Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ravencon Panels (I’m Not Doing): Editors, Publishers, and Readers: What Rules to Break and Which Ones Don’t Apply

This is the fourth in my series of blogs on panels at Ravencon I’m NOT doing (of note, I’m keeping track of the schedule changes as they happen, and it appears there are a few more panels I’m NOT doing.  I started out scheduled for seven panels; the schedule is still changing, so I don’t know what the total will be, but it looks like I’ll be on fewer than that).  For further explanation, see my earlier blog here.

Editors, Publishers, and Readers: What Rules to Break and Which Ones Don’t Apply

Okay, this is a topic I might have considered being a panelist for (in fact, I’ve touched elements of it on this blog before), but it’s running opposite of another panel I’m scheduled for. So… let’s talk about it, here.

The panel is officially described as:

Many new authors have heard the rules: One POV per scene, don’t use adverbs, Limit the POVs to no more than three per story. These “rules” have been taught for over a hundred years, but who came up with them and do they still apply to the modern reader?

So, let’s cover some of these rules, shall we?

The panel description mentions:

A.  One POV per Scene:
Your options with Point of View are determined by your perspective.  In first person (unless you’re writing first person omniscient, which is… uh… possible, but unusual) changing POV mid-scene is, well, NOT something that can be done — a story written in first person is, by definition, one written from a single point of view (the narrator).
Third person unlimited perspective is all about head hopping.  The narrator knows everything, including what everyone thinks.  If you know what everyone thinks, there is no head hopping.
And 3rd person limited perspective does its best to mimic first person POV, but allows you to change that perspective between scenes.  So, in theory, no POV changes… aka, no head hopping should happen.
But sometimes, it’s unavoidable; you write a scene entirely from a certain character’s perspective, but then you need one more sentence to show something that happens the moment he leaves the scene, or when he’s not looking.  The question becomes:  Do you break the scene for a single brief sentence or two, or do you head hop?
You can BREAK THE RULE (gasp!) and head hop, like many authors do (including, infamously, one of the most successful writers in the world (Nora Roberts)), or you can follow the rule and make a one sentence scene to show that little thing, as many other successful writers would.  You’re the author.  As long as readers can tell which character’s perspective is in use at any one time, they won’t complain.

B.  Don’t Use Adverbs:
If you use significantly more adverbs than your story can support, then it can read really weird.  Usually, this can make the writing appear slightly weak.  Oddly enough, a significantly large number of writers actually use adverbs even while frequently protesting their use.
The thing is, an overuse of adverbs really does make your writing weaker (as seen in the paragraph above).  Moderate use of them, however, can be a powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal.

C.  Limit the POVs to no more than three per story:
I’ve never heard this rule, to be honest.  I can’t really comment on it, other than to say… really?  No, don’t bother with this rule.  Well, I suppose if you have a different point of view for every scene, and your 400 page book averages two or three scenes every page, and you have a new POV for EVERY SINGLE SCENE, that would be… hard to parse (though if you ever wanted to try your hand at experimental literature, there’s a suggestion for you to experiment with).  Again, moderation is key.

I could go on, citing rules from the likes of Stephen King and Elmore Leonard, but I think I’ve made my point.  The “rules” you see do come from somewhere, usually, but are usually overstated.  If you’re just careful in how you break them and apply a little moderation, you can get around just about any one of the so-called “rules of writing” that you hear.

The truth (as Kristine Kathryn Rusch points out here) is that no-one but authors think much about these rules beyond that bit of moderation and care.  That’s not to say there are no rules anyone should ever follow (you should pay attention to your grammar, although even there you have some flexibility — the University of Chicago, APA, MLA, Strunk and White, Harcourt’s, etc. disagree on several key issues; many publishing houses have their own “house style” that compiles elements of some or all of these.  And that’s just using American English — factor in the variances caused by the British and Australians (and possibly others, but those are the two I know of) having enough variance in the dialects to have their own set of grammar styles, and you’ll realize that you have a lot of options.  I’ve got my own house style, even, which I will be editing all of my works to.  Eventually.  In software parlance it’s still in Alpha, so it’ll be a while before I do that)

So, the rules exist for a reason… but the rules are also made to be broken.

