Tag Archives: character

On Writers and Reviews

As the release date for Stones creeps ever closer, I find myself growing ever more anxious. The cover is out in the world, with my name on it and guys…I’m kind of freaking out.

I think I’ve officially entered the “What in the name of fluffy unicorns have I done?” phase of publishing. Has anyone else been there?

If you were reading my other blog, you might know that I started writing this book at seventeen. Do you know how long that is? Nine years. Nine! That’s almost a decade, and now I’m just going to throw my baby out into the world and let her be judged and dissected and poked and prodded??

(Maybe no one will notice. But, my mother has been telling every living person she knows, so maybe not.)

Insanity. Madness, I tell you.

I know there’s very little left of the story 17-year-old Jessica envisioned; I don’t think there’s an original sentence left, but these characters have been with me since the beginning (most of them, anyway. The telepathic cat got cut).

Needless to say, I feel very affectionately towards Aurelia & Co. and it distresses me that someone out in the world – or the internet – might not feel the same way.

Which brings me to the other point of this post: reviews.

I’m supposed to be working on writing a scene that fleshes out some character development, but in the name of procrastination, I’ve been reading negative reviews of popular books on Goodreads.

Is this productive and/or healthy? I don’t know.

But I’m rationalizing this frenzied research by saying I’m preparing myself for the worst. How bad can it get?

Hahahahahahahahahaha.

Now, I like to think that I’m pretty thick-skinned. My writing has been taking punches since my first Intro to Creative Writing class in college, which I handled very gracefully, with only minimal griping behind the professor’s back. But these were very supportive environments, and mediated so things could never get too nasty.

Ever sorted the reviews of a book you liked by the users who gave 1 star? Yeah.

Most of the time these reviews are well-structured, eloquent, constructive, and sometimes amusing. And sometimes I agree with them. I’ll admit it; I don’t like every book I read, even though I know the author invested a lot of time and energy into the writing of it. I know they probably feel the same way I do about their “babies”.

I’m sure a “What the hell is this shit?” still stings, even for the most established authors.

But, here’s the kicker: established authors with popular, traditionally published books have 15,000 positive reviews, glowing with praise, to balance out the 800-1000 negative reviews.

As a soon-to-be indie author, like all the awesome indie authors before me, my work is going to live or die by reviews and recommendations. And one “What the hell is this shit?” review could dissuade many a potential buyer or new fan.

By no means do I have a perfect book (does anyone?) and I’m sure there will a typo or two (hopefully just two) that evaded the many eyes that looked over Stones.

Writers and editors are still human, people! 😉

But, I think I’ve crafted an entertaining read, at the very least, and no one will feel the urge to “hurl this book across the room with disgust”.

What about you, fellow indies? How do you feel about reviews and how do you handle them?

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Adventures in Writing Back Cover Copy

One of the many perks of being an Indie author is having complete creative control over all design, promotional, and marketing elements of your work. Unfortunately, this also means being responsible for writing back cover copy (or BCC if you’re hip to the lingo).

Teaser

putting my photoshop skillz to work

BCC is exactly what it sounds like: the text that goes on the back of your book…and on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, blog tours, etc. Anywhere and anyplace that requires a summary. But — and here’s the kicker — BCC is no ONLY what your book is about, it has to SELL your book to readers.

And that is why BCC causes so much frustration and heartache. At least, that’s been my experience (and if you’re following me on Twitter, you got a little taste of that experience last week).

Authors who can churn out BCC like butter, I salute you.

And now, on to the purpose of this post…I think I’ve finally written something halfway decent that I’m halfway happy with…for the moment.

I won’t be sharing it today! Sawry. That’ll come with the cover reveal (squee!). But I did want to talk a little about my process, and get y’all’s tips and tricks to writing BCC.

So, what I did first was write and overly long, over-indulgent first draft and set it aside for months, I think. Then, I brought that version back out when I was ready to seriously get down to business, discovered it was terrible, panicked a bit, and then started doing my research. Research consisted of reading blurbs on Amazon, and trying to pick out a pattern.

Here’s what I found (and how I subsequently structured my working BCC):

  • Start with an interesting, yet brief, summary of the MC’s current state/life. Bonus points for quippy one-liners.
  • Add the inciting incident (or hint of) that is going to make the MC take action
  • Sprinkle in tidbits of his/her journey and/or new friends/companions
  • Top that all off with a couple of foreboding statements about the MC’s future

And voila! BCC sundae.

🙂

 

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The Macanaw Peaches

Two posts in a row? What’s going on here? *checks self for fever*

Anyway, so I’m having some issues with writer’s block. I might have had a small epiphany about adding a new first chapter/prologue that shows a very important scene that’s mentioned towards the end of the book. It has the potential to be a total badass scene if I can get any words put on the page. And my editor would like to see it tomorrow. Heh heh heh.

I’m feeling the pressure!

I told a good friend about my blockage (mer) issues and he offered to help by writing something to inspire me. And thus the first piece of Stones and Finger Bones fanfiction was born. I was highly entertained so I thought it would be fun to share this piece with y’all. 🙂

**Note: This piece contains some mature undertones. Proceed at own risk.**

“Why have I been awoken?”

