Monday, September 15, 2014

Beyond Price part II; short fiction by Rebecca P Minor

Missed part I? Read it here.

The torches blazed bright even as they burned low, all in a ring around the crowd of cheering
revelers that filled the center of the gypsy camp. Veranna squinted against the glare reflecting from the metal bowls at the stage’s edge, where lamps guttered and cast their glow on the line of dancers. She curtsied for the twentieth time that night, and the five dancers to both her left and right followed suit, though they all rose slowly. Though none of the troupe was as new to a full night of performances as was Veranna, they all looked just as drained as she felt, their gestures sluggish and eyelids heavy. The musky aroma of flowers past their peak mingled with smoke and spilt cider. Veranna wrinkled her nose during the final bow.
“Are they not vision from paradise?” Bodini yelled from the corner of the stage. He swung a substantial, hairy arm toward the troupe, then took a long pull from a flask in his opposite hand.
The crowd roared its agreement.
“And this one,” the caravan master continued as he strode heavily toward center stage. He snaked his arm about Veranna’s waist and yanked her against his side. “There is no caravan that brings greater delight. Show her you love her, eh?”
Many in the throng tossed silver—even gold—coins onto the stage, and Veranna gasped. Already Bodini’s pouch bulged with the coin he had collected in admission to the evening’s performances of sword swallowers, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, and the dance troupe. But coins that hit the stage—those who performed upon it got a share of such earnings. The caravan master beamed while the coins arced past, glowing like shooting stars in the stage lights.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Beyond Price, a short story, part 1 of Many

Authors who blog well--you have my unabashed envy. Those of you who can craft life's little observations into poignant and reflective articles, you truly have a gift I do not. I update this blog out of a personal obligation: I created it, and it deserves to have some sort of continuing life because of that.
But I suck at articles.
And so, today, I bring you a bit of an experiment--the first part of a short story. The whole thing is about 50 pages in all, so if I maintain a steady installment size, this will take between 8 and 10 posts to offer you the whole thing. If people want it, sure, I'll keep posting it. If not, we'll chalk it up as a placeholder until I figure out how to write decent articles or con someone else into doing them for me.

For now, I hope you enjoy Beyond Price, the tale of a half-elven adolescent gypsy and her search for freedom.
Beyond Price, part 1
The singing tone of viol and lyre swelled with a driving tremor of tambourine, and at their
command, Veranna spun on the ball of her bare foot, her arms poised with flourish and her ornamental coin belt jingling. She swayed within the music’s rhythmic embrace, at once lost deep within herself and soaring on ethereal heights. Expression poured though limbs and motion.
A hazy-edged presage filled her mind, and within it, a svelte maiden leapt toward the night sky. The dancer’s ensemble covered only the barest minimum of her curves. A jeweled bodice that left midriff and shoulders bare glittered with every shift of position; a sheer, slit skirt flared from her waist like beams of light. When the dancer cast a flirtatious glance to the roaring crowd of men that filled the showgrounds beyond the stage lip, Veranna snatched a clear glimpse of the performer’s face. Her breath caught. This was no scantily-clad stranger—she watched herself!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Writer Reboot—The Search for Sales

80% of families in the US did not buy a single book over the past year.


If you look up the proliferating infographics available on the internet today, the picture of reading as a pastime isn’t encouraging for authors. Let alone authors of genre fiction. Christian authors of genre fiction? It’s no wonder so many of us are looking at our quarterly royalty checks and laughing in a way that makes the people around us a little uncomfortable.

Is it any wonder, with the statistics,
that bookstores are a dying breed?
It’s all just a matter of numbers. Of the 20% of Americans who bought ANY kind of book last year, how many bought fiction? Not the majority. Of those who bought fiction, how many bought fantasy? Of those who bought fantasy, how many tried something that wasn’t a George R R Martin book? Of that group, how many of them were looking for fantasy, specifically, from a Christian worldview? (Here’s a hint: the overall religious market—fiction and non-fiction—only represents about $2 billion of the $30 billion book sales industry, if my interpretation of Publisher’s Weekly’s financial reporting is to be trusted.)

