Thursday, December 29, 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 and how difficult that is--all of this information helps readers feel like they are "really there" and oriented in a fantasy world. If the landscape is especially unusual (for example, the Shattered Plains in Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings or the moon Pandora from James Cameron's Avatar) readers want as much detail as it takes to help them see the wonder. Granted, that <5% of readers did frown at the detailing of the world being overly detailed, but those folks tended to seem like they were just in the wrong place overall by reading fantasy. Sure, a lot of thriller readers couldn't care less the color of the veining on the poisonous balepetal plant, but fantasy readers in general, grin when you tell them.

To have a sense of a deeper history

Note that I said "a sense," which does not mean a huge dissertation, or heavens no, a ginormous prologue that dumps all that info into our unwilling laps. One of the major elements of The Lord of the Rings that helps it ensare readers generation after generation is the way Tolkien includes references to Middle Earth's history that are just that, references. None of his characters feel it necessary to explain what they're hinting at, just like if you were writing a contemporary earth-setting novel, you wouldn't feel compelled to explain what you meant if you referred to World War II or the Beatles. Your characters would talk about such things and they would know the cultural context. In the same way, Tolkien's characters talked about goblin wars or the lay of Beren and Luthien and at most, hinted at the full tales. And it works. (It helps for us uber-geeks that there are commentaries, notes, and appendices for us to go find out the full sweep of what these things are all about if we want to.) But for those who don't, the cultural references work to create a sense of water that runs deep with history and lore.

To feel smarter than your average bear

If there's any readership that doesn't mind technically specific vocabulary, archaic usage, and concepts that make them go "Oooh, I need to Google that," it's speculative fiction readers. Many of the folks who read fantasy are happy to spend  time with their like-minded buddies discussing the differences between a glaive-guisarm and a bardiche, and most of them would prefer you call those weapons what they are in fantasy, rather than you just say polearm. Reviewer complaints have included griping about authors whose worlds lack color because every castle guard carries a spear, or because the writer decided "people only read modern dialect nowadays." (I find homeschooled fantasy readers become especially irked about the language issue.) Granted, your novel shouldn't read like middle English, because that would be overkill. And if you're going to write in a "high" style, you better be sure you are second only to Shakespeare in your mastery of it, because it will show if you try and you're not. (Trust me on this.)

Whether we admit it or not, we spec-fic readers are a strange breed, generally more willing to figure something out we don't get on the first pass, and even more willing than average to accept things that we won't understand because the author made it up and no amount of Googling will offer more information.

I could continue to add bullet points to this list, but that may have to wait for another day. To conclude, however, I am deeply grateful for the people who take the time to post detailed reviews of books on-line. If we can't talk to readers one-on-one about our own work, it seems to me there's still a trove of information out there to tap for wisdom.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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 agree, that they shouldn't use words whose definitions they don't exactly know (think "inconceivable" from The Princess Bride) and they certainly need to comb their work for wonky syntax. But militant adherence to the rules of academic writing doesn't necessarily serve best in the realm of fiction. With the emphasis on voice in fiction, it's a necessity that authors have leave to play a little bit with accepted grammar rules. If the message beneath the words becomes horribly garbled due to excessive liberty with grammar, then of course the author has gone too far.

But the one-star reviewer/grammar officer doesn't see the artistry in tweaking, in starting a sentence with the occasional conjunction, in pouring words into a mold that maximizes their impact, even if it doesn't adhere to collegiate grammar specifications. It's these types of reviewers that I can't help but wonder if they just have nothing else to do than read books and become incensed over non-traditional sentence structure. Never mind the fact that the fragment or word order actually serves a specific artistic purpose (if you simmer down long enough to analyze it.)

I would ignore this type of one-star review if it didn't bleed over into another area the grammar-police also seem to partner with their hatred of loose sentence structure, and that's an intolerance for a partial reveal of information. As I came across multiple one-star reviews spurred by linguistic frustration, many of these reviews morphed into complaints about questions authors planted that did not generate immediate answers. (Now, hearkening back to #3 of this series, it is a legitimate gripe if the author never bothers to tie up anything, but just wanders around for hundreds of pages.) But I think the narrow view of grammar is logically tied into the reader frustration with "hooks" or "plants," as I've heard them called. People who think in a rigidly linear fashion have little tolerance for unexplained actions, titles, or remarks, and it seems few of these types of readers are willing to stick with a book if they have to wait too long to find out what the author was alluding to.

The take-away I get from this is that if I'm going to plant a question in my work, I need to make sure I reassure my reader that I haven't forgotten about it. An occasional hint that I will get back to that--eventually--goes a long way in reader retention. And if I'm going to ignore formality in grammatical structure, I had better do it less than I have in this blog post if I don't want the Champions of Grammar to wage war on me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

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. World information, disjointed exploits, and story padding that make a laborious 900 page book out of what could have been a really good 500 page story bring one-star reviewers' blood to a boil. And given the price of a big publishing house hardback novel that has as many pages as all three Lord of the Rings books combined, readers want every word on those expensive pages to pack a punch--and I think they deserve that. Prior success is no reason for editors to let authors get sloppy.

