Monday, December 29, 2014

The Unluckiest Chapter 13

In celebration of finishing Chapter 13 of Hell Becomes Her, I offer you the following excerpt:
No guns were harmed in the writing of this scene.

The elevator rumbled to a halt, and dinged cheerfully.  Del waited, her guns down by her sides.  She was too tired to raise them up while the elevator doors decided to open.  Del had to conserve whatever energy she had left.  She’d need to if she was going to hold out for even a fraction of the time that the others needed to find Jordan and try to escape.  Provided the elves didn’t simply shoot her out of hand.  She drew in a deep breath, blew it out, and heard the door mechanism engage.

This is a bad idea, she thought.

The doors slid back exactly as they were supposed to, and Del lifted her hands to point her SIGs through the opening.  Both hands on one gun with a straight-thumbs hold was the correct way to give her the proper support she needed to aim and shoot quickly and consistently.  Hollywood liked to show action heroes shooting from the hip, or blasting away without aiming and taking down a room full of bad guys, whose best response was to fire impotently at the ceiling or comically into other bad guys.  It was all so much useless eye candy.  A gun in each hand gave support to neither and made it impossible to sight.  She’d need independent use of each of her eyes, like a chameleon, to train the guns on different targets at the same time.

But it looked damned impressive from the receiving end.

“Hold your fire!” a voice commanded from outside the elevator.  “Hold your fire!”

Del wasn’t certain if the order was for her, the two ranks of Ljosalfar soldiers in their body armor who surrounded the elevator, or both.  Either way, holes weren’t being punched into her favorite skin and that was a good thing.  She might still die, riddled with bullets and spitting blood, but not yet.  Not yet.

She unwrapped and wrapped her fingers on her SIGs, and smiled.

“Hello boys,” Del said.  “Who wants some?”

“Hold your fire!” she heard Alfred Waru say again.

“Alfred, you cunning bastard,” Del purred.  “Come on in and give me a hug.  I’ve solved almost all your problems.  There’s just one left.”

“I’d rather you put down your weapons,” Alfred replied.  Del homed in on his voice from behind the second rank of soldiers, but couldn’t make him out through all the helmets.  “We’ve locked the elevator.  The doors won’t close, and the car won’t move.  Let’s talk about this.”

“Talk about what?” Del said and laughed.  “How you lied to your people?  How you betrayed and murdered your own?  How you’ve doomed them through your schemes and plots?”

Hell Becomes Her will be the next installment following up on the events of Tears of Heaven.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Some Books are Longer than Others

“I should think they ought to be long enough to reach from your body to the ground.”
Abraham Lincoln
When asked how long a man’s legs should be

There are plenty, even too many, articles on how long books should be.  So much so that instead of writing an article on the subject, it’s better if you just click this link to Writer’s Digest and read a reasonable approximation on the subject.  While a story should be long enough to reach the end, if you want to publish, you should be aware of certain milestones.  They can be broken, but it’s a rare thing.

It's not the size of the book . . .
If I’m not going to talk about word count, what is this article about?

The current word count for Hell Becomes Her.  I’ve just wrapped up the latest chapter, sent it off to my beta team, and received good responses.  I folded it into the manuscript draft, and with one or two chapters to go, the novel is now at 70,481 words.

This puts the book within striking distance of my 75,000 to 80,000 word goal.

The next chapter, which should be the last chapter, is well on its way, which is as it should be.  That puts the book near completion, and that is well worth sharing with everyone.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some Way Outta Here

"Enjoyable" is a matter of perspective.
Writing for me is as much a joy as burden—but I use burden very loosely.  The deeper into a story I go, with enjoyable characters and fun plot lines, the more I want to write about it.  The burden comes about when my brain won’t shut off about the whole thing.  This happens later in the process, as I’m starting to tie-up the loose ends, provide full explanations, and turn the very last plot twists. 

So, Saturday morning instead of sleeping in (as much as my boys will let me), I was lying awake around 3:30 AM while my brain was running down dialogue and plot points.

If writing was my only job, this wouldn’t really be a bad thing.  I could roll out of the bedroom (careful to let the wife sleep), fire up my computer and start working.  While writing is a “second” full-time job for me, it doesn’t quite cover the bills—not even the Scotch bill.

Undaunted, I rolled out of the bedroom, fired up the shared laptop, and tried to plug in my ergonomic keyboard.  That’s when things took a decidedly unpleasant and frustrating turn.  I can’t work on the small, square laptop computer for any meaningful time.  My carpal tunnel kicks in and I’m left aching for the rest of the day.  We’ve owned this particular laptop for about five years.  It remains reasonably functional, mostly for balancing the checkbook and letting the boys play some simple games.  It’s not set up at all for me to do any kind of meaningful writing.  One of the USB ports was
What have you done!?
“accidentally” broken.  The other decided this morning to fail outright.