So, Perhaps I Brought Back the “Weekly” Blog A Few Weeks Too Early…

So, a few weeks ago I announced that I was returning to blogging. And since then, outside of a brief status report, I’ve posted nothing.

Oops. Truthfully, I really got too busy again, and forgot to let you all know. See, I did get accepted by that anthology, but I was sent a number of editorial notes.

Sadly, I am now overdue on returning them (though that’s okay; I arranged for an extension) after I bit down on something hard (still not sure what; maybe a fork?) and broke a tooth; something that will require months of repair work, it seems. For about a week or so, at the worst possible time for that project, I was completely unable to work on much of anything thanks to the pain medication and the antibiotic I was on. At least now I’m finally almost done (though if I have enough time before my extension runs out, I might see if I can run it through a scaled-down form of my beta process again), so that’ll be out of the way soon.

But what’s brought me to come back to blogging isn’t my time freeing up again (it hasn’t, yet), but rather that I’ve received in my e-mail a draft version of the Ravencon schedule of panels.

Again, I’ve been very busy, so I haven’t made an extensive search of the panel list. And it’s a draft; I imagine there will be changes (one panel I’m scheduled to be on has over a dozen panelists on it; I imagine the numbers will be reduced before the schedule is finalized; by the time all the panelists could be introduced, the panel would be over, so I’m guessing a few writers will be cut from that panel).

For now, I’m scheduled to appear on seven different panels at the convention. The minimum is four, and it’s my first convention as a guest\attending professional\appearing professional author\whatever the convention calls it, so I asked for a lighter schedule than I thought I could handle. Seven panels is more than I asked for, but if I’m not cut from any of them I think I’ll be fine.

Assuming nothing changes (again, I expect changes) then I will be working with over two dozen other professional authors (or professionals in other author-related fields) during those three days. I’ll have two panels on Friday, one on Sunday, and four on Saturday… but none Saturday night. And the only period where I’m even slightly worried about mealtimes (something I’ve had trouble with during conventions where I haven’t even been a guest) is Friday evening, where I have two panels slipped alongside the opening ceremonies right around dinnertime, with the (guest-only; sorry!) green room meet-and-greet sandwiching them. I think a light dinner will be available at the meet-and-greet, though, so I should be okay.

Closer to the event (when the schedule is more final), I’ll break down the exact panels I’m on and everything.

Well, here’s hoping I actually finish these [expletive deleted] edits in time. I’ll TRY to post another post next week… but it took me MUCH longer to get this one out than I thought it would.

Edit:  Comments closed due to a massive attempt at spamming.  E-mail me if you want them re-opened.

Oops…

So, I forgot to write a blog last weekend… and I almost forgot to write one this weekend. I don’t really have enough time, today, to do much of anything for today’s post, but here’s a status update:

I’m still revving back up on In Division Imperiled. I’m not going to try and guess how complete it is (I always seem to embarrass myself trying to make these estimates), but I’ve done a lot on it and there’s still a lot to go.

I’ve decided to try and push The Merrimack Event out before Ravencon, but I haven’t done anything new towards that, yet — it still needs editing and cover art. It should be faster than usual to get edited, at this stage, and I don’t have the problem of needing a specific style of artwork for the cover as I do with In Division Imperiled, but I really do need to get working on that soon.

I still haven’t heard anything back about my anthology submission. Crossing fingers, here.

My hardware issues (the big one being a transition to a new laptop) are largely settled. So now I can start doing things like working\writing lunches out at my favorite sushi place (the best way for me to overcome writer’s block) and the like. Also, the keyboard of the new laptop is configured a little differently than my old one, so I’ll need to get used to it.

The blog software has only partially been updated, mostly for security purposes. Some things aren’t working, though (my statistics plug-in is completely non-functional), and they require intervention from my ISP… which I haven’t been able to contact. Once I get all that fixed, MAYBE I’ll finally be able to update the convention calendar.

Hopefully I’ll have a more interesting blog post next week. Wish me luck.

Going on a (Brief) Hiatus

Well, the good news is I’m not talking about the election (politics is forbidden on this blog!). Now for the bad news….

