Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

To everyone who wanders by this little corner of the Internet:

May you have a wonderful season of the type that mans something to you, whether it be Christmas, or Hanukkah or the love of your choice.

And may you have health and success as you define it in the New Year.

All the best!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quelle surprise!

Well, the end of the world has been delayed. Moving along.

Freedom Does Matter is being read by critters from I enjoy the feedback.

However, I’m not sure how to interpret some of the comments. For example, in one scene, Beckie’s been captured by a sheikh who’s not sure what to do with her. She’s on the beach with a Bedouin girl, talking. The beach is on the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s July, in the mid-morning. They have a guard, but in the sun, he’s fallen asleep. This point is made three times over the course of the scene. Beckie and the girl run away, and the reader questioned why the guard didn’t stop them.

So, I didn’t make it clear the guard was sleeping? Or, more likely, it didn’t register as important. But I don’t really want to beat the reader over the head with things like this: Hey, look here, this guy is sleeping so he won’t notice when the girls leave. I was afraid that three times was too many, so I’m just not sure how to fix this.

A different reader had a different problem in a different scene, but it boiled down to the same thing: missing a point that had been made earlier, so the current action doesn’t make sense.

How to strike the balance? Any thoughts on that?

I hasten to add that these same readers have made many useful suggestions, and I appreciate their help more than I can say. I guess it goes to show that while readers are intelligent, they are no more perfect than the writer.

Feedback on the part of Background Check I finished during NaNo was highly positive (if I took it as intended!), so far. Results are not all in. Now I have to figure out where the rest of the story goes, make it all neat and then do the minimal outlining that makes even the first draft a lot easier to both write, and I am reliably informed, read. Maybe I can get that done in less than a year!

Comments are welcome.

Friday, November 30, 2012

More Discipline Needed

I was going to title this The Downside of NaNoWriMo, but on further reflection, I realized that the problem wasn't NaNo, it's the way I reacted to it.

I finished NaNo with just over 50k words; about half what I think Background Check will need. Then, I went back to editing Freedom Does Matter and discovered it was hard to work on the characters' situations, having spent a month wrangling with their future selves. I knew where they were going and how the next months would play out for them... it was hard to focus on the present of the earlier story.

But this is my issue, not my characters', not my story's. Discipline, I think. I need to work on the current state of the novel, and leave the future for when I finish the present.

Has anyone else found this to be true, working on two stories with the same main characters at once? Comments welcome!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NaNo is done for this year!

I've not forgotten those of you who read my musings, but between everything else that had to be done by now and trying to get NaNoWriMo done successfully, I put all my energy there.

However, I finished NaNo today: three different word counts, depending on the software, but they were all over 50K: Scrivener reported 51051, OpenOffice thought 51211 and NaNo came in at 51005 with a certificate.

However, Background Check's not done. I think now it will run close to 85 or 90K words, so it's over halfway. Then of course, comes rewriting, editing, rewriting,... You get the picture. The big difference between Background Check and Freedom Does Matter, which I worked on last NaNo, is that I have completed over half the ms, instead of taking six months to do it. The end should come easier, once I finish up editing Freedom, and getting it up for sale.

Of course, there are other things, too. Covers. Critting for Editing for my beta readers. Ordinary things around the house, like digging out from the snow, which may be a more frequent occurrence this year. If we believe the weatherman. Writing more frequently for this blog. Spending time on twitter. Trying to guess what else might help.

Thanks for following. Comments welcome!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Give: This one's not for me

Update: I thought I'd mention that since I'm asking you to consider donating, I have also made a donation. I hope that those affected are able to recover, and quickly get their lives back.

I'm taking a little time off from NaNoWriMo to plug the Red Cross and their continuing efforts on the behalf of the victims of Sandy. Just like they did for Katrina's victims, or the Joplin tornado's, and on and on.

They never stop.

If you have given, thanks, though my thoughts don't mean a lot. If you haven't and you can afford to, visit The Red Cross site and send them some funds. They'll be able to apply them where the need is.

Thanks for reading. Thanks more for giving.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More opportunity to voice your opinion.

A couple days ago I asked about covers. Today, it's about the description for Freedom Does Matter.

A year and a half after Mercenaries: A Love Story, Beckie Sverdupe has been working with her fiancĂ© Ian Jamse while attending college. While enjoying her summer vacation, she gets a message: while negotiating an Egyptian land dispute, Ian’s been shot!
Beckie conquers her fear for Ian by stepping into his position at the negotiations. The first day, she successfully fights off the same assassin, and captures her. Beckie discovers that small victory will swirl her into a maelstrom of revenge, intolerance and hate—chaos which she must calm before she can react to the threads unveiled. Fraught with natural disasters and horror in Egypt, beatings and acts of war in London and heartache and intolerance at home, Beckie’s quest to complete the negotiations and expose the assassin reveals, not only personal demons which she must subdue, but a credible threat to the fragile Middle Eastern peace which must be defused. Freedom takes on a new meaning for Beckie, who’s never faced the loss of it so starkly.

Freedom Does Matter is an older YA or NA action adventure, and is recommended for readers 15+ due to language and adult situations.

As always, comments are welcome, especially if they give me an idea about improving the description.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Help

The muse didn't completely disappear; I have enough of an outline to start and perhaps finish NaNoWriMo writing Background Check, the third of the Mercenaries stories. Waiting for Halloween to be over.

I can start that because the second book is out for critting at It's been through my two beta readers. Thanks so much to them for their willingness to be abused, and point out when it happens. I made many of the changes they suggested; now we wait for additional suggestions.

I made a slight change to the title of the second book. It is now Freedom Does Matter.

If you've gotten to here, maybe you're wondering what help I'm looking for. This is pretty easy. Below, there are five thumbnails of possible covers for Freedom Does Matter. They should come out about the same as the one Amazon uses, so, do any attract interest? Do you like any of them? Is there one that seems better than the others? Let your opinions flow. Below the thumbnails is one full size image. Opinions welcome on it as well. The two with no text beyond the title would have that added.

Have at it!