Not all at once, mind you.  And not instantly, to be sure.

But fail it did.

The keyboard initially linked up perfectly, and I went about opening the current chapter of Hell Becomes Her from my DropBox (a wonderful cloud-based “drive”).  I started to work on the draft, typed out a couple of lines and that’s when the USB decided it was too early for any meaningful work.  The keyboard’s various lights flickered, sputtered and went out.  The computer told me, very helpfully, that the software for the keyboard had “failed to install”.  It cheerfully gave me a couple of recommendations to solve this issue.  I’m fairly certain it was laughing behind its virtual hand at me.

Two hours passed.

I downloaded, uploaded, rebooted, installed, reapplied and rebooted again.

The boys were quite awake and wondering what game I was playing.  They refused to believe that a
Whaddya mean by "not helping"??
computer can be used for anything but games or movies.  My youngest simply refused to stop “helping”, crowding my lap, trying to bang on the keyboard and use the mouse as I tried to fix the laptop.  I almost tried to buy them off by letting them play games (we never let them play games in the morning).  A half-hour or hour of actual work and I’d feel like I’d accomplished something.

Alas, after all the effort, the USB handed me its letter of resignation, packed it’s protocols, and left for he bust station.

I should have just started scribbling in my notebook.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Talk to a Reviewer

If only someone would invent paperless books!

A day or two ago it was pointed out to me that a reviewer had given Tears of Heaven one-star.  I’ve received a couple of mildly negative reviews and low stars in the past, so this was more of a shrug of the shoulders than anything.  It would be nice if everyone loved my book and gave it nothing but high marks.

That’s not only impractical, it’s impossible.

Even the highest rated books, some of the most well-known, are not now, nor when they were released, universally beloved.  Take a look at this collection: “15 Scathing Early Reviews of Classic Novels”.  I particularly liked the one-line quip for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  I’m sure Uncle Walt chuckled no end at that review.

Myself, I’ve never been able to get on the Frank Herbert Dune bandwagon.  My parents took me to see the David Lynch movie version, and I got a real kick out of it.  It would be a few years later before I’d read the book, which I found to be more of an outline of an amazing science fiction story than an actual complete novel.  Especially the climactic and closing chapters which felt extremely rushed and painfully barren of detail.  It seemed like Herbert realized he’d bitten off more than he could chew in a single novel, and went about tying up the loose ends as quickly as possible.

Careful.  That knife could Sting!
I didn’t hate Dune.  I could probably stand to read it again if I was on a deserted island.

But as an indie/small press author, nearly every review counts.  The majority of the reviews for Tears of Heaven are ones that I worked hard to get.  I begged, borrowed, cajoled, or otherwise blackmailed anyone with a set of eyes and an internet connection to give it a read and an honest opinion.  Some friends won’t talk to me anymore—but I have their reviews!

Just kidding.  None of my friends actively associate with me.

Now, there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage with a reviewer—any reviewer.  Generally, the right way, if you’re going to engage at all, is thank them for their time and their feedback.  After all, they went through the effort of reading the book, and then the effort of getting on their computer to share that experience with other readers.  Even with a bad review, that’s effort that should be noted and appreciated.

For the record, I wasn’t upset with the one star.  But I was curious.  There was no review with it.  I did a quick hunt on the reviewer’s blog, but couldn’t find anything.  Even more curious.  With a blog and whatnot, the reviewer wasn’t hard to track down, so I decided to reach out.

But what’s important here is the way in which I reached out.

Speaking of big swords . . .
Honesty is not always the best policy, but in this case I was curious about the negative experience.  So I shared that.  As I’m working on a follow up novel, Hell Becomes Her, I also don’t want to repeat major problems from the past.  I shared that too.  I went into the conversation open about the reviewer’s opinion.  I didn’t want the review changed, and I didn’t think the review was wrong.  I did want to understand what had gone wrong.

It was a lovely conversation.  Not overly long, but perfectly suitable.  Turns out there was a posted review, just a little tricky to find.  The book simply didn’t connect with the reviewer.  Nothing was specifically wrong.  There was no utter failure with the book.  It didn’t grab hold of the reviewer and there was no resonance with the characters or the plot.

I can’t say I’d recommend engaging all reviewers.  Not even some reviewers.  That’s what a beta team and an editor are for.  This happened to be a positive experience, and one of the very rare times I was even tempted to talk with a reviewer after a negative review, mostly out of curiosity.  The mindset going into the conversation was key.  An attack, belittling, etc., all would have resulted in a negative experience.  The furthest thing an author should be seeking.

So thanks, reviewer—and all reviewers everywhere—for taking the time, the effort to read my work and provide an honest review.  It’s deeply appreciated.