Reading Aloud: A Few Tips for Authors

During my book tour last September, quite a few people asked me after my readings if I had any tips on how to read aloud.  There really isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do this but I decided to share some things that worked for me over at the blog of Dianne Gardner.

Visit Ian’s Realm and More for my take on reading aloud to an audience.

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The Existentialism of Science by Tonya Cannariato (guest post)

by Tonya Cannariato

The interesting piece of writing a scifi/romance story was exploring the unique kind of arrogance that comes from the scientific perspective. This is a class of people that is certain it can always find the answers, if they just ask the correct set of questions. My suspicion is that the more correct truth is we will only ever find the answers we are in the mindset to be able to understand.

The character of Mark Inman came to me as I was reading pro and con news coverage of the workings of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, Switzerland. Prior to the device being fired up for the first time, there was concern on the part of a small group that the scientists involved in the project would end up ripping a hole in the sub-atomic universe. That premise intrigued me.

I wondered how this person would react, should he face a situation far outside his normal experiences. I suspected this particular scientist, who was used to finding answers he could understand, would face a special kind of crisis of confidence. Scientific method could help him ask more questions, but would it help him find any answers?

In the end, I’m not sure any of us has answers, but I suspect it’s the interactions we share with those closest to us that help us build a context and perspective that gets us closest to some comfort level with the world around us. From that point of view, the relationship he has with Sarah is the key to his evolution as a character. Without her to focus him, I don’t know that he would have built any coherence out of his wild experiences.

The story skirts the questions relating to the debate of science versus religion, and focuses instead on the inner life that connects both. Do you feel there is a tension? How would you resolve those questions? I’d love to hear your perspective.


About Tonya’s book, Dementional

Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. She agrees to become his wife
at the same time his experiment to find the Higgs boson goes off the rails.

Journey with Mark while his existence melts and reforms in unpredictable ways as the
veils between realities thin. His exploration of the minutiae of quantum physics builds a
fascinating tapestry of alternate universes.

His search for survival, and the search for meaning and what is real, drive Mark as he
experiences lives he never dreamed possible. His only touchstones: find Sarah and find
his way home.

Book Links for Dementional:

Paperback link –
http://www.amazon.com/Dementional-Tonya-Cannariato/dp/0615690602

eBook Link:
http://www.amazon.com/Dementional-ebook/dp/B0091VOOUQ


About Tonya

A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself.

She’s currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.

Chick lit is NOT dead! It’s evolved.

Chick lit is NOT dead!
It’s evolved.

by Louise Wise

As a reader, there are heaps of chick lit books to choose from. You have your Sophie Kinsella to Jane Porter, Matt Dunn to Nick Hornby—all light and fluffy. Usually. Chick lit evolves, and that’s the one thing that makes it so popular and able to hold its own among your thrillers, historicals and the like.

Nowadays, you’ll find ‘cross-over’ chick lit—chick lit that has a mixture of other genres in them: paranormal chick lit, suspense chick lit. I’ve yet to see a horror or a science-fiction chick lit. Probably out there though, and it’s just that I haven’t looked hard enough. But no matter the sub-genre, they are always upbeat, fun and modern.

Chick lit doesn’t even have to be about romance. In fact, it’s more about relationships, emotions and current life. It’s not all about shopping and shoes, as some literary snobs like to point out (and probably helped give it the ‘chick lit’ title!). It’s contemporary, cheeky, funny and real.

That’s what I like about the genre the most. Keeping it real. I’ve always liked a dose of reality in my writing. Even my sci-fi (Eden) was ‘real-life’ as one reviewer put it. My latest book’s title is quite a mouthful: The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch therefore I am and I’ve incorporated my usual ‘real life’ theme and, this time, it’s depression. The main character, Valerie Anthrope is suffering with the disorder, only she’s burying her head in the sand, or in her case, work. She knows she’s ill, yet her way of dealing with it is to ignore it. It takes a nosey stranger to make her see that she needs help.

But how far should you go in making a ‘sensitive’ subject funny? Life, in general, is funny and tragic. And to help deal with these heartrending events, we joke about them. That’s why we laugh hysterically at the comic with his ‘close to the knuckle’ joke. Misanthrope isn’t a book taking the micky out of depression, neither does my character have a miraculous cure. By the end of the book, she still has depression, but it leaves the reading satisfied that she’ll work through her demons.

