3 Things that are Wrong with Indie Authors …

I know the title is harsh, but I want to examine why Indie Publishing has such a stigma set against it. Sure, I could go the route of ‘Traditional Publishers vilify Independent Publishers’ which I think some do, but not all. No, I think it is sometimes the self-published author that gives a bad name to the independent route. So let me start with the fundamentals of writing a novel, that Indie Authors often get wrong.

Said is a dialogue tag, it is used primarily to indicate who spoke in a previous statement, or in a following statement.

1. Said is Dead
I cannot count how many Pinterest posts, Facebook posts, and other mediums I have seen this phrase on. I am sorry Indie Authors, this is not true. There is a specific reason that ‘said’ is used so heavily in most traditionally published books. Said is a dialogue tag, it is used primarily to indicate who spoke in a previous statement, or in a following statement.

“I knew that already,” he said.
He contemplated the words, then said, “Yeah, I knew that.”

In either case, this is how it is used. A tendency of the indie-publishing community likes to suggest it be written like my examples below:

“I knew that already,” he spat.
He pounded his fist on the table. “Yeah, I knew that,” he growled.

The problem is not terribly obvious. Let me, for a moment, explain. See, when we use actions to describe spoken words we are basically saying something that is impossible. It is not possible for a person to spit and speak at the same time, so saying ‘he spat’ or ‘he growled’ gives the impression of an action instead of saying it. Not to mention most dialogue tags are ignored, so the action is lost in a tag that is normally reserved for indicating who spoke. Said is not dead, but it can be replaced in the right circumstance, Asked and Replied are also acceptable. That is not all, though, you can spruce up the dialogue with actions.

“I knew that already,” he said. He sighed, rolling his eyes.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I knew that,” he said.

Both of the above have actions included as separate statements, they are not a part of the dialogue tag, but clearly indicate the character taking an action.

2. Anyone can write a book
Alright, this is a tough one. Despite my love and support of NaNoWriMo, not everyone can write a book, at least not one worthy of being published. I know that is terribly harsh and there might be some that think I have a book unworthy of being published. Writing a novel is hard. Marketing a novel is harder. Keeping a positive attitude is damn near impossible. I can understand a Traditional Publisher’s point of view when it comes to their strict guidelines and selective choices. They receive 10s of thousands of submitted works each year, and usually only publish maybe 3 or 4 of those. Those are some insane odds.

Writing a book isn’t just slamming down fifty thousand words and calling it a novel.

That being said, some (many) of those books are not ready for publishing. Which leads to me the idea of NOT anyone can write a book. Writing a book isn’t just slamming down fifty thousand words and calling it a novel. Although, I have read some indie published books that were just that. Spelling errors and grammar aside, some of those stories were downright terrible. Writing a novel is more than writing grammatically correct and well-proofread manuscripts. The plot, Characters, Story Arcs, Setting, World-Building, Rising and Falling Action, Dialogue, and a Good Story are all a part of a novel. The idea that ‘I’d write a novel if I could find the time’ is a cop out. If one wished to write a novel, they’d find the time to do so. I work a full 40+ hour work week and still find the time to write, it is about prioritizing. It is in the same vein as someone saying they’d work out if they could find the time. If you have your priorities set, you can accomplish what you need to.

A final note on the ‘anyone can write a book’ idea, editing is very very important, if you write a novel and don’t get it edited, you haven’t written a novel, you’ve written fifty thousand words that need to be edited. Don’t even think about hitting that publish button until you have had it edited, no one is such a great writer that they don’t need a fresh set of eyes on their work.

Let me be very clear, I am speaking to you, Mr., Ms., or Mrs. Indie Author to Be, get a professional cover designer and pay them well.

3. I can do my own Covers
This is something I fell into myself. I have some Photoshop skill, and I can make a killer realistic planet in space, but I am not a cover design artist. Typography still gets me every time, even with a professionally designed cover. Let me be very clear, I am speaking to you, Mr., Ms., or Mrs. Indie Author to Be, get a professional cover designer and pay them well. Yes, you can go somewhere like Fiverr or People Per Hour and get a deal on a cover, and true that might be an easy way to get a decent cover, but unlike the adage ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ people do, ALL THE TIME. In fact, if your cover is boring or doesn’t catch the eye, no one is going to buy your book. You can hawk it until you are blue in the face and still it will sit in cyberspace collecting virtual dust.

