Why is one piece of music so linked to my writing of my sci-fi series?

And so, once again, timing appears to be everything. I often listen to a collection of classical and folk music while I write (it is almost seven hours long). I usually listen to the same play list but I had chosen my secondary list for today’s writing session. Had not listened to it for many months. So I was surprised at the tears that came today while writing a particularly emotional scene and I recognized that a different orchestration of a specific piece of music was playing while I wrote this emotionally charged scene. I did not know I had two orchestrations of Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor/Major. (Yep, one is in G Major and the other in G minor) The one on my usual play list is with James Galway playing the flute as the lead instrument with lots of organ. The other list has it in G Major with a violin playing the lead. The intensity of the violin lead was more subtle, thus the reason I did not immediately recognize the piece, but still it brought me to tears and the timing of it astonishes me. I must “need” to have that piece at certain times to bring about the appropriate emotional response in me to get the words right. I hope readers will get as emotional as I do when they read this scene. And if this series is ever made into a movie, Albinoni’s Adagio will have to be part of the sound track. (see below for interesting facts)
And I am awed by the fact that this piece has consistently played when I need it. I have never planned to play it or timed my writing so it plays at a particular moment. It just appears. And this time it was on a collection and in an orchestration I didn’t even know or remember that I have. Perhaps the Stones of Lrakira, Teramar, and Thiwa’he have something to do with it. (Wouldn’t put it past them, but how do they do it?)
I wonder if other writers have similar experiences. How does your environment, particularly music affect your writing? Does it? What are your favorites?

Oh, hey, guess what? I did a little research and this piece has a confusing, controversial, and sordid past. Kind of fun to read about. It has been used often in movie soundtracks and has been adapted for a variety of instrumentations and keys. Does this really matter in my case? No. It does not matter to me who composed it. What matters to me is that it has provided background emotion and tension when I am writing tense and emotional scenes. And it freakishly comes on without my planning or expecting it to. The fact that one of the recordings I have is adapted for violin and orchestra in G Major (thus the reason it is less intense and therefore was more difficult for me to recognize until I reached the end of the scene at the end of the piece and I realized I was crying. The G Minor piece with James Galway’s version adapted for organ & Flute, which is in the collection list I most often have listened to while writing is way more intense and heart rending – my opinion. Should this lead us to discuss how minor and major musical keys affect an audience and the overall ambiance of a musical piece?). Enjoy reading about this controversial piece of music. Google Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor and listen to a variety of renditions then choose your favorites and use them to set the mood for your next scene.

The Joys of Being Read To, Reading aloud,

Or listening to audio books

I have vivid memories of being read to by parents and teachers while growing up, and occasionally my husband will read aloud to me some article he thinks or knows I would be interested in. My sixth grade teacher read aloud to the entire class every Friday afternoon for the last twenty minutes of the school day. I remember her reading Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, The Yearling, and Old Yeller. There was not a dry eye in the classroom on that one. We wouldn’t miss a Friday! My mother continued to read to my siblings and me when we arrived home on college breaks! And I always listened in when she read to my children. As a narrator my mother was a marvel – her soothing energetic voice as she read “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Secret Garden” among many others kept me engaged from an early age to well into my fifties. I miss listening to her read aloud.

I have read aloud to friends and family while they were hospitalized or sick – most often I let them choose what they want to hear- and even performed readings to college speech and writing classes. And for the past three years I have been an active listener to audio books – most often checked out from my local library and loaded to my phone through an app. I listen to these during my weekly hour and a half (or more) drives to and from Fort Collins to visit my father.

As a writer I have deliberately chosen to listen to books outside of my main writing genre and find I enjoy thrillers and historical romances. The thrillers I share with my husband as we drive long distances to various dance events or vacations. I’ve also discovered how the narrator makes a huge difference in my listening pleasure. **A side note here for self published authors: the decision on who your narrator is if you are looking to create an audio version of your latest, or first, book, is crucial. I have actually stopped listening to a series because someone made the decision to change the narrator halfway through the series. Listeners become accustom to particular narrators and how they portray the characters, so beware and choose the voice carefully.

