Sunday, June 26, 2011

#Sample Sunday June 26 The Door to Canellin

I'm thinking I'm going to have to start using shorter passages for Sample Sunday... it seems like I'm practically giving the entire book away!

Which, come to think of it, I am.... there are still ten Amazon Kindle copies available to go out as freebies, as well as 12 Smashwords editions!  Sign up at the "Giveaway Signup" link to the right, or e-mail me your e-mail address and which version you want to!

And now, for today's sample.  It comes from nearer the end of the The Door to Canellin, a quiet moment before the storm.  Enjoy!  And don't forget, you can always download a free digital sample at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!

By unanimous assent, the group took Luther’s suggestion that they use the cavern for a campsite and try to get some sleep.  There was no wood to be had for a fire, so they bundled up in their blankets and bedded down to sleep in shifts.  Ryan fell into his blankets eagerly, but Wes was far too interested in their surroundings to fall asleep.  And so, he found himself standing the first watch with Gideon.  Wes made a point of wandering the cave and exploring the multicolored lights being projected by the crystal walls.  He even picked up a few small rocks with particularly clear crystals in them to drop into his backpack.
“They’re very beautiful,” said a soft voice behind him, and he turned and smiled at Elarie.
“Yeah, they are,” he replied.  “My friends back home would laugh their butts off if they ever heard me say something like that.”
“I don’t see them about,” the girl said wryly, “and your secret’s safe with me.” 
Wes smiled.  “You know all that stuff with the Tower of Lore, and the stone?”  Elarie nodded, and Wes took the stone from his pouch, holding it up by the thin chain.  “Turns out it was a waste of time,” he said wryly.  “Mages can’t use these things by themselves.
“It’s very pretty,” said Elarie hesitantly.  “May I… can I hold it?”
“Sure,” said Wes with a shrug.  He handed the stone to Elarie.
“It feels strange,” the girl said.  “The same as it did back in the tower.  It almost… tingles.”
“Really?” said Wes.  “It just feels like a rock to me.”
“It’s faint.  Maybe you just didn’t notice.  But there’s a definite sensation when I touch it.”  She gazed wistfully at the stone, and then held it out for Wes to take.
“I should probably make sure this gets back to where it’s supposed to be,” he said, taking the stone.  “I mean, Joachim might have been a bad guy, but the stone is still an important part of your history.”  He sighed.  “But either way things happen from here, I won’t be going back that way.”  He handed the stone back to Elarie.  “How about this?  You make sure the stone gets back where it belongs.  I think I can trust you to do that.  In fact…” Wes’ eyes brightened as he had a sudden idea.  He shrugged off his backpack and reached inside, pulling out a sheaf of papers.  “Take the stone to Diaticus, and these too.  These are spells that I’ve copied out of the book.  With these… well, he’ll know what to do with them.”
Elarie smiled shyly.  “Thank you for your trust,” she said quietly.  She fastened the chain around her neck, letting he stone hang on her chest.  She matched her step to his as he continued his circuit of the vast cave.  “I never thanked you for what you did for me back on the plains,” she said.  “It’s very… disconcerting to have something alien inside you, meddling with your thoughts and feelings.”
“You got me out of that cell and probably saved my life,” said the boy.  “It was the least I could do.”
“I couldn’t have let you and Gideon hang,” she said.  “Even without whatever that was inside my head, I don’t think I’d have let that happen.”
“Still, you didn’t have to do it.”  The girl nodded her head, and Wes continued.  “To be honest, I figured you’d take off after I got rid of whatever it was you had in you.  I thought you’d make a back for Karsenon as quick as you could go.”
Elarie shrugged.  “The thought crossed my mind,” she said.  “Once it was gone, there wasn’t really anything pushing me to stay with you anymore.  I almost turned my horse around right then.”
“What stopped you?” asked Wes.
“I’m not sure, really.  Something about you, I suppose.  What you’re doing is important, and I want to be a part of it.”  She chuckled.  “I’d been thinking of getting out of the thieving business anyway.  I wasn’t lying to you when I told you I was a very good thief.  The coins you had Gideon give me were a pittance compared to what I have stashed away back in Karsenon.  But I’m not sure what I’d do with myself if I gave up my trade.  I don’t think I’m cut out for the life of a merchant.  Adventuring, now… that might be something interesting to try my hand at for a while!”
Wes grinned at the girl.  “Well, you’ve picked a tough one to start on.  I’m not sure anyone expects us to survive this.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied.  “From what I understand, you’ve got quite a bit of magic at your disposal.  If I were a gambler, I’d lay my money on you.”  She winked at Wes, laughing.  Gideon’s told me a lot about what you’ve learned, and what you can do with that spellbook of yours.  He’s got a fairly high opinion of you.  I think perhaps he’s right.”
Gideon… he’s a good friend,” sad Wes.  “I couldn’t have made it as far as I have without him.”
“He seems a solid sort,” replied Elarie.  “I think you’re lucky to have him with you.”
“I’m sure of it,” said Wes.  He and Elarie continued to stroll the periphery of the cave until she finally bid him goodnight and took her leave.  Wes watched her go with a strange mix of emotions he couldn’t identify.  The girl made him nervous whenever she was near.
Wes returned to the main camp area half an hour later to find Gideon on watch.  He gave the grizzled soldier a nod, and Gideon smiled back.
“Did you and the girl enjoy your stroll?” he asked with a wink.  “Perhaps next time I’ll chaperone for you.” 
“Mind your own business,” Wes replied with a grin.  “You’re the one who said she was pretty!”  With a laugh, he settled down into his bedroll to try and get to sleep.
“Funny, that’s not how I remember it,” said Gideon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We have a winner.... or three!

