After 1 Year and 100 Posts

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A year has passed since I’ve start­ed this web­site in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and con­nect­ed with an awe­some com­mu­ni­ty of indie authors and I’ve man­aged to gain a lit­tle bit of expo­sure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I pro­cured a few inter­views with inter­est­ing and pro­lif­ic indie authors and artists, land­ed mul­ti­ple guests post for this site, and have writ­ten a few for oth­ers as well, learned a bit about self-pro­mo­tion, and wrote mul­ti­ple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Star­la Huch­ton did and incred­i­ble job redesign­ing my book cov­er, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select pro­gram.

I joined two antholo­gies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthol­o­gy is a spec­tac­u­lar idea con­ceived by Lyn Mid­night where­in 36  writ­ers col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate twelves sto­ries writ­ten in three parts about the apoc­a­lypse. The col­lab­o­ra­tion even­tu­al­ly went on to include artists and musi­cians and even a children’s project. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the project became too large and unwieldy for our love­ly edi­tor and it even­tu­al­ly fiz­zled out.  As of late how­ev­er, it appears that Worlds Undone may be mak­ing a come­back.  I’m hop­ing it will.

The oth­er anthol­o­gy that I am involved with is more per­son­al and dear to me. It start­ed from a com­ment that I left on a fel­low indie author Matt Williams’ site. We dis­cussed the idea of going to space and that dis­cus­sion turned into an anthol­o­gy enti­tled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verg­ing on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdi­est but fun con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered around the ques­tion “Would you rather go to space or the bot­tom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a dis­tant child­hood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unat­tain­able and unre­al­is­tic. But, giv­en the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awe­some­ness of our great uni­verse, of the chaot­ic ran­dom­ness, of the beau­ty of this world and the things we have to be grate­ful for, and of how utter­ly minus­cule we peo­ple real­ly are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I fore­see you doing a sto­ry where a fam­i­ly does go into space. Ho boy, I smell anoth­er anthol­o­gy here!

Me: An anthol­o­gy about space, going to space or any­thing relat­ed sounds awe­some. I vote for you to be the edi­tor. What do we need to do to get start­ed?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will con­sist of twelve sto­ries of which mine will be first.  We’ve man­aged to fill about eight of the spots, so if any­one out there would like to con­tribute to a space and col­o­niza­tion anthol­o­gy, shoot me a mes­sage.

Over the course of the last few months I real­ized that I had a bit of an unin­ten­tion­al theme going, that of time man­age­ment. I wrote quite a bit about the sub­ject and sev­er­al fel­low indie authors con­tributed some real­ly amaz­ing posts about how they man­age their writ­ing time.  As time is such a dif­fi­cult thing for me to wran­gle I think I was sub­con­scious­ly look­ing for a way to rec­on­cile my lack of time with my desire to be more pro­lif­ic.  I’m still strug­gling with that one but one thing’s for cer­tain, if you want to pro­duce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time man­age­ment, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about cre­at­ing a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that suc­cess­ful­ly as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclec­tic mish­mosh of “stuff”, for lack of a bet­ter word.  For many rea­sons I’ve pur­pose­ly stayed away from more chal­leng­ing con­tro­ver­sial top­ics.  I either feel under informed, unqual­i­fied, or quite hon­est­ly afraid to engage in these chal­leng­ing dis­cus­sions out of fear of alien­at­ing read­ers but as I have so few, (haha­ha­ha) it’s pret­ty much a moot point.

Keep­ing with the idea of a theme I’ve decid­ed to choose anoth­er top­ic to give spe­cial focus this com­ing year.  I’ve been giv­ing this con­sid­er­able thought this past month and have decid­ed on crit­i­cal analysis/reviews of SFF books writ­ten by women.  This will cer­tain­ly not be to the exclu­sion of oth­er post ideas and I hope will be inter­est­ing for read­ers as well as a learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me.  I nev­er feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and lis­ten to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite inter­est­ing.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addi­tion to Leguin, But­ler, Zim­mer Bradley, and McCaf­frey among oth­ers.  If any­one has sug­ges­tions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Hon­or

