Quick-Tip Tuesday: Joshua Palmatier on “The Mighty Red Pen”

For today’s Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I welcome Joshua Palmatier, writer and editor par excellence, and a frequent contributor to  Magical Words.


Threading the Needle, by Joshua PalmatierWe’re coming up on the release of my second “Ley” novel, THREADING THE NEEDLE, and David B. Coe asked me to stop by and give you all a Quick Tip for Quick Tip Tuesday.  So my quick tip for this Tuesday is:  How to Cut a Significant Number of Words from Your Manuscript that You Thought Was Done.

Here’s the situation:  THREADING THE NEEDLE had already undergone three revisions—my own personal revision, a revision prompted by my agent, and a revision prompted by my editor.  That’s generally the last revision before the book hits copy edits and page proofs, where nothing really significant is changing (for the most part), just typos, smoothing out sentences, continuity error corrections, etc.  So imagine my surprise when I get an email from my agent saying that, yeah, the book is good, but there are a few things that could be cut that would make it even better.  He’d like to see me try to cut a few thousand words from the book.  What did he want me to focus on cutting?  Dialogue tags, facial expressions, and body gesture.  You know, all of those little “he scoffed” or “she snorted” tags that you attach to the dialogue so that everyone knows exactly who’s speaking and that can give the dialogue an extra bit of flavor or nuance.  And also all of those “he grimaced” or “her mouth twitched up in a smile” or “he shrugged” phrases that you insert into the paragraph to again give it some added flavor or nuance.  My agent pointed out that the dialogue tags shouldn’t be necessary—the reader should be getting the flavor and nuance from the words in the dialogue and their familiarity with the character built up over the course of the book.  They should mentally hear the scoff or the snort just in what the character says.  Similarly for the shrugs and grins and grimaces.  The context of the situation and what the reader knows of the character should make those actions “visible” to the reader without the use of the words.

And you know what?  He’s right.  I balked at cutting these words at first.  In my mind, they made the sentences flow together better.  But I buckled down and decided to do what my agent suggested and guess what?  The sentences flowed just fine without those phrases inserted in there.  Granted, you can’t cut ALL of those types of phrases out completely—sometimes you do need the inflection to be clear, or the nuance up front.  But in general, I found I could cut out nearly all of them, keeping in just enough so that it was easier to follow conversations.  And even for those dialogue tags that I kept, I tried to make them “invisible” to the reader by using standards such as “he said” or “she asked,” because those types of phrases barely register on the reader as they read.  Using something like “she snorted” adds an extra layer of interpretation in the reader’s mind that they have to process, which can slow them down.  And in dialogue, it’s the dialogue that should be most important.  That’s what the reader should be focusing on, not the tag.

I went through the entire novel one more time, focusing on those types of phrases and cutting as many as I could.  I ended up cutting . . . wait for it . . . 26,000 words from the manuscript.  Granted there were a few other scenes and such that got cut or trimmed back in the process, but the majority of those 26,000 words came from simply removing unnecessary dialogue tags and facial and body expressions.  26,000 words.

So, my quick writing tip for the day:  If you need to cut wordage from your novel or short story, take a good hard look at your dialogue tags and facial and body expressions and ask yourself exactly how many of them you REALLY need in your story.


Joshua Palmatier is an epic fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics.  He has had eight novels published by DAW Books, including “The Throne of Amenkor” trilogy, Shattering the Ley, and Threading the Needle.  He is currently hard at work on the third novel in the “Ley” series, Reaping the Aurora.  In addition, he’s published numerous short stories in various anthologies and has edited four SF&F themed anthologies with co-editor Patricia Bray.  He is also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Find out more about him at www.joshuapalmatier.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@bentateauthor).

Making Money Mondays – Fans v. True Fans

Good Morning, world! I have a little bit of news from Casa de Hartness, and that is that Man in Black, The Black Knight Chronicles #6, is finished! We pushed through the last round of copy edits last week, and it looks like the book will be out mid-August, which means I’ll have a few copies on hand at Dragon*Con, and hopefully Soda City Comic Con the weekend before. I’m really proud of this book; I think it ties up a lot of the initial story arc of the Black Knight boys well, and gives us someplace to go for the final three books of the series. I’ll have a cover reveal and ordering information next time I’m here.

