Write Tip

How To Deal With A Negative Review (For Writers) Part I

We are told that reviews are important. Other people see reviews and decide whether or not to invest the dollar or two and take a chance on your unknown work. It has been said that Amazon doesn’t care whether the reviews are good or bad, more is better, and the more reviews your book has, the more it gets seen. Whether any of this is true, I’m not going to say. This is not meant to be an essay on the merits of reviews – any person is entitled to their opinion about anything, and the expression thereof. This is only a comment about what it’s like to be a writer on the receiving end of reviews. This is not to say I think someone should lie, and say they liked a book when they didn’t, or a book was great when it wasn’t, or that it was well-edited when there were typos on every second or third page, but there is such a thing as the golden rule and “Would I like to have someone say this about something I wrote?”. There is such a thing as recognition that the person didn’t intend to write the worst possible book they could, in fact, they intended to write the best book they knew how and if they knew of a better way to do it, they would have done so. There is such a thing as encouraging a person to improve and do better, and not killing any tendency to put anything out into the world ever again. There is such a thing as compassion and humanity, the taking into consideration that you are talking about a real, live person with feelings.

I can say from personal experience that having someone dislike your book sucks. Having someone dislike your book enough that they go and tell other people how much they dislike it is even worse. I don’t know if there are words to accurately convey what it’s like to get a really bad review on something you’ve created. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to experience that for yourself. And I hope you do. That may sound cold and cruel, but it’s not. There are a lot of people in the world, and you’re going to have to get your book out in front of all of them. Not all of them will read it, but some of them will. And some of those will not like it. And some of those will write you negative, bad, horrible, or downright shitty reviews.

If you’re looking for the one true answer to how to deal with such reviews (if you’re a writer), this may or may not be what you’re looking for. This is just one writer’s thoughts when she got her first one-star, this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review, and because I felt it might be of benefit to others, I took the time to write this little post. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, and frankly, I’d rather just forget about the whole thing, shove it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. Maybe a better way to handle it is to do  just that, quietly go on my way, and say nothing of it, and hope no one notices. But I think this is important enough to say something about, so here goes.

Not all people (and hence, not all writers) are the same. Like the song says, some people sail through their troubles and some have to live with the scars. If you’re not one of those super-confident inside and out, breeze through the world and brush aside any negative comments like the glitter to your sparkle that they are, a bad review will probably hit you in that incredibly sensitive part of you that is composed of self-doubt and uncertainty, that part that is not quite sure you’re good enough and makes sure to put in its two cents to that effect, especially when the world is offering you convincing reasons why you’re not as hot as you thought you were.

I found this review – the first negative review – for my book First Magyc very demoralizing:

 

Pretty bad, right? And the thought that anyone else could read it was even worse. It was rather surprising to discover how much it hurt – I never for a moment thought that everybody would love my book – but on second thought, why shouldn’t it hurt? You’ve put your time, effort, heart and soul into creating this beautiful thing that wasn’t there before, something magical, and someone has just trounced carelessly over it as though it were nothing at all. Hell, worse than nothing. I have yet to see a negative review of a book that hasn’t been written yet. It’s one thing to say “Be confident. Be thick-skinned. Don’t give a damn what anyone says or thinks.” but that can be a lot easier said than done. Even when you know that is true, and believe it with all your heart, when push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter, it still hurts, and all you want to do is lock yourself away, have a mental breakdown and never show your face again because now the whole internet knows – and worse agrees – that your book is not good enough and should not exist.  It’s a really horrible feeling, and difficult to describe. After a moment of stunned shock, in which you try to figure out if this is just a bad dream, and if not, where it all went wrong, you get around to thinking, “What do I do now?”

The list of “what do I do now?” that would be composed in the early stages of shock might look something like this:

1. Chocolate (or ice cream).
2. Cry (or rage).
3. Give up on all your hope and dreams of ever writing anything decent.
4. Call your friends and cry.
5. Have your friends bring chocolate.
6. Go into self-imposed exile, excommunicate yourself from anyone who might know you, especially anyone who knows you write.
7. More chocolate (and maybe pizza).

While that all sounded appealing, it didn’t sound particularly useful. After the initial shock and despair wore off, I did what any (more or less sensible) person would do and Googled “How to deal with a bad review for writers” (I had to add that last clause in there because Google gave me articles only regarding businesses, which I don’t see as particularly relevant or useful to my situation). I read many of the articles, but I felt something was missing, something proactive, because none of them really make me feel any better.

So, I thought it over carefully, and I came up with my own plan, and it is as follows:

Step 0 – Recognize that one of the things this world lacks more than anything else is care and compassion. This person may have made you feel about as attractive, creative, valuable and important as a smear of canine feces on the bottom of a Prada shoe with their review, but instead of getting angry or upset at them or feeling sorry for yourself, think about what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” You don’t know what this person is going through. Maybe they’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and the whole world is pretty bleak to them right now, or maybe their boss fired them and ran off with both their wife and the beautiful antique car that they painstakingly restored, and the only thing they would give a good review to is a newspaper article about said car going off a cliff. I don’t know. Maybe they’re truly just an unhappy person who can only tear people down instead of building them up. The point is, you don’t have to change just because someone doesn’t like something you’ve done, and you don’t have to feel bad just because someone else does. Two seconds before you read the review, you probably thought you had a good story, than you were writing it to the best of your ability, and you were more or less happy with the idea of having written the book. The best thing you can do for you is remain dedicated and optimistic despite the invitation to feel otherwise (and fake it ’til you make it if you have to).

