Do It Again

This is something that many of you may have wondered about, but this time, I’ll actually do it.

I’m going to revamp Books 1 and 2. Outside and in.

Bear in mind this: I am not rewriting the story. This is not a negotiable factor. The storyline, especially of Arc 1, has been set up in such a way that to rewrite it is 1. impossible, 2. impractical, and 3. just outright not worth it. However, I will not deny that the layout needs work, and considering that the second two books are nowhere near in congruence with the first two, both in terms of quality and outward appearance, I think that I need to focus on it in further depth.

In other words, it’s rebranding. I have a certain style that I have developed by this time, both in terms of writing and the appearance of my books, and I think that it would do justice to make them consistent.

If you’re on The Index Series’ Facebook page, then you would’ve seen my new cover for Book 1. Tiffany Chaney is headlining Book 2 art, and Books 3 and 4, starring Marion Meadows as cover artist, will remain as they are, but for minor additional revisions in the interior.

I will apprise you on the progress of each as things unfold, but that is the battle plan as of right now. Book 5 is in the Editing Stages, and considering that I’m rewriting the entire arc simultaneously for consistency – all three books of it – it may be a while before that is released. Plus, I am brushing up on my royal fiction, if only for tips on how to frame the politics of the storyline. Take it as a spoiler or not, that’s up to you. :)


On Taking a Hiatus/More on The Index Series

You may’ve noticed that, apart from the couple of posts on my day job, I’ve not been writing very much.

Unfortunately, that’s an in-general sort of nonwriting, because as of late, between being an active realtor and a very active freelancer – real estate income takes a lot of time and effort, and my bill collectors aren’t quite as understanding as my brokerage or myself – my free time and ability to write have evaporated. Between brokering and bookkeeping, I found myself working much longer hours, getting even less rest, and my muse decided that until I took an actual break – a genuine, real break – from things, it wasn’t going to happen.

And you know what happens when I get stressed, right? If you answer, “you get sick as a dog”, congratulations, you get a cookie. To those of you who know how bad my illnesses can get – don’t groan and pass the damn Ricola. :)

It was a good week, even though I was sick as all unholy crap. I actually started waking up refreshed, learned to prioritize and to stretch out my money (which has been more than paying off, considering real estate is commission-only and my freelancing is minute), and most of all, learned to relax. I stay up late much less than I used to, and am willing to forgo a long trip if it means getting in a bit more Z’s.

Some people may say, “Well, it’s you getting older”. Perhaps it’s true. I’m 27, yeah, but I’m no spring chicken, like I was at 21. At 21/22 I was willing to jump and go, wherever the muse calls. At 24, I started planning things a bit more in terms of distance, cash outlay, and value. At 27, I’m now valuing my trips and travels in terms of the energy it would take.

But lately, I’ve started looking at my books again, and doing so with some serious measure of where I want them to go. The beautiful part about this is, this time I’m using Scrivener, and there is a whole lot more perspective in terms of cohesion and outline. I don’t technically follow an outline, but I like to sketch out a plot summary, at the very least, just so I don’t get tangled in my own story. This happened before, and catching it while editing is a royal pain. Scrivener actually greatly helps in clarifying the tangled spots in the story and, even better, helps me keep track of the multiple arcs.

So what’s on the menu for the next full arc of The Index Series? *ahem, Ragan Whiteside, I’m looking at you when I’m writing this!*

One thing’s for sure: the characters have unraveled the mystery. They got to know exactly what happened that had led to this stage of events. They are a little older, a hell of a lot wiser…and they have to deal with the consequences. Every major upheaval has a consequence, especially here, mainly because some people take secrets to the grave, and others don’t stop until they get revenge.

That’s a hint, by the by. :)

Book 5 picks up with exactly where Book 4 had left off, and introduces a couple of new characters, and a couple of new concepts, too. For example, when does one start redefining what they’ve been taught? We see this a lot in people who, after copious soul-searching, realize that they’ve been taught a whole mess of BS about something. I have a character who is, as of right now, trying to reconcile that exact thing. It’s a very curious consideration, to boot.