The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch therefore I am asks the questions: nurture or nature? What makes us us? It’s available to buy now as a Kindle download from Amazon (free for this weekend (21st – 24th October) . The paperback will be released in October.
If you want to discuss this subject on Twitter use the hashtag #wwbb

Blog
Chick lit on FB
Twitter: @louise_wise
Email: louisewise3@ntlworld.com

Haunted House Virtual Tour: V.R. Christensen & B. Lloyd

Here we are on our next stop on the Haunted House Virtual Tour (by kind permisson of Gwen Perkins), to promote our ghost novellas Blind and Ungentle Sleep (by V.R.Christensen and B.Lloyd respectively), where we ‘visit’ one of the famous houses in ‘mock’ gothic literature: this time, you can try guessing the place from the anagram at the beginning, or wait until you have read to the end …

The Anagram: Cats rant foot to heel

***

ImageGrunt, umph, ouch.

Bump.

Scritch, scratch, rumph,umph.

Bump.

‘Right lads,’ said Geremia, standing back and wiping the sweat from his brow, ‘I think that will do. The Master didn’t specify exactly which way it should be facing.’

‘Hideous great thing it is, too,’ puffed one of the workmen, bending over with hands on hips.

‘Ay, it is – what passes for taste among the gentry, so keep a civil tongue in your head and there’ll be food and drink in the kitchen for you.’

Geremia turned and led the way to well-earned refreshments, and they left the giant suit of armour in the hall. It squeaked a little as its components settled back into position …

Hooves clattered across cobbles, wheels squealed and coachmen cursed – guests had arrived at the castle and there was a deal of running about, shouting and expletives before normality was in any way regained. Late morning and half the rooms not made ready yet: servants rushed about with coal scuttles, jugs and brooms, colliding into the furniture while the new arrivals struggled up and downstairs in search of their allotted chambers.

Geremia had thought it prudent to stand on the upper landing with notice boards indicating the directions to be followed:

‘Lord Fontana, straight ahead, turn left at end of corridor’

‘Sir Montague and Lady Montague, turn right at top of stairs and proceed to the third door on the left’

‘Duke Saltimbocca, other wing, directly over the kitchens for your olefactory delight’

and so forth – yet despite this attention to detail, the guests still managed to lose their way and generally ended up wandering disconsolately along the winding corridors, coming upon each other in alcoves and balconies and apologising at the same time.

‘After you,’

‘No,no, pray, after you,’

‘Not at all – after you …’

Come afternoon and confusion had given way to chaos as preparations were made for the dinner: ‘Who is the dinner for, again?’ asked Lady Montague of her spouse. ‘Blessed if I can remember,’ he replied, and hallooed Lord Fontana. ‘Any idea what the do is for?’

‘I believe there is a wedding in the offing,’ replied that gentleman, taking a pinch of snuff.

‘Ah of course it is – old whathisname’s daughter – or niece, was it? No, daughter, I think – to er, that, er, . . .thingummy . .’

‘I believe you are correct,’ replied the Lord, before sneezing into a huge handkerchief.

A gong was sounded as a reminder for the dinner and there was a general hasty rush to find best seats at table; after some scrambling and contesting over napkins and goblets, guests were seated, Duke Saltimbocca nearest to the roast beef, cutlery at the ready.

‘A toast ! A toast to the happy couple!’ cried out the host, raising a glass when he was interrupted by his butler, footmen and maids, who came running into the hall in a state of wild disarray.Image

‘Why, what has happened? Has there been an accident? Is the kitchen?’

‘Miscreants! Have you burned the dinner?!’ exclaimed Saltimbocca, much disturbed at the thought.

‘Nay, ‘tis a great deal worse –’

‘Worse?’ remonstrated Saltrimbocca.

‘Come, come,’ said their host, ‘explain please –’

‘Why sir,’ said the butler, ‘there is a mighty monstrous creature a clanging and a banging about the castle hall – we none of us dare approach it for fear it should crush us – look – and listen – it approacheth!’

Indeed, as everyone stopped to listen, there was an eery, metallic, rasping sound in the distance, magnified and distorted by the stone walls of the ancient castle, accompanied by mournful cries of an inhuman quality most chilling to the blood.

Closer and closer came the steps –

‘Mercy me, are we to be murdered as we eat?’ gasped Lady Montague.

There was a great din, a shouting and screaming and a knocking over of dishes and glasses – as all ran pell-mell from the hall to stand quavering in the courtyard, gasping and muffling their cries as the sound of the footsteps approached, nearer and nearer . . .

On and on they came, clamp, clump, clamp, accompanied by a mild squeaking of rusty metal; the armour had not been oiled these many years and added a certain tortured element to the general atmosphere of horror.

