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This week I got 8 people lined up as “Beta-Readers” for my second novel “THE SHIP”.

For those not familiar with beta-readers, they are basically test readers for you book.  They will read the story and give you feedback on what they thought of it.  But what kind of feedback am I talking about?

Well this may vary from writer to writer.  For me I’m looking for the following feedback:

1-Did they like the story? (this is a given, I have to know whether or not the story is even working for my readers in the first place)

2-How was the pacing?  Did the story drag a lot, or was it too-fast paced and hard to keep up with?

3-Were the characters likable and did you come to care about them?  Did they intrigue you?  Did you want to see more of them in the future?  (I’m working on an ongoing series where I will rotate some of the cast from time to time)

4-Spelling errors?  (I’ve done my best but some things will still slip past me so a few more sets of eyes doesn’t hurt)

5-Grammatical issues?  (I’ve chosen my team from a variety of people including a few authors and grammar nazis who will be more than willing to point out areas of concern)

6-Did the story flow well?  Were there areas where there were contradictions in who was where during an action sequence?  Was there an idea that got confused and hard to follow?

7-FINALLY: What did they think of the piece overall?

This is a lot of questions I know, but this is the book’s testing ground.  One of your last chances to work out the bugs and iron out any problems before you unleash your work on the public.  And trust me, sometimes the public can be unforgiving and harsh.  Remember, most of them will be putting out money to buy your work, so make sure you strive to put out a really good product.  Your reputation is on the line whenever you put out a book.  Never slack off on quality or it’ll hurt the sales of your next book.

As I mentioned earlier in this entry, I’m doing a series.  So one of the things I made sure to do was get at least a couple of beta-readers who did NOT read the first book.  People are not always going to buy your books in order, so make sure you keep each story neat and self-contained that anyone can jump into whatever part of your series they happen to spot.  Give enough references to past events from earlier books so intrigue them enough to maybe want to check out the earlier books, but not detract from the one in their hands at that moment.

Beta-Readers can help your work tremendously.  And like editors, you don’t have to take EVERY suggestion they make to improve the book.  You want to keep faithful to your own vision, but weigh the pros and cons for each change.  Some may prove to be a master-stroke, while others may not.  After all beta-readers will not know your long-term vision for your book and have all the insights you do.  So be careful how you take their advice.

Finally, always be gracious even if they give advice you don’t agree with. Remember, they’re trying to help your book become something even better.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.


THE SHIP - COVER Final

That’s right I’m looking for 6-8 Beta-Readers to scope out book 2 “The Ship”. Now please read this entire entry carefully before volunteering.
1-The book will be ready in MS Word or PDF for your perusal
2-I need you to be able to finish reading it and get back to me with your comments, concerns, and hopefully some praise by April 30th of this year
3-I’m looking for honest feedback on the story itself (good, bad, holds your interest or not)
4-Overall grammar and punctuation, does it read well.
5-You will each receive an e-book or a signed paperback of the final product as an extra thank you as well as being thanked in the Acknowledgement page of the book itself.

The reason for the April 30th deadline is so I will have most of May to make whatever adjustments I need to in order to release the book by the Memorial Day weekend, where I will be attending Baycon (a sci-fi, horror, fantasy convention) as a guest panelist. I want to unveil the book there and hopefully make a bunch of sales on the spot.

Thanks. Remember I’m only planning on 6-8 people, if I don’t choose you don’t be offended. I can only go over so many comments and keep track of so many folks. Thanks so much everyone.


“Welcome to Pointer, West Virginia”

 For those who have never heard of this place, do not fret. It doesn’t exist.  I made it up to be the setting for “The Vampyre Blogs”.  A good setting is extremely important to any story.  Your story’s setting can shape your character’s personality depending on how long they’ve lived there.  For instance, if they’ve been there a short time there’s the getting to know the place and the people.  Certain action sequences may take place in particular areas.  The town’s history may come into play.  If they’ve lived there all their lives, they should know a lot of people, have a reputation (are they considered cool, friendly, or weird by the other people?  Etc., etc…)  Already you can see the importance of your setting and you should know the place at least in your own mind, so you can convey it to the readers.  I don’t care if it’s a real place here on Earth or another world.  You need to become familiar with where your story is taking place.

I’ve touched on settings for stories in the past, but “Pointer, West Virginia” is very different for me. You see, I’ve never been to West Virginia.  I do not have any personal knowledge of what the place is like.  I don’t know how people talk there, what kind of accents they have, etc.  