There’s also another project on the horizon. Yes, again. But this time, I’m thanking a dear friend, who had asked me about having The Index as an audio series. I never thought about it, but the more I think on it, the more I like the idea. More on that as things continue to develop.

The Book 1 script is complete! If you’d like to read a copy, feel free to drop me a message. As a courtesy, I’m offering one to anyone who has picked up a copy of Book 1 on the promo day. And yes, I’ll do the script version of the other books.

And yes, taking a break feels very, very good. :)



Whew. Now what?

So. The screenplay is finished.

*sigh of relief*

I’m a little surprised at how it turned out. This is still the first draft; I’ve not subjected it to an editor, and I’ve written the entire thing in shooting style, which is only permissible if you’re going to direct. Which I’m not. But it makes for very good reading; it’s very visual, especially considering that the camera angles effectively tell you how to see a scene.

This is, in a certain sense, the key difference between the novel version and the screen version: a screenplay doesn’t give you as much flex of imagination as the novel. Screenplays are much more direct.

Now, of course, this begs the question of how I feel now that I’ve done a new style of writing that I was, prior thereto, unfamiliar with.

And you know what, I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve finished a full-scale feature-length screenplay. Good, yes. I am now familiar with a new writing form, and it’s a completed challenge. Will I do this again? Definitely. I’ll be transforming my books into screenplays, for sure. But now I need to go forward with marketing them, and marketing is going to be the weird bit. I have never done film marketing, never took a course on it, and have little idea as to where to start. I do know a film agent, though, and I may have a chat with him. I also know more than a few authors who have film and agent connections, so I may well be able to go from there.

It’s a now what? sort of a feeling.

I’ll figure that out as I go along, and if I happen to get something started up for the film version of the series, then we’re in business.


Adapting an adaptation

So, after reading the full Suzanne Collins trilogy, I went to see The Hunger Games on the big screen.

I will admit that the adaptation is pretty solid. It cut out very little, and kept enough of the original story. The camera angles were good, the acting by the cast was superb, and the script had minimal alterations.

This is the thing, though: when you’re adapting a novel for the screen, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

I will be frank: the movie version ending of The Hunger Games was a major deviation. I won’t spoil; if you read the books, you will know what I mean. That’s what disappointed me in the production, but considering that I’m currently standing in the same dilemma, I’m hardly one to judge. As it is, the bits that were cut from the novel were minimal. Except, of course, the ending, because that was completely out of alignment with the book. Same with a very, very key conversation between Haymitch and Katniss.

How does this relate to what I’m doing? As I’m templating Book 1 to adapt to screen, I have to do two very major things:

1. Ad-lib. Most of Book 1 is action, a good bit of contemplation, but not much on dialogue. I’m finding myself re-doing the existing dialogue, and ad-libbing the rest. To say that it’s a challenge would be right about appropriate; I have never realized just how much I’ve under-written in the novel form that I’m now finding that I have to put together in screen form. Minor, minor dialogue – it becomes relevant.

2. Direct. This is iffy. I’ve been told so far, by more than one person, that I should cut the cues and score sounds from the script. And you know what, I will. But before that, I need to finish the script, because it actually holds a pretty solid purpose. The purpose? To guide the adaptation. In novel form, everyone pictures the flow and sequence of scenes differently, but the script and the consequent film put the story forward in only one visible way. That is where the screenwriter’s skill at interpreting one medium into the next comes in.

You’d think it’s easy, if I’m working on the adaptation of my own piece, but that’s actually the most difficult aspect. How would I translate a story that everyone interprets for themselves into something that’s to be represented only one particular way?

3. Trim. And the opposite: insert. Because as I’m seeing now, there has to be a higher emphasis on continuity. I could get away with a highly choppy Book 1 in novel form, because the other books would gel it together. With writing a movie script, you do not have that sort of a flex. You have to trim the excess and add whatever you have to add – however minor or major – to make it gel.

The challenge I’m facing now, towards the end, is how to write/engineer some of the needed special effects needed to make some of the interstitial scenes work. That is, indeed, a pickle, but nothing I can’t work through.

