Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Series ends

No, not mine. This post actually came about because I read a book last night that represented the end of a series. Usually, if I’ve stuck with a series all the way, I feel regret to see it end. In this case, not so much. The reasons why are things I hope I can keep in mind as I work on my own series and bring them to an end.

I’m going to start by noting that this series is one of several from a best selling and traditionally published author. I started reading this particular series from her by accident. How, you ask, did that happen? Easy. I wasn’t careful when checking her Amazon author page and wound up buying one of the books in the series when I was actually looking for a book in another series.

That’s problem number one. The series titles (two different series) were close enough to cause confusion, at least to a sleep addled, pre-coffee brain. But, that’s okay. I enjoyed the book. Not as much as others she’d written but not every book can be hit out of the park.

Anyway.

What I came to wonder as I read the books in this particular series is simple. The series was set in the same town as another series. The characters from that series made appearances in the new series. Some of the characters in the second series were related to characters in the first.

Okay, that’s fine. I’ve seen it happen before and it has been done well in some cases and not so much in others. This series, unfortunately, would have done better (in my opinion) by completely removing it from the first series. There were simply too many similarities between characters and plot points. Add in the same basic setting and, by the end of the series, it felt as if the author was just phoning it in.

I get falling in love with your characters or setting but you can’t do it at the expense of putting out new and interesting material.

There were two other issues I had with not only this series but the other one. When you write a book, or books, where your lead female character is initially a strong, independent woman, don’t turn her into someone who no longer is capable to looking after herself just because a man has now come into her life. Sure, having a partner, male or female, will change a person’s life and how they think about things. After all, you are no longer the only person you have to think about when planning a course of action. But going from independent to dependent without cause is one of the surest ways to drive readers away.

I will admit, the author didn’t do it as much in this second series as she did in the first. For one, the women in this second series were more flawed than in the first. However, that made it all the more glaring when she did it in the last couple of books with the most independent of her female characters. Especially in the last book. Suddenly, the one woman who had been the rock turned to anything but, at least for the first half of the book. The foreshadowing of the earlier books in the series led to one secret, but it was minor. There had been nothing to prepare the reader for the real “weakness” in the character. Considering the relationship between her and the other characters in the series, this threw me out of the book.

I guess this is all a way of reminding myself of what not to do when I start wrapping up my different series. The last book needs to be as satisfying — if not more so — than the first. Otherwise, the reader will hesitate to buy anything else from that author. I know that, after two series endings that were disappointments because of the way the characters were developed and the plots were rolled out, I will hesitate to buy anything else from this particular author. Sort of the old “fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” adage. I hope none of my readers ever feel that way.

*

If you have ever wondered what an author most wants, it’s reviews. So give an author a gift today. Write a review and post it to Amazon and, if you are so inclined, on your blog or Facebook. It really does help.

Awesome Review

I rarely link to or post  a review from Amazon but I couldn’t pass up this one. Pat Patterson is one of those reviewers who always tells it like it is. He also, when the mood strikes, can give you a review that is so full of humor and snark that you smile even as you wait for the shoe to drop. Needless to say, I always look forward to him reviewing my work and hold my breath until I see what he thinks. That’s especially true with Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

So, you can imagine my excitement this morning when I saw this comment in one of the Facebook groups we’re both in.

“I have to make this note, and then GO TO BED! “Dagger of Elanna” by Amanda S. Green is so richly written, its a feast. GREAT things are afoot!”

I hoped that meant he would like the rest of the book but, paranoid writer that I am, I still held my breath until I saw his review go live on Amazon.

I  obtained this book through the Kindle Unlimited program.

I was hooked from the first scene. Actually, I suppose I was hooked BEFORE the first scene, since I read the first book in the series, ‘Sword of Arelion,” and loved it. But here’s what hooked me:

The book opens in a winter-soaked woodland. Through the biting cold and snow trudges a poor, pathetic man, who wonders if he will be able to reach a place where he can get warm before he freezes to death. He worries about his horse.

A sympathetic character, right?

