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Archive for May, 2014

Fantasy novels often have maps at the beginning. Sometimes, even if the map doesn’t make it into the final, published book, the author draws one out for reference as part of the world building.

I figured out how to include a map in my ebooks with THE BARD’S GIFT.

TBGMap3

It’s not hard. It’s just another step. But it also involves making sure that the illustration (which is what a map is, when you come right down to it) is sized correctly and actually will be readable on at least most readers. (If you’re reading on your smart phone, you’re on your own.)

But, let’s be honest. THE BARD’S GIFT is an historical fantasy. I didn’t have to start from scratch with that map.

Now, I also have a map for the world of the DUAL MAGICS series. But it’s a hand-scribbled-for-my-reference kind of map. Don’t laugh.

Dual Magics MapYeah. That one’s not going to make it into the book.

I’d kind of like to include a map, though. There is software out there, mostly written for rpg gamers, that will make more professional looking maps. There are two problems with that, though.

The first, of course, is price. I need to decide if it’s really worth it on top of the other expenses. Over the course of the whole series, it might be. Plus, I have other stories, like DREAMER’S ROSE, that also have hand-scribbled maps.

There’s also the question of whether the story really needs it. Beta readers of THE BARD’S GIFT expressed a wish for a map. Beta readers of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE never mentioned it. (Neither actually had a map when they read the stories.) So, maybe it’s not such a big deal.

The second problem is the learning curve. If I started today, it would still likely delay publication of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE just to produce something that didn’t look completely amateurish. But one of the great things about ebooks is that you can go back and upload a newer version. Some retailers, like Amazon and Smashwords, even allow customers to download newer versions for free. So, I could go back and add the map when I finally have one that I think looks good enough to publish.

Maybe I’ll have a map–and an updated version of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE–when I publish the sequel, THE IGNORED PROPHECY.

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So, this week and probably next, I’m concentrating on getting through what will hopefully be the final edits/revisions to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I want to get this formatted and ready to go for a July (or possibly August) launch. Having it ready early will allow me to do something in the right order for a change–actually send out advance review copies so the reviews can hit at around the time of the launch.

I’ve made good progress this week. I deleted four whole chapters. And I have my eye on two more that might very well get the axe, too. I always felt that the first third to maybe half of TSC was a bit too slow, a little too distanced from the central conflict. (I physically separate my MC from the antagonist as his first try/fail cycle, so this is at least somewhat inevitable, but that doesn’t mean things have to be drawn out.)

Some important things happen in that section. But there were a few other chapters that were establishing things for later. The thing is, despite the common advice “Show, don’t tell”, you don’t actually have to show everything. In fact, you shouldn’t. Some things can and should be told. In this case, it’s going to do more for the pacing of the story than the scenes/chapters did for set up. And I can still put in a paragraph or so to provide the necessary set up–just somewhere else.

But, the thing is, just a couple of months ago, I couldn’t see that. I needed the critiques that pointed out that some things didn’t seem to really move the story forward. And I needed the time to get enough distance from the story to see what those scenes were.

Sometimes, progress actually means deleting portions of your story, but it takes some distance from it to be able to see that. And those deleted scenes/chapters? Expect to see them during the launch.

Oh, and I think I’m finally making progress toward cover art for this series. There may be a cover reveal before too long.

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Today, I’m hosting Robert Flores IV as part of his blog tour for his latest book BROKEN TRUST.

Time Management and the Writer

Broken Trust marks my third novel in as many years. For me, that seems to be behind schedule. But many of my author friends tell me I am fast. Especially when they consider that I put out a magazine every two months in addition to working and having a family life.

I am not the best with time management, especially if I log into Facebook or Twitter. I was supposed to write this blog post first thing when I woke up. It is now almost 12:30 and I am just getting started. First I had to start the Laundry, then my sister called, then I had to do more laundry. Then the little one wanted his lunch, and then I had to eat. Next came the emails. And now, finally I am writing this post.

The truth is, if I wrote as much as I told myself I would write then I would find myself publishing two or three novels a year. But the fact remains that writing isn’t my only obligation each day. And, even if being an author was my full time job, there is so much more that goes into being an author than just writing.

You have to set up priorities for your time. And recently I took things a step further and started a schedule for myself. It got me thinking that maybe I should share with everyone how I set priorities and plan my days.

Priority number one is my family and my kids. They are still young, and while mostly independent they still need me for some things. So, weekends and weekdays after 3pm are very hard for me to get much done with writing or editing. When all three kids are home, I just can’t get much done. So I have marked that time off for them.

Of course, I have bills to pay and writing doesn’t pay those. So I do have to work. Right now, I don’t have a regular job. But I am working a summer job and when I am working, I can’t be writing. Though you can be assured that I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will write next while I am at work.

