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Welcome to the LiveJournal blog of author Benjamin Tate.  If you've never been here before, this is where I post about writing, book reviews, movie reviews, and odds and ends about my life or life in general that I think you'll find interesting or amusing.  This is a general notice that will always appear at the top of the blog.  Please scroll down to see the most recent blog entry. And yes, Benjamin Tate also has books published under the name Joshua Palmatier. Check those out as well!

Here are a few policies regarding this blog:

Friending:  Feel free to friend me.  I may or may not friend you in return, but if I don't, no offense is intended.

Linking:  Feel free to link to any of my blog posts if you feel that it had something important that needs to be spread around.  I simply ask that you mention my blog wherever you are linking from.  Please do not simply cut and paste something from my blog into your own blog or website.  A link with proper credit given is better.

If you'd like to find out more about my books or about me, feel free to check out my website:  www.benjamintate.com.

Well of Sorrows: Buy from: Powell’s | Indiebound | Amazon | Borders | B & N

Writing: Scene Economy
I teach an independent study course at the college where I work through the English department (even though I’m a math teacher) which is called COMP 399: Long Form. Basically, if a student is working on a fantasy novel and wants some help on improving it, they can ask for an independent study with me and we work on it during one semester. They have to produce new pages, revise the first 50 for a partial submission package, write a plot synopsis, query letter, pitch, etc. In the end, they have a good chunk of the book done and the materials they’ll need for submission to agents and editors once they finish and revise the book. Of course, many topics about writing get discussed during the bi-weekly meetings for this course, and something of interest came up at the last meeting.

Everyone knows about word economy—use the most effective word or phrase, cut as much verbage as possible, trim it down so the prose is as tight as possible, etc. My current student had this issue at the beginning of the semester (I think I said he needed to cut about 50% of everything I’d read up to that point). Basically, he said it one way, then would say the same thing again in a different way in the next sentence or paragraph, etc. He didn’t need all of that. And he said this past week that he’d learned a lot about word economy. This got us discussing my previous student (who’s a friend of his; they’ve been exchanging critiques of each others’ novels), and I said his friend didn’t have the word economy problem so much, instead he had scene economy issues. And I realized that I haven’t seen much about scene economy out there.

Basically, the same ideas regarding word economy work for scene economy. You don’t want to have two scenes, taking care of two issues, when one scene will do (just as you don’t want to use two words when one will do). For example, suppose you have a scene where you want to emphasize that a character, who also happens to be the king, has a strong religious belief. So you have the king in the church, perhaps kneeling before the altar, praying, revealing his current troubles with the kingdom as he tries to find a solution in his mind as he prays. A fine scene. Nothing wrong with it whatsoever. It even satisfies the “two things in a scene” rule, since you’re emphasizing a character element about the king while also laying out the problems he faces as he prays.

Now suppose that you have another scene where the king is discussing those same problems with the kingdom with his steward, say in the throne room after a lengthy council session with his lords. The discussion isn’t going well, since the king isn’t really listening to what the steward is saying, so he’s getting irritated and angry, and the problems aren’t being resolved. Another perfectly fine scene satisfying the ‘two things in a scene” rule, since again you’re covering the problems of the kingdom and you’re bringing in the fact that the steward and the king aren’t getting along, something that could lead to betrayal, regicide, who knows?

In any case, the point is that why have both scenes when you can cover all of it in one? Why not have the steward and king retiring from the council session to the king’s private chambers, talking as they go, the steward getting irritated and angry as they reach his chambers. There, exhausted by the council session and not wanting to listen to what the steward has to say, the king seeks solace by kneeling before his own private altar set up in the castle, perhaps even in his rooms. As they king begins to pray, the steward gets even more angry and irritated, because the king is obviously not paying attention.

This new combined scene is more interesting, because it heightens the emotions of the two characters to a level higher than in the individual scenes, and gives the reader a stronger conflict to focus on as the steward, the king, his reverence, and the practical issues of the kingdom all clash with each other. And in general, when you combine scenes like this, you cover more area with less space in the book. So it’s a win-win situation all around.