Now on to our main topic – fans. Now I’m not ever going to bash fans, because I love my fans. Hell, I love everybody’s fans, because I’m a fan myself. But what we want to talk about today is the concept of the True Fan, what they are, how best to interact with them, how to find them, how to keep them. Looking at that, it’s going to take more than one post, so this week we’ll talk about what a True Fan is, then later on ee’ll look at how to cultivate them, how to deal with them, and how to convert a Lesser Fan into a True Fan.

For the record, exactly ZERO of this material is anything I came up with. The concept of 1,000 True Fans was first put forth by Kevin Kelly in 2008 on his blog post here. He later references a couple of other folks who had similar ideas a little earlier, unbeknownst to him, but his site, with a tip of the hat to Seth Godin, who wrote the blog post that first turned me on to Kevin’s work.

Kelly postulates that any independent artist, that is any artist outside the big machine of superstar entertainment, needs to cultivate only 1,000 True Fans to survive. BTW, this whole blog post came out of a late-night conversation with AJ Hartley, where I claimed the number was 100. I’m bad at math. He defines a True Fan as someone who spends $100 per year on your work, and those thousand people then contribute to a $100,000 annual income, which is a pretty comfortable living in most places. At least that’s the rumor. I’m a writer, I don’t make anywhere near that kind of money. :)

So what’s a True Fan, and how do I get their hundred bucks? I assume that’s what you’re all asking. In this case, it’s usually a lot easier to show you than tell you.


This is a piece of a quote from Neil Gaiman’s revolutionary comic series Sandman. If you haven’t read it, I begin to question not only your taste, but all your life choices of the last 25 years. Sandman is, to put it bluntly, the greatest comic series of all time, and I say that with full understanding of what I’m putting it up against, and what that says. Yes, it’s better than Death in the Family, The Killing Joke, Secret Wars, Civil War, Siege Perilous, Fall of the Mutants, Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer, Preacher, The Walking Dead, Strangers in Paradise, Bone, Cerebus, The Dark Knight Returns, The Longbow Hunters, AND Watchmen.

This arm belongs to a true fan of Sandman, someone who owns the leather-bound Absolute Sandman editions, the ones that aren’t for reading, but are for display on a bookcase. This arm belongs to someone who stood in line for hours at Dragon Con to get Gaiman’s autograph, who bought tickets to see him stand on stage after an hour’s worth of other people and tell a story about his dog, who pre-orders all his books.

Yeah, it’s my right arm. And you want people who are as rabid about your work as I am about Neil Gaiman’s work.You’re looking for the people who will pre-order everything, who will attend a convention just because you’re going to be there, who will drive a couple hours each way to a book signing just to say hello to you, who will buy and wear your t-shirt out in public. Those are the people that you need 1,000 of.

But as a writer, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get $100 out of each of those fans, barring them becoming dedicated enough to contribute to your Patreon. And that’s because our products are less expensive than concert tickets, or limited edition comics, or limited edition prints. If someone buys every book I release in 2016, they might get to $100, if they buy in print, or in audio. Less likely if they buy in ebook.

So if you’re not getting your living wage out of your True Fans, what are you getting? Well, let’s look at someone with a heavy, but human, release schedule for one year. I will hold no one to my standards of output, and I can’t come close to someone like Jake Bible, who makes a new novel the way some people make lunch. But let’s say Michelle McGillicutty is a midlist SF/F genre fiction writer. She has one series out with Tor, one with Roc, one with a small press, and one self-published. If she has one hardback release, two trade paperback releases, and one mass market paperback release each year, someone buying all her books in print would spend about $60 on her work. If they bought them all in ebook, maybe $35.

How do you make a living with 1,000 people who spend $35/year on your stuff? Especially when your cut of that $35 is somewhere in the $6-$10 range, after everyone else is paid. You make money off these people because they are your advertising. Even without giving you money directly, buying your t-shirts, or paying off your bar tab, these are the people who leave reviews on release day and tell all their Facebook friends about your book, without you having to ask. These are the people who pre-order, who retweet you, who comment on your Facebook wall, who show up at every signing, and who sit in the front row at every panel you do at the con they drove a hundred miles to attend. Because you’re on the guest list.

