Monday, October 30, 2017

How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?

As NaNoWriMo prepares to launch again, the usual debate has begun over how long it 'should' take to write a 'real' novel. I will leave the definition of a 'real' novel to more intelligent minds, since many critics believe that genre novels aren't 'real' books, and I believe that many modern 'literary' novels are merely set in a 'literary' location (New York, the antebellum South, a war-torn country) and have an unhappy ending.
Let's agree that a novel is a story, and that it substantially longer than six words. How long does it take to write a novel?
It takes as much time as it needs to finish the story. Some authors can write several books each year, especially if their income depends on it. Stephen King regularly produces enormous books and include 100+ page novellas in his short story collections. Other authors take years to complete books, especially if life (or rehab) gets in the way. Then there's the unfinished "trunk novel" that was put away in a different decade because the writer realized that it was turning out to be a different story than the one she'd thought, and the ending hasn't come to her yet (no names, please).
Writing a story is a noble undertaking. You may never finish it, you may write like crap, you may use the word "really" fifty-two times in the first chapter, you may start off with a weather report and your more hip friends will tell you why that's 'wrong'. But you have begun something that is an extension of you in some way, yet has a life of its own.
You may think that 'inform' merely means to give data to someone else, but it can also mean to give principles or a defining quality to something else, whether it be something written or a way of living. You inform your story via who you are; that's why Travis McGee and Hercule Poirot are so very different. It's why Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't like A Wizard of Earthsea.
Stories also inform your own life. If you've been told you were "the good son" through childhood (a loaded phrase), you are unlikely to embezzle funds from the family business and take off for Cabo with your au pair. If you see yourself as a geek girl, you will join every fandom under the sun and sneer at reality TV. If you tell yourself you are a writer, you will write a tale - and if you tell yourself that you are a good writer, you will finish that story after November if it's not done, and you will review your manuscript to remove those repeated words.
Are you ready to go?

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Stephen Zimmer: Top Ten Favorite Real or Fictional Vikings


About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington, Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).
Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Twitter: @SGZimmer Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7 Instagram: @stephenzimmer7 Website: www.stephenzimmer.com


Top Ten Favorite Real or Fictional Vikings

Viking Prince Einar (in the 1958 Film The Vikings): Played by Kirk Douglas magnificently, Prince Einar was one of my first encounters with Vikings on screen.  I remember watching him run the oars of the longship in amazement (which Kirk Douglas really did, that was not special effects!).  This character was part of what drew me to become interested in Vikings, and definitely deserves a place on this list.

Harald Hardrada: Harald Hardrada is a very interesting figure, as a good argument can be made that the Battle of Hastings might have turned out very differently if the Saxons had not had to fight at Stamford Bridge against him before marching south to fight at Hastings.  He had extensive travels too, and for a time was even a member of the famed Varangian Guard in the Byzantine Empire.  He was said to be a very huge warrior too, in terms of physical stature, and in some ways was an inspiration for my Ragnar Stormbringer character in the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot. 

Olaf Trygvasson:  I've always found the history of Olaf Trygvasson fascinating, from his turbulent youth (involving some harrowing escapes) up to becoming King of Norway, and then his end at the Battle of Svolder, where he fought to the end and then jumped off his longship before his enemies could kill or take him prisoner. 

Rollo
Rollo (Vikings TV Show version):  In the TV series Vikings, I have to say I loved the Rollo character.  He is tough and has a great presence on screen, and the development of his character from Berzerker to a Duke in France is a very engaging part of the storyline.  Rollo historically is behind a group of Vikings who settled Normandy, whose descendants became the Normans that one day conquered England after the Battle of Hastings.

Herger the Joyous:  Herger was a character in the movie 13th Warrior that I absolutely loved.  He was the one who, when Antonio Banderas' character found a sword heavy, told him to “grow stronger!”.  Full of life, good-natured, and a tough warrior, Herger was a compelling character in that film.

Erik (from The Last Kingdom TV Series):  Based on the Bernard Cornwell novels, The Last Kingdom TV Series is a great one for sure.  I really liked the Viking character Erik, who has quite a character arc that sees him go from a bloodthirsty, brutal warrior to becoming an honorable man capable of love. 

Leif Erikson: Leif Erikson had to have tremendous courage to undertake the voyages that he did.  He visited North America centuries before Columbus, and there are identified sites that may confirm the settlements mentioned in the Sagas. Greenland was not the easiest place to carve out a living in either. Leif Erikson's world was definitely not one for the faint of heart.

