RIP Zilpha Keatley Snyder

I just heard that Zilpha Keatley Snyder passed away last week. I read many of her books growing up and loved them dearly. They were thought-provoking and always laced with a fantastical element to them. I must have read The Egypt Game a couple of dozen times growing up and consider it one of my all-time favorite children’s books.

It saddens me that books like this have faded from popularity as the years pass by. It isn’t fast-paced. There are no fight scenes. It is a story of friendship and children using their imagination.  I tried reading this to my children years ago, and it was too slow for them. Now that they are a little older, I think I may give it a try again and see if they have the patience for a brilliant story that may be somewhat different from their usual fare.

Farewell Mrs. Snyder. You will be missed, but your influence lives on in all of us who have read and loved your works.

 

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Book Sale

Unbound CoverFor the first time since publishing The Havoc Chronicles, I am going to discount Unbound. I am doing a Kindle Count Down deal from October 1-5th. If you haven’t yet had a chance to pick it up, you can now get it for $0.99 through October 5th.

To get the word out I am going to do a BookBub ad. If you are not familiar with BookBub, they are a fantastic place to find great free and discounted books. You sign up on their website and tell them the genres you like, and they will send you an email with 3-5 books in it each day. They are very picky about what books they accept, so you know you are getting good quality. I highly recommend them.

I’ve been wary of discounting and promoting Unbound since it really is the continuation of Threads That Bind and doesn’t make complete sense without reading the first book. I haven’t wanted someone to buy it on sale, try to read it first, and then have a bad experience. To help alleviate that, I am also discounting Threads That Bind to $0.99 for the same time frame. So, now readers can pick up both books for $1.98 – which is less than the $3.99 price that Unbound typically sells for and much less than the $6.98 both books typically cost.

So if you have been waiting to pick up Unbound or you want to recommend the books to family or friends, now is the time. Any help you can give to spread the word is much appreciated!

 

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Inspiration

For those of you who are writers – or want to be writers – I found this quote attributed to Jack London. I did some investigating and found that the exact wording he used was somewhat different, but the meaning was still there so I am going keep this pithier/modernized version.

Inspiration

 

Now go out and write. 🙂

 

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5-Star Reviews

I’ve heard the advice many times – “Don’t read your reviews.” I understand it. I really do. Writers have to live in a constant balance of being both arrogant enough to think that anyone wants to read the stuff we make up in our heads and humble enough to continue to learn and develop.

For many writers, reading reviews can mess up that balance. Especially since writers tend to be an emotionally fragile group as a whole. They tend to discount the good reviews and obsess over the negative ones.

I admit, I do read my Amazon reviews. But I also don’t obsess over the bad ones. I check periodically and see what new reviews have happened. Today when I checked, I discovered that I now have 101 5-Star Reviews for Threads That Bind on the Amazon.com store.

Achievement Unlocked:  Triple digit 5-Star Reviews for a single book!

I’m pretty excited to hit that milestone. So, thanks to all my readers who made it happen! You guys are the best!

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Welcome New Readers

I just had a very successful free giveaway of Threads That Bind (It got to #9 free in the Kindle store) and I gave away more than 16K copies. I am seeing a lot of new traffic on the site, and so I wanted to give a quick shout-out to all of you.

For those of you wanting to read more, you can find links to the first chapters of Book 2 (Unbound) and Book 3 (Bonds That Break) in the links up top. They are password protected but the passwords are readily available to anyone who wants to read them. For Unbound the password is – get this – Unbound. Crazy, huh? And for Book 3 (Bonds That Break) the password is an impossible to guess Bonds.

Anyway, feel free to take a read and see if you like what you have read. If you do, you can find the other books on Amazon. You have three options to read them:

Option 1:  Buy them. They are only $3.99 each which I think it a pretty reasonable price for a fun read. Plus you get to have them forever and read them on any device that has the kindle app on it.

