Stars and Cards

I’ve published TWO things this weekend!

First, Stars End. A collection of science fiction short stories that you can read in bite size pieces.

The four short stories contained inside explore what life might mean in a distant future when space travel and longevity are things humanity take for granted.

Second, I’ve been working on Vertigo, a card based litRPG, for a while. I decided I wanted to publish it on Royal Road and Wattpad as a free title. So you can find the first to chapters there right now.

New chapters will be uploaded every weekend.

This is an experiment to see if it encourages me to write more. I’m hoping that writing in such a public way will force me to stay accountable to myself.

It also makes me happy that my daughter drew the figure on the cover. I gave her a basic idea of what to draw and she went with it.

I already have several chapters of Vertigo ready to go, I’m just editing and cleaning them up before posting every week. That doesn’t mean the other writing stops, it just means fora day or two a week I am devoted to one chapter from Vertigo. But it’s been fun, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Advertisements

Short or Long?

Sometimes when you’re working on novels you can get to a point where progress seems so far away, and sometimes you can get disheartened. Even want to quite, or procrastinate.

There was a talk Adam Savage gave once where he said at some point in every project he feels like he has no business making. A man who creates amazing replicas, props, and cosplays that the world loves. A man who does one day builds that many would struggle to do in a month. Someone who has working on major motion pictures, and The Mythbusters. And he feels like he has no business making.

And that’s how I feel writing a novel. I am sure that many creatives feel like that, like they are an importer and shouldn’t even bother trying to create whatever it is you are creating. I get so far into a novel, hit that wall, and it feels insurmountable. But I keep going, a little at a time, pushing to get to the end because I know once I reach it I will have something awesome.

I’ve picked up little tricks here and there to help me get through it. One of them is writing short stories when I’m really stuck. At the moment I have been editing a few of the finished short stories I have, and trying to finish four other short stories. Since they are shorter I can usually finish one much faster than a novel, and that little boost keeps me going for the larger projects. Plus the stories I am working on currently are science fiction, while the novel I am working on is fantasy. This allows me a change of scenery, so to speak, and take a breather before going back to the novel.

Speaking of the short stories, I think I’m about ready to publish some of them. Another pass of the editors wand, and they should work well as an anthology. Oh, and a cover. The other four short stories I am still completing I already have a cover for, I just have to finish three of the shorts.

But the novel is still my priority. I’ve been working at a (mostly) steady pace trying to get through the second half of the book. I’ve hit a few snags with the plot, but I think I’ll be able to untangle them. Plot holes, they are my nemesis! Funny, it used to be fight scenes. Now I have a system for the fight scenes and I have more trouble with the time line. I think that’s because the story is taking place over the course of a year and I want it to reflect that.

My daily word count goal dipped a little in august, so I’m working hard to get them back up to what I consider a good pace. I still want to hit 1000 words a day by the end of the year, which means pushing harder and making fewer excuses. But I’m working on it.

By the way, here is a really good video about why many of us procrastinate, and some great ways to fight against it.

Now… off to write about dragons.

The Birds Have It

This week I’ve been working on a lot of art work. Drawing, cleaning it up, and even posting a few things on Red bubble. I also learned that Red Bubble has a few new items, so I had to go through and edit most of my pictures that are already there. Like a throw for your bed or couch. I think I’m going to have to order one of those.

If you’d like to see some of the art I’ve been doing you can follow me on instagram. I try to do a couple of posts a week, but it depends on what else is happening. I’m currently working on editing book two of my Half Blood Sorceress series so I can get that out soon.

I’ve also been setting up some free promos for books over the next couple of months, and planning some more drawings. I still want to do some sort of figurine, but I’m still designing something. Right now the books take priority.

But I’m exhausted so I’m off to bed now. If you’re interested in taking a look at the new designs please check them out here. And look forward to the free book promos in the coming weeks.

 

A beautiful day

Today the sun is shining, the wind is just a light breeze, and it isn’t ungodly hot. It’s just a beautiful summer day.

Since moving to Texas Bjorn and I have had to adjust to the weather. I admit, we didn’t go outside a lot before but we go out even less now. The humidity just isn’t fun. You’re not supposed to feel like you’ve got your head underwater when you try to breath.

