NaNoWriMo – Week 5 (sort of)

The fifth Sunday! Tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo! If you’ve been hitting your goals, you’ll cruise past 50,000 words tomorrow and you’re darn close today. Heck, if you push yourself, you could be finished today.

If you’ve been writing like a fiend, then you’re probably thinking “Thank goodness!” Maybe you’ve hit your goal for the month already and you’re thinking “I’m finished! This is my day of rest and tomorrow, too!”

Sure, you deserve it. If you plan on doing nothing with your manuscript because NaNoWriMo is just a fun bit of mental exercise, then go have an adult beverage of your choice, if it’s legal, and celebrate.

If you’re planning on trying to sell that manuscript, your work has just begun. For one, a 50,000 word novel is a HARD sell in most genres if you plan on looking for an agent. If you’re going the route of the Author/Publisher, 50,000 is a good length for a quick, light read. Regardless, you’re going to need to edit, revise, and proofread the heck out of it before you even think about charging money for it.

mungusMungus* says: “Don’t even think about charging money for people to read a NaNoWriMo First Draft.”

See, Mungus feel the integrity of an artist’s work is important. When you foist an unedited manuscript (and when I say edited, I mean someone other that you has gone over it with a fine-tooth comb; every writer auto-corrects in their head when they read their own work) upon an unsuspecting public, you do yourself and all independent authors a disservice. People will just all of us on the actions of the worst of us.

So don’t do it. It will make Mungus angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Anyway, that’s not very peppy. That’s serious. Be of good cheer, the end of NaNoWriMo is upon us and soon it will be Christmas (if you celebrate something else, I wish you cheer and good time during your preferred holiday!)! If you’re finished, take December off, believe me, that manuscript will still be there in January.

If you’re going to power through into December and keep writing because 50,000 words in November just isn’t long enough, well, good for you. I’ve done it many times myself. Don’t forget to stop and sip the eggnog every once in a while, though. You’ve done a great job getting through 50,000 words in a month.


*Mungus is a character in my Zack Jackson novels. He’s an Ersidian and doesn’t like to be compared to a teddy bear, no matter how apt that comparison might be at times.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

RyllBobFactual statement: I am Bob. My friends call me Ryll Bob. It is because I am a Ryll.

Affectionate mocking: They are not very witty.

With sincerity: I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving. There are many thing for which one can be thankful. Friends, family, health. It is my hope you are thankful for all of those things. I am thankful for my friends at Cytherean Academy: Zack Jackson, Jenny DuBois, Dravs, and Xal. There are not many Ryll here and they make life less lonely.

My knowledge of Earth culture is limited. I have never even been to Earth. As I understand it, Thanksgiving, like many holidays on Earth has changed meaning over time as people of different beliefs have appropriated it. For us, in the 43rd century, we see it simply as a time to celebrate the good in our lives and to give thanks for those things. It is a time to put aside differences and grievances and enjoy the time we have together.

With puzzled hesitation: Dravs has told me there is an Earth custom of singing a song for this celebration. I do not know how he knows this, as he is Devoran and generally seems to be ignorant of Earth customs, but he is my friend and I will trust him.

[Error: translator not programmed for harmonizing]: Happy Thanksgiving to you. Earth is a melted zoo. Turkeys hate thanksgiving. But they taste really good.

With great concern: That is not a very good song. It was my understand than it would rhyme more. Dravs may have been pulling a prank on me.

Insincere threat: He will pay for this.


Happy Thanksgiving from VFF Publishing!


Ryll Bob drawn by Stan! You can read about Ryll Bob and his friends in Zack Jackson & The Cytherean Academy and Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra.

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REVIEW – Wolf Tower: The Claidi Journals I by Tanith Lee

Wolf TowerI picked this book up as part of my coursework in my Children’s Literature class mistaking Tanith Lee for another author I had read (obviously, this was some time ago, I’m going to say 10 years now). I’d heard of Tanith Lee, of course, but I was mistaking her for someone else. So, it turns out that I was completely unfamiliar with Mrs. Lee’s work up until now.

I found “Wolf Tower” to be a fun and engaging read. It would be a good start to ease young readers into fantasy fiction as it doesn’t have an epic, world-shattering plot, and the fantastic elements it employs aren’t too weird–they all seem to fit logically within the world Tanith Lee has created. Speaking of which, the world in which the story takes place is not dissimiliar to our own, making it even easier to get into the story without having to learn a bunch of strange geography.

The protagonist, Claidi, is a likeable, if downtrodden, girl who grows emotionally during the story into a likeable young lady. The way she deals with events and other characters is admirable and can serve as a good example for young readers.

The story itself is interesting and Tanith Lee does a fine job keep us guessing as much as Claidi who is really telling the truth, and indeed, what that truth is. The ending is satisfying, yet leaves things open for a continuation of the story, and I found myself wondering “What happens next?”

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NaNoWriMo Week 4!