The not quite full size image of the third one:

Thanks for any opinions you are willing to share. I'll be back in a day or so asking about the blurb.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Miss Her

The Muse.

I've gone through the two beta readers' comments on Freedom No Matter, and made a long ton of changes based on their suggestions. I also gave them more work (that I hope they'll be able to fit into their schedules) asking if changes fit, and what did you mean by... and well, of course you're right, that was just [fill in your own inappropriate adjective].

I want to point out once again how much help these people give. In addition to taking the time just to read the work, they also mark errors, make suggestions, and tell me where they think the plot went astray. It's a lot of work, and I can't say how much I appreciate it. I'm sure every person writing is just as beholden to her or his beta readers; I just hope everyone remembers to say thanks, loud and clear! Even better: do an equally good job when asked to return the favor.

My readers have pointed out significant problems with my work. That's good. What's not so good is that it now falls to me to figure out how to correct them. In a day or two, I'll begin hitting Delete until I've found the focus that I slipped by earlier.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was waiting for my reader to finish before thinking I understood at least some of the issues at work (Focus, focus, focus!). The verdict is in: the second half is better than the first. The inflection point, Chapter 17, corresponds to my beginning to use a new tool. I hasten to add that the tool isn't as important as the provider wants us to think, but for me, it made it a lot easier to do what I haven't really ever done before: create an outline of the story before writing it.

I can hear the heads butting the desks and tables now. Of course the focus will be better when you know what you're writing. And on and on. Or perhaps the cry is: pantsers will rise again. Maybe.

The tool that made it easier for me to adapt is Aeon Timeline. I found that being able to outline in a chronological context made that part of the job both easier and more useful. I think, with my limited experience, it works better for more complicated story lines, or rather, it has more utility for those scenarios. It also links with Scrivener, back and forth, although I haven't figured our how to use that feature to its fullest. It's a Mac only tool right now; read the developer's blog about progress on the Windows platform.

Check out their websites, linked above. Trial versions are available if you think either of them might help you, too.

As for the Muse, she's been flitting in and out. We're working on the timeline for Background Check so I'll have a little structure when NaNoWriMo comes along. She also got me to start a short story completely unrelated to anything, but snuck out before saying how she thinks it should end. Working on that one, too.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Off She Goes: The Muse is Helping Others

Temporarily. She'll be back in November, anyway, and maybe earlier. We've been working on setting up the next story in the Mercenaries universe, now I've got the ugly first draft (and second, and in a few places third and fourth drafts) of Freedom No More complete.

It came out 110Kwords, and knowing someone besides me needs to see it to tell me what I've done wrong, I've sent it off to my beta readers. The feedback has already been swift and through!

It's to be expected. Still, I wish I wasn't putting at least the first one through so much pain. We have been discussing it, and I think I've finally realized what he means by "find your story!" Focus. Make sure I'm telling the story instead of wandering about in the weeds.

Easier said than done ( I love the weeds), but the second half (which he has yet to get to) may point to the root cause. I'll wait to see if the second half (after I changed horses in mid stream, in a manner of speaking) has the same level of problem as the part he's completed so far.

My other reader has been awesome busy, and just got started; I can't wait to see how that goes!

Do you plan to do  NaNoWriMo? I think the muse and I will try to get the first half of that next book through the keyboard. Tentative working title: Background Check.

More later.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Muse is in the House - I've been busy

Two weeks ago the Muse came by and said "I'm back. Get to work."
What she meant was stop fooling around on Twitter and the blog. I could read the 30 or so comics and web serials I follow, and watch the Red Sox (winning 1 in 3 when they need to be winning 5 of 6), but otherwise, get to the writing.

She's done a pretty good job. Freedom No Matter (working title) jumped from 35Kwords to 73Kwords, though not all of those will make the cut, I fear. I'm targeting between 90 and 100Kwords, with the first draft finished before October 1.

For those interested, right now the Muse is off trying to figure out how much trouble the characters will get into in the next two scenes; she pretty much said what I was thinking won't work, Too Tame. We'll wait to see what she thinks is not Too Tame.

So, don't fret, I'm still around and loving the Muse when she's here. I hope none of you are missing her while I'm monopolizing her time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reviews I've Posted

I spent the past couple of days reading instead of writing, and wrote reviews of the books I read. Without further ado, here they are, in the order published. The titles have links to Amazon product pages, and I hope you might interested in them. If you don't have a Kindle, or don't like Amazon, leave a note in the comments, and I'll get you a suitable link (if one exists). You may leave any other comments as well.

by John Hartness

Loved the story! I fell for Cindy and her... talent? training? occupation, I guess. Mr. Hartness developed a much more complex and interesting story than I was expecting. I read the first few hundred words on John's blog way back when, and pestered him every chance I had after that to finish it and get it out. I was so intrigued.

However, while the story is excellent, and the characters I like a lot - so much so that I'm hoping he continues to document Cindy's trials and tribulations - I was disappointed in the mechanics. In the Kindle edition, the editing needs work, enough that it took me out of the story one star's worth, and I hope John can correct it in a new edition. In fairness, in my brief exposure to John's work, this was unexpected.

I still recommend Headshot because of the characters, the multi-threaded story lines, the surprises and the detail. It's an excellent work that deserves somewhat better presentation.

Four Stars

Lunara: Seth and Chloe
by  Wyatt Davenport
I was of two minds about Lunara: Seth and Chloe. Mr. Davenport has created a pretty good opening to his series, I think, now that I've finished it. However, the beginning is so slow (to me) that I almost moved on to the next story on my Kindle to avoid giving it one or no stars.

However, I persevered. Once we got to some action, the story began to work for me. I liked the characters (most of them) and the plot had sufficient twists and turns.

However. There's always a however, isn't there? Stylistically, there are some problems. I don't take stars off for these kinds of things, as others may not agree or be bothered by them. But the dialogue is stilted and takes me out of the story. Davenport declines to use contractions. Partly due to this and partly due to word choice and construction, both the dialogue and the narration seem much more formal than seems appropriate, especially in the more 'tender' scenes.

