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Back Stories

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A few weeks ago I read a post that really caught my imagination. It was Matt Wright’s post on Tolkien’s published appendices. The question that came to mind is how can the volumes of back story that we create for each character, plot, location, and obstacle be used other than to help write the story? A sizable portion of Tolkien’s world and back stories were published after his main books and were gobbled up enthusiastically by his fans. As Matt points out, the e-book industry is perfect for this type of follow-up publication and many of the author’s I follow have used it to good effect.

I got my start writing by creating back stories for my friend’s RPG characters. So, generating back story is something that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about. I found that creating a character study using free-writing is not only is fun, but it produces characters with interesting and unforeseen motivations, likes and dislikes. Back story written as short-shorts or even a short story can be a nice change of pace from your main WIP. Also, it can help a writer through a plot or character block.

So, this ‘extra’ writing  brings up a few questions, “Can back story be used to promote a book that has yet to be published? Can it be used to help create an audience for an upcoming book release? Can it be used for story promotion without damaging the story to come? If written with the intent to promote a longer upcoming piece, what is the best vehicle to introduce it to potential new readers? Would posting it on a blog provide as much exposure as e-publication? If the back story is a short-short, does it even make sense to try to e-publish it?

Honestly I’m split on this topic. Whereas, introducing readers to a short piece to lure them in may sound like a good idea, it would have to be written so that the writer did not give away too much of the character for the main story to follow. Also, short pieces are harder to write from a world-building/explanation stand point. The writer has less room for exposition.

The flip side is that a short piece might be enough candy to lure the reader into a relationship with your characters. The writer needs to be aware that new fans won’t wait very long for the longer piece to be released. So, unless the goal is to release numerous shorts before the main book is released, timing of the back story release would be critical.

What do you think? Do you have back stories you could use to promote your WIP? Would you ever publish back story to promote your WIP or do you think it best to wait and see if the WIP is well received?

 
8 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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Where did March go?

I am sorry for being delinquent in my postings. Somehow three weeks have disappeared from my life. Once in a while my other life takes control of my writing life. So, it’s time to wrestle control back and get to the important things in life.

There was some good news since I last visited with you. I have started going to a different writer’s group. It’s very well established with serious writers in my genre. I’m still getting comfortable with the new surroundings so I have made no submissions for critique yet. Though, I will be interested to hear what this group has to say. The other writer’s submissions have been keeping me busy with reading. I’ve also been reading some books by local authors.

With stabilization returning to my world, more fun posts will be forthcoming. We’ll start with something on back stories and there will most likely be a MAVEN update. Another post will discuss game apps and the time sink (Distraction) they provide the unwitting writer.

The snow is melting and the temps are balmy (40 degrees). Spring is in the air. Whoo Hoo!

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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Surprise!

I am a big fan of the picture puzzles where two seemingly identical pictures are shown side by side and the reader is asked to list the things that are different. It might be a color of the scarf, a position of a hand, a missing hat, etc. So here is my feeble attempt at this game.

First what is missing from the picture?

Something seems to be missing!

Something seems to be missing!

A clue would be to ask yourself, “What am I looking at?

Do you give up?

Huh?

Well, do you?

There in the back right corner.

There in the back right corner.

Do you see it now?

If you guessed David Winter’s Woodcutter’s hut, you would be correct!!

My newest addition to my collection of little houses! I’m so proud. Thank you Linda M.

Details front left.

Details front left.

Details front right

Details front right

Almost as soon as my Little Houses post was published, I got a Facebook message from a friend telling me about a new posting on eBay. Needles to say I jumped all over it. And, lucky for me, I still have both arms and legs as the price was very reasonable. The collector I purchased from shipped it the same day. It was like Christmas when the box showed up on my doorstep. After thirty years of waiting. It is special to have this piece in my collection.

