Tag Archives: middle grade

Thoughts on Writing – Using Music for Plotting (The Wishing Blade series)

When writing and plotting stories, I like listening to music. (Not so much when editing… then I prefer to see how the story is speaking for itself). Listening to music helps me set the tone of the scene, and it provides inspiration while I’m plotting, whether I’m stuck in a scene, or just want something to help convey the tone. Another benefit I’ve found is that if I listen to music while plotting, then listen to the same song again later when writing, I can reintroduce that feeling, that mood I was in when I originally crafted the story. (For this, playlists are extremely helpful).

For example, I’ve used music constantly while writing and plotting The Wishing Blade series. There are certain songs I listen to when I want to be reminded of specific characters and their motives. For example, “The Other Side” by Blackmore’s Night is one I’ve recently found useful when I want to think of Shevanlagiy’s character arc (since there’s a particular character she’s trying to keep from dying again that drives her motives).

As for influences on the world of the story in general, “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot, and “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie (I must admit that I’m not a fan of the original recording; I heard a different version of it when I was taking singing lessons that I became a fan of), both influenced the world. “Shadows” inspired some of the longing of Daernan’s character in The Shadow War, who sees that the world is no longer what it appeared, and it influenced how he sees the war affecting Toranih. “Rainbow Connection” pushed me toward the original idea of the Wishing Blade and more importantly toward the idea of there being some unnatural call (in this case, Magic’s Lure) pulling characters in directions they hadn’t expected (though the call in the story is a bit more sinister than that of the song).

But not all of the songs that influence the story and character arcs are ones I listened to in the early stages of writing. Aside from “The Other Side,” which was a fairly recent discovery, I enjoy several versions of “Luna’s Future” that fans have covered from the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV series. When I listen to the song, I enjoy picturing it as a dialogue between Madiya and Shevanlagiy (minus the names of the ponies involved, since neither characters would wish to be caught in a musical, or as their equine counterparts…). I also enjoy “Elf Glade” by Meg Davis, which I picture as a dialogue between young Lord Menchtoteale and Shevanlagiy… despite the fact that there are no elves in the story, and that I can’t go into too much detail about why I see this song with those characters without giving potential spoilers.

If you listen to music while plotting, consider the reasons for it. Does it inspire a certain mood for you? Help you picture scenarios between characters you hadn’t pictured before? If you’re stuck on a certain plot point, try putting together a list of songs that have influenced your story, or look for new ones in a similar vein to help inspire you. (Just don’t do like I do and discover that a couple hours have passed with nothing written, but with a host of new songs added to the playlist).

Another joy of plotting while listening to music is misinterpreting lyrics. The first time I heard “The Skye Boat Song,” I heard “Carry the lad that’s born to be king, over the sea to die” rather than “over the sea to Skye.” Though the plot arc that resulted hasn’t appeared in the current version of The Wishing Blade series, it led to a concept that played in the original draft, where a young boy who was stillborn was brought back to life by the high god so that he would later become king. There was no sea involved in the plot, but the character played a large role in the original story. (And who knows… he may later play a role in the world of Cirena, even if he doesn’t appear in The Wishing Blade series). Likewise, “Kingsword” by Heather Dale also makes me think of that particular story arc.

Have you found any songs to have given you story ideas because you didn’t quite hear what was being said? Or because there are variations on the song?

There were certainly other songs that influenced the world of The Wishing Blade and helped shape it into what it is today. Most of the stories I write have been influenced in one way or another by the songs I listen to (and the songs I listen to have been influenced by what I write).

If anyone’s interested, I’m considering looking at how music has influenced the other stories I’ve written and that I’m working on. But, for now, do you listen to music while you plot, and have you found any songs to be helpful in writing a particular story? 🙂

 

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Book Formatting Services Now Available!

I mentioned yesterday that I was going to start offering formatting services soon. I now have that information gathered in one place… my Interior Book Design page! I’ve also updated the prices on my Book Cover Design page.

So, if you’re interested in having your book formatted for Smashwords, Kindle, and/or Createspace, here’s a list of the services I provide. 🙂

 

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Ebook (Basic Formatting)

What I do: I clean the file of stray formatting and make the file compliant for both Kindle and Smashwords. Allows for one-to-five images, as provided by the author. I can insert a basic copyright page if needed. I also insert a table of contents and hyperlinks, where appropriate.

Cost:

$50.00 for up to 50,000 words

$75.00 for up to 100,000 words

What you get: .doc file for Smashwords and a ZIP file for Kindle (or .doc, if there are no images inside the file).