Step 1 – Take a deep breath, and tell yourself that everything is going to be just fine. Look around and see the world hasn’t ended. In fact, it hasn’t even changed. No matter how much you want, at this moment, to crawl into a small dark corner and hide for the rest of eternity, that’s not going to help anything. This is your first practical experience about why people tell writers to develop thick skins – they need it. So if you’re going to be a real writer, you might as well start now. This is a good thing – and not in the reverse-psychological babble meaning of “you’re not a real artist until someone hates your work”. The world is full of people, and some of these people will like your book, some will not like it, and some won’t care one way or the other. You will have to deal with all of these people when you put your book out there. Protesting this is not going to change anything. This diagram sums it up nicely:

So your book has moved outside your comfort zone. It might be floating somewhere in the black space between your comfort zone and where the magic happens, but it’s moving in the right direction. And this is a good thing.

Step 2 – This video is the single most relevant thing you can watch as a writer (or artist) in my opinion. Watch it now, all 19 minutes and 54 seconds of it – do it, you won’t regret it.

 

If you find you no longer need the rest of this article, congratulations! If you’re curious about the final thing I did, please, read on.

Step 3 – One thing the articles I read suggested what you should do is go and read all the negative reviews of books that you love, or the negative reviews of best-selling books by best-selling authors. Now, I did this, but I don’t recommend that you do. Why? Because while misery loves company, and it is comforting to know that even successful writers and books get horrible reviews, it’s pointless and unproductive. Also, do you really think J. K. Rowling or Stephen King go scrolling through others authors’ bad reviews if someone gives them a this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review?

Instead, I suggest the following:

  1. Do one thing that is productive and that relates directly to your writing. Outline the next chapter or write the next scene.  Make a beautiful and inspiriting aesthetic and set it as your desktop background. Do the character sketch for your Main Character or Antagonist, or that really cool Supporting Character than you’re already planning a novel for. Plug your book on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media you have.
  2. Do one thing that you have been meaning to do for a while and that you haven’t gotten around to (again, that relates to your writing – I’m not talking about laundry). That podcast episode on how to be a best-selling indie author? Go listen to it. That query letter you need to write and haven’t made the time for? Go write it. That submission for an author interview you’ve been meaning to send in? Go send it. That scene you’re avoiding writing? Go write it.  Now. No excuses.
  3. And finally, do something good, or as I like to put it, create good karma. Go read a book (or books) from authors like yourself – read them, and review them. Give them the review you’d like to receive if you had written that book. Read and review as many as it takes to make you feel good about the world. There’s one review in the world from a person obviously does not appreciate what it takes to create anything – so give the world one, two, three, four, ten that will make it better, that will lift someone up, or encourage them to continue to create the beautiful things this world so desperately needs. Whatever makes you feel good about the world.  I picked three, and you can read my reviews here, here, and here.  If you don’t like the exact method of #3, you can do whatever you like to achieve the same effect. Just be the change you want to see. Here are some great ideas. Or these ones. Or these ones – the options are limitless. If you don’t feel better after this step, start at #1 above, and repeat as necessary.

And that’s it. You will feel better, I guarantee it (unless you’re just determined to be miserable). Am I happy about my first negative review? No. Do I want to get more? Absolutely not. But I haven’t let my certainty that I am a good writer with a good story to tell die, I’m still smiling, and I’m still going to publish book number 5 in the Guardians of the Path Series (cover reveal coming soon – I’m super excited about that!). In closing, I leave you with a beautiful sentiment from my good friend Lisa Barry, a sentiment which I think is really important for all artists to keep in mind, and which helped ground me when my thoughts and emotions were doing a tornado-coaster: “For every story that is read and disliked, there are countless numbers of people standing in line who love and support that story or author.” So, don’t give up, keep calm and write on, and make good art!

If you found this helpful, pass it on, and if you have any advice of your own on the matter, please share!

❤ DragonBeck

P.S. And if you like epic fantasy, you can check out my excellent book here:

The Path is fading, and the music of Life is vanishing. Cedar and his fellow Guardians have been entrusted for centuries to protect the Path, the very force of Life itself.

An accident traps Cedar between his home and another world devoid of magyc–but not of music. He is found by Ria, a mysterious girl who holds the key to returning him home.

With little choice Cedar uses First Magyc, Blood Magyc, to save himself, and finds himself the unlikely caretaker of the very girl who might fulfill an ancient Prophecy and restore the Guardians to their former station as honored heroes.

Enchanted by Demona, a world of magyc and music, Ria struggles to understand her own growing abilities even as she is drawn into an ages old conflict.

Cedar doesn’t want Ria to be the one named in the Prophecy, but what if she is the Guardians’ only hope to defeat the Sorcerer and save Magyc?

