Category Archives: Writer’s Craft

Explanations of how the story works behind the curtain.

Lita Burke's Fantasy Worlds

Magic in Threes: Most Viewed Blog Pictures in 2014

Where did Gentle Reader find the enchantments in Lita Burke’s fantasy worlds during 2014? Three is a magical number. Let’s take a look at the three most popular blog pictures for this year.


A Female Enchanter

A Female Enchanter

The first of the three most popular pictures with the Gentle Readers is a female enchanter from the Enchanters of Sye world of Wrath and Tredan’s Bane.

She holds a charm in her hand, and it glows with an Enchanter’s magical essence.

An "Ornithopter" Personal Flying Machine by Da Vinci

An “Ornithopter” Personal Flying Machine by Da Vinci

The second of the most popular Lita Burke blog pictures is an Ornithopter flying machine from the world of Clockpunk Wizard.

Wizard Kadmeion and his assistant Sir Bright use these Leonardo Da Vinci style flying machines in Old Bony Blue Eyes.

A Harpy in Ephraim's Curious Device

A Harpy in Ephraim’s Curious Device

The third of the three most popular pictures with the Gentle Readers of Lita’s blog is one of the lovely harpies from Ephraim’s Curious Device in the Clockpunk Wizard world.

This favorite harpy picture shows light ghostly wings, a curvy figure in fetching hot weather flying clothes, and a beautiful face.

Castle on a Floating Island

Magic in Threes: Most Visited New Blog Posts in 2014

Where did Gentle Reader find the enchantments in Lita Burke’s fantasy worlds during 2014? Three is a magical number. Let’s take a look at the three most popular blog posts with new content that came out in 2014.

Last Time: Most Visited Classic Blog Posts in 2014

Shy Jack Frost, Winter's Fantasy Boy

Shy Jack Frost, Winter’s Fantasy Boy

The most visited post released in 2014 is about one of the characters in Lita’s upcoming story, Glitter Ponies.

Burr, it’s wintertime outside of Lita’s castle here in the northern realms. Someone painted icy filigree on the windows. Let’s bundle up, go outside, and meet the artist. Say hello to handsome Jack Frost, winter’s fantasy boy. This magician embodies lacy window paintings, trees draped with sparkling snow, and crystalline sculptures made of ice. Read more in “Fantasy Boy of Winter: Jack Frost

Tongue-In-Cheek Wedding at the End of the World
Tongue-In-Cheek Wedding at the End of the World

The second most visited post released in 2014 is one of Lita’s book reviews.

The Dark Days: End of the World – Episode 1 by Ginger Gelsheimer and Taylor Anderson is a YA thriller about teen Claudia Sheeplord and the end of the world via asteroid. Claudia has been skeptical about the blather over the past month about the killer asteroid that will slam into the Earth and raise the tides ten feet higher. Or two miles higher. Whatever. Read more in “Review: The Dark Days

Forest Fairies

Forest Fairies

The third most visited post released in 2014 goes back to the Clockpunk Wizard world and talks about its most delightful denizens, the fey-folk fairies.

Meet Tinker Bell’s naughtier cousins—the fairies flitting about in the woodlands near Lita’s castle. These worldly fairies go with Kadmeion on his wizard-for-hire adventures. These wee magicians fly in, lavish their wizard with effervescent pixie dust, and give him spicy relationship advice. Read more in “Care of a Fey-Folk Fairy (Part 1)

Next Time: Most Viewed Blog Pictures in 2014

Magic in Threes: Most Visited Classic Blog Posts in 2014

Where did Gentle Reader find the enchantments in Lita Burke’s fantasy worlds during 2014? Three is a magical number. Let’s take a look at the three most popular blog posts that came out before 2014.

There is Always Someone Opposing Your Fantasy People

There is Always Someone Opposing Your Fantasy People

The most visited classic blog post in 2014 talked about the magic behind the curtain in Lita’s worlds.