WRONG!! He’s an evil murderous creator of monsters, sent on a mission to spy and assassinate. He’s NOT a nice guy!

Well, he has a family, and he’s afraid for them as well, but still: it’s a great curve ball. I was all set up to be sad at the poor dude, and was somewhat shocked to find such a soft intro brought me face to face with such a bad guy.

NICELY DONE!

More than what it tells us of this particular person is what it tells us about the nature of the deep, secret Bad Guy: he is inclined to use blackmail and threats to loved ones to motivate people he finds in his grasp.

On the other hand, we have Cait. She is the actual hero, no fooling, of the book: a paladin of sorts, with the divine marks of power and favor on her. She has been made third in command of the Order, based on the clear approval of the Lord and Lady, who are the ethereal Good Guys.

At the end of the last book, Cait was still without memory of her origins. Her first recollection was waking up in a slaver’s tent. However, she gets it all back in this episode. Not going to reveal what it is that she learns about herself, because I don’t want to spoil things.

In one well-written scene after another, bad guys get vanquished; people of weak-will get to find their courage; assassins of various good guys are foiled, and good people discover the eternal truth that if you do well, your reward is a tougher job.

The book is HUGE; 591 pages, I think. It drags not at all, though. It has a great storyline, and the characters have enough depth to make them real.

Reviews like this are part of why I write. I love knowing I’ve taken a reader on a journey he enjoyed. So, Pat, thanks so much for the awesome review.

You can find Pat’s blog here.

 

 

Of print and digital and all that jazz

One of my goals over the next month is to not only get Dagger of Elanna released in print but to make sure I have updated print editions of all my novels up for sale. The problem with this is not knowing what Amazon is doing right now. Createspace is still in place — or it was last week when I last checked. But Amazon also has a new service through your KDP dashboard where you can set up your print book there as well. The problem being this new setup doesn’t have all the same functionality and benefits as Createspace does.

But what has me wondering if I ought to just wait a bit is the fact you can now transfer your books from Createspace over to this new print side of KDP. Does that mean Amazon is going to phase out Createspace? If so, do I want to set everything up over there and then have to transfer it over to KDP, risking something going wrong?

And there are things that can go wrong. The first thing is that they are already saying there may be issues with the covers set up for Createspace not necessarily working with this new interface. I don’t want to have to recreate my cover flat — or ask my cover artist to do it.

Then there is the potential of the interior files not printing the same way for the new venture they did for Createspace. So, you can see my quandary.

There’s another reason why I’m hesitating on doing quick re-releases of some of the print books. Setting up new print files as well as new cover flats takes time away from writing and editing, both of which I not only need to do but want to do. That seems to be my constant conflict as a writer. I’d rather write than do the promo work I should, the “business stuff” that needs to be done, etc. But it will be done. I’ve just got to decide whether to wait a bit longer and see what Amazon has up its sleeve or not.

And no, I am not interested in going with Lightning Source right now. It is wasted money because I don’t make that much on print books and, at the moment, can get author’s copies for less from Createspace than from LS.

As for digital, there are a couple of books I want to do re-issues of when I have time to go back and look at them. No, nothing major will change, but covers need to be updated and new back material put in. All of that takes time, something I don’t have an incredible amount of right now.

Why?

Because the writing is starting up quicker this time after finishing a book than it usually does. Hopefully, that’s a good sign. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through Nocturnal Rebellion and it is a fun book to write. I’m hoping you guys enjoy it as much as I am so far.

Now I need to run. I have an appointment in a few minutes. When I get back, I’m hoping to update my main site. I’m liking the new look of the blog and hope you do as well. In the meantime, tell me what you’re reading. I need something new to read before bed.

Later!

Back to Work

At least I think I am. I still need to decide on new themes for this site as well as my “official” site. But that’s the sort of thing I can do when I take a break from writing. I’ll be honest, I hate doing that sort of thing. To me, it’s like picking a fabric for a sofa or chair from a swatch or tile for a floor based on one single tile. I simply can’t visualize what it will look like until it’s installed. So, I tend to postpone it until I can’t stand it any longer.

