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Archive for June, 2013

Well, not surprisingly, I’ve done things backwards, again. Typical.

What I’ve learned so far from my experience with FIRE AND EARTH:

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

I need to start planning and taking action much earlier. I planned a month in advance with FIRE AND EARTH. Most of that went into formatting and cover art, though, so I hadn’t done a lot of preparation for a launch. With BLOOD IS THICKER, I’m going to start a minimum of three months in advance.

So, I won’t know the date until I have a finished, polished manuscript in hand. Then I’ll pick a date at least three months out from that. I’ll need to go ahead and do the formatting, for Smashwords at a minimum, and then start approaching potential reviewers in the hope that some of the reviews will be up at about the launch date (or even a little earlier).

I also need to do more in the way of a blog tour, cover art reveal, etc. Introvert me has resisted this, but I’m going to have to push myself out of my comfort zone. Well, what else is new? I knew that’d be part of learning this promotion thing, didn’t I? And that was part of the point. Beyond wanting to get my stories out there, I want to start learning the other side of this business that I’ll need no matter what path my writing takes from here.

I still have to figure out how to do my two-for-one offer of BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER together. I have a couple of ideas, but nothing’s final yet. I want it to be everywhere, not just one bookseller. And I want it to be wider than just my writing communities. For that, I may have to create an omnibus edition which can temporarily be priced the same as either book separately.

Meanwhile, I have started serializing BLOOD IS THICKER over on wattpad. If you want to see how the story starts (or continues, since this is the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL), you can check it out for free over there.

 

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Sometime this fall, I’ll be e-publishing BLOOD IS THICKER, the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. I haven’t picked the exact date yet. This time, I’m really determined to do a better job of preparing for the launch. This is a learning process for me

There’s a lot to do.

  1. The final draft would be a good thing to have, I think. Actually, I’m almost there. In the past, though, I’ve always had the final draft essentially burning a hole in my . . . my storage drive, I guess . . . and it’s made me the thing out a little too fast. Like I said, it’s a learning process.
  2. I still have to write a blurb and a pitch, which I haven’t even started.
  3. I have to finalize the cover art. This is what I have so far:
    Provisional Blood Is Thicker Cover

    Provisional Blood Is Thicker Cover

    There’ll be a formal cover reveal when I’ve settled on the final cover. What do you think?

  4. I’ll need to start working soon on things like a blog tour and lining up reviewers much earlier than I’ve done for FIRE AND EARTH.
  5. Mostly, I’m still trying to figure out how to do what I really want to do–offer a short-term two-for-one deal. Buy either BLOOD WILL TELL or BLOOD IS THICKER and get the other free. I know other people have done something similar. I just need to figure out how to make it work.

Meanwhile, I’m still lining up reviewers for FIRE AND EARTH. Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)Yeah, should have done that sooner. Oh, and answering questions for an author interview to go along with one of those reviews. That’s new for me, too.

The last chapter of BLOOD WILL TELL is now available on wattpad. I’ll start the sequel, BLOOD IS THICKER, on Sunday, hoping to get some people interested in advance. This one, I think I’ll update once a week.

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Well, we’re about half-way through the year and I guess it’s time to look ahead to my plans for the rest of the year.

I’ve got a number of revisions under way.

  1. MAGIC AND POWER: I’ve just started the second draft. It’ll take at least one or two more drafts and some beta readers before I decide what I’ll ultimately do with it. It’ll need a new title, at the least. This is the story that grew from a planned novelette into 75,000 words.
  2. BLOOD IS THICKER: This is the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. I’ve just completed a revision on this. I’m finally happy with the story. (Did I mention lately that sequels are hard?) It needs at least one more pass. I plan to start serializing it on wattpad as soon as BLOOD WILL TELL is complete there. (Next Sunday, in fact.) And I need to start planning a launch for this for sometime this fall. Note: This time I do actually intend to plan about three months ahead. Guess I’d better get started.
  3. MAGE STORM: I’m just beginning to get feedback from my beta readers on the newly revised version. I’m excited about this one. It’s my middle grade fantasy and I want it to be ready to pitch at WriteOnCon in August. That means I need to rework the query and synopsis, too.