Suddenly, I begin to see that my expectation of anything better than meager sales is mostly wishful thinking.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m at a bit of a reboot moment with my writing. The Risen Age Archive is in my lap, waiting for me to figure out when, how, even IF I should get it back out to market. The Windrider Saga is on (I hope temporary) hiatus while I make decisions and corrections on Risen Age. (And then it will be Windrider’s turn for the scalpel. Or the sledgehammer. Not sure.)

Writing the stories isn’t enough for me. Call me pedestrian, but I want to sell books. Enough to make some noticeable difference in my family’s bottom line at the end of the quarter. It has become clear to me that if I want to have much of chance of doing this, it’s time to cast a wider net than the CBA crowd.

What this doesn’t mean for me is that I intend to suddenly “scuff up” my stories for some kind of perceived general market palette. Frankly, while my stories contain a religious system, that system has already proven too loose in its interpretation of real-world Christian theology to get a pass with readers who prefer fiction that exhibits a mirror-image biblical worldview. (Which is fine. To each his own. We live in an age where we can choose what we want to read, and that’s awesome.)

Will my stories smell too much like church to secular readers? I have no idea. They haven’t reached that population yet. This broader audience I’m looking for may chew me up and spit me back out on the doorstep of the CBA, for all I know.

What I do know is that I want to keep writing the stories that are rattling around in my imagination, and I want as many people to enjoy them as possible. And that means taking a chance at putting them in front of people who will mock me for my effort and my convictions.

For the sake of the Realm Makers conference, which I intend to keep administrating as long as people want it to happen, I keep looking for that writer who will serve as my connection to the Christians who are writing for the secular market. It’s occurring to me—maybe I’m not supposed to find him or her. Maybe I’m supposed to BE that author.

Because sometimes there’s no way to know if you belong in a place until you go and try to live there.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Conquering Conference Gut

I have struggled with the momentum-killing effects of ulcerative colitis for 25 years, but never is it so bothersome as when I’m trying to attend writer’s events. I’ve not-so-affectionately renamed my flare-ups “Conference Gut,” because of the four conferences I’ve attended and the two I’ve run, I have never been able to attend a single one of these without the painful, exhausting, and stressful symptoms of my ailing gut rearing their heads. As I prepare to attend this year’s Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’sconference (a last minute decision, because those are always supportive of digestive health!) my symptoms are getting a solid head start.

Frankly, I’ve had enough.

We went out to enjoy some sunshine at the lake on Sunday afternoon, as I’ve been feeling extremely sunshine-deprived this summer, due to my work schedule and my self-imposed butt-in-chair time as I press toward finishing The Risen Age Archive. My stomach has been up and down for the past few days, so I tried to choose reasonably digestible foods—or so I thought—for the trip.

Well, apparently, I chose poorly, because by the time we were schlepping our stuff back to the car, I was having a full blown intestinal spasm. In times like that, I just pray to be able to get to the comfort of my own home before disaster strikes.

On the drive home, in addition to trying very hard not to writhe in pain like Luke Skywalker being Force Lightning-ed by the Emperor, I suddenly broke out in hives. Hives? What the heck? That has never happened to me before. Was it something I ate? My sunscreen? Was it the probiotic powder I took on Saturday having some kind of weird interaction with the sun? It didn’t matter, it was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. The flipper of some kind of ticked-off switch in my psyche.

I’m sick of being sick. I don’t want to plan everything at this weekend’s conference around having a swift exit, in case my gut stages a revolt. I’ve got stuff to do, and my flare-ups are getting in the way.

So, this week, I’m combining a very bland diet/semi fast with the elimination of some things from my diet, to include:
  • Soda: I quit this periodically, and routinely fall off the wagon. There’s no justifiable reason to drink Coke. I can admit this. The quitting is hard, though. I was raised in the late 70’s/80’s. If we weren’t drinking Coke it was Kool-Aid. Plain water is still a struggle for me.
  • Caffeine in general: This is going to be interesting (pronounced: miserable), given my fatigue issues that are also a battle in the health war. I expect my productivity at work may suffer this week. Thankfully, the crush of my very busy season is over. I can make no guarantee about the quality of conversation any of my coworkers will get from me. I will probably be napping during my lunch.
  • Gluten: There are people in my life who have been leaning hard on me to cut out gluten and “just see if it helps” for a long time. I will admit—I love bread. I will be very sad if it turns out eliminating gluten proves to make a huge difference. But I will also be happy to have some control over what my digestive system is doing.

