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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy writer’

I will be volunteering at Empire Game Con this weekend. So you all get a break from my ramblings. Hope you all get lots of writing done and I’ll see you again on Wednesday.


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Stock characters. Stereotypes. Tropes. Whatever you call them, they both exist and do not exist simultaneously. They are pervasive, and very sneaky. You sit there writing, and a stock character pops out of your subconscious mind without your realizing it.

A stereotype, according to Dictionary.com, is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” So you think of a particular place or kind of person, and a certain picture immediately appears in your mind. An “Arab” with a head-rag who is hateful to women and Jews. The country of Thailand as a haven of drug use and prostitution.

This kind of stereotype is not real, because nothing in life is that simple and concrete. When you take the time to learn about the country of Thailand or “Arabs” as part of the world’s heritage, it immediately becomes clear that there is so much more nuance and variation than the trope captures.

Yet stereotypes are real, because they show up again and again. They are ingrained in our minds. One time, I was working on a short story and it felt very off to me. Reading back through, I realized that every one of the men characters was an ugly trope. There was a mean dad, a deceitful preacher, a lazy cop. Actually, there was only one woman character, and she was a stereotype, too — a weak mom who should have stood up to the dad but didn’t.

I was annoyed with myself for falling back on these negative types. As a writer, I pride myself on doing better. So I tore that story down to the ground and started over again. The dad became strict but concerned, rather than dominating his son, who was the main character. The policeman was honestly doing his job. The preacher vanished entirely. The mom offered her son words of support.

When we’re trying to get that first draft down, it can be all too easy to rely on stock characters. But when you get to revisions, it’s always better to resist the stereotypes. Allow interesting variations, or even deliberately turn the character to make readers question that stereotype. Turn those tropes into treasures.


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Word counts can be useful for more than helping you decide where and how to market a particular story. You can also use them to track your productivity. Writing… and productivity. Ha ha, right?

Word counts really can help you set goals, though. Say you’ve been working on your WIP for a while, and you need a push to the finish line. If you have a goal of 7,000 words total, and you have 5,000 already done, you might set a goal such as “write 2,000 words in the next week.” Then, knowing how many words you typically get in a day, you can calculate how many days you need to finish the story. Or, if you usually get a certain number of writing days in a week, you can calculate how many words you need to write each time.

Where word counts can be problematic is when we flog ourselves for not meeting a goal, or when we use them to compare ourselves to other writers. If you’re like me, there’s a steady stream of people posting stuff like, “I wrote 1,700 words today.” For the person who wrote that, it’s a celebration that they met their goal, and maybe a way to inspire themselves for the next day’s work.

But if you’re having a rough day and only wrote 170 words, it can be a real downer. Lots of people get Imposter Syndrome when they hear that someone finished a story, or sold one, or have a new publication. Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea for writers to compare ourselves to other writers. The process and the finish products are so different, it really is like apples and oranges.

For myself, I’m more of a “it will be done when it’s done” type of gal, but everyone has their own ways, right? So try to keep your goals in perspective and be kind to yourself.


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My presentation to Idaho Writers League went really well. We filled the room. Okay, it was a small room. But still! I spoke for an hour and a half on Readings, Signings, and Book Parties. They were attentive and asked great questions, and I signed a couple of people up for my newsletter. Plus, I got to catch up on news with an old friend. What could be better?

Before I get back to writing posts for my blog tour, I’d like to share a bit of what I presented. First, I made that case that book tables are not a self-created torture and that you can sell some books while having fun. It all comes down to salesmanship, and salesmanship involves a lot of preparation.

Preparation involves asking the right bookstore at the right time. Book stores are best because you know the people are into books. Look for a local book store that already has a calendar of readings and similar events. For a date, I always liked Christmas, but you can look for times on the calendar that coordinate with your book. For instance, a patriotic book around the Fourth of July. Call about 3 months before your date and ask to talk with the book manager. If you’re self-published, you might have to show them copies of your book so they know your book will look good on their shelves.

Preparation also involves pushing the signing table in the same way you push your books. Put it on arts calendars, create a Facebook event if the store doesn’t, tweet it, post it, blog it. Plan some fun table decorations that have a connection to your book. Check your supply of books and order more if you need them.

Pack everything in advance so you don’t stress on the day of the signing. A cute book bag is better than a cardboard box. Show up early, check in your books, and set up your table. Try to get pictures — I always forget. When you’re ready, ask the store to announce you are there. That’s your cue!

