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

Russia’s Open Book

Having an insomniac night, and find reading to be of no help in settling my mind, I switched on the tv at 4 o’clock in the morning. After flipping through the handful of channels I get on the antenna (I don’t have tv cable) I ran across this on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). It’s a 2-year-old documentary hosted by the actor Stephen Fry about a handful of contemporary Russian authors. Russia kind of fascinates me after being closed off to the West for so long. It makes me wonder what we in the West have missed. The documentary website is here. I do have a couple of books by Russian contemporary writers, one fantasy (Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, and The Stranger, by Max Frei) but haven’t gotten to them in the TBR pile.

If it makes you curious for more, and aren’t the type to read the comments, I found this guy’s blog which has much more on Russian writing and writers.

 

Imaginary Worlds

These pictures feel like a fairytale world. I need to write a fantasy set in this place. Gotta come up with a name for it. Amazing how it’s never the same two days in a row.

When I look at these pictures I keep wanting to label them “Farksolia.” But I need to think up my own name if I want to create an imaginary world. For those not familiar with Farksolia, it was an imaginary planet invented by Barbara Follett, a ‘child prodigy’ who wrote an acclaimed novel at the age of 12, in 1925. She even created a language for the inhabitants, Farksoo. She disappeared mysteriously in 1939, and I like to think she created a new life for herself somewhere, changed her name, and kept writing. She would have been 101 on March 4. I somehow stumbled across Farksolia years ago, no doubt following one link, then another, and have never forgotten about Barbara.

Anyway the whole thing is giving me ideas for different blog formats, and creating a little world of my own. I owe you for that, Barbara.

 

 

Guest Post – He Always Runs While Others Walk: Pacing in Fiction

Today I have a real treat for you guys. I’m delighted to host a guest post by Harry Connolly, author of the Twenty Palaces series, and The Great Way, his new fantasy trilogy. I’ve been a fan of Harry’s for years, and was thrilled to be able to participate in Harry’s blog tour. He has written a dynamite post on pacing in fiction, so you writerly types take special note. And be sure to follow Harry on Twitter @byharryconnolly and follow his blog, Harry J. Connolly. And go read his books! They’re fantastic and imaginative and great fun. Now, on to Harry’s words of wisdom!

 

He Always Runs While Others Walk: Pacing in Fiction

We’ve all had the experience of reading a book all the way through to the end because we just have to get to the end. God help us, the awful word “unputdownable” was coined just for this, and as much as I hate the word, it exists for a reason.

Pacing. For the sort of fiction I write, it’s vital, but I think it’s also misunderstood.

Typically, people talk about pacing when they talk about my style of writing—chases, fights, daring escapades—but every book has its own pacing. If we’re reading about a young woman spending a summer in Florence, you’d expect the pacing to be mellow and relaxed, with a text mainly focused on description and casual conversation. Likewise, most cozy mysteries are chiefly made up of conversation and scene description, which are not usually considered gripping entertainment.

And yet, just like with thrillers, we can find ourselves compulsively reading cozies.

In other media, pacing can be pretty straight forward. How do we pick up the pace in music? Have the drummer (or the other musicians) play faster. (Probably there’s advice about playing on the upbeat instead of the downbeat, but I’m not musical.) Film has a number of techniques, including fast editing, that will speed the pace.

But with text on a page, it’s just one word after another. We can make a book seem shorter by including a bunch of one-line paragraphs that don’t extend to the right margin, but that’s just the book. It doesn’t increase the pace of the story. Yeah, I’m going against some really common advice here: short sentences are not one of the keys to fast-paced writing. We can increase the pace with long sentences, too. I ended the biggest action scene in Game of Cages with a run-on sentence that was over five hundred words long. It’s complexity, not length, that slows things down.

My friend Bill Martell is a screenwriter with an interesting theory (well, more than one, really, but let’s talk about this one) about films: they generally have two genres. The primary genre is where all the big set pieces and high drama occurs. Those are the super-exciting “peaks” in the story where the pace is most frenetic. The secondary genre (the word “subplot” just isn’t that descriptive) is where the “lulls” happen. Taking Super-8 as an example: the primary genre is a monster movie about an alien that grabs people and devours them. The secondary genre is a coming of age story. In between the chase scenes and the scary monster stuff, the mellower moments that let us catch our breath center on the protagonist’s relationship with his father, with the girl he likes, and with his best friend.

