Stuctophis and the Calderan Problem

Hi everyone! If you’ve not seen it elsewhere, you should know that Structophis is available now

I’m pleased to see that people are enjoying the story (some really good reviews) and I’m relieved to know that the Kindle exclusive nature of the book hasn’t ruffled too many feathers. More to the point, though, at long last the time has come to formally announce (here, anyway) the first book in too long to not be Kindle Exclusive.

The Calderan Problem

Yes indeed. Written during last year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m happy to announce that the fourth book of the Free-Wrench series is available for pre-order on iBooks, Amazon, and a bunch of other places! The release date on most places is Sept. 20th, but iBooks will be getting it on Sept. 5th because they’ve been real friends of the series.

Because I’m a blithering buffoon, my website–ostensibly the key element of my promotional platform–is the last place I’ve announced this. But hey, save the best for last, right? Anyway, here’s the blurb:

The Calderan Problem is the fourth high-flying, swashbuckling adventure in the Free-Wrench series from Joseph R. Lallo, author of the Book of Deacon and Big Sigma series.

Several months have passed since Nita’s last adventure in the fug, and though she has spent them back in her native Caldera, she has never been busier. After countless debates and discussion, she has finally convinced her people to give the Wind Breaker and its crew safe harbor on the shores of her idyllic homeland. Now she is looking forward to introducing Captain Mack, Lil, Coop, and the rest of the crew to the land of her birth.

Back in the fug, Gunner has remained behind to help their friends in the Well Diggers deal with problems beneath the fug. Their old foe Lucius P. Alabaster has become even more unhinged and eccentric since their last clash. When his latest scheme seems to be having even greater success than his last, Gunner decides he needs to get to the bottom of it. Flamboyant and overconfident though he may be, Alabaster is not to be taken lightly.

As machinations unfold, worlds clash, and relationships develop, the Wind Breaker and its crew discover that this latest adventure may have greater consequences than they’d ever imagined.

A special note of the “relationships develop” part of that description. Some folks know exactly what that means. Others will be taken by surprise. Hopefully it’s a pleasant surprise, but I look forward to hearing what people think!

How I Write: Step 8 – Off to the Editor

Ah, the editor. When I talk about going to the editor, I’m specifically talking about copyediting or line editing. Many editors handle what’s called “Substantive” or “Developmental” editing. These are the folks who help you develop and improve a story. Basically they do what the beta readers did in the prior chapters, and maybe even hold your hand through the first revision. Such people are a key part of traditional publishing, and some of the most successful indie publishers use them as well. But there is a good reason only really successful indies do it. This level of editing is extremely expensive. I’ve never done it, and I’m not likely to unless I find myself consistently hitting the top of the charts and ending up with serious cash to spend.

Thus, we’ll be talking about the folks who try to comb out your typos.

The Hardware

No hardware for this one. If there is an editor out there still working on hardcopy, chances are you won’t be finding them via the internet.

The Software

This will vary from editor to editor, but in my experience, most editors like to work with a doc or docx file. If you’ve been writing in Scrivener, that’s an export option. If you’ve been writing in Word, that’s what you’ve probably been saving it as. If you’ve been using any other word processor, chances are very good doc is an option.

The Content

Before we get to the process sending off your manuscript to an editor, which is fairly straightforward and not really enough to justify a full step in this series, we should talk about finding one.

Once again, this series is called “How I Write,” so I can only really tell you what I did. So let’s take a trip back to the wild west of the indie publishing boom. The long-ago year of 2011, when I was just getting started.

By just getting started, I mean I’d been at it a year and had released my book in a self-edited state. (PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!) Folks were clearly enjoying the story, but my reviews inevitably included some form of the phrase “cluttered with typos.” Enough people had suffered through my story that I decided the time had come to put on my big boy pants and act like a professional.

The literary world is littered with people who either don’t know what they are doing, or know exactly what they are doing, and that thing is taking your money and running. I was mindful of this. A bit of investigation turned up a site called Preditors and Editors. It was a list of publishers and editors, rated by how successful they were and now crooked they were. There I found a well-rated editor named Anna Genoese. Her rates were in my budget, and she hit the deadline, and she did excellent work. My review average jumped up a full star once I’d implemented her edits.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, Preditors and Editors is no more, but there are other ways to find good editors. I now rely upon a second editor for many of my books, Tammy Salyer. I believe we crossed paths back when both of us were up for the same blog award for best sci-fi book of the year. (We lost to Hugh Howey, as many people have.) After some cross promotion, I decided to give her services a try and I’ve been very happy with her work as well.

Naturally I don’t expect you to follow my path of using websites that don’t exist and general serendipity to find your editors. If you’ve come this far in my series, you’ve probably had some interactions with other aspiring writers, in writing groups, on KBoards, and similar places. Those are also good places to find editors, or to find people who can give recommendations. Do your homework, make sure they do good work, and when you find someone you like, reach out to them.

A few notes on this. Most editors are fine editing any genre, with the possible exceptions of erotica or non-fiction. Both require a different editorial eye and sensibility, and you may need to find a specialized editor to handle them. Also, expect to pay. Not that there aren’t top-notch editors out there working for less, but as in all things, editing is something where you get what you pay for. I usually budget (as a rule of thumb) about a penny a word for standard copyediting. If I write 100,000 words, I pay $1,000. Other editors work by the hour, but you’ll often notice that this works out to about the same price. (Almost as though they calibrated their rate to hit the industry standard.) I assure you, if you end up getting a spike in sales at any point, that $1000 can easily be the difference between those people loving your book and picking up the next one and trashing your book and ruining your review score. This is not a place to be stingy.

Okay, so that covers getting your editor. Once you’ve got him or her, what’s next? Check for availability. Good editors are in high demand, and it isn’t unusual to have to wait months for a slot. Once you’re familiar with your writing speed, it’s common for folks to book their editor before they’re even done writing. Getting a slot will usually involve offering up a brief description of your story (genre, not plot, though again, check or ask for their guidelines and make sure you’re not submitting something on their no-no list) and an estimation of the word count. They’ll quote you a price and a timeline. If that sounds good, you might get a contract to sign, laying out what services they’ll provide, what materials and payment you’ll provide, and the terms of the payment. Look it over, sign it, and follow the instructions on how to send your manuscript.

