Friday, June 29, 2012

Progress Notes and A Call for Beta Readers

  Okay, so last week I was taking some time off from editing The Dragon of Doughton Park, my laptop was acting up, I’d promised myself I would catch up on my reading, and I shared a review of Red Tash’s Troll or Derby. (BTW, I’m not the only Tash fan. Hits on my blog doubled last week after the review.) Then, on Sunday, I left my Kindle unattended at the laundromat. Of course it was gone when I returned.
  So much for plans.
  Losing the Kindle was a bit of a setback. I had a bunch of editing notes on it for Dragon which can’t be recovered, and I was in the middle of reading Richelle Mead’s The Golden Lily. A new Kindle is being shipped as we speak, so at least I’ll be able to re-load all the books I’ve purchased. (One of those thank-god features from Amazon.) But I’ve had to (gasp) resort to reading paper for the entire week.
  And I returned to editing Dragon.
  Since David had already returned the first sixteen chapters to me, printed, double-spaced, and red marks scribbled throughout, I figured I might as well wade into it. Thursday night he gave me the remaining chapters, along with begrudging praise for the first draft. (It’s better than the first book, but I think you could trim 10,000 words – at least.) Thank you, David. Coming from you, that means a lot.
  So I’ve got my work cut out for me. Two of the three members of my editing team have given me their notes. If my laptop continues to behave (fingers crossed), the second Red Wolf novel should be ready for publication in July.

  I’m also pleased to announce the talented artist, Ray DeLotell, has joined Rich Westover and myself as the third member of the cover design team. (Yeah, they let me have some say – a token idea here and there.) We’re meeting next Friday to go over the covers for all three of the Red Wolf novels. Hopefully, I’ll have some sneak previews to share on next week’s blog.

  Which brings me to one last note. I’m issuing a call for volunteers to be beta readers. I need 5 – 10 people who are willing to read the next draft, complete a survey form, and give me your honest opinion on the story, characters, pace, writing style, etc. I can give the draft to you in Kindle, Word or PDF format. All participants will be listed in the Acknowledgments section of the final publication and receive a published copy of the ebook free. If you’re interested, leave a comment on this blog, email me at, or message me on the Red Wolf Novels Facebook page.

  Until then… keep reading!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Free Download and Troll or Derby Review

  First of all, I want to announce that, in preparation for the release of its sequel, The Draculata Nest ebook for Kindle is available this Saturday and Sunday (June 23,24) for FREE DOWNLOAD. Click on the link to get your free copy. You can have it read and be ready to buy The Dragon of Doughton Park when it comes out in a few weeks. The Draculata Nest
  So, besides waiting for my editing team and cover artists to complete their assignments for Dragon, what have I been doing? Stephen King suggests an author take some time off from writing/editing his work after sending out the draft to readers, and I’m trying to take his advice to heart. While my editing team pours over the first draft of The Dragon of Doughton Park, I am doing my best to refrain from touching it in any way until all the feedback is in. I’m being assisted in that effort by my laptop, which has suddenly begun overheating and shutting down. My know-it-all-friend David (told you he really does know a lot) is helping me track down the problem. So, what to do if I can’t write?

  Yep, I’ve been reading like a fiend all week, and I ran across a real gem that I want to share with you. I found Troll or Derby by Red Tash from a blurb in a Facebook group. The title intrigued me, so I clicked the link. After admiring the cover and the product description, I posted a comment on FB that I liked the title. The author replied back that the sequels would be Troll or Park and Troll or Trash. I was hooked. I clicked back to and downloaded the kindle version immediately. It’s the best $2.99 I’ve spent in a long time.
   Troll or Derby is Paranormal Americana at its best. It starts out at a dead run as teenaged Roller Deb rescues her older sister from a meth lab fire and the pace only increases from there. Ms. Tash is a former journalist, and it shows. There is not a wasted word in the whole story. There’s no time for background explanations or character development. You need to keep your head up and your eyes and ears open and get ready to duck ‘cause the next thing’s coming at you already. Yet somehow, amidst all the chaos, I came to know the characters and their world pretty well by the end of the book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel.
   That’s really all I’m going to say about both characters and plot. This is an action book and to describe any more of it would risk spoiling something for the reader. But aside from the pace there were two particular things I liked about the book that bear mentioning. The first is the author’s talent for saying much in few words. Here’s an example, where Deb sums up her relationship with the evil April, “My heart both longed for her and ached for its own stupidity, at the same time.” Man, it would have taken me half a chapter to say that!
  The other thing I liked about the book was the very natural, off-hand treatment of Deb’s sexual orientation. It’s an important element of the story, but at no point does it become the central theme. This is the way it should be, and in my opinion does more for gay rights than any amount of preaching from the soap box, which I’ve done more of in the last sentence than Tash does in the whole book.

