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Save the Date for Savings

July 25-27


Weaving In the Ends
Kindle Countdown starting at 99c
Controlled Descent (Restoration Adventures #1)
FREE on Kindle


Calendar achievements deserve celebration.  That’s why I’m running a Kindle Countdown NEXT MONTH for Weaving In The Ends when it hits its publication month-iversary.  To make sure all is crystal: the sale is in JULY. There are two months, both spelled with four letters starting with J. Ample room for confusion.

Here in my space I can confess I have mixed feelings about this sale. I love the Countdown Deal, but I hate having no way to advertise it. Good online ebook promotion sites ask for 5 positive reviews, and many want 10+.  Weaving In The Ends has none. Zero. Zip.

Basically I’m throwing a savings party without any way to deliver invitations. It’s my own fault, and I don’t exactly regret it.  Weaving In The Ends is a combined edition of two titles published last year. Most interested reviewers have already offered their opinions on each separate story.

So I feel kinda stuck. “Anybody wanna write another review as a favor?” sounds as lame as “Hey, want a sharp stick in the eye?” but I would love to be able to promote the sale with more than just my personal, limited reach.

I guess I lose nothing by asking, right?

Hey, anybody want a sharp stick in the eye? if you’ve read Turning The Work, Joining In the Round (or both)  I would be delighted to see your opinions planted into an Amazon review for Weaving In The Ends. You do NOT have to buy the new book to review it. Just follow this link– Weaving In The Ends –and select “write a customer review.”  

 Much gratitude in advance to anyone who ponders the possibility for more than a few seconds. No expectations. I’m just scratching that nagging sensation that saying nothing would be paving a road to disappointment with passive aggression.

If you’re looking for some other way to earn this author’s undying gratitude, keep an eye out for the FB & Twitter posts I’ll have lined up when the Big Days arrive. If those are the only platforms I have, shares & retweets will be my only way to spread the word.

Okay, that’s enough wheedling for a while. As always, thank you for reading.

I’m offering Controlled Descent free at the same time because that title is always free to read by anyone with access to the Self-E module from Biblioboard. Why not offer copies to those who aren’t so lucky? And what better time than when another book is on sale? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

PPS: edited for clarity on dates. 6/26 11:30 AM CDT


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A book in the process of becoming

I finished* a manuscript last night. 80,000 words, 16 months from first concept to “The End.” Prodigals is (so far) the shortest novel-style work I’ve ever produced, and it’s solidly in the middle of the pack for completion time.

There will be changes. Possibly even major ones. But there will be no more “drafts.” As detailed in other posts, by the time I get to “The End,” I’ve put my original plot, character concepts, settings, story structure,  and themes through the wringer, over the moon and off the board multiple times. In the later stages my story sculpting–that process of  chiseling, chipping and buffing out a story from a chunk of pure idea–more often resembles an octopus untangling bags full of yarn and hyperactive kittens.

Prodigals is a finished story, a newborn baby novel. Time to break out the champagne & throw glittery confetti?  Time to show off my creation to the whole awed world?

No. Not quite yet.

Yes, some people do set their books free at birth, trusting their formidable, agile creations to thrive and dazzle from the outset. And some might thrive. Some manuscripts might spring perfect from their creators’ brows. Haven’t seen it happen myself, haven’t heard or read any tale of it outside mythology texts , but anything is possible.

In my experience…

Books are not born like guinea pigs or ponies, ready to rock and roll as soon as they hit air. (Baby guinea pigs are the cutest things, by the way. Squeaky, tiny tribbles with beady black eyes, such perfect miniatures of their parents I thought someone was pranking me the first time I saw one.) Nope. Books aren’t like that at all. At least not mine.

My newborn books are more like baby kangaroos. They’re squishy and raw, barely formed. They have life and breath, they are alive and finished,  but boy, they are helpless, clumsy fragile creatures unready to face the cold, harsh world.

My manuscript, wetly-stamped with “The End” and still sticky with typos,  needs a lot more nurturing before I declare it ready for independent living. It will be with me for months yet, held safe and warm while it develops. As time passes, it will come and go from my protective embrace, changing, improving, and maturing each time.