In Scrivener, I hit compile and save everything as a docx, then send it out. In word, I hit save and send it out. That’s it. Some editors may request to receive your manuscript in a “basic” format, meaning no fancy formatting. In my experience, it’s never really been an issue. Just send it off and you’re good to go.

How I Write: Step 7 – The Second Revision

So now you’ve completed a book, and people have read it. If you are phenomenally lucky, even your harshest critics will think you’ve done a wonderful job and you’ll be good to go. If you are normal, people will have observations/problems which may need to be addressed. And that means you’ll need to do a second revision.

The Hardware

No new hardware for this one.

The Software

Likewise, no new software. You’ve already revised once, this is the same deal, just with feedback from people besides you.

The Content

For the second revision, you’ll have notes from beta readers to contend with. The first thing you’ll want to do is gather and classify them. Beta readers can identify all sorts of things, and addressing them can have varied amounts of priority. Here’s my personal ranked list.

Most important: Plot Holes

I hate when plot holes make it through to the main story. Some of them can seem very minor. (How did that guy get his sword back after he dropped it?) Others are utterly gaping. (That character died in the last book and saves the day in this one with no comment or mention from the other characters.) So you’ll want to make sure you address every single one of these before moving on to other proposed fixes. Frequently, the solution is as simple as adding a sentence foreshadowing or explaining it. Sometimes you’ll need to restructure your story. Seal these up, though. They ruin the story for the reader and really hurt your review score.

Very Important: Pacing Problems

I almost always have to deal with at least a few pacing issues. These come up when you have, for example, two or three chapters in a row without any action or plot advancement. You might feel like you’re heaping on some delightful character development, but if it doesn’t feel important or if it’s too much too quickly, you can bore your readers. Less dedicated readers might even abandon the book entirely. So if something’s too slow, consider whittling it down a bit or mixing in something exciting in the center.

Similarly, sometimes you can end up with—oh, I don’t know—200 pages of solid climax. That sort of thing can be hard to follow and can exhaust a reader. Better to space it out or trim it down. Another common problem I run into is the tendency to rush the ending, either very quickly resolving the final conflict or leaving an awful lot of dangling plot threads. These can be solved with a revised climax and/or a nice long epilogue. I love me a nice epilogue.

Somewhat Important: Character Consistency

It’s a bit misleading to put this at a reduced priority compared to the other two, but that’s just because very frequently fixing plot holes will fix character problems. What we’re dealing with here is when your characters act… out of character. Do you have someone who is afraid of heights striding confidently across the top of a cliff? Do you have a dimwitted character using some serious vocabulary? Did a kind person act viciously cruel or vice versa? In any of these situations, that could be an intended element of plot. But if your beta readers felt it was out of character, double check to see that you’ve properly set up the evolution or motivation.

Also, a very different problem with a similar name, make sure you’ve got the right character names. Shameful as it may seem, often at least once in a story I’ll swap the names of who characters for a whole conversation, which can really throw the reader into a spiral of confusion.

Low Priority: Wish Fulfillment, Recommendations

This happens most often with ascended fans who are doing your beta reading, but sometimes people wish things had gone another way. Bob and Alice should realize they’re in love. Evil K. Villainpants should be humiliated before he’s defeated. Worrywart Sadsack should get a chance to be a butt kicker.

You’ve got to be careful with these. Sometimes they are a great idea, but they need to be a really great idea to derail your story for its inclusion. Which brings up an important point. Don’t feel obligated to incorporate every opinion. The most vocal and consistent of my beta readers (you know who you are) almost inevitably gets into a debate with me about a minor plot point. Sometimes that point is valid and I eventually address it. Other times that point is addressed in five other places across the book and earlier books in the series and doesn’t require any adjustment. It’s important to be willing to accept criticism and admit faults, but it’s just as important to remember that it’s your story to tell and sometimes things are going to be subtler, or more chaotic, or gentler, or rougher, or a dozen other things than the reader is expecting.

Once you address all the changes that need changing, if you’re very lucky, you might be able to hand it back for another round with the beta readers. Don’t bet on this. Unless you’ve got world-class beta readers or a very long timeline, you might just have to settle with re-reading the adjusted chunks of the story on your own before moving on to the next stage. The exception is if a sweeping and massive change to the story is made, possibly due to a glaring plot hole that makes the rest of the plot unresolvable. If you re-write enough story for it to basically be a whole new story, it might be worth doing a full, beta-tested third revision. If not, brace yourself, because next up you send it to the editor.

How I Write: Step 6 – Into Beta

While some people are better at editing than others, people who can get a flawless edit without any help are about as common as unicorns. It’s been said many times, but when you read something you’ve written, especially shortly after writing it, you’re more likely to read what you meant to write than what’s actually on the page. Add to that the fact that you, by definition, know the entire story and you’re in danger of leaving out important facts and clues that could leave your readers confused. Thus, even if you think you story is structurally perfect, you could use a few spare sets of eyeballs.

The Hardware

Paper. I haven’t tried this one, but it was recently suggested to me that having a printing place like Kinkos (do they still exist?) print up a dozen or so spiral-bound copies of your first draft. For the security conscious, this makes piracy a little more difficult—but if you’re worried about piracy from one of your beta readers, you should probably pick your beta readers more carefully. It also allows the less tech savvy to read and take notes on your stuff. The person who suggested this idea to me, Mark Coker of Smashwords, even suggested putting little questionnaires after key chapters to see what people think. Interesting.

The Software

In the most basic form, you can just print or email the original manuscript. This is simple, but limits the ways people can interact with hit. Thus, the time has come for me to mention one of the workhorses of my self-publishing toolchain, Calibre. Officially, Calibre is for organizing and cataloguing your ebooks. Think of it as sort of an offline version of the backend that keeps your Kindle fed from Amazon. However, to ensure that it can take the books you own and make them work with any of your devices, it includes one of the most robust ebook conversion tools I’ve ever seen. It is free, it takes many formats for conversion, and it spits things out in just about any format you can imagine.

The Content

The first thing you’ll need for a beta reading round is beta readers. There are loads of ways to find them, and I’d recommend you do your best to find at least one person of each sort to get the best range of perspectives on your book. I’m of the opinion the more readers the better, as good advice is indispensable. More importantly, schedules can fill up in a hurry, and having a lot of names to call on increases the chances that someone will be able to help you out.