Cnut the Great: The Vikings did indeed take control of England prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and Cnut the Great not only invaded and conquered England, but also ruled it for over two decades.  His rule as a King also extended to Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden.  Very impressive feat for a Viking in those times!

Haakon the Good:  A Norwegian Viking King who had a long rivalry with the famous Viking Eric Bloodaxe and his sons, Haakon was a very sharp commander who again and again prevailed against stronger forces sent against him.  I've always admired underdogs and Haakon triumphed repeatedly as an underdog in the Viking age. 

Ivar the Boneless (Vikings TV Show):  As mentioned earlier in this post, I am drawn to underdogs, and Ivar the Boneless is certainly an underdog in the TV show Vikings as he lives in a very tough age of warriors without the use of his legs.  Nevertheless, his wits, intelligence, and determination see him overcome foes, survive, and grow.  He is not a good character in a moral sense, he is hardened and sometimes very cruel, but he is a survivor and in an age that was not compassionate toward those with disabilities.  He has lived a life against seemingly insurmountable odds to become a major leader of Vikings, and for that relentless drive and determination he makes my list here.   



Book Synopsis for Heart of a Lion: Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.

Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Things You Don't Need to Know to Enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express

One of the most off-putting ideas about historical fiction is that one has to know a lot about history to enjoy historical fiction. Worse, that the story is going to be stuffed with as many things to remember as a Christmas card list, which would make for a turgid read! Fortunately, there are many things you won’t need to know to enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express.

Do I need to know Florida’s history?
The characters didn’t need to know it. You’re safe.

Are there historical figures I need to be familiar with to follow this book?
Some of the people are real. If you understand words like “sheriff” and “gangster”, you’ll be fine. There are cheat notes in the back of the book if you get curious.

Do I need to know what the Mullet Express is?
It’s the quickest haircut you can get in Alabama. Okay, we're fibbing. It’s a train that hauls fish and land speculators, but all you need to know is contained in the book title: it’s The Scene of the Crime.

Do I need to know much about the 1920s?
Just pretend that your phone is out of data and you’re too young to drink. And everyone talks like they’re in a Cagney movie.

Do I need to know anything about Homosassa, Florida?
The address contains the magic word: “Florida”. It’s all the information the land speculators needed. As they say: location, location, location.

Do I need to know how a steam engine works?
No, but you’ll learn how to annoy neighbors with a steam radiator.

What does Gertrude Stein write about?
We don’t know either, but it can give you a headache.


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book launch: Formula Murder by Ross Carley, Mister in Crime

Formula Murder Book Launch Party and Signing
Free goodies! Meet Ross Carley.
Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Porter Books and Bread
5719 Lawton Loop E Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46216
www.porterbread.com/

Formula Murder is the second Wolf Ruger mystery by Ross Carley. Private Investigator Wolf Ruger, returning Iraq vet with PTSD, tackles high-stakes high-tech crime and elusive murderers in the fast-paced world of Formula racing, undeterred by beautiful women and organized crime. Indianapolis-based HH Racing has a high-stakes technical problem the week before the last big race of the season. The race car’s telemetry malfunctions, baffling the racing team’s experts.

Wolf’s experience and instincts kick into high gear to determine if the telemetry failure and a mysterious fatality are related. Simultaneously, murders strike a mob operation involving espionage and the FBI. Wolf’s best friend Tito Rodriguez provides PTSD support, and his retired mentor Max advises him through the twists and turns of the case.

Wolf must untangle the turmoil before he becomes a victim. While juggling passionate relationships in his personal life, he remains undeterred in pursuit of answers.

"Wolf Ruger of Dead Drive is back! Once again, Carley weaves a tight tale of murder, money, and sex while giving readers an up-close, behind-the-scenes look into the rarefied world of Formula racing. Speed counts in this taut investigation!" 
    - Michele Drier, award-winning author of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles and The Amy Hobbes Mysteries

Formula Murder is available on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
Visit www.RossCarleyBooks.com  and  www.Facebook.com/RossCarleyBooks for more information.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

