Sandra Ulbrich Almazan's Blog, page 8

October 4, 2016

If it's the first Wednesday of the month, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This month's co-hosts are  Beverly Stowe McClure, Megan Morgan, Viola Fury, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Angela Wooldridge, and
Susan Gourley

For October, we've been posed the following question: When do you know your story is ready?

I think every writer is going to have a different response to this question. I'm a pantser, so my stories are definitely not ready after the rough draft. When I finish that, I set it aside for a while before uploading it to my Kindle for a read-through. I note wording changes on this draft, but I will also outline what I've written so I can see how well the plot works. This will help me figure out if there's material I need to add or change. Then I go back through and revise my story into a second--or possibly third draft. This is the point where I will send the manuscript out to my beta readers for their feedback so I can incorporate it into the story. Along the way, I'll lay the story out for eBook and paper (for longer works) formats. By the time I review the proof copy, I've been over the story several times and am sick of looking at it, even though I still catch mistakes at this stage. But after this step, I'm usually ready to be done with the story and move on to something else. I may still think of things I'd like to revise after publication, but I try not to make major changes by this point.

In other words, I know my story is ready when I've done the best I can with it at this stage of my career and can't find any more things, either major or minor, that I want to change. No story is ever perfect or will please everyone, but sometimes you have to release it to move on and improve.

How about you? For the writers out there, when do you know your story is ready? Feel free to reply in the comments.

P.S. From now through Sunday, Twinned Universe s , Scattered Seasons , and Chaos Season are only $0.99 each! 
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Published on October 04, 2016 22:00 • 1 view

October 2, 2016

As if colorful leaves, hot ciders, pumpkins and squash, and Halloween aren't enough to get excited about this October, here are three more reasons to celebrate this month. Two are global, and one is personal.

1. Vegetarian Awareness Month--Saturday was actually World Vegetarian Day to kick off Vegetarian Awareness Month. I became a vegetarian about two years ago to reduce my carbon footprint and leave more resources for my son's generation. It's not always easy to eat vegetarian; at home, I have to do more cooking to accommodate everyone's preferences. When we go to a restaurant, I have to check out the menu online to make sure I have something to eat--and sometimes I've ordered things I thought were meat-free but didn't turn out to be. Becoming a vegetarian obviously means I eat more vegetables and forces me to expand my palate. On the whole, I feel it's a healthy diet (as long as I don't overdo the cheese) and helps reduce some of the cruelties involved in modern food production. If you're not ready to give up meat altogether, you could try going meatless once a week. If everyone made small changes to their diets, it could have big effects.

2. Star Wars Reads--I may not wield the power of the Force (though I am working on a Jedi costume for the Rebel Legion), but I do have the power of reading. These two powers combine this month for Star Wars Reads. There will be various activities going on all month. When Alex was younger, Star Wars provided him with material he wanted to read at a reading level he could manage. Although his reading has improved and his tastes have broadened, Star Wars books still make up a large part of his library. I have to check if there are any local events we can troop at this year.

3. My Fifth Indie Anniversary: Lyon's Legacy celebrates its fifth year of publication this week. While I do plan to celebrate with an ad and a brief sale on my novels, these days I'm focusing more on permafree and newsletter campaigns than I am on sales and ads. In the long run, I want to develop fans who will seek out my work, so this seems like the best strategy.