 

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The Ribbon

There’s nothing like a little mystery to hook the reader and draw them in….

leaving, broad, ribbon,

The ribbon had been a present from her mother, given on the day of her first
leaving, so many years ago it was lost in the fog of the past that shifted and
evaporated in her decaying mind. “Grandmother?” a gentle voice asked, and her
eyes focused on the bright face in front of her, pretty, with blond curls and
bright greens eyes. Something stirred in the fog, but it was so hard to
remember.
“Grandmother, can you hear me?”
The girl was probably seventeen, just younger than she had been when she had
gone through the ceremony and the terrible ordeal that followed. Or was it an
ordeal that had been followed by a ceremony? The memories were getting more and
more mixed up now. She looked down, and focused again on the faded satin ribbon,
the gold thread shining weakly against the burgundy cloth.
This ribbon had kept her safe. That much she was certain of, and she was also
certain that the girl in front of her had to have it, for a reason she couldn’t
explain, just that she felt in the depths of her ancient bones. She held it out
to the girl in a trembling hand, and gave a sigh of satisfaction when she saw it
in her hand, somehow broader than she remembered against the girl’s slim wrist
and dainty fingers.
“Grandmother, what is this for?”
But Fate dictated that she would never answer that question, as her final breath
slipped from her lips and she sank into the whiteness.

_______________________________________________________

❤ DragonBeck

So Much News…

Having gone radio dark for a month (all in the name of science), here are the updates I promised regarding the world of the Guardians of the Path and other fantastic realms:

I spent a couple weeks going over Book 1, First Magyc, and I am happy to announce that the second edition is now available on Amazon. I cleaned it up a bit, tightened things here and there, and stretched them out in other places. I added a bit to the epilogue, which I enjoyed and I hope you do to. I recently read The Last Gunslinger (Dark Tower, book I) and if Steven King can do a second edition of book one (right around the time the fourth book of that series was being released, if memory serves), I feel that gives me licence to do the same.

Book 4, The Other World, is up for presale (that announcement has been burning a hole in my pocket, but in the name of science, I couldn’t break my month-long abstinence).

I drew yet another map. It is a marvelous map that shows the rest of the Guardians of the Path series on one (rather large) sheet of paper. I did it in pretty colors, and right now it exists in three places: on my computer, on my wall, and on the phone of the person who was kind enough to help me transport the map into the digital realm (Though I’ve thought about asking them to delete it, I have no hope of getting them to do so – I have a sneaking suspicion they would just give me a look and whisper “it’s in the cloud”). I am not sure if I will release this map, or put it in a book. Perhaps in the tenth book. In any event, I am very proud of it, and it helped me get my thoughts in order for the next six books, and I hope, make the writing smooth and steady.

On that note, book 5 Wasteland, is coming along. The first draft is well begun (which, contrary to Aristotle, is not quite the same as half done, at least when talking about a novel). The tale becomes somewhat more complex during book 4, so I am hoping that book 5 will be released mid next year.

I have also been reading the Pendragon series (also ten books). It is an amazing story, and I am about halfway through – I’ve procured the last five books from the library, and trying not to devour them in place of sleep.

The Ink Slingers Guild has been busy as usual – we have three anthologies coming out between now and sometime in the near future – Super Useless, wherein superpowers that aren’t exactly super are discussed in chunks of 2,500 words or less, and The Purge of Jimmy, which is the sequel to The Death of Jimmy (available on Amazon Kindle for just 99¢), wherein more Jimmys (or is that Jimmies?) die and at least one loose end is tied up, and finally (the big one): the annual ISG anthology, my contribution to which is called “The Writer’s Trial” – a fun little piece about writers, devils, and talking cats that I wrote several years ago, and by several years, I mean over a decade. It shall see the light of day towards the end of the year.

Several other members of ISG are getting ready to publish novels, most imminently Alanna J. Rubin with Second Chances (a fun sci-fi, Jane Austen romance adventure mash-up), J. M. Paquette with her second novel Solyn’s Body (sequel to Klauden’s Ring)and Lisa Barry, with her second novel in the Gargoyles Den series, titled Rogue.

Our fantastic writing group will be making an appearance at MegaCon in Tampa Bay at the end of this month. Come find us in Artists’ Alley – we’re very friendly and entertaining, and more than happy to sign books, answer all manner of questions, and pose for pictures. I will be there on Sunday the 1st of October, most likely wearing a dragon shirt, or a Supernatural shirt.

Whew! That is a lot of activity. I’ll need another break after all that. Just kidding, a writer never gets a break. No rest for the wicked!

❤ ❤ ❤ DragonBeck

What I Learned From A Month of Social Media Abstinence

I was considering titling this post “Social Media: Gift or Curse?” but I thought that sounded a bit overly-dramatic, so I went with a statement of simple fact: What I learned from a month of staying off all my social media.

Social media.

Some people love it, some people don’t care.

Some people are gurus and linked in and synced up, and others wouldn’t know what to do with it if it danced naked in front of them.

Some people are on it every day, some people don’t use it as all.

And every gradient shade of grey between.

What is its purpose? Is it vital? Just because it exists, does it make it right? Should we live without it? Could we live without it? What impact does it have on our lives? I’d wager these are questions most people don’t ask.

I have mixed feelings on these matters. On a personal front, I believe the net effect of a growing volume of virtual reality is detrimental to reality reality (see “The Reality Bug”, Pendragon series, D.J. Machale.)

