All My Titles on Gumroad Are Free Until March 31st

Just a very quick announcement. Because I know a lot of readers out there might need something to read during this pandemic, I’m making all my titles on my Gumroad store free until March 31st if you use the following code:

shelter

I hope this helps, and I hope all of you are staying healthy and safe. Take care!

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Review of The Story Grid; The Core of Fantasy and Romance

Now and then, I like to post about writing tools on this blog. I especially like tools that are unique or approach an old problem in a new way.

Both apply to The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

The cover was what attracted me. I’ve seen story graphs before, but none that made it look as complex and vital and complete as Coyne’s graph did. I got it through Interlibrary Loan and devoured the thing.

It’s a great read for both writers and, interestingly enough, readers. He starts off talking about what a good editor can do for a story and how, many times, a story that lives and breathes will get a very light touch by an editor because they’re afraid they’ll wreck the thing. Because the most important thing is story. That trumps anything and everything, and he uses Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code as an example of story trumping even, according to critical reviews, good writing.

He also talks a bit about the training, or lack of training, among editors, especially today. It’s considered an art form, something that a person just has, and the best way to learn it (if there’s anything that can be learned) is by watching an editor edit and seeing how he or she approaches story. (Sounds an awful lot like the beliefs and traditions surrounding writing.)

However, the bulk of the book is devoted to explaining the tools he developed as an editor. They include an approach to genre that I’d never seen before but that makes so much sense. It also includes the Foolscap Story Grid, which, after looking closely at it, is a great tool, both for those who want an idea of what should happen before they write a word and a map of how the emotions should rise and fall in the course of the story, and for those who have a story already written and want a quick way to map it.

The graph that made me want the book itself isn’t explained until the end, but when it is and the instructions are given, it was just as impressive as it appeared on the cover.

I do need to point out that Shawn Coyne worked with mysteries and thrillers, so he is very knowledgeable about those genres. He also does a very good job of breaking fantasy and sci-fi down, and his thoughts on horror made me rethink the whole genre in a very positive way. His thoughts on romance, though good, got confusing at times. They weren’t nearly as clear as the other genres, but he got it mostly right, if I understood him correctly in the first place.

I would really like to go on and on about this book, but in looking over my notes, there’s so much information that it’s going to take a while to digest it and apply it.

Reading this book, however, has made me take a closer look at all the genres. And I realized something very important that I’d heard before, but that hadn’t really sunk in until now.

Fantasy is all about power. I’ve heard that many times before. What I hadn’t realized is that the Hero’s Quest, the all-important structure for just about every important fantasy book out there, is about starting from a position without power and ending in a state where you’ve not only gained power, but proven that you can use power wisely.

This is why so many heroes start out helpless or powerless. Luke Skywalker feels trapped because all his friends are gone and doing great things, and he’s stuck at the farm.

In the end, he gains both internal strength/power (gets in touch with the Force) and external power (he is able to destroy the Death Star) as well.

The Lord of the Rings does this. Frodo has no special abilities or leverage, compared to the others. He has one power, endurance, and a faith and hope in the quest that’s slowly eroded by the Ring. Aragorn, by contrast, has a bunch of talents and knowledge but fears himself. And by the time the story is done, we’ve had as comprehensive a view of power in all its variations as anyone could possibly write.

And we also see the importance of friendship and that it, too, has its own strength and power.

Not all fantasies start out with a character who feels helpless or powerless, in the typical sense. The unicorn in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, starts out very happy and content in her forest, where she’s loved and respected. It’s because of her that the forest lives like it does and has the power it does, and she knows it.

But once she overhears two hunters discuss how rare she is, and that she may be the last of her kind, she goes from disbelief to a restless need to know.

Which, now that I write it, is, in a way, a feeling of powerlessness. She doesn’t know and doesn’t know how to find out the truth. And so she sets off on her quest to know if she is indeed the last. If she is truly alone. And, in the end, finds not only the truth, but gains knowledge that even other unicorns don’t have.

By the way, I’m not the only one who has thought about this, or even written it. At the same time I was letting this sink in, that the hero or heroine of a fantasy must go from helpless/powerless to helpful/powerful by the end, Dave Farland wrote that fantasy is about power being used wisely. (The whole article is about creating a sense of wonder in your fantasy story. His comment on power is toward the end of his thoughts on creating a sense of wonder. If you write fantasy, I highly recommend reading the whole thing.)

So yeah. I think I’m on the right track.