‘Oh my dear, I shall faint…’ murmured Lady Montague, and prepared to fall.

‘Eh?’ replied her Lord, and failed quite completely to catch her, for which she duly reprimanded him afterwards.

‘Hush! It will hear us!’

‘Too late!’

‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’

A monstrous suit of armour clanked on into the courtyard, waving its arms in a most threatening manner, emitting awful, chilling moans and groans, barely audible under the wave of terrified cries emitted by the crowd.

‘Pshaw!’ finally said Duke Saltimbocca, who had only consumed barely half his dinner and was still peckish – he stood forward and drew his sword.

‘Speak, phantom!’ he addressed the suit of armour. ‘Tell us your business with us mortals!’

The suit of armour stood still, and waved its arms weakly about, letting out another foreboding ululation.

‘Speak the language of mortals, dammit!’ shouted the choleric Saltimbocca, impatient to return indoors to finish his dinner; he stamped forward and brandished his sword at the monstrous apparition – which appeared to be taken somewhat aback, indeed, staggered a little, then pointed upwards – to its own helmeted head.

‘Muffuffle whuffle phummple,’ came the dolorous tones.

‘Incoherent apparition – what would you have of us?’

‘Whiumple grumble flooble,’ continued the apparition, still moving its arms in windmill action.

‘Hah!’ responded the Duke, now thoroughly incandescent, and swiped at the creature’s helmet with his sword, admidst shrieks and shouts from the rest of the gathering. He managed only to topple the helmet from its moorings atop the breastplate, revealing . . . revealing . . .

‘Oh my dear sir, I am much obliged.’ A longish, pale, narrowish face, with wavy hair somewhat untidily held by a black ribbon, managed barely to peer out from the depths of the armour. ‘And now, if you will assist me with the removal of these gauntlets – and the greaves – most kind …’

‘But – but – but – ’ Lord Montague began.

‘You sir! Who are you ?’ demanded the Duke,

‘And how did you come to be inside that wretched thing?’

‘Ah, now, as to that . . . curiosity must take the blame – curiosity in the name of research; I have often wondered how the knights of old managed to move in combat in these harnesses, and on espying the prime example placed on display in the hall, I endeavoured to try it on; only, once tested, I found it less easy to divest, and my valet, less studied in these matters than even I, was unable to let me out again – so I have been obliged to wander these walls in search of someone to assist me.’

‘Pah!’ went the Duke, and stormed off in direction of the dining hall – ‘the roast beef will be cold by now!’ and he growled as he went.

‘Dear, dear,’ said the gentleman, now half out of the armour, ‘I fear I may have interrupted your dinner – my apologies.’

‘Not at all – it is, after all, in the name of scientific research: but might we have the pleasure of your acquaintance?’ Once the initial shock had dispersed, Lord Fontana regained his normal aplomb and was intrigued to know more.

‘Ah – my pardon, sir; -’ The gentleman whisked out a card and presented it to the Lord. Across it was emblazoned the name: Walpole, H. 4th Earl of Orford.

‘Ah – the man of letters – and on the Tour?’

‘Indeed yes, so my curiosity is even more boundless. This castle, for instance – such a very magnificent building – so very atmospheric – it has quite taken my fancy… I think I might write of my experiences about it . .  although not, perhaps in such an undignified manner as being stuck in a suit of armour . .  let me see . . .’

‘What shall you call it, dear sir?’

‘Why, I might as well call it after the name of this place . . .where are we, by the by?’

‘Allow me to call my servant – Grenouille? Grenouille!’

‘Milord?’

‘Where are we? ‘

‘Milord?’

‘Zis place – vot name?’

‘Milord?’

‘Doh!’

‘Allow me, I shall call mine – Mitraille!’

‘At once, milord!’

‘What is the name of this chateau, Mitraille?’

‘This chateau, milord? Why, it is the chateau d’Otranto, milord.’

‘Capital! That will do! I shall call it The Castle of Otranto . . .’

They continued to chatter amiably as they wandered indoors to the tune of forks and knives already being plied on well-laden plates as the dinner, finally, and to the Duke Saltimbocca’s delight, continued.

Out in the courtyard, the helmet lay in the moonlight, its visor open, for all the world like a monstrous mouth laughing at the night sky. It rolled a little from side to side, caught in a whisper of wind that scurried around, chasing the odd leaf out of corners.

