Archive | February, 2014

Getting critical

28 Feb

The Day Magic DiedI’ve now heard back from four of my five critical readers, and I expect to hear from the final one this weekend. So the revisions of Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, will likely happen next week.

What I love about this team of critical readers is how differently they look at things.

Two of them gave me lists of typos and punctuation and grammar issues. In case you were wondering, spell check doesn’t help. I write in Word, and after a certain number of errors, Word just stops trying to spell-check. You reach that point pretty early in a 100,000-word book with a lot of words in made-up languages.

I’m certain that these two lists will mostly coincide, but having two people on the team who think that way means we’re more likely to find all those errors.

Another person is mainly concerned with story issues. She spotted two things in the book that seemed to work out too easily. She also spotted one thing that made no sense – a character suddenly showed up in a scene where it made no sense. That’s because I had the wrong name in the scene. “Where’d he come from?” From a stupid mental lapse. But I have the power to make his disappear. Bwahahahaha! (Sometimes revisions are fun.)

The fourth critical reader tends to look not only at the story, but at broader social issues. Am I reinforcing negative stereotypes, or bad tendencies in culture, or am I challenging them?  She had a field day with The Dwarf’s Legacy, pointing out that one character was quite unjustly maligned, while another was getting away with stuff. And those things fell right in line with how our society, generally speaking, incorrectly treats those kinds of people. That’s not the kind of thing I want to be saying to readers, even subtly. In fact, it might be worse to say things like that subtly. If I said them outright, your defenses would be up. When they’re in the background, they can sneaking into your brains when your guard is down. And that kind of tactic I save for really nefarious messages, like “Buy more books!”

The fifth reader is the kind who is not afraid to let me know what she, as a reader, is thinking at different points. For example, if something irritates her, or if there’s a question she wants answered, she’ll write it right in the manuscript she’s reading. It’s great to have a gauge on what readers are thinking, because that can be tough for a writer to understand.

The good news is that I can see exactly what each of them is talking about, and I’ve already been thinking through how I can address some of these things. I don’t anticipate the revisions taking long, but I do anticipate that they will make the story much better.

Thanks for your patience as I work to ensure that this book is a journey you’ll enjoy.

Making progress

26 Feb

The Day Magic DiedWe’re continuing to make progress on Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy.

Today I’ve given my designer all the files and text and information necessary to, in order:

  • Design the cover of The Dwarf’s Legacy
  • Revise the covers of Books 1, 2 and 3 – The House in the Old Wood, Karia’s Path and The Hall of the Prophetess – in order to include the series logo
  • Design the cover for Book 5, The White-Silver House

I should mention that the cover is not all that is changing in Books 1 and 2. I have also changed the font I used for the print book, to the same one I used in Book 3. I was originally using Garamond, which is a very legible and very respected font for books. But italicized text is far more legible in Palatino Linotype, and I have a lot of italicized text. So I made that switch for The Hall of the Prophetess, and now that I am making revisions in The House in the Old Wood and Karia’s Path, I’ll make that change there as well.

Not in February …

21 Feb

The Dwarf’s Legacy will not be released until mid-March.

I apologize for the delay from the intended February release. And I am sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, and to share this with you.

But I believe this is the correct decision.

At this point, I have received feedback from two of my five critical readers. This is even more of a problem than it might appear at first.

You can probably guess that I really want to hear from the other three before I move forward with publishing The Dwarf’s Legacy. You may not know that all of these critical readers are helping me out as a favor and have lives of their own. I appreciate their help, and while I’m asking about their progress, I’m not going to pressure them. It doesn’t help me as a writer or you as a reader if they rush.

But wait, there’s more.

I have told you before that I had to do a pretty serious rewrite of this fourth book – far more serious than any previous book in the series. So with the first three books, I was sending my critical readers books that I had written and then edited and revised. But The Dwarf’s Legacy was not edited as much by me.

You know what that means?

It means the two critical readers who have checked in so far have found a few issues that go beyond typos. So after I make revisions to address these issues, the book will have to be carefully checked again.

So my to-do list looks like this:

  • Politely prompt my critical readers for their response
  • Revise and edit the manuscript
  • Have two or three of them go through The Dwarf’s Legacy again.
  • Do the final edit, then the final proofreading
  • Format the text for paperback and Kindle

I am going to set a tentative publication date of March 14, in part at least because I will be at an event that weekend. I will keep you updated.

Again, please permit me to apologize for the delay.

The romance is not over …

15 Feb

Need a little more romance this weekend? How about an entire chapter? Here, to whet your appetite for the whole book, is the first chapter of my Science Fiction/Western/Paranormal/Romance/Hard-Boiled Detective/Humor novella, The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway:

Fiona hungrily eyed Nascent Payne as he strode from Hillsdale Colony’s dusty main street through the swinging doors of the saloon. She wasn’t sure what was rippling more, his kilt or the muscles in his bare arms and legs.

This was definitely one of those days she wished she wasn’t dead.

Ah, well, at least Payne was on the case, and that meant action, intrigue, a fistfight or two, and perhaps even an answer to who killed her and why.

