Friday, January 27, 2023

a quick update on print books

I've been working hard on formatting and setting up print books, but it's just not what I expected. I'm appalled at the poor quality of paperback on-demand books. Once upon a time, covers used to be a heavier card stock, but now they're far too lightweight. I've requested more than enough print jobs for my day jobs over the years, so I understand paper weights and qualities. I've also been seeing so much crookedness in how the paperback books are physically cut that I don't feel comfortable selling them.

For Forgotten Worlds, I'm going to stick with the hardcover omnibus collections on BN but will keep up the omnibus paper collections on Amazon, so I can price them much lower. Just be aware that the paperbacks are not of a very good quality, no matter where I have them printed (LSI vs. Amazon KDP). 

Stick with the hardcover collections if you want the stories in print. Unfortunately, I can only make those available from Barnes and Noble.

I'm going to have to figure out how I want to deal with this on the other series, if I want to move forward with printed books with those. Playing with different print options from different sources is not encouraging.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

progress on Forgotten Worlds Book 16


Writing on Book 16 is progressing well since I last reported the steps in writing-rewriting iterations. It found its feet, so to speak. There are pieces to balance, such as timing of events in the story (the "beats") and the nuances that flesh out the main plot; but overall, I have the setting established, some new world-building items to sprinkle in, which is always fun, and meaningful episodic characters.

In fact, although the old original writing of my base story of Nik and Ann is gone (over thirty years ago since I wrote their original story), I still remember pieces. In Book 16, meaningful for me but new to anyone else, is the mention of some secondary characters from the original two-book series I wrote way back as my first ever completed novels. Thank goodness they were never published back then!

Like Ann and Nik, these other characters are different. I've matured in my understanding of the world, which has changed a lot in my lifetime, and in the craft of writing. In that, I've realized all my errors of when I started out writing and why it was so bad back then that I've destroyed all copies of those first stories, although I never forgot the characters I created.

These introduced episodic characters are also Paxons, but some who wanted out in the original story and in this are already out, having been helped by Seska to disappear, along with dozens of others. Book 16 is about Seska, but more from the perspective of those she actually helped. It's a different way of revealing her background and what she did, rather than through her eyes and memories, although some of that is sprinkled in too.

I don't take important supporting characters for granted, but some mean more to me than others. I love that I have been able to integrate those first scrapped story ideas into this new universe. Writing this series is bringing me full circle to the start of my writing journey.

It's amazing how everything has come to fruition after three decades of writing. The original Starfire Angels book was twelve years in the making, and I thank the readers who loved Elis and Raea for pushing me to continue, because now it's become something bigger than I ever imagined.

I hope this inspires some creative minds out there not to rush with publishing just because you think your story is perfect, which it may or may not be. Sometimes the best ideas come only after letting them simmer for some time. I'm not saying you have to wait three decades. What I am saying is don't give up. Put the story aside and move on to other ideas. When the time is right, you'll figure out the flaws and what's missing. The wait will have been worthwhile, because you'll have something far richer to give to the world.

I hope you enjoy immersing yourself in reading as much as I do in writing it!

----------------

It's never too late to start. Books 1-13 are available now:

1 - A New Beginning

2 - The Rule of Yonder

3 - Vault of the Celestials

4 - In Darkness, Light

5 - The Destruction of Walls

6 - Disposition of Dreams

7 - Remnants

8 - Racing the Orast Belt

9 - Ferious

10 - Dragon and Fury

11 - Voices in the Dark

12 - Messages

13 - Soul Shadow

Coming soon:

14 - Unbroken Bonds

These and my other books can all be found at melanienilles.com



Monday, January 9, 2023

a horse update

I haven't mentioned my horse here in a while. Buddy turns 10 this year and I've now had him for 7 years as of October 2022.

Spring 2022, still a bit fuzzy with
what was left of his winter coat

He has come so far in the last year that I'm more excited than ever to work with him this spring. He's been such a flighty boy, but since this past summer, around a year since I brought him to a boarding facility closer to me than my parents' farm, he's really settled down. Most horses hit that between 3-4 years. Buddy--9 years. Now, he's going on 10 and is finally in that good spot mentally.

I've been told that he's become quite the herd boss, which takes some confidence, even chasing around new horses or lower hierarchy horses in his pasture gelding herd. I've noticed he's not so afraid of things anymore, even going up to something that he's not sure about to check it out. But he has his moments still, especially when air pressure drops. All horses get stupid in the head to some degree when the air pressure drops.

Buddy will never be a fancy show horse, but he gives me 110% of his effort... except when I ask for a right lead. Every once in a while, he doesn't want to step under and then has to give a little buck when I ask for the right lead. It can't be too easy, right? Aside from that, I've always said that he makes up for his lack of athletic ability in what he has for heart.

