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This is a topic I’ve been thinking about recently. What I’ve been pondering is the sort of thing that, apparently, movies can get away with that would never fly in a novel. Sometimes, by keeping the action moving or providing interesting visuals, movies can make viewers not notice what an author would call a plot hole. Sometimes a very big plot hole.

The problem is that we don’t watch some of these movies just once anymore. Some movies we watch again and again and . . . . By the third or fourth time I start noticing things. And, as a storyteller, they bother me.

Sometimes movies do this for a reason. They’ve only got so much time, after all. But sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason.

I’ll give you an example of the first. Let’s use the first Lord of the Rings movie, “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Gandalf arrives back in the Shire and tests Frodo’s ring, discovering that it is the One Ring, and the Enemy knows where it is. This kicks the plot into motion. Great. What happens next?

In the movie, Frodo and Sam immediately set out for Rivendell–alone. They have no idea how to get there; neither of them has ever been outside of the Shire before. Neither of them has anything remotely resembling a weapon and wouldn’t know how to use it if they did. And the Nine Riders are already after them. In written form, any editor worth his or her salt would call this “too stupid to live” and stop reading. It stretches credulity for Gandalf to consider this any kind of reasonable plan. (And it’s even worse if you’re at all familiar with Tolkein’s map of Middle Earth, where it’s obvious that Gandalf is also going to have to go through Bree.)

It’s not remotely that idiotic in the books. They actually did have a plan that didn’t involve two unprotected hobbits heading out into the wild alone. The plan fell through, for various reasons, and Frodo was forced to run before the Nazgul caught him. They ended up in just about exactly the same place. But at least he wasn’t too stupid to live. Readers tend to lose interest in characters that do idiotic things. Movies can keep the action moving, throw in a little humor, and hope we won’t notice. In this case, probably even hope that those of us who’d read and loved the books, would fill in the gap for them with what we already knew.

Then there’s another problem I sometimes have with even good movies. Generally, in a book, the writer has to supply sufficient motivation for characters to do something. Characters can’t just do things–especially important things that impact the plot–for no reason at all.

Here’s one–an unnecessary one, I think–from the movie “Frozen”. Now I enjoy that movie, but there are a couple of places I have trouble with as a storyteller.

When Hans leads his little impromptu militia to attack Queen Elsa in her ice palace he makes a point of telling them that Elsa isn’t to be harmed. And I can’t help asking “why?” I mean, it isn’t that much later in the movie that he declares his intention to kill Elsa and make himself King. What’s his motivation for not wanting to see her killed by someone else–like the Duke’s men–leaving his hands clean in the matter? Then Anna would become queen and he already knows he’s got her in his pocket.

I’d swallow that whole scene down whole if he just hadn’t said anything–and probably if something else happened to prevent the Duke’s henchman from shooting Elsa with his crossbow. A ricochet, perhaps.


 

Meanwhile, I’m finally on the last chapter of this draft of THE IGNORED PROPHECY, sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’ll need at least two more drafts to be ready. But it’s getting closer. And no plot holes.

 

In honor of the Virtual Ebook Fair still going on, here’s another excerpt from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE:

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Vatar is about to be forced into a near-suicidal hunt of a pair of tigers (think saber-toothed cats):

The Dardani had never hunted a tiger, at least, not that Vatar had ever heard of. It was too dangerous. Thinking about the tigers wasn’t helping. Out of the ripples in the water, a face started to form, red hair, green eyes, and a bridge of freckles across her nose–Thekila. She wasn’t even a real girl, but Vatar couldn’t help noticing that she was pretty, in a slightly exotic way. He wished he’d gotten a chance to know someone like her. Or, really, any girl. The masters back in Caere had effectively blocked him from getting close to any of their daughters. He rarely even got to talk to one for long. Though he’d had his torc for months now, he’d never even gotten a chance to kiss a girl. If this plan didn’t work, he likely never would.

The face disappeared as a shadow fell across the water. Vatar turned and looked up into the face of another girl. A real girl this time. She was slender, but her light blue tunic barely contained her ample breasts and the corresponding curve of her hips. The color also matched the clear blue of her eyes. From this angle, looking up at her, the sun made a halo of her blonde hair. He’d seen her hanging around, watching the boys drill. He thought she had a brother in the group. Or maybe a sweetheart. Although the boys weren’t supposed to start courting girls until after their manhood tests, sometimes the girls had already made up their minds before that–and made their preferences known.

Vatar jumped to his feet and brushed off the knees of his trousers. “Uh . . . hello.”

She smiled briefly–a flash of white teeth behind those pink lips. “Hello. What were you doing?”