Onward and upwards…just a couple scenes left to Script 1!


On Screenwriting vs. Novel-writing

So, because tax deadline kills the sleep and stokes the muse, I started working on the script counterpart to Book 1. Yep, I’m writing a movie. No, not for Script Frenzy – because tax season will eat me if I try that, and I’m actually about to head to work as I’m writing this – but because, frankly, it’s fun, and I want to pitchThe Index as a film series.

And I am slowly getting really, really into it.

I will admit this: when I first started laying down The Index, back in 2006, I had every intention of writing it so that it could translate to the screen easily. I can see this being a great series in film; I wouldn’t put my work on the same scale of potential that Harry Potter had ended up with, but I definitely think that my work has a certain visual appeal. At least to the nerds who ended up loving it so far (yes, I’m looking at you, and you know who you are!!!).

With all the difficulties and travails that I’ve had with the first book of this series – for the details on that, everything with the Book 1 category on this blog that dates back to 2009 will tell you exactly what was going on – I’ve had a surprisingly easy time so far templating out the first few scenes of the book in screen format. While in the first book I had the challenge of layout, conventions, scenery, and the general flow of the book, right now the challenge has shifted to having an effective portrayal of that same text. There is much less focus on the writing details when you’re working in screen form. It becomes all about the visual, all about how the characters will be seen, and all about how to see everything effectively. i.e. soundtrack cues, potential actors, etc.

This also brings an entirely new dimension to the process: I have to actually think of this in visual terms. I will admit shamelessly that I thought of anime noir at the time I was writing the story in the first place, but right now, and especially right now, I”m thinking of it as a live-action endeavor. Yes, might cost more, but it will work better this way. I have to actually consider who will play whom in the film. I can’t cast Shou and Kian, for the life of me, but I’ve earlier mentioned that Arriella would be best played by Serinda Swan (you may know her as Erica Reed if you’re a fan of Breakout Kings). Shourron I, both sides of him, would be best done with Liam Neeson. Rena would have a worthy portrayal in the hands of Annabelle Wallis (Jane Seymour from The Tudors, season 3). Arriella’s scheming mother, Morrhia, would go to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Lord Kirare, the Viceroy of the Underworld, will go to the actor whose presence inspired his creation to begin with: Chris Noth. And Jason Watson, the redheaded, lovable-little-shit bon vivant based on one of my dearest friends, will be played by the most versatile redhead there is….Damian Lewis. Whom you may have seen in Homeland.

Hey, dream big, right?

But in reality, all this is helping me put the movie into motion, so to speak. Now that there are flesh-and-blood people representing the people whom I’ve written into existence, writing the screen form suddenly becomes that much easier. Same for soundtrack: no movie is complete without sound, and now I have to dig at my collection of jazz, rock, Celtic, and everything else to start matching scenes to songs.

In other words, the story hasn’t changed, but the presentation is wildly different. And considering that I spent the past six years heavily entrenched in and perfecting the noveling side of writing, to switch gears like that is quite the lulu. I won’t deny one thing, though: I rather like it.

To note, I will put up Mages on, which is a great hosting site for indie scripts, and I will also make a PDF of it available in e-book format. Print will be entirely too clunky…or not, I don’t know. Still thinking about it.

And, to note, if Mages does get picked up for production? Well…then let’s just say it. My life will be changing very fast.


Slight addendum: Book 1 can be found here, and is free for Kindle on April 17th. Yes, a slightly shameless plug. :)

KDP Select Experiment

You know, it was bound to happen.

Thinking on my post about Amazon, and the new “developments” by Barnes and Noble, I can’t help but think twice about the distributions for my books.

Quite obviously, Amazon is coming up with better, bolder innovations for the self-pubs, regardless of their level of success. They’re coming up with better ways to work all. the. time. Barnes and Noble, conversely, seems to be grasping at the old norm of a Big 6 publisher and a brick-and-mortar store as The Best Distribution, which completely doesn’t reconcile with reality or current trends.

As it were, I enrolled Mages in KDP Select. I have three months to see how it will do, and then I will decide if the others will follow suit. The thing is, though, by now I’m pretty confident that it will end up working out for the best.

