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A Pretty Cool Day In Florida

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For almost two years now I’ve been associated with Pandamoon Publishing, first as an author and more recently as a publicist. At times the latter role requires more effort and schedule juggling than the former but it is one of the few times since receiving a degree in marketing from the University of Texas in the early ’80’s that I have actually done something related to my studies. That’s kind of cool.

Aside from working on my next book(s), there are eleven more under contract now, I have had occasion to work with a diverse group of fellow writers. Personally I think all of them are more gifted than I am. A few of them have been fooled into thinking I’m as talented as they are. I’m good a creating illusions. Until yesterday, though, I had never actually met any of the other authors, other than chatting with them online. That isn’t to say I don’t know these people and over the past couple of years we haven’t become friends.

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The Pandamoon stable of authors is approaching two dozen and continues to grow. The publisher is expanding its editorial and marketing staffs to handle the bandwidth of all those new books. For a relatively small and fairly new kid on the publishing block we are making some waves and gaining attention. And a lot of that has to do with the effort and coordination between the marketing team and the authors. One of the success stories is Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked.

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Steph and I both live in Florida. When I lived in Pinellas County, we were even on the same side of Tampa Bay, just a few miles apart. Close, but we never had an occasion to ever meet in person…until yesterday. This time there was no excuse. She was appearing as a panelist at the 6th Annual University of Central Florida Book Festival in Orlando. Currently I live a little over five miles from the venue. So, yesterday morning I pedaled my bike northward on Alafaya Trail and parked it in a bike rack in the midst of the festivities. I attended the panel discussion on mystery and crime writing. Responding to questions from a standing room only crowd Steph shined. I was proud of her not only because we are colleagues at Pandamoon but also because over the past couple of years she has become a dear friend of mine.

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Afterwards she signed my copy of her debut novel and we took a picture together as proof that we had actually been in the same place at the same time. I met her husband, Ryan, and a couple of her high school friends who came out to the event in support of her. Really, what was important, though, was I got to hang out with one of my favorite authors. How cool is that? I’m such a fan boy.

Seriously, though, I loved Steph’s book from the first read through of the manuscript and since  it’s publication I have found it to be one of the easiest things I have ever promoted. Even if I wasn’t closely associated with the marketing support for the book, she would still be one of my favorite authors. I’m pretty sure that very soon her fame is going to blow-up in a huge way and everyone will be talking about her books. She has genuine talent that she has honed through the discipline of scheduling her time. She is a professional writer in every sense of the word. Personally I have no idea how she juggles everything she does, because is is also a writing coach and educator as well as a wife and ‘mother’ of several rescue pooches. But once you meet her and talk to her you really get the vibe that you’re in the presence of a remarkable individual.

As I pedaled home after spending a few hours at the festival I was thinking about how great it would be to get all the Pandamoon authors together in the same place at the same time. We have talked about it and even have a name for the event all picked out: “Pandamoonium”. I’m sure that sooner or later it will happen. Likely as not we’ll assemble in some central location, probably Austin, Texas, which is close to where the publisher is based. Only then will the sensation of being in the presence of greatness that I felt yesterday be eclipsed. Despite our geographic barriers I work with some amazing people.

It is a testament to the technological advancements over the past dozen of so years that people from every time zone in the western hemisphere have meetings regularly to share information and ideas about such topics as establishing and promoting author’s brand. Pandamoon Publishing is cutting edge in a lot of ways.

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As for Steph Post, what she has done – pretty much on her own, albeit with some support from the Pandamoon marketing team – is nothing short of phenomenal. In the months since she signed with Pandamoon she has worked diligently on her brand, posting attention getting pictures that supported the theme and mood of her book, which is about crime in small town Florida. She contacted other authors in her genre, got to know them personally, read and reviewed their books, interviewed them, and her attention was reciprocated with reviews for her book. She arranged interviews on radio shows, with bloggers and scheduled personal appearances. Even before its release to the public, A Tree Born Crooked was receiving critical acclaim. Since its release it is being considered for some prestigious awards.

The reward for all her hard work was evidenced not only in the number of people who purchased Steph’s book yesterday but also the number of new friends she made as a result of her participating int he panel discussion. She signed a lot of autographs. In this age of Internet distribution and sales, one thing has not changed and it is ironic that, really, it is the same as it has been for the past couple hundred years. How a book is marketed always comes down to pitching it one reader at a time.

#UCFBookFestival #Orlando #Florida #Authors #StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #PandamoonPublishing #ElgonWilliams #Publicity #Marketing #BookSigning #MysteryWriter #CrimeWriter

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The Wolfcat Chronicles Book Five Revision Underway

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Last night I started revising Book Five of The Wolfcat Chronicles, titled A Change Of Heart. Since I rearranged the order of the first nine chapters in this and moved some material to the end of Book Four I’m mainly looking for continuity issues. Also I’m considering splitting chapter one of Book Five into two parts. It is marginally too long and, as it does have two basic scenes, I could make a case for doing it.

Mostly I don’t want to rearrange things again until I’ve read through to chapter ten or so. Then I may feather in an additional chapter somewhere early on into the flow. If that is all the adjusting I have to do I’ll be happy. I vaguely recall from the previous revision in 2012 that the last half of this book flows fairly well. I’m hoping that proves to be the case.

As far as changes to the actual text go, I’m not doing a lot of that yet. I added a few lines and delated a few – normal stuff for a revision. I will say that when this one is published readers will likely consider it the keystone to understanding the entire series. It also reveals how this series ties into everything else I have written. Perhaps it is fitting in that this book completes the first half of the series. This is where all the characters begin to interact and the conflicts come into full play.

