Let’s Talk About Fantasy

My writing career started with Sedition, a fantasy novel about a pair of brothers trying to Sedition-WEBrescue their mother. The book went through several revisions – and so many titles it hurts my head to think about  – but in January of 2011 its story line was set in stone.

(Mostly because the publishing house would have smacked me if I tried altering anything after the Galley Proofs were done.) 

When I first started writing it, I was doing it for fun. I enjoyed stories and wanted to tell one, so I started writing snippets on 3×5 cards that I carried with me wherever I went.

Fans of the novel might be surprised to learn that Trenna Croften was not the original hero. In fact, the book began with Brigetta Isleen Chridhe – the woman magically abducted from home and dropped in the middle of a political war between a King and his sons.

I learned about Kiavana – the kingdom where the first book takes place – through Brigetta because she was just as new to the stage as I was. At the time I knew very little about writing, so I stumbled through the countryside right along with Brigetta, encountering senile knights who continually “squired” whoever happened to be the most helpful, and a prince who hid his motivations under a veneer of disinterest and materialism.

As I began to uncover the secrets of the world I was creating, Trenna Croften emerged. In fact, her first appearance was the scene where she interrupted an assassination attempt on the eldest prince. When she asked if assassins were paid well, she made me laugh, and essentially stole the book from there.

Saboteur-WEBOr… well… a whole series, as it turns out.

Saboteur, the sequel to Sedition, was released in January of 2012 and in February we will see Usurper make its way onto virtual shelves.

While Brigetta may have been reduced to a minor character in the original novel, I’m happy to report that she has a much larger role in Usurper. I had thought that writing her would be easy since I knew so much about her origins, but as it turns out I was wrong.

For the timeline of the novels, it has been over 20 years since we last saw Brigetta and she has undergone quite a few changes. She’s a Blood Mage, for one, and for another… she married an assassin. (Because apparently I can’t get away from assassins in these novels.) Her voice is different because she has changed as a character, so I had to re-learn who she was in order to portray her correctly.

Now, I recognize that it has been many years since Saboteur was released and I do UC front cover-sample-2apologize for that. Usurper was a joy to write, it truly was. But between school and being a full-time single-parent and working full-time and… ahem… my other novels (Is it weird I feel like I cheated by writing all that science fiction in the interim?)… I just didn’t have enough time to do it all.

I should take this moment to mention that there is at least one other book – Warpath – that I am constructing. It isn’t on the list for this year, but will be next year. The good news is that much of Warpath is already done because part of my problem with Usurper was that I was trying to pack two books into one.

 

 

Advertisements

Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoThis year for Camp NaNoWriMo I chose to focus on revising/rewriting the ending of Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I gave myself a modest goal of 30,000 words, which I surpassed.

However, sitting 3 days away from the end of the July I can say that the first week of August will have to deal with the last chapter or so of the book. Even if I could ignore the fact that I’m a parent and let my child live off Ramen noodles and chocolate donuts, I’m not sure I can write 4 chapters in three days.

Well … maybe I could, but they would be 4 really awful chapters and that would defeat the purpose of revision/rewriting.

So while the word count goal was met, the overall goal of revising the entire novel was not. I still verified my word count and earned my little banner and whatnot from Camp NaNoWriMo because I did participate and … rewards are important.

To anyone else who may have participated this month … Congratulations! Whether you met your goal or not, you got words on paper and that’s what’s important.

To anyone who is flirting with the idea of participating in one of these … I hope you do. I can encourage you to check out NaNoWriMo in November because that’s the big one everyone participates in. And yes, I’ll be there again in November, tackling a completely different project.

For now, however, I have 4 chapters to complete on Dead Weight, new words to write on Song of Swans, and Trenna fans will be pleased to know that the editor got back to me on Usurper so I am knee deep in revisions there as well.

Usurper is scheduled for release in February 2018 and will be available in all digital forms as well as paperback. It is the third installment of the Sedition series featuring Trenna and her husband Nelek as they battle through politics, magic, war, and perhaps the most frightening of all; family.

Since Usurper is put out by Wings ePress, it’s all on the publisher’s schedule and more information will be relayed as it comes to me.

 

About Reviews – April Round Robin

My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. While I haven’t always followed that advice, I’m certain many authors wish critics would.

