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Getting Back on the Horse.

swearing_3421243Last week I wrote a rather depressing blog post about the ups and down (mostly the downs) of being an independent author.  It was nasty, dark, and true. But is also awoke something in me. Something that I hadn’t really had in a long time.

The writing muse.

Muses are funny is the way they come and go.  They also have a weird way of being awoken at the most interesting of times. But this little muse snuck right in and wacked me over the head with a frying pan.  I’m not sure why a writing muse has a frying pan, but it worked at getting my attention.

My writing days started way back. But the real passionate writing that I enjoyed started in 2003.  I was finding myself stressed out beyond belief.  And escaping to the world I had created, the world that Dissolution of Peace is set in, relaxed me.  It relaxed me to a point that I could sleep well and face the next day ready for those challenges.  I’d put down 2,000 to 4,000 words a day and I loved doing it.  And when I did it, I had a small hope that someone else would read it and find themselves escaping into my world to relax.  But that was never the point, the point was a lot simpler.

I wrote for me.

There was that damn frying pan to the back the head again. That was what the muse had came to lecture me about. I wrote to relax, and now here I was stressing about how to get more book sales.  I’m stressing about the very thing I used to do for fun. And if I was no longer doing it for fun, what’s the point?

Every story teller just wants to be heard (or read in this case).  And I still very much want readers to escape into my worlds and relax.  But I have always written for me first.  And fortunately this muse, and the frying pan, reminded me of that.

So I started a new novel project the next day. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the next book in the Dissolution of Peace series.  Though I think that will be my first ever NaNoWriMo project.  I digress.

This new project has spoken to me for a while and it touches very deep on some of my own life trials and tribulations.  And, it has had me writing 2,000 or more words a day.  Yesterday alone I put down over 6,000 words. And you know what, it feels good to be writing to relax again.  It feels good to be telling a story that makes me happy, and it feels great to get back on the horse.  If I keep my focus on what I love, my books will eventually sell themselves.  And, eventually readers will find relaxation in the pages of my worlds.

The best part is, I feel better.  I feel like I can take on the world with my keyboard and computer.  And the muse has finally put the frying pan away.

And with my new positive outlook, something did come my way.  Samantha LaFantasie, another author is going to do an Author interview with me in October.  And she got me thinking.  Why can’t I post things on my blog to help out other authors?  So I will. Starting in August.  I will be posting some things for other authors.  If you want to join in, you can contact me here.  Just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

Here is what I am thinking:

1st Friday of every month: Author Interview

2nd Friday of every month: Guest Post

3rd Friday of every month: Book Review/Feature

4th Friday of every month: Author Spotlight (Brief Bio, List of Titles and upcoming releases)

This is free.  I won’t charge anyone for doing this, I just want to help promote others because that is what we should be doing.  So Please sign up to participate.  I’ll do my best to accommodate everyone.  It will likely have to be on a first come, first serve basis.  But we will see how it all goes.  So head on over and contact me.  Won’t cost you anything. It just might be what gets you back on your own horse.

Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few teasing posts about my next novel project.  I’ve teased with a few hints, surprises, and more.  Well the teasing can come to an end, I have decided to finally let the cat out of the bag.

My next novel, titled Volition Agent, is a fast paced SciFi Thriller set in the near future.  The highly secretive Agency has a Volition program.  They take everyday people who are physically fit and recruit them as Volition Agents.  They are implanted with a control chip so that a highly trained “handler” can control their every action.  If a Agent is captured the loss to the Agency in minimal.  Agents are sent on missions from intelligence gatherings to assassinations.  Volition Agent followed Lexia, one of the agents.

Here is a tentative blurb:

Lexia Santarelli is part of a top secret group of Volition Agents.  These untrained, unremarkable, everyday people are recruited by the agency to be literally controlled by their “handler” through a device implanted in their necks.  It is an exciting life, and despite some of the annoyances, Lexia enjoys it.

That is until the Agency decides to let Lexia take the fall for a mission gone wrong.  Her link with her handler, Lance is severed.  Suddenly Lexia finds herself alone, unprepared, and hunted by the very people she trusted.

With few clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally Lexia sets out to discover what really happened on that botched assignment.  Determined to set right the wrong she created, nothing can stand in her way.  Not even the Agency itself.

