If at First You Don’t Succeed, Bag It and Go With the Flow


Now before you get all over me for being negative, pessimistic and various other uncomplimentary adjectives, let me explain. They say there’s nothing you can’t do if you put enough determination behind it. I know this is true or I wouldn’t have made it through college. I even had an escape plan for if I flunked out somewhere along the line, given the sordid reputation of courses like Analytical Mechanics or Electricity and Magnetism, the latter usually referred to formally as E&M and informally as S&M. I was inclined to go with the latter. Miraculously, I made it through, no one more surprised than myself.

For anyone who thinks I’m some sort of genius, let me set that straight as well. I was a very mediocre student in high school. I cringe when I think of what my grades were. I disliked school tremendously, hated it, actually, and was glad when I got out. I should add, however, that I am ADHD and with a maiden name of Unterreiner, I was typically seated in the back of the room. That explains a lot. Anyway, it was seventeen years before I went back to college. By that time, I might add, I had six kids, all at home. And what did I major in? Here’s a hint:



OMG, what was I thinking? But I made it through. Not with the 4.0 GPA I wanted but pretty close, i.e. 3.48 and membership in Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society.

I’m not saying this to brag, simply to illustrate that it can be done. In fact, one of my professors had declared in a general ed astronomy class I took before I was a full-time student that anyone could get a degree in physics if they wanted it badly enough. I seriously thought I would prove him wrong but his opinion prevailed.

So yes, wanting something badly enough usually will do the trick.

However, there is one thing that I’ve never been able to do and that’s write a short story. I took a creative writing class one time where we were supposed to be writing short stories. I got an A in the class but the professor told me later that nothing I wrote qualified in the technical sense as a short story because they lacked irony. Undaunted, I kept writing and soon discovered there was an even bigger problem. I couldn’t write a short story because it always turned into a novel.

I kid you not.

My unpublished novel, “Phaethon’s Ashes,” started as a short story and became a novel. “Beyond the Hidden Sky” was intended be a novel but it turned into a series.


So now that I’ve completed the four books of The Star Trails Tetralogy I thought I’d write a short story or two, spinoffs from minor characters in the series, to give away. I had a couple ideas and the other day I decided to get one started.

Big mistake.


Short story? Right. I’m already into chapter four and the end is nowhere in sight. But I’m having a blast, back in my creative element which is one of the greatest benefits of writing. Of course starting with a character who’s already developed makes this all the more likely to occur.

So why can’t I write a short story, you ask? One reason is I get into too many details. My characters come alive, take over, and pretty soon they’re driving the train and I’m just trying to keep up. I start with an idea and seldom know where it’s going to end up. For me, that constitutes the most fun, however, in many cases not knowing myself what’s going to happen next.

You would think that if I can’t write anything other than a novel then I should at least be able to crank one out in a few weeks or maybe months. Nope, that’s not me, either. I wish I could and I truly admire those who can, but for me that’s another no-can-do.

As a science fiction author I’m somewhat obsessive about the science being as accurate as possible. Anyone who knows me probably would leave out “somewhat.” That, of course, means research. I only have a Bachelor’s Degree so I’m not that savvy when it comes to the good stuff. Research takes time but it’s part of the fun.


I’ve dug through my personal library for relevant material including my hero, Richard Feynman’s “Lectures on Physics”, a couple old college textbooks including Tipler’s “Modern Physics” and Frankl’s “Electromagnetic Theory”, plus I’ve bookmarked a half-dozen related websites as well as articles on Wikipedia. So far I’ve purchased four books online and three DVDs from The Great Courses as background and research material. Of course by the time I get through all that there’ll be even more ideas to incorporate. And no telling how much more will come along in the meantime. Serendipity always directs me to a plethora of relevant references. Whether or not that’s a good thing is hard to say.

The length of this blog is a case in point. I could have simply said “I can’t write a short story because I get carried away and it becomes a novel” and been done with it. That would have been short enough to tweet along with a few hashtags. Did I?


At this point my goal is to at least keep this blog under a thousand words.


So I give up. I can’t write a short story and have quit trying. From now on I’m going with the flow. Novel flow, that is. In the past I’ve cranked out a first draft in about six weeks but whether that will apply this time is hard to tell. Furthermore, filling in the gaps in the first cut is where I really get into my element. Stay tuned. Once I get it drafted I’ll be looking for beta readers so if you’re interested let me know.