I’ve had one or two reviews that scoured my work to the bone, which … let’s be honest here … required a pint of ice cream to get me through. Mint chocolate chip is the greatest comforter in times like these.

But when push comes to shove, negative reviews are always the ones that I learn from. I’m not a world-renowned author, not yet, and I’m still honing my craft. So anything that teaches me how to be better is good.

Sometimes painful, but good.

Positive reviews help sell a book, but not nearly as much as word of mouth. Like it or not, people talking about your book is still the number one way to push those sales up – or so all the professionals tell me.

I’ve sent my books out to reviewers for their honest opinions and come back with some positive results there, but those results never last for very long. To be honest, sometimes the only result of a positive review is my own feeling of accomplishment; somebody read my book and understood what I was trying to say!

Since Sedition was first published eight years ago I’ve held a 4.36 star average on Goodreads and about the same on Amazon, which I suppose is quite good considering there are a lot of things wrong with my early novels. But the only thing this knowledge serves is to push me to become better.

Maybe it sells one book every three months or so, but at the end of the day it still only pushes me to be better. I don’t have time to check reviews every day or even every week. I check them once or twice a month, see if I have anything new, and then I get back to work.

See what some of my fellow authors think about reviews …

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/how-to-get-reviews
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

How Important Are Titles? Round Robin Post

This week it’s all about titles in the Round Robin conversation! The question posed is this: “How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book? ”

Now, if I was a marking guru, which I’m not, I would say the title was absolutely important. That and the cover are what buyers are going to see first, right? It needs to attract them enough to get them to pick up the novel and read the back blurb or the first few pages.

When I’m walking through the bookstore and glancing over the titles, I honestly don’t have anything in mind when I’m looking. I’ll read anything and everything under the sun, so it’s a little hard to categorize what I’m hunting for in a book or a title. It really depends on my mood or the season or whatever I happen to be writing at that time.

It’s a lot easier to write Fantasy novels when your brain is already set to “Fantasy” by what you’re consuming. Now, I do have to be careful there because I don’t want MY fantasy novel to start showing traits of the novel I’m reading and all that. So I pick a different sub-genre in the fantasy realm to try and keep things separate.

How do I determine the title of my books?

That’s … a painful process, actually.

Persona was known as “The WWII novel” for many years. I actually had to brainstorm with another author on Google+ to get to that one.

Tapped was easier because I just stole the name of the super soldiers (Yes, I used super soldiers) in that book. I have been tempted to change the name to “Grey Men” from time to time but … that’s marketing strategy and I’m still sort of blundering my way through it.

For those unaware … I’m awful at marketing.

Sedition was called The Ebony Blade at first. And then just Kiavana, the name of the region where much of the book takes place. But after several drafts and a lot of moaning and groaning, I looked at what the book itself was about and came up with the vein of sedition that really pulses through the whole novel.

Generally speaking, I don’t come up with a final title until after the third or fourth draft. By then I have a better handle of what the book is showing about humanity or what adventures I’m promising the reader if they purchase it. But it is really a pain in the rear-end.

Ahem. I’m having the censor myself because my eight-year-old giggles if I use other words at the end of that sentence.

ANYWAY … I find titles and blurbs and the synopsis a pain. I suppose if I didn’t and I actually enjoyed that work, I’d be much better at it and my novels would see more success. Maybe I’ll make that part of my New Years Resolutions for 2017 – “Learn to love titles and blurbs!”

Check out what some of my fellow authors think about titles in general and their own processes for finding the perfect title for their own work.

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Kindle Scout Campaign

So! I did a new thing!

And it’s a little bit of a scary thing, but I’m trying it anyway.

Persona, the WWII novel that I have scheduled to publish in December, has been submitted into a Kindle Scout campaign. Basically what this means is that, if I get enough nominations, Kindle Scout will publish the book for me instead.

The process was relatively painless considering the book is already edited and edited and edited some more, as well as formatted and prepped for its launch in December. All I had to do was answer some questions and upload the book.

Well … that and now I have to come out and shout from every virtual rooftop I’ve got that the campaign is now open, that you can find it HERE and that if you like what you see there I would really, really, really love it if you’d click the little “nominate” button.

