December 30, 2011

back to basics outline

If you remember, I plan on doing a new blog series after the New Year. I’ve been brainstorming for ideas for the past several days. What’s funny is that the most difficult and complex ideas—plot, character, structure, etc.—they’re the easiest for me to explain. The basics, the simple ideas—grammar, punctuations, writing coherently—they’ll be the most difficult for me to explain. I’m no English teacher. I didn’t go to school to teach people the basics of writing. I went to school to write. By the time I got to college, I already had a pretty good understanding of the English language. So most of it comes naturally. I don’t have to think about it. This blog series is going to force me to think about it, the same way I have to think about characterization and structure.

This is what I have so far:

Grade School Basics:
  • Parts of a sentence
  • Syntax, sentence variation
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Capitalization
  • Grammar
  • Research
Creative Writing Basics:
  • Point of View
  • Scenes
  • Plotting
  • Structure
    • Three act
    • Hero’s Journey
    • Propp’s Fairy Tale
    • Snyder’s 15 key beats
  • Literary description – metaphor, simile, symbolism
  • Show vs. tell
  • Voice and style
 Storytelling Basics
  • Characters
    • Protagonist
    • Antagonist
    • Supporting characters
    • Archetypes
  • Setting and description
  • World-building
  • Exposition
  • Dialogue
  • Pacing
  • Conflict
  • Theme

Revision Basics and Writing Tools
  • Outlining
  • Revision methods
  • Critique groups and beta readers
  • First read-through
  • Analyzing your story
  • How to revise…
    • Character
    • Plot
    • Beginning
    • Middle
    • End
    • Scenes
    • Exposition
    • Setting and description
    • Theme
  • Final polish
    • Chapter openings
    • Chapter endings
    • Dialogue
    • Word usage

It’s likely I’ll go more in depth than this, depending on what I come across while working on this series. I may add a few more things I haven't thought of yet. Since I’ll be working on the sequel to The Clockwork Giant at the same time, you can be certain that problems I come across will somehow find their way into this series. Some of these things I’ve talked about before, in which case, I’ll add links to relevant posts.

Now, while this is a lot to cover over the next several weeks, I’m sure I missed something. Is there anything I didn’t mention that you’d like me to cover? And if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to email me, or comment here.

This series will probably start January 9th. Monday, I’m doing a post about December sales for The Clockwork Giant. Wednesday, I’m announcing the giveaway winners (enter here). And Friday… well, I don’t have anything planned for Friday yet, but it seems counterproductive to start the blog series on a Friday.

So there you have it. I hope you all have a good New Year’s celebration!

December 28, 2011

holiday giveaway

Now that 2011 is winding down, I have a little present for you. As part of the New Year’s / post-book release / 100 blog followers celebration, I’m giving away some free stuff!

So the only rules are that you must comment on this blog post. I won’t be doing the giveaway anywhere else, so this is the only place you can win. You have until next Tuesday to enter (Jan. 3), and I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday.

The prizes:
1)      The Clockwork Giant in whatever format you want, digital or paperback
2)      $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble
3)      $5 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble

To enter, just comment on this post, and tell me: what books did you receive/read this holiday season?

December 23, 2011

merry christmas

I know a lot of people will be travelling today and tomorrow, off to visit family for the holidays. I wish everyone a fantastic Christmas, and I hope you all make it to your destinations safely. And of course, if you need something to bring to the family dinner, here are two dessert recipes, easy enough for children to make.

Gingerbread Men
Prep: 35 minutes | Chill: 3 hours | Bake: 5 minutes per batch | Makes: about 36 cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Wax paper
Mixing bowl
Hand mixer or Kitchenaid or extreme talent with a spoon
Cookie sheet
Cookie cutters

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar until combined. Beat in as much of the flower as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough about 3 hours or until easy to handle (I skipped the chill step and just floured my hands, the rolling pin, and the wax paper I was working on).
  2. Preheat oven to 375oF. Grease a cookie sheet. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until ¼ inch thick. Using a 2 ½-inch cookie cutter (or any size really… I made miniature gingerbread men), cut into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, decorate cookies with icing, candies, and sugars.