This is it: the beginning of NaNoWriMo week 4. I know I’m a day late; I was busy writing!
Only 8 days left! If you’re going by strict word count, you should have reached 36,674 words yesterday. But you know, if you are behind, you can still make it. If you’ve only written 5,000 words as of yesterday, you can make it up by writing 5,000 words a day for the rest of the month (including today). Granted, that’s pretty time-consuming, but it’s possible.

The important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it’s a way to help develop the discipline to write every day. Write 2,000 words! Write 200! It doesn’t matter, just get something down. Sure, there are people who use November to crank out a complete story as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve written something every day and keep doing that even past November, then you’re doing it right.

And if you fail to write 50,000 words in November? So what? The second year I tried NaNoWriMo, I barely got 22,000 words before life got in the way and wrecked my momentum. I keep promising myself I’ll get back to that story someday…

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REVIEW – Twitter for Writers: The Author’s Guide to Tweeting Success (Writer’s Craft Book 8) by Rayne Hall

Twitter for WritersI consider myself a fairly proficient Twitter user. I have two accounts (though I limit myself to @hccummings these days) and well over 35,000 tweets under my belt. So, not everything in this book was news to me, but there was still a fair amount of things Rayne Hall covers that I was unaware of.

If you’re an Author/Publisher or an Author just looking to drum up interest in your novels and you’re thinking about using Twitter, you need this book. It explains what Twitter is, how it works, how to use it, and common pitfalls of using Twitter. Sharing her own mistakes, Rayne Hall distills the pros and cons of Twitter into an easy-to-read guide. And believe me, if you’ve ever followed writers on Twitter, many of them make the very mistakes she covers in this book. Don’t be one of those writers. No one wants a feed full of advertisements.

Using Twitter as a marketing tool is difficult and time-consuming. This book will help you make the most of your limited time and help keep you from being a nuisance on Twitter (it’s really easy to do, and most of us are guilty of at least one of the mistakes Rayne Hall talks about).

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Animal Crackers

AnimalCrackers_Poster_04_15_LowI’d like to take some time to talk to you about something a little different today: my friend Scott Christian Sava’s upcoming animated film Animal Crackers. The short version is: a family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a rundown circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.

Animal Crackers features a star-studded cast including Sir Ian McKellen, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Devito, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Patrick Warburton, Tara Strong, Gilbert Gottfried, Harvey Fierstein, Wallace Shawn, and more!

Scott and his family are good friends of my wife and me. In fact, he painted the cover of Zack Jackson & The Cult of Athos for me. He also writes and produces the Dreamland Chronicles webcomic. I’m so happy and excited about the impending release of his film, and I can’t wait to see it. The stills I’ve seen from the production look incredible.

You can follow the film’s progress at Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter.


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NaNoWriMo Week 3

We’re at the mid-point of NaNoWriMo 2015 now. Did you know there are five Sundays in November this year? That’s five Week Beginnings to crank out words.

I can hear some of you now: Five weeks to fail.

No, no, no. It’s not about failing or succeeding. It’s about writing something. Anything. If you’re stuck, create an author-insertion character and rant at length about how sucky your productivity is, then kill them in the next scene. I guarantee you that can get you through a day’s worth of writing quota. You can always edit that part out later.

In fact, if you’re really focused on this whole “I MUST WRITE 50,000 WORDS IN 30 DAYS” thing, then creating quick, non-sequitor scenes using existing characters or new characters can really boost your word count. What you write for NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be formatted perfectly or even make sense in the context of your story, because the point of NaNoWriMo is not to write, edit, and polish an entire novel in 30 days (that’s madness!), it’s to JUST WRITE.

If you’re serious about this writing thing, use November as a way to build habits. Particularly, the habit of writing. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t write everyday, at least, I don’t wright my fiction every day. In fact, I often write in bursts: a bunch of words one week, then nothing for weeks on end, then a month solid of words, words, words. But here’s the secret to that bit of advice: all writing helps you improve, regardless of whether or not its germain to the story you’re composing. You can’t be a writer unless you write. You can’t be an painter if you don’t paint. You can’t be an author if you don’t auth.

Okay, it breaks down a bit there since “auth” isn’t actually a word.

OR IS IT? I’m a writer, I just made it up! Shakespeare got away with it. Of course, who knows, back in the day, he probably had people chastise him for making up words.

“Verily, Shakespeare. Thou canst not just make up words as thy whims see fit.”

“Forsooth, piss off, naysayer.”

Now look at him. We use words made up by Shakespeare all the time: arouse, compromise, frugal, gust, obscene, panders, obsequiously, zany, bump, green-eyed, torture, etc. (from … maybe they’re lyin’). Who knows? Maybe YOU could be the next Shakespeare.

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NaNoWriMo – Week 2

So, how is your NaNoWriMo going?

Well? Poorly? Some where in between?

There’s still time. It’s only week 2.

Maybe you’re panicking. Maybe you didn’t write ANYTHING during week one because that pesky thing called “Real Life” got in the way. That’s okay, it happens.