Marel was unprepared for the question, unprepared for anything that happened in the cluttered castle cellar.  This summoning had not gone as he had expected, not in the slightest, but it’s not as if he could send the being back into the void.  No, the books only talked of the acquiring, the controlling, nowhere did it discuss what to do when you tired of the power.

It dawned on him, too late perhaps, that he was now indelibly tied to the unlikely figure standing within his chalk and blood runes.

“You are… a Drathraq, yes?”

“Why have I been awoken?” it asked again, his voice sounding of smoke and leather and dark alleys.

Marel found himself becoming annoyed, and then found himself annoyed at his own annoyance – this was a being plucked from the ethers of a distant and magical plane, a swirling amalgamation of powers and charm words and forgotten rituals.  Of course it would have questions.

“I need your aid, Drathraq.  I need your powers.”

The being considered this request.  Stubby legs propelled it about its prison, toes testing at the edges of chalk but never daring to touch them.  Eventually it stopped, a man in appearance only, to lock its gaze with Marel’s.

“I am not Drathraq.  I command Drathraq!  They bow to my desires!  I command legions of them, I send them forth to collect secrets from dreams, to drip poison into the ears of chancellors.  I am no pale shade flitting about a planescape.  I am Kostadin, Drathraq-curr.  I am King!  Now release me, fool.”

Kostadin drew himself to his full height.  His egg-shaped body straightened, doughy face gleaming with triumph.  Candlelight gleamed over his glossy, balding head.

Perhaps he would be more regal in clothing, Marel considered.   The books he had pilfered from the wizard Kreemar had said nothing about this.  Clothing was a human construct, a point of shame – would clothing even materialize when a being was summoned from another plane?  Would clothing be magical as well, an ethereal glimmer of…

A match lit from inside the circle, breaking Marel from his thoughts.  Kostadin lit a hand-rolled cigarette that now dangled from his lips, and with a flap of his hand he snuffed and tossed aside the matchstick.   With a slowness only presented in the immortal, Kostadin inhaled.  The cigarette glowed, illuminating his face, for a full minute as he pulled.  He was left with a singular tube of ash, which he ate, and exhaled a plume of smoke that’s majesty was only  marred by his wet-eyed gasping and coughing.

“No, no, that’s not what I wanted at… a Drathraq-curr?   King of… oh, yes, this will do fine.  Just fine!  I need your aid, King of Shades.  You will help me… with my brother.”

“Your brother?” Kostadin asked, “Which brother?”

“My only brother!  The King!”

“Your brother The King?”

“Yes, my brother, The King.  Too long I’ve waited in his shadow… I need you to help me remove him from power.”

“Remove him from power… yeah, yeah, I think I can do that.  So, what kind of removal are we talking about, Marel?  Are we talking, remove him from the throne?”

Marel shook his head.

“Remove him from the country, send him on a vacation?”

“Ugh!” Marel threw up his hand in exasperation.  “He’s the King, his whole life is a vacation.  No!  I want him dead, Kostadin!”

“You want him dead?”

“Yes, I want him dead.”

Kostadin ran a hand over his bald pate, and resumed his pacing in thought.

“Alright.  I’ve got this.  You ready?”

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

“Okay,” Kostadin clapped his hands.  “Here’s what we do.  First, we’re gonna butter up your brother, really get him buttered, tell him he’s handsome, tell him he’s the greatest, tell him no one can beat him.  Then!  You ready?  Then we get him to enter a contest with you.”

“Like it so far… go on.”

“So we get him to do a contest he can’t possibly win, but he’ll be so buttered-“

“Will you stop saying buttered!”

“-that he won’t even see the danger, and – are you with me here?”  There was a flash, and a single moment in eternity where the candles snuffed and time stopped and the world ceased to exist.  Then the moment had ended.  The darkness abated.  And Kostadin stood at the edge of the chalk, a sardonic smile splitting his moist lips.

“The loser gets executed.”

Marel loosed a long, toneless whistle, and rocked back on his heels as if pushed.  He nodded, slowly at first, but soon it had turned emphatic.  “Yeah… yeah!  That can work!  Ohh!  But come on, he’s really good at everything, what would I do?  Go up and say ‘Hey, you sure are looking good today, why don’t we go hunt some rabbits, loser gets killed’?”

“No, that won’t work… no, it’s gotta be something you can be sure to win…”

“Well…” Marel said, “There is something.  Our, ah, our mother caught him…”

“Caught him?”

“You know.  Alone…”

“Alone?”

“Yeah, Alone.  She caught him.”

Kostadin’s eyes widened, his mouth opening and tightening into a perfectly puckered circle.   His laughter rang out in a sharp, sudden peel.

Marel’s voice rose to be heard over.  “So what I- SO WHAT I WAS THINKING, is I make it a contest.  Who can go the longest, without, you know.  Without figuring out The Business.”

“You want to do a contest with your brother on who can go the longest.”