You can’t buy their love, and if you could, it wouldn’t be worth having. But you can cultivate them, develop relationships with them, and learn to better utilize them. Until then, leave me a note in the comments telling me who you’re a True Fan of, and maybe we’ll get Misty to tell us her True Fan moment of meeting Tim Powers, which was hilarious. See y’all in a couple weeks!

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.


LATEST RELEASE NEWS – Check out Modern Magic, a 12-ebook box set featuring John, Gail Martin, Karen Taylor, Julie Kenner, Rick Gualtieri, Erik Asher, Stuart Jaffe & more! On sale at Amazon for only $2! 


Friday Fundamentals: Title Tells It All

5 Things to Consider When Titling Your Work

Today’s post is about titling your story. These are my opinion and suggestions, though I’ve heard from others that they’ve gotten similar advice other places as well. Share in the comments anything else you think is essential to know about titling your work!

  • Google the title, search Amazon, search Goodreads, etc.
      • Check to see if your title has been used before.
      • If not, all systems go!
      • If your title has been used before, look at when it was used. (If it is not recognizable, it’s probably okay. Of course, you don’t want to title your book Carrie or The Hunger Games. Those are sort of…taken…already.)
  • Look at other titles in the same genre
      • Look to see what kinds of titles successful books in the genre use.
      • Are they single word titles, long titles, etc.?
        • For example, if you look at this list of popular YA books, you’ll find that most of the titles are 1-3 words.
        • But, if you look at this list from 2013, most of the titles are single word titles.
        • Similarly, if you look at this list of titles of popular cozy mysteries (I have a soft spot for those), most of the titles have “murder” or “death” in them somewhere.
  • Think about how the title will affect the reader’s perception of the story
      • Will your reader look for clues about the story when they read the title?
        • For example, I remember sooooo much chatter when the title of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was revealed. Who would it be? What did that mean for the series? What would happen?
        • That’s probably an extreme example, but you never know when success will hit. (Take Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love as an example.)
      • Also, have you seen the meme with the cat reading To Kill a Mockingbird? It’s true…it’s not about hunting birds!


      • A quick Google search will show you that there are lots of books out there with misleading titles. Here’s one of my favorites.
      • That’s not to say that you can’t have a mysterious title…but do it intentionally. And do it well.
  • How it sounds when you say it aloud
      • You have to be able to pronounce your title easily. If you put Worcestershire in the title, be confident that you can say that word correctly. Likewise with Abominable.
      • Chances are you’ll be talking about your book at some point, so if you can’t confidently and easily pronounce a word in the title, you might either want to practice (a lot) or choose a different title.
      • Sometimes a title looks good but doesn’t sound good when you say it aloud. It’s sort of like naming a child. Stick your head out the back door and holler out the name. See how it feels rolling off your tongue. Get other people to say it to you. See how it sounds in other people’s voices.
  • Does it fit the story visually?
    • This is probably just me being me, but I like a title to fit the story in how the letters are shaped.
    • Now, a lot of this can be done with fonts these days, but I still love the way letters look when they come together. They can give a message in and of themselves that has nothing to do with the title.
    • For instance, if I’m reading a fairy tale, I want letters with curves and flow into one another. Alethea Kontis’s Enchanted is a good example for this. There’s a good many curves in the word itself, so it looks enchanting as well as being enchanting. See how the word both ends and begins with curved letters? It would feel very different to me if the title were Enchantment because that doesn’t end with a curved letter. (Again, this may just be me being a weirdo…)


    • Another example is Stuart Jaffe’s Immortal Killers. There are lots of sharp angles and lines in the title lettering, which suggests to me danger, mystery, and suspense. Particularly with Jaffe’s title, the more angular letters IMM and KILL are at the forefront and the curved letters fade toward the smoky distance. That word “kill” really stands out. (I love this cover, by the way.)



That’s it for today. What sorts of things do you look for in a title?

See you in two weeks!

~ Melissa ~



Write Us A Story!

Howdy, folks! I’m thrilled to announce that Emily Leverett, Margaret McGraw and I will be editing another anthology of stories from the dusty alleys of the weird west, this time for Falstaff Press! It’s called Lawless Lands: Tales From the Weird Frontier, and we have a fabulous lineup of anchor authors, including:

David B Coe
Laura Anne Gilman
Barb Hendee
Faith Hunter
Nicole Givens Kurtz
Margaret McGraw
Seanan McGuire
Devon Monk
Edmund Schubert
and now, Jake Bible!