However, as an independent author, I would say social media is important. It’s a way (possibly amongst the best ways, and certainly the most far-reaching way) we can get word out of our amazing books, without having to beg and grovel to traditional publishers, who, I may remind you, have turned away the likes of J. K. Rowling 12 times and told her “not to quit her day job”, so they obviously don’t know everything.

I’m a pragmatist, and I prefer to take a middle-of-the-road view-point: I think like most things, social media has pros and cons.  Pro: last month, I connected with an author in Italy, via twitter (that particular line in my bio is accurate, which is not to say the other bits are inaccurate, but some people may find the information in my author bio hard to believe – but it’s all true, I swear). Con: one can waste a lot of time  on things that don’t really contribute to one’s life. In your twilight years, are you really going to look back and say “You know, I’m really glad I spent those hours looking at memes and satisfying my curiosity about those click-bait articles?”. This could just be me, but I don’t think so.

I do try to ration and schedule my social media time, and almost all of that allotted time is spent on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is mostly for personal things – I do have an author page, but it’s honestly more an extension of my twitter account. Reversely, Twitter is where I let my #writerslife out, with everything from #amwriting, to #writersproblems and #books. More recently, I’ve added to my social media presence by joining the Instagram community*, as authordragonbeck, and again this is a professional #indieauthor account (it took me a while to get the hang of the whole hashtag thing, but as you can see, I’ve become a master).

In the month of July, I participated in the #authorconfession and #MythCampNano games on Twitter. For this, I had to be on my Social Media every day, as the entire point of the thing is to connect and interact, and obviously to answer each day’s question. In order to balance that, I did an experiment and gave up social media – meaning Facebook and Twitter – for the month of August (for the sticklers who noticed that I posted blogs during this time, featuring the fruits of my Ink Slingers Guild writing exercise – yes, I wrote and posted blogs. However, wordpress allows one to post to Twitter, which in turn is linked to Facebook, without having to actually going onto either of those platforms, so I’m not counting that against myself).

This is a record of my findings of Social Media Abstinence:

No one died as a direct result. The world continued to turn. The sun did not go out (although there was an eclipse). The zombie apocalypse didn’t start (or if it did, I didn’t notice).

I experienced definite withdrawal symptoms. The first three days were the worst, with jittery cravings to “just quickly check”. The days after that were better. After a week, I no longer felt compelled to log into Facebook just to see if anything exciting had happened that I should know about. At the second week, it was a vague half-thought that passed as quickly as it came.

I relaxed. At some point in the middle of my experiment, I recalled I’d heard (some time ago) that if you were feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, just don’t watch the TV or read the newspaper for two weeks and see how you felt afterwards. As I don’t watch TV or read a newspaper, I didn’t think that applied to me. I have now reevaluated that consideration. Getting away from the drama is very calming. I highly recommend it.

On the 20th of August, just shy of three weeks into my experiment, Facebook texted me letting me know that a friend had shared a link, and letting me know that I could “see it here”. For the last 3 years, Facebook had never texted me to say anything, yet over the course of the next week, Facebook sent me messages each day, letting me know “so-and-so commented…” and “so-and-so updated…” and “so-and-so shared…” I guess Facebook missed me more than I missed it.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon: I only thought about checking Facebook or Twitter a) when I had completed one task, and hadn’t yet decided which task to do next (boredom) or when I had quite a few tasks that needed to be done, and I couldn’t decide which to do first (dispersal) or when I had picked my next task, but there was some reason I couldn’t begin that task for 5 or 10 minutes (waiting).

I read more.

I organized my bookshelf, and did my filing.

I played my guitar for the first time in over 3 years. I have no calluses left on my fingers, but I can still do a G-major chord.

I still had friends. I still saw them. We had tea. It was nice.

I got the second edition of my first novel done and the editing/proofing of my fourth novel done distraction free (i.e. no need to log in to let the world know “Finished a chapter so I’m going to get a cup of #coffee to reward myself #writerslife #editing #lovecoffee” and fifteen minutes later “Chapter six and I feel like my eyes are bleeding out of my head #writerslife #writersproblem #amediting #amwriting”) and this was soo much faster and more efficient. (Note to self: remember to repeat this when rewriting/editing/proofing any novel, please and thank you.)

Finally, after 31 days of my little experiment, came the big moment when I re-entered the matrix for the first time in a month. What was I going to find? Would anyone remember me? Would I remember anyone? Did I even know what my password was anymore? Was the answer to all life still 42? I still can’t answer that last one, but this is what greeted me:

And twitter:

Yes, I had missed things (like a boat-christening ceremony, which sounded like fun). And a couple other events. But not much – there were only 2 notifications per day. So would I do anything differently? I think not.

Conclusion: social media is revolutionary for independent authors (and other artists and artisans), but don’t let it take over your life. What’s in front of one is more important, and I don’t mean a phone screen. Take a break every once in a while. Take an extended break. Go outside. Talk to someone face to face. Play chess (on an actual board). Buy someone flowers. Learn how to greet someone in Klingon. Actually greet someone in Klingon and see what reaction you get. Or keep scrolling and liking and posting those selfies. This is not a sermon, this is just a statement of my thoughts based on my experience.

And I admit, as the fourth book in my fantasy series is about to be released, I am now going to dive back into social media with open arms, starting with all the amazing things that happened last month (coming soon to a blog post near you). And I am once again participating in #authorconfession!

