Monthly Archives: July 2012

Another Excellent Indie Author

I’d like to introduce you to Carmen Rane Hudson, another excellent indie author.  Carmen’s first book is called Backlash.

I’ve read Backlash and enjoyed it very much, so I asked Carmen if she would consent to my interviewing her for our Independent Bookworm Blog.

Carmen, can you tell us about yourself?  (Your background that led to writing?)

I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer since the first grade. My first grade teacher handed me a “story starter” and I found myself spending a magical hour in a world of my own creation. I continued writing throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school. By high school, though, I was already hearing all of the “find something to fall back on” advice, and I tried to take it. I didn’t wind up writing again for many years as a result. Instead, I went through a series of sales jobs, customer service jobs, and bill collecting jobs. Fortunately, all of that prepared me to take off and become a freelance non-fiction writer in 2009, at which point my life began working again. With my courage thus restored I went back to writing fiction.

What type of fiction writing are you most drawn to?  Why?

Honestly, someday I want to write a massive, epic fantasy! For now, though, I have to admit I don’t feel 100% confident in my world building skills. I also enjoy urban fantasy and that’s what I’ve basically wound up writing. However, I don’t think my writing even fits into that box very well since my first book had hallmarks of both Christian fiction and the mystery/thriller. Yet I’m not a Christian writer either, necessarily. Both my upcoming novella and the sequel to Backlash will have heavy elements of voodoo in them.

Voodoo?  Well, that’s different. 

So, Carmen, what do you do when you’re not writing?

Heh. More writing! I’m a full-time ghostwriter so the day is more divided up into writing-for-others time and writing-for-me time. But when I’m not writing at all, I’m hanging out with my beautiful daughter and my 3 cats, acting, directing, or volunteering at the local community theater, or messing around on the Xbox 360. Late at night I’ve sometimes been known to watch crime dramas on Netflix, too.

Tell us how you do your usual writing.  Do you work from an outline or just “by the seat of the pants”.

I used to work by the seat of my pants, but lately I’ve at least tried to use Holly Lisle’s index card method. That…doesn’t entirely work for me either, other than to give me the shape of my story. Lately I’ve been combining that with a mind-mapping method where I keep track of each of the things that I’ve introduced that need to be resolved and what the protagonist(s) are doing about those things. This at least ensures I wrap everything up! But each book is honestly a little different. Backlash was done 100% on the index card method.

Backlash has an interesting main character. What came first, the character or the plot?

Peter definitely came first: this flawed, cowardly, self-absorbed preacher who also happened to be psychic. The plot was wildly different in the first draft and in the second draft, though there was always a series of murders. As to why I wrote it, well, now this is going to make me sound crazy, but if I didn’t write it I’d find I’d close my eyes at night and there Peter would be. Leaning against a wall. Arms crossed. Grumpy scowl on his face. Demanding to know why I was acting cowardly now. Why wasn’t I working on his story?

I can just see him standing there, demanding his story be toldSo, what challenges did you face in writing Backlash?

My biggest challenge was probably my own confidence. It’s funny. My ghostwriting means that sometimes I’m churning out 70,000 words of non-fiction in as little as one month, and I’m totally confident about the whole thing. When it comes to my fiction I’m a lot less confident. My second biggest challenge was I had a lot of trouble getting to a plot that worked.

If you wrote the book over, would you make any changes?

I probably would! It changed in every draft. There are a pair of characters, for example, that I’m still not entirely sure shouldn’t have been combined, and I’m still not entirely sure I shouldn’t have left it in one city…but in the end I think I told the story that needed to be told.

I hear you.  I’ve also thought of some changes I’d made in my books if I were doing them over again.

How long did you work on this book before deciding to publish it?

I was on this book for 3 years, and I didn’t originally set out to self-publish it. I sent it around to agents who said, “Wow, great book—don’t want to take a chance on it though.” I knew it had a lot to do with the fact that it was just too hard to pigeonhole. I believed in it though, so decided to do it myself.

How did you decide on the title and/or book cover?