***

This was one ‘visit’ to a gothic place from literature; we hope you enjoyed it – and that you will think about your favourite gothic place in literature; what it would be like to visit, meeting the inhabitants …

And now, two new places on the gothic lit scene await you in Ungentle Sleep by B.Lloyd and Blind by V.R. Christensen –

Links :

Blind : US

http://www.amazon.com/Blind-a-novella-ebook/dp/B007E3SNJ6

Blind : UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blind-V-R-Christensen/dp/0615598005/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347371543&sr=1-1

Ungentle Sleep UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI

Ungentle Sleep US

http://www.amazon.com/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI

Introducing Kassandra Heglund

I’d like to welcome Kassandra Heglund to the blog today. Kassandra’s a new writer who’d just like to say hello and share her books with you. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost a year since I signed my own first novel contract–I’ve learned a lot since then and it’s great to have the chance to support other new authors.


Hello, everyone! My name is Kassandra Heglund, and I am a relatively new author, so obviously I need all the exposure I can get. Therefore I was ecstatic when Gwen said that I could do this! So, Gwen, thank you!!!

I’ve been writing since high school, the first story having been a two-page short story which I typed up on my father’s old Underwood manual typewriter. That story later became my first published work! To date, I have two published works, both of which are science fiction. One is a novella (76 pages — and the published version of that original short story!), and the other is a full-length novel (301 pages).

Holding Sequence: Cycles of Fate, the novella, is a story about cruel fate, survival, and poetic justice. Two scientists, told they were undertaking a breakthrough project that would benefit their people find themselves caught in a web of lies and betrayal. When they do extricate themselves from the Project from Hell, they turn the tables on those who betrayed them. This is the first in a short series called The Machinations of Fate.

Long Dark Night, the novel, is the story of a boy whose whole world is lost. He finds refuge with a great power… or does he? As it turns out, they are just the first in a pair of powers who dominate his life, and his will. But his is a story of survival and hope, for one day, he will be free of these powers! One day, he will be the power. But first come the trials and torments of a lifetime in service… and the guilt that comes with the actions he is forced to take.

I hope all of you will go and look at these books and consider purchasing them. Again, thank you, Gwen, for this opportunity to share my works with your audience!

Guest Post: It Comes in Slices! (Serial Fiction)

It Comes In Slices!

A Word on Serial Fiction

by Michael Shean, author of Bone Wires

Since Scheherazade held back Shahriyar’s axe, the art of serial fiction has been one of suspense and anticipation.  Through the separation of a larger work into smaller, regular sections, the serial can allow an author to introduce his readers to a smaller story alongside the development of other works – and, if he or she is good at it, can ensure that their tales are never out of the minds of readers.  That, as you can imagine, can be a very important thing.

Serialized fiction can be traced back to One Thousand and One Nights, which in itself consisted of a string of serialized novellas.  Wrapped up in the frame of Queen Scheherazade’s attempt to stave off death at the hands of her bloodthirsty husband, the collection of tales contains some of the most memorable works of short fiction in history – Sinbad the Sailor and Aladdin being some of the most prominent examples.  With the development of movable type in the 1600s, episodic narratives became more and more available; given the expense of books at the time, publishers were very interested in expanding the market while keeping prices down.  In the 19th century, popularity exploded during the Victorian Age when growing literacy, advances in technology, and the expansion of distribution pooled together to make serialized fiction a powerful force in getting literature of all kinds in the hands of as many people as could afford it.  Henry James, Herman Melville, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and of course the inestimable Charles Dickens all found great success using the serial model.  In modern times, the rise of the Internet and the Web allows everyday people to write serialized fiction and post it on their own websites as they desire; all that’s required is an audience, something which grows easier to secure through every day through social media and the like.

The serial structure can be very challenging.  When I wrote my second novel, Bone Wires, it was released as a serial on the website of my publisher, Curiosity Quills.  Being a detective story, it was relatively simple to set up through a series of episodes – I eschewed writing a chapter at a time, mostly because my schedule wouldn’t allow it and also because the flow of the work was better without attempting to expand things in a synthetic way.  Aside from ensuring that episodes are released on a consistent schedule, this is the major secret behind serialized fiction: ensuring that episodes are relatively short, exciting, and always contribute to the greater whole.  There should be no such thing as a ‘filler’ episode; with a serial work, when deadlines are absolutely vital, there is always the temptation to try and pack a story in with material that may be ‘soft’, or does not strictly further the flow of the story or develops the characters.  But consider something: most of you reading this have favorite television shows.  How do you like it when the flow of the story gets broken by a random filler episode?  The same applies with fiction – anything necessary is annoying, breaks the flow of the work, and generally makes your audience unhappy.  Nobody likes it when a writer’s work feels lazy.

