Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Another Year in Review

What a Year It’s Been

This is going to be our second installment of us looking back on our year. If you want to read the first, you can find it here. We want to keep this tradition going for every year we’re a company, because we believe it's important to look back on what we’ve accomplished and what we could do better in the following year. 

This year has been hard

First and foremost, we can’t talk about the year without addressing one important thing: it’s been extra hard with a world-wide pandemic going on. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to still have a healthy business while people have been cutting back on their spending habits; we know others have not been as lucky. This pandemic has impacted everyone from the top to the bottom—even one of our founders and her family suffered from a case of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. We do genuinely hope that, for those that are still buying our books, we’ve brought a little joy in their lives during an incredibly stressful and scary time.

Some hard decisions

As we talked about last year, publishing is hard. It’s still hard, and with the turmoil and stress of the year, we've decided that we want to funnel our time and attention into fewer books, allowing us as a company to take the time needed to fully develop each book. To that end, we only published eight books this year, and plan on publishing six books per year going forward.

Our Authors

One of the reasons that we’ve managed to stay successful this year is our wonderful authors. Without them, we’d be nothing. That might sound dramatic, but it’s the truth. We have some of the most understanding and caring authors working with us. We couldn’t be more thankful for the ones that have who keep wanting to come back to us year after year. 

Last year, we talked about our very first author who took a chance on us. This year we want to talk about the author that has the most books planned with us: Lisa Borne Graves. She currently has two series running with us, and a third one planned after another finishes.

Lisa Borne Graves is a YA author, English Lecturer, wife, and supermom of one wild child. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she relocated to the Deep South and found her true place of inspiration. Her love for all literature, led her to branch out from the academic arena to spin her own tales. Lisa has a voracious appetite for books, British television, and pizza. Her inability to sit still makes her enjoy life to its fullest, and she can be found at the beach, pool, on some crazy adventure.

We would highly recommend following her on Facebook or Twitter (or both).

Our Books

Our publishing schedule has booked up far quicker than we ever expected, to the point that we don’t know when we can open back up our submissions to new authors again. We can’t wait for everyone to read the books we have out from the previous year, but this year as well. We’ve really had a great bunch of books come out in the romance and fantasy genres. 

As with our author section, we want to feature Lisa Borne Graves with one of her books that came out this year: Quiver, the first book in Lisa’s Immortal Transcripts series.



What would you do if you could live forever? Could you hide it from the one you truly loved, especially if her life depended on it?

Thanks to his dysfunctional Olympian family, Archer Ambrose finds out firsthand how difficult this can be. He never falls in love but bestows it on others—until he meets Callie.

When Callie Syches moves to the Upper East Side to prepare for her father’s impending death, she doesn’t expect to meet the boy of her dreams. She also never believed her father’s harebrained theory about myths, but her uncanny ability to “see” uncovers godly secrets Callie can hardly fathom.

With an immortal family demanding absolute obedience, how far will Archer go to protect his love from the storm the gods will unleash upon them?

In this reinvention of Cupid and Psyche, experience an electrifying series where familial and romantic bonds are at war, and knowledge could mean the end of everything…or a new beginning.

Our Blog

Last year our blog didn’t get any attention in our review post—there was a reason for that. We were still developing our blog and figuring out whether it was worth keeping up the effort. 

Well, I’ll tell you, it has been. It’s the perfect opportunity to show that yes, we do know what we’re about. We’ve been able to pass on a lot of our knowledge since we started writing our blogs, and we’ve learned even more while researching for some of them. As much as we’re enjoying writing our blogs, we’ve also decided to decrease the number we’re putting out each year to make sure that the quality is as good as possible.

Series from the last year

We like to try to do a couple of series per year where we cover a lot of subjects to help the Writing Community no matter what stage they are in in their publishing journey. 

Misused Advice—in this series we explore advice that’s great at its core, but has evolved over the year to be absolute and seemingly inviolable advice that’s followed by writers and instructors alike. We wanted to rock the boat and say some of these rules you don’t have to follow simply because most people think you have to.

New Authors—in this series, we started back at the basics for authors new to writing and the writing community. We cover the seven biggest things you need to know and develop in your work to really make it successful: plot, characters, dialogue, setting, world building, themes, and conflict.

Plot Archetypes—in this series, we talked about the seven basic plot archetypes in any story. We wanted to have another series this year that really focused on the building blocks of writing for our newer writers. We often quote the wise words of Richard Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit,” because we want to encourage every amature not to quit. And we think sharing the building blocks of the craft will help. 

