Thursday, March 31, 2011

Twelve Worlds Announcment

I take a day off, and everyone has the word out.

Oh, well. Here's my announcement, for those who may not have seen it elsewhere.

This collection includes fourteen stories, over 80,000 words. The stories run the gamut of speculative fiction:  romantic fantasy, ghosts, hard SF, vampires. It includes Derek Canyon's Noose in a great story set before Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, and another set in Edward Cote's Violet Skies universe. More information, including story blurbs and author bios, is available at the Twelve Worlds web site. Visit there.

Did I mention it's for charity? The authors selected Reading Is Fundamental; RIF will receive all the authors' royalties from the sale of the book. The price has been set at $2.99 (US$). The release date is early April. Check back here for details on where you can purchase Twelve Worlds. A great bargain and a way to help great work by RIF!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Interview is Up!

At JE Medrick's blog, Mythos of an Indie. Check it out, please.

More later, enjoy your day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Editing. Or as it's also known, Critiquing

I joined last year to improve my writing, help others improve theirs, and learn. I hope so far I've been successful at all of them; I know I've done two out of three.

What I consider editing:
I've learned that what I consider editing (or critiquing) is a combination of copy-editing and reviewing.

I keep in mind first and foremost: It's not my story. Really. I make suggestions about spelling, punctuation, word order, plot tension, all those things I believe will help an author improve their work. But at the same time, it's up to the author to consider those suggestions, and choose which if any of them to act on. Because it's their story, and I could well have read something in a completely different way than the author expected. That's good for the author to understand, so I may have done my job. But specific suggestions may have no validity at all.

There are authors who take exception to my suggestions as a matter of fact. Or whose style I don't care for. Or ignore misspellings or [its/it's] confusions that make my teeth ache. Move on. I'm a volunteer, not paid by anyone, have no special expertise beyond tens of thousands of pages read and years of trying to be sure I was understood as easily as possible.

If you're interested, there are a lot of web resources, at least on copy-editing and proofreading. Start with Wikipedia; these articles don't seem to be fraught with personal agendas. There are similar resources at Critters on the topic of critiquing, which is a different animal than editing.

I start by reading the piece, as much of it as I have, through. During this read, I annotate with bothersome things, almost all in the category of copy-edits (misspellings, punctuation and the like) that take me out of the story by drawing attention to themselves. I don't catch nearly all of them - and never claim to find 100% - just the ones that interfere with that first read. Obviously, the more I like the story, the fewer of these errors I notice. So, I put it down for a day or so, then read it again, again making line-by-line edits and on this pass, comments on wording (choice, order) as seem appropriate. If the story is particularly engaging to me, I may have to do this a third time.

Following this read, I review the story elements using  a short check list excerpted from Victory Crayne's helpful article How to Critique Fiction.

    Point of View
    Show versus tell (many, very, really, great, nice)

In addressing as many of these points as I think useful, I try to focus on my reaction to the piece, which I hope might be typical of other readers, and so useful to the author, giving them an insight to the way the I perceive the writing, how I react to it, do the characters elicit my sympathy, is there a hook in the opening that would draw me to read further even if I wasn't doing a critique, does the ending satisfy me - or in the case of a non-final chapter, does it provide a hook to lead me on?

My goal in making comments and suggestions is to inform the author how this one reader understood and reacted to their work. As a writer, this is information useful to me. I want to know if I've gotten my message through the veil of words to a reader. I want hints about the things I should change to make the reader's job, not easy, necessarily, but easier. I want the reader to invest something of their own imagination and thought processes as they read, but I acknowledge that too much of that will send some readers to a different leisure time choice. Because these things seem important to me, I expect that other authors will similarly find them useful.

Application to my own writing
This is an interesting problem. I find it much easier to copy edit another person's work than mine. (I suppose that's a good reason for copy-editors to charge good money for their efforts.) And it's even more true of the critiquing process.

The wisdom of the web is that this is largely because as the author, I know everything about the story. I am inflicted with the God viewpoint, after all. I know with absolute surety not only what the words and characters are, I know what each of those characters are doing, have done and will do in any conceivable circumstance. I even know why. With all that backstory in my head, it's difficult to read what's actually been written; I read what I already know is there.