Creating a fictional place doesn’t have to be super complicated, but whatever setting you build has to be believable.  In my case, I like to blend a bit of reality into my settings.  When I created New Swindon in Connecticut, for my first book “The Bridge”, I was familiar with the area where I placed it.  My grandmother had lived in Salisbury Connecticut for years and I became familiar with some of the other nearby towns.  I blended the characteristics of several of them to create New Swindon to make it seem more real and authentic.  I would refer to certain landmarks, roads and the things that actually do exist in real life.  This allowed me to make my town more believable and real.  

 In my second soon-to-be-released book, “The Ship”, I used an actual setting from real life that I was very familiar with.  However, I also took steps to make sure only my characters were fictional and that they blended right in with their real-life setting.  I had the knowledge of Santa Cruz and Seacliff to make this happen smoothly and very believable.  (Remember the old saying:  write what you know about).

So why am I using West Virginia, a place I’ve never been too, as the location for my third novel?  History!  West Virginia is steeped in it, especially when it comes to the Civil War, which is the time-frame my main character Nathaniel lived in.  So how did I approach this situation to so

So what did I do?  Simple, it was time for a little research on the internet and here is some of what I learned:

-West Virginia was created as a direct result of the Civil War.  Most of Virginia sided with the south during that turbulent time, except for the section now known as West Virginia.  They were not inclined to enforce slavery or returning runaway slaves, and decided to break off from the rest of Virginia.  There was a lot of tension when this happened, and there were a number of famous battles that took place within the newly formed state.

So right there I had a rich source of background to play with for my new novel.  However, I still had a number of obstacles to overcome for the story.  Where in West Virginia should I place my fictional town?  I checked over some county maps and saw where towns and cities were located and took notes.  I wanted an area that didn’t already have an actual town, so I could refer to the real places as being nearby.  Plus I wanted a location that was near the disputed Virginia/West Virginia border.  There were some hostilities there, and I had planned for my town’s history to include a bunch of raiders (southern sympathizers) who crossed the border and nearly wiped out Pointer’s population in one terrible “Night Of Fire”.  Could such a thing have happened?  Absolutely, because I checked up on atrocities that took place during the Civil War.  Both the North and South committed atrocities, some extremely barbaric.  So right there, I had foundation to create such a background history for the town.

I also, checked to find out what are the more prominent religions in the area, so I could populate the the town with a churches and denominations.  Plus I researched, what kinds of agriculture and commercial businesses are most prominent and where they are located in West Virginia.

 Now I know a lot of this sounds complicated and detailed, but I simply made a few notes to myself.  The object was to be able to make ‘general references’ to real aspects of the area, to make my fictional town blend in and seem more real.  That’s all.  I won’t be dedicating entire chapters to detailed descriptions, mostly it will be comments and points of reference made by the characters.  I even found where a community college is located in the county where I am placing my town, so one of the secondary characters can be an instructor there.
 

I know a lot of my readers may have never stepped foot in West Virginia, but there will also be some how do live there and I want them to feel like I treated their state fairly.  I try to make the settings enjoyable and fun to think about.  Who knows, some people may even want to visit them one day to see what it’s like for themselves.  It depends on the picture you paint, so to speak.

A few of your might be asking, how much time did I spend on researching the area?  Well, I’d say I spent a total of maybe 10-12 hours over a several day period to get my vision for “Pointer”.  I checked Google for images so I can describe buildings and streets, I checked maps for counties, I looked up the state’s governing body and typical law enforcement agencies, as well as the average population of towns so I could populate mine with the right number of civil servants and local government.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I checked out some of the state’s history.  Again I didn’t go into great detail, but simply made notes I could refer back to in order to make the town fit in and seem real.  Even the name of my fictional town comes from actual state history.  In May 1788 Fort Donally was attacked early in the morning hours by a group of indians led by Cornstalk.  The fort housed soldiers, wives and children.  One of the defenders who helped keep the gates blockaded and fired through a hole in the gate, was a slave named Dick Pointer.  For his courage and loyalty during the fight, he was given his freedom AND a piece of land with a cabin that people built just for him.  A rare honor at the time.  Upon his death in 1827 he was buried with military honors in Lewisburg West Virginia.

