Monthly Archives: August 2014

Romps, and other fun stuff

I’ve heard that term used, and wondered.

No longer; if ever a story deserved the descriptive ‘romp’, Hands does.

I might have treated the tale as a novel, and written it in vein serious. But I decided that a different treatment might also work, and that’s what I did, write the novelette as a farce, using Elizabethan (forsooth!) as the mode of speaking. It’s done, for good or ill. Ten chapters, which I need to assemble into a book. I’ll add the necessary front and end materials, then get on with editing. Meantime, it’s running as a serial online, a reward for readers who encouraged me when I first thought of writing.

Putting it all together will take a day or two; but if you want a free advanced-copy, drop me a message on this blog. Free copies will be available until, and if, I decide to publish the novelette.

But I also will need a cover photo; anyone have a photo of a rat, or mayhap, a cartoon of one? Perched upon a sword, belike? Rat hands together, prepared to defend the hero Hal from harm? 

Hands, a Novelette

I wasn’t quite ready to go back to writing the third book in the Darwin’s World saga. It’s there; I’ll get to it. Have faith.

But meantime, I had a couple of things to do; I had a novelette nagging at me, and I needed to do a revision of Combat Wizard and the other books. CW is the main one; too slow, too wordy, a bit preachy at times. I decided some of that could go, and I’ve been cutting and rearranging. There’s lot more show, a lot less tell. It moves faster, all in all, and is a better book, or will be when I’m done. Most of the work will be done to the first five or six chapters; this reflects my experience when I wrote the book.

Meantime, a total change of pace; if you’re an SCA member (I am) or like rennfaires or renaissance festivals, you will enjoy Hands.

It’s a high-fantasy novelette, probably 10 chapters and about 23 000 words, written in Elizabethan style English. Shakespeare, but with a lot more low comedy!

Formatting will be a challenge! And just as is the case with a short story, there needs to be plot twists and surprises, and an end that can be continued later. This too could become a novel, or even a series.

But it’s intended to be humorous, even laugh-out-loud funny! I suspect it will be available on Amazon in a month or so.

Cover photo; I’m not sure if I can do it, but I’m working on learning Inkscape and Gimp. Can I draw a rat cartoon figure? One sitting on a large sword?

Yeah, that’s part of the plot! Along with an irascible baron, a wizard, bandits, damsels in distress, an evil bully named Billy…And did I mention the rat? 😀

Work

So what do you do to celebrate the publication of book five?

I don’t know what those bestselling writers do. I went back to writing.

The third book in the Darwin’s World Pleistocene epic remains to be written; some of the plot’s done, a couple of chapters are in draft format, but I’m not under pressure.

Sadly, that means I’m not productive. I need a deadline, even a self-imposed one to keep up the writing pace. So I’ve begun a different novel, Hands. I’ve agreed to have the ‘draft’ version published by a couple of free sites, one as a reward for readers who wrote encouragement when I was just starting, and another on Beyond the Far Horizon, the site run by Gina Marie Wylie.

http://www.beyondthefarhorizon.net/phpBB2/show_recent.php

Gina, Colin, Bruce, Wes, and I have been publishing there recently. You’ll need to sign in, but the site is free. You might not like everything, but on the other hand, the price is right!

Gina will begin publishing the first novelette in what will eventually become the novel Hands next week. By agreeing to furnish the work to her, that’s my deadline. I have to write at least two chapters a week to keep up with her publication schedule.

As for the readers there, they’ve been kind enough in the past to establish discussion threads regarding my books. If you think we don’t enjoy the attention, you don’t know authors!

On a different note: I’ve reviewed Combat Wizard, Wizard at Work, and Talent. Talent’s professional in editing and format, W@W needs formatting, CW needs editing and formatting to achieve that state of professionalism. Between writing chapters, I’ll do those other chores.

Lots of work; still think you want to be a writer? 😀

Learning

If you’ve followed the blog, you’ll already understand that my writing ‘career’ is a work in progress.