The Door to Canellin was recently reviewed, and I was interviewed, on two review blogs, Oktopus Ink and The Flashlight Reader.  In conjunction with the interviews, both webmasters hosted giveaways of paperback editions of The Door to Canellin.  Three paperbacks were given away in total.  So, congratulations, Allie, Bethany, and Bonnie!  Your books have been sent, and you should receive them by the end of next week!

In addition to those giveaways, there are still 6 days left to sign up for my Goodreads giveaway (link at top of blog page), where I'm personally giving away 2 more paperback copies of The Door to Canellin!  It's free book madness, my friends!!

Summertime is a slow time for booksellers.  As well it should be!  People are outside more, doing things, and hopefully being just a bit more active.  But there are still those of us who love to take an evening and lay in the hammock reading a great novel.  And as an author, especially one struggling to get more exposure, every person I can get interested in my work is one more person who will tell a friend about my book!  So, giving away the paperbacks is a nice way to get people to notice The Door to Canellin.  Another nice way is to give away free ebooks!

I'm still having trouble giving away freebies when I make the offer.  Amazon has cracked down on self-promotion, so I can't post the giveaway there myself, not even in the Meet Our Authors forum.  The same goes for Kindleboards, and most other ebook-centric forums.  Most of you who are following this blog likely already have a copy.  And as far as Facebook and Twitter go, most of my friends and/or family don't have e-readers or don't read books digitally, so that's a bust as well!  It's frustrating at times.  My last giveaway, I couldn't get the word spread, and only gave away 5 of the 25 copies I planned.  But, I'm going to try it again!

Ten Kindle copies, and fifteen Smashwords (any format) copies are up for grabs! And your e-mail address WILL be kept private, you don't even have to post it in the comments!  Just click on the "Giveaway Signup" link on the right hand side of your screen, right under "Links of Interest", and fill out the form.  It adds your information to a spreadsheet that ONLY I CAN ACCESS.  Once I have sent your freebie, I will delete your information immediately, so you can be assured your e-mail will remain private!

And even if you have a copy, that doesn't mean you can't sign up to get a copy for someone as a gift!  Just put in their info instead, and let them know they've got a free gift coming!  Have a friend or loved one with a Kindle, or Nook, or Kindle/Nook app, or any combination thereof?  Give them a copy of The Door to Canellin!

And for a final thought.  Help me spread the word!  The Door to Canellin is worth checking out, but endorsements from the author are pretty meaningless.  Tell folks about the giveaway, and about the book!  Pass it along!  Share the wealth!  Pay it forward! Other old cliches relevant to this topic!  In other words, if you enjoyed The Door to Canellin, share it with someone else who might enjoy it as well.  They'll thank you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Door to Canellin is now available for Operation eBook Drop!

This is a bit of notification for readers, but it's also a call to all the authors out there who read this blog.

The Door to Canellin is now available for Operation eBook Drop!  If you haven't heard of this great program, Operation eBook Drop provides free, easily accessible digital books for deployed soldiers in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Now, I won't get into a political conversation about the conflicts the U.S. is currently involved in, and don't ask my views.  Just remember that our men and women who are deployed with the armed forces are far from home, many of them in dangerous situations, and any little bit of home can help.  Operation eBook Drop provides these free eBooks to soldiers as one of those little bits of home.

It's very simple to become involved in Operation eBook Drop.  Simply follow the links for details.  In case you hadn't noticed, I've made every instance of Operation eBook Drop in this post clickable!  Basically, an author sets up his or her book on, which makes the book available in multiple digital formats for sale.  (If you haven't done this already, you really should... every sales venue helps!)  Once the book is set up, the author uses Smashwords' "generate a coupon" feature to generate a 100% off coupon for the book.  Then, the author would contact the creator of Operation eBook Drop, Edward Patterson.  A short time later, Edward will provide the details of what to do next.