Option 2: Borrow them from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. If you have Amazon prime, you can borrow up to one book from the KOLL each month. My books are eligible and if you have Amazon Prime you can read them for free. The only downside is you can only read them on actual Kindles. iPhones or iPads with a kindle app won’t work.

Option 3: This is new. For $9.99 a month you can subscribe to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. It allows you to read any book in their 600K book KU library. You can download up to 10 at a time and (unlike KOLL) you can read them on any device with a kindle app and are not restricted to reading on an actual Kindle. While you can only have 10 books checked out at a time, you can read as many books from the KU library as you want in a month. Right now, Amazon is giving away a free month of KU, so that is another good way to read the books if you are on a limited budget.

I suppose there is a fourth way – use your google-fu and find a pirated version. I’m sure they are out there, but it kind of rips me off as the author since I don’t get paid for those. It takes a lot of hours and investment to write and publish a good book. Plus those sites are typically kind of sketchy and you can get malware and viruses from things you download there. Try at your own risk.

Also, if you would like to be the first to know when new books come out, don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list. The link is in the side bar. I will send out announcements for any new books or any significant news to the people on the mailing list first.

Anyway, welcome new readers to the Havoc Chronicles family!

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Kindle Unlimited

So Amazon has started something new called Kindle Unlimited. It is a subscription based e-book service. You pay $9.99 a month and you can read unlimited books from the KU library and have up to 10 on your device at a time. It even includes the kindle apps, which will not let you do the prime lending library. Right now anything that is enrolled in the Kindle Select program, plus some big name authors that have special deals with Amazon like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins are included. This is both exciting and scary for writers.

I’m an Indie writer. I write and publish my books on my own. I typically do a giveaway of Threads That Bind every couple of months to get exposure and hope that it results in people liking the book enough to download the next books in the series. (Incidentally, the next giveaway is tomorrow, the 19th – 21st). So far that strategy has worked pretty well for me. I would love to have millions of people reading about Madison and Rhys, but right now I will settle for tens of thousands.

KU is a great deal for voracious readers. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to take a look. (And while you are there download my books and read through at least 10% so I get paid. 🙂 ). What makes this scary for writers is that we don’t know how much we get paid for each download. For the KU Amazon establishes a pool of money that gets divided up each month based on the number of time someone downloads your book (and reads at least 10%). How much each download is worth depends on the total number of borrows. I am hoping that it stays at around $2.00 – which is close to what I get for each book that is purchased by a reader through the normal method. If it stays around $2.00/borrow I will keep my books in select, but if it drops down much below that I will have to consider if keeping them in select is still in my best interest. The down side is that I lose the ability to do free days. I would have to go to a model of .99 for the first book or something like that.

The times, they are a-changing. If you do give KU a try (they have a free month trial going on right now) and let me know what you think of it. I would love to hear some readers’ reactions.

P.S.

If you have already read – or will be reading soon – my books, and you haven’t left a review on Amazon, I would once again tell you how much it helps me when people leave reviews.  You guys are the best fans a writer could ask for. I appreciate every review, every word of mouth recommendation, and every social media share that goes on. It is because of people like you that I can write – and I hope to one day do it full time so I can tell you more stories.

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First Person vs. Third Person

Until I wrote the Havoc Chronicles, all the stories I had written had been in 3rd person. For those of you who are not writers, this is where the book is written with he/she/it. The narrator is typically outside of the story looking in, but may have the ability to explain the thoughts and motivations of some or all of the characters.

For example:

Jack pulled off his shoe and hurled it at the giant space cow. The shoe bounced off the cow’s enormous backside and fell harmlessly to the ground. Jack took several steps backward as the massive bovine slowly turned to see the source of the pitiful attack. When it saw Jack, the cow let out an ear-splitting  “Moooo!” and charged toward him.

First person is where the narrator is speaking about something that happened (or is currently happening) to them (I/my/me).

