Had a strong finish for Camp NaNo:
4/27 1013 words
4/29 3615 words
I passed my word count goal, and finished the draft of Book 3 of Daughter of the Wildings! There were some very interesting developments in this book, lots to play off of for Book 4. Not sure when I'll start writing that one; I may wait for Camp NaNo in July, so I can spend May and June concentrating on getting Chosen of Azara out and doing the next round of work on The Lost Book of Anggird.
In other news, I'm very excited to have been chosen as this week's Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group featured author! I'll have the opportunity to get some more reviews for Urdaisunia, and to be featured on other authors' blogs as well as being mentioned on Facebook pages and Twitters. Every week, those who help out the week's featured author are placed into a drawing, and the next week's featured author is chosen. It's been fun getting to know and help out some fellow independent authors, and I'm so excited to be getting a turn. Watch my blog and the front page of my site for news about where I'm being featured! For starters, W.H. Cann has been kind enough to feature my book and bio on his blog. Go check it out, and while you're at it, take a look at his "Guardians" series.
Good writing days yesterday and today. Here's the numbers:
4/25 1568 words
4/26 2010 words
So close! Will meet my word count goal tomorrow; may or may not finish the story. I thought It was finished a couple thousand words ago and I was just winding down (with three thousand words still to go! yikes!) but so far I've added two serious life complications for Silas and Lainie and a Wait, what? Keeping things interesting!
The revision of Chosen of Azara continues, with major surgery to give one of the primary supporting characters a personality transplant. Probably looking at a June release for that one. The next stage of revision of The Lost Book of Anggird will begin as soon as I'm done writing my Camp NaNo novel. Projected release date for that is probably Octoberish. And Sarya and Adan from Sarya's Song (seriously need to think of a better title for that) have started knocking on my brain, asking if it's their turn yet. As soon as Chosen of Azara is out, major revision on the (very rough) first draft of Sarya's Song will begin. I'd love a 2013 release for that one, but it might not happen until early 2014.
One of the short-short stories I wrote in March is now edited and posted. Paint It Black is about an artist who is paralyzed by her fear of the dark. It's maybe a little strange. And yes, I know that's the title of a Rolling Stones song. You can't copyright titles, and it's also the name of a band and a novel. This story originally had a different title that came from the prompt I used to write it, but as I wrote and edited, I kept thinking that Paint It Black would be the perfect title. So I changed it. Also, that song would make great background music while you read the story. It's free to read on the site until I have enough other stories for another collection (with these short-shorts, I'll probably put five in a collection), at which time it'll come down and go up for sale on Amazon in the KDP Select program.
Today my Camp NaNo Cabin held a word war, so I did extra writing, 2,532 words, to bring my total to 25,879/30,000. Poor Silas is having a very very bad day, but it might start to get better soon.
According to my online banking stuff, my first payout from Amazon, for February sales, is pending. It isn't a lot - we're talking a large (not extra-large) pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, and extra cheese. Maybe black olives. (Although everything I make for the time being is going straight into the cover art fund for the Daughter of the Wildings series, not for pizza.) But it's money that I earned with my writing! Which is seriously cool. It's something that for a long time I thought would never happen. I knew that conventional publishing just wasn't something I wanted to deal with, so I figured I would just never be a professional writer. But now, thanks to Amazon and Kindle and ebooks and print-on-demand and serious (not vanity) self-publishing, I am a pro :-D
I won't be getting another payout for a few months, at least - you have to accumulate a minimum amount in your account both at Amazon and at Smashwords. But that's ok. I know I'm just a little baby self-pubbing author just starting out, and I'm in it for the long term, with a two-year starter plan.
But I'm still getting a real kick out of this first payday :-D
Camp NaNo report, Day 23:
My word counter was being wonky, and I'm taking my total from the Camp NaNo Official Word Counter today, so I'm not sure exactly how many words I wrote yesterday and today. But right now I'm at 23,347/30,000 words.
Finally, here's a shoutout to this week's featured author at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group, Jennifer Howard!
Blood Bound (Gallows, #1), by Sharon Stevenson
Characters: * * * * *
Story: * * *
Writing: * * * *
World-building: * * * *
Fast-paced urban fantasy with twin demon-hunters Sarah and Shaun Gallows. I enjoyed the characters, especially the squeamish-yet-curmudgeonly Shaun. For me, this is a winning combination in male main characters, and Shaun alone made the book for me. The other characters are also well-drawn and engaging. The book is set in an alternate-universe Scotland, and I enjoyed the Scottish slang used throughout. This isn't just a generic could-be-anywhere story.