The title of the book is due in part because of the “backlash” Peter gets from people in his life when he starts trying to do the right thing and from the “psychic backlash,” that causes him to get ill sometimes after he uses his powers until he fully accepts them and starts to control them. It also came from the consequences Peter faced for running away. As for the book cover, my friend Cindy does this amazing cover art. While I know that the cover isn’t necessarily as “polished” as some of the covers I’ve seen (it doesn’t look “glossy”, for example) I also just really like the individualized look and feel, and I even like the comic book feel. Now it’s kind of a branding thing for this series.

Do you have future books about Peter Corbie already planned out? ( How many?)  

I do have future books! However, not all of them are about Peter. Many are about this “Circle” of psychics that he’s formed. As of right now I’ve got 13 books planned. Each will alternate. It’s Peter’s Circle, so he will get the most books, but it will go: Peter, Circle Member, Peter, Circle Member, Peter, Circle Member, Peter, etc. I’m doing this for a few reasons. First, I’ve got an overall plot arc developing for the series, though it hasn’t fully emerged yet. Second, in many one-person series the impression is often given that there is only one important person in all of the world and everyone else is just that person’s side-kick. I don’t really like that, and so I want to give each of Peter’s friends a chance in the spotlight too, to show what they can do. Second, sometimes readers like other characters more than they like the main character, so this will give the readers each at least one book in the series about a main character that they might really love. A lot of people, for example, told me they liked Ava way more than they liked Peter, so now they’ll get a chance to spend time with Ava without Peter around. Third, that’s the way the series unfolded in my head.

Can you tell us a little about the next book?

Absolutely! Ava Stark is the star of my next book, Quintessence, and she’s going to be in a race against time to save her love and soul mate from a deadly curse that’s imprisoned him in a timeless wreck of an old plantation. She’s stepping into a vendetta that’s nearly 200 years old and gets drawn into a dangerous tug-of-war between warring voodoo powers.

I also have a new novella, Dig My Grave, coming out exclusively on Amazon.com by August 3rd. This book is about Emaline Voisine, a young single mother who has to save her daughter from her dead ex-husband. This one will be offered for free, (if I can get Amazon to let it go for free)  both as a gift to my existing readers and as a shameless ploy to get people to give me a try!   Dig My Grave, a Circle Novella, on Amazon.com.

Why did you decide to go the e-book route?

Primarily because I do not pigeonhole well! Plus, having complete creative control over my own work really appealed to me.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

When someone tells you, “have something to fall back on,” tune them out and keep writing. Don’t go to college: you’ll thank yourself when you’re not in debt later. Get a job out of college and keep writing till you can support yourself on it. Keep your eyes on the prize and ignore what everyone else has to say about it. You will be successful if you keep working at it. Educate yourself with as many guides from successful fiction writers as you can.

My untitled, I say whatever I want, shamelessly opinionated blog: www.petercorbie.com

Backlash, an urban fantasy thriller, is available  for 2.99 on Amazon.com, Nook, and PDF.

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So, How Many Pages is That?

The last few weeks I’ve encouraged folks to download my tales (which by the way are ALL FREE for the rest of the month of July 2012. Shameless Plug Department: Seriously, go download them all on Smashwords and use the coupon code SSWIN through July 31st.). The vast majority of friends and family on my platform are not experienced e-book readers: several I know are downloading pdf and pushing “Print”. Two or three times they’ve hit me with the simplest of questions, and I found myself groping for a real answer. “How many pages is that?” I confess I didn’t know, though I know what they meant.

So naturally I had to improve the world around me by declaring once and for all the answer.

I half-expected the online world itself to be little help. I Bing’ed the topic and got a slew of “answers” based on the old world of double-spaced manuscript submission. “About 250 words a page” over and over again. Nonsense! Onlyone or two of my paper-style submissions (all still sent electronically) called for double-spaced anymore, and none of my circle of online author friends puts  out chapters for feedback double-spaced. More importantly, that’s not the answer we’re looking for- people want to know how many pages your story would be if it were paper-published (ggrrrrr… one way I’d love to find out! But in the absence of an open-minded agent who “gets me”…)

I reached for the elbow grease. Specifically, I selected three volumes from my real, actual, published-in-paper-and-weighs-something bookshelf and started counting. No, not the whole things. I selected one random page from each book, counted every word, double-checked to be sure that other pages had the same number of lines, and then multiplied. My choices tell you a bit about where I’m coming from, but the publishers and eras vary so I don’t think your results in another genre will be too different.