For my story, I’m going to have it that one of the children who saw him in action that day helped found my fictional town and named it after his hero.  A town named for a former slave would understandably be targeted by the raiders in my story and make it more believable.
So there you have it.  Here’s another one of my methods for making a believable fictional setting.  What are some of yours?  Please share in the comments below or give us links to a blog where you may have discussed your style of doing things.
I hope this entry has helped some of you.  And as always, take care and keep writing.


As most of you know by now, I’ve started work on my third novel.  What makes this book different though is the fact that I’m writing in the first person instead of the third person.  In the third person one tends to do a lot of “he said,” “She smiled”, etc.  Whereas the first person is a bit more personal in my opinion.  

Just about all writers like to let the audience inside their characters heads.  Some will do it in the “omniscient” style, where they let  reader see inside every characters head in the same scene all at once.  We’re allowed to know what they’re thinking, even if they don’t share their thoughts with the other characters.  Or  the author will let you inside one character’s head at a time.  This is called ‘limited perspective’ which is what I use a lot, where I only let you inside one character’s mind at a time, even within the same scene.  But I’ll indicate the ‘change’ of who’s head you’re inside of by putting a space break between paragraphs and clearly letting the audience know who’s point of view we’re now watching through.

 However, in first person perspective, you get a narrator who tells the entire story.  You’ll see a lot of “I said…”, “I thought…” etc. etc.  While powerful, this point of view can be limiting since the audience can only know what the narrator knows.  We don’t get inside the heads of the other characters to see what they’re thinking, unless the author switches narrators between chapters.  This is kind of what I’m doing with “The Vampyre Blogs”.  

Like a real blog, the entire book is made up of entries, only in this case they are created by the different characters.  Each speaking in the first person perspective.  Bram Stoker used this style in “Dracula” and it worked really well.  Since I’m doing a vampire piece, using the same style seemed only natural.

But what I didn’t count on was how much fun I’m having with this style.  With each entry, I get to play with a new character.  Now, I took theater back in high school and had a blast with it.  I’m finding doing these ‘blog entries’ by different characters to be a lot like my theater experience.  I really get inside whichever character’s entry I’m working on, and get to be them.  I really get a chance to see through their eyes and get to know them in a deeper way than I have with my characters in the past.  Then when I’m done with that entry, I get to take mentally shed that character and don another persona and repeat the process.  I sometimes feel like I’m doing a one man show in front of an audience.  Only I’m doing it from behind a computer screen instead of being on stage.

Now I know for a lot of writers, getting inside a character’s head is normal.  I did it for my other novels, but as I mentioned just a little while ago, I feel like I’m getting to really know my characters more in depth than before.  Will I be able to keep going this deep when I return to the third person perspective?  I don’t know, yet.  I hope so.  Because I’m really enjoying the experience.  Just so long as I don’t get too caught up with them and lose myself so to speak.

 This whole experience is a fascinating journey of discovery for me.  What have some of your experiences with writing and getting to know your characters been like gang?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please feel free to share your experiences with the rest of us in the comments section below.

I’m afraid this is all I have to share for now.  Take care and keep writing everyone!

 


Over on “The Vampyre Blogs–Private Edition” young Marisa is back.  Today she’s talking about  her Dad.  A simple everyday guy, who’s not a fireman, not a policeman, or an EMT.  He’s just an ordinary fellow, who manages to save a life.  Come find out how he did it at the link below:

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http://thevampyreblogs.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/marisas-musings-my-dad-the-hero-october-28th-2007/


I know, I know, I haven’t even put out “The Ship” yet, and I’m already working on another book?  Well, I’m waiting for feedback from some of my beta-readers who are going over “The Ship” so there’s not much I can do on that front at the moment.  And it felt so darn weird, sitting at my computer and not working on something, other than doing Facebook and games.

 

Besides, I’ve been getting a lot more views on “The Vampyre Blogs–Private Edition” blog sites that have been looking very encouraging.  I really hope my creating those sites will lead to me having a really good sized audience clamoring for the book when it finally comes out in December.  In this day and age of Indie Authors and self-publishing, one has to try and be inventive to build an audience for your work.  And I keep hearing over and over again about how important it is to get the word out about your works (both finished and in progress).

 

But what I really want to talk about today is my personal experiences in writing a book that is comprised of blog entries by various characters.  It’s been hard to describe at times, when people ask me about it.  But today I finally came up with a good way to explain it.  Basically, each ‘blog entry’ is pretty much a short story in and of itself.  I’m just putting together a bunch of short stories in such a way that they tell a much larger tale.  And I’m finding it fascinating.