I would urge every indie author out there to do this.  It doesn't cost you a dime, and it can make a lot more difference than you might think!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

#Sample Sunday - The Door to Justice WIP

Morning, folks!  It's time for another Sample Sunday!  Here's a short, but fun, excerpt from The Door to Justice.  It's a work in process, still in editing, but this scene is not going on the cutting room floor!  For those of you who aren't clear, The Door to Justice follows Wes and Ryan through the Gatehouse to a world controlled by two warring factions of super-heroes.  The Conclave rules with an iron fist, and the rebels are battling to remove them from power.  A little lead in: Jessica Bemen has just betrayed the Conclave, and escaped from their orbiting satellite, only to be pursued by a group of Conclave Enforcers who want to bring her in.  But Jessica has information that the rebels need.... and that's where this sample picks up!
“All right, nobody move,” said an electronic voice, and Jessica saw a massive armored form approaching.  Jessica turned to see Chameleon, Earthquake, and Hunter wrapped in some kind of flexible metal bindings that extended from the wrists of the armored man.  Jackrabbit came to a screeching halt and looked at the three women in satisfaction.
“Niceofyoutojoinus,” he said to the armored man, and then he sped to Jessica’s side.  Aikido sat on the ground, unable to stand on her injured leg.  Jackrabbit's fist blurred, and Aikido slumped to the ground, unconscious.  He reached down and grabbed her sword, vibrating his hand rapidly to loosen it from the pavement, and then wrenching it free to allow Jessica to stand.  “That’s Teknomanser,” he said, slowing his words for Jessica’s benefit as he pointed over his shoulder.  “Teknomanser, this is… uhhh… Cute Girl.”
“It’s Jessica,” she said.  “And you two are rebels.”
“Brilliant deductive skills you have there,” said Teknomanser.  “And you’re a Conclave cadet.”
“Not anymore,” said Jessica, rising to her feet.  “You’ve got to get me out of here.  I have information.”
“You also have a tracker on you,” said Teknomanser, consulting a display on the forearm of his armor.  “It’s probably in your clothes.  We’ll have to get rid of it.”
“I’llhandlethat,” said Jackrabbit, and was gone.  The sound of breaking glass echoed all down the block as the windows on the shops exploded inward.  Suddenly, Jessica was surrounded by a whirlwind.  She felt herself being jerked this way and that and staggered.  When the wind died down, Jessica’s cadet uniform was laying in a neat pile, and she was wearing a clean pair of jeans and a tank top, both with tags still on them.
“What… just happened?” she asked.
“You don’t want to know,” said Teknomanser with a chuckle.  “’Rabbit’s misbehaving.”
“Hey,” said the youth indignantly.  “The transmitter’s in the clothes, the clothes are over there, problem solved.”  He winked at Jessica.  “Man, I love this job.”
“I'll bet you do,” said Jessica through gritted teeth, finally realizing what Jackrabbit had done.  “Listen, I have information the rebels need.  And I have word of Fred and Jack.”
“Whatarewewaitingfor?” said Jackrabbit, grabbing Jessica’s hand.  “Let’sgo!”
“Hold it!” said Teknomanser.  “You’re a little too excitable tonight.  You go on ahead, and I’ll escort the girl.”
“Rogerwilco,” said Jackrabbit, and he vanished in a streak of red and yellow.
“Come on, kid,” said Teknomanser.  “Hop on my shoulder.  I can cloak us while we fly, and I’ve been wanting to try out these new jets for a while.”  He helped Jessica up to his armored shoulder, and they took to the sky.

Hope you've enjoyed today's sample, and don't forget to pick up your copy of The Door to Canellin! And don't forget that there are TWO paperback giveaways going on right now!  One at Goodreads, just follow the link at the top of the page, and the other at !

Saturday, June 18, 2011

General Update

Well, I haven't updated much on this topic lately, but the eyeball issues are still ongoing.  For those of you who don't know, I've been steadily losing vision in my left eye due to punctate inner choroidopathy.  With medical treatment (in the form of a laser retina surgery and then some very unpleasant injections directly into the eye), I have been on kind of a roller coaster of improvement and deterioration.  It's been holding steady at "I can sort of see out of that eye, but not in any useful way" for some time now.  I go in for another injection Thursday.  The doc is hopeful that the injections will eventually be a permanent solution, so I'm crossing my fingers.  To make matters more interesting, I've apparently developed a cataract on that eye as well.  Yay me!

Ebook sales are up and down at the moment.  I'm on a steady 1-3 sales a day right now, which is a small fraction of where I want to be.  Reviews are consistently good, and the people who are reading the book definitely enjoy it.  I just need to get word out.  Currently, well over half of the people who visit my Amazon sales page for the Kindle edition purchase The Door to Canellin.  I just need more people going there!

I should be receiving my first check from Amazon any day now.  I chose to have my payments sent by check, at least the first time, just because I want to hold the check in my hand and see a tangible product of my work.  I'm funny that way... that's also the real reason I made a paperback available of The Door to Canellin! After this first check, I'll probably switch to the easier (and more frequent) PayPal method.

And finally, I saw Green Lantern last night.  I've waited my whole life to see my favorite super-hero translated onto the big screen!  The SFX technology has been available to do it for years!  What did I think of it?  It was pretty good.  It's not going to win any Oscars... it's probably not even going to compete with the amazing universe-building, multi-movie, multi-character efforts that Marvel has been putting out lately.  But it was definitely satisfying.  I geeked out on Oa when I realized I recognized a whole bunch of those random GL aliens from the comic books.  Will there be a sequel? They set it up for one, of course, and I definitely hope there is.

