Tag Archives: writing

Concerto is the Frugal Find of the Day

Come see Concerto, the Frugal Find of the Day over at the Frugal eReader.  If you haven’t been to this site before and you have an eBook reader, you are missing out!  I’ve found quite a few great books through this site that I never would have discovered otherwise.

http://thefrugalereader.com/2011/08/08/the-frugal-find-of-the-day-concerto-the-alexis-brooks-series-sandra-miller-2-99/

Can writers be editors?

Or perhaps more importantly, can writers self-edit?

If you hang around in places where self-published authors talk, you know the hard-and-fast wisdom handed around right now is that a self-publishing writer MUST hire an editor.  You are strongly advised to hire a cover designer, and sometimes even an interior formatting designer, but the one thing everyone is in agreement on is the absolute necessity of an editor.  It is unquestionable–a writer cannot edit their own work.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and voice an unpopular opinion.  I think that writers can be their own editors.  Or at least, writers can learn to be their own editors.

I think the heart of the problem here is that so many writers never really learn about story mechanics.  Writing classes, from secondary school to college and on, all seem to focus on either the very low level–parts of speech, sentence construction–or the low level–this is foreshadowing, this is allegory.  Most classes do not teach, or even attempt to teach, basic story mechanics.  Concepts like setting stakes and escalating them, building tension, pace, how multiple story threads are worked together so that the reader doesn’t lose sight of any of them…these things are usually not discussed in writing classes.  Or maybe I just took the wrong classes!

Editing requires a different view of your work.  You have to stop looking at your story as this precious thing you created, take a step back, and really examine what is there on the page, not what was in your head as you wrote it.  Does the story on the page work?  If not, how can it be fixed?

These are questions most writers are ill-equipped to answer.  But that does not mean they can’t learn.  Personally, I think an excellent place to start is Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course.  She teaches various methods of taking that step back and evaluating the bones of your story, which is what developmental editing is all about.  If you’ve done the course, you’ll remember the index cards–to me, that is a great example of getting away from the story in your head to the story on your page, and showing you in simple terms what is not working.

I’ve heard the argument tossed around that writers can’t edit their own work because they are too close to it.  I don’t know.  I wonder, doesn’t that make the writer the *most* qualified person to edit that work, assuming they can achieve that necessary distance?  Nobody knows better than the writer what they were trying to do with a given piece.

I’m not talking so much about line editing and things like grammar checking, spelling, etc.  Those things are pretty objective.  But developmental editing is very subjective–no two editors are going to suggest the same changes to a manuscript.  An editor needs a firm understanding of what makes a story work, and how to fix it when it is broken.

These skills are not black voodoo magic.  They are not handed down from on high to a chosen few.  They are learned skills.

Most writers aren’t going to have these skills out of the box, as they say.  But I do believe that most writers can learn them.  What do you think?

Dorrin’s End–Free on Amazon

I’m pleased to announce that starting yesterday evening, my fantasy short Dorrin’s End is a free download on Amazon.com

It also includes excerpts from The Crystal Cave, The Enemy in the Mirror, and Concerto, all of my other currently available works.

I hope you’ll drop by and pick up a copy!  You can order it free and have it delivered right to your Kindle or computer here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dorrins-End-ebook/dp/B0054RHNHW

 

Concerto’s New Cover

Well, I think I’m done monkeying around with covers for awhile, and thank goodness!  It’s fun, but can be a major time-sink.  But this new cover really needed to happen.

As you know, Concerto is a romantic suspense novel.  But its current cover (left) just screams literary fiction to all who see it.

I have to admit that didn’t occur to me when I designed the cover.  It looked elegant, and artsy, and beautiful, and the question of whether it conveyed any hint of genre just didn’t cross my mind.  But it’s pretty bad business to offer a product in a package that doesn’t tell you anything about what’s inside–or worse, actively misleads a customer about what’s inside.  Literary fiction readers who bought this book would be disappointed.  Suspense fans would never even consider it, because the cover does not call to them.

So after a step back and some serious redesigning (some of which you saw a couple of posts ago) I am here to unveil the new cover to you first, before it even goes live on Amazon.  The new design is not one of the prospective designs that was in the poll–it’s actually one I came up with later and liked better.

Ta-da:

Decisions, decisions–can you help?

I’m having a problem.  My problem is that I can’t make a decision.

Well, that’s a little misleading.  In truth, my problem is nailed very accurately by the commenters over at Cover Art Review today, where the subject of discussion is the cover for my novel Concerto.

I agree with them; the current cover is lovely.  Gorgeous.  It grabbed me the minute I designed it, and I never really considered any other cover afterward.