My experiences may help you; there are pitfalls. I’ve stumbled into a fair number of them. Words don’t really flow directly from your mind to a computer screen and seamlessly, perfectly, appear on a publishing site ready for sale.

Some favor the traditional approach; write a manuscript, mail or send electronically a copy to a publisher, wait. A number of writers who take this approach recently took out a  full page ad in the NY Times blasting Amazon for that company’s business practice.

Spoiled brats, IMO; Amazon has no requirement to do anything except what the company’s executives think favors their company. If Amazon chooses not to allow advance-orders for Hachette’s products, that’s their option; if Hachette doesn’t like it, then set up their own system of e-orders. It’s noteworthy that the people who bought that ad are highly successful writers. But for every success…

A friend recently pointed out that he’d already received a rejection notice; those are quite common, and there’s at least one best-selling author who got some seventy of the rejections before he sold his first book. My friend finds this encouraging.

I don’t. For every multiply-rejected, eventual success, consider how many authors never got published? How many manuscripts never got published, never got read? How many writers poured bits of their soul into that manuscript and waited for years to see if the lightning would strike?

Unlike my friend, I have no rejection slips, other than one for a short story. I had few expectations for ‘Ants’, and it met those perfectly! But for my novels, I sent them in, imperfect as they were. They all got published. They’ve all sold copies. They’ve been read.

I recently signed up for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited free trial. For the first time, instead of buying my own book and paying Amazon for the privilege of downloading a version that looks exactly like what a purchaser receives, I got it free. I downloaded Combat Wizard.

I am disappointed. I see awkward phrasing, occasional punctuation errors, and minor formatting glitches. I didn’t see them when I uploaded the book, but having since written some half a million words and published four other novels (and Ants!), I see things I didn’t see before. So I’ll go back and rework that first novel.

Why? It’s readable, people like it, it’s selling. Why rework plowed ground?

Because it’s part of a brand. It’s me. My name is on the cover, and it’s not a pen name. Relatives read the book, my grandchildren will have the opportunity to read the book; I have an obligation to make it the best I can.

I’ve already reworked the covers; you can do that with an ebook. I’ll rework the text and reformat, too. If you liked the book, you need not re-download it. It will be almost the same, except more polished and with fewer errors that a professional might notice. But eliminating those few errors, making the words flow more easily, to me it’s worth taking the time to do it better.

About those words appearing directly on a screen? They go through a mechanical device, a keyboard; from there, the words encounter a word processor such as MS Word; it’s what I use, and it’s generally the standard. Word can be complicated and funny things happen when you use Word; learning to use it well, that’s one of your first challenges.

Format your document. Make it perfect. After Word, it will go through a series of other programs before it appears on your Kindle or your Nook or on paper. Any mistake will eventually show up. So learn ‘right’ the first time, and never cut corners; perfection is the standard. Do it right, as right as a team of professionals hired by a major publisher can do.

Or be prepared to go back and do it over. And hope readers will understand why occasionally they get notices that a new version is available. BTW, the new version is downloadable at no charge, and if you don’t want to change your version, you don’t have to. If you get such a notice, an author went back and tried to make his work more perfect. I salute those others who do what I’m going to do: rework the book, and make it better.

It’s worth doing, IMO; the book will be out there for a very long time to come.

Talent

I finally got Talent posted on Amazon for sale. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Talent-Paranormal-Thriller-Wizards-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00MJ5LBL6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1407528707&sr=8-3&keywords=jack+l+knapp

So what does it take to publish a book?

YMMV; but I design a set of scenes in very rough outline, more paragraph than actual outline. It’s basically a list of things a character might do during the course of the novel. For example, in Hands (to be written; part of chap 1 is written in draft), the hero does something fairly innocent and by the end of that scene, he’s had his hands lopped off by the baron’s executioner. Much adventure follows, and there will be several characters introduced; each of them will bring his own concerns and ideas to the story. This creates threads I’ll weave together, and I’ll tie most of them up by the end of the book. Some may continue to later books for resolution. Shorty, a minor character, was introduced in the epilogue to Wizard at Work; but he’s a major supporting character by the time Talent ends. And the thread that brought Shorty to the final scene was planted early, reinforced by another thread later. This is typical of how I write.