For example:

I pulled off my shoe and hurled it at the giant space cow. The shoe bounced off the cow’s enormous backside and fell harmlessly to the ground. I took several steps backward as the massive bovine slowly turned to see the source of the pitiful attack. When it saw me, the cow let out an ear-splitting  “Moooo!” and charged toward me.

There are a lot of books written in third person. I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but from what I see, it is by far the most common POV for books throughout history. That being said, in the YA genre, first person has become very popular. When I wrote Threads That Bind, I wanted to give first person a try.

So I did.

And I loved it!

It worked great for the Havoc Chronicles. I was able to get Madison’s voice down, and I really felt like I could connect with her character. It was much easier to hear her voice when I wrote in third person.

The down side of first person is that it is much more difficult to get information that the main character doesn’t know – what the bad guy’s motivation is, what characters are doing when the main character isn’t around, thoughts and feelings of the other characters. That kind of stuff.

So for my next book I decided to go back to 3rd person and…

…it hasn’t worked out so well for me. I’ve had a hard time connecting with the main character and getting a feel for his voice. After having written in first person, third person just felt kind of clinical and stale to me. I know it can be done well, but I really struggled with it. I found myself repeatedly slipping back to first person and having to go back and change it. So, rather than fight it any longer, I am just going to go with it and write the book in first person.

I’ve been trying that for a few days and am finding the joy in writing again. Sometime, you just have to go with you heart instead of your head.

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New Project and Music to Write To

It’s been a while since I last posted here. I have been working on a new project and trying to get a feel for the story.

I typically plot out my books in advance. I don’t feel comfortable moving forward until I have a big picture of what the main events will be and how the story will end.

I also have a hard time plotting out the main events and determining the story arc until I have written enough of the story to feel comfortable in the world and can really visualize it in my head.

That makes for a bit of an awkward situation, huh? Can’t write without an outline and can’t outline without having written part of the story. Well, what I typically have to do is come up with as much brain dump as I can. I spew everything into a single file with all the ideas I have thrown in there. Then I try to outline the first three chapter in pretty good detail – and then write those chapters.  Once I have done that I can then actually move forward with where I want the story to go.

I have done the brain dump and have written the first two chapters. Once I get the next chapter written, I will be ready to outline the rest of the book at a high level and then start writing. Once I have reached that point I can focus more on writing and less on world building and creation which is the slower and more difficult part for me.

At that point I may be looking for some readers who are interested in giving me feedback on a chapter by chapter basis as I write. I’ll post more about that when the time comes.

Music

When I am writing, I don’t like to have a lot of noise distractions. I can tune out anything non-verbal, but people talking or singing totally interferes with the language portions of my brain, which means I have a hard time writing.

I like listening to music when I write, but it has to not have lyrics. I have done classical, new age, and a variety of other options.

But for the Bonds that Break I listened almost exclusively to an artist named Lindsey Stirling. She is an ultra-talented violinist who performs high-tempo songs with a dub-step beat. It really is the perfect writing music for me. Uptempo enough that I don’t fall asleep, and no words (there are a few exceptions) to distract the language portion of my brain. Plus it drowns out other noises around me. A win-win all around.

If you haven’t heard her, you should take a look. She has a ton of videos on YouTube. This one is the first that I saw from her. It currently has 95 Million views…

And this one my inner nerd really loves.

I had the chance to take my daughter to her concert here in Portland the other day and we had a blast. It was definitely a great show!

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Portlandia and Writing Myself Into a Corner

This post contains spoilers for Bonds That Break. If you haven’t read the book yet, stop reading now. I mean it! No more reading!

One of the things I love about writing is when I accidentally write myself into a corner and have to figure a way out. This typically happens one of two ways: 1. I change something in my outline that has unintended consequences downstream and creates a problem, or 2. I didn’t think through something well enough, and I run into a problem I don’t know the solution to.