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In large part the revelations in this book come from Terry Harper who appeared in the storyline toward the end of Book Four. Here in Book Five he explains to Ela’na how the universe is constructed and defines a lot of things about the boundaries of science and magic. This is necessary because of what happens shortly afterwards, Ela’na’s first true adventure away from Anter’x.

The Wolfcat Chronicles is going to be one of those series that is difficult to categorize as any one genre. It is a convergence of epic and urban fantasy with a good deal of science fiction seasoned in here and there, thanks to Terry Harper and Andy Hunter from One Over X. As someone who has read all of my stuff in draft has told me, one day there may need to be a genre called Elgon Fiction that encompasses pretty much everything weird that refuses to fit neatly anywhere else. I doubt that will happen but it probably would make sense to give these books a separate section.

#Elgon #ScienceFiction #EpicFantasy #UrbanFantasy #TheWolfcatChronicles Revising #Writing #Author

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Progress on The Wolfcat Chronicles

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A couple of days ago I completed the most recent revision of the first book of The Wolfcat Chronicles, The Spectre’s Warning. I have submitted it to my publisher. Since this will be my third book with Pandamoon Publishing (if it is contracted) it is not the next one in the queue. When and if it is acquired, I’ll let everyone know and a tentative publication date when that information is available. For now I’m seven chapters into revising the second book of the series, A Warrior’s Heart.

I know I have discussed the evolution of The Chronicles previously on this blog, but as I continue to grow in followers, I wanted to sort of bring the whole story together in one place and say a few things about how the series came about.

Whenever I tell people I have a book almost always they ask what it’s about? And if the conversation continues beyond that, invariably the question comes up, where did you get that idea? I’m offering the answer to both here and now for future reference.

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The beginning of The Wolfcat Chronicles can be traced back to a creative writing course I took in the spring semester of 1977 at Purdue University. On January 13th, I submitted a character profile as an assignment. It pretty much described a wolfcat. As my instructor hated science fiction/fantasy he picked it apart. First of all, how could there possibly be a creature with he attributes of a wolf, cat and human? I proposed something along the lines of gene splicing but received laughs from the other down of so would be writers in the classroom. My response that anything is possible in fiction was unsatisfactory to one and all. I received a C for the assignment and suffered through the remainder of the course listening to the instructor pontificate about how choosing writing as a career is anything by lucrative (which is true) and that it is next to impossible to get a book published (which was true for him).

Also I spent most of my time in class justifying why I wrote what I wrote as part of in class critiques on writing assignments. You see, my dialogue wasn’t realistic enough to satisfy anyone else in the class – not their their writing was better, mind you. I took that last part to heart, though, and have spent a good deal of effort over the years getting a better feel for dialogue. As a result, I’m told the dialogue in my stories is pretty good.

Anyway, the first novel I wrote was titled Tarot. The characters were based on the major arcana of the fortune telling cards. Of course it was a fantasy story. How could it not be, right? I banged out a typewritten manuscript in 1978. A couple of friends read it and thought it was pretty good. I even thought about having several copies made at the campus bookstore and submitting it to publishers. Realize that back then each page of a manuscript had to be xerox copied.

At some point I decided to read it and as a direct result had serious doubts about my ability to write a decent story. In other words, after the euphoria of having finished something that was novel length had subsided reality set in and I could see the novel in progress for what it was – a lame, pretentious, uninspiring piece of crap. Having said that, I kept the manuscript and still have it stored in a box somewhere. If I ever feel like being humbled, I can always pull it out and read a few pages.

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I’ve come a long way on my journey to be a writer.

There are a few things that survive from the story line of Tarot, though. And they found their ways into One Over X, my first publication, and The Wolfcat Chronicles, my current major project.

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While I was revising One Over X in the summer of the 2000, about a year before it was published, I spent some of my free time online with several other people in an IRC chatroom. A lot of those folks played Dungeons and Dragons back int he day. They had invented a role playing game where we were all members of a wolf pack. We wrote our profiles and carried out adventures, some of them pretty humorous.

I was working two part time jobs at the time, one delivering newspapers early in the morning and the other involved driving to Orlando from Melbourne each day to service retail stores as a vendor representative. For those who don’t know Florida geography, Orlando is about a hour’s drive from Melbourne. Between driving, delivering papers and completing revisions prior to submitting them to my publisher, I had maybe a few hours to sleep. I’m not sure how I did it, except I enjoyed the role playing game and looked forward to chatting with the people for a few hours each night.

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At some point I told some of the chatters I I was a writer and that I was working on a book that was going to be published. Everybody is writing a book, right? It wasn’t a huge deal at all. But one of the folks said she’d like to read it. After explaining it was going to be about a year before it was released she was disappointed. She said she wanted to read something I had written. So, I committed to writing a story about the wolf pack and sending it to her. Thirteen weeks later there was a 413-page rough draft of the core story contained in the middle five books of The Wolfcat Chronciles. So let’s just say that between May and July of 2000 was when I started work on the series.

The server where the wolf pack’s chatroom was located went down forever. Some of us who had personal contact through email or instant messenger stayed in touch but it was never quite the same. Also, I lost all contact for a while the the lady for whom I had written the story, my muse. I figured I’d finish the book, publish it and she’d hear about it and get to read it in that way. So, in the background as I continued to work two jobs and revise a book for publication I was also revising a book titled One Pack.

As any writer can tell you the goal of revising a book is taking out all the parts that aren’t necessary or redundant, fixing grammar, misspelling and typos, and making certain the story is clearly written. The idea is making a book as complete as possible while being succinct. What usually happen, though, is the story expands and goes off on all sorts of tangents as the writer follows the characters on their adventures and misadventures. You see, a writer of any story is probably the worst person possible to revise a story. Having said that, who except the writer knows the story better?