So, I’ll probably be living on vegetables, rice, and water this week, while hunting around for some form of protein that isn’t Frankenfood.

If all goes well, I will have a quieted gut for this coming weekend, and I will be lucid and well-armed for my dastardly plans of:
  •  recruiting accomplices for the next Realm Makers conference,
  •  making a good impression with my art portfolio,
  •  and maybe getting some professional advice on how to reboot my writing endeavors.

Because you can’t do any of that stuff curled in bed, cursing the Alfredo sauce you know you shouldn’t have eaten.

Here’s to better health for me down the road—because ultimately, I want to serve my readers and other writers, and being healthy is a significant piece of that puzzle.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Publishing Independence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for an author to dissolve the contractual bands which have connected them with a traditional publisher . . .

As of last night, I’ve reached another milestone in this journey people call “being an author,” though I can’t really say this is one that I’m ready to break out the balloons and confetti over. What milestone?

My first book has been taken out of print.

Many of you have walked beside me on the journey of working on the book that was once called The Sword of the Patron. You saw me through the book’s involvement in Marcher Lord Select, through edits, and angst, and the excitement of interest from four separate publishers/agents (in 2011). Many of you supported the Kickstarter for the book’s release. You read and left reviews. You shared a sympathetic laugh with me as I received royalty checks over a few quarters. (At least the book earned out, right?) Thank goodness for mobile deposit, because some checks are hardly worth the gas to take them to the bank! I feel bad my publisher even spent the postage to send them.

But sometimes, you reach a point where it becomes clear that you and your publisher aren’t doing each other any good. The situation is far too complex to be able to point to one party or another to say why a book is struggling. Because the fact is, it’s probably a mixture of successes and failures on everyone’s part. But because it’s my nature, I will assume the full weight of responsibility for my book’s challenges; and therefore, I’m taking the initiative to make something better of the situation.

Now, to be clear, I’m the one who initiated the out-of-print status of Curse Bearer. The more I have looked at the state of my pursuit of writing, the clearer it has become that I have a bit of a reboot on my hands. Mostly due to my naiveté, I have gotten a stutter-start in this race, which leaves me with a story I want to see to its conclusion, but have no hope of seeing succeed though the traditional publishing model. Why can’t it?

Wrong publishing relationship—it’s not you, it’s me . . .
I won’t get into details here, but sometimes you and a publisher just turn out to be a bad fit. I’m an exacting pain, I can admit that. I’ve come to discover that I have too hard an entrepreneurial streak to comfortably leave some things in other hands.

Previously published, not-so-successful property
My understanding, from the publishing professionals I’ve bothered with this, pressing them for answers they kind of didn’t want to give (since who wants to be the bearer of bad news, after all?) is that in terms of traditional publication, The Risen Age Archive was “dead in the water” if I didn’t want to continue the relationship with Curse Bearer’s publisher. What acquisitions editor in his right mind would take on a Book Two of a series where Book One fizzled? If the series is going to gain any momentum, I need to start over, and it’s up to me.

Thankfully, the publishing climate is conducive to authors doing such things. Ten years ago? I would have had
Ironically, it may be doing so AGAIN this fall.
Just not with a Kickstarter attached.
to call this series a “lesson learned” and move on. I consider this an opportunity to see if I can make something bigger of a series that virtually only my friends and family know about. I can correct issues I’m unhappy with in the first book. Edit the whole thing, if I think it will help. It all boils down to elbow grease, and I’m not afraid of that.

So what’s the plan now?
Well, that’s still formulating. I’ve been hard at work on the continuation of the next Risen Age book, which I’m hoping to get out to a handful of test readers in a couple weeks. It’s a big, fat book, pushing 150,000 words at present. Now, lots of people say, “That’s cool, epic story, epic page count.” Artistically, I agree.