Vatar shrugged. He’d like to seem braver, but there weren’t very many things he could realistically be doing out here. “Trying not to be afraid.” He grimaced. “It’s not working.”

The girl smiled again. “Ravaz isn’t succeeding either.”

One of the javelinists. Lucky . . .

The girl took a step closer and placed her hand on Vatar’s arm. “Ravaz is my only brother. Is . . . is your plan going to work? Is he going to come back from this hunt?”

Her brother. Oh. Then . . . Vatar squared his shoulders and stood straighter. “We have a good chance. And he’ll be safer than some, I think. It’s still going to be dangerous, though. I can’t promise that no one will get hurt. Or–“

“I know. No one can promise that. I just wanted to hear that there’s a chance.” She looked into Vatar’s eyes and the side of her mouth twitched up again. “I’m Avaza, by the way.”

He nodded. “I’m Vatar.” With her standing this close, his mind started to fog with the smell of her hair, the warmth where her hand still rested on his arm.

That quick twitch that wasn’t–quite–a smile again. “I know. I’ve been watching you.” She took another step closer.

Vatar smiled. She’d been watching him. That sounded . . . hopeful. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Avaza’s eyes shifted down to his lips and one side of her mouth quirked up. Vatar drew in a deep breath and swallowed. It seemed like an invitation, but he wasn’t sure. But, if he didn’t try, then he might really never get a chance to kiss a girl. Ever. She could always pull away if she didn’t want him to. He bent his head and pressed his lips to hers. He meant it to be just a short kiss, but Avaza moved closer and locked her arms around his neck. Her lips parted under his.

Vatar forgot about the tigers. He forgot everything. His arms came up to encompass her waist and pull her closer. All his fear and anger evaporated in an entirely new and delectable feeling. He wanted to keep on kissing her. Or rather, he wanted to explore more than just her lips. But . . . was the world spinning just a little too fast for him all of a sudden? With difficulty, he broke of the kiss and stepped back.

Avaza smiled and lifted one hand to his cheek. “You know, when I watched you drill or in your workshop, I wondered what it would be like to kiss you. It was better than I thought.”

Vatar’s pulse was still pounding. He felt light all over, almost like he could soar over the plains. And Avaza, beautiful Avaza was looking at him like . . . like a hero. He wanted to be her hero, to make her keep looking at him like that and keep on kissing him like that, too.

He liked the thought that his kiss, unpracticed as it was, had pleased her, too. Vatar smiled and took her hands. “If we come back tomorrow with the heads of those tigers, will you kiss me like that again?”

Avaza cocked her head to the side and gave him a secretive smile. “If you do that, any girl in the whole tribe would kiss you.”

“But I’m asking you.”

Avaza’s smile could have put the sun to shame. “Then, of course I’ll kiss you. I’ll be waiting for you.”

I’ll be taking part in a virtual ebook fair this weekend, July 26th and 27th. Come join us from the comfort of your favorite chair and discover some great books and writers.

This is the last weekend THE SHAMAN’S CURSE will be on sale for $0.99.

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As part of the ebook fair, I’m posting an excerpt from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE here. It’s always tricky choosing an excerpt from a second-world fantasy, finding a place where the reader will feel grounded in a completely different world. So, I’ve decided to go with the beginning.

Vatar reined his horse back behind his friends and turned his head slowly to scan around the endless circle of the plains that merged with the sky at the far horizon. The earth was all golden brown now, the grasses prematurely dried up by the lack of rain. Here and there, the green smudges of trees dotted the savannah, marking the waterholes. The darker blue-green line of the Great Forest marked the eastern horizon. Another line of trees, much closer, marked the course of the river. Everything seemed normal, but that spot between his shoulder blades still itched with a premonition of undefined danger that grew stronger the closer they got to the river.

Ariad slowed down to match Vatar’s pace, allowing the other two boys to go ahead. “Lions?”

Vatar shook his head. That was one danger he could dismiss out of hand. His connection to the Spirit of the Lion told him the nearest lions–in the shade at a distant waterhole–were sleeping off a full meal. “None we need to worry about.”

“What then?” Ariad asked.

“I don’t know. Something . . .” Vatar caught himself before he said too much. It was one of his mother’s oldest admonitions–almost as old as “Don’t touch the fire!” From the very first time he’d tried to describe that infrequent feeling of danger, she’d warned him not to mention it to anyone but her and Pa. Even his little sister Kiara didn’t know about it.

