Writers Wanted

Our writing group is looking for writers who are interested in submitting short stories to our Thieves World project.  This project is crafting short stories that are set in the Thieves World universe.  All short stories must obey the rules set forth by Robert Asprin.  However, we have added an addendum.  Complete rules will be provided when accepted into the project.  Everyone who is accepted to the project must cross link to everyone else’s stories.  Cross Linking will not only help promote the Thieves World stories but will also promote your blog.  A bonus for everyone.

If you are interested, please contact Kevin Pajak for more details.  Writers must submit a story of no more than 10,000 words from their portfolio for review.   The story submitted must be a fantasy story.

Or to learn more please click here https://kevinpajakwrites.com/contributors-wanted/

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Heroine’s Journey

Here is a great blog for the Heroine’s Journey


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Artistry in the Cover

I recently had a chance at FenCon 2023 to talk to an independent publisher who crafted his own covers. There is something to be said for saving money on art. He does because he creates them himself. We all know that the publishing world has to watch costs if it is going to make a profit. This goes for the big boys too. Everyone in the publishing field, which also includes authors, understands profit margins are tight. There is not a lot of extra cash just flowing out of a spigot. We get it. My take away from meeting and discussing cover art with this publisher is that publishers believe art is one place where cuts can be made. Hell, artists are expensive. Who can afford that?! The better question is, “Should we?”

The answer is forth coming, but first I will return to a discussion of this publisher’s line of books. Taking a look at a series, sure they should and indeed must have the same or similar look and feel. I get it. The reader wants to pick up a book in that series and see that the cover is cousin to the last book. I want that as well. Well friends, this publisher understood that when he crafted a series. Each book in that series has the same look and feel that the other do. This is called… wait for it… unity. That is right. If there is a unity to the whole series, the way the characters act, the situations that occur, the evil-doers’ (borrowing a phrase from ole Bushie) actions, basically everything must contain a unity that unifies the series. This includes the cover art. Dark drafty castle with bold colors does not match child like art with bright sky and fluffy clouds. Thus, each cover should feed off the last cover for inspiration and design.

What publishers do not seem to understand is that this can also be used to great benefit. If the story takes a drastic turn, let’s say the author has written himself into a corner and he needs to reorient the story to get out of it, well… that is easy. Change the cover of the series to reflect that this particular tale veers off the beaten path. The cover is the first line of defense in ensuring that the readers will be willing to still take that journey down the series path. I do not see publishers taking advantage of this aspect of the publishing industry. Maybe they are scared. Regardless, most always we see a series maintain unity by keeping a similar feel to the cover art. I reference Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Covenant Series”. Have you see the paper backs? A-May-Zing! Each one is a different color but they still maintain the same style. Perfection on paper. Great job big publishing house whose name I don’t know. I think it was Bantam-Del-Double Day-Person-Prentice Hall or some such name. You know how they love to gobble up companies but still keep the names. Maybe call them Bloat and be done with it. Pha! Anyway, back to it. Where was I? Oh, yes—Art.

So, I started analyzing the other covers that the publisher had. There were a few series but there were also some one offs. The startling thing I came to realize is that ALL and I mean ALL the covers had the same look and feel. The overall experience of looking at them made them feel as if they were in fact the same series, which they were not. So, how does a reader react?

If the tale is good, it is good regardless of the cover, yes? If that is true, then why doesn’t the publishing world simply publish books with white covers and black letters with the title of the book and the author’s name? Why? I will tell you why. The art on the cover sparks the imagination. It is the beginning of the journey that the reader takes. I myself will dump a book because the art sucks. Tolkien? Yeah, I’ve heard of him, but he’s not worth reading. Have you seen that crappy cover? Yuck! Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. It could be the best tale ever told in the last ten years (notice how I limited it to ten years? Wink.), but if the cover sucks, I won’t be purchasing it. Sure, others might tell me all the great stuff going on in the book. I might even purchase it on a lark when I find it at a garage sale or at half price books, if there is enough hype about it. This fact does nothing to help the publishing world. It does not thrive off garage sales. It needs sales. Are we starting to see how important the cover is? Oh sure, there are some great greats out there that ignore cover art. I will mention that insanely awesome cover for Catcher in the Rye. That cover purple/magenta/whatever with simple yellow letters. That is a great cover for that novel. I wouldn’t have any other one. The latest space opera novel needs a great cover. Don’t you agree?