Oh, and one final thing.  For those of you who are interested in knowing what I'm working on right now, I have quite a few pots stirring, and I've added a new one.

The Door to Justice (sequel to The Door to Canellin… do you like super-heroes?)
Rocket Girl (a comic book project)
Two short story collections related to Rocket Girl
Mark Thyme: Immortal Investigator (working title, a noir/pulp novel following the exploits of a private investigator in the gumshoe era, who just happens to be thousands of years old and immortal)
An unnamed alternate history western fantasy book in which gunslingers deal with stagecoach robberies, gangs of bandits, sorcerers, and monsters all as a matter of course.

That's all for today, folks!  Check in tomorrow for Sample Sunday and see what I've got on tap!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Chapters and Sections

First let me say, I haven't had any takers so far on the free ebook giveaway!  Maybe I made it too complicated this time, with the Google form, but I really was just trying to accommodate the people who didn't want to leave their e-mail addresses in a blog post.  Oh, well, live and learn!

As requested, I’m going to talk today about how I handle chapters, and the rules I follow for section breaks and organization.  And as always, bear in mind that this is just how I do it, and I’m most definitely not an expert!

Handling chapters and organization in your writing can be kind of overwhelming the first time out.  It can be hard to know when and where to put a chapter break, or to end a section and move to a new scene.  I know I had a lot of trouble with that when I was younger and trying to write a novel, and didn’t really get a handle on it until I was writing The Door to Canellin.

Scenes and sections are relatively easy, if you follow the basic rules of writing, and especially if you have an outline of how you plan to map out the chapters.  My general rule is, when a scene ends, there’s a section break.  It keeps your scenes from running together.  Think of it like a movie; when the scene ends, you fade to black and a new scene begins.  That’s how I use my section breaks.

There’s another writing rule that can help you with your section breaks, and that is the point of view rule.  POV is very important.  In general, you never switch to another character’s POV within a scene.  In other words, if you start out the scene with the narrator telling us the inner thoughts of Character X, and we’re seeing things that Character X would see, you can’t tell us what Character Y is thinking or seeing or feeling.  You can show us Character Y’s reactions, as viewed by Character X, but you can’t get in Y’s head.  As with any rule of writing, this can and has been broken effectively by authors, but it takes a master’s touch to do it well.  Stephen King does it on occasion.  I do my best not to, simply because I don’t feel I have that master’s touch.

So if you’re following the POV rule, and you need to see through a different POV character’s eyes, then it’s time for a section break, even if it’s only for a couple of paragraphs. 

Section breaks are also useful for dramatic effect.  You build and build to a climax in the scene, and then end the scene at a dramatic, cliffhanger moment.  Then you can either move onto a new scene in a new location, or continue that scene from a different POV, or any number of variations.  Often times I find it effective to continue the scene from a new POV, backtracking just slightly in order to build briefly from the new POV.  Here’s an example from The Door to Canellin of what I’m talking about.

“Seems the beasts found somethin’ else ta’ occupy ‘em,” he said.  “There was some shoutin’ below, an’ then sounds o’ steel on steel.  Looks like they run inta’ the fellows what was chasin’ us.”
“Then let’s get out of here while they’re occupied,” said Luther, turning his horse back upslope, and the others moved to follow.  Wes held back, looking down the passage worriedly.
“Wes, come on,” said Ryan urgently.  “We’ve got to get out of here!”
“They’ll be slaughtered, Dad,” said Wes.  “Chasing us or not, they’re people, and they’re fighting monsters.  We have to help them.”  He turned and spurred his horse quickly down the sloping passage.
“Get back here, you little fool!” hissed Luther, trying to keep his voice low.  Wes ignored him, and Gideon was already moving to follow.
“He’s right, Luther,” said Ryan reluctantly.  “What kind of people are we if we don’t help?”
“The kind with a pulse!” said Luther, but Ryan was already leaping his mount after his son’s, and Elarie was close on his heels.
“Blasted fools, one and all,” said Luther.
“Shame on you, Father,” said Jiane, working her mount past Luther’s to get room to follow Ryan down the slope.
“Button it, girl,” Luther growled.  “I’m not about to let them go without me.”  And Luther, Jiane, and Anton heeled their mounts down the slope after their comrades.
Joachim reined in his stallion as he called a halt, cocking his head to one side to listen. 
“What is it, my lord?” Jared asked, and Joachim held his hand up for silence.
“Listen,” he said softly, and the others strained their ears.  In the distance far ahead came the clank of metal on stone and the sounds of heavy footsteps.  “There!” whispered Joachim.  “They’re coming closer!  I don’t know why, but our quarry seems to have changed direction.”  He motioned to the three guardsmen in the lead to ride on.  “Proceed slowly and with caution,” he advised.  “If we come upon them unprepared, we can take them in the darkness.”  He followed, and Jared took up a position at the rear.
They crept their mounts forward slowly, keeping their eyes and ears alert as the sounds of clanking armor and booted feet grew louder.  They had traveled only a few minutes when the men on point rounded a bend and let out shouts of alarm.
“Dragonmen, milord, approaching from above!  Twenty or more!”  Joachim halted his mount, holding up a hand to halt Jared as well.  After a moment, he and Jared continued on slowly around the bend.  When his men came into sight, he could see the steel of their bared blades in the moonlight that filtered down from above.  Several hundred paces up the pass was a party of dragonmen, snarling with bloodlust as they fought to be the first to reach the men below.