So, there’s my list, but let me add a disclaimer. I am not an advocate of Traditional Publishing. Honestly, I think Traditional Publishing is a bloated and top heavy industry that is in serious need of an overhaul. I don’t mind if an author chooses to Traditional Publish, more power to them, but any author that wants control of their pricing, cover, interior design, and marketing, then Traditional Publishing is not for you. I am a firm believer that an Author should be hands-on with all aspects of writing the book, from the first words until the last book is sold. Yes, I say get professional editing and a professional cover, but remember this is your vision, you should have the final say. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

The Novel of Editing …

Camp NaNoWriMo is done. I managed to finish 35,000 words before the end of the month, actually, I got a total of 36,203 words. I only finished four of my five planned short stories, though. I wrote a separate piece for a Reddit contest, so I counted that as my fifth short story. All in all, I set out to do what I planned and I am happy for it.

That brings me to August. What am I doing now? Well, I need a creative writing break. I hadn’t expected the different stories and plots would be so much more difficult than writing a novel, but it was. It is just as well that I am ready for a break, though. Why? Well, because I have let my Legends of Vandor novel, The Last Bladesinger sit for long enough. I can come back to it now with a really fresh set of eyes. It has been sitting since the end of April when I finished it. I have referenced it when writing some of my Legends of Vandor short stories, but I haven’t made any updates or rewrites in at least two months.

Today, I’ve managed to slough my way through the Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. I’ve added nearly 400 words in total, that includes words removed and added, which it would be nice if I could track that better.

In all of this, though, I’ve had a revelation. I am sure I have probably spoken (or written) these words before, but I’ll say them again. I want the best story possible. I want to have the greatest novel I can possibly produce. As such is the goal, I cannot put a time frame on how long these edits will take. I give myself a tentative two-month period, but it may take longer for it to be as good as I intend. There is, however, a trap that a writer can fall into here. A trap that has caught many an author. That is the pitfall of editing what no longer needs to be edited. I suffer from a perfectionism that can be crippling. If you remember my post about Time’s Unrighteous Unreliability, you can see the effect this perfectionism has. I know that if I set a goal, I will strive towards that goal with all abandon, and my writing may suffer for it.

As I do not wish to produce something that is sub-par, I intend to give the editing and rewrites of The Last Bladesinger my utmost scrutiny to ensure its beauty and completion. The downside of this is that I will likely miss the planned December launch. I have pushed myself to publish a novel before it was ready before, and I don’t want to do thusly again. Bear with me in solidarity dear readers, for once The Last Bladesinger is ready, I intend it to be an Epic Dark Fantasy thrill ride that will put to shame The Legends of Vandor Short Stories, for they will be but a mere slice of the Novel’s magnificence. Until next time folks.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,

DJ Morand

Rudderless in the writing …

The ocean is a massive and violent beast, but it has a beauty and strength no other force on Earth can really claim. My wife and I like to escape to the coast on vacation and I happen to like being out on the water any chance I can get. This makes me feel free and a little bit rebellious. Who am I, a weak and pitiful man in the midst of this enormous entity that could easily swallow me whole, yet I defy it and sail its waters.

Imagine now, that we are aboard this vessel of great proportion, but minuscule in comparison to the great sea. Under normal circumstances we have the ability to direct ourselves, to guide us back to land in the event the swell becomes too great. What if? The words creep in like cockroaches beneath a refrigerator, unseen, but lightly heard and creepy. What if we had no rudder? No means to direct ourselves back to the shore, no direction in which to angle the ship? It would be a disaster, storm or no, we’d be subject to the whim of the ocean, and hopeful for its benevolence.

This is where I am with Legends of Vandor. I made the much needed edits, but I failed to realize there was an underlying issue waiting to rear its head, like the iceberg that sunk the titanic, I saw only the surface of it. The story itself, has no direction. I’ve written it in the hopes of dredging up fear and fright of ghosts, demons, and evil of all sorts. Instead it has fallen flat, and rudderless it has lost direction. In a series of events and flashbacks I have lost sight of the true direction of the story.

