Monday, January 26, 2015

The Review Dilemma

I want to start out thanking people who have read and reviewed A Noble's Quest. You people are awesome! Every one of you!

Without those reviews, I wouldn't have started writing A Wizard's Gambit. From the wholly positive 5-stars to the "it's good with some issues" 4-stars (no 3-stars or less... yet). I wrote the first book to be a stand alone with the potential for more and was tickled when I got great feedback from people I don't know. That kind of validation was more important to me than I realized when I set out on this journey.

And I've had great conversations with people who have enjoyed it. Like the other day I was talking to my mom, and she asked me when book 2 will be out, because she wants to re-read A Noble's Quest before she reads the second one so it's fresh in her mind. I know she's my mom, and she's probably biased, but my dad was surprised that she liked it, because he couldn't remember any other fantasy stuff that she'd gotten into.

Or the reader who gave me a blow-by-blow of what she thought about it while she read it. Although she'd set out the pace she was planning at the outset, I was tickled when she plowed through much faster than she anticipated because she couldn't stop reading.

The trick is, some websites that help authors promote their work require that books have a minimum number of good reviews. I've seen 10 reviews a few times, with average ratings expected of 3.75 or higher. Right now my average is over 4, so that's not the problem. The thing is, I only have 6 reviews on

Here is my dilemma: readers don't owe authors reviews. Before I ventured into the realm of indie writing I never reviewed anything, even things that I loved. The thought never crossed my mind until I came to understand on a personal level how important reviews are.

So I don't want to go beating readers with sticks, demanding reviews.

However, people who leave reviews will get a 50% discount for A Wizard's Gambit, should they want it. This applies to both the e-book and paperback. And I don't care if it's a 1-star review! Not that people who hated it would want a discount on the second book...

Anyway, like Santa Claus, I'm making a list, and there are savings to be had for those who leave reviews and get on my "nice" list! :)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Protagonist death

I wrote almost 6000 words this week. Apparently killing characters inspires me.

How do you feel when you've been reading through a series, and one of the main characters dies?

The first major arc of A Hero's Birth is written. Killing this character is not something that happened while we were role playing. As the books continue, I get further and further away from the game and add in new elements, change others, but there is a core to the story that remains. The central thrust and major themes are there, but the characters have taken on lives of their own. They do things that the players around the table didn't. I don't want to say one way or another is "better," they're just different paths.

Around the table, you're having fun. Killing off player characters isn't enjoyable (to me, unless it's a total wipe to end the game in heroic fashion, or an old school Dark Sun campaign and you have a character tree). These particular characters - Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza - had been played for years, and I know from my own experience that you get attached to these fictional characters. To an outsider, it's just a sheet of paper with some words and numbers scrawled on it. To the player, it's a person they've spent time and effort crafting.

If it's a random death, it's the worst. I remember my friend Anthony's character dying in some insane storm, and he took 1 or 2d4 acid damage during it. The DM decided he could not be revived because of the acid damage. Looking at the rules, it was true that characters who were killed by acid could not be revived, but it was such a tiny amount compared to the rest of the pummeling we took that it felt unfair.

In a long-running Star Wars campaign, my Mon Calamari Jedi-in-training pilot (Mackren Fische) had been hit in the head so many times he measured his Intelligence in pips, rather than dice. Then we were aboard a craft where one of the players (the GM's girlfriend) turned out to be a traitor and blew up Sullust. Because we were all force sensitive/trained, and didn't stop her (how could we have known?) we were all forced to take one dark side point and roll to see if we turned to the dark side. Well, with something like 10 of us around the table, it was statistically impossible everyone would survive. I was disheartened that Mackren turned and was subsequently killed. It felt cheap. Not that I cared about the campaign anymore at that point. The GM had become obsessed with getting as many people around the table as possible, and me and Acid Damage Death Anthony hadn't even been paying attention to that latest session because it moved so slowly, like a lumbering beast wanting to die.

So with that background, I want to assure readers that I don't kill protagonists for no reason. This death isn't "random" or executed callously. I don't find books like GRRM's enjoyable when there's no point getting attached to the characters because they're all dying off anyway.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Writing the Cover Scene

Thomas vs The Abomination and Mystery Antagonist
Tonight saw an important milestone for my writing. I got to write the scene that +Harvey Bunda depicts in the cover art for A Hero's Birth. I've been chugging along, and am pleased to be at this point - about 1/3rd of the way through the novel. I think.

It's hard to say, because I'm not sure how long the rest is going to take to tell. There's another major segment coming up, which will have its own climax, and then there's the final push where all the pieces fall into place. If you read A Noble's Quest and thought the protagonists could have been less like normal people and more heroic, you're going to enjoy this story. They are positively badass, and will perform feats worthy of song.

As I approach the 1/2 way point, I'm starting to get my ducks in a row for the Indiegogo to help cover the developmental editing and cover art costs. I've got some thinking to do, there. The cover artist is a done deal - Harvey is awesome, and I'll have him work on my covers forever, if he'll do them. The editor is up in the air. I like the work +R.J. Blain did on A Wizard's Gambit. She pointed out some areas that needed more work, and higher tension. I learned a lot working with her, and I think A Hero's Birth isn't going to have any problems with tension. The characters are going through so much that I feel cruel. But she's working away on her own books and getting out of the business. Then there's +Shen Hart, who's up and coming and has a lot of great things being said about her from clients. More expensive, but her turn around is insanely fast. So it's going to come down to what I can afford. How much do I think I can raise in an Indiegogo, and if I don't reach my goals, how much am I willing to put in myself? I've got some time to mull this over. It's not a decision I will  make lightly. But that's why I'm starting now, instead of in a couple months when I'm ready to run the Indiegogo.

