Conan the Grammarian is the first thing I read when I get the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ monthly newsletters. Now, to have it all in one place is a good thing – for every writer and reader. Here is Mark Stevens’ review and Q & A of author Susan Mackay Smith’s informative and fun book.
That’s the clarion call of one Conan The Grammarian, a.k.a. Susan Mackay Smith, who has been writing columns in the monthly newsletter from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for about ten years.
Now, Conan is out with a handy reference guide that distills those columns into an inspiring volume titled, handily enough, Conan the Grammarian, Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.
Remember Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation? This book would sit handsomely on your shelf alongside it and all your other writing resources.
Conan sets a high bar for writing. And writers. Cool plots, Conan argues, can be enhanced by the nuances of language.
But, fear not. This is a light (near breezy) read that will leave you feeling encouraged and emboldened, not depressed or over-anxious. In fact, Conan talks a good game but, in the end…
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The past four years have been an interesting experiment in the ways of writing a novel. The second book of my science fiction/fantasy series was published September 1, 2016 – just thirty days ago. The manner in which it was written was completely different from the first book and the third book is being written in yet a different method.
Book number one began many years ago as a short story when I was fourteen. Yep, ancient history since I am now approaching the great age of sixty. The Blood was written over decades as family life and circumstances allowed. The writing was basically linear. Start here, what happens next, and next, and next, and finally here is the end. The only major change was that the opening scenes were moved around a bit. Yet, it was still basically written from a beginning to an end.
Book two’s first draft took me thirty days to write thanks to NaNoWriMo in 2012. The challenge was to write fifty thousand words in thirty days! I figured I should try a different method of writing if I wanted to be alive when the second book got published. So while the first book was being looked at by my carefully chosen editor during November 2012 I took on the challenge of creating the base for the follow up novel, The Balance. I decided that instead of trying to be linear I would just write scenes that hopefully would come to me every day – and prayed that some of it would be good. I gave myself the freedom to write crappy stuff along with the amazing. I knew it would all be edited uncountable times in the future and so I wrote with abandon. And after thirty days I found I had scribbled over fifty two thousand words. I patted myself on the back and put it off to the side because the first book came back to me and there was a lot of work to do before publishing it.
While I found the process of writing whatever scenes popped into my head in the morning invigorating and joyful I struggled to NOT edit what I had written the day before. The discipline of just getting words down actually freed up my imagination and by the end of the month all sorts of surprising things occurred. Most important was the appearance of “the bitch in the corner.” All sorts of questions popped up when she showed up in a scene – rather she was standing in the shadows making snide comments to my antagonist and I had no idea where she’d come from. She intrigued me. I had not planned on her. And I believe that the free writing of the NaNoWriMo allowed her to come forward. If I had tried to write the second book linearly I am not sure she would have announced herself. It was not until after the first book was published and I returned to that very messy draft that I discovered she was actually in the first book as a very minor character. And while she is still a minor character in the second book she has come alive and will be featured more prominently in the third and fourth books. She is important. I am still learning about her. She fascinates me. She is going to be fun to write!
Soon after The Blood was published in May 2014, I realized the haphazard just-write-whatever-scene-you-want method I had employed with the first draft of The Balance was going to cause me all sorts of trouble. In order to bring order to that draft’s chaos I printed it, then physically cut each scene out, stapled it together and laid it on the carpet with a one sentence label of what happened. I studied each scene and arranged and rearranged the scenes until I felt it was almost in the correct order. While doing this I added colored notes of what I thought might be transitional scene yet to be written. Once that was complete I returned to the computer and painstakingly organized the electronic draft to match the sequence of scenes on the floor. I even posted those notes on a white board to get a condensed visual of the story. Over the next ten months I added another forty thousand or so words and it smoothed out. The Balance was published September 1, 2016.
Now as I begin work on the third installment of the series, The Blades, I am tackling the writing process in yet a different way. I still want the challenge and freedom of the NaNoWriMo but I also know, now, that I need a structure around which to build the story. So while reading a published electronic copy of The Balance this past month, I highlighted sections, questions, subplots, etc. and made notes as to which could be tied up in the third book and which ones will most likely be continued into the fourth title, The Seventh Stone. The ability to highlight and comment or make notes in the electronic version is giving me a template for scenes and topics as well as a rudimentary outline. I also have picked up a resource book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson, to help build the needed structure for the story and character arcs I have in mind. This being said, the vast difference between the decades long careful linear writing of The Blood and the crazy mad word gushing that NaNoWriMo allowed for the basis of The Balance, has a enabled me to be okay with a variety of methods to write a novel. To be honest, I enjoyed both and look forward to experimenting with a couple of other ways. Now when I am stuck I have a several things to try that will shake me out of whatever hole/rut I have dug.
What I am finding is that an author does not have to write each book or story in the same manner as the first. If you are open to and honestly try new ways you may discover new things about your characters and their stories. Don’t hobble your imagination by deepening your writing rut. Climb out, let go of the constraints, and try something different. If it doesn’t work – don’t have regrets and don’t retreat to the rut. Stay out and play with words.
Now the marketing work begins – or rather continues to ramp up. How am I marketing this entertaining second installment of The Stone’s Blade series? Here is a list of the things I have started:
First I had my book designer, Nathan, upload the print version of the book to Create Space and made it available on Amazon after approving the file. Then, with support from my eBook transformer, Helena, I learned how to upload the .mobi file to Amazon’s KDP program. That one took about four tries before I got it right but it did work after a good night’s sleep and a fresh outlook on the process.