Hopefully about the time I finish these revisions, I’ll be ready to start writing my “weird Oz” story. I’m getting excited about that one, too. It’s likely to be the first novel-length work I’ll attempt in first person. At a minimum, that’ll be an interesting adventure.

Meanwhile, at least until MAGE STORM is ready, I’ll continue querying THE BARD’S GIFT.

Eh, when I put it all down like that, it’s no wonder the house is a mess.

The next-to-last chapter of BLOOD WILL TELL is up now on wattpad. Final chapter to come on Wednesday.

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 This is the last in my series of blog posts about the problems with series. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good series–up to a point. But some series just keep going on . . . and on . . . and on. And at some point, they go on too long. This post is about endurance–the reader’s–and knowing when to stop.

I’m quite sure that the endurance level varies widely by reader. My own experience suggests that mine is somewhere between five and nine books in a series, depending on several factors. After that, I just don’t really care enough about the characters or the story to continue. This probably helps to explain my strong preference for either series that are already complete–and I can tell how many books are involved–or for series in which each book represents its own story, allowing me to stop at any point that I get tired of it.

HARRY POTTER certainly held my interest for all seven books. Though, even then, I confess that I enjoyed the earlier ones more, I think. WHEEL OF TIME lost me somewhere around book nine. It is certainly possible for a series that doesn’t give any intermediate resolutions to go on far too long for me. I can only think of one “series” where I read more than nine books–and that one was more a collection of series within the same world but with different collections of characters and problems. Even then, I reached a point where the stories just couldn’t hold my interest anymore.

I understand the temptation. You’ve spent hours, days, maybe months, building up this world. More, readers seem to like it. Why wouldn’t you want to keep writing stories about it? But, I think wisdom is to be found in knowing when to say enough and go build some other world.

 The final chapter of FIRE AND EARTH (actually the epilogue) is now up on wattpad, along with a new chapter of BLOOD WILL TELL.

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For a writer, there’s very little more difficult than starting a sequel. You have all these characters, settings, and issues that have already been introduced to the reader–probably over the course of a couple of hundred pages. Now you have to reintroduce them at the start of the sequel, with at least enough information for the reader not to get lost.

It’s risky to assume that your reader already knows these things because they’ve read the first book. Ultimately, you can put Book 2 on the cover in pulsing red letters and someone will still pick up the sequel first. You have no control over that. And you don’t want that reader to be so lost that they put your book down and decide that they don’t want to read anything else by you. So you want to supply enough information for that reader to be able to grasp who everyone is and what’s going on. But how?

Probably the easiest thing is to write a short synopsis of the first book, providing the necessary information. Unfortunately, most readers will just skip that, anyway. The next option is to try to introduce the information as it’s needed, but without making it seem like an info dump. Easier said than done.

In BLOOD IS THICKER, at least I only have to start with two of the characters and add the others as the story goes on. I got lucky. That’s the natural starting place of that story. The start of the sequel to MAGE STORM won’t be too bad, I think, though there will probably be more than two characters. In THE IGNORED PROPHECY, sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE (assuming I ever get back to rewriting those), well, there are a dozen or so characters all in the same place. I’ll have to find some way of introducing each of them, and the setting, while trying to get the story started. Yikes.

It’s a delicate balancing act–enough information without slowing things down to a standstill and boring the reader before the story even gets off the ground. I have to say, I haven’t seen an example I can hold up as the absolute gold standard. At least, not yet. Have you?

Also, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad. (Only one more chapter to go in FIRE AND EARTH.)

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Did you ever notice that the middle book (or movie) in a series is usually the least exciting? It just feels like there’s something missing. I have a theory about that.

This applies to all lengths of series in which there’s some overall conflict tying the whole series together, but, for the sake of brevity, let’s use the trilogy.

In the first book, we, as readers, meet the characters for the first time. We “see” the setting for the first time. Hopefully (so that we’ll want to continue the series) we fall in love. If it’s a fantasy, we also learn about the magic system, about any strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit this world. It’s all new and sparkling and full of wonder.