In light of this I am putting it aside. Setting it down for a time to let my mind rest from its labor in trying to divine what terrors it can. I’ve decided to focus my efforts though; I shall never give up on writing, but for the time being I think I shall focus on what I know I can do well, Science Fiction. I’ve had great response from my novel Kodiak (now if I can just get an agent to pick it up) and I think it is time I focused my efforts on Atlas (the sequel to Kodiak). Below is the prologue for Atlas

***WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Still here? Okay, here you go.

Prologue

 

Quintar IV – Exodus Fleet Naval Force

Alpha Base – Personnel Quarters

Year 2973: Wednesday Quintar IV Cycle, March 12th: 06:00 hours

 

A tall man with dark brown stubble growing from his head and beard, looked over schematics for a destroyer class warship. He frowned and narrowed his hazel eyes. This is ridiculous, he thought to himself. He could not fathom why the designers of this ship would create a destroyer versus a gunship. A gunship was lighter, more maneuverable, and ultimately a better fit for his particular skill set. He had managed to out-fly every manner of warship piloted by an EXO with his old URSA GS I; now they wanted him to captain, as of yet, an unidentified type of destroyer. It wasn’t that he was opposed to the commission he had been given, or even that he was going to have to work with a crew that would prove to be wholly inadequate to his former co-pilot. It was the idea that he, Abel Cain, was not going to be piloting a gunship and the fact that he had not even been included in the design of this boat. Boat; that was a better term for it he decided. The aft thrusters had too much lift and not enough thrust and the port and starboard engines didn’t even have adjustable nacelles. How in the world did they plan for him to make an atmospheric landing without adjustable nacelles? At least they had increased the firepower. The Kodiak, gods he missed her, was a formidable opponent; against insurmountable odds at times. However, this destroyer they had planned was sporting twice the number of laser turrets and at least three additional anti-matter canons; that didn’t even include the missile payload.

He surveyed the schematics again, sighing heavily. The command deck was at the front of the vehicle, acutely human in design and arrogant. This had been the downfall of the Kodiak when the quantum plates locked up and sealed against the cockpit. That event had forced them down planet-side, in highly unfavorable conditions, and set them on this path to working with the EFNF and the death … the sacrifice of his best friend. He sighed again. He was going to have to set these engineers right. Who the flast decided to call this thing a TP-D? Seriously, he thought, everyone is going to make endless fun of that designation, even if it stood for Titanium Plated Destroyer. He had promised Echo he was going to name it Atlas, after Zee’s fascination with bears, but he hadn’t even been consulted on this design. If he had the Kodiak still – and Zee – he would have left already, letting the EFNF figure their own shit out. As things stood, if he ever wanted to fly again, he was at their mercy.

Walking across the room he surveyed the quarters they have given him. Thick soft carpets, a bed fit for four, a recliner, and his own desk. This was an officer for an Admiral, not a Captain. He had, of course, refused to be given a Vice Admiralty. Cain knew what he was and what he wasn’t, he was a pirate and a scoundrel. Pirates and scoundrel’s make for poor leaders. He had accepted the Captain’s commission, but that was so he could get airborne again. All this time in the soft, luxurious Admiral’s quarters made him feel like a fraud. The Quintarrans already had him pegged as some kind of messiah, because he had broken their collars. They had been mental control nanite collars, but collars nonetheless. He didn’t know what to do with their idol worship and he didn’t much care to have anything to do with it again. Zee was the last quintarran he had known and come to love as a brother, he wouldn’t make the mistake again. The logical process of a quintarran’s mind was complex and irritating, he had tolerated Zee because the man – alien – had learned a sense of human and a sarcastic wit; one might almost say he was human.

