Court of Echoes & Read an eBook Week sale

The eighth story in the Tales of the Thief-City series, Court of Echoes, is out today. It’ll be free for this month on Smashwords and associated retailers (but probably not on Amazon).

 Court of Echoes smallCourt of Echoes

Strange beings searching for something is hardly unusual in the city of Nexi. When they intersect with a murder Rax is investigating, he can’t ignore them, leading him to an unsettling new world, and a theft that may not even have happened yet.

Eighth in the Tales of the Thief-City series. An 11,000 word novelette.


Read an eBook Week

Today is also the beginning of Read an eBook Week. As part of the Smashwords promotion, the other books in the Tales of the Thief-City series can be had for free using coupon code RW100, and most of my other stuff is half price.

Formatting Rant

[Another one I did in draft and then forgot to publish, hence it’s absence last week. I need to stop using Save Draft on scheduled posts]

The longest time spent on formatting is for the print version of my work. Most of that time is spent avoiding widows and orphans: single lines from a paragraph that appear on a different page to the rest of the paragraph. While some places suggest expanding or contracting the spacing of certain words to force their paragraph to lose or gain an extra line, I feel they always look odd. Possibly it’s only because I know about them, but it niggles. I prefer doing a round of editing in the print format, forcing me to reword so as to eliminate widows and orphans.

[Whether the time spent is worthwhile is debatable, since I have pitifully few print sales. They’re mainly there in hopes of my work starting to sell, so that they’re available in that format rather than losing out on sales.]

The frustrating part tends to come when I think I’ve got it in a perfect format. Then I load the .doc into Createspace and run through the pdf version they convert it into. I’ve just done so for the print collection of Tales of the Thief-City, and again run into the problem of the converted format not matching the Word version for no discernible reason.

Only one of the stories has the problem. The first four are fine. The subsequent ones are fine. But the fifth one, after the first few pages, starts losing lines, which are slipped on to the next page, building up and gradually adding two pages to the length of the book.

There is no obvious reason in the text, nothing unusual that could cause the lines to require extra space. It’s using the Createspace template document, and the other stories are going in fine. I did a blanket removal of all formatting on the story and redid only what was necessary. No change.

After hours of fruitless messing I gave up and shortened the page height for that section so it has one fewer line, then went through removing widows and orphans again. This time, no problems. The same number of lines in both versions.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and won’t be the last.


Cover Rant

That isn’t the end of my frustrations with Createspace. Oh, no.

The next step (and problem) is the cover. Especially if you provide the image for the whole wraparound cover, which I’ve been doing increasingly of late.

The problem comes with working out where the spine will be so I can place the title and back blurb so they appear centred (maybe I should plan covers so the title doesn’t have to be centred).

While one of the views Createspace offers of the cover does mark where the spine appears, it’s only on the pdf proof version, which can be reviewed after the book is compiled, a process that can take up to 24 hours. It usually doesn’t take that long, but I could easily have to wait until the next day to view it and tell how much I need to adjust the text. Or get a vague idea anyway, since it could easily take a few runs through to get it looking right in the pdf.

And once I get the print proof it may look slightly off on that, requiring another round of fiddling.

Story Evolution 4

The first draft of the first part is done. Only 43k, so probably one long book rather than three shorter ones.

Some sections will definitely need more work, and I’m not certain how useful working slower than usual was. Some conversations still feel like they could use more time to breathe, even if I’m not sure what else there is to say in them. Maybe I’m being too concise.

Ideas for what happens next are cohering, but I still need to think some more on the main character arcs. There’ll be more secondary character POVs in the second part, some of them maybe even surviving into the third part (both in terms of POV survival, and character survival, although neither rate may be very high). Some elements are firm, with scenes vivid in my head, but the third part is irritating me. I have only vague ideas of what’ll happen there, which makes it hard to foreshadow.

I’ll let it fester in the back of my mind for a few days as I do more work on other projects that need finishing up.

Flight of Angels

The seventh story in the Tales of the Thief-City series, Flight of Angels, is out today. It’ll be free for this month on Smashwords and associated retailers (but probably not on Amazon).

Flight of Angels smallFlight of Angels

Nexi is in upheaval, tensions escalating among its captive populace. A series of grisly murders doesn’t help matters, but why is an angel interested in them? And does Rax have much to gain from the hunt besides something to do?

Seventh in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 7,000 word short story.


Story Evolution 3

The story is about ready to enter the first draft writing stage (probably today or tomorrow). I’ve broken down the chapters, so it’s in a fairly firm state now. The first part, at least. The other two parts have only vague ideas for where things go, and a few solid scene ideas.

It feels wrong to start without knowing how it will end, but at least the first part has a firm structure with a kind of resolution to the surface plots. Not knowing how later parts go will likely mean more revisions of the first part to get things to fit though, which is not something I look forward to. The actual revision process is generally more relaxed than the first draft, but it’s the knowledge there’ll likely be more revision that’s the problem, looming over my current workload with the promise of more slog further up the road.

I don’t foresee the first part being long enough to support a traditional length novel. Even with a couple of main story strands it still doesn’t feel like it’ll end up being that long. I don’t know whether I’m too influenced by other media, but my stories feel like they’re just not long enough. Hopefully having all three parts (assuming I reach that point) in one work will offer something of the length expected by the market.


Story Evolution 2

[I’d intended to post this last week, but apparently neglected to schedule it correctly. Since I don’t have anything to blog about this week it won’t delay any additional content though. Still in the breaking the story down phase.]

One thing I’m trying on this project is, when writing up notes on the characters (major and minor), I try and come up with three stories they’re involved in. The main story is fairly broad, with a fair bit of intrigue and a number of elements that I started with only a vague notion of. The stories don’t have to relate to these elements, and they may not even come into play, but they help build up a picture of the character for me.

While some of the stories are strongly linked to the main plot, others have been useful in helping me firm up some ideas that were only vague to begin with. It’s also developed a clue as to what the later parts of the story will be.

Because of the nature of the story there’s a danger that having too many elements will confuse the plot, so that’ll have to be watched. But that’s the kind of story it was going to be anyway.

It probably isn’t an approach I’d use for a simpler plot, but in this case it appears to have been useful in breaking down the story.

Story Evolution 1

The current story is looking less like a trilogy as I break it down. While the three parts had different feels, as I get into it the third feels too dissimilar to the other two to work. I’m not sure yet, as only the first part is gaining a firm state in my mind.

I’ll probably write it as one large story, in distinct blocks, and decide on breaking it up later. Assuming it does get broken up. I always tend to overestimate how long a story’s going to be, and I’m not sure the first part as I currently see it is going to be as long as I might like (100k+ words, which is around the lower limit the ‘market’ expects epic fantasies to be these days).

I may try and do the first draft of the first part before breaking down the second part, which I have only vague ideas of at the moment. I don’t like not knowing (even roughly) how the story ties up before starting. There’s too much chance of having to redo early stuff to accommodate it, and it’s always trickier to change stuff than plan it properly in the first place. But the scope of the story is fairly wide, and can be difficult to think about as a whole.

Breaking things down into more manageable chunks is the way I prefer to work. Working out plot arcs, character arcs, world building that needs to be covered, and breaking them down into the required beats for each arc. With a list of those beats it’s then easier to work out the progress of the story, and break it down into chapters.

The character arcs tend to be fairly vague at this point, as the characters become more solid during the writing, so their arcs may well be refined more during editing. In this case the characters are slightly more solid to begin with as the main viewpoints are from characters in the Dwimmerscout short story.

The plot arcs can be more firmly developed before writing, as the more time you spend on them beforehand the more chance you have of spotting the plot holes and fixing them before they ever get on the page. Without having the story fully plotted all the way through before starting, I therefore run the risk of not seeing some plot holes until the first draft is done, making more work for myself later on.


Parliament of the Streets

The sixth story in the Tales of the Thief-City series is now available, free on Smashwords and associated sites for this month. The remaining stories should then be published on a monthly basis.


Parliament of the Streets

Parliament of the Streets small

With gang tensions approaching breaking point all over the city, the last thing Rax wants is to be caught in the middle. When a debt comes due he doesn’t have a choice, and the only solution may be to find the person responsible, or at least to survive the changes to the city.
Sixth in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 7,000 word short story.

2014 End of Year Review

It doesn’t feel like I’ve achieved much this year. The beginning was spent finishing off the novel and couple of novellas and getting those out, but it doesn’t feel quite the same as having written them totally in this year, even if probably half the work on them was done in this period. The only other things I’ve put out this year are a couple of short stories previously published in anthologies, purely so they’d appear linked to my other books.

The middle of the year felt pretty much wasted, as other work and back problems prevented me getting much traction on anything. I did manage to get a short novel written a few months ago, and it’s now in a state I’m happy with. Apart from the title. It doesn’t really have an explicit reference in the story, but I was going to go with it since I can’t think of anything better. Another story I’ve planned since would better suit the title however, so now I have to think up another title for the finished work. No idea when inspiration for that will hit me.

I managed to finish the final seven short stories of the Tales of the Thief-City series, the first of which is finished and ready to go. That’ll be out on the 1st of January, and the subsequent stories should be published on a monthly basis, so there’ll at least be some visible activity (and I’ll have something to post here, since I seem unable to come up with any post topics I can finish an entry on). The stories will be free for their first month, rising to 99c thereafter (not including on Amazon, because price matching there is pretty much a lost cause).

I’m hoping next year will be more productive, though I’m not sure what it’ll include. There are a couple of sequels rattling about in my head, along with an epic fantasy that seems inclined towards a trilogy (which I’ve tried avoiding since trilogies seem clich√©, but that’s how the story seems to be working out). Given I’ve yet to see significant sales from anything so far, the new trilogy (a development of the Dwimmerscout short story, but that won’t be necessary reading so shouldn’t interfere) would make more sense than further books in series that don’t have many readers, but it’ll mainly depend on which idea asserts itself most strongly in my mind as I work on them. I’ll try developing the trilogy to begin with and see where I end up.

As to substantive activity on this blog, it’ll depend on whether I can find the time and inspiration (mainly the latter at the moment) to write something that isn’t complete drek. Which this may well be to many.

Seasons greetings to anyone who goes in for that kind of thing, and I hope next year is productive for all of us.

NaNoWriMo Progress

So a week in to NaNoWriMo and I’m done. The remaining stories from the Tales of the Thief-City series have first drafts, and it took me just over the 50,000. I do have another unrelated short story I might try and knock into shape and get done this month if I can.

I might leave this as my last NaNoWriMo. I don’t do well with the deadline. I’m borderline OCD for not liking being late, so I rush even more than I normally do with first drafts. And as I allow myself plenty of preparation time beforehand, I usually have a week or two at the end of October where I’m not really doing much but I already have the urge to get on with the writing.

Even more than with other first draft writing I worry that the haste is producing bad work. Yes, it’ll go through a few rounds of revision, but would it require fewer if I spent a little more time on the first draft.

While I use NaNoWriMo to get on with writing certain projects, and assigning a certain time to doing awkward writing can be useful, I may just need to be more efficient with my regular schedule.


Next up is trying to get the outline for this other short into shape, and/or then revising the recent work.