Writing Obstacles into the Story

For my latest manuscript the editing is done and all the interior illustrations. This illustration featured today is for chapter thirty-one. This chapter has Claymore finding exactly where prisoners are being kept.

When I wrote my first book, my editor complained that I had my character solve problems almost instantly. I learned challenging obstacles are important in a story, something everyone seems to know, but I didn’t back then. Obstacles that are quickly overcome are not really obstacles.

Now I am on my third book, and in this particular case, the character Claymore has spent over half the book trying to find where the prisoners of the evil covert organization are. Here he finally gets a peek into the bad guy’s surveillance room and recognizes video feed of one of the prisoners. Now he can switch to planning the rescues.

I am still an amateur writer, but here I have the produced the most serious struggles for the protagonist. I just wonder if I went too far. Nah. It was a struggle for me personally though. I have a tendency to want my character to be masterful or expert. And I still do that to a degree by making the opposition stronger.

I try to have the character to be strong in some things, but also have some significant flaws that cause him or her problems. In Claymore’s case as an example, he is a bit snobby and overconfident. He is a wealthy and clever lawyer. That is one of his weaknesses that make his problems worse. At a point before this illustration, he is living homeless and broke. While he never gets his wealth back, he does become successful again and makes a difference in the lives of the victims.

Chapter 31 final

Sequels as Standalone Novels

Some of the feedback that I got back from an editor on my sequel sci-fi manuscript was that I did not explain particular things, such as various sentient races and what they looked like. This is a sequel, and I did go over those details in my previous books. That means readers of my previous books would not need those explanations again. So it did not occur to me to explain them again. Right?

I suppose the decision is whether the author wants to require the reader to read each book in the series, and in order. I’ve read some first-of-a-series books that ended on a cliffhanger such that none of the major plot lines were resolved. You had to buy the next book to get any resolution. I decided against this. I did design in a series plot line that would require reading all five books to resolve. However, I wanted each book to be a satisfying novel all by itself. So I made special efforts to have a special plot for each book, with the series plot being secondary. This may be an old concept to experienced writers.

Anyway, since I want the Claymore novel to be good and satisfying without reading the previous ones, I took the editors concerns seriously. But then I was still concerned about boring the readers that already know what the races (or other things) look like. So I tried to either be concise, or to explain it in a way that added insight that previous readers wouldn’t already know, or “show, not tell” in a way that was an important to moving the scene or story forward or to show the particular character’s unique personality compared to others of her race. I think I was able to address most of the issues that the editor brought up in a good way.

On another front, the appendix short story for the minor character Jak is almost finished. The guest author just needs to review some editing that was done to his story. It is a backstory that explains some of Jak’s motives and dilemmas. I am excited to include it in my novel.

Tiziana created the illustration below for chapter 23. Here, Claymore, the lawyer accustomed to wealth and power, is penniless and homeless. With help, he has escaped from prison. But the bad guys are monitoring all his accounts. If he spends anything, they will know where he is. The picture shows this scary new experience as he and Phee try to find a place to sleep in a strange city.

Chapter 23 Final version

Short Story Writers

I wanted to update you on the three short story writers I recruited. I had hired three writers to write a short story each about some minor character in my science fiction manuscript for $250 each. For a peek at the formal invitation with requirements and details click ‘Short Story Invitation‘.

So far two of them have picked characters (tentatively). They picked Jak and Lucy. They had been busy with other things when I contacted about this and just recently have been able to turn more of their attention to the project.

I had my manuscript edited by http://www.scribendi.com using their proofreading package (with query letter, etc). It was my first time with scribendi.com for editing, and it was a positive experience. The editor went beyond proofreading and pointed out some important inconsistencies in the story that I intend to follow up on. A great edit even though I was hoping it would be my last one. Below are the comments from the anonymous editor who did the work (not counting the comments in the actual documents). They were glowing and made me feel good.

This is really an outstanding work, well written and well edited. Naturally, I have made grammatical and other editorial changes, but since the text was already in good shape, I’ve focused most of my efforts on spotting inconsistencies, discontinuities, loose ends, and things of that nature. I’ve made copious notes throughout the revised copies of your manuscript, and have also summarized some overall things I noted about the novel at the end of the TRACKED version of the document.

I think I read on your blog that you were looking for short stories from other authors aiming to develop some of the minor characters. This is a great idea and I would love to contribute, though you’re probably looking to finalize content at this point rather than add new material. Nevertheless, reading this novel has really made me curious about the backstories of some characters, and I’d love to help you fill in the blanks.