So where do you find folks? Family is one good one, though not the best. Family is quite likely to be more mindful of your feelings than the quality of the story. It may hurt to have someone point out a plot element that doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense, or that your prose could use some polishing up, but these are things you need to know. So, don’t avoid family for beta readers, but don’t rely upon them exclusively. Presumably you know where to find your family though, so tracking them down is easy.

Friends have all the same strengths and weakness as family, though possibly they’re less likely to sugar coat things. Friends of friends and family of friends are a few steps closer to being strangers, and thus are still more likely to be punishingly honest.

If you’re already an author, fellow authors are very good to have as beta readers. They’re much more likely to have an opinion about the finer elements of storytelling. They might be more unforgiving, but they are also likely to have opinions that are flavored by their own voice. Something that wouldn’t make sense in one of their books would make perfect sense for you and for your audience. Authors congregate in places like KBoards, and there are plenty of writing groups in places like reddit or Facebook, so look around and find a good match.

Fans. If you’re really lucky, you might already have fans. They’re handy to have as beta readers because they are intimately familiar with your voice and your writing, and moreover they have very good insight into the desires and expectations of your specific audience, since they are your specific audience. I would suggest picking fans who have been vocal, who have shared their thoughts in depth, and maybe who have caught typos for you in the past. They might have the same problem as your family, though, in that they might not want to give you bad news.

Once you have your beta readers, you’ll need a way to organize them. For the longest time, I simply talked to them via individual emails, using a custom contact list to keep track. More recently, my fellow author Lindsay Buroker suggested a secret Facebook group, which has proved quite effective at allowing not only the distribution of files, but the fostering of conversation.

When you’ve got all the people you need, and you’ve got a way to keep in touch with them, you’ve got to get the files to them. I’ll go into the fancier details in later steps, but here’s where Calibre comes in. I like to save my story as a docx (it is an option as export from Scrivener, and a standard export format for most word processors). I drag and drop it into Calibre, then select it and hit “Convert Books.” ePub and Mobi will cover 99.9999% of all ebook readers, and will be readable on most phones via the appropriate apps. Some prefer PDFs for reading on the PC, so you can choose that as an export, but in my experience that format is better off exported directly from the original word processor. You can add them all to the secret group, email them, or upload them to a service like Bookfunnel, which not only provides a single link, but provides instructions for readers who might not know how to load up the ebooks themselves.

Now your readers can get your books. All you need to do is let them know when you need the feedback by (if you have a deadline) and give them any sort of guidance regarding concerns or things they should focus on. At this stage, if you’re planning a professional edit later (and you really should) then you should let people know that typos aren’t a concern at this point as they’ll get swept up in the edit.

And there you have it, you’ve started your beta round. My last bit of advice on this is to treat your beta readers right. These people are the last line of defense between you and yourself. Without them, you might put out a book that only makes sense to you. Don’t argue with them unless you’re friendly enough and familiar enough with each other to do so without hurt feelings. And don’t forget to show your gratitude. I offer sneak peeks, free swag, etc. Wine and chocolate are standard bribes as well, and for authors, offering to beta read in return is customary.

How I Write: Step 5 – The First Revision

It’s been a while since my last post, but that’s because several short stories and at least one whole book have wedged themselves into my calendar, and as a result, the specific book I was basing this series on was shuffled around more than I typically allow. That said, it’s time to get back to it. By now you’ve Done the Bird’s Eye View, possibly drawn up an Outline, sliced things up into Scenes, Written a Rough Draft, and maybe even done some On-The-Fly Rewrite. Now it’s time to do the first real revision.

The Hardware

Not too much new here. I like to keep a “tear out the pages” style pad around. Any of the memo pads I’ve described in earlier steps will do fine.

The Software

At this stage, I’m still in Scrivener, but you’ll be in your word processing program of choice.

The Content

If you’ve been following along, your story will be littered with little, easy-to-find notes regarding how you want the story to go. The first thing you’ll want to do is do a global search and put all those notes in one place, with some indication of what position they belong in the story. Sometimes I paraphrase or clarify as I go, but mostly I just copy them from where they are in the story and plunk them down in a universal “time to fix this” location. For Scrivener, this means I split the screen into two horizonal panes and keep the notes in the top one and the current chapter of the revision in the bottom. I also do not delete them from the body of the story until they’ve been addressed or I’ve changed my mind about them. That way you have a second indicator of precisely where you felt it should be place, or at least where you thought of it.

A few words on specifics here. If you’re using Scrivener, there are a ton of ways to keep notes. If you open “Inspector” (accessible via the little blue “I” in the top right corner), you’ll have a section for Document notes (for only this section) and Project Notes (For Everything). I used to plop all my notes in there, dividing them up into global and specific changes respectively. Lately I’ve abandoned that to the single, universal notes document. Basically, I kept losing specific changes I wanted to make, missing that I’d not fixed a specific one because I happened to have the Project version of the notes pane open and vice versa. Your experience may vary, but I prefer a separate document that I can keep open.

When you’ve collected all the changes you had in mind, it’s a good idea to read through them to see which ones you’ll need to be mindful of early on. “Go back and make sure this happened” is the sort of note that comes long after you were supposed to have addressed it, so maybe move it up in the order. You can also take this time to delete notes that either conflict or that were bad ideas. This is also the best stage to make a list of the scenes you think need to be added and maybe trace some ideas out for them, if you haven’t already.

After prioritizing and pruning the collection of notes, there are two ways you can choose to progress. One way is simply to step through the notes one by one and make the changes. This works well for specific, one or two sentence changes. It’s less suited for notes that require subtle adjustments across the whole story. The alternate method is to read through the whole story, checking back frequently to cross off changes as they are made. I prefer the latter method because, as you’ll soon see, you’ll have to go through and read the whole thing anyway.

Let’s assume you’ve chosen to go with the “read and apply changes as you go” approach. This is a combined proofread and revision. As you go, there are a few things you’ll want to watch out for.