Have white gold, will lose my temper.

Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson, is one of the classics of the Epic Fantasy genre and probably the greatest anti-hero of all time in Thomas Covenant. I pulled his book because I have such vivid memories of how this author expanded my vocabulary (I held a dictionary in my other hand as I read it). So I figured this would give me a bottom-end word count (longer words). It’s in the classic small-fat-paperback format, same as you see with GRRM (but I was damned if I was going to use him, like he needs more publicity).  Page 135 had 358 words, and the line count was a rock-steady 42 lines per page. Total word count by multiplication (474 pages) = 169,692.

A “killer” mystery!

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin is an excellent choice for two reasons. First off, WOW! what a masterwork of historical fiction and very much in the Heroic Fantasy line. Second, a much more recent book and third it’s in the trade-paperback format (5×7″) that I lust after so heartily. OK, three reasons- just read this book, do not be a fool. Page 256 held merely 211 words, at 26 lines per page: with 503 pages it was over WAY too soon at 106,133 words.

Another cast of epic-fantasy jerks, but still good.

Shadowmarch is the first in the latest Epic Fantasy series by Tad Williams, who along with “Germ” is the other must-read, I’m-not-worthy lord of the genre today in my opinion. I do think he did much better with The Bone Chair which I believe was his first, but I wanted something much more recent to see if the page counts had changed in the small paperback form factor. They haven’t. Page 332 had 348 words on 37 lines, and with 762 pages that yields a healthy total of 265, 176 words. I feel better about Judgement’s Tale (a mere 202k words) all the time!

How does that compare to what comes out on the screen as we type our masterworks and prep them for e-pub? Some totals from my experience, using MS Word single-spaced and prepping my stories for Smashwords publication (either past or intended):

The Plane of Dreams is 93,676 words over 137 pages. WPP 684

The Ring and the Flag is 31,118 over 59. WPP 527

Fencing Reputation is 46,015 over 79. WPP 583

Three Minutes to Midnight is 13,742 over 25. WPP 550

Judgement’s Tale is 202,193 over 480. WPP 421

I was very surprised at the variation in WPP between my own works: conversation, surely is a great differentiator. The two stealthic tales feature heroes who mainly talk to themselves, so the word counts were higher there. But Plane of Dreams has a ton of description, I might have to consider some restructuring. I was stunned to think the story of Solemn Judgement hadsuch a low WPP- that would be conversation, and he hardly talks to anyone! Then I noted that this older manuscript has the extra line between paras, so I didn’t count it. At all events I came up with an average of 550 WPP in my e-pub tales, as against around 350 WPP when a standard paperback goes into print (much less, obviously, in trade paperback form). And it’s probably different again in hard cover. But let’s face it- the people asking these annoying questions don’t need a thesis, just an answer.

And I’d say that my tales in paper pub would come out about 1.5 times longer in pages than they do online.

Seem about right to you?

Summertime Blues

I have been really, really efficient and successful the last few month. I translated 3 novels and just started the fourth, one of my short stories was a finalist in the Writers Digest Writing Competition (in 2011), after a promotion I earned more money in 4 weeks than I did in all of 2011, and one of my eBooks just got a shiny badge for being promoted semifinalist in the YA category of a “Best eBook 2012” competition.

Still I feel unhappy and found it really hard to sit down to write today. My fingers itch to get on with the novel I left unfinished last Nano, the garden is calling, and my kids need me all the time. I wish for a quiet, peaceful place where no one can reach me. It’s the Summertime Blues. The hotter it gets, the more tired I become, the more I want to hide away — or spend the day in a pool.

One place where I find the solace I seek are books. They transport me away on the wings of imagination. Of course, as a responsible grown-up, I can’t just read when I want or my kids would go hungry and my stories would stay unwritten.

How about you? Do you feel the Summertime Blues as well? Where do you find solace?

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