Novel Excerpt: Seth Conway and Falken’s Fantastical Flying Circus

Seth Conway and Falken's Fantastical Flying CircusCopyright 2015

Theresa C. Crawford

All Rights Reserved


CHAPTER ONE

It is said that he stood with his spine

as straight as a Lord Noble…

and his eyes downcast like a slave.

-Archer Talents, Royal Historian-

Seth accidentally caught the gaze of a small boy looking out of the window of a butcher shop. He ducked his head and hurried his pace down the street. It was late afternoon but already dim, for the sky drizzled misty rain and cold fog thickened with every passing minute. He huddled within his ragged frock coat, hat pulled low to meet his turned up collar. He kept his hands tucked within his coat’s overlong sleeves. Cold fingers were clumsy.

#

“The Lasrach are just a myth, boy.” The butcher ended his assurance with grunt as he hung half a pig from one of the heavy iron hooks in the shop’s window.

“But Papa, I do see one! He’s walking down the street.”

“Don’t be daft.” He frowned at his son, old superstition prickling across the back of his neck. “No man sees a Lasrach and lives to speak of it.”

“So they are real!” The boy hurried to the shop’s open door and stared up the street, a plucked chicken dangling forgotten from his hand.

“No, Archer. They’re naught but tales told to frighten wayward women and children. Hush your foolishness and get back to your chores or it won’t be the Lasrach you have to fret over.”

“Yes, Papa.” The boy turned away from the door and handed him the chicken to join the other meats on display.

#

Meeting no one’s eyes, careful to be nothing more than a tattered shadow in their peripheral vision, Seth sized up every passerby. A bit of fine lace and silk peeking out of a passing reticule somehow made its way out of the lady’s possession and up into his left sleeve.

Handkerchiefs didn’t bring much at hock, but a few coins were far better than no coin at all. Just as food in the belly and a roof overhead were more comforting on a raw wet night than the ease of a conscience untroubled by petty thievery.

Fortune hadn’t smiled on him today by granting honest work, but he still walked free, so he counted himself among the lucky. As he turned into the street that was the day’s meeting place, he caught a furtive bit of conversation, the voices dulled and hollowed by the thickening fog.

“Coo— look at that bit o’ fluff, will ya? What I wouldn’t do t’ that….”

A low, vulgar laugh. “What would you know of it, y’ little poof?”

“I ain’t no poof! I was with one of Madam Tremaine’s, just last night. She said I’d break me share of hearts, she did.”

Seth heard the rising click of a woman’s heels against the cobbles. He crept closer, flattening himself into the shadow of a back stoop staircase. A scavenging roach scuttled out from underneath to nibble at the mud on his boots.  Seth shoved it aside and it fled, dragging two of its eight metallic legs against the pavement. Those devices never functioned properly for long, especially in this part of the city.

The furtive conversation just beyond his hiding place took an uglier turn.

“Ye’re a flamin’ liar. If ye’re so fine as y’ say, show that one there what that heartbreaker of yers is for.”

There was a scuffling sound, a woman’s gasp of surprise.

Seth eased close enough to make out the shadowy figure of a young woman, bracketed by a pair of strapping men.

“Evenin’ darlin’,” one of the men crooned. “Whatever are ye out by yerself here for?”

The woman walked faster.

“Maybe we should keep her company…” the second man offered as he moved in front of the woman, turning around to look at his companion, who dropped back behind their prey.

“Go away!” the woman snapped, and tried to sidestep the man in front, but he moved with her like a dance partner.

“Maybe we should teach her why pretty lasses shouldn’t walk alone,” the man following close behind her countered, with a throaty laugh.

The woman dodged and ran, but she was grabbed up into a punishing embrace by the man behind, his dirty hand clamping across her mouth before she could scream aloud.

Seth slid a hand into his pocket, slipped his fingers through the rings of heavy brass knuckles. The man behind was the one to take out first. Seth moved as quickly but quietly as he could. The pair was too focused on ripping the struggling woman’s bodice to notice any slight scrape of boot-soles against stone.

His fist lashed out with all the power he could put behind it. Just as the blow connected with a stubbled jaw, Seth recognized her attackers. It didn’t matter, at least not now.

Fergal went down in a dead sprawl and didn’t make a sound.

Charlie bellowed and shoved the half-naked woman to the road. She crawled towards the curb. Charlie trampled over her skirts to get to Seth, a knife in his hand as if it was conjured there.

Seth feinted, then snatched Charlie’s knife hand. He backhanded Charlie in the nose as he gave that captured wrist a vicious twist in a direction Dame Nature never intended it to go.

The sound Charlie made usually only came out of rutting cats. He went to his knees, snuffling blood and cradling his arm. “Y’broke it! Y’broke it, y’ bloody sheep-bugger!”

“Shut your gob and go before the coppers get ya!” Seth hissed.

“Y’ll pay for this, Conway!” Charlie swiped his sleeve across his face, smearing blood from his nose across his upper lip and cheek. “Me and Ferg will fix you proper, y’ boot-lickin’ judas.”

“Lookin’ forward to it,” Seth told him with a smile that was more a baring of teeth. “How ‘bout now?”

He took a stride towards Charlie. Charlie backed off fast, scrabbling like a roach.

“Get him out o’ the road and yourselves far from here,” Seth gave his former compatriot a swift parting kick in the arse.

Charlie lurched to his feet, then grabbed Fergal by the coat collar. He staggered away up the street towing Fergal behind, a human donkey harnessed to a heavy load. Seth watched until the two disappeared around the corner. He remembered the woman then, and turned, expecting to see nothing but deserted street. She stood at the curb, staring at him, her arms wrapped around her bosom.

“He knew you,” she said, her tone accusatory.

“Yes.” Seth picked up his hat and knocked a clot of mud from it. Nothing would help the shape of the thing, for that had vanished years before. “They were right about one thing, Miss,” he went on. “You shouldn’t be walkin’ here alone.”

She gave an unladylike snort. “Thank you for stating the obvious. I’m not stupid, you know. I was abandoned by my cad of an escort, and lost my way.”

“I beg your pardon, for no offense was intended.” Seth shrugged off his coat and held it out to her. “Here, Miss. It’s not clean, but you needn’t fear to wear it, for I’m not lousy.”

She glanced down at his offered coat, one eyebrow arched, before she nodded and turned her back so he could assist her into it. “I’m Delia Falken. You may have heard the name. My father owns Falken’s Flying Circus.” Her voice rang with pride.

“Well then, aren’t you one of the lucky ones,” Seth murmured as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and settled the tattered wool close around her, as if it was a queen’s cape. She was very pretty, and was a brassy little piece of baggage.  He favored women who had more sass than polite society veneer, but his preference didn’t matter, now or ever.  Miss Falken was a helpless young woman of far higher class than his own, unavailable as the stars for the likes of him. “If you’ll allow it, I’ll see you back home safe, Miss Falken.”

Her eyes traced over his form, from battered hat to cracked, filthy boots. Her shaken demeanor changed with a flutter of her eyelashes, as if she tucked her fright away like a discarded garment. Delia looked up into his eyes, chin tilted at an aristocratic angle, though her cheeks were still pale. “I’d be honored, Mr. Conway. That is what your filthy-mouthed friend called you, isn’t it?”