Putting the tyranny of deadlines and the perils of ‘fatty’ writing aside, however, the serial can be a major boon for an author’s career.  Consider: you might be working on a larger or more complex work, but that keeps you out of the proverbial game for four to six months.  Your readers might be panting after your next work, but in the absence of an alternative there’s room for someone else in their proverbial heart of hearts.  Writing a serial alongside that ensures that readers have something to enjoy – remember that writing has its business side, and ensuring that you’re forefront in the mind of your readers is absolutely necessary for when that next big novel drops.  Not only that, serial fiction gives an author the ability to stretch their creative wings, to reach out and try new things and keep their minds fresh while still meditating on their primary work in progress.  I’ve found that being able to work on another work to break up the occasional slog is also very effective at staving off writer’s block.

Since the completion of Bone Wires in its serial form, it has been released as a complete novel.  I don’t have current plans to start a new one, but that’s not because this wasn’t rewarding; my schedule just doesn’t allow for it.  You can be sure that when it does, however, you’ll see another serial tale with my name on it out there for all to see.

Writing a work of serial fiction can be very difficult, but don’t let the potential obstacles keep you from working that magic; as long as you can keep things regular and don’t veer into the land of filler, serials can be among the most rewarding methods of writing for any author, veteran or newly-established.  You don’t have to take my word from it, though.  One need only to consider the role of those mentioned above to see the power that the serial can bring.

 

 

About Bone Wires:
In the wasteland of commercial culture that is future America, police are operated not by government but by private companies.

In Seattle, that role is filled by Civil Protection, and Daniel Gray is a detective in Homicide Solutions. What used to be considered an important – even glamorous – department for public police is very different for the corporate species, and Gray finds himself stuck in a dead end job. That is, until the Spine Thief arrives.

When a serial killer begins harvesting the spinal tissue of corporate employees all over the city, Detective Gray finds himself plunged into the first truly major case of his career. Caught in a dangerous mix of murder, betrayal and conflicting corporate interest, Gray will find himself not only matching wits with a diabolical murderer but grapple with his growing doubt toward his employers in the dawning months of the American tricentennial.

A thrilling mystery set in the same world as the Wonderland Cycle, Bone Wires is a grim trip into the streets of the empty future.

Purchase:

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Print) | B&N (Nook & Print) | Books-A-Million 

Guest Post: Designing a Modern Day Vampire by Janiera Eldridge

Today on A Few Words, I’m happy to have Janiera Eldridge, author of Soul Sisters, an urban fantasy novel about African-American twin sisters. Ani and Dana who have a rather unique secret: one sister is human while the other is a vampire. While the sisters have lived peacefully with each other for many years, one fateful night changes both their lives forever.

Read on to find out more about how Janiera tackled the question of how to create the vampires in her world!

Designing a Modern Day Vampire
by Janiera Eldridge

Now that vampires are hotter than ever some people complain that they’re tired of vampires. I personally never get tired of them because I read many different genres of books. I very rarely read vampire books back to back so when I do read them, their exciting to me. I can see how some people are a little burnt out though especially if they pay attention to the media.

Although it’s become the cool thing to hate Twilight, it has actually been very influential in my writing. I don’t believe my writing styles to be like Stephanie Meyers but, Twilight encouraged to me to come up with a unique angle on vampires. Vampires are fictional so you can write them anyway you want and Meyers managed to put a new spin on vampires which is why she is popular now. So whether you hate her or love her she did something different and that in the end is what counts.  When I wrote my story I set out to do something different which means I had to come up with my own terms of what a vampire meant in my book.

Here are some traits I designed my vampires around that might seem a little different to some people:

  • My vampires are 100% day walkers. They can’t be in direct sunlight or it will burn their skin and leave terrible scars.  They can walk around in indirect sunlight or in direct sunlight only if they are dressed in all wool clothing to block out the sun.
  • They are usually gorgeous creatures who are examples of absolute perfection. However, when their fangs descend, you know there will be trouble!  Their skin often turns grey and their features grow grotesque! They look normal doing day to day activities but deep inside a monster is being stiffened.
  • Not to give any spoilers away but every vampire has a human twin; you have to read book and two to see how that works out. 😉
  • Every vampire has a super power. Although this is a common trait in vampire stories, it is still a cool thing to have. Who wouldn’t want to read mines or see into the future?
  • Holy water doesn’t scare these vampires but silver and diamond spurs spell trouble!
  • Vampires and werewolves were made by the same people but are now enemies, another mystery you have to read the books to learn the answer to.