So, what do you think? What are the pros of social media? What are the cons of social media? What tips do you have for minimizing distractions and getting more done?

❤ DragonBeck

*For those clever enough to catch that most of my Instagram pictures were actually uploaded during the end of July/beginning of August, which was partially during my social media black-out, there’s an explanation which doesn’t render my experiment invalid: I don’t have the Instagram app on my phone, and thusly I was unable to upload my (awesome) collection of writerly pictures. So, I emailed them to my sister, who logged on to my account on her phone, and uploaded them for me with the captions and hashtags which I had put together. It was my birthday present, and may have been bending the rules, but I don’t think it was outright cheating, as I wasn’t technically on social media 😉 I’ve been told my content is pretty cool, and you can check it out here: https://www.instagram.com/authordragonbeck

Balance

What makes a story interesting to read?

Many things, but one of them is balance: balance between loss and gain, between hope of victory and threat of defeat.

In a story where there is only loss and no gain (the epitome of tragedy) or only gain with no loss (unrealistic), we find a lack of balance causes some discomfort for the reader.

Let’s take a story of a girl whose dream is to live in this old Victorian mansion at the outskirts of the town she lives in. The story starts, and we learn this girl was born holding a credit card and wearing Gucci, and she has the metabolism of a linebacker who can eat pizza and ice cream and not work out with no effect on her waistline (and without a single pimple breaking out), and she looks fabulous from the moment she wakes up until the end of time (without spending a second putting on makeup). This girl gets into the best school because she’s just who she is, she gets the most popular guy (on her first day), and their relationship is just bliss every moment with roses and chocolate and poetry. This girl is an immediate favorite with all her professors, graduates at the top of her class without pulling a single all-nighter or going to study hall, is hired as the CEO of a Fortune 5 company straight out of college, gets married to the most popular guy, goes on a fairy-tale honeymoon in the Austrian Alps, then a mysterious relation she’s never heard of dies and leaves her a ton of money and she moves into the mansion she’s always wanted, the end.

Perhaps at some point during that you started to feel like throwing up. I know I did. But why – it’s so happy and perfect, why would anyone not want to read that?  Because it’s missing something vital: balance.

If we had a story about a girl (who sometimes gets pimples and spills tomato sauce on her shirt) who has a nice family and a nice life, but she doesn’t want to be stuck in the same tiny town, and she decides she’s going to make a better life for herself. So she works hard in high school, applies for a scholarship, but is denied, forcing her to choose between two community colleges. She shows up to her first class late, and her second class as well, and has to make an extra effort to (here it is) balance the negative first impression she gives her professors. She has a part-time job to support herself while getting her degree, and has to make time to get to the gym after classes or work. This girl has to (wait for it) balance her life between school and work and  friends and family. Then this girl meets an attractive guy who is studying a challenging subject which he loves (at the other community college) but he is on a scholarship and has to keep his GPA high enough, so he spends all his time in the library (or on Google – I don’t know where people cram for exams these days) and he doesn’t have much attention for anything outside of that. There’s some inter-school rivalry, romantic tension, and a first date, more romantic tension, perhaps a fight or some jealously. (Do they work it out and stay together? We have no idea, we have to keep reading to find out.) All her commitments start wearing on her. Late-nighters turn to all-nighters, and calls go unanswered. Another misunderstanding and quarrel (ahh, the drama!). Her health suffers because of the stress, causing her grades to drop, so she gets more stressed, and the grades drop further, to the point where it jeopardizes that degree she needs to get a job in the city (dun dun dun dun). Then…the guy shows up with flowers and pizza (which means she’ll need to go to the gym, but who turns down pizza?), and he helps her study for the test, which she passes…and I’m not going to keep going, but wasn’t that so much more satisfying?

Why? Because it had balance. She didn’t get everything she wanted, she had to make choices, and her effort and sacrifice balanced what she achieved – it wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter so it meant more.

In the same way, someone who just loses – loses their keys, loses their job, loses the battle, loses the war, loses their family, loses their friends, loses their fortune, loses their mind…this is as unreadable as the first because there’s no hope to balance what seems a single, long, inevitable defeat. If it’s a sure victory, the reader will get bored, and if you only give hopelessness and misery without relief and an occational ray of sunshine, eventually the reader will stop reading because he knows the outcome as surely as he knows the first (unless you pull a dues ex machina, which some would call a questionable tactic). Any binge-worthy show does this balancing act masterfully.

This idea also explains why, in fantasy stories, the powerful wizard can’t just wave his magic wand and send the dark lord back to whence he came.