Tempting as it is to huddle at the table with your cel phone, you can’t do that. You have to be friendly and approachable, say hi to everyone who comes near. Basic salesmanship, remember? Have a line you can bring out if anyone seems interested. My basic one is “Do you like to read fantasy?” If they say no, “Okay, thanks.” If they pause, “I’m a local author, and these are my books!”

Ask follow-up questions. “What authors do you like to read?” Always agree with them. You know that elevator pitch where you describe your book in one sentence? If the person picks up one of your books, bring that out.
Another tactic I like is to share my table with a friend so I have someone to talk to and if I need a walking break there will be someone to watch things. Also, it you’re having a fun conversation, that’s something that can draw people in.

This is not a lazy day at the bookstore. I takes energy and focus. I usually make my signings 2 or 3 hours, because after that I can’t keep it up. In that time, I usually sell between 2 and 5 books. A drop at a time fills the bucket, right?

At the end, you pack up everything you brought with you. Leave it looking nice. If the bookstore is keeping your books on consignment, they as if you can put down a few bookmarks, too. If they have computerized inventory, they should know how many books you sold and see if they will pay out then or want you to come back. The next day, go back to their Facebook event page and post how you had such a great time and thank them for the opportunity

There’s more to it, of course. A lot of it is your personal style. You practice, you get better, your develop your confidence. I hope this helps, and that you all make book tables a part of your sales strategy.


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The Tower in the Mist is basically set up as an e-book. The pre-order link is active. But there’s still a mad rush before publication. Currently, I’m writing a handful of blog posts to publicize The Tower in the Mist, making bookmarks, and so forth.

At the same time, I’m preparing for an in-person presentation to Idaho Writers League, which will be tomorrow at 6:30 pm, at the Lutheran Church of the Master in Coeur d’Alene, ID. My topic is “Readings, Signings, and Book Parties.” I’ll cover how to set them up, the planning and preparation. If time allows, people will have a chance to read in front of the group and practice their technique.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to be doing this presentation in the middle of the pre-publication rush. I requested a date in March, but it didn’t work out. At least I’ll have my bookmarks and such to show off at Idaho Writers League. I know that most of you are not near North Idaho, so you can’t attend. But if you want the address in Coeur d’Alene, please drop me a comment!


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I mentioned that I’m searching for key words and phrases in The Tower in the Mist and The Bitternut Grove. I was thinking of using something like “light bearers” or “light bringers” as a series title, but it turns out there’s some folklore there. Who knew that Lucifer (a.k.a. Satan) is sometimes called a “light bringer?” Doesn’t that seem like the opposite?

Anyway, those have both already been used. In fact, “Light Bringers” or “lightbringers” has been used a couple of times. So that’s still in progress. I may just call it the “Skaythe” series, after the setting, and leave it at that.

Mostly, I’ve been working on my cover layout using Canva. I usually make between three and five designs, to try and find the perfect image. The Tower in the Mist will be the first of a series, so I hope to come up with something that will readily be adapted. Then each e-book will look like part of a whole.

I’m finding a limitation with Canva, though. I can’t seem to make those really big, dimensional titles that will pop from the cover. I’d love any advice you have about other programs that can make that big title for me. Something I can save and then upload to Canva would be perfect.

Thanks for all your ideas, and thanks for reading my blog!


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As I type this, I’m beginning the preliminary process for publishing my novella, The Tower in the Mist. My plan is to get it out by early May. I have a month to put it together, more or less.

Step One will be to design the cover. After much eye strain, I’ve picked the art I want for both this and The Bitternut Grove. In spare moments, I’m browsing the fantasy category on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see what kind of cover layouts are popular right now. This should give me ideas as I begin playing with layouts on Canva.

Step Two is to search for unique words and names. It would be awful if one of my titles had already been used! So far I’ve found a book called Towers in the Mist from 1938, and a D&D module from the ’80s. I feel confident there won’t be confusion between these books and mine, so The Tower in the Mist can keep its name.

Unfortunately, The Bitternut Grove may be in trouble. Although I created a fictional bitternut tree for my novella, it turns out there’s a real-world bitternut tree related to pecan and hickory trees. I need to research them. If I can’t say, “yeah, those are my trees,” then I will have to call my trees something else. This would require renaming the book, as well. Win some, lose some, I suppose.

Step Three will be to come up with catchy slogans, tag lines, and gripping cover copy. This novella is complex, and the description will take some boiling-down. At the same time I’m working on Step Four, which is the final revision. I’m hoping these revisions will help me focus my cover copy. Maybe I’ll try out a few ideas here, and see what you all think!


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