I opened Magical Words today (the 16th, because I’m behind on getting my post for tomorrow typed up due to book editing over the weekend, which is when I normally write my MW stuff) to read what the other MW folks had been writing to see if it gave me ideas. Why? Because I literally was like, “I know what I’m writing about for July 1st and July 15th, but I have NO clue what to write about for TOMORROW!” (#WriterProblems).
Interestingly enough, the last two posts (Emily & Misty) helped do exactly that. I’m going to talk about my newest project (not Mark of the Necromancer, I’ll blog about that on July 1st when I talk to you all about running a book cover photo shoot, since we’re doing one for MotN on June 29th)…so maybe I should call it my newer newest project? Oiy. Anyway, If you’ve picked up my new short story, The Curse of Scáthach (which is only 99 cents on Amazon so you have no excuse, go snag it!) or spoken to me lately, then you probably know where I’m about to go with this.
(Here are the cover & back for the short. Both are done by Alexis Daria and she is fantastic to work with as well as talented! She also did the cover for another short story of mine [Heroes Square] where she hand drew it. I cannot recommend her highly enough! )
Three weeks from this Friday (OMG, it’s almost here! SQEE! *clears throat & collects self*) I fly to New Mexico and this short story is the reason why. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, this is a Historical Fantasy novel. Go ahead and ask me what I knew about American History of the Wild West a few months ago! I’ll tell you, NOTHING. Not a damn thing. Seriously. But now? I’ve devoured five of the six books (some are those large text book size books) I’ve bought and one more awaits me in New Mexico. So now I’m VERY well versed in The Lincoln County War and that time period (1878) for that area. But I plan to turn this into a full novel. So books are not enough.
Emily talks about how staying in a castle affected her (go HERE to read) and it gave me chills and boosted my excitement for my trip even more. Will I be in a castle? No. I’ll be in a B&B built in 1876 (The Ellis Store) at the end of the one main street that Lincoln, NM, has. There won’t be things like a grocery store nearby, or a deli / bodega, or even any late night delivery food. This is a town where time has stood still for the most part (they do have electricity, running water, and internet, have no fear) and where the likes of Billy the Kid, John Tunstall, Alexander McSween, and Dick Brewer walked the streets back in the late 1800’s trying to make a life for themselves…and where tragedy struck.
This place was seen as the most dangerous street in America in 1878. But the area was also was known for it’s beauty. Thing is, I’ve only read about it and seen pictures. I’ve never lived out west (or visited). So, for me, I know that the novel I want to write will be all that much better if I go to Lincoln, NM. I need to feel the history, walk into these buildings (John Tunstall’s small ranch house stills stands, as does James Dolan’s home, and I’ll get to step into both), see the vast sky of New Mexico, walk the ground in the mountains where many of these men were murdered, and just “be” in the space.
Actors would call it “method acting” (or in my case, “method writing”) but I believe it’s more than that. I think it comes down to what Emily said, “In short, things that were fictional became real. And I can now translate those experiences into words.” That is my hope too. Thankfully, while doing research for the short story, I made friends with a Historian and Genealogist who works with the Lincoln County Historical Society. Through email (and now Facebook) we’ve gotten to know one another and are very excited to see each other in person in three weeks, where she’ll take me to visit places from history and we’ll talk of the events and people involved in the Lincoln County War at length so I really get to know them and what they dealt with. To be honest, I don’t think I could have written the short story without Marilyn and I sure as hell know I’d not be able to do this book without her help (and help from others in Lincoln). She’s a Godsend and proof that reaching out to people you don’t know, be it a phone call or an email, though not how we do research nowadays, should still be done.
Am I saying you MUST go visit the places you write about? No way! Most of the time that’s not possible! I am saying that I need it for this project and I’m excited to learn and become a better writer because of it. It’s a choice (that’s costing me a pretty penny) and I would never expect another writer to choose this for fiction writing. But I know I need it…so I’ll go. And I plan to keep a diary while there and THAT part of which will be my July 15th blog post here on Magical Words…so stay tuned.