Peanut Toffee Chocolate Clusters

1 ½ pounds of chocolate candy coating
1 bag of toffee bits
16 oz. of peanuts

Large mixing bowl
Wax paper

  1. Chop the chocolate coarsely and then melt it according to the directions on its packaging. The chocolate should be smooth.
  2. Add peanuts and toffee bits. Stir until well coated.
  3. Spoon mixture onto wax paper. Let cool.

Seriously, easiest candy recipe ever.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas/Festivus/Winter Festival celebration. Happy Holidays.

December 21, 2011

royalties, hobbits, and candy

A few things today… I now have four reviews of The Clockwork Giant on Amazon! As far as I’m concerned, I’m doing rather well. I’ve sold 21 books in the past week, most of them on Amazon, and even one international sale. I’m hoping to get more through Smashwords once the book goes live on Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Sony Reader. And maybe sales will pick up after Christmas when people have more money. I’m not sure that the wave of new e-reader owners will give me many sales, seeing as they’ll likely only download books in the FREE -- $0.99 range. That’s what I did with my first e-reader. Anyway, I’m doing better than I thought I would with sales. I figured I’d be lucky to sell 10 copies in the first month. Instead, I’ve sold double that, and I’ve accrued $76.05 in royalties. That’s $76.05 that I didn’t have before. Woo!

December 19, 2011

here's to you, 2012

I did the same post last year, and from my almost-2012-perspective, 2011 was a good year. It wasn’t a great year. It certainly wasn’t an amazing year. But it wasn’t a bad year either. I’m perfectly content with this past year.

I finished and released a book. I started two D&D campaigns, one of which, still in progress. I didn’t get all the games that I wanted, but the only one that really mattered was Skyrim, and I’ve but 60+ hours into it. I’m probably getting The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for Christmas from my husband, so I’m looking forward to playing that.

We didn’t get to do much camping this year, like we wanted to. And all that money I spent on craft and d├ęcor supplies didn’t necessarily go wasted, but our house is still not very decorated. We did manage to paint the two bedrooms and the dining room, and we put down new floors and had new windows installed.

December 16, 2011

back to basics

Earlier this week, I had a bit of a rant. In an effort to support my fellow Indie authors, I started searching for self-published books to read. I thought I was doing pretty good. Realizing that not everyone has graphic design experience like I do or the money to hire someone who does, I ignored covers. I selected books based solely on the blurbs they offered, and then the sample.

But what I found while searching was disheartening. Here is my rant, edited for language, because I got a bit heated about it.

i just realized: there's a good reason self-published books have such a bad reputation.

dear authors,

if you plan on self-publishing, please have the courtesy to hire an editor, or run spell check at the very least, and please take a rudimentary college English writing course. you make the rest of us look bad when you don't.

yours truly,

brooke johnson

December 14, 2011

post-publication stress

Well, I am officially a published author. It’s still a bit surreal. For the past two days, I’ve been obsessively checking my sales, and if it wasn’t for spending time with my goddaughter, my best friend, and my mother-in-law, I’m pretty sure I would have driven myself crazy. I think I’m holding it all together pretty well. There hasn’t been any hysterical crying… yet.

Really, I feel quite calm about the whole ordeal. I just feel like I should be doing something. I mean, I know people aren’t going to rush to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, foaming at the mouth wanting to buy my book, but I would like to encourage them to do so. However, I have absolutely no skills in marketing. I’ve tweeted, Facebooked, and Google+’d about my book. I started a Google Ads campaign, targeted toward Nook and Kindle owners. I plan on starting a Facebook ad campaign today. I have sent book review requests to several bloggers, a few of which who have agreed to review it. I’m in the middle of answering some interview questions for a blog set to go live next year, and I have another guest post to write for a fellow blogger. I feel like there is more that I could be doing, but I don’t know what. And I don’t want to overwhelm social media with promo tweets lest I become a spammer. That’s the last thing I want.

