Nothing’s Ever Where You Need it to Be

Oh, squiders. Why is it when you need something, and you know you just saw it, you can’t actually ever find it?

I feel like the more important said item is, the more likely it’s been jettisoned into space, never to be seen again.

In this case, I’m looking for the note sheet for when I did the Local Author Showcase for Shards so I can be properly prepared for the one this Sunday for City of Hope and Ruin. You know, not re-invent the wheel. Especially since I’ve already got to stress about going from the 10 minutes I had last time to 5 minutes for this one. Is 5 minutes long enough for anything?

It’s all for naught, though, because my notes from the last one are gone. Vanished. Disappeared into thin air.

I swear I saw them recently. I had to re-read Shards fairly recently to redo its book description (was that last year? yikes) and I think the notes were tucked in there when I picked my copy up. But where did I put them? They are no longer in the book (I’ve checked twice) and also don’t seem to be in the general vicinity of where the book hangs out (on top of the book case, currently under my copy of City of Hope and Ruin).

I’ve checked everywhere I keep story notes. (Which turns out to be entirely too many places and I should probably consolidate. But hey! I found the map that goes along with Broken Mirrors, which I’m not sure I’ve worked on since before I started this blog in 2010, but at least I now know where it is.) I’ve checked inside notebooks, where papers sometimes accidentally get forgotten or tucked, and I’ve checked inside folders that I might have taken to something writing related at some point. I even checked in the filing cabinet, though I’m pretty sure nothing remotely creative has ever gone into it.

And when it became obvious it was gone, I checked digitally. I checked my hard drive, and my back-up hard drive. I checked my Google drive and my email. Nothing. I finally, FINALLY, had the thought that I might have posted it on the blog since I had such a hard time finding resources to write the first one and, well, partial success. (There were pictures in that post at one time. Sigh.)

So I guess I should just give up and write a new one. Drat.

But again, 5 minutes. Do I squeeze in a 2-minute reading and do 3 minutes of intro/explanation? Do I just talk about the book and hope the process is interesting enough to get people’s attention? I am the only fantasy author in this particular bunch (8 authors), I think. I feel like for previous author showcases they’ve done a short blurb of each book and this one doesn’t, but going off of titles it sounds like most are nonfiction or memoir. Hard to tell.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s the official announcement:

Douglas County Libraries Local Author Showcase

From fiction to memoir to children’s, please join us to celebrate these Colorado authors and their books. To register, click here.

Sunday, August 20th at 2pm

Douglas County Libraries –  Philip S. Miller branch
100 S. Wilcox St.
Castle Rock, CO 80104

Peggy Robinson – My Journey through Cronic Pain and Wonders of Christmastime

Kit Campbell – City of Hope and Ruin

MaryAnn Sundby – Monday is Wash Day

Debbie Johnson – A Pocketful of Seeds

Susan G. Mathis – The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy

Jean Jacobsen – The Reluctant Debutante

Thaddeus Dupper – Attack on Nantucket

Carrie O’Toole – Relinquished – When Love Means Letting Go

Well, at least I know where the rest of my promotional stuff is. Minor victories. See you Thursday, squiders!

(Also, I’ve started a lovely ’80s fantasy book called The Minecamp Vampire for our library book sale finds discussion. It is thus far as awesome as it sounds.)

Looking at the Next Month

Good morning, squiders! The next month is crazy busy around here, so I thought I’d give you a heads up on what to expect here at the blog during that time (from now until approximately mid-September).

  • I’d like to do at least one Library Book Sale Find. We haven’t done one since March and I still have a whole shelf full (plus I bought a new one at a library book sale I stumbled over a few weeks ago with some truly “epic” cover art. Ah, early ’90s).
  • We’ve got the final readalong for the Finnbranch Trilogy (Winterking) on August 24. I should probably get on that though I am still a little grumpy from Undersea.
  • I’m going to do a short series on awesome scifi/fantasy tropes, such as alternative universes and time travel. I’ll do one a week there, so other stuff will be interspersed so we don’t overload on the concept.
  • I may also start poking at the next nonfiction topic, which will either be outlining or common writing problems, so if you have a preference (or if you have topics related to either you’d like to see discussed) please let me know!

As always, if you’d like me to cover something specific, please feel free to contact me. I’m pretty open to whatever!

