Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Land of Betrovia Trilogy--in a nutshell?

What follows are each of the "blurbs" of all three Land of Betrovia novels: Betrovia, Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls, and Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation.

For those who have wanted to see the "big picture" of the entire trilogy, especially prospective readers who frequent the MFA in Freeburg, then this is the blogpost you've been waiting for!

Betrovia On Sale! Just $.99!
Betrovia ... where the horrors of war are as common as snow and ice in winter...

Patrik, as a newly-married young man, turns down the safety of small town life to help his uncle manage a road-side inn many miles away. But before he can learn even the basics of running a roadside inn, the uncle suddenly dies. If he had stayed where he was born, Patrik could have become a successful hunter, fur trapper, or even a successful artist. So why did he leave the comforts of home? Not long after the death of his uncle, Patrik's wife dies, leaving him to mourn her death while struggling to be a good father to their two young daughters. Where can he find the inner peace he feverishly desires?

Tamara, boisterous, beautiful but often cantankerous, has turned down every man who has  offered to rescue her from the pitiful routine of The Lonely Fox Inn. Who, if anyone, could ever capture her love?

Kristof, The Lonely Fox Inn's stable hand, has attempted to earn Tamara's affection since he first set eyes upon her but has suffered a lifetime of rejection in the few months he has been employed there. What can he do to somehow make her love him?

Betrovia ... a land in disarray ... a land in need of peace.

A nifty thing to add here is Brad Francis' review of Betrovia (well, it's like a review even though it's more like an interview seasoned lightly with a review).

Besides, Betrovia can also be found at Barnes and Noble, ITunes and Kobo!

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls On Sale! Just $1.99!
Lycentia, the City of Light, the city where finance, friendship and faith are being blended together to produce what could be a fabulous future for all Betrovians.

Patrik, the recalcitrant innkeeper and Galena, his younger daughter, load up the wagon, lock up The Lonely Fox Inn and head east for Lycentia. The goal? To hand-deliver Harrak's scrolls, the ones Patrik discovered in a musty cave, to Oliver III, the Netherene High Priest. The problem? The scrolls are not what Patrik thinks they are! But how, if at all, can Patrik discover the truth before it's too late?

Who was this Harrak, the supposed author of these infamous scrolls? And why are the Lycentian Netherenes striving to eradicate Harrak's writings? Even to the point of killing those who express faith in those writings? Teophelus, the neophyte priest, is in love with both his calling and Patrik's daughter Galena: so just what are his motives for helping Patrik understand the true meanings hidden within those scrolls?

Edelin, the conniving, self-serving but lonely thief, nearly becomes entangled in a skirmish between Betrovian militiamen and Haarigoian raiders. He manages to elude the carnage and finds refuge in a village on the edge of the untamed Plains of Dreut. But not long after arriving there, he disappears into the night after stealing what may be the most-valuable piece of jewelry he has ever possessed. But might this bauble he now possesses lead Edelin into a future that no one would ever wish for?

Tamara is no longer the elder daughter of an innkeeper: she is now the wife of the King of Betrovia! She has the entire city of Lycentia at her beck and call. But why isn't she happy? Isn't this what she has always dreamed of? What, if anything, can bring her the happiness she desperately desires?

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls – book two of The Land of Betrovia trilogy

Besides,. Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls can also be found at Barnes and Noble, ITunes, and Kobo!

Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation On Sale! Just $1.99!
Ahnak, the ancient city of the Dark Lords ...

Great Desert Muads and Haarigoian plainsmen have long savaged Betrovian forests, being controlled from that gray stone fortress. Now, General Demirain of Lycentia intends to make Ahnak his platform for imperial incursions into the Plains of Dreut and the Great Desert.

Patrik and his daughter Galena survived the brutal late-night attack in Lycentia but the priest Teophelus was not so fortunate. He implores Patrik to deliver Harrak's scrolls to the Netherene High Priest.

Galena, enraged about losing Teophelus, knows she cannot bring him back but wishes there was something she could do to prevent her father from suffering a similar fate. How might a trip back to Noran solve her problem?

Edelin approaches the Dark Lords' former bastion. Fates still smiles on him, the stolen priestly medallion assures him. As Edelin nears Ahnak’s gates, tainted with deception, intrigue and thievery, he anticipates a profitable future if, once more, people fall for his false charms. It worked with that old fool Patrik, back when he kept The Lonely Fox Inn.

Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation – book three of The Land of Betrovia trilogy

Besides Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation can also be found at Barnes and Noble, ITunes and Kobo!

The Land of Betrovia: Omnibus Edition! On Sale! Just $4.99!