Typos:

You don’t have to be comprehensive in catching your typos here. That’s what the final pass and editor are for. However, since this is the last step before someone else will be reading your story, it’s a good idea to get it to something approaching an intelligible state. You’ll also want to rework sentences that don’t hit the ear right and try to filter out the usual dings and dents that show up in a rough draft.

Pace:

Now that the story is a complete unit, you finally get to see if the pacing you set up in your scene and outline steps was well done. In my case, there is always some disconnect between how long I intended certain sections to go and how long they actually went. This could mean that what you intended to be a short information scene as become a huge exposition scene. Or it could mean that the sprawling fight scene you expected turned out to be just a few sentences. Either way, you might end up with a story with too many lapses in the action for your taste, or too much action and not enough time to breathe and let the characters be characters.

I am not the sort of author who deletes whole scenes or trims huge chunks. Maybe someday, when I’m better at writing, I will be. Right now, it always feels like I wrote that for a reason, and thus can’t lose it without making dozens of adjustments everywhere else to accommodate the edit. Thus, my solution is normally to split scenes that run too long into multiple parts. I can then either write a new scene from a different story thread in between the two halves (most frequent solution) or shift a later or earlier scene into the split (much rarer).

If you determine the only thing you can do is cut a scene, I suggest making a folder or document for deleted scenes rather than outright deleting them. You can borrow good lines or at least keep track of plot developments that way.

Timeline:

This one is a huge problem for me, and one that only becomes more problematic if you’re doing a lot of scene splitting and scene shifting. You need to keep track of the passage of time. What I do is, at the bottom of my notes document, keep a running tally of how much time has passed since the inciting event in the story. Every time you get to a passage of time phrase, tack it onto the tally. You might also want to include with that where each of your characters physically are and what they are doing, if you’ve bot multiple threads that will need lining up. If nothing else, this will make it more difficult for you to entirely forget a plot thread or character… which may or may not have happened to me many times in the past.

Frequently doing this timeline audit will reveal to you that things don’t flow right. A character didn’t have time to travel, or something of that sort. The fix is the same as problems with pace. Find a way to insert an even elsewhere. Either to speed things up or to slow things down, such that the story falls back into alignment. This is also where “for a few days” and other non-specific passages of time can be your friend, though many stories don’t have the flexibility for that sort of fudge factor.

Gaps:

You’ll need to write the scenes you feel need writing. Probably the best way to do this is to wait until you’ve completed the readthrough and thus identified every scene that needs writing, so you can write them all at once. What I do is write the scenes as I get up to them, which means I may have multiple mini writing sessions, but I’ll also still have the same brain context from the preceding scene. Do what you feel works best.

Once you’ve gotten all the way to the end you may want to go back and read it a second time. Feel free if you like, but in my experience, you’ll be better served with waiting a bit, during which your beta readers can get their crack at it. We’ll cover that in the next section.

Structophis Pre-Order!

Hey folks! One of the many things I have obliquely hinted about over the past year or so has been a project called Pizza Dragon. It languished in the background for a while because, as you may agree when you read the description, it’s sort of an experiment. Well, having already experimented once this year with Rogue Derelict (available now as a part of Kindle Worlds), I figured, why not try another experiment? Thus, I offer you, StructophisIt is available for pre-order now and releases on July 12th.

Structophis V2a

Cover art is by the antidarkheart

This is sort of a young adult-flavored story (according to my early readers), following a young man named Markus who finds himself the defacto mama to a rare and exotic creature called a Structophis Gastrignae. As if taking care of it would not be difficult enough on its own, it turns out this particular creature wasn’t being very well cared for prior to his discovery. If the police were to discover he even had one of these, let alone that it was potentially neglected, he’d be in hot water. Not only that, but there are greedy, very well connected people out there who have their own far less nurturing plans for the beast he’s dubbed Blodgette. Can he and his animal expert-buddy Gale keep Blodgette safe and themselves out of jail? Let’s find out!

While I’m proud of the story itself, the story of the story is pretty interesting too. You see, I’m not the person who came up with Structophis Gastrignae. The species is the brainchild of an artist named ProjectENDO. He’s a skilled artist who has created some of the more memorable images of my characters, including one of the rare moving images:

animated_commission__lain_the_assassin_by_projectendo-d8atn95

I read his reference on the species and was impressed by its specificity. It inspired me to write a couple of chapters as a gift to him. Many months later, after getting a little burnt out on writing the stuff that would pad out The Big Sigma Collection, I decided to take a few weeks to write this story, and once it was done, why not release it. After all, the artist himself even drew Blodgette in all of her pudgy glory.

commission__blodgette_the_pizza_dragon_by_projectendo-d9fmzcp

Since this is based largely on his brains, naturally I would be splitting the money with him. This, however, has a consequence.

I am rare among my peers in that I have got a VERY diverse income. On an average month I get at least some money (often only a few dollars) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Google, Kobo, Audible, CreateSpace, and many others. Separating the income from a single book from each of those storefronts and doing proper accounting for it would be VERY time consuming. Thus, to simplify matters, I’m going to be limiting this book to Amazon. It is the largest single earner for me, and going exclusive there provides some benefits which I’ve been itching to try. If you are a non-Amazon customer, my apologies. Depending on how things go, I may go wide eventually, but in the mean time, I’m hoping to get the paperback up quickly for this one, to give another option.

Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy the story! Once again, you can pre-order at Amazon, and the book releases on July 12th.

Paperback Cheat Sheet

This is more of a service to my fellow author-types than something that might be of value to readers, so if you’re interested in book doings… well, unless you’re reading this at a very specific point in history, you’ve already read about the Structophis announcement directly above this.

I do my own paperback formatting, and as such, I do it very rarely. Below is my semi-organized paperback formatting list. I hope you find it helpful. This is specifically for setting up for a 6×9 paperback at CreateSpace, but it should be fairly obvious where changes should be made for other sizes.