The attached TRACKED_REVISED version of your manuscript shows all changes and comments. The CLEAN_REVISED version shows just the comments (apart from my overall comments at the end of the work, which I’ve retained in the TRACKED version only). In addition, the query letter aims to pitch your work to your prospects. The synopsis is a concise one-page summary of your novel, highlighting the major points. The outline provides a more detailed summary on a chapter-by-chapter basis, laying out the plot, characters, action points, and ideas in the novel.

It’s been a pleasure to review your novel, and I mean that as fact–it really is an interesting story. Feel free to contact us again for any additional help. You can request me specifically by entering EM1229 in the Editor Code field after uploading your order. If you make further edits to your manuscript and you want us to proofread them, you can just highlight the new/edited sections and include only those in the word count. Thanks for using our services. I wish you success with your novel, and I look forward to seeing it in print.

The editor was wanting to do a short story for me. I was flattered and intrigued. The problem is, scribendi.com enforces the anonymity of their editors. Customers have no way of contacting the editor directly. I am not complaining about their business choices, I am just sad about it in this case. However, once he (she?) saw my meager $250 price tag, he may have changed his mind anyway.

The next illustration I am presenting from Tiziana is chapter 17. Here Claymore is imprisoned by the bad guys. Tiziana went for mood here, capturing the hopelessness of Claymore’s tiny isolated world for the next indefinite amount of time, with death the most probable resolution.

Chapter17 Final

Telling the Same Story Twice

Recently, writing my novel in progress, I needed to write the same scene from my previous book for my current one. Both books are in the same series. I felt this needed to be handled carefully because I didn’t want my previous readers to feel like I was recycling the same material.

The important difference was this time it was a different protagonist. That same party the “Tomek” was at in a previous book was an important event for Claymore’s story as well. The timelines of the two novels overlap. I decided this could be a good thing if I handled it right.

First of all, I focused heavily on Claymore’s perspective of the scene, leaving out all elements that Claymore did not experience, and telling things that happened to Claymore there that were not in Tomek’s story. I did include the moment they both talked to each other but still made it different by filtering it through Claymore’s mind and assumptions.

Also, I had Claymore wondering and guessing about Tomek’s reason for being there, just as Tomek wondered why Claymore was there in the previous story.

But Claymore and his ‘Trident’ crime investigation was the theme of the scene this time around. I used the chapter to move Claymore’s plot forward. Claymore finds an important clue there that propels him into a web of danger soon after.

I expect and hope readers that recognize the party from the earlier novel will enjoy the nostalgia and finally knowing why Claymore was there.

Chapter13 final

Here is the illustration of the scene that Tiziana made for the chapter (chapter 13). Tomek and his girlfriend are looking on as Claymore tries to get someone to dance with him. Can you tell how well he’s doing? (It’s a formal party on Zimvia where gowns were required regardless of gender.)

Introducing Supporting Characters

Supporting characters are important in most stories. Chapter seven of my work in progress introduces Phee, the green girl in the picture who is the major character besides Claymore himself (the other green species). I didn’t just want her to show up for no reason. Her existence on the same planet as Claymore changes the whole story.

Chapter seven was originally the first chapter until I found I needed introduce Claymore and establish his personal conflicts first. Then Phee’s appearance could be all about her, and the significant twist she presents to Claymore’s goals and hopes. Phee represents mystery, and evidence that the criminals Claymore is trying to hunt down are way bigger than a few street hoodlums. He still won’t know how big until later.

Introducing Phee properly was so important to me that chapter seven is probably the most carefully crafted chapter in the book. (Though, I’m still an amateur no matter how hard I craft.)

This illustration for the chapter is another by tizianafruiu of freelancer.com. Here Claymore is trying to research the strange planet Phee came from. I think Tiziana did a good job making research look intense.

chapter-7-final

Claymore and Content Editing

Hello. It has been a while since my last blog post. I have been working on my next novel, tentatively titled Claymore.

A preliminary bit of news is that my published book ‘Baktu’ is now available in audio format.

In my last post I claimed that my last book in the Tomek series was all planned. Well, things change. I decided the plans were too big to fit comfortably in one book, so I planned three books. With the current plan there will be a total of five novels in the series. I have finished the first (sharable) draft of Claymore last Saturday. That does not mean I am ready to publish it. However I am excited by this milestone because it means I can start dragging in help in the form of content editors.