In decades past, the second genre was typically a love story, usually with the Only Woman Appearing In The Film. Lately, it’s more likely to be about Daddy Issues.

Books are different, but only because they can be longer and more complex. We can have a whole bunch of different plots running throughout the book, with multiple points of view, and can switch between them whenever we need to alter the pace. If we have one storyline about a prince leading a battle against an invading army, we can switch over to the princess being forced into a marriage with a man she knows is secretly plotting with the invaders, then switch to a disreputable smuggler working the docks, wondering who’s bringing in all these new shipments. Battle -> Court Intrigue -> Skulking -> Battle -> Court Intrigue -> and so on, switching between them.

The thing is, each storyline could be equally gripping. Just because one is slower-paced than the others doesn’t mean that the reader attaches to the story less ferociously. But the difference in pace is important for creating that reader attachment. The fast parts need the slow, just as the slow needs the fast.

To shift gears a little bit: Most people who go to see a Michael Bay movie know they’re in for spectacle, which is achieved through some very specific techniques. However, although the pace is fast due to the way it’s framed, shot, and edited, a lot of people find it intensely dull and/or unsatisfying.

The audience doesn’t care because the first step in creating pacing that really works is to create a situation that the readers care deeply about.

Look at the situation I presented four paragraphs before: some readers will have zero interest in anything related to a princess forced into a bad marriage. Maybe they don’t like reading about female characters. Maybe they don’t like reading about female characters without a lot of agency. It doesn’t matter. Even if the story is full of chases and betrayals and death-defying risks, every time the narrative switches to her plot, the book will sag.

For that reader.

You really can’t please everyone. Personal example: I was confused by early reviews of Child of Fire that said “nothing happened” for the first 100 pages. I was perplexed by this, because the protagonist sees a child catch fire and transform, they he helps break into a home, then a gunman shoots up the restaurant he’s in, then…

Anyway, a lot was happening, and it was happening quickly. However, the main plot question was “What the hell is going on here?” and there are certain readers who don’t consider that a legitimate plot question. For them, unless there’s a clear goal (beyond “we need to figure this out”) it’s all a holding pattern. I suspect those readers will never truly like my work.

How do we control the pacing, though?

As I’ve been trying to demonstrate, there are no hard and fast rules. Some choices will seem fast in one book and slow in another, depending on what’s around it. Sometimes the reader will be impossible to win over, no matter what we do.

Like all writing, it depends on what information is being delivered to the reader and how. It’s not something I can turn into a numbered list. Is the scene we’re writing about a soldier trying to defuse a ticking bomb, and full of relatively simple language? Probably fast paced. Is it about a soldier trying to defuse a bomb and full of complicated clauses, digressions into the soldier’s childhood, a description of the surroundings? Well, that might be frustratingly in conflict with itself, and maybe that’s the point.

Characters we care about, doing something we’re interested in, acting in a frantic way, described in the appropriate language, is probably a fast-paced part of the story. Unless it isn’t. If they’re taking stock, or just getting to know each other (so the reader will be sad when they’re killed later) that’s probably slower.

The only way to really tell is by the feel of it. When writing/revising/rereading a section, do we feel as though some tidal force is pushing us forward? Do we feel centered and at ease? Frankly, for all the talk about writerly technique, I think we too often give short shrift to the true arbiter of proper technique: our own taste.

Short sentences! Showing instead of telling! Whatever! These things are usually substitutions for the careful creative decision that seems right at the moment. The real world of art—even commercial art of the kind I write—is more complicated than short sentences = fast pace.

Anyone who’s curious about the way I do pacing, look no further than the opening of my new trilogy. Check the cover.:

The Way Into Chaos Cover

It’s about a sentient curse that brings about the collapse of an empire, and it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

You can find out more about that first book here, or you can read the sample chapters I’ve posted on my blog to see a slow lull that builds until it turns into a fast-paced scene of violence.

Thanks for your time.