Another refrain I found in these one-star reviews that decried irrelevant detail was an across-the-board complaint about overly-detailed sex scenes in fantasy books that did nothing to develop anyone's character (for better or worse) and felt more like voyeuristic indulgence of the author's weird thought life than anything that should populate the pages of a book. Just by reading the way the reviewers framed these comments, it's obvious they aren't moral ultra-conservatives. They might not even object to the concept of casual sex in the real world. They just don't want to see geeky fantasies lived out for pages and pages for no reason. It's not just us prudish Christians who'd rather not hear detailed language about body parts and their interaction. I find it a relief to know there are readers across the spectrum with a sense of decency, and they're not afraid to speak up about it.

I'll be the first to admit that finding the exact level of world exposition that pleases both those who geek out over it and those who demand continual story momentum is a huge challenge for those of us who have built worlds and mentally live in them. That's why I think it's very valuable to come out of fantasy land every now and again, take a look around at how people are reacting to the unveiling of that world, and adjust accordingly.

Monday, December 19, 2011

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 problem with a religious system in fantasy. In fact, many of them applaud the depth of world-building it takes to give characters an intricate and fully-realized belief system. But if that belief system comes across in a way where the reader begins to feel the author is trying to tell him what he should believe in real life, well, look out. Those one star reviews will come hurtling in like flaming balls of catapult shot. And if that belief system reminds people of Christ, that only compounds the intensity with which people react. If there's anything reliably divisive in this world, its Christianity.

Honestly, I can't entirely blame the one-star reviewers for getting ticked off when a fantasy book suddenly starts to sound like an over-preached sermon. Themes are wonderful. Deeper meaning is what makes a good book great. But when it comes to religious content, the old mantra--know thy audience--becomes imperative.

If I'm writing for Christians, they are going to be much more willing to read an object lesson in my work and see what they can take away from that. We're used to that method of operations, since most of us engage in that exercise at least once a week if not daily. But if I think I'm writing for a crossover audience, they will drop me like cast iron that's been sitting over the fire if I start to let my characters become mouthpieces of specifically biblical teaching. This is entirely my opinion formed from observation, but I believe we all have an inner eye that recognizes our Maker, even if we are choosing to ignore him in our daily living. For those who do not have an active faith they are pursuing and an understanding of God's loving, relational nature, the detection of that God can be unsettling, to say the least.

Now then, that doesn't account for the books that are out there that, to the Body's shame, preach in the negative sense of the word, casting a reproachful, down-the-nose glance at the reader who does not align to the worldview of the story. I don't contest the single-star reward such writing earns.

The conclusion I come to is this: we need to handle all content that parallels a Christian worldview with a deft and winsome hand. It's so easy to fall into "tract mode" when we are in the territory as something as important to us as our belief systems. I sincerely believe it is far better to write a story that helps to raise excellent questions than one that tries to have all the answers.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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 story that interrupts itself continually to give us the point of view character's internal monologue. It seems a lot of writers not only head dip too often, but the feelings they are talking about in their characters are whiny, insecure, pathetic, and annoying. It's true we all feel like that when we're confronted with overwhelming circumstances, but it seems the bulk of fantasy readers don't want to hear about it. They want the story to forge onward. They want to see the character's conflicts, they want to hear the dialogue that reveals little snippets of the characters' inner distress, but more than one visit in a very great while to any remotely emo passages, and you readers will let the world know--loud and clear--that they think it stinks.

While frequent passages of musing may work literary wonders in "serious" forms of prose, it appears to me fantasy is surely not one of them--from a reader perspective. Since most of us who write genre fiction are indeed writing for readers, I believe we would do well to heed the issues that inspire one-star reviews. As I turn up more recurring themes in these boo-hiss reviews, I'll be back to share what those are. And as always, I invite your commentary on what you think about the observations I bring up here.

Happy reading and writing, friends!

Monday, December 12, 2011

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 more useful to the person you're critiquing if you work in the realm of your strengths with confidence and leave the areas you're not sure about to those that are. What you also need to know is what kind of time you have to offer to critiquing. By the nature of the business, writers are very often on deadlines, whether it's for a contest, a mentoring program, or a publication date. It becomes very stressful for the writer if he or she is waiting on a critique that doesn't come. Better to say you can't help than to keep the writer waiting. (I stand  guilty of the above offense!)

#2-Provide at least a few points of positive feedback, no matter how rough the rest of the piece may be.
Pop psych tells us that it takes a fistful of praises to offset one admonishment, but in the world of writing, it's not exactly practical to try to outweigh the corrections in that kind of proportion. As a matter of fact, it would be annoying. But on the flip side, a critique with only "fix this" and "I didn't get/like that" will leave the writer feeling pretty deflated.