There is an episode of “MASH” in which Colonel Potter is reading aloud to a group of Korean children from a local orphanage or village. What was he reading? Not some children’s selection but the instructions on how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the machine guns the soldiers were issued. I loved the way that his voice inflections carried ‘the story’. It was not the words which were important, it was the sound of the story that captured the children’s attention. What really caught my attention and made a lasting impression on me was that after he had ended the story for the children he took the book back to his own bed and continued to read. It was the manner in which it was read that peaked his own interest and desire to continue to read a mundane and usually dry topic. When I first saw that episode, I was in high school and I was so intrigued I decided to try reading my history textbook in a similar manner. Reading aloud to myself, in the manner of telling a story, was an interesting and worthwhile experiment. Not only did I remember better but I began to look forward to reading each assignment. I scored better on tests, too!

Now, as an author, I will often read aloud troublesome sections of a draft or manuscript. It’s not just reading the words, plodding through, you do have to put some energy into it, as if you are reading to someone else. Even after four or more rounds of editing I will read the entire manuscript aloud and will often find that a certain sentence just does not sound right even though it reads correctly. My editor and I have fun rewording those so the words flow better.

As I mentioned earlier, I do appreciate audio books while driving. The drives seem to be much shorter and I am less stressed than when I listen to the radio – they keep interrupting the music with advertisements or news. However, sometimes I have been so engrossed in listening that I have missed an exit or turn. These are usually easy to correct and give me a few more minutes of entertainment!

Do you have memories of being read to? Do you read aloud to yourself or others? Do you listen to audio books? Who will you read to tonight?

Get an Editor, not a friend, to help before you publish.

A new fiction writer recently asked how long she should spend editing her manuscript before she published it. She’d been editing for the past year and felt like she’d never get it good enough to publish.

This was my answer. First – don’t publish until after you have at least one other person look it over. They should be familiar with your chosen genre and have experience in editing such. Not necessarily a family member or friend – however they may become a friend (a bonus). Second – Check out a local or regional writing/publishing resource group such as Colorado Independent Publishers Association, CIPA at http://www.cipabooks.com for a list of their service providers – editors, writing coaches, web designers, illustrators, cover designers, photographers, ebook conversion specialists, small publishers, etc. Do some research to find the correct or best person to be an editor and/or writing coach. Ask for help.

As a fiction writer, I spent years editing my first book on my own until I joined CIPA, then after six months of watching, listening, and talking with the wide variety of service providers and other authors at each meeting, I connected with my editor and writing coach. Eighteen months later I published my first book (a multiple awarding winning science fiction/fantasy crossover). Two years later my second book reached publication (also an award winner), and then three years after that, in November 2019, my third book was published. I’ve been outlining the fourth book the past two months and finally broke down and called my editor. The benefit of working with the same editor for three books is that she understands the story, sometimes better than I do, and she knows how to spur my imagination into some amazing possibilities. Two hours and ten minutes later I now have a strong idea of how to start and end the book and have some solid ideas on how to fill in the middle. I’m excited, no longer frustrated. I’m eager to begin the next project – the fourth book of the core quartet of my science fiction series.

One thing I learned with the first book is that you can edit forever and never publish and even after you publish a book you’ll always find things you wish you had done differently or better – but, if you have done due diligence to the story, the characters, and you as a writer, by getting outside input, editing and coaching, then it is probably as good as it can possibly be and you have to let go, publish it, and then with all the new skills you have learned you can start writing the next, and the next, and the next – each one will need editing by you and at least one other person. And each one will be better.

And, yes, it will cost money. Respect your time and efforts, get the third eye on your manuscript – learn how to make it better and writing the next one better will be easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep learning. Good luck.

When do you know your manuscript is ready for that “other” editor to take a look at it? When do you know it’s ready to be published?

System Updates.

I very much dislike (hate is possibly too strong a word so I’m going to go with dislike) computer system updates. You have to get out of everything, and sometimes, you forget where you were once you are able to get back into whatever long list of programs, WIP, etc. that you had sitting on the lower bar that you could just click on and it would pop up and you could start working. But that lower bar is empty now and you have to go to the file/folder list to see if what you remember working on is listed. Of course one reason you can’t find the EXACT copy of what you thought you had been working on is because you’ve forgotten the actual name you gave the document or file and when you bring up those that have the most recent last modified dates they don’t look anything like what you remember. Aarrgg.