Although my next series will not be about vampires ( it will be about serial killers), I don’t think I will ever get tired of this genre, especially if new and exciting authors keep expounding on this classic folklore.

What are some traits you enjoy in your vampire novels?


More about this great novel under the cut!

Continue reading

Guest Post: A Year of Self-Publishing Mistakes

Today’s guest post comes to us from author Jason Christie.  Jason’s been featured on A Few Words before.  I asked him to come back to talk with us about his experiences over the past year as a self-published author.  This article is a honest, insightful view into the process and a definite recommended read.  

Jason’s novels are available through Amazon and his blog, Write to Life, is another great place to hear more of his thoughts on the industry and read more of his writing.

A Year of Self-Publishing Mistakes

by Jason Christie

I’m not really comfortable trying to tell people how to write. So I’ll probably just talk about book stuff and maybe work in some random writer things along the way.

I confess to doing everything wrong when I first self-published. I sort of edited and published four novels in a month, trying to get online before Christmas of 2011. Mistake number one. Well, a whole subset of mistakes in that alone. Rush books out in a month, pay for it all year long…

But another problem with that approach is that you get a real boost from releasing new books. A book a month would have a been a much more effective approach. Most of the impact I could have had with my debut was squandered.

Of course, I also had no blog, website, or, well, any sort of support infrastructure in place whatsoever. I did have various pockets of notoriety to draw upon, having achieved some levels of fame in the underground rap and metal worlds, been published on Slashdot.com and Boingboing.net. I was already listed on Wikipedia, Internet Movie Database and other sites. None of those things really translate into book readers.

Previous to publishing, my idea of social media was reminiscing about Usenet, and the days of flaming and trolling. I would much rather insult people than try and befriend them, believe me.

Oh, my covers were pretty crap, too. Now, the muse and I can look at the old covers and point out all sorts of significant imagery that is quite relevant to the book itself. But what you see and the reader sees are worlds apart. Forget what you think is good, early on in the book cover design phase. Look at what is eye-catching from a sales standpoint.

Because I’m sort of ashamed to say it, but once you’ve poured your life and soul into a book, it becomes a commodity. Unless you are independently wealthy or enjoy your day job, you need to look at selling books. Not above art, but parallel to it. The art of selling, as it were.

Now, after my first year here in the indie publishing trenches, I’ve pored over most of my books ten times since then, at least. I found more errors in Stephen King’s UR  than in most of my much longer books. That’s progress, for sure. I’m to the point where I don’t feel the insane urge to reword every sentence. A good feeling.

Along the way, you start to discover weak points in your writing. Like, glaring weak points that you’re too close to to see. Adjectives and adverbs start to stand out as deletable material, along with the 33% overage in commas that seems common to new writers. Things like that.

Now, it’s to my advantage that I’m sort of tech oriented, so at least the book formatting was simple enough to me that I could learn it on the fly. Except I’m terrible about having multiple files and revisions, and just sort of losing track of what’s what. Expect problems in the future if you don’t settle on a sane dating and numbering system for manuscripts, or some other workable method. There are few feelings worse than losing an entire round of edits to a simple mistake.

This is compounded when you make multiple versions for different ebook sites. At one point, I forgot that while I was uploading .DOC files to Smashwords, I was uploading filtered HTML to Amazon. Something like that. Suddenly things went awry when I swapped formats on them one day.

Of course, all the while, you should also be writing and editing more books, bear in mind. Oh, and promoting. And getting reviews.

But like a twelve-step program for recovering author screw-ups, I’m proud to say I have turned things around to a large degree. And one of the biggest steps was biting the bullet and paying for a few cover designs. Money well spent. The price of decent book covers has really come down, and there are many talented artists on the market.

I keep telling people, “Don’t wrote ebooks. Sell covers to people who write ebooks.” It’s a growth market.

But if you plan on writing more than one book, and I really think most people are, I believe your name should be developed as a recognizable logo. That’s what I did in my case, and I’ve never been happier, cover-wise. I won’t clutter up Gwen’s blog with a bunch of my covers, but you can follow the saga at http://jasonzchristie.blogspot.com.

I will include one I did myself, because I am encroaching on the fantasy genre next…

This was stock art from shutterstock.com.I’m relatively sure it’s been used before, maybe more than once. But I really liked it, and did a little to make it my own. I played with the text placement a lot to get it just right. Her hair and lips are enhanced to correspond better with the storyline.