I have some great cover art for this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.  So here it is:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons Photography

KIPThe cover art is shot and designed by Kristin Irons (website).  I’ve worked with Kristin before, she designed the logo for Plasma Spyglass Press. Kristin is a very talented photographer and when I explained what I was looking for she said she had an idea.  The next week was a bit of a whirlwind.  Kristin found a model, the very beautiful and talented Joy Anna, to play Lexia in a photo shoot.  She then teased me relentlessly with images from that photo shoot before showing me the image she had in mind for the cover art.  I am a very picky and hard to work with person when it comes to cover art, but she kept taking my ideas and reworking them until we came up with the cover above.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled by it.

Let me tell you why this cover is so special to me.  This is the first time I’ve had anyone “play” one of my character in any way.  Joy Anna, whose modeling pictures I had only seen briefly before this, jumped into this project head first.  I understand they captured a ton of images and I’ve only seen a few of them. As a writer, I was excited to see what might come from this.  I’ve never met, or even talked to Joy Anna but I thank her for her time because the results are absolutely amazing.

A big heartfelt thanks to Joy Anna, Kristin, and her assistant William Harris.  So many folks use stock art, or stock photos to make custom cover art.  But I have a real custom cover for this novel.  Please take a moment to check out the people that helped with this cover, give them a like, follow, or whatever else to show them some support.  Kristin Irons: Facebook, Twitter, Website  Joy Anna: Facebook William Harris: Flickr

This is the first story I have written where it had a title before I ever wrote it.  The whole idea came from hearing the word volition and it’s meaning; the ability to make a choice or decision.  So Volition Agent was an easy enough title for me to come up with.  I think it works well given the themes in this novel.

So when is the release date for Volition Agent?  One hasn’t been set just yet.  But I have a deadline of the first week of June 2013.  So expect to see it no later than this.  I hope to have it out a little sooner, but you can’t rush these things.  I’ll be sending it out for Beta Readers in the first two weeks of April.  Then my editor will get this.  I’ll be working with a new editor this time, since Robert is booked up for the foreseeable future.  As always, watch this blog, my Twitter and Facebook for updates.

I’ll leave you with a few other images from the photo shoot:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Editing (and why you need an Editor)

I am blogging a lot later tonight because I spend my day time editing Dissolution of Peace.  Though I finally went through all my editors notes, I am not finished.  My editors made nearly 3,000 line by line comments on my manuscript and also provided me with four full pages of comments and suggestions.  I still have 70 to correct, but I made the decision to fix what was easiest first.  The points of story and character, I’ll go back and review.  It was a lot of work just to correct those other 2930 comments, but many of those were punctuation mistakes, grammar mistakes, and typos.

Grammar is a touchy issue with me.  It is also a pit fall of mine.  I’m not afraid to mention that.  But I do become incredibly grouchy when grammar mistakes are pointed out to me, especially in social settings.  And while a few simple mistakes may not ruin a story for a reader, major slip ups will.  And a pile of minor slip ups can make a mountain that becomes distracting.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and for that reason I dreaded reading these comments.

But if grammar bothered me, I was more worried that the editor would have listed a huge amount of plot problems.  Or tell me he hated the story line all together.  Thankfully I didn’t get that.  There were even some plot points I was worried about that my editor made no comments on.

But in the end my editor caught 3,000 mistakes (in his opinion) that my three beta readers missed.  That is 3000 things that were not brought to my attention before I hired an editor.  And this is exactly why you need to hire an editor, especially for your longer projects.  I don’t hire an editor for my short stories, it doesn’t make financial sense to me.  But I will hire an editor for all of my novellas and novels.

Beta readers help you find those plot mistakes, story flow problems, and gauge overall reader enjoyment.  Editors break out the find tooth comb and check for all the little mistakes (and even some big ones).  Think of Beta readers as sand paper, they smooth out the story.  And Editors are polish, they make the story shine.

There are some things you have to look for when you hire an editor:

First, do they have any editing experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask them what they have edited.  Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for recommendations.  And do a search for information about that editor.  Check out their website and other people’s posts about them.  Ask for references.  Remember you are hiring them.

See if you can get a sample.  Many editors will provide a small sample of their work.  Some won’t but I’d suggest they do.  Even if it is just a few pages.  If not, but you know they are a good editor.  Find out what you get for the money you are paying.  Some editors charge a lot of money just to give you a summary of thoughts.  While others will offer line by line edits.  Always ask if it includes proofreading.  Some editors don’t consider proofreading part of editing.  It is semantics if you ask me, but that is why you should always check.