While I wasn’t paying attention to page count One Pack outgrew the expected confines of a novel. All I wanted to do was see where the story was headed as it kind of took on its own life and wrote itself.

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The beginning of One Pack is pretty bleak. It kind of reflected my overall mood at the time of the writing. Each day I had to drive through smoke from a brush fire that continued to burn for several weeks. At times the visibility was nearly zero and the smoke irritated my eyes, saturated my clothes and stung my nose. Some of that found its way into the story, of course.

I never really paid attention to how long the story was becoming until much later on. But as of December 2000, when I made contact with someone who personally knew my muse who had inspired me to write One Pack, it was probably around 500 to 600 pages. She told me she’d give my email address to her friend and I could send the story to her that way. We made contact in January and I send her the wolf story, as she called it. She later told me she had no idea how long it was until she started to print it out – expecting something a few pages in length but having to halt the printing after twenty of the pages rolled out. She emailed me back asking me how long the story was. Honestly, that was the first time I looked at the page count. Obviously the story had grown in the course of filling in all the background and details about the characters.

So, from those beginnings The Wolfcat Chronicles was born. One Pack became five books. And the way One Pack ended left many loose ends so it demanded a sequel, which became The Last Wolfcat that evolved into another three books. While half way through The Last Wolfcat, I was editing a children’s book for a friend and my publisher suggested I try writing a book for kids. There were some things I need to know about Ela’na and Rotor’s past prior to One Pack so I considered a prequel to flesh out all those details. I originally conceived of it as a children’s book about Elana and Rotor as pups. It would be sort of like The Hobbit served The Lord Of The Rings, a story to set up the epic portion o the story to follow. A few chapters into the prequel, though, it became clear the characters weren’t about to let it be a children’s story. And so, another two books came into being that add a lot of history and detail to the series.

All the while I was working on other projects and working a full time job in retail management. I finished the drafts of all ten books of The Wolfcat Chronicles in 2005. By that time I’d become pretty close friends with my muse despite us living on different sides of the country. Along the way I asked her what her birthday way so I could send her a card. When she told me it was January 13th it didn’t register as significant. It wasn’t until I was sorting through my old papers int he process of throwing away things I didn’t need in preparation for moving that I found the notebook from college. It contained the character profile I had written all this years ago describing a wolfcat – though it did not name the creature or its species. I’d written the piece on the day she was born.

The first revision of the entirety took about a year as did the second revision. In 2007, after a major publisher rejected the first book – from the wording of the standardized letter citing economic conditions and the changing book market it was clear no one bothered looking at it – I attempted to self-publish a part of the series. That didn’t turn out exactly like I planned though it was experience with the fledgling systems available for authors at the time.

I revised the entire series again in 2009 and another time in 2011 after sampling the entire series on Fanstory. Roughly a dozen people followed the story from start to end and I picked up a few fans in the process. One of my fans is a British poetess who composed a poem about my story.

There was another revision to the first seven books of The Chronicles in 2013 just prior to my submission of Fried Windows to Pandamoon Publishing. The last revision of the first two books before this current session was in January of 2014.

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As a very wise author once told me you’d best love your story if you ever hope to have it published because you will read it many, many times before it is finished.

#writing #publishing #revisions #TheWolfcatChronicles #authors #muses #origins #PandamoonPublishing #FriedWindows #OneOverX

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One At A Time

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A lot of people have the idea that when they publish a book they’re going to be rich. It’s a myth supported to some extent by the media and, certainly, there are examples of successful authors who are well-to-do based largely on the proceeds from their books and perhaps movie rights. That is an exceptional situation and it does not just happen as a result of publishing a book. For most successful authors there is a lot of hard work over years involved to gain a loyal following.

The sad truth is that most books will not be successful. And in many cases it doesn’t appear to matter how well the author writes. Some of the best written books I have ever read were the offerings of relatively obscure writers. If there is a simple formula for accomplishing success at the publishing game it’s telling a story well enough to entertain one reader at a time.

I could be wrong but I’m not sure a book can be written for the masses. Instead an author should have a target reader in mind whenever he or she is writing a book. If a story has natural appeal to a reader it will work out well for the author. Also the more hooks a book has that offer a way for the reader to get into the story the greater and more generalized the interest will be for the book.

Still, selling a book is mainly a one to one transaction. It has always been that way. It may take place at a public event between the author and a prospective reader. It could be a response to a social media posting the author makes that piques the potential reader’s interest. It might come as a result of a personal recommendation from a satisfied reader through a posted review or verbally expressed.

The point is that the best thing an author can do to sell his or her book is to address each reader individually and, if possible, personalize the pitch for the book. It is not easy. That’s part of the reason why there are millions of authors and only a small percentage of them are successful enough to earn some portion of their living from writing. But I’ve learned a few tips from reading about those who are successful.

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Sell yourself as an author before you sell the book you wrote. First and foremost you must build your reputation as an author. In this way with each successive book release the author’s brand is reinforced and over time a following is established. Then it becomes easier to promote books through word-of-mouth. You can begin the process of selling yourself in advance of your first book’s publication. Create a groundswell of interest in your writing. You may do this through establishing your expertise in the subject area or the genre of fiction you have chosen for your writing.

Examples of what you can do through your personal blog are posting articles or reviews on books of your genre, exchanging personal interviews with other authors and promoting the work of others in your genre through your blog.