  I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more roller derby action, something I was expecting from the title, but that was not enough to keep me from giving Troll or Derby five stars. Dollar-for-word, this is the best thing I’ve read all year. If you’re interested, click the link.  Troll or Derby

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spotlight on My Editing Team

   First of all, I’m pleased to announce that my first novel, The Draculata Nest, is featured in First 5 Chapters, Volume 4. First 5 Chapters is a wonderful concept, wherein the first five chapters from six novels of a particular genre by promising new authors (that’s me!) are put together into a single work. For nothing, or next to nothing, you can download the ebook, preview the novels, and decide if they are worth reading. Right now it’s available on Lulu. Follow the link…First 5 Chapters, Volume 4  , and on Amazon... First 5 Chapters on Amazon Soon it will be available on Barnes & Noble, as well.

   So, enough of that. Let’s get down to the subject of this week’s blog, my editing team. Editing of the first draft of The Dragon of Doughton Park is in full swing, and while my friends pour over the approximately 110k words I gave them, it only seems fair that I pay homage these three dedicated individuals.

  First on the list is Caren, my ex-wife. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I must have huge cojones to trust an “ex” with such a task. Well, I do. But Caren is one of the most intelligent and discerning individuals I know. Plus she has the willingness (and years of practice) to point out the defects in everything I say or do. She also has a vested interest in the success of my books. I pay child support based on my income. Hope springs eternal, does it not?

  The second member of the team is Patti. Patti is one of my favorite people. We worked in the same office together for a dozen or so years, and her unique personality always brought a little patch of sunshine into a generally dreary landscape. (Typical exchange with Patti: Me: Your hair looks nice today. Patti: So you’re saying it usually looks like shit.) Patti was a project manager who's job it was to keep me on the right track. She got used to doling out both encouragement and criticism. (Nice job, John. Here’s a list of things you forgot to do.) So, when I gave her a draft of DN, and she called me a few days later to say she liked it (Nice job, John), I wasn’t entirely surprised some time later when she offered to email me the notes file from her Kindle (Here’s a list of mistakes you made.) I’m so happy to have her on board for the second book.

  The final member of my team is my know-it-all-friend-David. You know the type, expert on everything. Irritating, right? Thing is, I’ve been friends with David for about fifteen years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that… he really does know a lot of stuff. And once in a blue moon, when you run across something he doesn’t know, he will obsessively track down the answer. I do a lot of my research through him. It also turns out that David knows a good bit about editing. His contribution to the editing team, and it is a huge one, is to read through the draft and point out anything that might slow the reader. That includes typos, odd paragraph breaks, awkward phrasing… anything. I got the first four chapters of Doughton back from him a few days ago, covered in red marks and scathing comments in the margins. After I made all his suggested changes, I had to admit it was better. Wow.

   So that’s my team. Quirky, obsessive and brutal. Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Editing on a Shoestring Budget

   I’m very excited to be able to say that I finished writing the final chapter of my next novel, The Dragon of Doughton Park, this week. I’m really happy with how it ended, and I can’t wait to see how folks react to what’s going on with Clifford Crane, the Red Wolf of Prophecy. It’s taken me about eight months to get to this point, but there’s still some work to do before Dragon can be published. Now comes the editing process.

   My Facebook friend, Karen Dales, a professional editor and author of the not-half-bad Chosen Chronicles (I’ll throw in a brief plug for her books here, but that’s all. This blog is not about her; it’s about me!), has convinced me through a number of messages, Facebook postings, and blogs, that every book should be professionally edited. It would be pointless for me to argue with her about that, not only because she’s a woman, but because she’s right. I’m a voracious reader, and in my experience, nothing kills an otherwise great story than a poorly edited book. Sadly, (and this is a downside of the self-publishing revolution) there are plenty of poorly edited books out there. Someone with some degree of competence, someone other than the author, should look at that thing before it goes to print (or digital), please!

   But what if you can’t afford a professional editor? I’ve checked around, and there are competent editors out there who charge reasonable fees for their services. That’s reasonable fees for people who actually have money. I don’t. Google “starving penniless writer.” Yeah, that’s my picture.

   I am not without resources, however. I have something money can’t buy. I have friends who, for various reasons (no, it’s not that they adore me – yeah, that was my first assumption, too), have found themselves willing to offer their invaluable services as an “editing team,” to help insure that the stuff I publish isn’t complete crap.

