Category Archives: Experiences in writing

Upgrading Your Novels and Mark Lawrence

I’ve been writing for a while (years) and have reached the point where I want to pause and evaluate what I have done. The advantage of self publishing is that you can do this. Amazon permits you to revise and then re-publish at no cost.
For a Tweeker like me, this is a boon.

So, if you have written several books, especially those in a series, you might want to think about how you can refresh your work.

A new cover might be in order. You can retitle too. A few years ago, another author added her book to Amazon under the title Caught in Time. I was furious. That was my title, but titles are not copyrighted. So, too bad for me. You would think she could have done a search on Amazon to see if anyone else had the title, but she didn’t. Then a few weeks ago, the title Cosmic Entanglement came on and popped up ahead of me on the search list. Don’t think I was pleased about that. I thought about a re-title, but that would only confuse my readers. So, check out your title for a duplicate before you publish. Even so, I can re-title if I feel the need.

Back in the day, early writers were eager to get published and some drew their own covers or had an artistic friend put one together. That was good enough for a beginning author. Now, several years later, they have networked with other authors, attended conferences, and realize the advantage of a professional looking cover. I know a few who have revamped the look of their entire series.

Sales bumped up.

Okay, the outside is all spiffed up. What about the inside? If you are writing a series like I am, your earlier books don’t have your most recent books listed in the front matter. You might want to add them. Also, in the back matter, make sure you have a short teaser for each book with a link. Best time to catch a reader is when he has just finished and is interested in reading more of the story. One click and he’s there at your buy button.

Self publishing used to have a bad rap. Authors would read over their works and think it was just fine. We can’t see our own mistakes … trust me on this one.
Commas. And repetition. My downfalls. Try as I could, I didn’t catch them all, even though I have a Masters Degree in English, speech and journalism.

That’s why I’m now going back through my third book, Cosmic Entanglement and making it even better. Yes, it was edited by someone who was not only a science fiction and fantasy writer, but who also edited for several New York publishing houses. I paid a professional level fee, but still, guess what? … There were errors.

This time, I’m not going back in alone either. I use the ProWriting Aid program and Grammarly. It’s an eye opener. Prowriting Aid is reasonably priced at the premium level. ($70 per year) It gives a summary and then breaks down the writing for grammar, style, sentence structure, repeats, over-used words, offers correcting suggestions, and has a thesaurus for your words. Other reports are also available.

Grammarly is widely used. It has a free version, but mentions frequently that you have more errors which a premium version could fix. Unfortunately, it runs thirty dollars per month ($30) or cheaper per month if you pay either quarterly or in a lump sum. Lump sum is $139.95 which averages out to $11.66 per month. But then you are committed if you don’t like it.

I use the free version, however, if you’re writing hot and heavy, the premium might be your choice. It is cheaper than an editor. Or, is a good way to clean up before presenting to an editor, so her time isn’t wasted with minor spelling and grammar errors.

Now you know what I’m currently doing in the writing field. This aspect of the job is important, but it takes a different skill set than creating a story. Perseverance is critical. You must be able to forgive yourself for how many times you used the word just in the manuscript and never noticed. ( or various other words you may be fond of ) Editing again takes time, but it is time well spent.

Another place I’m spending time is in reading. I recently finished Mark Lawrence’s series Book of the Ancestor: Red Sister, Grey Sister, and Holy Sister.

I highly recommend the series.

If you like strong female protagonists, magical abilities and antics in an Abbey, you’ll like this story. I also enjoyed the allusion to a previous race that left behind strange technology, and a past starfaring race that visited the planet and incorporated bits of their genes into the current inhabitants, giving a select few extraordinary abilities.

Sound familiar?

Also, the world itself was intriguing. Covered in cold and ice, a narrow corridor rings the land, which is kept warm by an artificial moon. Its laser beam heats up this section at night, staving off the ice. Unfortunately, the sun is dying and the world’s getting colder. The corridor is narrowing. The people are getting squeezed for land, causing wars and violence as various nations fight for room and survival.

Into this mix arrives a young, dirty, recently orphaned girl called Nona. Kidnaped by a child trader and sold to the fight arena, she kills the son of the richest lord in the land by defending herself and a friend. She is saved from the noose by Abbess Glass who runs the Convent of Sweet Mercy and recognizes something special in her. But, there’s nothing sweet about the abbey or Abbess Glass who trains certain genetically gifted young girls to kill.

Four alien starships visited this world at one time, each carrying a certain trait now disbursed into the genetic mix. Nona is a rare child that carries three of the four. Speed, envisioning the path, and conjuring magic are her gifts. Size and strength is the fourth combination talent. A prophesy predicts one child will come with all four traits and save the world.

Nona’s abilities gradually unfold as she trains at the Abbey, becoming an instrument of destruction for whoever crosses her path. She finds friends, makes an enemy of the richest lord of the land, his older son, and the deadliest woman of power. Within the girls themselves hide spies and traitors. Be prepared for twists and turns, betrayal and loyalty. Plan to lose sleep if you read at night.

Mark Lawrence writes a powerful book with a powerful storyline that I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling science fiction, Experiences in writing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Women in Science Fiction

Exciting Time Dimension Scifi Series

Kris Rusch’s recent blog has hit a nerve. She addresses the problem of author burnout. According to her, a number of authors after going hot and hard at writing and marketing are finding that they need a break. I’m in that category right now. I’ve been publishing for over eight years and writing far longer than that. Eleven books comprise my two series with an additional anthology and novella. I’m very proud of the stories, and as a prolific science fiction reader, feel they are of a quality to match any of the good writers of science fiction out there.

