Showing posts from 2011

Three Things (Fantasy) Readers Want

It has been such an encouragement to me how many of you have really gotten some nugget of useful wisdom out of the One-Star Review series I've been posting here--I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement. As I troll more one-star diatribes for cohesive nuggets to post about, I thought I'd take a little detour to talk about what those who posted positive reviews state they want, at least in general terms, from their fantasy reading. After all, of the "big titles" I've been studying, the boo-hiss reviews represent less than 5% of the feedback on any of these books, so it seems prudent to at least touch on what most people are saying.

So here we go. If reviews are to be believed, fantasy readers want...

To visit your world

Fantasy readers generally revel in the opportunity to traverse the map of another land, if the tale you are telling allows for such things. Where the mountains are, how the weather changes from place to place, what rivers must be forded an…

One Star Reviews #4: Grammatical Snobbery

There are none so righteous as the newly converted...

I thought C.S. Lewis had said this, but as I dug around, I was hard pressed to locate an attribution for the quote. But it certainly holds true no matter who the quote belongs to. For those who are freshly educated in the use of language, the brand of righteousness these folks exhibit is irksome to fiction writers.

While not as pervasive as the one-star reasons I've talked about in the first three posts in this series, a refrain I am finding in one-star reviews (and also two-star, incidentally) is grammarphilia. People who stand on the premise that impeccable grammar is far more important than style. Fragments give these people heart palpitations. Prepositions at the ends of sentences are like scarlet letters of the literary world. No self-respecting paragraph would ever have just one sentence.

Now, I am completely on the grammarphiles' side in their assertions that writers should know how to make their nouns and verbs agre…

One-Star Reviews #3: Keep it Relevant

The third prevalent complaint I found in one-star reviews applies most specifically to writers who are forging into subsequent books in a series, and the word of warning one-star reviewers send your way is this: don't ramble. No matter how fascinating you might think the minutia of your world may be, if it doesn't serve to advance the plot in some meaningful way, don't include it.

To be fair, for every one-star review that complains about self-indulgent world building detail, there are ten reviews that rave about the depth of the story teller's world. The majority of loyal fantasy fans eat world details like Edmund Pevensie shovels Turkish Delight, but my study of one-star reviews shows there is a significant percentage of those who don't. As with many things in life, it seems to me moderation is the key.

More specifically, the incensed reviewers became weary when a promising first (or even second or third) book in a series led them into a tome of rambling nothing.…

One Star Reviews #2: Papa Don't Preach

As I continue my quest to squeeze as much wisdom as possible out of one-star reviews of generally respected fantasy books, I came across an issue that a commenter on the last post about this topic touched upon: visible religious content in the narrative. More specifically, overt parallels to Christianity seem to have a distinct talent for drawing the ire of the one-star reviewer.

Some of these reviewers have railed against feeling as though books have snuck up on them under the guise of fantasy stories and then somewhere in the middle, pulled a "bait and switch." Some have even suggested that if authors intend to have Christian content in their stories, that they should preface the book with a warning. Something like a allergen label, I guess:

Processed in a facility that may leave trace amounts of stuff that sounds and feels like the Bible.
Or perhaps: 
Caution: Contains characters that bear an undeniable resemblance to Jesus or other biblical figures
Few reviewers have any…

Reviewer Warnings to Writers #1: Skip the Head Dipping

Over the past few weeks, I've been grabbing a little time here and there to make a study of one-star reviews of fantasy books on Amazon. The content of such reviews has been sometimes funny, but more often very telling. A detailed picture of "what not to do" as an author. Now, granted, I tend to skip over the one-star reviews where the reviewer makes an idiot of him- or herself by spouting vitriol, or spelling every third word wrong, or using syntax that requires the reader to employ a combination of creativity and mind-altering substances to make sense of the reviewer's point.

Anyway, once the chaff blows yonder, what's left is a specific list of what makes readers so mad they feel they have to stand in front of the book in question and wave their arms wildly, saying "Turn back! Turn back! Don't suffer like I did."