In the third book, we have the big bang, the ultimate confrontation between the hero and the villain. The villain gets his come-uppance. The hero emerges victorious. We get the resolution, the satisfaction, of finding out how the story ends.

The poor middle book doesn’t have either one of these. Hopefully, it’s at least a decent story in its own right, but not always. I’ve read series in which the middle book doesn’t even come out to a story, in the sense of having a smaller problem recognized in the beginning and resolved at the end. It’s just a bridge between the first and third books. I have to really love the characters to want to come back for more in those cases.

This is something I’m really struggling with right now with BLOOD IS THICKER, which is the middle book of my CHIMERIA trilogy. The three books are each meant to stand alone, but they also build on each other and there is something of an overarching problem. BLOOD IS THICKER suffers from middle-book syndrome. And I’m not quite sure how to fix it. Yet.

Now, I want to mention one series that spectacularly beat the middle-book blues–J. K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series. And I think I know why. She parcels out that sense of wonder all through the books, especially the early ones. In SORCERER’S STONE we learn about the wizarding world, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Quidditch, baby dragons, unicorns, and centaurs. But in CHAMBER OF SECRETS we get the flying car, the whomping willow, giant spiders, a “talking” diary, a phoenix, and the basilisk. In PRISONER OF AZKABAN we get dementors, hippogriffs, werewolves, time-turners, the Marauders’ Map, and the patronus charm. Do I even have to go into GOBLET OF FIRE?

Now, if I could just figure out how to apply that to BLOOD IS THICKER. I think I have a better chance with the sequels to MAGE STORM.

Also, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

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I’m currently working on the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL, and waiting for feedback on MAGE STORM, which I hope will be the first of a series. Therefore, I’ve been thinking about series and some of the problems of series and sequels.

First, I identify four different kinds of series, which have different issues.

  1. The multi-volume story: This kind is (unfortunately, to my way of thinking) particularly common in fantasy. It’s the story that isn’t complete (framed by the recognition of a problem and the resolution of that problem) until you read the whole series. Probably the most famous of these is LORD OF THE RINGS. The individual volumes do not come out to be stories (by the definition given above). You have to read all three before the problem recognized in volume one (THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING) is resolved in volume three (THE RETURN OF THE KING). Other examples are David Eddings’ THE BELGARIAD and THE MALLOREAN. And, probably the biggest of all time, Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME.  These series can be great fun when all the volumes are out–and extremely frustrating when the reader has to wait a year or more between installment. Also, speaking personally, THE WHEEL OF TIME demonstrated that there is a limit to the number of volumes I’m willing to read before I get some resolution.
  2. The multi-arc series: This is perhaps the tightest form of series and needs the most organization on the part of the writer. Each book in this kind of series has its own completed story, but is also part of a larger story arc that unites all of the books in the series. HARRY POTTER is probably the best example of this. Each book has a separate problem, but also advances the overall story. For example, in HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, Harry and his friends have to figure out what and where the chamber is, what’s in it, who’s opened it, and ultimately defeat both the monster and its master. That’s a story. But, there are also things in that book which don’t directly advance that quest, but have to do with the larger story of Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort.
  3. The protagonist-centered series. There are a lot of examples of this, but one of the simplest is any mystery series that centers around a particular detective. That protagonist is all these series have in common. It doesn’t matter–or matters very little–what order you read the books in. They’re all different, and usually distinct, adventures of the protagonist. Sometimes, it’s a setting or fantasy world, that’s featured instead of a main character.
  4. The stories-that-build-on-each-other series: (Okay, that’s a long and awkward name for it.) This is the series in which each book is a complete story in its own right. There is no overarching conflict that unifies all the books. But the stories do build on each other so that there is a preferred reading order. Patricia Briggs’s MERCY THOMPSON series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, and John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE are all examples of this.

As for me, my series tend to fall in that last category. It’s probably not an accident that this is also the kind of series I like to read most. Though, if I ever get back to it, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE is more of the second type, with an overarching conflict unifying the three (or possibly four) stories in the series.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more thoughts on the problems with writing series.

Meanwhile, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad. Both stories are also available in their entirety on Amazon and elsewhere e-books are sold.

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