So, brassy and changeable as the wind, then.  He answered her first with a little huff of scorn. “I wouldn’t go so far as to call him friend,” Seth answered. “But aye, my name’s Seth Conway.” He gave her a slight bow. “At your service, Miss.”

She stepped to his side and tucked her fingers into the crook of his elbow with a proprietary grasp. “Now, when escorting a lady, a gentleman holds his hand in front of his chest, like so.” She settled his hand into a loose fist, just above his stomach.

Seth allowed himself to be posed like a doll, compliant in amusement. “I do know some small scraps of refined manners, Miss Falken, for all my reek and rags.”

Her pale cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry, I should have known better when you rescued me instead of joining in.”

They strolled a bit closer to the yellow pools of light and safety cast by the gas lamps on the main street.  “If it was me you met in the fog, you’d had no reason to scream,” Seth assured her.

“Why? Would you have ignored me?”

“Most probably,” he shrugged.  The truth was, he may have accosted her himself, though for nothing more nefarious than a glancing, ‘drunken’ stumble to allow his hand access to her skirt pocket.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” she huffed.

Seth shot her a shocked glance, for one wild second afraid he’d spoken his thought aloud.  “What do you mean?”

“Being ignored.” Delia bowed her head, looking up through long lashes at him with a pout pursing her plump lips.  “I don’t like it.”

Was she being coy with him? Seth felt shoved off his balance by her sudden swings of demeanor.  She was proving to an amusing interlude in a long and dreary day, but he would be happy to see her off.  Miss Falken was an intriguing puzzle in a very appealing package, but she would also be a dangerous complication his already tangled life.

“My advice is to develop a tolerance for it, Miss,” he said.  “If you were ignored by all tonight, you wouldn’t be relying on the likes of me to escort you safe to a ‘pod. “

She stopped short, halting them both within the weak circle of light cast by the cracked globe of a street lamp.  “The likes of you? Do I need fear you’ll force yourself upon me as well, Mr.  Conway?”

He withdrew his crooked arm from her grasp and told her a sliver of the truth.  “I don’t force women into letting me have my way, I charm them into thinking it’s all of their own free will.”

His reply brought a splotchy flush to her cheeks and wiped away her coy pout.  “You haven’t deigned to practice any of that charm upon me, so why should I believe that you’re experienced in beguiling hapless women?”

“Why does it matter?” he asked.

“I told you, I don’t like being ignored.” A sly little smile flashed across her lips.  “I strive quite diligently to be admired by all.”

“If Fergus and Charlie hadn’t expressed their vile admiration of your person, my own may have cost you the gold chain on your wrist at the least.”

She sucked in a startled breath.  “You would have robbed me?”

He shrugged.  “I would have picked your pockets. That’s naught but petty thievery. I would never harm your person.”

Miss Falken took his arm again and set them walking.  “I appreciate your moral restraint, Mr. Conway, but you’ve hardly convinced me of your irresistible powers of charm and seduction. Though the fact that you’re escorting me rather than stealing me blind is somewhat a balm to my vanity.”

Seth looked down into this brazen, confusing little chit’s eyes and gave in to the sudden urge to rock her inner equilibrium as she had his. After all, he wouldn’t be seeing her ever again, once the ‘pod carried her back to her privileged life.

“I was born and reared in a brothel catering to the quality,” he began.  “The Madam took a liking to me as a babe, and schooled me in literature and pretty manners from the day I could stand up on my own. She molded me into a dainty little prodigy before I was even out of skirts and ringlets, well-practiced in charming all manner of men and women, no matter how jaded. I was scarcely five when my mother died.  The evening after her burial, Madam cashed in her investment by replacing my mother’s lost earnings with the first of my own. I made my escape when I was seven.”

Her lips sucked into a perfect little horrified ‘o’ around a gasp.  “That’s… unspeakably ghastly! It breaks my heart to even imagine such heartless depravity being inflicted on a little child!”

“I’m hardly the first, or the last, and I survived.” He shrugged, banishing ugly memories back into their mental pit, and gave Delia his most delectable smile.  “Since then, I’m free to be charming only when I choose to be. And I could still steal you blind before we reach the ‘pod.”

She blinked and turned away to face forward again. They took a few paces in silence.

“You’d make a good roustabout, you know,” she said as if they’d been discussing the possibility for half an hour. “You have a mean right hook, so you must be strong.”

“Is that an offer of employment or simply an observation?” Seth asked as they neared the platform for the flying peapods. At this hour, and in this part of the city, the shadowy elevated platform was deserted.

“Both!” she said gaily, leaning her head against his arm as they ascended the ornate, soot-caked, ironwork staircase. “Well, as much as I can offer. I’ll give you a shining commendation to my father for saving my life. I’m sure he’ll offer you a job on the spot.”

“We’ll see, I suppose.” Seth stepped slightly in front of her as the cylindrical ‘pod rattled and swayed up to the platform before them, its iron pulley wheels screeching at a painful pitch against the single rail above the ‘pod that suspended it over the street.

He clapped a hand to his hat to keep it from being swept away by the downdraft from the rotors that shoved the car along. The ‘pods were notorious for lifting unwary ladies’ skirts, so it was more engrained courtesy than concern for her questionable modesty that prompted him to block the wind from her.

The ‘pod braked to a stop with a hiss of steam and a down-pitched roar from the slowing rotors that tattered the gritty fog around the platform. Yellow lantern light spilled out of the ‘pod as the door opened with a pneumatic wheeze. The conductor waited to one side, his palm out at the ready.

It was Seth’s turn to flush in shame then. “If you’d be so kind to tell me where I may find your father, I’ll come in the morning to speak with him. I don’t have the brass to take the ‘pod.”

“I think, Mr. Conway, that recompense for saving my life would at least begin with fare to see my father. I’m sure by this hour, he’s becoming worried about me.” She smiled as Seth handed her up into the ‘pod. “Please?”

“As you wish, Miss Falken,” he nodded with an answering smile and stepped up after her. Once the conductor punched their tickets, Seth settled onto the leather seat opposite Miss Falken and tucked his chilled fingers under his arms. If nothing else, at least this ‘pod would carry him out of Fergal and Charlie’s easy reach.

She was quiet a moment as the ‘pod roared away, her expression indiscernible in the shadowy interior. “Will anyone worry for you tonight, Mr. Conway?” she asked, her voice softened slightly, though whether from remorse or pity or simple weariness, Seth couldn’t determine.

“No, there’s none to worry over me,” he answered, just as softly. His lips tilted into wry disgust. He had no doubt he was the center of many a heartfelt thought just now, but it wasn’t worry they were wasting on his memory. He’d seen Charlie gut a man like a trout once, for far less offense than he’d served up in the middle of that street.

“Ah,” she answered, as if she had been enlightened by some profound reply. She leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes with a weary little sigh, her skirted knees somehow insinuating themselves into the space between his.