One of the biggest reader offenders I'm running into is what I'll call "head dipping." What I mean by that is a stor…

The Do's and Don'ts of Critiquing

Whether your a writer or a reader who knows writers, chances are, you've been asked for your opinion on somebody's story in progress. Talk about a ticklish position to be in, depending on who the asker happens to be. As I've spent time experiencing all levels of experience, from online forums where people have never critiqued anything before, to professional workshops under the guidance of multipublished authors, a list of things we "critters" should do (and a bigger list of those we should not) keep piling up in my mind. I figured, rather than let those take up space in my already cluttered brain, I ought to spill them here and hope they help someone else in their intent to give a good critique.

Here are my general thoughts and observations in the realm of critiquing:

#1-Be realistic about what kind of feedback you can provide--and how quickly.
If you are no grammarian but you know your way around a story, critique what you're good at. It's infinitely mo…

How a Baby Carrot Can Offer Wisdom

Today was one of those days where I had to pick and choose what got done, and the list was short. Way too short.

The weirdest thing that struck me in my "get the kids to school, get a few things thrown together at home, get clean so I don't offend my coworkers, and get out the door" frenzy had to do with baby carrots, of all things. There was a time, not very long ago, where I would never have considered putting a baby carrot into stew. Especially if I had old fashioned, peel 'em and cut 'em up carrots in the crisper. But life right now has begun to necessitate the need to cut a few corners, and the corner I cut today was to NOT cut the carrots.

Now this may seem like undue rumination on something completely inconsequential. But the deeper story at work here is that with every task I must do differently now that I am out of the house for ten hours a day, the more it makes me take careful stock of what's important and what's not. Yes, whole, large carrots…

Checking Off All the Boxes

The last quarter of 2011 has involved a pretty hefty pile of writing-related stuff, including:
Getting the first two Windrider books up and running
Looking ahead to the tasks involved in creating the print compilation
Designing or at least having my fingers on the situation with my cover art

And now...delving into potentially massive edits for Sword of the Patron.

As I've been doing all this, there are a couple of things that industry professionals have said that continue to ring in my ears. One is something Dr. Ted Baehr said. The gist of it was, "It's just as much work to go small as it is to go big." I'm finding that to be resoundingly true. While the places I may be able to focus my efforts and have influence may be different with a small publisher than a large house, there is no easy, sit-back-and-watch-it-happen route to getting books on the market. And once those books are out there, the task of finding new people to buy them is staggeringly hard. What the…

Off Without a Hitch

Well friends, the day is here...the day the Windrider Saga continues, with Book 2: A Greater Strength available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. I am so humbled by the flurry of interest and support that so many of you have shown as the ebooks have gone live. If you are interested in purchasing but haven't yet had the chance, here are links to the book in its various locations for your convenience.


Barnes and Noble

Annnnnd Smashwords

I hope you enjoy, and if you do, please tell a friend. Thank you for your continued support of new authors and small publishing!

A Greater Strength Cover Goes Public

November 22nd is fast approaching, and I'm thrilled to announce the coming release of the second tale in the Windrider Saga. A Greater Strength continues the story begun in Book I: Divine Summons.  Loner though he may be, Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast knows he cannot hope to accomplish his newest mission on his own. He and his comrades have managed to avert the disaster of their king’s abduction, but all is not well in the elven capital of Delsinon. Six precious Talismans of Passage slip farther from the elves’ grasp with each moment they contemplate a solution. Vinyanel’s superiors send him to reclaim what enemies have stolen.
He assembles an unlikely squadron and leads them from the back of his silver dragon mount and friend, Majestrin. Their guide: a rogue who once attempted Vinyanel’s assassination. A stealthy marksman, a bookish warrior who fights with grace, and a prophetess for wise (though sometimes annoying) spiritual guidance fill out the ranks.
The journey to the far reac…

Completely a Non Fantasy, Non Writing Post

My life involves about a hour and a half of driving per weekday now that I am employed outside my home, which gives me a lot of time to mull things over. This has been great for my writing in some ways, because it forces me to brainstorm before I sit down to type, since my typing time is so limited. But sometimes, the ideas aren't flowing, and my brain wanders to other pursuits.

For those who know me from my youth, it will come as no surprise to hear that I have a lingering obsession with music education--marching band at the high school level in particular. I know that is a weird thing to care about at all in my late thirties, but for some reason, the formative things that happened during my marching band years have stuck with me. These years were the focus of some of my thoughts as I drove this morning.

