Rob’s Ramblings: Climbing the Mountain

Greetings all

None Call Me Mother comes out tomorrow!

I keep talking about how much I’m excited about this release, and it’s all true. I have scaled this mountain.

There were times I doubted I’d make it. However, it’s here, and it’s good. One of the reasons I think many people become authors is that they want to write the stories they want to read. I have re-read all of this series in the past week and it’s my kind of story.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about some of the things I discovered while writing this series. This series, more than anything else I’ve written, changed my processes.

First and foremost, I screwed up at the start of all this. I’m a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants.

For the Edward stories, this works great. However, part of that’s because everything in those stories comes from the single window of the first person POV. The author can have a more limited view because both the character and the reader have that same limited view. We all expect certain things to happen off screen.

The Kreisens has a completely different structure. Yes, I want the character and the reader to have limited views, but for those limited views to mesh at the end required me to know everything behind those views.

I didn’t do this well.

I came close. I didn’t have to retcon anything important. I don’t see any huge plot holes, and neither did my editor. However, I missed opportunities for fun plants and hints in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I really regret. I also have great plot ideas that in the end I couldn’t use because to do so would have required major retconning I wasn’t willing to do.

So the first thing I will change the next time I write a multi-book story arc will be to either plot significantly (unlikely), or write all of it at once and release the trilogy (or whatever) in sequence with little need for change. A series is one kind of animal. A trilogy is another.

Second, my production process was flawed. Some of this was experience. I’ve gotten better at writing blurbs, for example. It’s its own craft and one I continue to practice.

However, I’ve never been pleased with myself in my original release of I Am a Wondrous Thing. A Lake Most Deep suffers from a number of issues, but that doesn’t bother me as much because it was my first book, and first books *always* have issues. Live, learn, get better.

But I Am a Wondrous Thing was book three and I just simply didn’t do a great job producing it. Of all my books, it had the most typos/mistakes. I would have made a much more active cover. It had the most extraneous words. The blurb wasn’t great.

It’s especially frustrating now because I see these things so clearly and at the same time I see a great story.

The good news about being an independent writer is I can fix some of these things relatively easily. Live, learn, get better, after all. I Am a Wondrous Thing made me do all three.

The biggest change was to add a verbal read-through editing pass. I now print off the entire book or short story and read it out loud (when the cats let me). While my editor does a great job, this pass lets me catch some things simply because I’m reading the page differently. Also, it helps me see words that aren’t necessary. Most importantly, I think, is it shows me when I’ve arranged a sentence badly, something I am wont to do. If I can’t read it out loud smoothly, then it needs to be rephrased or cut.

This one thing has dramatically improved the quality of my stuff, and I’ve done it with everything I’ve written ever since.

As part of the None Call Me Mother release, I wanted to make sure both I Am a Wondrous Thing and Brief Is My Flame matched.

So I did a verbal read-through editing pass on I Am a Wondrous Thing. It’s much stronger now, much sleeker. As I said, I didn’t retcon anything major, but I did add a few hints and plants that mesh better with the events in None Call Me Mother. In many cases, this was literally changing one word to another, even to the point of changing an “and” to a “but.”

Along the way, I also realized my method for novel organization had flaws. I like having a section where I can discuss the people who helped, things about the current book, and that sort of stuff. That’s why I wrote a Foreword in the first place. However, that gets in the way of the reader reaching the story. so I changed it to an Afterword.

All three novels now have the same internal structure on the electronic versions. There are some challenges to making that true for the print versions, but those will be completed by the end of the week, I think. All three will look and feel the same inside, except of course for the story itself.

Side note: This may or may not show up yet with existing readers by the way. There’s supposed to be an update feature with Amazon so you get the latest version. However, it’s not working on my copies, so I’ve sent them a message to ask what’s going on. Also, this obviously doesn’t change the physical copies. Keep those. They’ll be collector’s items someday.

In the past, I have put dates and locations on each chapter. I have also gotten feedback that this distracted the reader without really adding anything. Some of you will prefer having those details, and I will continue to make sure the time continuity works on my initial drafts, but they make the story ponderous at times.

A third thing getting in the way of readers were the wiki links.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the wiki is a great thing. For me, it’s a place to do my world-building, serves as my bible, and gives me a bunch of story ideas. For readers, it allows them a chance to really grok Shijuren. Again, my basic philosophy as a writer is to provide the content I want from those authors I love.

However, the links *in the prose* got in the way of some readers. Hence, I’ve done a compromise. The story itself has no links, but the appendices do.  It’s all in the wiki, and you can go directly to it from the appendices, but there’s no link distracting the reader in the middle of a sentence.

Readers are, after all, what’s important in all of this. All of these changes are based on comments made to me by you guys and I haven’t even touched on my changes to my prose. I continue to work toward streamlined, faster prose because again that’s easier to read, but I also strive to produce the books well. I’m getting there.

But I have scaled this particular peak. As of tomorrow, The Kreisens is a complete unit, freshly touched up, and fully annotated in a revamped and improved wiki. Best of all, I love it.

What a great thing to be able to say.

 

 

Rob’s Update: None Call Me Mother on Tuesday

Week 46 of 2020

Greetings all

None Call Me Mother will go live on Tuesday!

I’m really excited to complete this series. It’s been a long, educational, and stressful road, but it’s finally done. And it rocks.

There’ll be a number of posts this week about the release, along with a blog post on some of the changes in my production process.

As part of this, I am updating both I Am a Wondrous Thing and Brief is My Flame in order to match some of the new production values. If you have those, I’ll let you know to look for updates on your Kindle.

So it’s been a busy and really productive week around here.

