Starting over…beginning a new novel

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverIn January, I released my latest fantasy novel, The Heir to Alexandria. The months of February through April were packed with some non-writing projects so it is only now in May that I am finding time to work on my next new novel.

Sigh. It isn’t that I don’t want to start a new novel, but starting a fantasy novel is a lot of work. It goes beyond just deciding on a plot and building characters. I have a whole world to create. And that takes time.

And while I do enjoy developing a believable setting for my story, sometimes I would love to be able to skip the planning part and just begin writing. But I know that without some planning that I would be doing a lot of rewriting.

So first comes plot…I need a compelling story with a well-defined conflict before I can even worry about the world building. And I think I have the compelling story, but I still need to fine tune the exact nature of the conflict.

Once that is done, it will be time to develop the characters (and at least one from this new book will be a dragon).dragon This can be fun. You get to explore their backgrounds and discover their flaws as well as their strengths. Over the next few weeks, I will develop histories, descriptions, and motivations for all my characters. Knowing these details makes the characters more vivid and real.

But because once again I have been busy with travel and doctor’s appointments (see Monday’s post for details regarding the medical issue), I haven’t had as much time to anything. But with character building in mind, I have used my spare time to collect a list of names for some minor characters.

wizardAnd there is still a lot of world building to do. I need to decide on the political and religious beliefs as well as define how magic will be used and what limits there are to it. And yes, you do need to add limits or consequences to your use of magic so that it is believable and can add to the conflict of the story rather than be the supreme answer to all problems.

As part of my world building, I also usually create a map of my world so that I can refer to it as I am writing. This step is quite useful in knowing where your characters are, and how long it will take them to get to other locations. Readers might catch that it took two weeks to reach the seaside village but only two days to return home. Knowing where your characters are and what type of environment they are in will help create that believable world.

So here I am again…starting over. So much planning to do before I even begin writing. It sometimes feels overwhelming, but I know it is will be worth it.

The need for a follow-up mammogram

“We want you to come back in for another mammogram. There is a dense area that we would like additional views on.”

I heard the nurse speaking, but it took a few minutes to comprehend what she was saying. She did go on to say that they didn’t see a mass or anything like that. It was just a “dense” area.

As soon as I got off the phone with her, I turned to my husband and told him that they wanted to take another look at my left breast. (We had actually been getting ready to go to the movies – a daytime date while the kids were in school.)

“Don’t worry,” he said.

He knew exactly where my mind had gone. My friend Trish was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She passed away this past August when the cancer spread to her brain.

I immediately called and made an appointment for a follow-up mammogram. The scheduler told me it could take up to an hour and a half and had to be done at a different facility. With that news, I knew I wouldn’t get in that day. We were going out of town the next day so the earliest appointment I could get would be the following Tuesday.

Even during the movie, my mind kept wandering back to what a dense area could mean. I sent a message to my Aunt who works in a radiology facility in California. She wrote back that this was very common and often was nothing serious. My mom and other aunt both echoed the same thing.

So I went off to the beach for the weekend and put it out of my mind. Tuesday came, and I went to the Women’s Imaging Center. As I sat in the waiting room, I checked my Facebook account. Trish’s husband posted how his kids’ teachers were planning on doing something special for the kids because that weekend would be the first Mother’s Day since Trish died.

After changing into my wonderful special blue top, I was taken to another waiting room where two other woman waited. It didn’t take long for me to realize that both of them had breast cancer.

I picked up a Reader’s Digest magazine to read one of their columns where people send in funny little antidotes. A headline caught my attention, and I started to read an article about a doctor who knew his wife was dying of cancer but didn’t tell her he knew the diagnosis was terminal. It was not the best article to read while waiting.

mammogramWhen I went in for the mammogram, the technician showed me the questionable area. It was close to my body at the top of my left breast. A mammogram is always uncomfortable, but I knew this one wouldn’t be fun because of the location they would be trying to view. And I was right.