However, I’m finding that, with the completion of my Terran Trilogy, I’m floundering for ideas for a new series. A few have suggested I follow the path of the Fallen and tell their story while others expressed interest in what motivated the fleet to leave Earth. I would be interested in any comments you might have either along those lines or for new suggestions.

Meanwhile, the clamor for new artwork from me increases. My daughter has bought a new home and her walls are too bare. She wants a vineyard painting to accompany the wine fridge we gave them last Christmas. A few in-law have commented that they would like one of my pieces, and I have some ideas in mind for them. I’m rekindling the excitement I used to have for painting.

Kris warns against getting a waning enthusiasm in writing and suggests ways to combat it. Luckily, our income doesn’t depend on my writing. So, that pressure isn’t there. I used to be able to promote my work visa social media and adds such as Freebooksy etc, but lately the return doesn’t justify the expense. Besides, I’m not a big social media person, either, and I’m growing less and less enthusiastic due to what I encounter in many of the blogs or comments. My ebook library is brimming with interesting books that I grabbed for free or at a good price from the free or discounted book sites. I’ll never get them all read. But it’s great to have choices when you are looking for something to read. Other readers may be in the same situation and not loading up as much as they used to.

In addition, I’m noticing Christmas on the horizon which brings with it a deluge of birthdays, including mine. I’m expecting this to be one of the best Christmases in a while, and want to fully participate in the joy of the season. (Barring the vitriol of those who prefer to tear apart our country rather than offer solutions) I’m aware of the amazing country I live in and am grateful for the life I have been given. (a bit of a Thanksgiving message there).

Nevertheless, I’m excited about this last book in the Terran Trilogy called the Weight of Gravity. It may be one of the best yet. I’m currently working with professional designer Toni Boudreault to craft an exciting cover. The publication date had been pushed back due to various events outside of my control, but then both  G. Martin and P. Rothfuss have more than eclipsed my mere few weeks delay by years for their works without much suffering. Still, this last work will be published in 2018, and that’s a hard deadline.

After reading Kris’s blogs about her writing path, I decided to plunge into her Diving series. I scooped a novella from one of her promotions and realized that the series didn’t have anything to do with the ocean, but rather her female protagonist was after salvaging old spaceships for historical value. Well now, that sounded interesting.

The first in the series, Diving Into the Wreck, introduces the lead character who goes by the name of Boss. She searches for old abandoned spaceships, interested in their historical value. What she finds is a five-thousand-year-old derelict called a Dignity ship with dangerous, malfunctioning jump technology. Several divers in her crew die. The lost technology bends time and space, moving ships through dimensional space so they can travel huge distances in a short period of time.

This powerful technology is just what the Empire is searching for in order to tip the balance of power in its favor. Not wanting that outcome, Boss and her team go off the grid and try to work under the radar. The discovery leads them to the Room of Lost Souls where as a child, Boss watched her mother disintegrate and crumble with old age under the influence of the ancient technology.

But even though she was in the same room, Boss stayed unaffected. The experience scarred her, but now a client wants her to return and solve the mystery of that haunted and hidden place. However, the more they discover, the more dangerous she realizes the tech is.

Okay, so the story was way more intriguing than I expected. I liked the time jump idea and the lost technology from an Earth five thousand years ago and light years away in distance. The story was well-written with no grammar or plot problems except the tantalizing mystery of what they called a Dignity ship and its connection to the Room of Lost Souls.

So I dove (heh, heh) into the next book of the series called City of Ruins. At this point, years have passed. Boss has a salvage company with four ships and several crew. After finding the first Dignity ship with ancient stealth tech, she is quietly searching for more. A lead to a planet with mysterious holes that erupt without reason suggests ancient tech may be at work.

But the planet’s government is hesitant to let her explore too widely, saying that those who enter the caverns created by the holes are found dead by unknown forces. This information only fuels her interest, and she assembles a crew to investigate the underground caverns. She selects within her crew four others who are immune to the ancient tech’s effect because she senses its nearness.

A parallel story runs through the book of Captain “Coop” Cooper. He is one of many ships in the fleet defending Earth five thousand years in the past. During a vicious battle, he tries to jump away just as his ship is hit. The result traps him and his crew in foldspace where they may linger forever if they can’t figure a way out.

Far in the future, carefully exploring a cavern where several deaths occurred, Boss eventually discovers an enormous cavern where she senses the ancient tech she has been searching for. While investigating the area, someone activates the machinery and it pulls Coop’s trapped ship out of foldspace into what Boss comes to realize is a secret landing bay.

Wary at first, but relieved at landing in a repair bay, the crew of the Ivoire notices the arrival of strangers into the room and the odd timeworn condition of the bay. Several attempts at communication result in success wherein Boss shocks the Fleet’s crew with the information that they have traveled five thousand years into their future.

The third in this series is Boneyards. Captain “Coop” Cooper and crew are desperate to find a way back to their fleet and their old life. Boss wants to find stealth tech to combat the Empire. The Empire, meanwhile, is frantically trying to develop stealth tech on its own but doesn’t realize what it is and is making deadly mistakes. This book features “Squishy,” one of Boss’s crew members who worked for the Empire on stealth tech in her past and killed many people in the process.

The book jumps back and forth in her past and in Coop’s story. Squishy wants to find the tech and destroy it to absolve her sins while Coop is frantic to return to his time period and the fleet. Boss suggests they investigate old landing sites that were being constructed in the Fleet’s early days in order to find the tech to repair his Dignity ship.

Coop has to decide whether to help Boss attack the Empire or risk losing his way back with Squishy’s plan to destroy it.

So, the series was so much more exciting than I thought it would be. The characters are well drawn, the action interesting, and the plot of ancient stealth technology and time jumping was really cool. I plan to read more.

You should do a little investigating on your own with this one.

Kris’s blog: click on link

 

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