Fortunately, writing isn’t like that. Writing is, to me, as important to my existence as is breathing. Oh, I can do for days without actually putting words to paper (or onto a hard drive). But that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t working on something even as I’m doing something else.

I’ve found some of my best brainstorming is done when I’m busy working with my hands — digging in the yard, building something, painting. Those almost mindless physical activities allow my creative side to run wild. So, that has been part of what I’ve been doing in the week since I released Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2).

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. Part of it is because I have to keep busy or I will continually flip between the product page and the sales page to see how the book is doing. Most authors, if they’re being honest, feel that same tug. So we find ways to distract ourselves.

However, it’s helped as well because I needed to finalize in my head where Nocturnal Rebellion is going and if this would be the last book to feature Mackenzie Santos. Before anyone writes a nasty comment, no, it isn’t going to be the last book (assuming you guys like it and want more). But it will be the last book in the overall story arc that was hinted at from the beginning and really took root two books ago. And that is all I’m going to say about that. Otherwise, I’ll get into spoilers.

It has also allowed me to figure out how I’m going to move forward with the Eerie Side of the Tracks series and tie it in more closely with Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). The solution, when it came to me, surprised me but in a good way. The one thing it means is there is a very definite publication order that has to be followed. Now to make the notes so I don’t forget anything.

Not to worry, I finished working out in my head what needs to be done with the very rough draft of Victory from Ashes and figured out the plot for Battle Wounds, the next short story in the Honor and Duty universe.

What this means is I’m going to be doing a hell of a lot of writing for the rest of the year. I like it that way. Of course, I know Myrtle the Evil Muse will ambush me somewhere along the way and disrupt my schedule. She always does. But that’s okay. Just don’t tell her that. I don’t want to give her ideas.  😉

Of computers and real life

Oh joy. There is one thing every writer fears — the loss of their work computer. It doesn’t matter if it’s due to a failing hard drive or something else. We worry about hours of work suddenly disappearing. That’s why I’m obsessive about making sure I have backups in multiple formats and on different media. Not that it helps me right now.

You see, my work machine, which is less than a year old, has been a bit problematic since I bought it. At first it was issues with the wireless. Even though I had it set to auto connect to the home network, more often than not, I’d have to manually connect. Then there was the little known feature of Windows 10 that set power saver options to turn off the wireless unless you were actively working basically all the frigging time AND the laptop was plugged in to a power source. The latter was easily fixed. The former took time.

Now, over the last several weeks, the bluetooth decided to go AWOL on me. Multiple calls to tech support, which included updating drivers and then removing drivers and reinstalling drivers followed by factory resets (2 of them) and the problem only getting worse, followed. Finally, it went from the laptop being discoverable by other devices but not being able to discover any to a power failure error. So, this morning I am trekking off to the local FedEx office to send the laptop back to Asus for repair.

And, from past experience, I’ll be 2 to 3 weeks without my work machine.

So, I’m not a happy camper, especially not when I think about how much I paid for the laptop. Still, it is under warranty and I will see what Asus does to make it right.

In the meantime, I spent much of the weekend, when not dealing with family stuff, setting up the old Asus as the interim work machine. That meant reinstalling some programs and updating others. It also means getting used to the keyboard again. It all seems minor but when you get used to the feel and sound of one keyboard, it is a bit disconcerting when everything is suddenly different — at least it is for me.

Anyway, I think I have pretty much everything loaded to get back to the work of writing and editing. At least I hope I do because today I’m working on a couple of editing jobs as well as starting to update my websites.

In the meantime (yes, I know, more author promo) have you checked out Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)? If not, please consider it. My cats are eyeing my ankles with a hungry look in their eyes. If you have, I’d appreciate it if you would consider leaving a review. Those reviews are important because they not only help potential buyers make up their minds but also because the more reviews I get, the higher the likelihood the book will start showing up on those “if you like this, your might like that” or “other customers also bought” lists. Thanks!