A big factor in my nostalgia for that time of my life is an individual by the name of Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser. (Dr. Tim to those who know him from his leadership seminars.) I could…
Hey Friends...

I am certainly behind on getting this link out to you, but editing, cover design, a full time job and a family will do that to you, I guess. But I wanted to offer a huge thank you to Heather for her balanced and succinct assessment of the first book in my Windrider series. Go read her thoughts at the link below, and do let Heather know you dropped in. Thanks a million!

H.A. Titus's feedback on Divine Summons

Holidays in Fantasyland

We're closing in on what I call the "legitimate" holiday season. (I summarily reject the notion that "the holidays" start with Halloween.) The impending arrival of Thanksgiving and Christmas has me thinking a little bit about the calendar in the other world I occupy--the one I write in.

I will admit, the calendar of my world is an area I have neglected pretty fully. I have a general sense that there is a Yule Feast in the winter, a day of celebration that is especially enjoyed by the forest gnome population, that Midsummer's Day is significant in celebrating blessings and abundance, and there was once this dwarvish holiday/event invented in my world charmingly dubbed the "Boulderkegger." That one is a long story, and I didn't actually make it up, but the genius of it seemed too good to pass up. Well, good if you can overlook the way it doesn't exactly exemplify the virtue of temperance.

But besides that, I have to admit I haven't put a…

Who I Am vs Who I Am

My facebook status last night posed the question: do you ever feel like a racehorse who's hitched to a plow? Life is like that in many ways for me right now, and it's easy to look at the analogy with a negative, pop-culture-influenced cast. American culture tells us we need to "be who we are inside" and that anything less than that is a horrifying sin to be burned at the stake. If your an artist, make art, if you're an executive, lead, if you're a nurturer, care for someone.

Now, this all sounds quite good on the surface, and it makes my analogy of hitching a racehorse to a plow repugnant to those who ascribe to the "be who you are" mantra. Racehorses were made to be sleek. To run. To dazzle. As for plow horses--well, the only people who notice them are folks who have been suburbanites so long that when you drive by an old draft horse actually doing what it was bred to be good at, it's very novel. To put the glamorous racehorse in the place of t…

Friends Don't Let Friends Have Bad Cover Art

In this publishing revolution we're all encountering, I am excited about a lot of things--mainly, the ability of authors who would may never see print due to the fact that they write in too tight a niche to be considered a good risk for a big publisher to now get their work into the marketplace. Whether it's better to go micro-publisher or to self publish in this instance still remains to be seen, but I think over the next few years, we're going to see some interesting statistics emerge about sales connected to both.

What I'm not so excited about in the self and micro publishing realms is hokey/cheesy/hackish cover art. Now, not all self or micro published books suffer this malady, but so many do that it's painful. What's even more painful is when an author posts this cover art in the world of social media, and so many of the author's friends say "How exciting! Hooray! Very cool," when they should be saying, "Your title is too small. Your sto…

Kat Heckenbach: Author, Mom, Educator, Artist (not necessarily in that order)

One of my favorite people in speculative fiction circles is author Kat Heckenbach. I got to know Kat a little better while we were both contributors over at The New Authors Fellowship, from which we have both recently graduated due to our publication contracts. Kat has always been a huge supporter of my writing and art, so I wanted to take some time to introduce her to you, the CotC community. I hope you enjoy her little visit with us, and if you do, be sure to check out her debut novel: Finding Angel.

So relax and enjoy this little interview with Kat...

Me: To break the ice a little here, why don’t you introduce yourself? I’m sure readers would be interested to hear what you consider significant enough about yourself to mention after the words, “Hi, I’m Kat Heckenbach and…” (Just imagine we’re all sitting around someone’s living room at the beginning of meeting with a brand new small group or something.)
Kat: Hi, I’m Kat Heckenbach and I really stink at introducing myself :P. Okay,…

A Thanks to Kat Heckenbach and a Promotion

An Interview with a Fellow Author

In case you don't spend time around my facebook page, here is a link to my latest author interview. I wanted to specifically thank Kat Heckenbach, author of Finding Angel, for her great questions and willingness to host me. I hope you enjoy the interview, and that you'll stop back this coming Sunday for an interview I did with Kat.