You still have time.

The fact of the matter is, 50,000 words can be cranked out in a MUCH shorter period of time than 30 days. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re QUALITY words. I’ve seen people who claim to have completed NaNoWriMo by day two (probably, there’s people who say they’ve done it on day one).

Just remember one thing: if you don’t complete your 50,000 words by the end of the month, you still have more words written than you did when the month began. Even if you wrote one sentence, that’s more than most people write for creative purposes in a year.

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REVIEW – Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

MHI coverI tore through this book like a Master Vampire through a Newbie, In other words: faster than more recent books I’ve read, which, to be honest have been few and far between in the last couple of years.

While I think The Chosen One trope has been played out for now, and the whole perfect mate thing was a little contrived (I would have paired Owen with Holly, for example as I think she was a more interesting character than Julie Shackleford), I really enjoyed the story. Urban fantasy is a genre I haven’t read a lot of, but I definitely see the appeal in having fantasy intrude on the real world. It makes it easier to buy in to compared to a world where none of the geography and/or geopolitics are familiar.

MHI reminded me a lot of the Anita Blake series, except without the sex and glorification of vampires. I love vampires as monsters. I hate them as people. I especially enjoyed the twist on orcs and elves in MHI, and I look forward to reading book two. Hopefully, the characters won’t get a significant power upgrade with each book, because they’re already (at least Owen and Julie) a little too perfect, despite their “flaws.” Still, they have fun personalities, and good characters can make an otherwise average book cross the threshold into good or even great, because, as a reader, I tend to connect more with the characters than with any particular plot details.

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NaNoWriMo2015 – It begins! An Indie Author/Publisher’s perspective

It’s that time again! NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Some authors believe it’s a waste of time; nothing good can come out of 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Some authors think it’s great: it builds discipline, it’s fun, you’re writing, creating!

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, go for it! If you don’t, that’s fine too, just don’t crap on other people’s fun. Also, since we turn back our clocks today, you can have an extra hour to write!

Personally, I have no problem with a first draft written in thirty days. Everyone writes at their own pace, after all, and I have seen authors decry the concept of doing 50,000 words in thirty days and in the next breath claim to average 2,000-3,000 words a day (that’s 60,000-90,000 words in a month, folks… more than enough to “win” NaNoWriMo).

I do have a problem with people writing a first draft in thirty days, calling it “done,” and trying to sell it to an unsuspecting public. Unedited work from independent authors gives all indie authors a bad name.

It’s one reason I shy away from calling my work “self-published.” It’s just not true. I have a publishing company (VFF Publishing) of which I am sole proprietor, and I do publish my own work, but I am hardly the only person who works on it. I hire (that means, I PAY) editors, designers, and artists. Each book I publish has at least three or four other paid contractors working on it behind the scenes and two or three volunteers (mostly Beta Readers). Each book is a team effort. For example, in the course of publishing Scars of the Sundering, Book 1: Malediction, I paid Laura K. Anderson for editing services, Lily Yang for cover art (and a few pieces of incidental art for marketing), Eric Hubbel for cover design, Anna Meyer for cartography, and I tried to pay Axel Löfving for heraldry, but he won’t send me an invoice.

The next book in the series will have a similar list of paid contractors. So, it’s not self-publishing in my mind. It’s certainly not fast. If I had wanted to publish my first draft, Malediction would have been released in September of 2014, rather than July 2015.

I am an independent Author/Publisher, and I participate in NaNoWriMo because I find it useful for focusing my energies on what I need to be writing. Frankly, I don’t want you to see what I produce during that time, because I NEED my editors and Beta Readers in order to make what I write better. It’s not cheap, but the results are worth it.

Of course, with all this rambling, I haven’t talked much about what my NaNoWriMo project is this year. As a working author, with projects I want to sell, I alter NaNoWriMo’s goals to fit my needs. I plan to write 50,000 words, but it won’t be a complete story. It will be the last half of the third novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy: Salvation.

I had about half of Salvation written when I had to stop to finish the production of Malediction so I could sell it at Gen Con. There was a lot of family drama around that time (some of which is still ongoing) and changes at my day job, so I never got finish my draft of that book (I didn’t stop writing, though; I had to re-write the opening of Scars of the Sundering: Lament, and I worked on a short story for an anthology that ultimately got canceled, and I wrote a World of Calliome short story for next year’s Gen Con Author’s Avenue anthology). Now that all that is out of the way, I can concentrate on finishing Salvation.

Truth be told, I needed the break. I needed to think about where the story was going and how I was going to end it while staying true to the themes I’d established in Malediction and Lament. I split up my cast of characters in Lament, and while I planned to reunite them by the end of Salvation, I had to figure out a way to do it that wasn’t contrived or forced. In the course of doing so, I came up with a resolution for the series that I think will surprise readers and defy expectations, yet still be satisfying.

So, write NaNoWriMo-ers. Write like the wind and create art! Create it for yourself, because YOU are the only person that matters when it comes to your art.

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