I’d hoped to have com­plet­ed the out­line of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t hap­pen.  Then I got caught up work­ing on my anthol­o­gy sto­ries, hit a writ­ing slump that seems to hap­pen to me every year around Sep­tem­ber, got dis­tract­ed with chil­dren, life, work (which has been a beast!), the inter­net and attempts to pro­mote An Unpro­duc­tive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a ser­i­al nov­el blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I final­ly stopped more than thir­ty chap­ters in.  I didn’t want to but felt com­pelled as I’d nev­er so much as out­lined a sin­gle chap­ter and my sto­ry, writ­ten by the skin of my teeth and post­ed every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with anoth­er sto­ry that kept spin­ning in my head, and begin a seri­ous rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  For­tu­nate­ly, I love the sto­ry and the char­ac­ters enough to keep press­ing.  And even bet­ter and heart­en­ing, the char­ac­ters Bilqis, Hon­or, Aram­inta (Old Moth­er), Siti and many of the oth­ers talk to me every­day.  Loud­ly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the cur­rent out­line, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the sto­ry of Hon­or exists as the sec­ond tale in the Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the out­lin­ing phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nom­i­nat­ed for a few blog awards, the last and most impor­tant of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This hon­or was con­veyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grate­ful.  A com­plete post about is soon to come.

My great­est work for this com­ing year will be con­tin­ued sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.  In oth­er words, wean­ing out the unnec­es­sary to replace with what I val­ue.  I val­ue my rela­tion­ship with God, my fam­i­ly, my writ­ing, and my health.  So this com­ing year will include renewed efforts to cre­ate peace and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty with regard to those things I deem as most impor­tant to me.  Why is life such hard work?  For­get I asked that.

What have you accom­plished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your suc­cess­es and fail­ures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.

 

An Interview With Alesha Escobar About The Gray Towers Trilogy

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I am delight­ed to wel­come Ale­sha Esco­bar back to my site, this time for an inter­view about  the sec­ond book in The Gray Tow­er series.  If you haven’t read the first book, The Tower’s Alchemist, then get on it.  You’re miss­ing out on action packed read­ing.

1. The Tower’s Alchemist is a lux­u­ri­ous mish­mash of ideas.  We have Nazis, witch­es and war­locks, vam­pires, mag­ic, spies, and decep­tion, not to men­tion lots of action.  Can you give us a lit­tle back­ground about the basic plot of the Tower’s Alchemist?

It’s about a very dif­fer­ent World War II, where mag­ic exists in the world and Hitler’s obses­sion with the occult has led to him mak­ing a pact with war­locks. Of course the Allies won’t be out­done, and so they recruit wiz­ards trained by the benev­o­lent yet aloof insti­tu­tion known as the Gray Tow­er. My pro­tag­o­nist, Isabel­la George, is a Tow­er-trained alchemist work­ing for British intel­li­gence and spy­ing in Nazi-occu­pied France. How­ev­er we meet her at a point in her career when she wants to retire and set­tle down before she ends up dead–or worse, in an exper­i­men­tal lab.

She agrees to go on one final mis­sion, but things end up get­ting complicated–both in her pro­fes­sion­al life and her pri­vate life, and she dis­cov­ers that she has hid­den ene­mies, even in the Gray Tow­er.

2.  The Tower’s Alchemist is an awe­some mix of tra­di­tion­al gen­res and tropes in an orig­i­nal pack­age.  What was the gen­e­sis for the sto­ry?

My hus­band came up with the idea of a female pro­tag­o­nist who’s a wiz­ard spy­ing in WWII–sort of a Hell­boy meets Har­ry Dres­den meets spy type sto­ry. I loved the con­cept and start­ed flesh­ing every­thing out, and after a cou­ple of drafts The Tower’s Alchemist was born.

3.  The sec­ond book in this series is Dark Rift.  How does this sto­ry pick up where the first one left off?  What did you hope to achieve in terms of the plot and char­ac­ter growth with the sec­ond book?

Dark Rift picks up a week or two after the end­ing of Tower’s Alchemist. Isabel­la vis­its a gyp­sy woman to have her mind sealed so that a men­tal­ist wiz­ard can’t read her thoughts or mem­o­ries. Then she does one of the things she’s been desir­ing to do for a long time–go home to her fam­i­ly. Of course she finds that trou­ble won’t wait on her, and the plot takes not only inter­est­ing twists, but also answers sev­er­al burn­ing ques­tions from The Tower’s Alchemist. You’ll see Isabel­la grow, both as a char­ac­ter and in mag­i­cal pow­er, and at the same time she’s going to be forced to face her demons.

4.  Both books are part of the Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy, which means there will be a third book at some point.  Do you already know the direc­tion this last sto­ry will take or will it be a sur­prise to you as you write?  Have you start­ed writ­ing it yet and/or is there a pub­li­ca­tion date?