Of course, this comes as no surprise to anyone who's been doing this a while. It is far easier to find errors, either of omission or comission, in something you didn't write. The main self-help documents provide tips for improving the success rate; I am trying to put them into practice. Still it is unnerving to read a manuscript that has been read by myself probably fifty times, and by others another handful, and just last week, I found another capitalization error!

One technique I have recently stumbled on: for me, editing is more successful when I change the format of the ms. I write in either Open Office Writer or Word (I tried Pages, but wasn't happy with it in the early version). Most review is done in one of those as well. But when I convert to Kindle (not as easy for me as it seems to be for others, but that's another post), and read in that format, things pop out at me that don't in Word or OO. The same is true of a paper review copy, but to cut page count down, I  print in 6 pt type, making the reading more difficult (for this really old guy), so the Kindle format works better for me, at least so far.

How is your experience? Any tips you'd like to pass along? Comment below, please.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The 12Worlds Cover is Here!

Artist Les Petersen created a great cover for us. It evokes the feeling of multiple genres and is just an awesome piece of art. Thanks a lot, Les! If you are an author looking for an artist, I definitely advise you to contact Les at his website. He’s a breeze to work with.
The anthology will have a wide variety of stories in it, including paranormal, epic fantasy, romantic fantasy, urban fantasy, cyberpunk, space travel, mystery, and more.
My contribution to the anthology is a romantic fantasy named Weird and Wonderful, starring Mailira, her sister Marelsa and Jackson, a musician. As the blurb says:
Mailira and Marelsa together bring an old Scottish folk tale to life for a young musician.

Twelve Worlds is the only place you’ll be able to read this short story.
Twelve Worlds will be available in early April for $2.99.
Author profits from the sale of this book will go to a charity that we’ll announce before publishing.
Keep checking back here for more information about the anthology.
Much of this post is shamelessly taken from Derek Canyon's blog. If you have interest in ePublishing, you should definitely visit.

A New Look, Take Two

Well, it's sure good I'm a web designer by avocation! This is a second try at choosing a compatible color scheme and rational fonts. Again, I invite comment.

I've attempted to improve the look of the site. Please comment if the new look is better - or worse! - in your opinion.

Reminder: comments are always welcome.

Enjoy the day!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

12 Worlds

As we approach the publication of the First 12 Worlds Anthology for Charity, one of our authors, J E Medrick, will be doing interviews with each of the authors over the next several weeks, one per Wednesday.

Check them out at

More news coming.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The word count fetish

I just posted a comment on Ed Cote's Violet Skies blog about word counts. His post followed one by Dean Wesley Smith discussing word counts in the current day. Both were enlightening to me, one with damn little experience in anything but reading books.

Ed  suggests one model that may become more popular would follow that of webcomics, where new content - usually related thematically - is posted on a regular, or not so regular, basis. I replied that I have five such webserials that I follow through their RSS feeds. While I have no information concerning the financial support of the sites, they all but one have ads, mostly Project Wonderful, and several have tip jars or donate buttons. For example:
Dragon Wars
I have no way to tell if the ad or donation support is sufficient to fund any portion of the process; since the content is provided for free, I can read and reread it whenever I like. I'm uncertain of the business model being pursued. It may be advertising on its own, attempting to attract readers to the author's other works - if so, for me it fails, because I haven't clicked around to discover the hook. That's not because I don't like the content, and wouldn't read more; it's because I have as many of those as I have time allocated. It's similar to the 60 or so webcomics I follow: I will vote, and when I have money (not often since losing my job), I'll donate or buy merchandise, but for the books, I just read. Can't say how typical or atypical my behavior might be. As far as the model goes, there are few webcomic artists making a living at webcomics, at least if we go by the artists' blogs. Free content has always seemed to me to be a loss leader.

Another point is that, like webcomics, these webserials are provided in chunks that I think of as chapters,  and serve a story line that is long term; we'd like them to last forever! Or a long time, at least, until we fickle consumers find something else to salivate over. I've thought about trying to mold one of my novels into the format, but have been unsuccessful so far; the natural breaks in my story are too far apart, I think.