BIO: Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child of Fire, was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Novels of 2009. For his epic fantasy series The Great Way, he turned to Kickstarter; at the time this was written, it’s the ninth-most-funded Fiction campaign ever. Book one of The Great Way, The Way Into Chaos, was published in December, 2014. Book two, The Way Into Magic, was published in January, 2015. The third and final book, The Way Into Darkness, was released on February 3rd, 2015. Harry lives in Seattle with his beloved wife, beloved son, and beloved library system.

Revenants Abroad–Chapter 19

Chapter 19 posted on Wattpad this morning! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read about my little group of vampires and humans. It’s still kind of surreal to me that it’s out there and anybody AT ALL is reading it. Lots of questions about the sequel, which is in the works, but it’s way too early even for me to know what’s going to happen! It’s interesting to see which characters become favorites, though.

And a couple pics. I was surprised to see Venus and Mercury in the sky last evening on my way home. I stopped on the road to get pics, just wish I’d had my tripod (or better, telescope) with me. Timestamp is 5:55PM EST, looking south. I rather like this pic:

Venus and Mercury 1-13-15

And this morning:

Fiery pond 1-14-15

 

Lonely Mountain 1-14-15

 

Happy Hump Day!

Revenants Abroad pre-orders open!

Revenants Abroad - Final for Web Display 501x800

I have done it, I have loosed my vampires upon the world! This is both terrifying and exciting. There was a lot of time I thought about just tossing it in a drawer (electronically) and forgetting about it. But then I thought, what the hey, eh? Why not just run it up the proverbial flag pole and see who salutes? Maybe we should meet the team:

Revenants Abroadfinal Andrej

Andrej Vojacek

Anne-Marie Van Vooren

Anne-Marie Van Vooren

Neko Melonakos

Neko Melonakos

This is the core group: just a couple of fun-loving, bourbon-swilling, chain-smoking, blood-drinking vampires and one human woman who have become a de facto family. It’s a little dysfunctional but what family isn’t? Somehow they’re still falling in with the wrong crowd.

The book releases on October 31 (I just had to have that day!), but you can pre-order now on Smashwords in a variety of formats and it should be up soon if not already at B&N, Kobo, Scribd, Oyster, FlipKart, Overdrive…  You can also download 10% of it to take it for a test drive, see if you’d like to read more. Also, the first chapter is up on Wattpad .

I’m working on getting it up at Amazon, but until then you can get the MOBI version from Smashwords.

If you don’t like pre-orders the book is available in just a couple days. I did a short pre-order period, mostly due to the timing of being able to get it through Smashwords vetting system and into their Premium Catalog, which took far less time than anticipated.

So, on to NaNoWriMo on Saturday, and start of the sequel to RA, working title “The Age of Revenants”.

Moving Forward

 

So it looks like it’s really going to happen, I’m really going to unleash Andrej, Neko, and Anne-Marie on the world, probably late this summer. This is, quite frankly, terrifying. Honest to dog, I don’t know how I’m going to make myself do all the obligatory marketing and selling. I don’t want to become “that author” who endlessly tweets nothing but ‘buy my book!’ tweets.

But first, I have to get something, some kind of descriptors or keywords to my cover artist so he can get started on the painting (yes, not CGI. I’ve seen some really dreadful covers done in CGI). :::chews nails::: This is much harder than I thought it would be. There are the obvious things: vampires, Prague, the three main characters. I really have no clear vision of what I want on the cover so I’ll wait and see what he comes up with. I’m still not entirely sure what all he’s going to do as far as creating the digital version of the painting. So many details still to work out. I hope to have a contract in the next day or two.

I’m rethinking how/where I’m going to release the book. I had initially figured I’d go KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) but now I’m thinking Smashwords who can distribute to iTunes and loads of others, including Kobo (since that’s the kind of ereader I have).

Oh god I feel like Kermit.

Current Inspiration

This piece gives me chills. I just wish it was longer and didn’t end so abruptly. I give you: Two Steps From Hell, “Protectors of the Earth” from their album, “Invincible.”

 

 

I downloaded the MP3 version from Amazon, in case anyone’s wondering.

I still don’t know if this current WIP is going to be a short story, or if I want to take it to full length novel. It’s funny how  I have real life models for some of the characters, but  not the main character, my protagonist. Sigh. Back to it.

I wonder if the CD cover is available as a poster…

Invincible CD Cover