ROW80: Making it a Book You Want to Read

I am late posting today’s ROW80 update because, well, there isn’t much to update. After the early part of the week’s quick success getting Chapter 12 marked up, things slowed down. A lot. In revising Chapter 13, I ran into a bottleneck. One new scene needed to be added, but before I could write it, I needed to firm up the characters’ motivations for doing the (otherwise stupid) things they were doing. That took a while. I also forgot to take into account that yesterday was RWA chapter meeting day, and for me, that’s a good 6-7 hour chunk of time, including the drive to and from which is an hour each way.

I got about half of the new scene written yesterday, and finished it up today. I still need to write a new beginning to the following scene, needed due to the prior new scene, and the aforementioned character motivations.

So, less progress than I would have liked. I’m not making excuses, but here are the reasons:

  • Failure to take other time commitments into account
  • Failure to gauge the difficulty (and time requirements) of the task
  • Time spent playing video games when the plot solutions weren’t forthcoming

The reason for all this? As I told one reader who didn’t want to wait until December for Time’s Fugitive: “Believe me, you don’t want to read this book now. It’s full of plot holes, confusion, and characters doing stupid things. I’m making it into a book you will want to read.” Hopefully!

For this week, I’d like to get revised through Chapter 15. I’m hesitant to commit to that, as both 14 and 15 are going to require a lot of work. But I’m through the block on 13, and think the rest of it won’t be too bad. So just that and 14 doesn’t seem like quite enough. Also, I don’t have a ton of other stuff going on this week, so… maybe!

Do you find yourself setting goals without taking other commitments and the difficult of the task into account? How does it work out for you?

Guest Blog: Jim Winter

First of all, thanks to Jim for joining us here, and helping to make the mundane magical! I’ve known Jim for a loooooong time – we met my freshman year in college, <cough> years ago, through a mutual friend. I served as an early sounding board for some of Jim’s early Star Trek fanfic (you knew I’d mention that, didn’t you?:)) and later, as a beta reader for his first efforts at publishing crime fiction. Jim returned the favor and gave me some good advice for Time’s Enemy, and assured me that, yes, Tony indeed thought and acted like a guy.

So let’s dig a little deeper, and take a look at what makes Jim – and his characters – tick:

Jim, you’ve been published before by a small press. Your novel, Northcoast Shakedown, was a crime fic piece that I really enjoyed, even though that’s not a genre I read a lot. Please share your publishing experience with us:

Well, when I signed, the publisher was full of energy, and everyone on the roster became everyone else’s cheerleader. There were some hiccups getting Northcoast out, but it was a fun ride. And at the time, I had some money to spend on travel, so I used that to beef up my networking and get to know authors and booksellers. That first year was fun.

The second year was not so fun, but when any business goes under, there’s no clean way to sever ties. It’s too bad, because I really thought they could do something or be a decent launchpad for a lot of the writers. I think that’s true of a lot of small presses when they overreach. I remember UglyTown did not go quietly, despite both the publishers’ and authors’ best efforts, and Point Blank just sort of faded away. But for a short time in the middle of the last decade, it was a wild ride.

There are two more books featuring Nick Kepler, the protagonist of NCS, both of which I also beta-read and really enjoyed. I remember reading Bad Religion at work during a slow period, and having to restrain myself from laughing out loud. IMO, these books deserve to see publication, and NCS deserves another chance. Now that you’ve gone indie, do you have any plans to (re)release them?

Northcoast will definitely be out later this year. Noir master Ken Bruen wrote me a very nice intro, and I found out it was sitting on a shelf he uses for quotes when he writes. So I was very touched by Ken’s intro. He’s been one of my mentors for years, and I have one project under wraps that will bear his name on the dedication page. I’m not saying which one.

The second book, aptly titled Second Hand Goods, is going to get a rewrite and a fresh edit. I’ve evolved as a writer, and since its collected cyberdust for the last five years, I can look at it a bit more objectively.

Bad Religion is just screaming for some fresh material based on my experiences since the early drafts. I’ll likely downplay Nick and Elaine somewhat to focus on some of the other characters.

