I’m Back…I think…

Well, here’s hoping that I will be able to be in front of the keyboard enough to write some blog entries, make some tweets, do some face time on Facebook, and all that jazz! I’ve been AFK for the past two months for various reasons, the most exciting of which was a trip to Belize!!! For research, of course! I’m overflowing now with incredible ideas for Synergy 2012:Return to Magic, my next project. This urban fantasy is going to draw  upon the 2012 Mayan Calendar renewal, and I literally climbed a mountain inside and out to feed this story!

Thank you so much to everyone who has purchased Regression, Evolussion, and Revolussion. It’s incredible to think that tens of thousands of people have read my words, and many have enjoyed them enough to reach out to me through emails. I so appreciate that support, especially with the challenges we’ve been facing both personally and professionally in our family. The print copy of Revolussion will be coming, as well as an omnibus version, but they will simmer on the back burner for at least a few more weeks.  

I have an exciting new semester at school, teaching senior chemistry as well as an online course, and I hope the energy of the changing session will ride me through composition of Synergy…I’d like to have it ready for spring Equinox. We’ll see if life cooperates…

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When is a book finished?

This is such a difficult question to answer, and I’m learning my own response to it!

I re-wrote Regression a number of times, and actually am going to work on an omnibus for the holiday season which includes the first draft (alternate ending) as a bonus. Interestingly enough, neither Evolussion nor Revolussion have alternate endings since the first draft was very close to the completed copy. Why?

Because I learnt that the book will never be finished until I choose it to be finished, because there is always something which could be changed. When I read Regression, I begin to re-write it in my head, while I am more satisfied with the other manuscripts.

So the completion of a manuscript is the point at which you the author think it is finished telling the story. In looking at Revolussion, I know there are the smaller, side story-lines which I could have kept on writing, but I decided that those could be left up to the reader’s imagination. Dawn’s story was over. At least, her story as the mother of humanity. Stew, Nicholas, Hope, Avery…I could continue with their stories, but their roles in the original plot have ended, and I need to take a break from the Infinion Series to test myself against new material. Can I write something else? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Contemporary? I want to try them. And then, I might come back and carry on where Revolussion left off!

Look for news on Synergy 2012: Return to Magic on the blog as I begin a new project!

Doing a Book Reading Online

Sort Of. I’ve been invited to host a ‘Read With The Author’ Book Klub on Kindleboards and will be reading through Regression, Evolussion, and finally Revolussion (in the form of Advance Reader Copies). So, my monotone voice will not be droning on but I will be reading along with other people, in their heads. I hope. More need to show up or I’ll just be talking mainly to myself!

So, what is Kindleboards? It’s a great social site for Kindle users to share tips, ideas, book recommendations, and just hang out. I just learned a whole bunch about Walt Disney World from hanging around the boards, so it’s not just about Kindles, although ownership is strongly recommended as it does make it easier to take part in the conversations!

Since I’ve made the committment to visit the Kindleboards site daily over the coming months, I’m also going to try to get slamming out some blog entries. And of course, with the final book in the Infinion Series coming out soon, I’ll have to work in some background about that. Get it months before it goes on sale by joining me in the Book Klub!

Behind Regression: Nicholas Weaver

Although I knew, when composing Regression, that a man had been responsible for forcing the regressions to save the woman he loved, I had not planned on working him into the first story. But beta readers kept on asking how the heck Adya knew so much, making me realize my hints about her having multiple past lives were not obvious enough. Hence the journal entries from the future, sharing Nicholas Weaver’s thoughts and exeriences.  Not everyone catches the clues in Nick’s Notes (I tagged them as such when working on the draft) which explain not only what the disaster of 11/11/11 is, but also how many times he has replayed this same history.  

Even those who absolutely hated the novel appear to enjoy Nicholas and his thoughts. I enjoyed writing them, as well. I wrote them haphazardly, in no particular order, and then organized them within the sequence of the other chapters to compliment the content of the main story. One very astute reader noticed that the dates of Nick’s notes coincide with the date of the subsequent chapter of Adya’s story, but I am not sure if many others caught that connection. I added the dates after inserting the journal entries where they made the most sense.

Nicholas Weaver is a man chasing a dream. The dream of a woman loved and then lost, but also the dream of being the saviour of humanity. When he arrives to join the alternate timeline already in progress in Evolussion, he finds a world beyond any of his imaginings. And a cataclysm even greater than the one he spent one thousand years trying to avert. But, at least he has Hope. Where the two of them go in Revolussion is yet to be seen, as the story weaves itself at the end of my fingertips, but his character is one I especially relish writing. Perhaps he’ll give me a few surprises as the story materializes.