Thanks for all your support in this first week of The Windrider's availability to the public.

Also, comment if you're interested: I am willing to create three original sketches of Vinyanel or scenes from Divine Summons for three lucky people who contact me and post an Amazon review of the book. The first three I hear from are the lucky bunch. :)

My First Interview

Interview with Bryan Thomas Schmidt

As a part of the book release extravaganza, Diminsihed Media author Bryan Thomas Schmidt was kind enough to offer me an interview and post it today. I hope you'll drop in, comment, and ask questions if Bryan didn't ask something you want to know!

Thanks for your continued encouragement.

The Link List

Huzzah! What a surprise that my first publication went "live" on B&N and Amazon a day early. How often does that happen?

Well, if you are in the mood just to smile with me and see the book actually for sale on the internet (or maybe you even want to pull out a dollar and get a copy of your own) you can do so here:

The Windrider 1, Divine Summons for Kindle

Get it here on Nook!

Thanks, all of you, who have been such a great support...and thanks in advance to all of you who purchase a copy and support small publishing!


The Unveiling

With the release of my debut ebook, The Windrider: Book 1, Divine Summons looming on the horizon, it is with great pleasure I unveil to you, my most stalwart friends, the cover art for first of an intended series.

Illustrator Christina Hess created the illustration for this cover, and I could not be more thrilled with her execution of the concept. I am deeply thankful for her willingness to help me establish a top-notch brand for my fantasy writing.

There's not much else to say, since I think the image speaks for itself. If you want to take a look at some of Christina's other beautiful artwork, visit her site at

And just as a reminder, the tale of Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast's exploits will be available for Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords this coming Tuesday, October 25th. The book will start out at the bargain price of just  99 cents, but that price won't last forever. Links forthcoming...

 Your support of independent artists and small pub…
Attention fantasy and science fiction fans. Good news! Digital Dragon Magazine is now back up and kickin' after a little hiatus this summer. As the story goes, apparently there were some technical implosions assaulting the powers that be over there, but now those are rectified, and the magazine is live once more.

Of course, the timing is especially advantageous to me, since I have a story and an interview in this new issue, mostly owing to DDM's parent company (Diminished Media Group's) intent to release the first of two ebook compilations of my Windrider serial fiction in just 10 short days!

This image you see here is the artwork I provided to DDM "in the raw," before they added the finishing touches in order to use it as the issue's cover. I think it turned out pretty snazzy, if I may say so myself.

So, if you have a chance, please stop by Digital Dragon and show your appreciation for the work they are doing over there. The more folks support their endeavo…

Confessions of a Blog Slacker

Yes, I have to admit...I have been sorely neglectful of this blog space. My number of posts as of late ( plus my statistics) bear testimony to that fact. As much as I wish I could say that's because I've been lounging under an umbrella somewhere sunny while I gorged myself on bon bons, that's not the case. It has more to do with the collision of my new job, the beginning of the school year, the push to finish the second Windrider book, and all those other "life things" that come up. Thankfully, I can say that all of the above appear to be going or have gone quite well.

The reality of just how close my work "going public" is has suddenly become more sobering today, as I got my edited version of The Windrider, Divine Summons, back from the realm of edits today. The heat is on for me to check it over for any last jots or tittles out of place before it gets formatted for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. While I'm excited about the release that's loomin…
Sunday, September 25th, 2011-More Details

About a week ago, when I gave you the lay of the land on my publishing exploits, I promised I would give you more details as I have them, so I'm now making good on that promise.

Windrider News:
The Windrider, book 1, Divine Summons, is set to release on October 25th from Diminished Media Group, the folks who bring you Digital Dragon Magazine and A Flame in the Dark. A cover I know is going to be incredible is in process right now, and we are working out the details for bi-weekly podcasts of an audio version of the story as well. The next four weeks are going to careen by faster than I can even imagine, but I'm looking forward to having a great launch.

On November 22, book 2 of the series, A Greater Strength, will also be available in eformats, so if you read book one and have a hankering for more Vinyanel, Veranna, and even some new faces, that set of stories will be available to you right on the heels of book one.