What was even more interesting though, is that I realized fantasy romance (and romantic fantasy) is, in a way, about the same thing but as applied to relationships.

For example, Grace Draven’s book, Master of Crows, has two characters who are, in their own, individual ways, helpless. Their romance is about learning to trust each other, or, in other words, finding they have greater power together, internally and externally, than when they were looking for power alone.

And if you get right down to it, intimacy is, at the core, about power and control. It’s about letting someone else call the shots sometimes. It’s about letting someone else have their way for a while. It’s about the subtle dance of conversations, actions, and events, both large and small, that make up the dynamic between two individuals trying to create a life together. It’s about feeling safe enough, trusting someone else enough, to let them see who you are in all your different aspects, even the parts you hide from most others because you’re afraid of what it will do to your reputation, to your public image, or to whatever private relationship you’re trying to form.

In other words, part of intimacy is knowing how and when to let someone else have power over you, and the only reason it works is because they let you have power over them as well. Without that balance, true intimacy doesn’t exist.

This has been a much longer post than I anticipated, and not all my thoughts on this are together yet. But it helps me realize why fantasy and romance mix so very well, and why romantic fantasy, with its focus on a lone individual becoming part of a community, works as well as it does when it combines these two genres.

So, what about you? Am I wrong? Am I focusing on wrong thing? If you read fantasy and/or romance, especially, am I wrong about power and intimacy in those genres? Please let me know in the comments below! And thanks for reading this incredibly long post.

Snippet #3 from The Lord’s Tale: Part Three – Krysilla’s Talent

For today’s snippet, I thought I’d share a little bit about Krysilla’s magic.

She’s just finished speaking with Lejer, her “new” employer, and has gone, for the first time in a long time, to light the ovens for the day’s baking.

(Disclaimer: This is part of a rough draft. There will be errors, there will be typos, there is the possibility this scene won’t even make it into the final draft. At the very least, there might be major changes. Just so you know. Thank you for reading.)

[begin snippet]

Each step toward them echoed in the freshly cleaned room. Standing in front of it’s gaping mouth, she did nothing, memories swarming too thick, exhaustion already creeping up on her.

It’s no different from other casting, she told herself. She checked to make certain wood was laid within. It was. She raised her hands, and remembered what she had recently learned.

The fire was alive. And she was merely asking it to come to life for her.
She waved her hand, drawing not only on Lejer’s teachings, but what she’d learned during her time with Zhiv.

The fire blazed with a roaring whoosh. She jumped back from the heat of it, staring at the flames as they danced in the oven.

The color wasn’t right. That was the first thing she noticed. It should be a combination of orange and yellow. But flickers of brilliant white danced along the edge.

It was also too hot. She reached out her hand and calmed the flames, damping them down until she had a steady fire. The flickers of white disappeared.
She lowered her hands and watched the steadiness of the flame.

Terror niggled her heart. Had she really changed so much?

[end snippet]

Copyright © 2019 Amy Keeley; All Rights Reserved.

Want a Free Copy of The Castle in the Story? (YA Fantasy)

I’ve finally finished redrafting and the fixing that inevitably comes afterward! Now, it’s just a matter of searching out the errors.

Unfortunately, I can’t do that very well on my own. Someone reading this for the first time will always find more errors than I will after I’ve read my story several times over.

I’m very aware that reworking The Castle in the Story has taken far, far longer than I first anticipated. I am very sorry for that. Unfortunately, because of budgetary constraints, I’m doing a lot of this on my own and that means everything takes longer. If you’d like to help and get a free copy of the final version with your name in the Acknowledgments, and if you’re the kind who loves pointing out errors in the stories you read, please send me an email through the Contact Me form on this site. Unlike previous crowdsourced copy edits, this time you can choose whichever form you like of the following three:

  • ePub
  • MOBI
  • PDF

Just let me know which one you prefer and I’ll send you that format along with what I need in order to use your comments to copy edit the final version. Once it’s ready to be published, I’ll send you your free final version with your name listed in the Acknowledgments!

This offer will be open until March 22. After that, the final copy edit will begin.

Status of The Castle in the Story Rewrite

Yup. Not a revision. A rewrite.

What this means is that there will be massive changes to many scenes, though I’m keeping the key points with Doriel and Maple. Their arc is, overall, the same.

This also means a number of subplots will vanish, along with about half the characters mentioned.

