Friday, March 30, 2012

To Scrivener or Not to Scrivener?

Currently using MS Word for the bulk of my manuscript work and Dramatica Pro for outlining. On occasion, I'll also use the novel template in my screenwriting software, Screenwriter 2000. All of these are perfectly good programs (and I'm definitely not looking to "replace" my screenwriting software), but on the other hand I'm always willing to add worthwhile software to my writer's toolkit.

Lately, I've been hearing about Scrivener. The appeal seems to be that it unites a lot of the varied applications an author might use to create content. What do you, my writer friends, have to say about it? If you're using Scrivener, what do you like? What are its strengths and limitations?  Is it worth buying? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Brigitta of the White Forest

Brigitta is a young Water Fairie on the cusp of learning what her destiny will be in the White Forest, the protected realm of her people. Will she be a Feast Master like her mother? An Inventor like her father? There's no way to tell until the proper markings show up on the tips of her wings. In the meantime, she has to deal with the types of problems facing any maturing young lady including her precocious (and often annoying) little sister who always seems to be hanging around.

One day, while flying an errand, Brigitta and her sister are horrified to discover that all of their family and friends have been turned to stone. In fact, every living being in the White Forest is now this way. Why were they spared from the curse and why did it have to happen now -- only days before the Hourglass of Protection's last grain of sand falls?

With the help of an ancient inhabitant of the dark forest, Brigitta and her sister set out to find the answers to these questions before time runs out and the outside world, with all of it's dangers, comes pouring in.

Smoothly written, Brigitta of the White Forest is a fun and engaging read with an interesting story and unique characters (my favorites were Gola and her familiar, Minq). Author Danika Dinsmore does a fine job in keeping the story moving and avoiding the tiresome over-description that often plagues this genre.

Recommended

Correction: I removed a part of the above review where I erroneously noted that Brigitta was labeled as a YA novel.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

7 Questions: Author Mark Tierno

As part of the Magic Appreciation Tour, I was given the opportunity to interview Mark Tierno, author of two epic fantasy works, Maldene (Volumes One and Two).  A blend of science and sorcery, these books are set in "a world of magic and ancient secrets" where a band of mercenaries find themselves at odds with a dark wizard who may just be "the most evil being ever known."

Volume One
Mark lives in Monrovia California and has earned a Masters in Physics and a second degree in Math. He's a lifelong reader of fantasy and SciFi and started writing his books with the help of his "trusty old Amiga computer." Talk about old school!

I found him to be a very interesting fellow and I'm quite sure you will, too.

Here now, my 7 Questions for Mark Tierno:

Your Maldene novels are a mix of science and fantasy. What inspired you to blend the two genres?

Mark Tierno
I've always loved reading both SF and Fantasy.  Couple that with a mind that's always asking "What if?" and it wasn't long before I began asking myself "Why can't you combine the two?"   After all, a high enough level of technology begins to look like magic anyway.  Magic plus Science, Fantasy plus SF; such a combination could yield some very interesting environments.  The trick is avoid the sledge hammer approach in combining the two; something more subtle than just "He's got the blaster and the other guy has the magic wand."  A more subtle blend is required.

Maldene starts off as looking like pure high fantasy; the SF elements begin to peek through as the series develops until by the last books you would be hard put to tell where one ends and the other begins.  And yet, even in this first book there are clues, subtle hints that something beyond the norm of mere Fantasy may be at work.

There's enough people that write either straight SF or straight Fantasy.  I'll leave that to them and handle the mixed genre stuff.


Does your background in science and math affect how magic works in your stories?

My background gives me a logical and informed mind.  So when it comes to magic, I treat it as just another force in the universe, though one that allows quite the range of fantastic capabilities.  Nevertheless, like any force it would have its rules, as well as its own logic.  For instance, a wizard uses his mind to channel the forces behind magic, which means he can get tired after a while and would need to rest.  And if a magic spell conjures forth something physical then the normal physical laws would still apply.  A conjured lightning bolt is still electricity and could be conducted away by something like a lightning rod.  If there is a cave in which the conjuring of magic is prevented, one could still conjure forth a ball of fire from outside the cave then hurl it inside; it's simple fire at that point and not magic and would still burn even with the magic-nullifying field present.