Now, about that Crofter’s Cottage? :-)

 
20 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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Once upon a time…

Once upon a time... Public domain image

Once upon a time…                                   Public domain image

If you have ever read folk tales, fairy tales, or fantasy stories of any kind, you have heard the words, “Once upon a time…” The purpose of the fantasy writer, and any writer for that matter is to transport the reader to another time and place. Can you think of four words that do a better job of opening the reader’s mind? The essence of this opening evokes the reader’s mind to journey to a land far away and usually a long time ago. The ‘Once” would indicate that the story only occurred one time. And, since most end with, “They lived happily ever after.” it would seem that the conflict that created the story was gone forever.

For the folk tales and fairy tales of old, This was a great way to open the story. Any time we heard that phrase we were prepared, and still are prepared to be transported to something special. We have talked about opening lines before and how important they are. However, the fantasy genre has evolved and expanded. Paranormal and horror have melded with fantasy. Vampires and werewolves have taken over for elves, halflings, and dwarves.

Urban fantasy has exploded. Every major city and more than a few minor ones have been converted into the hunting grounds for the above mentioned vampires and Lycans, as well as, zombies, wizards, demons, druids, fae, dragons, and yes, even elves. Writing about fantasy in the current modern world created some interesting challenges for writers. How to invoke that sense of wonder and departure from reality in a way the reader would believe.  

Take Jim Butcher’s epic urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. In the first book Butcher uses the entire first page to introduce The main character. The new mailman can’t believe the sign outside Harry Dresden’s office. It says, ‘Harry Dresden, Wizard’. You see Harry is the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book. Butcher puts it in your face on the first page and you either accept it or not. but from that point on you know you are reading a fantasy story set in contemporary Chicago, Illinois.

Where Butcher uses a page, others still try it with one sentence. For example, let’s take the opening line from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, “There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius.” Okay. We will be dealing with a person who was alive and fought with Genghis Khan. You think this is a fantasy story? And even though I am not a fan of vampire stories, this opening line to Jaye Wells’ “Red-headed Stepchild” had me for the duration of the series. “Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.” This vampire does NOT sparkle! But, she does have a great sense of humor.

So, what can we do to urbanize the classic opening, “Once upon a time…?” Granted it’s not as flashy but what about…

“Right now, in a city near you.”

 
11 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2014 in The Journey into Fantasy

 

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Little houses

30 years ago I walked into a little nick knack shop in Littleton, Colorado. There in a case was the most amazing little house. Only a few inches tall and made from some type of ceramic, it depicted a woodcutter’s hut built around a tree. The hut included so much detail for being so little. I was captivated. I don’t recall the price they asked back then. However, at the time, newly married and one minimum wage income, there was no way I could afford it. Time passed and I moved on to other things, but I never forgot the woodcutters hut.

A few years ago while walking through a local thrift store, I noticed a cute little house with a thatched roof and a waterwheel. For a couple of dollars I picked it up as an inspiration piece for my study. It was created by Lilliput Lane and was titled the Watermill. Over the next couple years I picked up several more pieces to add to my collection.

Watermill

Watermill

More detail on the Watermill

More detail on the Watermill

Fast forward until a few months ago. I was looking at my little Watermill and thought about the woodcutter’s hut. Hmm. I wonder if I could find one online? So. I went searching for The Woodcutter’s Hut. I did not know the manufacturer, so I started with Lilliput Lane. No hits. It took a while but I finally found what I was looking for. The Woodcutter’s Cottage was created by David Winter back in 1983. The production was retired in 1988.

The Woodcutter's Cottage Image courtesy of David Winter. info

The Woodcutter’s Cottage Image courtesy of David Winter. info

Now for the bad news. The asking price on Amazon is $200 USD. Now some of you would say, “Go for it. You’ve waited a long time. You can afford it now.” And, you would probably be right. However, compared to the $3.99 USD, I paid for my last David Winter piece, this would cost more than my whole collection combined. Not a bargain.