Getting back in the swing of things — slowly

After finishing a project, it usually takes me a week or so to catch up on things like sleep, cleaning, etc. That’s been true this time as well. Of course, Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) isn’t quite finished as a project. I still have the print version to finish putting together. But that is something I can do while working on the next project, Nocturnal Rebellion. Better yet, I know that I’m about ready to start back writing Rebellion.

How do I know?

That’s simple. I spent the morning digging through my office, clearing off the desk, cleaning and putting away all the research, etc., that I’d used on Dagger. Now the desk is clean and everything is set for me to sit down and get back to Challenge.

Of course, as I noted in yesterday’s post,I’ve also been hit with the basic plot ideas for the next 3 or 4 titles for the Eerie Side of the Tracks series. Plus, the basic draft for Victory from Ashes is done. Everything looked great when I posted that and I felt sure Myrtle the Muse would let me work according to my schedule.

She still might. . . but. . . .

Last night, Sarah A. Hoyt messaged me. It seems she had been hit with an idea for a cover and it wasn’t something she had planned. She told her muse, it must be one of my books. So she put this together.

I’ll be honest. I love this cover. It absolutely fits for the next novel in the Eerie Side series. Of course, it also means that book is starting to get loud. The fact it can’t be written quite yet doesn’t mean a darn thing to Myrtle the Muse. At least Mac and Company are louder right now than Myrtle and all the rest of it.

Anyway, I’m off to relax after digging out the office. Back later.

More on ME: Andromeda and future projects

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience and thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda – PC after the first couple of hours of game play. There are a couple of things I want to add to that post, especially since I have seen a number of reviews wondering what the hell Bioware thought when they made the game. Mind you, these reviews are from sites that I usually find myself, if not completely disagreeing with then at least thinking they have taken it a bit too far. Those reviewers and professional players (youtube channels) I respect and who tend to be my go-to when I’m not sure about a game, all seem to agree with my take on the game so far.

If you look at some of the reviews, you’ll see folks bitching about the animation of the faces of a number of the characters. Yes, there is some issue. But to say the animation has taken a step back not only at least one generation but years of game development is to overstate the case. My take is that there are two issues. The first is that some, if not all, of the concerns will be taken care of in a first day/week patch. And let’s face it, we all know there will be such a patch. Very few major games are released now without such a patch happening.

Second, and this dawned on me yesterday as I played for a few minutes, some of the animation — especially when we get a closeup of a character’s face — is like what we had when TV shows were suddenly broadcast in HD. We see every flaw in the complexion, etc. There is one cutscene in particular where we see a closeup of Sarah Ryder and it is all facial pores, imperfections and — well — normal skin. Just not what you’re used to seeing in a video game

Another complaint I’ve seen — and this predates the early access release on Origin — is that Bioware seems to have tried to make Sarah Ryder ugly. Again, who the fuck cares? I’m not particularly fond of everything about the way the default Ryder looks but you know you? She looks normal. Not every video game character, and especially not every female character, has to be a “beauty”. Don’t like the preset character, use the customization options. And get the fuck over yourselves.

Is the game perfect? No. But no game is. Some are better than others. But for most of those who are complaining the loudest, they either haven’t played the game yet or they are like me. They’ve played some or all of the 10 hour early access and, to be honest, that doesn’t get you very far into the game and, if they really thought about it, there will be patches to deal with some of the issues they have brought up. I’m willing to wait and see what happens before passing final judgment.

So far, this Mass Effect feels more like the original Mass Effect in a lot of ways. There are things I like and some that I don’t. I look forward to truly being able to explore the game when it is released and there isn’t a time limit imposed on how long I can play.

In other news, I want to once again thank everyone’s support of Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I especially want to thank those of you who have left reviews. You guys are great. Please keep the reviews coming. They really help. Now I’m off to work on Nocturnal Rebellion and plot the next Eerie Side of the Tracks title. Well, actually titles. I figured out yesterday the order for the next three titles in the series (one short story as well as the follow-up to Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) and then the next novel which will be Ciara’s story). The next book, however, after Rebellion will be Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty series) and that one is already plotted and a very rough draft mostly written. So, busy writer am I, especially since I have a couple of editing projects I’m working on as well. That means I need to get off of the internet and get back to work.

