Book Review: Rath’s Deception by Piers Platt

Deception-600x800I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Call me morbid, but I’m kind of a sucker for cold-blooded assassins. When the author offered me a free read-for-review copy, I agreed without hesitation. The premise alone was enough to pique my curiosity: mysterious group recruits and trains troubled orphans to complete contract kills, and once the contractors complete 50 kills, they’re entitled to 50% of the profits from said contracts. But everything is not as it seems…

I have to say that for the first half or so of the book, I anticipated rating it 4 stars. There was something about Young!Rath that irritated me a little, but I was curious enough about what would happen that I was willing to keep reading. I’m honestly not sure if I really love Rath as a character, but he did grow on me as the book progressed, and I do like his story.

I found all the contractors’ technological capabilities really intriguing. At first I thought all their implants/hemobots/Forges would give them a level of power and skill that would make the things they did seem totally unrealistic, and while that was still the case to an extent, they didn’t seem too out of place given the futuristic environment. I found all of the tools Rath used to solve problems really interesting, and even with his enhanced abilities, he still had to fight his way through every mission, so it didn’t seem nearly as far-fetched as I was afraid it would.

As the story moved forward, I became more and more curious about what was going to happen. Realistically I probably would have given the book 4.5 stars, but I’m rounding up to 5 simply because I was pretty engrossed there toward the end. There were a couple of parts where I was thinking “Ehhhhh…I know this is sci fi but I doubt that could have actually happened” and I did feel like there were some kind of expository chunks of dialogue that gave the reader a lot of information that I would have preferred to figure out on my own. But neither of these things made me scoff or throw my Kindle across the room in disgust, so I’m just kind of overlooking them.

I do have to say that I appreciated the fact that the author has a military background and therefore used correct terminology when it came to firearms, tactics, etc.

One other small thing I enjoyed was the occasional glimpse into the control room where The Group was monitoring all of its contractors. There was something fun about getting that inside look, and I liked how those scenes also told us a little about what the other contractors were doing. I’m very excited to see how things play out with the other two contractors who have been introduced to the story, particularly Contractor 339…because if there’s anything I love more than badass assassin characters, it’s badass lady assassin characters!

Last-High-Resolution-250x400The intrigue of Jason Bourne meets the tech and grit of Terminator…in space. This is kind of a dark story verging on cyberpunk, but it’s a story I enjoyed very much.

Oh, and it might be worth it to suggest reading the prequel short story, Last Pursuit. I actually read it while I was about halfway through this book. It could serve as a good introduction to the series, or in my case, a refreshing look back at a different character going through the same struggles as the characters in the main story.


 

Rath’s Deception releases November 1. Look for it on Amazon and Goodreads.

 


About Piers Platt:

7265977“I grew up in Boston, but spent most of my childhood in various boarding schools, including getting trained as a classical singer at a choir school for boys. I joined the Army in 2002, and spent four years on active duty, including a year-long deployment to Iraq in 2004 as a tank and scout platoon leader.

When I’m not spending time with my lovely wife and daughter, I’m frantically working on my next book.

To be the first to hear about new releases – and get a free e-book! – sign up for my newsletter HERE.”

Rekindling a Love for Reading

Lately I’ve been pondering the fact that I’ve gotten a lot more reading done since I started publishing. You’d think it would be the opposite – the busier I am with my own writing, the less time I have for pleasure reading. While that’s true to an extent, I’m a firm believer that there are only two ways you can get better at writing: actually writing (no way!) and…reading.

I’ve always enjoyed reading, but it has also always been kinda low on the totem pole of all my other hobbies. If I had free time, it usually ended up being spent on something else (art, gaming, you name it). But throughout this whole writing process, my love for reading has been rekindled. I’ve been reading books I probably would have never read, and probably would have never even heard of. I doubt I could have told you what an indie author was before I became one myself (okay, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration). I’ve discovered a lot of really talented authors and a lot of really great stories and I’ve made some awesome friends.

I want to start making a point of posting book reviews here on this blog from now on – positive ones, at least. It will not only help keep this poor deprived site fresh, but I hope it will also give some great books a little bit of extra exposure. Word of mouth is SO incredibly important for an indie author. I could probably write entire blog post about that alone, but it would likely involve a lot of repetition and ranting 😉

In no particular order, here are some of the most interesting things I’ve read over the past year and a half.

AURORA RISING
by G.S. Jennsen

last-ned1

Okay, I guess there IS sort of an order. We’re starting from the beginning here. I first picked up Starshine, Aurora Rising Rhapsody Book 1, back when I was starting to prep Dakiti for release. It was basically a matter of “Hey, that person I’ve followed because of all her Mass Effect stuff just published a sci fi book! I should check that out.” The book was great, but at the time I was more concerned about getting in touch with someone with experience using CreateSpace to print paperbacks because I was incredibly nervous about publishing and had absolutely no cluedownload what I was doing. So I went out on a limb one day and emailed G.S. to see how she’d liked the service (and had a massive fangirl moment when she emailed back 😉 ). We’ve kept in touch ever since, and I’ve had the opportunity to beta read Vertigo, Transcendence, and her upcoming release Sidespace. She was kind enough to beta read Nexus and Ronan as well. Her series is great; the characters are great, the concepts are great, the plot is great. You can currently get the omnibus edition of the trilogy on Amazon – it also includes a couple of short stories that take place before and after the main events of the series.


SPECTRAS ARISE
by Tammy Salyer

CHLuUqKW0AA9Gw4Another awesome series by an awesome lady! As I mentioned in my review of Book 1, Contract of Defiance, I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled across this series, but I thought, “If the story is even half as good as the cover art, I’m in.” I enjoy military sci fi, but it’s just so much more fun when the characters are ex-military. The female lead is badass and well-written, just the way I like them. The rest of the characters took24881810 a while to grow on me, possibly because they were written in such a way that readers were supposed to feel that way. There wasn’t quite as much continuity in this series as there is in Aurora Rising – certain details carry over from book to book, but each installment consists of a fairly standalone story. Those standalone stories and background info finally come together to tie into the overarching plot, and I loved the way that worked out. The structure reminded me a lot of Firefly, and of course it’s always fun to find things that remind you of Firefly.

*weeping forever*

ZERO ECHO SHADOW PRIME
by Peter Samet

41fsrNVouGL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_This book was a bit of a deviation from my typical space opera tendencies. It leans a little bit toward cyberpunk but it’s not as dark – that kinda lawless, dystopian element isn’t really there. I was really intrigued by the premise though. A girl dying of cancer is told she can be saved with help from a cutting-edge technology company. And they do save her…by splitting her into four distinct entities: a robot, a holographic personal assistant, a mutated character living in a virtual world, and her original dying form. Each version of her sort of has its own story throughout the book, but certain events end up forcing their paths to cross. Not gonna lie – it was one of the trippiest books I’ve ever read. But the way the story is split up into those four parts and then woven back together was really well done. It deals with the whole what-is-it-that-makes-us-human debate, which is something I’ve found really fascinating lately.