Seth shook his head and looked out the window, making careful note of the passing stations to keep his bearings about him. Wherever this peapod left him, if it was within the bounds of Manchester, Seth knew he would be wise to walk on further.

CHAPTER TWO

Ambrose Bierce defined it best:

‘Circus: n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants

are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.’

-Archer Talents, Royal Historian-

When he stepped down from the ‘pod at the Old Trafford’s Gardens platform, Seth stopped, so stunned by the sight spread before him that he forgot the woman waiting, trapped inside the compartment, behind him. He forgot even to breathe.

The main tent rose at least three stories into the sunset-streaked, smoky sky. The ruddy light drew out the brilliance of the blues and greens, yellows and reds that spiraled up its sides. It looked like an enormous candle, topped by a huge Union Jack fluttering proud in lieu of a flame. But even more awesome than the massive, cylindrical tent were the airships behind it.

The largest hung so high, it almost seemed another moon, but one flattened like an onion. It glowed from within, and twinkled in the beams of light playing over it from below, almost as if it was studded with stars.

A round gondola hung halfway down the stalk that tethered it to its loads, and to the earth. Seth could make out tiny figures, small as ants, moving about past the windows. Men, he realized, the crew of the magnificent ship.

Smaller dirigibles of the usual oblong shape encircled the large ship. They spelled out the name of the circus on their sides, as colorful as the tents and booths on the ground below. Their gondolas gleamed with polished brasswork and glossy paints.

The whole fleet was wreathed in wisps of white mist, steam released from the boilers below. The low-pitched, thrumming rumbling piston-beats of the engines they drove blended together into an uneven rhythm, the thudding heartbeat of some great, sleeping beast.

“It’s grand, isn’t it?” Delia said, voice light and airy with pride as she, too, took in the sight of her home. “I still get all weak in the knees when I see it from a distance, and I grew up with the Circus.”

Seth twitched, startled by her voice at his shoulder. He quickly turned to smile up at her. “Grand is hardly the word for it all,” he answered, and didn’t care that he sounded awed even to his own ears. “Beautiful, surely. Even magical….” He shook his head with a little laugh. “I’ve never seen so much light and color all at once in my life.”

The ‘pod conductor tugged the cord that blew the tardy whistle.

Delia gave a little shriek and jumped down from the car, shoving Seth forward. Seth probably jumped half a foot, himself, then staggered a little as she landed against him.

“I beg your pardon, Miss,” he blurted and swung her away from the danger of the departing ‘pod.

“Oh hush,” she giggled. “It was fun to see you almost jump out of your boots.”

She tucked her fingers into Seth’s elbow again as they descended the fog-slick platform stairs. “On show-days, there are omnibuses pulled by zebras to bring people to the ticket-gates, but tonight we’ll have to walk.”


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A Site of Interest to Anyone Writing Historical Fiction

OnlineEtymologyDictionary

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this labor of love and scholarship, but I’ve found it so useful that I’ve opened it every time I’ve opened my working drafts for both My Name Is Tom Dorin and Seth Conway and Falken’s Fantastical Flying Circus.  Nothing can throw me out of a story as abruptly as a glaring anachronism, and that includes gaffes like 21st century words in 19th century dialog.  The Online Etymology Dictionary helped me avoid that pet peeve more times than I can count.

It is amazingly comprehensive, I’ve only stumped it a handful of times, and its authority is far better than many better known websites. It always includes a reference to each variation of use, and gives the dates the word first appears in English, and also when it shifts in shades of meaning.

As someone who browsed dictionaries and read encyclopedias for fun as a kid, this site is as much an entertainment as it is a reference. Pick a word, any word, and see if you don’t get sucked right into the fun of chasing down origin after origin. You’ll find some surprises, I know I did.  Amazing to discover that some very modern-sounding words have been around for eons, and some I suspected were ancient first showed up in the 20th century.

My hat is off to Douglas Harper, the owner of the site, and to all those who have helped him make this site the comprehensive marvel that it has become.  Intellectual generosity like his helps restore my faith in the kindness of strangers.

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And Years Go By Like Weeks…

…The heart breaks and breaks

and lives by breaking.

It is necessary to go

through dark and deeper dark

and not to turn….

~Stanley Kunitz, The Testing-Tree


When you’re going through hell,

DON’T STOP!

~Douglas Bloch


Literal broken hearts and broken parts took over my life and my creativity in this long interim between the publication of My Name is Tom Dorin and today’s post.

I’m back in one piece, though not entirely OEM anymore, and able once again to concentrate on my writing. Seth Conway and Falken’s Fantastical Flying Circus is in its first draft and making the rounds of my beta-readers.  I’ll be posting more about it soon.

Watch this space!  

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Worth Every Penny: Scrivener

Scrivener for Microsoft Windows

Necessary Disclaimer:

I don’t receive any kind of compensation for any recommendation I make. The folks at Literature & Latte don’t know me from Adam’s off-ox, but I believe in giving credit where it’s due and spreading the word about excellent goods and services. I hope it’ll aid someone else in their quest to get their creative effort out into the world.

Who Needs Scrivener?

Many people work with long, complicated documents: students, professionals, authors of all flavors. I found myself among them as I began working on the document that would eventually become My Name Is Tom Dorin.

Using this novel as an example, I have two protagonists who are in different centuries, living out their fates in interlocking but separate story lines, plus a cast of secondary and supporting characters in both centuries. In my first novel, mind you. Yeah, I never do things the easy way, do I? I started off riding a bicycle by heading down a steep hill too, towards a tree.

The novel’s impetuous undertaking ended with a glowing sense of success. That first bicycle ride? Let’s just say parts of me glowed for quite a while afterward. . . .

Anyway, retracing that rabbit-trail: After struggling with legal pad pages covered in scrawls and swooping arrows, stacks of index cards bordered with bilious highlighter marker colors, and a Word document that scrolled on longer than the credits for the original Superman,I began to get a sharp pain behind my eye every time I tried to figure out which scene should go where.

Sometimes If It Seems Too Good to be True, It Really Is That Darn Good!

I can’t remember where I first found Scrivener mentioned, but it sounded exactly what I needed. In fact, it sounded too good to be true, and $40 is a tad steep for me to take a chance on something I’m not certain about.

I decided to give the free trial a whirl. I used it about a week before deciding that I would purchase it the instant the trial period ended. The software looks complicated at first glance, but it quickly becomes intuitive. Still, I strongly recommend going through the tutorials before you dive in and start merrily deleting templates and resaving stuff.

I honestly do not think I could have finished Dorin without the organizing structure and ease of revision that Scrivener provides. The Literature & Latte site describes its glories better than I can, but I will say that it set me free to write and allowed me to revise with ease. The corkboard replaces all those stacks of index cards, and requires zero floor space to see them all laid out.

I could deal only with Jon’s scenes, or Tom’s, the 19th century or the 21st, just by clicking a folder. Scenes can be swapped around with the ease of moving a physical index card, and you never have to worry about a weak rubber band snapping, scattering them into chaos and under the couch. You can switch from the corkboard view to a compiled text view, to a single card view with equal ease.