Make personal appearances even if they are not traditional author venues. Authors compete for the same space in bookstores, libraries and all the other expected places for book signings, readings or speeches. Go where the people are but think outside the box. What about scheduling an appearance at race track, a shopping mall, a grocery store, a home improvements center. Almost every weekend there are events in most major cities that an author might also appear.  Attend conventions and fairs as a vendor and sell your books. Establish contact with local associations, clubs, literacy groups. Approach your local schools and colleges about your support for literacy – after all you write books and you want people to read them. Join groups that interest you. Build a support base as an author who is active in your local community.

Use your hobbies and other interests to gain attention. The media will help you sell books but only if it benefits them in some way. Sending out press releases about your book does not differentiate you much from the other million authors out there. Reporters are looking for an angle or an item of special interest to their readers, listeners or viewers. They want to know that makes you unique. What’s your personal story? Have you overcome some adversity or disability? If you are an expert in some field or an active proponent of some cause this can help define you as well and it will become a vehicle for pitching your book. Sell the expertise and your publication will be mentioned in support of your expertise.

Establish a street team to help sell your book. You need to get people talking about your book in advance of its release. Once it is released your efforts are far from over. People need to continue talking about your book. Enlisting the help of family and friends just to get started is fine but you must grow your support base organically from there. The most successful authors have loyal followers who eagerly anticipate the next book.

Initially an author grows the support base one person at a time and knows every member of the street team personally in some way, whether face to face, via email or social media. Over time the author acquires followers he or she may not know personally. A good sign that a fan base has evolved is when an author begins to receive unsolicited reviews from strangers. Another sign is when a reader spontaneously starts a fan club.

Create a way to interact regularly with your readers. Readers love making contact with authors. They also like to have the inside scoop on such things as when the next book is coming out, what it’s about, the inspiration for a book and even obscure facts about the author like favorite colors, biggest fears or interesting idiosyncrasies. Building rapport with readers firms a fan base.

Allow personal access at some level through a special email account you check periodically, membership on your blog, a social media page or account that you use specifically for reader connections. Send out special advance announcements and promotions to reward followers for their support. Make sure you maintain your connections, though. Otherwise something that was good for you can backfire making you appear aloof.

Be creative and be yourself.  Be different in some way from other authors. After all, you are creative, right? Come up with contests. One author I know ran a special deal that rewarded the winner with having a character in the next book named after him or her. Another author posted excerpts from her novel in progress and entertained suggestions from readers on how to advance the plot or just make the story better.

Whenever you interact with your readers or potential readers be yourself. Reading is a somewhat intimate experience between two people through a medium they share. One person writes the story the other enjoys reading it. Anything phony is pretty easily identified.

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#writing #authors #branding #selling #tips #books #fans

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Another Update On The Wolfcat Chronicles

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(Drawing by Amanda Williams, my daughter, depicting the Wolfcat Ela’na from The Wolfcat Chronicles)

Revisions of manuscripts may start out with lofty ambitions, reducing word count, removing redundancies, and identifying any substantive errors prior to sending it to a publisher. Results vary.

Twenty chapters, roughly 60% of the way  into the current revision of book one of The Wolfcat Chronicles I can promise I have deleted a lot of stuff that wasn’t necessary to the story but I’ve also added in just as much to clarify or enhance what was already there. Overall it is an improvement. The story reads better and the pacing is quicker. I’ve also managed to bring out more details about the principal characters. I’m calling the effort a success…so far.

For the dozens or so people who have read early drafts, the essence of the story line is in tact. Most of what I have removed was material added in to remind me as I wrote about other things. It’s a quirky thing I do in telling a story. You see, since it always takes longer to write something than it does to read it a writer has to put in little mnemonic cues or use some system to refresh details about characters and previous events told in the course of the story. Remember I wrote this with using a word processor program, which honestly is not the best way to compose anything of novel length. Also, since the book begins a series what happens affects everything that follows. So, somehow I had to keep all those little things in mind while I wrote the various manuscripts. There are programs available now that didn’t exist ten to fifteen years ago when I was first drafting this story. It’s easier for a writer to use something like Scrivener to keep things organized as he or she writes.

My present plan is to revise each of the books in the series in order and present them to my publisher so they can be added to the overall production plan that, of course, includes the works of other authors. So I can’t say for certain when the books will appear. I’m hoping that the first couple of books will be out by Summer or Fall of next year. The following year I’d like to see the next five books with the final three coming out in 2017. The last three need more revision than the first seven. For one thing I have to rewrite the last several chapters of the last book. I want to make it clearer what happens and how it connects into the rest of the universe I’ve created in my fiction, including Fried Windows and One Over X.

I expect to finish writing the sequels to Fried Windows and my next book, Becoming Thuperman (due out in January 2015) during the next year. So those books should also appear in the 2015 or 2016 production calendar. That’s up to my publisher and whenever I finish the manuscripts and submit them. Once my books are under contract and through the substantive editing process I should be able to give a better idea of a release date for them.

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#writing #authors #NewReleaseBooks #revisions #ProductionCalendar #TheWolfcatChronicles

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Origins of Ideas

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One of the standard questions writers are asked during interviews is where do the ideas come from? Every time I have been asked that about one of my stories or books I’m reminded of an interview Stephen King gave to a reporter in his study – the actual place he does his writing. He said he has the mind of a child. Then after a pause he reached down to open the bottom desk drawer and hastily added, “I keep it in there.”

Where is the magic place I go for inspiration? I wish there was place or some sort of formula I could use, but there is nothing like that. One of my author friends told me she carries around a note pad with her at all times and her significant other is accustomed to her stopping to jot down things often when she is in a place that one would not expect someone to get an idea for a story. Several people have told me they keep a notebook on the nightstand beside the bed to capture the essence of dreams. Others have quirky rituals as unique as they are. The point is there is no single right way to go about finding an idea. Sometimes it takes years for the kernel of a story to play out and generate the kind of inspiration that creates a book or a series.