And tied into this: if the piece you have agreed to critique is a horrible mess, do both yourself and the writer a favor and don't line-by-line critique it. Instead, you might want to give some general feedback about what problems are pervasive in the piece, highlighting a few examples in the first page or so, and suggesting the writer take some time to address those issues. A draft highlighted, commented upon, and rearranged so that more is flagged as wrong than right is more than most melancholy-type writers can take without inspiring a major bout of depression or desire to throw things.

#3-Use your most professional tone possible.
I don't care if you are very familiar with the person you are critiquing--the number of efforts to be cute or funny on paper that have gone awry are too numerous to count. Unless you are providing a critique to your absolute writing soul mate who will understand every inflection you write as if you said it to him over a cup of coffee, err on the side of formality. Otherwise, you risk sounding like you are patting the writer on the head like he is a four-year-old, or else you are being snarky. Either could make writers bang their keyboards and growl indiscernible epithets.

#4 Critique stuff you generally like.
It's hard to read good, polished writing you don't entirely care for, and let's face it, most of us don't bother to keep reading stuff we don't like. Critiquing, in general, is a volunteer activity that is hard enough for most writers to ask of others due to how time consuming it is by nature--no need to suffer through a critique of a genre that isn't really your thing or a story whose characters you hate. You won't provide a very helpful critique anyway,  unless you are a paragon of altruism and objectivity. I know I should never try to critique romance or women's fiction, because I absolutely don't get the genres. Working tropes in those genres give me an upset stomach--and that's my problem, not the writers' and the genres'. I simply should not critique them because I will complain about stuff readers of those types of work love and expect.

There are more guidelines out there, I'm sure. As a matter of fact, you may be reading this and saying, "You didn't mention..." I invite you to do so in the comments area below!

Happy reading, writing, and generally helping.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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 are nurtitionally superior to baby carrots (so I'm told), but does that really matter when I'm going to steep them in a crock pot for 10 hours? Will my children feel neglected because I didn't cut the carrots into little coins? Part of me gasped in horror that I simply poured 2/3 of a bag of the little orange buggers on top of stew meat this morning. But the part of me that's thinking back on that now is laughing a little bit at how dramatic that felt at the time. Hey, at least I didn't use canned mushrooms. (We have to keep some sense of priorities here.)

It's no secret that my plate is heaped high right now, and my greatest fear has to do with the relationships I have in this world withering because I have so little time to commit to connecting.  My seven year old makes no secret of the fact that he is not on board with the idea of only seeing me for about a half hour at bedtime, for about for forty five minutes in the mornings the he doesn't have children's choir before school. (The other kids are in the same boat, but because they don't share my middle child's choleric personality, they haven't said anything.) Additionally, I often feel my connection to the stay-at-home and homeschooling moms I once joined on playdates and field trips stretched thin to the point of breakage. I don't want to lose those relationships, but we tend to hang with those we have most in common with, right?

So, carrots are small potatoes in terms of changing MO's. Friendships, parental connection, and running my household? A much bigger deal. I continually pray the Lord will reveal to me how I can possibly give the appropriate level of attention to it all. Oh--and there's those little things called BOOKS I should either be marketing or editing to release.

I keep reminding myself there are lessons to learn--even from accepting baby carrots in the stew instead of chunks I peeled and sliced myself. Working full-time while I have small children was never the path I anticipated, but it certainly has been full of obvious lessons. (Lessons in areas of my life I have otherwise been neglecting--namely, assertiveness, follow-through, and diligence.) Every time life sets me across the anvil, sure, I wriggle in the tongs and try to escape the inevitable hammer, but the fact is, without the tempering, what good am I? I don't want to be a strip of polished steel that looks smooth and ready, but once employed, shatters into shards. Even though sometimes I feel like life is trying to dash me to bits, deep down, I know everything I feel is pulling me too much is really just stretching me enough to grow.

So maybe those baby carrots are a little light in the vitamin department. They made up for it in provoking reflection. :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

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 long term benefits of going small vs. holding out to go big are going to be, it's way to early to say.

The other words that are ringing even louder in my ears, especially as I look at the underlying structure of Sword of the Patron, are the items I learned from David (Wolverton) Farland in the week long workshop I took with him. I have a checklist on my wall of things I specifically took away from that experience, which stare at me in red ink every time I sit down to work. The checklist goes like this (and these items are not in priority order, just so you know)

Setting: Is my setting vivid--either wondrous or resonant? What specific ways am I creating spectacle in terms of setting?

Theme: does every scene serve to expound upon either primary or secondary themes?

Hooks: Am I raising questions at key points in the scene?

Stakes: Am I making things matter? Are the circumstances difficult enough?

Conflicts: Does every scene serve to either deepen or broaden the conflict?