I’ve not been posting new blogs as regularly as I should, but not for lack of trying. Unfortunately, instead of my making this more routine, I find myself having to put this blog on hiatus until the New Year.

The reason is a good one, though: I’m just too busy. I am hoping to finish the first draft of the third volume of the Law of Swords series by Jan. 1; I’m not sure I’ll make that deadline, but I’m hopeful. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I still need to send the Merrimack Event off to the editors; I’ve been procrastinating on that one for years.

I’ve got another project with a New Years deadline, however; I was invited to submit a story to a multi-author anthology. A ten to twenty thousand word short story (really a novelette or novella) with a Dec. 31st deadline for submission. That’s a tight schedule, especially for me (I’m slow enough as it is, and I struggle with writing in the short form so much that it can sometimes take me as much time to complete a short story as it does a full-length novel).

I’m intrigued by the invitation, but obviously have some scheduling issues. I don’t want to slow my Law of Swords novel, and the season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is always full of distractions. The only way I have a CHANCE of making the deadline for the anthology without delaying my novel manuscript is to pull the writing time from periods where I usually don’t or can’t work on my novel, anyway… which is the time I usually spend working on this blog.

So, until I finish that anthology submission (or until it gets too late to submit to the anthology and I have to abandon that project), I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I can’t guarantee I can make ANY of my deadlines, but I can guarantee I won’t make any of them unless I do this. Wish me luck!

So, I had a Blog for this week…

So, I had an idea for a blog for this weekend focused on “Awards Season” (referring to both the Hugo Awards and the new Dragon Awards). The thing is, I really, really want to avoid alienating any potential audience I have, so I’d really like to avoid controversial topics on this blog… and oh, boy, have the Scifi\Fantasy awards become controversial over the years.

I thought I could write a post without touching the controversial bits — focusing largely on how midlist indie writers can just ignore the whole mess these awards have become — but… well, in the end, I couldn’t do that.

So, instead, I’ve scrapped that blog post (don’t ask for me to show it to you — I’ve already deleted it, and there was no back-up, and I have zero interest in reconstructing it) and instead decided to write one on why I don’t have a blog post this weekend.

And, because I try to plug them at least once in each of my blog posts, go ahead and buy In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, and The Kitsune Stratagem if you haven’t already.  (I’d write a blog post on why you shouldn’t just continually post “Buy my book!” like this, but I think I did that already with my Self-Publishing Roundtable post on marketing.  Ah, well — it’s been a wierd week)

The BIG News! (Manage your expectations — it’s not that big)

I have good news (for me)! I want to manage your expectations a bit, though — it isn’t a new book coming out (though it may push me to try and finish up another book or two a little faster).

I’ve recieved my first ever invitation to appear as a programming guest at a convention — in this case, Ravencon. This isn’t out of the blue. I had to apply to be a guest, but I doubt that all applicants get accepted, so it’s nice to get the invite.

Now, I’ve been a PANELIST, before — I used to regularly appear as a fanfic panelist at numerous Anime conventions of various sizes (Katsucon, Otakon, AnimeUSA, and the very first Nekokon), starting in the 90s (whether it was 97 or 98, I can’t be sure) and last appearing in 2005.  And I was scheduled to appear on a panel at CapitalCon, before that convention was suddenly cancelled.  The difference (in part) is the number of panels the guest is required to appear on, the amount of promotion that guests recieve, and the expected credentials of a guest versus a panelist.

So, it’s my first appearance as a pro, the first convention where I (should) be on multiple panels, the first time I’ll be on a panel at a sci-fi convention (as opposed to an anime convention), etc., etc.

For a lot of writers, it’s just a bit of fun and an opportunity to meet their fans. At this point in MY career, however, it’s a major milestone; an acknowledgement of my bona fides by an organization that frequently deals with professional writers.