World-building techniques have always fascinated Lita. High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy books were her delight as a young reader. She poured over the maps on the book’s end papers, studied every entry in the glossary in the back, even marveled over the lengthy character name lists in the front. Read more at “6 Critical Elements for Fantasy World Building (Part 1)

A Beautiful Harpy in the Clockpunk Wizard World

A Beautiful Harpy in the Clockpunk Wizard World

The second most visited classic blog post in 2014 was about a favorite resident of Lita’s Clockpunk Wizard world.

Madam Harpy, our Winged Sister of the Sky. Who did a disservice to this magical creature, turning her from a beautiful woman with feathery wings, into a fearsome hag? Read more at “Harpies Are Misunderstood

Readers Love to Eavesdrop

Readers Love to Eavesdrop

The third most visited classic blog post in 2014 went back behind the curtain and talked about making fantasy characters real.

This post explored how to build rich fantasy worlds to immerse readers. Part 1 looked at two “big picture” elements in building a fantasy world: maps and politics. This second post took a “medium-sized” view and showed why meat and grog are wimpy.

Lita also explained in this post how to speak in tongues. Read more at “6 Critical Elements for Fantasy World Building (Part 2)

Next Time: Most Visited New Blog Posts in 2014

A floating island in the Clockpunk Wizard world

Interview: Lita Burke Tells the Secret Formula for Indie Author Marketing

Lita Burke Gets All Dressed Up in Her Clockpunk Dress

Lita Burke Gets All Dressed Up in Her Clockpunk Dress

Lita has been away from the microphone for a while. It’s time for Lita to dress her best and talk about Clockpunk and Fantasy.

Swing over to JeriWB’s blog and get the scoop in her latest post Author Interview: Lita Burke.

Find out all sorts of curious things about Lita’s writing life:

  • What motivates Lita to write fantasy?
  • Tell us Lita’s secret formula for marketing and promo for indie writers
  • What exactly is the magic behind Lita’s curtain for writing Clockpunk?
  • What’s the latest about Glitter Ponies?

Lita has spilled the beans before. Check out her chats with the folks at Smashwords and Bookmark Reviews. The latest, of course, is at JeriWB’s blog.

Xenia and Firesnort Get Ready for a Ride

5 Essentials for Writing Fantasy Part 2: Summarize

This is the second of a five-part series about fantasy writing craft. These posts explore five techniques for composing the story’s narrative passages.

Part 1 talked about Goings-on, which urged the fantasy writer to add actions to the story that would show, not tell, and to advance the plot. Today we discuss when to apply the opposite wisdom–summarizing instead of adding detail.

Xenia and Firesnort Get Ready for a Ride

Xenia and Firesnort Get Ready for a Ride

Trifling Matters

Not all details of story happenings are important.  Do the step-by-step actions advance the plot? If not, summarize the trifling matters.

Consider:  “Xenia took Firesnort’s bit, bridal, and saddle from their hooks and dragged the tack to the waiting dragon.  She patted the dracon between his saucer-sized orange eyes, slipped the bit into his mouth, and adjusted the fit.”

If getting a dragon ready to ride is the same as a horse, then the reader already knows this. Spending story time on these familiar activities slow down the action. Instead show an interesting detail about dragon diets (which the reader does not know).

Xenia saddled Firesnort. She yanked the belly band strap to cinch it around his puffy midsection. He broke wind, then let loose a flaming belch to burn away the stench. Her clothes ignited. Xenia dove to the ground and rolled to put out the fire.

“You fool of a dragon. Don’t eat wart root before bedtime. It gives you gas. Now you’ve singed my hair.”

Earl Puts Down Roots at Hildebrand's Place and Reads a Good Book

Earl Puts Down Roots at Hildebrand’s Place and Reads a Good Book

Time Warp

To speed up your story, write a summary of the uninteresting events.

Consider: “Earl turned his back on the Tree Counsel and shuffled away as fast as his roots allowed. The Ent left the southern end of Olde Forest. He traveled through the rolling hills of Cumberland, across the rocky slopes of the Flatirons, and finally entered New Mirkwood forest. His cousin tended a wizard’s library here. Earl coaxed his way into Hildebrand’s home and immersed himself in a good book.”