   The core of my team is formed by three individuals who bear blogging about. In the interests of anonymity, I’m not using any last names. I hope that’s enough to avoid any lawsuits. They are, in reverse order, Caren, one of my ex-wives, Patti, an ex-co-worker, and my know-it-all-friend, David.

  All three of these folks share two common traits. One, they have a love of and healthy respect for the truth. Two, they have very little concern for my feelings. In the coming weeks, as the editing of The Dragon of Doughton Park proceeds, I’ll devote a section of my blog to each one of these special people.

  So, here’s what one of my books goes through to get edited.

  Before the book even gets to my “team,” there is an ongoing editing process while I’m writing the first draft. As I’m writing, I keep an outline, and by the end of the writing of the book, I have a document that summarizes the action of each chapter and scene. After I’ve written three or four chapters, I’ll go back and re-read everything I’ve written so far, checking for typos and factual inconsistencies against the outline, and re-writing anything that’s not working. The process is repeated over-and-over while I write and then one final time after the last chapter is written. I like to think the book has gone through a pretty good self-edit before it goes to my team.

   When the first draft goes out to my team, it gets evaluated for pace and content and poured over for typos and anything that somebody doesn’t like. Each team member has a different way of going about it, and I’ll talk about that more later, but after they’ve torn apart my first draft, I go about re-writing for a second draft.

   The second draft goes out to a number of beta readers. I have four or five lined up for Dragon already. I’d like to have at least ten. Beta readers are asked to complete a survey form. When all the survey forms are returned, I compile the results and decide if anything needs to be changed for the final draft.

   The cool thing about this is, it only costs me the time. It worked pretty well for The Draculata Nest and I feel pretty good about applying it to The Dragon of Doughton Park. Of course, in the end, it is you, the reader, who will be the ultimate judge.

   By the way, I’d love to get some feedback from anyone who has an opinion about the quality of my books’ editing. Please post a comment or shoot me an email. And, if anyone is interested in being a beta reader for Dragon, leave me a comment or email me at

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Character Profile: Nicole Deerfoot Black

   For this week’s blog, I thought I’d provide a little background on the character readers of The Draculata Nest seemed to be most fond of, Nicole. I have to admit, she’s my favorite character, too. She’s so down-to-earth and real to me, the kind of person I like to have as a friend. Following is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published Dragon of Doughton Park, which illustrates my point…

“Wait. Hold on, Nicole, just calm down. I’m on my way home, and if you want to talk, let’s sit down and talk. I… I’m more ready now. Um, you want to meet somewhere, get something to eat?”
“I don’t know. How close are you?”
“Pretty close. Maybe five or ten minutes?”
“Just come on home, then. I need to pee.”
“Okay. I’ll hurry.” Chuckling, he closed off the link.
Nicole was standing by her car when he pulled into the parking lot. She wandered over to his truck as he cut the engine. He couldn’t resist the urge to tease her, so he made a pretense of cleaning the trash out the cab, slowly.
Nicole shifted from one foot to the other. “You need some help?”
“Nah, I got it.” He paused to stretch and yawn. “Nice day, isn’t it?”
She stepped forward and punched his arm. “Cut it out, now.”
“Ow, what was that for?” He rubbed his arm, feigning injury.
“You know damn well.” She held out her hand. “Give me the keys, and you can take all the time you want.”
“Oooh, yeah, I forgot. You have to…”
“Sure you did,” she fidgeted. “Come on, hand ‘em over.”
He dropped the keys into her palm. “Okay, okay.” He rubbed his arm again. “You know, that really hurt.”
“Serves you right.” She turned and strode toward the apartment, calling over her shoulder. “Take your time. I’ll be inside.”

   Nicole hails from Troy, N.C. Unbeknownst to her, the community she grew up in was populated by the werewolves of the Uwharrie Pack. She’s actually related to Claire Deerfoot, the first Omega wolf, on her mother’s side.
   Nicole fell in with the wrong crowd in her early teens, got involved with drugs, and ran away from home when she was fourteen. Not much is known of the next few years of her life until she turned up at a battered women’s shelter in Tampa, FL, when she was seventeen. From there she returned to Charlotte, NC, where she received treatment for her drug addiction, earned her GED, and eventually entered a collegiate program of study to become a substance abuse counselor. It was in college she met Clifford Crane, the Red Wolf of Prophecy. The rest you know... well, at least if you've read the book.
   Until next time...