  1. Select the whole document.
  2. Go to Page Layout Ribbon
  3. Click the “Page Setup” dropdown button thing.
  4. Margins Tab
    1. Under Pages, make it Multiple Pages: Mirror Margins
    2. Under Margins: Top, Bottom and Outside are all 0.5″
      1. Inside varies by word count, but I usually do 0.75″
      2. Page Count Inside Margin Outside Margins
        24 to 150 pages .375″ at least .25″
        151 to 300 pages .5″ at least .25″
        301 to 500 pages .625″ at least .25″
        501 to 700 pages .75″ at least .25″
        701 to 828 pages .875″ at least .25″
    3. Gutter 0″
    4. This applies to the whole document.
  5. Paper Tab
    1. Change width to 6″, height to 9″
  6. Hit Okay
  7. After the title and Author name, insert a section break
    1. This is on the Page Layout Tab under “Breaks”
    2. In this case, chose “Next Page”
  8. Go Back to the title page and click on the name, then click the page setup dropdown again.
    1. Section Start: Odd Page
    2. Headers and Footers: Different Odd and Even, Different First page.
    3. Page: Vertical Alignment: Center
    4. Apply to This section.
  9. Hit okay.
  10. Remove bold and make Title size 36 font.
  11. Make Name size 18 font.
  12. Put 4 “name” sized new lines between Title and Name.
  13. Go to the next page, where your Copyright should be.
    1. We’ll be using a size 10 font, centered.
  14. Copyright ©[year] [Author Name]
  15. Blank line, then: All rights reserved.
  16. Blank line, then: ISBN: [the isbn-10 for the paperback]
  17. On the next line: ISBN-13: [the isbn-13 for the paperback]
  18. After the ISBN-13 line, insert section break, specifically “Odd page”
  19. Go back to the Copyright page and click the page layout dropdown.
    1. Should start on even page.
    2. Should be alligned vertically with the bottom.
    3. This section only.
  20. Next page will be the Dedication.
    1. “Dedication” in size 14, Centered, All Caps
    2. One blank line
    3. The text of the dedication in normal body text size. (12, right now).
  21. After Dedication text, make a new section that starts on the Odd page.
  22. Go back to the dedication page and set the page layout
    1. Should be vertically centered.
  23. Next Page will be your table of contents.
    1. Go to “References Ribbon”
    2. Click “Table of contents”
    3. I choose automatic table 2 (the one that says table of contents.)
    4. Optionally, fix the header to look like the rest.
  24. After the table of contents start a new section on odd page.
  25. This will be your Acknowledgment Page.
    1. “Acknowledgments” in size 14
    2. One blank line
    3. The text of the dedication in normal body text size. (12, right now).
  26. After Acknowledgment Text, new section, odd page.
  27. Back to acknowledgment page and center it vertically.
  28. Double click the footer area:
    1. Unclick Link to Previous at the top.
    2. On the left of the ribbon, click page number, then format page numbers.
    3. For this page, it’ll be “i”, and click for it to start counting at i
    4. Ok.
    5. Click Page number again, and click Bottom of page, then plain number 2.
    6. Make sure you have done the same for Odd and Even Numbered pages.
  29. Close Header and Footer by clicking that button or double clicking elsewhere.
  30. Now fix your headers:
    1. Modify the style to be size 16, bold, centered.
    2. Don’t automatically page break.
    3. Add 72 pts before line.
  31. Make sure that you put page break after the last line of each chapter. This will automatically space the next chapter (which starts with a heading) by 72pts (plus one line).
  32. Be sure to update the table of contents for the new page numbers.
  33. On page 2 (which should be the second page of Chapter 1, double click the header.
  34. Type the author name in the header, centered, without indent
  35. On page 3, type the title, centered, without indent.
  36. With Header and Footers still open
    1. Click on each page upto and including the first page of the first chapter.
    2. Click the Different First Page box on the top of the screen.
  37. Save the result.
  38. Export as a PDF.

 

Announcing Rogue Derelict

An original story set in Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire setting

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For quite a while I’ve been interested in collaborating with another author on a book. If you follow me at all, you know that my paths have crossed with Lindsay Buroker on many occassions, most notably her recruitment of me to pitch in on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. She’s basically the author I want to be when I grow up, with the dedication and prolific brain to pump out books three times faster than I could ever hope to.

Lindsay’s multiple series tend to make a pretty big splash once they build up a head of steam, and her Firefly-esque space opera known as the Fallen Empire series is so popular Amazon tapped it for their Kindle Worlds program, which allows other authors/fans/etc to write stories in a setting and split the earnings with the series creator. When she was looking for reliable authors to pen a novel for launch, I ignored the requirement that we be reliable and threw my hat in the ring. The result? Fallen Empire: Rogue Derelict. Here’s the Blurb:

Rogue Derelict is pulse-pounding side-story set in the universe of Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire Series.

In the chaos following the fall of the empire, Benita Castor wants nothing more than to live a nice quiet life. She thought she made all the right decisions. What could be safer than becoming an accountant? Where could she be more secure than the industrial fringe of the empire’s most civilized planet? Yet somehow, she finds herself in the employ of a crime boss and is shipped off to audit a recent acquisition in a forgotten corner of the system.

Her new assignment is an old Kirian space station being developed by Nori Veshcha, an enterprising woman with big plans for the relic. Nori is overflowing with ambition, innovative ideas, and confidence—though her crew leaves something to be desired. Her chief technician, Blick Mathson, is a man more familiar with collecting debts than repairing ships. The only other crew member, her personal valet Lefty Hammermill, is a dim-witted but well-meaning grunt with secondhand cybernetics. Not much of a workforce to tackle the task of converting a centuries-old hunk of junk into a cutting-edge resort, but Nori is nothing if not determined.

At first, the assignment has the makings of an unpleasant but uneventful enterprise, even if Nori is somewhat overly cool, Blick is a bit overly warm, and Lefty is just overly Lefty. When a second relic of a bygone era makes an unscheduled arrival and its crew assumes Benita is their Kirian commander, she and the others realize the echoes of the past could have grave consequences for their future.

Can a mismatched skeleton crew on a malfunctioning space station rise to the challenge, or will a remnant of history remind the system that some threats aren’t gone, they’re simply forgotten?

If you’ve never read any of Lindsay’s Fallen Empire stories–first of all, you should–fear not. I chose to produce an original set of characters to play around in their setting. Though pre-existing knowledge of the setting might help you enjoy the story, I’ve endeavored to include enough context to make it enjoyable even from a complete newcomer’s perspective. (None of my beta readers have read Lindsay’s stuff, and they seemed to enjoy it.)

