Category Archives: writing

Announcing Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 2

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. The official announcement has been made, so I think I can talk about it now.

I’ve got a story in the forthcoming Road Kill Vol. 2.  You may have remembered I reviewed the first volume last year.

The launch date is October 21. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to make the launch party. It’s on the opposite side of the state.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Texas, you can drive all day and never leave the state.

Anyway, I’m very pleased and honored to have been included in this book.  I’ll post more details when I have them, such as how to get a copy for your very own.

Thoughts on Novellas

There has been some talk about novellas lately, mainly how they are a good fit for sword and sorcery.  Check out one such conversation over at Fletcher Vredenburgh’s site.

But that’s not really where I want to go. I had a conversation on Twitter this morning that started out about how to find markets. No, that’s not where I’m going either, but feel free to make any suggestions you have about markets in the comments.  I want to discuss how best to sell novellas.

My natural length to write seems to be novelette and novella length. Mark Finn made a throwaway comment on one of the last panels I attended at Armadillocon, and the basic framework of a story popped into my head.  I came back and immediately started on it. In just over 2 weeks I was finished.  The first draft came in at 21.5k words.  The thing pretty much wrote itself.  I’ve let it sit, not only to put some distance between me and the story before I start editing, but classes have started.  The two weeks before and after classes start tend to be pretty hectic, with extra headaches this year I’m legally prohibited from discussing.  (I’m not kidding. Can you say FERPA?  I knew you could.) I’m hoping to do a cleanup pass this weekend and send it to a beta reader while launching into my next, which will be a hard science horror story.

One of the things about this morning’s conversation, aside from an agreement that we need to write shorter, was the lamentation made by more than one person that most markets want shorter pieces.

This didn’t so much get me thinking as it brought some thoughts to the surface that have been rattling around looking for a hole in my head through which to escape.

I wrote a sword and planet novel for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. It needs a lot of work before it’s ready to see the light of day, but I wrote a novella set in that world earlier this summer. I’ve got at least two WIPs that will be novelette or novella length, along with a few other pieces sitting on my hard drive.

I’m thinking about self-pubbing these since most of them are longer than what I’ve seen in guidelines for most markets they would be suitable for.  The question is what is the best way to go about this?

Do I publish each one separately?  If so, how do I determine price?  Anything less than $2.99 on Amazon gets a much smaller cut of the sale price, so I’m reluctant to price below that amount.  On the other hand, I want readers to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

Should I bundle some or all of them together?  The one just completed is a stand-alone that I don’t think needs a sequel. So is one of the WIPs. The other is part of a series, an installment of which has seen print in StoryHack Issue 0.  I have several completed entries in this series of varying length, so a collection of them isn’t out of the question.

What does the market want?  Would you rather read a collection of novelettes and novellas (with maybe a short story or two) where the stories have no connection to each other?  Is the better approach to collect stories in a series or common setting?  Does it even matter?  Befuddled minds want to know.

Some Thoughts on a Pulp Speed Weekend

My son didn’t have school yesterday (Monday) because the teachers had an in-service day.  So my wife took advantage of his vacation to take a day off from work to go visit her parents.  My son plays trumpet, and solo and ensemble competitions are coming up.  As my father-in-law is a trumpet player, there was instruction and practice taking place.

I didn’t have Monday off.  The university was education (or something that resembles it to the untrained eye) as usual.  This was a good thing.  It meant I had the house to myself all weekend.

So I wrote. I tried to write at pulp speed.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, pulp speed is writing at a rate at which you can support yourself as a writer, like the pulp writers did.  They rarely rewrote, at least more than once, and they wrote prodigiously every day. Continue reading

I May Have Lost My Ever-Lovin’ Mind, but…

… I sat down last night and compiled a list of all the fiction I’ve written, started, or for which I have ideas developed enough to at least begin writing.  I tend to be something of a pantser, so I don’t always know everything that’s going to happen when I type the first sentence, but  usually I have some idea of what the ending will be or the general direction the story will take.

Anyway, I’m trying to get some stuff out there this year, and I’m not going to rely solely on anthologies and magazines (print and electronic) to do that.  I don’t have control over editors and what they choose.  Some stuff I’m going to make available myself through my own publishing outfit. Continue reading

A Review of Writing Fantasy Heroes

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Ward, ed.
Rogue Blades Entertainment
mmpb $14.99
ebook $7.99 Kindle

It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to finish this book, and that’s in no way a reflection on the book.  It’s been one of those weeks.  For about the last two months.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to for me to kvetch.  You want to know about the book.  It’s a keeper.

If you’re looking for a technical manual on the nuts and bolts of writing, things like basic story structure, you won’t find it here.  Well, not much, anyway.  This book is designed more for the aspiring writer who is looking to hone his or her craft and take it to the next level, which preferably would involve publication, rather than the novice writer just learning to put a story together.  I read Writing Fantasy Heroes from cover to cover, albeit in pieces between other books, but I think the book’s values rests in its use as a reference that one picks up and consults as needed more than as volume to read straight through..

The reason I say that is that each chapter addresses a different aspect of heroic fantasy, and not all aspects will appear in all stories or novels.

For example, Howard Andrew Jones discusses the dynamics between partners/friends/comrades and how to use the interaction between two heroes to best effect.  Paul Kearney explains what it really takes to move a large army and to fight a major battle. not so much the combat itself (although he does address that issue), but the logistics involved in military life.  Alex Bledsoe contrasts the older, wiser hero with the young pup and delves into how to write maturity in a way that’s consistent with the reality of that stage in life..