5 Years In: Things I've Learned About Life In Florida


Five years ago, I moved from a stable life in Kentucky to an up-and-down existence in Florida. These days, it's more up than down, for which I am grateful. Here are some tips if you're a prospective citizen of the Tampa Bay Area:
  • Florida has no state tax. This means that anything involving government costs a lot more. Prepare for 'sticker' shock with transferring your vehicle.
  • Do not underestimate the sun. You might have worked outside all the time up north, but this is different. The Floridian sun can give you freckles through your shirt sleeves, and you can even get sunburned driving home from work.
  • Related to the above: if you’re trying to make a living in Tampa Bay, expect a long commute. The largest number of jobs are in places you can’t afford to live. Those places are for tourists and the wealthier snowbirds. The assumption is that you’re partially paid in sunshine.
  • Florida residents have a higher-than-usual risk for skin cancer. I think this must be a corollary.
  • City regulations in coastal areas are not devised for the benefit of the citizens, but for that of tourists and rich snowbirds, who will supposedly flock to that town, even if there is no beach.
  • If there is no beach, tourists and rich snowbirds will use your town as a pee stop en route to the beach towns.
  • You will see advertisements for ‘manufactured homes’. All housing, outside of caves, is manufactured. These are really mobile homes.
  • Manufactured housing is evacuated first during a hurricane, even if your town has no beach.
  • The air may be warm in December, but the ocean isn’t. Ditto swimming pools.
  • You won’t get a refreshing swim in the ocean or the pool during August unless you add a truckload of ice first.
  • Do not wade or swim in retention ponds. The early developers drained and filled in many natural lakes during their quest to peddle land. Guess where the alligators live now?
  • Lizards are everywhere, especially dinky ones. Check your shoes.
  • The climate is favorable to vermin, not people. Expect to invest in heavy-duty prevention measures. Learn where the closest Tractor Supply Company store is, even if you don't own a tractor.
  • Mashed potatoes ‘Florida style’ are often watery instead of creamy. I don’t know who thought of this, but they should be horsewhipped.
  • Greek restaurants in Florida often put a scoop of potato salad under the Greek salad. They may claim it’s traditional, but it’s an American tradition. I've been to Greece twice; I know better. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.
  • There are two growing seasons in Florida, but many “farmers” at farmers’ markets don’t grow their own wares. Instead, they resell farm produce rejected by the supermarkets. Look for the guy with the badly spelled sign on the side of the road instead.
  • You will lose snow days and gain hurricane days. Yes, it's weird. 
 The adjustment is slow, but continuing. Kentucky seems so far away. It is - in distance and time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Fair in Ft. Myers

Our second major book fair, the Southwest Florida reading festival, took place in a beautiful location. The view of the river was inspiring, especially when we were coming over the bridge. Later that day, I would dream of jumping in those dark blue ripples.

The Sisters in Crime booth had a steady rotation of authors, with our president, Wendy Dingwall, staying all day. She gave Gwen and me plenty of useful information for future affairs. We also had the pleasure of meeting Kate Carson for the first time.


We had a steady flow of people come by our booth in the morning, but it did slow down at lunch. In the afternoon, the crowd thinned. Florida gets warm a lot sooner in the year than Kentucky. We still had a good time sharing information and getting to know one another better.

It's been a long time since Gwen and I did so much standing and walking, especially in the heat. We drank a lot of soda and shared shaved ice, which seemed to evaporate from our bodies as quickly as we consumed them. When we got back to Safety Harbor, we ate, drink more fluids, and collapsed. Two days later, I'm still tired.

This coming weekend is the Venice Book Fair. We'll remember the cooler this time.

Friday, January 27, 2017

On Sale Every-Bleeping-Where: Murder on the Mullet Express!

Ridin' the Crazy Train.
I just realized that I never made an announcement here about the book. Everywhere else, yes. Here, no.

So: this is the first in a series of novels that Gwen Mayo and I are writing together. It's mostly set in Homosassa, Florida, but the real fun starts with the train ride. Cornelia Pettijohn is an Army nurse who served in WWI. It's now 1926, the height of the Florida Land Boom, and her Uncle Percival says he wants to buy a warm winter home. Their car breaks down near Ocala, and they take the local, the Mullet Express, to Homosassa. A passenger is poisoned, and subsequently dies. That's when Cornelia discovers that Uncle Percival had a hidden agenda for the trip, and he is now the sheriff's chief suspect.

Since this wasn't enough trouble, her uncle has gained the interest of visiting gangsters as well. She and her companion Teddy Lawless, a flapper in a sixty-year-old body, must save him. Plenty of action ensues with car chases, shootings, arrests, and secrets to uncover. Oh, and nights of heavy drinking. This is during Prohibition, after all.

If you're wondering whether this is the same Percival Pettijohn that appears in Gwen Mayo's Concealed in Ash, you'd be correct. I adore him and stole the character for the short stories we've previously written with Cornelia and Teddy.

So. Where can you find it? At Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, at Scribd, Kobo, and even iBooks. It's also available on Kindle and Nook, and some other places, too. Please seek it out.

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