Revenants Abroad Free through December 31

vampire-christmas

I decided to make Revenants Abroad free through the end of the year on Smashwords. Amazon doesn’t allow a price below .99 unless I put it into the KDP Select program, which I can’t do right now. I’m still hoping the Multnomah County Library will pick it up, and it has to be available on Smashwords for them to do it. So… it’ll be February sometime before I hear about that.

But, if you’ve been thinking about getting RA, please help yourself over on Smashwords. It’s available in multiple formats, including MOBI for Kindle. There are other reading apps you can get if  you don’t have a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle or a Kobo. Aldiko seems to be popular for Samsung phones, etc.

It’s a small thing, I realize this isn’t going to make your Christmas season, but if you’ve been thinking about reading it, now’s a good time to pick it up.

Don’t make me put a Santa hat on Neko. He wouldn’t appreciate it.

Happy Holidays!

A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter – Review

WGHP

I can’t say enough good about “A (Unauthorized) Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter.”

I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this from the author. This is probably the single most engaging book on writing I’ve read. It’s beautifully written, and full of clear direction to take your work further by asking the right questions. Sipal dissects and analyzes the Harry Potter series of books to illustrate writing techniques such as story and character development, plotting, world building, mythic structure, anti-heroes, POV, and more. I admit I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so that was a large part of the attraction to the book for me, but you don’t need to be familiar with the books benefit from this, and to see there’s a lot here for any writer. Sipal gives enough detail on the various characters and events so that even those with no knowledge of the books can see how much detail there is and, more importantly, why those particular characteristics and items were included and how they influenced the story. She discusses the use of subtext and how it energizes the story, how each bit of information had a purpose, and the foreshadowing Rowling peppered throughout that readers went wild for. For those who are familiar with HP, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the series itself. Too much writing advice consists of vague exhortations to “create fully fleshed-out characters” and “find your character’s motivation.” Here you’ll find concrete examples of what those mean, enabling you to dig deeper into your own work. This book was just the tonic I needed right now to regain enthusiasm for my own writing projects. I’ll be going back to this book again and again for inspiration.

Releases July 26, 2016

Info Sharing — Editing for Indies

This is just an “info sharing” post. Indie authors (meaning self-published) have long had a very bad reputation for poorly written and poorly edited books. This is why it’s next to impossible to get brick-n-mortar bookstores to stock indie titles.  In my quest to improve my own writing I’ve discovered a couple of free editing tools that can help polish your manuscript. Professional editing costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, a cost most indie authors just plain can’t afford. These are the costs publishers absorb if you’re lucky enough to land a book deal, but for indie authors the whole cost is on us for editing, cover art, marketing, and so on. Even if you’re not going to self-publish, before you fling that thing into the cosmos with hopes of landing an agent, it still needs to be as shiny and pretty as possible. The less work it needs the better your chances of acceptance.

So herewith, two online tools that can help improve your writing. There’s nothing to download.

The first one I encountered was EditMinion. Editminion ss

Welcome! EditMinion is a robotic copy editor to help you refine your writing by finding common mistakes. To get started, paste a chapter of writing into the box above and click Edit! Don’t paste too much or the script will stop responding. This is still very much in Beta and I”ll be adding features as I come up with them. If you have suggestions, tweet @DrWicked or email imp@editminion.com. Thanks!

EMss3

Below that it shows the text with mark-up, highlighting the potential problems.

It’s a pretty good tool for what it does. It is in beta still, and I don’t know if the developer is actively working on it, I haven’t seen any changes to it recently. It can be a good quick check for certain issues, including ‘frequently used words’ which is a problem of mine. I tend to overuse certain words and don’t even notice. I was thrilled with this thing’s ability to help me find those. It’s entirely free, and as we all know, free is a very good price.

Next, I recently heard about  ProWritingAid via a comment on Anne R. Allen‘s blog. This one has both free and paid versions. If you really can’t afford to pay anything, it’s still a pretty robust tool that can help dramatically. The one-year subscription option is listed as $40, then $30/yr for a 2-year subscription, and on up to and a lifetime option for $100. I initially signed up for a free account, intending at some point to subscribe because I like to have all the bells and whistles,  but within just a few days of creating the free account, I received an email with the special offer for $30/yr. I came really close to paying that, but then I saw a little graphic on the left side of the email offering it for $25/yr. See the box on the left? Almost missed it. No guarantee it’ll be offered again, but if you check out the free version, wait for the email with free ebook of “20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers.” The special offers were tacked on at the bottom. Needless to say, I took them up on the $25/yr offer.

