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