Ari Marmell talks about using tropes effectively and how to avoid cliche in doing so.  Glen Cook deals with adding a dash of the unexpected.  C. L. Werner discusses things from the monster’s perspective.  Brandon Sanderson blocks out several fight scenes, taking them from boring to engrossing.  Ian C. Esslemont demonstrates the difference between showing and telling.

There’s much more.  One of the added bonuses is that Jason Waltz required each contributor to use examples from his or her own work.  I found several authors whose work I want to hunt down and read through this process, so thanks, Jason.

I learned a lot from this book.  More than that, some of the chapters helped me to bring together concepts or techniques I’d been more or less aware of and helped me either to see them in a new light or to see new connections or applications of them.  It was the same kind of A-Ha moment I get when I gain new insight into a physical system after studying a scientific problem.  One of those Oh-of-course!-Why-didn’t-I-see-that? kind of thing.

There’s a lot of good advice here, and while I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, I like to think I’ve acquired enough wisdom to realize that there things in this book I’m not ready for yet.  What that means is that I haven’t yet tried to write the story where I need that piece of counsel.  But if/when I try to write that story, I know where to go to find out how it’s done.

The list of contributors is impressive, with some of the major names in the field weighing in on various aspects of the craft.  The glimpse into their minds is fascinating at times. And invaluable.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, this isn’t an introductory writing manual.  It’s delves into the deeper, more accomplished aspects of the craft.  If you write heroic fantasy, or aspire to, then this book needs to be on your shelf.  It will be more valuable to you than any number of the writing guides out there.

Writing Fantasy Heroes Giveaway

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Waltz, edl
Rogue Blades Entertainment

I recently wrote a post about my copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes arriving and how eager I was to dive into it.  That post got more traffic, and certainly more comments, than most of the posts I’ve done in the last couple of months. 

Since then, two things have happened.  First, I’ve read about 1/3 of the book, and it’s every bit as good as I hoped.  I’ll review the book once I’ve finished, so I won’t go into details here.

The second thing that  happened, and the one that has a direct bearing on readers of this blog, is that I received an email a few days ago from Jason M. Waltz, the publisher of Rogue Blades Entertainment and the editor of the aforementioned book.

It seems a couple of years ago, I took advantage of a special RBE was running and prebought several titles.  Writing Fantasy Heroes wasn’t one of them, probably because it wasn’t conceived of at the time.  That’s a guess on my part.  What isn’t a guess is that this is the book Jason had intended to make a part of the prepurchase deal, subbing this book for another one.  But then I went and bought the book before he had a chance to send me my copy.  He asked what I wanted to do about it, and I quickly decided to do a giveaway.  Since Jason is the person who has the copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes in his possession and will be handling the mailing, this is a joint giveaway between Adventures Fantastic and Rogue Blades Entertainment.

So, here’s the deal.  Between now and when I post the review, which will probably be just after Easter if I can keep the schedule I’ve sketched out, anyone who posts a comment here answering the following question will be entered.  The question is:  What one characteristic above all others is essential for a fantasy hero and why?  Your answer could be long or short, but you have to say why that characteristic is the one you think is the most essential.  Hopefully, this will generate some thought provoking discussion as well as a little buzz for RBE.

Once the review of Writing Fantasy Heroes goes live, I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one at random.  Actually, I probably have my son draw the name.  He’d enjoy my involving him like that.  I’ll announce that person’s name the day after I post the review.  I’ll also contact that individual directly and/or pass that person’s name directly on to Jason.  He will be mailing the book.  This is an unread copy, not the copy I’ve got.

There is one other thing.  The winner will be requested, but not required, to post a review of the book once they’ve read it, either on their own blog, Goodreads, Amazon, or some combination of the above.

Writing Report, 3/20/13

I only got 378 new words tonight, and I’m pushing it to write this post.  I’m that exhausted.  The only reason I am writing this is I changed directions tonight.  I didn’t scrap the two previous night’s work so much as set it aside. I realized that the story I was writing was too complex to be told in the amount of time and within the word count limitation I’m dealing with.  I started another story, same characters, same series, but this one should be short and more straight forward.  I fully intend to finish the one I started two nights ago, but as it’s going to have elements of mystery in it, I’ll need some time to make sure all the details and clues are where they need to be in order to play fair with the reader.  The one I started on this evening is more pure sword and sorcery with a straightforward plot, emphasis on action rather than intrigue and suspense.

Writing Report, 3/18/13

I’ve updated the writing report up at the top of the page, if anyone is paying attention.  I started a new story tonight and completed 629 words.  I’ve got a market in mind for this one that closes at the end of the month.  Not really sure where this one is going.  It’s an installment in my Prince Balthar and Rodrik series.  I’ve got three of them already in various stages of completion.  The logical thing would have been to finish one of those, except I’m not sure what to do with two of them, and the third I want to submit somewhere else.  So I decided to start this one.  I hope to have it finished within the week.  It’s part of the things I didn’t manage to get done over spring break.  My intention is to work on it every day until I type the last word.  I’ll update the writing report as I go along.

Scott Oden Writes a Story on his Blog

Scott Oden started writing a historical short story on his blog this week.  He’s outlining the process he uses when he writes fiction, letting us in on his methods.  Plus it’s shaping up to be a really good story.

He’s four days into it.  Here are the links:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

Scott Oden is the author of The Lion of Cairo.  It’s in the queue, and I hope to have a review of it posted by Christmas.