In other news, I’m going to be speaking at a local author showcase on August 20. I did one for Shards some time ago but heck if I remember how exactly I set it up. I’m hoping to be able to find my notes from the last time so I can see what I talked about/timing, but that may be wishful thinking. Also, I believe I get less time than the last time as well. Has anyone done a talk/reading lately and have advice to give?

I’ve also been working with MileHiCon for this year’s convention. I’m dropping the table in the Author’s Row after last year’s disappointments and instead focusing on doing panels, which should help both from a visibility and a networking standpoint. MileHiCon also offers co-op tables, where you can sell books/sign for a specific time as opposed to manning a table the entire weekend, so I’m also looking at doing that.

Everything else continues a pace. How are you all?

Review: The Duchess Quest by C.K. Brooke

Good morning, Squiders! Today I’m hosting a review tour for the revised edition of The Duchess Quest by C.K. Brooke. It’s the first book in the Jordinia fantasy series.

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YA Romantic Fantasy 

 

Date Published:
First Edition: October 2014
Second Edition: TBR 2017
Publisher: 48fourteen
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ALL-NEW REVISED 2017 SECOND EDITION
Love is destined to find her…

Dainy doesn’t know that she is the lost duchess of Jordinia, or that her uncle has organized a contest to seek her, offering her marriage hand as the reward!

Though at odds, three clashing rivals – a noble giant, a forester, and a thief – voyage together by woodland, plains, and sea to recover the lost royal, notwithstanding assassins and spies at their tail. Soon, Dainy is swept into a comically complex romantic triangle as her suitors compete to capture her heart.

Charmingly romantic and bursting with action, startling twists, and vivid characters, fans of Anastasia and The Princess Bride will adore this original yet timeless tale of swashbuckling adventure and unlikely love.
A SHELF UNBOUND TOP 100 NOTABLE INDIE BOOK OF 2015
 

5 STARS FROM READERS’ FAVORITE BOOK REVIEWS & AWARDS CONTEST

Review

I really should stop reading these books like an editor, but it’s really hard. When I’m in editor mode is when I’m at my analytical, which is useful for helping clients make their books better, but less helpful when I should be reading for enjoyment.

Anyway, I’m giving this 3.25 out of 5. It fails a bit as a romance. It’s supposed to be set up as a love triangle (as mentioned above in the blurb) but it doesn’t function as one, since one side of the triangle is obviously never a real option. Dainy never gives him more than a second thought, so the story is lacking the tension that the supposed triangle would set up. Additionally, while the love interest is of the “rogue turned straight for love” archetype, he’s a little too despicable for the first half of the book, which made it hard to root for the romance because I was still hoping Dainy would come to her senses far longer than was intended, I’m sure.

The fantasy aspects work fine, and the different countries/locations read as believable. Many of the side characters are strong. I was especially fond of Selu and Bos. The book has a ton of viewpoint characters, some of which kill the tension in places (such as one point near the end in a betrayer’s viewpoint before the actual betrayal), but in general works well. Some of the plot twists are a bit predictable, but not distractingly so. (Also, the ones that you can predict distract from some other, more unexpected ones, so that’s well done.)

If you like romantic fantasy and are apparently more forgiving than I am about reformed rogues, you might like this book. There’s also a preview of the next book in the series at the end, which looks like it picks up pretty much from where this one ends.

About the Author

C.K. Brooke is an Amazon best-selling author of over a dozen romantic fantasy adventure novels and novellas for 48fourteen, Limitless Publishing, and Elphame Press. Her debut novel, The Duchess Quest, was selected as a Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book of 2015 and received five stars from Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews & Awards Contest. Her fantasy novel, The Wrong Prince, is a 2017 Global EBook Award Nominee and her pirate romance, Capturing the Captain, is a 2017 RONE Award Nominee. She lives in Washington, Michigan with her husband and young son. Visit CKBrooke.com and subscribe for a FREE eBook!

Contact Links: ( Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | YouTube | Goodreads )

 
Purchase Links
 *FREE on Kindle Unlimited*

Giveaway: Free eBook of The Last Empress: A Jordinia Prequel Novella to anyone who joins the V.I.P. Readers Club at: ckbrooke.com/vipclub

 

Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero and Related Scooby Doo Thoughts

Have you seen Meddling Kids, squiders? The cover on my copy is neon pink and green, with tentacles, so it’s rather striking. I picked up the book because I enjoyed Cantero’s first novel The Supernatural Enhancements (2014, which I probably picked up because it was a novel told in letters and interviews, and I seem drawn to those even though the quality seems to vary wildly) and also because the premise seemed relevant to my interests: what if, one time, it wasn’t just a guy in a mask?