So when you go to revise your next novel, ask yourself whether or not you can combine scenes and focus on scene economy as you revise. You might be surprised how much space you can save, and how much stronger the writing will be in the end.

Wallpaper, Banners, and Icons . . . Oh My!
The books Well of Sorrows now has some little extras for those of you interested. My webpage designer whipped up some wallpaper, banners, and icons based on the cover art. If you'd like to help spread the word about the book, feel free to use them on your own blogs and webpages. You can find them on my gallery page:


Reading/Signing at AFRICA HOUSE
Hey, all! Just wanted to pass on the word that I'll be holding a reading/signing this week on Thursday, September 16th, 2010, from 7-8pm at Africa House in Endicott, NY. Africa House is a local art gallery and this is the first in a new monthly writing series hosted by them. So if you're in the Endicott/Binghamton, NY area, stop on by and check out their gallery. I'll be reading from my newest novel, Well of Sorrows, plus talking and answering questions about writing, publishing, etc. There will be books at the reading/signing for sale, provided by the Binghamton University Bookstore, both hardcovers and paperbacks if they're available. Stop on by!

So a few days ago I finished the final "extra" scenes that I wanted to add to Leaves of Flame, the sequel to Well of Sorrows. I also began the final revision/polish of the manuscript before I print it out and send it in to my editor, where she'll get a chance to rip it to shre--er, make suggestions to make it better, whereupon I will start another revision. But the good news is that it is, indeed, done. Book has been committed.

In this, my own personal revision, I'm trying to clean up some of the language (not with a bar of soap, no), meaning that I'm trying to cut out any extraneous phrases or tangents off into how the world works that the reader doesn't really need but that I, as the author, needed to flesh out before I could continue, etc. I'm also trying to repair some of the scenes that were just badly written. Necessary scenes, but everyone has bad writing days and most writers just plow on through them with the idea they'll fix things up later. It's now "later." I also need to figure out where the three extra scenes that I wrote after the first "finish" need to be inserted without interrupting the general flow of the story.

So lots of little things to do to make it better. Once I send it in, I'll begin work on the next book while I wait to hear from the editor. But you can all expect to see Leaves of Flame on the shelf in about a year. Once I get an idea on the release date, I'll let everyone know. I'm hoping everyone is interesting in what happens next with Colin, Walter, Aeren, Eraeth, and all the rest. *grin*

And if you haven't read Well of Sorrows yet, what are you waiting for? Here are some easy links so you can order it online easily:

Buy from: Powell’s | Indiebound | Amazon | Borders | B & N

Upcoming Events Schedule and GOOD NEWS!
I got a nice surprise yesterday while checking up on my German books, written under the pseudonym Joshua Palmatier. Every now and then I check on the German editions of the Throne of Amenkor trilogy. In the past few weeks, I was getting a little concerned because the first book Die Assassine went down to only 1 copy, then none, then it would come in 1-3 weeks, and finally it became unavailable (except for used copies). After the initial pain and sorrow, I figured it had had its run and wasn't looking for much to happen with the other books after that because, well, they're sequels. If you can't find book 1, you're unlikely to buy books 2 and 3.

BUT, yesterday, I checked on them again (hoping it was all a lie) and discovered that the reason the book was no longer available . . . was because they're releasing it in a smaller mass market format! YAY! It's not out of print! It's simply coming out in a different version.

I had no idea they were going to do this, but I'm excited about the German releases all over again. Here's hoping the mass market version does as well or better than the trade! So if you're in Germany or read German, check out Die Assassine in the new version. Tell all of your friends! (I don't think it's been released yet though . . . let me check . . . ah, it comes out in mid-November.)

But anyways, yay, and now for my upcoming events schedule. This is what I have planned for the next few months. If you in the area for any of these, feel free to come out and harrass me!

August 28th, 1pm: Talk at the Woodbridge Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup in Woodbridge, NJ, at the Woodbridge Public Library.

September 16th, 7-8pm: Reading at the Africa House, an art gallery in Endicott, NY.

October 28th-31st: Many parties and events at World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH.

April 21st-24th: Many parties and events at Norwescon in Seattle, WA.