Yawn. The first and last parts have promise, but the middle is boring. So do the time warp and condense the uninteresting travelogue.

Earl the Ent turned his back on the Rude Old Fools and shuffled away. He crossed Treeland to his cousin Hildebrand’s place in New Mirkwood. Only magicians and bookish Ents visited his cousin’s library. Hildebrand introduced Earl to Wizard Nob.

“The Tree Counsel insulted me,” Earl said. “What can I do?”

Nob grinned. “They don’t like snakes. Find an asp potion and I’ll make it.”

Earl found Hildebrand’s books about herbology and rattlesnakes. Revenge made them a good read.

Would Vampire Queen Madam Elizabeth be One for Small Talk? What a Bloody Silly Question

Would Vampire Queen Madam Elizabeth be One for Small Talk? What a Bloody Silly Question

Trivial Talk

Write a summary when a dialogue’s exact words are unimportant. Instead, keep the reader riveted with conflict-filled patter.

Consider: “Greetings, Madam Elizabeth.” William bowed to the vampire queen. “How have you been?”

“My dear William. I have been mostly well, but suffered indigestion last week. What about you?”

“I am well. I dodged a hanging mob at Cadbury last month.”

Just proofreading this dialogue made Lita cringe. Vampires would not have such polite, boring talk. They would leap into the bloody good stuff.

The stale odor of the vampire queen’s undercroft made William wrinkle his nose. Best to get this over with. He stepped forward. She clung to the ceiling, waiting for him.

“My dear William. You’ve been a naughty boy.”

That silky tone meant only one thing. William knelt and bowed his head. “Cadbury folk are hasty about hangings.”

A whisper of movement, then Madam Elizabeth stood in front of him. She hissed. “News of your indiscretion upset me. I feasted on a poet to calm myself. His absinthe-laced blood gave me the vapors.”

“Forgive me. I beg you.”

Madam Elizabeth caressed his hair. Her talons were out. “Stand, William.”

William Drew Madam Elizabeth Near

William Drew Madam Elizabeth Near

He did so. Any moment now, he would be dead. “What do you want of me?”

“I want to get the taste of that dreadful wordsmith out of my mouth.”

William stroked her lovely face, put his finger under her chin, and drew Madam Elizabeth near. She tugged William’s scarf away from his neck. His pulse all but thundered in his bare throat.

“I will do anything if you spare my life,” William said.

“I know. That’s my good boy.”

Your Enchantress Can Have a Cluttered Workroom

5 Essentials for Writing Fantasy Part 1: Goings-on

This is the first of a five-part series about fantasy writing craft. These posts explore five techniques for composing the story’s narrative passages. 

Events. Activities. Story happenings. Writing about the goings-on is the most basic technique for showing the plot. Most début stories fall victim to goings-on problems. Lita has good news. The goings-on problems are easy to fix.

Line Up the Goings-on and Present them One at a Time

Line Up the Goings-on and Present them One at a Time

All Together Now, Not

Lita covered stringing a story’s actions like beads in another post, but it’s worth mentioning again. In the mundane world, events happen at the same time. A car’s tires screech as it speeds around a sharp curve. An assassin crouches behind a bush as she waits for her target. A driver simultaneously operates a car, sends text messages, and imperils traffic all the way home.

In fantasy worlds, things happen one at a time. A car sped around the sharp curve.  The tires screeched.  An assassin ducked behind a bush, then settled to wait for her prey. The motorist-to-be turned off his cell phone, tucked it in a pocket, and opened the SUV’s door. Commuters cheered.

Your Enchantress Can Have a Cluttered Workroom

Your Enchantress Can Have a Cluttered Workroom, But Your Narrative Should be Orderly

De-clutter with Cause and Effect

Think like a physics whiz in your writing: first there is an action, then a reaction. Our mundane world has plenty to say about cause and effect. Play the field before you settle down. If you want to do well, you must first work hard. The night is darkest an hour before dawn.