Then I moved to Goodreads and created a Giveaway for five autographed copies to readers in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. I am running the Giveaway for a full month and three days in 138 people have entered. So take a moment and enter the Giveaway (see below for the link).
I have announced that The Balance is live and ready for reading on both my personal and business Facebook pages.
If you want to purchase a copy directly from me you only have to attend one of our dances. One benefit to doing that is you will receive a twenty percent discount. Granted none of the books I sell personally gets recognized on Amazon but that’s okay. I do receive a larger royalty by selling on my own too. And that helps my bank account. I am hoping that one day I will break even on this venture. At the moment that means selling between one and two thousand copies. And you can help by purchasing a copy or two (insert smiling face here!) for yourself, family and/or friends. To buy from Amazon click here.
If you enjoy reading this second installment please take a moment to post a brief review on Amazon and Goodreads. This way you are helping me spread the word.
Goodreads Book Giveaway
I thank you in advance for joining me on the continuing adventure of The Stone’s Blade series. Let me know what you think and share your thoughts. Help me celebrate!
How does one prepare to celebrate? In some ways it depends on what you are celebrating. It does not have to be a special occasion, it can be just because you are happy or you found an entertaining book. Of course finding an entertaining book is as easy as clicking through to Amazon and getting a free Kindle download. You are welcome to do just that: Click here. Of course the multiple award winning scifi/fantasy, The Blood: The Stone’s Blade, Book One, is available as a free download through August 15, 2016 in celebration of the upcoming publication of the second book in the series, The Balance: The Stone’s Blade, Book Two.
Scheduling this free download is the second step in celebrating. The first step was exhorting followers, friends, acquaintances, even family to pass on the word about the upcoming publication and that they should read or reread their copies of the first book. I have heard from several early purchasers of The Blood that they have reread it and that they found clues to the identity of The Balance and they are eager to find out if they are correct and how Ani and Renloret will find out who it is and then what happens next. They are pestering me with questions about the survival of the Anyala Stone and what is going to happen to Ani if it dies.
They will “read all about it” in the second book – well, at least most of it. I am already working on the third book of the series. And I guess that is another reason to celebrate.
I am thinking about updating the “About the Book” section on Amazon for The Blood to coincide with the upcoming release of The Balance. What do you think about the following?
Telepathic intelligent crystals known as Stones are the guardians of the Lrakiran people and when the first portion of a thousand year old prophecy comes true they choose Renloret to pilot the rescue mission to return the prophesied child, known as The Blood, to Lrakira. For it is only the blood of a five year old Lrakiran child born on far away Teramar that can save the Lrakiran people from extinction. When the rescue ship crashes on Teramar under mysterious circumstances leaving only Renloret alive he must race against time to find the child with the help of his own rescuer, Ani, her telepathic canine, Kela, and the local village sheriff, Taryn.
Renloret ignores first contact protocols and enlists the help of local people whose society and customs are eerily similar to those of Lrakira. He further breaks taboos when he finds himself falling in love with Ani. They must struggle against their mutual attraction so he can complete his vital mission. However Ani’s own issues complicate the search and Renloret must destroy Ani’s beliefs in order to save his species. In the process he will reveal the secret of Lrakira’s Stones and why the future of two worlds, Lrakira and Teramar, hang in the balance and, unknown to him, everything depends on Renloret.
The Blood is a great space opera about self-discovery tangled up in a prophecy deemed a fairy tale by the very people it was meant to save. This award winning science fiction/fantasy crossover is reminiscent of classic genre reads in the 1960s and 1970s “before they got harsh, cold and violent.” The Blood is a multi-category award winner placing 3rd Place in Science Fiction and 3rd Place in Fantasy in the 2014 Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s EVVY Awards.
The Blood is currently available on Amazon.com [click here] in your choice of ebook or paperback. I will be running a reduced price on the ebook at the same time The Balance, the second installment of The Stone’s Blade series, which comes out in the next month or so. Keep your eyes open for that announcement. The Blood can also be found at The Tattered Cover Book Store [click here], and there are still a few copies at The Bookworm, 211 N Main St, Gunnison, CO 81230. Join the journey as Ani, Kela, Renloret, and Taryn and the people of Teramar and Lrakira discover their past and then must decide whether or not to embrace their future.
Tell me what you think.
Seeking creative energy today pointed me to revisit past blogs. This in particular was posted just after “The Blood” was released two years ago. I wonder, again, about possibilities as “The Balance” closes in on release.
Today at my youngest daughter’s invitation I had the opportunity to attend the Denver Comic Con! Totally new experience. Observed everything, talked a little, listened a lot. There was even a weapons check-in area where all kinds of weapons were okayed to be carried (or not) in the convention center. I found that I wondered how people would dress up if they wanted to “be” one or more of the characters from The Stone’s Blade series. My daughter and I speculated by picking out costumed people. I decided that dressing up as one of the Stones would be the most difficult, though of course, you could carry them around. The interesting thing is the juxtaposition of space travel technology and the weapons being mainly swords and knives (Renloret hints that lasers are considered illegal as weapons). Oh, one positive is that I may have to get another dog to take around representing Kela (I…
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