Now on to what Misty said in her post, Planning it Out. You definitely cannot become the writer you want to be if you A) Don’t find the time to put words on paper OR if you B) Overload yourself. I’ve come close to doing the latter…but I did as Misty said. I planned it all out (crazy breakdown of schedule HERE). I’ve also planned out this book I’m going to be doing right down to designing my work space. This is imperative to me finishing the book for one main reason: I LOVE DOING RESEARCH. Be still the beating heart of my history teachers in high school and college to hear me say that, but it’s true. And if I have to do research often while I write this, I’ll end up down the rabbit hole and I’ll never do anything but learn stuff. Which is great, but the book may never get finished for years. So I have a plan and as I put that into place in September (as it will involve re-doing my room a bit) I promise to explain my choices, take pictures, and show you all the final product.
So I guess this post has been more of me telling you about what my future posts will be and sharing with you my excitement about the newest of the new writing journey’s that I’m about to embark on. I suppose that the ties I feel to this event in history, and the people involved (mostly Richard M. Brewer), are part of the reason why I feel so driven to write this book. It’s as if I know these people and I cannot wait to get to telling their story! And I plan to take you all on that journey with me because I’m going to fall on my face along the way. LOL! I’m also going to discover really cool things as I go. So the teacher in me wants to share all of these things with you so that as you push forward to create stories that inspire you (and hopefully others as well so they end up in bookstores, like Misty said) you’ll hopefully have learned from my mistakes and/or triumphs as I go.
Obviously, as I only post here twice a month, a lot of my journey will be on my usual blog (found HERE), but I do plan to share the juiciest bits with you all…because no one will appreciate them the same way (especially when I fall on my face) as my family of writers.
So go read the mighty and wise words of Emily and Misty (and the rest of the MW gang) and maybe visit places to inspire your writing. Then take those ideas you love and don’t let excuses get in the way of you putting them down on paper! YOU get in your own way a lot of the time (Well put in a post John Hartness wrote on May 12th that I’ve mentioned before…be aware, adult language!) And that “getting in the way” can be your planning as much as your making time to write. Writing professionally is not just about being creative (Did I just make enemies?). It’s about planning out your time & deadlines (plus sticking to those decisions), thinking of it like a business, and knowing the happy medium in all that you do for your passion. Do not remove all the other cool things you love from your life just to write 24/7. Because unless you’re on deadline, you should find time to live, see the world, experience things, hug the dog/cat, spend time with friends, have bad days, have good days, and use everything you go through to make you a better writer.
That’s it for me this time around… write hard, bathe in imagination, and welcome to my journey for The Curse of Billy the Kid!
Until next time…I leave you with a quote from my other favorite actor (yes, I don’t just love Tom Hiddleston), Benedict Cumberbatch:
“…then you can start to just fail. That’s what it’s about. It’s about doing it wrong, doing it wrong, doing it wrong, then doing it better, and doing it slightly better, then wrong, wrong, wrong, then doing it slightly accurate, doing it more accurately, and then doing it right. You never get there (he means perfection). You’re just always failing better. Falling upwards, as someone once described it.”
This was only part of his long reply when asked for advice for budding actors. I happen to think it also can apply to writing. Maybe that’s just me since I see connections between the two all the time due to my background. However, in case you do too, here are the screen shots (in order) I took of the whole response:
I couldn’t say it better myself, Ben…I look forward to my journey of falling upwards starting in September!
Love and Writing,
Today I’m going to step away from my usual grammar posts and talk about something a little different. I’m going to talk about how real physical space affects my writing.
A few days ago I got back from a trip that began with Con Carolinas, traveled through Wales and London, and ended up back home in Fayetteville. It was a long two weeks, but a lot of fun. I could write a whole post about CC, but other folks have, so I won’t.