Hierarchy of Beats: Am I writing to my audience with the emotional beats of my scenes in mind?
Now, this one, I admit, requires a little explanation. Because I am writing fantasy for an older teen to adult audience, and because my primary reader will likely be female since I am a female writer with a female protagonist the hierarchy of beats I've decided I need in my work is all follows (and these are in priority order):
  • Wonder
  • Adventure
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Humor

If I am not hitting one or more of these beats in a scene, generally, the scene is dead weight, and it needs to be trimmed or cut. The trick is hitting all the beats in the correct proportion without bloating the story just to get the beats in.

As I look into potentially deep cuts to SotP, I keep finding I'm either narrowing the conflict instead of deepening it, or else I'm eliminating something in the top three beats in the hierarchy. The book feels like a stack of fruit in the produce section, and I'm trying to pull out 30% of the stock in the bottom quarter of the pile, and praying the rest of the display doesn't come rolling out at me in a avalanche of embarrassing disaster.

Now, admittedly, there are about 3,000 words that can go without question. I had a sense they would be on the cutting room floor even when I was selling the book at a conference back in August, so I had already severed emotional ties to the content. I wanted to retain the character in question to use in a later book so that I wouldn't have to create a new character for a coming scenario, but if I'm being truthful, that's one apple I can pull from the rows at no risk.

But the other 7,000 words--those are proving their elimination diffuses the danger. That much I can see despite my myopic author's view of the story.

I had really hoped that having the manuscript out of my hands and head for about three months would bring me back to it with a professional detachment that would make it easy for me to carve it up now that the time has come. But in some ways, it's become harder now. As I look at each passage and recall the sweat and tears involved in crafting it, I feel like I'm throwing away a long friendship. Yet at the same time, I know we as writers need to step back and take an impassive look at things, through the lens of our editors' input, and make the hard cuts.

I haven't gotten to the right answer here yet. And that's probably why this blog post sounds like I'm thinking out loud more than a cohesive commentary. I'll likely be posting occasional updates to the editing journey, and I hope they will be a help to my writer friends who read this, and at least an interesting peek at the process for the non-writers.

For now, it's time to get back to analysis of this ol' work in progress.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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.

Amazon

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!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Greater Strength Cover Goes Public

The cover for The Windrider Saga, Book 2: A Greater Strength is officially done, and I am very proud of the awesome team who put it together. Thanks to Morgan and Ken Knott (photographers), Jon Mills (graphic design, photo manipulation) and Christina Hess (consultation) for helping me make my little map into something so much more.
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 reaches of the continent confronts Vinyanel with temptation, betrayal, and his own frailties, and all these threaten to unravel the mission. Acting as a vessel of justice is easy--but mercy? That requires a far greater strength.

I hope you will join the ranks of those who have already enjoyed Divine Summons and pick up your e-copy of A Greater Strength on Tuesday, the 22nd. If you haven't read Book I yet, it will remain at the promotional price of just 99 cents for a limited time.

I sincerely thank all of you for your continued support of family-friendly fantasy fiction.

Friday, November 18, 2011

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 couldn't help but check recently what Dr. Tim was up to, besides writing band method books that I sell on a regular basis at my day job.

I was a little surprised to see how few band leadership seminars Dr. Tim is doing of late, but if I'm being realistic, I realize it's not reasonable for him to be charging around like he did 20 years ago. He admittedly was on the road 50 weeks of the year at that time--and he's certainly earned the right to slow down after all this time. That right coupled with the untimely passing of a major band leadership icon, George M Parks (who often partnered with Dr. Tim in teaching Band Leadership Training and Drum Major Academy) justified to me Dr. Tim's more limited schedule of student leadership seminars. But that got me to thinking. Who will carry on teaching students how to lead when Tim decides it's time to hang up the ol' mace?

The disturbing reality is the answer is maybe no one.

A large number of the friends and family I have in music education whether directly or in a supporting industry, sing the same mournful refrain. Kids aren't interested in leadership, and teachers are too busy just trying to keep their programs alive in the face of budget cuts, apathy, and student overcommitment to myriad activities to promote anyone going the next step from participant to leader. I believe this is a picture of our society as a whole. We lack deeply informed individuals who want to lead out of an altruistic desire to better the world. Certainly those people exist, but I don't think we've done a very good job in building many more of them in the generation to come. And I believe their numbers are too few to stand against the tide of selfishness so prevalent in western society.

And thus, people like Dr. Tim have fewer sold-out students to teach. And the world eventually ends up with fewer advocates for long standing icons like the Philadelphia Orchestra, which has gone bankrupt in recent months.

So to avoid the risk of ranting without posing any productive thoughts on the matter, what do I think we should be doing about the lack of students who desire training in leadership?