So now you have opened ALL of those and they still don’t look familiar and you feel like you have to start all over. Which, you rationalize, is probably a good thing but you’re going to reread each document anyway – maybe even print them out so you can shuffle them around until they make some sense (not really). But you do find some good stuff and you retype them onto a blank page and find a way to begin again. And you assume it will be better – until your editor sees it months from now and you have to rewrite it all anyway. Ah, the life of a writer who is only marginally adequate with all this technology, and is constantly concerned that she’s going to lose, forever, the best stuff.

So, after last night’s system update this is where I am. At the beginning, again, and I hope it is better.

Should Questions and Minor Formatting Problems Delay Publication?

After months or even years of working on a book you are finally ready for publication. You are thrilled to have it done! It will be so amazing to hold the finished product in your hands. You can hardly wait any longer, but . . . you hesitate. Fear has frozen you in place, finger a millimeter above the keyboard.

You tell yourself “All I have to do is click on that ‘Order Your Proof Copy’ or ‘Publish’ button and I’m done.” “Are you?” you ask. You nod. Yes. And a little fear nudges into that little crack you didn’t know was there. You try to push past and reach for the Enter key on the keyboard. In a rush, the questions come: You’ve done your best, right? Your editor has been great and hasn’t missed a single thing, hasn’t he? Your full cover has everything, doesn’t it? The interior design looked perfect, right? All the sections on Bowker for the ISBN are filled in correctly, right? What about the official Copyright with The Library of Congress? You posted an announcement of your accomplishment, didn’t you? Where? On Goodreads, your Amazon Author page (is it set up?), your personal Facebook page as well as your business page (do you have a business page?), What about LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, . . . oh gods, you suddenly think about all that still has to be done now that the book is done. You jerk your hand away from the keyboard letting panic replace the excitement and joy of publishing. You’ve been busy writing, rewriting, and rewriting, so when have you had time to do all of that?

For independently publishing authors this is a crisis moment. And whether you believe it or not, it will happen with everything you publish, not just the first book. You will always second guess, always want to do more editing. Every time you see your work in a different format you will find things you’ll want to change. The important thing for you to do when this happens is to Stop and Think whether those changes truly matter. I was encouraged to change the font of my manuscript while I was working on the third major wave of editing. I was amazed at the number of errors I found. Even saving the Word Document as a PDF changed how I saw it. (How could I, my editor, and beta readers have missed all those missing quotation marks?) It was enlightening and delayed my publication goal by almost two weeks while the text was reviewed more closely one more time.

Now, I did manage to get one proof copy of my third book, The Blades, in my hands before I got stopped once more. Through all of changes I was not prepared for the formatting of the glossary that was in that proof copy. I did not notice the difference in the PDF nor in any of the Word documents. It was different than the glossary in the second book in two ways. Was it really a problem? Yes and no. Could I live with it? Maybe. So, thinking that if I could live with it, I moved on to ordering a proof copy from KDP. And once again I was stopped – for reasons I still don’t understand but I took this as a sign that I needed the formatting to be corrected to match that found in the second book. Why waste money on another proof copy when I knew this was something I knew should be corrected. However, this again moved The Blades’ publication date to mid-November, if my interior designer could correct it in a day or two.

Everything else is good and excitement returns, but that excitement is tempered with the certainty of my decision. Is there truly a rush to get this wonderful story into the hands of my readers? They think so. And that encourages me to get this done right.

The fear and panic of all those questions has been pushed back. I can return to the list and crosscheck what’s been completed and what has not. I know not quite all are checked off, but most of them are. I know that even though this is my third book I am still learning. And I thank the gods and the Stones of Lrakira and Teramar I’m still capable of learning. Sometimes there are good reasons to NOT push that ‘Publish’ button, to take just a bit longer to ensure that your readers will be pleased with your finished product. You don’t have to do everything at once, but be sure to do the really important things – write a good story, get it well edited, get a good cover, get the LCCN and ISBN set up, etc. Then you can push that publish button and get excited to hold your book and show it proudly to your readers – Now You Can Sell It!

Addendum: the paperback version of The Blades: The Stone’s Blade, Book Three went live on Amazon on November 20, 2019. I’m so excited!!!! Please join me.