I begin after the outline with a blank page, type in Chapter One, and format that. After that, I’m off and running. Begin with the outline notes, see where the characters take me.

I have a guy who’s a cross between an editor and a copy-editor. I also have a consultant who advises me on military infantry matters and conflict scenes, fights and such. As soon as the first chapter is done, I send it off to PC and Jake.

Both reply quickly. But I sometimes don’t wait; I begin writing the next chapter before I get the suggestions back. I frequently write two books simultaneously; no writers block there; if I draw a blank on one, I just switch and start writing the other.

The book is beginning to take shape. I’ll start a book compilation using the title. I’ll format the front matter, the title page, copyright, and dedication (if there is one), then set up the interactive Table of Contents. After that, chapter one (after I decide to edit, or not, following the suggestions of my editor/consultant.

Finally the last chapter is written, I can type ‘The End’; if it’s not finalized, I’ll put ‘Continued in Book 2).

After that, I add end content. I frequently add an excerpt to generate interest in one of the other books or series.

Then it’s time for Books by the Author (that’s always a thrill, seeing five novels and a short story on that list!) and About the Author.

Then comes the work. Despite having been edited, the prose isn’t done. It’s time to do one final flying edit, looking for what was missed, editing for flow and continuity, sometimes even for widow-and-orphan control, removing those incidences where three or four sentences didn’t fit on the previous page so they went onto a following page. That’s not good, because it generates a blank page when you use a Kindle.

One final check for format: I run my Word prose through Calibre and convert it to MOBI, Amazon’s format. Take that, run it through Amazon’s free previewer to see how it looks. If it needs changing, back to the Word document. Make the changes, back to Calibre (deleting previous attemps) and reformat. Recheck through Kindle Previewer. If it looks OK, go to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publisher. There are others, Smashwords (difficult, supposedly) and D2D (easy). Each has advantages and disadvantages, for another column sometime in future. But Amazon has two pages of information to fill out, including uploading a cover photo (also another post), the MOBI version, and rights/pricing information.

Then wait. Amazon will publish in a few hours, and voila, you’re a novelist!

Easy, right? It’s a heck of a lot of work, but I love it. Note all that editing I’ve done? I put the best product up for publishing that I can, and I have no problem charging $4.99 for books under 100 000 words and $5.99 for longer novels.

Not everyone agrees; but as Kindle Unlimited takes over, price becomes less of an issue. And I think my books are worth rereading several times.

You would-be writers, get your noses to the grindstone and your fingers on the keyboard!

Summer slump

I recently came across a reference to this. Is it real?

No idea, but apparently book sales take a dive during the warm months. Maybe people are outdoors doing active things, rather than reading. Some have said their sales pick up in October.

Once again, I don’t know. I only started selling novels in March. Some claim this is real, some claim it’s a myth.

But there’s another thing I’ve got going for me; my fifth book, Talent, is almost ready, finally. I expect to publish it later this coming week.

Talent is the third book in the Wizards Trilogy, so it completes that series. I’ve gotten suggestions that I keep the series going, possibly by switching to a different lead character. One thought is a kind of coming-of-age novel featuring Libby, the tween girl introduced in Talent. A couple of Australian readers have asked if I’d do a book set in Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Papua New Guinea.

I’ve got a definitive ‘maybe’ for that! But for now, I’ve got the next book in the Darwin’s World Series to write, and a sword-and-sorcery fantasy I’m considering. I might write the two books simultaneously; I’ve done that before, work on two books at the same time. Typically I’ll have a plot outline that’s flexible, and by writing a chapter of one, then the chapter of the other, I avoid the dreaded ‘writer’s block’.

But I’m happy to say that Talent’s launch on Amazon Kindle is finally almost here!