As far as organizing my chapters, that takes a little more effort.  How many scenes go into a chapter?  How long should your chapters be?  Where and how should a chapter end?  Without my outlines, I wouldn’t have a clue.  That’s why I always tell people who ask that if they don’t use outlines, they should give it a try once.  It’s not for everyone, but for me, it works.  With my outlines, I basically describe what is going to happen in a chapter.  Imagine you’ve just read a book, and need to tell someone what happened in chapter eleven.  That’s the impression you’d get from my outlines.  As far as where the chapter breaks go, that can be tough even in outline form, especially when you’ve got a chapter with several scenes happening in different locations, with different characters, that seemingly don’t relate.  In those cases, I try to strive for an average uniformity to chapter length, as well as just a general feel for when it’s time to have a new chapter.  A chapter should focus on one or two major events.  Once you’ve covered those events, it’s time to move to the next chapter.  If your chapter is overly long, you might want to consider splitting an event or scene out into the next chapter.  If it’s too short, you might consider whether the events you’ve depicted are really “major” enough.  But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with a short chapter, provided it does what it needs to do.  My chapter lengths in The Door to Canellin vary widely in length.

And that’s about it!  If anyone finds these kinds of posts interesting or helpful, please let me know!  I always feel like I’m lecturing or teaching when I post these kinds of things, tasks for which I consider myself completely unqualified.  But it is nice to examine my own writing methods every once in a while.  Sometimes in the examination, I realize things about my writing that even I didn’t necessarily know!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Giveaway and Sample Sunday

Well, friends and neighbors, it's time for another Sample Sunday!  But first, I wanted to post a thank you to the Oktopus Ink blog for the great review of The Door to Canellin! Emi, the operator of the blog, also supplied me with some very interesting interview questions, and the interview is posted on the site as well.  Check it out!
Oktopus Ink Blog

In conjunction with the review and interview, Oktopus Ink is running a giveaway of two paperback copies of The Door to Canellin! Check out her review, the interview, and sign up for the giveaway!

And finally, once again, I'm dying to get some more folks reading and talking about The Door to Canellin! So I'm having another giveaway of my own!  25 ebook copies of The Door to Canellin!  It has been mentioned, however, that many people are hesitant to post their email address in a blog comment, so I've come up with a slightly different approach.  There is a link on the right of the page titled "Giveaway Signup".  Click on that link and fill in the form.  Your email address will be visible only to me, and will be used for no other purpose than to gift you a digital copy of The Door to Canellin.  The first 25 get it!

And now, without further ado, this week's sample from The Door to Canellin!

“The doorway,” said Wes breathlessly.  “We found it.”  He started across the huge cavern, and the others followed close on his heels.  They reached the great chasm and Wes peered down into its depths.  A dull red glow could be seen far below.
“I think we’re in the cone of the volcano,” said Wes wonderingly.  “Feel the heat coming up?  I’ll bet that’s lava down there.  No, magma. It’s underground.”
Ryan laid his hand on Wes’ shoulder.  “But where’s the dragon?” he said.  “Shouldn’t it be here, near the doorway?”
Wes shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I thought it would be.”  He again peered down into the chasm.  “Maybe it’s sleeping.  But we have to find it.  We have to kill it.”
“What if it’s gone out to join the army?” said Jiane suddenly.  “What if this time, the beast means to take an active part in the war?”
“Then we’ve lost already,” said Luther.
The ground suddenly began to rumble, and Wes struggled to retain his balance.  There was a sound like tearing metal coming from the chasm, and he looked down into the red glow once again.  It seemed brighter somehow.  And then, Wes saw a sight that stole his wits from him.  He backed away from the chasm, stumbling, and fell backward into a sitting position.  He and his companions scrambled back from the pit as the rumbling and shaking grew stronger.
Up the dragon rose from the chasm, flames belching from between its teeth to crash against the roof of the immense cave.  Wes stared in awe as more and more of the great beast came into sight.  It continued to rise, finally lighting on the lip of the great pit with a huge crash that shook rocks loose from the walls and roof.  Wes’ jaw dropped open as he surveyed the great beast.  It was too big!  It was by far the largest thing he’d seen in his life, at least two hundred feet in height, with wings that spanned nearly twice that.  Its head almost brushed the roof of the cave, and its wingtips brushed the walls when outstretched.
Without warning, a booming voice began speaking in the minds of the companions.
:Who dares?: said the voice.  :Who dares to broach me here, in the seat of my power?:
Wes staggered back, feeling a strange fluttering in his chest.  “It’s… it’s huge,” he stammered.  “I didn’t… I thought it would be… but…”
:WHO DARES?: the voice repeated with more force, accompanying the exclamation with a roar and a blast of flame that passed high over the heads of Wes and his companions.  Wes ducked down in terror, but it was quickly replaced by anger.
“What do you mean, who dares?” he cried, standing straight and staring the dragon down.  “You know who I am!  You’ve been trying to kill me since I left the Collegium!  You sent your dragonmen after me, and your mercenaries and slaves, and I made it here anyway!  You killed the best man I ever met, and I made it!”  Wes took a step forward, forcing his fear deep down inside him, trying to maintain his anger.  “Who dares?  I’m Wesley Hal Bellamy, champion of the Gatehouse, and I’m here to kill you!”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Developing Characters