Favorite from this year

There are a couple of blog posts that I’ve really enjoyed writing, but my absolute favorite from this year was one I wrote with cofounder B. C. Marine: I’m Feeling Conflicted from our New Authors series. In this blog, we wanted not only to talk about conflict, but bring it off the page by having conflict between the two of us. 

We might be arguing in the blog post, but I can assure you, it’s the most fun I think either of us has had writing a blog. We sat in a Google meet giggling like children the entire time. 

Final Thoughts

This year, like last, was hard. It’s hard to be in a job that has endless hours, sometimes little thanks, and a lot of the time more frustrating than one might expect. 

But would we choose another profession? No. 

No matter how hard it gets, there’s no better feeling than helping an author achieve their dreams of going from unpublished to published. There’s a unique joy in being the one to do that, and it’s the joy we hold on to tightly when the going gets tough. 


Join us next year when we start a new series on editing.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Misused Writing Advice: There Is a Correct Way to Write

Plotting vs. Pantsing

B. C. Marine, CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing and Lisa Borne Graves, A4A Author

To plot or to pants, that Is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler for the writer to plan out every scene in outrageous detail, or to find inspiration in the sea of ideas and kinda just wing it?

Anyone who’s spent time in the online writing community or browsed the writing resources at their local bookstore has probably noticed that there’s no shortage of books and systems that proclaim to be the perfect method to write fiction. The vast majority of them can be divided into two categories that you’ve likely heard before: plotting and pantsing.

To illustrate the differences, I’ve asked one of our authors to join me in describing our methods. Like me, Lisa Borne Graves writes speculative romance; we share many themes and style choices, and our fantasy trilogies are being released almost side-by-side, but our methods of getting our stories on the page are wildly different—to a point.

Getting Started
Plotter (B. C. Marine)

I plan everything before I write a word in my manuscript. I know the ending and sketch out most of the major plot points that will get me there, sometimes writing a paragraph or two of specific details I want to include. I make a map of the setting so I can visualize it as I write and set up spreadsheets with character descriptions, relationships, and other details that I need for continuity. If that sounds like a ton of prep work, that’s because it is! Depending on the length and complexity of the story (and how many of my other stories it has to maintain ties with), it can take up to a few months to get this all down. 

Pantser (Lisa Borne Graves)

I get inspired by something. Whether it be an image, a concept in a movie, book, real life, etc., something strikes a chord in me and sets off my imagination, aka, my “evil muse.” Scenes unfold, and I rush to write them down. I know nothing yet, except my main genre basics: romance has loose rules I will follow. I don’t know my sub genres or characters or their conflicts.

Drafting
Plotter

It usually takes me at least three or four months to get a novel down. Inspiration may not strike when I have time to write, but I borrow the inspiration I had during my preparation phase and tap into that. I write in order and build from one scene to the next, using my outline as a map.

However, much like an actual roadmap, I sometimes find that I need to take small detours here and there to get me where I want to go. Maybe my characters have developed more feelings for each other than I had originally intended, or maybe they’re hesitant to take a necessary step. In either case, I’ll stop and re-evaluate my outline to accelerate or decelerate relevant plot points before moving on.

Pantser

I often enter a phase of obsessive, or perhaps possessed by the muse, writing. At times, my husband teasingly comments my keyboard is smoking for how fast I type. I’m simply transcribing the scenes my imagination plays—much like a movie—into words. This takes me a few weeks to a max of two months if work and life are hectic.

The strangest part of letting the muse lead is she doesn’t like to go in order. I must go where I am inspired. The recent trend seems to be for me to start with the inciting incident—boy meets girl—and then I discover who they are. Sometimes conflict comes next, sometimes the climax and resolution. Exposition is usually added somewhere in the middle to end of my process. I jump around creating scenes until I feel spent. The story is done. 

I use these terms to explain my process to others, but never do I think, “I’m writing exposition right here.” I’m completely freewriting with wild abandon. 

Editing
Plotter

Up until this point in the process, I’ve been frustratingly slow. Just write the dang thing already! But in this editing stage, I’m lightning fast. The time it takes me to respond to both rounds of suggestions from my editor totals less than a week. Granted, it ends up being longer than that to process as I have to wait on my work to go through the queue, but it doesn’t sit in my hands for long at all. I’ve been known to turn my work around in a matter of hours for my second round of edits.

The truth is, I’ve done a ton of editing while outlining and writing. Scenes and subplots got scrapped or changed before I even put them in the manuscript. This doesn’t mean I can skip editing or am free from continuity errors, but having a cleaner manuscript from the start makes this stage easier.

Pantser

Editing already? Wait, wait. I’m not ready. After the first draft is done, I let it “marinate.” That means after my month of intense writing, I move onto something else for a few weeks to reset my brain. 