Kindle ‘Gifts’

Authors on Amazon had been offering free copies of their books, but I see the powers that be on the site have quashed the threads. Still, gifting Kindle copies makes a great way to provide promotional copies to digital readers.

If you have a book review blog and would like a copy of both books, let me know and I will gift them to you (no obligation to give a good review, of course!). I figure, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars sending out review print copies but my main market are digital buyers. So, bring on the reviewers who cater to digital readers!

I don’t have high expectations, since I don’t exactly have a large following here on wordpress, but perhaps those great spider/network/linking machines will work in my favour.

To write or not to write

…short stories, that is.

The Kindle is creating an opportunity which was never before an option – that of selling individual short stories, novellas, or novelettes. In the print world, anything less than your standard length of about 250 pages was not considered for publication unless bound within an anthology. For new authors, an anthology was unlikely. And so, most emerging authors have laboured to produce the requisite 80-120,000 word story for submission to the traditional publishers. Now, not only has Kindle – and the other platforms – opened direct access to readers for authors, it has also created a market for stories that are faster to produce.

So, what exactly is a short story, novella, etc? Since I write science fiction, I’ll use the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America classifications:
Novel: a work of 40,000 words or more
Novella: a work of at least 17,500 words but under 40,000 words
Novelette: a work of at least 7,500 words but under 17,500 words
Short story: a work of under 7,500 words

On Kindle, you can price your work as low at 99 cents (except those few indies who have figured out how to offer theirs for free…wish I could!), but only get 35% royalties at the price. Yet, what a great introductory price for familiarizing readers with your work and style! A shorter work certainly provides enough insight into your writing that readers can determine whether they would try other works by you.

If I took the time, I likely could compose a novella in less than a month. Writing the longer work takes a lot more time than that (let’s say 8 months). So, I could write 8 – 99 cent novellas in the same period of time. The $2.99 price point generates 70% royalties through Amazon, and appears to be the standard price point for full length novels from most indies (I’ve got Regression on sale right now for 99 cents but it will go back up at the end of February), but a bundle of 4 shorter stories priced at $2.99 would generate greater returns than one longer story which took 8 months to write and then is priced at $2.99.

I am going to finish Evolussion, of course, because it is the conclusion to the Infinion trilogy. But, after that, I think I will experiment with short stories and novellas. I’ve got dozens of story ideas on post-it notes around the house – have to jot it while it’s in my head – that could easily be fleshed out into novellas. Here are the prime candidates already begun.

First Ride – Young Adult Fantasy – A young girl discovers her hidden heritage when her mother takes her riding on her twelfth birthday.

Digital Sunset – Science Fiction – A family adjusts to the loss of all electrical devices as the Earth deals with a geomagnetic pole shift.

Synergy 2012:Return to Magic – Young Adult Fantasy – a school trip to Belize awakens a long-dormant bloodline of queens with magical powers.

Weighting It Out – actually, a contemporary story rather than scifi. A young woman thinks she has nothing to live for, and gives herself a month to determine if she wants to live or die.

With recent headlines (bird and sea deaths), I’m leaning toward working on Digital Sunset. And, of course, timing makes Synergy 2012 another more pressing project. With the upcoming semester change, perhaps I’ll be able to begin writing. As it is, with two courses over-full and one course I’ve never taught before, this semester has wrung me out!

Where to Begin?

I must confess, I am an inherent recluse and would easily fall into the stereotyped author behaviour of withdrawing from the world and living on my farm, having my groceries delivered to the home, and just staying in. The hubby and kids keep me too busy for that happen. But, part of my reasoning is that so many ridiculous, absurd, and utterly unbelievable things happen to me and those around me on such a regular basis that it is perhaps safer to not do anything or go anywhere!

I would have assumed that normal people have stupid things happen to them regularly, but enough people have told me my ‘curse’ manifests too often compared to normal people, and they have of course urged me to write a book. I am going to. And entitle it ‘Accounts of the Absurd: My Ridiculous Life’. Some tales are amusingly absurd. Some are heartbreaking. Many are outrageously funny in that ‘did that really just happen’ sort of way.
So, when did this all begin? Thinking back over the years, I have to acknowledge that the trials with animals began when I was in elementary school. Living on a farm, you of course get used to the life, and death, of farm animals. But my earliest recollection of an idiotic incident was the day a panel of plywood fell down and squished two of the tiny kittens in the litter I was playing with. I think I was only about seven at the time. That is one of the sad scenarios. Unfortunately, not every tale has a happy ending although most work out okay after much effort and perseverence.