Coming soon?

I also heard back from my aunt, and she has finished her last major editing for A Wizard's Gambit. She's going through one more time to make sure there are no more glaring errors before handing it back to me. I might be on track for a March release, we'll have to wait and see how much red ink there is for me to deal with! It's hard to put into words how excited I am to be getting to the point of releasing my second novel. Luke at Vocamus Press suggested I could do a book release party, which sounds like a lot of fun. I might take him up on that offer.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Game Over

This weekend sees the completion of the first section of the chapter entitled Life and Death. There was a lot of the latter, all playing up to the first climax, with a second close on its heels. I hope the quick double climax leaves my readers feeling satisfied.

Am I still talking about writing?



Monday, January 5, 2015


I've hit another milestone, with 50,000 words written for A Hero's Birth. I had hoped to be further along by now, but my holidays were entirely unproductive in terms of writing. But I'm glad to have had time to spend with my family, even if most of it involved us being sick!

This section I'm working on has been interesting. The game is taking a lot of writing to play out, as each team moves and acts, and the protagonist who is involved introspects on how it's all unfolding. I've already killed two of the players involved, one who was only known to the protagonist as a "lanky woman."

And now they're all burning alive.

What have I done!?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

2015 already!

Someone asked for a list of writing accomplishments this year, and I don't have much to show for it, in terms of publications.

 Theme-Thology: New Myths came out in March and includes my short story, 1100 BGW. It's received some good reviews, although I have no way of knowing what the sales look like. Suffice it to say my 1/10th share of profits hasn't hit the benchmark to be paid, but that's how it goes. It's still nice to have something out there!

And I had fun with that short story, too. It's tied to my Empire's Foundation trilogy, showing the rise to power of the "big bad" who remains behind the scenes through most of books 2 and 3. Margaff is a minotaur monk who seeks to subjugate all other species in order to attain peaceful coexistence (with his race at the top of the pile, of course). With divine allies, he meets a skeptical female who asks some difficult questions and forces him to think carefully about his chosen path.

And I believe my second short story, Cattle, will also be appearing in an upcoming Theme-Thology in 2015. I haven't heard a definite "yes" on it yet, but I've made substantial revisions and got some pretty positive feedback on it, so I'm hopeful. Despite the title, it's not about the minotaurs in the first short story. It's not even about my usual fantasy fare. I stepped outside my comfort zone to write a sci-fi that focuses on an alien who is rising up in the ranks of her society, but faces an existential crisis when confronted with the question of whether humans are sentient.

This year should be even better for publications. A Wizard's Gambit is nearing completion, and my novella Demon Invasion is waiting on editing.

I'll also finish the first draft of A Hero's Birth. With all the sickness that's hit our house recently, I wasn't able to make the headway I was hoping for during my holidays. Even so, I'm closing in on the 50,000 word mark, which is approximately 1/3rd of the way through. Maybe less. The first major conflicts of the book are going to hit the page soon, but there's a ton of story left, and I fear this book might push 200,000 words. Either way, I'll finish writing it this year and will run another Indiegogo to fund it (partially)!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to write a book? Spousal neglect

One thing that gets me is I've had a lot of conversations with people who say something like, "I don't know how you find time to write a book!"

If I wasn't me, and I looked at my to-do list, I'd probably wonder that, too. However, despite my schedule being filled with real work, two kids, a wife, and a dog, there's something you may not realize.

I like writing.

Shock. Horror.

So when most people "go out" (whatever that is), or watch tv, or view a million cat videos online, I'm writing (and sometimes watching a mere half-million cat videos). It's what I do to unwind and have fun.

I used to play a lot of video games, but I don't anymore. I haven't bought a game in ages. I backed a Kickstarter a couple months ago, and I have no idea how I'm going to find time to play it when it's released. It may be that I don't play it.

And I have to mention my wife, here. She's supportive of my hobby (more on that word choice later). When I want to sit down and pound out a thousand words or so three nights a week, she'll find something else to do. If you have a spouse who needs you seven days a week, yeah, finding time to write would be hard. Or if you want to bring books out at a faster pace than I do, finding time for your spouse might become impossible. And if you stop spending time with your spouse to follow your writing dreams, I wouldn't expect the marriage to last. Your partner isn't a plant. They need some attention. Some.

Just enough so they'll smile in your photo ops
 I also have few friends in Guelph and the surrounding areas. There are times I wish I had more time to go out and play games with them, or head out for a drink or two, but mostly I'm pretty content with my work-writing-life balance.

Okay, so that's the second time I've distinguished work from writing, so I should speak to that now. I'm one of those fortunate people who has a really good day job - that is my work. Writing can be work, but mostly it's fun. I get to tell an epic story with characters I care about. Sure, editing the document for the 5th time is a drag, but there's an excitement about getting through it because when you're done all the revisions you've got a book! How cool is that?

So if you've got an idea and you want to write a book, do it. Your life and schedule might need some rearranging, but it's doable.

Just remember to water and feed your spouse. Maybe talk to him or her from time to time, too. I hear they like that.

I also need to share this tweet...

Not that I'm looking for a traditional publishing house, but that made me feel really good!