R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: The Exile’s Violin (page 2 of 2)

The Exile’s Violin Cover Art Teaser

If you like steampunk, then here’s a little bit of a treat: a rough draft version of the cover art for my upcoming novel The Exile’s Violin. The talented Enggar Adirasa is handling the art for this one. You might recognize his work from Gwen Perkins’ The Universal Mirror. That’s where I first saw Enggar’s art, and I knew the style would be perfect for my book.

So far I’m really happy with how this is turning out. The only big change that’s going to happen between this draft and the final copy is that Jacquie (my main character) is going to turn around and “face the camera.” She’s a standout character, and I think the reader will benefit from getting to see her face. So what do you guys think? Is this steampunk enough? Would it catch your eye on a Barnes & Noble shelf? The Exile’s Violin will be published by Hydra Publications this September.

The Exile's Violin cover draft

Characters Count: Keeping Them Consistent

Engaging characters can make or break any story. You could have the coolest setting in the world  and a mind-blowingly awesome plot full of ups and downs, thrilling twists, and a dramatic conclusion, but they would amount to a fat load of diddly (squat optional) if your readers don’t care about your characters.

Readers Notice Inconsistencies

I just finished going through the first round of content edits and revisions on The Exile’s Violin. One of the common threads that ran through the editorial notes centered on my characters and their…character (for lack of a better word). I’d written them behaving one way earlier in the book, but by the end they were reacting to things in ways that just weren’t them. I didn’t keep my characters’ character consistent. And if my editor noticed, you can bet your ass that readers would pick up on it too.

Novel writing

For example, my main character, Jacquie, comes across as a no-nonsense type of young woman, one that may have anger issues, in the opening chapters. However as I was reading later chapters, she was doing things that were completely out of character. Trying not to cry after a setback instead of getting angry. Feeling ashamed instead of not caring what other people thought–especially when she hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t have that spark that made her interesting in the beginning.

Avoiding Flat Characters

All the writing advice gurus talk about making sure your characters change and grow–avoid flat, two-dimensional characters! But there’s a difference between character growth and inconsistency. You better break out your red pen and do some rewriting when you see these kinds of mistakes.

Red pen

Having a character learn to care about other people rather than just themselves, that’s growth. When two characters develop romantic feelings for one another in an organic, unforced way, that’s growth. When a character hates eggs in chapter 2 but then spends the rest of the book only ordering omelettes, that’s an error. So when Jacquie starts crying all the time (seriously it was embarrassing how many times I’d put that in there), it looked like her behavior was coming out of left field. I rewrote those sections to have her keep her original attitude. As a result, her character stayed more consistent, but still retained room for growth.

You can turn inconsistencies into genuine growth though. Using that egg example: you could add reasons into the story, plot points, dialogue, etc. that shows why that character learns to love eggs to the point where they’re eating omelettes for every meal. That would be growth.

It’s all about how you present it to the reader. You can show them a character’s behavior in one instance and say, “This is fact. This is how my character acts.” That’s all fine and dandy. But if you then show the character acting differently in a similar situation and say, “This is fact. This is how my character acts” they’ll call BS. No author wants to have their readers call them out on something like that. It’s just plain embarassing.

Starting the Revisions Process

I just got the first round of comments and suggestions back for my debut steampunk novel, The Exile’s Violin. This is super exciting and scary at the same time. On the one hand, the initial feedback I got in the email with the manuscript notes was good. The word “riveting” might have been used in the first sentence. So yes, that’s always positive.

Still I haven’t opened the marked up manuscript file yet. I’m kind of scared to do it. I mean before I read the email, I was afraid that my editor was going to read my manuscript and think, “Bleh, why did the company agree to take this mess on? This isn’t worth publishing.”

I mean that didn’t happen. And besides, if an editor really thought something was that bad, then my manuscript probably wouldn’t have been good enough to get accepted and to this point anyway. So that fear is just irrational. I know.

So why haven’t I opened the file yet? I don’t think I have “Editor-Phobia” as outlined in a guest post by Muffy Morrigan on Christine Rose’s blog. I’m not afraid that my editor is going to completely cut my voice out of the story. No, I think the thing I’m worried about the most is that I have an irrational fear of my own writing.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice on recordings. And similarly, I don’t like rereading things I’ve already written and revised on my own. And finally, despite all the advice that says to do this, I also hate reading my stories out loud. For some reason just thinking about reading things I’ve already written makes me cringe. It’s something I have to get over. If I want to keep growing as a writer, I know I’m going to have to learn to look at my works with a more critical eye.

Well if there was ever a time to toughen up and just get to it, this is it. My book is an actual thing that is being published. It will be a product people can buy and read. But if it’s going to get to that point, I got to take this first step. Who knows, it might end up being fun, and undoubtedly it’s going to make The Exile’s Violin stronger.

Good News Everyone!

I hope you all just read that in the Professor’s voice from Futurama. If you didn’t then I’m ashamed of you. So I got some pieces of good news today. They’re not earth shattering or anything, but they’re still promising, more like opportunities for better news.

1) I have a job interview next week. Exciting.

2) I queried a publisher a couple of days ago about The Exile’s Violin because they said “they loved steampunk, but query first.” Thank goodness I saw their page when I did because their reading period was closing the next day. They got back to me this morning (2 days after I queried) and asked for the full manuscript! What? Normally you send in a query letter, then maybe some sample pages/chapters (anywhere from 1-3 chapters or maybe the first 20-50 pages) and  if they like the same, then the publisher asks for the full. Who knows, this could end in rejection, but I’m an optimist! I take it as good sign that the publisher wanted to read the full thing after reading my query letter. I know these things take time, but I can’t help it when I hope they get back to me right away–next week would be fine.

In other publishing related news, Tobias Buckell has an illuminating post on his blog about his story story collection Tides From the New Worlds and its ebook sales. It’s a very pragmatic and no nonsense look at ebook sales. It definitely offers something of a reality check for all those people out there who are screaming that print is dead and everyone should jump on board the digital train ASAP. I suggest you read his post, especially if you’re a published author.

And now writing updates.

Yesterday I did something a little unconventional for me. I wrote a short story in one sitting. Right now it’s titled “One Hundred Years” and its a little bit of a departure from what I normally write. I went for more of a straight up fantasy thing rather than sci-fi or speculative fiction. It’s not perfect and it needs some edits/revisions, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I also started revising my timeline and encyclopedia for my upcoming project The Price of Loyalty — a sci-fi novel that follows the rise and fall of one starship captain set in humanity’s future. It’s been really fun writing the encyclopedia and adding footnotes like it’s a real reference document. Once I get the encyclopedia a little more fleshed out, I’m going to start revising the outline. I like what I have so far, but it needs more depth and sophistication. Right now it feels very rough.

Project: “One Hundred Years”

Deadline: N/A

Word Count: 2,295

 

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