I hope you’ll give the story a chance. If you like it, remember there is a whole world of others, not to mention Lindsay’s original stories. Right now it is exclusive to Amazon, and also exclusive to the United States, so not all of you will have the opportunity to read it. For those aren’t chased away by those limitations, check it out along with the rest of the series. For the rest of you, I’ve got a little something to make it up to you…

All Hands Meeting

“Okay, okay. Can may I have your attention please!”

The man addressing the audience was a bit portly and unkempt. He was exceedingly hairy, though while his face and arms were visibly hirsute, the one place where hair was beginning to diminish was his head. Nonetheless, he seemed the jovial sort, and the crowd quickly fell silent in expectation of whatever reason he had for calling them all together.

His capacity to earn the respect and attention of the crowd was impressive, considering the extreme diversity of the audience. A large proportion were human beings of various races and ages, but the more notable members of the crowd included a small collection of dragons, a swarm of fairies, two or three dwarves, and quite a few beasts which defied simple classification.

“Before we get started, are there any questions?” he asked.

A white-furred hand rose from the crowd.

“Yes, Ivy.”

“Um… I hope I don’t seem too foolish for asking this,” asked the malthrope, “But who are you? You seem awfully familiar, but I’m not sure I’ve seen you before.”

“I’m your creator,” he said.

She tipped her head to the side. “Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure Demont was my creator, and you seem an awful lot nicer than him already.”

“No, no. I mean the creator of all of you. Of all of this. I’m the author.”

“Oh,” she said with a nod. “So this is one of those… what do you call them…”

“Fourth-wall breaking, non-canon, post-modern literary experiments,” remarked a scientist among the crowd. “Figures.”

“That’s right, Karter,” the author said.

“I hate when people do that. They always think they’re being so cute, but they’re all just ripping off Chuck Jones and being self-indulgent.”

“Somehow I thought you’d be one of the more difficult ones to deal with in this process.”

“Do I have to be here for this?”

“Only if I decide you have something interesting to say.”

“Well please don’t.”

“Don’t hold your breath. People tend to get a kick out of your attitude.”

A piecemeal voice spoke up next. “I apologize for the breach in protocol, as I understand that it is typical to indicate one’s desire to issue an inquiry by raising an extremity, but I presently lack any appropriate pieces of anatomy.”

“That’s fine, Ma. What’s your question?”

“Am I correct in assuming this is not the first time I have been present at a moment that could be termed non-canon?”

“We did a character interview in which you more or less figured out your own fictional nature.”

“Such was my hypothesis. A reasonable extrapolation based upon these facts would be that, as Karter is my own creator, and you are his, I am at best two levels removed from a genuine, legitimate product of nature.”

“Pretty much.”

“That is moderately distressing, as it further reduces my already ill-defined but unenviable role in society.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re pretty much one of the most important people in your universe. Heck, people like you better than Lex.”

“Hey!” remarked a jumpsuit-clad space-jockey.

“Sorry, buddy. It’s well known, main characters in my stories are usually eclipsed by the more interesting supporting cast, what with them not having to shoulder the load of the plot.”

“And whose fault is that?”

“It’s my fault. Literally everything in all of your universes is my fault.”

A young woman dressed in an elegant cloak raised her hand.

“Yes, Myranda.”

“So it is by your will that my world was plunged into more than a century of war? That some of the finest beings I have ever known lost their lives, and my own existence has been an endless string of trials?”

“Yep.”

“All of this time I’d believed the D’Karon were the greatest evil in creation, but you are the true source of our woes.”

“Yeah. Sorry about that. See, the only way you can exist is if your world continues to be dramatically interesting to the people reading about your adventures, so I more or less have to play the ‘vile and pitiless whims of fate’ most of the time. If it’s any consolation, I’m also the source of everything good in your world. And at least your world has to make sense. Reality can be completely nonsensical, and that’s where I live. Any more questions?”

A few more hands rose.

“Uh, yes. Deacon, Philo, Lex, Non-Sequitur, what’ve you got for me?”

“Are we all the same person?” Philo asked.

“Uh… I mean… you’re the same type of person. Sort of a Lallo Archetype.”

“Uh-huh. And I’ve noticed that Garotte, Desmeres, Gunner, and—“

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s not draw too much attention to that. We’ll just say that the differences between certain groups of you are more nuanced than overt. What about you, Deacon?”

“Forgive my presumption, but was there some purpose for this meeting beyond plunging your various creations into a profound existential crisis?”

“Good question. Yes! I called you all here to discuss something very important. Something that potentially affects the future of all of your worlds.”

“What force could be so potent as to alter the path of so many worlds?” asked a dark-skinned woman in a complex leather and canvas outfit.

“I’m glad you asked, Nita. The answer is simple. Merchandising.”

The crowd collectively groaned.

“Not this again,” grumbled Karter.

“Now, now, hear me out,” the author said. “The people want merch.”

“No, they don’t!” barked a white-haired fellow with a fancy weapon.

“Come on, Dezmer, I—“

“It’s pronounced Dez-mer-ess! You created me. How can you fail to properly pronounce my name?”

“Look, my buddy came up with your name, and I misheard him. Can we please stay on topic? Now, I think the time has come to get some fun new doodads out there for the people.”

“The people don’t want doodads, my boy,” said a debonair sci-fi type. “They want books.”

“Yeah, honey,” added the soccer-mom-type by his side. “Pretty much the only thing folks really want out of an indie author is the next book. Now if you are looking to make some more money, I’ve always wanted to see what you could do with romance.”

The author shook his head. “No. No you don’t, Silo. But I admit, Desmeres and Garotte have a point. Despite some initial enthusiasm for some of my ideas, broadly speaking the only thing the readers have really wanted to do is read, and I think that’s understandable. But this time, I think it’ll be different.”

“What is different this time?” Deacon asked.

“This time I’m going to go straight to the source to come up with ideas. I’m going to ask you, the characters to pitch merch ideas.”

“But… since you created us… ain’t that just you askin’ yourself?” asked a tall deckhand.

“Yeah, this whole thing is coming off as kind of masturbatory,” added a red-skinned demon.

“Whoa, hey, let’s keep it PG, Trixie.”

“I’m a succubus. You don’t put a succubus in something you want kept PG.”

“Yeah… Yeah, I didn’t really think that through. But then, I didn’t think any of your stuff through. Between was sort of an afterthought.”