Same holds true when writing about fantasy worlds. The knight poked the sleeping dragon with his sword. The dragon awoke, ate the knight, and belched. The princess kissed the frog, got warts on her lips, and went in for plastic surgery. That night, she dined on sautéed frog legs. Wizard Nob scratched the satiated dragon behind its ear. The dracon let out a sigh. Its breath set Nob’s robe on fire.

First the Drop of Water, Then the Ripples

First the Drop of Water, Then the Ripples

Show Everything

In the early drafts of your fantasy stories, include all the steps of events, even the unimportant ones.  Including these steps will help you to show, not tell the goings-on. You will trim away the trivial steps later during editing.

Consider: “Sir Bright poured a love potion for the customer. She loved it.” Not very interesting. We can tell a better story by showing everything.

Sir Bright turned and took a bottle of Number Nine off the top shelf. He fetched a sparkling crystal goblet from the counter-top display. Bright pulled the cork and splashed the amber liquid in the glass to make it fizz. He pushed the drink across the counter to the mousey woman.  She took a deep breath, cupped the goblet in her palms, raised it to her thin lips, and sipped.

“Is it to your satisfaction, Madam Seamstress?”

She Dashed the Goblet to the Floor

She Dashed the Goblet to the Floor

Emboldened, the woman tossed back the rest of potion, then dashed the goblet to the floor.  It shattered.  She licked her lips.

“It’s faulty, Sir Bright.”

“In what way?”

“It doesn’t enamor Tully to me.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Bright said.  “He hasn’t laid eyes on you yet.”

“I am aware. The potion has a different effect.”


She scrambled up on the counter, grabbed his jacket lapels, and yanked him forward. He lost his balance and ended up nose-to-nose. Her breath smelled of liquorice and mint.  Oh, bother.  Wrong bottle.

Startled Man

eBook Pricing for Indie Fiction (Part 2)

Stop wandering in the indie eBook pricing forest

Setting indie eBook fiction prices is like wandering without a path in a misty forest. Take my hand, and let us find our way together.

This is the second of two posts discussing eBook pricing for new indie fiction authors. In Part 1, we looked at other indies’ pricing suggestions. In today’s post, I will present a pricing model based on samples and story length.

FREE Loss Leader

These freebies are your samples. Their purpose is to hook a reader on your writing style, tease them with taste of a longer novel, or they are the first installment of a series. These items are short stories–novelette length at the most (I describe fiction lengths below). Post flash fiction or ultra-shorts of 100-500 words on your website. These tidbits catch the interest of readers window shopping at your website. They are like delicious sample trays at chocolatiers’ shops.

Long stories have smaller price per word

Long stories have smaller price per word

Put longer short stories and novelettes on your usual sales channels (i.e., Smashwords and Amazon) so you can track how many people have downloaded them. Be sure to enable sampling the first 20% or so of all fiction on your sales channels. The key is to let your readers try your writing before they buy. Have at least one teaser, prequel or loss leader in your collection. Put some freebies on your website, and offer one in your usual sales channels. The eBook price? Free.

Length Matters

The number of words is one of the few pragmatic measurements for a story. No need for fancy (and confusing) formulas based on manuscript pages–use the word count feature of your word processor. You will be rounding it to whole numbers anyway.

Lita’s recommended eBook pricing model uses word count, but it isn’t linear. Your shorter stories will have a high price-per-word value than the longer works. For example, a short story at 1000 words would be priced at a dollar (valued at 10 cents per word), but a 120,000 epic fantasy would not be priced at ten cents a word–it would cost a whopping $120. It would not sell, no matter how wonderful the tale.

The Shocking Pricing Model

Take a deep breath. Ready? Here is Lita’s humbly suggested eBook pricing model for just-starting-out indie authors. When you’ve grown a following, you could adjust the prices to what your market can absorb.

These indie eBook prices are shocking!

