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 😉

SOLDIER—A Friend in Need

The brutal truth: I procrastinated too much and didn’t get a post together for today.

The glossed-over story: Hooray! You get a special look at the first chapter of my latest release, Soldier (White Mesa Chronicles Book 1)!

(I checked, and the Amazon preview doesn’t go all the way to the end of the chapter, partly because of my little prologue thing.)

Anyway, enjoy! And if your curiosity is piqued, check out the book on Amazon (.mobi), Smashwords (most digital formats), Kobo.com, or Barnes & Noble (.epub)!


A Friend in Need

1330 hours

Tommy eased the motorcycle to a stop, his teeth clattering as they jolted over one last pothole.

He flicked a look over his shoulder, bracing as his “partner” jumped down and swung his rifle up and down the street.

“Clear,” called Ricco Dobson.

Tommy eased forward to be more in the lee of the torched cop car, and engaged the kickstand. Below the smashed roof lights and burned-out interior of the vehicle, the door still bore the peeling words Chicago Police. It had to be five decades since that had meant anything to anyone except history geeks like Tommy.

Creaking to a standing position, he also scanned their surroundings, tugging off his driving gloves. The road looked deserted except for the dog corpse they’d passed a dozen yards back, its mangey skin stretched tight over its skeleton. Three or four crows stared down at the two young men from tree branches or power poles, waiting ’til the coast was clear to return to their meal. Continue reading

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

Eris: The Tale of the Story

Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about a story.

July 6, 2009, is the date I have recorded that the story first emerged as recognizably itself:

How we did story-boarding in the dark ages.

A human prince – Eris – is banished and branded, but accompanied on his wanderings by his elf and dwarf best friends.

As I usually do, I took the seed to my dad, who is an expert in taking my infantile premises and giving them plots. We began working with this prince (whose name comes from the dwarf planet at the edges of the solar system) and soon discovered why he was branded (to allow them to send him through a portal into regions unknown), what his supposed crime was, and a few other details.

I struggled and thrashed my way through a draft (at that immature stage of my author-hood, I was much more a “pantser” AKA making it up as I went along AKA begging Dad to get me unstuck after every scene) until the plot was complete, and the draft was about 85% complete. I had travel brochures for two of the fantasy worlds (that’s called procrastinating). I even had a cover idea!

Back when I didn’t know about proper cover dimensions…

Then I let it drop. 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

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!

Top 5 Namesakes

Five Reused Names

The Top Ten Tuesday subject for today is “Ten Characters I’d Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After”. Fictional characters frequently have cool or memorable names, don’t you think? I’ve only been able to think of five examples of fictional namesakes – and yet it’s curious how many names we’ve snitched over the years.

1. On April 27, 2006, I created a ranger character for a D&D campaign my dad was game-mastering. I named this character “Elwin“, after Elwin Ransom in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. Continue reading

All About Audio #TopTenTuesday

I don’t know about you, but I like to listen to music while I write, and frequently the words or mood of a song will inspire a story or connect to one of my stories in a special way.
For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post I’ve chosen to share ten examples of the music that has spoken to me the most.

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Image credit: Amazon

1. “Glory to God” – Matthew Ward, Armed and Dangerous
This song begins with a lilting descent that ends on a trill, a fascinating draft that repeats (with musical variation) for the opening chorus — this sequence is one of White Mesa’s recognition signals 😉.

Paired with this energetic yet flowery melody, the lyrics are a beautiful prayer for praising God. Continue reading

3 Reasons to Do #TopTenTuesday

This meme was started by the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish, but anyone’s welcome. They provide a book-related topic for each Tuesday, and it’s up to bloggers to come up with 10 (more or less) selections! (See the link for official procedures and the list of topics.)

Why should you take part?

  1. It gives you ideas of what to blog about.
    Some people do better at this; I need help figuring out what would interest my audience.
  2. It lets you talk about your likes and favorites without being egocentric – hey, everyone’s talking about their likes and favorites!
  3. You can share about your favorite books/TV shows, latest reads, bookish dreams, etc.! And once again, it’s not egocentric: the blogosphere asked about your favorites!

BONUS: Their topic for Tuesday, Sept. 13, is “Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre”. Carte blanche to go fan-girl about the best of the best (but only 10 of them)! Don’t worry about making a Best of the Century list — talk about your favorites right now. See you there!

“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