First, I think adults have a responsibility to demand dedication to a very few or even a single pursuit in their children. Breadth is not proving itself better than depth. Music education is great for this, because it requires consistent practice, even when it's hard, even when it's not fun. The fun comes later when you have gained a mastery of your skills and can share music with the world.

Second, I think students have a responsibility to stand up and show others that leadership is a great thing. That standing out from the crowd is a tenet of success. The small percentage of kids who still want to lead because something in their innate wiring prevents them from doing anything else need to do everything they can to spread that spark to their peers. Force the lowest common denominator higher in your areas of influence, and the effect will ripple outward.

Maybe Dr. Tim won't teach huge packs of crazed drum majors all over the country again, but I sincerely believe if we are to have a hope of pulling our fraying society back together at all, we need to relearn a love of and respect for the skills of leadership. Aside from encouraging my own little brood in that direction, I don't know what else the Lord will call me to do to that end, but my unshakable passion for leadership in the arts is keeping my ears open for whatever marching orders emerge.

Lead on, friends, and equip others when you can.

Monday, November 14, 2011

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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 lot of thought into feast days and celebrations, and I need to get to it, because every layer I add to my world makes it more believable and more captivating. But it's not as though I can just make a a handful of holidays and call it good. After all, if we have things like Boxing Day and Thanksgiving and Rosh Hashana and Valentines Day in this world, my imagined places and cultures will need to have observances that are particular to their cultures and spiritual inclinations, which then means I have a minimum of 12 different cultures to deal with--handling only one continent. And as always, I buy into my habit of letting the projection of the overwhelming size of the job prevent me from just starting the dang thing, one element at a time!

So that leaves me to pose a question to you, dear readers: which holidays in this world do you enjoy the most, and what about them resonates with you? By mixing, grafting, tweaking, and tranforming what already exists, hopefully I can come up with a holidays and observances element to my world that is both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

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 the old plodder would seem a darn shame.

But then, when you really think about it, which horse is doing something more useful? The racer or the tiller? Perhaps there's some wisdom in hitching our racehorse, dreaming selves to the singletree of some honest farm equipment and just getting business done. I have always been a dreamer to a fault, and when you reap whimsy, you sow--well, nothing.

I'm in a bit of a plow horse phase of my life, and for this thoroughbred, that's a little tough  to swallow sometimes. But I know for sure that the Lord did not place me in this spot by accident, or to annoy me, or because he doesn't care about my dreams. More than likely, he knows my achieving my dreams will be much harder than I've ever guessed, and that I need to build up the muscle to shoulder what's ahead.

So my plan is to lean into the old collar and till the patch of rocky soil I'm on right now. It occurs to me that there's a reason God didn't give plow horses the gift of speech. If talking made them anything like us, imagine the complaining! I'm striving for dutiful tenacity, and if I can do that well, I know I can look forward to a surprising crop in a few seasons.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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.

This is a work in progress to become part of a book cover
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 stock art is dated. The photoshopping of this cover is really crusty."

It may sound mean to say such things when the author is excited just to HAVE a cover for his or her first book, but honesty is a new author's best friend. When there's still time to go in and make the art awesome, please, for the love of all that's good, tell your friends if their cover art needs something. That includes me. I don't want to have anything out there with anything less than a flawless cover, because in the world of fantasy, folks are drawn to epic, incredible images. And hokeyness reeks like roadkill in the summer.

I'll admit, I stand guilty of just keeping my mouth shut when cover art is abysmal, and this is my resolution to follow my own advice. If I want to keep publishing with small publishers, it's my job, and yours too, to make those small publishers look just as legit, if not moreso, than the big houses.

Monday, October 31, 2011

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, okay. I’m a homeschooling mom (2 kids), artist (mostly pencil drawing), writer (weird stuff), fantasy and sci-fi lover (just look at my bookshelf and DVD case), Harry Potter obsessed (yes, I have a wand), Trekkie (my dog is named Dax), and Dr. Whovian (yes, I own a sonic screwdriver).

Me: So, writing and homeschooling…how is that treating you?

Kat: I honestly have no idea how I could write if I wasn’t homeschooling. Seems like homeschooling would leave me less time to write—with all that preparation and such—but I truly need the flexibility. And a benefit I didn’t see coming is how it cements in my kids’ heads that writing means something to me. They see me working at it. It’s part of our day, and they get just as excited about my writing as I do.

Me:    Your portfolio of artwork seems to favor insects. Beetles mostly. What can you tell us about the source of your interest in the six legged creatures of the world?

Kat: I have no idea why I am so fascinated with beetles. They just seem to always draw my attention when I am at museums. The incredible variety, the iridescent colors. Some of them look like they are made out of metal! I’ve only recently gotten into drawing them, though. I guess the variety of species, shapes, patterns, etc., lends itself to creativity.




Me:  If you had the power to will one change on the publishing world, what would it be?