My trip through Wales and London was for Study Abroad. I and a colleague of mine led 13 students (mostly 18-22 year olds) on a trip that began in Wales at St. Donat’s castle overlooking the Bristol Channel (the link gives some history and pictures). After six days there, we moved on to London, stopping at Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral along the way. In London we toured Parliament and Westminster Abby, and followed a guide through London to see Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, St. Paul’s and the Globe Theater. We also visited the Tower of London, the British Museum, and the British Library. On their own, students visited Chelsea Stadium, the Tate Modern, and the National Gallery, among other places. I got to see the Victoria and Albert museum for the first time.
All of this isn’t to inspire jealousy (though it was a fabulous trip), but to open a discussion on place. Much of fantasy literature has its basis in Europe and Great Britain. Middle Earth, Narnia, Westeros, the world of Dr. Who all reference this area. So for many of us, we’ve read about or seen many of these places in books, films, etc. long before we actually see them in person. But standing in these places, anyone can see why they are so inspirational.
My writing is heavily influenced by Medieval and Renaissance English literature, and this can been seen particularly in setting. Every good medieval fantasy has to have a castle on a hill. And now I’ve stayed in one. I felt the drafts. Climbed up and down uneven, spiraled staircases as a resident, not a tourist. Stood in the rose garden and looked out at the channel. Felt the sting of the cold, harsh wind tugging at my clothes. In short, things that were fictional became real. And I can now translate those experiences into words.
Salisbury Cathedral, a classic Gothic building, deeply affected me. One thing it, and others like it, do well is remind me of how small I am. Walking in to a huge, open church, with no pews, and staring down the length of the building to where I know the altar is, even if I can’t see it, give me a sense of the people who have come before. Sure the architecture of the church could give me pages of description for books and stories, but it is the feeling inside that stays with me. There is a quiet beauty, a peace, and always a bit of melancholy. Cathedrals are cool, cooler than the outside the day I visited, and a bit dark, even with modern lighting. I have yet to enter a cathedral and not be moved by it.
Writing is about imagination, and one need not have visited a place to write about it. That said, like it or not, I end up writing parts of myself. And when I can connect to one of my character’s experiences through my own, it livens my prose a lot.
While the places I visited obviously begged for reflection and remembrance, daily places do too. We can pause and secure memories. The oppressive heat and humidity of North Carolina. The smell of a favorite dish baking. The sounds of the wind in the trees outside. The places we visit, and the emotions we experience while we’re there, can be the inspiration we need to create a place that’s real to our readers.
I based one place in my story “The Last Two People on Earth” in Athena’s Daughters II on my hometown. What places have you used in your writing? Any particular favorites?
I was on vacation at Edisto Beach all last week. My family rents a house there every summer, and we spend the week building castles in the sand, swimming in the ocean and playing bocce on the beach. Every year, while we’re there, my husband and I start fantasizing about living on the coast. It would be much better for his asthma, since we currently live in the worst part of South Carolina for people with allergies and respiratory issues. For me, it would be going home. I’m very much a creature of the coast, and I’d prefer to live somewhere that the air actually moves now and then. (Even now, after living here for decades, it still creeps me out to walk outside and realize there’s not a breath of wind at all.) In years past, we’ve toyed and talked but done nothing concrete about our wish to move.
This time was a little different, though. My husband started searching online for jobs in his field in that area, and today on our way home, we actually paid attention to what sort of houses were available and their locations relative to shopping and such. Before we’d reached home, we’d settled on a way to get the ball rolling by divesting ourselves of possessions we don’t use or haven’t touched in years. (Yes, that’s right – I’m finally going to empty out my attic this summer!)
It occurred to me that we should really approach our writing goals in the same concrete way. It’s nice to tell ourselves that as long as we’re putting words on paper, we’re writers. But many of us want more. We want to see our names on published works in stores. We want to be paid for the stories we create. We want to make a career out of this art. It’s not enough to just be a writer – we want t0 be professional writers.
The first step is, of course, to sit down and write. As Faith has pointed out time and again, the percentage of people who claim to want to be writers and actually put words on paper is very small. The percentage of people who finish a novel-length story is even smaller. So being a writer is a critical step, the vital first step without which you go no further. But often that’s where people sort of stop. “I’m writing,” they say, tap-tap-tapping away at the fourth manuscript that hasn’t sold because they don’t know what to do next. They don’t know how to approach agents, how to submit to editors, or even how to format their manuscripts before sending them out. So instead of trying to participate in the business side of writing, they end up with story after story that never sees the light of day.