In my second writing exercise from the Ink Slingers Guild meeting, we see brief example of this concept:

burn, history, random,

“There is nothing random about this,” Henna told the inspector. “This was a
deliberate act of premeditated arson.”
The inspector glared down at her over his clipboard, and made a note before
walking away without a word. Henna sighed, and looked around for someone who
would be able to help her. She tried not to notice the still burning house, but
it was hard as it was right in front of her and in flames. Flames edged in
green.
“Random, my foot,” Henna muttered.
“I’d have to agree,” a voice behind her said pleasantly, but she jumped as if
they had shouted. She turned to find a handsome man with silver hair and
piercing blue eyes standing there, looking at her with the hint of a smile on
his lips. He wore a jacket, but there were no marking to identify his position
or rank.
“Who are you?” Henna asked.
“A watcher of worlds,” the man told her, and a shiver ran down Henna’s spine.
“What do you want with me?” she whispered. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I know that,” he nodded. “But the others won’t. They’ll just see this -” he
jutted his pointed chin towards the smoking ruin, “-and the rest will be lost in
history.”
“But you’re going to help me?” Henna asked, clutching desperately at the straw
he left hanging so tantalizingly close yet unspoken. “You’ll help me find out
who did this and get back what they stole?”
His smile widened ever so slightly. “For a price.”
______________________________________________________

The loss of an object of some importance is balanced by the gain of an ally (a questionable ally, but for the moment, an ally nonetheless), and the gain of assistance must be balanced by a price.

A well-balanced tale draws the reader along, because he is never quite sure what is waiting around the corner – he has to turn the page to find out!

So, I’m curious – what are you reading now? Is it a page-turner? Why or why not?

❤ DragonBeck

Well-prepared

Our second writing exercise from the last ISG meeting.  I had a bit of trouble with the word “bathroom” – it’s not really a word you find in fantasy stories very much (as far as I’ve seen, anyway). Write-tip: even if you don’t know where you’re going with a story, just keep going. As Shannon Hale said “…I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

quest (my word), bathroom, dazzle

There are a few things that one generally doesn’t take into consideration when
one is planning an arduous quest, and there are things that one does take into
consideration. Food, of course, in a necessity. As are horses. Weapons are a top
priority, arrows for goblins, swords for trolls and ogers. Any magical
implements that could protect from sorcerers and witches, while expensive and
hard to find, are more than worth the trouble to procure. Fire is important as
well, and a well stocked tinder box is always brought along.
Most questers would consider themselves well prepared with the above taken care
of. Burdock had certainly thought so, but now as he trudged beside the beautiful
princess of the Upperlands, he was painfully aware of the one thing that he had
not thought about at all. The bathroom. He was getting desperate to relieve
himself now, but they were still trying to escape the flat, barren lands with no
rock or tree to break the monotony of the terrain.
Each time Burdock thought his plight severe enough to muster up the courage to
ask for a momentary rest, and if she might look away, she would turn her
dazzling green eyes on him, and words failed. This was the fourth time this had
happened, and he was going to have to figure something out soon, or risk soiling
himself.

____________________________________________________________

On another note, I hope to have exciting news about the Guardians of the Path book 4 soon! It won’t be too much longer now!

❤ DragonBeck

Warmup to the Great Doom – 2nd Writing Exercise

On this last day of February (that’s 1/6 of the year gone already!) I give you the second ISG writing exercise.

I like this one for a number of reasons. First, I managed to get a dragon in there! Second, I managed to get “xenophobia” in as well – one of my favorite words. Third, the title amuses me 🙂

As a grammar note courtesy of Jen: as “warmup” is being used as a noun, it’s one word. When it’s used as an adjective, there’s a hyphen, and it becomes “warm-up”.

dragon-1578289_1280

Gargoyle, warmup (my word), doom,

“This is just a warmup to the great doom the overlord will unleash on the
world.”
Gredden tuned out the droning words and looked around at the gathered creatures.
They had come from all corners of the known world, unicorns and centaurs from
the south, gargoyles and goblins from the north, elves from the west, dwarves
and trolls from the east. Gredden was the only representative for men, and every
time he glanced at his fellow representatives he felt more and more inadequate
and useless.
“We must unify to protect ourselves,” the old centaur continued in his booming
baritone, the silver beard falling to his navel, his front hoof punctuating his
words. Grumbles greeted his last statement, as the proud races immediately threw
up figurative walls of distrust and xenophobia. It took a long time for the
centaur to restore order and a measure of quiet for him to continue speaking,
but as he opened his mouth, a shadow fell over the gathering.
Gredden looked up along with all assembled to behold the awesome and terrifying
sight of the gleaming scaled form of a red dragon coming in for a landing.
_____________________________________________________________

One final word – I should be getting book four of Guardians of the Path back from my editor any day now, so I’m really looking forward to that! I’ll keep you updated on how that’s going, when it will be released, and maybe have a sneak peek or two for you!

❤ DragonBeck

Omens teaser V – The Guardians Hall

The Guardians of the Path Omens, published by Witching Hour Publishing, IS TO BE RELEASED IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS! (I appologize for shouting, but it’s really very exciting for a writer to have a third novel out).

And here is the final bit for you to enjoy before the whole book comes out.