He considered his … significant other? Echo Shade was an entirely different person altogether. The Half-Quintarran woman was like a dream; dark hair, piercing blue eyes, soft lips, and full of womanly curves. He took a deep breath, she mangled his thinking. When they had rescued Cain from the New Exodus prison she had kissed him and they nearly consummated their relationship then, but then she had withdrawn in the presence of her people. He assumed at first it was grief at the death of Zee, but it went deeper than that. The True Quintarran, as they called themselves, had allied with the humans of the Exodus Fleet shortly after Cain and Zee had put the EXO shield in place. The shield that Admiral James Shade had recently destroyed in an attempt to kill the EXOs. If the man had not have died, Cain would have killed him. Maybe not, he was Echo’s father. She had lost both her father and her mother in the destruction of that shield. Now, it was as if she desired to prove she was loyal to the EFNF even more than her father had been. In these parts James Shade was a traitor. That had an odd ring to it for Cain, Jim Shade had called him that once when he befriended Zee and stole the URSA GS I.

The URSA GS I, He thought excitedly, with a partial bit of anger. The Kodiak had been his baby from the moment he was set to design it. He risked a considerable amount in the design. He worked in secret and hid from everyone the fact that he was making a ship that could be piloted by a crew of less than three. His intent had been to steal it from the start, his design allowed the ever capable Zee to control the ship functions remotely through his nanites. Cain had planned to intake a version of nanites similar to Zee’s to control the steering and maneuverability of the ship. He remembered that only as a painful experience and one that had altered his own physiology considerably. He thought over the modifications again, greater bone density, enhanced reflexes, and the ability to remotely link his nanite implants to a warship; the Kodiak specifically. What was he now that the Kodiak was gone, he was a part of that ship and having lost it and Zee; he too, felt lost.

“Captain Cain. You are requested.” Cain looked behind him and turned promptly. The enlisted man at the door saluted crisply in his finely pressed uniform. Cain examined him, the Black collared doublet had a single silver seam just off center from the chest. Above the man’s right breast was his rank and surname, M.C.P.O Remington – which Cain translated internally as Master Chief Petty Officer Six Remington. Six Remington was one of the crew he was supposed to be training for simulations aboard the TP-D; such a stupid designation, he sighed.

“Six, who is requesting?” Cain said as he returned the salute. His own doublet was left open at the collar, although his rank and surname decorated his right breast as well; Cpt. Cain.

“Fleet Admiral Clark, sir.” Six replied, still crisp and direct.

“At east soldier. For goodness sake, you don’t need to be so uptight. Tell Andromeda I’m on my way.” Cain grumbled.

“Sorry, sir, she insisted that I be there as well, as an …” he paused obviously not wanting to say what he had been told, “as an escort, sir.” He finished holding his breath.

“I see. Lead on then Mr. Remington.” Cain said as he pulled his coat ends together, they met with a metallic cling and sealed together without another action from Cain. He marveled at the ingenuity of the design, if only Earth and those in the Sol system had perfected something like this long ago. He shook his head as he followed the Master Chief Petty Officer, who would be his lead engineer aboard the TP-D, out the door.

#

Captain Abel Cain followed Master Chief Remington along the corridor. The man before him was at least fifteen years his junior; barely out of diapers as far as Cain was concerned. Six Remington walked with a stiff step and rigid back. He had been brought up in military fashion a true child of the EFNF. Cain wasn’t sure about having such a staunch supporter of the EFNF on his crew, but again he had little choice in any of it. The whole mess made him want to turn in his rank and steal the first ship bound for anywhere but here. He stowed his feelings though, Zee had died to bring them to Quintar IV and into the capable EFNF hands; he wasn’t so sure it was a good thing.

“Master Chief, did the Fleet Admiral give any indication of what she wanted to discuss?” Cain asked Six as they continued down the dimly lit hallway. The walls were made of some sort of metal alloy. Cain guessed that the walls bore traces of titanium as well as aluminium. He thought about the alloy as he continued towards the Fleet Admiral’s offices.

“Ship specifications, if I recall correctly sir.” Six replied in his ever formal tone. The boy had grounded upbringing in the military; a fact that further distanced his desire to spend any time at all with Six Remington. So, Cain thought, they’re actually going to ask for my input? He found the sudden interest in his opinion, odd, to say the least; the EFNF had been all too direct in curbing his involvement in the planning of this new ship. Now, he was being summoned? It did not make a whole lot of sense, but he would play along.

“Very good then Master Chief. Have you been summoned as well?” Cain asked.

“Aye sir. The entire crew.” Six replied.

