Found Things

I’m still emerging from the long dark tunnel of winter. It’s taking longer than usual because this year, instead of having a completed second novel as I expected, I’ve just got a shambles of a story that I have to rework from the ground up. That isn’t to say that I’m not writing at all. I have another little project in the works that I hope to say more about soon.

Meanwhile, here are a few writing-related things that have crossed my Shire lately.

By the way, I utterly despise inserting links. It’s tedious. So while I’ll link a few of these items, some of them I’ll just trust that you can cut-and-paste search terms.

Possessed by Passion. A friend, Tracy A. Ball, contributed to this collection. Full disclosure, this isn’t a genre I enjoy. Instead of finding the characters and the situations exciting, I just want to recommend counseling to everyone involved. But you might like it. Click through to the site and you’ll know instantly whether it’s the kind of thing that appeals to you. You should check it out.

Half a League Onward Press. I haven’t read This Do in Remembrance by Dave Dentel because, again, it’s not a genre I enjoy. However, Dave is a friend and I’m very excited that he’s putting his work out there. It might be something you like. You should check it out.

The Legend of Zare Caspian by Abigail Cossette is a web serial with adventure, intrigue, romance, and a “strong female character” who actually is strong and female — not just loud and obnoxious, and not just a man with boobs. While I haven’t read every episode, I have seen the behind-the-scenes work she puts into her stories. (As is possibly apparent by now, I happily support friends even when I’m not a dedicated fan of their genres.) Abigail, by the way, also does all her own artwork. You should check it out.

How Not to Write a Novel, Mittelmark and Newman. A friend sent me this book with the caution, “It’s pretty frank in places.” Well, yes. Definitely an adult audience. But said audience should enjoy the book’s ironic angle. It purports to be advice on how to remain an unpublished author, and goes through some of the best ways to derail your story. I’ve had this book for many years, so it didn’t exactly come to my attention “lately” — except that I recently cleaned up my bookshelf and rediscovered my TWO copies of it (one to lend, one to keep). It’s my favorite writing-advice book. You should check it out.

Go On Write. This is the best site I’ve found for pre-made book covers. He also does custom work—in my case, the cover to my short stories, Go Right. I drop in on the site periodically to see what new offerings he has. You should check it out.

Dominic Noble on YouTube. He’s a young Brit in California whose channel compares books-vs-movies. I found him a couple of years ago when he did a long series on Fifty Shades of Grey, which was highly entertaining, informative, and chock-full of profanity because of his passionate objection to the series. He doesn’t just take down books, though; he sometimes dedicates a video to books he loves. His appreciation of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted — one of my all-time favorite books — convinced me that we’d get along. You should check it out.

Bad Movie YouTubers. These channels aren’t specifically related to writing, but it’s informative to discuss why some stories don’t work. That’s my excuse, anyway. The truth is that I just love a good takedown of a bad movie. Jenny Nicholson, Kennie J.D., Fanboy Flicks (Weird Movies with Mark), and Good Bad Flicks — you should check them out.

My own books. Okay, this isn’t something I just “found lately.” But maybe it’s a discovery waiting for you! I’ve written a novel, The Fellowship, and short stories, Go Right. Both are linked to the right and also under the “Writing” heading at the top. I, too, am supported by friends who very possibly haven’t read the books — but you should because they’re really good. As mentioned above, as I mourn at the graveside of my ruined second novel, I’m also working on a new project which I’ll definitely update you on. You should… well, you know by now.

Revision in a Time of Quarantine

Nothing like rekindling your memories of your first great literary love just as a pandemic sweeps through the world.

To be honest, my daily life hasn’t change a whole lot even as everything is canceled and shut down. We already homeschool and we already prefer to stay home as much as we can. I’m used to shopping for a week or two at the time and feeding six people all day, every day. I’d also stocked up a bit because my mother told me to. DJ is working from home for a month, so that’s been a big change for him; but it turns out that my preferred lifestyle adapts pretty well to pandemic living.

While we continue with school and take long drives when the walls start closing in, I immersed myself yet again in that original Great Literary Work of mine.

An advantage of the revision of 2007 was that the story now had a plot. A disadvantage was that for some reason I decided to lower Ria’s age from 18 to 13, and I changed the tone of the story accordingly. It was not a happy choice. Re-reading it was, as my kids would say, massive cringe.

“Most of the time, she was just plain Ria. And this morning she was a very sulky Ria.”

“She didn’t intend to apologize to him, either, once she got her revenge.”

And to think she’d complained about being bored in her Castle. What a silly little princess she’d been!

Apparently in 2007 I was temporarily possessed by the spirit of an early 20th-century Sunday school teacher.

