Do You Need a Glossary?

Do you need a Glossary? – Tips and Tricks for the Self-Published Author on creating a helpful glossary.

Hey there all you self-published writers!

Got a big book you’re about to bring out?

Does it have…

  1. A million characters to keep track of (Ala Robert Jordan, Tolkien, or Martin?)
  2. Words in another language (Real, made up, modified – this is me!)
  3. obscure military, technological, or scientific terms?
  4. a PhD worth of terminology?
  5. A fantasy world of made up locations, animals, magic, etc?

Then you, my dear compatriot, probably need a glossary.

Some simple rules to follow when creating a glossary.

  1. Follow my Significant Other’s rule – if she doesn’t know what it is, the average reader won’t (I.E. Better to leave it in than keep it out of the glossary)
  2. Add the humor or additional backstory – the glossary is a great place to add sneaky extra bits of information, backstory, or other fun, world building tidbits.
  3. But be careful – don’t say it is one thing in book one, then something different in book two.
  4. Find some examples from great fantasy books to help you out.
  5. When in doubt, ask your editor or beta readers to underline or identify the words they didn’t know to help you out!

There you have it! I hope this helped! Glossaries can really make your book much more approachable, and people will love finding those hidden ‘easter eggs’ in the back of your book (but never tell them where to look, it is more fun to find them on your own!)

How to deal with Failure

How to deal with failure – an observation and commentary.

By Daniel Ottalini

man-yelling-at-computerEveryone fails. Be honest here. At some point in your life, you will fail at something. Maybe it’s not getting that promotion or being told you’re being let go. Maybe it is part of your hobby or something within your family. Maybe it even involves your writing. But everyone has that point where they are face to face with failure.

So…how do you deal with it? How do you get beyond the feeling that you’ve done everything wrong and it is all your fault?

First, get back on your feet. Realize that sometimes, you did everything right (or ‘write’ so-to-speak), and it still wasn’t good enough for the situation.

Second, learn from the failure. Thomas Edison spent years trying to invent a lightbulb. When asked why he didn’t give up, he responded (paraphrase form) that he didn’t just fail to invent a lightbulb, but he discovered 100 ways how not to make a lightbulb. So learn from your mistakes and failures. Personally, I’ve learned how to be a better communicator, a better author, and even a (slightly) better publicist because of my mistakes.

Third, be willing to ask for help. Sometimes, you will not know why it was that you failed. Your submission wasn’t accepted, or your proposal wasn’t picked. Obviously, not all situations will provide the opportunity to ask for feedback, but still it is helpful to ask. Any decent person in most fields with time and desire can provide you with feedback, and some will.

Finally, look for the support of your peers. This is why it is good practice for authors to get novels beta read before sending it off to the editor, and why professional authors have multiple editors examine their work. One person is not the end-all, be-all of authority and wisdom. Find a good support group and see how you can grow.

And when in doubt, take a hot shower, eat some chocolate, and go to bed early. That always helps too.

How to Beat Writer’s Block

Brief Posting on Defeating Writer’s Block

Hi all,

Had a terrible case of writer’s block the last few days (Okay, weeks. I think Lisa, the publisher of Antioch Burns, was having conniption fits.) But seriously, nothing was working. I was really unfocused and could not connect one idea to another. So how did I break it? Well, I think it’s a combination of factors, but here’s what I’ve got so far.images

    1. Got a lot of sleep (seriously, a tired brain doesn’t always think straight)
    2. Stayed up late (in opposition to the prior one, I stayed up late once I finally broke through!)
    3. Listened to classical music from Kingdom Of Heaven.
    4. Alternatively, you could have also watched scenes from that, or any other movie/film connected to your genre.
    5. Went for a walk. Without the iPod.
    6. Drove home without listening to the radio. (Both E and F make you think, because you have nothing to distract you.)
    7. Text/Phone a friend (Who recommend I go for a walk. Thanks Lys!)

Breaking through netted me a sweet 1k words in Antioch Burns, plus a long range pat on the back from my publisher. 🙂 Anywho, short posting today. What else do you do to defeat writer’s block?

Alternatively, look up inspirational photos online! (This is from the upcoming Rome Total War II game.)


What is Kickstarter?

What is Kickstarter, and how does it work?

Hi all,

Hopefully by now, you’ve had a chance to check out my latest Kickstarter project and hopefully support me in my bid to publish Copper Centurion, the 2nd book of the Steam Empire Chronicles. I had quite a few people ask me in the last few days exactly what Kickstarter was! So prepare for a whirlwind tour of Kickstarter Nation.

What is Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative and awesome projects. This means that people looking to get a start in creating or producing something will find a home among the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who support projects on kickstarter.

From the Kickstarter Website –

Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it.

So what is the catch? Two actually. The first catch is that each project must be funded fully or beyond. So if you ask for $500 dollars, and only get $499, you get no money, zip, zilch, nadda. Which is good and bad. It doesn’t leave ‘partial’ projects hanging in limbo as creators try to secure other fundraising sources. The second catch is that each project creator must build reward tiers for each level of sponsorship. Pledge ten dollars to my project? You get a copy of both Brass Legionnaire and Copper Centurion ebooks. So in return for your money upfront, I give you a copy of what I’m working on (or have already finished). The rewards go up as the money goes up. I’ve seen people offer major characters in video games as rewards, names for product lines, given producer credit on albums, etc. Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.49.21 PM

The only limits are pretty obvious – no weapons, no bribing (money for money or coupons for money) along with other banned substances. Kickstarter has more information, but really, be creative! My favorite tiers are the two highest because the rewards are the coolest! If you pledge $100, you get to create and name a character in Iron Tribune, my next full-length novel, and you can even choose his/her death. Of course, if you want something even cooler, you’ll pledge $250, which nets you all that plus a Roman Helmet. A legit helmet, not something you find in the dollar store.