Other reviewers have pointed failings they believe exist; read them and heed them. Take heart from the good reviews. There were a few homonym confusions, but my biggest complaint on the Kindle formatting end was the lack of a table of contents.

It's an intriguing story and a good beginning to the series, especially if the writing loosens up a little.

Four Stars

Poker Face
by Jess Sturman-Coombs
Poker Face has the ingredients: a strong female protagonist (I'd like to work with Ruby!); well-drawn supporting characters, both helpful and... not-so-helpful; an active and engaging plot; descriptions that made me feel the settings. The ingredients are stirred, blended, smoothed a little, and as a result, Poker Face is a confection, a delight!

With all that, you say, why only four stars? There aren't enough grammar or formatting errors to drop a star. So... I'm American, and while I'm pretty well read in British fiction, and have had several friends and acquaintances who live in England (I know what a kerb is, and an estate, for example), there are British colloquialisms aplenty. Not a surprise, from a British author, and normally I'd overlook it. However, Ms Sturman-Coombs left me in the lurch several times. Having to look in my British dictionary (and not always finding an answer) took me right out of the story, and it is a story I didn't want to be taken out of.

Let me hasten to add that this complaint does not extend to dialogue, where whatever fits the character and the situation works. In narration, however, I'd like one of Ms Sturman-Coombs readers or editors to come from a less British speaking background and perhaps raise the less widely known phrases as possible things to reword.

That aside (and it mayn't apply if you're more widely read than I in contemporary British fiction - or conversation, maybe), this is a wonderful story that I'm happy to recommend to YA readers and adults alike. There's no talking down here: we see realistic, uncomfortable situations, and intelligent, uncontrived (by the author, that is) reactions and solutions. I'm anxiously awaiting the next offering.

Four Stars (Five on Amazon UK, where I expect my issues with British colloquialisms have little weight.)

Sandy Morrison and the Pack of Pussies
by Zoe Whitten
(Think Mrs. Slocum's pussy...)

In Sandy Morrison and the Pack of Pussies, Zoe Whitten has given us an intriguing story about fantastical people... err, beings. Her characters are lively and full blooded (all but one, anyway), her descriptions are excellent and the story has as many twists as... as the Tail of the Dragon (a wonderful 12 mile stretch of US route 129 in North Carolina). Ms Whitten drew from a long list of inspirations to craft a story that opens taking readers one direction; leading us out into the weeds, so to speak, before a sharp turn and a new vista, completely different but still well connected, lies right there!

There are a few typos and grammatical errors, not enough to worry over even if, like me, you're obsessed with them. Ms Whitten asks for comments on the story; here are three: Find a thesaurus and look up "huff." Replace every instance in the story save one with one of the alternatives. Really. At the point in the story it happens, I was so disappointed in Sandy at the water tower. I did get over it and then, of course I remembered, "She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time." Still... And the ultimate fight scene, I thought it went by too quickly. There was a big build-up, then it was over. Might just be me.

Obviously, even the slow beginning hasn't diminished my enjoyment of Sandy Morrison. While sensuality is present (as it must be, given the characters), it isn't ever in your face. Sandy holds her character throughout, and the changes others go through are all believable, making the story enjoyable. The events of the story, while fantastical on their face, all fit into the plot Ms Whitten has woven.

I am comfortable recommending Sandy Morrison and the Pack of Pussies to anyone looking for a stimulating read. Next story, Ms Whitten? 

Five Stars

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Following Up On the Things on the Interwebz

Update 9 July:
Go here for the latest from the Oatmeal, i you've missed it. Warning: May offend lawyers and those with no money.

My last post was about the asshattery of Charles Carreon - go and read here, if you've forgotten (lucky you).

A couple days ago, Faith Erin Hicks tweeted a link which updated the story, and that link is here.

Only a lawyer could give up and claim victory at the same time. Well, ok, not only a lawyer can do this, but it seems particularly egregious for Carreon to delay the charitable contributions just to prevent a photo being taken...

Enough of this; hopefully this episode is behind us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Egypt, a Year and a Bit On

Over a year ago, I blogged briefly about the revolution in Egypt and the fact that we all should be grateful that violence played rather a small part - though not to those killed or injured, to be sure, or to Mubarak - in the overturning of the old regime.

Today, real elections have been held. However, as I listen to the news reports of the apparent refusal of the military to support Mohammed Morsi, the reputed victor,  or even to allow him to be certified by holding the results in secret until some unannounced date, I am reminded of the first line of that post: the easy part is done.

And so it appears. Right now, it looks as if the military and the Muslim Brotherhood will duke it out on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. I hope that's not the case, and that the respective parties can find common ground which will allow the democratic process to proceed. The time to contest an election is not following the polling. To influence the outcome, a contender, or his or her party, must connect in some way with the people, offering them clear choices which will make their decision to support you an easy one. Like it or not, that seems to be what the Muslim Brotherhood has done.

If Egypt is to truly be a democracy, certify the results and permit the victor to take control. Put any proposed new constitution to a popular ratification. The test will come when the next elections are due. In a democracy, the citizens will have the opportunity to judge for themselves the success of the governing party, and then either rescind their approval, or confirm it. If the governing party refuses to allow elections, that is the time for the military to step in.

The time for influencing this election is past. Set your sights on the next one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back in the Old Days

Well, a year and a half ago, when I still thought I might get a job...

I was also signed up for, as I've said in the past. One of the authors whose early version I had the opportunity to read is Sharon Bayliss, and Lo and Behold! She's taken The Charge to the next level. It will be published by Curiosity Quills Press later this year. So, Congratulations, Sharon!

The story has changed considerably, she says, but I still recognize the character introduced in the first chapter as one she and I had several exchanges over during the course of the critting I did for her. It was even then a solid work, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again, all grown up and out in front of the world.

In the Critique Partner Spotlight Series, she is kind enough to give me, as well as the other readers and critters who helped during the story's early days, a 'thank you' post on her blog. You should go and read it, because there is also a link to The Charge. She's included a snippet from Chapter One which you should find interesting.