Earlier this month, I sat down to rewrite the terrible first chapters, and then send the rest to my sister. But once I got the first part in better shape, I couldn’t leave the rest of the tripe that Miss Flossie Jones of Millerville Baptist Church, circa 1902, communicated through me.

So for the past two weeks I’ve worked my way through the story, smoothing out the dialogue, creating better conflicts, and removing the saccharine moralization.

Since I returned Ria’s age to 18, I also reintroduced the romance that Flossie seemed very uncomfortable with. I suspect it was this aspect that made me decide to lower the age in the first place. I spent my teenage years in a real-life version of the Fellowship, so even at 30 I didn’t know quite how to handle romance in fiction.

The hardest part of the rewriting was Ria herself. She was a typical first-timer’s heroine. She had no real motivation, and she spent the whole story being propelled by other people’s decisions. She was also, as a writer friend of mine put it, “insufficiently hobbied.” What did Ria like to do in her spare time? The answer appeared to be “ride horses and complain about having nothing to do.” Ria’s sister, on the other hand, is always designing clever contraptions and figuring out how things work. She would have made a far better heroine. But this is The Ria Story, so I just had to try to work with what I had.

It was a lot of work… but so much fun. I stopped worrying about the unfixable worldbuilding problems and just let the story be what it is. Yesterday I finished it and emailed it to my sister. It’s not a great story, but I think I made it into a solidly “okay” story.

And now I’m at loose ends again.

Well, unless you count my actual serious novel. I’ve left Richmal and Co. cooling their heels in the third draft for nearly two months now. I’ve been stuck on a pretty thorny plot problem. Oh, hey, here’s a message from a reader who has a suggestion! BlessedAssurance.millertownbc points out that Richmal’s story features a lot more kissing than it does Bible reading, and she would be happy to take over the writing for a while.

Get thee behind me, Flossie.

Pre-Made Book Covers

One of the more surprising secrets of the indie-publishing trade is that there are entire sites selling pre-made book covers.

[I highly recommend Go On Write for pre-made, but not generic, book covers. I’m inserting this link here so you don’t have to wade through the rest of the post to find it. But please do finish the post before sailing away.]

You, the author, write your book and go buy a cover that fits it. You can spend quite a lot on them, but most of them cost within the $30 – $50 range.

And I obviously lucked out, huh? Both of my book covers are excellent. Yeah, well, that took a little more “doing” than just buying a $50 digital file

Browsing through a few hundred covers will tell you that the more “genre” your story is, the easier it is to find a cover for it. (If you happen to write paranormal romance, you are set for life and beyond.)

If, however, you write stories that don’t fit easily into any one category, even a dozen pre-made cover sites can fail you. They definitely failed me.

I ended up using a custom service for The Fellowship, but had to spell out highly specific instructions. I even went to the paint store, picked out two or three suitable colors, and emailed the numbers to the designer. I’m happy with the outcome, but I felt slightly gypped that I did nearly all the creative work, while paying $200-some for it.

I couldn’t afford to do the same with Go Right. So I pored over pre-made cover sites. The one site I kept returning to was Go On Write (which I think of as “goon write” because that’s how its address appears). These covers, while still mostly catering to genre fiction, showed a lot of creativity and sparkle.* The mock titles are entertaining as well.

I still didn’t find what I needed. Since I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, I took the chance on his custom service. The turnaround was fast, and I was very pleased with the result. It was more expensive than just buying one off the site, but all I had to do was toss him the ideas and a stock photo. A year later, I came back asking for the digital cover to be converted into a “wraparound” cover for a physical book. (That’s one of his other services, so an extra charge for it.) The result is beautiful.

I’ve also bought three other covers from him. (Once a cover is sold, he doesn’t reuse it.) I’m pretty sure I’ll write stories to go with them one day.

Anyway, that’s my endorsement — I used this service, I was happy with it, so I’m passing it on to someone else who might find it useful. And it’s plain fun to just browse his site. Go check it out!

*He obviously does a lot of business for erotica, both straight and gay, so be advised his wares are not all G-rated.

I’ll (kind of ) Be in Maine

This Thursday – Saturday, March 16-18, my books will be for sale at the HOME Convention 2017 in Rockport, Maine.

Unfortunately, I won’t be there with them. It’s a long way from Virginia to Maine, and hard for a homeschooling mom to get away.

My husband, Darren Jones of HSLDA, will be speaking at the conference. He’s the point-of-contact for my book table, because he’s fantastic like that. I’ll be available via email, Messenger, and possibly Skype, although we’re still fiddling with those details.

So you can still drop by and chat with me through the wonder of technology, plus get some candy and buy a book or two.

E-books come with a special bonus. I’ll talk more about that in the near future.

I’d love to “see” you in Maine!