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In the case of The Wolfcat Chronicles there were multiple sources of inspiration. There are a couple of sections that appear int hat series that began as stories I wrote in the 9th grade. Other parts, the character descriptions for example, come from a creative writing course I took while studying Mass Communication at Purdue University. Other characters emerged from the back story of One Over X, which was the first novel I published. A lot of that novel was written while I attended the University of Texas at Austin where I studied Marketing. The majority of the story I wrote just after I returned from Korea. A chunk of it I composed while I was recovering from surgery in 1995. And one of the major battle scenes in The Wolfcat Chronicles that appears in Book Seven of the series is based on the hallucinations I had while running a 104 F fever prior to being hospitalized with a bacterial infection in my bloodstream. So, you see there are a number of ways inspiration can come to a writer.

The nucleus of The Wolfcat Chronicles is the middle five books what comprise a volume I called One Pack when I wrote it as a contiguous story. At one point it was a 413 page draft written between May and July 2000. After five or six revisions to the story it continued to grow. It was  clear that it should be broken up into five parts, each between 200 and 250 pages. What was also evident was that issues left unsettled at the conclusion of One Pack  needed to be resolved. So, another story emerged that became The Last Wolfcat, eventually turning into three more books.

Between the writing of the last two books of The Wolfcat Chronicles it occurred to me that I didn’t know enough about the origins of the wolf Pack and the major characters. So I needed to compose a story that would flesh out more details and so I composed a two part prequel to One Pack which I called Spectre of Dammerwald. When I finished writing that draft I needed to revise One Pack again to ensure everything was in concordance between the prequel and the sequel pieces.

As I have mentioned previously in other blog posts the prequel to One Pack started out to be a children’s story. I began it at the suggestion of my publisher. A few chapters into writing it, the story was clearly not intended for children.

A lot of the inspiration for The Wolfcat Chronicles came from a role playing game I participated in with between fifty and a hundred other people in a large IRC chatroom between May and July of 2000. That was concurrent with the composing go One Pack in draft. In subsequent years I continued to be in touch with many of those people throughout revising the book. Some are the inspiration behind certain characters. Monte of my muses inspired the principal character, Ela’na. She is someone with whom I am still in touch all these years later though we do not chat as regularly as we once did.

The Wolfcat Chronicles pretty much wrote itself. There are times when, as a writer, you are in The Zone. You can feel the creativity of the moment flowing through you as if you were a conduit for a story. I’m not sure I care to know where those ideas come from but usually they turn out to be quite spectacular and result in cranking out 1500 to 2000 words or more at one a sitting – spanning several hours.

Some of the things I have written are based on my real life to some degree. Usually I draw upon personal experiences to fill in the details of a story, giving it a more realistic feel. But rapidly fiction goes off on tangents and the story diverges and travels far from reality. I write fantasy and science fiction because there are fewer limits to what can be done.

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Some of the people in my life can probably find characters in my work that are loosely based on them but I really try to use composite characters, people that don’t specifically exist as individuals. So one character might have the attributes of three or four people I know blended with some strangeness that is purely fictional.

There have been occasions when I have begun to write a blog about something going on in my life only to find it inspiring a fictional story as well. I think I understand that process best because it happens fairly regularly. It’s like the simple act of writing anything at all opens a pathway through which other ideas can make it out onto the virtual page of a word processor file. Think of it as turning the knob on a faucet to let the water flow. I believe that one of the best ways to forestall writer’s block is writing something everyday, no matter what it is. To that end you can truly be your own inspiration.

#writing #authors #TheWolfcatChronciles #Inspiration

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The Questions People Ask…

My favorite author has changed over time. So whenever someone asks me that inevitable question – as if an author can only have one favorite – it may actually be whomever I am reading at the moment. However, knowing that won’t work for the sake of an interview or even a general query from a reader, here is what I usually say.

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Kurt Vonnegut Jr was my favorite author through high school and college, though as my interests broadened I became interested in Douglas Adams for some of the same reasons I liked Vonnegut’s novels, but I also tended toward more intense themes and complex plots from writers like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K Le Guin, Frank Herbert and Robert A. Heinlein.

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frankherbertRobert A. Henlein

There are dozens of authors whose work I have followed over the years and many new writers I’m watching. Hopefully someone is observing my development as well.

Another question is: when did you decide to be a writer? I’m not sure there was an exact moment because I believe you are born with the gene and over the course of childhood you discover the inclination for storytelling. I think I always wanted to tell stories to people but it took some time to hone the skills to the point that I was better at it that the average person. From then on it became a matter of learning everything I could about the art  of writing in such a way that others would want to spend their money buying a book and their time reading it. For me, I became aware of the process around age 13. Mainly I was pissed off when my 9th grade English teacher wrote a note on a writing assignment that I took as a personal challenge. She said, “You’ll never be a writer.”

When do you know a book is ready to be published? I get that one every once in a while from aspiring writers. By the way, just because you have something published doesn’t mean you’re not still aspiring. A writer who is not still honing his or her craft has either lost the creative connection or has passed away. Writing is a lifelong adventure. Having said all that, I don’t know if there is a point that you as a writer know a book is ready to be published. There is a moment when you are satisfied that it is a good as it will get for the time being. You can overdo things, you know?

I think after the first dozen revisions, a book is probably good enough for others to read. That is not to say it is ready to be published. I think a lot of inexperienced writers are too eager to be published. He or she may arrive at the point of the latest book being as good as it will get for a while and mistake that for being ready to publish. Unfortunately, modern technology has permitted every writer to become published and all too often self published books are not ready for prime time. Whether the issue is substantive errors or lack of professional editing many a good story is not being enjoyed because it did not go through the complete process.