The story involves Sarah and Shaun's attempts to figure out what the vicious Melissa is up to, whether she needs to be stopped, and how to stop her. There are also subplots involving Sarah and Shaun's complicated love lives (Shaun appears to be soul-mated to Melissa, and Sarah has two guys who are best buddies both wanting her, and an eye for a much younger guy as well). Also vampires. Lots of vampires. (Reason #573 why you might want to have a locked cage in your basement: to keep the vampire in.) I did feel like the story could have used more of a sense of urgency or rising stakes (no pun intended; if you've read it, you know what I mean!) as it progressed to the end; the problem to be solved was the same as it had been since about the middle of the book, with no greater or rising threats to the main characters as the end drew closer, until the very very end. There were also times when the action seemed to skip ahead or to a different setting without transition, and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on.
One other thing, the protagonists are 19 years old, but this is definitely not a YA book. The protagonists act as adults in their world, have adult lives and adult interests and concerns, and the book deals with adult themes in an adult manner. Which for me is a plus, but someone looking for a less-intense YA read might get more than they bargained for here.
A fun read, and I'm looking forward to more adventures with Shaun and Sarah.
The CFS (another post for another time) has really been dragging me down the last few days, so it's been slow and painful. But progress is still happening.
4/17 1016 words
4/18 tough day, lost cause
4/19 1533 words
4/20 1411 words
total: 20,789/30,000 words
The revision of Chosen of Azara is coming right along too. It's been tough this week, then I finally realized what was messing everything up: the main secondary character in the Lucie story arc needs a complete personality transplant. The tense relationships between this character and the two main characters is one of the primary conflicts in that section of the book, and it just wasn't happening. I've had a hard time pinning down this character, but I think I've finally got it figured out. I'm also rearranging some of the major scenes at the very end of the book, so once that's done I'll print out the Lucie section and go to work on fixing up that character. I don't want to rush things; I want to get it right, so this most likely isn't going to be a May release; I'm hoping for June, if all goes well once this major surgery is done.
Finally, I want to announce that a friend of mine who's a very talented artist has opened an etsy shop: Motley Apricot Paintworks. Check it out for fabulous artwork, home decor, hand-painted wooden jewelry, and other wonderfully decorative and useful items.
(Note: Once again, this isn't a book review blog. Please don't send me requests to review your book. I review books on my own whim and discretion, mostly for my Goodreads group but also other books that happen to catch my interest.)
Dream Student, by J.J. DiBenedetto
Kyra's Star Ratings:
Story: * * * *
Characters: * * * *
Writing: * * * *
Suspense: * * *
(I was provided with a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)
Dream Student is the story of a pre-med student who is an unwilling witness to other people's dreams. The novel is balanced between Sara's progess through her junior year of college as a pre-med student, a romance that is literally a dream come true, and a paranormal suspense novel where Sara finds herself inside a serial killer's dreams. The novel pulled me in from the beginning with the first few dream sequences. The prose is smooth and well-crafted with a sly sense of humor, and the author, a man, does an excellent job of getting inside the head of a female college student and telling her story in first-person voice. The dreams are written in third-person, an effective way to convey the kind of creepy, out-of-body experience that this feels like to Sara.
For my own preference, I would have liked it if the three plotlines were more focused so that the serial-killer plotline was the main plot, with the romance as a major subplot and the college-life parts as background or a supplementary subplot, in order to maintain the momentum and suspense. But Sara, her boyfriend Brian, and her best friend Beth are engaging enough characters that I still enjoyed reading about their romantic and academic escapades. And the ending, where Sara, Brian, and Beth race to stop the killer before he strikes again, kept me reading non-stop.
Dream Student is a well-written, engaging book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series, to find out what lies ahead for Sara, Brian - and her ability to see other people's dreams.
Kyra's Self-Publishing How-To
Yesterday at The Passive Voice blog, Passive Guy posted a question from a reader who wants to start writing and self-publishing but is overwhelmed by all the information and has no idea where to start or how to go about this. Passive Guy invited commenters to leave their own tips and advice, and here's what I posted. Since I've toyed with the idea of doing a post on the very same subject, I decided to recycle this very fine (if I do say so myself :D) run-down on how to go about becoming an independent author.