April 28th, 7-8pm: Reading for the After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar anthology at the Africa House, an art gallery in Endicott, NY, with many of the authors who contributed to the anthology coming.

There will be many more events for the Ur-Bar anthology once they get organized and it gets closer. In particular, we're looking for some conventions in March where we could potentially host a release party. I'll update everyone on that once I have details. But for now, that's it. Hope to see some of you there!

There's a new review of WELL OF SORROWS out there. You can find it here. Some good things to say and a quibble, which I can handle.

If you post a review, or find a review of WELL OF SORROWS online, please let me know about it and pass the review on if you would. As I've discussed at my blog entry here, it appears that one of the new ways to find new authors is through reviews and blogs and such, rather than browsing the bookshelves (like I used to do), so any signal amplification you can do is appreciated.

Guest Blog: How do you find new books?
My monthly blog at APEX is up today. This month I'm talking about the fact that I can't go to the bookstore and simply browse for new books and authors like I used to . . . and the fact that it's put a crimp in my book buying style. I like to support new authors, but since I can't find them on the shelf as easily anymore, I know I'm missing out on a bunch of them out there, since the only way I hear about them anymore is word of mouth. So I pose the question: How do you find new books? You can answer here or over at the APEX blog.

Writing: Ideas
I have three novels under contract at the moment and am working hard to finish Leaves of Flame, the sequel to Well of Sorrows, by the end of the summer. The next book due after that though is NOT the third book in the trilogy, because while I was waiting to see if DAW was interested in the sequels to Well, I started a new trilogy. Well, sort of a trilogy. I started a new book with the idea that it might be a trilogy, but I only had a clue what happened in book 1. I had no idea if there was a book 2, let alone a book 3. But I usually work on the assumption that I have a trilogy for any project I'm dealing with. This is the fantasy genre after all.

I have about five solid chapters of this other book written, and a few chapters that will need revising from later on in the book, so I'm guesstimating that I have about half of the book done, minimum of a third. Usually by that point it's hit me what the sequels are supposed to be about, but that hadn't happened yet. No problem. DAW only bought book 1 anyways.

But then this morning, I woke up and immediately thought: "I'll have to explain this."

You see, the Well trilogy is set at one time period in my world, and this other series is set WAY before that. It essentially establishes how things got to where they are at the beginning of the Well series. However, the first book only explains how one aspect of the magic in my world originated, and I suddenly realized that I'd also have to explain how the other forces "came to be." I knew this earlier on but had shoved it to the side and figured it would work itself out when I got there.

It didn't wait. I now see how and why the other magic systems came about, as a consequence of what happens in the first book of this other series. The idea is new and fresh, which means I need to think about it for a much longer period of time . . . but I've got that time, since I still have to finished Leaves, finish that other book, and finish the third book in the Well series, Breath of Heaven.

But it's good to know that the other trilogy is shaping up in my head, even though I'm focused on a completely different project at the moment.

Contest Winners!
Way back in January, I started a contest where all you had to do to enter was friend me here on LJ. Since then, I let the contest slip my mind in all the frenzy of Well of Sorrows release and the writing of the sequel Leaves of Flame (still on track to be finished by September 1st). However, something prompted me to recall that there was, indeed, a contest so I've selected the winners! Totally at random, the following have one a free paperback book:


Each of you can choose one of the following titles on a first come, first serve basis. As the titles are chosen and eliminated, I'll strike them off the list. Some titles have more than one copy available. All books are signed by the author. As the knight said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "Choose wisely."

In no particular order:

Hell's Belles by Jackie Kessler
Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman
Reiffen's Choice by S.C. Butler
Dead to Me by Anton Strout
Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray
Heartwood by Barbara Campbell
Bloodstone by Barbara Campbell
Foxfire by Barbara Campbell
The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier
The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmatier
The Vacant Throne by Joshua Palmatier

So, winners, send me a message here on LJ with your name, address, and the book that you'd like from the prize list. If that book is taken (before I get a chance to mark it off the list), I'll ask for a second choice. I'll get the books mailed out ASAP! Thanks for friending me and if you've gotten Well of Sorrows I hope you enjoyed it!