What can I say about five years of being an indie writer? There's been a lot of learning involved. While I'm fairly familiar with the publication process by now, there's always more to learn about craft and marketing. There have been ups and downs, and indie publishing is definitely not a quick path to fame and fortune. (I knew that when I started out, but it has been harder to find readers than I expected it would be.) However, I enjoy the freedom of being able to choose who I work with, what I write, and when it becomes available. The more I learn about the pitfalls in traditional publishing contracts, the happier I am with my choice to go indie. My short-term plan is to publish two books a year (while hopefully completing smaller projects too) until 2020 and then re-evaluate how I'm doing. Here's to more writing and more books in the meantime!
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Published on October 02, 2016 22:00 • 13 views

September 29, 2016

September 27, 2016

Draft2Digital now has a partner site called Books2Read, which is dedicated to helping readers find indie books they'll like. One of the features they offer are universal book links listing all the online distributors for a particular eBook. Instead of having to list separate links for Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Apple, and others, I now need only one link to sell them all. That will make keeping my website updated and hyperlinking in my eBooks much easier. Authors can even include affiliate links in these universal book links so they can make extra money from these sales. Too bad Illinois won't let me use them.

Books2Read also allows readers to select their favorite store; I think it's supposed to send you to it automatically. You can also get notifications when your favorite authors release new books. (Amazon does this too, though maybe I need to add more authors to this service.) All in all, this website promises to be useful for both authors and readers. If you publish through D2D, you're already set up with an account and universal book links you can edit (you may need to add Amazon links manually).

Does this sound like a site you'll use? Do you plan to use it as an author, a reader, or both? Please let me know in the comments.

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Published on September 27, 2016 22:00 • 8 views

September 25, 2016

Fifth Season, Book Four of The Season Avatars, is coming November 28th, just in time for Cyber Monday (unless it's ready sooner), for $3.99. You can order the eBook through this universal buy link, which will take you to your favorite store. The Amazon, Apple, and Kobo links are live as of yesterday afternoon; hopefully Barnes and Noble will soon go live as well.

I've tweaked the blurb slightly, so here's the new version:

Ysabel became the Goddess of Fall’s Avatar to care for animals, but her kind heart may prove fatal to her loved ones.
When a pair of strange animals, part bird and part lizard, invade the country of Challen during a magical weather storm, Ysabel must learn if they’re ordinary creatures or if they’re connected to Salth, the Season Avatars’ sworn enemy. However, the clawfeet are resistant to her magic.
After tragedy strikes the Avatars, Ysabel comes up with a desperate plan to allow all twelve of them to face Salth together as required by the Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen. Jealousy, however, tears an ally from the Avatars during their most vulnerable time as even more beasts rise against them. If Ysabel cannot control the strange animals and use justice as well as mercy, she will not only lose her position as Avatar but the people she loves.
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Published on September 25, 2016 22:00 • 2 views

September 22, 2016

September 20, 2016

With today being the official last day of summer, it seems like a good time to welcome fall with a cover reveal for Fifth Season, Book Four of the Season Avatars. Each book in the series has a different point-of-view character, and in this book, it's the turn of Ysabel, the Fall Avatar. As with the other books in this series, Maria Zannini of Book Cover Diva did the cover. Thanks, Maria, for taking my ideas and combining them so quickly into a cover! This is the eBook version; I'm not done with layout for the print book yet, so she'll complete the back later. Enough suspense-building; here's the cover:

Since there's a T-rex skull on the cover, I had to bring in some special guests to get their opinion on the cover. If you know me on Facebook, you may have seen pictures of my son's stuffed animals: Stan (the T-rex), Rex (the Apatosaurus, who's named for Captain Rex from Star Wars: The Clone Wars), and Oscar (the orca). We bring them with us on trips so they can share funny lines and photos. Here's what they had to say about Maria's latest cover:

Stan: I'm in the book! I'm in Mom's book!
Rex: Uh, Stan, that's some other T-rex.
Oscar: A dead T-rex, Stan.
Stan: I don't care! It's me! (tries covering ears and fails)
Rex: Anyway, Mom wanted us to point out that this is her first cover to feature a brown-skinned woman.
Oscar: You mean, woman of color. Ysabel belongs to two different ethnic groups and has brown skin.
Rex: Isn't that what I said?
Oscar (ignoring him): But the most important part of the cover is the black-and-white cat she's holding. Ysabel obviously has fine taste in color combinations--
Rex and Oscar: STAN! CALM DOWN!