I return to my publisher. I didn’t want to bag on him at the Con either directly or to others attending the Con, but I will here. Sure, he is proud of his books. Even better, he is making sales. A hearty high five for him. I also point out that everything matters. So, if you have all these same styles pumping out, what kind of authors will you attract? I know that I would NOT approach him to see if he would publish my book. Heck no. He didn’t get it that the authors he attracts are authors who are either desperate or who are attracted to the covers.

I took a look around at other publishers. They have variety. Literary Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery… they all have a different feel. I am not one to demand that Mystery novels have murder covers or that Fantasy should have nothing but dragons on the cover. What a publisher needs to consider is what will each genre’s feel be for that publisher? Will the same artist be used for that genre? I think that making your genre have the same feel as EVERY OTHER PUBLISHER is also stupid. Sure, murder mystery authors want XYZ, but that does not mean we should accommodate them.

If we can take two things away from this crazy discussion we will see that one, and this is a major number one so I will repeat it, one! Artists do matter and they should be hired, and try to hire one not because he or she is famous, but because you like that style or feel or whatever makes you attracted to that artist. Hiring them just because they are famous is stupid. I would argue even more stupid than having every cover similar. Two, and this is almost as important as one, two..do not get trapped into thinking that your genre has to match a certain style or feel just because other publishers are doing the same thing. This is the United States of America. We invented individuality. We should adhere to that simple lesson and create a uniqueness about all that we as Americans do. This includes the covers we make. Sure, it might be scary, but think of the amazing covers we will have if we take the plunge and give a measure of freedom to the artist and the author. Wow!

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Man in the Window

The literary fiction short story anthology that our writing group has been working on for fifteen years is finally published.

You can find it on Amazon by clicking this link. https://www.amazon.com/Man-Window-Kevin-Pajak/dp/1737430509

I would love to hear feedback after reading it. Let me know what you think. If anyone wants to do a book review of it, I would love it — good or bad.

Such effort, all those years, phew! I don’t know how it affects other authors when they finish their books, but it left a gap or hole in me. I turn and turn and look for The Man in the Window, but then realize it is done. After reorienting myself, I realize I have to learn how to write novel length stories. A whole new way of thinking. The three thousand word limit became… comfortable. It was like a broken-in housecoat that you wrap around yourself while sitting in your favorite chair. <Click> the gentle light from a reading lamp turns on and you sit with your steaming cup of tea and a good book. Ahhhh… all is good. BAM! the world you lived in for fifteen years explodes in all directions and you are floating in a void. Really, a void? Yep. How do I go about changing how I write so novels come into being? One keystroke at a time? Sure, they tell that to recovering alcoholics. What about me? In a way, I too was addicted. Addicted to the length and rhythm of the short — very short — story. How long is a chapter? Should I take time to do a lengthy description? Oh yes, character development. Oh hell, here comes dialogue.

As I sit here in the aftershocks of the completion of our fifteen year project, I float and think about what comes next. It will be groovy to go on this new journey that expands my story world to 120,000 words instead of a mere 3,000. What awaits?

Well, I am working on a fantasy series. Twelve books. Unlike those who live by writing, I write so I can live. I will finish at least three of the books before I seek publication if not the whole series. It should become easier with practice. I should have a handle on it by the end of book three. I hope I can pick up the pace and finish it before the next Mayan calendar runs out.

I hate it when authors start a series and then die before they finish. You know who I mean. I don’t want to do that to my readers. So… here is to writing faster.

I hope you enjoy The Man in the Window. I love the preface to the authors’ notes. The rest is pretty good, too. Thank you, Kevin.

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Nifty Size Chart

Here is a website that allows you to visually compare sizes of things. This could come in handy for many things. One person could stand in for a building size and the other would be your actual person. “Hey, Maude, how tall was that mountain?” Well, friends, now you can check. Try it out.


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Trust Me

I recently re-read one of our writing group’s author’s story. It is called “Coda Redux.” James, the author, discusses in his author’s notes about trust, which made me want to discuss this concept in my blog, as I did not see him cover it to my satisfaction. So, let us turn to a discussion of trust.