Kat: Oh, wow. Good question! And if you had asked me a couple of years ago I probably would have griped about trying to get someone to read my actual manuscript without it being rejected based on a query letter. Now, though, I’ve got some experience working with a small press and have seen more from the “other side.” I think at this point it would be to make bookstores more open to putting books from small presses on the shelves.

Me: What have some of the highlights been of having Finding Angel on the market and available to readers?

Kat: Getting reviews from people who are reading it as an actual book, not a manuscript in progress. That’s been cool. It really is different when someone I don’t know personally loves what I’m writing. And having friends and family see that what I’m doing is “real.” Not just a dream, but an actual accomplishment.

Me:     Being a published author, a mom, a full-time educator (and whatever other super identities I don’t even know you have) must force you to leave some things undone. If you have to let something slide to the bottom of the to-do list, what is most likely to end up there and why?

Kat: Cooking. Always cooking. I’d never cook if it was up to me!

Me: Who is your greatest supporter as you pursue the life of an author?

Kat: That’s actually a hard one. I have a very supportive family. My mom, my dad, my husband, my kids, my brother, my in-laws—they are all supportive. I think I am most grateful, though, of my husband’s support. He watches the kids so I can go to writers meetings and such. And even though he’s not much of a fiction reader, so he really doesn’t quite “get” why I’m doing all this, he’s backed me 100%.

Me: Tell us about your relationship with your publisher Splashdown. Any surprises as you’ve worked with them?

Kat: The whole experience has been one surprise after another! I had no idea what to expect from working with a small publisher. But it’s been awesome. Grace Bridges is wonderful, and the whole group of authors work really well together as a team. We brainstorm back cover blurbs and such for each other, and everyone is respectful of each other’s suggestions. I will admit, I love the creative pow-wows Grace and I have when it comes to cover art. We seem to totally connect most of the time and it’s ridiculously fun. Those moments of, “What if we….?” followed by, “Oh, yes, that’s brilliant!” happen a lot—in both directions. There have been far too many for me to doubt I’m in the right place.

Me: What other projects do you have in the works right now, whether in an active phase or on the back burner?

Kat: I’m working on three projects right now. A novella—ghost story—that will be part of a multi-author anthology, a paranormal thriller with a (gasp!) romance-ish angle, and of course the sequel to Finding Angel. The ghost story has a deadline (that is creeping up far too quickly), but bets are on as to which of the other two I finish first…



Me: Where can we read stuff you’ve written? How about see stuff you’ve drawn?

Kat: The easiest place to find all the links to my short stories is my website, http://www.katheckenbach.com/. There are links to online stories, as well as links to Amazon for the print anthologies that contain my stories.

My artwork is kind of spread out. I’ve got drawings on the covers of several Splashdown books, including Finding Angel J. The others are Caprice Hokstad’s The Duke’s Handmaid (the key) and Nor Iron Bars a Cage (the shackles), and the upcoming covers of Fred Warren’s The Muse and The Seer (the sword on both). For my beetle art, the best place is my Zazzle store at http://www.zazzle.com/kat713. Other work can be found posted on my website, or in the photos section of my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kat-Heckenbach-Author-and-Artist/125084577483

Thanks a million for sharing your world with us, Kat! I pray the Lord will bless your work and use it to form great relationships with people you never imagined you'd touch. And thanks to you, readers, for visiting. If you or someone you know is looking for a great read for a younger reader (or a young-at-heart reader) don't miss Finding Angel.

Friday, October 28, 2011

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. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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.

Monday, October 24, 2011

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!

Sincerely,
Becky

Sunday, October 23, 2011

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 http://www.christinahess.com/

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 publishing is invaluable!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unicorn drawing for "Wish Wary"  
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 endeavors, the better a foothold they can get in the market, and the more authors like me will have a chance at their work seeing publication. Sounds good to me. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

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 looming, there's also that whispering sense of. "Oh, shoot. Now people have plenty of opportunity to say my stuff stinks!"

But that's what I signed up for with this author gig, right? After all, there are people out there who say Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Dickens stink. If I could even stink as much as Dan Brown, I think I'd have no room for complaint. ;)

I just ask you bear with me for another couple of weeks while I'm still an active member over at New Author's Fellowship. After that, this will be my main arena for touching base with those faithful who drop by, so you'll see the activity pick up here again. Dare I promise? I probably should, since the very act will pressure me into keeping my word.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for more specifics (like links) about where you'll be able to get your own e-copy of the Windrider Saga. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together, and saying a little prayer nobody tears it apart if it doesn't deserve it.  (And by the way, if you want to provide an objective review, let me know. I need some advance readers to have comments ready as close to the release date as possible!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

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 are fans of clean fantasy fiction, please be sure to tell them about these novellas that will be available very soon. I will post links to where they are available to purchase the minute they go live.

Sword of the Patron progess...