However, the reality is, the Print on Demand model drives the price per copy really high when the page count grows, which makes it REALLY hard for an independent author to offer a competitive price on a paperback book. This means the possibility of two books to follow Curse Bearer is (back) on the table. No decision made—I know half the world will cry foul if I release one big book, the rest will frown if I release two. In the next couple weeks, I plan to look at a breaking point between the books and decide if it’s just too unfair to make readers wait a few months between the middle section of the story and the conclusion, and whether that pain is greater than the pinch of a $20 paperback.

What I do know is that I will need to re-release Curse Bearer simultaneously with whatever book I choose to have follow it (middle installment or epic conclusion.) I’m batting around the idea of including my Kickstarter illustrations in the ebook version of the re-release. Plus a million other ideas. If I seem to disappear until late fall, you know it’s because I’m buried in edits.

All in all, I want to thank each of you for journeying with me thus far. Although I am overwhelmed today (let’s be honest), I’m also optimistic.  In the words of Jeff Gerke, now is a great time to be in the publishing business. My prayer is that I prove worthy of the test of stepping out in this daunting-but-burgeoning direction.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Teaser Chapters of the Sequel to Curse Bearer

Technology has not been my friend today.

We had power outages around my area last night due to gusty thunderstorms, and it's pretty amazing how much havoc a power outage can wreak, even after it's been resolved. All things digital I have touched today have been in a collective snit.

My goal had been to create a new page on this blog as a home for some teaser chapters for my upcoming book, the sequel to Curse Bearer. However, since that page doesn't seem to want to create a working tab on my blog homepage, I'm going to share these chapters with a work-around. We shall see if Google Drive is conspiring with the rest of my web and data sources to derail yet another attempt at this.

So, if you're interested to see how I think Danae Baledric is going to manage after having nabbed a supernatural sword from the evil fiend who had it, follow this link:
The Risen Age Archive, Book II: First Three Teaser

If the planets align, that should take you to the prologue and first two chapters of the book currently known as The Algondolith Portal. We shall see what ends up on the cover, given the wary response my writer friends have given me about having a "weird" word in the title.

I hope you enjoy! If you do, or if you don't, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Recipe? What? I thought this was a writing blog...

Because I'm in the process of trying to make better use of a couple of my social media outlets (namely, Pinterest and Twitter) I'm going a little off the usual grid here and posting something completely unrelated to writing or fantasy or geekdom or faith. A recipe for pasta salad.

I suppose you could relate it to writing because, hey, writers eat too. And they probably want to eat things that are easy and tasty so that we can get back to the keyboard full and happy. Because when we're not, we do awful things to characters. Wait--we do that anyway. Theory busted.

Well, devoid of any connecting theory, here's the recipe some friends have been asking about. If I'm lucky, I can also figure out how to "pin" it over at the very mysterious hub of distraction.

Pizza Pasta Salad
This is pre-addition of the pasta and dressing,
 but the ingredient colors make me happy.
A Lowbrow Yum Recipe by Becky Minor

  • 3/4 of a box of your favorite pasta, cooked and cooled
  • One envelope Good Seasons Italian dressing, prepared per package instructions, but make sure you use olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Alternately, use whatever bottled balsamic vinaigrette you like, but it's better if you do the "mix you're own" kind. I'm not judging.
  • One bell pepper, color of your choice, diced
  • One can black olives (more if you're like me and eat half of them while you're preparing everything else)
  • One tub of pearl style fresh mozzarella (if you can't get the pearl style, just get a ball of fresh and cube it small. But the pearls are cuter.)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups pepperoni, diced. (Diced pepperoni actually comes pre-done in a bag, if you're pressed for time and you can get it. Slices tend to stick together, which I find annoying)
  • One container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced. (This is optional. Especially if you are serving it to Scott Conant on Chopped, since he will berate you for even considering raw red onion as an ingredient. I think he was beaten by red onions as a child.)

Combine all the ingredients. Consume right away, or chill for later. It's best served right around room temperature.