So you know what? I’m putting my eggs into the Amazon basket. B&N is shooting itself in the foot with a devastating effect, and if they roll out something else that puts a cramp into the self-publishing and e-book style, then they will find themselves going the way of Borders.

So, if you feel like getting your hands on a copy of my first book, which I will admit has its own foibles, then it’s right here:

Secrets and Lineage will follow suit if Mages pans out well enough.



When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella

In spite of the overwhelming amount of stress at work, and despite the fact that I’ve been working ten-hour days for the past two weeks, with barely a half a day off, I began toying around with Book 4 again.

You know when you come back to someone whom you’ve not seen for a while, and suddenly you find yourself surprised by how much that person had changed? It could be an old friend, a relative whom you’ve not seen for some years, and suddenly, they re-enter your life, and you are surprised by their level of personal growth.

I am starting to realize that, especially as you write a series, it’s much the same with the characters in your writing.

Now, I will proceed to wax literary reminiscence about one of my main characters. Get to know her. She’s a cool chick. But I’m putting it behind a Read More link, just in case. :)

Continue reading “When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella”

Small news

Long story short: It’s the holidays. I’ve seen more sales in Kindle than any other format of my books, including print for all the traditionalists. :)

So!! If you have a Kindle, read Kindle books, or just plain want to help a girl out, all three of my books are now at 99c each! I will keep this sale going through the holidays, and maybe a bit longer.

Link here:

Happy shopping!


The Elements and Progression of Style

For those of you who may not know, I have a review exchange happening at the NaNo forums. Yes, I buy people’s books, and people buy mine. Sometimes, I swap via e-mail.

It’s in one of the recent e-mail correspondences that I started thinking about Book 1.

I’ll be honest that the review I got wasn’t the best one, however – and a major however – the author who had reviewed it and had chosen to address it via e-mail had actually gone ahead and asked the very questions that had led many of my other readers to buy Books 2 and 3. She had also made a statement that mine is a style of writing is a bit dated, and doesn’t quite mesh with the current style that readers may like.

This started me thinking about stylistics, and I will be the first to admit that Book 1, which has been my baby for the longest time (I wanted to write a story like that since my early teens, but I knew that I wasn’t ready for it until much, much later), is not my best work.

Gasp, shock! you say. But it’s true. A first book is a first book, and while I knew where the plot was going to go somewhere midway through the rewrite (which was…year 1 of the 3 years of prep-work it had taken before I had it ready to go), I was going forward with publication in August of 2009 with the full knowledge that it wasn’t going to be great. I knew that it was choppy, left the plot holes wide open for filling with later books – and could be a turn-off for some readers – and the conventions were lackluster. I knew it going in, but it had set the stage for a story that stretches into the long-term. That is why I released it: plot-wise, there was nothing more I could do without spoiling the rest of the series.

But my reviewer had brought up a great point as far as the style. Readers like certain things, and authors write a certain way. The two may not necessarily mesh, and I’ve been told before that my style can be a little too old-school for them.

Has anyone read Capt. Thomas Mayne Reid? If you’ve ever read The Headless Horseman in school, you probably have. If you’re not familiar with the Captain, he was a writer in the steamboat-era post-Civil War South, whose specialty was writing “young boys’ stories”: adventure, science-and-nature-infused stories of seeking the unknown, going into the great frontier, etc. I grew up reading his stories, and to this day continue to touch back on them after finding them on Kindle. Strongly recommended reading, but his style is likely not what you are used to.  And I would be lying like a dog if I didn’t say that I picked up my writing style from his books; these stories had actually made me love reading. I was maybe 4 when I had started reading them, and he’s likely the only author whom I cannot get sick of re-reading.

Now, this makes for a curious quandary. I’m writing a modern/futuristic story, science fiction blending lines of fantasy and crime drama, but I’m doing that in a framework of style that hadn’t been used since the 1860s. How does that work?

Something had to evolve there.