Thank you Sharon, both for the chance to read your story, and for giving me space on your blog.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview with Becka Sutton!

 Becka Sutton is the author and publisher of two web-serials, The Dragon Wars Saga and The Haventon Chronicles, and she's also converting Dragon Wars to ebook format. The first of these, Land of Myth, is now available in several convenient formats. I've been reading Dragon Wars since early in its on-line life, and find it thoroughly enjoyable. Since Land of Myth went live last month, Becka's on a tour to raise awareness and I'm very happy to provide a stop for her, in the form of an interview with questions that range from the sublime to the... not so sublime. 

The format of this interview:
First, I have some writing and author related questions.
The center section deals with more project specific topics. Since Becka publishes two web-serials, I asked some related questions.
Lastly, a selection of random questions, so we can get to know her a little better.

me: Why did you get into writing/become a writer?
Becka: When I was eight we used to do little creative writing projects in English. On parents' night my teacher told my mother that I had a talent for the English language that verged on the astounding for my age. I asked what would be astounding and was told writing a novel at that age. So I set to work writing a novel. I seem to remember it was some Mary-Sueish thing about a girl who had to go on a quest to win the hand of a fairy prince which would end a curse that had been placed on her homeland after they burnt someone as a witch generations ago. As the chapters were only a paragraph long, it was really just a short story, and the plot was totally incoherent. I misplaced it when we moved a while later. But I kind of caught the bug then and haven't stopped writing since.

As a teen, I wrote my first proper novel length story in a stack of exercise books my mother bought me for the purpose. It was a tad less incoherent but still awful. I burned it ages ago. The second one as well.

me: Why did you decide to go into Indie Publishing?
Becka: That's a difficult question. I think it was the realization that most writers, whether Indie or Traditionally Published, didn't make a living at it, so in the end this was mostly about fun that might, with hard work and a following wind, bring in a little dough. Keeping control of my work seemed like more fun than hawking it around and having all the creative decisions taken away from me if I managed to sell it to a publisher.

me: Can you give a synopsis of your current WIP (Work In Progress)?
Becka: Which one? Apart from The Dragon Wars Saga and The Haventon Chronicles, I'm currently working on the outline for a traditional fantasy about an asexual female navigator in an island culture – I think that might be this year's NaNoWriMo Project - and a set of Science Fiction flash fiction pieces about the first contact between humans and an alien species from a planet where the thalassogen is sulphuric acid and who want to buy Venus.

Note: For readers like me: "Isaac Asimov has coined the term 'thalassogen,' by which he refers to any substance capable of forming a planetary ocean."
"Isaac Asimov; 'The Thalassogens'; Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 39 (December, 1970):94-104."
Quoted from Robert A. Freitas Jr.,in Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979;

me: What is your biggest inspiration as a writer?
Becka: I find inspiration everywhere. I'll come across a fact somewhere – documentaries, books, Wikipedia, random conversation – and my brain runs away with it. Music is another big one. I'm not a writer who has soundtracks for my stuff but having the radio playing when I'm writing or outlining helps me focus.

me: What is your writing process? (ie: outline, notecards, etc)
Becka: I tend to worldbuild like crazy. My head is full of worlds. Then I notecard my outline. Then I lose the notecards and write by the seat of my pants, XD.

More seriously, I worldbuild a lot and I sometimes notecard but I usually have an outline in my head even when I don't have it on paper.
me: What was your motivation in publishing web serials?
Becka: It sounds weird but I sort of fell into the web fiction scene on Twitter and next thing I know I'm thinking that seems like a fun idea and trawling through my WIPs to see what I want to post.

me: What advice would you give a writer thinking of beginning a web serial?
Becka: Have a buffer and a regular posting schedule. Be prepared for a hard slog to build up your number of readers.

me: I think Dragon Wars is a success, but that’s from the reader’s perspective. What would you do differently, if you had the chance?
Becka: Success is always relative. I'm not Amanda Hocking (though I can dream) but I have awesome fans like you who were willing to fork up the dough to make the book happen. That's a big success in my book. 
What would I do differently? I'd probably look into the promotion side more. Making the world aware of web serials and books is not easy. Then again I'm still not sure what I'm doing on the marketing side of things – so if I had done that I'd probably still be waiting.

me: What’s your feeling about an author producing multiple web serials?
Becka: Well speaking as an author currently publishing two at the same time I don't have a problem with that. It is a lot more work than just doing one. On the plus side, updates draw people.

me: Why did you decide to publish Dragon Wars in the more traditional format of ebook and paperback? Any advice to offer from that experience?
Becka: A lot of people don't like reading huge chunks of text on a website so I suspect that some people are put off by the huge archive they'd have to read through. It's also easier to read an ebook or paperback anywhere once you have it. Websites require not just a computer but an internet connection to browse the page. On top of that I wanted to give my fans the chance to own a copy of the story they've supported so long. Plus there's just something immensely satisfying about holding your own book in your hands.

Advice? Work out how you're going to fund it. Self-publishing is more affordable now than it has been historically but it's still not free to do it properly. Every penny you spend is one you have to make back. I was fortunate in that while my IndieGoGo campaign didn't reach target it did make enough to cover everything so the first book has broken even before going on sale. Not losing money equals a big success. :-)

And some fun questions to see what Ms Sutton likes:
me: What three toppings would you mix into/put on top of your ice cream?
Becka: I tend to eat my ice cream plain. Also usually chocolate ice cream rather than anything else.

me: What is the coolest animal in the world?
Becka: The wolf or possibly the cheetah.

me: Who do you think would take the fight - Captain Kirk, Captain Jack Sparrow, or Captain Crunch?
Becka: Undoubtedly Captain Jack Sparrow – he's such a trickster archetype.

me: What is your favorite type of food? (IE: Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian)
Becka: A toss up between Chinese and Italian. I'm also rather fond of curry.

me: What is one thing on your bucket list? (Bucket list = things to do before you kick the bucket.)
Becka: I'd love to visit Japan.

me: Any closing statements? :)
Becka: Thanks for hosting me. :-)

Art for Land of Myth

Becka also shared her bio:
Becka Sutton is a self-described crazy cat lady, but she’s not very good at it: while she is crazy she only has one cat. She was born in Britain in 1972 and has lived there her entire life. In her early teens she started scrawling fantasy stories in exercise books her mother bought her to stop her scribbling in her school books. She hasn’t stopped writing since, and she credits writing as the outlet that allowed her to recover from the nervous breakdown she had after her parents died.