I've been asked lately how I develop my characters, and how I keep them consistent and give them each their own "voice".  I've answered briefly, but I thought it might be nice to go further in depth.  Bear in mind, I am no expert, and honestly, my characters sort of come naturally to me.  But I do like to think that each character I write has its own sense of self, its sense of individuality.

My two main characters in The Door to Canellin were actually fairly easy to write.  One of them is modeled after me, and one is modeled after my son.  My son and I have lived alone together for almost seventeen years. I know him very well, and I think I can reliably predict how he'll react in certain situations.  And I like to think I know myself very well, and while my reactions may not be entirely accurate, Ryan's reactions are how I want to react.

But what about my other characters?  Luther, Gideon, Elarie, Jiane, Diaticus, Pomander, Anton, and even all my ancillary characters like Joachim, Lysander, Lucas, and others?

Each character I write, I try to have a solid backstory for.  Every one of them, I have worked out at least a basic history and personality for.  Some of them are only in my head, of course... Lysander, for instance, is unlikely to ever be in another book I write, although similar characters might.  But there is no reason to have a written character bio.  But for others, the bio is fairly detailed.  Let me give you an example of a character bio.

Elarie is a thief. She is sixteen years old, but could pass for twelve.  She is less than five feet tall, and weighs less than a hundred pounds.  Her size has dictated a great deal of her personality.  
Elarie is a very good thief, nearly as good as she thinks she is.  She is agile and athletic, and extremely acrobatic.  She’s also an expert with locks, climbing gear, traps, and getting into places she shouldn’t be.
Elarie was born to poor but happy parents in Karsenon.  Unfortunately, both of her parents were killed in the night when Elarie was barely a toddler.  She was taken in by an orphanage run by the governer of Karsenon, who used the orphanage as a workhouse for his merchant business.  At the age of five, she was put to work in the work house, but thanks to her size and a certain flair for sneakiness, she was able to run away.  She fell in with a group of street urchins who were part of a gang that was loosely controlled by the leader of the so-called “thieves guild” of Karsenon.  The thieves guild was in name only.  There is some organization among the thieves, pickpockets, cutthroats and murderers in Karsenon, but it is by no means a true guild, and there is no one in charge over all.  But her association with the underbelly of Karsenon allowed her to learn from a great many masters of the thieving arts, and by the age of ten she was often hired for jobs that required someone small, agile, and intelligent.  Her reputation grew from there, and she is now well-known amongst the seedier elements of Karsenon as a master thief.
Elarie is brazen, brave, and arrogant.  She is absolutely certain that she is the best she is at what she does, and she is very nearly correct.  She lives fairly comfortably, despite technically being homeless.  She squats in various warrens and hideouts throughout the great city.  Over her short career, she has amassed a great deal of wealth for herself, and someday dreams of leaving the city and living a life of leisure.  Despite her seemingly callous ways, Elarie is truly a sensitive, introspective person, and an excellent judge of character.  While she doesn’t feel any remorse for her actions as a thief, she lives by a strict code.  She would never kill anyone except in defense of her own life.  She never steals everything a person has. She primarily robs from the rich, the decadent, and the undeserving, although affluent travelers are fair game as well.  A good deal of her money she spreads around among the urchins of Karsenon, a coin here and a meal there.  She manages to hide her kind heart fairly well, though.
Elarie is also a Catalyst, having the ability to use a Catalyst Stone to channel great amounts of magical energy into a magic user.  She does not know this.  After she helps defeat the Great Dragon, Elarie travels to the Collegium to return the Catalyst Stone to Diaticus and give him Wes’ papers, but she doesn’t immediately stay.  She instead travels around Canellin for a year, having adventures and building her wealth.  When she eventually returns to the Collegium, Diaticus convinces her it would be best to stay and learn to use her Catalyst abilities to aid him in restoring magecraft to greatness.

Notice the blacked out areas in Elarie's bio.  These are future elements, and contain spoilers about events in the book.  If you've already read it, feel free to highlight the blacked out areas, although you can probably figure out what they say.

But that's the basic bio.  It's not super-detailed, but it's enough.  It gives me a solid idea of who she is.  

Each of my important characters has an equally detailed bio. 