My editor will vouch for the fact that Book 2 had turned out better than Book 1. Not just because there was now an editor on board, but because I had taken whatever lessons I had learned with the adventure of writing, prepping, and publishing Book 1, and applied them to the second book, and then the third. By the time I had rewritten the third, I had a good idea of what my readers expected out of the story, and by this time, the storyline had progressed enough to where I was able to satisfy both my style and the readers.

Mind that this process had taken – if I have to track back from the point of publication of the third book, which was this July – 5 years. And with it came a good bit of knowledge about the author/reader relationship.

Now, one of the things that I’ve been suggested is the use of a how-to guide for writing. Personally, I can’t. While I don’t deny that those can be great resources, I’m a major supporter of learning by trial and error, especially for a story spanning more than one volume. It’s hard knocks, and I got more than one negative review on that, but it’s still a learning process. I also learned by working out the kinks that were left in the story by Book 1 in Book 2, and then asking myself just how well I can finish the story in two volumes, or three, or even four. My editor, who had put up with my obstinacy on many an occasion, pointed out exactly what effects the changes would have, and I have incorporated her suggestions into the edits that I’m making now in Book 4, as well as future installments of the series. The best style guide of them all, though, is a little black book by Strunk & White.

The mention of that usually sends a friend of mine cringing, and he knows why.

Nonetheless, it’s an excellent little style guide, and one I’ll recommend over any how-to guide. Put it this way: your story is your story. You know it best. You know how it works best. And it’s up to you, the author, to set it up. So if you get a book of how to write a novel, you may benefit from it, or it may do more harm than good. The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White doesn’t teach how to write a novel. It does, however, teach how to write damn near anything with simple, to-the-point rules. This book is yet to be overturned in practice, because all the rules end up applying sooner rather than later. Storylines progress with practice, feedback, and more practice, but certain constraints of writing them do not change.

It’s a lot of food for thought. And thanks to the reviewer for getting me thinking on these things.

On Perfectionism and Editing

You may have noticed that recently, I have revised and reuploaded Book 1. And you may be asking, “Why? It was done. You’re self-published. You already took three years to edit it!”

And this will go to show you two things:

1. A writer’s work is NEVER done, and

2. I’m a rabid perfectionist.

In truth, the real reason that I had made the choice to revise Book 1 again was because, frankly, I read it. And while I know the story, and I like the storyline, the way it read was just a bit clunky. It is obviously A First Book, and it read as such.

I figured that it would be in my best interest, both from the perspective of a reader and of an author/editor in my own right, to give it a glance-over and refine it a little bit just to where it would read a little bit more smoothly. The entire plotline stays the same.

Now, what does this imply to you? Aside from the fact that I’m slightly insane to consider revising a text that had taken me three years to revise the first time.

Opinion matters. At least to an author. If you’re reading this story, and you find something to nitpick about it, then that’s something that’s important to me. If you like the story, that’s my incentive to keep on with it. The story will continue if only owing to the fact that my being a writer is an incurable condition of the soul. But if you like it – then that’s a little extra for me to produce more of the story that my readers will like.

This breeds the perfectionism. Also an incurable condition of the soul.

I will be honest with you, there is no manuscript without errors. I have been reading over a lot of the books that I love, and notice plenty of errors everywhere. Not even Random House Publishing produces perfect manuscripts. My own books are hardly immune, and while Gayle and I spend an incredible amount of time gutting through each scene, there will be slip-ups. It’s part of being human, and considering that my books get longer by the volume, it’s an inevitability that things will slip up.

But this right here is the beauty of being a self-pub. It is all fixable.

Whether or not it is fixable, though, doesn’t stop me from trying my damndest to put my best foot forward. I lose sleep over the rewrites, and by the time the manuscript gets to Gayle for editing, I have already put in a good amount of time into getting it to That Point. That Point is not a perfect manuscript, and it took me the on-my-own experience in editing Book 1 to understand that. That Point is the point where I can release the book to the world, and feel that, between myself and Gayle, that we’ve done the best that we could.

And so, once again, Book 1 is re-released. Book 5 is pending completion. Book 4 is pending overhaul.

Back to business we get.