How does an author construct a character’s trust that is believable? What is trust and what comprises it? Psychological construction of trust in a character contains ordered indicators that lead to a conclusion in the character that trust is warranted. In other words, for a character to believably trust someone who should not automatically be given trust, there are a number of indicators which are arranged in order. When these indicators pass the test as being true, then a piece of trust is earned or given. At some point, the character will give trust. However, the less likely it is that a person should be trusted, then the more indicators will need to be proven true (or passed) before that trust is given.

Here is an example

The Principle:

Say a mother goes to an elementary school and goes to the principle’s office. A woman enters (indicator 1 = yes) Note: a woman principle is more likely to be trusted than a man principle. If it were a man, then the answer would equal “maybe.” The woman, who this mother has never met, is clean, smells good, and is pleasant looking. (indicator 2 = yes). The “principle” (I put it in quotes because we do not REALLY know if this is the principle.) asks the mother to sit down. After a pleasant greeting, the principle says that she is worried about her son. (indicator 3 = yes). The mother will more likely trust someone in authority if that someone seems to be attempting to help her son. If on the other hand, the principle says, “Your son is a trouble maker,” then the mother will become defensive. In this case, (indicator 3 = maybe). Such a simple concept. What if we move it over to a less simple concept?

The Detective:

A mother opens the door to her house and two detectives are standing there. (Note: having only one detective will make it more difficult for the mother to trust) She shows a badge which seems real. (indicator 1= yes). The detective is shown into the living room and sits down. The detective immediately starts attacking her son. (indicator 2 = No). Instead, the detective starts asking questions about the mother, then switches to the son. (indicator 2 = yes)

Remember: these are “most likely” scenarios. I cannot craft them properly without an actual story to analyze. All these things will have to be built by the author. Subtle details will help perfect in a “yes”. Clean clothes, smells nice, combed hair. But the dirty bum living in a cardboard box will not ring with truth if his hair is combed and washed. So, some factors will automatically be against you when trying to craft an unbelievable person for a character to trust. Likewise, remember that you can craft a totally trustworthy person and insert odd or unsettling indicators in that person so that trust is less likely. This helps throw the reader off. Example: the detective who was acting odd, fidgeting when I said my husband’s name. The scientist who laughed maniacally when she talked about children being safe. The colonel who requires inappropriate actions be taken.

In the end, this topic is so broad that it becomes needful to write a whole book on trust. Needless to say, most authors have enough life experience that they can craft most of the characters properly. We just need to remember to check each indicator box along the way. If further research is needed, there are many psychology books written on the subject. This post stands mostly as a reminder that believable trust needs to be earned by verifying “yes” along the way. Of course, you trust me? don’t you?

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Strained Distraction

Stories mostly spin tales designed to capture the reader’s attention so as to overwhelm the readers’ consciousness and thus become lost in the paths of the story. This, typically, is called good writing. A story that distracts and loses the reader in the mazes crafted by the writer is considered excellent writing. We all aim for that type of tale. Desiring the reader to leave reality so as to only exist in the tale, we ceaselessly work to form stories that do this. We all walk around patting each other on the backs in congratulatory praise for the best mesmerizing tales. This is of course what most stories are supposed to do.

The realization that the writer sometimes does not desire this to occur too fully presents itself to me.  What do we do, as writers, when we want our readers to gnaw on an idea or concept?  The addition of a discordant noise into the tale will cause the reader unease.  Creating the proper level of this, although a skill not readily come-by, in one’s story can have the effect of denying the reader the escapism so often sought.  Someone is jangling the cowbell outside my window and I cannot fully concentrate on my story.  Damn!  “Where was I?  Oh, yes!” becomes the leading quote of the reader, although less consciously one hopes.  We do still want our story to be enjoyable, after all.

So, in this slightly distracted state, the reader resides.  The time for the insertion of an idea, a concept, a philosophy, or “X” (whatever X is) to occur.  The brain now begins to gnaw at this.  We hold the reader in this state just long enough for this (let us call it idea for this discussion, although it can be anything) idea to sink into the brain and take hold.  What to do now?  Now, we release the reader back in to the somnambulistic state to let them, as Albus Dumbledore puts it, “For in dreams we enter into a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or fly over the highest cloud.”

In other words, now that we have given them an idea, we must release the reader back into the world we craft for them.  We do this so that their unconscious can work on our idea.  The brain begins to mull over the idea.  Releasing them back into our world allows the unease they feel about this new idea to bleed away.  Tension release makes the idea not dangerous but interesting.  Because it is interesting, the reader will embrace it and begin to work to understand and own it.