Is earning money the only sign of success? Can I afford getting help to be successful?

I’m not very good at spending money – well actually I could be VERY good at it but I don’t have enough to be as “free” with it as I’d like, most especially when it comes to my writing. I know I need assistance in doing better at marketing, promoting, blogging, updating my website, going to conventions or author signings, etc. but that all takes money that I’d rather be spending on editing, book designs, etc. I know I write good to great stuff but how do I convince myself that to sell more of it, get “it” out to more people I have to spend even more money – I still haven’t broken even on the first book (though we’re closing in on it) after five years.

I see all these other wonderful authors going to genre conventions, huge author events, paying for reviews and author signings all while seemingly writing 20 hours a day. Are they selling enough to break even? And I find myself even asking if my writing is as good as theirs (doesn’t matter if they aren’t writing in the same genre or not). Some are doing multiple events each week – I cannot do that (or can I?). I’m overwhelmed at the thought of spending that much money and maybe selling a half dozen books (I’m also terrified of success and selling out and then what do I do) I truly wish them all well and great success but is that me? Maybe? Yes? No? Not now? Yes, I love writing and I love my husband and the dancing that we teach and lead – and I don’t want to do just one thing. I am more than the dancing, more than my writing, more than my family. I AM ALL OF THEM. So how do I do more so I can concentrate on those AND earn enough money to pay back to our accounts all I’ve spent so far and have yet to spend, all in the pursuit of what I love?

Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

Does success have to take money? That asked, I have to ask what is success? When our girls were growing up we told them that “Success was finding something you were passionate about and then finding someone to pay you to do it.” I am passionate about my writing, about the dancing, and about my family and friends. I don’t need to be paid to love my family and friends. I do get paid a little bit for my part in our dance business (husband makes the big bucks but I now bring in additional income that qualifies me as a solid partner in that business). And, I do receive income from my books but while that certainly is welcome I’d love to be receiving ten to one hundred times as much (wouldn’t we all?). And in the process we are investing thousands every year just to get these books to the publishing stage. Once published I must spend more to market them on social media, keep my website up to date, get proper copyright and other identifying numbers, purchase resource material and take classes on how to do almost everything better or different to get attention, keep my Square payment devices up to date, and pay for proper business and sales tax licensing for wherever I am selling my books. And in the state of Colorado that is a nightmare! That’s just a start.

Am I depressed about all the money that seems to go out and the smidgen that comes back? Sometimes. However, there is a little more non-monetary balance that shows up when a new reader wants to talk about a character or story line or when the next book is coming out or what else am I going to write about. Sharing their excitement is a weird kind of payment. Though it doesn’t fill the coffers, it does fill my heart and soul and makes me want to get back to writing more as fast as I can and to **** with the money side of the equation.

Be assured, if I was doing this for the money I’d be in the wrong business. There is more to being happy in what I do than getting paid to do it. So, in some ways, success has nothing to do with money. But I’ll be honest, I’d just like to figure out how to get more people buying/reading my books. It would be a plus if they’ll talk about how much they like the books/stories. Of course, reviews on Amazon might help but that’s not the end-all either.

So however rambling this one has been I still have not come up with an answer. And, perhaps, that’s more of a good thing than a bad thing. I’m not locked into one way of succeeding and maybe I do need to learn how to judiciously spend money and get specific help – if I can just figure out what exact help I need and can afford.

Name That Planet Contest deadline extended!

The deadline for entries has been extended to December 31, 2019 due to the delayed publication of the third book, which is looking more like October 2019. 😒 I’d like to give readers a chance to read The Blades and then consider their entries. I am fascinated by language and words so I am intrigued with how others might create names – especially in science fiction and fantasy so please include your reasons for your entry. If you just want a chance at a free book and your name listed, I’m okay with that!

Name That Planet Contest – This contest to decide on the name of the home world of the Stones that will appear in the fourth book, The Seventh Stone, (currently in the outlining phase). Please send your choice(s)  along with the following information:

  1. The name with proposed pronunciation.
  2. The word’s origin –
    • Is it completely made up?
    • Does it come from another language (include the meaning in that language)?
    • Is it a derivative of a word (misspelled, some letters exchanged or rearranged).
  3. Why do you think it fits in The Stone’s Blade series universe?