And if you're looking for all three books of the trilogy in one nifty ebook, then look no further! Besides, The Land of Betrovia Omnibus can be found at Barnes and Noble, ITunes, and Kobo!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

To Prologue or Not To Prologue? Yes, it's a Question!

A few years after Wifey agreed to be "my" wife, she also agreed to go see the movie Dune with me. It wasn't until a year or so after we were married that she discovered that I was a fan of science fiction. Her oldest brother was also a sci-fi buff but was even more of a Frank Herbert fanatic. So he encouraged her to go as well. After buying our tickets, as we were going inside the theater, ushers were distributing programs that gave background information about the movie's characters, settings and conflicts that happened before the events in the movie. This was quite unusual. So there we were, reading something about the novel that we assumed the theater management threw together to help us better appreciate, or to at least understand the movie. After reading this little "prologue," I felt as though I was prepared to enjoy the movie. But after she read the handout, Wifey said that she was totally confused and once the movie was over, she said that she hated it.

As I worked on Betrovia, the first book of The Land of Betrovia trilogy, I excitedly included large "chunks" of background information: the culture, religion(s) of the different people groups, economic stuff, etc. And I thought it all was relevant as well as did not take away from the flow of the plot. But more than a few of the novel's early readers did not agree.

So, a few weeks ago I took a short break from hammering away Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation, the final book of the trilogy, to glean a few of those chunks out of the body of the novel. I then allocated them to the appendix (along with a few other things). I thought about putting this information into a prologue, but the novel already has a "main character introduction" page that comes right after the table of contents.

And this brings me to the main point of this Land of Betrovia blogpost:

To prologue or not to prologue? 
What are Writers Cafe authors thinking about this topic? 

"I like my opening, but I'm not sure if it's more prologue like.  It's an intro to the book, kind of like a welcome to my story kinda thing."

"If it's critical information the story can't do without, but preceeds the story by a long time or is unrelated/different in some way to the main text. I have a 3rd person prologue and epilogue framing a 1st person story. That's why I did mine. In my historic WIP, I've got an event that happens 2 years prior to the start of the story, and I'm still debating whether it's a great enough time removal to warrant calling it a prologue, because the assumption is that people will skip it."

"I have a lot of things that are prologues or prologue-like, but I always call them chapter one. They are generally setups of the main plot, and often feature characters who don't survive the first chapter or aren't my main POV. The key to a successful prologue, IMO, is to make it a self-contained story with its own plot arc that can quickly suck in the reader. It's a fine line though and tough to get right. I'm not sure I always manage."

"For whatever its worth, I try to use the prologue for slow setup/description/background for the rest of the book. My books are action/suspense oriented so I try to keep the chapters crisp/fast and engaging. I don't want to get bogged down with a lot of background stuff as it would slow the action down. I'm not sure I'm always successful, but that's the theory."

"My two published books both have prologues.  The first one has a prologue because the first scene happens sixty years before the current day story, which features the descendents of the people in the prologue. So as the previous posters said, it's as prologue because the time period and the characters are different. The second book has a prologue for a different reason, which is what I am trying in my longwinded way to add to this thread. The premise of the book is to tell the same story three different ways followed by a fourth very short book in which no one was killed in the accident, so in a sense it ends with 'none of this ever happened.' It needed a 'frame' to give it a sense that we are finished at the end. So I wrote a prologue that describes the life history, so to speak, of the rock that causes all the trouble. Then when we return to the rock at the end,  you know we are done. It sounds weird, but most people have told me they love that part. I am finally writing something without a prologue this time.  That's actually new for me."

"I had some advice about having a prologue recently. My novel was written without a prologue. When it was edited it was suggested I move a segment from a chapter in the middle of the book to the start and call it a prologue. Just a few paragraphs, that's all. What it did was a) provide the hook and b) give the reader a glimpse of something which happens later on but still has that how did he get there question. I think if used imaginatively, prologues can be more than just a reference point or an additional few pages at the start."

"I'm surprised by the assumption that some readers skip a prologue. I always read a prologue, if there is one, because I consider it an integral part of the book.  It wouldn't be there if it didn't contribute in some way to the story. If I'm not interested in reading and understanding the whole story, then why am I reading any of the book?"

"Have a prologue if it advances the narrative. If it doesn't, throw it out. Stories should hit the ground running, with all engines firing. My 2-cents worth!"

"There's going to be some exposition at the beginning of a book, so I find a prologue is the time to slap the reader with a dead fish and stir up some sort of emotion then you can afford a bit of a slowdown in the physical action. I find this is easier to do with something detached from the initial plot, something that becomes relevant later on. That way you have some guaranteed unanswered questions for the first half of the book at least."