The marsupial process goes something like this:

  • Check over manuscript for gross errors and format for beta readers.
  • Send to beta readers.
  • Make revisions based on beta feedback.
  • Send to editor.
  • Make revisions based on editing.
  • Set formatting, cover, and layout.
  • Proof final book.

There are good things to be said for gaining experience and collecting the right stuff. This isn’t the first word baby I’m sheltering from blob phase to book life. I’ve picked up a few tricks and tools.

The simple trick of contacting potential beta readers before checking over the manuscript saved me days or even weeks. The process of making the manuscript ready for eyes other than my own was also much easier this time around.

Spelling+grammar+phrase power checks? I have lists and a routine, and I’ve lately mastered the nuances of find/replace and the trick of saving the manuscript to an e-reader program where errors stand out like blaze-orange embarrassments.

And formatting? Breaking my first novel into chapters took YEARS. I do not exaggerate. The second? Hmmmm. Still not in chapters, honestly. Both subsequent published novels took days and serious paragraph restructuring to get from the scenes in which I think and write to a chaptered structure that had any hope of pulling a reader’s attention along.

Prodigals? A couple of hours. No rewording needed. Imagine my glee. (It goes like this. Ha. Ha! HA! BWAhahahahahahahahahahaha!)  I watched three episodes of Person of Interest to celebrate.

Prodigals was a difficult story to bring to life, but now that it’s finally here, squalling and wriggly, I look forward to carrying it along the rest of the way. And sharing baby pictures, of course.

What are blogs for?


*I say finished, but it’s really finished again, as there was a slight delay in the actual birthing. After thinking I’d completed it a month+ ago and lining up beta readers, I discovered not one but multiple points where I had uncharacteristically left<fix action here> notes instead of working out a sticky plot point.




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Smoothing Out Snags

Today I made progress with a bit of Prodigals plot that’s been bugging me for a while now. This meant going back to several early scenes,  re-phrasing dialogue and adding snippets of description to create foreshadowing and anchor later bits of plot, plus adding some descriptions and deleting others.

It’s the writing habit I’ve struggled ever harder to accept, especially these past 16 months or so. (My Year of Authoring)  Everyone says it’s the wrong way to write. Not in so many words, no *  but the overwhelming message from seminars, workshops, and advice columns is this: Proper Professional writers let their creativity flow free, who stop self-editing, leave what’s already on the page alone. Don’t pick at things, bad writer, no! Just finish those rough drafts, forward ho!

Not me. My books crawl over the first-draft finish line sidelong, crabbing their way to the words “The End” in fits and starts and meanders. Or I don’t end them at all.  It’s yet another way I do this writerly gig all wrong. Yup. I am Bad Writer. ™

If my mind is focused on an earlier section, the only way forward is back. Changing a few words of dialogue to bring in nuance or set up a later joke, re-writing a sentence ten times to tighten the action, or moving a scene to another part of the timeline and making it fit there —that is what frees up my mental log jams and gets new words flowing again. It’s the course my brain follows. I can do other things, but that story won’t move again until I clear the way. Not even if I add a bear. (Or a lion or a tiger.)

Progress goes sideways, upside-down and twisted, or nothing happens.

I’m not always a Bad Writer. Chiseling out the initial form of a story and discovering the basic shape–that part I can do according to Proper Form. ™  I come up with a beginning scene and ending and  write from the start. Plot details come into focus as I complete scene after scene, and I progress forward with only a minor hitches here or there to add in things whenever I realize they needed to be there all along.

But there always comes a point when I cannot finish — usually before or during the final action–unless I substantially add to and/or change the earlier story at the same time. Forward progress grinds to a halt while I tinker and fix and fuss.

This isn’t a discovery-writing issue: it happens  after I know how events should play out to the end of the story. It’s the point when story-sculpting becomes more like word-weaving,  where I’m connecting ideas to ideas instead of seeking the original shape in imaginary stone.