Her other interests include reading, listening to music, attempting to draw, growing her own vegetables and looking after the aforementioned Pumpkin cat.

No, you can’t read the novel she scrawled as a teen – she burned it long ago because it was awful.

Follow Becka on Twitter:
Her website:
For information about purchasing her book: (this is the hub page on the site that links to the various places it can be found)

So, thanks Becka, for helping to fill the blogging void this Friday with humor and advice. I appreciate the responses and the information. Along with following The Dragon Wars Saga, I'll be looking for more on your flash fiction series, and your navigatrix sounds fascinating as well.

This interview format based on one used by JE Medrick.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pantsers Part 2

I posted last week about the cast size problems I've had by not controlling my characters, letting them do as they please while wandering along the story arc.

Of course, the new characters feel that they are as important as the ones I started with, the ones who brought them to life. They bring their own story arcs, with which they are enamoured. To tell the truth, sometimes I'm equally enamoured of them. But the main story doesn't take this interference lightly. Or positively.

I'm still learning the discipline to either cut these extraneous arcs out, or change the main arc to embrace them. A bigger issue for me in recognizing these side arcs as what they are: superfluous. It's one of the things my beta readers do that really helps-even if I would rather they thought everything worked just fine! It's better that they be honest, after all.

Only peripherally related: does anyone else have difficulty rewriting scenes? Once I've written something, I better back it up! For the life of me, I can't create it for a second time. It's like the muse says 'I gave you the clue once, it's your job to keep track of it. Don't bother me!'

Comments welcome below.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Originally written August, 2006.

I learned last Sunday that we’d lost Nick. Donna, Kathryn, others of his family, Ina and other co-workers, we’d all lost him. I wrote to Donna that day of my sorrow, and my hope that she and Kathryn would be able to forgive Nick, as he apparently took his own life. The news made me re-evaluate my feelings on suicide.

Like most experiences, I have probably suppressed bad events with Nick, for I certainly don’t recall any, except of course the one that defined the last two years of his life: the death of his son, Eric, on Valentine’s Day, 2004. I was sitting downstairs checking my email when I read Nick’s message that he had terrible news to share: that Eric had died. It was Saturday. The next day, I flew to San Francisco for the Intel Developers’ Conference. While I tried to call Nick, and failed, I did talk to my boss. He was thinking of going out for Eric’s service, which would be on Thursday. From the IDC, I flew to Seattle Tuesday night for a meeting — Boeing, I think — and then back to Ontario Wednesday night. I stayed overnight before the morning ceremony at Bobbitt Memorial Chapel, the same place where Nick’s service was today.

Eric’s service was filled with his peers, several of whom spoke with conviction of their loss at his death. Along with other co-workers, I had a few minutes with Nick and Donna as they tried to meet with all the visitors to the chapel. I drove from the chapel to Nick’s home in Yucaipa; perhaps fifty or sixty others did likewise. It is a pleasant home, set on the side of a hill in a residential neghborhood. Pines in front, stone walls in the front and back and a flagstone patio beyond the kitchen to the backyard.  I stayed a bit, spoke again to Nick (But really, what do you say?) and left to drive to Las Vegas to catch my flight back home. My life continued.

Other times were much more pleasant—how could they fail to be? Nick joined Numerix Corporation as an application engineer in the mid 1980’s. During her college selection phase, I took my daughter to Chicago to visit Northwestern and DePaul. While we were there, Numerix was setting up for a trade show; Nick was involved in arranging the equipment and the booth. I recall her smiling as he worked, first kidding with me, then showing her—terrified of math ever since inaccurate Advanced Placement recommendations—a book on prime number theory and telling her his hobby was computing ever larger new primes. It is safe to say she was taken aback rather than impressed, but she enjoyed his company more than less, both then and when she briefly worked at Mercury.

My history of customer involvement started at Numerix, as I did not only design and development work, but also pre-sales and post-sales visits. By the nature of the beast, this led to knowing the Sales Group (including AE’s) and attending Sales Meetings with them. Those were held in a variety of places, and I remember Nick's invitations to come out and spend every evening shooting pool, drinking cold beer and talking. The pool and talking parts of that held true for almost every Sales Meeting we both attended. One place where our plans were overcome by events was the last Numerix Sales Meeting in Orlando, when the plan to accept an offer by Mercury was revealed, and their CEO talked about the opportunity. I had rented a Mustang convertible, and after the formal meeting, we cruised Orlando, talking about what would happen once we became one with our heretofore competitor.

I continued to attend Sales meetings, as the position I accepted with Mercury involved even more customer input than I’d had with Numerix. However, the Mercury sales guys are just jealous of their customers, so I kept in contact with them, and of course the AE’s, all of whom were friendly, Nick most of all.

Remembering little things.

One of the perks of attending Sales Meetings was the unique tee shirt given to those present. Since Nick had attended all the meetings, he had the largest collection, and he brought to subsequent meetings a selection to choose from. The president was always interested to see which ones Nick wore.

Nick, as moderator at the back of the room, holding up the signs: 15; 10; 5; Quiet! to let speakers know when their time was up.

Trying to convince him to get a ‘real’ sports car to replace his Corvette.

Phone calls to check an innovation he wanted to try on a customer; unlike some sales associates, Nick was willing to check feasibility before advertising it. And he was willing to listen to problems with his ideas. If there were issues, they usually evolved from information he didn’t have, rather than an error or misunderstanding. He was always excited to be helping a customer solve his problem in the best way for this customer. Nick was easy to work with if you kept that in mind.