My hus­band almost fell out of his chair when I told him I (at first) wasn’t sure how it was going to end. Yes, I am one of those writ­ers. Haha! All I have to say is thank good­ness for Dra­mat­i­ca Pro because those out­lines helped me immense­ly. I’ve actu­al­ly start­ed writ­ing the third book and I know how it will all end. My pro­ject­ed pub­li­ca­tion date is Sum­mer 2013, but if I can com­plete it ear­li­er, you know I will!

5.  Who is your favorite char­ac­ter is and why?  If that char­ac­ter could share one thing about him or her­self, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I’ve fall­en in love with so many char­ac­ters in the sto­ry. I’ll pick my two favorites–Isabella and Neal. Isabel­la, because of the heart she has, and her will­ing­ness to fight for what she believes is right. Her sar­casm doesn’t hurt, either. If she could share one thing about her­self, it would be that her sec­ond career choice would’ve been teach­ing. Neal War­ren appears at the end of Tower’s Alchemist, but plays a much larg­er role in Dark Rift. He’s a Philoso­pher, which means he’s Sher­lock Holmes on crack with a bit of mag­i­cal enchant­ment pow­ers mixed in. He’s a bit mys­te­ri­ous, he’s a lot of fun, and fierce­ly loy­al to the Gray Tow­er. If he could share one thing about him­self, it would prob­a­bly be that he only uses half the stuff he pur­chas­es from the black mar­ket.

Enter to win a free elec­tron­ic copy of The Dark Rift for your Kin­dle.  Email me at [email protected] between 11/30/12 and 12/07/12 to enter the draw­ing.  Good luck!  Good read­ing!

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Ale­sha Esco­bar

Ale­sha Esco­bar writes fan­ta­sy and urban fan­ta­sy sto­ries to sup­port her choco­late habit. She earned a B.A. in Eng­lish Writ­ing and a Mas­ter of Sci­ence in Edu­ca­tion, and has enjoyed both teach­ing writ­ing and being a writer. Her hob­bies include read­ing, watch­ing movies, and mak­ing crafts. She is cur­rent­ly work­ing on the final install­ment of The Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy.

Find Ale­sha online at these venues:

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Plotting a Web Serial…

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The Fire Man

Kuzey­tac via Comp­fight

Melanie Edmonds is one of those indie-authors who’s man­aged to make a a suc­cess out of the web-ser­i­al.  A real suc­cess.  She pro­duces smart, con­cise, pro­fes­sion­al look­ing tales and she does it all by the seat of her pants.  Imag­ine!

My own ser­i­al flopped tremen­dous­ly, plot holes and incon­sis­ten­cies abound­ed, and I couldn’t, so close to the end fig­ure out how to fix the flaws.  I thought that a seat of your pants web ser­i­al was impos­si­ble to pull off…at least for me.  Accord­ing to Melanie, there are some rules or not rules to keep in mind though.  This is what else Melanie had to say…

Plot­ting a web ser­i­al…

Or, how to keep your pants on fire.

There are many ways to approach writ­ing a web ser­i­al. Some writ­ers have the whole ser­i­al writ­ten before they start to post. Some have at least a large por­tion of it com­plete: half, or three quar­ters, or enough for sev­er­al months’ worth of entries. Oth­ers always have a hand­ful of posts in hand.

I’m not one of those writ­ers. In some ways, I’d like to be, but it just doesn’t work like that for me.

On my first web ser­i­al, the Apoc­a­lypse Blog, I had a strict sched­ule of at least one post a day. For the last eight months of the year-long project, I was writ­ing, edit­ing, and post­ing in the same day. Every day. It was insane, and I loved it.

Writ­ing that way doesn’t leave much time for plan­ning, so I fell into the dis­cov­ery, ‘seat of the pants’ kind of writ­ing. This works well for me, but it has a num­ber of pit­falls that are worth keep­ing in mind. It’s easy to write your­self into a cor­ner or mean­der through the posts with­out direc­tion if you don’t have some way to con­trol the plot.

So how do you plot a web ser­i­al you’re writ­ing by the seat of your pants?

Have strong, ful­ly-formed char­ac­ters. These are the peo­ple you’re tak­ing this jour­ney with, and they’ll help you through it. When you get stuck, they will help you get out of it. Trust your char­ac­ters to help you tell their sto­ry, and you’ll be fine.