 

This is the first book where I’ve tried using the first-person point of view.  I’ve always been a little leery of doing this because I keep in mind that whichever character is telling the story, we only get to see what goes on inside their head.  They don’t know exactly what’s happening inside the minds of the other characters.  But, by following Bram Stoker’s example of using journal and letters, I am having a blast getting all the different characters thoughts and opinions about what is going on in and around their lives.

 

I’m actually finding this format rather easy to work with and very exciting.  I just hope the audience finds it as enjoyable and interesting.  I just finished the first entry in the novel and it came to just over 1000 words.  How long will the book be in the end?  I’m not sure, but I’m hoping to keep it under 80,000 for a change.  It will be easier to manage the edits and rewrites, so I should be able to keep to my scheduled release of December later this year.

 

I’ll follow up again soon and let you all know what other discoveries I’m making as I continue the tale.

 

Until next time, take care and keep writing!


I’ ve had few people ask me a question about my vampyre blog recently.  They’ve been wondering why I use the words “Private Edition” in the title.  The answer is simple.  I didn’t want that blog to have the same exact name as my novel out of concern that I might confuse some of my readers.  Since they are connected, I wanted the two to sound similar without being identical.  And personally speaking, I’m glad I chose “The Vampyre Blogs–Private Edition” for the title of the blog.  It seems appropriate since none of the entries appearing on that blog will be showing up in the actual novel.

The entries I post there are simply for the enjoyment of the readers.  They are a bit of free background info on some of the characters, as well as scenes that can be considered free short-stories.

I’ve already decided that since that blog has already had over 400 views in the month and a half that it was put up, I will continue to keep it going even after the novel comes out in December of this year.  I find I enjoy doing these little shorts about my vampyre and the people who’s lives touch his.

I also plan on doing more novels with him, if the first one does well.  

So in the meantime, come see what’s been happening at his dance club “The Crypt”.  There’s always something going on down there, be it big or small.  The doors are open, and you’re invited…

http://thevampyreblogs.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/nathaniels-blog-january-7th-20-a-night-at-the-crypt/

They Crypt 3

“Flare”


The word “Flare” has many meanings such as style, finesse, a signaling device, but for the last two days it’s had a different meaning for me.  Those, like myself, who suffer from Fibromyalgia know it to mean an exacerbation of symptoms.

 

There is a serious rise in pain and sensitivity levels.  My aches go way beyond the norm.  Even the simplest tasks can set off a pain reaction.  While picking up a cup of tea, I feel my hand ache in ways it shouldn’t.  But I’ll be damned if I let  the pain get in my way, I NEED my morning tea.  But it’s usually one of the earliest signals that tells me I may be in for a bad time.

 

Fatigue is another major issue.  I feel wrung out and exhausted even after a good night’s sleep.  One would think I’d just completed a marathon instead of just having done a few simple chores around the house.  For the rest of the day I not good for much else.  I feel weak and unsteady.  My hand will tremble with the effort of just picking up an object.

 

Clumsiness and inability to judge distance or proximity is another issue.  As I leave a room I can clearly see the doorway.  Yet somehow, some way, my shoulder will still manage to hit door, or the doorway itself as I pass through.  Or I will misjudge a table or other object in the room or lying on the floor and trip over it.  Some days it feels like I am trying to navigate a minefield and I’m stepping on every hidden trap.  I’ve been known to trip over my own feet quite often during these episodes.

 

My head does not feel well either.  It feels stuffed with cotton or wool.  I do not mean in the sense of when you have a cold and your head feels all stuffed up.  No, this is different.  It is difficult to think clearly.  The simplest tasks I’ve done a million times before, I have to sometimes stop and think about how to do.  My flow of creativity becomes a trickle.  Not that I have the energy to actually work on any creative projects.

 

I am in “Flare” now.  I’ve been able to accomplish very little today.  But I do not seek pity, only understanding.  Fibromyalgia is one of the many “Invisible Illnesses”.  It is with me every day of my life, but to others I look very healthy.  They cannot see the pain I contend with every day.  Most days the levels are very low, and I can overlook or ignore them for the most part.  Other days, I’m more aware of it and just try to watch myself.  But then there are the times like today when all I can do is be gentle and patient with myself because there’s not much else I can do.