And after six times ’round the long-form fiction track, I need to make peace with it being an inevitable occurrence. It isn’t fussing. It isn’t over-thinking. It isn’t self-doubt. My writing approach is analytical, consistent, and gets results. Slow ones, and maybe ones that don’t look like anyone else’s in the world, but quality results all the same.

The self-doubt is what makes me think i should try  another way because all the cool kids do.  Believing in my own process is a million times harder than it should be. I hate pushing against a powerful tide of disfavor. This is me, forging a dike with words of my own.

Writing out the final action of any story over about  5,000 words will  require tracing back every thread leading to the climax and smoothing out rough spots on each converging piece in play. As. I. Go. When the urge hits, when the itch gets fierce, when I look at what’s there and think, “No, that doesn’t fit, I need to fix it,” my only course is a careful walk backwards between the fragile shapes of half-made ideas, not a plunge headlong to any resolution as long as it’s final.

Trust in the Force, and all that. I will bumble to the end of my plotline my own way, not so much marching to my own drumbeat as bouncing into every story molecule along the way in Brownian exuberance. I won’t get there by the right path or the fastest one, but I will get there and look fabulous when I arrive.

So there.

* when the experts in front of the class  always say, “bottom line, everyone has to find their own way, do what works, but hey, you should try it this way if you’re stuck because this is a known winner,” it’s a mixed message to say the least.

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Ranty rant

I have two full manuscripts on the back burner. They’re both worthy of readership, and I’ve long hoped to submit them to any number of small presses. Everywhere I turn, those pubs only allow submission of a short synopsis plus some chapters, regardless of manuscript status.

So…those manuscripts will just keep languishing.

I won’t be coughing up a 3-page plot summary like a cat retches up a hairball for anyone soon. This isn’t a matter of can’t. I can condense fiction works fairly well, when I choose exert the effort required. Nope, I’m opting out of a ridiculous, pointless exercise because I loathe time-wasting counter-productive bullshit.

Hey, if someone said flat-out, “We will accept your book if you will please send us a summary for our files,” I’d jump all over it. (It’s as realistic as expecting a prince to come along with perfectly-sized silicon-based footwear.  So I will continue to edit my own work, commission art, pay for editing, format and market it all myself rather than participate in a fundamentally obscene system.

Writing a good summary is an art. I don’t dispute that. I dispute its universal, unexamined use as a replacement for manuscripts in the submission process.  I refuse to buy into the fatally-flawed idea that a synopsis of this type is a meaningful substitute.

Even the use of the word itself in this case peeves me. A proper synopsis is a scene-by-scene breakdown. A 1-3 page sketch of the basic ideas, themes, and plot framework is a treatment. A 1-3 page summary is a…well, a summary. I will happily write a pitch description (a few paragraphs, maybe a page.)  I can produce a proper synopsis. But stripping the plot of  a 100k novel to a few pages is like pulling one melodic line from a symphonic score and playing it on a saxophone. Just as you can make a trailer from a film that turns it into any kind of movie, so does a summary of that length render the complexity of a novel meaningless.

It has a purpose in bare-bones identification of the final product,  in a publisher catalogue for example, or as a legal description. But as a tool by which to judge the writing? Might as well transcribe Beethoven’s 9th for a penny whistle and evaluate that symphony’s worth by the results.

That’s the dirty little secret no one else seems willing to shout: a short synopsis is worse than a lousy measure of writing. It’s an active misrepresentation. It’s a lie.  And I hate lying. (Yah, yah, I know, fiction writer. Laugh away.)

The usual excuse for requiring a synopsis is that agents and acquisition editors need a fast way to reject the maximum number submissions in minimum time.  I agree. I’ve read slush pile material. A synopsis serves as well as any other sample for judging the writer’s  mastery of speeeling, THE OF ALLCAPS and, standard use-making of grammer & punctuation!

But that’s my point. A query letter and a glance at a manuscript would reveal the same fatal writing flaws as a synopsis would. So pubs do not need a synopsis-plus-chapters to evaluate basic wordcraft when a full manuscript already exists.  They each serve that purpose equally well.