But I digress. So rewards are the bread and butter of Kickstarter, but how to get rewards?! You must make your project cool. Kickstarter recommends making a video to promote your project. I plan on doing this, but the weather and light have not been cooperative, argh! But it also helps to have a social network out in advance – twitter, facebook fanpage, or email listserv. Alternatively, you can hit up friends and family to support to.

So there you have it – create your project, tell people why you need their hard earned money, then create your reward tiers, promote and voila! Hopefully a fully funded project. Oh, did I mention the time limit? 45-60 days max! And you must deliver on your rewards. Oh, and Amazon takes 5% of the money doled out in processing fees. So be aware, but then continue on! If there’s anything I learned, it is to start small – ask for $250 to help you get illustrations for your novel. Then see where it takes you!

Have any of you used Kickstarter? How did you like it? Were you successful?


Building a Better Book – Your World, Your Choices

This is the first post in a series entitled “Building a Better Book.” In this posting, I examine how to create an intriguing setting for your novel.


Greetings all! Welcome to the start of my new blog series “Building a Better Book”

In today’s episode, I’d like to talk a little about how to create a world that has elements of realism and fantasy (or science fiction, etc). For me, at least, building a world is all about three things.

1.) How is your world realistic? – Does it connect to our world? Obviously, for some stories this is not practical, but even space operas have their share of realistic environments – space battleships with bridges that would probably seem familiar to any current navy sailor, planets that are Earth-like (or perhaps more Moon-Mars-or-Jupiter like, etc. If your story takes place on Earth (future, present, or past) it’s even easier. For Copper Centurion, much of the story takes place in Nortland, otherwise known as present day Sweden and Norway. So what did I do? I popped onto Google Maps to get a top down view, found some more ancient maps to do a cross analysis, then went to work. I looked for roadways and rivers to help decide on the routes that different characters would take in my story. Thus, the world impacts my story. Which brings me to point two…

2.) How does your world match your characters? Your world must match your characters in terms of realism. Soft fluffy creatures won’t live on a harsh, rocky mountain. It just doesn’t make sense! Now, you could do a “farm girl in the big city” type situation, where the setting impacts the character’s development, and that’s fine, but if you’re creating a whole world, then you have to put more thought into the setting. Now finally…

3.) What else could impact the world? What I mean by this is simply how does the technology level of your characters impact the story. A story set in Victorian England will most likely need to have heavy periods of fog and smog impacting the characters as they run around. A story taking place in the Canadian Rockies will probably involve snow. A story taking place in the Middle East during the Crusades will not only have undercurrents of religious conflict, but also desertification and the need for water.
So you see, when creating a world, you really do have to do some research. It really does help lend power to your novel or story if readers can identify with the place that they are reading about. But if you go ‘hyper-local’ you have to get it right, at least in a standard fiction novel. Otherwise, readers may eat you for lunch!

Well, that’s all for today! See you next time!


Where and How I Write

In case you were wondering how a full time teacher manages to write, here’s a quick look inside my writing time.

Greetings all, and thanks for checking back in. I know it’s been a rather warm summer, and I just got back from a two week vacation/moving out party for my brother, who has been studying abroad in Tokyo for the last year.

English: Meiji Shrine Tokyo, JapanNeedless to say, two weeks in a country where you don’t speak the language can be both terrifying and enlightening. Just depends on whether you ordered the right food or not! (s’cuse me, I did not order the live squid with red bean paste filling, I ordered that eggy looking thing over there…. oh, that’s sea urchin ovaries? no thanks, I’ll have the rice.) Anyways, I thought that the ‘where and how I like to write’ post would be best done right now, as it’s a wonderfully quick and easy posting. Simply put, I write everywhere when I can and as much as I can – being a full time teacher during the school year, you can’t be picky, although I do tend to prefer weekends. I don’t normally set a word count per day, but a general ‘be at this many pages by such and such date’ instead.

Not specific enough for you?

Okay, I start by outlining my book in a journal/notebook that I picked up from Barnes and Noble. I find it slightly funny that something from B&N gave birth to something that is now carried in their online store. Usually I do a ‘whole book in one page’ type thing, then I go chapter by chapter. I know some authors do a lot of outlining. Outline this story arch or that. I can’t do that, nor do I have the patience to do that. I’ve done much of it in my head already. Did I mention that I tend to like writing late at night, with some dramatic music on? Personal favorites are from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack or other classical musical masterpieces. Although a few modern hits do show up from time to time. Hopefully my neighbors don’t think I’m slightly insane!

ShinkansenOnce I’ve outlined the chapters, I type them up. Sometimes I’ll refer back to my notes and sometimes I won’t. I’m fortunate enough to own both a mega desktop mac and a smaller laptop, so I took the laptop on my vacation and discovered that train rides are an AWESOME time to get stuff done. Between five airline flights, and probably a dozen train trips, I added around 10,000 words to Copper Centurion. I also sketched out the entire book in my notebook. You see, sometimes I’ll only outline the first half, then wait until I reach that point to continue the rest. I’m constantly tweaking and changing my story arcs. While the trains and planes may be loud, its loud white noise, not talking and cell phones, so I can concentrate. Otherwise, I need the music or silence to really focus on whats going onto the page.

After I finish writing this time, it’s off to the beta testers. I’ve been a lot busier this summer (even without a full time job) so I’m still only about halfway through CC, whereas last year I had finished Brass Legionnaire by this time. Goal is to finish it by end of October, and then let my beta readers have at it all of November. If you’re interested, PLEASE let me know, the more the merrier!

Oh, and I’ll be posting some lovely photos of the new digs later on for your voyeuristic enjoyment. But only if you are nice!

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