Today is the first day in a few weeks were it actually feels wonderful to be outside, so I am out in the backyard reading a new book. The Crafter’s Dungeon. It’s a unique take on dungeon core mechanics and I’m really enjoying it.

It strikes me that there is so much LIFE here in Texas. Right now I can hear four different kinds of bird calls, a couple of insects, squirrels, and something else I can’t identify. It’s just everywhere! From the squirrels playing in the trees, and on our roof, to the possums crossing the road at night, and even the deer we saw a couple of days ago. I haven’t seen/heard this much wild life since I lived in rural California.

As for the writing, I am about half way into my new litRPG book. This one is taking a little longer because I’m doing a lot more character growth in it. As I discover the story it keeps growing and becoming more. Cas is having an amazing adventure, disguising a new world, and entirely new game mechanics. But sometimes when you have those amazing experiences you learn something incredible about yourself. I’m pretty sure she’s going to learn a lot.

I’ve also been working on editing book two of my Half Blood Sorceress series. I have been stuck in this one for a while trying to decide if it was all necessary, or if some of it should be cut, and instead I decided it just needed some better connections between a few characters. Fleshing them out more and finding out what they wanted as well as the main character. What once felt like unconnected story points now is starting to feel like a whole living city.

These last few months have been incredible. I’ve written more than I have ever written before, my sales are slowly picking up, and I’m getting faster at writing every day. I’m not sure how much longer I get to do the full time author life, but I cherish every moment of it. Even when I’m stuck on a story bit and feeling like I can’t go anywhere with it, at least I have this chance. I am not stressed out by a job that makes me unhappy, or yelled at by customers who blame me for things out of my control.

On the contrary, if something goes wrong the only person I can blame is me. Was I writing or playing games? Researching or goofing off? It’s all on me. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s worth it.

Some part of me thinks that if I have to go back to a day job this experience will help me stick with the writing, and keep going, no matter what happens. I want to be an author. And authors write.

Progress….

Quick announcement: I will have a short story free every weekend for a while, so if you follow me on Amazon, or here, or join my newsletter, you can get information about the free short stories. I will be trying to get a few new, never before seen, short stories out soon as well, so look for those.

Now on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

I decided to catch up on some files today and see what I’ve been doing. It’s the middle of the year, and the third month into my “writing for a living” adventure, so it seems fitting. I think I’m doing more check ins since going full time, but this helps me gauge how well I’m doing with the word count and keep things in perspective.

Sorry but this is going to have a bunch of numbers. There will also be a summery at the end.

Since 2012 I have published 33 short stories, 6 novellas and 5 full length novels. (Novella is 10-49k, shorts are less, novels more.) That’s just over half a million words published. Of course many of the short stories are in anthologies so I only have 24 books out, but… that’s a lot of stories that I’ve completed. It’s hard to see how many things I’ve completed since I am often working on a single book for months at a time with no end, so it’s good to remember that I can, and have, completed stories.

This year has also had it’s busy moments with moving twice (in Feb and May) slowing me down a bit. But I’m still getting a steady stream of words out, and so far this year I’ve written 79,000 words. April has been my best month to date with 22.6k words written, and of course Feb, the month we moved to Texas, was the worst. Considering we packed for two weeks straight then drove for five days I’m glad I got any work done at all in Feb.

For a little bit of comparison, in 2017 and 2018 I wrote a total of just over 100k words each year. That’s all twelve months, including my attempt at NaNoWriMo which I failed both years. This year, and it’s only the first week of June, I’m already at 80k, and I should hit the 100k mark by end of month. Most of that writing has been since March so I’m on track.

My average daily word count has gone up from 300 to 900 words a day. It fluctuates, of course, but I try to get at least 500 on the days when we’re busy with things, like moving. So far it’s worked. The goal is to get to 2k a day by the end of this month. Eventually I’d like to get to 5k a day, but that’s going to take some stretching of the muscles.

These averages are written words on days that I write. I try not to skip days, but there are always days when you’re inundated with other things, like doctor appointments, travel, sickness, or the like. That is why I want to keep getting that average word count up, because I know days off happen and I want to offset them. I’ve set a monthly goal of 20k words at the moment, but I want it up to 30k soon. I’ve got to keep stretching. Keep working harder.