PWA ss1

Here’s the same sample analysis that I ran through EditMinion of a short story I’ve been working on:

PWAss2

You can see the analysis is much more detailed and thorough.  You click each heading on the left to see the areas of the text it dinged you on. I’ve found most of the suggestions very good, and have cleaned up and tightened flabby prose by taking its advice, but sometimes it’s just a stylistic difference and I can’t remove all the occurrences of “had” it thinks I should. There’s a lot to this thing, I haven’t even had a chance to check out all the features yet. The Word and Google Docs add-ins are only available if you pay for a subscription. I haven’t added the Word add-in, and I don’t use Google Docs so I won’t be bothering with that one. But you get most of the other features even with the free version.  You can save the document on their servers, export to Word or RTF format. There’s so much to this thing but I don’t want to go into more detail here and make this post even longer. Frankly I find it addictive. I love editing and cleaning up my writing and making it better. I’ve also found that when I seem to have a case of writer’s block, editing a bit can get the ideas flowing again.

Anyway, just a couple of options for those of us indies who want to make our writing the best it can be without taking out a second mortgage. And don’t get me wrong, working with a live editor who knows their schtuff is great, and they totally earn their money, but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it. No amount of wishing is going to make that money materialize.

Going Select, and a Selection

Just to let everyone know, I’ve pulled Revenants Abroad off Smashwords, so that includes Kobo, and Barnes and Noble, etc (Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart). It was proving to be a dead end. I’ve chosen instead to go with Amazon’s KDP Select because I think it will provided greater visibility and will make the book available via Kindle Unlimited to those who have that. I don’t actually know how that works since I don’t have a Kindle, but I’m sure those of you who do, do. See?

Revenants Abroad - Final Flattened with Text for PrintAnd for those patiently waiting, here’s a small snippet from the rough draft of Chapter 1 of the sequel, “Revenants Within.”

Hope you like it!

Revenants Within

Six hours of bad roads from Montreal to Tupper Lake felt like a week and a half, but neither the old house nor the solemn solitary figure standing in the driveway looked at all inviting to Anne-Marie.

“This is it. Wait here a minute while I make sure everything’s ok.” Andrej parked, opened the door and got out. He walked up to the waiting figure who shook his hand.

“I had no idea traveling could be this painful.” Anne-Marie tried to stretch her back, twisting and turning while she waited with Neko inside the car as Andrej spoke with the man. The guy was young, strikingly handsome with a square jaw and shaggy black hair, but he had a cocky belligerent air that chased away any thoughts of confederacy with him.

“What the hell is going on?”

Neko heaved a sigh. “These guys-it’s just their way. They want to be sure we’re the people they expected.”

“Who else would we be? How many people drive all the way out here? And who is that guy?”

“A pain in my ass. I’ll explain later. Come on, looks like we’ve cleared customs.”

The man had nodded and Andrej turned and motioned for them to join him. Neko hopped out first and opened Anne-Marie’s door for her, and together they walked up the driveway. Andrej put his arm around Anne-Marie’s shoulder, pulling her close.

“Jimmy, I’d like to introduce Anne-Marie. And of course you know Neko.”

Jimmy looked at Anne-Marie while he held out his hand to her. As he and Neko shook hands neither one spoke. He turned back to Andrej with a sidelong glance at Anne-Marie, making her feel more like an intruder than she already did.

“Come on inside. Gaston’s resting, he’ll be up later.”

They trudged up the muddy driveway to the wooden steps of the front porch that were nearly bare of paint.With an exaggerated swagger, Jimmy pulled the screen door open and held it, indicating for Andrej and the others to enter.
As Anne-Marie walked in he said, “Anne-Marie, is it? You don’t look like an Anne-Marie. Sounds like a nice Catholic girl kind of name.”