This is why I don't put the boys in charge of book promotion, though how can I go wrong with an endorsement from them? Anyway, pre-orders should be ready by next week; more information and buy links will be posted soon, so keep reading this blog.

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Published on September 20, 2016 22:00 • 4 views

September 18, 2016

Thursday is supposed to be the first day of fall, but the extended forecast in my area calls for temperatures in the 80s that day. Even though we went apple picking this weekend, and I've already broken out the ankle boots, the weather still calls for T-shirts, not sweaters (unless I'm at work, in which case the heating/cooling system calls for the addition of a cardigan and a fleece). It seems as if summer doesn't want to cede pride of place to fall.

In the world of my Season Avatars, the seasons do fight with each other at equinoxes and solstices. These special days are called "soltranses," and the Season Avatars for the old and new seasons battle each other with staffs at the Temple in Wistica. Here's a few paragraphs of Jenna, Summer Avatar, and Ysabel, the Fall Avatar, preparing for the fall soltrans in my upcoming novel Fifth Season:

Jenna hadn’t participated in the summer solstice soltrans, but she handled the fighting sticks with confidence, weighing each one in her hands. The oak staffs, padded on both ends, probably still responded to her magic. Ysabel wished her animal magic was more useful for this ceremony. However, as she tested her own fighting stick, memories of previous duels returned. She advanced into the stone-paved area of the courtyard and lunged at an imaginary enemy a few times.
“Thank the Four we remember these skills.” Jenna combined blocks and stabs as she moved into position opposite Ysabel. “I didn’t get much chance to practice with fighting sticks when I was growing up. There were always too many chores to do. How about you?”
Ysabel shook her head, mindful of saving her breath.
“Of course,” Jenna continued cheerfully as she struck a blow directly on Ysabel, driving her backward, “being a farmer’s daughter does mean I know my way around tools. Especially wooden ones.”
“Freeze it, Jenna.” Ysabel attempted her own thrust, but Jenna blocked it with surprising strength. “You have to lose in the end.”
“Yes, but we have to put on a show first, don’t we?”
Neither of them spoke as they focused on the fight. Jenna continued to press her with three attacks for every one of Ysabel’s. Several of them got through her defenses, and Ysabel reminded herself to ask Gwen for healing before the bruises became obvious. Gradually, as she continued to handle the fighting stick, memories came back to her of previous sparring sessions in this same courtyard. The sun warmed her and released the scent of stubborn roses still clinging to their bushes. The weight of the fighting stick felt more familiar in her hands, and moves and different combinations of moves appeared in her mind. As each one appeared, she tried it out. Jenna countered each move easily, but fewer of her own attacks landed on Ysabel. Once Ysabel even drove Jenna back a couple of paces. When Jenna stepped on a loose cobblestone and struggled for balance, Ysabel instinctively pressed her attack, striking her in the shoulder before tapping her on the head.
Jenna let her fighting stick drop. “Enough! I yield!”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. More information about Fifth Season will be coming soon.
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Published on September 18, 2016 22:00 • 1 view

September 15, 2016

September 13, 2016

I had some trouble deciding on a topic for today's posts. Although I did come up with several subjects, I rejected each of them for different reasons. Finally, I realized I was suffering from a blog block, so I decided to write about that.

For me, blog block and story block are caused by two separate issues. Blog block often happens when I don't have a subject for a post. Once I come up with one, I can generally outline the main points in my head before I write. The block/slow writing I'm going through for Summon the Seasons is different in that I know where I'm going with the story, but I don't always have the specifics of how I want to get there. It may be hard picking the right words for a specific line, or my idea for the immediate scene may change to something other that what I had originally intended. Little time and lack of sleep don't help either. I need more energy or brainpower to write fiction than I do for nonfiction.

If you blog, do you ever suffer from blog block? How do you think it compares to story block? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
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Published on September 13, 2016 22:00 • 2 views