Writing Directly In Scrivener

Scrivener also reveals itself to be a well-appointed basic word processor, and has a very nice ‘distraction-less’ view for working, by fading the menus away into the background while you’re wooing your muse. It’s just as easy to get a high-altitude view of your entire project, or to compile it all back into one document for reading, printing or for final editing in a dedicated word processor. If you prefer to work in Word or OpenOffice or whatever, copy/pasting from those programs to Scrivener (and vice versa) takes nothing more than good ol’ control-c or control-v. Sometimes there’s some formatting changes, but nothing that’s a huge aggravation.

In-Program Conversion From Scrivener to ePub or Mobi

I also recently discovered that Scrivener will compile your project for publication as ePub or mobi, for eBook distribution. I haven’t tried that option yet, but it sounds straightforward. I’m not sure about the more precise, fiddly formatting requirements necessary for something destined for paper printing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Scrivener does that well, too.

Scriverner Is Great for Novels, Even Better for Nonfiction

Scrivener isn’t only for fiction writers, nor, I suspect, was it originally designed for fiction. If you write non-fiction, or create documents for business or scholarly use, then Scrivener is really going to shine. I didn’t fully utilize its research and media files organization and integration features for Dorin, because I was too deep in my own method by then to switch everything over. That said, I am using its Research and media organization for the next book, as the in-progress novel is the first in a projected three book series, and requires a lot of world-building. I can set up the first book, and the overarching plan for the whole series, in Scrivener and have everything neatly in one place, easy to get to on the fly.

Scrivener was created as Mac software first, then adapted for Windows, so Mac users will likely find it even more of a seamless experience than I have. I have no idea about Linux, sorry. You’ll have to check their site.

And Now, the Rough Patches

Are there any negatives? Well, sure, nothing’s perfect. Scrivener opens slowly, and closes even slower. It does an automatic backup each time it’s closed, and that takes a fair amount of time when a project has grown to spider-whacker novel proportions. To be fair, that feature could probably be disabled, but I consider it good protection and leave it alone.

Writer, Beware! Become a File Hoarder

Another related caveat is that Scrivener saves your project files in its own proprietary format, which is not usable by other programs. I STRONGLY urge you to compile and then save your work frequently in another format and different location. Preferably also on removable media and then back that all up somewhere completely out of your house, like some form of Cloud storage or a safety deposit box or your Grandma’s hall closet. Y’never know, y’know, and if disaster strikes it’d be a real shame to lose all your work as well as your belongings. I have not had one single problem with Scrivener misbehaving, but it’s a computer program. Programs and computers can flop over onto their backs and die without much warning sometimes.

Scrivener Doesn’t Like to Pack Up and Move (but really, who does?)

Scrivener is also not very portable. Even if you license it for more than one computer, it scolds you roundly for transferring files from one system to another. If you need to bounce from one machine to another as you work, it might be better to do your actual writing in something like Word, and only plan and compile finished chapters and research on Scrivener.

The Dashboard’s a Bit Different

Even though Scrivener is fairly intuitive, and has excellent tutorials, it is not a Microsoft product, so things are set up a bit differently as far as commands and features. It took me a little while to figure out where the Paragraph formatting commands resided, for instance. Not a major issue, and once you know where everything is, it’s all easy to use—but there is that bit of a learning curve and unfamiliarity to traverse. It’s also not designed to be your primary word processor, so if you need to do fancy text manipulation and elaborate formatting, you’ll need to do that outside of Scrivener.

The Bottom Line?

For what it’s designed to do, however, I can recommend it without reservation. It has proven itself to me and has definitely earned my accolade of Worth Every Penny!

* A quick Googling informs me that Clerks 2 now holds the record for longest ending credits. I haven’t seen that one, and it sounds as though the credits padding was done as a publicity stunt, so Superman holds the record still as far as I’m concerned.


I know we're close to an indie bookstore

Categories: Editing, fiction, My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, Software, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Creation of a Book Trailer: My Name Is Tom Dorin

“Your book may be a novel, but your trailer should be a poem.” Chuck Sambuchino

A woman I met, who is part of a well-known Hollywood production company, advised me that I should create a book trailer for My Name Is Tom Dorin.  Now, she’s a wonderful lady who gave me impeccable advice and the production company is top-notch, but she is a new acquaintance.   Not exactly someone I felt I could smile sweetly at and ask “Will you do it for me?” (though perhaps I should have! Who knows, right? Oh well, there’s going to be another novel soon, God willing….)

Createspace Will Create a Trailer For Your Book

Since I published my paperback version through Createspace, I toddled over to their book trailer page to see what they offered.  I almost got a nosebleed.  A trailer using stock stills, stock music, and text with no voice-over is roughly $1200.  A trailer using stock video footage, stock music, text and a voice-over actor is about $2200.   Perhaps quite reasonable for professional quality– I know now that stock video costs dearly in higher resolutions, for instance– but still, up in the financial stratosphere for me and I have a fear of that sort of heights.

The Little Red Hen is My Spirit Animal

So, I channeled one of my lifelong heroes– The Little Red Hen— and decided I’d do this myself.  I’m also a major information junkie, which means I began to do research.  One of the first pages I encountered was on the Writers’ Digest site. “How to make a book trailer: 6 tips.

I may not have followed all Mr. Sambuchino’s advice to the letter, but that one statement above was my guiding principle.  I thought long and hard about how to distill Dorin down to its emotional essence.  How to make something visually and emotionally intriguing without giving away too much of the plot.  Even after all that thought, it was my son who came up with the germinal storyboard.  The finished trailer doesn’t follow it frame by frame, but it certainly retains the spirit of the original inspiration.

Watch a Lot of Other People’s Trailers

I watched a bunch of book trailers on Youtube.  The ones by the big publishing houses are lavish, full cinematic productions.  I know I have no chance of emulating those.  I eliminated them and focused instead on trailers made by the authors themselves.  Those were more attainable, and some are very good indeed.  I paid close attention to how they incorporated stock images, and what they chose to use as text, and how they used live talent, whether actors or voice-over artists.

Casting Call?

I realized I didn’t want to visually “cast” anyone as my characters.  I can’t afford to hire professional actors, nor to costume them and create sets.  The last thing I want to do is to leave an unsatisfying impression that way.  To ‘cheez it up’ as Mr. Sambuchino puts it.   So, I decided that there would be only voices and images.

Stock Footage, Audio and Image Sources

That narrowed my search.  I accumulated a lot of sample stock images, footage and sound files.  iStock.com turned out to be quite reasonable for footage and images that are of lower, web-quality resolution. DeviantART also has an astounding variety of stock resources available, most free to use with only an attribution.   Freesound.org is a treasure trove.  Everything is licensed under the Creative Commons, so abide by the contributor’s wishes in that regard, and that’s all you have to pay.  For anything you can’t find on Freesound, check out Pond5.com.  Their files are not free, but their prices seem to be reasonable for what I needed.  Pond5 has stock images and footage as well.

Exceptional Voice Artist, for a Fiver, from Fiverr!