She stopped and looked him up and down. “Jimmy, is it? You don’t strike me as too bright, trying to pick a fight the minute we get here.”

“Listen, bitch, we don’t need you here…” he started, but in less time than it took for him to turn his head to her, Neko had him by the throat, pinned against the house, choking him.

“Don’t piss me off you little shit. I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”

“Neko, let him go. Now.” The command came from inside. It was woman’s voice, strong and steady.

Neko snarled and pulled his hand off Jimmy’s throat, letting him fall to the floor, gasping for air.

“You touch him again and you’re out of here, all of you.”

The woman speaking came out on the porch. Her gray hair was gathered in a loose soft bun, and old-fashioned glasses set off a stern face. It was not an unkind face, but she clearly didn’t take guff from anyone, human or vampire. Andrej stood behind her, eyebrows raised, watching Neko.

The woman kept her eyes on Neko as she said, “Jimmy, why don’t you go check on the truck? I may need to go to town later.”

Jimmy pushed himself up off the porch floor, rubbing his throat. He shot a murderous look at Neko, then walked off down the porch and around the house.

“Neko, let’s get something straight. If you want to stay here, and you want our help, you will not lay a finger for any reason on any of my people. Are we clear?”

“He should know better than to insult my friends.”

“Jimmy was out of line. I’ll talk to him. But if you touch him again you’re out of here. I can’t have you killing off my coven, if you want our help.”

Neko shook himself, trying to subdue his own rage. Anne-Marie watched him, wide-eyed. He saw her looking at him, and hung his head. “I’m sorry,” he said.

The woman turned to Anne-Marie and gave her a motherly smile. “And I’m sorry we got started off like this. I’m Sylvia. Come on in and make yourselves comfortable and I’ll get tea.”

Neko made a sour face, but waited until Sylvia was out of the room before saying, “Hope she’s got something stronger.”

Andrej put a hand on his shoulder. “I think it’s BYOB here these days.”

With a sound of disgust, Neko shook his head. “How long did you plan on staying here?”

“No longer than we have to.” He turned to Anne-Marie. “I’m sorry about that guy. If he gives you any trouble, let me know.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve dealt with worse than him.”

Neko laughed. “That’s our girl.”

The house was decorated, if you could call it that, with a hodge-podge of mismatched furniture, all well-worn and somewhat battered. The house itself was what interested Anne-Marie most. The old farmhouse dated back to the mid-nineteenth century, and had suffered little updating over the years. Apparently repairs were carried out only when something broke or became unlivable. Even the glass in the many windows looked to be original and had become rippled with time. A large bay window in the living room looked out to the west side of the property. The woodwork and double-hung sash windows looked original.
Sylvia returned carrying a tray laden with mugs and a pot of tea.

“Neko, I don’t suppose you’d care for any,” she said, pouring tea into each of the mugs.

“Thanks, I’ll pass.”

“What are you two planning to do for food while you’re here?”

Neko looked at Andrej.

“We can take care of that, don’t worry,” Andrej said.

“You know we’re all out of bounds, right? We can’t work to protect you if we’re weakened in any way.”

Andrej nodded. “Of course, we understand. Even Anne-Marie is out of the question.”

“Unless it’s an emergency,” Anne-Marie said.

Sylvia raised one eyebrow, looking from Anne-Marie to Andrej. Andrej shook his head slightly, and Anne-Marie knew she’d made a mistake.

“Don’t worry,” Anne-Marie said, “it’s not a regular thing.”

Sylvia cleared her throat, poured a cup of tea, and passed it to Anne-Marie. “Well, whatever you decide among yourselves is your business.”

“Syl, you know me better than that,” Andrej said. He stood next to one of the windows, looking out towards the woods behind the house.

“How long have you two known each other?” Anne-Marie looked from one to the other.

“All my life,” Sylvia said. “He knew my parents before that. When I was little I even called him ‘Uncle Andy.’”

“Really?” Anne-Marie laughed. “How is it you’ve never mentioned that particular factoid?”

Andrej made a face at her.

Sylvia leaned toward Anne-Marie with a smile and said, “He’s always been very tight-lipped.”