* * *
I just took the leap in February, and even though I’m still just a little baby self-publisher, I love it and feel confident that this is something that will give me a lot of satisfaction in life.
Here’s my list:
1. Write a book. Write what you love, what makes you happy, what you feel driven to write. Don’t worry about writing what will sell, because no one knows that. Also, if you want to make a career of this, you can’t do it with just one book, so be working on ideas for more books.
2. Make the book as good as you can get it. Work on your own revising/editing skills. (Many resources online.) Have some acquaintances who are avid readers read it, or join a critique group (can also be found online). If you have the money, or can arrange a barter or something, find a *good* professional editor. Do what you have to do to make the book as error-free as possible.
3. If you’re broke, have some html know-how or don’t mind learning, and don’t mind doing things yourself, get a guide on how to do the ebook formatting yourself. You can find suggestions on Lindsay Buroker’s and David Gaughran’s blogs. [Specifically, The eBook Design and Development Guide by Paul Salvette and Guido Henckel's blog post series Take Pride In Your eBook Formatting] If you aren’t quite so broke, or don’t want to do it yourself, research ebook formatters. There are a number of them, many with reasonable rates. You can find links on the Kindle boards.
4. For a low-cost cover, license some stock art from a site like Dreamstime, and learn how to do the lettering in an image-editing program. See The Book Designer for good and less-good examples. If you can spend a little more, use a cover designer. You can also find links to this on the Kindle boards.
5. Set up your accounts at the different outlets – Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo are the big ones (Apple too, but you have to have a Mac computer to go to them directly). Check out their individual submission/upload requirements, and follow these carefully. I go direct through Amazon, and use Smashwords for all the others, just to keep it simple.
6. Be VERY VERY CAREFUL ***NOT*** to pay for expensive packages containing services you don’t need or could do yourself. You should be able to pick and choose what services you want/need on an individual basis without getting locked in to a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Also be careful if any service you want to use asks you to sign agreements involving percentages or copyright or exclusivity (KDP Select asks you to make books you enroll in that program exclusive for 90 days, which is as far as any author should be willing to go exclusive, and not everyone even feels comfortable with that). In short, be careful not to get ripped off or trapped in a bad deal.
*I did the complete do-it-yourself route, and published my first book for under $100, including $35 to register the copyright in the U.S., expanded distribution fee and proof copy from CreateSpace, licensed stock art, and small gifts for my test readers.
7. Once your book is up for sale, be patient – it will not take off overnight, or even over a few months – and get going on the next book.
Might not work for everyone, but that’s how I’m doing it.
* * *
There's lots of other good advice in the post at The Passive Voice, so go check it out if publishing your writing is something you're thinking of doing.
Storm Dancer, by Rayne Hall
Kyra's star ratings:
Characters: * * * * *
Story: * * * *
Writing: * * * *
Setting: * * * * *
(I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)
Storm Dancer is a big, sweeping, epic fantasy set in an exotic desert land, with colorful and compelling characters. Dahoud, possessed by a djinn who urges him to horrifying acts of rape and other atrocities, is fighting to control the djinn and make amends for the terrible things he's done. Merida, a magician and loyal citizen of the extremely ordered and rigid Virtuous Republic of Riverland, has been sent to the desert countries on a mission to bring rain and enlightenment. Their paths cross as both of them face setbacks and challenges on their respective quests, then finally join together when they unexpectedly find a common cause to fight for.
The writing is clear and colorful, painting a portrait of harsh, exotic lands. I have a soft spot for fantasy that takes place in desert settings, so I really enjoyed the setting of this book. I also sympathized with the characters as they struggled to make their way through this harsh world against the thoroughly nasty plotting of the main villain, Kirral. There were a few times when I wanted to give Merida a good shaking for her obtuseness and refusal to adapt to her new situation. Frustration with characters is a big reason why I don't finish books. But in this case, it seemed clear that Merida was being set up like this on purpose so that the readers could follow her through her process of growth and learning. She did learn and grow, and I took more than a little satisfaction in seeing her cut down to size and then becoming a much stronger and wiser woman. I also enjoyed watching Dahoud's progess as he came to understand the true nature of the darkness within him.