The problem?  The current cover screams Literary Fiction to all who see it.  Concerto is either romantic suspense or suspense–I’ve heard different opinions from different readers on where it falls–but it is clearly not literary fiction.

I know this is a problem.  I’m not sure how big of a problem.  Would a romantic suspense reader take a chance on a book with a cover like that?  I’ve no idea.

Music is crucial to Concerto, though–I think it really does need to be reflected in the cover design somehow.

With that in mind, I have three other candidates.  I even have printed proofs of each of these covers, and I still can’t seem to decide which would be best.

What do you think? The four contenders are below.  Which cover works best for a romantic suspense about music and musicians?

The Current Cover:


 

Prospective Cover #1–Red Satin:

 

Prospective Cover #2–Violinist, script font:

 

Prospective Cover #3–Violinist, casual font:

The New Cover

I do apologize for my silence lately; I’ve been head-down and working on The Lost Concerto.  Something about writing a suspense novel…they refuse to wait quietly in the corner while you have other things to do.  They nag at you and take over your mind and give you no peace unless you are actively putting words on the page.

It can be maddening, but it does tend to get the book done.  My fantasy stories take much longer, overall, than my suspense work.

Today I wanted to drop in to announce something that’s been needed for a long time–Crystal Cave has a new cover!

I’ve never really been happy with the original cover.  I think at the time I just didn’t know how to do any better.  The original cover is a charming combination of brown and orange, and depicts rocks.

Doesn’t really give you much of an idea what the story is about at all, except that it must involve a cave, which we already knew from the title.  You can see it above, in thumbnail form.

Unveiling for go live officially today, Crystal Cave’s new cover:

I hope you agree that it’s a beautiful improvement!

Retailer as Publisher -or- How Amazon Took Over the World

I worry about the future of big traditional publishing houses, I really do.  They are behemoths, giant corporate entities owned by giant conglomerates.  Change comes slowly, when it comes at all.

For decades these groups have had a stranglehold on readers, and therefore also on writers, of books.  A kind of monopoly of their own–you couldn’t get into the major distribution channels without them, and you couldn’t get into bookstores without the distribution channels.  Certainly self-publishing, or even vanity publishing, were always options.

They just weren’t options that were very likely to succeed.

Along came the POD press.  Along came the eBook.  On their own, these didn’t cause any revolution–eBooks tied you to a computer and were inconvenient.  POD books were pricey and of substandard quality.  Even when good POD services came along–like Lulu, one of my favorites–their prices were still high enough to make it difficult to be competitive, and the lag time between ordering and receiving a book could cause a customer to drop your book and look elsewhere for more immediate entertainment.

This is all just my view, of course.  But I credit Amazon with cracking open the status quo.  Amazon and Big Publishing have gone to the mat several times–you may remember their recent squabble over agency pricing.

Big Publishing always regarded eBooks as a passing fad that would never catch on, much like that new-fangled television set.  As I recall, when the Kindle first appeared on the scene, most big publishers weren’t exactly beating down the door to get their content on the device.  I wonder how things might be different now if they had.

Amazon dealt a 1-2 punch combo that has pretty much assured everything must change.  They started CreateSpace, and they opened up their Kindle platform to everyone.

CreateSpace, on the surface, seems like just another POD.  When I look at CreateSpace, though, I see two distinct advantages–distinct enough that other publishing services have not been able to convince me to switch.  First, CreateSpace’s pricing models are more competitive than other services I’ve seen.  Especially if you use their Pro Plan.  Concerto is over 300 pages, it’s in trade paperback format–which falls somewhere between mass market paperback and hardback on the price & quality scale–and it retails for $7.60.  Granted, I see about a quarter of that, but I’m totally stoked to be able to get prices that low.  I have trade paperbacks from traditional publishers that I’ve bought in bookstores.  Their cover prices are at least double my price.  That is, to me, pretty cool.

CreateSpace’s second advantage is in your listing on Amazon.  If you publish through any other service, your book will show “Usually ships in XX days” next to the price.  As a reader, I hate seeing that.  I’m spoiled, I’m used to instant gratification, and I hate waiting for things to ship.  If I’m going to order it, I’d at least like it to be in stock so it can ship right away.

When you book is done through CreateSpace, it will show up on Amazon as “In Stock, Ready to Ship”.  That, to me, is a pretty big advantage.  As far as price and shipping, I can be on equal footing with big publishing.

Opening up the Kindle to independent content was a huge move–one I’m not sure Big Publishing saw coming.  I know I didn’t see it coming.  Suddenly talented authors could put their work out there on their own, and sell it for $4.99, $2.99, or even $.99–and still make a profit.  Big Publishing can’t compete on those terms.  They have too much overhead.