But nine stories isn’t enough, and that’s where you come in… we’re opening the submissions right now! Lawless Lands will be funded with a Kickstarter, which will run in December of 2016, so we want to have our stories in hand in order to guarantee an amazing campaign. We’re looking for stories that embody the frontier spirit of the American West, but with a weird twist. Gunslingers with laser pistols, cattle drives through the galaxy, cursed nuggets of gold and talking jack rabbits that grant wishes – fantasy, SF or horror, if it’s weird, we want to see it.

We will pay each author a minimum of 4 cents a word, with the possibility of more if the Kickstarter is successful, and two physical copies. Word count – 3000 to 7000 words. We might be willing to entertain a story longer than the max, but please ask before submitting, and it had better be a pretty incredible story. 

Submission deadline – September 30, 2016

Submission attachments should be in 12 point New Times Roman, in Microsoft Word format (preferably doc.x.)  We’re happy to see a cover email explaining your previous publications, but try to keep it short and sweet. And don’t stress if you have no prior publication experience – we love discovering stars!

For more information, or to submit your story,

Hump-Day Help: Advice From the Doers! (Part I)

Welcome to the last June edition of Hump-Day Help! Today I’m going to share with you some awesome words of wisdom…but they’re not really from me.

So before I set out for ConCarolinas, where I was to teach a class on the beginning steps of turning a hobby into a career (which we’ve talked about here on MW a lot, so I’ll not rehash except to say that what I mean is, “Hey, you need a website, and social media presence, and business cards, and…” so on and so forth) I asked friends of mine IN the business of writing/editing OR acting/directing/producing what advice they would give someone going into their field. Today I am going to share the first half of the information they sent me. The second half will be in July.

Why? Because I have around 3400 words of advice and writer/actor/editor info to share! YAY! And some of them are from writers here at Magical Words! Double YAY!

OK…let’s get started! We’ll end with me but we’ll start with a woman I admire more than just about anyone else in my world. I want to be this woman when I grow up…the incomparable, Faith Hunter…


Learn how to introduce yourself in a one-on-one situation. It sounds so easy but most people don’t do it right, and they lose a chance to bumbling. And don’t tell me you can’t. This is not a gift sent down from Olympus. It can be learned. Ask someone to teach you. Tips:

* Look them in the eye.

* Learn how to SHAKE a hand. Stop offering a limp fish. The fingers and thumb have a slight curve when offered and apply pressure when flesh grips flesh. A handshake is firm, but not painful. The grip part lasts two to three seconds. Then LET GO.

* Do not touch the other person again.

Tell them in a calm, well enunciated voice, your name and genre. Say, “Pleased to meet you.” If they ask what you write, now is the time to tell them. Have your 3 line short blurb memorized. Practice.

Faith Hunter / Author of the Jane Yellowrock series, Soulwood series, & Rogue Mage series / Penguin-Random House Publishing / www.faithhunter.net

**Be yourself and stay true to yourself.**

– This is not your life. This is your job. Work hard at your job, love your job. Go home to your life.

– Find the value in your own ideas and thoughts… Then create your own work.

Sarah Mack / Actor-Writer-Producer / www.SarahMack.net / www.IdRideThatPony.com

I would say network as much as possible if you can. Try and go to casting directors directly and read for them, if you can get in the room. You have to put yourself out there. Take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. Definitely make a solid reel. And try to promote yourself in the new digital age.

Kara Rosella / Actress-Stuntwoman-Model / IMDb


Talent will only get you so far. If you really want to succeed, you have to work. Plain and simple. Someone with mediocre ability and a strong work ethic will go further than someone who is talented but not willing to put in the work. If anything else makes you happy – go do that.

Melissa McArthur / Author / www.melissamcarthur.net

If anything else makes you happy – go do that.  It’ll be easier. But if this is what you were put on this earth to do, let nothing stand between you and greatness. The best among us have come from the most humble beginnings. It has so much less to do with talent, and so much more to do with being willing to work every day to be the best you can be. Hone your craft. Bust your ass. Accept no limitations.