“DID SOMEBODY CALL AFTERTHOUGHT?” proclaimed a costumed crime-fighter.

“Heh. I kind of forgot about you.”

He shrugged. “You and everyone else.”

“Anyway, how about you folks get together in groups, brainstorm some stuff, and then we’ll see what you come up with.”

*** Several minutes later ***

“Everybody just about ready?” the author said.

The audience settled down again, and lined up, several of them clustered together into a series of like-minded groups.

“Okay, Ivy, Rill, something told me the two-to-four of you would pair up.”

“We think it’d be lots of fun if you released an album!” Right-Rill said.

“I agree. It’d be lovely. These three have wonderful voices. And the music from these different worlds is so different and lively,” Ivy said. “There are new instruments for me to learn.”

The author sucked his teeth. “You have no idea how much I’d like to do that sort of thing. But the price would be astronomical. As Rill found out, I’m not even technically allowed to directly quote the lyrics of the songs she sings.”

“Wait… you mean people can’t actually hear us singing?” Left-Rill snapped.

“It’s text, Rill. They only read descriptions.”

“Why do you have so many musical characters if you don’t actually have music?” Rill asked.

“I like music,” the author said.

“Well this should be a natural idea then,” Ivy said. “Maybe we could write the songs. That’d be fun.”

“It’s more complicated than that. All I have to do is say you’ve got angelic voices and a natural talent for music and you do. In order for me actually make an album, I’d have to actually have those skills, or find those who do, and that costs money too.”

“Oh. … Reality sounds difficult,” Ivy said.

“It’s surprisingly tricky.”

“Well, good luck then,” she said hopping up and giving him a hug. “And thanks for creating me.”

“Aw…” the author said. “I really should create more characters as affectionate as you.”

“Creator’s pet…” muttered Trixie.

“Hey, be nice. Ma, what did you come up with?”

“There seems to be a considerable amount of interest and success in the world of digital gaming. It is, if my assessment is accurate, one of the few areas of modern entertainment that is a match for literature in terms of the potential for success for small, independent creators.”

“Well, Ma. You’re not wrong. But again, this is a matter of finances. I don’t have any friends in the indie game biz, despite my many years of attending conventions with them. And a game isn’t something you commission.”

“It was my understanding that the focus of your education was the creation of computer hardware and software.”

“Sure, but if I was any good at that, I’d probably be doing that instead and none of you people would be here. Except for Myranda and the crew. They predate my professional author endeavors. Next!”

A young woman in a red and white latex uniform stepped up.

“What’s up, Nonsensica?”

“Two words: Action. Figures,” she said. “Imagine it, the whole ‘The Other Eight’ cast, in a big collectible play set with props and stuff. You can get the Sideshow Collectibles-style high quality things for Halfax back there, and Lain, and any of the fancy types, but for me and the gang, I want eleven points of articulation, minimum.”

“I like the idea. I really do. But…”

“Money…” Nonsensica said flatly.

“Yeah. I tried my hand at engineering that sort of thing over the holidays, and proved to myself I do not have chops for it. Considering how much I spent just getting the figurines made, and those have zero points of articulation, I hesitate to imagine how much I’d be spending for the full G.I. Joe treatment. And I’ll remind you, I didn’t sell that many of those.”

“Okay, fine. Next up, movies. Sell the rights to Hollywood. That Andy Weir guy got a movie made, and what’s-his-face with the 80s pop-culture mashup. The market is still scrambling for more superhero movies, and the Other Eight are ready to deliver.”

The author sighed. “The traditional literary world didn’t want anything to do with me. Hollywood isn’t likely to be more welcoming.”

“… Fine… I’ve got another one. Comic books.”

“Again, the literary world didn’t want me. Comics are pretty much the same level of utterly unforgiving to new talent.”

“Then do a web comic.”

“Oh, I am doing that. That’s who those two are. Say hi, Ray and Louis!”

A chubby boy and his leaner friend waved.

I’m a celebrity!” remarked the chubby boy in utter ecstasy.

“Wait…” Nonsensica said. “You have a book about superheroes… But when the time came to make a comic, you went with little kids? What’re you trying to do? Rip off Stranger Things?”

The author crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know, I wrote that comic years ago.”

“Fine, then you were ripping off Gravity Falls.”

“I never saw Gravity Falls.”

“Well you must have known about it, because I know about it, and you created me.”

“I found out about it subsequently. Moving on,” the author said.

The pair of deckhands stepped up.

“Lil, Coop, what are you thinking about?”

“I think you should make buttons or patches or somethin’,” Lil said. “The sort of stuff a body could clip on or sew on to somethin’ they already got to make it look like somethin’ they bought from you.”

“Interesting… I’ll have to look into it. Coop, you got anything?”

“Under-britches.”

“… Underwear.”

“If that’s how you call ‘em. Everybody needs Under-britches. Most folk need two or three pair. You could sell a bunch, I reckon.”

“But how would they be merchandise? Would I put logos on them?”

“I was thinkin’, since most folk wear their under-britches under their britches, can’t nobody see ’em. So I reckon you ought to do something you can tell even without seeing them. Make ‘em smell.”

“… Scented underwear… I mostly write in fantasy and steampunk. I can’t imagine there are too many people looking for authentic medieval or Victorian smell from their underwear.”

“Which one of them’s the book I come from?”

“Steampunk.”

“… You sayin’ I smell?”

“I think we ought to leave ‘em be, Coop. We said our piece,” Lil said.

“Yep,” said the author. “Um… Who else? Oh… that many… Well, we’re up over 2,000 words, which is kind of a lot for an April Fools thing, so I think we’re through being meta for today. But we can think it over off-page. Any last requests before you all head back to your respective homes?”

“Would you please consider publishing the book I’m in?” said a young man in medieval garb.

“Edge, we’ve been through this.”

“People want another story with Halfax, and he’s in it…”

“…Edge…”

“Buka’s even got art commissioned of him, and no one even knows who he is!”

“Look, Edge, you’re half the reason it isn’t out yet.”

That was before the rewrite! I’m sitting in an EDITED book sitting there collecting DUST!

“The fans said they didn’t want your book until I was done with Myranda’s story. Take it up with them.”