THE HUGH HOWEY SECTION 

Howey_SAND_OMNIBUS_EbookEdition-600I’d heard of Hugh Howey, and I think I’d heard of Wool, but I can’t remember whether either of those were before or after I arrived on the publishing scene. The first Howey piece I actually read was his short story Glitch, and even after such limited exposure, I could tell the guy had talent. I picked up Sand next and found the plot and setting to be really unique. This was once again a deviation from space opera; I’ve never been a huge fan of post-apocalyptic setups, but this one captured my interest. It was especially fun because I kept having to read in fairly loud environments so I downloaded an ambient noise app and listened to wind sounds through headphones while reading about characters walking across the desert. Talk about sensory immersion!

wool_trilogyThen I jumped on the bandwagon and picked up Wool (and the rest of the Silo trilogy, actually). What a unique story. I loved the structure of this trilogy – Wool introduced the setting, Shift went back and explained how that setting came to be, and then Dust picked up where the two of them left off and tied them together. I loved the characters and could never decide whose POV I most enjoyed reading from. Jules was a great main character though, and I always love to find strong female characters written by male authors. I made my mom read this series after I’d finished it. The exchange went something like this.

Her: “I need a new book to read.”

Me: “Read Wool.”

Her: “Yeah but I want something with mystery.”

Me: “Read Wool.”

Her: “But…but…something suspenseful!”

Me: “Read Wool.”

She took it all reluctantly and then ended up reading the entire trilogy in like a week. I also blame Hugh and this series for the fact that I’ve become obsessed with the Fallout games and have started spending too much money on Coke in glass bottles and am saving all the bottle caps.

51CV6S1pWAL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_His Beacon 23 series has also been entertaining. It was great to have something quick to read over the summer when I was so busy working on Ronan all the time. I found the setup to be really interesting and loved the way the beacon concept was interwoven with historical and present-day lighthouses. I love sci fi that makes you say “Hey, if we ever get to this point, that would probably actually be a thing.” Now that all the individual parts have been published, you can get the whole story in one package.


THE MARTIAN
by Andy Weir

coverI jumped on the bandwagon with this book and wanted to see what all the hype was about. My first thought was, “How could you possibly get an entire story out of a guy stuck on Mars?” Well, more than I expected. I mean, it’s still not like we’re dealing with a super intricate plot, but there’s a lot more to it than I thought. I’ve never been a huge fan of journal-style books but I thought that method worked really well for this book, and it opened the door for a lot of the humor and snark that made the book so enjoyable for me. I remember reading it in the library between classes at school last year and snorting out loud on several different occasions.

I went to see the movie last week and absolutely loved it. I thought it did a really good job of staying true to the book, with the exception of things that were obviously left out due to time constraints. There was only one major deviation, with “major” being a fairly relative term. Both the book and the movie were really enjoyable.


THE CLASSICS SECTION

510tP+qeldLI’ll confess now that I’ve been kinda slow on the uptake when it comes to reading classic sci fi. I’ve purchased several things like Dune, Foundation, and Hyperion, but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. I did, however, take a class last winter titled “Science Fiction Lit and Film” (trust me, when I saw that listed among the course offerings, I about had a stroke). It ended up not being as fun as I thought it would be – the focus was more on cyberpunk and I think most of the students in there were hoping for more space opera material. One of the (very few) other girls in the class had actually read part of Dakiti and she was like “Why don’t we just read your books?” Meanwhile I was banging my head on my desk and hoping nobody else had heard her.

tumblr_m56ojlGpS21qbaom0Throughout the course of the class, we read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Neuromancer, and Snow Crash. They were all books I might have never picked up if I hadn’t had to read them for class, so even though none of them were 5 stars in my opinion, it was still cool to read them. Androids might have been my favorite of the three, just from an ease-of-reading standpoint. We went on to watch Blade Runner afterwards and I can say with confidence that I liked the book better (no, I’d honestly never seen Blade Runner before that and I really didn’t like it *dodges flying tomatoes*). I struggled with Neuromancer; the concept was interesting enough, but for some reason the writing style made it really hard for me to keep track of what was going on. In that sense, I’m glad we read it in class so I could listen to the discussions and get a little better understanding of it.

830Snow Crash was enjoyable but it also had some kinda wacky elements I didn’t care for. The mythological stuff reminded me far too much of the First Civilization characters in Assassin’s Creed and I’ve always thought they were incredibly confusing and boring. Still, the story had an almost satirical dry humor to it and I really liked that. There are times when the wording or structure of sentences just makes things extra funny and I felt like Neal Stephenson did a good job with that. I recently got my hands on a copy of Seveneves and am looking forward to reading more from him.


THE GAMING CORNER

InlineACIII_Forsaken_Book_CSpeaking of Assassin’s Creed, the novelizations of AC3 (“Forsaken”) and Black Flag caught my eye. Forsaken was especially interesting because the entire book was written from Haytham’s perspective, starting when he was a little boy. I loved getting to learn about how a character with an Assassin father wound up fighting for the Templars, plus I’ve just always loved Haytham in general 😉 Some of the background details from the games were really expounded upon (for example, going to see plays at the theater, which we of course catch a glimpse of in that scene after Black Flag’s end credits). The book also helped make up (a little) for Ubisoft’s rather disappointing Connor/Haytham father/son oversight in the game; I’d expected sort of a reverse “I-am-your-father” revelation and the book at least attempted to come up with an explanation for why that didn’t happen.

AC4_Black_Flag_novelThe Black Flag novel was just as enjoyable for the same reasons. It started out several years before the events of the game so we got a better look at Edward’s struggles before he left England to become a privateer. And even though the majority of the novel covers things the player sees within the game (which wasn’t exactly the case with Haytham being as he’s only the player character for a short time at the beginning), it was still interesting to see an author’s interpretation of what’s going on inside that character’s head, rather than what’s going on in your own head as you’re playing the game. The story also covered some of what happened after Edward returned to England with Jenny and there ended up being a fairly seamless transition into the events of what would become AC3/Forsaken.

Wow, that probably sounds incredibly complicated to someone unfamiliar with the series.



THE WILL ROBIE SERIES
by David Baldacci

The-Innocent-cover-image-low-res-277x416I stumbled across these books in the midst of prepping Dakiti for publishing. I found The Hit (which turned out to be book 2) at our book trader and was immediately hooked by the blurb: badass government assassin is tasked with hunting down rogue badass lady assassin who has killed members of their agency…but there’s more going on than meets the eye. I went ahead and bought the book but then went home and ordered the first one, The Innocent, without hardly even looking at the description. The third book was released just as I finished the second one so I picked it up without hesitation. Now there’s a fourth one coming out this fall and I’m really excited.