Next, I have to pencil in time for my second job of being a writer and editor. Right now that is limited to Monday-Friday until 3pm when I am not working. Eventually, when I have a laptop again, I will be able to expand this some.

But, I have to get more specific with this time. So often I find myself working on one task, then bouncing to another task. Then back to another one. And what eventually happens is that nothing gets done. So I am going one step further.

I have two main tasks to work on when I am not working or spending family time. The first is Plasma Frequency, my bi-monthly magazine of Speculative Fiction. Now, you might assume that doesn’t take much time. But you would be assuming wrong. It takes so much time that I often get overwhelmed with it all, even with my great team helping out. I have to read a lot of short stories, edit, format, write contracts, and handle payments for authors. Not to mention getting artists and business aspects together.

Then, I need to write. I have to blog, write my novels, and keep my website up to date. But, I also need to market my writing, keep in touch on social media with my fans, and format my books for publication.

So how do I manage this? I do it with weekly schedules for myself. I break down the week into hourly chunks and put myself on the clock for the “free time” I use for my writing and editing. I go through and put myself down for Plasma Frequency, or writing. And I get more specific. This day and time will be reading submissions, this block of time for a blog post, this block of time for lunch, and this block for social time.

Do I go over, get off schedule, or just plain throw the schedule out the window? Yes. But not as often as I thought I would when I started this experiment. And, I keep the schedule fluid. Meaning that if I blog when I should have been writing my novel, I’ll write the novel during the blog time. I have to adjust the schedule for my muse. But as long as I keep it fluid, it seems to be working out for me.

Maybe I can even get a second novel out before the end of the year, but don’t hold me to that.

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About Broken Trust: Released May 29, 2014

Earth is no longer teeming with human life. After a major mass extinction event, the world is no longer able to function as it once had. Governments have collapsed and those that survived are left to figure out what is next for the human race.

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader. But after finding survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader. Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills. And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, a past lover he never really got over, has suddenly arrived at the city gates. And the mounting stress of a neighboring city-state threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety. Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

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About the Author:

Richard Flores IV is the author of the science fiction novels, Dissolution of Peace, Volition Agent, and Broken Trust.  He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Plasma Frequency, a bimonthly, semi-pro magazine of speculative fiction.  He lives in Auburn, Washington with his wife and three children.  When not writing, he works a day job where he daydreams about writing.  His hobbies include reading, television, video games, blogging, and watching San Jose Sharks hockey. You can find out more about Richard, his writing, and his blog by visiting http://www.floresfactor.com.

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I’m targeting early July (maybe 7/7/14) for the launch of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

For the stories I choose to epublish myself, for whatever reason, I do my own cover art. Most often I use images from Dreamstime, although there are other, similar sources out there. I just usually have better luck finding the kind of images I’m looking for there. And very often, I can find one perfect or nearly perfect image, like the ones I used for FIRE AND EARTH and THE BARD’S GIFT.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

TheBardsGiftCoverSmall

Or one that needs just a little additional tweak, like the one I used for BLOOD WILL TELL. (I had to add the dragon.)

Blood Will Tell Cover

But TSC is causing me no end of trouble. It’s not a lack of images, exactly. I have any number of them filed away in my lightbox on Dreamstime. But no one of them is quite exactly right for this story. Or, there’s one that’s pretty close to a scene from my story. If this was a stand-alone novel, I’d probably use that one. But it’s not. TSC is the first book in the DUAL MAGICS series (planned to be four books).

That’s part of the problem. I need to come up with something that will tie the covers of all four books together. Not the same image, necessarily. Though a single common element could work. Or a similar feel.

For the Chimeria series (BLOOD WILL TELL, BLOOD IS THICKER, and, eventually, BLOOD STAINS) I’m using dramatic, magical skies and the same dragon silhouettes.

I haven’t come up with any inspiration quite that simple for this series. Not that will work, anyway.

Of course, I’ve gone to amazon to look at covers of somewhat similar books (sword and sorcery, more or less–although TSC is more spear and sorcery). That’s given me some templates to try to work with. If I can just muster enough skill to make any of them work. So far, that’s also been part of the challenge.

One of the many challenges I’m wrestling with is coming up with some image or combination of images that conveys something about the story while at the same time giving sufficient clues that this is a fantasy story which will involve magic. Not, for example, a western or a historical romance. (One image, which is nearly perfect otherwise, just screams that the title should be something like “How to Tame Your Highlander”.)

I’ve got to come as close to perfection as reasonably possible. The cover is perhaps the most important part of the marketing. I’ll get there eventually.

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Blogging a little bit late today because life got crazy yesterday–and that’s aside from the current heat wave, here. It’s been in the 90’s all week.