These indie eBook prices are shocking!

  • Short Story
    • 1000 to 7500 words
    • Free if loss leader, otherwise 99 cents
  • Novelette
    • 7,500 – 20,000 words
    • 99 cents
  • Novella
    • 20,000 – 80,000 words
    • $1.99
  • Novel
    • 80,000 – 110,000 words
    • $2.99
  • Epic or Sequel
    • Over 110,000 words
    • $3.99

Lita made the mistake of pricing her début novel much too high. I set the eBook value on what I thought it was worth, and the readership disagreed. Other marketing blunders also slowed sales down, but that’s a topic for another post.

These pricing numbers are based on Lita’s experience. If Gentle Reader uses a different pricing approach and wishes to share the pros and cons, please comment. After all, we are wandering together in the misty forest of indie eBook pricing.

News About Lita Burke

Writer Tips for Tweeps: Check Out #LitaLikes

If the tiny twitter writer tips were magical lights, they would look like this.

Tiny twitter writer tips surround Lita like magical lights

For all the Gentle Readers who are on Twitter, Lita Burke has started a hash tag with indie writer wisdom just for you. But do read on, even if you’re not on Twitter–I’m talking about writing tips today.

About #LitaLikes

Here in December, Lita started a series of every-other-day tweets using the hash tag #LitaLikes. These are “tiny twitter tweets” (assonance rhyme intended–apologies–couldn’t help it today) with Lita’s quick tips, advice, and peccadilloes about writing.

Lita will post these hard-learned nuggets of wisdom until I have disclosed all, or an angry mob of orcs chases me away from the computer. The advice bits will be tips about editing your own fiction, the mechanics of eBook formatting, and Lita’s preferences about fantasy worlds and their story-people.

If Gentle Reader likes these, but you aren’t on Twitter, see the most recent #LitaLikes in the Twitter feed on the homepage sidebar of this blog. If you are on Twitter, here is Lita’s Twitter Page.  Feel free to Follow. If you aren’t on Twitter, and want to catch of Lita’s tweets from the source, here is the Twitter Home and instructions on how to become a Tweep–won’t cost you a cent to join. Gentle Reader can also catch my Twitter feed on Lita’s Facebook Page.

Take a Look at #LitaLikes

I suggest all writers print out their stories and read them off of paper for self-editing. Looking at your words on a different medium gives your eyes a fresh perspective.

How I go on about too many adjectives and adverbs spoiling a perfectly good story. Catch Lita’s rants about these fiction no-nos in earlier posts for Killing Me Softly with Adverbs, and That’s No Moon. It’s Excessive Adjectives.

As writers self-proofing our fiction, our eyes skip over typos and grammar flubs because somehow we just don’t see them. Word can speak the text out loud. Lita catches her literary badness using this technique. It is now my last self-editing step before beta readers.

I’ve gushed over my love of fantasy maps before in 6 Critical Elements for Fantasy World Building.

Remember, Lita posts to Twitter several times a day. Be sure to follow the latest about Lita’s fantasy worlds, get the scoop on the latest status for Lita’s stories, and keep the angry orcs away from my door.

Mixed Emotions About Indie E-book Pricing

eBook Pricing for Indie Fiction (Part 1)

Don’t look so confused. Let’s talk about indie eBook prices.

I have struggled over the past year to find specific, helpful information for indie authors in pricing their eBooks. Woo boy, have I gotten an earful.

After hours of searching and fighting off discouragement, I want to share what I’ve found, plus suggest how to take the mystery out of eBook pricing for new writers. I made some mistakes, and I hope these blog posts will steer you away from those traps.

This is the first of two blog posts. See Part 2 here. Today, I will summarize what I’ve learned from reading other indies on eBook pricing. In my second post, I’ll present a pragmatic framework that any new author can use as a guide for eBook pricing.