I have nothing to say about writing particularly, except possibly the most neglected write tip of all time: write. Write your heart out. Write at midnight. Write outside. Write listening to music (or not listening to musci) or drinking coffee (or not drinking coffee). Write what you’d like to read and have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong, because trust me, writing is the easiest part of publishing a novel! Cheers 🙂

As they passed through the great doors, the chill of the rift made the hair on Jæyd’s arm stand on end, and the flute in her hand burned hotter, warming her flesh. Luca frowned and even Timo looked put out. The halls were silent and dusty.
“I have taken up residence in the East Wing,” Jæyd told them. “It is more intact than the rest.”
They nodded, glancing around at the tomblike interior, the air thick and pressing.
“How is the library?” Cedar asked suddenly.
Jæyd grimaced. “Only a little better than the Garden. Last I checked, the roof had caved in at the back, and the glass in the windows blew out. The elements have not been kind to the books. I am sorry.”
Cedar was disheartened by the news. The last project he had been working on before he was called away was the restoration of the grand library. Luca slapped him on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry too, but I am not as gullible as Chesco was, so I won’t be helping you haul those book about,” he told Cedar. “But I think the exercise will be good for you.”
He walked on ahead, ascending the stair with light steps, throwing open the double doors to the East Wing. The others crowded close behind him. Jæyd noted that he still smelled like peaches. The long passage was dim, the only light coming from tiny slits up close to the ceiling. Silver motes floated on paths of light.
“I think it would be more fitting to move to the Guardians’ Hall,” Cedar said, his face wistful and eager.
“That place is not so hospitable,” Jæyd warned. “And it holds bad memories.”
“Then let us air it out with good ones,” Timo’s deep voice chimed in from behind. “We should not delay in returning the Torch.”
“Very well,” Jæyd acquiesced, but for a reason unknown to her a heavy feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.
Her feet followed a path she did not recognize. The passages and stairways of the Crescent Temple had minds of their own sometimes. Jæyd never did remember coming this way, though she knew that she had been within the Guardians’ Hall many times. The way was unfamiliar but that did not matter. The Temple wanted her to find the way to the Guardians’ Hall, and so it took her there.
They crowded into the vast room through the narrow passage. When she stepped into the Guardians’ Hall and gazed at it stretching out in all directions, the breath caught in Jæyd’s throat. The walls and floor were blackened with Demon soot. Two sets of footprints were still in the dust on the floor from when Jæyd and Luca had come through here before going to meet Cedar in D’Ohera, lonely signs of life in a dead world. The columns were silent guardians in their own right.
“It’s so large,” S’Aris said, her head tilted back as she gazed at the ceiling. “In the writings at the Coven, it describes the Hall, but I’d never imagined it was so big.”
“Writings?” Jæyd inquired.
“Letters and such from V’Ronica,” the Witch explained. “And the journal she kept. The First Guardian sent it back with her effects, after she died.”
A moment of silence met her words as the Hall remembered the Witch V’Ronica and her deeds. Whispers of her voice flitted through the air, ghosts of her form danced among the shadows. Memories that were as tangible as the stone the Hall was built of passed through their minds, foreign and lonesome. The Guardians were accustomed to this, but the others were disquieted.
“Where did the Torch stand?” Berria asked, her voice strained.

______________________________________________________

Look for Omens and more awesome books published by Witching Hour Publishing, available now and available soon (as in, tomorrow!).

❤ ❤ Dragonbeck

Omens teaser IV – Jailbreak

The Guardians of the Path Omens, published by Witching Hour Publishing, is to be released on 23 November 2016.

As that’s only 4 days away…here’s the fourth little teaser.

Write-tip: a little humor in the diaolgue gives it an authentic feel. People tease and joke all the time, sometimes even in serious situations or other times when they shouldn’t, to relieve tension or to make out like they’re not scared when they are, but if you’re not writing a comedy, don’t over do it!

The Prisons of Balmar were smaller and cleaner than those of D’Ohera, but no less crowded. The Guardians were put into a general cell, a large, square space with a dirt floor. Their fellow inmates were in every condition, in fresh pressed tunics to grubby rags. Most of them were Old Races. Cedar’s heart went out to them as he wandered back and forth, kicking fruitlessly at the ground. After hours, he finally stopped. An hour later, he started pacing again.
“How long do you suppose we’re to wait?” Berria asked.
“You’ve never been in prison, have you?” Luca said, leaning against the bars, his arms crossed.
“Actually, I have,” Berria replied. “Thrice.”
“Well…” Luca began, and couldn’t think of a comeback. “Okay.”
“The answer to your question is as long as the Justice prefers,” Timo said. “Unfortunately we are at his mercy.”
“There are laws against indefinite detainment,” Jæyd said. “The Justice cannot rewrite the laws.”
“Of course he can,” Luca chirped. “What are we going to do about it?”
“What are we going to do about it?” Cedar said, spinning to face them, a fierce gleam in his eyes. “We can’t just wait here to rot.”
“They took our instruments and we’ve all tried to force the lock,” Luca said. “I even tried my lock pick, which should have worked. I think it’s something new the Scholars have rigged up.”
“Why do you have a lock pick?” S’Aris asked, her blue eyes wide with surprise.
“Everyone needs a lock pick,” Luca replied with a wink. “Unfortunately it’s not doing anything for me right now.”
“Guardians?”
Cedar, Luca, Jæyd and Timo flew to the bars. A goblin stood on the other side, a patch over one eye, half-breeches and leather vest stained orange. His white hair was pulled into a ponytail which hung in front of his pointed ear. A gold hoop glinted in the other.
“Who are you?” Jæyd asked.
The goblin bowed an overly elaborate bow. “Elan, at your service.”
“Odd name for a goblin,” Luca remarked.
“I can leave if you’d prefer to wait for someone with a more acceptable name,” Elan said and held up a shiny key. “Or I could let you out.”
“Let us out!” Cedar said immediately and a chorus of agreement came from behind him.
The goblin teased them for just a moment before obliging, holding the door open until all the prisoners had come out then locked it securely behind them. He noticed Luca staring at him with envious eyes. Elan chuckled and tucked the key into his vest.
“When you can get a Thaumaturgist and a Scholar to sit at the same table, they can make some wonderful magyc,” he said.
“Where can I get one of those?” Luca asked.
“What would a Guardian need with a Master Key?” Elan said.
“He might need it if he was stuck in a cell he couldn’t get out of,” Luca replied.
Elan grinned. “Perhaps we could talk later. But now, there is someone who wants to see you. Come with me.”