These are pretty much your run-of-the-mill Jason-Bourne-esque spy thrillers. There’s a mystery to be solved in each one, and quite a bit of continuity throughout the series. Baldacci had a fairly simple writing style, but the stories don’t suffer for it. Like any spy thrillers, there are certain elements that seem a little far-fetched, but they’re pretty easy to look past. I really enjoyed the characters, and I was particularly pleased with how Baldacci writes female characters. There are several supporting female characters I really like, but Jessica Reel – the lady assassin introduced in book 2 – is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever come across. She’s skilled and ruthless, but there’s still a measure of humanity to her that makes her seem very realistic. She splits “screen time” about 50/50 with Will Robie throughout the remainder of the series, and I really appreciated that.



NON-FICTION

I’ve never cared for reading non-fiction of any kind – what can I say, I like stories! – but lately I’ve found it interesting to read things (not necessarily even writing guides) that will help me with the content of my writing. For example, since the majority of my characters are agents of some sort, reading a book that deals with behavioral analysis might help me incorporate a little bit of real-life science into my characters’ procedures when they’re interrogating a prisoner (or even being interrogated).

61t+5OXgHfL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_I found a book called Throwing Lead: A Writer’s Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them) way back before I even bought my Kindle, so I didn’t get around to reading it until just last year. The authors seemed to be knowledgeable; they had real-world experience handling a variety of firearms and had also done extensive research for their own novels, trying to figure out what type of gun would be most appropriate for a certain character and whatnot. The book was written in a manner that was very easy to understand – it was almost like the authors were carrying on a conversation with you instead of just spelling out the facts. I honestly learned a lot, not just from a writing perspective but from an everyday-life perspective, and I take things into consideration in my writing now that I didn’t before. There’s even a short section on sci fi/laser weapons that I found useful. More authors – especially authors who write about characters who regularly handle weapons – need to read books like this, because if I read one more book where the author’s veteran FBI agent character says “clip” instead of “magazine,” I’m gonna pop a serious cap.

41ASubd06GL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The other interesting one I found is called Spy the Lie. I stumbled across it randomly in an adorable little bookstore in Baker City, OR during the state basketball tournament. It’s written by several different former CIA interrogators who provide real-world examples of deceptive behavior and, as you might guess from the title, how to tell when someone is lying. I found it to be an interesting read, although half the “liars” they described were doing things I’d probably do just because I’m an introverted nervous wreck. Still, I picked up some interesting tips. I had jury duty last summer and we convicted a guy with two counts of first-degree sex abuse and sent him to prison for 12+ years. That trial was such a mess; the defendant’s daughter was a witness for the prosecution, and the victim’s mom (the defendant’s wife) was a witness for the defense. It was really sad. Anyway, no matter how confident I’d been during deliberation, there were times during the following days where I wondered if we’d done the right thing, because the case was like 4 years old and there wasn’t a shred of physical evidence. We were forced to just listen to the witnesses and decide who to believe. Then I went and read this book, and I became convinced we had indeed done the right thing. That guy was a scumbag who was lying through his teeth, and it felt pretty good to be confident about that.


I hope everyone will go out and check out some of these great books. You can view my ratings and reviews for them – as well as many others – over on my Goodreads page.

Getting to Know Your Characters

Great post. Character sheets are still great for sketching out the basics of your characters, but inserting them into short stories or scenes is a really useful way to get to know them. I did this with several of my characters back in the day, and it really helped to “see” them for the first time.

T. A. Hernandez

This week I want to talk about one of the most basic and most important parts of writing: getting to know your characters. I know this sort of thing has been covered extensively by many other writers, but I want to add my two cents to the discussion.

See, for me, this hasn’t ever been particularly easy, though I feel like it is one of the easier parts of writing for a lot of people. Not that anything in writing is easy, but I always see writers who are completely enamored with these new characters they’ve created, gushing over them and going on and on about how much they love all the different facets of their personalities. Meanwhile, I’m standing here in the corner with a cardboard cutout of something that vaguely resembles a real person, wondering how on Earth I’m going to turn them into someone believable. Don’t get…

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RONAN…and What Comes Next

Capture

This announcement is a couple of days late. Remember all those shoes hobbies I mentioned in my last post? I’ve been bogged down with some of those – the ones that lean more toward obligations – and haven’t had time to sit down and draft a new post. I’ll confess that this blog tends to get neglected/forgotten when it comes to social media blitzes, too.

But no matter. Now that the Release Day dust has settled, I can kinda breathe again. RONAN: ZIVA PAYVAN BOOK 3 is HERE, and I couldn’t be more excited. And relieved. This thing was a beast, and it’s a story that has slowly been building up in my head for a couple of years so it’s almost liberating to finally get it out.

Wow, I kinda sound like a crazy person. Oh wait…

Anyway, Ronan is currently available for purchase in both Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon, and you can also get the paperback through the CreateSpace eStore. Dakiti and Nexus paperbacks are both available through Barnes & Noble, so I’m guessing Ronan will be sometime too (though I never got the memo when the others became available so your guess is as good as mine regarding when that will be). Amazon does tend to mark the price down from the list price, but I’ve had international buyers tell me they’ve had better luck buying paperbacks from CreateSpace because the overseas shipping ends up being cheaper.


Get your copy of Ronan today by visiting one of the following sites:

amazon  Buy_from_Createspace


And if you’ve already grabbed the book (and the other two, for that matter), would you consider writing a review if you haven’t already? I cannot emphasize enough how important reviews are for authors, especially indies like myself. Most of us don’t have publicists and marketing departments, so aside from our own limited resources, we have to rely strictly on word of mouth to get our books out there. Honest reviews help potential readers make informed decisions about their buying options and help the books reach their target audience. You can review any time on Amazon or Goodreads.

Here’s a quick peek of what people are already saying about Ronan:

“RONAN is Fisch’s most ambitious book to date, and it doesn’t disappoint. Take all the mysteries of DAKITI and the character development of NEXUS and add in an interstellar war and a resistance movement that wants to upend entire civilizations, and you have a sweeping thriller-turned-space opera on a scale we haven’t seen before in this series.” 


 “As with Fisch’s previous books, the story is fast-paced and action-packed, but it’s the characters and the relationships between them that make the series great. Several familiar faces return to this story, but the new characters introduced were some of my favorites. The relationship between Ziva and Aroska is, of course, as complicated as ever, with each one being forced to trust the other more and more as secrets are revealed and vulnerabilities exposed.”


“A great mix of action, emotion, suspense, and personal growth.”