John Hartness / Author-Publisher / Falstaff Books / www.johnhartness.com


My advice is to get used to being poor. This isn’t meant to discourage you from chasing the dream of your art being a career, on the contrary, it’s advice to prepare you to achieve it.

Artists are frequently starving, it’s a thing. Even highly lucrative fields of artistic endeavors like filmmaking and advertising are built on the backs of unpaid interns, apprentices, and people making very little money. You have get used to living on little money that comes on uncertain schedules.

But, this isn’t the dire situation it sounds.

This is freedom.

This circumstance allows you to adjust your mind and spirit and embrace the act of creation that you express in your art. Life is about so much more than materialistic pursuits. You are an emotional and spiritual being and that is the part of you that an artistic lifestyle brings out and making it your career means you are sharing that with people who cannot tap into it on their own. Your art will be the conduit for someone else to connect with the primal act of creation.

And that is the best currency of all.

Be free and be rich.

James R. Tuck / Author of the Deacon Chalk series with Kensington Publishing / Robin Hood: Demon’s Bane with Titan Books / www.jamesrtuck.com / Also writes under the name Levi Black with TOR Books (The Red Right Hand)

Do not compare yourself to others. Do not compare yourself to others. 

Do. Not. Compare. Yourself. To. Others.

When you compare yourself to other people, you are never getting the full picture. Whether they’re a celebrity, or a friend, or someone you went to school with, you aren’t seeing everything that happens to them. You see a seemingly never-ending stream of success as they move from one wonderful thing to the next. You don’t see their moments of doubt, of fear, of anxiety. You don’t see the days where it’s hard for them to get out of bed, or where they’d rather just binge something on Netflix. You see, “Oh, they just booked a national touring production. They just filmed their own movie. They just won an award.”

And you can forget that everyone struggles, just like you. And if you start beating up on yourself because you don’t think you’re as successful as your friends, or because you don’t feel like your career is moving forward fast enough, you can get to a very negative place where making art can be unnecessarily difficult. Because instead of using your energy to create, you’re using your energy to tear yourself down by comparing yourself to an idealized version of other people.

The only person that you have all of the information for is yourself and you are the only person you should make comparisons with. Am I better than I was yesterday, or last year? Have I grown from this project? Did this make me feel artistically satisfied? Okay, now how can I be better?

Because when you stop looking to other people for the markers to success and start looking to yourself a few things will happen. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your own artistic process, about what helps you get things done. And with better self-knowledge will come better artistic expression. One that is unique to you and what you have to offer, rather than trying to mimic what someone else has done because you think it’ll bring you success.

George Wolf once said, “It’s like standing in a huge casino and everyone has a slot machine. And you’re feeding your slot machine and nothing is happening and all around you people are hitting the jackpot and getting all this stuff. And you’re going, ‘well, I want to go over there to that machine. It’s obviously a better machine than mine.’ But stick with your own machine. It may take you longer. But when you hit, you’re still yourself.”

Sarah Murdoch / Actress / New York, NY

My advice would seem to be contradictory, but bear with me. It comes in two parts. Part 1 is simple: Create what you love. Follow your heart, your muse, your creative process, whatever you want to call it. Allow your passion and vision to guide you. Because trying to imitate others or appeal to a given market is only going to rob your work of that passion, which will be reflected in the finished product.

But then part 2 would seem to contradict this: Listen to the critiques you receive from colleagues and experts, and learn from them. Because while the original vision can and should be entirely our own, we — all of us — can still learn from the feedback we receive from others. Art is interactive. It begins with creative vision and it ends with artistic choice — both entirely our own. But in the middle is an interactive process by which we learn and grow and improve our work.

David B. Coe / Author of the Case Files of Justis Fearsson / www.DavidBCoe.com

Earning your stripes is better than it sounds.

Often we want a windfall of fortune to land upon us. Sell that first book. Get that first big acting gig. Book that first major stunt job. Make those millions! Right? As great as having that happen right out of the gate can be, it rarely happens, and it jips you of something greater: earning your stripes. Or rather, earning the reverence of others who look up to you for your work with time and experience. You’ll notice flash-in-the-pan actors/musicians/writers sometimes disappear or have no staying power. IF that is the case, it’s because they didn’t earn their stripes. You see, there’s nothing wrong with starting small and moving your way up the ladder. I’ve always said that I want to earn what I get and as frustrating as waiting is, the end result shouldn’t be your only goal, the journey should be too.

