Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Victory from Ashes

Beginnings

The opening sequence of a novel has always been the hardest part for me. Oh, I know what I want to say — or at least I think I do — but somehow when I sit down at the keyboard, it just doesn’t come. There will be fits and starts before I finally get it. That may take days or, in some cases, even weeks before I have an opening I’m satisfied with and, once that happens, the rest of the novel usually flows easily.

I’m not sure why that opening scene or chapter is so difficult. Sarah Hoyt told me early into our friendship that the problem a lot of new writers have is starting a novel either a chapter too soon or too late. Then she went on to tell me to simply write the first chapter as it comes and not obsess about it. After all, material can be added or deleted during edits. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple for me.

And that has been part of the problem with Victory from Ashes. I have the very rough — and I do mean very rough — draft completed. But I knew I had an issue with the opening. When putting that first draft together, I really didn’t even bother writing a first chapter. It was a series of notes and that’s about it. While that helped with the first pass, it did nothing to help with the current draft version.

So I have struggled for the past couple of weeks, trying to get that first chapter written. It simply wasn’t coming. Instead of beating my head against the wall, I drafted out three short stories and did other work. All the while, the opening of Victory continued to percolate in the back of my mind. Yesterday, I’d finally had enough. I needed to sit down and write, whether the chapter came or not.

With that in mind, I did what I suggest to my critique group: I moved to a different work area and I wrote in a different manner. In this case, I used pencil and paper. With my notes in hand, I sat at the kitchen table and gave my muse free rein. Thankfully for my muse’s continued existence, she decided to cooperate and the words started flowing and, with them, the realization of what had been blocking me.

I’d made a wrong turn at the end of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). No, nothing serious and nothing that impacts that book. It was just a decision made by a character about something that was supposed to happen in Victory from Ashes. Fixable, in fact, easily fixable, but I had to recognize the problem first. Then I had to figure out how to deal with the decision and change that character’s mind. Until my subconscious did all that, I was at a standstill.

Fortunately, my subconscious did just that and, over the next hour or two, 2,700 words flowed. No, not all by hand. What happened was I wrote a page or two longhand and that jogged the brain and I was then able to return to the keyboard. With coffee at hand, I pounded out a chapter that feels right and that got the problematic decision corrected. Even better, it allowed me to show a new facet of growth for Ashlyn. Best of all, it means the rest of the work of wrestling the very rough draft into a workable draft will flow easily.

Not that I won’t take time out this week to finish the first short story in the Honor and Duty universe. My plan is to have it up by Friday. If everything goes according to plan, there will be one short story every two weeks. Of course, life being what it is, I know there may be bumps along the way. That is one reason I’ve already done the rough drafts for all three stories.

What this also means is, if the muse continues to cooperate, I will begin snippeting Victory later this week. Most likely, Wednesday. In the meantime, here are some books I recommend as well as a shout out to a game being released later today.

Through Fire (Darkship Book 4)

Sarah A. Hoyt

A new chapter in Hoyt’s celebrated Darkship series dawns with revolution on Earth as the Good Men fall.

DOWN WITH THE TYRANNY OF THE GOOD MEN!

A spaceship mechanic has no place in a fairytale. But now Zen Sienna finds herself in a beautiful palace being courted by the ruler of vast lands. Yet soon Zen is caught up in a revolution that comes a bit too close to imitating the original French revolution—complete with beheadings. Swept up in a turmoil of fire and blood, she must find her footing. Torn by divided loyalties, unexpectedly in charge of protecting the innocent while trying to stop the guilty, Zen discovers both her inner strength and discovers who will remain true friends and comrades, and who will be revealed as enemies in disguise waiting to strike!

Through the fire of revolution and war, Zen must earn her citizenship on Earth and find her place in a world that’s totally changed.

TOM

Dave Freer

Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as… sort of allies.

And of course there is the princess.

If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge

Larry Correia and John Ringo

TWO MULTIPLE NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHORS TEAM UP TO EXPAND LARRY CORREIA’S MONSTER HUNTER UNIVERSE!