The reason I like this, is that it provides me a challenge and often times results in a cool idea that I otherwise might not have incorporated. This happened to me a couple of times in BTB. Once incident that I want to share has to do with Portlandia. (The statue, not the show .) When I originally outlined these chapters, I knew that Madison needed to go into hiding from the Binder Council. However, once I started writing and thinking about the logistics of what that would mean, I realized that she would need to be completely off the grid. No credit cards, no GPS, or cell phones. But I had already planned for Josiah to kidnap Amy and use her to get Madison to come face him. How would he let her know what he had done and tell her were to go? Problem, right?

I had to think through all the possibilities I could imagine. I came up with the idea of having Josiah do something public that would be sure to get her attention. I could have had him do something really horrible, like kill a bunch of people, but that didn’t feel right to me. It was too crass. Too obvious.

I finally settled on having him vandalize a Portland landmark. I thought about several of them, and talked it over with my wife. She came up with the idea of using the Portlandia Statue. As soon as she said it, I knew it had to be done! And he wasn’t just going to spray paint it or something lame like that, no way. He was going to cut the head off the statue. Beheading a thirty foot statue? THAT would get the city’s attention. Problem solved!

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Myths Existed Long Before Marvel Comics

Norse Myths CoverIf you have not read Bonds That Break, do not read this post. This will contain major spoilers for the book.

 

 

 

So you’ve read the book, right? Ok…

I’ve known the ending of the Havoc Chronicles since 2007 when I first came up with the idea. I knew who the Havocs were, I knew why they were bound, and I knew what would have to happen for them to be freed.  When I had the idea of using Berserkers, the idea was intricately tied to Norse mythology. Not the Marvel Comics version of Norse mythology, but actual Norse mythology. You know, where Thor is a stocky redhead and doesn’t have long blonde hair or a ridiculous winged helmet. His hammer has a short handle and he has to wear a metal glove because it heats up as he throws it. Odin has one eye, carries a spear, rides an eight legged horse, and has two ravens that sit on his shoulder and whisper in his ear.

I grew up reading myths as a child. D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Mythology was one of my favorites. I checked it out from the library every time I could find it. Their versions of the Norse myths and the Aesir will always feel like the true version of these myths to me.  I took those characters, Odin, Thor, Frig, Loki, Hoenir, and Lodur and wove them into my story. How could I have Berserkers and not have the Aesir as part of the origin story?

I struggled with how could I foreshadow their presence, but not bludgeon the reader over the head with who they were. I wanted it to be a surprise, but when you went back and read, you would see the clues that were there from book one. I think for those who were familiar with the Norse Myths that the foreshadowing worked for the most part. It was hinted at and referenced every time she had a vision. If you knew the mythology, you probably figured out who they were sometime in book two, and certainly before the reveal at the end of book three.

But what I am now realizing is that the vast majority of my readers are not familiar with the Norse legends. Their only exposure has been through the Avengers or other Marvel Comic books. Which is fine. I like those as much as the next nerd.  But, please readers, understand this: I didn’t take anything from Marvel. I planned this series seven years ago, long, long before there were any announced plans to make Thor or Avengers movies. The only similarities between my Norse gods and the ones from Marvel are those that are found in the original mythology, thousands of years old, that we both used as our inspiration.

So if the final ending took you by surprise, that’s ok. I figured that would be the case with many readers. Just please don’t confuse Marvel Thor and Odin with the ones from mythology. If you think of Marvel Thor and Odin, I can see where it would feel out of place. If you think of the Thor and Odin from Norse mythology, you will see that it does all fit together and was foreshadowed from the beginning.

Thank you for indulging me as I let out a bit of frustration. It is mostly directed at myself for not being more aware of how the pop cultural landscape would influence how people read the ending of the series. I thank all of you who have read my stories and shared Madison and the Berserkers’ adventures with me. I want nothing more than to entertain and delight you. I hope to continue to do so.

Posted in Bonds That Break, Random Musings, Spoilers | 4 Comments