If you know folks who…
Publishing Updates...a Lot Going on 'Round These Parts

New Authors Fellowship post for Sunday, September 18th

Hello Fantasy fans. Once again, I'm just calling your attention to my activity over on New Authors Fellowship in the time I still remain on the "unpublished" side of the fence over there. Amazingly, it's not going to be long before I no longer wear that mantle.

While I'm here, I'll give you the update on where things stand with my work that's inching toward release.

Diminished Media Group has had the first compilation of Windrider stories in their hands for a about a month now, making final tweaks to make then clean and shiny for release during October in ebook formats. We're also in the process of securing a top-notch illustrator for the cover, and I couldn't be more excited about her potential work for this set of stories. When that's all finalized, I'll let you know who this amazing artist is, and maybe even give you a sneak…

Come here, go there

For those of you who follow my blog both here and over at The New Authors Fellowship, your time of dual destinations will soon be coming to a close. When I joined into the group of fine bloggers over at NAF, the agreed upon length of posting was to be six months, after which my status as an unpublished author would be reevaluated, and then we would decide if I'd stay on as a featured author. Well, as I've mentioned in earlier post, I won't be an unpublished author anymore, come mid October. And thus, my regular contributions to NAF will come to a close.

Enter the resumed use of this blog, which has been admittedly cobwebby for the past six months. As much as I thought I might be able to maintain posting in two places at once, life has taught me otherwise. My sincere hope is that I will be able to maintain regular posting here, as well as do the needed edits on my work that's headed toward publication.

As I forge onward here, I'd love to know what you as readers wou…

Wrist Slap Well Deserved

I'm holding out my figurative hand and waiting for you to go ahead and let me have it. Go ahead, smack my wrist as hard as I deserve for NOT updating you on how my conference went a good week and a half ago now.

If it's any consolation, it went so well I haven't had a moment to breathe, let alone type much more than status updates about the whole thing. But for those of you who are wondering, I'll try to give the brief version of what went on back in Philly.

I was shocked to go "4 for 4" in my appointments. (Before I explain, let me say, I love the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference for the fact that they give you FOUR appointments with agents, editors, mentors, and the like.) My appointments were with 3 editors and an agent, and lo and behold, all of them asked for my full manuscript. I was flying high.

When my last class ended on Saturday, I had to head home without attending the last general session due to other obligations on my calendar. S…

Conference time again

I'm a conference junkie...I know I've said that before, but it bears repeating because it's still true. (And may I note, it is a bad addiction to have for someone who is not yet actually earning any royalties from my writing. All outgo, no income...)

But anyway, despite the wisdom of spending more money on writing education, here I am at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and I'm confident it will be a great weekend. The conference, while on the small side (150 attendees or something like that) is full of great enthusiasm from all directions and spiritual vibrancy.

Of course, it's tricky, as I'm pitching a book that isn't overtly Christian in nature. I mean, it's fantasy after all, and enough folks still think that is synonymous with Satanism 101. But honestly, I have more prospects here of agents and editors to meet with than I would at a bigger, more expensive conference. So I'll practice my pitch and peddle my wares and see if…

Let the Herald Trumpets Resound

OK, so maybe that's a little melodramatic, in a RenFaire kind of way.

But seriously, there have been some big developments in my writing life over the past few weeks, developments it's been killing me to keep my lip buttoned about. You may have seen this announcement in some of my other haunts, but if not, I'll post it here for your information.

Attention fantasy readers! I am pleased to officially announce that I have signed a publishing contract with Diminished Media Group, a new small press run by the fine folks who already bring speculative fiction audiences Digital Dragon magazine and A Flame in the Dark.

Through this contract, Diminished Media intends to publish my serial fiction The Windrider. Some of you may have read the first season of this tale, which ran in Digital Dragon from July of 2009 to August of 2010. Diminished Media’s publications will include an ebook version of not only this first set of thirteen stories, revised for publication, but a second ebook of …

Update on Risen Fiction's Unpublished Author Contest

Well, voters, ya done good.

Sword of the Patron has advanced from the voting round into the second round of competition at Risen Fiction's contest, where the winner gets a publishing contract for his or her novel! Scary as it is, it's out of our hands now.