His dressage work took a huge leap forward since one riding lesson last summer in particular that reminded me to let go of my fear of a runaway, which is unlikely with him but has happened to me. I had to let him go forward. That helped him a lot in stretching through his topline and relaxing under saddle. I just have to remember to let him move forward and turn him on a tighter circle to sit him down if he gets too fast.

Now, I think he's ready for something new. I wanted to do this last year, but couldn't find the saddle in stock, which is just as well. We clearly still had some issues to work out in our dressage work.

Some people spend thousands of $$ on gaming stuff. Me (and any equestrian)... new saddle. Riders collect saddles like gamers collect controllers, headsets, and chairs. However, I don't need many saddles when I have a Wintec, now two (my old first dressage saddle and now a new general purpose for jumping and groundwork), since they're adjustable to most horses by changing out the gullet plate. The problem is when you have a very wide horse. Putting in the extra wide plate is quite the wrestling match with the saddle.

I also have my high-end dressage saddle (not adjustable) that I bought for a previous horse almost nine years ago and which also fits Buddy, by some perfectly random chance. Saddles never fit the same horses the same way and this did require a teeny bit of thin shim padding on a special half-pad to fit him right, but otherwise it's perfect for him.

I just bought my second Wintec, a general purpose, which arrived today, and I've finished the wrestling match of changing the gullet plate to what I know fits Buddy. I look forward to starting him on some jumping this spring. I hope it builds his confidence even more under saddle and that it helps him think more about sitting back on his haunches, as well as adjusting his stride, although the dressage work and our trail riding does much of that already. Mostly, the jumping will add some change to our riding and something to help his confidence go further, as well as mine. I haven't done any hunter/jumper work since switching to dressage over fourteen years ago. It will be fun to get back to my beginnings in english riding. I'm not as young as I was back then, so this will be interesting.

This summer will be a new adventure with my horse.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

A quick note... a delay (blame the writing process and being devoted to the series)

Forgotten Worlds Book 14 will not be released until I get Book 16 written. And right now, that means rewriting until I feel like I have the book I want. That means that I'm likely not looking at releasing Book 14 until March/April 2023.

I started with an idea outlined some time ago. Then, I wrote Book 13 in a similar style. So, I scrapped that original idea for Book 16. Start over, Idea #1, start writing.

Not quite what I wanted but some useful ideas. Idea #2--Revise that first part because ideas for the next few chapters need to fit.

Still not quite right. The story is beginning to form, but needs adjustments.

Idea #3... Rewrite from Chapters 4 onward. Setting is better, but too blah, no action. For goodness sake, I have Ann and L'Ni working together. I have to do something exciting with those two, right? Some good ideas in that new setting, but back to the drawing board--change one of the parameters.

Idea #4... Parameter changed at chapter 7. Aha! Now, the stakes are increased. Let's see how this goes.

I don't like to rewrite an entire book if I can figure out what's going wrong in the first draft process. It saves time overall and frustration, although this is frustrating enough.

I see it visually as something like this:


It's been a bit of a progression of iterations, as you can see. Each rewrite tends to build on the last idea. I hope this third time is the charm and that I have it down to what the plot needs to be so no more major rewrites are needed. This should establish the first part of the story and set the tension pretty high so I can move this along at a fast pace with lots of action.

The problem with this book is that I changed my initial plan and was left with just a rough idea, which is developing as I go (pantsing on a general plan). Luckily, I pretty much have Book 17 all planned out and intend to stick to it. Let's hope I can catch up on writing time with that one.

I have a high expectation for each book and want it done right to my satisfaction. For those who like the series, you clearly like what I like. I write because I want to tell a good story, not just to write. I need each story in the series to meet my expectations and sometimes that means delays in publishing. I'm so glad I'm not on a set schedule, which is also why I stopped setting up preorders.

Let's see where this iteration leads.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Print books available

What a nightmare!

I hope people like the print formats, because it's been blood and sweat and lots of hair-pulling to get the formatting right. And even when using the cover templates from BN and D2D, they can still have misalignments.

Nevertheless, I have persisted. The first two collections are now available in paperback from print retailers and in hardcover versions from Barnes and Noble.

Hardcover
Paperback also available

Hardcover
Paperback also available

And the first four books of the Forgotten Worlds series are now in paperback (ranging in price from $9.99-$10.99 so far, depending on the book length and printing costs):





If they aren't appearing at a retailer yet, it could be a distribution delay or that I am still working on some formatting issues after seeing proofs.

More will be coming, but it does take time and money to make it happen. I'll continue with adding more individual books next month.