It is this insistence on logic and the remembering that there are other physical laws present that the laws of magic must interact with that can make even a world of magic believable within its own context; provide that suspension of belief required for a reader to believe in the circumstances, feel as the characters would, and enjoy the story.


Are you still using your trusty old Amiga? If not, what hardware and software do you use to write your novels?

Volume Two
My Amiga still lives, though two years ago I had an offer from a friend to buy off his G5 MAC tower.  Having a need to interact with the real world a bit more- in such things as being able to read the PDFs my publisher gave me as the galleys for my book, and having web browsers that can actually fully load up thew social media sights that I need to promote Maldene with- I took him up on the offer.  Currently my trusty old Amiga lies silent but simply because I need to re-seat the graphics board and don't want to do it when I'm in a hurry lest I let something slip the wrong way and find myself in need of a very expensive repair.

For the record, it's an Amiga 4000/060.  During the course of writing the Maldene series I went through three keyboards and two motherboards.  Just wore them out from the pace of my typing.


What are your thoughts on the overall trend toward digital publishing?

Digital publishing will make it possible for the unknown author to at least get a start and have a chance at becoming known.  However, like in any field, there are both the good and bad.  One has to beware of a poor quality product in something as new as digital publishing with its dozen different formats and lack of any real industry standards.  Likewise for the digital publishers themselves, most of them with a track record of no more than 3-5 years instead of being spawned off an older traditional publisher with more publishing experience in general.

I also do not think that the traditional published novel is dead (at least not yet).  There are still some of us that like walking into a bookstore, taking one glance at a wall full of 50 or 60 books, and spotting that one that stands out enough for us to pull it down.  You still can't do that with even the best broadband (not to mention you'd need a screen the size of a wall to get the same view).  Tablets are getting pretty good, but they aren't flexible enough to stuff in a back pocket like an old paperback, not to mention if you ever lost it on the buss you'd be out a bit more than 2 dollars.


What's a typical writing day like for you?

I have a three day cycle for each chapter.  Day One begins the new chapter; I start at 7:30 in the morning and finish someplace around 5PM, give or take.  I will have written between 12,000-13,000 words in that time.  Then it's off to the length club for a bit (must maintain the body supporting the brain) then back for dinner, at which point I edit what I wrote that day.  Usually finish up around midnight.  on Day Two, I finish up whatever's left of that chapter; usually around 3000-5000 words.  Done by Noon (leaving me enough time to run those mundane daily errands), edit what I wrote later on.  Day Three is what I call a Chapter Edit.  I go through the entire chapter one more time, checking for plot and character stuff, then run the spell checker.  Once done with that chapter I then outline the next one that I'll be starting, so the day after that it's back to Day One on the next chapter.

My books are typically divided up into three sections, so at the end of a given section I also give the whole thing the once over to make sure that the plot elements from one chapter to the next are consistent and flow properly.  Likewise at the end of the book, I give the entire novel one last once over.


Who are the authors on your "inspired by" list and what about their lives or works inspired you?

Growing up I read quite a few; from Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov, to Andre Norton and A.E. Van Voght, from Frank Herbert to Greg Bear.  From each one's works I took a little something; it could have been some element of style of writing or the way the story was constructed, or something about their world as written or one of the characters.  I have been inspired by many authors, and taken something from all of them.  To get a full view of how I developed my own style, from whence come all my ideas of story and character, you would have to read through about a hundred different books, twenty different authors (some rather obscure), and have seen a selection of as many movies.


Any "wish I would've known that when I started" advice you'd like to share with beginning authors?