We’re going to see how this whole thing works and then I’ll give a more critical response to the process and things. I can say that, barring the actual writing process that you have to go through anyway, submitting to Kindle Scout was terribly easy. I got invited to Kindle Scout some time ago, I just hadn’t given it a shot until today.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Brand

So there’s this thing in the writing business where people say writers need to have a “brand” to rely on. Something to shove at a reader so that the reader knows what to expect whenever they pick up a book written by that author.

James Patterson readers know that the plot is going to move fast and it’s going to twist in ways you don’t expect. I remember from his class that he said he wanted people to know when they picked up a book of his that “the pages would turn themselves.”

And considering how many books of his frequent the bestsellers lists I think we all can attest that he’s definitely made his name a brand.

Brandon Sanderson also has a brand name to him. When I pick up a Sanderson novel I expect unique magic, intricate plots, and deep fantasy that can transport me.

When I read Diana Gabaldon I expect rich characters and enlightening history and a more visceral reading experience than I can get anywhere else.

Now then … as an author I have to ask myself exactly what “brand” I might be presenting. I find this highly annoying because, as much as I can recognize the trademarks of other authors, I’m really clueless as to my own. And from what I’ve heard from other authors, they feel the same way.

On my website I have “Writing Mayhem” as the tagline.

Why?

Well … because I love the word “mayhem” and wanted to use it. And because my life as an author feels full of mayhem. I write everything from Science Fiction to Historical Fiction. My Fantasies range from Epic to Steam Punk.

My muse just can’t seem to commit to any one genre, which makes “branding” me quite difficult.

I could try finding that one common denominator between all the books and banking on that … Which would be the characters. In all my books to date, the focus is always on the individual character on the page and the struggles they face.

But again … how do you “brand” that?

A.J. Maguire – Character Tormentor … A.J. Maguire – “The characters will grab you by the throat and demand you free them.”

… Yeah … No thanks.

In all seriousness, and after many years of trial and error, I’ve come to understand that “brand” is a conscious decision.

I have two releases scheduled for this year; the novelette “Torven” and the historical fiction Persona.

One is a fairy tale.

One is a “who am I” story based in WWII.

What “brand” do I hope to attach to them both?

I want readers to trust that if they pick up one of these books they’re going to get a good story.

How do you brand that?

Well, I’m still not sure. But when I find out, you’ll be the first to know.

 

Prepping for Launch

Gutter space and margins … check.

Cover art … check. (FYI, Chris Howard is still a genius.)

Back blurb … hmmm … that’s gonna change a couple more times, I’m sure.

(Pause to remove new kitten from the desk. He’s too curious for his own good and he’s constantly attacking my hands while I’m using the mouse. I’ve decided to call him Nuisance even though he’s my son’s pet.)

Font size and spacing for both print and ebook versions … check and check.

Re-read the manuscript for the zillionth time and STILL find a typo on page 96 … ugh, check.

Dedication … aw, that’s easy … totally check. DSCN5894

Acknowledgements … er … hmn. That one’s a little more tricky. I’ll probably add a few people before the December launch date.

IMG_0051(Pause again because kitten is now attacking my ankle and his little kitten claws hurt. Try to convince him that he should be playing with Pest, my cat, who eyes me with frank disgust but … everyone’s gotta compromise here.)

Go back to my regularly scheduled writing … I’m on chapter 10 of Dead Weight now, so it’s coming along nicely. I’m not sure I’ll make the three month deadline for a first draft, but I’ve had to swap between writing on the computer and writing by hand a couple of times so I won’t feel bad if I stretch it for another month.

Four months to write a rough draft isn’t too bad.

And really, I’m not JUST writing a rough draft, as evidenced by all the book preparation I’m doing. Persona will be my second attempt at launching a book on my own and I’m trying to remember all the mistakes I made last time — such as working while under the influence of cold medication and accidentally launching the book 2 weeks early.

And forgetting to adjust line spacing for the print version, leaving one truly massive novel that cost an arm and a leg to ship.

And not justifying the text.

And … er … so many other things.

Here in the next couple of weeks I’m supposed to start marketing for Persona, letting people know the exact date it will be out (December 6th 2016) and what the book is about (historical fiction/romance/women’s fiction/ … this one I probably need to narrow down a bit more).

Which means that, on top of all of the above, I have to research venues (blogs, magazines, etc.) that might be willing to host me and give me a second to promote the novel before it comes out and during the first two weeks of its launch.

… I think I’d rather have the kitten attack my ankles some more.