The past five or so years, he traveled less to be at home more. For him, even customer visits in Southern California took extravagantly long times due to traffic. With less on my plate while traveling, I was willing to drive halfway to meet him out in San Bernadino (near the I10 and I15 junction) at a Japanese restaurant where we could get sushi. When I got out for VITA meetings in Long Beach, or a customer visit in LA (defined for this purpose as between Simi Valley and San Diego), I’d arrange to drive out there to meet, have sushi and just talk. I enjoyed it; I hope he did as well.

I have always been of two minds about suicide. My aversion to the act varies inversely with the age of the person involved: at young ages, under the early 20’s perhaps and certainly for 12 to 16 year olds, suicide seems much too drastic a step taken far too early, before the wonders of life can possibly be manifest. To me, this argument holds less and less water as the person ages.

But, if the guess is correct—I’ll never know for sure—Nick had other demons. Eric’s death brought him depression; he never said so but used terms which one smarter than I might have recognized. Perhaps it was something else entirely, but not in my knowledge. Was it that, in death, Eric became more important to him, perhaps, than Donna or Kathryn, or others who now miss him so?  Was he right to focus there, decline to participate in our lives any more—as Chief Joseph said: “I will forget no more forever!”

My thoughts remain conflicted. I fear that because I wasn’t available, or as feeling as I should have been, perhaps I contributed to his depression. I feel a sense of loss in my mind and head. While my parents have both passed on, I thank God I’ve not had the pain of the death of a child. Even friends of mine have been exceptionally healthy, I guess, and lucky. The exception: before Nick’s death, Paige, an eight year old daughter and granddaughter of friends, with Down Syndrome and a host of other problems, died… She spent months in hospital suffering from leukemia first. Her passing seemed to me a pointless exercise in something—failed medical technology, faith, I don’t know. From the faith point of view, it just didn’t seem at all fair to put her through all that and then withhold the benefits. I think a little the same with Nick. I’d like to have some assurance that he’d tried everything he could to resolve the pain and loss he felt before taking that final step.

My loss is selfish: I like Nick; I don’t want to not have him. I hope that he did exhaust the possible alternatives before taking the final step on this plane. If he did, I can come to grips with his decision. But without having talked to him, I’ll never know. That’s the root of the problem. I want to be convinced that his disease was, in fact, incurable, and I’m not. But that doesn’t change the world.

I believe my feelings about suicide remain unchanged. While I would not choose it myself, it grows more acceptable—to me—as age increases; that it is a decision to be honored if made after other viable alternatives have been exhausted.

Goodbye, Nick. I already miss you. 8/25/06

Those of you who have looked at my book, Mercenaries: A Love Story may have noticed the dedication; this is some of the backstory to that dedication. I also thought it appropriate because Nick was the first person to read Black Sky, Dry Rain, the first part of that saga. Like any good reviewer, he was willing to say what he thought didn't work. I wish he'd had the chance to see it now.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Coming Attractions

Early next week, an essay originally written in 2006.

And Friday! A guest appearance by Becka Sutton, whose graciously consented to answer a few questions on what makes her tick, and why, as long as I'd mention that she's offering Land of Myth, Arc One of The Dragon Wars Saga both at Amazon and at her own website, Firebird Fiction.

I'll also try to add some thoughts to the Pantser post I did last week.

Check back or follow my Twitter.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thank You!

Updated May 28, once we got the flag up.

This post in honor of the veterans who have given their lives, their health, frequently their futures, to protect the way of life many of us take for granted. Thank you seems so small a thing to say...

I served in the US Navy for just over 4 years, back in the day. I was fortunate to be assigned, first to a school where I learned a trade I could parlay into a career, and then as part of Uncle's support of NATO, I went to Naples, Italy, for over two years, where I had the great good fortune to meet my wife. A first date on Capri was magical - must have been, 'cause she's stayed with me since! Closing out my experience was a year aboard a minesweeper, wintering in the Caribbean. While I served during the Vietnam conflict, I was never in a combat situation, nor in any danger I didn't bring on myself.

Many of our vets are not nearly so lucky. They die. They loose limbs. They suffer, from PTSD, from being away from friends and family for months or years at a time or from unemployment once they do get their papers.

Thank them.

Support elected officials who support Veterans Rights and programs to assist with medical issues, and with resocialization.

Support elected officials who will work to prevent the necessity for young women and men to die for what they believe.

It's ever so much better to live for what you believe.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pantsers Forever!

But I am left with a question.

A dedicated pantser, I begin to see some of the issues which arise when characters are given fairly free rein. One thing that happens, to me at least, is the cast list grows, sometimes pretty remarkably. Or maybe that should be uncontrollably?

For example, the fantasy epic I've been working on.
Part one is about 41K words, and has about 16 named characters.
Part two is about 82K words, and has about 28 named characters, of whom seven are common with part one.
Part three is about 18K words, and has 24 named characters. (A lot of world-building going on.)
Part four is about 83K words, and has 31 named characters, of whom four are common with part three.
Part five is about 200Kwords and has about 58 named characters. Fortunately, I think, all but four or five of these have been introduced before the first half is done.
Part six is an embarrassment; at 170K words, it is no more than 60 percent complete, and still has almost 90 named characters. Probably 20 of these are common with part five, but still.
Part seven is three short stories wound together, and runs just over novella length at 52K words. There are less than 30 named characters.

Because it is a series, a small set of the characters appear in most or all of the parts. Fewer than ten, however, so I can't use that as an excuse. One thing I should mention: the order of creation was 1, 4, 2, 5, 7, 3, 6, although except for part one, they were all written contemporaneously. Parts one and two are packaged together, as are parts three and four.

Along with the cast lists, the word counts grow. I suppose that's unavoidable as each of those character clamors for his or her bit of the action. Part seven will likely grow, but no more than a couple thousand words. I have yet to apply any effort to part five, but my goal there is to get to 160-170Kwords from the 200 it's at now. There's a lot of drivel, and if I recognize that, just wait till my readers get hold of it! Similarly for part six, I have to finish it and keep it at about 160K words. That's easy: just cut a word for every one I add! Glad I thought of that.