When Marine Private Oliver Chadwick Gardenier is killed in the Marine barrack bombing in Beirut, somebody who might be Saint Peter gives him a choice: Go to Heaven, which while nice might be a little boring, or return to Earth. The Boss has a mission for him and he’s to look for a sign. He’s a Marine: He’ll choose the mission.

Unfortunately, the sign he’s to look for is “57.” Which, given the food services contract in Bethesda Hospital, creates some difficulty. Eventually, it appears that God’s will is for Chad to join a group called “Monster Hunters International” and protect people from things that go bump in the night. From there, things trend downhill.

Monster Hunter Memoirs is the (mostly) true story of the life and times of one of MHI’s most effective—and flamboyant—hunters. Pro-tips for up and coming hunters range from how to dress appropriately for jogging (low-profile body armor and multiple weapons) to how to develop contacts among the Japanese yakuza, to why it’s not a good idea to make billy goat jokes to trolls.

Grunge harkens back to the Golden Days of Monster Hunting when Reagan was in office, Ray and Susan Shackleford were top hunters and Seattle sushi was authentic.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Available for PS4, XBox One and PC

  • First-Person Action – Get up close with your enemies. Use your freedom of movement and martial arts combat in conjunction with the environment to experience fluid first-person action unlike any other.
  • Explore the City of Glass – Roam the beautiful, high-tech city at your own pace, and unlock its many different districts. Run free and explore every corner from the highest, glass made skyscrapers to the hidden underground tunnels.
  • Witness the Rise of Faith – Brought up on her own on the margin of the totalitarian society, Faith found refuge amongst an outsider group called the Runners. Learn about her origin story, and take part in her journey as she stands up against oppression and becomes the catalyst that can change the City of Glass forever.

Gaming, inspiration and an update

I know. I know. The title of the post seems to be a little bit all over the place but there is a connection. In this instance, it is what I’ve been doing to get into the mood to tackle the final draft of Victory from Ashes.

I don’t know about other writers, but after I finish a project, I’m wrung. Mentally and physically, I feel like I’ve been on a marathon to end all marathons and I need time to recharge and make the mental shift for the next project. That has been doubly hard this time because I am not writing the book I thought I would be. After finishing Honor from Ashes, I planned to finish writing Dagger of Elanna, second in the Sword of the Gods series. Then came the debacle with the wrong file being attached to the title on Amazon and the week plus it took for Amazon to correct the situation. I won’t go back into that whole fiasco other to say that I knew I needed to do something to thank those who pre-ordered the book and stuck through the problems until the correct file could be downloaded.

I finally decided I would write at least one short story in the Honor and Duty universe and release it here for free for a limited time before taking it to Amazon. So the question became what story should I write and what character(s) should I focus on? That question has been answered and not one but three short stories have been drafted.

TAKING FLIGHTThe first, Taking Flight, should be ready to go up on this blog by the end of next week. It’s been drafted and the cover has been created. I will leave it up on the blog for a week before removing it and putting it up for sale on Amazon.

Taking Flight tells the tale of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment after receiving her commission. It isn’t all easy going nor is it exactly what she expected. While there will be explosions and gunfire — what space opera or mil-sf doesn’t have them? — there will also be some insight into her family background that hasn’t made it into the books. This is also a much younger Ashlyn, one who hasn’t learned some of the very hard lessons the older version has been forced to learn.

The next two stories, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds, will follow in one to two week intervals. As with Taking Flight, they will be offered for free here for a week or so before I take them down before putting them up on Amazon. Battle Bound takes place approximately 4 – 5 years before the series opens and involves Ash’s first command as a Devil Dog. Battle Wounds will give a look at the events that led up to Ash’s court martial.

So what does this have to do with gaming and inspiration? That is simple, at least this time. To get my mind away from fantasy-mode, necessary for Dagger of Elanna but not for the short stories or Victory from Ashes, I did what I normally do. I read. I reread Heinlein and Weber, Nuttal and more. But it was to no avail. My brain simply wasn’t making the transition back to the SF side. Music and movies didn’t do it either. That left one thing — gaming.

