Books

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Denver Writers Meetup Anthology

I'm excited that Thursday Night Press has been selected as the publisher partner for the Denver Writers Meetup 2014 Anthology. A panel of judges will select the content. The anthology will be edited by the Meetup's Robert Davis. Thursday Night Press will provide copy editing and ebook and print book design.

Any Colorado resident is eligible to submit a piece of fiction or poetry for consideration by the judges. All genres are acceptable except for explicit erotica and fan fiction. Word count must be between 1,500 and 18,000.

Submissions are being accepted by email only to denverwritersmeetup@yahoo.com. The piece should be attached to the email as a document in RTF format. Submissions must be received by October 1, 2013. Further details can be found at http://www.meetup.com/denver-writers/pages/Anthology/.

Information about the Denver Writers Meetup can be found at http://www.meetup.com/denver-writers/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/126175650744082.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Does Your Story Plot or Plod?

Despite all good intentions to the contrary, I am still having trouble getting into the habit of blogging. I think it reflects my writing as a whole. I'm a good writer, but I have an imagination problem, or at least I believe I do. I'm just not a flow-from-the-pen writer, except in rare bursts. Writing is hard. That realization is part of why, in my humble opinion, I am a good editor: I respect writers because writing is hard.

Harder even than writing, though, is good storytelling, and that's what I want to talk about today.

I know an author (who I will try hard not to identify) who has completed two novels and is working on a third that are all imaginatively written, but all have the same deadly flaw. In all three books, the writing has good technical qualities: a line editor has to struggle to find errors in this author's writing. The characters are distinct, memorable and sympathetic. The words paint the scenes vividly while not getting in the way of the story. These are 100,000+ word stories in which much happens in a logical unfolding of the tales being told.

The flaw? All three stories leave me waiting for something to happen. Why?

No drama. I was waiting for something to go wrong, some obstacle to get in the way, something to test my sympathy with the characters. I liked the protagonists and wanted to take their sides, but it felt like there were no sides.

The flaw in these tales was that they lacked plots entirely, I concluded initially. After all, they failed my "one-sentence/one-question test." I am convinced that any story with a plot can be fairly summarized in one sentence. If you have trouble describing a plot in one declarative sentence, you can still usually name a question the plot raises. For example, the plot to my forthcoming novel, Fisher King: Percival's Descent, is best summarized as a question: Can a young nobody with eyes on the stars escape a dismal life that doesn't want to let him go?

I've changed my opinion, though. The stories, after some searching, did have plots. The deeper problem was a lack of tension stemming from a lack of conflict. In each case the plot question -- one was Can X beat the odds and prevent Y from Z? not a bad dramatic question -- had an apparent answer that was never in doubt for more than a few paragraphs at a time. Obstacles? Easily overcome. Turnabouts? None. Complications? Rarely and they never compounded.

In the story with the above-mentioned, X, the author showed in fiction how a slightly different X could have done better against Y than it had historically. The author built a good case that the difference mattered, but guess what? It came too easily. The difference was too much of a difference to keep the conflict interesting. The historical X struggled like hell against Y, which was interesting. Much less so the fictional retelling. 

What can you learn from these three stories: conflict, more; struggle, more; certainty, less. What else can you learn? Know your plot. Have it firmly in mind, because it is the guide you need to know what kinds of conflict and sub-plots fit the story. When in doubt, return to writing about the plot, and by that I mean to move closer to or farther from resolving of the plot question.

Well, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that, for now.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Busy Last Two Months

It's been a busy last two months. I now have lots to write about, and with a promise to myself to blog regularly, there should be reason to follow this blog. Here's the highlights:

* Thursday Night Press has signed two new authors.

* I am in production right now on a book that I hope to finish by the end of this month.

* There's been great progress on the Colorado Literary Network website

* I attended a great program on book marketing at this month's meeting of the Colorado Independent Publisher's Association (CIPA).

Two new authors signed

Thursday Night has agreed to reissue the novel Immortal Betrayal (cover shown), originally self-published by European royal family expert and historian Daniel A. Willis. Immortal Betrayal is a historical fantasy that follows Dano Varos, a member of a hidden branch of humanity fated with near immortality. Varos flees the 1400s Normandy of his youth only to centuries later confront a menace from his past that threatens the future of the Russian Crown.

Also just put under contract is the contemporary fantasy Weird Canyon by A.M. Jordan. This debut novel follows a pair of high school buddies as they try to rebuild their lives after accidentally setting their home town in the Colorado mountains ablaze. I love Jordan's sense of the absurd, which includes Howard, an Oxford-educated Sasquatch.

Back to production

After an idle year following the 2011 release of Torpedo Junction, Thursday Night is on track to put out six books in 2013. I am now in production of Immortal Betrayal, which will be ready comfortably before the promised May 15 latest release date.

We've made some tool changes since Torpedo Junction. The ebooks are produced using Open Office and the Writer2Xhtml plugin. Enhacements are made using the Sigil EPUB editor. One EPUB version will be released using Smashwords Direct. The other is used to produce the Amazon Kindle version.

I was using the open source Scribus page layout software for book covers, but I hope to soon replace that with Serif's PagePlus page layout software.

Colorado Literary Network

To help promote Thursday Night's works in 2013, we are sponsoring a website, the Colorado Literary Network, to promote Colorado authors. When ready, authors will be able to list their books, blog, and post calendar events. Our hope is to turn the site into a destination for bookies who like going to author events and who want to meet local authors.

Marketing

Thursday Night's big challenge is marketing. Just today I sat in on several forums covering marketing using Facebook, on Amazon, and with blogs. There is a lot to digest.


Well, that's it for now.