In my comment, I also gave a half-hearted defense of publishers, which also applies to Dean Wesley Smith's post as well. We cannot forget that publishers are businesses. For profit businesses. The requirement that they turn a profit drives their decisions. I don't envy J.K. Rowling's agent the job s/he had when selling Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Scholastic. Smith points out that substantial costs are involved in the return process; I assume that's the result of taking unsold books back at essentially cost so the bookstores are not at risk (except the opportunity cost  of their shelf space).
  I agree with the view that Smith describes, that publishers drove larger books by word count - or page count - as a way to soothe buyer's feelings over the higher prices driven by rising production costs (only loosely related to word count). As we rejoice in the possibilities afforded by ePublishing our own works, we should remember that this change is disruptive to the classical industry, and eventually, winners will change to survive, and others will hang on to either fail or to become boutique publishers catering to consumers who demand hard covers and smooth, flexible paper pages.
Publishers drove word count until the production costs for larger books reached the tipping point and the buyers declined to pay more. Being the only game in town, authors had little recourse to the limits unilaterally imposed by publishers; now however, as Smith so succinctly puts it:
There are no restrictions, no right lengths for novels anymore. Just write what the story demands to be written and then decide what to do with it.
 Never having thought of traditional publishing as an outlet for my own work, I was never much concerned about word count. Although I felt comfortable with Piers Anthony's opinion that 125K words was right for his Xanth stories, I was just telling the story, without much regard to how many words it took to get there. As a result, my first series came in with four natural breaks: the first is 40K words, the second, 43K words, the third 74K words and the last, 27K words. For the sake of packaging, I have it in two books, the first comes in at 83K and the second at 101K, in deference to the approximately 100K word limit. The second series, a fantasy/SF work, has six novels, at least two of which come in at novella length:
48K, 83K, 99K, 200K, 250K and 51K. The fifth novel is incomplete, so the 250 is an estimate. In deference to the fetish, I packaged the first two together, yielding 131K words. However, these six were always intended to go as a set, a single thread through all six, and one main character as protagonist in all, so it wasn't a matter, as Smith complains:
That always caused either slight expansion of a story-line or leaving a story-line out that belonged in the book.
 I am happy to have an outlet for work that doesn't easily fit the model the publishers like, and provides the ability to write with topics that are important to me but not necessarily to a great many others. Freedom from another artificial constraint is a joy; write at the length that fits the story you're telling. Then decide the medium for its distribution.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


>>Just back from a two week visit to Tidewater Virginia. Always an interesting place to visit, what with relatives and all.
TV is filled with even more used car ads than home.
Military Highway and Va Beach Blvd are vying with Dallas for the longest traffic light cycles.
But, no snow on the ground! This is huge! Though the grass hasn't started to green up, the daffodils and the forsythia were sticking their heads up and popping yellow flowers, respectively.

>>Work on 12Worlds is proceeding at a nice clip. Click over to Book Blogs: for more information. It will be soon.

>>Would it be too much to ask that Charlie Sheen doesn't get any mention at all for the next six months?

>>Should protesters looking to overthrow governments have an alternative in mind prior to bringing down the incumbent?

>>Does it seem likely to you too that as the government spending reduction party exercises its new found strength (I had written 'tax reduction', but I don't see a great deal of interest in that - just cutting spending), things formerly thought of as public amenities will become more of 'for service' things, available, but with a fee associated. Bill Howard writes in the February Roundel (the excellent magazine of the BMW Car Club of America):

"...The crash tax-or accident tax-is an egregious example (of core services formerly tax supported-my note).
     Say you get in an accident. Emergency vehicles show up, then maybe an ambulance. Police and fire departments are government services funded by us, through taxes, and made universally available; the ambulance may or may not be. Now there's a movement to make people in accidents pay for public-safely responders. Some 55 California cities and towns charge already. New York City is on the verge of sending out bills if the fire department responds to an auto accident: accident with injuries, $490: Car fire with no injuries, $415; accident with no fire or injuries, $365...."

Bill goes on to discuss other similar proposals of interest to his readers, but it seems naive to think that cash strapped governments will stop with police and fire services, those are simply the easiest to aim. School districts nationwide have already upped participation fees for sports and other "non-essential" activities; I guess when reading and math become non-essential, the tax bills will really drop!

>>After ten plus hours driving (and two hours waiting on the CBE)  each way, I am again reminded just how very much we all depend on drivers to do what we expect them to -- and how very often our expectation is actually met!

>>With my only internetz access through Panera (thank you bread gods!), it took me three days to catch up on webcomics, webbooks and most blogs. It's wonderful that my absence was so little noted; I'd hate to have had a negative impact on the tubes. I must recommend the cinnamon crunch and blueberry bagels to go along with the fresh coffee.

till later...