Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning from mistakes

I'm taking a Depth in Writing class from WMG Publishing, taught by Dean Wesley Smith, and I just got my latest assignment back. I did okay, but not great. However, the feedback I received made me happy to have screwed up.

The purpose of the class is to learn how to write with so much depth that readers won't stop reading. Think about the last time you read a book you couldn't put down. It was probably written with depth.

The assignment was to write 300 words about "Ben meeting a child." I decided that my "Ben" was a police officer and wrote my scene. The feedback was that I had written the scene as a writer, not as the character. Smith was right. I had written about "Ben the cop" but I had gone no deeper in my characterization than that.

As I pondered the feedback, I realized I had made the same mistake in my current draft. I have a character who is a cop with about as much depth as poor Ben. Worse, my main character has depth in some areas but none in others.

I know why Jim is a warlock. I know why he walks with a cane and how that affects his life. That's all good. However, his profession is as an anthropology professor, and there's little about why he chose that. Smith says that if certain details can change without it changing the character, then the character is too thin. Jim could be an English professor, and it would change little about the character. Oops.

How did this happen? Paul and Dafydd have depth, so this shouldn't be a foreign concept to me. This book is a rewrite of a very thin draft, and I added some depth but not enough. One lesson learned is that rewriting a decade old draft can be a problem. It will be less so as I hone my craft, but I wasn't a very good writer then. Have I ever improved!

I knew the draft still had issues. Now I know what they are, and the class will give me the knowledge to fix them.

I highly recommend you check out the WMG classes if you aspire to be a professional author.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Draft finished of the next book, Buried But Not Gone

It seems like I just released The Case of the Reincarnated Lover yesterday, but it's been about six months now, and I'm getting closer to my next release.

It is in the same genre as The Warlock Case Files. However, the next book will introduce a new set of characters, including another warlock.

There's a bit of history behind this book. I wrote it more than a decade ago, long before I'd created Paul and Dafydd. The book was the result of one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had, and that dream was the focal point of the first chapter. When I first started writing the Case Files, I'd planned to rewrite the older book to make it part of the series. However, that dream caused me a problem.

While Dafydd does have prophetic dreams, and I probably could have made it work, the dream needed to be from the point of view of a different character, and I decided it wasn't worth making the changes necessary to write it in Dafydd's first person narrative. I'm not a fan of breaking point of view unless absolutely necessary, and this reason wasn't compelling enough for me.

Besides, in Reincarnated Lover, Dafydd realized he needed a community of warlocks supporting him, and I thought I had an opportunity. One of the characters in the older book was a Wiccan anthropologist, and it was easy to tweak him to make him a warlock. Voila! Lots of problems solved.

All I had to do was shift the main point of view character to the new warlock and do some quick editing, and the book would be ready. Just goes to show how little we know until we get into the middle of something...

Turns out the original draft was awful. Oh, there was the seed of a good story in there, but it took lots of work to tease it out. I'd be surprised if 10% of the original draft survived. It was more like a complete rewrite than an edit, and it took months longer than I'd anticipated.

However, the first draft is done now, and I'll be reviewing it later this week to make changes before sending it to beta readers. If you're interested in being a beta reader, let me know. I've got a couple lined up, but I can always use more.

The blurb will go something like this. Emotionally, Denise Evans was barely ready for her divorce. When her soon-to-be ex-husband committed suicide in front of her, she thought her nightmare was finally over. Turns out it had just begun, as Denise and a local warlock, Jim Novik, have to figure out why her ex was Buried But Not Gone.

I'm sure I'll tweak it before publication, but that should give you some idea of what's going on. The book is a bit darker and has less humor than the Case Files, but Paul and Dafydd do have a guest starring role!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Story Behind The Case of the Reincarnated Lover

There's a story behind the writing of The Case of the Reincarnated Lover. Many years ago, I wrote a Forever Knight fanfiction called White Rose. It was well received by the community, even though it had an original character in it. You must remember that in those days, original characters were rarely well received and were generally considered Mary Sues. The fact that I wrote an original character people liked and wanted to see in a sequel was one of those moments when I decided maybe I could make money as a writer.

I'd always wanted to take the basic plot line of White Rose and turn it into a commercial story, but it took over a decade to find the right vehicle for it. When I created Paul and Dafydd, I knew they were it.

Just to be clear, this isn't a 50 Shades of Grey situation. I didn't take the original fanfiction and change the character names. The original is just over 11K words, and Reincarnated Lover is over 90K. They both share two common plot points, but that's it.

I would have loved to have used White Rose plotline as the jumping off point for the series, but I also knew that readers had to care about Paul before the story could work. It was always intended to be the tale where we learned his back story, and it wouldn't have worked as the first story in the series. Alert readers, however, will note that I laid plenty of foundation for this story in The Case of the Haunted Vampire, and even left a bit of foreshadowing in The Case of the Werewolf Puppy. I had thought I would write this story a bit later, as the fourth or fifth in the series, but I couldn't wait that long.