And now, Amazon has started their own publishing imprints.  They have hired big guns to run them, and they are aggressively pursuing books–some of the same ones Big Publishing is after.  Their contracts, from what I have heard, are more author-friendly than traditional contracts.

What would it mean for all of us if the next Stephen King, or Nora Roberts, or Dean Koontz novel came to us through an Amazon imprint?

What does this mean for Big Publishing?  I don’t know.  I wish I did.  The only thing I’m certain of at this moment is that things are not going to stay the same.  With the opening of the Kindle and like devices, Big Publishing cannot compete.  So they have two options: face extinction, or change the rules so that they can compete again.

Given the history of publishing, I think I know which one of those options I would bet on.  The only question is how successful they will be with their attempt, and I think Amazon will be a large determining factor in that.

Pantsing vs Plotting – a more personal view

 If you’ve read To Plot or Not To Plot or To Plot or Not To Plot Part II, you have a feel for my general view on plotting vs pantsing.

However, the reasons I give in those posts tend to be generic arguments that apply to most people, the kind of thing you will probably hear a lot whenever this debate comes up.

Today I’d like to add one more reason I’m in favor of plotting, a more personal reason that may not apply to anyone else in the world but me.  🙂

First, know that I would pay good money *not* to be a main character in one of my novels.  My main characters never have an easy go of it.  They lose people they cherish, they get beat down and have to get back up again…and again…and again…  I don’t know if I have ever written a story that I would actually want to be in.

Second, I get pretty involved when I write.  I was working on a scene for The Lost Concerto last night that drove this home to me.  This particular event had been planned since before my pen ever touched the paper for the first word of this book.  I had known it was coming since the very beginning, no surprises here.

And yet, when I wrote the scene, I got totally worked up.  My main character was freaking out, completely losing it over this thing that had happened–and I found that by the time I put my pen down, so was I.  Whoever believes writing is easy doesn’t write like I do.  For my characters to feel anything, I have to feel it first.  That can put a person through the wringer.

And that is why I prefer plotting.  My characters walk through hell, and that means I have to walk through hell with them.  I don’t know if I would stick through that, without knowing for certain that in the end there would be a resolution that would make everything worth it.  And for me, the best way to be certain is to find that resolution up-front, before I even start writing, and hang on to it like a talisman while I ride the rocket-sled to hell with my characters.

That doesn’t always mean the resolution I had in mind will be what actually happens at the end–even with the best plotting, things will change while you’re writing.  But for me, it serves its purpose–which is getting me through to the end to find out what the resolution really will be.

Crystal Cave broke the top 100 in the UK today!

Forgive my enthusiasm, but this is my first trip into the top 100 bestseller lists on Amazon of any flavor.

My novella The Crystal Cave broke into the top 100 bestseller list on Amazon UK today for fantasy short stories.

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,784 Paid in Kindle Store

  • #62 in Books > Fantasy > Short Stories
If you think I’m happy now, wait until something of mine breaks an Amazon.com bestseller list 🙂

Announcing the New Arrival

If you hang around here very often, you may have noticed that I sneaked a change into my works in progress list.  I hadn’t said anything to anyone because I wasn’t sure how plausible my new project was–I’ve been spending a lot of time kicking around ideas and possible plots.

But I’ve invested enough time in it now, and I’ve gotten far enough along in the process…and the product I’m seeing developing is solid enough…it’s time to formally announce the new arrival I kind of slipped in.

My newest work in progress is…

The Lost Concerto follows the continuing adventures of Alexis Brooks and Chrispen Marnett.  It takes places almost one year after the end of Concerto.  The storyline features more of the same nail-biting suspense that made the first book a favorite with readers.

To be honest, I did not originally envision Concerto as the beginning of a series.  One of the early reviews on Concerto included this line:

Concerto would be a good first book in an ongoing series; it is an easy read that grabs the reader’s attention and holds it to the very last page.

At the time, I have to admit, I focused more on the grabbing attention and holding it to the last page part–that seemed to me pretty high praise for a suspense novel, or any novel, for that matter.  Besides, how could Concerto possibly be part of a series?  The story was done, right?

That line was a great blurb quote, the kind of thing you use all over the place.  And the more I saw it, the more that bit about a series stuck in my mind.  It took me a while to decide to seriously think about it, and see what I could come up with.  I never planned it to be a series, but I adore the characters.  The chance to write more about them was too good to pass up.

And the story that had developed–and is still developing–out of all of this is good.  I can’t wait to find out if readers agree.