“The most entertaining and impactful of the series so far, Ronan is a highly recommended read.”

Now, regardless of whether you’ve read Ronan, you’re probably wondering what I’m going to do next. I’m going to keep writing – there’s no question about it – but I’m not sure what my schedule is going to be like in upcoming months (I say that even though I managed to cram Ronan while going to school full time). I’ll be perfectly honest…I currently hate the idea of starting a story outline from scratch. I feel like that’s the hardest, most frustrating part of the entire writing process. And fear is also a little bit of a factor. Objectively speaking, I think Ronan is a good book. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Nexus, too. I know my writing has improved even over the past year. But I start getting these “what-if” scenarios in my head and I wonder if the things I write from now on will be sub-par after the massive build-up in the Ziva Payvan series. Will each new book be a new peak, or will I start to plateau? I think this is probably something that just about every writer deals with at some point.

As I said, I’m going to keep writing. I have way too many ideas in my head, and I’m not kidding when I say I feel like I’m going crazy when I don’t get a chance to get them out. The trick is just to start back up again. I was thinking about this the other day and likened it to swinging on a swing set. If you want to swing, you can’t just sit there. You’ve either got to push off the ground or start pumping, and then you’ve got to keep pumping (or Just Do It) in order to get higher. This has always been an issue for me; I sit around whining about not making any progress, even though I know if I’d just START writing, I could really take off and get a lot of work done.

notes-514998_640I currently have two separate Big Vague Ideas for plots and a bunch of Little Specific Ideas that I may or may not be able to actually work into them. I want to start by writing out several of those, almost like little one-shots. That’s actually how a few different chapters in both Nexus and Ronan came about, and I was able to work them into the bigger stories. That should get me started, and I’ll stop and see if any of those one-shots actually fit together the way they seem to in my head. I keep reminding myself that anything I write from here on out doesn’t have to be as long as Nexus or Ronan – they were both monsters and pretty much exhausted me.

Readers have also expressed interest in a short story starring Nexus’s Kat Reilly, and I’d love to oblige. There are a few other minor characters whose stories I’d like to tell. Speaking from experience though, I’m terrible at writing short stories. They end up being full-length novels. Oops.

In other non-Ronan-related news, I’ll be attending a book signing at the end of the month 🙂 Yes, it’s my first. It’s a 2-day event hosted by our local used book trader, aka the only bookstore in town besides Walmart and Fred Meyer since our Borders closed. There will be 8 to 10 local authors there; the store actually already carries some of our books (including Dakiti) so it will be fun to put faces to names. I’m pretty much set already. I’ve got my framed posters, stands with which to display said posters, bookmarks, business cards, and all my books are on the way. I was actually invited to this signing last year when I just had Dakiti but something got screwed up with the shipping and the books didn’t get here in time. That was a bummer, but we’ll see if I can’t turn things around this year!

Okay. The following information is only for those of you who have already completed Ronan (unless you want to have the book spoiled for you). There are some things I’d like to address, and I’m sure they’re things you all are curious about. Highlight the “redacted” lines below at your own risk.

So. You’re all probably wondering if this is the end of the Ziva Payvan series. My answer is that you’ll pry these characters from my cold, dead fingers. You’ve heard that phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Well, I’ll stop writing these characters when they’re dead. You know those two Big Vague Plot Ideas I mentioned? One of those is for the continuation of the series (a couple of you have caught me and noticed I haven’t been calling this a “trilogy”). But for now, I’m just calling this a “continuation” because I’m not sure if it will be “Ziva Payvan Book Four” or “A Ziva Payvan Novel.” You catch my drift? It will follow the linear storyline but possibly not be part of the main series. But it will. I kind of don’t know how to explain it. But oh who am I kidding? It will probably end up being Book Four anyway.

When planning the ending of Ronan, I wanted to set it up so it could potentially be THE end while still being open enough that I could continue the story sometime. I’m sure there will be some people out there who are disappointed with the ending (all the Ariva shippers can go write some fanfiction 😉 ) but it was important to remember what was appropriate for the characters. I’ve obviously created a few constraints for myself now that I’ll have to take into consideration while continuing the stories, but I think that sets us up for some interesting scenarios! While writing the ending, I stopped and asked myself what all could happen afterwards, and that’s where most of those Little Specific Ideas come into play. I need to see if I can sort them all into some kind of coherent order, and I’m looking forward to doing so.

I seriously want to thank everyone who has followed me on this journey so far. It’s been an incredible adventure, and I obviously couldn’t do it without my readers. You’re all awesome ❤

If the Shoe Fits…

I have a problem.

I’m a hoarder.

I’m obsessed with flashlights and I have way too many. *stuffs them all in go-bag already packed for theoretical Red Dawn scenario*

I have too many Arizona® v-neck shirts from JC Penney. I swear I have one in every color. But hey, they’re super comfortable! And cheap!

I have so many useless sound effects saved as MP3s on my iPod because OMG I MIGHT NEED THEM SOMEDAY. The 20th Century Fox Fanfare will come in handy sometime…right?

I *only* have 4 pairs of Converse. That doesn't count as hoarding...does it?
I *only* have 4 pairs of Converse. That doesn’t count as hoarding…does it?

But in this case I’m actually not talking about tangible things. I’m talking about hobbies. I have too many interests. We’ve all heard that saying, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Sure, it often has kind of a negative connotation, but I think it applies here. It has to do with things that pertain to you, which includes skills/talents and interests.

Well, what if you have a lot of shoes and they all fit? You obviously can’t wear them all at once, but are you going to throw away the ones you don’t wear as often? That wouldn’t make any sense. They’re still perfectly good shoes (can you tell I like metaphors?). But I feel like some people would tell you it’s pointless to have so many shoes if you’re not actually going to wear all of them. Just focus on your favorites, the most comfortable pairs. They’re better for your feet, right? Riiiiight?

I’m not so sure.

I was inspired to write this piece after I realized I had made two different comments in as many days describing myself as a “________ nerd.” The first time, it was “analytics.” The second time, it was “geography.” This is something I’ve struggled with for a lot of my life, especially when it came time to head for college and choose a major. I have so many small interests but no “big” ones I can confidently say I want to devote the rest of my life to. After spending a year in software engineering, I transferred to my school’s IT department because, while it consisted of some of the same aspects (e.g. coding), it offered a much wider variety of classes (networking, troubleshooting, systems analysis, database design, even public speaking…God knows I needed that!). And with a health information emphasis, I also have a wider variety of opportunities in the workforce. I felt the need to give myself more options, since my interests change on [what sometimes seems like] a weekly basis.