The best find for me, however, was Fiverr.com.  I wanted a male voice, with a Southern accent, to do the voice-over.   Now, I’m an east Tennessee native and have lived there my entire life till very recently, so fake Southern accents really grate.  Too, most actors tend to do an exaggerated Texan or Savannah, Georgia accent… which comes out sounding like a lethargic John Wayne or smothers every word in Scarlett O’Hara’s cloying ‘moonlight and magnolias’ drawl.   Neither of which would work for this.  Tom Dorin was from the hills of East Tennessee, in the mid-19th century.  East Tennesseans twang as they drawl, and sometimes throw some nasality in there with it.  It’s a hard accent to shake if you grow up speaking that way, but it’s also a hard one to fake.

But Fiverr came through.  More specifically, an artist with the user name of Fromtheburro came through for me.   He’s a native Tennessean, from Nashville, and both his accent and his voice quality appealed to me for this project.   He was even able to do the two different sounding voices for Carl and Tom, at the very beginning.  I couldn’t be more pleased with his work, and I’m awed that he did this for the very affordable fee of $5.  On top of his skill, he also came across in his communication with me as a very nice person.  Please check him out if you need any sort of Southern-flavored vocal talent.

Audio and Video Editing Software

So, with all my raw material gathered, it was time to move what I saw and heard in my head into an actual computer file.  Full disclosure here:  I have never before attempted any sort of video or audio editing.  I really had no idea where to start.  I remembered, years ago, using Audacity to clip sound files into ringtones, and a lot of sites mentioned Windows Movie Maker.  I wasn’t sure I even had Movie Maker on my computer till I ran a search for it.

Like making the book cover, making this trailer was a lot of fun.  It took a day of solid work at it to get it to the version I am comfortable posting.  Probably it wouldn’t take that long again, or for anyone familiar with video/audio editing, but I was figuring out both programs at the same time I was figuring out the entire creative process.  Afterwards, I heard from several reliable sources that while Audacity has a very respectable reputation as quality software, Windows Movie Maker is considered….  Well, let’s put it this way.  It’s akin to trying to create art with a flattened brown paper sack and a blunt crayon.  It can be done, but you’d be better off with more sophisticated tools.

After finishing this trailer, I was given a list of free video-editing software programs that are supposed to be much more powerful than WinMM.  However, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to even unzip and install them, so they’ll be the subject of a later post.

All that said, am I happy with the trailer I created?

Yes, I am.  At my stage of know-how, and with what I had to work with, it’s my best effort.  It gets across the images and emotional tone I set out to portray.   Maybe, someday, when I have better software and a lot more experience, I may look at this piece of video, cringe, cover my face in shame and yank it off Youtube for a remake.

For now, though?  This Little Red Hen is eyeing her creation and clucking contentedly over it.

Necessary Disclaimer:

I don’t receive any kind of compensation for any recommendation I make. The folks at the companies mentioned don’t know me from Adam’s off-ox, but I believe in giving credit where it’s due and offering my entirely subjective opinions and advice on goods and services to aid writers. I hope it’ll aid someone else in their quest to get their creative effort out into the world.

Categories: Book Trailer, Createspace, fiction, My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, Self-publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alive… alive… it’s ALIIIIIVE!

At long last, the fateful day arrives!  My Name Is Tom Dorin is available for sale in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Wow, it feels fantastic and a touch odd to be able to say that, the day has been so long in coming.  It was an unexpected sort of thrill, too, to type the title into Amazon’s search bar and find my novel.

Even more awesome was to do that in Google and find that it’s the only result that comes up.  Out of the multiple millions of search items, the chances of a piece of your own creativity being the one single returned result? They’re… well, the word astronomical is probably an exaggeration, but I bet it comes close.  I’ll savor it while it lasts.

Almost as strong as the sense of elation and triumph is the sensation of a heaviness dropping away, the bone-deep relaxation that comes when a long drawn-out, emotionally arduous task is at last completed.

I’m glad I had a couple of days to savor that, because I’m now at that nervous stage where the first half-dozen copies have sold, but it’s too early for the first reviews to come in.  It’s not as pleasurable a place to be, because it’s akin to a sense of stage fright that lasts for days instead of minutes.  My beta-readers were all generous with their praise, but who knows how others will see it?  The thought of getting a bad review this early in the game– well, it shortens my breath and constricts my chest.  I know harsh words will come eventually, even God can’t write a book that gets unanimous approval, but I do hope and pray the inevitable happens later rather than earlier!

At least, regardless of what happens from this point forward, I’ve met my main and most important goal.  The only outcome that was entirely in my hands:  My Name Is Tom Dorin is finished.  It’s in tangible form.  It is the best story, the best piece of writing, that I’m capable of creating at this point of my life.   That is the only part of this process that has been entirely under my command, and it’s what I’ve planted my expectations of the meaning of success upon.

Now, whether it goes down into the void without creating a ripple, or whether it becomes the mythical Great American Novel, is largely beyond my control.  Oh, I’ll market it as best I can, and spread the word as best I can– but anything from this point on is a bonus, unexpected gift as far as I’m concerned.

I am, finally and truly, not only a professional writer but a published novelist.  And that feels like an enormous personal achievement to me!

Categories: Amazon, fiction, Kindle, My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, publication, Self-publishing, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating With Createspace

Createspace logo

Necessary Disclaimer:

I don’t receive any kind of compensation for any recommendation I make. The folks at Createspace and the other companies mentioned don’t know me from Adam’s off-ox, but I believe in giving credit where it’s due and offering my entirely subjective impressions of goods and services to aid writers. I hope it’ll aid someone else in their quest to get their creative effort out into the world.

What was my first impression of Createspace after uploading my novel?

“Well, drat!”

What was my second impression?

“ARGGGGHHH!”

My third? <insert the hollow sound of a human head repeatedly striking a wooden desktop>

Not all of it was their fault, but they sure could have made the formatting process a bit more intuitive, or their site a wee tad more informative and saved me several days of bewildered struggle and grey-hair inducing stress (I’m well on my way to white now.  Thanks CS!.)

It all seems so seductively easy, on first acquaintance.  You decide on the dimensions of your book, and CS offers a pre-formatted template.  All you have to do is plug in your chapter names, copy your own words into the areas of placeholder text, fill out the pre-made table of contents and voila– a perfectly formatted book, ready to upload and print.  They even offer an online preview reviewer, that checks your book for any egregious formatting errors and shows you what it’ll look like in physical form. Dead simple, right? Well, it should have been, and maybe it is for some– but it certainly wasn’t for me.

My Sanity Went Straight Into the Gutter

I used their 6×9 template, just as it was offered, and when I uploaded my book I got an “insufficient gutter margin” error on every single page of a 400 page book.  Whaaat??  Guys, it’s your template here!  I rechecked– I was using precisely the gutter margin they recommended for a book of that length.  I increased it and uploaded.  Same result.  I increased it and uploaded.  Same result.  I increased it and uploaded.  Same result.

Finally, I made a crazy, stupid gutter margin of five inches, which squished my book text down to a narrow stripe down each page.  Guess what? “Insufficient gutter margins.”  Good lord– was the previewer insane?  I contacted Createspace and got a form letter reply saying that sorry, they didn’t provide technical assistance to anyone not purchasing one of their $325+ publishing packages, and if I had questions, to search their forums for an answer.