I allow for 1 round of cost-free corrections to be made after the file has been approved (this is to allow for proofing), as long as the corrections are requested within two months of the original approval of the project.  Note, for 50,000 word projects, I cap the amount of time put into corrections at 1.5 hours. For 100,000 words projects, the cap is 3 hours. After that, additional corrections during the first round will be $10.00 an hour. After the first round, corrections will be made at a rate of $15.00 an hour. For this reason, please provide the file that is closest to what your final product will be.

(Corrections made that are due to my errors will be made free of charge, so long as the corrections are requested within two months of the project’s approval date).

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EBook (Decorative Formatting)

What I do: Same as Basic Formatting, but stylized chapter headings are available and I can insert glyphs for section breaks. Exact details will depend on the book and its genre.

This includes the creation of 1 glyph (a stock image may need to be purchased, or I may design the glyph myself. You’ll have a chance to approve the design). Alternatively, you may provide the glyph. It also includes chapter headings and title text that have been stylized in a font appropriate for your book. (Again, you’ll have a chance to approve the design). Please note that I do not embed the font–I use images to ensure that the headings will be visible on multiple e-readers.

This option also allows for the insertion of 1 – 10 images, as provided by the author.

Cost:

$125.00 for up to 50,000 words

$175.00 for up to 100,000 words

What you get: .doc file for Smashwords and ZIP file for Kindle.

Examples:

Distant Horizon, Magic’s Stealing, The Poe Codec, M.O.B. (Mean Old Bastard)

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Print and EBook Formatting

What I do: Same as Decorative Ebook formatting, except that I also prepare a print edition for Createspace or Ingram Spark.  Because the process I use to format the file for a print book starts with the ebook file, the ebook files come with the print formatting.

Note: If I have created the cover of the book (separate cost–email me for information), I may be able to design a specialty chapter background page and/or title page based specifically on the cover.

Cost:

$250.00 for up to 50,000 words

$300.00 for up to 100,000 words

What you get: .doc file for Smashwords, ZIP file for Kindle, and PDF file for Createspace or Ingram Spark (Please specify which–additional costs apply when formatting a manuscript for both printers).

Examples:

Magic’s StealingDistant Horizon, The Poe Codec

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Cleaned-Up Maps

If you have a sketch of a map that you would like included in your book, but need the file cleaned up, I can provide a cleaner version.

Cost: starts at $25.00 and goes up based on complexity. Contact me for a quote on your anticipated project.

What you get: JPG file suitable for ebook and print editions. You don’t have to use my other services to have this done.

Examples: 

(Click the “Look Inside” option, then go back a couple pages to see the maps.)

Show Me the Sinister Snowman – This is an example of maps where I took the basic sketch and made a completely digital version.

Magic’s Stealing – This is an example of a map that I took the pencil version and retouched in Photoshop, then added in the lettering

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.Doc to PDF Conversion

What I do: I take the file you send me (Note: You assume responsibility for having the rights to file to make this conversion) and I convert it into a PDF file. This is helpful if you want to do print edition formatting yourself, but don’t have the program necessary to make the PDF conversion.

Cost:

$25.00 per file

(Note: If you have multiple files that need converting, email me to get a quote for a lower price per file).

What you get: A PDF file in the specifications you provide.

If there are errors uploading, and the fault is mine, I will reconvert the file at no additional cost to you. Otherwise, I allow for three conversions of the same file within a two month period (to allow for proofing, etc) before the same cost applies.

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Interested in one of these services?

Contact me at: bookcovers (at) sbibbphoto.com

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The Shadow War – Launch Day!

After an extra month of waiting, The Shadow War is finally here! It’s the second book of The Wishing Blade series, so if you’ve been wondering what happens next, that wait is over!

*Squee!*

I’m both excited and nervous with this one. For this one, we get to see Daernan’s point of view for a large part of the story (60%, to be exact), and we get one short scene from Siklana at the end. But don’t worry, Toranih and Shevanlagiy also get their fair share of scenes, too. Not only that, but we get glimpses of both Maijevan and Cantingen cultures, and the bit of rivalry that might be brewing between the various countries and cities. 😉

So, without further ado…

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

The Shadow War

Upper MG / Lower YA

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

The Shadow War - Book Cover

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Though a shadow is as good as a ghost, with no free will to speak of, they may still be saved…

The kingdom of Cirena is under attack from an army of shadows—beings who can only be hurt by magic or fire. Magic has been stolen, and as the shadows spread, infecting all they touch, the last two ribbon mages race to the nearest port city to warn them of the impending invasion. One of those mages, Toranih, is among the few who can see the Trickster-cursed army, and she’s determined to get magic back—no matter how much she distrusts it. When she is captured by shadows and a dark secret is revealed about her future, her best friend, Daernan, is left to defend the city. But his only methods of stopping the shadows are by fire and the devastating magic of the shodo’charl.

