Weekly Goals for 2/25

Eyes of Diamond, Hair of Gold is now finished and available for sale. This was a big project for me, not necessarily in length or the complexity of the story, but in writing a sequel that would continue the tradition set by the original story and exceed it in the ways that it needed to be exceeded. I feel very confident that I was able to do that. If you’ve not gotten your own copy yet, you can find the Kindle version on Amazon and the paperback version on Create Space [links are available on the right side of the main page and in the book specific tag at the top of the main page]. If you’ve already got it, read it and enjoy it!

As for what I’m working on this week, I’m going back to a fantasy story I wrote some time ago and then set aside for a while. It’s a dark fantasy odyssey called Between Sand and Sky about an exiled prince’s search through a desert wasteland for his long-lost sister. It’s a story I’m particularly proud of, because I put a lot of work into creating characters that felt unique and compelling and then giving them ample opportunity to be developed over the course of the story, particularly the relationship between the prince and a slavegirl he rescues along the way. So, for now, I’m getting it all fixed up and fleshing out this rough draft into something that’s ready for people to read it. Hopefully, that won’t take too long.

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Trimming the Fat from Bloated Sentences

While working on a draft of book that I wrote some time ago, which I hope will become the final draft, I’ve been focusing on sentence length and sentence readability. This story was written during a phase where I wanted to create more complex and interesting sentence. In some way, this work. In other ways, it left behind sentence that were far too bloated and had too many parts. This wasn’t necessarily a problem when I was only hanging on to the story for my own personal interests, but now I’m thinking about doing something with this story and the quality of the writing is a big factor.

I’ve gone through this process before with another story, where I focused on making the sentences as short as possible, while still retaining their full meaning and purpose. It’s actually a very fun writing exercise and forces you to focus on each individual sentence, rather than reading along in a steady stream and you hunt for mistakes and errors to be corrected. You pick out each sentence and analyse it, look for ways that it can be shortened, written differently, done better. This is actually kind of fun, in that it becomes like a game where you compete against yourself to cut out as many words as possible without losing any meaning. The shorter sentence increase the quality of the writing, too, ensuring that your readers absorb more information and events while actually reading less words. They’ll definitely appreciate you for it.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all your sentence need to be as short as conceivably possible, it’s also important to mix things up. Give your readers a few short, curt sentences that get straight to the point, then give them on longer sentence that really digs into the details of what’s going on. That mix will keep them from falling into a dull rhythm and force them to pay more attention to what’s going on.

And it’s not just about shorter sentences, it’s about digging down to the true meaning and purpose of each sentence. Why does this sentence exist? What purpose does it serve? What information does it give my readers? Why should bother reading it? Ask these questions of every sentence you write, that’s how you get better at writing.

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The Allison Newberry Mysteries

What is this series about?

When I decided to start writing a mystery [before that I had written science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively], I wanted to write about murders that were a bit different from the norm. The idea was to set up situations and cases that other detectives didn’t necessarily want to deal with, either because of their sensitive nature or because of their perceived complexity.

So, the case would fall to one detective in particular: Allison Newberry, a junior detective who is given the case in the first novel because no one else wanted it. And rather than just a standard investigation into a case, finding clues, piecing together clues, and then making an arrest, I wanted to have the investigation uncover something even more sinister and dangerous than the original murder.

Who is Allison Newberry?

My two biggest inspirations for writing in the mystery genre are Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Having said that, I don’t really consider Allison to fit in the mold of the neurotic detective who notices little details or makes connections that no one else notices. She’s also not an action hero who goes in with two guns blazing. I wanted to build a character who isn’t necessarily the greatest detective in the world, but makes up for a lack of experience with a deep-seated tenacity that makes her willing to see any case through to its end, regardless of how dangerous her situation becomes.

With all my characters, I’ve striven to keep them gray, rather than strictly black and white. There are no great heroes, there are no happy endings with all the loose ends neatly tied up into a bow. I’ve always kind of disliked the ending where all the good guys win and all the bad guys lose, everyone goes home happy. That thinking permeates my writing. So, to tie back into Allison Newberry, she’s not a hero who returns from her cases to bask in glory, but rather someone who strongly believes those who perpetrate the crime of murder should be brought in to answer for their actions.

What’s the world like?

Having been inspired by Poirot and Holmes, I wanted to use a similar setting [late-Victorian England]. However, as I mentioned earlier, I come from a background of fantasy and science fiction, so I decided to build my stories around a custom-made world.