Then again you get the other folks, the ones who have a general idea of what’s a good move. They submit stories to anthologies and online magazines, sometimes selling one. They start getting invited to participate in projects and they say a gleeful Yes! to every invitation, no matter what it is or whether it’s something they should even attempt to write for. All of a sudden, they’re utterly swamped with deadlines that are all looming at the same time and the muse? Oh, she’s taken a lengthy cruise down the Amazon, but she’s definitely not helping the writer at all.
You can’t achieve your goal by wishing at it, nor by overloading yourself. It takes a plan, and careful observation. Instead of remaining in solitude with your typing, take time to research ways to sell what you write. Instead of accepting every project, turn down the ones that don’t excite you. It’s better to spend a month writing one story for an anthology that turns you on than to rush to complete four stories that you don’t really care about. No matter which side of the spectrum you’re on, take an hour or a day and decide on some solid, achievable goals to help you move along on your climb.
Have you made any sort of plan for your eventual writing success? What’s working for you? What didn’t? Jump in the comments and share with us.
John G. Hartness
The Black Knight Chronicles Omnibus is the Kindle Daily Deal for Science Fiction & Fantasy today. That means that you can pick up the first three complete volumes of my Black Knight Chronicles for just $1.99 on Kindle, which will likely be price-matched across other formats. If you don’t already own the book, please take a moment to click the link below and go buy it.
Thanks. So why is the Kindle Daily Deal a big deal? There are several reasons, some of which are general and one is very specific to me and my world at this point in time.
Specifically, this is very important to me because I have a new book coming out June 30th. Even more specifically, I have the fifth book in this series coming out June 30th. So my sincere hope is that the visibility of the entire series will get a boost from this promo and I will see some carryover from this into the pre-orders and release week sales of In the Still of the Knight.
You have pre-ordered your copy, right?
But in general, the Daily Deal is a big deal because Amazon is throwing a chunk of its considerable marketing efforts behind my work as one of five books it is promoting to the entire Daily Deal email list today. I don’t know how many people get the Kindle Daily Deals email list, but I would suspect that it’s probably over 100,000 people.
There are five books selected each day for the Kindle Daily Deal. One is The Daily Deal, and it can be from any genre (although I don’t think they ever do erotica as a DD, I could certainly be wrong). The DD is usually general fiction, thriller, mystery, romance or biography. It’s sometimes, maybe once a week, a sf/f book. The other categories of Daily Deal are SF/F, Romance, Kids’, and Biographies & Memoirs. I had the Daily Deal once before, on Memorial Day of 2013, with the same book. I had significantly less visibility personally two years ago, and I had a lot fewer products available for people to spill over and buy. And my Daily Deal was on a holiday, when I expected a lot fewer people to be on their computers buying books.
I hit #1 on Fantasy and #1 in Horror on the Amazon lists, displacing people like Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, Joe Hill and Dean Koontz. I’m fairly certain they didn’t notice. I, on the other hand, printed a screen cap and showed my parents. Yes, I was 40 years old at the time. I expect that if I ever make it onto a major bestseller list, I’ll buy a copy of that newspaper for my father, regardless of my age.
I also made a nice chunk of change over the following days. I don’t actually get royalties on Daily Deal books, because the price is dropped past the promotional threshold where I get paid anything. But, when the price goes back up to normal price tomorrow and the book is still very visible because it’s at or near the top of the genre bestseller lists – then Daddy gets paid. I was very happy with the check that came in after my last Daily Deal, and I have high hopes for this bringing in new fans to my other series as well, giving Bubba and Harker a boost in addition to the Black Knight boys.