Authors & Readers: Symbiotic or Parasitic Relationship?

writingprocessI think the majority of people agree that the most difficult challenge of mortality is dealing with relationships. Much has been written about romantic relationships, parent-child relationships and business relationships. Marketers certainly understand the supplier – consumer relationship. Other types of relationships, however, such as the implied partnership between authors and their readers, don’t quite fit these other models.

The first and most basic thing to remember is that no one likes much less gets along with everyone. As an astrologer I can explain why, but that isn’t the point I want to explore. Just remember that the basics of human interactions apply whenever you work with another person in any capacity. Everyone is programmed in a different way. Some are friendly and generous, others aggressive and selfish with these traits possible on either side of the author/reader equation. Some authors expect too much, some readers expect too much. Such is life. Don’t even get me going on the entitlement mentality prevalent at all economic levels in today’s society or this will turn into a book instead of a blog.

Getting back on point, consider that authors are of necessity also readers but readers are not always authors. Remember the quote not to judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins? Well, kick off your shoes and get ready as I attempt to take readers and authors alike down the others’ path.

Understanding is one of the reasons that authors band together, read each other’s stories and provide reviews as well as feedback or editing tips. While there is a hint of competition within any career field, there is also support and understanding. This is not to say all authors get along, either, only that there’s a fundamental understanding that exists amongst any group doing similar work.

Readers who have never crafted so much as a short story outside of that required in a language arts class may be familiar with an author’s fictitious world yet not understand what it takes to build one. Authors are artists who use words just like visual artists use color and texture, sculptors use tangible material, musicians use sounds, and chefs use food to name a few. Creative expression is an important part of life as can be seen in ancient civilizations no matter how ancient or primitive. So to begin to understand an author a person should examine their own means of creative expression which provides at least rudimentary common ground.

faulknerquoteCreativity comes out in different ways coupled with varying degrees of motivation and expectations on the part of the creator. Most will agree it’s something they are compelled to do, at least once you get past Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and enter the realm of self-actualization. After the expression itself things get trickier. If a person wants to share his or her craft with others s/he wants it validated with praise and appreciation because their work is an extension of their ego. The person may not be dependent on this reinforcement but it’s definitely nice. This is why writers keep writing in spite of a plethora of rejections and why the options for self-publishing have produced millions of wannabe authors. The same goes for musicians and any other type of artist.


The next step beyond art for art’s sake is to receive compensation, even though it may originate as a labor of love. Some authors prostitute themselves writing for hire just to make a living. Writers are valued by those who can’t. It is often the trump card, especially for a job where literary expression is not required; as an engineer who could write I never had trouble finding a job. Writing for hire may pay the bills but it doesn’t feed your soul. That only comes when you get praise and, better yet, compensated in some way for something that came from within your heart.

How much blood, sweat and tears goes into any work of art varies. There are those who can crank out a story on a rainy afternoon versus those who labor over an epic novel for years or even decades. Neither case is necessarily a measure of talent or readability. In other words, some authors would make a killing if paid by the hour while others would be so poorly compensated it would defy measurement in any monetary currency.

The issue here diverts to the plea these days to raise the USA minimum wage. Many authors would give blood and pay money to make even the existing minimum wage. Yet authors are usually expected in today’s glutted market to sell their work for ninety-nine cents or even give it away for free.

The days when a book was on the shelf in a bookstore for six weeks, was remaindered and then considered “out of print” are essentially over. For writers that is both good news and bad news. Readers have at least nine million books from which to choose and writers can keep their book in the sales arena as long as they wish. To get a visual on the competition, however, think back to any time you attended a professional or college level sporting event or rock concert in a full-to-capacity stadium or auditorium. Now consider what it would take to draw attention to yourself in that crowd. Then multiply the crowd by at least one hundred. That, my friend, is what the average author is up against.

Clearly it’s a “Readers’ Market” which shows why the people making money in publishing these days are the promoters. For many Indie authors the work may be a labor of love but also an expensive hobby if one hopes to be discovered. I saw a comment on LinkedIn a while back where an author stated that for every 500 books downloaded for FREE, he was lucky to get one review. If he’d been paid even ninety-nine cents for each of those books he would have been happy. Note, however, that even if that were the case he probably would have only received about thirty cents for each one from Amazon. So distributors, likewise, often make far more than authors; booksellers are not into it from the goodness of their hearts.

