Another milestone

Emma Jane Holloway
May 7, 2013  •  No Comments

Turned in the first iteration of book 3 in one of those last moment, race to the finish scenarios. Thanks go to the Beta Crew, Captain Cat in particular for the real-time editing.

I know there is a lot more work to come, but I love the ending, if I do say so myself.

Project round-up is:

  • Book 1 – done
  • Book 2 – waiting for page proofs
  • Book 3 – waiting for round 1 edits

Progress Report

Emma Jane Holloway
February 24, 2013  •  No Comments

So much to do, so much to do. The cover copy for all 3 books is up now (yay!). Plus, I’ve been getting some very nice blurbs in from other authors. To say that I am so very grateful is a vast understatement, and I’ll be unrolling those as things go along.

Here is where we are:

Book One: in the page proofs stage.  That is, me proofreading the typesetter’s work. They’ve done a few interesting things with the interior design, which is cool.

Book Two: in the second round of edits, which must be done today Or Else.

Book Three: on the workbench.  I am loving the opening which, of course, may or may not end up as the actual opening.

There are also related shorts coming out, and three out of four are complete. Only one is what I would legitimately call short, though. I write long, and short stories always end up like puppies with big feet–they keep growing and growing in the most alarming way.


Dating!

Emma Jane Holloway
December 18, 2012  •  No Comments

There is nothing quite so motivating as a goal post, and now I have actual release dates for the books. Yippee! and Yikes!

In other news, my second short story is accepted and the third begun. These are meant to be promo pieces for ebook extras, but they’re turning into actual incidents in the overall plot arc, so we’ll see how that works out.  This is the down side of having a lot of interesting secondary characters…given half a chance, they seize the limelight. I thought the short story idea was perfect for giving them their fifteen minutes, but noooooo–they have to take over the whole freaking storyline and then hand it back all rumpled when they’re done.


We haz titles!

Emma Jane Holloway
December 12, 2012  •  No Comments

The series will be called: The Baskerville Affair

The individual books will be titled:

Book One: A Study in Silks

Book Two: A Study in Darkness

Book Three: A Study in Ashes

I’m very, very happy with these titles. For one thing, now I get to curse the manuscripts in much more specific terms.


Edits for Book #2 are back

Emma Jane Holloway
December 5, 2012  •  No Comments

And in record time. The box was waiting for me when I got home with my manuscript inside – and a lot of work to do!

I go through what must be a fairly typical cycle when I read the editorial comments. At first, outrage at being so egregiously misunderstood, and then I calm down enough to actually read the notes properly. Then they’re either not as bad as I thought, or not as good as I thought. This results in tea, self-pity, resignation, gloom. Then comes resignation, hope, determination and–after many tiny violins–actual work.

Of course, once I actually do the edits and realize the editor was right, then I wonder what all the fuss was about. Writers are such odd beasts!

 

 

 


Virtual renovations

Sharon Ashwood
May 9, 2012  •  3 Comments

Few things are more daunting or more exciting than a cunning plan. Daunting, because I’m a bit short of cleverness, not to mention cunning, when faced with the world of internet technology. It outwits me on a regular basis.

That doesn’t mean I get away with ignoring it. And, unfortunately, there is only so much I can designate to other people. The sad truth is that while I can ask a technician to build a web site for me, I still have to tell them what I want to include. Now there’s a good question.

Web site? Yes, I have one already, but it was made before my Dark Forgotten series came out. With the advent of a new string of books, heroes, adventures, and the rest, I thought it was time for a makeover. What I want to know first, though, is what parts of a web page readers actually want to see. Do you care about what writing courses I can teach? Whether the text is white on black or black on white? Where do you click to first?

Answer this survey in a comment and you will be automatically entered into a prize draw for one of my books—your choice of title. If you answer all five questions, you will double your entries—yes, two chances as a reward for being thorough!

1. When you visit an author’s web site, do you look at their blog?
2. What are the first two pages you look for?
3. What pages do you ignore?
4. What turns you off about a website?
5. What features do you like so much that you bookmark a site that has them?

I’ll draw the winner in one week, so get your answers in!

This contest is also open to my newsletter group.


The loneliness of the long-distance synopsis

Sharon Ashwood
May 2, 2012  •  No Comments

There is plenty of advice out there on how to write ‘em. Keep it short and simple, no more than two pages. Keep the tone of the work you’re going to write. Use the present tense. Be focussed on the key points of the book.

None of that is bad, but it’s only conditionally true. In reality, the right way to produce a book outline is a) any method that will get it from your brain to the page in a coherent and meaningful fashion and b) it has to be in a form that your editor/agent wants to receive it. The bottom line is that they want to find out, with as little effort as possible, what you’re going to write about.

These two points, in my opinion, cut out a lot of stress. I long believed myself to be the worst synopsis-writer on the planet, and so laboured long and hard to produce a perfect specimen for my editor. Two pages, not a word over. I tracked the romance arc to perfection, touching on all the grey, black and purple moments. Began and ended with catchy phrases and had many a chuckle in between. It was great, she said, but what happened in the story? She knew everything but the details of the plot. I was about to protest that all the books said that was the one thing that didn’t matter, then fortunately stopped myself. The only thing that mattered is that she wanted to know, and I had to tell her.

The next outline I stuck to just the facts. I wrote was a ten-page blow by blow, chapter by chapter account with separate sections on character background and world-building. Crazy? Overblown? Flying in the face of received wisdom? Perhaps, but she loved it. For her, the supersized synopsis was the right approach.

