6 Things I Learned From Beta-readers

Beta-readers are the people who read your manuscript before it’s published to give you advice about how to make it better.

Sort of like “beta players” in the gaming industry are the lucky dogs who get to see Destiny 2 before the rest of us players who test the game while it’s still in “beta” and not ready to be released for the masses.

So what have they taught me?

  1. I have a coy writing style, frequently sacrificing “communicative” for “cute”.
  2. When you tack a beginning onto the front of your book…people can tell that you just tacked a beginning onto the front of your book.
  3. Layman beta-reader: “I like it.”
    Author beta-reader: *3 pages later…*
  4. Not everyone has lived in my pretend world for years the way I have.
  5. REWRITE REWRITE REWRITE and don’t stress it, ’cause you won’t please everyone.
  6. High-quality beta-readers = worth their weight in gold.

Thank you for reading this week’s stand-in blog post; now I’m off to rework that tacky beginning 😉

Character Meet—White Mesa Chronicles

The publication date of White Mesa Chronicles Book 1: Soldier is upon us! To celebrate, I’d like you to meet some of the principal players!

White Mesa has one of the largest casts I’ve written (necessarily, being a series) and it took me quite a few drafts to get all their personalities nailed down. It was fun getting to know them, though!

In the effort to refine the characters’ essence, and make them not identical to myself 😊, I’ve used a number of character types and writer tricks. See what you think!

Capt. Lasky; Image credit: TVTropes.org

Thomas “Tommy” Thaxton

  • Family: General Michael Thaxton (member of the WM security council) and Dr. Joanna Thaxton (missing, presumed dead). No siblings.
  • Glass is 🍵 half-full or half-empty?: Half a cup only comes to a quarter-cup of water for each of us, but you can have my share because…you know…that’s the right thing to do…
  • Temperament: Melancholic
  • Favorite book/movie/TV show: That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis; Columbo
  • Destiny Class: Sun-singer Warlock (Knowledge) [New Monarchy]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Paladin [DPS]  Alignment: Lawful Good
  • StarCraft race: Terran
  • Strengths: Sniping, Charisma, Compassion;  Fears: Heights, Failure
  • Favorite means of transportation: truck or bicycle

Continue reading

Author’s Guild Rails at Amazon’s Buy-Box

(This post might be more interesting to the writers among us, but readers and buyers-of-books are also affected by the dynamics of this issue.)

Author’sGuild.org recently posted an article discussing a change in Amazon’s algorithms regarding who gets top billing in what is called the “buy box” of books – apparently the display at the top that lists all available formats and the relative prices. As you might know, a little farther down appear links to other retailers offering “used” or “new” copies of the books.

Currently, Amazon places itself in the prime “buy box” spot, as the first buy-option people see, but according to the article Amazon intends to use metrics to allow third-party retailers the chance to get in that prize spot. (Amazon gets its stock from the publishers, but acts as the distributor itself.)

Author’s Guild (AG) is incensed at the suggested change, but on reading their article I find their arguments less than compelling. Continue reading

Top Ten Book Turn-offs

“Top Ten Tuesday” – the weekly bookish list event curated by the Broke and Bookish blog – has as its theme this week “Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book“.

In approximate order from least the greatest:

Things I’m Indifferent To (At Best)

These I can more or less tolerate in a book, but they certainly aren’t a hook for me in picking it up. Continue reading

Diversity in Games

The YouTube team ExtraCredits creates short, thought-provoking videos about the craft of game design, story creation, the philosophy and psychology of building and playing video games, and other cool stuff.

One of their videos discusses Rust by Facepunch Studios, a multi-player survival game. In Rust, the physical appearance of every player’s character is randomly generated: specifically their skin color. The format doesn’t allow for re-rolling, so whatever your character looks like is what you’re stuck with – what you’re “born with,” as it were.

Continue reading

“Ranger’s Apprentice” & Bad Cliffhangers

The Book I Loved, the Series I Stopped

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I haz rifle – and a pet spider. Ergo, I’s awesome.

Rangers Apprentice, by John A. Flanagan, is a series highly recommended to me by a good friend of mine. It follows the adventures of a group of characters in a quasi-mystical land where “Rangers” (Rogues, Hunters, Hide-in-shadows-shooting-with-deadly-accuracy-awesome, whatever the name is) train and serve the king of Araluen.

Sadly, it is also the series I think back on when I think of the wrong way to do cliffhangers. Differences in fiction taste aside, here’s why I loved the first book, but finally gave up on the series.

The Case Studies

5119KT1oeUL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_1 The Ruins of GorlanThey have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied…

I’ve heard this book get some flack, but it was my favorite. Continue reading

Writing Post Round-up 2016

I enjoy Twitter – and what I enjoy most is sharing and finding new blog posts or resources to help me in my writing journey. I realize not all of us are writers as well as readers, but for those who enjoy both, here are the articles/posts I’ve found most helpful or interesting this past year.

(I read 99% of the articles I tweet out, but not all of them are worth going back to later. The ones below are worth the effort!)

The Authoring Landscape

The Man Behind the Mask: On the Creation of Batman—and Rewriting Authorship Itself, by Sean P. Carlin (@SeanPCarlin):
A long and thought-provoking post about assigning authorship to intellectual property, the hazards of mob rule, “correcting for history”, and the baffling fact that someone has published a collection of Shakespeare’s works with Christopher Marlowe as co-author. Important read with telling worldview implications.

Protect eBooks Or Trust Customers To Do The Right Thing, by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords (@MarkCoker):
A lucid post on DRM (digital rights management) and the future of books. DRM is an important issue in today’s publishing world, and deserves the time it takes to understand the implications.