The Sacred Key of Sanity is in the Left Margin

I will not repeat my mental reply to that, but I did go to the forums.  The upshot of what I found was that a lot of people had the same problem, no one knew the answer, and Createspace reps would soothingly reiterate their standard formatting formula to each thread.  Finally, after perusing those recommendations for the umpteenth time, I finally realized something a bit odd.  They listed Top, Bottom and Right margin widths, and those maddening, variable gutter margin widths, but no left margin width!

Ah HA!  I ran back to MS Word and sure enough–  there was a left margin set to match the right, which I assume that the program, being reasonably sane and a stickler for symmetry, had auto-set for the template.  I shoved that sucker down as far as I could– Word wouldn’t let me set it to zero, but .2 worked– and uploaded my poor threadbare file one more time.  It passed. I started to weep for joy, until I began paging through the preview– and then I simply wept.

Writer beware!  Creatspace’s templates don’t properly use section breaks!

Every chapter is supposed to start on a right-hand page.  They have since modern printing began– heck, maybe since Gutenburg’s bright idea, for all I know.  But using CS’s own preformatted template, they didn’t.

Every break between chapters was a simple page break.  Replace these with odd-page section breaks (they’re under the page layout tab in Word’s ribbon.  The break listed under Insert is a simple page break, which won’t do.)  Be wary of the breaks between front matter pages on those templates as well.  I had to do some section-breaking there as well, to force my dedication, acknowledgements and Table of Contents to start on a right-hand page.  Making that adjustment also screwed up the auto-numbering on the preset Headers and Footers, but a little tweakage of the “same as previous” setting got that straightened out without too much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Once that was straightened out, the book looked much, much better.

Minor Issue Fixes and Do Spring For That Printed Draft!

There were a few other issues, mainly to do with Paragraph formatting and line-spacing, but those are easily rectified if you’re at all familiar with Word.  I will always use single spacing and a .3 indent from now on.  The preset “multiple 1.5” line spacing spread the text out too much on the page for my taste.  By the time I got my first printed draft and could see that, however, I was loathe to change it, because changing it would change the number of pages, which would also change the size of the cover– and I did NOT want to have to redesign my cover at that point.  (The true effect of line-spacing doesn’t show well on the screen– on screen, the single spacing looks too crowded.)

Using Cover Templates From Createspace

Opposed to the struggles I had with the interior, designing the cover was just as simple as CS claimed it can be.  To be fair, they’ve got some very pretty stock covers that would make the process even simpler– probably, you could have your cover ready to go within 10 or 15 minutes– but for My Name Is Tom Dorin, I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the cover to look.  My son had come up with a compelling concept, and the mock-up had gotten unanimous favorable reviews.

Graphics Basics You Must Know

So, back to CS’s predesigned templates.  For the cover, you must have the final, print-formatted number of pages from their online previewer, before you build your cover template using their template generator.  After that, it’s up to your imagination and your graphics skill and aesthetic tastes.  I would add the caveat that you also need a graphics program capable of working with layers– and a user who knows how to create layers, turn their view on and off, and how to flatten them.  You’ll also need to work in CMYK color (not the default RBG color) and be able to save the final product as a flattened PDF with the guide layer deleted or turned off.  Be sure your image resolution, the ppi or dpi, is set to at least 300.  Higher is better.

Graphics Software on the Cheap– Or Free!

My antique (circa 2000) copy of Paint Shop Pro 7 has these capabilities, except for saving as flattened PDF.  I downloaded an almost equally antique version of Photoshop, circa 2005 (Cs2, offered as legal, free legacy software by Adobe: http://www.techspot.com/downloads/3689-adobe-photoshop-cs2.html) to do that job.  I also downloaded a copy of the free, powerful, open-source graphics program GIMP (www.gimp.org), but discovered its learning curve is more like a vertical wall.  I’ll keep fiddling with it, but for this project I needed something I could dive right in and use.  Photoshop is far more intuitive, especially coming from PSP7.

Monitor Your Color Temperature

Word to the wise as far as homebrewing your own cover– make sure your monitor color temp is set properly.  I use f.lux (justgetflux.com), which alters the color temp according to time of day, to keep from messing with the human sleep cycle.  Way neat– but I also have to remember to disable it when doing graphics work, to get true color.

TAKE NOTES!

Write down the hexadecimal code for EVERY custom color you use, and if you create effects using filters– write down EVERY step of those too, along with the size and names of all fonts used.  You’ll think you’ll remember later.  Trust me, unless you’re a rare eidetic, you won’t.

Layers, Lovely Layers.  

Put every element on a separate layer, and label those layers!  I put every paragraph of text on a separate layer, which made changing things around and aligning it all to the grid much easier.  Plus, if you mess something up, you have only messed up that one layer– not the whole image. If you have to stop mid-project, save as a PSD file, which will preserve the layers, and don’t Merge layers until you’re ready to create that flattened PDF.  In fact, I recommend making a copy of your finished working file, then flattening the copy.  That way, if something happens, you won’t have to recreate the entire thing from scratch.

Following CS’s cover template and directions exactly, my cover passed review and is as you see it in the Novel Excerpt post preceding this one.  After the struggle with the interior formatting, creating the cover was pure entertainment, and I got to download a whole Christmas-tree’s worth of new fonts and software toys!

Oh! Fonts!  

Make sure that you check that the fonts you use are free for commercial use.  For Dorin, I paid a $5 licensing fee for the font that created the ‘Tom Dorin’ on the cover, and about $30 for the antique handwriting font called Texas Hero that forms the “My Name Is” on the cover.  I’ve adored that font for years, and I’m using it in the book trailer too, so it was worth the fee to license it as I could find no satisfactory free substitute.

I’m awaiting the delivery of my final print proof now, which should arrive any day.  As soon as that is approved and back in the system, My Name Is Tom Dorin will be released into the wilds to make its own way– and hopefully, to make me some money!

Categories: Cover Design, Createspace, Self-publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Name Is Tom Dorin- novel excerpt

Cover of thepaperback version of My Name Is Tom Dorin

Is It True That Everyone Has A Double?

Tom Dorin was an idealistic farm-boy,

forged by bloody carnage into a

disillusioned veteran of the Civil War.

More than a century later, Jon Hansen

is a graduate student of history.

When Jon finds a tintype photograph of Tom,

an eerie image that could be his own reflection,

the historian realizes that he has found the

perfect subject for his Master’s thesis.

As Jon’s fascination with his long-ago double

transforms from scholarly research

into personal obsession, only one question remains:

Why did Tom Dorin hang?

The answer will entwine the fates of both men

in ways neither could ever imagine.

Novel Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE 

July 31, Present Day,

Nevada

Jon was almost ready to leave this shabby little roadside museum. King Gila, the Two-Headed Lord of the Lizards, proved to be deceased, preserved in a pose of pathetic fierceness long before Jon was born. The rest of the exhibits were even less lively.

Time to head back to the car, Dee, and the long road to Vegas.