December 12, 2011

buy my book!

Well, seeing as I suck with timing and all that, looks like my book is available for purchase!

It's 1881, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Chroniker City, the global hub of technological advancement in the modern world. Based off the British coast, the city is home to the most prestigious polytechnic university worldwide, a center of mechanical ingenuity teaching everything from clockwork mechanics and thermodynamics to electromagnetism and electricity.

Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, dreams of one day becoming a member of the Guild, an elite group of inventors and innovators who envision a future fueled by technology, but her ambitions will only come to fruition if she can find a way into the illustrious university—an institution reserved for men only. When she meets Emmerich Goss, an accomplished engineer newly recruited into the Guild, Petra discovers that he needs help building a top-secret, government-sanctioned automaton, and she is just the girl to help him.

Together, they craft the clockwork giant, and as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra finds that she can love more than gears and mainsprings.

You can buy it at Amazon here.
At Barnes & Noble here.
And at Smashwords here.

And hopefully by the end of the week you will be able to purchase it at the Sony Reader store, Kobo store, and the Apple iStore. I’ll be sure to add the links when the time comes. But if you want it right now, you can get a compatible version from Smashwords.

The official paperback will be available early next week from Amazon and Createspace, but you can get a copy from Lulu right now, if you’re so inclined. Just click here.

If you’ve read the book, would you please rate and review it on the above websites? It would be much appreciated.

December 9, 2011

preparing for release day

With my book release only a few days away, I’ve been unable to think of anything else. And yesterday, I received the first proof for the paperback version of the novel. I hope to have it available for sale at the same time as the ebook, but depending on lulu’s distribution terms, that may or may not happen. I faintly remember something about six weeks after the proof is approved, but that could have been for a different distribution package.

I only have a few changes to make to the paperback. I have to add in a few blank pages so that everything shows up properly. I have to edit the page numbers so that they only show up in the actual story rather than beginning to end. Which was something I didn’t think was possible. Google proved me wrong. I never knew you could break a document into sections in MS Word. The more you know….

December 7, 2011

only the beginning

With The Clockwork Giant coming out in six days, my nerves are all a jitter. My first reviews have gone up, and the book is officially out there. And as insecure as I am, I question whether or not I made the right decision, not about self-publishing, but about publishing itself. Is my book really worth publishing? I mean, it is my first completed novel. Aren’t those supposed to suck?

Now, I know that it’s the best book that I’ve ever written. I know that I couldn’t improve it anymore even if I worked on it for another six months or a year. I love this book. I made the decision to publish, because well, what have I got to lose? People may love it. People may hate it. Hopefully readers lean toward the first one, but I know not everyone will. And while I know that The Clockwork Giant is the epitome of my writing career so far, I know that it is in no way the best book I will ever write. I still have a long way to go as a writer, and I was reminded of that fact yesterday.

December 5, 2011

peripheral publications

With only a week until the release of The Clockwork Giant, I’ve decided that I’m going to work on a smaller project before delving into the sequel. I had a thought a few months ago—since there will be a full year between releases of the Chroniker City novels, why don’t I release a novella length short story collection? I could easily write several short stories concerning minor characters from Chroniker City, telling of events that happen between books, without giving away any major plot points of the main story. I’d want the short story collection to tie into the larger story, but I’d also want it to stand on its own, where a reader could pick it up at any time in the series.

December 2, 2011

celebrating christmas traditions

Now that it’s December, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas… shopping. As of the beginning of the month, I’ve purchased gifts for my closest friends, but none of my family. I don’t know what to get any of them. They should give me Christmas lists.

This year, we’ll be spending Christmas with my family. First, Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house, Christmas morning with Dad, late Christmas morning with Mom, and Christmas lunch with my other set of grandparents. Last year, we went to my family’s Christmas, and my in-laws’ Christmas, driving 1000 miles over the course of three days. It was too much, so we’re starting a new tradition: swapping Christmas destinations every year. With my family, we’ve had several traditions over the years. Most of them faded as we got older, but I remember most of them.