Magical Fantasy Stories, Both Light & Dark

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Monday, October 20, 2014

#Writers, How Do Your Craft Skills Grow?


Strange CandyOkay. I'm a Laurell K Hamilton fan ... of the Anita Blake series ... when it comes up in mass paperback distribution.

Those caveats have kept from reading her short story collection, Strange Candy, in the past. I've only seen it in hardback. But one day, I wandered into a new used book store in town and felt obligation to buy some stuff. So I bought it. Read it in a couple sittings.

I came away thinking how much Hamilton has grown as a writer since the 1990s. Her growth is obvious in the two Blake short stories. Granted we're talking short stories here, but they are similar to chapter lengths. In them, Hamilton doesn't multiply the facets or hone the edges of Anita's character as she does in the books, and the secondary characters are definitely flat.

Maybe familiarity with your characters, breeds depth? Or, do acquired craft skills create three-dimensional characters. Lesson? Maybe writers should take time to know their characters before they rush to publish.

What surprised me most was that Hamilton published some Sword & Sorcery. Unfortunately, it's mostly cliched stuff. Have read the story lines many, many times before. But at least she was submitting her stories...and got accepted.

The only short story that really shined for me was "A Lust of Cupids" which indicated how her wicked sense of humor was developing. Still, only 3***** for this read. The stories would still have been buried in the archives if Hamilton hadn't reach stellar best-sellerdom.

Guess all us novices and pip-squeak writers can take heart.
There's hope.

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So what have I been doing?

Would you believe messing with social media? Mostly cleaning up things. I crowed too soon about getting The Ignoble Nobel Prize Winner and Night for the Gargoyles up for free on Amazon. Both uploads had problems, but they are now fixed ... after hours of mis-punching buttons.

Actually, it's kinda nice I got them up. Amazon put them in their free Kindle short reads categories. Gargoyles has a #2 and a #4 ranking as I write. Ignoble has top 100 ratings too, all in very narrowly defined categories.

Caveat. These rankings aren't very important, especially since the rankings haven't translated into more sales...at least on Amazon. On the other hand, Smashword sales are picking up. I may break the 25 a month paid download barrier someday. Maybe I'll dream of selling 50 e-stories a month.

Yeah, not very impressive is it? Now you know why I call myself a pipsqueak author. I can give away books, but selling them is another story.

Another example of my list cleaning, decided to do a new title for Crossings. The cover is currently being revised to the new title -- Showdown at Crossings: A Tale of Andor -- and then, it needs to be re-formatted ... then, resubmitted.  I'm hunching my shoulders and hoping all the places where I've listed the book will automatically change the cover, but I doubt it. -- See how marketing time metastasizes?

Don't think just because you've published your book,
your work is done.

Question: How much time do you spend on social media?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can Two Master Writers #Write Better Than One?

The Iron Trial (Magisterium Series #1)The family library delivered two YA/MG books the other day: a vampire dystopian novel and a magical school novel. Both cliche themes to my mind. I almost put them both on the furthest, dustiest to-read pile. But there was a little yellow sticky note on the middle grade one: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Two master, best-selling fantasy authors teaming up? I just had to take a peek. Read the usually deadly prologue. Then thought: Maybe I should read the first chapter to see if the promise held. Then, dinner called. Not that it was ready. I had to cook it.

Now most books for kids involve the discovering of self as either the main plot or subplot. The Iron Trial is no different, but it's not just another Tom Brown's School Days or Harry Potter regurgitated. Black & Clare manage to make the situation their own with a protagonist who is content to play second fiddle. Callum Hunt wants to fail at becoming a magic-worker because all his life his father has warned him that magic is dangerous and can destroy you.

Of course, he failed the tests for magic in the opening of the book. But he fails the tests in such amusing ways that you just have to keep reading. For example, all the other kids being tested levitate their papers until the room floats with sheets of paper. Callum concentrates so hard on keeping his sheet of paper on his desk that he embeds it into the wood. Something the headmaster of the Magisterium notices.

Of course, bad boy Callum breaks the school's rules, but Black & Clare give him more depth and complexity as he negotiates the path from outcast to friendship and team member. In spite of the standardized theme, all the events contribute to a fast-moving, twisting plot with a strong one-more-chapter pull. The characters are well motivated too.

The Magisterium is projected to be a five book series centered on a fight against evil. I look forward to the other books in the series because I think that the core theme of the books lies on the choices you make as an individual that count, not your supposed destiny. Only one problem I can see. The pace of the series release. One a year, I think. Did you guess I was giving it 5*****

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My paper revisions for The Ghostcrow continue. My critique group generally likes it, but as usual, has put a magnifying glass on the story's weak spots. They want more magic and supernatural stuff. I like my form of magical realism where the magic is firmly planted within the happenings of a mundane world. Now, doesn't that sound like a cliche?

I'm putting snippets from the novelette up on my author website. Why not take a look and see.

Other than that. I've been mostly cleaning up messes. Come to think of it, revising a draft is just another way of cleaning up a mess. Don't you think?

~~#~~

The Goddess Fish Blog Tour of
The Ghost in the Closet 
continues

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hey, #Writer. Are Your #Plots Too Simple?

When Shadows FallDon't you love a complicated plots with twists, turns and surprises? I know I do. In fact, I turn a deep shade of green when I encounter a complicated plot that works. Why? Because I feel my plots are too simplistic. So, you can imagine my delight after I discovered J. T. Ellisson's When Shadows Fall on the supermarket shelves.