After they took two views, the technician said they would do a sonogram of the area next and then the radiologist would review the scans. I think it was the combination of things, but I actually was getting quite concerned. I thought about Trish and the other women I have known who have or had breast cancer. Most of them survived it but there are no guarantees. Trish had the most positive attitude. She was sure she would beat cancer. And for a while, it seemed she had. And then cancer cells appeared in her spinal fluid. Within 8 months, she was gone.

As it turns out, my dense area is a cyst. It is a common thing, and as long as it is not causing me any problems, nothing needs to be done. I actually got into my car and cried with relief. I knew the odds were that it was nothing, but it still was close enough of a scare that had me thinking “what if.”

 

Today’s Featured Author: J. Edward Ritchie

Today I welcome author J. Edward Ritchie to my blog. His novel, Fall From Grace, was released last month.

Interview

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I worked the daily grind for many years, balancing writing with various full-time jobs. Eventually, some success in screenwriting (along with the loving support of my wife) allowed me to focus solely on my writing––a gift that I appreciate every day. If you have a significant other helping to support your dreams, try to alleviate the shared burden of chores. Wash those dishes and do the damn laundry!

I begin my typical routine with some coffee and gaming to get the creativity flowing. Depending on where I am in the writing process, I may either start a new chapter or polish one from the previous day. I like to go through each chapter twice before moving on to ensure that all my thoughts made it on the page. I’ll also shift gears and focus on social media or my website to build my author brand. Connecting with the online writing community should be part of every author’s day, whether you’re working on your debut novel or are an established superstar.

Due to the sedentary nature of writing, and my own predisposition for avoiding the outdoors, I’ve become accustomed to walking my dog before lunch. It’s good to step outside of your writing cave, stretch your legs, and get some fresh air. A change of scenery can do wonders, especially if you’re struggling with writer’s block.

When my wife comes home from work, my writing day is done (unless I’m facing deadlines). Family will always be the most important part of my life.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

My favorite part of being a writer is that I’m self-employed, but freedom also brings its own challenges. You have to set boundaries and goals while staying motivated. No one will hold your hand, especially if you’re self-publishing, but finding success through your own willpower and gumption is that much more rewarding.

The worst part of being a writer is putting so much time and energy into something that could never see the light of day. Thankfully, self-publishing has changed all of that and put the power back in the hands of the writer. If you have the courage and dedication, a rejection letter should never be the end of your creative journey.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Hands down the worst advice, or rather criticism, came many years ago from a sitcom TV writer that I really admired. He read an early draft of Fall From Grace and had the stones to say that it wasn’t even a story, that it was more like a video game. Forget the ignorance of that statement concerning stories and video games, what successful person goes out of his way to cut down a young writer? Shameful.

The most influential advice of my career came from my friend and mentor, Drew Yanno. In college, I was on track to be a lawyer until I took Drew’s screenwriting classes. He said to me, “If money wasn’t an option, what would you rather do? Practice law or write movies?” It was just the push I needed to follow my dreams. To this day, Drew continues to inspire and teach me as I’ve transitioned into novels.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I’m jealous of writers who can sit down at their computer and start typing with only a basic nugget of an idea. For the genres I choose to write, especially fantasy, I have to outline. I figure out the rules of the world, locations, themes, character arcs, and the basic story spine. From there, I write a detailed scene-by-scene outline, complete with spots of dialogue, that essentially acts like a first draft. When I actually begin the manuscript, everything goes much that much smoother.

Please tell us about your current release.

Fall From Grace is a fantasy epic rife with action. Told from the perspectives of angelic brothers Michael and Satanail, the story details the war in Heaven that annihilated a civilization. The first war in Creation. What pushes a people who have only ever known love and peace to wage war on one another? How do they respond to violence, death, and a plethora of other foreign sins?