I would like to formally announce that the publisher that has taken on Danae and her adventures is Other Sheep, the speculative fiction imprint of Written World Communications. In true small world fashion, I learned this week  that my editor will be someone who, not very long ago, I worked with in an ACFW critique group, author and editor Andrea Graham. Andrea is already very well acquainted with Sword of the Patron, and is now combing through the book in order to get it tidy and tight for publication.

As is often the case with manuscripts, there is a very good chance we will be seeking out a new title for the story, so if you later see discussions of Sword of the Patron vanish in favor of talk about a novel of another name, not to worry. The story behind the final title will remain.

The book currently known as Sword of the Patron will release in the first quarter of 2012, although an exact date is yet to be determined. All we know is what better time of year to curl up with a good epic tale than when you can stoke a roaring fire in the fireplace and sip a hot cocoa while you journey to another world with alchemist's daughter Danae, the enigmatic knight Praesidio, the healer elf Culduin, and a cast of other friends and foils.

Now for the fun part. I'm hoping to put together a very cool launch party to go along with the release of this book, and if I have my 'druthers, it will be at the lovely Stokesay Castle in Reading, PA. I want this to be an awesome night attended by everyone who can possibly make it out to support the book, so I'll be sure to get you hard dates for such an event as soon as we have locked down the final location and date.

Keep coming back here, to my facebook page, and to the New Authors Fellowship to gather details on the coming releases.

Speaking of NAF, if you haven't dropped by over there for my Sunday post and would like to, here's a link to that little ditty. I promise, it's shorter than this post.


The New Authors Sunday 9-25 post

Thanks for your continued readership, and I look forward to having published products to share with you and your friends.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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 peak at what the concept behind the cover is, if she'll let me. The tentative subtitle for that season is Divine Summons.

The Sword of the Patron contract has been returned to the publisher in question there, and once I've got a green light, I'll spill on who the great folks are who are going to put that book through the rigors of editing so it's ready for market. No release date is yet generated for that one, but you can bet I'll let you know what I find out that information.

I'm nearly done editing the second season of The Windrider, provided I don't pull a classic "me" and decide to entirely rewrite episodes 10 and 11 of that book. There's something slightly off in that section, and I'm hoping one of my patented bathtub strokes of genius will tidy that little issue up very soon. Then that one will be off to Diminished Media. I'm calling that book The Windrider, book II, A Greater Strength. We'll see if the folks over at Diminished let me keep that title, or if we cook up something more awesome.

So that's the publishing update from over here. And just for a little head's up, I will probably use my full name, Rebecca Minor, or even Rebecca P Minor on these books, so I'll be dual branding my names onto internet stuff regarding my work from here. Thanks for following!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

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 would love to see more commentary upon? Are there topics you'd like to see me research, interview others on, or simply ruminate upon? Would you like to see fiction here? Now's your chance to tell me what brings you back to a blog, and I'll do my best to deliver.

For now, however, most of my thoughts will be cropping up at NAF. This week's post discusses my use of my commute for the sake of beefing up my prayer life. I hope you'll drop by and be blessed.


New Authors Fellowship=Captive Audience

And later this fall, keep an eye trained here at CotC, so you can hear the latest news, release dates, and discussion of The Windrider, volumes one and two, as well as Sword of the Patron, whose release date is TBA.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

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. So what a surprise to learn the next morning, via facebook no less, that one of the editors from my appointments announced she wanted to offer me a contract on the spot, right there at the conference. Shame on me for not being there, but thankfully, this editor must be an understanding soul, because she still contacted me a little later to share her intentions with me, personally and specifically.

And now that puts me in the position to consider my first contract for a novel-length work. Hard to believe, but awesome and true. As if it wasn't exciting enough to have my Windrider saga hitting the world of ebook and print with Diminished Media Group this fall. To add to it a possible deal for Sword of the Patron is just staggering. Talk about a flood of payoff for nearly four years of hard work.

The story of Sword of the Patron's journey is just beginning to unfold. I'm still in the process right now of reviewing details and seeking the advice of those more experienced. But things are in motion in so many ways. I'm holding on for dear life sometimes, but as things careen onward, I'll be sure to fill you in on how they pan out. I hope you'll join me on the adventure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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 I can't get a nibble. A full-on bite would be great, but I'm not going to set the bar too high here.

It's exciting, nerve wracking, exhausting, but sure to be filled with more information than my poor little brain can hold onto over three days. But I wouldn't miss it.

I'll try to keep you posted on how the adventure goes. I'm starting a screenwriting class for my Continuing Education track here today, and I know that's going to awesome.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

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 the serial’s continuation, part of which ran at my blog at the end of 2010. For those want to have all the stories on paper, a print compilation of both seasons will also release from DMG.


When will all these stories be available? The release schedule is set for this fall—roughly mid October for the first book, late November for the second, and the release date for the print compilation is TBD.