Right now, I’m about to wrap up the revisions on MAGIC AND POWER (or whatever title I finally decide on). Strengthening a couple of characters, mostly. There’s one section I still need to trim, but I’m probably going to have to seek some help with that. Someone else will be able to see what’s expendable than I am at this point.

It’ll soon be time to start working on the query and a dreaded synopsis for this one.

Keep your head down. Don’t draw attention. Don’t make waves. Be invisible as much as possible. Above all, don’t make yourself a target. Those are the rules seventeen-year-old Ailsa has lived by for as long as she can remember. She’s used to that. It just goes with being the daughter of the disgraced ex-king and living next to his more-than-slightly paranoid replacement.

With very few friends and no prospects of marriage, Ailsa focuses her energy on her chance to study at the Institute of Magical Arts. Her great hope is that she’ll prove to have a kind of magic that will enable her to save her homeland from the new king’s restrictive policies toward mages. But nothing is ever that simple for Ailsa. A completely unexpected proposal–from Crown Prince Savyon, no less–threatens to derail all her plans.

Political intrigue, powerful magic, and a handsome study partner with a maddening taste for placing them both at the center of attention force Ailsa to rethink her view of the world. Perhaps the answer isn’t to shrink until she fits in somebody’s pre-arranged slot after all. Maybe she can make her own place–and change the world for the better in the process.

The only question remaining is which of the young men who claim to love her is willing to help her in that battle.

GREEN MAGIC is a 96,000-word young adult fantasy romance and potentially the first of a series.

Thank you for your time.

Except, of course, it’s nearer to 97,000 words and I still have some more to add.

After that, I want to make a final pass through THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, preparing that one for this summer sometime. Then complete a first pass through the rewrite of the sequel, THE IGNORED PROPHECY. (The DUAL MAGICS series.)

And then I have plenty more things in the pipeline after that. The rewrite of DREAMER’S ROSE. First drafts of the sequel to MAGIC AND POWER and the third book in the DUAL MAGICS series (probably to be titled TROUBLED COUNSELS). And there’s still that weird Oz story hanging out on the edges, waiting for me to figure it out.

Yeah, I expect I can keep busy.

 

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Mom and Me, Picnic

This is my first Mother’s Day without Mom. I miss her, not so much the way she was at the end, when, frankly, she didn’t really know who I was anyway. (Alzheimer’s disease is a far worse villain than anything I can come up with.) I miss her the way we were back in this photo, which is just an ordinary picnic. After Dad retired, they took up the habit of going on picnics once a week, usually on Tuesdays. If the weather didn’t cooperate, they’d still go for a drive and stop to eat somewhere. It didn’t take long before they knew all the best places–indoors or out–within a three-hour drive in any direction. (Well, not west. You can’t drive three hours to the west from here without a boat. ) Whenever I felt I needed a break, I could just throw my name in and join them for a day.

I’m planning to keep myself busy. There’s a lot that needs doing around here and I’m about two-thirds through revisions to MAGIC AND POWER.

Mothers Day Book Bash Banner

Don’t forget the Mother’s Day Book Bash. Nine great books for bargain prices.

And, just to tie the two parts of this post together, Mom was part of the inspiration for Valeriah in the Chimeria series. Not Vallie’s aggressiveness or her fighting prowess, that wasn’t Mom at all. Though, she wasn’t afraid to make her opinion known. No, the part of Valeriah that comes from Mom was the petite ball of fire aspect. Mom was barely five feet tall on a good day, but she sure was a firecracker.

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Here’s a character interview with Valeriah:

Valeriah strides into the room, eyes automatically flicking over everyone present and all possible entrances and exits. She’s petite with bright red hair and a ruddy complexion. Her presence radiates energy that makes her seem bigger than she really is.

Inspection complete, she huffs impatiently. “All right, I suppose we should get this over with.” She takes a moment to organize her thoughts.

“To begin with, all of the magical races of Chimeria can take human form. It’s our lingua franca, the way we can all talk to each other. Of course, once we take human form, there’s more we can do than just talk. Occasionally, interesting hybrids of the races are produced.

“You need to know this because I’m a hybrid. My mother was a werewolf. Now werewolves aren’t what you think over here. Your movies make me laugh. A werewolf isn’t forced to change by the moon. They take wolf form when they choose. Of course, as a hybrid, I’ve never been able to change at all. But I’m still driven by the moon. It’s not a ravening madness, though. It’s more like a manic energy and, of course, a craving for raw meat. Every werewolf has to find a way to deal with the energy the moon brings out in us, the wild blood. Now, I’m not denying that some werewolves get violent at the full moon, especially young males. But most find other ways to cope. Myself, I run. A tired werewolf is a good werewolf, even at the full moon.