Feel free to read the original story. I'd be curious to hear from readers who have read both. Which one did you like better, and why?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Excerpt from The Case of the Reincarnated Lover

Sales are going well so far on my latest book, The Case of the Reincarnated Lover, and I'm happy. I still have review copies to give away, so check out this post for details if you'd like one. To whet your appetite, I thought I'd publish an excerpt. This is from later in the book, so it's not something you'd see in the sample from Amazon. This scene is about 1/3 of the way through the book, and one of the rogue vampire's minions has been sent to attack the boys and one of their friends.

***

We went outside and started for Paul's car. The sun was completely gone, no hint of sunset left in the darkened sky.

Paul had just pulled out his keys to remotely unlock the door when I heard a low growl from the shadows to our right. I turned.

Amber eyes gleamed in the darkness, and I stepped back just in time to avoid a sudden charge. However, I wasn't the target. Fangs flashed, and Nicola dropped with a cry, blood spurting from a long gash on her arm.

Before I could react, Paul snarled next to me and leaped to stand over Nicola. His eyes had shifted, and both his claws and fangs were extended. "Dafydd! Get out of here!"

Heck with that. I wasn't going anywhere, but I did need a moment to gather myself. I ducked behind Paul's car and pulled out a speed potion. If I needed to run, I preferred to do it really fast.

I peered out from behind the car to take in the situation. Paul was still hovering protectively over Nicola, who wasn't moving. I could see the blood spreading from her injury.

The other vampire stared at Paul. He was shorter than Paul, maybe just an inch or two taller than me, and slight of build. Paul was fast, but I suspected this vampire was faster. My friend  might have the advantage in strength, however.

The strange vampire was blond and would have been attractive, if not for the glowing eyes and fangs. Plus the arrogant expression and tilt to his head.

I don't generally go for the bad-boy type.

His tongue darted out to lick away a smear of blood, and he smiled, though there was nothing of humor in the expression. "Two humans to protect, Paulus? I can take you easily."

Why wasn't he attacking? He was right. He had Paul at a disadvantage. Paul was fast, but if the other vampire lured him off, like by attacking me, he could probably kill Nicola before Paul could react.

At that moment, the vampire darted in, aiming for Paul's throat. Paul snarled and struck with his claws, never moving from his position over Nicola.

"You're fast, but I can take you on strength," Paul said, his voice steady.

The other vampire sneered. "What good is your strength if I kill both your humans before you can even react?"

I had no idea of his real name, but I decided "Cocky" would fit.

Okay, the best thing for me to do was to even the playing field. I was no match for a vampire, but if I could free up Paul to move as he wanted, I figured he could handle one vampire. I shot a quick glance at the door to Lounge 201. Better do it before reinforcements showed up. I wasn't sure which side the other vampires would take if any came out.

I pulled out another potion. Strength this time. I don't usually like to mix potions. They are hard on the body, but I didn't think I was strong enough to lift Nicola without magical aid. I downed both and felt a surge of energy course through me. I felt like I could run forever, lift buildings and maybe have energy left over to make love all night.

I shook my head. Definitely did not need to be distracted by those thoughts, but it was an unfortunate effect of the potion mix.

My time was short. The potions wouldn't last more than a minute or two. I looked back at Paul and the other vampire. Lucky me. They were involved in some sort of alpha male stare down, and no one was looking my way. Paul had shifted to stand in front of Nicola instead of on top of her. Good, that gave me room to maneuver.

I ran as fast as I could, which under the effect of the potion was faster than an Olympic sprinter. I was halfway to Nicola before either vampire noticed me. Paul attacked, attempting to use his superior strength to knock the other vampire off balance. Cocky dodged, making the movement look effortless, and he reversed direction to charge me.

Good thing I wasn't where he was expecting. I guess he'd never dealt with magically enhanced speed before.

I darted past him and grabbed Nicola. Damn! She was heavy, even with my potion strength, but I lifted her to my shoulder. As soon as I had her, Paul shot past me to engage Cocky, who was looking around almost comically, trying to figure out where I'd gone.

Paul hit him hard, shoulder blocking him and knocking him off balance.

I settled Nicola into a rough approximation of a fireman carry and ran.

***
If you want to learn what happens next, you'll have to get a copy of the book. Hope you enjoyed!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Case of the Reincarnated Lover: Just Released!

I'm delighted and excited to have released the third book in my urban fantasy series, The Warlock Case Files. This new book, The Case of the Reincarnated Lover, takes Paul and Dafydd into some new directions. For those of you who have been waiting for it, we finally find out Paul's origin and how he became a vampire. A subtle plot point from the first book is resolved and more.