It’s funny. Over the years many a person has bemoaned ‘how easy everything is for [me]’, that I always get what I want in the end. What those people don’t seem to realize is just how many hurdles, many of which were ludicrous, it takes to reach that ‘easy’ end. Yes, I am fortunate to have the many blessings I have and am thankful for them every day. But, I have also had to move Heaven and Earth to get to this point.

Here are some tenative chapter titles
Banking Blunders – why is it every time I try to do a financial move, incompetence interferes? And, not my own, LOL!
Water Woes – No matter where I live, there is always too much water.
Ridiculous Real Estate Deals – The mantra try, try and try again applies here.
The Perversity of People – It might be just me, but it seems like there are a lot of screwed up people out there, and I am the magnet that draws them in. Stalkers, murderers, and just plain wierdos populate my world, and were not invited into it by me!
Animal Antics – Honestly, how many people lose their Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep to a friggin Porcupine? I mean, c’mon, why headbutt the prickly thing in your pen, buddy?
Tales from Teaching – OK, so this field is probably overpopulated with anecdotes. But, you must admit the kid who asked me if I, since he thought I was in my sexual prime at 30, would come to his 17th birthday party since he’d be entering his prime, was pretty creative. The one who sent me pornographic email greeting cards was too. Not that I appreciated either approach!
Vehicular Vexations – I am guaranteed that every vehicle I own will have one major, mysterious problem that haunts me for the life of the vehicle and will never be solved. Thankfully not completely life-threatening problems, but still worrisome. Having driven close to 1,000,000 kilometers in the 23 years I’ve been licenced to drive, there has been plenty of opportunity for roadside irregularities as well.
Humorous Happenstances – There are many little stories that are harmless and silly. But still work cumulatively to drive me toward insanity!

Finding My Voice.

As a newcomer to the world of writing, I sought feedback for my first draft of Regression from a variety of sources. With time being a limiting factor, most of my interactions were through online communities for aspiring authors instead of real life writer’s groups. Authonomy, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, and others offered the opportunity to connect and consult with people who were both readers and writers. I learned quite a bit from those interactions, but the main lesson was to believe in myself and not be afraid to say ‘No, I don’t think I can do that.’

I solicited advice from those who took in-depth, critical looks at the work being posted for review on the writer’s communities, and also carefully read the critiques of other author’s work. At first, I frantically made changes to my worked based on the comments of my readers, trying desperately to make every potential reader happy. What I found was that there were as many different opinions about writing techniques and styles as there were authors offering opinions, and what one person wanted me to change or remove, another wanted me to expand upon or develop. I finally ended up explaining to one especially opinionated critic that as much as I appreciated her suggestions and efforts to provide feedback on my novel, the style she was attempting to lead me toward was a style she herself appreciated but one I could never see myself fitting into. I want to write like Kathy Bell, not Jane Austen. I Write Like I Live.

This was most clearly exemplified during my attempts to secure a traditional publishing contract. I submitted my manuscript to multiple publishing houses, and two of them expressed serious interest in my work. But, both of them had a list of changes they wanted to see happen before they would offer a contract. Imagine my chagrin when Publishing House A wanted me to change the exact opposite to what Publishing House B wished to change! I have had many people state one should not change a manuscript until a contract is signed, but of course I didn’t hear that until after I worked for weeks trying to adjust my writing style and story to make the possible book deal(s) happen. Unfortunately, neither lead panned out but the juxtaposition of the editorial commentaries made me realize just how subjective reading is, and just how much guesswork goes into editorial choices. Editors must guestimate the likelihood any given manuscript is going to meet the interests of the widest audience, and yet their guess is likely as good as mine in the changing landscape of the reading consumer. With ebooks making such an incredible array of books available, the final choice really is in reader hands and now we writers can write for ourselves instead of trying to meet the demands of an editor.

There are obviously some aspects which should be acknowledged in making a solid science fiction novel. Ensuring that action scenes are ‘experienced’ and not ‘told’, having continuity and validity, especially in your scientific concepts, making the entire thing make sense. But, these are generally objective aspects for the most part, not subjective. Even so, the objective facets of writing are malleable to a degree.

Now when I read through Regression, my first novel, I see a lot of elements I do not like. Compared to the first draft, the narrative is drastically different, and not always in a way that I think reflects who I am or can be as a writer. I changed it to meet the expectations of others. The retail version of Regression is about the eightieth draft! But, Evolussion is the complete opposite. I think it very truly reflects where I want to be as a writer, and (hmm, should I admit this in public?) is quite literally the second version of the story…much of the manuscript remains unchanged from the moment I put fingers to keyboard. I hope that the positive responses to the tale continue, because then I know that my own instincts about how to write a gripping, moving story were reasonably accurate.