I have been noticing fiverr.com, and decided to try a sample of the service from two specific content editors that are sellers there. For a sample I submitted my first chapter of Claymore to each of them.  The chapter is between 1500 and 2000 words. One cost me $10 and the other was $20. Both of the editors turned out to be good. I want to share one of the results here, in case you want to see what a good content editor does to your draft. Click here: ClaymoreChapter1_developmental_edit_CateHogan

Now I want to sent in my full manuscript for content editing, but I need to fix my chapter 1 first, based on the editor’s input.

When I send in one of my precious documents for editing, I usually go through stages. I don’t know if these stages are typical of all authors (who use content or developmental editing) but I will list mine anyway:

  1. Almost immediately after I submit it, I am impatient to get the results. I monitor my email  several times a day. I am tempted to contact the neighbor girl (when I hire her) or check guru.com, freelancer.com or fiverr.com (if I hired services from there) several time a day, and sometimes I give in to the temptation.
  2. I get the manuscript back and read all the comments and notes the editor made, with feverish anticipation.
  3. And then I feel crushed, deflated. The evil editor found flaws. They have implied that my precious words, that I worked so many months on, of are  defective. You won’t feel that when you read mine because you haven’t given birth those darling  words. I even start feeling rebellious. What to editors know anyway? What is so special about their opinion? I am exaggerating. The editor is usually polite about it, and they do sprinkle in compliments.
  4. I think about it. For a full book manuscript I ponder a whole day on it. I start to understand what they are talking about, and understand why those flaws weaken the story. I start seeing how the book could be so much better if I make specific adjustments to address the various issues they pointed out.
  5. And now I am excited. I can’t want to add all those improvements.

In the specific content editor’s notes attached to this blog, some things you will see are where the editor simply misunderstood. And that is good information too. I don’t want the reader to misunderstand. For example, the editor complained that I had Ramos (the human) looked down to talk to Claymore. Since Claymore has four arms he should be taller, right? No. Navinos have always been shorter than humans in the series. So I need to clarify that somehow in chapter 1. There was another item that was a simple misunderstanding.

Another specific item, and this one is a big deal, is that Claymore is not properly motivated. The reader does not have a sense of why Claymore would take risks, or why helping Phee would interest him enough to make sacrifices. This, I decided was deadly important. Sure Claymore wants law and justice for all (like I do in real life, so I automatically assume the reader has the same feelings). But is that enough? Even if is  a valid motivation, it is not specific enough. (Like she pointed out, there are lots of injustices in the news. What is so special about Phee’s situation?) And even that were his only motivation, I have not properly shown enough of Claymore’s background to show why. I am not sure all of this motivation needs to be established in chapter one, but I think I will try to do it in a prologue + chapter 1.

In any case I am planning on giving this serious attention. I now have planned something very specific about Claymore’s background that I want to write as an exciting prologue, where he loses someone dear to him. And it’s something that not only motivates him to help Phee, but goes beyond that and has specific repercussions in the remainder of the book and the plot. I won’t tell you the specifics of my plan, but I am excited to implement this new idea. The bad news is now I have to write a prologue, rewrite chapter 1, and make adjustments throughout the book. Probably before I submit the whole book for content editing. My schedule slides again, but that’s normal.

Final Tomek Novel Planned

Last week I created an outline for the final novel in the Tomek series. I created an outline of each chapter even. I even wrote a polished draft of two chapters. I will now start writing in earnest. It may take a year to finish the manuscript, and a another couple months to get illustrations and a final round of grammar checking.

The story usually changes from the plan by the time I finish the manuscript, so I don’t want to give too many details about it since they may not happen as originally planned. I have planned three intertwining plots that resolve the dangling series issues:

  • The Golantan Invasion: What happens when the big Golantan fleet arrives at Baktu? Does Baktu recover from local civil unrest in time to be prepared?  Are the Azten forces successful at repelling them? Does the homespun Baktu navy make any difference at all? Does Baktu survive the new overlords?
  • Claymore: What has Claymore been up to all this time? Does he solve the case of  of Tomek’s parents’ murder? How did he get special insight about Baktu? Does Trident kill him? Does he save the Trident kazimons? Does he survive the Trident kazimons? How does he find Trident’s secrets?
  • The Trident Conspiracy: Does Trident survive the Golantans? Do they take over Azten? Do they ever kill or recapture Tomek? Do they attack Baktu? Can they be stopped? Can the planet Zimvia survive their backlash?