Here's the blurb:
My name is Dafydd Smith, and I'm a warlock. If you've been following along with our story, you know that I, along with my hot vampire partner, Paul, spend our nights (and sometimes my days) dealing with trouble in the supernatural world of Washington, D.C.
We've dealt with ghosts and werewolves, but now it's another vampire who's causing trouble. He's killing others of his kind and upsetting the delicate balance of power in the local vampire community. To make it worse, the rogue seems to have some connection to Paul's past. As if that weren't enough, an old lover of Paul's returns, but not in a way anyone could have anticipated.
And to top things off, I think I'm falling in love! Never a dull moment in my life. You want to find out more. You know you do.
To celebrate the release and to drum up reviews for the book, I'm giving away 10 review copies. You can request your choice of .mobi (for Kindles) or .epub (for just about everything else). Just comment below with your name, email address and format preferred, and I'll send you a copy. Of course a review is not required, but it's greatly appreciated.

Because this is the third book in a series, if you're new to the world of Paul and Dafydd, I'd be happy to send you a review copy of the second book, The Case of the Werewolf Puppy, instead. It stands alone better than Reincarnated Lover, and it needs some review love too! Just let me know in your comment, which one you'd prefer.

Happy reading, and I hope you enjoy the book(s)!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Warlock Case Files Books Are Available on Scribd!

warlock case files
Oh happy day. I've been a Scribd subscriber for about six months now, and I love the service. Think Netflix for ebooks, and you've got the basic idea. Pay $8.99 a month and read as much as you'd like. It's only available on tablets for now (bummer since I just bought a Kindle Paperwhite), but the app is on iOS, Google Play and Kindle Fire. Here's the link for all versions of the app.

If you read TeleRead, you already know how much I love Scribd. I like them better than Oyster, a similar service, because of price (Oyster is $9.95 a month) and app availability (Oyster is iOS only). Because I do lots of my reading on 7" Android tablets instead of my full-size iPad, I appreciate the multiple platforms. If you want to read more about them, just click on the TeleRead link above. It takes you to all the articles we've written recently about the service.

But enough about them. This post is more about me. When I first learned about Scribd, I wanted to have my books in the service. What's not to like? Readers can try them risk-free. If they don't like them (hopefully not, but possible), they just move on to the next book. Authors get paid as long as readers read most of the book, so it's a win-win for everyone.

Smashwords, my ebook distributor, signed a deal with Oyster last year, and that made me hope Scribd was coming. I'd been looking at two different distributor options, and I finally selected Smashwords because of the Oyster deal. Soon after I'd uploaded my books, they announced the deal with Scribd, and I celebrated. My Warlock Case Files books went live in the service yesterday. It's so cool to see my own books in a subscription service.

So, how do you find my books? Well, Scribd's search algorithm leaves something to be desired. Searching for my books by title doesn't bring them up. However, you can always go to my author page and add them to your library.

There's a 30-day free trial for new subscribers, so you don't have much to lose by giving them a try. I read 6-8 books in Scribd a month, so it's been worth the money for me. Let me know if you sign up and read my books!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Looking for books like the Dresden Files? Here's my recommendations

books like the dresden files
Harry Dresden was my introduction to the urban fantasy genre, and his books are still my favorites. However, Jim Butcher is only one guy, and unfortunately, he can only write so fast. We've still got to wait until May for the next book. So, if you are also a fan, you may sometimes go hunting for books like the Dresden Files. I've done that search, and here are my recommendations.

The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne is pretty darned close. Atticus is a sarcastic bastard, kind of like Harry, and the books have a similar feel. Hearne has a neat magic system that holds together well, and you'll either love or hate Oberon the talking Wolfhound. The latest book, Hunted, did have a bit too much Oberon and not enough plot for me, so I didn't finish it, but other people tell me it's a great set-up for what's coming in the next book, so I may have to go back and finish it. Up until that book, though, I was hooked.

Next up has to be the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. Verus is a diviner, and while Jacka does stretch my suspension of disbelief sometimes, the way he uses precognition is original and fantastic. Verus feels lots like Dresden without being an outright copycat. I picked up Fated, the first book in the series because of the Jim Butcher blurb on the cover. I'm a couple of books behind in this series, but I'll be catching up soon.

Lots of people add Simon Green's Nightside series to the list. Although I liked the premise (P.I. investigating hidden supernatural world in London), I couldn't warm up to Green's writing. Doesn't mean you won't like it, though.

I'll close with Alloy of Law. It's not modern-day urban fantasy, but it's steampunk meets the Wild West meets fantasy magic, and it's one of my favorite books ever. It has an urban fantasy feel to it, even though it's not set in modern day Earth. The second book is supposed to be out in a year or so, and I can hardly wait.

Well, I said I'd close with Alloy of Law. Okay, not quite. Jim Butcher was an inspiration for my series, the Warlock Case Files, and I'd be completely remiss if I didn't recommend my own stuff too.

What's your favorite urban fantasy series? I'm always looking for new great books to read. Please leave some recommendations in the comments.