I haven’t done a lot of marketing. Right now my boyfriend and I agree that I just need to complete novels. Marketing can be so much easier if you have that back log of books to go through. Plus my strongest suit is in writing, not marketing, so if I have a lot to work out I will feel like I can take some time off writing to figure out the marketing bits with less issue.

I’ve also been posting a lot of artwork over on Redbubble as stickers, mugs, and things like that, as well as posting a bit more on instagram. Drawing has always been a way for me to relax and have fun, so I will be continuing to do that. I even have a coloring book out.

Summery: I’ve written a lot over the last few years, but this year has been a great increase and I’m working to get even more done. Also look for those free short stories on the weekends going forward, and a few new ones to be added.

The Strong Female Character

I will admit I do love a good novel with a female lead that kicks some serious ass. I read the entire Hallow Series by Kim Harrison, Mercy Thomson series by Patricia Briggs, The Baine Chronicles by Jasmine Walt, The Little Flame by Melissa Lummis, and almost every single book by Anne McCaffery, who really preferred strong women as her leads. I even wrote my own series with strong female lead characters, Witch’s Trilogy because I love it so much.

The characters in all of these books have something in common. Things happen, sometimes horrible things, sometimes world destroying things, and sometimes more personal. The main characters don’t sit and wallow because they can’t do anything about it, they get up and they find a way to deal with it. But they have one other thing that is vital to their journey. They fail. They fail a lot. Then they get up and try again.

Failure is a big part of a good story. Within the hero’s journey it is actually a phase that english teachers teach you. Luke Skywalker looses all his friends. Frodo Baggins has to leave the Fellowship of the ring. Neo is ambushed in the matrix. They all fail, they have to get back on the horse and try again. This shows dedication, resolve, persistence…things every person could use. It also shows that even a hero, like a fire fighter, police officer, or teacher, can make a mistake sometimes. We can all fail, and we can all try and get back up and do it again.

In the Hallow Series the main character gets near death in many of her books. Mercy Thomson is kidnapped, abused, hurt, and lost. In the Baine Chronicles the main character is lost in time as well as space. Each of them have their own flaws to overcome. Each of them have weaknesses that can be exploited by others that they have to learn to overcome. And each of them aren’t afraid to ask for help from friends and loved ones.

This is just good storytelling. When you put a “strong female character” into a story that has no flaws, no weaknesses, no room to grow, then your story ends up feeling flat. The only time it does work is when there is no overall story, say like in John Wick where the whole point is mayhem, or Commando from early Schwarzenegger, or any other high action movie with little plot and all action. If you put a woman in the same sort of no plot high action movie I am sure people would enjoy that too. The trouble comes when you put a wooden character into a plot, give them nothing to add to the plot, and no personality to really endear you to them.

This wooden character with no flaws that always wins no matter what….It’s called the Mary Sue who masquerades as an infallible character. Highly prevalent in fan fiction, the Mary Sue has made it’s way to main stream writing, and even tv and movies. They are stoic, unchanging, they don’t need anyone, and they never really fail. Granted, some people really enjoy this type of strong female character since it keeps cropping up in main stream media. Many don’t. It’s all down to taste.

I would say it’s not conducive to good story telling. There isn’t a lot of difference between John Wick and Alice from Resident Evil. Both movies were well received, both movies centered on the main character fighting their way through a bunch of bodies. Not a lot of plot, mostly action. That’s all the needed.

But when it is bad for the story is where there is clearly a plot and the plot suffers because the main character does not change, has no flaw, and never fails. In fact John and Alice both have a moment where they fail. They loose their weapons, seem outnumbered, and have to fight back. They just don’t have an emotional story line to go with it for the most part, which is fine, it isn’t that kind of movie. On the other hand…. and here is where I don’t want to say the name because I don’t want people to get pissed at me, but I need an example….Rey, from Star Wars, is inside a rich universe, with lots of emotional things going on around her, but she remains very much the same from start to finish. She’s good at everything, she never really fails, and she has no flaws.