"Now in defense of the prologue, when it’s done well, it’s truly an amazing tool. The number of times I’ve seen a prologue done extraordinarily well in requested submissions? Well, I can count that total on two hands. Remember that a prolog and an epilog are just a method of framing a work. The only thing in a prolog should be something that absolutely sets the tone, mood, theme, etc, of a work, and therefore changes how the reader will experience the first scene or chapter. If it doesn't change the meaning of the first chapter, then save it and put it in a flashback - once you've earned the right to a flashback. If it doesn't affect the story at all, then sprinkle it through - or drop it in an appendix. On the other hand, if it's the same characters, the same subject, and so on - or if your book already jumps time zones and places between chapters - then call it 'Chapter One' and get on with it."

"When I wrote my first book, it was as a novella. The true beginning of the story--how the main character became infected--was told in flashback, because it worked better that way. Eventually I realized the whole story was too rushed and rewrote it as a novel, but when I did that, I realized the opening scene was no longer working as a flashback; it worked much better as a prologue. There are enough other flashbacks anyway that it made more sense for this most significant event to stand out. The prologue is written as if it's being told early in the story, so that at one point it switches to present tense; it made sense to me at the time, so I stuck with it. Prologue when it works, avoid when it doesn't. Avoid infodumps. That seems to be the gist of it."

"When? When it adds to the interest of the story. Sometimes a prologue sets the tone, then the story starts several years earlier. Just don't use the prologue to retell everything you are going show anyway. It should grab the reader, make them curious and start immersing them into the story. It should make them ask 'What in the world happened?'"

"I feel the best prologues are teasers or pertinent pieces that are relevant yet outside of the main story. My prologue to my first novel takes place after the main story and the epilogue picks up where the prologue leaves off. It's part 1 of the epilogue actually, serving as a frame. The best prologues I've seen that do both of these things are in Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and The Vistitation by Frank Perretti. They are short and intriguing. They do their job of pulling you into the story and leave you wondering what they have to do with or how they will affect the main story. The worst prologues are info dumps that go on and on for pages. If you really need an info dumpy prologue, keep it as short as possible. If you need a setup to a historical novel or an epic fantasy, the readers of these genres are more used to prologues, but still I would make it as interesting and tidy as possible. If it's all telling, you're really taking a crap shoot and it will probably not land in your favor."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let the characters write that novel? That's crazy!

Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation, book three of The Land of Betrovia trilogy, is nearly drafted. Drafted, but nowhere near being done. When I said this to one of Betrovia's loyal readers (who, by the way, is also a loyal MFA 280 customer), she replied with a sad sigh. Yes, the structure is there, for the most part, the outline has been followed, not as a whole but pretty close, and the cover is basically finalized (yeah, right!)

So why do i still feel so frustrated with the process? Isn't that what I did as I wrote the first two books? Construct outline, write a few chapters, refer to outline, write a few more chapters, wash-rinse-repeat, right?

But I wonder ... how are some Writers Cafe novelists dealing with their process?

"Letting my characters write the novel is a new and exciting concept for me. I've always heard that you should develop your characters first and simply arrange the situations for them to live in. This has made my writing so much easier. Gone are the days of structure and planning and streamlining my books to cater to the plot. Now my characters are REAL and they decide what happens!"

"I'm such a huge believer in doing whatever works for you and taking all writing advice with a grain of salt. I tend to let my characters take the lead. Even when I flesh them out first and write an outline (which I do maybe around draft 3, since my first draft is almost always an exploratory draft), I find they do things I didn't plan or do the opposite of what I'd planned and it works out for the best. It can be so much fun to sit there and go 'HOW DID YOU DO THAT. I told you to do the other thing and you are acting on your own.' LOL."

"AHAHAHHA I thought I was the only one who constantly yelled at her characters for having a mind of their own. Dang those unruly little rebels! However, have to love them for creating the story for me!"

"I'm actually trying to move away from this concept. It works well for me, but it makes it darn hard to work out a plot. I'd like to learn some kind of happy medium where I can loosely plan out a few things to have enough structure, but make the characters still seem real. My story craft will be a lot better if I can master some modicum of planning. Either way, characters still need a certain degree of freedom just for the sake of dialogue. The freer they are, the more interesting they are. And a good writer has to be able to listen to their characters, I think, so they can adapt if a character's nature is pulling them too far off the story arc. If the character has to be changed to make their actions make sense, the author needs to know that before the book gets published, so readers don't think they were just shoehorned into a particular action."