But the main thing I’m looking for out of this is increased visibility. I have a new book coming out in a little over two weeks. Between now and then I’m going to be releasing sample excerpts here and on my website. I’m going to be on Whatever, talking about The Big Idea behind the book. I’m going to be on Terribleminds, talking about five things I learned while writing this book. And I’m going to be anywhere else I can be to promote it, because a lot of things are lining up for this release, and I’m going into what football players call a “contract season.” My next book (#6) in the Black Knight Chronicles is the last one under contract, and I’d like to wrap up paperwork for 7-9 quickly so I don’t have to worry about it.
This Daily Deal is all part of that, and I’m lucky to have it. Someone at our writers’ group meeting on Wednesday asked how people get chosen for the Daily Deal, and I had to respond “I have an awesome publisher.” Because I do. I not only did nothing to get this promotion, I couldn’t have done anything to influence the selection. Basically there are negotiations that I know nothing about between my publisher and Amazon that resulted in me getting this Deal. I do know that as a self-pubbed author, at my best I was nowhere near close to big enough to get considered for a Daily Deal. There are some cases of self-published authors being offered the Daily Deal, but they’ve usually sold a significant (50K+) number of books in the past few months. I haven’t sold 50K+ books in the last two years, much less the last few months. I think I am sneaking up on over 100K books sold, which is a pretty big number for a self-pub/small press hybrid guy.
So there’s a lot more about the Kindle Daily Deal than you probably ever wanted to know. the tl;dr version – buy my shit, then pre-order my shit. Peace, love and hair grease – y’all have a great weekend!
We have quite a few words in the English language that are confused, misspelled, or misused. Today we’re talking about words that change vowels. Sometimes one little letter makes a huge difference.
Accept: take willingly
I will accept all of the items except the one that is broken.
Access: being able to use or acquire
Excess: extra, too much
Can I access the excess materials?
Addition: something added on
Edition: a version or type
The addition of the second edition Oxford dictionary is a great thing for the library.
Affect: verb, to change or alter
Effect: noun (usually), result of a change
The side effects affect me more than anyone else.
*I remember this by thinking A for Action and E for Everything Else.
**Effect can be used as a verb but only if it is meant to mean “to cause something to happen” as in “to effect change.”
Altar: a sacred table
If you alter the altar, you will face the consequences.
Berth: bunk in a ship or train
Birth: the act of being born
She gave birth to a baby boy in the berth of the ship.
Course: a direction, school subject, or part of a meal
Coarse: rough in texture
We learned in our textiles course that coarse materials are often less expensive.
Complement: to complete
Compliment: to say something nice
Her compliment was that my shoes complemented my outfit nicely.
Dual: more than one
Duel: a fight
The feud involved dual duels between the dual families.
Ensure: to make sure
Insure: to provide insurance
Please ensure that the daredevil is insured before he does the stunt.
Stationary: not moving
Stationery: writing materials
This clip will hold your stationery in a stationary position while you write.
Then: Tells When
Then I told my sister, “I am still taller than you!”
Hey folks, I’m on vacation this week, but I’m still working. I’ve got a short story rewrite, another short story to outline, and two not-yet-released novels to read, all of which is pretty cool stuff to do even if I am supposed to be taking a break. Reading is a vital part of being a writing pro – you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and who’s writing what. This week, I want you all to take a minute and tell me what you’re reading. Title, suthor and a quick synopsis, and maybe your thoughts. I think we can all benefit ftom knowing what other readers like.
I’ll start… Half Resurrection Blues, by Daniel Jose Older. It’s a noir urban fantasy, and so far pretty good. Carlos is both dead and alive, and works for the Council of the Dead, keeping things between the worlds of the living and dead relatively peaceful. That is, until New York is infested with nasty implike creatures called ngks, which herald encroaching doom for everyone.
Now it’s your turn!
John G. Hartness
Like you need a hole in your head, I know. But it is con season, and Tamsin had some good things to say this week about conventions and the money made (or usually lost) there, and if you missed it, then scroll down. It’s good stuff. I’m on a little break from Literate Liquors because I’m writing soooo much right now, but the podcast will be back eventually. I still owe y’all half a Bubba story!