  • I suppose it’s fairly obvious that WRITING is one of my interests. I was just saying the other day that nobody really inspired me to start writing; I’ve just always loved both reading and telling stories. I remember sitting down and trying to start writing a mystery story sometime in elementary school. During my Jurassic Park phase in 5th grade, I wrote fanfiction starring characters from the Jurassic Park III PC game “Danger Zone” (my friend and I were totally obsessed). In junior high, I wrote Star Wars fanfiction with other friends. One of my favorite memories in high school was a character development segment we went through in my 10th grade English class. We had to create an original character following a fairly in-depth guide (I kept that thing and I’ve still got it around here somewhere…) and then we had to write up an outline for a 300+ page novel starring that character. We didn’t actually have to write the novel, though I remember thinking “OMG 300 pages??? I could never do that.” …*laughs nervously* *glances down at my books* That was back when my family was staying up until 2am marathoning 24 like crazy people, so naturally my story involved FBI agents and Serbian terrorists and plane hijackings. Not sure what happened to that outline. Sometimes I really wish I still had it.

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Pencil drawing of Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar Galactica, circa 2012
  • Before I started writing more regularly, ART was my number one interest. I’ve been drawing people and portraits for just about as long as I could hold a pencil (needless to say the quality has improved drastically over the years!). And I went through that phase that all 8-year-old girls do of drawing nothing but horses. These days I’ve migrated almost exclusively to digital art, mostly because it’s faster and not as messy as pencils, but also because it’s a lot more interesting to see concepts in color than in grayscale. I love typography and graphic design too, and for a while I was convinced that was what I wanted to go to school for. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I still manage to make time for it as a hobby. I do a lot of concept art for my own stories and even do the occasional commission when I’m not bogged down with writing. Now that I’m mostly done with Ronan, it has actually been nice to dabble in a little bit of art again.

  • Building off of art, 3D MODELING is something I’ve always been interested in but have never really had the time or patience to learn. I think I’ve downloaded every free modeling software known to man, as well as the free trials of some of the (unnecessarily) expensive ones. I’m looking at you, Zbrush…. I even invested in a copy of an older version of Poser, but learning it just hasn’t been a priority compared to writing and art. I think 3D modeling would come in really handy for designing ships, buildings, weapons, and some of the other futuristic stuff I end up writing about. I actually just had a dream last night about looking at these incredible futuristic cityscapes that were done with modeling software, and now I’m all motivated to go try it again. We’ll see how long that lasts…

  • SPORTS have also been a major interest for the better part of my life. My mom has coached volleyball on and off since before I was born so I was exposed to the game early on (got my first ball-in-the-face at 3 months old 😉 ). I started playing volleyball in elementary and continued through high school. I was First Team All-State my senior year, MVP of the state tournament, and Player of the Year in my school’s league. I still hold the blocks-per-match, blocks-per-season, and kills-per-match school records, although my younger sister ended up breaking my kills-per-season record. I was offered the chance to play at two different colleges, one of which was the one I ended up attending, but decided against it (still don’t regret it). I’m currently an assistant coach/statistician at my old high school and play competitive volleyball with some of the other 20-somethings from around town on the weekends. I also did track for one season — threw javelin and ran the 400m. Even though I never played basketball, I’ve always loved watching it, especially at the college level. March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. And even though I don’t know a lot about the game, I enjoy watching high-level soccer.

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The code for a single form on the application was 65 pages long. Really glad I didn’t have to print it…
  • I’m kind of a numbers nerd. Not a math nerd, mind you. I love DATA. Statistics. Databases and reporting (hurrah Crystal Reports!) were my favorite aspects of my IT degree. I love being able to take information, sort it in a meaningful way, and then present it in a visually-appealing fashion. The insights tab on a blog dashboard or a Facebook fan page? I could stare at that stuff all day. Graphs and charts? I eat them up. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that I’m secretly a control freak. I like to know things, and I like facts. Those aspects of IT really appealed to me. That and the fact that I do enjoy programming, although I’m out of practice! For my senior project, I wrote a Windows-based application that will allow me to keep volleyball stats on my laptop rather than use the paper and clipboards (and Excel spreadsheets) we’ve been using for eternity.

  • One of my fairly new interests is GAMING. I say “fairly new” because, while I’ve wanted desperately to play games for a long time, I’ve only had the means to do so for a few years. I dabbled in little things like Zoo Tycoon and Runescape and those Nancy Drew RPGs, and I played a lot of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart at a friend’s house. My first major games were KotOR and KotOR II, and I only played them for the first time in the winter of 2010, just to put things in perspective. Those of course introduced me to Bioware and subsequently Mass Effect ❤ (which I’d actually been aware of for quite a while but didn’t have a PC capable of running it). And where would I be if I hadn’t gotten into Portal? My life would be incredibly boring, that’s for sure. Mass Effect and Portal in particular actually helped me get through one of the toughest times of my life – there’s no denying it. I’ve also invested in an Xbox 360 with which to play the games my PC can’t/won’t run and have therefore been able to play through other great games like the Assassin’s Creed series and Mirror’s Edge (which I was insanely terrible at but still loved). My to-play pile continues to grow and currently contains Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dragon Age Origins/2, Tomb Raider, and Fallout 3/New Vegas.

La Cattedral di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. One time I fell off the top of it while trying to get a feather...
La Cattedral di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. One time I fell off the top of it while trying to get a feather…
  • Another interest that has actually been re-kindled by gaming is GEOGRAPHY. And not just geography… languages and foreign cultures in general. One of the first books I remember getting was this little pocket atlas I just called my “Map Book.” I was 4 or 5 and it was just one of those “free gifts” that came with a NatGeo subscription or something. I was obsessed with that thing and always took it on trips. Half the pages were falling out after so much use. Maps in general have always fascinated me, and geography was one of my favorite social studies classes in high school. I got really interested in European geography after watching the Bourne movies and became convinced I was going to learn German if it killed me. Then, after playing through Assassin’s Creed and the Ezio trilogy in particular, I became enamored with all things Italy and started teaching myself Italian using Duolingo (which I highly recommend because it’s both FREE and actually useful). I’ve been slacking majorly with my lessons lately, but it’s crazy how much you can remember even when you come back after not doing it for awhile. I recently replayed AC: Brotherhood and it was really fun to actually recognize some of the Italian words.

  • MUSIC is another thing I can say I’m really interested in. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever really had a favorite band or singer. I always just liked certain songs from a wide variety of people. One thing I’ve always liked though is movie soundtracks. There was just something about the instrumental stuff that affected me more than music with actual lyrics. Then I discovered trailer music (actually thanks to watching the Mass Effect 2 launch trailer back when I was moping over not being able to play it and hearing Heart of Courage by Two Steps From Hell for the first time). That became a very slippery slope and these days I listen almost exclusively to movie/TV/game soundtracks, trailer music, and instrumental covers (à la Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, etc.). I print out piano sheet music for all the songs I want to learn but will never have time for. I’ve never taken piano lessons, but back in high school I taught myself the majority of the Phantom of the Opera theme song and two of my friends and I would play it in 3 different octaves all on the same piano. That was pretty epic, to say the least. I’ve been muddling my way through An End Once and For All from the end of Mass Effect 3 and What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World? from Man of Steel (I invested in a collection of sheet music from some of Hans Zimmer’s most popular movie scores 😀 ) but, like 3D modeling, this has all kind of gotten put on the back burner as I’ve been busy with writing lately.