“But I’m more than just half werewolf. My father was a hybrid, too. His father was the wizard Azander and his mother was a unicorn, Elsibel. Being a hybrid is never convenient, and it’s downright awkward when the parts of your nature are as opposite as werewolves and unicorns. For example, at the new moon, when my unicorn nature is strongest, I’m a vegetarian. But at the full moon, I prefer very rare red meat.

“Other than the compromises I have to make to balance my nature, I know very little about werewolves or unicorns, so don’t ask me. Grandmother Elsibel was disowned by the unicorns when she married my grandfather. And mother never had a chance to introduce me to the werewolves. Both my parents and my two brothers were murdered when I was five. I was only spared because my father fell on me and the killers didn’t find me. They seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t look too hard. I know they used a portal, because I saw them step out of thin air. But the portal had been closed by the time Grandfather found me.

“That portal is the only clue I have to find those who murdered my family. My werewolf blood won’t let me forget. I have to avenge them. But, after twenty years, the trail has gone cold. Almost impossible even for a werewolf to follow.

“Grandfather refused to tell me what he knew about the portals, so I left to find out for myself as soon as I came of age. I found work as a member of the Portal Watch. We protect Chimeria by preventing people from your ordinary, non-magical world from blundering in and finding out about us. Sometimes, we also act as bodyguards for the members of the Council of Magical Races when they cross over to your world. I get that duty a lot because of the strength, agility, and instincts I inherited from my werewolf mother.

“It’s not easy being a female in the Watch. There are precious few of us. It took a couple of years for me to convince the male members of the Watch that I wasn’t available for the taking. Every now and again, I still have to show a new recruit how I got my reputation. I can take any one of them in a fair fight–and have–often enough to make them respect me. I stay in the Watch because it’s the only way I know to find out more about the portals, and track down whoever killed my family.”

One brave interviewer puts up a hand. “What do you remember about those that killed your family?”

Valeriah’s eyes take on a distracted look as she stares at the far wall. “I remember that they used a portal. The air shimmered in front of Mama and then men stepped out of that shimmer. I’ve had enough experience with portals now to know that’s what that shimmer was. I remember the blood spurting around the sword point coming out of Daddy’s back. There were no screams. It was too quick for that.

“For the rest, it’s hard to know what’s real anymore, after twenty years. I think some of my nightmares have gotten twisted up in it. I think they were all wearing green shirts. I don’t think that came out of the nightmares.

“The portal is my only real clue, though. I have to find out who could make a portal like that and then close it. It’s the only way I have to find the murderers, now.”

“Is it only your werewolf half that feels the need for revenge?” the interviewer follows up. “Does it conflict with other areas of your nature?”

Valeriah shakes her head. “My werewolf blood won’t let me forget about the murders. Especially at the full moon. The blood rage can be overwhelming, then.

“My unicorn side wouldn’t approve, I’m sure, but the werewolf hasn’t given that part of me a vote. My non-werewolf cousin certainly doesn’t approve. But then Cristel is a pacifist. And my grandfather thinks that seeking revenge will get me into trouble. They don’t understand.

“If I can just get the scent, I’m sure I can hunt them to ground.”

“What about scent? Do you remember the murderer’s scents?” another interviewer asks.

Valeriah’s lip twists up in a snarl. “I only remember the smell of my father’s blood and the beginnings of decay. That covers everything else.”

“You said your grandfather wouldn’t tell you about the portals. Does that make you angry with him?”

Valeriah blows out her breath. “Not really angry. He spent so much effort to protect me after the murders. He just never could let go of the need to keep me safe. He thinks seeking revenge will get me into trouble and I’ll get killed, too. I know he’s scared for me.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated that he won’t let me use his library. If he won’t help me, at least he could let me do what I have to do on my own. That argument is the main reason I left and haven’t been back to see him or my cousin in eight years.”

Another interviewer raises a hand. “You haven’t seen your family in eight years. Are you alone, or is there anyone else you turn to?”

Valeriah shrugs. “Well, I am a member of the Portal Watch. Some of them are companions of a sort. Of course, there are quite a few I had to beat up when I first joined, so they knew not to try to take advantage of me. Some of them hold a grudge. There isn’t anybody I’d really call a friend.

She sighs. “I’m a lone wolf.”

The interviewer follows up. “Would you seek companionship? What if you found someone who let you be you, but also gave you strength and at times something to lean on?”

Valeriah turns to look out the window. Her voice drops so that the interviewers have to lean forward to hear her. “I’ve never had any luck with that. Gave up trying years ago. I don’t need to lean on anybody, though I don’t mind working with a partner as part of my job. That’s just what it is, though. Nothing else.”

Another interviewer raises a hand, but Valeriah strides toward the door. “We’re done here. I have murderers to track.”

This was originally done for a challenge in which writers contributed different characters and then wrote a short story in which two of them met. You can read my story about Valeriah and a space alien (who looks like a poodle) here.

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