Vatar was already different enough–dark-haired and strongly-built among the tall, lanky, fair Dardani. Though she was Dardani now, his mother had come originally from a far-off city on the sea coast. The Dardani would accept his hair color and height, but not anything that even hinted at forbidden magic. Other than a few old stories, Vatar had no idea why his people had such deep-seated superstitious fear of magic, but he knew full well that it was one of the few things they’d never forgive.

Vatar didn’t think the itch between his shoulder blades was magic, any more than his ability to sense lions. That was his connection to his clan’s totem spirit–just like Ariad could sense eagles. But Mother’s caution was second nature by now. He forced one corner of his mouth up in a half-smile. “Maybe I’ve just heard one too many of Pa’s stories about Themyri ambushes.”

Ariad barked a laugh. “Haven’t we all? To hear our fathers tell it, the river is almost as dangerous as the Great Forest.” He shuddered a little at the reference to the one place all plains-dwelling Dardani feared most and made a surreptitious sign against magic and evil spirits. Being Eagle Clan, Ariad’s hand curled in an imitation of an eagle’s talons.

Up ahead, Torkaz turned in his saddle. “Are you two coming or not?”

Ariad waved his hand and kicked his horse into a canter. Vatar shrugged and followed.

Torkaz wiped sweat from his forehead. “It’s too hot out here. Everything worth hunting is lying up in the shade somewhere.” He slipped his bow back into the fringed sheath on his saddle and grinned. “Why not cut our losses and cool off in the river?”

Ariad’s gaze flicked to Vatar. “We’re not supposed to–“

Predictably, Torkaz treated this simple statement as a challenge, standing up in is stirrups to make himself taller. “You have a better way to cool off?”

Ariad looked around the empty plains. “No.”

“Besides,” Torkaz went on, “the tribe won’t be staying here much longer. The rains are bound to come soon. Then we’ll go back to the Zeda waterhole, probably before midsummer. How often do the Dardani come all the way to the river?” His eyes glowed with excitement. “And next time, even if it’s as soon as next year, we’ll all have passed our manhood test and be too grown up to go wade in the river. This may be our last chance.”

Daron shouted, “Race!” and took off at a gallop. Torkaz and Vatar whooped and jeered at each other as they urged their horses to speed in Daron’s wake. Ariad flailed his reins to speed his horse as he chased after the other three boys.

It wasn’t long before Vatar stood beside his friends on the bank looking down at the river. Below where he stood was a broad boulder-strewn shelf. A few puddles of water lay scattered between the rocks, cut off from the main current by the drought.

Torkaz had already taken hold of the exposed root of one of the trees to swing himself down. Once he stood on the shelf, Torkaz’s head was level with Vatar’s boots.

“Come on!” Torkaz said. “No point in just standing up there.”

Daron and Ariad paused to scan the open country on the far side of the river. That was Themyri territory and this anemic river wasn’t much of a barrier against them. But the only thing moving on that side of the river was a herd of wild horses. Vatar turned to look upriver and twitched his shoulders against the prickle between his shoulder blades. Whatever was wrong was in that direction, but he still couldn’t see, hear, or smell anything out of the ordinary.

Daron gestured to the mountains in the distance, partly obscured by dark, low-hanging clouds. “Look at those clouds. Why can’t that rain be falling out on the plains, where it could do some good?”

Ariad looked down. “With all that rain upstream, you’d think there’d be more water in the river, wouldn’t you?”

Below, Torkaz had already stripped off his boots and tunic and was splashing in the cool water with his trousers rolled up to his knees. Daron shrugged and grasped the root to swing down to the shelf. With a peal of laughter, Ariad followed him.

Vatar paused, looking from the distant mountains to the river below. A chill ran down his spine in spite of the hot summer sun. This is a very bad idea. With his hand at his side, Vatar made the sign of the lion, thumb and forefinger mimicking the open mouth of a roaring lion. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea, after all. Let’s go back.”

Torkaz squinted up at him. “What are you scared of? It’s just a little water. It’s not even all that deep.”

 

While I’m still really enjoying the ride with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE (and checking sales a couple of times a day), it’s time to get back to business.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????And business, in this case, is progress on the sequel, THE IGNORED PROPHECY.

I’m coming right up on the climax. I probably won’t finish this pass this week, as I’d hoped, but I don’t think I’ll be far off. I’m going to have to do a fair amount of work on this climax. (I let our side get off way too easily the first time.) It’ll need at least one more pass before I hand it off to my beta readers (hopefully in September). Still, I love the downhill feeling of hitting the climax and heading toward those magical words “THE END”.

But I’ll need to let it cool a little, so it’s time to start wondering what I’ll work on while I let this draft cool a little and while my terrific beta readers have it. Probably not a true first draft yet. So Weird Oz will have to wait. Maybe the rewrite of DREAMER’S ROSE. I might have time to finish the rewrite/first draft portions of part one (the story of my backwards Hercules character).