(Also, Cantero is from Barcelona, so English is not his first language, but you’d never know it.)

Meddling Kids explores the aftermath of the Blyton Summer Detective Club’s last case. While they caught a guy in a monster suit, there were other things on that isolated island, things that have haunted the kids over the past 13 years. NPR had a story about the novel a week or so ago, and all the comments were essentially that it sounded like a rip-off of Stephen King’s IT, which, first of all, heaven forbid that you read a book that has a similar concept to another that you’ve read, and second of all, having read Stephen King (though not IT specifically) I can’t imagine the books are AT ALL similar, but eh, whatever.

Meddling Kids does a good job of bridging between the obvious inspiration and darker themes of Lovecraftian horror. The book never gets too dark or too horror-y, and manages to wrap in your classic monster chase scenes and ridiculous traps in a way that makes sense and feels realistic. And while the Blyton Summer Detective Club is constructed of four kids and a dog, each are their own characters created for this story rather than being direct analogies to Mystery, Inc. (Kerri, for example, is both the beauty and the brains.)

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, so if it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend picking it up.

And speaking of Mystery, Inc. and Scooby Doo, I know I’ve talked previously about how, despite the many incarnations of the show, the characters tend to remain stereotypes, though the stereotypes vary from version to version. However, at long last, I have found some exceptions to this rule, and that’s the modern Scooby Doo movies.

These are direct-to-video episodes, about 75 minutes in length, that stick to the original versions of the characters (rather than some of the newer television shows such as Mystery Incorporated). Not sure why, whether it’s because they’ve got fifty years of character familiarity behind them or because there’s less riding on them and so they’ve got more creative freedom, but each one tends to work on an actual character arc for at least one character (though of course, whatever progress has been made doesn’t carry over to anything else).

Cartoon Network shows these episodes periodically, and a handful are available on streaming at any point in time. The offspring were big into Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur for a bit (ghost dinosaurs, who can blame them?) which is where I noticed this, because they give Shaggy the opportunity to be brave throughout. The offspring are onto Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo now, which again focuses on giving Shaggy a reason to be brave, as well as Daphne working on not always being the damsel in distress.

I’m not saying that they’re all amazing or that they’re great at the characterizations across the board, but it’s like someone finally realized that if they added an internal character arc it made the story more interesting.

(The first of these movies is Scooby Doo on Zombie Island which came out when I was a kid, and has always been one of my favorite versions, because it shows the kids post-Mystery Inc. and also features a mystery where it’s not just a guy in a mask. The offspring won’t watch it with me when it comes up on rotation because it’s “too scary.” Alas.)

Anyway! Read Meddling Kids or The Supernatural Enhancements, squiders? Let’s talk about them! Or let’s talk about Scooby Doo, because apparently I’m always up for that too.

In Other News

Hey, squiders, I appreciate you guys coming along with me while I work on my nonfiction books here on the blog. It’s been really beneficial for me, and I hope it’s been beneficial for you as well! I’m pondering when the best time to work on finishing them up and publishing them will be–maybe October/November, in time for Nano? Or maybe for January, when it’s a new year and people will be committing or recommitting to their writing goals.

Anyway, not important right now.

We’ve done a lot of nonfiction lately (interspersed with some conference flailing), so I thought you guys might appreciate an update on the other things I’ve been working on.

Admittedly, I haven’t been terribly productive. We received a medical diagnosis in May that’s kind of thrown everything off balance (don’t worry, no one’s dying), so some weeks I’m not getting much, if anything, done beyond posting here. So thank you guys for being here, for giving me an excuse to write on a regular basis. It does help to know that I’m at least getting a little bit done.

(Oh! As an aside, both Hidden Worlds and Shards are FREE at Smashwords till the end of the month. Which I realize is, like, three days from now and I probably should have mentioned something sooner.)

I also just opened my yearly To Do list for the first time a few months, and of course I’m behind schedule on most things. Sigh. Oh well. We keep trucking along.