So break out you Kindles (and other ereaders) and keep an eye out for further announcements about when you can get your compiled editions of The Windrider. Better yet, if you’d like to be on a mailing list where I specifically alert you to exact release dates, email me at beckyminor123[at]comcast[dot]net.

Each ebook will be novella length (somewhere between 100-150 pages, as I can best guess right now) so I believe you'll feel you got your money's worth if you purchase them for your ereader. People keep asking me if I will be doing cover or interior art for the books, and at this juncture, I have no answer to that. I think it would be awfully cool to have a few illustrations on the pages of these stories, but graphics do create a whole 'nuther level of headache, so we shall see what the verdict is on that. And of course, I'll let you know when I know.

Thanks for your continued support, faithful readers. It's only because of you these stories are getting a chance at reaching a wider audience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

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 many. So if you clicked stars and sent me forward, please accept this as my heartfelt thanks.

I'm sort of in a manic mode here, because a lot of stuff is in motion in my life right now. But as we all know, moving fast puts us at risk also for a high-speed crash, so pray the things I see on the horizon are great milestones on the journey, not roadblocks. It's hard to tell from here.

I'll keep you, faithful visitors, updated when there's more to say!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Pacific Standard Time). The contest is limited to 40 entries and we will stop accepting entries when we receive 40 submissions.
 *my book was accepted and is sci-fi/fantasy submission #1*
Authors are asked to submit the following:
  • Novel title
  • Genre
  • Hook (a 20- to 30-word premise)
  • Back Cover blurb (max 150 words)
Voting Round:
The general public will vote on the entries. The best 20 will be selected for the first round and will be asked to submit:
  • A one or two page synopsis that includes the ending
  • The first chapter
We reserve the right to advance fewer than 20 to the first round if, in our sole discretion, we do not receive a sufficient number of eligible or qualified entries.
First round
Between August 1st and August 12, 2011, Risen Books authors will select the best five (5) submissions based on the following criteria: originality of idea, strength of the plot (based on the synopsis), and the quality of writing.
The best 5 will be selected for the second round and asked to submit the complete manuscript.
Second Round
Between August 15 and September 25, Risen Book’s editorial committee will select the prizewinners, who will be announced on September 30th.
I hope that makes it clear what I'm trying to get mixed up in. Thanks a million, friends, and happy voting!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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:
http://www.risenfiction.com/category/contest/

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 would like to see this novel finally get a home, please vote for me. If you don't love it, please vote your conscience. I can't fault you for honesty.

Blessings to you and yours, and stay tuned for news on if I advance!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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 you forgive me for that. I'm not saying I'll never resurrect the series here...just that it will be a long time in coming if I do.


My goal is to get ahead on the story some day...as in finish the second season in it's entirety before I post any more episodes. After all, what if I have some great idea in episode ten that impacts how things SHOULD have happened in episode 7? I don't want to box myself into this little crate of no revisions like I have been.

I may still post the occasional article here, especially if I have ruminations that don't fit over at The New Authors Fellowship.

Should that be the case, I hope you will join me here at CotC and leave your comments. You have all been a blessing to me when you do. Have a safe and blessed summer!

Becky

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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? :)

http://themavenandthewritingdesk.blogspot.com/

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011

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 writing I was doing there, so every moment I didn't give The Sword of the Patron my full attention was money slipping through my fingers. (Now that is only the most surface of ways I can assign value to that experience...the rest is less tangible but far more profound.) So, I regret to report that the story did not make enough progress to be be ready to post in the little bit of airport time I spent on it. Hopefully by next week, I'll have some other fix for Vinyanel to try to find his way out of. Mwahahahaha!

All right, enough of my excuses right? What about some content here?

I've been watching some of the updates Pater Jackson and Weta Workshop have been offering on The Hobbit movies that are coming up 2012 and 2013, and I've found fan speculation to be interesting. We're all watching for our favorite characters to be confirmed as to who's playing whom, and there's this one rogue character in there who caught my eye. The character of Itaril, female elf warrior. Who is she? I'll be darned if I remember her from JRR Tolkien's book. A bet she's not in there. (Some Tolkien aficionado mightier than me, correct me if I'm wrong, please, and let me know where she is.)

But here's my speculation. I think this warrior female is going to provide the romance angle every blockbuster Hollywood movie requires. They need some angst-filled looking pair of people occupying eachother's personal space to at least put in the trailer, don't they? My out-on-a-limb prediction is that if they confirm the casting of Itaril, then there's going to be some kind of romantic subplot involving her and Legolas. A wild guess? Yes. Completely without any backup? Yes. All except for the fact that I don't think big budget blockbuster movie makers would make these two movies sans romance, like the Hobbit, was originally written and write off a portion of their potential audience.

But since I have no inside scoop on the movie industry, only time will tell. What do you think? Will Peter, Fran, and Philippa create a romance subplot from nothing? It will be interesting to see if they can recreate the magic they worked on their first trilogy masterpiece now a decade old.