In Defense of Short Games, by Extra Credits (@ExtraCreditz):
This YouTube channel team posts videos primarily about game development and story-craft in gaming, but much of what they say is just as applicable to novelist entrepreneurs, or screenplay-writers, etc. This particular video affirms that sometimes it doesn’t take 10 hours of gameplay (or 200,000 words of a novel, or 3+ hours of running time) to tell the story you need to tell, and writers who deliver content in a shorter frame should be just as valued as the others.

Making Money in a World Addicted to FREE—What Do Writers DO?, by Kristen Lamb (@KristenLambTX):
I like so much of what Mrs. Lamb writes – partly because her style is very different from my own, and thus challenges me – and this post talks about writers being worth payment for their labor (just like every other business providing a product), and teaches us how to take charge of our author brand and bring the technological advances of our day to heel!

Botched Beginnings: Common First Page Killers, by Kirsten Lamb:
The first few pages/chapters of a book are always critical, and this post is an engaging walk-through of some common pit-falls to avoid.

5 Reasons to Pan Those 5-Star Reviews, by Porter Anderson:
This post discusses everything that goes wrong when every book is either FULLY AWESOME or WORST THING EVER.
I’ve heard some authors determine to not write book reviews, unless the book is good, to avoid “hurting feelings”…but I can just say I’m very grateful for the thoughtful, intelligent writers who write thoughtful, intelligent reviews of their reads, thus helping the authors of those books and the rest of us to grow, learn, and improve our craft. Why would you cheat anyone of your constructive criticism, thus skewing the review-ratings and denying them the chance to make the next book better?

Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?, by Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman):
If you’re an author weighing the options of which publishing route to take, this post can help you lay out exactly what you’re looking to achieve and help you make the best decision for your goals.

3 Ways Self-Publishers Fail at Cover Design, by Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman):
Whether you’re trying your hand at making your own cover, or outsourcing the design, it’s important to remember the biggest pitfall authors face in this area: not considering the audience.

Common Writing Myths, by Nat Russo (@NatRusso):
This post shows the weaknesses of axioms like “Show, Don’t Tell” and encourages all writers to take a deep breath, step back, and write for the story, not for the critics.

Using Twitter Effectively, by Nat Russo:
This is a long series of posts, but it really helped me define my ideas of marketing and social media as I got started on Twitter. Because the landscape of Twitter – and marketing with Twitter – is so complex, also consider Kirsten Lamb’s post Twitter for Writers – Eight Ways to Nuke Your Brand.

Don’t Let A Glock Kill Your Book, by Scott Hoffman:
A post by a literary agent explaining why agents read until they can stop, then do (specifically with examples from thriller manuscripts). When they get about 500 queries a week, it doesn’t take much ignorance or imperfection (in research, grammar, or editing) to make a busy agent drop your query and go on to the next. Get your stuff right!

Worldview Significance

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” – The True Cost of Survival in The Walking Dead, by Extra Credits:
Again, this is a YouTube video primarily talking about the adventure video game The Walking Dead…but it’s talking about so much more than that. It’s talking about the ability of an art form to confront us with our humanity and challenge us to rethink crucial elements of who we are – while entertaining us at the same time. If you’re an author seeking to bring your work to a whole new level, this is a good exploration of what’s possible.

Superversive Blog: Life, Carbon, and the Tao — Part Two!, by Tom Simon:
I go back to this post every so often because it’s such a shining explanation of the impact of stories, and why your starting point for interpreting the world (worldview) matters so very much – in everything.

3 Ways the “Blind Men and the Elephant” Story Backfires, by Trevin Wax:
If you’ve heard this “just so” fable that talks about different perspectives on truth (or even if you haven’t), check out this thought-provoking analysis of where the analogy comes up short.


cropped-IMGP56981.jpgKimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little. Now she writes to give the people living in her head a chance at life. Join the mailing list to stay up to date on her latest reading and writing adventures!

Trump’s Victory Illustrates Self-Publishing

What the Vote Tells Writers About Ourselves

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Image credit: ABCNews

Much has been said of Donald Trump’s recent election as president of the U.S.

I think it can be used to illustrate the self-publishing environment, with some worldview implications that are very interesting.

The ebook market of the last decade or so has been deluged in material, especially from small-scale authors. It’s no longer necessary to get an agent or sign a publishing contract; all that’s needed to get your words in front of people is a few basic tech resources and a document of text.

Authors (typically) like this, and I think one of the reasons is they can do what they want. Continue reading

All Time Favorites! #TopTenTuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books!

Crafting an “All Time Favorites” list is always difficult, but I have attempted it with the understanding that my tastes and evaluations may have changed ten years hence, and there’s nothing criminal about that!

Without further ado:

  1. That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis 51qy8pnfsal-_sx325_bo1204203200_

I recently read this masterpiece for the third time, and in this most recent reading the theological truths, the philosophical overtones and subtexts, vibrated for me in a way they hadn’t previously. Especially as I watch Western civilization teetering on the brink of self-destruction, it was intoxicating to see the seeds of our destruction are as old as the earth itself, and liberating to know Man’s Salvation is older than Time. Continue reading

“Loglines in the Wild” by Jordan Smith

Conversational, Accessible Tip-sheet

51i10MFRoJL Jordan Smith’s previous work Finding The Core Of Your Story was a step-by-step guide to composing a logline – a one sentence summary of the “through-line” of a book’s plot. This is especially useful for authors trying to clarify and market their own works, but a logline can also be fun for readers eager to share their favorite reads with others.

For those (like me) who love to see things in action and so love examples, Loglines In The Wild provides eight case studies of real independent authors crafting loglines to help them with writing and marketing their ideas. Continue reading