One thing Tamsin touched on that I want to dig a little deeper on is networking and opportunities that come up at a convention. It’s why you’re really there. You’re either there to meet fans, or to meet people who can help your career, or (preferably) both. But don’t ever make the mistake of turning down an opportunity because you think you aren’t ready, or that it might make you look silly, or that you don’t deserve it. This is something I hear from up and coming writers all the time – “I don’t know if I deserve it yet.”
Here’s a hint – nobody cares if you deserve it. And no matter when you find success, there will be people who think you don’t deserve it, and people who understand exactly how long you slaved away to become an overnight success.
Here’s an example from this ConCarolinas. I was standing at the bar on Friday afternoon (ordering food, not alcohol, for the record!) and Misty came up to say hello. I gave her a big hug and asked her if she needed me to be her reader for the MW live action slush pile on Saturday. She replied that she’d love to have me, and that I could probably interject an idea or two into the slush notes. The live action slush is something I’ve wanted to participate in for a while now, and the chips just haven’t fallen correctly. This would be a good opportunity for me because I’d be one of only four people in the front of the room, and the other three have better-established careers than mine, and higher name recognition. Plus, most of the time, people would be listening to me read, so they’d get a lot of exposure to me, even if all I was doing was reading. And it would be fun, and I’d get to hang out with my friends, which is always important.
Yes, I thought about all of those things. Yes, I am that mercenary and calculating. And if you’re not, you might want to read a business book or two. Because as much as I love my MW friends and my con friends, I’m in this as a business. Which means elevating my profile at every opportunity. And the chance to be the least well-known writer on a panel with three excellent authors was appealing to me.
But then Misty casually mentioned that she needed someone to do the one-on-one interview with Author Guest of Honor John Scalzi right after the live action slush. I jumped on that opportunity, tossing the live action slush panel to Emily Leverett, who was standing with me, sharing a table with me, and who had done the reading before at ConGregate last year. She and I had talked about each of us doing one reading already, so she was happy to do both of them. She’s also an excellent reader, and as a writer and editor, could also benefit from being at the front of the room with Faith, David and Misty. I have a little experience in journalism, am quick on my feet, and knew enough about Scalzi and his work to feel like I could create an interesting interview.
Misty agreed with me on at least a couple of those points, so in a matter of five minutes I went from no panel early Saturday afternoon to interviewing the Guest of Honor in front of a full room, where the focus was mostly on Scalzi, as it should have been, but I was the guy up there with him. All because I didn’t worry about whether or not I deserved to be there, I didn’t worry about whether or not I was good enough to interview him (although, honestly, he could probably have been interviewed by a hatrack and been just fine – the man is pretty witty), and I didn’t worry about anything other than – (1) Will this be fun? and (2) Will this be good for me? The answer to both of those was a resounding Yes!, and we had a great time with our interview. And as a result of that interview, I’ll be guest-posting on John’s blog later this month to promote the release of Black Knight Chronicles #5 – In the Still of the Knight.
So whenever you’re at a con, be on the lookout for opportunities. They’re everywhere, from the dealer room where I got booked for another anthology project, to the panel room, where Lexx mentioned that submissions were (are) still open for Mocha Memoirs Press’ Sherlock Holmes anthology. But you have to pay attention, because these things fly by at the speed of conversation, and if you aren’t part of the bizarro-world march to dinner one night that sold The Big Bad and created the corset anthology I’m editing, you might not know about those opportunities. So pay attention, and don’t worry about whether or not you deserve it – grab that opportunity by the short hairs and make it your own!
Couple of housekeeping notes before I go – please click over and pre-order In the Still of the Knight. I’m very excited about this latest installment in the Black Knight Chronicles, and we’ve talked many times about the importance of pre-orders and release day sales. So give a brother a hand.
And if you dig poetry, and particularly geek-centric poetry, my friend Alice Osborne has a new book out from Main Street Rag, a great small press here in Charlotte. It’s called Heroes without Capes, and I’ve heard her read a little from it at the last NC Writers’ Network Fall Gathering (in the bar, as you do). So check that out and elevate yourself a little.