But how do I keep them straight when I'm writing?  How do I keep them reacting the way they should, and keep their dialog properly in their own voice?  In the beginning, I do it by referring to the bio, and my story outline.  Each character has a role in the book, and the outline keeps me on track as to what that role is.  But eventually, I get to know them.  I get to know how they talk, or think, or feel.

I guess what it boils down to is simply getting to know them.  Making them real to yourself.  If these people are real to you, then keeping them consistent shouldn't that difficult a chore.  And from a writer's perspective, that is a goal unto itself!  I want my readers to feel that my characters are real people, with a past and a future, and that they're getting a glimpse into their lives.  Do I succeed with that?  I don't know.  They're real to me, but they're mine.  I hope they're as real to you!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Successful Signing

Just returned from the Princeton Public Library, where I gave a brief presentation on self-publishing to kickoff their Adult Summer Reading Program.  Turnout was modest, but there were a few copies sold and signed, and everyone who attended got a coupon code for a free copy of the Smashwords edition of The Door to Canellin!  All in all, a fun night, and I'm looking forward to doing it again this fall!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sample Sunday - Excerpt from Chapter 13

Here's a nice moment from The Door to Canellin.  It's from late in the book, but there's still plenty of action and adventure to come after!  I thought it would be nice to change it up, and post a quieter, more introspective scene for this Sample Sunday.  Enjoy!

“Dad,” Wes said hesitantly, “I’m sorry.”
Ryan looked at the boy in surprise.  “Sorry for what?” he asked.
“For everything.  Being such a pain.  Mouthing off.  Getting in trouble at school.  It’s just…”  Wes paused, taking a deep breath.  “It’s just that everyone always seems to be pushing me to do what they want me to do, and I just get mad and do what I want.  It’s been the same way here, but I didn’t know it until a little while ago.  But I guess I was kind of a jerk back home.  It’s not fair to you.  I’m sorry I’ve made your life miserable.”
Ryan felt a catch in his throat as he opened his mouth to speak.  Wes,” he said, “you’ve never made me miserable in my entire life.  You’ve made me mad plenty of times, but miserable isn’t even close to how I feel.  You’re the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“C’mon, Dad,” said Wes.  “If not for me, you’d still be safe back home.  You wouldn’t have to stress about whether I was doing what I’m supposed to do, whether I’ve got my homework done, whether I’m getting in trouble.  If not for me, you’d have a completely different life.”  Wes turned away, looking off across the grass.  “You could have finished college, or become a singer or a writer like you always said you used to dream about.  You could do anything you wanted.  You’d be a lot better off without me.”
Ryan chuckled, and Wes was momentarily stung by the reaction.  He opened his mouth to say so, and Ryan quickly spoke.  “You don’t know me half as well as you think, son,” he said.  “If I’d never met your mom or had you, would I have finished college?”  He shrugged.  “Probably not.  Sure, taking care of you made it harder, especially when it was just the two of us.  But before you came along, I was a screwup.  I wasn’t doing well in school long before I met your mother.  Becoming your father gave me the sense of responsibility I’d been missing up to that point.  And as for singing,” he continued, rolling his eyes.  “Well, I used to be good, but I was never great.  I mean, not professional great.  Singing was something that I loved to do, and still do, especially with you.  But doing it for a living?  That was a pipe dream, son, and I knew it even way back then. The best thing I ever got from my music was being able to share it with you. And in the end, you’re way better on trumpet than I ever was as a singer.”  He looked at Wes, who was still avoiding his gaze.  “But none of that really matters.  Even supposing you’re right, and I could have done those things if not for you, I wouldn’t trade it.  I’d never give up that moment.”
Wes looked up, confused.  “What moment?”
“That moment,” repeated Ryan, shaking his head and searching for the words.  “It’s hard to explain.  It was that moment in the delivery room when the doctor laid you in my arms, and you looked up at me with those bright blue eyes, and your little conehead was resting in the crook of my arm.  That moment.  From the first second you looked into my eyes, I was yours.  Suddenly, giving you a better life was far more important than anything I’d ever wanted for myself.  Because giving you a better life would make my world better than I’d ever imagined it could be.”
Wes shook his head, tears glistening in his eyes.  “Then why are we always fighting?” he said.  “If you want to give me a better life, why not just let me do what I want and be happy, without you and everybody else always pushing and pulling me all the time?”
Ryan laughed.  “Giving you a better life doesn’t mean giving you everything you want, Wes.”  Ryan shook his head ruefully.  “Lord knows I wish it did.  But sometimes it means specifically not giving you what you want.  Sure, you’d be happy enough now, but what about the future, when it’s time for you to make your own way in the world?  Giving you a better life means raising you to know right from wrong, giving you opportunities I never had, and seeing that you grow up to be a responsible, well-adjusted, happy person.  And it means making sure you learn to balance that happiness against your responsibilities.”
“Now you sound like Gideon,” said Wes with a sour look.  “But I get it.  It’s just hard when there’s so much stuff that I want to do that you won’t let me, and there’s so much stuff you want me to do that I hate doing.”
“You know,” said Ryan with a grin, “if you did more of those things that you hate without giving me so much lip about them, you’d probably get to do more of those things you wish you could.”
Wes shrugged.  “Yeah, I guess.  I just haven’t made things very easy on you, and I wanted you to know that I’m sorry.  For real, this time.”  He gazed up at his father and gave him a tentative smile.  Then his expression changed, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What do you mean, conehead?”  Ryan laughed and reached out to tousle the boy’s hair.
“Ask your mom sometime.  Her first words when she saw you, all drugged up from the delivery, were, ‘My God, he’s a conehead!’”  Wes joined Ryan in laughter.  After a while, Ryan’s face grew serious.  “The question now, though, is where do we go from here?”  He looked at Wes questioningly.
“Yeah, about that,” said Wes.  He looked up at his father with a look that conveyed both nervousness and defiance.  “I know you came after me to take me back to Diaticus, but you can’t,” he said in a rush.  Wes’ knees trembled as he spoke.  “I’m not trying to start a fight with you or anything, but I can’t go back there.  I don’t trust Diaticus anymore.  I don’t think he was ever really trying to find a way to send me home.”
“I think you’re right,” said Ryan, “but I don’t think he had a choice.”  Ryan quickly related the story of overhearing Diaticus talking to himself in the sword chamber.  “I think he was pushed into it by Pomander,” he concluded.
“Even so,” said Wes, “I don’t want to put myself back where I have to rely on him again.  Besides, I kind of have a responsibility here.  Pomander sent me here to get rid of the dragon, and that’s what I plan to do, even if I don’t really trust him or Diaticus anymore.”
Ryan sighed, and Wes prepared himself for the inevitable argument.  “You know what, son?” said Ryan.  “I’ve been thinking about this since we started after you.  Before that, actually.”  He turned his head, regarding his son carefully.  Wes’ face was determined, but there was more than that.  The boy had changed in his time in Canellin.  He had grown.  And it was in that moment that Ryan made the decision he’d been debating since he’d arrived.  “I just want to go home,” he said.  “And it seems to me there’s a perfectly good doorway that’s a lot closer than Diaticus and the Collegium.”  He reached over again and tousled Wes’ hair.  “It’s kind of scary to think about, but I don’t think we have much choice.  What say you and me go kill ourselves a dragon?”