I currently hope to make each of the three threads a worthwhile story on their own and make them combine in a way to create a spectacular novel. I am excited about this. I just hope I can make it all work.

Prepare for the Visual Feast!

BaktuIllustrationsFrontCoverSmall

Baktu Illustrations Newly Released as FULL COLOR Special Edition!

Welcome back friends!

Happily, there is even more great news to share about Baktu! Cass here at the blog helm again, checking to inform you of the latest developments about the printing of the book and distribution on Amazon.

As those who purchased early copies of book two in the Tomek series will know, the novel contains beautiful illustrations from contest winning artists, sourced from around the world. As he shared the novel with others Jimm learned personally of Baktu collaborators and fans of the written word who wanted to badly to see the original versions, that he pulled the trigger on an accompanying printed graphic which is just now available to the public, also on Amazon.

Due to the cost of full color publication of the entire epic, the artwork had to be printed in black and white throughout. As you experience the image in only the form of light and shadow, it gives the drawings within the full length novel a nostalgic and dream like quality. Each visual likeness leaves your imagination to explore and envision the colors, hues, and contrast of every depicted scene. This difficult choice to remove color from the pages was done with the purpose to make the book more economically priced and therefore accessible to more readers.

After seeing full novel in print, Jimm knew he wasn’t quite done sharing the diversity of talented artists who had contributed to the novel. It then also became of high importance to Jimm, as he progressed through the project, that the audience be given the opportunity to enjoy the full beauty of the different graphic styles of the artwork in high resolution full color.

Personally, it is such a treat to see both the black and white, as well as the full color side by side as I read the novel again. Sometimes my imagination closely matched the artist’s rendering, and other times I was delighted to see that the artist had chosen nearly the opposite colors to what sprang from my imagination.

In the full novel your imagination really makes the drawings your own as your mind’s eye fills in the details between light and dark – whereas the stunning high-resolution drawings provide every detail and some surprises as to the artist’s interpretation of the story. The full novel and the special edition collection of color illustrations are complimentary books, and make a beautiful set for avid readers and science fiction fans of all ages! In this newest release of the drawings accompanied by a short blurb about each artist, you may find yourself lost in the soulful pictures, and dreaming up the prequel as well as back story for Wra, Spri, and the other natives of Baktu.

After you’ve enjoyed them both, please feel free to leave your comments or questions for the author about both the story and illustrations here! I’ll be back with you to share the next developments for the Tomek series! Thank you again to all the fans for your support and interest. Your continued curiosity and compliments have been a joy for everyone who contributed to the project, and especially for those artists who thanks to Jimm are able to bring the adventures of Tomek to both the digital and print world in black and white and brilliant color! Thank you!

Amazon: Illustrations in Baktu (54 pages): collected by Jimm Grogan

Amazon: Baktu: Book Two in the Tomek Series, By Jimm Grogan (356 pages, black and white)

For more information: https://jimmgrogan.com/

Contact: https://jimmgrogan.com/contacts/

Baktu Accepted Into Amazon’s Scout Program and Publishing Competition

Amazon Approved Baktu to Move Forward – Includes First Sneak Peek For Readers!

Baktu Novel Cover

Baktu, the second science fiction novella in the Tomek series.

Great news fans! You’re invited to a private sneak peek of Baktu hosted by Amazon Kindle!

Hi Everyone! Cass here again, guest blogger, with the pleasure of sharing the first official flames of attention for Baktu! As you know Jim’s book is complete, has now also gone through the sometimes complex editing process, and as the publishing date approaches, more and more good news for fans of the series keeps coming out!

Just this week Baktu was awarded admittance into Amazon’s Kindle Scout competition for unpublished manuscripts. You the reader directly benefit in this unique competition, because as part of the program, Amazon allows you to check out the first few chapters and nominate Baktu for publishing through the competition, for free. As well as another benefit after the competition concludes.

Starting today you will have a full month to check out Baktu’s opening section, nominate it for publishing, and share it with anyone – for free!

After that, and with the most nominations in this competition group, their program additionally rewards those readers who nominated Baktu by providing each of you a complimentary Kindle eBook edition of the entire book to keep!

Please do support the continuation of this fun sci-fi series by enjoying Amazon’s advance preview and offering Baktu your publication nomination after you have taken pleasure in the exhilarating opening scenes and developing story! When Baktu moved onto the next stage your participation at this early stage guarantees you a complimentary copy of the full novel as soon as it’s released by Amazon!