Payne stopped just inside the doors of the saloon, creatively named Saloon. He had the awkward feeling he was half-naked. Puzzled, he looked down. He was wearing what he always wore: khaki shirt and olive cargo pants. He shrugged and tried to focus. He couldn’t afford to be distracted.

Life had always been tough – and cheap – in the outer colonies. The war that nobody won made it worse. Payne smiled wryly and wondered if there ever had been a war that someone truly won.

Lately, worse was going to hell in a handbasket as Earth’s Colonial Marshals Service was phased out so the colonies could have their own Interstellar Marshals Service. In the transition, people were getting away with murder.


The only recourse decent folks had were private investigators like Payne. At any rate, right now he was a private investigator. He had been a bounty hunter and a smuggler. Even a soldier, though he thought the term mercenary sold better on his bio. He would tell you it just depended on what was paying best. And that would be a lie.

Payne looked around the saloon and saw, for the most part, dust.

He got the impression that dust was both the theme and the primary decorating element of Saloon, the saloon. Not the white, fine dust that accumulates in those places people miss when they clean their homes. The brown, crunchy stuff that comes in from outside and piles up on every surface when people just don’t clean at all.

Payne looked past the dirty tables and gritty chairs before him to his right, where a grime-fogged mirror pretended to reflect a well-worn bar. Two male patrons who matched the decorating theme perched on a pair of barstools. It seemed odd to Payne that the two men would perch on two barstools, instead of each perching on one, but live and let live, he thought.

Payne walked right up to the barkeep, a very thin man who had so much hair on his head and face that Payne wondered how he stayed right-side-up.

“Manager?” Payne said. The hairy man gestured to the back of the room, where five men hunched over one table.

“Can you be a bit more specific?” Payne asked.

“Red vest,” the barkeep said, the movement of his mouth visible only by the ripple of his beard. He picked up a dirty towel and wiped dust off of – or was it onto? – a shot glass.

Payne spotted a man in a red vest at the table. Sharp dresser, handsome – slick type, Payne thought. From this angle, the woman in the lurid painting behind him seemed to be reaching out for his shoulders. And she didn’t look like the type who’d stop there.

Payne was about to walk toward the table, but paused to look around a moment. Ever since he got to this planet, he’d felt like someone was watching him. Yet nothing looked odd. Making note to stay alert, he went to the table. “You the manager?” Payne asked.

“Yes,” the man said, barely looking up. “And who would you be?” The other men at the table sat back and appeared to be sizing up Payne.

“The name’s Nascent Payne. I’m looking into the murder of Fiona Galloway.”

Now the man looked up, a smile on his face that appeared to be straining to keep from being an all-out laugh. “Your name’s Nascent Payne?” he said.

Payne gave the manager his best “Don’t even say it” look, and said, “Yes, and I’m here about the murder of Fiona Galloway.”

“Nascent Payne,” the man said, “as in …”

Payne cut him off. “I’ve heard them all, and few were amusing the first time. I’m here about the murder of Fiona Galloway.”

“Yes, you said that,” the man said, still clearly amused. Before he could say another word, a small, slight man who had been following Payne, mostly unnoticed, stepped out from behind him and leaned on the table, his face inches from the manager’s.

As the other men at the table tensed, he said, menacingly, “The desert is a highly inhospitable environment for human life. Without an increase in the intake of liquids and electrolytes, and in the long run, vitamins and minerals, survival is unlikely.”

“Robin, enough,” Payne said. He pulled the slight man back, and the men at the table relaxed slightly.

“And you have a sidekick named Robin?” the manager said. The edges of his mouth curled up more.

“Robin Flynn,” Payne said. He was about to say more but Flynn interrupted.

“But at the moment, it seems apropos for you to call me Riboflavin, like the vitamin, to better reflect and reinforce the importance of nutrition in an environment such as this,” Flynn said.

“His name is Robin Flynn and he’s my mechanic and I only put up with this because he’s a really good mechanic,” Payne said. That, and the fact that he brewed coffee that grabbed you by the throat and tossed you out the door while shouting, “Seize the Day!” in your ear. But suddenly Payne was distracted again. He got the distinct impression that not only was someone watching him; they were trying to look up his kilt, which he was still, of course, not wearing. He cleared his throat and pulled Flynn aside.

“Look, and I need you to listen to me because this is really important,” Payne said, lowering his voice. “Just settle back at the bar and try to stay inconspicuous, and watch my back. There’s something strange going on here.”

“I am not certain they serve anything healthy here, but I will do as you ask,” Flynn said, and walked to the bar. Payne knew that Flynn and inconspicuous went together like serial killers and kittens, but at least giving the guy a job to do usually kept him occupied and out of trouble.

He turned back to the table. “Yes, my name really is Nascent Payne, and I’m a private investigator. I understand you employed Fiona Galloway?”

“Yes,” the manager said, cocking his head as if he was suspicious of Payne.