“That’s true enough. But you have to admit lots of things have happened in my life, we’ve hardly had time to talk about everything,” Andrej said.

“That is a lot of ground to cover.” Sylvia leaned back with her tea, looking around at each of them in turn.

“So where’s Gaston?” Neko asked.

“He should be down shortly. I didn’t think you’d be so eager to see him.” Sylvia sipped her tea, looking at Neko over the rim of her cup.

“The sooner we get this straightened out the happier I think we’ll all be. Might as well get the show on the road.”

Anne-Marie’s shocked look told him he’d gone too far.

“Sorry, Sylvia. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate what you’re doing for us, and the risk you’re taking, which is why I think the sooner we move on the better.”

“Neko, this isn’t something that’s going to be resolved quickly. I suggest you find a way to accept that you’re likely to be here for some time. Hiding you from Paimon isn’t going to be easy. But you’re right, the sooner we get started the better. And here’s Gaston now.”

A man had appeared in the doorway to the living room, He looked to be about Andrej’s age, but with thick blond hair, and large blue eyes. He was not quite as tall as Andrej, and not quite as slender.

“Andrej, it’s good to see you,” he said with a broad smile.The two met in the center of the room, shook hands, and embraced momentarily.

“Gaston, you’re looking well. Let me introduce Anne-Marie.”

“I’m delighted to make your acquaintance,” Gaston said with a bow,and taking Anne-Marie’s hand he placed a kiss on the back of it. As he stood again he looked past Anne-Marie and saw Neko leaning against the fireplace mantel. With a wink at Anne-Marie he said, “Neko,what a pleasure to see you again.”

###

‘Cause I Just Don’t Have Enough To Do

So my latest thing is I’m thinking about doing a newsletter focusing on my book and the upcoming sequel as well as other writing, and offering some exclusive content (backstory on characters, new stuff related to the Revenants series and other projects), contests and giveaways. Yeah I know, like I don’t have enough to do already, right?

If you’d like to sign up you can do so here. Unfortunately with WordPress.com sites you can’t embed the forms so I have to have an off-site page for it. I’ll be moving the blog to a self-hosted site soon, though. I’m not sure when I’ll start sending out the newsletter, and it will be monthly if I can keep up. Otherwise maybe every other month, so you won’t be inundated with stuff every week.

The white flowers below are Oregon’s state flower, the trillium. It’s protected, so don’t pick them if you see them.

We’re still getting a lot of fog in the mornings, as you can see.

News and Changes

So, things are progressing with the book. The proof copy is on its way to me, and if all looks good the paper copy should be available on Amazon in another week! The ebook of Revenants Abroad is also now available via Kindle on Amazon, and will remain available via Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes and Noble as well, all at the same price of course. I’m also probably going to be resurrecting my other website that I let slide, ddsyrdal.com, and take all the book talk over there so you guys who don’t care about it don’t have to listen to it here. Having my own site again will allow me to do things I can’t do here.

In the meantime, here are a few recent shots. I swear the rainbow one, while only showing a short section of it, was the widest rainbow I’ve ever seen.

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 27

Chapter 27 is up on on Wattpad! I’m getting nervous now, down to the wire before I pull it off Wattpad and launch the paper copy on Amazon. :::chews nails::: The final chapter, 28, will post on Saturday. I’ll give it a week, and then the whole thing comes down so I can make it available for sale on Amazon. Get caught up now, if you’re not buying the book!

And we’re finally getting a break in the gray and the wet we’ve had. The rivers are still way up, water’s lapping at the edge of the road in places where I drive, but we’re supposed to be dry for the next week or so. I was able to get a few shots this morning on the way to work. Oddly it was clearer at my house than further down the road where I was once again swallowed up by the fog. This first shot is from my front porch. It’s a little blurry, but the color took my breath away.

sunrise 2-11-15

The bright purple and reddish-orange faded very quickly to soft pinks

Rounding the curve 2-11-15

Sunrise Minter Bridge Rd 2-11-15

Farmington at Burkhalter sunrise 2-11-15

Unfortunately all my shots of the high water in the marsh came out like this:

marsh high water 2-11-15

Which is what happens most of the time. The point is, normally you can’t actually see the water here. So yeah, it’s been soggy.