"Once upon a time I planned the whole book, prepared all the details about the plot and everything... Then my characters laughed in my face. My characters always do what they want. It's annoying sometimes."

"Before writing I think up my characters, they live in my head for a while before I start asking them what happened during the time span I plan to write my book on. Usually I already have a couple of ideas for where the story will be going and I apply them to it. Then I just keep asking questions so that I've got a broad idea for what is going to happen. I write out the time span for everything and after that all bets are off. My characters can do whatever they like as long as they stay within the structure of the few (usually up to 3 to 5 for a 30 K book) plot points I've got. Quite often they are simple points. First kiss, they fight, X confronts Y. So setting is often not a set thing."

"No one way works for everyone, but as it happens, this is my way too. The first time I realized that my characters were in charge, I wrote a threesome for Gene.  He was happy about and had a lot of fun, but by the next day, I was in BIG trouble.  Estelle was hurt that Gene enjoyed that threeway so much (even though they were common in their world), so then Gene was mad at me for hurting her feelings. Nobody would talk to me for three days. Finally, I had to delete it and give it to someone else before I could move on. Once I did that, they all forgave me and we went on to finish that book and (so far), three more. I learned my lesson."

"I try to write the beginning and end myself before the characters rebel and take over. That way I sort of know where we're all going, and then I allow myself to sit back (I don't always have great posture at the keyboard) and enjoy the ride. 0;)"

"Little bit of outlining, little bit of character sketching, then off to the races I go. That seems to be working for me. Although, there have been times I felt my characters were ready to hire a ghost writer rather than sitting around waiting for me to get on with the job. Feisty little buggers. Sometimes they really do need to be kept in check."

"Letting the characters take over seems to be the norm, not the exception. I think this style is also genre-dependent. For example, you can't write a historical fiction without some serious structure, research and planning. But for horrors and thrillers? Sit back and let the book discover itself."

"LOL glad I'm not the only one with this problem. Characters can be so infuriating sometimes! A few are quiet and submissive, but some are downright out of control! But, most of the time they end up teaching you something about your own book you never even knew, so it works out. Sometimes, however, you have to use your shepherd's crook to keep them in line. It's all about balance for your book."

"I was just wondering how well books do when authors do no plotting and just follow where their characters lead. How hard is it to edit such books? I daydream my plot and then outline before writing. When I begin writing, I do not stick to the outline but go where the story takes me. Ultimately, though, I have a goal in mind."

"You're giving freer reign to your right brain. At least that's what the prof who taught the creativity class I had many years back would say. Your brain's left hemisphere, being the lineal, logical, plotter, is the opposite of the free-wheeling right side. Every time I try to plot and plan, it all goes out the window in the end anyhow. Best case scenario: strike a balance. That way, serendipity plays a part in creating surprises, but those surprises advance plot/story rather than create plot or theme inconsistencies. Sorry, didn't mean for this to come off like a lecture."

"I charge headfirst into the story. The healthy research comes later to flesh it out. Drama is the main part of my historical fiction. My characters are fictional, not real people from history. The backdrop is historical fiction. For instance, in the first 2 books it's nineteenth century France and the bohemian art era of Impressionism is in full swing. The main story can be written without much knowledge. Then I did one hell of a lot of research to make it sing. Much more time was spent on that than the story itself. The story poured out. The research? Not so much. It can out slowly through lots of work. I will agree that if I was writing about actual people (like Caesar) I would need to do research first. Historical Fiction can take many shapes. Sometimes, the characters are not historical but the environment is. You can't group all historical fiction together. My writiing of the story is seat of the pants. My characters dictacte what happens. I love when a new character pops up or a new situation. For instasnce, I had no idea gangsters and speakeasies would be part of book 3. Tristan Michel must have, though, cuz he sure led me there.  As it typed out, sometimes I looked up things, but most times I told it and then filled it out with facts, etc. Same with book 4."

"The first time I let my characters completely tell the story, I ended up writing an 80k novel in 5 weeks! While studying full time, mind. Things tend to go a lot quicker and smoother when I let them do all the storytelling. Right now, I'm 50/50 but would like to get back to putting them in charge. This also makes the writing process much more fun, I've found, because I don't know what wacky things they're going to get up to next. In that respect I become the reader, and I love that."