So, after forcing the reader to think, we allow the return to the great ocean and the whale submerges becoming once again lost in the tale.  This time, though, it carries with it a packet of gold.

So, the writer must needs think on how to jangle the consciousness in just the right wakefulness if an idea/concept/thought/etc. is desired to be introduced into the reader.  There is no formula for doing so as each writer is unique.  Just the knowing of the needfulness of doing so at the right moment is all that is required.

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Too Long

I have forgotten now so many things that it seems I hant lived very long. But! My blue grey hair tells me that I have. But! My bony fingers cracked and hooked tell me otherwise. If I only knew where to begin what to do, then I could begin. Its so sad when we forget our lives like we’re wont to do when we get old? Am I old? I don’ t remember. I look about the room and see many a thing, some I even have names for, but most I don’t. I guess I am…not young, but then who is young anyway. Babies are not young they are bundles of seeking. Mydel aged folks, nah, they are not young either. Movement is their name. I used to dash hither and thither. Now, I sit here in this worn, wooden rocking chair and hum tunes to the wall. Sometimes, she talks back. She is big so big and made of beautiful natural stone. There’s someone who’s old. Hee hee hee….Lime-Lass tats what I call her. There she is now silently smiling her limestone smile at me. Then again, my watery eyes might be playing tricks. I wonder. Rubbing them, I blink over and over again trying to clear of water. She wants no part of that.

“No tears no Jack. The time has come for you to tell me another tale,” Lime-Lass says.

“Yes,” out loud to the dark silent room I shout. “I will tell another tale.”

“Will this one be true?” she asks.

“Can’t say if it will. Only just wait until it’s done, then we’ll know. Relax my love and let me tell you of the fish and boot. No, better yet I will tell you of the rock that fell from the hole in space. You like rocks. This I know.”

“Yes, I love them. They are my friends. Where have all of your’s gone?” she questions.

“Now, now no need to get like that. I don’t remember where they went. But they had wrinkled skin like me. Might be they stepped out for a bit. Rest assured they will return. They are my friends after all even if I can’t r’member their names.”

Startled, she states, “What do you mean you can’t remember their names. Are they not your dear dear friends? Have they been with you when you won that race against the sun. And were they not there to see you catch that fish the size of lif? Where have they gone?”

“I can’t remember but then that may be from age. I think I am old, so very old. But! Then I can’t remember. I hope you are ready for the tale – love.” This made her smile. “I will only take a short nap and then I will begin.”

He slept with dreams larger than life. Long time he slept. One morning he woke to the rising of the morning dew, life’s first breath of the day. The story and his stone wall love all forgotten, he jumped up and in his long sleeping gown rushed headlong out into the front all the while shouting. “Wait Tom, wait Tom.”

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Tone versus Register

I recently ran across this post. It is too good to not share. I would give credit but I couldn’t find it. Maybe, someone could point me to the original author.

Tone and Register in linguistics

I. In Writing, Tone Is the Author’s Attitude In written composition, tone is often defined as what the author (rather than the reader) feels about the subject. (What the reader feels about it, by contrast, is referred to as the mood.) Tone is also sometimes confused with voice, which can be explained as the author’s personality expressed in writing. Tone is established when the author answers a few basic questions about the purpose of the writing: Why am I writing this? Who am I writing it to? What do I want the readers to learn, understand, or think about? Tone depends on these and other questions. In expository, or informative, writing, tone should be clear and concise, confident but courteous. The writing level should be sophisticated but not pretentious, based on the reader’s familiarity with or expertise in the topic, and should carry an undertone of cordiality, respect, and, especially in business writing, an engagement in cooperation and mutual benefit. Expository writing shares with journalistic writing an emphasis on details in order of priority, so writers should not only organize their compositions to reflect what they believe is most important for readers to know but also use phrasing and formatting that cues readers about the most pertinent information — words like first, primary, major, and “most important,” and special type like italics or boldface, but employ both techniques with restraint. In creative writing, tone is more subjective, but it also requires focus on communication. The genre often determines the tone — thrillers use tight, lean phrasing, romances (hearty adventures as well as adventures of the heart) tend to be more effusive and expressive, comedies more buoyant, and so on. Some writing guides suggest that if you’re unsure about what tone to adopt for fiction, you visualize the book as a film — doesn’t everybody do that anyway these days? — and imagine what emotions or feelings its musical soundtrack would convey. Tone is delivered in the form of syntax and usage, in imagery and symbolism, allusion and metaphor, and other literary tools and techniques, but that shouldn’t imply that developing tone is a technical enterprise that involves a checklist. Just as with mastering your writing voice (while being flexible enough to adapt it to a particular project), adopting a certain tone depends on these and many other qualitative factors. Tone can also be compared to differing attitudes of human behavior — the difference, for instance, in how you behave at work, at church, at a party, and so on. Tone and voice are two features of writing that go hand in hand to create the style for a piece of writing. The attitude and the personality — two other ways to describe these qualities — could also be said to blend into a flavor of writing. Whatever analogy you use, make a conscious decision about tone based on the purpose, the audience, and the desired outcome of your work.