I would really like to get two more books out between now and then. Having briefly heard about my editor’s schedule over the next few months, that schedule could be tight (I use a different editor and cover artist for each series, so if I actually take the time off of writing “In Division Imperiled” to release it, I could easily push “The Merrimack Event” out in time. I’m still only half-way through the next Maelgyn book, though, and apparently the earliest the editor of THAT series can start work on it is next January. For perspective, when it came to “In Forgery Divided,” my editor started work in a September and I didn’t get it out until that March. Ravencon is in late April, so I’d need to get it done faster than that. And that’s assuming I get the book finished by January; if I take the time off to get “The Merrimack Event” out, it might take me longer than that. Sorry, I write slow).

Schedules might be tight, but I’m going to aim for that as a goal, anyway; I might not make it, but I can try.

And then all I have to do is try not to embarrass myself too badly in front of the crowds at Ravencon.

Back in the Blogging Business… Tentatively

So, I’m sure some people out there, who didn’t see my last post, are wondering where I’ve been the past few weeks. Well, I mentioned recently that I was expecting the Sunday Blogs to be less regular, but I wasn’t intending quite so long a break between posts.

Part of the problem was sheer “laziness,” I’ll have to admit. I haven’t been working on posts for this blog quite as much as I used to, because the times I normally spend on it have been cut down somewhat and I haven’t worked to free up additional time elsewhere. The bigger issue, however, was that my blog software went haywire, and I was trying to figure out how to fix it without wiping out all of my previous blog posts to do it.

I won’t go into details as to what was going wrong (a few details are in the last blog post; I was originally intending to delete that post, but I figure I’ll just leave it archived for now). Suffice it to say the problems were bad enough that any new blog posts taking more than a few minutes to write were almost impossible to add.

Things are fixed, now, however… I think. The problem seems to have been caused when my ISP tried to “update” my WordPress software, which I had already manually updated to the latest version. One update corrupted the other in a few minor ways, and suddenly the whole blog was lagging like mad, things were going haywire, and I had to temporarily disable and delete several plug-ins (I’ve now been able to re-install most of them, but I lost my entire statistical history. A relatively minor loss compared to what I’d feared, but still an issue).

But I am back in business… I hope. And just in time — I have some very good (at least for me) news to share; I just need to make things official, first. So expect an announcement next weekend, and maybe a resumption (at least an irregular one) of the Sunday Blogs.

Edit:  Comments closed to prevent spam.

Test Post

My blog software has gotten a bit wonky, which has made writing my usual Sunday Blogs next to impossible. This test post is to see if I can still edit POSTED blogs (as I appear unable to edit un-posted blogs and save that data from session to session).  Certain data and settings aren’t saving from session to session, my stats plug-in is sending me monthly statistical breakdowns in email every 30 seconds instead of every 30 days, and more. I’ve sent e-mails to various tech support providers (ISP, WordPress, and the affected plug-in authors). I’m hoping to get everything fixed soon.

This test post will remain up until I’ve got enough bugs worked out to start posting regularly again.

In Forgery Divided Now in Print… (finally!)

It may have taken two months, three proof copies, an emergency consult with my cover artist, and some frantic e-mails to Createspace to resolve the cover issue, but as readers of my Facebook page, twitter account, and\or mailing list have already heard, In Forgery Divided has FINALLY been released in Print. I’ll include a list of a few places you can get it from, below. (This post is currently in draft form; if it is accidentally posted prematurely, please note that I’m waiting for those links to be generated before adding them)

This marks the completion of any substantial work on this book, with the possible exception of some minor marketing I might do as opportunities arise. This clears the way for me to start my next writing project.

At the moment, the plan is for that project to be In Division Imperiled, the third book in that series. Past experience says such plans are worth less than the paper they are printed on (wait, they’re on my computer, not printed on paper. Though I’m not sure that makes any difference), but at any rate I’ll finally be writing again! For a writer, I don’t seem to be doing that often enough.

At any rate, here are the links to the print edition:

From Createspace

From Amazon

From (space reserved for updates as I find links)

I sometimes see people ask “which vendor would be the best to buy from for the author?”  Well, buying from Createspace gives the author the most money, Amazon gives the author mid-tier money and improves Amazon Bestseller rankings (which might help sell the book to others), and other places improve Nielson rankings (which might encourage future purchases by brick-and-mortar stores).  So… buy wherever you want for whatever reason you want.  All of it can help.