"I think one of the hardest things to determine definitively is what the secondary characters want. Everyone pretty much gets the protag and antag defined fairly early on, but the secondary characters in my case are blank slates. Until I figure out what they want, I can't know what they'd do in a given situation based on their background, education, pressures, etc... But, once I have those things established, in order to stay in character, they WILL do whatever they want. And if I want them to do someth9ing else, I have to change on of those character traits I'd established, and it's a long process of going back and changing stuff throughout the book, so it's easier to let them do whatever the hell they want, and deal with it."

"I think it's very important to know your characters. Very important. I don't actually do full-out interviews with them like I've seen some people do, but I always know all my main and secondary characters' GMCs before I can get anything done. (And it's probably why I love series -- 3 books in, I know these characters pretty darn well.) But I think it's important to note that there is no one process that works for everyone. Some people swear by writing from the seat of their pants and just letting their characters do as they will. Others will write utter hot messes that can't be salvaged when that's the case. I write mysteries. Thus, I plot. It might be possible not to plot and still write a satisfying mystery, but darned if I can figure out how to do that. Not to mention I can write so much faster and actually FINISH a manuscript when I have the plot ahead of time. If I just write from the seat of my pants, I get nothing done. Either I'll write utter drivel that has nothing to do with anything or I just stare at my cursor petrified. But just because I plot doesn't mean that I don't let my characters dictate. It's not that I let them do whatever they want, it's that I know my characters, so I never do anything that isn't consistent with their needs/wants/personalities. And I can still do that within the confines of a plot. Does that mean I never deviate? Of course not. My plots aren't air-tight. They're more an outline with a list of bullet points that have to happen to get from Point A to Point Z. But the subpoints between A and B or B and C or C and D -- that can be done on the whim while I'm writing."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Going great guns about Goodreads? Maybe ...

A Goodreads Giveaway Update!

A Goodreads Giveaway for TWO!! paperback copies of Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation ended on June 18. 

411 people signed up to WIN!! one of those books! 

And the winners are: Garry Lomen of Kelso WA and Magen Bosarge of Moss Point MS! Woohoo!

Last August, the month that Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls was unleashed on an unsuspecting readership, the idea came to me: what about putting a copy of Lycentia up on Goodreads? One of those "giveaways" all the fine Goodreads folks are always chatting about? And so I did!

I ran the giveaway for two weeks. During that time, over 480 Goodreads-readers clicked on that "I want!" button. When the dust finally settled, a young lady in the Golden State was declared (by the Goodreads admins, of course) the winner.

So, after emailing "Lisa" the information (that she already knew, BTW, thanks to the Goodreads admins), she kindly replied with her snail-mail address. That evening, I wrapped up a brand-spanking new, freshly-signed copy of Lycentia and the next day headed for the post office and mailed it. Then I rushed back home and emailed Lisa that her copy of book two of the trilogy was on its way. Within the hour she replied, saying that she could not wait to get it. Then I waited ... two days ... two weeks ... four weeks ... I emailed Lisa again, asking if she had received the book. No response. And as of today there are still only two reviews of Lycentia posted on Goodreads. So what went wrong? What did I do? Or what didn't I do?

So this got me thinking: what have some Writers Cafe novelists done with "Goodreads Giveaways"?

"Only a tiny percentage of the people who shelve your book on a giveaway will go on to read/buy it. A tiny, tiny, tiny percentage. It's still a good way to put your book on people's radar. I recommend getting your cover art as soon as possible. I put my next due out book up as a giveaway as soon as I had the cover art (nearly a year ago now). The giveaway has over 7000 entries and nearly 4000 people have added it to their shelves. It basically constitutes a very very very long-term ad which costs only the number of books I choose. Plus, Goodreads sends an email to people who have my books on their shelves during the month of release. As for using Goodreads otherwise, use it as a reader would. Keep track of the books you read. Review them (you don't have to rate).  Read other people's reviews and comment on the interesting ones. Follow people who write reviews you like. Join groups discussing books you want to talk about. Use Goodreads to TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE'S BOOKS. Strangely enough, that seems to be the most effective way to start people talking about yours."

"I don't want to be a downer on your giveaway. But I did one. I had almost 700 entries. Five winners. I bought the books, signed each one with a note as well, mailed them. Sent congratulations posts to the winners on Goodreads on the day I sent them out and said the books were in the mail. What happened? Nothing! No one bothered to even send me a PM with a thank you.  No comments. No reviews. It cost me over $50.00."

"I joined GR a few months ago, and went to some discussions in my genre. I did not mention my book, I made valid observations about the discussion topic, behaved myself, etc. It didn't seem to be a real back-and-forth 'discussion,' just individual comments posted in a void. Maybe I ended up in some bizarre place I shouldn't have been, but based on that experience, I have no idea what else to do there; it didn't seem to be an intuitively user-friendly place. Or maybe I'm just a fuddy-duddy."