“I’m only interested in finding her killer,” Payne said calmly. “If it’s not connected to whatever else you have going on here, then we won’t have any problems. But if it is, you and I are most definitely going to have problems. Big problems.”

Ag colonies like this one could feed themselves, but these days income was hard to come by. The “stasis-fresh” meat, dairy and produce they exported were too expensive for most people since the war. So lately, places that could grow fruits and vegetables often also grew plants known for their pharmaceutical qualities. Somehow, folks always found money for that sort of thing. And people like this manager often dealt in that sort of agriculture.

Payne didn’t necessarily hold that against him. He himself had found more than one way to make a buck. But none of his methods had ever gotten anyone killed. OK, a few had. Maybe more than a few. But the point is, Payne would have a problem if this guy’s side business had gotten Fiona killed, if only because he was getting paid to find out who killed her.

“Won’t you sit down, Mr. Payne?” the manager said, gesturing to one of the other chairs at the table, which was currently but temporarily occupied. Everyone at the table but the manager got up and sauntered to the bar. “And let me get you a drink. I think we can do business.”

Payne pulled out a chair and tried to brush at least some of the dust off it. As he sat he said, “No thank you for the drink. What is your name, sir?”

“James Deacon,” the manager said.

“Mr. Deacon, what precisely did Fiona do for you?”

“She precisely waited tables,” Deacon said. “Nothing more, nothing less. She was a straight arrow, Payne, and that’s why I hired her. Yeah, I’ve got stuff going on out of the back room and off the books, and I don’t need hookers hustling customers or pushers selling drugs, and getting the attention of the authorities or the do-gooders. Fiona wasn’t messed up in anything illegal, at least not here, and I’ll do all I can to help you find out who killed her.”

He looked down at the table a moment, then back up. “I mean that, Payne. She was a good kid.”

Deacon had little to tell Payne that he didn’t already know. Fiona had arrived on the planet six months ago with her best friend, Kim Bridges. He wouldn’t give them a room because Kim, he said, “would stink up the place,” and Payne knew he’d have to look into that. It sounded unsavory, and he wondered how a straight arrow would get mixed up with someone like that.

But Deacon had hired Fiona on the spot – in fact, offered her the job when she came looking for a room, based on the references she brought. She’d been a good worker, and Deacon was planning to give her a raise. “OK, I admit,” he told Payne, “I lowballed her to start with, and I felt guilty.”

Then she didn’t show up to work one day. The  assistant manager who worked mornings reported it to Deacon, and Deacon contacted Kim, who said she’d left for work on time. She never got home either, Deacon said – Payne made a note to confirm all this with Kim – and later that day a ranch hand found her body. Payne knew this part too. She was in a wash a few miles outside town, stabbed once in the heart.

“No,” Deacon said when Payne asked if there was anyone who would want her dead. “Absolutely not.” He told him she had a smile and a charm that made even “no” and “don’t touch me or I’ll have you tossed out the door and beaten up” sound like compliments.

Deacon seemed to think that he needed to add, “Sometimes it feels like Fiona is still here.” Payne wondered if that perhaps meant he had feelings for her that were not reciprocated. Or maybe it was a guilty conscience. He took note to check on those later.

Deacon also gave him a photo database of people who worked with Fiona, and assured Payne that he would be able to talk with them, as he put it, “on my dime.” When Payne asked, he pointed out two of them – a tall skinny one and a bulky galoot – who might have some insights on Fiona.

For now, Payne sent Flynn back to the ship, then walked out the doors and made a right. He found the nearest alley, where he threw up. Twice. He hated space travel. No, that wasn’t right. He hated the way acceleration and deceleration made it feel like he was being stretched, mostly because when they stopped, it was as if he snapped back and his gut took the brunt of it.

Oh, and he hated the part in the middle, the part when he was alone in the ship with Flynn.

Other than that, space travel was a blast.

Like it so far? It’s available in paperback or for Kindle. Get your copy of The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway

Time for romance …

14 Feb

Ah, Valentine’s Day. What better time to tell you a bit about the romance novella I’ve written?

You didn’t know I’ve written a romance novella?

I sure have: The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway.

Well, actually, it’s a Science Fiction/Western/Paranormal/Romance/Hard-Boiled-Detective/Humor novella. But there’s romance in there. Somewhere. Trust me on this. Or better yet, get a copy so you can see if I’m telling the truth.

What, you want to know a little more? OK, here’s the back cover text:

Nascent Payne – part-time bounty hunter, smuggler and soldier, currently private investigator – has been hired to find whoever killed dear, sweet Fiona Galloway. Was it her “slick” boss? Her former lover, or the smitten ranchhand? Perhaps it was her self-proclaimed “bestest friend.” Or maybe it was a conspiracy involving some seriously weird research, as Payne’s mechanic believes.

One thing is for uncertain: Fiona is dead.

The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway is just the right size to give the average reader a couple of hours of enjoyable reading. But you’re above average, so you’ll enjoy it that much more. So make a cup of coffee or tea, or get a cold beverage. Put your feet up. Get the lighting right. And enjoy.

Get your copy of The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway

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