Using a “fantasy” world, however, is a double-edge sword. On the one hand, I’m not constricted by reality, I can build my world however I want to and do whatever I want with it. On the other hand, it loses that connection to the real world and some people might be put off by that. Nevertheless, this is how I’d like to write my stories, since I can do things that a historical setting wouldn’t allow me to do.

The world is heavily inspired by Victorian England, all the way down to many of the terms used. The level of technology is roughly somewhere between late-19 century and early-20th century, with the industrial revolution kicking into full swing, the prevalence of flint-lock weapons, and a continued reliance on horses that is slowly giving way to steam-powered transportation. It does contain a few elements of steampunk, but they’re definitely not steampunk stories. I’ve drawn a few ideas from that subgenre and used them in my stories, but they’re not about cramming in every steampunk element I could find and then hoping that it somehow results in an interesting story. I’ve tried to use them judiciously and in ways that make sense for each story.

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Filed under Eyes of Diamond Hair of Gold, Murder at the End of the World, Mystery, Writing

Eyes of Diamond, Hair of Gold – New Release!

Front Cover - Small

Having finally returned from her first case, Detective Allison Newberry is immediately sent on to her next: the murder of a famed inventor. But she won’t be solving this one alone. Another detective, the opinionated and unlikable Alistair Mooney, has been sent along as her assistant.

The murdered inventor, Gregory Williams, had surrounded himself with a technological world filled with his own creations, even going so far as to build a fake town to act as the outward expression of his personal obsessions. The few who live in the town full-time were utterly devoted to him, even as they despised each other, making it difficult to determine who might have committed the crime.

However, it is not the people or the town that make this case so bizarre. Living within the walls of the house are dozens of automatons, mechanical servants who will never grow tired and will never complain about any orders they’re given. One automaton in particular, Maximilian, is far more advanced than any of the others, and even possesses the ability to speak in the voice of his creator.

Allison is suspicious of him, Alistair despises him, but it is not Maximilian that poses the greatest threat to all those gather for the funeral, but rather it is Gregory Williams himself…

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It’s arriving a day later than I thought it would, but here it is at last! I’ve put a lot of work into making this an even better story and an even better release than the last Allison Newberry mystery, so hopefully you’ll be able to see the improvements I’ve made since then. And so, without further ado, here are the links where you may purchase it:

Kindle ebook – http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Allison-Newberry-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00BFCMHBW

Create Space paperback – https://tsw.createspace.com/title/4151826

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Weekly Goals for 12/02

Okay, after weeks of grousing, Eyes of Diamond, Hair of Gold is really, finally finished! I got the last few edits in from my reader and I made them just a few minutes ago. After wrangling with the formatting for the various versions, I also got the book submitted to both Amazon and Create Space. So, barring anything totally out of the blue, I’ll have both the ebook version and the paperback version ready to be sold sometime tomorrow!

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Getting Ready for the Next Mystery

As I wait to hear back on that last remaining fixes that are needed for Eyes of Diamond, Hair of Gold, I’m already hard at work laying the foundation for the next Allison Newberry mystery. As with the first sequel, the second sequel present with me with an opportunity to explore a new setting, a new cast of characters [except the few who are returning], a new mystery to solve, and a new danger for the intrepid detective.

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to go into detail about this particularly story just yet. Suffice it to say, I do have a very good idea and I’ve got a nice foundation set up from which to build my story. What’s important here is to present a new location that is both interesting and a little strange, exciting but frightening; to present a case that is beyond the ordinary, a crime that only Allison could get herself mixed up in; and tie it all together with a cast of characters that feel like real people, with their own motives and their own lives beyond the confines of the story. And, as always, there’s that element of danger. In the first book, it was the city of Illdara. In the second book, it was…well…you’ll have to wait just a little while longer to find out about that one! Don’t worry, though, that danger will certainly find its way into to the third book, as well.

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Weekly Goals for 2/04

I’ve got in the proof copy of Eyes of Diamond, Hair of Gold and I’ve got a third-party to read it through for me. I was really hoping to get it released this week and that’s still a possibility, but I also want to make sure that what’s released is as free of errors and mistakes as possible, so that means waiting just a little bit longer. I can say that the paperback I put together this time really looks good. The cover and the cover image really worked great this time, especially thanks to a slight bump in the resolution of the image I used. With the documents used for the book itself, I worked to figure out a way to get a proper header with the name of the book and my name alternating between each page, along with a page count on the outer corner. So, it all just makes it look a little more professional and the extra work definitely paid off.

Right now, it’s virtually ready to go, I just need to wait on a few minor adjustments.

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