When I come back, I revise, and during that process, I’m taking the pieces I’ve strung together and smoothing them out, while checking that my plot is sound. Normally, it is pretty solid and shipshape, but I’m enhancing what is there by adding about 10-15K words in the form of descriptions and narrative voice. While I’m doing all this, I critique my work with notes—my own worst critic. This round takes a few weeks.

Then I pass a round or two of line edits and fix the notes I’ve made. Then I submit. The publishers give me a couple rounds of edits, but they don’t run off screaming, so I must be doing something right.

Altogether, the first words written up to the submission is a three to four month process for me, not counting the many breaks from writing that life throws. During these breaks, mental work is going on. I process and reprocess, revise and critique my work, write and rewrite. These mental exercises make this revision and editing process quicker and smoother.

The General Process
Plotter

Believe it or not, the single draft I get down is the one that goes to my editor. Before you gasp in horror, there is a difference between a first draft and a rough draft. Because I edit as I write (sometimes rewriting a single sentence four or five times before moving on), what is technically my first draft is by no means something rough that I threw down on paper; it’s closer to what a pantser’s manuscript looks like a few drafts in.

Pantser

I would say my fourth “draft” is what is submitted, but I feel more like they are two layers—draft and revision—that have been edited twice for everything from word choice and grammar to bigger things like characters arcs, narrative voice, and plot. Although many say first drafts can be hot messes, mine are more like a great tapestry riddled with holes that need mending. No matter how carefully I plan that tapestry pattern, it would not work out the way it was intended. Instead, I must go with the flow of where imagination takes me and then examine the pattern I have made and tweak the stitches for aesthetic beauty.

Conclusion

By the time you get to formatting and proofreading, both the pantsed and plotted manuscripts look the same. If we don’t tell you whether Marine and Graves are the plotter or the pantser, could you guess which is which? Unless you comb through our blogs or social media responses for where we’ve stated our preferences, we doubt it.

Both author types ultimately go through the same stages of the writing process. The difference is whether we spend more time at the beginning or end to get our ducks in a row.

Another thing to note is the false dichotomy of plotting and pantsing. Neither of us stays strictly within our chosen method 100% of the time. Sometimes a plotter has to be flexible or a pantser needs to stick to a planned element. The two methods are better described as a spectrum, and authors may find themselves anywhere on it, even directly in the middle. And the best part about that spectrum? It’s level; no part of it is above any other.

You can find romances by Lisa Borne Graves and B. C. Marine here.

Next week we’ll be taking a break for Christmas, and in two weeks, we’ll conclude 2020 with a review post of the year. 


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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Author Interview: Melion Traverse

Melion, thanks for joining us today! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

First, congratulations on your debut novel! What inspired you to write Exile?

This is a difficult one to answer, if I’m being honest. I wanted to write a character who was deeply flawed but who possesses an internal drive to grapple with, and overcome, her flaws. I like characters who acknowledge the dangerous, unsavory aspects of themselves and struggle to be good despite their own inclinations. I’m not a fan of grimdark, I should add, because I prefer to see the good triumph in the battle of good versus evil, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the truth that even those who are good are not without tremendous flaws.


It is nice to see a character being truly flawed and seeing them come to terms with it throughout the book. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

Redemption and forgiveness are themes which stand out readily. The inclusion of the enfield (a creature which I consider woefully underused in fantasy, by the way) is used as a symbol. Fire is the motif that comes to my mind. I like playing with themes and symbolism, so there are certainly others. Honestly, I’m really fun to run into at a party.


We’re sure that you are—we’d go to a party that you’re at. Tell us, who is your favorite character?

You’re asking all the hard questions, I see. Of course, I’m rather attached to all of them, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Uncle Roland. I suppose people would expect that I choose Bryn, being that she’s the main character, but Uncle Roland is the one who elicits the greatest emotional response from me. I feel a bit sorry for him that he’s the calm, rational person, and yet he isn’t the one upon whom a story is centered. He has to stand aside and watch his last relative, a person of whom he’s quite fond, face the consequences of her own poor decisions, and he’s powerless to do anything of substance. I don’t know, it just seems that his world is being reordered by the prior events just as surely as Bryn’s and Eckard’s worlds, and he just has to quietly make peace with it as best he can.


Uncle Roland is a good one—I think mine is Eckard, but that might just be the beard. Let’s switch gears a little bit: How did you craft your world? 

I’ve got this whole pretentious and rather dry response, but I’ll spare everybody my foray into verbal onanism. There’s a larger history to the story world, which is rooted in my interest in both the ancient Roman and the medieval worlds.