So. Back to shoes. As you can see, I have a lot of them, and they all fit. They all pertain to me. They’re all things I’m interested in. But I obviously can’t wear all of them at once, and some of them do get worn more often than others. I have this pair of [actual] shoes that I really love. They’ve got about a 4-inch heel, so I’m roughly 6’2″ when I wear them and it’s incredibly awesome. But I can’t wear them for more than a couple of hours (sometimes less if I’m doing a lot of standing or walking around) or else my feet start killing me. Am I going to get rid of them just because of that? Of course not. I’ll set them aside and save them for a time when I need them, maybe a big presentation I have to give. Yeah, I’ll probably have to dust them off a bit and polish them up, but they’re still there.

You may be wondering if there’s been a point to all of this. The answer is yes; I do tend to just ramble sometimes, but this time there’s a method to my madness. Throughout this whole writing adventure, I’ve seen an alarming number of authors say they’ve “had to quit __________ to focus on writing.” I’m always really sad to hear that. Sure, we all deal with time constraints, but if you love doing something, you shouldn’t have to give it up. You can always make time for it. I would know — I wrote the majority of Ronan while going to school full time, during which I completed the aforementioned senior project, and I still managed to sneak some art, gaming, and volleyball in there (sheesh, no wonder I was exhausted).

Yes, writing has kind of become a priority these days, but I’m not going to sacrifice my other interests. In fact, I’ve been trying to do what I can to augment my writing WITH those other interests. Art and graphic design have come in really handy in the realm of marketing my books; I’ve designed posters, bookmarks, business cards, you name it. My love of data has made it really fun to track sales and see if said marketing tactics are generating traffic. I was one of the beta testers for authorRise so I’ve still been able to use it for free. It’s pretty rudimentary, but it’s still fun to see if Twitter has an effect on book sales. And of course the publishing experience has given me the opportunity to interact with people all over the world, so my inner geography nerd is almost constantly ecstatic. There was a point in time where, aside from the U.S., my biggest Kindle markets were Australia and Germany, and I thought that was really interesting. Music has of course been a huge help as well. I don’t typically listen while I’m actually writing, but I have my Hans Zimmer Pandora station playing while I’m editing or working on concept art. Back when I was still in the process of working on Ronan, I’d blast Two Steps From Hell in my headphones while I was at the gym and envision the space battles and other action scenes. Now volleyball doesn’t really do anything to help my writing (although I got a lot of Nexus editing done during long car rides to away games last season), but gaming is something I have in common with a lot of writers I’ve met and has honestly helped from a networking standpoint.

TL;DR? I’m going to keep all of my shoes and wear them whenever I can. Yeah, I have a lot of them, but I never know when they might come in handy.


Don’t forget to add Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3 to Goodreads!

Coming September 1. 

The Golden Rule of Marketing

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Pro of self-publishing: you get to do everything yourself.

Con of self-publishing: you get to do everything yourself.

Over the past year or so, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about my experience in the realm of self-publishing. Some have wondered because they’re considering trying it for themselves. Others have simply been curious, wondering how it all works and how I manage to juggle the writing, editing, artwork, publishing, marketing, etc. all by myself. It can be tricky. It can be tedious. It can be time-consuming. But in a lot of ways, that’s half2015-07-22 14.33.13 the fun of it. We’ve all heard the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” — the more time and effort you put into something, the prouder you’ll be of the outcome. I’ll admit, I despise the process of formatting the paperbacks for my books; I become practically homicidal and I’ll probably bite your head off if you bother me while I’m working. But there’s no better feeling than holding that first proof copy in your hands and flipping through the pages and thinking “…I did this.”

I spent a LOT of time working on Ronan while I was on vacation over the 4th of July weekend and ended up explaining the publishing process — specifically when it comes to self-marketing — to various family members. Since then, it’s been on my mind quite a bit, even more so during the past couple of days because I made the decision to push Ronan’s release up to an earlier date. I had originally wanted to release it on Labor Day but was afraid people would still be out camping/barbecuing and didn’t know if that would affect sales. September 14 just seemed so late, so I ended up changing it to even earlier. The new release date is SEPTEMBER 1. That way, people will be able to download the book in time for the long weekend, and I should have plenty of time to order copies for the signing I’ve been invited to at the end of the month.

RonanWallpaper-smaller

A comment was made about needing to stay on top of marketing if I was going to change the release date, especially if I decided to go earlier. I agreed wholeheartedly and then stopped and asked myself the all-important question: How can I spread the word quickly and efficiently without being obnoxious? Luckily, the Ronan proof arrived yesterday, so that gave me a good opportunity to make the announcement. But then I started thinking a little harder. I asked myself, “Hey, what is my marketing strategy anyway?”

As I mentioned, this is something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately, and I was inspired to write this post after reading a guest post called Controlling Your Own Fate by the super-awesome G.S. Jennsen over on Read Write Muse. As you might guess from the title, the post focuses mainly on how indie authors have the power to control their publishing experience and make their own decisions. It’s 100% true, and 100% of the reason I love being an indie author. I love creating my own story, I love creating my own covers, I love to hate formatting the paperbacks. And while I would by no means consider myself an expert, I feel like I kinda sorta know what I’m doing in those areas.

businessman-562572_640But when it comes to marketing, I have no clue. Sure, I’ve taken a couple of marketing classes, but only because all the IT students were forced to take them as part of the overall management curriculum. I’m a poor recent college graduate who can’t afford to hire a publicist, and even if I could, I’m not sure if I’d want to. I get my royalties each month and turn around and spend them on more hard copies or some posters or, in the case of this month, some promotional bookmarks. But despite the fact that I don’t really have a real strategy, I still feel like it’s something I can kind of figure out through trial and error. To me, marketing is just as personal as the actual writing or cover design, and even though I’m sort of muddling my way through it, I love the element of control and independence.