With the knowledge that the shadows are innocent townsfolk forced to do a warlord’s bidding, Daernan must choose between saving the shadows or saving those who have not yet turned.

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Now Available!

Amazon US ~ Amazon UKBN.com ~ iTunes ~ KoboSmashwords

Paperback Edition

Add to Goodreads

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

A sneak peek…

The roof afforded a smoky view of the burning courthouse and the surrounding mayhem, and here Daernan understood the madness of the shadows. As their victims faded, turning into shadowy wisps, they, too, turned on the crowd. The more the shadows converted, the faster the crowd disappeared.

No wonder they used the explosions. People in the affected areas fled from their homes and the markets, trying to evacuate because the smoke in the distance meant the whole southern side of the city might be burning. But the ghostly shadows waited for them with impromptu weapons, and the refugees fled right into their hands.

“It’s so easy for them,” Daernan whispered. “Lord Menchtoteale found a simple way to conscript his army.”

Siklana frowned as she dug the shodo’charl free from the bag and passed him the stone. “What are they doing?”

“Using the explosions to force people from their homes.” Daernan reached to take the bundle, then stopped. Siklana’s brown eyes were wide with worry, her lips forming an unhappy frown. He quickly turned away and clasped the oilskin tight in his fingers. There were so many shadows. If he released the stone now, he might be killing countless innocent people. But if he didn’t release the stone’s magic, more would be trapped.

“Should we do this?” he asked softly.

Siklana peered over the ledge. “You’re asking me?”

He whispered a soft prayer to Madiya—primarily because she was responsible for taking the dead through her realm—but he fervently hoped he was wrong. Hoped that somehow, some way, the shodo’charl did not kill them.

He hooked his fingers under the oilskin, trembling, already feeling the cold sweat forming on his neck and soaking his back. To do this . . . if he killed them . . . he wasn’t sure how he was going to sleep. How he was going to account for their deaths? But the longer he waited, the more who would die when he finally released the oilskin.

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Enjoy! Feel free to tell your friends, or anyone you think might enjoy the book. 😀

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The Shadow War – Now Available for Pre-Order

If you enjoyed reading Magic’s Stealing, then good news! The pre-order for the next book in the series, The Shadow War, is now avilable for pre-order!

The book is still in progress (The Shadow War has been through three beta readers, and now Isaac is reading it), but I expect to have it completed by February 2017. Actually, I’m hoping to have it done sooner, but being realistic, I’m trying to give myself a bit more time to complete the project. Once it’s finished, The Shadow War will probably be about 47,000 words long, though the final word count may vary.

Since I was running the promotion for “Stone and String” on Kindle (a short story set in the world of The Wishing Blade), I wanted to make sure I had the second book of The Wishing Blade series available to pre-order. The series starts with Magic’s Stealing, and continues in The Shadow War.

Now, for the book cover!

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

The Shadow War

Young Adult / Middle Grade Fantasy

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

The Shadow War - Book Cover

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

 

The kingdom of Cirena is under attack from an army of shadows—beings who can only be hurt by magic or fire. But magic has been stolen, and as the shadows spread, infecting all they touch, the last two ribbon mages race to the nearest port city to warn them of the impending invasion. One of those mages, Toranih, is among the few who can see the Trickster-cursed army, and she’s determined to get magic back—no matter how much she distrusts it. But when she is captured by shadows and a secret is revealed about her future, her only chance of survival may be to fight the shadows from within.

Available for Pre-Order:

Amazon US ~ Amazon UKBN.com ~ iTunes ~ KoboSmashwords

Add to Goodreads

The Wishing Blade - Section Break - Magic Swirl

Enjoy! 😀

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Thoughts on Writing – A Blurb for The Shadow War

I’m preparing to create the pre-order page for The Shadow War, the second book of The Wishing Blade series. I’m still in the editing phases, and it’s going to be a little while before it releases (I’m planning to set the release date for February, though I’m hoping to release it sooner). But I want to have the page up before I do the Stone and String freebie days from Kindle Select.

Before I can create the page, however, I want to have a blurb ready (those dreaded, tricky things that entice readers to buy the book). The Shadow War is a YA/Middle Grade fantasy novella (47,000 words), the second of The Wishing Blade series. (You can read the blurb for the first book by clicking here).