Malcom is gone. So are all the boys who joined Maple’s group with him. Thilda is gone, and so is the merchant Callio flirts with on the way to Oasis. The Oracle is still there but she’s undergone a radical transformation.

Why is this happening? Because as I looked at the first fifteen chapters, the ones I hadn’t rewritten at all when I first published this on FictionPress.com, I discovered there were scenes that needed to be rearranged in those first fifteen chapters that I’d intended on rearranging after I’d gotten some feedback.* But rearranging things in the beginning had repercussions that spread through the rest of the novel. That required looking at the theme of the story, and that showed me that I had some redundancies in what was, when I posted it, a first draft.

In getting rid of the redundancies, I started to become terrified I was falling into an eternal rewrite.

So, I did a technique Holly Lisle mentions in her How to Revise Your Novel course. I set aside all the notes, all the cards, everything I’d been using to organize what needed to be done. I got out a pen and a piece of paper and wrote out a new outline, start to finish. (Update: there’s more to it than this. I highly recommend going through the course to get the full technique.)

After I finished, I looked at what I’d written and what was left in my outline. All the parts I loved, all the parts readers on FictionPress had mentioned as loving, were there. Everything else fell away.

So, this has become a rewrite. This means a shorter novel. It also means better focus and, I hope, a better story. Not to mention, I can take this opportunity to make sure it’s set up for the next book in the series (yes, this has become a series).

That makes me very happy.

As for the timeline, because of this new approach, I hope to have this book published on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., in September of this year.

Yes, I’m behind schedule. I don’t like that, but I’m convinced these changes are worth it, and I’m very excited now about publishing this book.

More soon!

*When I first started posting on FictionPress.com, I did so because I thought it was a site for critiques. It’s not. With one exception, I mostly got fans, which was more than fine. It gave me a lot of encouragement and was my first taste of being an indie-author. However, it also meant The Castle in the Story was pure, raw draft. It wasn’t until I was fifteen chapters in that I realized that raw draft was irritating me, so I did a half-hearted edit as I went.

I’ve since learned that you never show pure, raw draft to anyone. Not unless you’ve improved to the point where you can pull a Harlan Ellison and write a story in public based on a trigger from the audience.

Not there. Yet.

 

Wattpad Experiment with Castle; Last Chance on Baker’s Wife Low Price

Just a note to let you know that I’ve posted my rough-revision (which is subject to change) on Wattpad. If you decide to take a look, please forgive all typos and expect everything you read to change.

The Castle in the Story — Wattpad

I’m not sure how many chapters I’m going to put up. I may put up 20% of the book (it’s a HUGE book) or I may only put up three. That’ll be based on how quickly I can get the revision done and how much time I can take away from the sequel I’m writing for that space opera I’ve published under a pen name. And boy, I’m really excited about that sequel!

In other news, this may end up being the last day you’ll be able to get the e-book version of The Baker’s Wife: Complete for $4.99. After today, the price goes up to $12.99, though I may do it in increments. Not sure yet.

If you want to get it now, here are the links to the major retailers where you can purchase a copy.

Amazon

Nook

Apple

Kobo

Thank you for your support!

Current revision project blurb

I’ve begun possibly the biggest revision project I’ve ever started: the revision of The Castle in the Story.

It’s huge. One of those door-stopper fantasy novels that I love but have found myself moving away from. Mostly.

Anyway, here’s the temporary blurb for it. I’ll probably change it by the time I finish the revision, so please don’t expect this (either blurb or story) to stay the same as what you’re reading here. I just thought I’d let my readers know what I’m working on and why I’m taking a while answering my emails.

~@~@~@~

The world, the priests say, was built by the song of the gods, a song that anyone who wishes to do good may sing. But there are those who twist the music, creating noise instead of harmony, and those spells cause destruction to those who fall under them. Of them all, the greatest wielder of such evil was the house of Corellion, rulers in the Northlands, next to where the treacherous elves hide. But the Albraics, upholders of the True Song and the Corellions’ ancient enemy, destroyed both houses in a battle that the Northlands are only beginning to recover from.

Almost all. An unwilling heir has been found in the form of Maple, a thief wary of trusting anyone who promises anything resembling hope, though that’s the thing she longs for most. Now, she must face her past with the aid of Doriel, an elf who was bound by an oath to serve the Corellions as long as one lived, an elf who was supposed to protect her…and didn’t. Together, they must destroy the one trying to pull her back into the darkness before she loses herself entirely to the hopes of others.