From this point, authors already affiliated with Risen Fiction will judge synopses and first chapters from the twenty contestants who have moved on to whittle the field down to five. From there, those five will invite the scrutiny of Risen's editorial team, and voila! Number one gets a contract. (Number two gets a kindle, which wouldn't be too shabby seeing as I have some personal interest in a few ebook titles coming out this fall...but more on that when the powers that be loosen my lips on the subject. And number three gets books. What writer doesn't love free books?)

Anyway, I wanted to personally thank those of you who voted. I wish I knew who you were! But alas, the contest doesn't let me know who or how …

The Risen Books contest continues!

Hello friends! Some of you have expressed some confusion about what on earth I'm talking about as I have been posting links to Risen Books contest these past couple days, so I thought I would do my best to clarify. Forgive me for my presumption you would all be able to read my mind! I know many of you were with me when I was campaigning for the Marcher Lord Select contest back in 2009, so I erroneously assumed everybody would know all about voter-based publishing contests.

So, in an effort to tidy up the looks of bewilderment, which anyone who has cast one my direction is completely justified in having done so, here are the rules as the contest runners posted them:

Risen Books Contest for Unpublished Authors
First Prize: Publishing contract with Risen Books.
Second Prize: Amazon Kindle (with Special Offers)
Third Prize: Free books from Risen authors.
Submission Period
The submission period begins July 21, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Pacific Standard Time) and ends July 31, 201…

Contest time...

Well folks, yes, it's been very quiet over here, but I like to hope I might be able to draw some traffic with a little smidge of an update.

Sword of the Patron, my first novel length work, has not yet found a publishing home, so it's taking another little jaunt into a contest. This one can be found at:

The winner gets a contract with Risen Fiction, so the stakes are pretty high on this one. (Second and third place aren't too shabby either...who wouldn't love a Kindle or free books?)

Anyway, this is the official "Vote for me" post on my blog. I don't like to self promote to the point of being someone you tune out, so I'll try to keep these posts to a minimum. The way I can do that best is if you, dear readers, also promote my entry to your friends. You have way more clout than I do! :)

So, Sci-Fi/Fantasy submission #1 over at Risen's contest is my work, and if you enjoy the blurb I've provided and wo…

Not forgotten

One would be tempted to say I've forgotten all about this blog over the past couple months. Let me assure you, nothing is farther from the truth. The fact that it sits empty, un-updated, and collecting dust haunts me daily. That's why I feel it's only fair (at least to my own conscience, and hopefully to a few others of you out there) to go ahead and make the following announcement.

The Windrider saga is going on hiatus for an undetermined length of time, which may become permanent, depending on a potential reprint market for (at minimum) the first season of the work. I know for a handful of you devoted readers, that is going to be a major bummer, and I do apologize for that. The fact is, I am no longer ahead on the stories like I once was, and I'm just not comfortable writing an installment and posting it the second it's cooled from the heat of the forge. I've been posting without sharpening, and that's not good for you--the reader, or me--the writer. May y…

Plugging another destination

Hey Friends of fantasy,

I've got a new read for you, if you're interested. My good friend and critique partner Ruth Mills is launching a new blog this week, which will deal with movies, literature, and sometimes both at once. I'm sure she'd be thrilled if you dropped in, and since there's nothing to see here at the moment, hey, at least I pointed you to some reading, right? :)

I hope you enjoy, and if you do, drop Ruth a comment and let her know.

Where's My Windrider Installment?!

At least I hope somebody, somewhere asked that today.

But either way, I thought it only fair to mention why you've got no story, since here it is the first of the month. First of all, I had a post go live today on The New Authors Fellowship today, and I said I wasn't going to stack Windrider stories on top of NAF posts, so that has bumped Windrider, I fear. (I've committed to Sundays at NAF, so Windrider doesn't have the clout to mess with that.) So, I'm thinking the adjusted method of operations for Windrider is going to end up being the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. This will give a few breathing days between my pelting you with NAF links and new story segments. I appreciate we all only have so much time to read.

My other excuse for bumping Windrider back is that I didn't work on it while I was in UT. I just couldn't afford to subdivide my attention. The way I see it, I was paying about $18.75 an hour for the education I was receiving and wr…