Essays

Paperback Version of Wolf’s Bane is Here!!!!!!!!

From plus.google.com
From plus.google.com

Finally! I seriously think that after giving birth, getting Wolf’s Bane into paperback has been the second biggest challenge of my life. I think most creative people who take pride in their work are perfectionists at some level and, knowing that people would be paying more to buy the book made me want to make it as perfect as possible. Formatting a book is a big job. The intricacies of something like headers and footers alone took ages to master, and the funniest thing is that the one problem I couldn’t figure out (how to format different numbering systems for different sections) I figured out by accident. Sigh… And, at the last minute I rewrote the book blurb. And anyone who’s written one knows that bashing your head into a wall repeatedly is a more pleasant experience. And so on.

WolfsBane_Cover_2015_smashwords (1)But it’s done. I’m happy. Thrilled. And proud.

Thanks to everyone who has supported book 1 and 2. Hopefully, Berserker, book 3 will be ready this winter. 🙂

Essays

Zoe’s Twitter Tips

Help for those confused about using Twitter!

Zoe Harrington, Apprentice of Words Zoe Harrington, Apprentice of Words

I (Phil, not Zoe) often feel like a social media dimwit, at least when it comes to networking for writing purposes. This is especially true for Twitter. Every time I log onto the site, I look at all these blasts of text people put out there, and I just…don’t…get it.

“I’m eating toast with mayonnaise for dinner today!”

“Religion saves, but coffee gets me up in the morning.”

“I’m excited to read this new book I’m looking at.”

“OMG, my lipstick is the SAME color red as the shirt I’m wearing!”

“I have TEN fingers…on EACH hand!”

I mean, seriously, what in the hell am I reading here? Determined to crack the code/WTF-ery[i] of Twitter, I consulted fellow aspiring writer, Zoe Harrington, for Twitter tips/insight. She’s young and hip, so I figured she must know what it’s all about. Her response…

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Book Review

Book Review: Path of the Heretic by Ivan Amberlake

Path of the Heretic (The Beholder, #2)Path of the Heretic by Ivan Amberlake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

After Emily Ethan is gone, Jason is left with too many questions unanswered. Betrayed by the one he loved and yet hurting after losing her, Jason is eager to find out what actually happened to Emily.

When he least expects it, the Darksighted return to New York City, but they are not after Jason. They seek to destroy those who may know something about where Emily can be.

The more Jason gets to know the world of Energy and Sight, the harder it is for him to belong in this world. He can’t enter the Sight when there are too many people around. And then Emily comes to his dreams and gives him clues of where to look for the answers.

The question is: should he believe her, or is it just another attempt to get him killed?

The Review:

The novel, Path of the Heretic, begins a few months after book one, The Beholder. At this point, Jason, the main character, is dealing with a major loss, some unexplained limitations to his powers, the betrayal of a friend, as well as intensified attacks from the enemy. And more importantly, we get inside the head of Pariah. Bonus!

What I enjoyed the most about the novel were the following: 1) as in the first book, the pacing was good. There was rarely a dull moment, as the reader is exposed to the good and bad guys, the points of view of different characters, the developing conflict and the rising stakes, travel to various worldwide locations, and coolest of all, we get to witness how a dark one is recruited. Once again, there is rarely a dull moment. 2) I appreciated that this time, we got to see more of the baddies. We see much more of Pariah and his origins, more of his relationship with his minions, and learn Tyler’s history. Fleshing out the villains this way made them seem credible and more of a threat.

As in the first book, I struggled with some things: 1) I found certain details and description vague. For example, I found the flow of events during major fight scenes difficult to follow, and at times I couldn’t tell what was happening, where characters were, or how they got there. And, details about the structure/hierarchy of the Lightsighted was missing. In contrast, we have a very clear understanding of rank on the Darksighted side. And I wanted to know HOW the Lightsighted managed to fight of a major attack while sustaining the lives of a whole city for days on end. The concept was so cool that I wanted to be able to better envision the events. 2) Again, I found the rules about Energy unclear. At one point Jason says he isn’t the Beholder but everyone says he is. Why? And, the heretic wasn’t all that clear for me, as in why is he in hiding when he has the power to influence the course of events? Is he stronger than Jason, just as strong, less so? Is he limited somehow and therefore can’t participate in the conflict? Why is he called the heretic, anyway? For me, struggling with these points affected the story’s cohesion and comprehension.

That said, the ideas presented in the novel are still as interesting and creative as book 1, and Amberlake writes with an energy and zeal that is sure to attract readers. Clearly, he enjoys the story he is building as well as weaving his characters into each and every scenario. Readers of urban fantasy, speculative fiction, and those looking for something that has the feel of a comic book or graphic novel should enjoy this series very much.

Many thanks to Mr. Amberlake for providing me with a review copy of his novel.