This little introspection brought to you courtesy of my trying to figure out how to deal with part six, to bring it into a manageable length. I fear this means excising one or more of my wonderful sub-plots. But the first part of that task is figuring out what exactly I wrote (while the muse twiddled her finger in my ear, and the characters ran amok!). An exercise I have to thank one of my friends for: synopsizing each chapter, will be of value as I find out where the story has gone, and what transpired to make it go that way. And which of the alleys should be bricked up and left for dead. Or for a different story, at least.

So, in a sort of conclusion, I'm left with this cautionary note: if you follow the ways of the pantsers, keep track of where you're headed. Keep your mind clear, and don't hesitate to tell a character that her or his deviation may be important to her or him, but by damn!, it's not to the story. Otherwise, you'll be left with unhappy characters picketing your muse and keeping her from working with you until the furor dies down.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Make Good Art"

Updated May 24: The video is now available subtitled, in a bunch of languages. Click here and choose your language.

I think this needs to be seen more, so if somehow you've missed it, take the few minutes to watch this through.

Then, be yourself by following Neil's precepts.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back Again, With Questions

Last night, about 8:30, we arrived back home - whew! - after 4400 miles and 21 days, one graduation from US Army basic training, one wedding, visits with brother and aunt, not to mention Gramma's azaleas (not going to mention...).

I published Mercenaries: A Love Story on March 21. So far, it's sold two copies to people who are not family or friends - or if they are, they haven't admitted it. I hope that's not the case! It's in the Select program, but no borrows, so far.

This leads to a question: on Amazon, is there a way to see what the book's page views are? On Smashwords, the samples downloaded stat hinted at that, but I haven't found that for Amazon yet. If there are no page views, that would lead me in the direction of trying to increase visibility, but if there are page views that don't get converted, that implies that either the cover or the blurb aren't doing their job. Or at $4.99, the price is too high. Different things to fix. If there are page views, reviews might help, but there aren't any of those as yet.

With 35K words (about a third) of one WIP being looked at by a beta reader, and 130K words of a second WIP going out to a second reader, I have a minute or two to think on these things. If only I knew what to work on... If any readers feel they could provide an opinion on either the cover (visible to the right) or the description (below), please feel free. I won't hold anything you offer against you. Of course, you could say, work on everything... but I'd like to focus.

Mercenaries: A Love Story

Beckie Sverdupe, typical high-school student and accomplished equestrienne, has a best friend, a younger brother, and no plans beyond homework and the upcoming pep rally.

Then, she is kidnapped to be buried alive. Her strength and resourcefulness during that ordeal causes the enigmatic young mercenary, Ian Jamse, to ask for her help in rescuing another abducted girl. During spring break, she and her best friend play exotic dancer in London and, within a day, find themselves being massaged in a Italian villa! The sex-trader is thwarted this time, but he continues to ply his evil trade in San Diego by hijacking a middle-school school bus.

Beckie chooses to put herself back on the stage, within the slaver’s grasp, to free the California girls. Jamse sees financial gain. The two of them chase the fiend from London to Arizona to Thailand, where Beckie learns what she really wants from life.

This is Mercenaries: A Love Story complete. All four stories are here in one volume.
Bonus! An excerpt from Freedom No Matter, the next book in this series.
Mercenaries: A Love Story is recommended for 16+ for language and mature situations

The book is just over 153K words and it's not available in paper. Does anyone think having a 500 page book available would add to its success?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Going On the Road

At the beginning of May, we're going to saddle up and drive to Fort Sill, Lawton, OK, to attend my nephew's graduation from the Army basic training program. He will by then have spent twelve or so weeks learning all those cool Army things, like why you never want to forget your gas mask! We'll take the opportunity to visit some family and do a little sight-seeing long the way, with stops in Newark, OH, Cawker, KS (the home of the Biggest Ball of Twine) and Nashville, TN on our way to a family wedding in Chesapeake, VA about the middle of the month.

After that (whew - it's a lot of driving, about 4200 miles), we'll arrive home in Boston for some relaxation. Well, I'll relax, sort of, since another stop is in Kansas City, where I'm setting a scene for Freedom No Matter, and I'll have to write the darn thing. My wife will return to work, which pays bills, unlike my writing, so far at least.

I'm not expecting to be out of pocket very much, except while I'm in the 70 hours of actually driving, so I won't be able to use it as an excuse for not responding to any questions or comments made then, although it may delay responses a little. Like, till I get down to Panera!

If you're interested, you can follow the trip here, where we'll try to update with comments and pix as we go. And, no, that good looking couple on horseback is my brother and his bride.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Post Brought to You by the Letter 'H' and...

From Amy Rose Davis - her writing is wonderful, check it out here.

How to Play: Comment below and I’ll reply wait a letter. Then, list ten things that you love that begin with that letter and post the list on your journal.

My List: Sharing Ten Things I Love That Begin With The Letter H
Not as easy as it looks, hehe.

1.  Home, cause that's where your loves are.
2.  Health, "If you haven't got your health..." Wm. Goldman
3.  Harpies, they add spice to the brew - no one said they had to be real...
4.  Heroes, we all need them. Mine is my lovely wife.
5.  Halley's Comet, without which Mary Chapin Carpenter wouldn't have written "Halley Came to Jackson"
6.  The Great Blue Hill, wonderful view without a wonderful trip
7.  Louis Hamilton, making the Formula 1 seasons exciting!
8.  How-It's-Made, for entertainment.
9.  Ham, smoked, baked, imported boiled, so good!
10. Habit, to do things without thinking - sometimes correctly

So there's my list.
If you need another way to share a little about myself, it's your turn! Comment and I’ll give you a letter for your blog, journal, Facebook page, whatever.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Guest Post at Alchemy of Scrawl!