Post-Publication Quality Control… (Oops)

Voltaire once wrote: “The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.”  (Well, he said something like that — translations get a bit wierd.  And he probably wasn’t the first person to say it, but I couldn’t find anything proving that.  At least it’s not another misattribution, however).

In writing, it is often used to refer to the phenomenon of never being happy enough with your finished work, and constantly revising it, to the point that your manuscript can never be good enough to publish (or submit to an editor, or… well, you get the idea).

The way to combat this is to work out all of the truly major errors, and then to set limits as to how long you take to polish out the rest (for example, “I’ll give myself until (insert date here) to make as many changes as I can” or “I’ll make one last pass and then I’m done.”  You can fudge this a bit — say, you need one or two extra days to complete a pass through, or you want to go back to make some quick changes to one particular scene one last time — but you can’t go over “deadline” too far or you’ll never finish).

There may be a few errors left in such a manuscript, even after a good proofreading, but believe it or not that’s average — in studies done comparing indie publishing to traditional publishing, there are an average of six typos or other mistakes that make it to publication by traditional publishers, even with all of the extra manpower they can afford.  One of the advantages eBooks have over print is that, if the author (or publisher) can catch these errors after the book is released, corrections can be made.

Now that “In Forgery Divided” is released and dozens of new eyes are on it, I put out a call on Facebook for people to track down any typos.  I’ve recieved a few replies, and in those few replies some minor errors (emphasis on minor) have surfaced that need correcting — about two dozen all told; a little more above average than I’m happy with, but not horribly so.  (Note: I haven’t asked permission from these people to use their names, here, but I am very thankful that they were willing to help).

So, tomorrow (or perhaps you could call it the day after tomorrow) I will be uploading a slightly revised version of “In Forgery Divided” to the various online stores where it is available for purchase (this will be happening after midnight, to minimize sales disruption). The book is quite readable as it is, and nothing substantive will change, so feel free to buy it now if you haven’t already.  My understanding is that, once I’m done uploading and the revision is approved, anyone who has already purchased the old version will get the revision the moment your Kindle (and thus far, all of my reported purchases have been for the Kindle) syncs up with Amazon.

If you’re expecting to notice any changes… well, unless there was a particular typo or missing word that caught your attention, you won’t. The changes are all insignificant to the average reader.  The book has already been edited, proofread, etc., so there aren’t even that many of these changes, and I wouldn’t bother mentioning it — I wouldn’t even bother doing it — except for one thing:

I made a mistake in the back matter.

Some of you may not be familiar with this term; it is a technical term writers and publishers use, but is not often used in common vernacular. The term, paired with “front matter,” refers to all of the material which is included inside the (virtual, in this case) binding which is not actually part of the contents of the book. This would include (if the book has them) the title page, copyright page, acknowledgements and dedications, frontispiece (either as an illustration or as a map), table of contents, maybe a foreword or afterword depending on how the book is structured, even things like cut-out coupons (in the old pulp novel days), etc.

I hope you can see why a mistake in the back matter might be a bit… frustrating to have to correct.  In my case, the mistake is the announced title for the (still to be written) third book in the “Law of Swords” series.  I used the wrong version of this upcoming novel’s title, and must swap that out for the correct “newer” (scare quotes for a reason) title.

Now, by now I’m hoping my readers understand the system in place for this novel’s titles.  The forged, from In Treachery Forged, became the Forgery in In Forgery Divided.  The Divided in that title will become “In Division” for the third book’s title… and the word following “Division” will be used in slightly modified for the fourth book’s title, etc.  I made a mistake with the 3rd book title because the title of the 4th book was also changed.

Now, in writing parlance, I am something in-between a plotter and a pantser (a plotter tends to write detailed outlines they try to follow; a pantser starts with little or no plot in mind and develops the story “by the seat of their pants,” hence the name).  While I started writing In Treachery Forged with a “seat of their pants” plot, I made plans for the future as I wrote.  By the time I was done writing, I had outlined the series to its conclusion for an expected total of five books.

