $7.99 for an ebook.  What is the top price you would pay?