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Steph Post, author of the recently released A Tree Born Crooked, said in an interview that her manuscript went through a hundred revisions prior to publication. I have no trouble believing that. Recalling the editing process for Fried Windows, a hundred revisions may actually be a little on the conservative side. Also there isn’t a magic number or a moment or revelation when the author is completely confident that a book is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect book outside of marketing hyperbole. Every book, no matter who the writer is or how many best sellers he or she has published or the accolades received, has some mistakes in it.

Post also pointed out that you need to really love your manuscript because you will be reading it over and over again. So, it appears that the first real test for whether a a piece of writing deserves to be a book is if the author can read it that many times and still enjoy it. There is some magic on the pages after fall the nit picking if, as the author, you can read through the book you have revised countless times and progress from cover to cover without wanting to change a single word.

There are moments in the process of writing a manuscript that you gain confidence in a story. That may come as a chill that passes through your body or a general sense that you’re connected to the creative flow of the universe – depending on your mental state, the time of day and whether you have been drinking coffee or wine. If several days later you revisit what you wrote and read it sober and it still gives you the chill, you may be onto something. Don’t get me wrong. I am not condoning writing under the influence. I have done some of that in the past but I have not written anything in the past three years that was not composed while sober. Also, I don’t drink coffee anymore. I have found that my writer improved greatly. The need to go back and correct errors diminished significantly and, guess what, my mind actually comes up with a lot of strange things all by itself without any artificial stimulation.

I believe writers as a lot are obsessive, compulsive people and therefore we are prone to addictions born of comfortable habits. We may need to have a couple of beers to take the edge off of things and allow us to slip more comfortably into the alpha state that creativity requires. There are other ways to accomplish the same results, though. Oddly enough, exercising – taking the dog for a long walk, riding a bike or jogging – yields greater mental focus and connection with creativity. Listening to music also works for most people. So, even though I fell into a rut for a time and felt I needed to drink a few beers in order to be creative I have since learned there are many other ways of accomplishing the same thing.

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#writing #authors #creativity #influences #KurtVonnegut #DouglasAdams #SamuelRDelany #StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked

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Reading Other Author’s Books

books

A fellow author, Rose Montague, author of Jade, posted an open query yesterday on one of her social media pages concerning reading other writer’s material. Since making a brief post on that thread yesterday I’ve been giving the matter some additional thought.

Let’s start off with a qualification. Writers may seem the natural sort of person to approach for feedback on something you have written but if you submit your manuscript to an author for review be sure you have a thick skin. You see, your fellow writers can be brutally honest sorts. Also the more experience we have in dealing with editors, the more little quirky things we pick up and hone in on. In other words, be prepared to be told your baby is ugly. That manuscript you have labored over for the past weeks, months or even years may need some cosmetic surgery before it is ready to put out there for the world to see.

Over the past few years I have acquired a disproportionate number of authors as friends (not exclusive to social media) when compared to non-authors. I suppose the birds-of-a-feather thing may prevail there. More likely I’m drawn to other creative people because I seem to have a number of friends who are artists. That’s not a problem. I like being around creative people. The rub comes when one of the authors asks me for a professional opinion on something. Most of my friends know me well enough by now to expect some frank feedback. Those who have never asked before I warn in advance. I will not publicly post a bad review of something, though, unless the author is aware of it. I offer feedback directly to them. And I always qualify it with a general understanding that I am not a professional editor or book critic.

Here’s the problem writers have with other writers reviewing their stuff. We are creative but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are attuned to the same creative flow or our muses speak the same language. In other words, I may or may not get the message, the point or whatever about your masterpiece. That doesn’t mean it is not art or worthwhile as a piece of literature. It means simply, I didn’t get it – nothing more than that. It happens. I like what I like and I tend to write in a few genres with which I am comfortable. I may venture outside of my comfort zone to read a good book, but generally I read sci-fi and fantasy. For some reason, over the course of the past couple of years, I have read several paranormal novels and some romance, mostly historical.

It is the bane of being a writer to be asked to read something for comment. I do some of that too, approaching my friends with a new manuscript. Some will read it others will not. Many will post reviews when a book is published, some won’t. Sometimes a review isn’t posted for the simple reason that writers do not like trashing the hard work of others in a public forum. Privately, well, that’s another matter.

I hate assigning stars to reviews as a means of rating. It is a way of quantifying something that is subjective and therein is the rub. My 3-star may be someone else’s 5-star. Why? We key on different things. So there really isn’t any standardization for the ratings unless one considers the source. Even then, do you, as a reader, pay more attention to an author who has reviewed another author’s book than you do to someone you don’t know – and for all you know they might be the author’s uncle or best friend? Would it be best to focus on what other readers say about a book as opposed to a writer? Each reader and potential buyer must decide who to listen to and perhaps once you find a reviewer who seems to share your interests in books you follow that person’s reviews in the future.

Star ratings are particularly misleading when one considers this: Amazon.com, the largest domestic venue for buying books online, considers 1, 2 and 3-star reviews ‘bad’ while 4 and 5-star reviews are ‘good’. Amazon will headline the most popular ‘good’ review directly next to the most popular ‘bad’ review to give some contrast for the reader to make a buying decision. The glaring inequity of this is when a ‘book troll’ posts a purposefully negative review for no other reason than to trash an author and his or her work. All an author can do is post a complaint to Amazon but it is almost impossible to get Amazon to remove the unfair review. After all, a review is just an opinion. Everyone has one.