Enjoy your journey, growth, the ups & downs, and the people you meet as you move toward each of your goals. It will make all the difference in the end…and think of all the great stories you’ll have to tell.

Tamsin L. Silver / Writer-Director-Producer-Teacher / Author of the Windfire series, Mark of the Necromancer, and other books & stories / www.tamsinsilver.com / www.facebook.com/BillyTheKidRidesAgain.com

Well, that’s it for me this time around…write hard, bathe in imagination, and stay tuned for the second half of these great words of wisdom that’ll be coming at you from the likes of Gail Martin, A.J. Hartley, Melissa Gilbert, Sharon Stogner, Sam Ogilvie, Mark A. Rose, Lucienne Diver, Lauren Steinmeyer and Janine K. Spendlove!

With love and unity, no matter your race or sexual preference/identity,

Tamsin :)

DSC_2927 Edit


Originally from Michigan, Tamsin L. Silver writes YA Urban Fantasy novels (listed above), Historical Fantasy (The Curse of Scáthach), and a web series (Skye of the Damned). She graduated from Winthrop University with a BA in Theatre/Secondary Education and a minor in Creative Writing/Shakespeare. She has taught both middle school and high school theatre and run two successful theater companies, one of which in the place she currently lives: New York City.

The Mayor’s Tale

Quick Tip Tuesday

Greetings True Believers, as Stan Lee would say! Sorry for my absence a few weeks back. Things have been pretty crazy around here , getting the third Golgotha book, The Queen of Swords out the door to my publisher, and I had the honor of being a guest at ConCarolinas, and got to visit with some wonderful folks (many of them contributors to this blog) who made me feel very proud to be in such esteemed company. But now, the initial rounds of edits on Queen are done, and I’m hard at work on the sequel to Nightwise, Crystal Myth.
While editing some stuff for Queen of Swords, I had occasion to review some of my old chapter summaries and character notes I wrote for the first Golgotha book, and my first published novel, The Six-Gun Tarot.

I’ve mentioned previously, that I am not a huge plotter. I do a little to keep me on track (and I diverged from my standard way of doing this for Queen with some very difficult consequences for me, but that is another post for another day). My standard approach is to write a brief summary of what I want to accomplish in the chapter, and then I do a detailed character sketch on any new characters that are introduced in the chapter, usually with back stories, plots, and stuff about them I might never use, but want to know anyway, because it helps build that idea into a real, breathing person for me.

So I was reading over these old chapter notes from nine(!!!??? Yikes!)years ago and was reintroduced to the mayor of the tiny town of Golgotha, Harry Pratt.
Harry is a really good example of how fleshing out a “minor character” can reap you great benefits to your story, and your world. Initially, in Six-Gun, Harry shows up to let the deputy and the kid he just met and brought into Golgotha know that there is trouble brewing at the general store. I had envisioned Harry as a blustering politician, a wealthy man who came from a family of means who was up to his eyebrows in wheeling and dealing. Essentially, a big fish in a small pond.

One of my goals with Six-Gun was to take tired old western cliches and knock them about a bit. Harry, as I saw him then, was simply a stereotypical 1800’s machine politician in a little town. Nothing special, really. He would come on the scene, say a few lines and then disappear back into the background. However, one of my other goals with the novel was to make this town, and its people full of secrets, so I spent a little time trying to think of a secret or two to give old Harry.

I had been reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, and decided I wanted to include some of the Mormon theology in the novel, including all the fantastical divine treasures of the Mormon faith. I had already decided the current incarnation of Golgotha , circa 1869, had been “founded” by Mormon settlers(there were much older inhabitants of the land prior to the Mormon settlers). From that, I decided that the Mayor’s family had been entrusted with keeping safe and hidden the literal treasures of Heaven. Okay, I had a neat little back story for my cardboard mayor to know about, and a hook for a future story, maybe but Harry Pratt was still pretty much an extra.
I had wanted to show in Six-Gun the other people who helped tame and grow the American frontier who got very little credit for doing that. So I decided that my generic mayor had another secret besides divine treasures. I decided that Harry Pratt was gay.

