About Five Weeks off the Grid

Photo by veeterzy on Pexels.com

Okay, perhaps I won’t be completely off the grid for the next five weeks … but I will take a hiatus from blogging. The last three weeks of June, plus the first two or so of July, will be taken up with family travels. As I don’t yet have pictures from those travels, I am giving you lots of nice nature pictures in this post to hold you over: old favorites from both Pexels and my own stash of photos.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last time I went “off the grid,” I posted this log cabin. (Not my actual house.)

Sagebrush and Rabbit Bush in eastern Oregon
Terrifying volcanic pool featured in The Strange Land
Kachina Bridge in southern Utah
Hay bale megaliths in Idaho
Proof that Wyoming exists

This year, during our travels, I’ll try to bring along Neanderthal Woman and get some pictures of her in various locations.

Here she was on a wheel line last year.
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

And yeah, I might do some gardening.

You may see a few blog posts go up while I’m gone. I have been trying to get The Long Guest converted to e-book format. If/when that succeeds, I’ll inform you via a post. I also have a special Muppet guest blogger planned for the Fourth of July.

Other than that … Have a great month! I hope you get to do lots of fun, summery things while I am doing same!

Misanthropic Author of the Week

Just so you know, I am now officially an independent author.

I know this because they let me join their Alliance.

Okay, okay, I had to pay to get in. But they don’t let just anybody join … I am pretty sure …

In all seriousness. If you look on the right side of my blog, you will see the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) badge. If you click on it, you’ll go to their web site. They offer a variety of services to author members, like contract reviews, cool badges, and how-to booklets on every imaginable topic relating to publishing. You can find their videos on YouTube as well. They seem like good people.

I, on the other hand … total misanthrope. Look at me, all bespectacled and stuff.

New FAQ from a Reader

A reader recently asked me this, and I have added it to my FAQs page.

Q. I’ve heard writers say “I was going to do X, but then the character did Y.” I always think, Wait, aren’t you the one who makes up what the character does?

A. Well, it may sound strange, but when we are writing fiction, the characters do “come to life” and do things the author wasn’t completely planning. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if this does not happen, then the story is not working. All the richest parts of my own stories have come about as a result of this phenomenon.

Of course, the author still has to “make up” what the character is doing in a sense, and write it down. But it seems to come from somewhere else at the same time. This is similar to what happens to actors and musicians when they talk about “being in the zone.” They still have to play the notes or say the words, and they need to be talented and to have practiced. But something more is also going on. This is the reason that ancient poets and storytellers used to invoke the Muse before embarking on their art.

I’m not sure this phenomenon is experienced by every single fiction writer. Perhaps there are some very meticulous plotters who don’t experience this and who still write perfectly good books. But this “characters coming to life” thing is definitely a part of my own process, and I’ve heard many other authors talk about it, so I know I’m not the only one.

On a related note, I’ve heard that some people write up “character sheets” before they begin drafting their novel. They come up with details about the character’s personality, back story, etc. In my case, I don’t do this kind of thing before I start drafting; instead, it’s part of the drafting process. I observe how the characters react in the situations I place them, and they reveal back story as we go. It wasn’t until after writing The Long Guest, for example, that I was able to tell that Nirri is an ESTP on the Meyers-Briggs. And MBTI typing him, by then, was just more a silly, fun exercise than a part of character development.

Fellow authors, please chime in about whether and how you have experienced this phenomenon. Do you count on your characters coming to life during the drafting or outlining process? Or is it something that occasionally happens, and you enjoy, but that you can get through a novel without? Has a character ever become so recalcitrant that you had to re-work your entire plot?

Happy Birthday Book/Happy Birthday Dad!

It’s my book’s birthday! Here is The Strange Land‘s back cover. In the spirit of birthday, I have given the bear a lollipop and a party hat. (Hey … it’s better than some other things she could be eating!)

Hope this is not too silly for you. I just figured that faithful blog readers have already seen so many pictures of The Strange Land leading up to today’s release date.

Now you can buy The Strange Land on Amazon or on Bookshop. And, if you have already pre-ordered it (thankyouthankyouthankyou), it should start shipping out to you soon.

If it happens that you have not read the first book in the series, The Long Guest, you can buy it here or here and read it as a prequel. (I decided not to photoshop a birthday hat onto Nimri. You are welcome.)

The release date for The Strange Land was chosen in honor of my father, who turns 70 in conjunction with the book coming out. Happy Birthday, Dad! I am a natural reader and probably would have discovered books without your influence, but luckily, we never had to find out whether that would be the case. Instead, your gift for languages, sense of humor, love for literature and the extremely print-rich environment you provided were perfectly in line with my gifts and interests and gave me a huge leg up on eventually becoming an author, not to mention many hours of culture and enjoyment, and a safe environment in which to develop. It is safe to say that without you, the world would never have been introduced to the universe of the Scattering Trilogy. Now you are 70, which in the world of the Scattering means you are barely middle-aged. May you live to be 130, like Nimri. I love you!

I Guess We’re Really Doing This, Book #2

Don’t you look handsome, Book #2!

Uploading you was tricky. It was a two-week ordeal that gave me fits. Now, that could have been because I am nearly computer illiterate, but I prefer to think it was Satan — a.k.a. Resistance — trying to keep you from being published. You know, because you are so important and all.

Anyway, here we are.

Hi Blog Readers! Soon You Can Buy My Second Book!

The Strange Land is set go on sale May 3, in honor of a certain dear older relative’s birthday. You should be able to pre-order it soon. I just checked, and it doesn’t appear to be on Amazon yet, but that’s probably because I only released it for publishing just a few hours ago. When I have a link, I will give you one on this very blog. I’m also updating the “buy my books” page.

The Strange Land picks up more or less where The Long Guest left off and follows the second generation of Enmer’s family. Here is the back cover:

Aaand there it is … the one embarrassing typo.

And just for the thrill of it, here is the spine:

A sample print copy is on the way to my house. Let’s hope that by the time it arrives, the typo will have vanished!

Have a great week, all, and I will keep you updated.

Pre-order The Strange Land on Amazon.

Unattractive but Understandable Boasting

So, this last week, I got the following e-mail from an agent:

“Sorry for the delay in responding to your query. This novel doesn’t look like it’s for me, but good luck with your writing.”

A pretty standard, polite, inoffensive reply. The second most popular kind after No Response Means No.

Why is this both amusing and annoying?

Because I sent the query eleven months ago.

I had forgotten that I was still querying in April of last year. That’s around the time that I decided to go ahead with self-publishing. Apparently, I was still sending off a few queries for Book #2, on the off chance that someone would love it and call me the same day to beg for the file of the whole novel. In the year since, I’ve had Books 1 and 2 professionally edited, done cover design, indie published Book 1 … and, this week, I was preparing finally to upload for indie publishing Book 2. The same week I got the reply to this query.

A delay of almost a year before a reply isn’t actually that unusual in traditional publishing? I guess? It wouldn’t seem very insulting except that, for me as for many people, this past year has seemed much longer. The idea that I could still be sitting by my laptop, waiting for replies to queries, is kind of sad.

Now, my book sales aren’t anything to boast about yet. On the other hand, because I took action instead of waiting on agents, I can now say the phrase “my book sales.” And that’s priceless.