__________________________________________________________

Look for Omens and other great books by Witching Hour Publishing available now and coming soon!

❤ DragonBeck

Omen teaser III – The Necrolatry

(Necrolatry: worship of the dead, Late Greek nekrolatreia, from Greek nekr-necr- + -latreia -latry; or the case of Guardians of the Path: the church devoted to Death and His work.)

The Guardians of the Path Omens, published by Witching Hour Publishing, is to be released on 23 November 2016.

Here’s the third excerpt from the third book of the series (Tesla would be happy).

Dividing a story into chapters can be a tricky part of writing. Is the chapter just part of a scene, a teaser so to speak? Does a full sequence with a beginning, a middle, and an end take place?

A guide-line I like to use for ending a chapter is don’t leave off at a stopping point. When the character falls asleep, or sits down to wait, or ends a conversation where they learn something they need to is not a good place to end, because it invites the reader to put down the book. They have some measure of satisfaction, and you want to leave them wanting more (i.e., a “page turner”) with a cliff-hanger. Some ways to do this could be having the protagonist round a corner and come face to face with something, have someone find something and then it does something unexpected, or what happens at the end of this excerpt, which is incidentally the end of a chapter of Omens:

Strong hands grabbed Ria’s arms and hauled her to her feet. A moment later the four of them were running across the courtyard and through the black doors that opened from within, spreading like arms to welcome them with an emotionless embrace. A thick carpet underfoot swallowed their footsteps, leaving them in silence as they hurried from the door.
Cold air raised the hair on Ria’s skin when the door swung shut with a click behind them. Inside, the air was crystal clear and made her eyes sting. Despite the lack of visible lighting, Ria could see with perfect clarity. A smell slithered into Ria with every breath, the smell of emptiness and silence which filled her head with space and an odd ringing.
Windows of black glass towered over them on either side, folding into each other, the facets of a liquid diamond. High above them Ria assumed there must be a ceiling of some sort though it was lost in the darkness. A Mark – a circle, one half black, the other half white – was seared onto every visible surface, carved into the end of the wooden pews, welded in the filigree over the windows.
“What’s that?” Ria asked.
“That is Death’s Mark,” Juff said, averting her eyes from the symbol on the wall.
Ria stared at it. The Guardian Luca Lorisson had explained to her briefly about the Prophecy of Aethsiths and Her Mark. This Mark was not a true Mark, she decided after a moment of thoughtful examination. A true Mark was written by its owner with the intent to write it, and that could be felt as easily as the Mark could be seen; Ria felt nothing from the Mark, no tingle of magyc, no undercurrent of golden music. It was a lie.
“Why do they put it everywhere?” she wondered aloud, her eyes sliding from the drapes framing the windows to the low benches cloaked in the shadows that clung to the walls, to the black columns at the side of the massive room.
“I don’t know,” Juff said, and gave her a frown. “Don’t speak so loudly.”
The door behind them opened, sending light chasing after the shadows. The nymphs froze, incandescent eyes wide.
“Here!” Juff said and gave them a shove towards a long black table draped with folds of shimmery cloth that appeared before them as though it had just been set down by a giant hand. A wreath of metal barbs as big as a swimming pool fashioned into Death’s Mark hung on the wall behind it.
They scurried behind the table. Ria peeked around and saw the blood-red uniforms outlined in sunlight. The Streetwardens hesitated outside, shifting and looking back and forth. Two black-robed figures appeared from within the Necrolatry, gliding towards the Streetwardens, who backed away. When the doors closed the figures disappeared into the darkness as if they had not even been there.
Ria’s breath caught in her throat when they reappeared in front of their hiding spot. Shaved heads and skin so pale it glowed made the figures seem insubstantial, like projections of light. Juff looked at Ria with wide eyes and the nymphs huddled together for support. Ria scooted over and peered around the folds of cloth.
The black figures conferred softly with their backs to Ria, gesturing at the door and the table. Ria ducked back as the nearest figure turned to look at the table. Moments of tense silence marched by to the erratic beating of Ria’s heart. Her senses would have her believe that the figures had gone away, that there was no one there, but Ria knew better.
A coldness pressed on her, squeezing tighter and tighter as she imagined the black robed figures stepping closer on silent feet. Ria turned her head very slightly to the left, saw Juff wide-eyed with fear, the two nymphs clutching each other and seeming to shrink in size as Ria watched.
None of them could do anything, they were trapped behind the altar. They would be discovered and the stark fear in Juff’s eyes was not giving any comforting ideas as to their fate. Ria had to do something before they were all discovered.
She could think of only one thing to do.

___________________________________________________

Doesn’t that make you want to find out what she does? 😉

Look for Omens and other great books published by Witching Hour Publishing coming soon!

❤ DragonBeck