The Prologue indicated it was a multiple viewpoint story  ... and it was: the perp, the red herring, and a medical examiner running away from police work to the safety of academe after a catastrophic case. I grabbed the book even though my to-read pile's growing.

The baffling case begins with a letter announcing the writer's death and gets its first complication when her doorbell rings. The lawyer, of the man who wrote the letter asking her to solve his murder, tells Samantha Owens she is the executor of the estate and is requested to do a medical examination that proves the death wasn't a suicide as first ruled. The murders begin to pile up, but the murder investigation soon entwines with a maze of child abductions, past and present. As I said, a nice, complicated plot line that includes a rogue FBI agent.

How would I sum up the storyline? It's a suspenseful nail-biter embedded in warm relationships and cold chills. Major and minor characters are well-fleshed out, and you care about them. The perp comes across as a person rather than an actor. Even the macabre ending is well foreshadowed. In my humble, pipsqueak opinion, J. T. Ellison is an author to study if you want your plots to be fast-moving and suspenseful.

I'm just one in the chorus giving When Shadows Fall 5*****.


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Blog Tour:
The Ghost in the Closet

Hi ... I commissioned Goddess Fish Promotions to run a blog tour for The Ghost in the Closet. The stops include:
October 6: Deal Sharing Aunt
October 7: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
October 8: Bunny's Review
October 9: Queen of All She Reads
October 10: Kit 'N Kabookle
October 13: Room With Books
October 14: It's Raining Books
October 15: Long and Short Reviews
October 16: SBM Book Obsession
October 17: Danita Minnis

They're also organizing a raffle for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card among the people who comment on my write up. I'm not always the listing at the top so you may have to scroll down. To find the links you can either use a search engine or go to the Goddess Fish page for my tour.

Looks like I'm going to be spending more time on Social Media.

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The revisions of The Ghostcrow,prequel to The Ghost in the Closet continues. I'm about 2/3s of the way done with the revisions. Decided the ghostcrow needed more screen time to do his/her thing. Also solved my dilemma about timing. Once my critique group sees the story, I'll submit it a couple places. Then, probably in January, I'll self-publish.

Oh. I'm putting snippets from The Ghostcrow up on my website now.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fairy Tale Motifs -- An Anchor or Great Launchging Pad for Your Story

Wickedly DangerousFairy tales have popped up in my reading in recent weeks several times. I reread a couple of Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Magician series. Read a self-published story using the fairy tale paradigm which sadly didn't reach it's potential. My favorite of the lot was a twist on the Baba Yaga motif of the Russian folklore.

Now Baba Yaga of the iron teeth and chicken-footed house was a reading favorite when my kids were young. Deborah Blake's take on Baba Yaga was so interesting, I just had to buy it. The babuska had turned into a hot chick in black leather. [For the record her house was turned into an Airstream trailer, and her traveling companion was a small white dragon disguised as a pit bull.]

Much loved children are disappearing from the town, and Sheriff Liam McClellan is totally frustrated in his search for them when he discovers some tourist's high-tone travel trailer parked on county land. After meeting Barbara Yager, the search for the missing children have to two teaming up to solve the mystery and more. Blake gets the love interest/conflict and mystery set up in the first chapter. The story line roars on as fast as Baba's motorcycle on a chase that involves hydraulic fracking, the Otherworld with an imperious fairy queen, and small town politics until the romantic elements slow the plot down.

Still Wickedly Dangerous was so good, I can't help but wonder why more fantasy writers don't mine folk tale traditions for their fiction.

Rating: 4****. It got a little too mushy towards the end, and the pace of the storyline slowed to accomodate romantic encounters. My feeling? Hey lady, make up your mind, already.

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Big Achievement Last Week!

I finished the first draft of The Ghostcrow.

 Now a paper copy is sitting on the dining room table with all sorts of pencil additions cluttering up the first third after today's morning writing session. Some
writers would let it sit longer, but I needed to start working on it to present my new ideas to my critique group. Big structural change: I have to go back and add more paranormal aspects. The ghost only has a couple pages, but the story really belongs to Dumdie, the protagonist of The Ghost in the Closet, as she learns to accept her growing abilities to see ghosts.

New ideas? Last week I also started a new Cassy Mae [Noticing Jamilla] story. Had her on the bus where she still fleeing The Markham's wrath when a stinky boy plunks down besides her. The story revolves around her accepting her magical abilities and saving the boy from a demon-possessed director of a teen shelter. So, I spent a lot of last week thinking about details of demon possession.

Since The Ghostcrow is also set in Andor, I had to transfer the ideas from my doodlings to my edits. The result strengthened the menace of my story's villain.

Only problem I'm puzzling over is timing. The story has a Halloween theme. My critique group didn't meet last summer, so not of the preliminary editing of the story has been done. So I'm left with a story I had planned to self-publish now. The decision I have to make: publish in January to add to my file of Andor stories or submit it for rejection by publications. Problem is it's long. Standing at close to 10,000 words at the moment -- The length I seem to like writing.

Guess I added another reason to my list of why critique groups are important for a writer. They act as a cattle prod to keep you writing. Oh, I was writing ... just nothing new. Revision of a couple novels festering in my computer. I have to partly finished edits on two of them as I try to decide which one I should market. Probably both. Then, I get the great joy of submitting to agents and publishers.

Yeah. Rejections here I come again.

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And One Little Milestone:
This is my 350th blog post.

Or, is that a mill stone?