So, unless one of you, my dearest friends in the whole wide world, have a copy you would be willing to part with for something less than my right arm, I will wait and see what comes up on eBay and the thrift stores. You never know what you’ll find and as my Domestic CEO keeps telling me, “It’s the thrill of the hunt!”

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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50 Shades of Cold!

That thing can kill you if it falls on you!

That thing can kill you if it falls on you!

Today is the fiftieth day this winter where the temperature has been below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Today we broke a 149 year old record. It was -17 this morning, beating the record of -13 set in the 1800′s. For much of this winter, the temperature would have to increase forty to fifty degrees just to reach freezing!

As a frame of reference, for those of you who have never experienced this sort of folly, Try living in your freezer for two months straight. The problem with that analogy is that it does not factor in any wind. You see wind increases the rate of heat loss. The food service industry calls this Flash Freezing or Freeze Drying which sucks all the moisture out. The slightest breeze can drive relative temperature down from minus ten degrees to minus thirty or minus forty with ease. At those temps. exposed skin begins to freeze in less than five minutes! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Those of you with common sense enough to live anywhere else may ask, “Why on Earth did you leave the beautiful Colorado mountains for such a miserable climate?” I have been asking myself that same question for many weeks. The short answer is: to be closer to aging parents. The answer I’ve been given myself lately is, “I don’t F*^#ing know!”  I must have lost my mind.

I look out the window at where my flower garden should be and I see snow. In ‘normal” years, the crocuses should be pushing their way up and blooming in the next two weeks. Hell, they would have to have four-foot long stems to reach the sunlight through the snow/ice pack until mid-May at this rate. The stone pagoda in my Japanese garden looks more like Mount Fuji under the snow.

The Weather Nazi’s (What we call meteorologist) are telling us that we will see temps at 33 degrees this Friday. Whoo Hoo!

Okay that’s just sad when people are cheering and parading around in shorts, in the street, because the temp will be above freezing.

I need to go warm my hands up by sticking them in the refrigerator now, so this rant is over. Have a great and warmer day today! :-)

 
27 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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Just Weird!

Have you every sat down to do something and the next thing you know a whole day has gone by? It’s been eleven days since my last post and for the life of me, I have no idea where the time went. It’s not like when I was unemployed for five months and would play Harpoon on my IBM Model 50z from 9:00 PM until 3:00 AM. I knew what I was doing then. I was a conscious choice. I was trying to escape the fact that 250 resumes were sent out to 250 companies and only two interviews were generated. If you have to take off your shoes to figure out the numbers, that’s 248 reject letters!!! But I digress.

I got a flash update on MAVEN ans the next thing I know it’s Friday morning a week later and I don’t know where the time went. There is some good news. Wherever the time went, at least some of it went towards the WIP. Progress is being made and the writing habit I set out to create this year seems to be working. As you’ll see later even that had huge amounts of weirdness. Now that I know I lost time, I’ve been trying to find it. It’s strange there are just blank spots that I can’t account for. All of the important stuff got done like paying bills loving on the cats, and going to work. So, I was at least functioning physically. Quite strange.

Have you ever gone back to review your writing progress and determined that your word count for the last week has been EXACTLY the same everyday? I kid you, not! Every day since the 3rd the number of words spilling out of my head and into the laptop as been EXACTLY the same!!! The time spent writing varies from day-to-day by anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

So, what gives? Any ideas? Today is the full moon so that can’t be it. The waxing moon is my high energy period of the month. Maybe that plays into it? But, why do I write the same number of words? The scenes have been different in nature and feel. The one constant, which has been so for well beyond the period in question, has been writing have been fun. I like what’s coming out and it seems to be working. The muse is not fussing and the internal editor has gone south to get out of the extreme cold we’ve been dealing with.

Maybe this weirdness is a good thing? Oh, oh. i got an idea for the beaded moccasin scene, gotta go. See you later.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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