Also, readers who look only at the star ratings without reading the content of the review do not understand that in the mind of the reviewer the star rating equates to a specific point on the following scale: bad=1-star, fair=2-star, good=3-star, very good=4-star, excellent=5-star. Some reviewers offer a rare 6th star – meaning outstanding. I have also seen a couple of reviewers assign a 0-star rating meaning awful.

Knowing the system at Amazon I refuse to post a ‘bad’ review without the author’s knowledge. My 3-star review means I liked the book but there are things that could be improved that would have made the book more appealing to me. I will never post a 2-star or 1-star review because I know what that does to an author’s overall rating. There may be something I don’t like about a book that is just me and totally because I am a writer. If I rate something lower because of something the average reader wouldn’t notice then such a rating would not be fair. However, I will provide feedback to the author concerning what I did not like about the book and what I think could be done to improve it.

Having said all that, there are professional reviewers, bloggers and critics out there who rarely give 5-star ratings. Their rationale is persuasive, though. They consider the highest rating reserved for a book that truly exceeds expectations, an instant classic, or something so cutting edge that it will set a new standard for everything that follows. Some use established, best-selling authors in a category as a benchmark, pegging their work as 5-star and measuring every book against that. I don’t have a problem with this method except that so many others do not do it that way and so the value of a 5-star rating has been diluted to the point that an honest 4-star from a critical reviewer – which is a very good review – makes a potential reader think there is something wrong with a really good book.

For a couple of years I actively posted on a writer’s website called Fanstory and found it most helpful to receive almost immediate feedback on my writing. Receiving the opinions of ten or twenty other writers was beneficial, especially when they spent the time to mention things that worked and didn’t work for them as a reader. The problem I had with the site was that they also used star ratings. And, just as with the Amazon.com situation, there was inflation of the ratings rendering them meaningless in most cases to the point that an honest reviewer’s critical rating would severely impact the author’s overall ranking. That is one of the reasons I no longer post there. However, I do read and comment on the submissions of authors I have followed for a few years, now. In the process of belonging to the site I have learned that there is a wide variance of opinion on whether something is or is not good.

It’s hard to take criticism but it is absolutely essential that you learn to do so if you intend to become a professional writer. Your goal must always and ever be to improve you craft and the quality of the work you produce. Even if you don’t agree with what a critic says you  need to pay attention and determine whether it is valid and might make your story a better reading experience. The reader is the ultimate critic for every writer. And so, it becomes moot whether a critic liked your story or even how you feel about your work.

#writing #criticism #reviews #authors #Amazon

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Author Ken Donaldson Interviews Me

I’m not enigmatic and I’m not reclusive though it occurs to me that some think I am. It’s probably because I spend a lot of time in my creative space writing and because of that I’m not out carousing. Anyway, in an effort to tell more people about me I’ve been giving interviews. The following is a recent one my good friend and Australian author Ken Donaldson did with me and posted on Goodreads. It is used here with his permission.

Ken Donaldson

KD: I have seen you online, as I am sure many other readers have who are familiar with you from the self-publishing forums. Give us a little insight into your background as a writer.

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EW: Since I was 13 years old I have wanted to be a writer. I recall picking out a pseudonym that I have never used. In high school I wrote a few creative things and was a co-editor of my high school’s newspaper. That’s how I became interested in journalism, which is what I studied at Purdue University. While there I took several writing and literature courses and wrote a manuscript, portions of which eventually were incorporated into my first published novel, From the Inside. A few years later, while I was in the Air Force I served as a historian for my unit and composed an award winning 400+ page document, which was technically my first publication. Over the years I suppose my various muses and I have not always been on the best of terms. At one point I decided that I needed a lot more life experience before I could write the kinds of novels I wanted to produce. Mostly, I think I had to find my author’s voice and, of course, establish a better connection with my personal muse. In the mid 1990’s I drew together my notes and drafts that turned into the manuscript of my first novel in 2001.

KD: Tell me what other authors do you enjoy, who inspired you or influenced you the most to become a writer?

EW: I drew a little from Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Douglas Adams. I like the sense of irony in the works of both men. Also I particularly enjoyed Samuel R. Delany, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. In college I learned to appreciate a variety of other genres. I was particularly fond of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Steppenwolf and Beneath The Wheel. Ernest Hemmingway was someone whose simple writing style I came to admire. Lately I’ve been enjoying a number of up and coming authors like Teyla Branton, Karen Perkins and Margaret Snowden. There are a lot of really gifted storytellers out there who at the moment are obscure but I’m confident you’ll be hearing about them very soon. I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends.

KD: What made you decide upon the genre you are currently pursuing?

EW: As I said before, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy when I was younger. So it felt pretty natural to slip into that genre. It affords a writer great latitude in expressing his or her creativity. Since I’ve been told I have a wild and vivid imagination I tend to push the boundaries a bit and have never felt confined to the real world. Reality is an illusion, anyway.

KD: What is special about how you write? Do you have any set routine of method you follow?

EW: Early in the morning seems to be my most productive time, before the world around me wakes. When I start laying out a novel, I create the character profiles first and through dialogue I allow the characters to expose the conflicts. Later I go back and write the narrative pieces that connect things together, describing the settings and establishing the mood. Otherwise it is used to facilitate action sequences. However, sometimes the action is delivered through arguments between the characters. Novels with excessive narrative can be tedious to read and I personally feel narrative is more boring than dialogue. A reader should feel as if he or she is part of the story, maybe one of the characters or a bystander listening and observing what’s going on. Dialogue can drive a story in an immediately intimate and compelling way. The realism of the exchanges between characters is key to telling a story. I spend a lot of time making certain that dialogue flows well and sounds as natural as possible.