“So this is more than ship specifications, this is an introduction as well as a planning session, or so it would seem.” Cain speculated.

“I couldn’t say sir.” Six replied again.

“I suppose you couldn’t. That’ll be all Master Chief. Continue.”

“Sir.” Six said as the two of them faced forward and continued walking towards the Fleet Admiral’s office. The door to the office was ajar and Abel could see more than a few people milling about Fleet Admiral Clark’s foreboding office. As Six and Abel entered, Master Chief Petty Officer Remington stood at attention and saluted.

“Captain on deck!” Six called out announcing his and Cain’s arrival. Abel Cain cringed at the crisp formality. This was not his style and if he couldn’t break the boy of this habit, it was going to be irritating. Cain gave Fleet Admiral Clark a pained look. Andromeda Clark was a middle aged woman, if you considered middle aged around fifty or so. Her dark brown eyes stared into the well-lit doorway and met Cain’s hazel eyes. To his credit, he didn’t stare, but he did appreciate the older woman’s lithe frame; despite her age Andromeda Clark was a fine looking woman with delicate high cheek bones and soft features. Cain smirked as he noted the stern expression on her face; she had caught him admiring.

“At ease Mr. Remington.” Andromeda said in a melodic, if aged, voice. “There is no need to stand on formalities here. Is there Mr. Cain?”

“Certainly none for my sake Ms. Clark.” Cain said, adopting the Fleet Admiral’s terminology. “I understand you asked for me?”

“You and your crew Mr. Cain. It has come to my attention that you are feeling sour about being left out of the planning of the TP-D.” She said maneuvering with her words.

Cain was apprehensive, the look in the Fleet Admiral’s eyes gave him pause. “I am a bit sour,” he emphasized the word. “I was a major part of planning the Kodiak and I knew every nook and cranny of her. Closest relationship I would say I ever had.” He said with a smirk again. That last drew a stare from Echo Shade; he hadn’t noticed her in the room. Fool man, he thought to himself, try not to get yourself in trouble.

“So I understand. Ms. Shade has made quite the case for pulling you, and the crew, into this. I cannot say I agree completely, but since we’re pinning a lot on your abilities, I think she may be partially right – in the least.” Andromeda gave Cain a knowing stare and for a brief moment he saw something of himself in the woman; that made him cringe. “Have you brought the schematics? I don’t see them.” Cain gulped, he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable under Ms. Clark’s stare and he could feel the sweat beading on the back of his neck. He stood up straight and steeled himself.

“I did not. I assumed that you would have your own.” He said almost challengingly. Echo gave him a look that could freeze fire and he swallowed his pride. “Apologies. It has been a trying few months. The loss of the Kodiak and of Zee has been …”

“No need to disseminate Mr. Cain. I am not here to scold you. As I said I am somewhat in agreement with Ms. Shade. What suggestions do you have?” She put such an emphasis on the word Cain immediately understood that, however acquiescent, Fleet Admiral Clark was no tool to be maneuvered.

Cain cleared his throat and approached the table in the center of the room. It was like he had just noticed the room now; whereas before it had been Clark, Shade, and himself. The office was larger than it needed to be with a single stone formed desk in the left corner. Strewn about the desk was a number of data-films and a stylus. He noted several others in the room; Lt. Boulson, Ensign Krat, Ensign Anderson, MCPO Remington, CPO Martinez, and two airman he hadn’t learned the names of yet. The two new recruits were supposed to be his gunners, but he wasn’t sure about that. Krat, the only quintarran in the group, would be his co-pilot and navigation officer. He had insisted on a quintarran co-pilot, after Zee he understood the benefit of an intensely logical thinker handling navigation; if not direct combat piloting. Anderson and Boulson would be handling defense and weapons; respectively. Remington, he noted again, was his lead engineer and Astra Martinez would be the secondary. He looked the new recruits up and down and decided that he could utilize them in better capacity than combat gunners. If he had his way the laser turrets would be computer operated on near automation.