At this point any authors out there are probably vigorously nodding in agreement and not too happy about being reminded of their place in the literary food-chain which segues over to readers and hopefully reviewers, the importance of which I’ll try to explain. From a reader’s point of view, mention of providing a review may trigger unpleasant flashes of deja-vu back to high school English class where those mandatory book reports on dry and hopelessly boring stories had as much appeal as a root canal. Some readers pay attention to reviews before buying a book while others couldn’t care less. However, they’re important to authors for more reasons than to attract more readers.

It comes back to competition. Some promotional websites won’t even feature a book until it has a minimum number of favorable reviews, even for paid listings. Furthermore, Amazon ranks each book based on reviews as well as sales which in turn contribute to its ranking. Its ranking, in turn, determines whether it comes up on page one or two hundred via search engines. This is also a reason authors offer their book for free because even books that are given away on Amazon count toward its rankings. If it gets ranked highly enough, people will find it and hopefully eventually buy it when it’s no longer free.


So now we’re back to the relationship issue and why authors need readers and vice versa. It also helps explain reactions based on the personality of each and why some readers may be annoyed when asked for a review while authors may expect at least a review in return (especially if they provided their book for free and even more so if it was a print copy which cost them for the book itself and possibly postage as opposed to transmitting an ebook via email or download link).

In the hopes that at least a few authors and readers have slogged through this much-longer-than-intended blog, consider whether your attitude is symbiotic or parasitic. Readers, do you respect and support, either financially or otherwise, the authors who put part of themselves into the work you enjoy? Or do you expect to enjoy their creative efforts while giving nothing in return? Authors, do you expect your readers to have the same ease of expression in writing as you do and jump at the chance to leave their opinion as a review? Or are you grateful to have readers at all given the many choices they have at their fingertips?

Here are a few points to remember for those on both sides of these important partnerships.

Author Admonitions

  1. Readers may react to the thought of writing a review with all the fondness of a 10th grade book report.
  2. Readers do so for pleasure and don’t want to be pushed to do something they see as unpleasant.
  3. Readers are not always writers and often find written expression difficult.
  4. Readers have literally millions of books to choose from so it’s best to treat them like the treasures they are.

Reader Admonitions

  1. Any creative work represents a part of its creator’s heart and soul.
  2. Is it fair to expect authors to work for free?
  3. Reviews can comprise a few heart-felt sentences as if talking to a friend and don’t have to be lengthy or Pulitzer Prize material.
  4. Cutting and pasting your review to more than one site (e.g., Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads) takes a few minutes of your time but will be greatly appreciated and make an author’s day, which is good karma.

Face it, authors and readers need each other but authors have a distinct and even quantifiable disadvantage. Readers, please show your love and appreciation for the authors whose books occupy your shelves or e-reader of choice by leaving a short review. Authors, recognize not everyone finds putting their thoughts into words enjoyable and love your readers regardless.

And finally, it’s my sincerest hope that no authors or readers suffered too many blisters while treading along this long and convoluted path of mutual understanding.

KYRA DUNE, Prolific Fantasy Author Whose Books are Sure to Please

Kyra Dune never lost the imagination she had as a child, perhaps because that is when she started writing. Her focus is on fantasy, some for adults and some for young adults. I just finished reading “Web of Light” and found it entirely delightful. Her mix of races include flyers, blood witches, humans and the Gari-Za which are all distinct, well-developed and credible, their world’s tenuous peace hanging on by a thread that depends on the next generation to sustain. Her writing style is strong, smooth and saturated with suspense. These are books you’ll want to finish in one sitting and be sure to have the next one handy if it’s part of a series. Kyra has just released her latest novel, “The Dragon Within” which is now available at the links at the bottom of the interview.

MF: To say that you’re a prolific writer is certainly an understatement and I assume you started when you were quite young. How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be an author?
KD: I was nine years old. I wrote my first book in school, in-between class assignments.

MF: Your Amazon author profile mentions that you traveled a lot with your family. What were some of the places you visited and which of those was your favorite?
KD: We traveled the entire lower half of the United States, from Arizona to Florida all the way up to Kansas. We lived on the road, kind of like gypsies I guess you could say. My favorite place is Gulf Shores Alabama. I love the beach there in the winter time when there’s no one around but the seagulls. When there’s a storm rolling in over the water and everything is gray and cool and all you can hear is the crash of the waves, it’s like being in another world.