So I’ve been thinking about a blurb, and this is what I’ve come up with:

The kingdom of Cirena is under attack from an army of shadows—beings who can only be hurt by magic or fire. But magic has been stolen, and as the shadows spread, infecting all they touch, the last two ribbon mages race to the nearest port city to warn them of the impending invasion. One of those mages, Toranih, is among the few who can even see the Trickster-cursed army, and she’s determined to get magic back—no matter how much she distrusts it. But when she gets captured by the shadows and a secret is revealed about her future, her only chance of survival may be to fight the shadows from within.

While this may be what I use for my initial post of the pre-order page, I want to make sue it works in the long run. So my questions for you are these:

  1. Is the blurb intriguing?
  2. Does it reveal too much? Too little?
  3. Does it show clear goals and motivations?
  4. If you’ve read Magic’s Stealing, does it interest you in reading The Shadow War?
  5. If you haven’t read Magic’s Stealing, does it interest you in learning more or looking inside either of the books?

Thanks for your input! I appreciate it! 😀

I hope you find this post helpful for your own writings. What pitfalls have you run into when writing a blurb?

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Thoughts on Publishing – A Video Blog Post – Reading Chapter Seventeen of Magic’s Stealing

I finally got the next reading (chapter seventeen) of Magic’s Stealing uploaded! Enjoy. 🙂

Click here for the link if you can’t see the video.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

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Thoughts on Writing – Swearing in Audio Formats

In my last post, I read from Magic’s Stealing. It was the first time I edited one of my Youtube blog videos using Premiere Pro, and I used it to remove some of the more obvious stumbles where I tripped over my words. However, I ran into a bit of a conundrum that I hadn’t considered before. For public readings, should I bleep out swear words, or should I leave the text as-is?

If you recall, I wrote a post a while back on To Swear or Not To Swear, in which I debated whether or not to include actual swear words in the dialogue of the book. Ultimately, I decided to keep that particular instance, because it fit the character’s intentions and offered readers a bit of insight into the characters.

Keeping the swear as-is continued to bug me, though, largely because I wondered whether or not a middle grade audience (not just young adults) might be inclined to enjoy the book–but might have a less-inclined parent if those parents read the first chapter.

And that in itself is a whole new debate. Is it a good idea to tailor a story to a specific audience, with certain marketing expectations in mind? Middle grade novels are typically expected to be free of swearing. YA ranges the gamut, and adult depends on the genre.

The conundrum I’ve run into is that I intended Magic’s Stealing to be YA. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a middle grade audience enjoyed it. As such, it’s led me to a new thought… if I ever do a public reading, should I censor the word? Then again, if I didn’t keep the swear, the passage wouldn’t have quite the same meaning. It’s unfortunate from a marketing standpoint that the only real-word swear is in the first few pages. Should I simply find a different chapter to read, perhaps in the middle of the action?

I suspect this will depend on the venue in question. Some venues, especially ones that are geared towards being family friendly, may ask to not have the swear read. Others may not care at all. It’s probably up to the type of fiction you write as to whether or not you choose to use venues that have specific preferences.

But what about audiobooks?

My first thought was, why change what we wrote? We choose our words for a reason.

On the other hand, people reading a book can very easily skim over words they don’t like. It’s not so easy when those words are being spoken aloud.

(I’ll admit that I don’t tend to listen to audiobooks, so I’m not sure what the general protocol is here.)

Granted, censoring spoken swears will depend on the audience. Obviously, censoring an erotic novel would be ridiculous. The target audience has expectations as to the contents of the novel.

But what about a YA novel with the occasional swear? Should this be censored in audio format? My first thought was “no.” That’s not how the author wrote it. But when read aloud, does that change the impact of those words?

Does reading the book aloud change the impact of the intent, and thus, change what should be read? Does reading aloud change how the text is perceived?

Or does trying to censor a word–whether by dropping the volume or inserting a bleep– actually draw more attention to it?

What about switching the word? The meaning changes, but what if, by switching words during a spoken performance, you actually get the intended reaction?

Is there a difference between the impact of something spoken, versus something silently read?

That, to me, is the real question.

If what we write on the page takes a different meaning when said aloud, then perhaps we should consider that impact, and decide what to change from there.

After all, screenwriting is different from novel writing. Adaptations are made because a book is a different format than what you might see in a live or recorded performance, and has different advantages and limitations.

But if the spoken word has the same impact as the written, then perhaps no changes should be made.

Honestly, I’m probably over-thinking this. For the previous reading, I left the swear in. I figured that pretty much anything I did would draw more attention to it (other than writing a whole blog post pondering the question), while letting it flow in context should keep the story running smoothly.

And in general, I’m thinking I’ll read the text as-is. If the one swear is likely to pose a problem, I could always chose a later segment to read.

But now I’m curious as to what you think. How would you handle a reading that has the occasional swear, whether an audiobook or in public?

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