Then, recognition struck like a sharp blow to the head. Jon’s grip tightened on the tarnished brass railing skirting the old-fashioned case. He stared down at the tintype photograph inside.

“Outlaw,” the crude lettering on the yellowed label declared. ‘Hanged March 13, 1874 in Cooper’s Creek, Arizona Territory.’

Its subject glared up into Jon’s eyes with a dangerous intensity undiminished by the passage of time.

Jon’s reflection glimmered on the glass of the case. He shifted, bringing his image parallel with the face in the photograph. The man’s features were sharp, his skin pulled close over his bones. His mouth was set in a harsh line and the camera had captured his contempt for whoever was behind the lens.

None of those differences blurred the resemblance. This long dead criminal was his double. Jon pressed closer to the case, blind to everything but that disturbing portrait.

“He was a mean-looking sonuvagun, wasn’t he?”

Jon flinched, startled by the reedy voice behind him. He turned to the antiquated man, who looked even more worn and tattered than his collection. “What do you know about him?”

“Not much,” the old man admitted, but the elbow he propped on the showcase warned Jon that this might be a lengthy lecture. “Found out a little while back that his name was Tom Dorin….”

18 May, 1861

Polk County, Tennessee

“Them Federals has spit all over the Constitution and they’s gonna march down here and try to steal our land!” Tom squared off in front of his brother. “You join up with them, and you’re sayin’ you’re willin’ to give away this farm and the whole blessed South to a bunch of lyin’ thieves and lawbreakers. Besides, you can’t go, you’re the eldest!”

Josh gave him a hard shove. “That’s why I’m the one that oughta go. You’re the runt, you stay here and help plow. Them filthy Rebels you like so much ain’t gonna be hurt none by not havin’ you taggin’ along. Besides, nobody round here cares whether all them darkies is slave or free, so why are you so lathered up and blowin’ about shootin’ a bunch of white folks just to keep a heap of darkies from runnin’ all around the countryside like stray cattle?”

Tom spat his contempt, and it would have landed on Josh’s foot if his brother hadn’t snatched it back quick enough. “I ain’t in it to keep them people slaves, you ig’nert heathern. It ain’t right in no way to own folks like livestock, but that ain’t why I’m Sesech. This war is about our right to govern ourselfs as we see fit without no Federal say-so, but you ain’t got enough brains to tell states’ rights from a rooster’s arse.”

“Don’t much matter what it’s about when folks start shootin’, and I got enough brains to know this war ain’t gonna last three months no way. You won’t be missin’ much while I’m off seein’ the fight,” Josh said.

“I ain’t gonna miss nothin’! All you’re gonna be seein’ in the back end of the mule!”

“Purtier than your face!” Josh shot back.

The sneer on his brother’s face was unbearable, but they’d both get their hides caned off if they came to supper again with blackened eyes and fat lips. It took all Tom had in him to speak instead of walloping Josh a good one. “How do you want to settle this?”

His brother stuck a hand into his pocket. “We flip for it. Winner goes, loser sticks up for me with Pa.”

Tom looked down in shocked awe at the shiny coin in his brother’s dirty palm. “Where’d you get that?”

“Ain’t none of your nevermind.” The dime rang as Josh flipped it into the air. “Call it.”

“Tails.” Tom grabbed for his brother’s wrist before Josh could slap the coin onto the back of his hand and cheat the toss.

“Blame you, Tom! Now it’s lost in the grass!”

“Ain’t neither. I seen where it dropped.” Tom squatted and parted the long, coarse blades. “I ain’t touching it. You look for yourself.”

The coin lay tails-up. Josh couldn’t put his frustrated rage with words, falling to sputtering and stamping on his own hat instead.

Tom laughed till his sides were sore. “Tonight, after supper, we’re gonna talk to Pa.”

◊◊◊

Tom slipped out of the house and down to the old puncheon bench under the oak, a sullen Josh trailing along behind. His father’s pipe glowed, a red firefly in the dusky-dark beneath.

Tom stepped up, squared his shoulders, drew a good breath and dove in. “Pa, I want to go join up to fight against the Federals. Me and Josh agreed he’ll stay and help work the farm. I jist need you to come with me and sign for—”

“No.”

That one word was as implacable as what Moses heard on Mount Sinai and held nearly as much authority in Tom’s mind. Even so, the desperate ambition eating at him prompted a protest.

“But, Pa, I’m sixteen now and a crack shot and I-”

“I said no.” Abram Dorin laid aside his pipe and rose to his feet.

Tom had all he could do not to quail back. He’d have stepped all over Josh at any rate.

“Pa, I did tell Tom I’d do his part and mine of the work,” Josh put in staunchly as he’d promised. “He ain’t lyin’, he can shoot a keen bead. I ain’t sayin’ I cotton to him joinin’ up with the Sesech but—”

“Enough!” Abram’s voice was as sharp and curt as the crack of a whip. “This war is an abomination to the Lord and this family ain’t takin’ no part in it.”

He pointed back up to the house. “Get inside and if I hear one more word out of either of you’uns about this I’m gonna take the razor-strop to your backs. You hear me, boys?”

“Yes sir,” both brothers answered almost as one, though only Tom’s voice betrayed begrudged obedience.

“You got somethin’ else to say for yourself, Thomas?”

Tom glared hot defiance into his father’s narrowed eyes, his heart pounding fit to burst his eardrums.

“Well, boy, do you?” Abram stepped closer, his gnarled hands closing into ropy fists.

Tom dropped his eyes to the ground between their feet. “No, sir.”

“Then get!”

Tom turned to find Josh already clean out of sight. He salved his smarting pride with the fact that he strode back to the house like a man instead of tearing off like a scolded child.

July 31, Present Day

Las Vegas, Nevada

~ Early Evening ~

“Baby, wake up,” Dee called, extending the pattern of a downshift to draw its twin on Jon’s thigh. “Welcome to Sin City”.

Jon blinked, his eyes trying to bring the haze of bewildering light into focus. He smiled an apology for his grogginess to Dee in the rear view mirror.

He looked out the window. “Oh for cripe’s sake! I don’t believe this! Look!” Jon pointed to a billboard further up the block.

A buxom Native American maiden with amazingly Anglo features looked up worshipfully from the booted feet of a bare-chested man brandishing two revolvers.

‘VENGEANCE!’ the billboard shrieked in flamboyant scarlet font. ‘The Newest Marshal Maxx Starr Adventure! Book signing with author Chris Hansen, July 31, 4-6 pm. Only at Bordens Books, 6521 Las Vegas Blvd!’

Dee slowed down and gave Jon a saucy grin. “There’s still time to make it to the signing.” She put her blinker on.

“Don’t you dare,” Jon growled. “Or I’ll sic King Gila on you!”

“Gah! Anything but that!” She flicked the turn signal off and drove on to their hotel.

◊◊◊

Dee settled in at a slot machine, and Jon took the opportunity to wander away through the casino. The vast room was disorienting, fiendishly seductive, all random dancing neon over a constant drone of chimes, electronic fanfares and the clatter of a few hundred human conversations. There were no shadows allowed in the brilliant lighting, but there were also no windows, no clocks, no natural light of any kind to trigger thoughts of sleep or even common sense.