ANYWAY. Here’s where everything else stands:

  • I finalized my submission documents and made a list of agents for my YA paranormal that I finished editing last year. I admit I’m going veeeerrrryyy slowly on the querying, but it is happening. I’m still kind of in a trial and error sort of mode on it (“Is the query letter working?” “Are my pages working?”). I have gotten a partial request, so it’s not going terribly. I also got a rejection within 12 hours on one. So, you know, a range of responses.
  • I am still working on the rewrite of the first book of this high fantasy trilogy. (My husband is currently reading Book 3 and keeps commenting on how good it is, like he’s offended by the quality after reading the first two books, har.) It is still moving slowly, but it IS moving again, hoorah. It’s at just under 60K words right now and I just finished the midpoint, which probably means the book will be longer than my estimated 100K. Every time I rewrite this book it gets longer.
  • I was using the very excellent Fighter’s Block to write because I’d gotten really stuck–not plotwise, not motivation-wise, but I think just being so overwhelmed (see above medical note) that my brain simply could not focus. When I was writing, I was managing 100, maybe 200 words a day. Fighter’s Block helped me get going again over the course of about two weeks. Now that I’m going again, I’m getting in a couple 1000 word+ days a week, plus a few couple hundred word days.
  • LiveJournal going full Russian has kind of put a damper on my serial story. I have been writing it in a prompt community there for years, but I transferred everything over to DreamWidth. The community also “transferred” but in reality it’s stayed put with most people just ghosting. It’s been pretty dead. I didn’t write anything on it for a few months because I wasn’t sure what I was doing. But in the end, I’m almost to the end of the draft, and I’d to get it done, even if I don’t know if I’ll ever revise the story or do anything with it in the end. (The beginning, written seven years ago, is especially terrible.) So I wrote a 500-word section earlier in the month, posted it on DreamWidth, and then linked to it in the LJ community, which seems to be an okay alternative.
  • I have a short story coming out on Turtleduck Press on Aug 1 (entitled “Unwritten”) though I still need to do the final edits on it.
  • Aside from that and the short story in Spirit’s Tincture a month or so ago, I haven’t sold any more shorts, but I did get a revise and resubmit, which is interesting because I didn’t know places did that for shorts. I revised once, realized I made the story way worse, and revised a second time, but it still needs some tweaking and see above re: getting things done. I shall get it done. But it certainly isn’t getting done fast.
  • I have a couple of stories that have been out for over a year. I queried one months ago with no response, so I should probably pull that story from that market and put it back into rotation. The other one I queried in January, got a response (they’d switched emails for submissions and said they’d look to see if the story got overlooked) but never any sort of rejection/acceptance. I queried again a few months ago to crickets. So I should probably pull that one too. Nnnnnrgh.

That’s really about it, aside from some poking at Fractured World stuff and the usual mid-book God-I-wish-I-were-writing-a-new-book thoughts.

How are you guys doing? Anything new and interesting going on?

8 Ways to Expand a Story Idea into Something Usable

Good morning, squiders! Back to ideas for today, and then I may leave the rest of the subject for the book and accompanying workbook and move on to something else.

Today we’ll talk about how to take your inkling of an idea, whatever it is, and expand it to the point where you can make a story of it.

In some cases, this is easy. Some people don’t need a lot of information to get going–they can get started with whatever their original idea or inspiration is and find the rest along the way. (These people, in writing terms, are called “pantsers.”) If this is you, hooray!

However, most people need more than just an idea like “people can tell their soulmates by matching birthmarks” to get a story going. They need characters. They need a world. They need a plot.

How do you build those out of your initial idea?

In some cases, you’re lucky. Your inspiration comes with a lot of information, including the basics of plot, character, structure, etc. which can be expanded upon through outlining or brainstorming. Other times you just have your idea, staring you in the face, with nothing else coming.

Fleshing Out Your Story

If you’ve got nothing but an idea and nothing else seems to be coming, you’ve got some things you can do to help.