Fun for Writers

For a little light-hearted writer fun, visit the following sites.

The Gender Genie, http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php . Bring with you a sample or three of your writing – 500 words or more – and the Gender Genie will oblige you by identifying your sex. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hold true to its verdict! But, if you are telling your narrative from one or the other sex’s perspective – which is likely, unless you are writing about aliens with three sexes – being aware of the words which are more ‘male’ or ‘female’ might help make for a more convincing narrative.

Here is the analysis of Evolussion, my soon-to-be released sci-fi novel and the sequel to Amazon Bestseller Regression.

Analysis
Feminine Keywords Masculine Keywords
[with] 9 x 52 = 468 [around] 1 x 42 = 42
[if] 1 x 47 = 47 [what] 4 x 35 = 140
[not] 10 x 27 = 270 [more] 3 x 34 = 102
[where] 2 x 18 = 36 [are] 2 x 28 = 56
[be] 6 x 17 = 102 [as] 14 x 23 = 322
[when] 3 x 17 = 51 [who] 3 x 19 = 57
[your] 1 x 17 = 17 [below] 0 x 8 = 0
[her] 29 x 9 = 261 [is] 10 x 8 = 80
[we] 2 x 8 = 16 [these] 0 x 8 = 0
[should] 1 x 7 = 7 [the] 124 x 7 = 868
[she] 18 x 6 = 108 [a] 37 x 6 = 222
[and] 28 x 4 = 112 [at] 10 x 6 = 60
[me] 0 x 4 = 0 [it] 11 x 6 = 66
[myself] 0 x 4 = 0 [many] 0 x 6 = 0
[hers] 0 x 3 = 0 [said] 0 x 5 = 0
[was] 28 x 1 = 28 [above] 0 x 4 = 0
  [to] 39 x 2 = 78

Words: 1611

(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1523
Male Score: 2093

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Since the sections were written from a male point-of-view, I am happy to have that verdict. The subsequent segment told from a female point-of-view scored differently.

Words: 1333

(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1816
Male Score: 1505

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

If you look at the words being tagged ‘male’ and ‘female’, you might notice the female ones do tend toward the social and/or personal. Pronouns and interrogatives. The male identifiers are object-related. Articles, adjectives, and prepositions. This makes intuitive sense because the average female is socially conscious, whereas the average male is action oriented. Now, don’t get all defensive about the whole thing, we the sexes should glory in our differences rather than try to be exactly alike!

Another fun site to try out is ‘I Write Like…’ http://iwl.me/

My ‘masculine’ passage rose to lofty heights…

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


While my female POV segment drew a less illustrious comparison.

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Again, this is just for fun and the results will often change with every excerpt you submit. As they add more famous authors, the result will be expanded.

A great way to while away time that could be better spent actually writing!

I’ll be starting a blog tour on October 11 to promote the release of Evolussion. The tour will last four weeks, hitting 20 or so blogs. Should be neat! More news to come.

School Visit

So I spent thirty-five minutes, times three, with groups of students today, discussing my book, the Kindle reader/ebook technology, and the publishing process. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I did have some experience to offer.

I started out with the Kindle because this generation has such a strong affinity to technology. Instead of having blankies and soothers, they have cell phones and ipods. I know some of them suck on the antennae!  So I asked how many of them had cell phones. Over half raised their hands – this was in a group of grade 5-8s, since the grade 5/6 teacher had a car accident and her classes were merged into the older ones for the day. Next I asked how many had iPods. Again, over half raised their hands. I asked if anyone had their iPod in the room…most hands went down, but the remaining hands elicited laughter from the teachers in the room, and then from the students as they realized I had made them rat themselves out…iPods etc are not allowed in the classroom. Anyway, I collected an iTouch, and held it up next to the Kindle to compare and contrast the two units. The majority of students had not seen a Kindle before. Students were especially interested in knowing how the iPad would fit in, basically as an overgrown iTouch, rather than a colour Kindle. The students easily noted the differences like backlighting, etc. We passed my Kindle around the room while I spoke a bit about the road to publication, some ideas about writing, and of course a bit about my book. With the group being younger than expected, and my book targeting a more mature audience, we didn’t really get into my story much.

It was a nice afternoon to spend, rather than marking exams, which I have to do tomorrow.

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