"I also have been struggling with Goodreads. I posted that my third book had been launched, then the next day couldn't find the post. Eventually found it, there were no responses. I emailed Goodreads to ask if I'd done it the right way, it seems I had, their support is excellent. It's just their site. It's a labyrinth! I ended up tearing my hair out just making my way around it. And the 'discussion groups' are very limited. The author tutorials seem OK, but when I try to implement what I've seen, I still get confused. Sigh."

"You want to join a Goodreads group, like ROBUST and take part in its activities, then eventually someone on it will read your book and review it. There are also groups that choose a member's book to read and discuss once a week or month. I've made some really worthwhile connections on Goodreads. Thing is though, I've been a professional writer all my adult life; I know how to behave; I don't expect anything at all to happen instantly; I've never in my life asked anyone for a review, not even the professional reviewers for the newspaper that I know. Indies, by contrast, are a plague of demands for instant gratification. In their first post they positively demand that you review their book, and are then outraged when you say their book is so bad, they shouldn't pretend to be writers at all. Goodreads, like everywhere else that welcomes writers, is about organic growth, not hit and run promotion by idiots."

"I'm an indie author, though I don't consider myself an 'idiot' conducting a 'hit and run promotion'. I also wouldn't term myself 'pushy', nor do I think I'm 'flogging' a 'worthless book'. But I suppose that's for others to decide. At any rate, other than my giveaway I'm trying to use Goodreads as intended -- to document and comment on the books I'm reading. I'm refraining from invading the groups with my book (though I may participate as a reader). I plan to take advantage of their paid advertising services."

"I do a Goodreads give-away for all my print books as a part of the initial exposure blast. It does not create sales, but it does get your book on people's 'to read' lists, so it doesn't look quite so lonely there. I only give away one copy, and tend to run the contest for a short time (a few weeks). The majority of sign-ups happen in the last few days when your give-away shows up as 'ending soon.' Per many discussions here, there seems to be no advantage to giving away extra copies. The book rarely gets read and often shows up to be resold as used. Use common sense when doing digital give-aways on the other sites. If a reader wins and says they can't load the book, 'Can you please gift it through Amazon?' realize it is just a scam. They will cash the gift card and use it for whatever they want."

"Isn't Goodread where a lot of the 'flash mob' reviewers who slam book reviews hang out? Sounds like an impediment to the entire process."

"Goodreads is a wild animal that if you can get it tamed. Authors in the Amazon top-ten are there by using Goodreads. But it's a dangerous place for the unwary. I started a couple of groups over there; one seems to be working pretty well but it's focused on posting Select freebies in Romance titles. I'd set up another genre focused group if I knew enough people were interested (SF, Fantasy, ?, ?). I've stopped putting my Select promotion days on POI/ENT/etc. I've also dropped all FB and Twitter gyrations. Announce Romance free promotions It's mostly self-service for authors so please clean up your post after it ends. Advanced Review Copy promotion: This one is open to multiple genres. I'm still changing things around and adding at the moment. If you want to join and even post, then go ahead. This allows you to build fans before your launch, so the launch day it hits Amazon you can get a bunch of readers/reviews/sales. It also gets around the problem of Goodreads giveaways only being physical copies. I'm open to improvements in the group, so if you see good/bad/better then let me know here or there. When I get my WIPs, ready I'll be posting them there first. If you're not on Goodreads yet, get yourself a reader account, get it upgraded to an author account, get your author weblog RSS link tied into your Goodreads author account and load your books. Then start loading your WIPs and generating buzz for books before they are even out yet. When you are looking at a book on Goodreads, go to the upper right corner and click on 'stats' and see the chart for when added, TBR, reviews, etc. happen. They went from 6 million to 12 million members in 2012. Places like POI/ENT/etc had been advertising 100,000 members. FB advertises that 16% of your posts get transferred to your 'mailing list'. Probability favors getting discovered on Goodreads. but us authors have to behave over there."

"I had success getting some reviews while doing Goodreads giveaways. No immediate sales effects, but Goodreads reviews are handy, especially since Kobo uses them. I also added in a twist. I went through the list of entrants and hand-picked the ones who looked like my book would be perfect for them. I messaged them, told them I was sorry they didn't win, and offered them a free ebook review copy instead in exchange for an honest review on Goodreads and maybe somewhere else. I did this in a non-threatening, non-spammy way and told them there was no pressure, no hard feelings if they weren't interested. This last part is essential if you do this. No pressure, no hard selling. Just a friendly offer. The people who won print copies did Goodreads reviews, so did the ebook gifted ones. A few of the ebook ones gave me reviews at other sites as well. It was a lot of time-consuming work, though. I'd only recommend it if you're starting out and want a few reviews to get things going. (And of course, focus on the next book more than this.) I'm glad I did it but I wouldn't do it again."