It's a long book, which I'm not complaining about because I do love me a good doorstopper. The plot did seem to lose momentum and focus a few times, particularly in the end of the first half or about in the middle third. The structure of the book could maybe use a little tightening up to stay more focused on Dahoud and Merida and their problems and what they're trying to do. But during these slower spots, I was interested enough in what was going to happen to the characters to keep reading. I also felt that there were places where the author backed off from really diving into the full emotions and experiences of the characters, just touching the surface instead of giving the full depths.
The end was satisfying, and I would enjoy reading the further adventures of Dahoud and Merida. On the whole, Storm Dancer is a rich, colorful, exciting, and rewarding read, and I enjoyed it very much.
Last time on the Breakfast Challenge, we looked at Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. Today we'll see what breakfast is like for the characters in Urdaisunia.
In short, not nearly as luxurious. At one time, the land of Urdaisunia was an agricultural oasis, the Urdaisunians having developed various advanced agricultural techniques including an extensive irrigation system. But now drought and war have put an end to that, and food is in perilously short supply.
The staple foods in the villages along the riverbanks, including Rashali's home village Moon Bend, are lentils and barley (mostly from stores from previous years' crops, since the harvests have been getting worse every year), root vegetables and greens that are native to the desert (because of the water shortage, vegetable gardens can no longer be grown), goat's milk, and chicken eggs. The river villagers' main source of animal protein was always fish, but with the drying up of the rivers, that major component of their diet has disappeared. Every once in a while, the village will butcher a spare goat and eat a small portion of the meat spit-roasted or stewed, but most of it is cured and dried. Goat jerky, basically. The same with chickens: they're more valuable for their eggs than for their meat, but every once in a while a hen too old to lay or a spare rooster will be killed and eaten.
With food in such short supply, the river villagers generally only eat one meal a day. They postpone that one meal as late in the day as they can, so they won't be too hungry to sleep at bedtime. Food supplies are commonly-shared, so food preparation and eating are generally communal activities. In spite of the shortages, the villagers are generous with those who have even less, such as travelers who have eaten their own provisions. They believe it's an offense to the gods to withold even what little they have been given by the favor of the gods.
When Rashali finds herself in unexpectedly comfortable circumstances in the capital city Zir, she is served a meal consisting of grilled fish (the two rivers have been dammed up at Zir, so fish is still available), soft cheese, cold cooked barley dressed with olive oil and herbs, fresh greens, figs, and almond cakes. This is more food than she sees in a week, and she feels guilty at the abundance, thinking of how hungry the people back home in Moon Bend are, but she eats as much of it as she can so as not to offend the gods and the person who provided the meal by wasting it. This is a supper; a breakfast in this situation would consist of cooked barley and/or lentils topped with goat-milk yogurt, barley bread, soft cheese, and figs or grapes. Two large meals a day are served here, one in late morning and the other late in the afternoon. Meals are eaten privately or in a formal family setting.
In another part of the book, Rashali is in an exceptionally well-run rebel camp with good supply lines, including water supplies. Three meals a day are served here, because the days start early and end late and include a lot of military training and other hard work. A typical meal is lentil stew topped with goat-milk yogurt, and the camp also stores hard-baked cakes of barley and lentils.
In Kubiz, the great harbor city, fish is a lot more abundant, of course. Fish stew or grilled fish are eaten at nearly every meal, and Kubiz still has enough food supplies that anyone who can afford it can eat three meals a day. Kubiz is also a very cosmopolitan city, so the food has a lot of international influences, including stir-fry and kebabs. Candy is popular, with makers of almond-paste and honey sweets being common.
I used food in Urdaisunia as a close reflection of the different circumstances and settings the characters find themselves in. In some ways, Urdaisunia is a story of survival, both of individuals and of nations, and food is essential to survival. It was also interesting to do some research into what kinds of food would have been available to the ancient Sumerians. In an earlier version of the book I had the Urdaisunians eating lots of rice, until it occurred to me (duh) that rice cultivation takes a lot of water. Way more water than was ever available. So, goodbye rice, hello barley. I like barley, as it happens, and I also like lentils. I don't think I'd like them as much if that was most of what I had to eat, though.
Camp NaNo report:
4/15 1801 words
4/16 1680 words
Finally, here's a shout-out to Sharon Stevenson, this week's featured writer at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads!
I am Kyra Halland, author of tales of fantasy, heroism, and romance.
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