Ever since, I’ve tended toward these monster-sized tomes, some of which top 5K words. Yes, it gives the editor more to quibble about, but I generally get far less push-back in the end. My agent loves them, too. Plus, they can give far, far better feedback when they know the specifics of your proposal and if there’s something they just don’t feel will work, it’s better to have that discussion before you write the next 90,000 words.

This does not mean that every editor or agent out there is going to adore this method. That two-page rule came from somewhere, so a goodly portion of publishing professionals prefer it. The point is simply that it pays to ask the simple question: what does your editor/agent like? The guidelines on their web site might be a company rule, but if a publishing house has a herd of editors, their individual tastes could be quite different. If you have a chance to ask, do it. Throwing the rule book out the window did me a world of good.

In some ways, that’s the hardest lesson to learn in an industry where advice is plentiful and hard facts are rare as cream puffs at the Hunger Games. Always ask what actually works.


Cherry blossoms!

Sharon Ashwood
April 27, 2012  •  No Comments

Outside my window


Mr. Darcy investigates – or not.

Sharon Ashwood
April 26, 2012  •  No Comments


I love Jane Austen and I love British mysteries, so P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley sounded like a sure winner. James opens the story some years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth and Darcy have two small sons. All the period detail (at least as far as I know) is caught with careful accuracy, and Austen’s characters and their histories are faithfully rendered.

Perhaps this is part of the difficulty I had with the book. There is no larger than life detective, derring-do, or scrapes with death. Everyone (especially Darcy) acts exactly as individuals in that time and place ought to. True, there is a death, a coroner’s inquest, and a trial, but they are delivered at arm’s length. For the most part, the main characters do not take an active part in the investigation, nor is anything other than their good name on the line. Darcy is by turns painfully correct, worried about failing the Pemberley legacy, and glum, but he does not roll up his sleeves and start interrogating.

I personally would have liked something a bit more down and dirty, with the characters in the crosshairs of more than potential gossip. But that’s my problem. Austen wrote with most of her action off stage, never bringing scandalous activities directly on scene but only reporting them after the event. As little as I like it, the author is being faithful to the model.

However, I missed Austen’s caustic wit. For the most part, Lizzie is reduced to a cipher, as is her chemistry with Darcy. There is no irrepressible female viewpoint to lampoon the pretentions of society. The lightness, spirit, and incisive eye for character—that which made Austen memorable—fail to materialize. Most of all, even if the characters won’t be impacted by more than scandal, I need to care about the outcome. Because the Pemberley folks are so far removed from any real consequences, this was difficult.

I think this is the problem when one anticipates a book with great relish. If it does not deliver the expected treat exactly right, it’s hard not to judge it harshly. All I can say is that this wasn’t what I was hoping for.


World building for junior planetary engineers

Sharon Ashwood
April 25, 2012  •  No Comments

I’ve seen lots of information on world building that helps an author lay out the rules of their universe. There are tons of things to consider: climate, currency, social castes, political systems, and on and on. One can draw maps and list all kinds of flora and fauna and cuisine. It’s all good.

What I rarely see is information on how any of that contributes to the story beyond setting, such as why or how, let alone how much.

I had a lively discussion recently about just this thing. I’d given some chapters of a fantasy to a beta reader (poor thing) who came back with a recommendation for more world building details. Piqued that my genius would be questioned—after all I had tons of just such info in mind—I reread to see what I had (or had not) done. She was right. I’d fallen to the low end of the world building spectrum because I hadn’t used my ideas effectively.

· Low end of spectrum: the Stingy Approach. Don’t introduce anything unless you absolutely need to.
· Gone crazy end: the Victorian Bordello Approach. Don’t bother with the plot, the fun is in the gizmos and webbed feet.

Needless to say, there is a happy medium. However, the underlying problem in my story was that I had not thoroughly examined what role the world building elements in my book played.

Example: let’s say our fantasy society has an economy based on solar power. That could translate into: their jobs, where their family money came from, do they live above ground or under it, are there medical consequences, what crops do they have, can anybody access the power, has it affected population migration or birth rate, do they sell the power somehow? Why did they go to solar power and how did they learn the technology? Does it have spiritual or religious implications? What about the rest of the ecology?

Once the author has deeply pondered this squirmy mass of connecting ideas, the trick is then to drop in just the right details, as if in passing, to imply all of the above. Reference it as a fait accompli the way we talk about catching the city bus. After all, one’s point of view character probably lives in that world.

Example: They wouldn’t ponder the caste system of their planet. They’d simply kick the scum into the gutter and move on. Show, don’t tell.

It’s a casual slight-of-hand that makes the difference between the plodding obviousness of bad sci-fi and the opportunity to draw a reader deep, deep into the playground of your imagination.

To take this one step further, one has to ask why a certain element is pertinent. How do the two-headed dog packs on planet x affect the choices available to the protagonist? Where does it impact the central story conflict? Does it say something important about the state of society?

Example: planet x is a mining planet digging up a dangerous mineral. The resource conglomerates are telling the inhabitants the two-headed dogs with five tails are a naturally occurring species, but really their ancestors were cute little boxer pups and these are a mutation caused by the mining operation. Our hero discovers this secret just after his wife conceives. Cue plot motivation.

So, that is the worldbuilding lesson I learned. If I had done my homework, I would have known when and where to use my fantasy elements with the precision of a master chef seasoning a dish. Scrap that. They would have been essential ingredients to the meal, driving my characters and their actions.

Now let’s see if I can take my own advice 😳


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