  1. Go back through your idea file. Sometimes what you need is already written down. If you have a plot but no characters to populate it, you can focus on your character ideas, or if you need a world, you can look specifically at those ideas. Sometimes smooshing two ideas together can bring delicious results.
  2. Identify your core conflict. Each idea will have some aspect that makes it attractive to you. If you can identify what specifically it is, and build off of that for your core conflict (i.e., your main plot problem), you’ll be able to find something that really interests you, and you may find that the rest of the story builds naturally.
  3. Ask yourself questions. This can help you expand your characters, world, plot, etc. What is interesting about this character? What do they want? What can I put in their way to stop them from getting it? What sort of world would allow this to be a problem? What sort of people would live this way?
  4. Look at tropes and conventions. People talk negatively about tropes, but the fact of the matter is that different genres have their own conventions, and readers of those genres expect certain things. Romance readers expect happy endings, mystery readers expect a murder, science fiction readers expect some scientific marvel. If you break your genre’s conventions, you may lose your readers. There’s a lot of leeway in how you can use said conventions, including purposefully breaking or bending them, but it helps to know what your baseline is.
  5. Research. We talked earlier about how your research can generate inspiration. If you’ve hit a dead end, it may help to pick a prospective topic and do some research to see if anything clicks to help you expand your idea.
  6. Outline. The mere act of outlining forces your to expand your story. What happens here? Why is it important? What is your character’s arc? See the outlining posts for more information on outlining and how to do it.
  7. Look at structure. How do you want to tell your story? Is it multiple viewpoints? First person? Third person? Maybe you want two plotlines from different times/places woven together. Sometimes it can help to consider an idea from different angles (“How does this change if I write it first person rather than third person?”) to see what fits it best. And sometimes, once you’ve gotten your structure in place, some of the rest of the logistics (number of characters, chronology, world) fall into place.
  8. Freewrite/brainstorm. Freewriting is an exercise where you just let your fingers wander where they will. This can be a good way to brainstorm ways to go with your initial idea. Other forms of brainstorming, such as talking to a friend or mind mapping can also be beneficial.

And, of course, you can always let an idea percolate in the back of your mind. Think about the idea before you go to bed, while you’re in the shower, or while you’re taking a walk. See if the bits you need will come on their own while you’re doing other things. It may be that, over time, the story provides you everything you need. (Be sure to write everything down as you get it.)

What do you think, squiders? Do you have other methods that have worked for you?

The Finnbranch Readalong: Undersea

Did you read this, squiders? If not, don’t. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more confusing piece of literature in my life.

Continuing on from Yearwood, we follow Finn (or do we?) as he learns more about who he is and what he’s meant to do. There continues to be a mix of Celtic and Norse mythology (Llugh from the first, Sleipnir from the latter–or at least an eight-legged horse). I suspect Finn is modeled off of Odin, since he only has one eye and had the two crows in the last book (and now has an eight-legged horse). Is it supposed to be a direct analogy? Who the heck knows?

It’s hard to talk about this book because I feel like I couldn’t follow it at all. I like to think I have a decent reading comprehension, even when it comes to things like myths which are often obtuse or contradictory, but I spent a lot of this lost. Finn is also apparently both his father Ar Elon and his son Llugh, and he spends a lot of time in this story in Llugh’s flesh. For some reason Llugh will lead an army of sealmen (never referred to as Selchie in this book despite that terminology in the first one) against Finn on land. Why? Because he’s supposed to? Not sure.

There’s also a lot of obtuse references to an alternative, ultimate form of Finn (one character, after Finn tells him he is Ar Elon, Finn, and Llugh, swear allegiance to him, and when Finn asks which name he recognizes, replies, “The one you did not say.”) as well as the fact that Finn knows what’s happening and what must happen. None of that knowledge ever gets passed on to the reader, however, so don’t get excited.

I feel like this book is mostly a convoluted mess of “Look how mysterious I’m being, oooo, look at all these levels of myth, it’s so cool.” I am annoyed at it. I am also annoyed at the plot progression, or seeming lack of it. (SPOILER, if you care.) It goes something like: Finn has killed Ar Elon (which technically he did at the end of the last book), Finn leaves island and goes back to land where he’s apparently gone back in time and is now his father (at least, that was the implication I got) and meets his mother as a young girl, Finn leaves land, Finn finds random island and fights his dead father, he is his dead father and is barred passage, then he’s Llugh and the island gatekeeper takes care of him for a bit and shows him the fathomless hall he’s been building underground on the island forever, Finn leaves island and finds some sealmen to serve him, Finn returns to island with sealmen and finds a whole bunch of other sealmen who recognize him as Llugh and are ready to go to the war against Finn as preordained. Also everyone on the island is dead? And then Finn/Llugh disappears and there’s some allegory about youth and ugh. I am so done.

I’m still trying to remember why I put this book on my Amazon wishlist. It was probably on some list of mythology-based fantasy somewhere and someone made it sound way more awesome than it is.

Part of me wants to give the trilogy up at this point, but from what I understand, the third book, Winterking, undergoes some sort of time jump, and I guess I’m intrigued enough to continue on with this madness. So we’ll discuss Winterking on Aug 24 (this is the longest of the three books, so that should give us a little more time to slog through it).

Did you read this, squiders? What did you think? Help me on what happened because I’m really confused.