I know writers are a solitary lot, but learn to socialize, to "network".  Agents are lazy by nature and will usually reject a new author because it's too much work and risk to promote them.  Publishers too are usually rather conservative and need a better reason than "but it's a really good book".  Now in this day and age of online networking, a writer can start forming useful contacts from the comfort of his own home and maybe drum up enough interest amongst the right parties to have a potential publisher by the time he's finished his book.

You will also need one of two things.  Either a supportive family or patron that knows you'll be a starving artist for a while before succeeding, or a day job that works with your writing schedule.

###

Thanks, Mark!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dragonfriend Book Giveaway 3: Electric Boogaloo

The book giveaways have been coming fast and furious here on The Novel Project, but the way I look at it there's nothing wrong with another chance to win a free book, eh?

As part of the Magic Appreciation Tour, author Daniel Marvello is hosting a Dragonfriend giveaway. Yes, in a daring twist on prior giveaways, this time another author has generously offered to help out.

Head on over to his blog before 3/24 and enter for a chance to win either a paperback copy or a Kindle gift code for Dragonfriend. Then, as long as you're there, stick around for a bit as he's got some great content. Good luck!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Get Interviewed by Cat

As part of the Magic Appreciation Tour, I was recently interviewed by Katharina "Cat" Gerlach who thought I might have something interesting to say about writing and books in general. Check out the interview and decide for yourself whether or not I'm worthy of her kind confidence. (Thanks, Cat!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Win a Copy of Urchin King

As part of the Magic Appreciation Tour, I'm very pleased to be hosting a book giveaway for author Katharina Gerlach's historical fantasy novel , Urchin King. The giveaway will run for two weeks, starting on Wednesday 3/7 and ending on Wednesday 3/21. Katharina is providing three Smashwords coupons as prizes and asks me to let you know that Smashwords is offering her book at a substantial discount until 3/10. 

UPDATE: I included a link to Katharina's blog in her bio.

UPDATE TWO: GIVEAWAY OFFICIALLY CLOSED. Katharina has generously decided to award four Smashwords coupons for her book. Congratulations to our winners:  Brian Clopper, Aldrea Alien, Ami Hendrickson, and Daniel Marvello. 


Win me!

About the Book

For fourteen years, street-urchin Paul's miserable existence has kept him safe from an ancient law that sentences all second-born twins to death. When he learns he is the younger twin of the mentally handicapped Crown Prince who's in danger of being killed for his disability, he agrees to play the role of the miraculously healed royal heir. Paul struggles to learn how to act like a born ruler, but finds that his greatest skill, getting by unnoticed, is now his greatest liability. He knows if he is discovered, he will be executed like all second-born twins. 




Katharina Gerlach
About the Author
Katharina Gerlach grew up in the middle of a forest in the heart of the Luneburgian Heather. She enjoys writing Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Historical Novels for all age groups. At present, she is writing her next project in a small house near Hildesheim, Germany, where she lives with her husband, three children, and a dog. 






Giveaway Rules
Leave one (1) comment with your e-mail address and the title of your favorite fantasy book on this post by Wednesday 3/21 at 11:59 p.m. PST. This will enter you in a drawing to win one of three Smashwords coupons for Urchin King.

The day after the giveaway ends, the comments will be numbered and three winners will be chosen using a random number generator. Katharina will be sent the winners' contact information and will be responsible for sending out the coupon codes. 

Good luck, aspiring giveaway winners!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Congrats to Eric Schwartz of Kentucky for winning a signed copy of Dragonfriend in my Goodreads giveaway. I'll be mailing out his copy later this week along with some bookmarks and postcards.

(Side note to authors: I highly recommend trying out this gratis Goodreads feature. It's an inexpensive way to generate some interest in your book (basically, your cost on a hardcopy and the necessary postage). I had 790 people sign up for the giveaway, many of whom also put the book on their "to read" list. Nice!)

Savor this sweet victory, Eric, for the gods of logarithmic randomness are not always so kind.