This was back in 2007, before the industry changes which made self-publishing practical (yes, In Treachery Forged is that old.  Stick around and you’ll hear why it took so long).  I started reading guides on making pitches to agents, attending conventions where editors were present (at a Marscon one year, my mother went around following Toni Wiesskopf, the publishing editor of Baen Books, from panel to panel taking notes.  I, meanwhile, was tracking down all the other authors and editors at the convention — there were too many of these panels for me to attend by myself), etc., etc.  Basically, while I was revising and polishing In Treachery Forged, I was educating myself on just how to “Get Published!” in the traditional way.

A certain conclusion was reached from all of this:  Most publishers wanted to know that you had sequels planned before buying your book.  Many publishers would ask to see your outlines for these plans.  Few publishers at the time would buy an unknown, debut author’s proposed five-book series, however — with some exceptions, they were looking for trilogys, and the longer you planned it to go beyond that, the less likely a publisher would take it.

An axe was taken to my outlines.  While I couldn’t cut it back to trilogy-length, I was able to cut the length down by one book.  The story elements in Book Four were divided between books Three and Five, so book four no longer existed (and, incidentally, the final book’s title was changed as well).  I thought the plot was weakened, and that I’d still wind up with absolutely massive tomes for the new books three and four, and it still didn’t bring be down to that ideal “trilogy” length, but I’d cut out as much as I could.  “In Division Imperiled” was re-named “In Division Deceived” (the errant title in the backmatter).  I wasn’t happy about it, and saved my original plans while I started submitting to publishers.

Fast forward about six or seven years; while I’d originally expected it to take two-three years to find a publisher in that climate (as I’d been warned about through my research), I wasn’t published yet and hadn’t even gone through a quarter of my “submit to these publishers” list.  I started with the bigger names, of course — Daw, TOR, Baen, Pyr — and had a number of smaller presses on my list as well.  I knew some took longer and others shorter to reply, but I was expecting an average turn-around time for a rejection of 3 months, and an acceptance of 1-2 years.

The numbers I had read about were wrong.  Every single submission I made took longer, by far, than the “3 month average” I had read about.  One publisher held the manuscript for six months, one for a year and a half.  A third held onto it for over four years… and I had to pull it from them because they still hadn’t made a decision!

During those years I was waiting, a game-changing revolution was going on in the publishing world:  A practical system of self-publishing had been introduced.  And better yet, authors were having success at it!

I had my head in the sand.  I really wish I’d considered the idea before; trying to get myself published the traditional way was interfering with my ability to write new books, and it might have even been more profitable had I released “In Treachery Forged” just one year earlier.  Ah, well — playing “what if,” while a good way to come up with a plot for a novel, is not a viable life strategy.

At a Marscon, one year (several years after the Toni Weiskopf one), I arranged a one-on-one sit-down discussion with the editor\publisher of a small press publishing house.  It was that editor (who later shut down the traditional publishing wing of her publishing house and became a self-publisher herself; curiously, many of the authors she’d published also went the self-publishing or similar route) who talked about how the self-publishing revolution was changing the industry that finally got me to see what I was missing.

It took a while to get everything I needed together (cover art, editing, etc.), but by December of 2013, In Treachery Forged was out.  A little after that, I released Kitsune Stratagem, and started the process (which has been discussed here, before, ad nauseum) of getting the still-delayed “The Merrimack Event” ready.  Then, FINALLY, I was ready to start writing the sequel.

I found the old file with my outline.  Both versions of the outline, in fact, with both sets of planned titles.  And even though I’d had several years of seperation to detach myself from my original plans and to think about it all, the five book outline was still MUCH better than the four book outline.

And so “In Division Deceived” went back to being “In Division Imperiled.”   Just not in the back matter.

In case you were wondering, Book Four went back to being “In Peril Revealed,” instead of the four-book outline title of “In Deception Betrayed.”  I’m still undecided about the ultimate title of the fifth book (or even whether the series will stay at just five books; new plotlines have arisen that weren’t planned for; while I’m hoping to keep to the gist of the outlines I have already made intact, I’ll have to completely revamp them to account for these new subplots.  If enough new material gets added, I may have to plan on a sixth book)

And, like I said earlier, don’t worry about buying it in the meantime — you probably won’t even notice the changes.