KD: What are the future plans you see for your writing next?

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EW: I’m working on a sequel to Fried Windows and several other projects. Always have at least two or three things going on at a time so that whenever one hits a snag you can move on to another. That is how I combat writer’s block. The next novel I have coming out is Becoming Thuperman, which is scheduled for release in January 2015. It’s a fun departure from Fried Windows about two kids – a boy and a girl – who are best friends. It’s summer vacation and like most kids they enjoy riding their bikes to the community park where they play baseball. There’s a big scary dog that lives down the street in the old house that everyone says is haunted. A spinster and her brother live there. Oh, and by the way, the kids are just discovering that superpowers run in their families.

KD: Do you have any brief thoughts in passing you would like to share with the readers?

EW: I’d like to express my gratitude for everyone’s support of my writing. There are more authors out there these days and there’s a wide variety of stories from which to choose a next favorite read. When someone tells me they have enjoyed Fried Windows or one of my other books it makes my day. Every author feels the same way. If you love an author’s work support him or her with a review – just a couple of lines telling other potential readers what you liked about the book. You don’t realize how important that is in the decision process for the reader or for the success of an author’s story reaching as many people as possible.

KD: I do wish you all the best in the future. Certainly has been a real pleasure Talk with you Elgon. That is where we conclude this Interview.

Link to Ken’s Amazon Author’s Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Donaldson/e/B00E6Y02E0

Link to Elgon’s Amazon Author’s Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Elgon-Williams/e/B001K8TYXU

#Interview #ElgonWilliams #KenDonaldson #Writing #Authors

 

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Do You Believe You’re An Author?

books

Publishing a book has never been easier. For would be authors that is good news. With the means to upload your manuscript and self-publishing it literally anyone can become an author. But there are some other, intangible factors making two questions key in the process. 1) Do you believe you’re an author? 2) Does the public believe you’re an author?

The ease with which books can be published has created degrees of authorship. Technically, the act of making a book available for the public to read makes one an author. A professional author makes at least a portion of his or her living form selling the books he or she writes. A successful author makes the majority of his or her living from writing. A best selling author is someone whose book reaches and maintains high ranking on a list of best selling books, whether by genre, class, time period or other consideration. So clearly just becoming published, whether it is self fulfilled or executed through a publisher, is only the initial step. The reader’s buy-in literally makes a difference in whether a writer is effectively an author.

There is a question about the legitimacy of self-published books. Some of that carries over from the past when vanity presses would publish any book for a fee. Critics refused to read such offerings and largely the process existed for writers to print personal memoirs to be shared with friends, family members and colleagues. However, in some cases, certain authors used vanity presses to print their manuscripts that major publishers rejected for whatever reason and  sold them personally  in much the same way as books were produced and marketed in the 19th Century. A few authors have gained the attention of literary agents and major publishers from bonafide sales of self-publoished works. This process continues even today.

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Major publishers may see themselves as gate keepers charged with filtering the variety and  volume of books to find those fit to print. But there are countless examples of books major publishers rejected that have gone on to be insanely popular, just because the publisher worried about the controversial nature or the material or failed to see its marketability. The single fact is that the five major publishers do not know what the reading public will like. They guess, same as anyone else.

What major publishers traditionally offer are editing, cover design, promotion and distribution services. Also they lend the company’s brand name, image and prestige as a badge of quality for the produced work – whether perceived or real. In many cases the quality component of their offerings comes from the simple process of professional editing.

Other services major publishers offer can be obtained in other ways… for a fee. Anyone can contract professional cover designer and arrange for appropriate channel distribution to have a book listed for bookstores and libraries. Promotional services can be purchased through contract with established marketing firms specializing in specific media that offer publicity and advertising in trade publication as well as general print and broadcast channels. Tech savvy authors may develop a personal following through social media and use that to leverage an initial pop for sales for a new release. As major publishing houses control over the industry has continuously eroded more and more authors weigh the value of their services and decide whether to do more of the work themselves and reap the rewards of higher royalties.

From a reader’s perspective the rise of self publishing has provided millions of new titles that might never otherwise exist. But with the plethora of material out there the reader may be at a loss for which books to choose. The book cover and description become all the more important in the decision process. Reviews, recommendations and other factors such as previous purchase experience matters as well. If a reader has an overall positive experience the author may gain a new fan. Also the reader may effectively recruit other readers for an author through word of mouth recommendations and a fan base may begin to grow. But if the reader’s experience is bad it will be difficult for an author to regain lost trust. Also the negative word of mouth may spread and quickly destroy the author’s chances in the market place. The recent addition of try before you buy programs offering samples of books or allowing the actual borrowing of a book help counter the hesitation in the buying process. But still, it is the quality of the book that will close the sale.

From a consumer perspective the cover and description may be critically important in making a purchase decision, but the quality of the reading experience always determines the success of the book. If there are numerous errors, whether lapses in editing, misspelled words or critical flaws in the plot, the reader may forego reading the balance of a book and move on to something more appealing. This is why every author, whether self published or working with a publisher, needs to have a professional editor. Any author who believes that he or she can edit his or her own book is foolish. Regardless of editing or basic proofreading skills when dealing with other peoples’ works it is a proven fact that when working with one’s own writing an author tends to see what should be there as opposed to what is actually there. For the reader, coming across a glaring mistake interrupts the flow of reading and breaks the suspension of disbelief necessary for complete immersion into the contrived reality of a book.

If you are to become a successful, best selling, professional author, you must have a supportive fan base that loves your books. Your readers validate you as an author, not how the book was processed and made available for purchase. Without loyal readers your status as an author is questionable.

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#readers #authors #writing #publishing #self-publishing