Coral Russell, who blogs at Alchemy of Scrawl, very graciously allowed me a guest post slot, which has come up today. The post deals with making better use of 'dead' time:

Write your next WIP anywhere! by Tony Lavely

I’m sitting at Boston’s Logan International Airport waiting for my wife to arrive. I’ve been thinking about Coral’s offer to guest host posts on topics that might interest people, and I thought, first, it’s really nice of her, and second, I could use more exposure, and maybe I have a couple of ideas that might be helpful to people. So, with great thanks to Coral, here are some thoughts I put together, mostly just now at the airport.
I arrived an hour and a half early (never can predict Boston traffic – or USAir’s schedule) and spent the first forty-five minutes writing. Before beginning to map out this post, I sent those 400 new words to myself, to add to my current WIP. I thought some of you might like to convert lost time at airports, doctor’s or dentist’s offices into at least somewhat productive writing time, and you might not have considered this.

Read the rest of the post.

Thanks, Coral, and I hope readers benefit also.

On the topic of making even better use of our smartphones, The Passive Voice has a post, new today, suggesting ten free apps that can "supercharge" your writing. Read it here, you may get an idea that's new to you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Update to Yesterday's Post

Both Mercenaries: A Love Story and Book One are available in the Amazon store. Click on the respective cover image to see the respective page.

Your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Met This Milestone!

Or is that millstone?

Uploaded Mercenaries: A Love Story to Amazon tonight, for inclusion in the Select program.

I'll update this with a link when it's actually published.

Also published the revision of Mercenaries: A Love Story Book One. It's to go in the Select program as well, to meet the requirements. For anyone who has a copy, I believe you can download the revision at no charge. I'll include that link when available as well.

Next up: either Freedom No Matter, the sequel to Mercenaries, or the first volume of the Game of Life series.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

News - Mark Your Calendars

I wanted to say something about the Clown Car primary struggles going on, but thinking about it makes my head hurt and my heart bleed, so I'll just ask: "Where are the women? I know they're smarter than this..." And Senator Scott Brown (R:MA) responded to my complaint about his support of the Blount amendment with a repeat of his position, which truly must be based on a different Blount amendment than I read. He ended by saying it was defeated, as if that makes it all better.

I removed the censorship flag over the blog title - I know, you never noticed - but only commented the code out so when SOPA and PIPA return, I can respond again.

Almost finished with Mercenaries: A Love Story. I'm doing a final read on my Kindle to make sure it's formatted ok and all the nasty editing marks are gone. I think it'll be up Monday or Tuesday. Mark your calendars!

I've mentioned Becka Sutton's web serial Dragon Wars before. She's moving to publish the first story arc in ebook and paper, and I offered to assist with the e-book formatting, so if you don't like it, you know where to address your complaints. She's got an Indiegogo crowd fundraiser in process for this month, so stop by and see if you could be minded to help. Even if you can't, read the web serial.

Last Friday, Joe Konrath linked to Catherine Ryan Hyde's post: Friday Author: Barry Eisler. Since I doubt that Joe needs any additional traffic, I've linked to Ms Hyde's post directly. Everyone should read it, especially the comments half-way through on offense, and the human reaction. Mr. Eisler's words certainly seem to apply to others of us than just authors. For example:
Okay, let’s clarify that principle, and consider it.  The principle is, “If someone finds something offensive, you shouldn’t do it.”
But this doesn’t make any sense as an organizing principle if for no other reason than that it’s impossible to implement.  Because what if I find your reluctance to cause offense offensive?  What do you do then?
And also:
Comedians should push people’s buttons.  They should reveal uncomfortable truths about uncomfortable subjects.
Nota bene: Rush Limbaugh is neither a comedian nor an entertainer.

As always, comments welcome below.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's been a while

Sorry 'bout that, especially if you actually looked for new content.

Been watching the R primary season. It's interesting, in a train wreck kind of way. I am in the demographic that's supposed to love, cherish, and honor Republican values: over 60, white, male. I find that the values I love, cherish and honor: women's rights (as well as, not instead of, men's), freedom of choice unfettered by governmental influence (mostly - I agree with not calling "Fire! in a crowded theater) and religious influence, and courtesy in public debate, are apparently not much valued in the Republican mindset.
As holder of three graduate degrees, I firmly believe that education past grade school is critical to our country and indeed our world, and deserves support.
I think rape is the forced imposition of one's will on another, and of course, abortion opponents are all over that one, aren't they?
So, I'm seeing no one in the R camp that I could even not vote against. Or as Bob Cesca says: "Keep going, Repubs, you're doing great!"

I decided to publish the whole story, instead of keeping it two books. I may take some of the deleted scenes (so to speak) and offer a collection of short stories later on. I'm planning an availability later this month.
Anticipating that, I sent Mercenaries: A Love Story (which is the whole thing, 157K words) to my beta readers, and did that cause some #amediting! I'm waiting on the last batch of edits, and will then publish. I'm thinking of KDP Select, so if anyone has experience, good or bad, or can point to a useful source of information, that would be appreciated.

I depublished Book One on Smashwords in anticipation of KDP Select, but the recent brouhaha over censorship raised my eyebrows. I'm fairly certain that the root cause was pointed out by a commenter at Joe Konrath's blog (note: I linked to the 'offensive' blog post, not the overall blog):
Ummm, why's everyone coming down on PayPal because of this? Last I checked, they're catching heat from the credit card companies, and PayPal stands to lose far more by losing the credit card companies than Smashwords does by losing PayPal.
And another one said:
PayPal's reason for exercising its right in such a forcible manner certainly stems from its own agreement with the Credit card companies and banks who have their own masters pulling the strings. I think, if you follow the money long enough, you will find a wrinkly old man with lots of money, who is in love with his dog, but feels guilty about it, and now wants to force his moral dilemma on everyone else.
I think these people have put their finger on the root cause. After all, the process, for CC companies anyway, began ten or so years ago, when no one complained that, under pressure from government, they refused to accept payments from those "lolita" web sites, or so I've heard. The current position seems a natural progression from that one, and it's likely to continue. It's a function of where the most money can be earned at the lowest cost (read: risk).

I think that's enough for today. I'll try to not make you wait so long next time.
Comments welcome.