II. Linguistic Register and Code Switching by Mark Nichol “Linguistic register” refers to the concept of adapting one’s use of language to conform to standards or traditions in a given professional or social situation, and writers and editors will benefit from recognizing the distinction between registers.

The five general categories follow:

Intimate register is the highly informal language used among family members and close friends, and may include private vocabulary known only to two people or a small group, as well as nonverbal cues exclusive to the pair or group.

Casual register is the informal language of a broader but still well-defined social group, and includes slang, elliptical and elided sentences, and frequent interruption.

Consultative register is moderately formal language that marks a mentor-protege or expert-novice relationship, such as that between a doctor and a patient or a teacher and a student.

Formal register is language spoken between strangers or in a technical context.

Frozen register is ritualistic or traditional, as in religious ceremonies or legal proceedings.

Various registers, therefore, are distinguished by not only by sophistication of vocabulary but also by complexity and regularity of grammar and syntax. It is vital to note, however, that register is associated not with the speaker or writer but with the professional or social environment; a person can conceivably, within a given day, communicate in each of the five linguistic registers in assorted interpersonal interactions.

A related term is diatype, which means “language distinguished by the professional or social purpose,” and is often distinct from dialect, which means “language spoken by an individual or a group,” though a particular form of language may qualify for both definitions.

The three factors in diatype are:
1. field, or subject matter
2. mode, or the form of communication (written, spoken, and so on)
3. tenor, or the participants and their professional or social relationships.

Mode is further defined by the degree of preparation — whether the communication is improvised or prepared, or somewhere in between — and by the rhetorical purpose, including expository, narrative, or persuasive.

Another term relevant to linguistic register is code-switching, which varies in meaning but for our purposes refers to flexibility in adhering to a register within or between communications. One of the most noticeable examples of code-switching in U.S. urban areas is the divergent use by black people of standard American English and Black English (appropriately, known in a more formal register as African American Vernacular English). The difference between speech among adolescents and their conversations with parents and other authority figures is also code-switching. Writers and editors must be at least subconsciously aware of linguistic register. In fiction, a given character may necessarily shift among several, if not all, degrees in a given story, and the character’s fidelity to the appropriate register in each situation will in part determine the writer’s success.

III. Nonfiction also relies on attention to linguistic register, in that a topic for one article or essay may require consultative register, while another may call for casual or formal register — and the writer must sometimes consider whether code-switching within one piece is an appropriate strategy. (You get my drift?) This discussion does not suggest that writers and editors must dispassionately analyze writing for technical adherence to linguistic register in order to succeed. But wordsmiths who recognize the distinctions will be more successful in facilitating communication in both informational and creative prose.

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Invitation to Character types

Recently, I began thinking about characters and how they develop and change as a story progresses. Some of these changes are dynamic and some not so dynamic. I want us to remember the types of characters that can appear in a story.

Here is a list.

False Protagonist
The protagonist
The secondary Character
Third person Omniscient
Third person limited
The Detached Observer
The Commentator
The Interviewer
The Secret Character

I rarely find many of these characters in stories and am motivated to wonder where they have wandered off. Did they find greener pastures in which to play? I wonder. Maybe, they stopped caring so much and stayed home. Regardless, we need to invite them out to play every once in a while. This we may find enjoyable, and, if we are lucky, we may find our writing improved as well. So, let us hear it for the forgotten character. The call has gone forth. Will you pick up the challenge and craft one or more of them into your next tale? I will.

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