When it comes to marketing, I’ve always started by following one major rule, something I’ve come to call the Golden Rule of Marketing:

“Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”

I take a moment to ask myself, “What makes me want to buy something?” Well, usually, I see it in some sort of advertisement, and I like the way it looks. Maybe it’s something I need and it’s on sale for a few days. Maybe it’s a brand new product I’ve never heard of but it has really good customer ratings. Those sorts of things are what prompt me to take a closer look by visiting the company website or searching for the product in a store…just like how people go visit Amazon or Goodreads when they’re intrigued by an advertisement for a book. Once I get to the store, I can study the product a little more closely. Maybe it ends up not quite being what I was hoping for; the colors are duller than they were in the ad or there’s some fine print the ad didn’t include. Or maybe this thing is exactly what I needed and I end up being really happy with it. Either way, this is the same experience customers have when they get on Amazon/Goodreads to check out synopses and reviews and decide whether they’re going to buy certain books. They’ll see these details and either a) buy a book because they’re still interested, or b) forego it because they realized it wasn’t really what they were looking for.

Regardless of what I’m shopping for, I want to see an ad for something (preferably in some creative or striking media format) and be able to go dig a little deeper. When I take a closer look at the product, I want to see that it’s exactly how I imagined it (if not better), because I’m not a fan of being led on. If I feel like my time has been wasted, chances are I won’t come back. These are all things I take into consideration when deciding how to market my own books. I try to do it in such a way that I would want to buy them if I were another person who happened to stumble upon them. I also want to attract the right audience, people who will actually want to read the books. In the process of following this Golden Rule of Marketing, I follow three simple sub-rules:

via taytheant - Instagram
via taytheant – Instagram

1) Thou shalt not spam. This is something I’m afraid a lot of authors struggle with. Yeah, you want to sell more copies of your book — who doesn’t? — but for the love of all things, don’t be obnoxious. It’s especially an issue on Twitter. I’ve unfollowed (or at least muted in TweetDeck) a couple of people who posted nothing but ads (and mostly praise) for their books every five minutes. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sharing a good review — I do this myself sometimes — but there’s such a thing as tact. Besides, if I follow someone on Twitter, it’s usually because I’m genuinely interested in them as a person. Sure I want to keep up with their writing shenanigans, but nobody wants to be inundated with ads. Now maybe book spamming works for some people. Maybe I’m just too irritable, but when I see all that spam, I get annoyed enough that I want to buy anything but that book. I just don’t want to be “that person.” I’m content with creating a new ad once a month or so and pinning it to the top of my Twitter profile so it’s still the first thing people see when they visit the page.

2) Thou shalt be honest. This is another one that just seems really simple to me, but I feel like people still struggle with it. When I’m marketing a book, I try to paint as big a picture as I can (without giving away the whole book, of course) so that readers should, theoretically, know exactly what they’re getting into. I see some people trying to market their books as “bestsellers” simply because they reached x rank in x category on Amazon for-a-couple-of-days-that-one-time. My books aren’t bestsellers — I’m lucky if I sell a copy a day — so I would never market them as such. I try as hard as possible to not share my own opinion about my books, because it should be a given that an author likes his/her own book (this is why I refuse to rate my own books on Goodreads). Like I mentioned, I’ll share the occasional blog post or positive review, and I sometimes include snippets of reviews in the media I create. It’s basically a way of saying, “Hey, in case you don’t trust my opinion because I’m the author, here’s what this other random person had to say about it.” I wouldn’t call attention to the fact that my book had 10 five-star reviews if it also had 20 four-star reviews; I’d advertise it as having an average rating of 4.3 stars. I especially wouldn’t want to see a book marketed as having nothing but five-star ratings and then go find that there’s only one actual rating and it’s from the author him/herself. I try to just be objective and state facts. For me, it’s not even a matter of informing and persuading – I’m just trying to stick to the informing part and let readers make their own decision based on the given information. I never say, “Hey, read my book.” If someone contacts me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story after they’ve read it, I’ll usually ask if they’d be willing to leave a quick review when they get a chance, simply because when it comes down to it, reviews are often what sell more books.

3) Thine advertising media shalt be aesthetically pleasing AND accurate. By accurate, I do partially mean honest, but I also mean specific. Defined. For example, I write sci fi, and I want people to be able to take one look at the media I post and be able to tell it’s sci fi without me having to hashtag it or explicitly say so. I’m not going to use sparkles and rainbows in an attempt to draw the eye; I will use strategically-placed lens flare that matches that sci fi theme. Likewise, I’m probably not going to use a lot of bright, cheery colors when advertising a book series that centers around a cold-hearted assassin. There will be lots of shadows, smoke effects, and probably some blood splatter (hurrah for downloadable GIMP brushes!). The media should help tell the story or at least fit with the theme. Here’s a peek at one of the designs I’ve been playing with for those promotional bookmarks I mentioned:

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It shows the characters in kind of a mysterious light and makes use of the All-Important Lens Flare. In addition, it depicts a theme that isn’t explicitly stated in the back cover blurbs of the books, but it’s still intriguing. The Ronan banner I made to announce the new release date uses all the same elements as the book cover, but I rearranged them and added a new one (because let’s face it – who doesn’t want to look at Aroska? 😉 ). I get a lot of my space/nebula backgrounds from Pixabay and Morguefile — both sites have thousands of stock photos free for commercial use. Pixabay tends to have a better selection as well as better-quality, but I’ve found useful things in both places.

Now the “aesthetically pleasing” part is where it gets a little trickier. Not everyone is an artist; I get that. I’m lucky to have been blessed with some artistic talent, although I’m completely self-taught so I technically still don’t know what I’m doing. But I like straight lines, symmetry, matching color schemes, etc. I have a fairly extensive collection of Ziva Payvan series artwork at my disposal and I like to use it as a marketing tool. As a visually-oriented person, I love to use graphics as an advertising medium, so I try to create things that are a) tasteful, b) informative, c) honest, and d) look nice. I want people to be able to look at an ad for my books and recognize the care I’ve put into creating it (which could very well help lead them to buy the actual book). Quite frankly, I’ve seen some really awful info graphics, as well as some really awful book covers. I find myself wishing I could help the author re-design it, but the majority of the time there’s nothing I can do, and I have to just focus on making quality products of my own.

11202553_1615358292076665_6782762097043617666_nI participated in a free book promotion on the 4th of July with some other indie authors from Goodreads, so I made a simple graphic to advertise it. Obviously there are the cover images for each book, and the text in the ad makes it very clear that they are free and when. The flag image reinforces the fact that the promo is because of the holiday, and the starry background reinforces the sci fi theme. In addition, the partial user review at the bottom gives potential new readers an outside opinion. Overall, the graphic is informative, it states honest facts, it’s symmetrical (although the drop shadows kinda throw everything off), and it’s easily shareable or pin-able and doesn’t need to be posted every 5 minutes to get the message across.