Buying the logo sort of gave me the confidence to try and make some quality covers myself. Just start with a good template, and try to find the perfect stock photo or other elements you need. You’d be surprised at how cheaply you can acquire some very expensive looking images. If you amortize the logo design across ten books, the above cover cost me $6, total.

I don’t recommend going all gangsta with your cover art like I did on my first round of covers. I do still have an image that came from worth1000.com, and I’m seeking a replacement for that one. The rest are all legit, which is sort of good to know. Until Don Henley catches up to me about his lyrics…

By the way, my daughter says my uncharacteristic new cover is a trojan horse, a trick. “They’re going to think it’s a real fantasy book,” she says.

It is. So what if there’s a time-traveling wizard who snorts ground unicorn horn, and a academy for princesses where the economy is based on… Nevermind. Sounds like fantasy to me. But I guess it’s probably closer to Terry Pratchett meets Quentin Tarantino than Tolkien waltzing with Anne McCaffrery.

Let’s see, what else did I do wrong?

Oh, yeah. I launched a series with only the first book written.

After the Dark Tower dark years, where many of us waited in dread for Stephen King to bother to pick up a pen and finish his epic gunslinger saga, some people are reluctant to buy into a series unless several or all of the books are published.

I’m happy to announce that I now have two series, with two books in each, so far. It’s a start. Penultimate Hustle: Japan is the sequel to Radar Love, my romance/adventure title. Cure for Sanity is an off-shoot of Perfect Me, my funny sci-fi novella. PH:J might be my best work yet. On the other hand, so might CfS. You’ll probably have abbreviations for your novels eventually.

Check out the samples here. They sort of support what I’ve been saying about editing, formatting, covers, etc.

What I’ve been working on lately is trying to give a bit more with each book to make them a better value for the reader. Mostly, I’ve done it with art work. I have access to my own art collection and a very talented and tragic little brother, so I’ve managed to make nice title pages for four of my books so far.

But another way you can do it is to become a typography geek. Check out some of those ebooks that have about four pages of legalese in the front of them. Notice how subtle the typeface is, and how that feel is distributed through out the ebook itself. I would recommend studying some of those techniques and employing them. Not everyone can come up with great original art on the fly. Layout and typography can be learned.

I’m sort of utilitarian in that regard, and don’t pay that much attention to that end of things. But I’d love my text to at least look like literary fiction someday.

I find tables of content really add a lot, even though they are mostly unnecessary with ebooks. I like naming the chapters, and I like reading well-named chapter names in other books, so I try to make sure I always do that for the reader.

Once you have your title honed to a fine point, you can add other little things like a list of your other books, samples and previews of other titles, or even a list of other authors you recommend. Flossin’, we call that in the hood, fifteen years ago. Never.

In summation, it takes about a year to really get good at making quality ebooks if you’re making it up as you go along. I’m 10 months into it. Luckily, my writing has carried me through the initial learning phase of self-publishing relatively unscathed. It would have been career suicide for some less fortunate souls. Be warned. Don’t make things hard on yourself. Unless you love a challenge.

Now to do something about my terrible blurbs…

Guest Post: Magic and Science

Today on A Few Words, Becca C. Smith, author of Riser speaks about two things I love: magic and science. Welcome to the blog, Becca!

Magic and Science
by Becca C. Smith

Magic and Science…

Can a book have both? At first I didn’t think so. In my teen fiction book Riser it started out as strictly science fiction, but the more I created the dystopian future, the more I realized that a combination of magic and science was exactly the right formula.

On one hand there’s Age-pro, a drug that stops the aging process. And since Riser takes place in 2320 and Age-pro was invented in 2020, there are people that are over three hundred years old and still look twenty. That’s the science aspect.

Then there’s my main character, Chelsan, who has an innate power to control the dead. She wasn’t born with this gift. It was accidently given to her when her father sacrificed himself to save Chelsan and her mother in a black magic ritual. That’s the magic aspect.

I found that combining science fiction with rituals and magic ended up being the perfect combination. It gave me so much more freedom to play and experiment with ideas and concepts that would have been limited if I had only picked one.

The research alone was as fun as writing the book itself. It wasn’t just the research in science that was exciting. It was actually the research of Vodun and VooDoo that were the most interesting. There are a lot of spells and rituals that people perform today including one to raise the dead.

Magic and science, though they appear to be opposites, actually fit together in a way that made writing Riser an amazing experience. It gave me great material to create an action-packed story in a messed up world.

 

About the Author

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life.

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

Find Becca C. Smith online at:
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Or get your copy of Riser on Amazon!