My writ­ing is char­ac­ter-cen­tric. The action (and plot) is dri­ven by their per­son­al­i­ties and deci­sions, their steps and mis­steps. Hav­ing a good mix of peo­ple is essen­tial, even if they don’t all get along (in fact, it can be more fun if they don’t!).

Even the gaps they can’t fill can help to dri­ve the sto­ry. Do they need a mechan­ic but don’t have one to hand? Then they’ll need to find a way around their bro­ken gad­get, or go find some­one who can fix it for them. And maybe that will lead to an impor­tant lack that they’ll need to work around lat­er on, or they’ll have to deal with some­one who exacts an awk­ward price…

Have a  plan in mind. You might be writ­ing by the seat of your pants, but that doesn’t meant you can’t have a long-range plan you’re work­ing towards. In fact, if you don’t, you’re like­ly to end up with a long, ram­bling sto­ry that goes nowhere at all. Your read­ers will be able to tell and this isn’t a good thing!

You don’t have to have a 3-act struc­ture and you don’t have to have every twist and turn nailed down before­hand. You don’t even have to have it writ­ten down. But if you have an idea about the plot arc (or arcs!) you want to cre­ate, where your sto­ry is going, then it will help your sto­ry main­tain a direc­tion.

I use the ‘step­ping stone’ method of plan­ning my sto­ries, includ­ing my web seri­als. I know spe­cif­ic plot points I want to hit and the rough end­ing point I want to get to in each ‘book’ (rough­ly 100,000 words in a web ser­i­al).

This helps cre­ate arcs for the sto­ry to trav­el through, allow­ing it to have crescen­dos and pay­offs, which is less exhaust­ing for the audi­ence than a con­tin­u­ous lev­el of excite­ment (or, worse, lack of excite­ment!). In the project I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on, Star­walk­er, there are three books planned out, each one with its own arc which builds up into a big­ger arc run­ning through the whole tril­o­gy.

Every­thing in between those step­ping-stone plot points is writ­ten dis­cov­ery-style. I might know where I want them to get to but I don’t always know how they’ll get there! I take the jour­ney with my char­ac­ters, and that’s part of the fun for me as a writer. I ask myself a lot of ques­tions, exam­in­ing my goal, options, and char­ac­ters, to pick the best path for the sto­ry.

No, really.

Doug Geisler via Comp­fight

For exam­ple, I want them to get to point D, but how do I make them want to get there? If they don’t want to get there, how do I make it nec­es­sary for them to go any­way? Do I need to throw in a road­block, or have them remove one? Do they need to go through points B and C first? What choic­es will this group of peo­ple need to make? What won’t/can’t they do? How can I jug­gle the pieces I have at my com­mand to make this hap­pen?

What­ev­er you do, don’t force the plot. You should nev­er need to. No-one wants to see the author’s hand in there, push­ing the sto­ry towards where you want it to be; you should be invis­i­ble. It’s impor­tant to stay true to your char­ac­ters and the rules of your game; your audi­ence will hate you if you don’t.

A lot of this comes down to expe­ri­ence, exper­i­men­ta­tion, and keep­ing your options open. You will get bet­ter with prac­tice! There is always a way out of where you are, and a way to where you want to get to. Find the one that fits your char­ac­ters, sto­ry, and world.

If you find your­self stuck in a cor­ner, or with no idea what to do next, find a tac­tic that works for you. Ray­mond Chan­dler famous­ly used the ‘man enters the scene with a gun’ tac­tic when he didn’t know what to do next. For me, I tend to ask myself ‘what’s the worst thing I can do to this/these character/s at this moment?’ I may not do that worst thing, but it tends to gen­er­ate some inter­est­ing ideas!

Last­ly, don’t for­get to have fun with it. Writ­ing as if your pants are on fire is exhil­a­rat­ing and some­times exhaust­ing, rather like try­ing to keep con­trol of a sack­ful of fer­rets. But it’s worth it!

Strap in, light the match, and let your­self get car­ried away!

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Melanie Edmonds is a tech­ni­cal writer by trade and fic­tion writer by love. She has a degree in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture and Cre­ative Writ­ing, and has been writ­ing since she was old enough to hold a pen. She writes pri­mar­i­ly sci­ence and spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, and her pub­lished work includes web seri­als such as the Apoc­a­lypse Blog and Star­walk­er.

You can read Melanie’s work at: Apoc­a­lypse Blog and Star­walk­er Blog

You can fol­low Melanie at: Face­book, blog, Twit­ter