So I loaded up Mass Effect Trilogy — again. Despite the botched ending of ME3, this is still one of my favorite game series. It is highly replayable because of the different choices you can make during the games and the different classes you can play as. Because I haven’t played the games in some time, the game isn’t automatic. I have to think about what is coming next and plan my strategies and, in doing so, the switch in my head was turned on and the SF writing side came back to life.

Sometimes it takes doing something different from writing to get that switch to turn on. No, I’m not writing ME fan fiction for the next book or the short stories. There are no Krogan or Assari or any of the other characters anywhere in my work. It was the mindset, something about figuring out where to position my character and the NPCs in a firefight, as well as whether to let someone live or die, that seemed to do it.

So now the writing is coming fast and furious. The very rough draft of Victory from Ashes will soon become a workable draft that can be sent off to the alpha reader. The one good thing this inability for a couple of weeks to work in the SF world did was it gave me the chance to finish the very rough draft of Dagger of Elanna. That means I should only need two months or so to get it ready for publication after Victory comes out. If all goes as plans, that means I will be back on my publishing schedule by October.

Fingers crossed.

But to do so, I need to get off the internet and get to work. Until tomorrow!

Update

I will get back to the series on formatting, probably next week. This week has been interesting, to say the least. My son was home for several days and, I’ll be honest, when he’s here, everything else takes a backseat. Then there have been a series of meetings that have taken time to get ready for. Best of all, my friend who has been on the transplant list got the call the other day and Wednesday received his new heart. All of that has combined to keep me off the blog.

But it has given me time to think and plot and plan. The result is I figured out what was bothering me about the opening to Victory from Ashes. The opening worked but it didn’t feel right, if that makes any sense. It finally dawned on me what was bothering me about it and I’ve gone back and fixed it. Now that I have, the edits on the very rough draft are going quickly. Fingers crossed that stays the case.

I also have written the opening to a short story set in the Ashes universe. It is a prequel story, picking up right after Ashlyn is commissioned. I also have an idea for another short story or novella. The first will be written and released, first on this blog and then on Amazon, before Victory comes out.

Someone asked about Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), the other day. That, too, is in the works. It is completely plotted and the first very rough draft has been written. When I say very rough draft, I mean just that. I don’t usually talk about them because, in some ways, these “very rough drafts” don’t count. They are usually handwritten, either on paper or on OneNote. That means they have to be annotated with editorial notes and then typed in. My brain doesn’t really count them as “real” drafts until they are saved out as a DOC file.

Most of my work isn’t done that way. These two books have been written in places where keyboarding, even on a tablet, hasn’t always been feasible. Hence the handwriting. That is one of the reasons I love my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 . I can whip it out, use the stylus and write. If I want to be a bit slower about it than my mind works, I can write directly into Word and have it convert to text. That’s fine for notes but not for drafting a novel, at least not for me. There is a point where you have to stop and check the converted text and then enter it into your document. That slows, often to stopping, the process — at least for me.

Using OneNote, however, I can just write. I don’t worry about converting my handwriting. With a touch of the screen, I can change ink colors if I want to emphasize something. Each chapter or scene has its own file and I can then drop my tablet into the dock, display the handwritten notes on a secondary screen and start the transcription.

So, I have a lot of stuff in the process of being written. I have other books in the process of going into print that are already in digital editions. Those should be ready next week. And, as I said, I will get the formatting series back on track Monday as well. In the meantime, it is back to writing when I can and dealing with life. But for now, it is time to find another cup of coffee.

Decisions made, work to be done and more

It’s been two weeks since Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) went live. Or was supposed to go live. For those of you who follow the blog, you know that the first week was nothing but an exercise in frustration and more frustration. Fortunately, the issues with Amazon have been fixed and everything seems to be rocking along. Thanks to everyone who hung in there. Your support helped me get through what had to be the worst release week I’ve had to date. I also want to thank Amazon for working with me to get the problem fixed.