Friday, December 30, 2022

much ado about nothing?

It might surprise some how difficult writing can be, although I think I've talked about this before. I've been having trouble with some of the books in this series.

In this latest case, Book 16 of Forgotten Worlds, it's partly due to what seems to be a sensitivity to synthetic vitamin D that isn't pleasant, no matter the form or source of it. I've never done well with synthetic D, but things get worse over time in my reaction to it. Not taking it leaves me feeling so much better and more focused. I was taking it for a while because of winter being here and my levels tested "low", but trying to improve that was hindering my ability to focus. Adding magnesium as some health practitioners suggest didn't help. Not everyone tolerates D supplements. Lucky me for being one of them. 😕  Not.

I've stopped taking it and am avoiding anything fortified, and the creativity is returning where I was struggling to write. This is my life--hypersensitivity to everything.

That hypersensitivity helps in some ways, especially in understanding body language and the nuances of communication, not just with people but also with animals. I had to learn to understand different species' "languages", but once you know the basics, the subtleties mean much more and communicating is to outsiders "whispering". And with people, you would be surprised by what we convey without realizing. Animals are especially fine-tuned to our body language and vocal cues, prey creatures like horses being particularly sensitive. Learning to communicate with animals in body language has made me more sensitive about the nuances of human body language also, and that helps in communication skills that carry into writing.

Writing is an art of communication with many levels. While most people think about worldbuilding, character-building, or description--the bigger aspects--at the most basic level, it call comes down to communication. One could use the analogy of a computer program; at the basics, it's all 1's and 0's (on and off power) that are arranged in specific orders to form symbols, which combine to form words, which form expressions, etc. There's an element to computer programming that's very technical, as their is with writing, but there is more to communicating than technical details. We're not computers. 

Communication is colored by nuances that most people don't think about, the little things that contribute to those larger aspects mentioned above. Our word choices reflect our level of education, our mood, our confidence in a subject, and so much more. Our voice inflection says a lot about our mood and intent. Accents can give clues about where we're from or perhaps have spent a lot of our lives. We also use body language and gesticulations, which has had whole books written on it (look up kinesiology).  Watch people having conversations and in different situations and how emotions influence their body language. The subtleties of communication are something we are socialized to recognize, but most people don't think about it; they just understand from experience and exposure.

In any communication exchange, there are several levels that alter the meaning. Remember that while you think you know what you're saying, someone else may be interpreting something much different. A good example is the old telephone game--one person whispers to another, who whispers to another... on down the line, until the last person says what they think the message is. It's rarely the same.

This is why no one person reads the same story, despite the exact same words in the exact same order. Part of communication is from the reader's (receiver's) perspective, which can change things. You think you're saying one thing, but what comes out may not quite be what you think, much less how someone else interprets it. The receiver of that communication may interpet it differently through the lens of their own life and experiences. Communication has five layers: the sender's idea -> the sender's expression of that idea -> the actual communication -> what the receiver understands -> the receiver's interpretation. This is simplifying it, but it was a valuable lesson from one of my college courses that has stuck with me as a writer. This is why every detail in communicating is so important, and how we can provide nuance to characters.

This gets used in good writing, and there are whole courses on how best to do so, but I won't get into that here. Expressions and nuances of body language speak volumes about the nature of a character and their intents. Some characters will be more aware than others, like any range of real people. Anyone can learn to pick up on the more subtle cues than normal, but one must be observant and learn to understand what those subtle layers of communication mean in a broad cultural sense and coming from specific individuals within a culture. Even the inflection of one's voice and choice of words are clues that only a careful observer might pick up.

And the writer's voice is also unique in these aspects.

I used to sit and watch people at the mall and study them. It was fun when I and another friend who also writes both sat at the college dining hall and talked about people we saw. We'd even go through personal ads and use the clues to expound on what kind of people they were, just based on language and how they described themselves. It was great character practice that I didn't come to appreciate until much later.

That ability to pick up on the smallest of cues is something we all have, some more than others. Writers, in particular tend to be sensitive individuals to be able to convey these successfully for readers. The art is getting the writer's vision of the story to match the reader's interpretation. It will never be 100%, but that's what makes writing and reading so much fun--it's unique to each individual.

All this came out as I was just trying to say that I'm rewriting the setting on Forgotten Worlds book 16, and it's far more interesting. Unfortunately, rewriting takes time. I was halfway done but struggling because I couldn't focus clearly. Now, after dropping the Vitamin D and changing the setting of the story, it's picking up pace again. Lesson learned.

(You can pick up Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds books 1-13 in ebook format from a number of retailers. Links for the series are listed for each book on my website Forgotten Worlds page. Print editions of individual books are being made available.)