I also started my yearly freebie story  for people on my mailing list, the second in the Nick Patara, PI stories. This one is entitled Upon a Midnight Clear.

By the way, the one I wrote for last year, Silent Knight, will be released on Amazon in December. So, if you’re not on my mailing list, you can still read this story, which I have to say is really fun.

Of course, if you  want it free, along with the new story on Christmas, just join my mailing list. You can subscribe on my website at: www.robhowell.org.

What I’m Listening To

A wretched hive of scum and villainy. Worse than the one you’re thinking of 😀

Quote of the Week

Robert Feldacker has written a number of fantastic songs. He graciously allowed me to quote one of my favorites in None Call Me Mother, because it fit perfectly with one tiny change. I suspect you’ll figure out the word I changed when you compare the title to the quote I used.

“Tall and mighty towers by the coast of the sea,
Raise their dark empty spires in forlorn misery.
Crumbling grain by grain to the cold ocean spray,
And cursing the Northmen as they wither away.”
– Robert Feldacker, Cursing the Normans

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (32,068)
  • ACP (10,077)
  • Upon a Midnight Clear (1,812)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Lots more Wiki additions, now up to about 500 entries.

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on William Joseph Roberts, who just released another entry in the Fallen World universe entitled Wildcat: Foreclosure of a Dream. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NSYFCZK.

Today’s Weight: 352.6

Updated Word Count: 245,112

Shijuren Wiki: 496 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Great Feast for Ravens

Week 45 of 2020

Greetings all

What a really productive week here in Robland. I finished my read-through of None Call Me Mother, and I’ll have all the tweaks and details finished on the manuscript no later than Monday. Probably tomorrow. That’s even with taking time off today to game.

It was actually the swiftest verbal read-through I’ve had so far, in part because I kept wanting to read more. I still cry at the spots I want to cry at and I get excited in the battle scenes. One of the reasons I think writers start writing is they want the kind of fiction they want to read themselves. I love this series. I’ve hated writing it at times, but now it’s something I’m really proud of.

I also had time this week to finish another Shijuren story, this one set in Achrida involving Edward and the characters there. It’s a twist though. Let’s just say, I chose the most unlikely, most reluctant hero I could think of for my entry in the anthology. Anyway, it needs editing, but it’s not vaporware.

Speaking of which, I got completely caught up on that, too. What a week. We even decided upon a title. The title of Libri Valoris II will be: Songs of Valor.

I did some work on the wiki, too, of course, though a lot of it was to create links and placeholders to finish a hyperlinked version of the manuscript. That’s what I’m going to be doing today.

I stacked a lot of productive days this past week and it’s time for me to start on next week.

What I’m Listening To

Songs from the Wood by Jethro Tull. It should come as no surprise that I really enjoy Tull’s weird combination of music. Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day is in my top 10 ever.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from the Ruriksaga. What’s the Ruriksaga? Glad you asked. It’s the story of how Periaslavl came to be in Shijuren. I thought it was time to use my poetry skills again so I added part of it to the story.

Volodomyr spoke,            son of Rurik
Here my father fell,          fated for Woden’s hall
Our ring-giver gifted        great feast for ravens
His spear shattered          his sword sundered
In the flickering                 of flame’s glory
We shall remember           rightly of his deeds
Now feed to fire’s wrath   my father’s life-house
And here a hall                  high shall we raise
He shall be called              king in mind-songs
Ruriksaga

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (32,068)
  • ACP (10,077)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Lots of Wiki Additions.

Upcoming Events

New Releases

The first new release is from a very old friend, Kirsten Tautfest. I remember us not quite being of age drinking at Kirby’s, still one of the coolest bars ever. Anyway, she just released the 15th in her Red Tales series, called Red Tales: Compartment Syndrome. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08N5L1Q6J/.

There’s also a new 4HU story out this week! This one is by Casey Moores, and it’s got a new company that has a different mission than all the other merc units. It’s called These Things We Do: The Story of Bull, and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08N5ZJRYV.

Today’s Weight: 353.8

Updated Word Count: 244,421

Shijuren Wiki: 376 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Invisible To Telescopic Eye

Week 44 of 2020

Greetings all

My big news is that I’ve been confirmed as an attending pro at DragonCon. Yes, it happened last year and rolled over, but it’s still nice getting confirmation.

It’s been a week of multiple steps forward and several steps back on my anthology short story. I know the starting and I know the end, but I’m having trouble making the path work. Getting closer, though.

None Call Me Mother is almost done. I’m in the part where I read it out loud, and I’m over a third done with the read. I’ll have the draft done this next week, except for any changes my advance readers suggest.

I also started working on my freebie story for readers on my mailing list. I introduced the main character, Nick Patara, PI in Silent Knight, last year.

Basically a week of various projects. The kind of week where I know I made progress on many things, but don’t have finished products yet.

So I better get back to work.

What I’m Listening To

The live version of Cygnus X-1 by Rush from Different Stages. There’s so much wonderful about this song. Yes, this my be why my cars are always named Rocinante.

Quote of the Week

Today is Marie Curie’s birthday, so here you go.

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty.”
– Marie Curie

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (32,068)
  • KAT (5,503)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AOOE (1,030)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Much more progress on the Wiki. Up to 271 entries now and I’ll have more done later tonight.

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on Alex Rath, who has a new book out called The Seeds of Terra. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MPP64TD.

Also this week, if you don’t already have A Fistful of Credits, the first Four Horsemen Universe anthology, there’s a Bookbub promotion going on right now and it’s only 99 cents. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073HXKZXN/.

Today’s Weight: 354.6

Updated Word Count: 241,581

Shijuren Wiki: 301 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org