First Impressions

Yesterday, I joined a number of gamers taking advantage of Origin Access to play 10 hours of Mass Effect Andromeda – PC before the game’s official release. No, I didn’t play all 10 hours. For one, I couldn’t download the preview until 1630 hrs. Then I had to take care of a couple of things, be somewhat social with family and, as I said, I had a migraine. So, I played approximately two hours and that is enough to confirm that I am looking forward to playing some more.

I am playing the game on PC. Specifically on a ROG laptop. My video card won’t let me run the game at max specs but, damn, I don’t need to. The game is beautiful and I saw no stuttered or any other video issues.

To save a few minutes, I accepted the default build for Sarah Ryder. When I start a new game and am not on a countdown clock, I will play with the character creation possibilities. I did choose Sarah for two reasons. One, I played mainly as FemShep in the original ME trilogy. For another, the clips I’ve seen of the game leave me thinking Scott Ryder is pretty much a whiner. There is something about his voice I don’t like. So, for this limited play, I went with the character I felt would annoy me the less.

I’ll admit, the opening sequence is longer than I expected. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But when you are watching the clock counting down, every minute of actual game play counts. Once you get through the opening sequence, you learn a little about your character and the mission. I’m going to try to go through the rest without any spoilers. So, no real discussion of plot until the game is out and I’ve managed to play more of it.

The controls are familiar. There are two main changes from the previous games. The first is your scanner. It allows you to scan tech, flora and fauna and the information you gain as a result can have an impact on the game later on. The second change is you have a jetpack. That’s pretty cool and it gives combat a whole new dimension.

There are some easter eggs you come on pretty early into the game as well. When you get to the Nexus, you can find a model of the Normandy SR2. There are also recordings from Liara. No, she isn’t a character in this game — at least not so far and not from what I understand based on interviews I’ve read with Bioware designers and execs.

There are other changes as well and I am reserving judgment on them until I’ve played some more. You aren’t tied to a class like you were in the other games. In other words, you aren’t a Sentinel or Soldier or Engineer, etc. You also can use any weapon, or so I understand. That means the decisions you can add powers/abilities to meet the sort of combat you want. The Paragon/Renegade system is also gone. That means you choose your conversation options more on how you think your character would react to the situation instead of almost automatically choosing the answer that best fits the “nature” you chose for your character.

What is going to be interesting as I progress through the game is seeing how the game developers address the events in the original trilogy. After all, more than 600 years have passed since the end of the trilogy. There is no canon ending, or so I understand. (And I still have issues with the ending of ME3). Still, there are issues that could be mentioned/addressed no matter what your particular ending was.

All in all, I am enjoying the game and am considering doing what I rarely do — pre-ordering the game. More than that, I am considering buying the deluxe edition of it. Not because I care about the multiplayer packs or extra outfits but because I like the score for the game so far and would wind up paying the price difference to buy the soundtrack. No decision yet but that’s the way I’m leaning.

Fair warning, if you are a multiplayer fan, ME:A does have multiplayer and it is getting pretty good reviews so far. However, there are micro-transactions included in it. That’s something I don’t like.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the game so far and will keep playing until my 10 hours are done. The release date is March 20th in the US.

In the meantime, if you need something to read,  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered it. Thanks to those of you who are buying it now. I have one more favor to ask. Please leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. Reviews are one way you can do “word of mouth” to help spread the news about the book.

 

Release day is here!

Today is the day all writers look forward to and fear in pretty much equal shares. It’s release day. Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book. If should be in your download queue (if not already on your devices). For those of you who haven’t bought it, why not? (Just joking folks. Remember, nervous writer here.)

There is one more thing — well, two — you can do for me. After you’ve read Dagger, I’d appreciate it if you would leave a review. Reviews do several things. The first is they help other readers by letting them see what people think about the book. Even if they don’t read the reviews, people do tend to pay more attention to books with more reviews than they do to books with no reviews. The other things reviews do is, once we reach a certain number of reviews, they bring the book up on those “If you liked this, you might like that” or “other readers bought” lists.