Road Rules coverWhich brings me to your new release, Road Rules. This book has a history of its own, including snagging an agent’s interest. Can you share a bit of that with us?

The seeds of Road Rules have been around for some time. Tim Mason was the earliest. A mutual acquaintance of yours and mine introduced me to this weird coworker. I’d toyed with making him a lawyer in a standalone (picturing Seth Green in the part) and a thorn in Kepler’s side, a role eventually taken by the Eric Teasdale character.

A couple years later, my publisher and I kicked around the road trip idea. I wrote a short sketch about two guys in a stolen Cadillac trying to get to Miami. Tim Mason sort of attached himself to the story.

After I got orphaned, a few friends prodded me into doing NaNoWriMo in 2006. So I fleshed out the story, hit on the idea of the decadent, yet spiritual drug lord, Julian Franco as the cause of all this chaos, and boom! The story demanded to be written.

Road trip stories are always fun! I love your tagline, “The road to hell begins with a stolen car.” But what really pulled me in were the characters. Were there any particular events, places, things you saw/heard/read that inspired the overall premise of the book, its events, or any of the characters?

The route they took was once the “long way home” from Hilton Head, SC, over a few years last decade. And having visited Savannah a few times in the process left me longing to write something set in that city. I still wanted to write about Cleveland, where I-77 begins, so the setting fell together easily.

I saw a few shows on History about holy relics and one of those true crime things about the theft of one such relic. Put those together in a city with a large Slavic population and you get St. Jakob.

Mike is based on years of working in the insurance industry. Maybe too many years. And Cinnamon was part of my desire not to have a bunch of macho white guys hosing the freeway down with testosterone. Plus, instead of the angsty tarnished knight, she’s someone just trying to prove herself.

Back in May, you released your first indie title, a short story called “A Walk in the Rain” (also a good read). What made you decide to go indie?

Well, crime doesn’t really pay well. Of course, I’ve got a short story in West Coast Crime Wave coming out this month from, which I did get paid for, but the paying markets are few and far between. I decided to get paid for my short work. I also found out that 1.) It’s the cover, stupid (though content still rules), 2.) people don’t really buy a lot of short fiction on Amazon unless it’s a collection, and 3.) it might help if you actually market an ebook.

(Jennette: A Walk in the Rain is available at Amazon for $0.99.)

Now that you’ve tasted the control and flexibility that comes with indie publishing, are you still pursuing a traditional publishing contract, or perhaps another agent?

I think eventually, I’d like to go traditional, but only under certain circumstances. I’m in a position now where I don’t have to make this a career. So the terms have to be right, and I have to be able to keep control of material I’ve already published. But if the right deal can be worked out, sure, I’ll sign.

Are you planning to offer Road Rules in print?

If enough copies sell, I’ll put it on CreateSpace. If a publisher makes a sweet enough offer, I’ll seriously consider it.

Now that Road Rules is out, what’s next for Jim Winter?

Northcoast, as I said, will be coming out. And the other two Keplers will see revisions and fresh edits. Then there’s my “magnum opus,” which I’ve been reworking since the original draft checked in at 105,000 words.


Thanks again for being here, Jim! And to everyone else, Road Rules is a fantastic, fun read that you owe it to yourself to check out, even if you don’t normally read crime fiction. It’s a fast-paced caper that will keep you reading – and laughing – all the way from Ohio to Georgia, along with Mike, Stan, and Cinnamon. Road Rules is available in your choice of e-formats for a knockout price of $ .99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Jim keeps a fun, entertaining blog at where he writes about books, publishing, sports, Cincinnati, technology, and whatever else strikes his fancy.

Anyone have questions for Jim? Feel free to ask, or just comment to say Hi!

Characters who Believe too Easily

Considering that I write time travel romances, I also like to read them. Same goes for other types of paranormal romance – shifters, fae, vampires, witches, other worlds, psychic powers, etc. My favorites almost always involve a main character who is initially unaware of his/her paranormal abilities or nature, or who comes into these abilities in the beginning of the book and must learn how to use this special nature or power. But one problem I have with many of these books is that these characters believe too easily. They learn something about themselves that no reasonable person would easily accept, then boom! Hey, I’m a vampire, that’s great (or sucks), and off the story goes, no problem.