The difference between Resident Evil and Star Wars is everything going on outside the action. Resident Evil is mostly action from start to finish. Star Wars has political posturing, heart felt moments, love stories, and a whole lot of history behind it. Resident Evil has zombies.

Because Rey is set against this backdrop of a rich world with all this characterization, successes and failures, she ends up coming off as more wooden. She doesn’t really need anyone, not even Luke in the long run. In the original series Luke was a bad ass, but he needed his friends, and was stronger for them. Rey ditches everyone, goes and does her own thing, and is fine. When Luke went off on his own he regretted it and realized he needed his friends.

This Mary Sue story telling, especially in a world that already has a huge fan base, leads to a divide in the fan base. Some like it, some don’t, and the fans decide….I’m going to go watch something else.

For a better story telling experience add a flaw. Add a moment when the character looses everything, and has to fight their way back up from the brink of destruction. Have them evolve and change over time. Have them overcome an inner conflict of some kind. Give me, the reader, something to root for them about. I want to love your character! I want to go along with them on this journey, and care about them. I want to laugh at funny things they do, or cry when they are hurt, or cheer when they finally overcome their trouble. I want to FEEL. Do that and I’ll keep coming back for more.

To Cliffhanger or Not to Cliffhanger

A few weeks I finished another story in a series that I have been reading for the last year. It had it’s moments, and some flaws, and things I didn’t like, but overall it was a fair book. Then the end happened and a GREAT BIG HUGE CLIFFHANGER fell into my lap and I was tempted to throw my kindle. The next book isn’t out, won’t be out for another year, and….it was annoying.

Granted, that emotional response I had was probably exactly what the author was going for. He wanted the reader to hang onto the words, and at the very end he wanted to make the reader come back for more. It’s slightly underhanded, but works really well if the story is good. Game of Thrones (TV series) has that going on. Lots of TV dramas live off cliffhangers. You have to come back the next day to keep watching or you’ll never know who Jared found with his wife.

Small cliffhangers are almost expected in any series. In each book you have the main focus of that specific series, and a lot of resolution to everything going on, but the overall story, the one keeping all the books together as a whole, isn’t done yet. I did this with my Witch’s Trilogy. Each book is a distinct book and you can probably read any one of them and be fine without reading the other two, but there is a thread that connects them all, and it’s a fuller and richer experience as a whole. And at the end of each book there is just a short scene that connects it to the next book. A small cliffhanger, but one that hopefully gets you curious.

There are a few stories that act as episodic structures, like the original Hulk show, Jack Reacher, or 007. The story ends and the main character goes off into the sunset, and you don’t know if you’ll see them again. No cliffhangers. No real cliffhangers at the end of the episodes. Just a story. Almost all of Star Trek was done that way. A few of the series had running plots that ran through the series, but most episodes still had the story of the week aspect.

So should there be cliffhangers? Of course there will be, and in the right area they are good to have.

It really depends on what you’re going for. It’s appropriate for some stories to have an end to each episode because the characters aren’t going to be interacting with those specific people ever again. In the case of Jack Reacher, he won’t go back to that town again. A cliffhanger wouldn’t make sense because if you started a new book with him finishing up the arc from the previous show, then going to the next town with new people and starting a brand new arc, that would be weird.

Stories that end in cliffhangers usually bring the character back to the same area, and interact with the same people. TV drama is a great example. They are all in the same little town, same sets, same other actors, so cliffhangers can work because you can resolve that thread next episode and then move on.

There is one last way to use cliffhangers though, and I think it’s the most common. That is to have a single thread that winds through the story line, the theme of the series, and have that be the cliffhanger each episode. Supernatural is a perfect example. That show has been going on forever. Each episode has it’s own story that is completed in the 45 min episode, and also adds to the over all story that is effecting that season. They get a little closer to that seasons villain with almost every episode. The thing bringing people back to watch it is partly the overall story, but mostly it’s just that they love those characters, and they love the monster of the week format. The overall story is just icing on the cake.

However you do cliffhangers just remember that you need SOME closure at the end of the story. If nothing is finished, and you just drop the book for a cliffhanger and say “go read the next book” I’m not going to do it. I want some closure, and if you give me NO closure then I’m not invested in your story enough to keep going.