“Fleet Admiral Clark, I essentially want to redraw the entirety of the plans. The forward cockpit design is pure folly. It is so distinctly human in design it belies the arrogance of our race. To ensure an advantage of visibility over using sensors I think we should put the command deck at the top of the ship, instead of at the prow.” He was just getting started, “The aft thrusters have too much lift, and not enough thrust and the, port and starboard, engines don’t even have adjustable nacelles. I suggest that we give a ninety degree rotation to the port and starboard engines to give the needed lift and put all the power into the aft thrusters for thrust, versus lift. This accomplishes two things. It allows for inter-atmospheric maneuvering and if needed a landing. This does, however, change the weapons configuration slightly.”

“That will be quite enough Mr. Cain. We’re not rebuilding the URSA GS I, this is an entirely different vessel with different mission capabilities.” Andromeda cut him off.

“Alright. It is a destroyer, but let’s at least explore using aggregate alloys. Specifically a Titanium-Lead-Aluminium alloy.”

“What are you getting at Cain?” the Fleet Admiral was losing patience with his vision.

“Similar to the alloy I used on the Kodiak, when it was cooled and magnetized it created a powerful quantum field that I was able to use to lock maneuverable plates into place.”

“What are you talking about, we never saw any such thing on the URSA GS I? The wreckage suggested an odd combination of metals, but nothing that wasn’t already being utilized. What do you mean lead? How is going to help?”

“It is slaked off in the process. Trust me this increases the strength of the armor and lightens it. As far as the quantum locking trust me, the Kodiak had it and it saved that gunship more than once. It will take a few more lines to process it and make it work, but it will be well worth it.” Abel tried to explain.

“I will not have untested science aboard the TP-D, you may be the Captain of this vessel, but I am still the Fleet Admiral.”

“Damn you foolish woman!” Cain lost it, “Do you know how tested quantum locked shields are!? Huh? Have you ever even been to Dark Space!? Flast you bitch. I’ve been there and if you are going to be sending me after the EXO Prime, like I think you are, I am going to determine what kind of shielding MY ship has!” Cain was fuming, his face had gone red, but it paled in comparison the look of indignation on the Fleet Admiral’s face.

“You stupid boy! Get the flast out of my sight. If you think for a minute I am going to let a child vie for the safety of the EFNF you have another thing coming. Get the flast out!” she screeched.

“Very well.” Cain said, coldly; calmly. “I’m out. Find another Captain to fly your Toilet Paper Dispenser!” that last he knew was a stretch, and foolish to boot, but he didn’t care.

 

Thanks for reading. Until next time.

 

Your friendly neighborhood author,

 

DJ Morand

My Worst Nightmare …

I am sitting at the desk, it is dark. The light from my computer monitor is the only thing illuminating the room. The silhouette of the back-lit keys of the keyboard glow with a threatening red. Clickity clack click clack clack goes the keys as I type furiously. My passion swirling and my mind reeling. I write the words … THE END and I leap from my chair fists raised upward in a V. I am victorious. I have completed a novel, I have penned my heart and soul! I pat myself on the back, congratulatory celebrations ensue.

I imagine I am not the only writer that feels this exultation. The exhilaration of writing a story from your own imagination, or finishing a novel, is a palpable experience. Following the writing of the novel, or story, or poem, is the less exhilarating experience of revisions. Trimming fluff, adding description, delving into the back story of, or even adding, characters. There is a pruning process that occurs with any writing sample. What I fear though is not writing a novel, it is not even the revisions. No, my worst nightmare is when I begin the process of editing my work. Don’t get me wrong, I think it needs to be edited, but it is that scrutiny that reveals the flaws and dims the bright shining star that I think my story to be.

Some writer’s call this process Making it Bleed, in obvious reference to a red pen. However, I think that is just what is happening. It is a battle that your novel must emerge from, cut and re-arranged it is going to bleed, and sometimes profusely. So perhaps editing is not really my worst nightmare, but it is frightening nonetheless. Sometimes it feels like the process of editing is what breathes new life into your story, but it will inevitably bring to light what is ultimately lacking or inherently wrong with it. I remark on this now particularly because I have been in the process of editing my novel: Kodiak. I have feedback from various sources regarding what needs to be added and revised and right down to where it needs to bleed.

In any case I thought I would let out a bit of pent up frustration here, I am sure I am not the first to feel thusly about their work. Until next time.

 

Your friendly neighborhood writer,

 

DJ Morand