I can suspend disbelief to accept, for the time I’m reading, that there are such things as vampies, werewolves, fairies, or time travel. But when a character with no previous experience, no reason to believe, suddenly finds he/she is one of the above and is almost immediately accepting of that fact – well, that’s a little harder to swallow.

The characters believe too easily, and in doing so, are less believable to me.

Grave New Day CoverOne book I recently read where this was handled well was Grave New Day, an urban fantasy by Lina Gardiner. Jess, the main character, is a vampire – but she’s been one for a long time, so it makes sense that she’s with the program. What she finds unbelievable is meeting her human partner, John – who’d died in the previous installment of the series. He’s not a vampire – in Gardiner’s world, vampires can sense each other – but he seems to have some superhuman abilities he lacked before. Add to this the fact that he can’t remember who he is or how he came to wake in a mysterious, underground crypt, and the only understandable course is for Jess to be suspicious. John gradually discovers who he is, but the harder one to convince is Jess, and it takes her over halfway through the book before she believes.

In my upcoming time travel book, Time’s Enemy, main character Tony gains the ability to psychically travel in time after nearly dying in an accident. For the first few chapters, he’s convinced his trip to ancient Mayan times and being sacrificed was nothing more than a hallucination or a bad dream. Even when he travels back two years within his own life, he has trouble believing. Not until he finds the Saturn Society, a group of other time-travelers, does he begin to believe, as he develops the ability to control his travels.

If you read paranormal romance, fantasy or science fictions books dealing with the unbelievable, do you find that many characters believe too easily, and does it bother you? Or is it okay, as long as the story’s otherwise believable and entertaining?

Photo ©Igor Prole via

Good Stories: “Promises,” by Sheri McGathy

Promises coverI’ll admit it, I’m not a big fan of short stories, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the fact that (disclosure) Sheri McGathy is my cousin. Or maybe I would have, if I saw past the length and read the book description:

Shay, a Blade Whisperer, has made a promise. A promise she is determined to keep, no matter the consequences or the pain that promise might cause. She has searched long, following the countless whispers of forgotten blades, until one quiet whisper reveals the blade she seeks. And now that she’s found the bewitched dagger, she must fulfill her promise to set her lover free…by killing him.

Kill her lover to keep her promise to him? I’m so there! A buck-fifty on Smashwords, and “Promises” is on my netbook, ready to keep me from getting bored on the treadmill.

Probably the main reason I’m not big on short stories is because I prefer longer works, that can pull me into a complex plot with well-drawn characters I have plenty of time to get to know and love. So often, there just isn’t room in a short story to dig deep enough, and the conflicts stay small out of necessity to fit the length. Worldbuilding is often sparse.

“Promises” proved to be a great exception. Although there isn’t room to really plumb the depths of the main character, a swordswoman named Shay, we do get a full sense of her motivation and what compels her to go places, and do things, few women would in her world. Her emotions are well-drawn, and we quickly care about her and want to see her succeed, while making a terrible choice. McGathy excels at worldbuilding – despite the short space, the reader can easily get a picture of her world that’s torn apart by magic and continues to decay. Background information is dropped into the story in small bits, just enough to build on that picture and enhance the experience.

Best of all, the conflict, while simple, is not small (see story description), and the end ties in nicely with the worldbuilding, its background, and Shay’s past.

As a bonus, the ebook download includes another short story: “The Gift,” a very short (almost flash fiction), sleeping-beauty-esque tale.

So if you’re looking for something to occupy twenty minutes or so, and you enjoy a good fantasy story, check out “Promises,” available on Smashwords and B&N, and coming to Amazon’s Kindle soon.

Do you like short stories, or do you prefer longer works? I read mostly romance novels, but when it comes to shorts, I find the format works better – for me, at least – for fantasy, mainstream, or crime fic. Do you enjoy reading some genres more than others in short form? And would you recommend any specific stories for my next workout?