Both are great time periods to draw from. How did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

The setting isn’t really based on anything I’ve seen in real life. I mean, I can say that the landscape is inspired by the scenery I’ve encountered on my travels across the United States, but the setting is a very different place on a much smaller continent.

Let’s switch gears again: Who are your favorite authors? 

My favorites? Oh, here we go. If I had to narrow it down, I’d probably say Brian Jacques, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Jack London, as well as Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, and JRR Tolkien.


Those are all great authors. Finally, what can we expect next from you?

I just completed a manuscript of a sequel to Exile. Beyond that, I have a couple of other works in progress which take place on the continent of Elzina, which is a location Bryn and the others visit in Exile.


Thanks again for talking to us today. Readers, don’t forget to join us this Saturday, December 12th for the launch party and your chance to win a free paperback copy!




Exile

By Melion Traverse


Vengeance. Atonement. Exile. 


After killing a paladin in revenge for her family, Squire Bryn is cast out by order of the god Avgorath himself. Now she seeks atonement with the father of the dead paladin. But machinations far greater than a disgraced squire are at play. Unicorn riders—believed to be only legend—ride through the land. A young sorcerer needs help in finding his father, and a mystery brews that could hold the fate of two worlds. 


Will hatred prove stronger than the need to preserve a crumbling world?

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Plot Archetypes: Rebirth

It’s all about the arc, baby

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Welcome to our sixth and final post in our plot archetype series! Today we’re going to be talking about the feel-good plot archetype: rebirth. So what exactly is involved in this plot archetype?

What is it?

Well, rebirth can literally be a resurrection, but in general, it’s a transformation of your main character from villain to hero. The whole cast of characters wins when you have a rebirth plot because the protagonist changes themselves and their surroundings for the better. After sinking further into their vice or villainy, these characters will meet a character that reminds them of the goodness of the world and inspire them to change for the better. 

How to write a rebirth plot

So how do you go about writing a rebirth plot? Well, like the other plot archetypes we’ve been talking about, there are certain steps that need to be taken in order to make it successful. So what are they?

The fall of the protagonist: Your protagonist can’t have a redemption arc without first needing to be redeemed, right? This is where it’s established that your protagonist has fallen off the righteous path and the reason why they fell.

Bad is a good color: Your character’s bad deeds have to work for them, or else why would they stay bad? This could be something like insider trading and your character getting super rich, or they killed someone to take over a kingdom and they have the world at their fingertips. 

Frustration: This is where your protagonist sees that they might have done the wrong thing, but they don’t yet see how they can get out of their situation.

Nightmare: This is where your character will feel there’s absolutely no way out—there’s no changing for them; they’ve gone too far down the hole and they should just stay there. 

Redemption: Remember the aforementioned character that shows them they can be better? This is where they’re really going to shine. Your protagonist is going to realize that they can change with the help of or inspiration from the helper. And they do the hard work to make amends and improve themselves to no longer be the villain.

Examples

So, where can you find plots that involve rebirth? Well, there are several different examples that we can give, so we’ll break them down into books and movies for this blog post.

Books

A Christmas Carol is a book we’re all familiar with—especially since we’ve gotten so many movie versions of it. This is all about Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to redemption. After a not so bright childhood with a lost love, Scrooge becomes the miser that we see from the start of the book. After he’s visited by the ghosts of the past, present, and future and sees how miserable his life is and how miserable he makes everyone else, a fire to change lights under him. He doesn’t want to die alone and unloved. So when he wakes up from his nightmare of visions, he vows to change his ways—and does. And everyone around him benefits from his new generosity, but especially the families of his workers. 

Movies

How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a family classic that, at least in my family, is played nearly every year around or on Christmas. To be fair to the Grinch, he doesn’t really hate Christmas—he hates the people that treated him poorly. This is where the book and the movie differ slightly: Cindy Lou Who, instead of catching the Grinch in the act of stealing their Christmas feast and presents, decides to befriend the Grinch and warm his heart to the Christmas spirit by trying to get him elected as the Cheer Meister. And she almost succeeds until the town mayor proposes to the Grinch’s childhood love and  the Grinch wreaks havoc on the town destroying the things around him. After being hated and derided by the villages in Whoville, the Grinch decides to take his revenge and ruin the one thing they love most: Christmas.  And so he takes the villagers’ gifts and feasts and plans to get rid of them so no one can have a happy day. But come the morning, despite him stealing everything, he hears the Whos singing and realizes that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts and the feasts, but the people. And as the story goes, his heart grows three sizes and returns the gifts to the villages and they all live happily ever after. 

Join us next week for an author interview with A4A author Melion Traverse about her debut novel, Exile.

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