“I would, if you let me out more than once a year. I’m pretty sure people would want to read my story if they knew I was teamed up with—“

“Hey! I’m not wearing the spoiler hat, so no spoilers! Thanks, everyone, for coming out and sharing your ideas. See you all next year. If you’re a member of ULCA, I guess you can stick around, since you’re probably going to have your meeting here in a few minutes. The rest of you, see you in the sequels!”

How I Write: Step 4.5 – The On-The-Fly Rewrite

I’d not anticipated doing another “How I Write” article until I was finished with the rough draft, but given the major shift this story just took in my head, it’s worth doing a little addendum to my Rough Draft Step concerning when a better idea asserts itself.

The Hardware

All the same hardware as before, except this time special emphasis on the “mobile” pad and pen. Since I don’t think I spoke about them yet, we might as well talk about the authorly elements of my Everyday Carry.

First up, the memo pad. All the same requirements here as in my “Bird’s Eye View” section, but scaled down for portability. I like those little 3×5 memo pads, because they fit nice into my back pocket. Since they tend to get pretty beat up over the course of a few months, I invested in a cheap leather cover for mine, which tends to extend their operational lifetime. Eventually they get ragged regardless, so be sure to go through and transcribe your ideas periodically.

IMG_20170320_102538

Try to ignore the specific contours on the one on the right. That lives in my back pocket, so it’s sort of… conformed.

Another thing that works well is one of those little bitty moleskine notebooks. They’re sturdier, the pages tend not to rub against each other as much so the writing doesn’t get smudged, and the pages don’t tear out so it’s better for saving for posterity. But it’s not top bound, so I find I have trouble writing in it sometimes. Also, I do like being able to tear out pages if needed. The ubiquitous “Field Notes” books have the same pros and cons, though I’ve never owned one, so they may be moderately improved over the vanilla moleskines.

IMG_20170320_102608

From left to right: Inka, Golf Pencil, Fisher Space Pen. I suspect you could have worked that out on your own.

You’ll also need something to write with. The standard is the marvelous Fisher Space Pen. While it doesn’t fit my usual “left-hand friendly” requirements, it’s convenient and high enough quality that I let it slide. Nice and small, writes on anything (within reason) starts easily even after not being used for a while. Another excellent option is the Inka pen. It fits on your key chain, basically writes the same as the fisher space pen (I think they take the same refills) but with a bit more time it can be converted into a full-size pen far more effectively than simply slapping the cap on the other end. I carry both at all times, and yes, I’ve had to use both of them on more than one occasion. You’d be surprised how often you find yourself in a situation where suddenly everyone has to write and there aren’t enough pens to go around. In a pinch, you can get a ton of golf pencils for super cheap, but then tend to rub off for me.

Special bonus to this section, since the rewrite usually comes to me while I’m taking a walk, something to play music/podcasts. Be it a cheap mp3 player or your phone, I can’t tell you how often I broke a stubborn bit of story while taking a long walk and letting my mind wander.

The Software

Again, all the same deal here, but you might want to pick an app on your phone for note taking. I’ve never had much luck doing decent writing on my phone while I’m on the go—hence all the pads—but google docs (or whatever they call it now) has ended up being the app of last resort for jotting down short stories more than once. I like that it backs up to the cloud automatically. Alternately, you can just do voice recordings.

The Content

Maybe you’re better at outlining than I am, but I find no matter how much time I spend working out the beats and whatever other phrases author-type people use to dress up the process of make-believe, I always find once it starts forming on paper I’m about a thread and a half short of making the story flow correctly. Normally, this takes the form of my first act being a very step-by-step “getting the good guys to the place where the bad things happen” without much to break it up and keep it interesting. Also, while things frequently work in my head, once the characters start laying out what’s going to happen and why, I start to question their motivations. Remember, “because that’s what needs to happen to make the plot work” is never a good enough reason for someone to do something. They need to act in a way that is consistent with their character and in a way that makes logical sense in the world. You can get around this if the character is insane, but take it from me, having an insane person driving the plot can get old in a hurry and write you into some weird corners.

So, what do you do when you realize the book is missing something? Add it! Ideally this would have happened in the planning stage, but at this point we’re into the meat of the story, so you’ll have to “do it live” so to speak. It’s not really a big problem, and frankly I often find doing it this way helps catch far more issues than doing it beforehand. The process is simple. Utilizing the methods in the last section, drop down some ***NOTE TO SELF*** entries—either in the text itself or in a separate note document—and lay out the proposed additions/changes. In my case this is usually a whole new thread in a different location, or a minor side thread happening between two supporting characters. This will help you fill in those ***Another scene?*** placeholders that may or may not pop up when other scenes are taking too long, and will either give you a nice breather to space out action, or provide a pop of action to spice up character/drama scenes. Hooray for contrast!

A few things to watch out for. While this may technically be playing the role of “filler” (a very dirty word) in your story, don’t make it feel like filler. It’s easy to keep it from being filler, by the way. All you have to do is give it a reason for happening. Let’s say you want to have a side thread of a character investigating a robbery. If the people responsible are part of the main plot and this thread turns up some useful clues, congrats! Not filler! Or if the people responsible aren’t involved at all but the investigation reveals something useful for the main plot anyway, still not filler. Maybe the character, alone for once, has a few moments of introspection and decides to go help her friends after all, then shows up at a key moment, not filler. And perhaps most importantly, if the spare thread simply reveals aspects of the character we’ve never gotten to explore before because the plot didn’t allow it, that sure isn’t filler.

A mildly spoilery example from my own story, The Battle of Verril. People who have read my Book of Deacon trilogy (of which The Battle of Verril is the third part) know that books 2 and 3 are darn action-heavy. There’s a scene I lovingly refer to as “the farmhouse scene” in which some of our heroes take refuge at a farm and have a run-in with the woman in charge. It is a quiet moment, one that lets us see that even amid the global conflict they’ve been called upon to solve, our heroes care enough about each other and the people of the world to solve a small, personal problem. Buried in probably 100 pages of running and fighting, I think it’s possibly the most memorable part of the book besides the climax.

So, don’t be afraid to add an extra thread if the story needs it for contrast or pacing. Just make it count, and make sure to blend in the edges during the first revision to make sure it’s not glaringly obvious that was an afterthought.