View all my reviews

Essays

6 Tips For New Authors Writing Novels

Writing novels when you have experience is daunting. Writing a first novel, then, can seem like an impossible task, especially when you have nothing going for you except desire and a head full of ideas.

I recently commented on a book from someone who asked for a review through my Review Exchange offer. I could tell after reading only a few sentences that this person was new to writing. At that point, I had to make a decision. I could have said, “No way, come back with a revised draft.” But I decided not to. I know how hard it is to write and how terrifying it can be to have my work reviewed by ‘someone who knows what they are doing.’ Also, new authors are told all the time to “get experience” or to “go back to the drawing board”, but don’t they need guidance and support in order to do that?

I decided to read the book, and rather than write a review, I wrote feedback in the manner of a beta read, which I hope the author will see as constructive and motivating. It was while I was writing the feedback, that I thought it might be helpful for other authors starting out to read the notes.

Now, I am not an authority on novel writing. I’ve been lucky that people who read my stories and novels enjoy them. But like the author above, when I started out I had no support network; I just wanted to write. People reading my early drafts must have rolled their eyes and gone, “Oh great. Another wannabe.”

For those who don’t know my journey, here’re a few lines of intro: I started writing short stories, poems, and plays when I was a kid, but when I got serious about it about 5 years ago. Essentially, I learned by reading and reviewing. Before I wrote my first book, I read classics to remember basic sentence structure and what ‘proper’ writing was. Then I got joined an online writing site and, by reading and reviewing short stories, learned to break them down to find out what worked and what didn’t. Then I moved to another site where novels were broken down the same way. Along the way, I met helpful writers, editors, and beta readers and learned from. Often, they tore apart my books–and it hurt A LOT–but I learned a ton. I’m still learning, almost 5 years later.

When I do a beta read, my goal is to be constructive but honest. No one learns when they are told that everything is ‘wonderful’ and ‘perfect’. Every book out there, for the most part, can be improved in some way. And, I figure it’s best to get feedback from someone who cares about the story and an author’s growth than from those who seek only to destroy (i.e. Trolls).

Anyway, let’s begin. Below are some points I think that any new author should keep in mind when crafting a book:

  • 1) Edit/proofreading: Solid editing/proofreading can make or break a book. If the novel’s readability is compromised by punctuation problems, misspelled words, weird quote marks—anything that messes with a sentence’s clarity—it must be resolved. If a reader has to work too hard to understand what is being communicated, they risk becoming confused, or even frustrated, and quit reading the book. Not good.
  • 2) Content editing: 1) Nice settings and world building go a long way, but what is the central theme or story being told? Is it clearly told, or is there too much fluff (over-writing, too many tangents or sub-plots, etc.) getting in the way? Are the characters well-rendered so that we care about X or Y? Is the genre clearly defined so that we know if it’s a mystery, a love story, or a thriller? Here’s a hint: if a reader can’t tell what the story is about from the first chapters—some say as early as the first chapter–then you might want to rewrite. 2) Also, people’s motivations are important. Why do they do what they do? And do their motivations match their actions in the story? Nothing is worse than when a character does something that doesn’t make sense for him or her. When that happens, the story feels forced which can work against it. 3) Lastly, a quick point on characters: carefully consider the struggles/risks they face as these are critical for building necessary tension. Done well, those elements capture the reader’s attention so that they want to see what happens next.
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  • 3) Structure: Novels needs structure. A beginning, a middle section, a climax and a resolution. The story arc. Not every book must have a nail-biting build up and climax but it should feel like the reader is being brought from one place to another through the narrative. Knowing where to put that climax is key: too soon and the book feels finished before it even begins, and too late and the ending might feel rushed.
  • 4) Dialogue: This can make or break a story. Dialogue should be believable. It should sound like how normal people speak. Consider the times/era and physical setting so that the speech patterns are consistent. Listen to how real people speak. Read your dialogue out loud. If it sounds corny or unrealistic, it probably is.
  • 5) Decide what kind of book you want to write: Knowing your genre and setting the right context for your reader is important. For example, I hate when I pick up what is billed as, say, a ‘sci-fi romance’ and discover it is a ‘romance with sci-fi in it’. For me, that is cause for teeth gnashing.
  • Also, love stories, thrillers, mystery novels, etc. all have their own structures and tropes which help situate readers so they know what to expect. Of course, there are books that break or combine boundaries, but I’ve found that the good ones are well-conceived conceptually so that the reader can easily adjust to the new ground laid in the story.
  • 6) Practice writing your pitch/book blurb: Ugh, this is notoriously hard to do well, as it’s important to give enough information so that a reader can, in a few short words, grasp the genre, basic story without giving away too much (or not enough), as well as include a hook to motivate them to buy YOUR book instead of the millions others out there. My advice is to find people who know what they are doing and ask them for help.
  • From chronicle.com
    From chronicle.com
  • What about you? Do you have tried and true tips or suggestions for new authors? What was your experience like, learning how to complete your first book?