Find out a deadline.  Make sure the editor gives you a timeline.  Don’t dump hundreds of dollars on an editor that plans to take an excessive amount of time on your manuscript.  You may have to pay more if you want a rush on your edits, and you may pay less if you allow the editor some extra time.  Again, establish that up front.

Last find out if your editor will continue to help you if you fail to understand his notes.  Some editors charge for the markups and a separate fee if you want further opinion later.  Others are willing to help you through the whole process up to publication for no extra charge.

Tips for handling editor markups:

Just like when you get feedback from Beta Readers, the feedback from an editor does not mean you have to change something.  There were a number of suggestions my editor made, that I won’t be changing.  Most of these are a simple matter of opinion.  But, remember you are hiring an editor to provide you a professional opinion.  So if you are not sure you agree with an editor remark, look it up for yourself.  For example, my editor marked that “sickbay” should be “sick bay”.  I won’t be changing that because my research shows that many naval traditions refer to it as one word, sickbay.  So I will keep it that way.  My editor is not wrong for marking that, I just prefer it the one way.  The plus side is that by him pointing it out, I realized that in some parts of my manuscript I had it as two words.  So for consistency I fixed that.

That being said, never ignore an editor’s comments.  They marked it for a reason.  Good editors will also explain why they marked it that way.  Mine did.  I was also able to research it myself.  I learned from it and now I know a lot more than I did in the beginning.  There were a few times I thought I had done something right, but when I went and looked it up I was wrong.  Don’t ignore a comment, learn from it even if you don’t change it.

Next, bit of advice is not to be overwhelmed.  It is pretty scary when you see all those red markups on your manuscript.  At first I didn’t really want to move forward on the edits.  I was intimidated by the volume of notes.  But I told me self I’d start working my way down.  Anything that required extra thought I would skip.  I would fix all the typos, punctuation, and grammar errors and other simple fixes.  That got the ball rolling.  And soon you realize that you repeat a lot of mistakes.  For me, punctuation at the end of dialogue was a pit fall for me.  That was probably the number one punctuation fix for me.  A few spelling errors.

And a lot of repeated words.  When I started to find out my editor was marking repeated words, I was a bit mad.  I didn’t see the importance in it.  I thought it was something trivial and a matter of opinion.  But when I got back my manuscript I found that my characters “smile” a lot.  They “stated” everything.  And they “look” all over the place.  And a lot of the time I used all three of those words as a filler.  Something a simple “said” would work for.  Or sometimes the sentence could be removed with no effect on  the story.

My last tip for handling big project edits is not to read while you edit.  If I had reread my entire novel while working on the edits it would have taking far longer.  I simply went from comment to comment and corrected what was wrong.  I only read the area of the comment to get the context.  It helped me power through those thousands of comments leaving the real meat of the edit there.  I will now read through the novel and as I hit the comments left behind I can decide how to best correct those.

I don’t need an editor.

If you are writing a novel (or even a novella) you are wrong.  You may plan to publish the traditional way, or you may plan to self publish.  Either way you need an editor.

If I was submitting my manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, I’d have just submitted them a manuscript with 3,000 errors on it.  That is 3000 things the publisher will notice.  I think my current manuscript would have a better chance of being picked up simply because I correct so many errors.

If I self published my manuscript, it would have went to readers with 3,000 mistakes on it.  That could very well add up to low sales.  And the number one way a self published author gets (or loses) sales is word of mouth.  There is rarely a large marketing budget for the self published author.  So hiring an editor is the best way to invest what little money you have available to improve your work.

Every writer needs an editor.  At least one.

Who did I use?

I am sure you wonder who I used for my editor.  I used Robert Wilson, editor for Nightscape Press.  Robert is a self published author of multiple top rated novels and novellas, including the only Vampire novel I have truly enjoyed: Shining in Crimson. Robert was also an editor for Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology and is a freelance editor.  His rates are reasonable (you can contact him about that).  His work is very in-depth.  He even took time to look up facts about how military ranks are capitalized, since this was his first story that dealt with so many ranks.  I think that speaks volumes right there.  He took the time to make sure he has it right.  He provided me broad notes and line by line edits/proofreading.  As I mentioned he took the time to point out repeated words.  He did this by highlighting them a different color than the comments, and that was really helpful.  It made them stand out and I really saw how much I was using some words.  Overall, I highly recommend him.  And I will use him again (provided he can stand working with such a needy writer again).