MF: What impact did extensive travel have on your writing?
KD: It’s amazing how many real world places make excellent backgrounds for fantasy novels. Travelling so much, getting a chance to see how diverse this country can be, has definitely influenced my writing. Inspiration can strike in the strangest of places.

MF: Was there any particular book or author whom you feel had the most influence on your work?
KD: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were the authors of the original books in the Dragonlance Series. When I first read their books I’d already been writing for awhile, but they really drew me into writing in the fantasy genre and fanned the flames of my fascination with dragons.

MF: What do you love the most about writing for Young Adults?
KD: The characters. Somehow, writing from a teen’s perspective flows more naturally to me than an adult’s.

MF: Which part of the creative process is your favorite? Least favorite?
KD: That first spark, when an idea appears out of nowhere and demands you write it down. It’s so fun to discover new characters and watch to see how they’ll twist and turn the story. That’s the best feeling. Rewriting is much harder, because, for me at least, the first draft just kind of rolls out. It’s messy and sometimes contradicts itself. Cleaning it up and turning it into a cohesive story often involves deleting scenes I enjoyed writing and sometimes even getting rid of characters. Nothing is harder than having to completely abandon a character after you’ve gotten to know them.

MF: How long does it usually take you to write one of your stories from when you get the idea to when it’s finished?
KD: I get a lot of ideas and each one goes into my file folder until I’m ready to start a new book, so it can vary. I have ideas in my folder that have been there for years, but have yet to really call out to me that their story is ready to be told. But from when I first start a story I average about ten months to complete it.

MF: I know that most authors love all their characters but which of your many “children” is your favorite and why?
KD: Zazere from my Firebrand Trilogy is my favorite. He’s a dark and mysterious mage who can read minds and has a bit of a sarcastic side. His character was heavily influenced by my favorite character of all time, Raistlin Majere from The Dragonlance Series.

MF: Do you ever plan to branch out into other genres other than young adult fantasy?
KD: Actually, some of my novels are adult fantasy. Flight Of Dragons, Time of Shadows Series, and Crossfire Duology are all adult. I have a few science fiction and horror ideas in my folder, but for the time being fantasy is what calls to me most strongly.

MF: How do you feel your writing has evolved since your first novel?
KD: I’ve gotten braver with my writing, especially in the area of romance. Though none of my books contain anything explicit, I find myself more at ease with writing kissing scenes and scenes where it’s obvious the characters are going to make love. But I always pull the curtain down before things get heated. All my work is PG 13, at least in that area. Cursing also used to be a problem for me, but I recently wrote two novels which required stronger language than I normally use. I’m learning to stop listening to fear so my stories can speak true.

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Kyra-Dune/e/B00A5WOHGQ/
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/kyradune
WEBSITE: http://kyradune.weebly.com/
TWITTER: @kyradune
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kyra-Dune/136273741952?ref=hl&ref_type=bookmark
BLOG: http://theshadowportal.blogspot.com/
GOOGLE+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115323878447248304389

Crossfire (Crossfire Duology Book one) (Adult Fantasy)
Firestorm (Crossfire Duology Book Two) (Adult Fantasy)
Firebrand (Firebrand Trilogy Book One) (YA Fantasy)
Ten Kingdoms (Firebrand Trilogy Book Two) (YA Fantasy)
Dragons of War (Firebrand Trilogy Book Three) (YA Fantasy)
Dragonstar (DragonStar Duology Book One) (YA Fantasy)
The Black Mountain (DragonStar Duology Book Two) (YA Fantasy)
Flight of Dragons (Adult Fantasy)
Web of Light (Web of Light Duology Book One) (YA Fantasy)
Dark Light (Web of Light Duology Book Two) (YA Fantasy)
Elfblood (Elfblood Trilogy Book One) (YA Fantasy)
The Silver Catacombs (Elfblood Trilogy Book 2) (YA Fantasy)
City of Magic (Elfblood Trilogy Book 3) (YA Fantasy)
Ten Weird Tales of Magic and Wonder (YA Fantasy)
Shadow of the Dragon (YA Fantasy)
Shadow Born (Time of Shadows Book One) (Adult Fantasy)
Shadow Prince (Time of Shadows Book Two) (Adult Fantasy)
Shadow King (Time of Shadows Book Three) (Adult Fantasy)
The Dragon Within (NEW) (YA Fantasy)