The anticipation of Tomek’s landing, at the outset of Baktu, and escape from the dangerous powers in the previous novel, Negative Zero, are only the first mysteries revealed to readers who take advantage of Amazon Kindle’s sneak peak. You will soon be lost in this fascinating world that is both totally alien and not all that much unlike our own world. If only we had the intergalactic travel, Baktu would definitely be a must see destination.

It has been noted that along with the book’s cover, a large part of Tomek’s journey includes the mysterious illustrations always intended for inclusions the final print publication. Amazon’s Scout competition, however, only allows for the novel’s cover and text to be reviewed and nominated. But, we are glad to report that after winning, when published and sent by Amazon to all those who nominated it, we can confirm that Baktu’s eBook will definitely include the full set of color illustrations!

This is a really great opportunity and deeply appreciated honor for Baktu to have met their standards for publication and to have gained immediate admittance into the active competition. We invite you to please visit Baktu on Amazon’s contest page, enjoy the sneak peek, and give Baktu your nomination! Please do also share the experience of your reading it with everyone you know and also with Jim directly here on the site!

Amazon’s Scout Competition: Kindle Scout Amazon: Baktu

URL Link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3KSTIP7RAU1QL

 

For more information

https://jimmgrogan.com/

Contact: https://jimmgrogan.com/contacts/

Baktu Marketing Copy Essentials

createspace.com sells a service called “Marketing Copy Essentials’. I love this service because I can never seem able to summarize my books into something to put on the back cover. I always think my book is too complicated to express in two paragraphs. It’s even worst when a person asks me to my face what my book is about. They obviously don’t want a 30 minute review. What do I say?

Marketing Copy Essentials to the rescue. It took createspace.com about 10 days and $249 and here it is.  This book, titled ‘Baktu’, will publish next month (depending on how fast my illustrators are). Do you want to know what it is about? I am finally glad you asked.

First, the “Tagline“, the “elevator pitch”, the 30 word summary.

The action-packed sequel to Negative Zero finds Tomek on the forbidden planet of Baktu, hunting for the fearsome creature that abducted his friend—and on the front lines of an imperial invasion.

Now if I memorize that, I can answer passing friends or elevator passengers when they ask. Thanks createspace.

And now the book description. createspace says this is what should be my book’s description on the Amazon.com web page. Apparently this needs to be different than the book’s back cover.

The sequel to Negative Zero blasts off with our intrepid spacecraft engineer finding himself mere minutes from being fired upon by two elite warships of the Azten imperial navy. In direct defiance of the Azten Empire of Federated Worlds, Tomek is headed to the surface of the forbidden planet Baktu.

After being stranded on the low-tech planet for almost a year, the human Tomek has found a home—even falling in love with a young Bakti named Spri.

But the Bakti have been keeping a secret from the foreigner—a secret that could lead him to find the creature who abducted his friend Claymore. The same awful secret also holds the answer to why the planet has been isolated by the Azten government for the past two hundred years.

Meanwhile, as Tomek hunts for monsters on the tranquil planet, a civil war has broken out in the empire and the sinister Trident organization hasn’t forgotten about their clever nemesis.

Then there’s the Golantan armada that’s heading toward Azten, crushing all resistance in its path…

With Baktu located at the edge of the empire, how will the Bakti manage to resist an invasion on their own?

I love it. I will need to keep it in my back pocket in case someone asks for an in depth description.

And finally the back cover text that createspace designed for me.

“Baktu.”

It’s the word Tomek’s friend Claymore cried out just before being carried off by a monstrous creature. At the time, Tomek didn’t know what it meant.

Now, in the fascinating sequel to Negative Zero, he’s hovering over that exact planet in his damaged spacecraft—with the Azten imperial navy threatening to destroy him if he continues on his present course.

No life-form may land on or leave the planet.

But Tomek manages a daring escape while under fire, marooning himself on the mysterious forbidden planet.

The ingenious engineer starts out with three goals: find out why Baktu is under quarantine, find the link between this little-known planet and the creature that abducted Claymore, and find a way to escape.

But other intergalactic forces are at work—including a little thing called “love”—and Tomek will soon find himself rallying to the defense of the empire.

Ah, that is nice. I can’t wait to read it. Although technically (since I am an engineer) “intergalactic” is probably the wrong word. I may change that to “interstellar”, since everything happens among hundreds of worlds (if you include the Golantans) but within just the one galaxy.