"I've gotten thanks and reviews for my giveaways over there, but Goodreads is not a stand-alone platform in my opinion. I use it with my book blog and my Twitter account. Not so much with Facebook, but others do. I tend to ignore Facebook these days. I also integrate it with my other book blog giveaways which I run almost constantly."

"I absolutely do not use Goodreads for the discussion posts or the groups: those are black holes. But my author page, my book pages and the giveaway features are golden. Especially giveaways. I set up a giveaway last month for an upcoming book debut and it's like free advertising. I'm close to 1,000 requests for the book and 700 to-read sign-ups with the book not even publishing until the end of next month. I'm not saying those requests/to-reads translate to sales, but they don't hurt for visibility either."

"I ran a GR giveaway and gave away two copies. Both gave reviews. One was a four-star, the other wound up being my only 1-star. I'm doing another giveaway now for three copies. We'll see what happens. It must have netted a few sales because I received more reviews/ratings later. I also did a read to review in one of the groups I joined by giving away e-copies. I got reviews that way, too. But I'm hesitant to do that again. I think they run so many of them that readers rush through the books. I had some three stars with complaints about points that were clear to other readers. Those seemed to come from the readers who finally gave in their reviews at the last minute (there was a deadline the group sets up.) The reviews that came in earlier seemed to be more detailed and sounded like they took the time to really read the book. All in all, I think Goodreads is like anything else in this game: roulette. Post the right thing at the right time and it's helpful."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Whoa! It's the Next Big Blog Hop!

This is The Next Big Blog Hop!
Blog hops are pretty cool! They provide opportunities
 for authors to show off their craft to others. 

I was tagged by Samantha Fury (@SamanthaFury). 
Thank you, Samantha, for inviting me along on this blog hop!  

What is the title of your book?
Betrovia (The Land of Betrovia Book One)

Where did the idea for the book come from?
For too many years, I played role-playing games on my computer. Some of the time it was just me against the computer's artificially-intelligent CGI characters. But most of the time it was with other people from around the world as we fought the bad guys of Middle Earth. Yes, at one time I was addicted to Lord of the Rings Online. Actually, as I was trying to pay attention during one Sunday School class over 8 years ago, the idea for Betrovia hit me. Before that class was over, I had filled up two pieces of paper with character names, locations, plot/conflict. By the end of 2005, Book One was almost half-done drafted! (The original title of the novel was "The Innkeeper," by the way. When Book One was nearly done, I googled other books with the word "innkeeper" in their titles. Yes, there are more than a few.)

What genre does your book fall under?
Because Amazon, along with nearly all of the other online ebook vendors, require that books be categorized in some way, I had to choose a genre for the Betrovia trilogy. The most-logical choice was "historical fantasy." But it can also be seen as "epic fantasy" since the storylines are chock-full of many interesting characters!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Land of Betrovia trilogy is being self-published. Nearly two years ago, I sent a query to a fairly-reputable "vanity press." This organization said they would love to add Betrovia to their stable; that is, as long as I was willing to fork over a bit more than $4000. Heh...

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started drafting Betrovia the spring of 2005. I hit Amazon's KDP "upload" button August 2011.

Give a one-sentence synopsis of your novel.
An innkeeper and his two daughters struggle to realize their destinys in the midst of a land about to be torn to pieces by civil war.

What other works would compare to your story?
Since Patrik, the main character of Betrovia, is challenged to take on a quest, much like Frodo was in Lord of the Rings, it appears that The Land of Betrovia trilogy should be compared to Tolkien's trilogy. One of Betrovia's reviewers wrote that the way the novel was written reminded him of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books. My oldest son has read all of Jordan's Wheel of Time books; I guess I should ask him what he thinks about the comparison :)

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Even though it sounds a bit "corny," I would have to say that Jehovah God, the creator of the universe, gave me the idea for The Land of Betrovia. I was in the middle of a Sunday School class when the storyline came to me, right?

What else might pique the reader’s interest?
Betrovia is not just about Patrik and his daughters and how they survive the civil war. There is a shadowy thief character, a few soldiers who are involved in their own misadventures, as well as oodles of my sordid opinions about religion, politics, big-business, etc. The Land of Betrovia is a romantic adventure that is completely family-friendly. If it was to be rated like a major motion picture, it would receive a PG-13 (and that is only because of the fight scenes.) If someone is looking for a book like The Lord of the Rings but does not care much about gruesome goblins, terrifying trolls, or even weird wraiths, then Betrovia is a book worth considering!