Also, for those of you who prefer print, I will be getting the print version out over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be honest. I’ve held off because of some changes it looks like Amazon is implementing on their print side of things. Now that the book is out, I need to sit down and do some deeper research on the changes, potential upsides and downsides, and then determine whether to go with Amazon or perhaps try out Lightning Source or some other option.

In the meantime, thanks again for your support. Now it’s back to work on the next book: Nocturnal Rebellion.

One more day

No, no, no. I will not have the song from Les Miz as an earworm today. Nope. I really, really hope the title of this post doesn’t turn into me hearing that particular song (especially if it is the movie version) for the rest of the day. Maybe if I get on with the post, it will go away. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow is the day. Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) goes live. My stomach is doing flipflops as I wait for the first reviews to start coming in. Yes, I feel this way with each new book but this one, well, it’s special. I really enjoy these characters and learning not only more about Cait’s backstory but also where she’s headed has been a lot of fun. The next book is already coming clear in my mind and notes are being taken.

Some of you guys asked after reading Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) if Fallon would be making more of an appearance in this second book. He does and he becomes an even more important player in the third book. That much I know for sure. But, to give you a taste of what he finds when he returns to the Citadel, here’s a quick snippet. No context is given because, well, I’m evil.

***

He smiled and continued walking in the direction of the administration building. As he did, the sounds of a yeomen’s class drilling nearby reached him. Their practice was punctuated with exclamations of relief as well as frustration as someone put them through their paces. Then, much to his surprise, he heard a familiar voice.

“Hold!” a woman ordered. “If you lot don’t start paying attention to what you are doing, we will be here all day. I know it’s cold but that is no excuse. Ask any knight or cleric. You will spend many a night in cold camps. I assure you, it would serve you well to remember the enemy will not attack only when the weather is fair. So stop worrying about the fact there is a little snow falling from the sky and focus on making sure your partner doesn’t score a killing blow.”

Fallon would have bet his life that the woman speaking had been Cait. But that made no sense. She had been at the Citadel less than two years. He had seen first-hand her ability with a blade but that did not explain why she would be teaching a weapons class, even one for yeomen. Good as she might be, there was no way the weaponsmaster would put a journeywoman in as an instructor.

Turning, Fallon looked at Stefan in open question. The young man simply smiled. There could be no doubting he was enjoying himself. His eyes danced with mischief and Fallon ground his teeth in frustration before giving the young man a look that promised they would soon discuss how Stefan had held back this information. Then Fallon hurried off in the direction of Cait’s voice. If no one would explain what was going on, he would find out for himself.

His report to the Knight-Commandant and the Adept would just have to wait.

A few moments later, Fallon slid to a halt outside the training ring. He stared in surprise at the sight that greeted him. Cait stood in the center of the packed dirt ring, a look of frustration on her face. In her left hand, she held a training sword. She wore black leather trousers and a matching leather jerkin that left her arms bare. Intricately woven wide leather bands were in place on each wrist. Her heavy boots moved silently across the ground. Despite the falling snow and the way her breath fogged before her, she seemed oblivious to the cold.

That much registered even as Fallon’s eyes were drawn to her forearms. Never before had he seen anything like the markings she bore and the implications rocked him. Then he felt the power surrounding her and he blew out a breath in surprise. He had known she was special from the moment he first saw her in that thrice-damned tavern but he had never expected this.

Before he could recover his wits, Cait turned and saw him. The frustration left her expression and she smiled gaily. She called for one of the senior journeymen working out in the next ring to take over for a moment. Before the young man could respond, she sprinted toward Fallon and Stefan. Fallon recovered enough to smile in approval as Cait agilely vaulted the three-bar fence surrounding the training ring before she all but leapt at him in greeting.

“Fallon!” She grinned gaily before throwing her arms around him. “It is so good to see you. When did you get back?”

***

Also, I’m blogging at Mad Genius Club today. For those of you looking for a program to use to help put together a story or series bible, I talk about my first impressions of Zim Desktop Wiki. Check it out.

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