For a man with no money in his pocket, and a long drive in his recent past, the scene lost its charm quickly. Jon shot Dee a quick text: Tired. Going 2 room.

He made his way to one of the elevators against the side walls.

In contrast to the casino, the hallway leading to their room was normally lit and rather bland, offering nothing to entice a guest to linger there. When he went into their room, he didn’t bother turning on the lights. The multicolored flickering from the strip below was enough to cast a glow through the room. The shadows felt restful after a day driving through desert glare.

Jon caught his own reflection in the dresser mirror, a trick of the dim light exaggerating the tired smudges under his eyes into shadowy hollows. He switched on the bureau lamp, then reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a small envelope. He slid the antique photograph out and glanced between Dorin’s face and his own.

Because of the tintype’s silvery gray-scale, it was impossible to know what color Dorin’s hair was, but Jon could see it was neither blond nor black. It could have been a medium brown, much like his own. Dorin’s eyes were light-colored, probably blue, staring out in sharp contrast to what was either a dark complexion or a deep tan.

Dorin’s eyes and cheeks were sunken beneath the high arches of their bones, as if he was emaciated at the time of his hanging. Even so, give or take twenty pounds between them, and they could be brothers. Maybe even twins.

“I’ve heard everybody has a doppelganger, but I thought it was superstitious crap,” he informed the unsettling image.

Dorin glared back, his truculent expression frozen, eternal.

An outlaw, so that meant armed robbery, probably murder too, since he was hanged. Pretty much the same as any of them: Jesse James, the Youngers, Billy the Kid. People are still writing about them, historians as often as paperback hacks like his brother. Why wasn’t Tom Dorin famous?

Slow, avid excitement flooded his veins.

“I can make you famous.”


Available Now

At Amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle.

ISBN (Print): 978-0-9910801-1-3

ISBN (eBook): 978-0-9910801-0-6


My Name Is Tom Dorin

Copyright © 2013 by Theresa C. Crawford

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

Cover image copyright © 2013 Theresa C. Crawford
Cover image concept by Caleb L. Melton

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Categories: Novel Excerpts, Self-publishing | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Journey So Far…

My Name Is Tom Dorin began as a dream, a very strange, very vivid dream. The year was 2005 and that dream wouldn’t fade. So, I began writing. Then I stopped, then I started again. And stopped again. Rinse and repeat until January, 2013, after the last hiatus of three years, when I decided it was time to finish the beast, or delete it from my  hard drive and forget the whole shebang.

That’s when things started happening.  I moved from free-form writing to a structured plot plan, thanks in large part to Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks and How Not To Write A Novel, by Mittelmark and Newman. Never one to do anything the easy way, even the first time, Tom Dorin is written with concurrent story-lines set in the 19th and 21st centuries, and follows two protagonists.  Once I learned to use a three-act structure, however, and about points of no return and pinch-points, then the book began to gel into a coherent whole.

There was a certain plot point that kept me banging my head against a wall, too, (Sorry, can’t say what, here. Spoilers!) and once the solution to that came to me, the book rocketed on to its finish as fast as I could get words from brain to screen.  At very long last, I had a novel that told its tale from Chapter One to The End, that I could print out and pass around to brave beta/proof-readers.

In July of 2013, I did my second draft editing, cutting about 100 pages  on the advice of my beta-readers.  It really is as hard to ‘slay your darlings’ as it’s claimed to be.  I got around the ouch by saving all of those ‘out-takes’ in a Bits folder, telling myself they’ll be there if I ever want to use them again.  I never will, I know, but it’s an effective psychological analgesic.  That relief came in handy, as I then was faced with a momentous decision: seek traditional publication, or take my chances with the growing independent author-publisher route?

After a lot of research, and asking anyone I could find who’d been there and done this already, I made my decision– I would publish my novel through Kindle Direct Publishing, for the eBook, and Createspace for the paperback version.  My rationale is that breaking into traditional publishing is, now more than ever, akin to someone fresh from high school drama class moving out to LA and making it big in Hollywood.  It can be done, but the odds are just a little better than those of the Nigerian Lottery.  Plus, My Name Is Tom Dorin doesn’t fit neatly into Big Publishing’s genre slots.  It has time-travel, but it’s not sci-fi or straight fantasy, it has a lot of history, but it’s not a historical fiction novel, and it has a romance– but one that doesn’t fit that genre’s plot conventions.

I’m 52. I don’t have time to wait, possibly for years, garnering rejection notes from agents and publishers until I hit the one that’s willing to take a chance on a new writer with an unconventional story to tell.  Too, even big name authors are jumping the traditional ship, because the money for the authors is better through self-publishing now.  The marketing and editing services that the traditional houses used to offer have all but disappeared from what I’ve read, as well.

Adding all that in together, along with the advice from Voices of Experience, I went the author-publisher route.  Despite their claims, neither Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Createspace have been the one-click, easy-peasy options they claim to be.  Part of that is due to them, part to my own resounding lack of experience, and part is due to… well… techno-gremlins, maybe?  Neither of them have been major disappointments, either.

I’ll do separate, on-going posts on both services, because I feel it might be helpful to someone else who’s coming into this complicated venture as naked and afraid as I was (and still am– though now I’ve earned underwear at least!)

My next post will be an excerpt from Chapter One of My Name Is Tom Dorin.  I’m waiting on the delivery of my printed draft copy from Createspace, and if all goes well with that, I’ll be launching the book on Amazon as soon as KDP and Createspace can have it available for purchase.

Check back soon for more notes from the trenches, and thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Self-publishing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A New Adventure Begins

Introductions first, right?  I’m Theresa C. Crawford, a middle-aged woman living in SW Florida with extended family.  I’m a professional writer, which is probably why you’re here, and I’m also an artist and a certified personal trainer.  Those are the credentials that would be on a resume I hope I never have to write.

I’m in the process of publishing and promoting my first novel, and for those of you who’ve never ventured into that particular endeavor, it is an adventure– an experience mingling all the adrenaline, effort, excitement and despair of an amusement park thrill ride, coasting down a mountainside in a car with no gas and very little brake, and pushing that car up the next rise in the road.

As my personal equation at the moment is Time>Money, everything I can do myself, I am.  It’s no coincidence that one of the first metaphors that came to mind is a steep incline, because that also applies to the learning curves I’m negotiating.  (GIMP, anyone?)  Would I do this again? Since I’m far from the end of this particular stretch of life’s road, I can’t say for sure, but, I’m working on my next novel so the optimism and enthusiasm are still there.

With this blog, I’ll share excerpts from my novels, my experiences and opinions on different aspects of being an author-publisher, and my takes on the products and services I encounter along the way.

I thank you for stopping by, and I hope you’ll check back in soon.  Whether you hear delighted thrill-squeals, wails of despair or grunts of sweaty effort may vary, but I promise to always be honest, and to strive to be entertaining, as optimistic as is sane, and as objective as I can be about others I encounter along this stretch of highway.

Categories: Welcome | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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