Let the DUAL MAGICS characters get out of my head for a few weeks.  Or maybe I’ll work on the companion short story/novella about one of the side characters. I have the bones of that laid out. And there’s almost nothing from his POV in the books. Hmm.

Of course, I could start playing with the cover art for THE IGNORED PROPHECY, too.

Well, my marketing plan for THE SHAMAN’S CURSE seems to be working.

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As of this moment, I’ve sold 253 copies, just on Amazon. That’s since it launched on July 7th. It’s hit Amazon’s popularity lists, as you can see below.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,727 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

It’s doing even better on the Hot New Releases lists, where it’s #14 in Sword and Sorcery, #15 in Epic Fantasy, and #11 in Coming of Age. All that goes to getting more people to just see it and know it’s out there. I don’t think it hurts that the cover is different from those around it, either.

TSC Placement

I’ve already gotten three reviews, too.

This won’t last, of course. When the price goes up on August 1st, I expect a drop. But it’s sure been fun checking in on how it’s doing.

I have a much better idea of how to do this in the future now. And I owe most of it to reading LET’S GET VISIBLE. Highly recommended.

It’s Wednesday. Time for What’s Up Wednesday, a blog hop created by Jaime and Erin Funk to help writers connect.

WUW BadgeWHAT I’M READING

I did go ahead and start re-reading THE HOBBIT. They’re just about to leave Lake-Town and go confront Smaug. I’m also reading THE SONGS OF CHAOS by Morgan Alreth. (I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

WHAT I’M WRITING

Still working on the rewrite of THE IGNORED PROPHECY, sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I’m just a couple of chapters from the climax now. I hope to finish this draft next week and then go play with some other characters for a little while and let this draft cool.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Seeing the words “THE END” up ahead. That always feels good.

Also finding my latest release, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, at #24 in Hot New Releases for Sword and Sorcery ebooks and #35 for Epic Fantasy on Amazon.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

A lot of my non-writing time has gone into trying to find ways to promote THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. Looks like that’s starting to pay off.

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And I’m still dealing with trying to bring some kind of order around here and sort out things for the estate sale. It is utterly amazing what four generations of congenital pack rats can accumulate. I found a set of cast iron cobblers’ lasts–and I have no idea where those came from.

The name of the game with independent (or self) publishing is getting potential readers to even see your books. They can’t read it if they don’t even know it exists. For me–for a lot of authors, really–this is the hardest part. And I was determined to do better at it this time, with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

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  1. When I released BLOOD WILL TELL, I basically set it loose and expected it to fly on its own. It fluttered some, but it certainly didn’t soar.
  2. With FIRE AND EARTH, I attempted to contact book bloggers for review. I spent way too much time at it and still only got a few reviews. It takes a lot of time to find book bloggers, determine if they even like books like the one you’ve written, and contact them. Many are too backlogged to take on anything new. Even those who aren’t may take months to get to your book. It’s not that it’s not worthwhile to try to find book bloggers to review your book. Just maybe a little at a time.
  3. BLOOD IS THICKER got a paid blog tour. Not an expensive one, since that wasn’t in the budget. I also put out an omnibus edition, combining both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER and made it the same price as either book alone for awhile. It did help.
  4. I didn’t put a lot of thought into the launch of THE BARD’S GIFT. It went up only a week or so after Christmas. But I have tried a few things after the launch. Some writer friends put together an impromptu blog tour. I tried Story Cartel to get reviews. (I got one.) I published the short story that was the starting point for THE BARD’S GIFT, with a long excerpt of TBG, and priced it free. (Everywhere but Amazon. I still haven’t succeeded in making “Wyreth’s Flame” free on Amazon.) But, to be fair, an historical fantasy set in 14th Century Greenland, Iceland, and Markland is probably just a hard sell.
  5. Taking all of this into account, plus the advice in David Gaughran’s LET’S GET VISIBLE, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE strategy has been as follows:
  • Use a free short story (“Becoming Lioness”) set in the same world as TSC, with an excerpt of TSC, to try to generate interest IN ADVANCE OF THE LAUNCH.
  • Set the initial price low ($0.99) for a limited time.
  • I’ll probably start trying to find some reviewers, too. I’ve also added a request for reviews right in the back matter of the ebook.

So far, I’ve been reasonably pleased with the result. We’re still not talking best-seller, here, but it’s better than I’ve done with any launch so far. In fact, I’ve already gotten my first review. That, after all, is the point. To get at least a little better at this with every book.

 

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