“That’s right.  ‘Cause, you see, he’s done this before, mother catches him regularly.  It’s awful.  So he can’t resist.  It’s the perfect plan!”

Kostadin did not flinch, but Marel jumped as the door to the cellar slammed open.  The lanky form of wizard Kreemar flailed into the room, head bobbing, arms waving, curly mass of hair bouncing.

“Marel, they’re in!”

“What’s in?”

“THE MACANAW PEACHES, MAREL, THE MACANAW PEACHES!”

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TEASER: Stones and Finger Bones

Today I’m offering up a little teaser from Stones to celebrate the completion of one round of edits. This excerpt features two of my favorite darlings, Tyr and Kostadin. *huggles*

Enjoy! 🙂

 

1606
16th Day of Kuldakast

You only truly know life when you have known death. When you have felt Death reach icy hands inside your chest and settle round your heart. When death has knocked on your door, beckoning, “Come, brother.”

I should have died by now.

My disease eats away at the body, taking bits and pieces day after day. The Maker’s fever, as they call it, is a curious ailment. Unpredictable. Unfathomable in its destruction.Virtually unheard of. There are only a few known cases of Maker’s fever in hundreds of years of our race. The same magic that prolongs my meager life – destroyed it. Normally, extreme fatigue or unconsciousness will occur before someone reaches the point I did. But I went beyond the reach of my powers; farther than anyone I’ve ever know. Reaching for energy that was not there. So now I lay dying.

The healers speculate thirty more days at best. Hopefully I’ll make it till Bolvadur; I would dearly like to see the earth come alive once more. A year would be miraculous. By Maker’s chance I could be dead tomorrow. I’ve decided to write you, my dearest Erylie, as much as I can, for as long as I can. Maybe I can earn your forgiveness. I hope the most for your understanding. Understanding of my decisions. Understanding of how I became this man you claimed not to recognize. This husk. Empty shell. A slave to my power and my king.

I will not start at the beginning – there is little to be achieved by that. Let me start instead, at the beginning of the end.

It was a beautiful night, considering it was mid-Kuldakast. A full moon.Clear purple-black sky. Our breath frosted in the air around us. We stood on the top of a ridge, Kostadin virtually hopping with his excitement and anticipation. He turned to me with a big, childish grin, eyes bright with the fervor of our discovery. Even now, when I think of Kos, this is the image I see. Him: young, strong, sharply intelligent, carefree. Impetuous. Foolish. Oh so foolish. But then again, we both were.

The valley before us was covered in a thick blanket of fog – nothing was visible, not even the tops of the trees. I can still feel the strange pressure on my chest – pushing me back – when I wandered too close to the edge. Danger! My mind screamed. My legs itched to flee. Kos clasped my arm briefly before plunging fearlessly into the unknown.

The preternatural miasma clung to my limbs and clothes, dragging me down. I struggled to keep up with Kos’s labored breathing, since I could no longer see him. Quite suddenly – almost as if it had been swept away by unseen hands – the fog cleared. We were in an unusual circular depression in the ground. Trees and snow-covered underbrush surrounded us, but at our feet the land was resolutely brown and hard. The most curious aspect of the clearing was the five large towers, equidistance apart, forming a circle. They were not true towers, more like colossal obelisks that reached further into the sky than I could see. Thicker around than four men. They were glossy black and smooth, cracked through with a dark orange crystal that glittered like fire.

It was incredible, the feeling of standing there, the call of power. I could feel it on my skin, taste it in the air. Only a coward would resist the pull of such magic.

Kostadin felt it too; his hand was trembling as he reached out and laid a palm against one of the black towers. His face a mask of unbridled joy and triumph. We were standing in the annals of history. We had found what other claimed existed only in memory, or legend. We had found the place where the Consort had landed, after falling from the Maker’s arms. We had found the Rewengärd; the gateway to death.

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Procrastination Station

I should be working. Instead, I’m taking color-coded chapter notes based off my editor’s feedback. That still counts as being productive, right?

New Image

One of the biggest issues I’m struggling with is over-showing vs. not showing enough. During scenes of particularly high drama, when the reader is supposed to be feeling very strong emotions, I’ve either created melodrama or emotionless character drones. Melodrama is a weakness that I’ve been aware of since I first started getting my work seriously critiqued (college, mostly). I’ve apparently remedied this weakness by not including feelings at all, which caused my editor to suspect my character had been possessed, since she wasn’t showing any emotion during an emotional scene. Well, demonic possession wasn’t quite what I was going for.

So, how do I fix this?

Answer: I have no idea.

Oh…were you waiting for writerly advice? Heh heh. 🙂

How about a plan of action instead? Right.

First, I’m going to take a good long look at these scenes and make sure all characters are reacting (at all) and are reacting appropriately, given the situation and their personalities. Falling out of character during emotional scenes is a no-no. Also, eliminate all and any cliches and stated emotions (so-and-so was sad). The biggest thing I need to do is dig deep into my characters and make sure I’m pulling from their fears, and hopes, and experiences to make the scene theirs, and not something I’ve seen or heard before.

I guess this is what revision is all about, eh?

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