The winner’s name and the name of the planet will be announced in January 2020. You can enter more than one name with your entry and you can enter multiple times. Deadline for entries is December 31, 2019. This will give contestants time to get a copy of the third book and learn a bit more about the role of this third planet. Contest winner’s name and their reasoning for it will be included in the acknowledgement in the fourth book and they will receive a complimentary copy of The Seventh Stone when it is published and samples of “Melli’s” tea – seven individual tea bags, one for each of the Stones.

I hope those who enter have read at least the first two books of the series, The Blood and The Balance. Leave a reply here or email me with questions and/or your entry(ies) at Allynn@timberdark.com. Please put “Name That Planet Contest” in the subject line.

HAVE FUN! I hope to hear from you soon.

Naming contest

Help me name the origin planet of the Lrakiran and Teramaran people. I need word, pronunciation, meaning if any, is it based on known word/language or is it totally “made up”? Why you think it would fit in this universe. If I find a winner they will receive complimentary copies of book #3, The Blades coming out soon, and, of course, a copy of and recognition in book #4, The Seventh Stone. Runners ups may be used for any other character – prizes for those are being considered (re: samples of “Melli’s tea”, mugs with book covers and/or quotes from each of the books. What would you like?). You have until September 1, 2019. Ready? Begin.

Contact me here in the comments section. Please give me your first name and a good, safe, email address. Let me know if you have read the first two books of the series – that will help you.

Have fun.

Pre-release Review of The Blades!

Last month I was notified that a pre-release review of The Blades was posted on a book review site, Fresh Fiction under their Science Fiction/Romance and Science Fiction/Suspense-Thriller sections. I finally figured out how to get the specific link so here it is: http://freshfiction.com/review.php?id=68398 The finished product is slated to come out August 1, 2019 if all goes according to plan.

THE BLADES by Allynn Riggs review ISBN-0991000242 ISBN13-9780991000241 A spectacular treat for SF fans in the third book of the quartet Reviewed by Clare O’Beara
Thank you Ms. O’Beara for your review. Now is the time you should go back and reread The Blood and The Balance to remind yourself – I promise you’ll find stuff during the reading that you probably missed that will make The Blades even better.
I will let you know the exact date of publication but we truly are aiming at August 1, 2019. Come join us on this epic adventure.

Another 5 Minute Tip -Importance of a great cover.

Here is an five minute tip from Colorado Independent Publishers Association Marketing Chair, Cassy. If you believe you have written a great story, had it edited, and now you want to hurry to get a cover on it so you can publish it next week, I suggest you take a breath and not hurry this decision. Some authors believe that the cover is the least important ingredient to publishing a great book. Yes, it is easy to scroll across the internet and find an image or two that might fit your book and it will only cost you between nothing and up to $100. And then you can slap it on your lovely text and call it good. Well, maybe not.

I have actually seen the exact same cover on two different books – in different genres! It was so generic that the only reason I remembered it was that it was in different genres (one in the Science Fiction shelves and the other on the Romance shelf – I’m not kidding)  I actually grabbed a copy from the sci/fi and compared it to the romance. That’s when I knew it was a cut and paste. I should have written down the authors so I would be sure to NOT read them. If they cared so little about their books presentation I wondered if they had cared about all the rest. I did read the back cover blurb and was not impressed with either one so I was doubly doubtful and will not waste my money or time – just like they wasted theirs.

If you respect yourself and what you write enough to get an editor to help you bring it up to the best possible story, you should do the same with its visual presentation. Of course, you can beat the odds and land a great cover from Fiver and you can also spend thousands and end up with a crappy cover. I’m asking you to respect yourself and your talents enough to do your books the best way possible. Your book’s appearance gets less than ten seconds to grab the attention of a possible reader – make the best of it. Give them an image from the interior text that will have them opening it up and diving in.

Here’s the link:  https://www.facebook.com/CIPABooks.Denver/videos/325582118069067/?mc_cid=57a5ce1461&mc_eid=772287c368

Take five minutes and consider the wide range of options you have available – particularly if you are self publishing. Respect your characters and their story enough to intrigue possible readers with an iconic cover. The same goes for any interior illustrations you might want.



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