Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The First Empire Series is Done!

I was shooting for April or May and got it in under the wire in March.  Well, that's not entirely true, I still have to take another pass before my alpha reader (Robin) can put eyes on it, but her birthday is April 8th and I'm shooting for that.  But I've "wrapped" the series and now know how it all ends. I'm really happy with how it's come out, and I hope others will be as well.

Writing an entire series before publishing any books is a lot of work, but I really think it paid off.  I have a few changes to make to the first book one that came up in the last few pages!  Now we just have to get the first book released - but it's Del Rey that has the remaining lifting for that book. Still, can't help but be excited about being done.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tools for Authors: Chicago Manual of Style - online

I have a confession to make.  I'm a complete idiot. Well, maybe that's not news to readers of this site, but I'll explain what I'm referring to in today's post. When I first hired a freelance editor to help me with my self-published books, the first question potential candidates asked me was, "What style guide do you want me to use?"

My response, "Style guide? I'll do the book formatting. Why does an editor care about the style guide?" 

You see, I came from marketing, and in that world, a style guide lays out rules for using logos or spacing and size of fonts. Design style guides cover things like how much white space should appear  between the brand mark and other elements on the page, permitted colors, and how to scale the logo elements.  I didn't understand what a style guide was in relation to editing.

If you are also clueless, let me shed a little light. A style guide is a set of rules governing things such as spelling, italics, punctuation, hyphenation and many other things. Generally, they are the "rule book" writers conform to ensure consistency. Likewise, copy editors enforce the code. They lay out rules that may be "flexible" from organization to organization. Style guides exist so readers will have a consistent experience even if many people produce the work. Some of the most well-known style guides include:

  • AP Style Guide - for journalism
  • Chicago Manual of Style - for general publishing and readership
  • APA Style Guide and ASA Style Guide - for social sciences
  • AMA Style Guide for medicine
Ever hear people debating the use of the Oxford comma? You know, that's the comma which is sometimes added or omitted before the conjunction in a list of items. For years, the AP Style Guide said omit them while the Chicago Manual of Style said to include them.

For novels, most editors will use the Chicago Manual of Style, sometimes abbreviated as CMoS.

It's a massive volume. The 15th edition comes in at 984 pages, and the 16th edition topped the thousand-page mark by coming in at 1,024 pages.  It's also not all that cheap. List price for the print edition is $65.00 (although Amazon has it discounted to $40 and change).  

But it's not the price that bothers me about CMoS. The issue is it can take a long time for me to find what I'm after, especially if I don't know exactly what I'm looking for.  For instance, when writing my first published novel, I was debating which was correct:  "your majesty" or "Your Majesty." It could take me a lot of time to find the answer in the printed version. It's in section 8.32, which explains how to capitalize honorifics, by the way.  And hence today's post.  There is an online version!

If you go to this link, you'll find both the 15th edition and the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style in all its searchable glory.  And yes, they offer a free trial month so you can see for yourself if it is something worth spending money on.  If you do want to have it long term, then the cost is just $35 a year ($30 per year if you sign up for two years).  Yes, that's just slightly cheaper than the book, but the time you'll save is well worth it.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Today I'm doing an AMA (Ask me Anything) on reddit's Fantasy Forum

I love AMA's, and I'm doing another one today!  If you aren't familiar with the concept, it stands for "Ask Me Anything" and while they occur all over reddit, the mods at /r/Fantasy do an amazing job organizing them.

This isn't the first time I've done one, not even the second, but a lot has changed since the last time. There's a lot to talk about:

  • The success of the Riyria Revelations books.
  • Why I did the prequel series, The Riyria Chronicles?
  • Why I'm writing science fiction, and what's different about Hollow World?
  • Why I signed my new series with Random House?
  • What is the new series about, and when will it come out?
  • How has publishing changed, and is continuing to change, and what does that mean for writers?

I do hope people will stop by and ask a question or just say hello.  Anyone who does post will be entered to win one of the limited edition early, early advanced copies of Rhune. Only a handful of people will have this opportunity (basically the beta readers and a few winners). Everyone else will have to wait until the summer of 2016. So that is reason enough to stop by.  Here's the link.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Author's Workspaces

Recently, someone asked me post a picture of my workspace -- the place where I write my novels. I've have seen other people asking this of authors in the past, and I must say it is interesting to see the diversity in various workspaces.  Awhile ago, I changed my picture on my author Facebook page to focus on that glorious place where the "magic happens. And here it is:

A few things about this picture:

  • Yes, it is always that clean. I abhor mess, especially where I work so if I bring out a book or something for reference, I use it and put it back (what this picture doesn't show is the bookcases on the wall behind me.
  • Yes, the clocks don't match. I love the look of the wall-clock (given to me as a gift) so I display it proudly on the wall...but it "ticks" loudly and when I write I want complete silence.
  • The dagger is my "Stabby" from reddit's Fantasy sub. It's an engraved award given out at the end of year. Mine was a community achievement award for best overall redditor.
  • The coffee mug is always by my side. I'm fueled by coffee, especially since I do most of my writing in the morning.
  • My computer is a Mac - which I love dearly. It's clean and beautifully designed. The fact I have no wires for my keyboard and touchpad  (preferred over mouse) is something I appreciate to no end.  Robin accuses me of loving my Mac more than her...that's not true, but I must confess I spend more time with the Mac then with her....hmmmm.
  • The microphone and earphones are used for podcasting. I also sometimes use earphones...for instance if Robin is on the phone, as any noise is distracting.
  • The lamp on the left is new -  a big splurge from a recent royalty check.
My feet are up on the bedpost - yes, my office is in my bedroom - REALLY short commute.  Robin is in the process of getting me a "writing cabana" - a separate building where I can isolate myself. The building is actually "done" and will be delivered to some land we bought in the mountains as soon as the ground has dried out and can accept a truck with a heavy payload.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Authors Helping Authors: Thierry Sagnier's Thirst

I have a local writing critique group that I don't go to very often. It occurs on the same night that I head out to the pub, and sometimes authors I'm friends with come meet me at the bar before or after. When someone I know has a piece up for critique, I do go and help them out with my feedback (most of which I share privately because I'm a very picky reader). My goal in critiquing is to help the author be better, not to stroke their ego and I'm a harsh critical reader.

At a few meetings I've come across some submissions by Thierry Sagnier.  I don't really know him, but his work was always well received by the group. One thing led to another and we (my wife and I) ended up meeting him for lunch to talk about various things.

Robin has a way of volunteering me for things, and I knew after a short while she was going to ask me to "whip up a cover." Luckily, I had already read the book and really enjoyed it, providing a bit of help on restructuring of the start.

For her part, Robin volunteered to do the book's layout and create a new ebook file (formatting in the old version was jacked up for reasons none of us understood).  She also was willing to help him get the book posted on various sites and making the paperback available for sale.

Thierry hired a copy editor to go through the book from top to bottom and it has now been released and is live on goodreads and Amazon.

As I said, I really enjoyed the book, and Thierry is an accomplished author. He was a Pushcart Prize Nominee and has been writing since the 1970's including works for The Washington Post. Thirst is a hard-boiled suspense thriller set in Washington DC.  Here's a bit about the book:

A fortune in drugs is missing. Finding them starts with finding her. 
Colin isn’t a cop. Joe is, but isn’t up for this. Mamadou was an excellent police officer back in Senegal, but in Washington DC he drives a limo. Josie’s just a girl—a recovering crack addict fed up with her parents and with Herbie, her boyfriend. She’s planning on giving him a piece of her mind. Trouble is, Herbie stole a shipment of drugs, and now he’s dead.  And let’s not forget Mollie Catfish…

Now the Zulu wants his drugs, Mamadou wants revenge, Joe just wants to do his job for once, and Colin wants to save his girlfriend’s daughter. All Josie wants is to remember what Herbie might have told her, what the Zulu insists she knows. If she doesn’t—she’s dead too.

Mollie? She wants it all.

Behind the polished marble of Washington DC, lies dark alleys where everyone thirsts for something.

I should note that I rarely give blurbs for books, although I'm asked to all the time. Remember how I started this post about being a "picky reader"? Well I have no reservation about providing one for Thierry's book so here goes:

"Sagnier builds characters as solid, gritty, and as broken as a DC street, with prose that
lights up like monuments on a starry night." — Michael J. Sullivan,
best-selling author of The Riyria Revelations

So if you happen to read suspense thrillers, please take a look at the sample of Thirst or check out Theirry's goodreads page and it to your "to be read pile."  If you do give the book a try, please let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tools for Authors: Grammarly

Sorry, I missed this post last week. Things got pretty crazy here, and I couldn't get it written in time. I'm trying to use Saturdays for Tools for Authors.  And previously spoke about Natural Reader. Today I want to talk about Grammarly.

What is Grammarly?

According tot their site it is:
Grammarly is the world's leading writing enhancement app. It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations. 
Widely used, they have more than 4 million registered users, including myself.

Here's an example of Grammarly in action.

One of the features I find particularly nice is that you can classify they "type" of the writing.  In other words, something more formal (like a research paper) will have slightly different analysis criteria than say a creative writing piece like a novel.

Now it should go without saying that Grammarly is not a replacement for a good editor, but it does do a good job pointing out some common problems and alerting you to something that might be an issue. The little "x" on the right can be used to ignore something that you know is correct. If you are not sure what it's trying to say, then the down arrow will give you more information.

How much does it cost?

Well like most programs it has a free trial.  It also offers several different payment plans:
  • $29.95 if you get a month-by-month subscription
  • $19.98 if you get it for a quarter (3 months) at a time
  • $11.66 if you commit to a full year (which is what I did)

Additional Resources

Grammarly also has a Handbook, which you can use to learn the rules of grammar with topics such as how to use commas or hyphens. 

I've found Grammarly to be well worth the money. Check it out, and maybe you'll agree.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Great Eight under a buck

The GrimDark Alliance posted a list of Eight Great Short Stories under $0.99.  And I thought I would share it. Here is a link.

Here's the full list and where to get them: