The Perfect Story

Story ideas always seem more ideal before I start actually writing them.

The story exists in a perfect, if somewhat vague, form, unbruised by my clumsy prose.

As I break it down, look closer, its imperfections become apparent. But they’re minor blemishes in what’s surely a work of art, easily covered up by the judicious application of words.

Then comes the long slog of the actual writing, and the fluctuating certainty that I’m carefully crafting a pile of poo.

I carry on writing regardless, because I can’t be sure how bad it is until I step back and look at the final form. But my mind is already wandering ahead, thinking of stories I’ve yet to write, so perfect, so much better than this drivel I’m wading through.

Wade through it I do though, trying to learn what I’ve done wrong. Lessons to be applied to my next, perfect, story.

Which of course it won’t be. But that doesn’t stop me trying to write the perfect story, even knowing it can never exist outside a dream. I just hope that every story takes me one step closer to that perfection.

All my stories are practice for the perfect story I’ll never write.


The Lady’s Kiss

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

The Ladys Kiss smallThe Lady’s Kiss

Even knowing his client’s lying, Rax can’t resist the opportunity to deal with a long-standing mystery of the city.
Enchanted lovers, an evil sorcerer, and a mysterious woman who could be the death of them all. Will Rax’s obsession prove his undoing?
Ninth in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 7,000 word short story.

Createspace Woes

This is a public service announcement for those thinking of skipping the printed proof in favour of the digital version when publishing through Createspace. The colours don’t always come out as the digital version displays them.

Putting together a print collection of the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories, I decided to use the basic cover design with different colours.

This is the standard cover for the eBooks, with the individual title filling in the gap. The colours feel like they could be a bit garish in print, so I went for a black and red scheme.

skel cover small








This is the front cover (I did an image for the wraparound cover, but this is enough for the current example). The digital version looked just the same.

Intended cover small








This is a scan of the actual cover (slightly cropped by the scanner, and less crisp). It’s a bit more muted than the actual copy, but the red at the bottom is less sharp, and you can see a blurring where the background buildings are, whereas with the physical copy it took me a few moments to see the slightly less than black greyness of them in print.

printed cover small








On first glance they just looked like part of the blackness, so made it look like too wide a blank area. I’m not sure whether it makes a difference that I tried out the matte cover this time, but you’d at least expect it to show the colours chosen.

This is obviously particularly irritating in that I don’t want to have to order another proof copy just to check the next attempt. Apart from the fact it took a month for it to arrive (unless I pay significantly more for expedited international delivery), this could easily become a money sink.

Having finished proofing the book (the final changes to the series made, so now they’re just awaiting publication), I’ve redone the cover with the greys lightened a touch and ordered the two free copies I get for completing NaNoWriMo. If these don’t look right with the below tweaked cover, I may not bother putting it up for sale.

new cover smallI think I prefer the colours on this version anyway. In digital, at least.





Guest Post: Writing and Self-Publishing a Fiction Novel

Today we have a guest post by Ben Russel


Writing and Self-Publishing a Fiction Novel

Prior to beginning the writing of a fiction novel, the writer should first think of what makes a fiction novel successful. The writer should ask oneself what his favorite novel is. Once the writer decides upon his favorite novel, he should ask himself why this is his favorite novel. What about the novel has captured his attention? What techniques did the author use in writing the novel? These ideas should be brainstormed and written on paper for future reference. According to paper writers at, this will assist the writer in ensuring the success of his novel which will be self-published at a later date.

Capture the Senses

When writing a fiction novel, it is essential to capture the senses of your audience. The reader should essentially “feel” the novel as their eyes scroll through the pages. For example, if an author is discussing a man, the author would want to not only discuss that he is 41-years-old but perhaps that he is a handsome and charming 41-year-old man, with silky black hair and the most beautiful ocean blue eyes. The author should keep the readers reaching for more and more of the novel. Any descriptive-type writing captures the attention of the audience and provides the audience with a vivid image while reading.

Strike the Emotions

This leads us to striking emotions of the reader. The author should make them happy, sad, confused and/or joyous. Striking the emotions of the reader leaves an imprint and allows them to further connect with the characters in the novel. Let’s discuss this topic for a moment. Have you ever read Old Yeller? Old Yeller is perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time. Why is this? This is because it strikes the emotions of all people who read it. Old Yeller is extremely descriptive while providing the reader with all types of emotions throughout the story. This is an excellent read for a beginning writer who is interested in further developing their own novel.

Writers Block

Writers block is one problem which the writer may face throughout the duration of the novel-writing process. Writers block is when the writer has no idea what to write about. The writer may sit with the word processor open for hours adding then deleting items. In order to overcome writers block the writer should take a break and/or begin placing themselves in the situation of their character. For example, if the novel is about someone escaping from jail and the writer is writing the chapter of the escape, what would the writer feel in that situation? The writer should brainstorm and write out ideas on a separate piece of paper.


Finally, think of criticisms. If the writer is outside looking in on their work, what would be criticized? Is there anything that is not logical? Is there any part of the novel that does not flow well? If so, these should be addressed. What is the reason the writer is writing the story the way that it is? These are questions which may be asked by readers and/or critics which the writer should be prepared to answer.


Now that we have reviewed several tips on writing the novel, let’s discuss how to self-publish the novel. This sounds like a troublesome feat but it is not very difficult to self-publish. Amazon provides independent publishing which allows the author to publish and sell via the Amazon online store. With Amazon, you are able to publish a book free of charge utilizing online tools they offer to authors.


The author has now written and self-published the novel. Using the tips of writing the fiction novel, the author has written a novel which fully captures the audience. What is next? The author now awaits the first purchase of his book via the Amazon store. The author is now a writer who has their novel available for purchase around the globe.


Author bio: Ben is an avid reader and writer. He’s now more into essay writing teaching high school and college students how to write different types of essays. One of his recent articles is on how to write a picture analysis essay.


Other Ideas

The hardest part of the writing process for me may actually be maintaining focus on the current project. It’s always more alluring to consider the ethereal possibilities of an idea just dawning in your imagination, than to focus on the slog of getting an old one written down.

I generally have a few knocking about in my head at any given moment. At the moment I have two sequels circling in the distance (closer distance than the number of other sequels I’ve considered in the past but which haven’t intruded on my thoughts in, oh, at least a month or two [until just then]), two novelettes and one short story in various stages of completion, and the need to proof the collected print edition of the Tales of the Thief-City series when it arrives.

Then I develop an idea of challenging myself to write a short story a week for a year, connected by setting and cast although not necessarily with the same ones as stars all the way through.

Ideas have started congealing, and it’d probably be a space opera (currently heavily influenced in tone by the Guardians of the Galaxy film, which I just rewatched). Soft science, since my knowledge isn’t sufficient for hard science, and given the nature of the project research time would be at a premium.

I doubt it’ll go beyond the idea phase though. Pragmatism says it’ll be unworkable. With no time to let them cool off, and do more than a couple of clean up passes on, they may not be in the best of condition. It’d be nice to think the process could force me to become better at that, but that’s not how it works.

It’d require preparation in world building a setting that could accommodate the structure, coming up with rough ideas for a dozen or so stories to start with, etc. And preparing a standard cover that can just have the individual title added, assuming I go the path of actually publishing them as eBooks rather than simply on a blog. They’d be more accessible as eBooks, but then there’s the issue of pricing.

Though I’m not happy that the lowest price I can set is 99c, since I’d rather have short stories closer to 50c, with 99c for novelettes and novellas. And if these wouldn’t be as polished as my other published stuff I’d feel even less comfortable about it. But if they were free I’m not sure how many downloads would actually be read, and a year is a long period of work to make free.

So it’ll probably never be doable. Now I just need to convince my subconscious of that.

Terry Pratchett

I felt a palpable sense of shock on reading of the passing of probably my favourite author, Terry Pratchett. It left me staring at the screen for a minute, and has taken a few days for me to get my thoughts together enough to write this.

He’s probably the author whose books I’ve reread most. They’re always fresh no matter how familiar, and draw you in from the first line. It’s going on three decades since I first read his work, and now I consider how many books he’s written I realise I’ve also probably read more books by him than by any other author (not even counting the aforementioned rereads).

There’s a playfulness to the language, a way with characters, and a capacity for dealing with large issues in rational and entertaining ways. And the humour of course, though never at the expense of the story (well, maybe occasionally. When it’s really funny).

It’s hard to avoid a selfish sense of loss at the books we’ve been robbed of by his premature death, but at least he leaves a body of work which should endure for centuries.

There’s still his last Discworld novel to be published. And of course the entire library to read again, and again, and again…

Side Project

I got distracted by a story idea I’ve had for a while, which started to come more into focus. It’s a modern pulp story of an immortal, for which I have a few more story ideas to follow on for. I wrote a short story for a supporting character who came into focus, and then did the main story with only a page of notes.

I should do more outlining. It’s ended up a mess. I was hoping for a novella, but at the moment it’s just a novelette. That may change, since it still needs a lot of work and a lot added. Character arcs, for one thing.

During the writing I also found myself switching into first person without realising, so I need to consider whether that’s how the story should be. It might make things harder, since I’d want to keep it to a single POV character. At the moment the main character only takes over the POV in the thirds chapter/segment. Which in itself is a bit messy, with the initial character not having further POV time.

If I do change it all to a single POV, I’ll have to reveal some things in the beginning which aren’t currently overt. The identity of one character is probably easily guessed, and is established pretty soon, but there’s another secret that I could skirt about. With a single POV I’d have to address it immediately.

Which could still work, but would probably change the tone of the following bits. Since most of it’s going to require heavy reworking anyway, I don’t suppose it matters. The short story shouldn’t require as much revision, so that might see light sometime sooner, but the main story will probably go aside until I’ve time to devote to it.

At least I have something solid (virtually speaking) for it now. Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable. I don’t have the gaping chasm of the story unwritten ahead of me to discourage interest, but it does have a firmer structure that could be harder to change later on.

I’m certain that time spent on outlining means exponentially more time saved on revisions. And probably less likelihood of abandoned projects.


Back to work on the main project for now. Unless another idea forces its way to the fore.

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.