 

Going into “Flare” can be frustrating, especially on those occasions when I had plans to be with family or friends, but must bow out or change what we do at the last minute.  Those who know me best and are aware of my condition are more than understanding.  However, employers, co-workers or strangers are not as understanding.  The world can be vicious without really meaning to be to those with invisible conditions.  Perhaps more patience and empathy is something we all need to have because we don’t know what battles or sufferings other people are going through.  Especially when we can’t see those struggles because they are invisible to us.

 

How long this particular “Flare” will last, I have no idea.  It may be just today and I will be much better on the morrow.  Or it may decide to stick around for a week or two, possibly a month.  I pray not, because there are things I need and want to get done.  I do not like being tired, sore, clumsy and fuzzy-brained.   But if it does last longer than a couple of days I will be kind and forgiving to myself.  For it will pass, it always does.

 

I will call it quits here, because I’m feeling very tired just from thinking and typing up this entry.  Yeah, some days it’s that bad., and today is one of them.


Just put up a new entry over on my WordPress version of “The Vampyre Blogs”.

Today, I have my vampire’s godson talking about him.  I thought it might be nice for all of you to see Nathaniel, through the eyes of someone who’s known him for years.

Nathaniel’s been in a kind of dark mood on his entries, but he’s not always like that.    He’s rather a fun fellow, just kind of shy.

So why not come over and see a different side of the man who’s walked this earth for over a 150 years.

http://thevampyreblogs.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/brians-e-journal-january-7th-20/


Midwich Cuckoos
220px-Villageofthedamned1960MY RATING:  5  STARS OUT OF 5

I was very excited to finally get my hands on a copy of this book after seeing the 1960 movie “Village of the Damned” that was made based upon it. My wait was not in vain. While the movie followed the storyline and even small details very faithfully, actually reading the story was much more fulfilling.

I can understand the changing of the title, since not many are all that familiar with cuckoos aside from cuckoo clocks. In real life, cuckoo birds are rather parasitic in their behavior. A mother cuckoo will lay her egg in the nest of another bird (who is not a cuckoo) and leave it among the other eggs already there, and take off. The cuckoo’s egg will usually be similar in size and coloring so the foster-mother will not notice the additional egg and will care for it. Unfortunately, the cuckoo egg will hatch way before the other eggs, producing a very demanding chick who will constantly want to be fed and cared for. While the foster mother is away, the chick will evict other eggs or even other chicks when they finally hatch. The cuckoo chick will run the mother ragged to satisfy its own needs. Yes, nature can be cruel and even ugly sometimes.

In this novel, Mr. Wyndham applies this same principle to humans. In the village of Midwich the “Dayout’ occurs. The entire village falls unconscious for hours only to awaken confused and uneasy. Soon it is learned that every girl and woman of child-bearing age is pregnant. The stigma of unmarried mothers as well as the accusations of infidelity runs rampant. The women are on put on spot for quite a while unable to defend themselves.

Mr. Wyndham questions a number of society’s expectations of women and moral behavior within this book which I personally liked. At another point in the story one of the lead male characters talks about women he went to school with. He laments that there were young ladies who were extremely intelligent and had great future prospects, who wound up marrying and losing their chance to fully explore their full potential.

Eventually, the story raises other questions after the ‘children’ are born.  Namely the demands of motherhood, such as breast-feeding. In one scene a woman begins to breast-feed her newborn ‘child’ in public (remember this book came out in 1957, and there’s still a lot of arguments about breast-feeding in public today). The woman feels humiliated but explains angrily that she cannot help herself. The child demands it. Soon other strange compulsions arise from the other children born as a result of the Dayout.

Nature vs nurture comes into question as well. The ‘Children’ do not demonstrate affection or much feelings, except when threatened or angered. They have no problem being housed together away from their families when the chance arises. No matter how much kindness or affection has been given them, there is no affection offered in return.

Before long it becomes apparent these children are much more than human and they soon make it clear their long term goal is to supplant all normal humans in time. Plus they have the psychic powers to do it, which they demonstrate more and more. Even to the point of planes flying far overhead, suddenly dropping out of the sky. The pilots do not necessarily eject either folks. This is a blatant warning to those in authority not to try attacking from a distance or from above.

The book is a fascinating read and raises a lot of interesting questions. It is a classic and thoroughly worth reading. I highly recommend it.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5284559-allan-krummenacker”>View all my reviews</a>

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