Oh, and don't forget to check out Samantha Fury's books! Samantha Fury's website

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Now what is this "world-building" stuff all about?

As I'm finishing up book three of The Land of Betrovia trilogy (hoping to have book three out by May), I've been thinking about what to do next. Writing "spin-offs" based on the Betrovia universe is one avenue. But another one is starting a science fiction series for young readers. When I was around 13, my mom bought -- at a garage sale, I think -- an entire hardback set of a science-fiction adventure series. There had to be at least 12 books in that set. And I read them all that summer! I think I even went back and re-read most of them months later.

The two main characters were two teenaged-boys who, usually by no fault of their own, got into trouble and worked themselves out of that trouble by the end of each book. I don't remember if the series was specifically chronological (the events of book 1 occurred before those of book 2, etc.), but it doesn't really matter if they weren't. I loved watching those Johnny Quest cartoons on Saturday mornings, and reading that sci-fi adventure series was like watching Johnny and Hadji.

So here's the question I posed to the Writers Cafe novelists: What are some ways to "build" this sci-fi world besides drafting an outline and throwing in the "world" details as part of the outlining process?

"Discussing it with a community of world-builders and doing it step-by-step might work for you. The worldbuilding reddit is fairly friendly. For my current novels, I ran it as an RPG for friends before sitting down and writing the story, it is a process similar to beta-reading but gives you a unique perspective on what other people would do in your setting. It requires a fairly fleshed out world to begin with, but not so much that you can't add/change stuff as you get feedback."

I've only been on reddit a few times, but heading there just to investigate the worldbuilding community sounds like a great idea!

"I've designed a lot of worlds over the years, for stories, games and for fun. The process can vary widely. Some I sit down and write up stacks of details, maps, etc. Others I make up on the fly.  Normally I have a few details but nothing too substantial and see where the story takes me -- that way I'm not as constrained by the details and end up running into brick walls while writing."

Uhm... stacks of details and maps. I tried making maps for Betrovia and there's even one in the front of the paperback version. But time making maps is time away from writing! ACK!

"Before you get into maps and names and places, ask yourself the following:
1. What kind of story do I want to tell? What themes am I writing about? What aspect of the human condition am I examining?  Most speculative fiction starts with the question, 'What if?'
2. What are the most fundamental changes I need to make (taking real Earth as the default) in order to tell that story?
3. What would induce these changes? (One answer may be geographic/geological effects or major historical events).
4. What are the effects of those changes?
From there, you can start building cultures. Once you've done that, you can get into the details of maps and histories.

1. You want to tell a story about how, for example, modern humans would coexist with another sentient primate. What if Neanderthals were still alive?
2. This one's easy: Neanderthals are still alive.
3. So how did they survive? Maybe they lived in isolation due to a mountain range or an island that was inaccessible to homo sapiens. Maybe the climate developed differently (and here you'd have more explaining to do).
4. This could go in a lot of directions. Are they still isolated? What happened when humans found out? How long have humans known about Neanderthals still being around? How would this knowledge affect religion, cultures, and governments?

From there, maybe you map out the new geography, rewrite geological history, draw new borders if their presence would have had an effect on the growth of nations, etc. First create a world that supports the situation you want to write about, then often the story will flow right out of your world-building. If it doesn't, readers will notice."

Whoa, that's a lot of pre-planning! And yes, Neanderthals are still alive :)

"The process for sci-fi would be the same as the process for fantasy. I've taught live courses and online seminars on this subject from the perspective of a game designer and fantasy author. I've written a book that includes examples from one of my seminars as well as workbook-style questions you can use to develop your world."

I would love to take a class like that! The homework would be very easy for me! :)

"I’m in the middle of world-building right now, and I’m struggling with a few things. I think what I need to do is go right back to the start and use a set of questions, and work from there. I’ve read a lot of people use a pre-set questions sheet."

A list of questions to respond to even before creating an outline. I think I can do that!

"Sometimes you can just transplant the 'real world' on top of the fictional one. Given that I come from South Africa originally, for one of my books, a silly epic fantasy, I deliberately just took sub-Saharan Africa and reproduced the geography (and did wordplay with some place-names). So the book works as fantasy, but also a crash course in the layout of a very real part of the world. I know, it was cheating. But it was fun to do!"

A great idea! Why re-create the wheel when you can simply cover it with a new layer of something!