Despite what may seem to be a religious story, I actually drew from numerous religions and mythologies to craft a tale with a universal message of faith and brotherhood. Not just religious faith, but faith in family, in community, and in oneself. My main challenge and goal with the story was to take these divine characters and connect their hardships to the human condition.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

Even with my excessive outlining, I’m always aware of potential new directions for the story and characters. Writing a novel is a very fluid process of constant change. Authors should allow themselves to be surprised. Some of the best moments in Fall From Grace came from listening to my intuition as the story evolved. Nothing is ever set in stone.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

This answer has spoilers! You’ve been warned.

Fall From Grace is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I’ve begun plotting Book 2. After the fall of Satan and his demons, Heaven is in a period of reconstruction. The Seraphim have stepped out of the spotlight as a new society is built from the ground up with new leaders. The Host tries to understand the purpose of their new powers and connection to each other via the halos. What does it mean to be a guardian angel? How much, or how little, should they be interacting with humanity?

Of course, Satan cannot stay chained up forever. He inevitably escapes and reclaims his leadership over Demonkind, constructing a twisted kingdom in Hell outside of the Creator’s control. Michael and Gabriel have to enter Hell to stop Satan from stealing the very souls of humanity that they’ve vowed to protect. The concept of the human soul will be the core focus and theme of Book 2.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I write at my desk, surrounded by things that inspire me. A statue of Michael defeating Satan, a globe, and a Lego X-Men jet sit atop my desk underneath my framed college degree. Maybe it’s clichéd, but I’m proud of my time at Boston College. Bookshelves are within sight, loaded with classic literature, contemporary novels, and tons of comics. My dog’s bed is also nearby since he acts as my daily muse. Funny how the snores of a Golden Retriever can free your mind…

I am very much an introvert and prefer to write in relative solitude. I never understood how some people could write in public. I can’t deal with distractions. No TV or video games within reach. The Internet is bad enough!

What book are you reading right now?

I always try to be reading at least one novel and comic at a time. I just finished Marvel’s Original Sin event and its massive companion hardcover. That was a solid 1300+ pages of superhero murder mystery goodness. I am also working through the six volumes of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood to brush up on my short story skills.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

It’s the obvious answer, but I’d love to pick Tolkien’s brain. I don’t even want to talk to him about writing; I just want to hear him ramble on about his life experiences. He was so intelligent and educated, far more than myself, and I imagine it would be similar to spending an evening with Gandalf. Sitting by a fireplace with some brandy, shooting the shit with Tolkien…that’s what I’m talking about.

Coming from screenwriting, I have to say Steven S. DeKnight as well. His work on Buffy and Angel is legendary, and Spartacus is probably the sole piece of entertainment tailored exactly to my tastes. I think we’d hit it off and geek out over pop culture.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I have to admit, my handwriting is abysmal and my cursive is unintelligible. I am terrified of signing books because my scrawl looks like a child’s doodle. It’s really terrible. I’m part of the newer generations that rarely have to handwrite, so I really let my skills go. Is that a fact…or a secret shame? I’ve said too much!

Book Blurb

FallFromGraceFrontCover(web)Heaven: a paradise of all that is pure in Creation. Led by brothers Michael and Satanail, the Angelic Host is a testament to cosmic harmony and love. When an unprecedented revelation threatens to uproot their peace, a schism splits the Host’s loyalties. Every angel has to make a choice: faith or freedom. Good or evil.

Salvation or damnation.

War consumes Heaven in the first and most destructive loss of life that Creation will ever know. As brother turns on brother, the fate of both Heaven and Earth rests in the hands of the Creator’s chosen son, Michael. How far will he go, what will he sacrifice in the name of their Father, to protect his family?

About the Author

JRitchieNewHeadshotEdward Ritchie is a novelist/screenwriter specializing in world creation and action epics. A fan of all things genre from films to comics to video games, his work explores the intricate, primal balance between good and evil. He is dedicated to writing stories that embody the fantastical and uncompromising entertainment that has inspired his career.

To learn more about J. Edward, visit his website.

Want to check out the first 9 chapters of Fall From Grace? They are free on Wattpad.

You can purchase Fall From Grace from Amazon

KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.