Since I started with Amazon, let’s talk about something I’ve been seeing a lot on Facebook recently. There is a petition that’s been started on Change.org asking Amazon to stop people from being able to return e-books after 15% of a book has been read. While I understand the sentiment — no author likes to see returns — there is a problem with this approach. Some “e-books” are only a few pages long. That means the 15% limit might not get a purchaser beyond the copyright page. What if everything after that point is so poorly formatted that the title is not readable? Or what if, at about the 75% mark, something went wrong and the e-book suddenly changes to another one? There have to be exceptions made.

As you know, I write in several different genres. I have found there are some sub-genres that have more returns than others. However, that higher level of returns seemed to go down markedly once I enrolled that particular sub-genre’s books into the Kindle Unlimited program. Something else I am seeing is that sales are going up with those books and so are the borrows under KU. Hmm, maybe I’m onto something here.

There can be any number of reasons for an e-book to be returned. It happens. Yes, there are people who will “buy” an e-book, read it and then return it. No matter what we do, it will happen. If they aren’t doing it through Amazon, they will find a pirate site where our work is hosted. Do I like it? Not at all. But a petition to try to force Amazon to take a certain form of action isn’t going to stop it. I would rather be able to find some pattern to what is going on than not know what is being pirated.

Pattern. That happens to be the key word. Instead of assuming everyone who buys and then returns an e-book has ill-intent in his heart, the author might need to look at their reviews — and even go back and look at their work with a fresh eye — and see if there might not be a reason for the returns. Never, ever consider your readers as crooks. Most especially don’t take to social media and claim they are — and, no, I am not saying the person who started the petition or any of those supporting her feel this way. They all seem earnest in their concern about something they see as a problem. I will even concede that they might have a problem with returns that I haven’t seen with my own work.

That said, I have seen come comments from folks who don’t believe this problem existed before e-books came onto the scene. It did. People bought printed books, took them home or to the nearest coffee shop or whatever, read the book and then returned it. As authors, we weren’t  made as aware of the situation because we didn’t have a dashboard that kept us up-to-date on sales, borrows and returns on an hourly basis. Now we have that tool and it is very easy to obsess over it.

Instead of doing so, before beginning to think there are crooks out there, look first at your work and your reviews. Is there something there pointing to a potential problem? Do you see a pattern in the returns? If so, contact Amazon. They do have policies in place that deal with people who abuse the ability to buy and then return e-books. Be prepared to be your own advocate and gather your evidence, your inferences and have your desired outcome ready when you contact Amazon. Most of all, don’t be afraid to let the powers-that-be there know your concerns and your recommendations.

Moving on.

I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what to do to ameliorate the damage done by the screw up of the Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) release. I was already working on Dagger of Elanna, the second book in the Sword of the Gods trilogy. Skeletons in the Closet is less than a month from being ready for release. But the last two weeks have shown me one of the positives of being an indie writer. I can rearrange my schedule as needed in order to deal with bumps in the road. Because of that, I’ve amended my publication schedule for the year and am going to bring Victory from Ashes out next.

The rough draft (and it is what I call a very, very, very rough draft) weighs in right now at 84,000 words. There are a number of scenes that still need to be inserted and everything needs to be fleshed out. By the time that is done, the book will probably come in around 110,000 words. Maybe a bit more. It will take me two months, possibly three, to finish the final rough draft, let the beta readers take a look and then send it off to the editor.  Snippets will begin in two weeks.

I am also going to release a new edition of Honor from Ashes shortly before Victory from Ashes comes out. The new edition will include a new short story or novella in the Honor and Duty universe. For those who have already purchased Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3), I will put the new material up here for a limited period and I will also offer for individual sale.

After that, I will return to Skeletons and Dagger of Elanna. That will then move up the next Nocturnal Lives books. After that, there will more more in the Hunted universe and more romantic suspense. As if that’s not enough to think about, there are several other projects in the mix I can’t discuss just yet.

This week, however, I have to play catch up. There are print versions of my books to be proofed and finalized, appointments to be met and writing to do. So I guess I’d better find another cup of coffee and get to work.

 

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