The ramifications of what that really meant for a well-to-do public figure in a small, Mormon town in 1869 began to work like alchemy and ideas and feelings, conflicts and desires, all began to form as my wild (yawn) west mayor shattered his mold and demanded more of my attention as a character. From that point on, Harry began to come alive, he literately developed into a main character before my eyes, one with many conflicts and obligations, he became a real person. I fell in love with Harry Pratt and his presence made my little weird western more than I had envisioned it, at least for me.

I’ve received messages  from gay Mormons that say they understand and appreciate Harry’s struggles. To be able to touch someone’s life you’ve never met, and give them a character that speaks to them and for them, is one of the most rewarding things you can do when you write. It makes you feel like you’re not just telling tales, you’re sharing life with other people, telling their stories too.  I love that.

Harry is now the second most popular character I get  feedback on.   Maude Stapleton and Deputy Mutt are tied for first. Looking back on those notes I actually remember writing a couple of sentences of description of Golgotha’s mayor and then deciding to spend a little more time on him and make him more than a piece of the scenery. It was worth it.  I’m very glad I did.

I guess if Harry’s origin has a moral, it’s the same as in real life, not just fiction. Everyone has a story, everyone is a hero, and a villain, and struggling against things you would never, ever guess. Everyone is extraordinary. There are no extras in real life, and when you write, try to remember that the next time you have that nameless city watch guard, store clerk, or butler.

R. S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter.
Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice, and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.
The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. It was his first professional fiction sale.
Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, was published in 2014 and the third book in the Golgotha series—The Queen of Swords is currently in production. His novel, Nightwise, was released in August, 2015, and his latest book, The Brotherhood of the Wheel was published by Tor in March 2016. Sequels to both books are forthcoming.
He lives in Roanoke Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.

Contact Rod at:

Website: http://www.rsbelcher.net

Facebook: Author RS Belcher

Twitter: @AuthorRsBelcher


Making Money. Giving Up. Not Both.

Making money in the business of writing is hard.

Every writer learns that at some point, even New York Times Bestselling writers learn it when a book or a new series tanks, when a beloved editor is canned, or when a cover stinks, when a line of books is ended, or a company folds.  The disappointment is boundless, the resulting depression can be dark and deep as an ocean. We all know that.

But success can be found (even if it was lost ). Money can be made, at any level, with perseverance and determination and creativity. It can’t be done if you give up. There’s that.

Many of you know my story.

Fifteen years with only 1 (ONE) short story sale. SO MANY REJECTIONS. HUNDREDS OF REJECTIONS. Yes hundreds. Just one positive note in 15 years. Think about that. 15 years to find the dream. Then —

Two book contract with Warner Books as Gary Hunter. Lost editor after first book. Got a new editor. The world changed. Lost the next contract.

Two book deal with Pocket Books as Gwen Hunter. Lost editor before first book was released. Got a new editor. Did not hit (that then magical number of ) 100,000 sales. Hit at 98,000 with the first book and 82,000 with the second. Got canned.

Two book deal with Hodder and Stoughton out of the UK as Gwen. Got canned.

Two book deal with Mira Books. Book two went to 98,000 sales. Was offered an additional 2 more books! Company messed up badly with book three of the series. Dropped to 17,000 sales. (Dreadful cover and they placed it in romance aisle. It was medical mystery. Sales tanked, go figure. Stupid situation, and not my fault but I suffered for it.) Series ended after book 4, which only regrew to 50,000. Four standalones followed.  Agent and editor argued. Got canned.

Sold to auction at ROC as Faith Hunter. First series had good midlister sales. Then SKINWALKER. And success! And five books after hitting the NYT, ROC disappeared. I’m now with ACE. And the market has changed. Again. I’m still selling very well, but the self-published authors, selling cheaper books, are making the biggest sales for the NYT. Yes. Stuff happens. I persevere. BOTE-Cover

In between New York books, I’ve done the small press route. Liked it well enough to consider being an editor with one company when I retire.

My point is this. Don’t give up. Giving up makes you fail. That is all. Giving up makes you fail. Find a way. Write a new book. Do the work. Become a better writer. Giving up makes you fail. That is all.

OH – new book BLOOD OF THE EARTH, August 2. Preorder now at all booksellers.