These are just the guidelines I like to live by as I continue on through this crazy self-publishing adventure. As someone who doesn’t like to call attention to herself or be in the spotlight, it has been hard to figure out exactly how to market my books (and myself, for that matter). But that Golden Rule of Marketing is something I’ve had in my head since Day One. I don’t want people’s books shoved in my face, so I won’t shove my books in other people’s faces. I don’t want to be led on by advertising, so I won’t lead people on in my own advertising. I want to create visually-appealing media that reinforces both of these other goals. While I believe everyone should strive to be tactful, honest, and refined, I’m not saying everyone has to follow these sub-rules to a T, but if everyone followed the Golden Rule itself, the indie publishing community could be an even better place than it already is.


Look for Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3

SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

News news news!

ronancoverNEWFirst up, Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3 has been completed and has officially entered the editing stage! What does this mean?

a) I get so caught up in working that I forget to eat

b) my tendonitis flares up almost every day while scrolling through the massive document

c) most importantly, the book is on schedule for its September release. I still don’t have a definite release date picked, though I’m sure I will by the end of this month.

I’ve already completed my first read-through and have sent it off to first-round beta readers, and I’ve started experimenting with paperback formatting. More on this in a bit!


2015finalist

This past May, I was informed that Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 had been nominated for Best Science Fiction of 2014 in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards! I’d never even heard of this, but apparently a variety of books were peer-nominated by different authors, publishers, librarians, and editors. That means someone somewhere out there was kind enough to nominate Dakiti, so that’s pretty cool! Each genre category was narrowed down to 14 nominations, and then volunteers went through each of those categories looking at book excerpts, cover art, blurbs, author websites, reviews, and other sources of information on the nominated books to narrow down each category to seven finalists. They basically looked at the books as a reader would and ultimately selected the titles that did the best overall job of making them want to buy.

Well, after all of that, Dakiti is now a finalist, and voting has now been opened to the public! The polls close August 14, and the winners are announced August 16. It would be super awesome if people could vote 🙂 You do need to make an account in the forum in order to view the list of nominees and participate in the voting – I had to make an account to even look at the nominations list back in May – but it’s a fairly painless process (the Captcha at the end can apparently be a little bit tricky but I didn’t have any problems with it). You can VOTE FOR DAKITI HEREperuse the list of finalists for all categories HERE, and check out the polls for those other categories HERE.

Dakiti is currently leading in the sci fi category with 4 votes, while two of the other books each have 1 vote.


Anyway, Ronan was “officially” completed June 28 and had a word count of 153,554. It’s the longest book of the trilogy, but I think it actually took me the least amount of time to write, mostly because I managed to follow my Just Do It routine so well. I first began outlining it in the spring of 2013 (before Nexus was even finished) and wrote about 15k last July/August. But the rest of it has been written since this past January – that means I wrote ~138k in 6 months while going to school full time, writing a Windows-based volleyball stat keeping application, and maintaining a high enough GPA to graduate cum laude with an IT degree (that year I spent in software engineering really screwed up my GPA…). Needless to say, that’s a lot of writing, most of which was done while I was supposed to be working on other things (anyone else find that you’re actually more productive when that’s the case??). I was afraid I’d cry when I was done, but I think I’ve just been too tired and haven’t really been able to comprehend it yet.

I used an in-progress beta reader – I basically sent her chapters as I finished them – so by the time the book was done, it had already gone through one round of editing. She’s reading the whole thing through again, and as I mentioned, it has been sent off to the first new beta reader, who is beyond ecstatic to read it. I’m beyond ecstatic to have someone besides myself read it, because I’ve spent however long with this story stuck in my head and haven’t been able to share all the juicy secrets 😉

Because I am both a visually- and statistically-oriented person, I put together some graphs to show how certain elements in Ronan compare with the other books in the series.

wordcountAs I mentioned, Ronan has the highest word count of the three books. The values for Dakiti and Nexus here include copyright page, acknowledgements, blurbs for the next book, etc. so the stories themselves are a little shorter. Still, when I was messing with the paperback formatting, the difference between Nexus’s and Ronan’s spine width is only something like a hundredth of an inch, so I’m not worried.

chaptersThis graph really blows my mind because a) I’m still not sure how I ended up with an even 100 chapters in Nexus, and b) despite the (massive) difference in word count, Dakiti and Ronan have nearly the same number of chapters. On average, Ronan’s chapters are much longer than what we’ve seen in the other books (I think I decided the average word count per chapter is ~3k). It also has an epilogue that could sort of count as a 63rd chapter.

venn diagramThis shows the character distribution between books. We have 8 characters who are central to the story and appear in all three books. 11 named/speaking characters were exclusive to Dakiti, 7 were exclusive to Nexus, and there are 18 exclusive to Ronan (don’t worry, they’re not hard to keep track of!…at least I don’t think so, but my opinion hardly counts). 6 characters appear in only Nexus and Ronan, while 5 characters from Dakiti return in Ronan. Surprisingly, there weren’t any who were exclusive to only Dakiti and Nexus, unless I’m totally forgetting something…

deathsObviously we have to keep track of character deaths! There should actually be 7 deaths in Ronan – I totally forgot two of the most important ones when I made the graph, probably because so many people die that it got hard to keep track of. Most of them just don’t have names or speaking parts. *whistles innocently*

named vs. POVAnd this is a statistic that I find really interesting. Out of all three books, Ronan has the highest number of named characters (most of whom have speaking parts) but the lowest number of POV characters. Quite a few of those 32 named/speaking characters have been seen in the other books though so it shouldn’t be a huge pain to keep track of them all. I’ve been trying to cut down on POV characters as I’ve worked through the series, and apparently I’ve managed to do exactly that. 12 people was a lot for Dakiti, especially considering how short it is (and the fact that two of those characters only have a single POV scene).

SO, work will continue and I will keep everyone up to date with my progress. Stop by my Facebook page for regular updates.

I mentioned I’d already started experimenting with paperback formatting. Yes, it’s a little early, but when I was editing Nexus, I actually found it really useful to order a single proof copy before editing was actually complete and read the whole story in “real book” form. It helps me be more objective. I ended up kind of defacing the poor thing with all of my highlighter marks and sticky tabs, but it was a lot easier to find potential formatting issues than it was in the PDF or online proof. Plus I reallllly can’t wait to see the physical copy, so the sooner I can get one in my hands, the better. I’ll likely do one more self-beta-read before that though. For that, I typically create a .mobi file and read from my Kindle, then make appropriate changes to the Word document. When I’m staring at a computer screen, I tend to skip over things because there’s so much extra text within viewing range. Pretending I’m reading a real book just makes me so much more thorough.

If I ever go totally off the deep end, paperback formatting will have been the underlying cause
If I ever go totally off the deep end, paperback formatting will have been the underlying cause

*strategically blurred so nobody can see anything*

If you’re looking forward to Ronan, don’t forget to add it on Goodreads! I can’t wait to share it with everyone!