Updated Cover and General Update

It’s been a very busy month or so. Lots of changes and my Internet access is practically nil. But it’s also been nice because my writing has become more focused. I mean, really, my leisure time nowadays is either reading or writing and that’s perfect given what I’m trying to accomplish. No Crunchyroll, no movies, no music, nothing else but the two activities I listed. It’s been strange and enlightening all at once.

So, for those writers out there who are struggling to fit in writing-time every day, I recommend cutting back severely on the Internet. Yes, you’ll be limiting your social media presence, but dang it, would readers rather read your tweets/posts or a new story? (And if the answer is “tweets” then maybe a change of focus should be considered.)

Anyway, with the brief time I have, I thought I would reveal the updated cover for part one of The Lord’s Tale, which will be out later this coming week. (Shooting for September 10th as a release date.) The changes I made are slight, but necessary.

Here it is:

The Lord's Tale (part one) 3I hope it looks pretty, and I hope that those of you out there who decide to read it enjoy it. I have no idea when I’ll be back online to respond to comments, or if it’ll be possible at all with our spotty access, so please keep that in mind if you decide to leave one.

I hope all of you have a wonderful beginning to the fall season and a fantastic end. Stay well.

Get The Baker’s Wife (complete) For Free

Digital Book Day Banner

I’ve decided to join in on CJ Lyons’ Digital Book Day. It sounds like fun.

So, for one day, July 14th, The Baker’s Wife, the ebook with all three parts in one, will be free on Smashwords. I mean, totally free. No coupon, no nothing, but only for that one day. Afterward, the price goes back up to $4.99 and you’ll need a coupon to download a free copy.

Synopsis

In a world where the magic you cast is restricted (on pain of death) by the role you must take, Krysilla Gillasin struggles to do her part as the wife of a baker. A baker, unfortunately, who no longer does any baking, leaving her exhausted from trying to run the business. When she meets a feverish minstrel, she ignores all consequence and brings him home instead of leaving him to die by the river’s edge. Her husband, furious, demands he leave. Unwilling to turn a sick man out when he’s still weak, Krysilla, for the first time, defies him, thus starting a chain of events that rip apart everything she thought she wanted.

Before long, she’s dealing with scheming nobles, a mad king, Dogs on the hunt, and more forbidden magic than she ever dreamed she would touch. And at the heart of it is that far-too-handsome minstrel, a man who tempts her more than she’ll admit, and in more ways than one.

Full of intrigue, adventure, and a dash of romance, The Baker’s Wife is the first in the Trial of the Ornic series.

Interested? Here’s the Smashwords link: The Baker’s Wife (complete).

Thoroughly Kissed: a review

Thoroughly Kissed (Fates #2)Thoroughly Kissed by Kristine Grayson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sweet romance, in spite of what the cover on one of these editions might tell you. It’s a fun, fractured take on Sleeping Beauty and how she might find love in the modern world.

Ella first appeared in the previous volume, Utterly Charming, but the only thing that’s changed is that she’s managed to fit in very well in modern society. She even has a bestselling book and a position at a university as a history professor.

Her new boss, Michael, would rather see her gone. However, when the Fates decide she’s going to get her magic early (on-time in their estimation) he finds himself caught up in a desperate attempt to try to bring her wild magic under control. They end up falling for each other in a very sweet, very passionate way, in spite of Michael’s disbelief regarding magic, and in spite of Ella’s strong refusal to ever be kissed again.

Ella is a strong-minded woman with a bit of a temper. However much she’s integrated into the modern world, there are still some things that fascinate her, and some parts of her upbringing that still cause her problems. That she’s able to do as well as she does makes me smile.
And I loved her final solution to her problem. That was a very nice touch.

Michael and his approach to Ella’s magic were some of the best moments. The times he had trouble believing were great, but I think the times when he tried to analyze her magic were the best. Though he knows he’s only a mortal, he still tries to protect her as best he can. I loved it.

Before moving on to the plot, I want to give some attention to the talking cat, Darnell. He was hilarious in this book, and gave it some of its funniest moments.

Just wanted to say that.

The plot for this book is more solid than the previous one. There’s a stronger emphasis on the romance and more clarity regarding motivations. It also helps that the hero’s thoughts are known pretty early on. It makes him much more sympathetic than Alex from Utterly Charming, though I still think well of that character (this book helps with that). The final resolution of all the elements was logical and very satisfying.

Highly recommended, especially for those who want more romance in their fairy tales.

View all my reviews