What about the argument that a short summary shows whether the author can keep the plot together, while not making the editor/agent read the whole thing?  Nope. I call bullshit and point back to the symphony analogy. The synopsis doesn’t prove a damned thing about the novel’s feel, twists, etc. Besides, if the editor is curious about plot after a teaser, it shows the manuscript regardless of later flaws or gems.

And  the other secondary argument that writers should be able to write a good synopsis because it’s a professional skill?  More bullshit, this time of the “sabertooth hunting is necessary” variety. My experiences in human resources taught me that hiring people who seem great in the interview gets you employees who have great interviewing skills. That doesn’t mean they have the skills for the position you hire them to fill. Far from it. The same goes for the synopsis. A good summary writer–even a good first-chapter hook writer–is by no means necessarily a writer of a great novel. Far. From. It.

Why then  do so many of publishers only allow submission of  monstrous lies synopsis+chapters and refuse manuscripts entirely?  Here I have to stray into speculation, but I think there are two reasons and an excuse.  1) to encourage submission of ideas rather than finished work and 2) pure tradition. And then the excuse of legal fears.

There is one excellent justification for a treatment and several chapters: the book is still in development. That can be a great thing —a publisher/agent is willing to accept incomplete book and shepherd it through the process from outline onward? That’s fabulous. But it doesn’t justify only accepting synopsis+a few chapters submissions instead of manuscripts.  Only tradition accounts for that.

I truly believe “send us your synopsis” is becoming a small press standard because that’s how the big boys do it, and I cannot think of a worse reason to adopt such an inherently-flawed tool of measurement. It’s the root of my rant and my stubborn insistence on face-spiting. Tradition alone is a lousy reason to do anything.

The 1-3 page synopsis did serve a useful purpose once. In the era when mailing full manuscripts was a prohibitively expensive proposition and a space-consuming storage issue, synopses were a boon to both sides. Writers could submit for the cost of a stamp, and publishers didn’t suffocate under paper mountains of dreck.  They were a convenience in the same way resumes and job applications are useful: as an means to cull the herd.

That era is over. Electronic submission means a full manuscript takes up little more storage space and requires no more time to judge and delete than a smaller file. The synopsis is now a meaningless additional hoop to jump simply to reach a professional audience. It’s a pointless gate into an industry already overrun with obstacles.

There’s a use for summary reviews by and for prospective buyers of a finished book.  There’s a place and a time for pitches and query letters and a sample. But there is also ample justification for accepting manuscripts as well as/instead of a synopsis.

Except for that legal excuse…but no. A publisher or agent who doesn’t want full manuscripts because they might be accused of stealing the idea, filing off the serial numbers and rewriting it?

Sure, it happens. And people win the Megamillions lottery too. It’s about equally likely. And really someone might sue a publisher for stealing the plot synopsis too. (Far more likely really, since a synopsis can be bent and twisted all kinds of ways.)

So not accepting mss because there’s too much lawsuit exposure is like not driving because there might be an accident somewhere. Sometime. As an argument, it too fails.

Synopsis-only submission policies fail to meet every justified-hassle test I can think of. The old final trump card, “but you can’t ever get published unless you play the game,” is no longer in play.


I can let my work be judged on its own shiny merits (or its stinky, putrid ones) by the general public.  I’m willing to sell my ideas in a query letter or bypass the submission process and sell the story itself,  but  I will not crush it into a faux shell of a summary because “that’s how it’s done.” I will let my works fail on strength of their own openings.

It’s a cold, empty bed, because let’s face it, self-publication in the SFF genre is not a way to reach readers. But I’m willing to lie in it because the alternative is a bed of nails.

I don’t lie here happily on luxury sheets. Happiness would be finding places I could send a manuscript to be rejected. Alas, everywhere I turn I see the publisher equivalent of this: “Do not send your symphony. We don’t want to judge your music as is. We will only judge it by the way it sounds on penny whistle.”

Until that changes,  I’ll toss and turn on my cranky bed, and I’ll play my little symphonies to the tiny audience who finds them.