Friday, June 3, 2011

An awesome review!

Shortly after I released The Door to Canellin, I sent out requests to some review blogs to see if any would be interested in reviewing the book.  I didn't get too many replies back... most of these sites get a few hundred requests for review every month, minimum!  But a couple did reply, and offer to do a review. The first of those went up today!  The Flashlight Reader gave The Door to Canellin 5-stars!  Here's a little of what the reviewer had to say:

The complex story was well thought out and orchestrated. The details certainly make this story! The ending is complete, but also sets the stage for future novels. Plus, the underlying theme of father and son relationship building was great. It didn't seem over the top or forced. It was believable, and a great coming of age story. 

It's always great to hear when people have enjoyed your work!  For more of the review, and many more reviews by The Flashlight Reader, check out the website The Flashlight Reader.  And be sure to give the site a "like" on Facebook, and sign up to follow it... there are lots of great books reviewed there, and more every day!  There are also occasional contests, giveaways, interviews, and more, so there's plenty to keep you interested! I feel like I'm in pretty rare company... out of almost 40 reviews linked from the main page, The Flashlight Reader has only given 5 stars to 4 books!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Upcoming Signing, and A Kindle Feature I'd Never Heard Of

Just wanted to put out a reminder that I've got an in-person book signing coming up at the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, Indiana to kick of their summer reading program.  Starting at 7pm on Monday, June 6th, I will be giving a brief talk on what brought me to self publishing, the process I use for writing, and my experiences with KDP and Createspace.  I'll also be giving FREE copies of the e-versions of The Door to Canellin to all attendees, and everyone who attends will be entered to win a limited edition, signed and numbered hardcover of The Door to Canellin. Free to attend, signed paperbacks discounted to $12 at the signing only.

Also, I thought I'd throw a shout-out to Ryne Billings, who easily takes the prize as my biggest fan.  I haven't been hanging out at much lately, but Ryne spotted a thread titled "Criminally Underrated Kindle ebooks", and his first thought was of The Door to Canellin.  He posted about my book, got some people interested and some very nice compliments on the cover, and thanks to that post I ended up with another 6 freebies given away before my most recent giveaway ended, and a few more sales. Thanks much, Ryne, I appreciate the support!

And a final note.  I'm relatively new to Kindle ownership, so many of you probably already knew this, but it's news to me!  Did you know that after you finish reading a book on Kindle, if you page through to 100%, there's a "Before You Go" feature?  Using this feature, you can rate a book from 1 to 5 stars.  If you've connected your Kindle to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, you can then choose to share that rating, and a few words about what you read, to all your social network friends.  For indie authors, if this starts getting more generalized use, it could be a huge help in gaining exposure.  I know that I intend to start using this feature, especially for those great, undiscovered indies out there who have managed to entertain me!