Guest Post: Adding a Historical Time Period to a Paranormal Novel

When I saw that Belinda Vasquez Garcia had written a book about witchcraft and the Great Depression set in the American Southwest, I just HAD to talk to her.  As some of you may know, I just curated an exhibition on the 1930s so I’m a little addicted to the period.  Belinda’s novel, The Witch Narratives: Reincarnation, is full of fascinating concepts.  She’s here today to talk about historical connections but watch this blog to hear more about the book.


Adding a Historical Time Period to a Paranormal Novel

by Belinda Vasquez Garcia

Some Southwestern witches shape-shift using a piedra imán, those lucky enough to find the rare magnetic shape-shifting stone, whose powers go back to Roman times. In crafting my story, I thought that if a woman had such a stone, she would use it to remain young and beautiful. If one could remain forever young, then immortality would follow. So, in my books, a piedra imán acts as a fountain of youth. I therefore, needed to have my series start in an earlier time period so the lucky owner would stay young, while other witches around her age, festering with jealousy. For the first book, one of the time periods I chose was the Great Depression.

Madrid, New Mexico was once a company-owned, coal-mining town and it lost 37.5% of its population due to the Great Depression with 1/3 of the homes being emptied. The miners were forced to work just once or twice a week and struggled with even more debt which they owed to the company store. They ate mainly staples during this time period. One character, Marcelina, is given to quoting dichos [proverbs] and says of the Great Depression, “there is no shame in being poor but there is never a convenient time.”

Like most rich men, my fictional owner of the town and coal mine, Samuel Stuart, is not affected as much by hard times because he, also, owns businesses in Albuquerque, though some have closed due to the depression. However, his bank in Albuquerque, of which he is part owner, does fail and has to close its doors, even though the eight-story First National Bank is the biggest in Albuquerque. Here comes the Calvary! Lo and behold, the government and Roosevelt come to the rescue with the Glass-Steagall Act and loans money to banks all over the country, allowing the rich mine owner to reopen his bank. Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Well, the Glass-Steagall Act which saved the banks from entire ruin during the Great Depression bailed them out, so long as the banks agreed not to dabble in investment banking and underwrite securities.

Wait a minute! That’s what banks were doing that caused our current economic problems! I found it unnerving that during my research I discovered that the economic crisis our nation has been having the last few years is simply an echo of the past. It was rather daunting to see how history repeats itself.


About The Witch Narratives: Reincarnation:

Two young women, a witch and a Catholic, clash with the Penitentes, a fanatical, Catholic secret society who enforce their own punishment for sin. Salia, a third-generation witch and half-breed living on the fringes of society with a cruel mother and selfish grandmother, befriends Marcelina, a doubting Catholic haunted by a centuries-old witch, La Llorona, who rises from the muddy Rio Grande. While Marcelina is torn between Catholicism and witchcraft allure, Salia has no desire to join the Sisterhood of the Black Rose, the covens created by La Llorona.

About the Author:

Belinda grew up in Albuquerque. The daughter of a seasonal carpenter and housewife, her family never had much money. Growing up, the only books her family ever owned were the A and B encyclopedias, and Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, which she used as a stool to sit on. Thus, did she absorb an arsenal of words.

She was seven years old when a neighbor loaned her Tom Sawyer. The novel mesmerized her, and she spent her summer days, sitting under a tree, reading the book from cover to cover ten times, before surrendering it. She then badgered her brother to walk her several miles to the library and several miles back, so she could check out other books of spell-binding fiction. She was skinny and often hungry, but nothing could keep her from that library walk, and the pile of books she would carry back home.

Her father deserted the family when Belinda was twelve, and her mother died when she was sixteen. Still, she earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico with emphasis on Applied Mathematics.

As a child, her family often spoke of witches. They particularly told tales of the legendary, centuries-old witch, La Llorona, who fascinated Belinda. Thus, her inspiration is taken from the true tales of witchcraft she heard as a child, from a strong Native American influence in her youth, and through research. Her fictional work reaches beyond regional geography to entice anyone who enjoys the world of mysticism, and the power of sorcery, but with spice. Her vision is to fashion colorful and realistic characters, and create compelling worlds that speak of sorcerers, witches, spiritual journeys, human compassion, individual frailties, love, hate, and the importance of family. One of her goals is to deeply touch the emotions of her readers.

Before embarking on writing full time, she worked as a Software Engineer and Web Developer for Sandia National Laboratory. In her spare time, she honed her craft of writing fiction.

Find Belinda at:

Author Website

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