Let’s get started the usual way with a Google search. A look-see on “indie e-book prices” returns advice in  these categories:

  1. Price what you think it’s worth
  2. Wait forever before you make any money
  3. Big Name Author comparisons

I could easily add dozens to this list. Recommendations from indies fall all over the board, showing that a “best practices” book price list hasn’t emerged from the fray. Indies are a helpful, talkative bunch. Let’s look closer at what other indies say in these three areas.

Price what you think it’s worth

What? Put a mundane cost on my masterpiece? Buy my début eBook novel for twenty bucks! What a steal at this price. I spent four years of working on it instead of watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. Twenty bucks are a bargain for my sacrifice.

Here’s the reality. Understand that you want to price the book to sell to the audience who will take a risk reading an unknown. For a début indie author, the price of your book will be much less than you think it’s worth. Sorry for the bad news.

Wait forever before you make any money

Define forever. A while? Sure. Define “any money.” Frankly, selling a couple of books a month still thrills me. I keep showing up every work day at my muggle job, too. I try to not be a mercenary with my writing–this patient approach keeps me sane.

Write for your love of telling a story well. Keep learning writing craft. While you’re building your sales momentum, improve your product quality by learning better skills with:

Big Name Author comparisons

I don’t understand why début indie fiction authors compare their eBook prices to Stephen King. Or J. K. Rowling. Stephenie Meyer. And so on. Wonderful stories from all these folks. Telling no secret here, they are financially successful with their fiction. We are starting out. Apples and oranges comparisons.

I beg new indies to stop flogging ourselves with Big Name Author comparisons. Save your angst and write it into your stories about moody boy heros heading off to the goblin wars. If you must make comparisons, make yourself a magical curios proprietor just opening up a little hole-in-the-wall shop. Look at all the lovely stories you’re going to sell–over the long haul.

In Part 2, I will humbly suggest an indie eBook pricing framework.

Sneak Peek: Forever Boy Cover

Forever Boy by Lita Burke

In Forever Boy, a dog flees his cruel master, befriends a wizard, and discovers his shapeshifting magic.

Here is the just-finished cover for Forever Boy. I wanted to talk about some of the thoughts that went into its design.

I considered, then discarded, several elements. Vitruvian Man? Didn’t work. Hot air balloon? Nope. Curlicue text frames?  Looked like a restaurant’s menu cover. So I settled on these design elements:

  • Create a series theme
  • Must have a boy & dog
  • Imply time or clocks
  • Renaissance influences

Other must-haves applied.  The title must be legible when reduced to thumbnail size. Since Forever Boy is an Ebook, the cover must look good on a computer screen and various eReader devices.

Create a series theme

Forever Boy is the first tale in the Clockpunk Wizard series of novellas. The stories will stand alone, so Gentle Reader can peruse the stories out-of-order, if desired. The series covers need a common theme. What about a volume number? I came close to using one, but cut it at the very end. I decided on “A Clockpunk Wizard Story” somewhere near the title. All covers in the series will display this phrase.

Must have a boy & dog

In an earlier post, I talked about the central character’s cyanthrope nature. His discovery of this magical duality, and taking action about it, is the theme of Forever Boy. For weeks I taxed my GIMP knowledge to create a sophisticated morph of a boy and dog face. Not pretty. The two different pics with moody lighting is much better than any of my amateurish photo morphs. No need to thank me for this decision. Believe me, this result is much better.

Imply time or clocks

Clockwork mechanisms are central to how magic works in the Clockpunk Wizard world. I had to put a clock or time element on the cover. There are many lovely stock photos of old watches, clock faces, and ticktock mechanisms. I picked a full-page parchment picture with the clock faces already sprinkled in the lower left corner. I applied a filter to darken the background to take the emphasis off of the clock faces and instead focus on the boy and dog.

Renaissance influences

The clockpunk genre sets its stories in the latter 15th and early 16th centuries, in the time of the Renaissance and the devices of Leonardo Di Vinci. Actual book covers from this time have ornate, repeating design patterns and simple book titles. Lovely, but not eye-catching according to modern tastes. There are two Renaissance elements in the Forever Boy cover:

The ornate mirror frame is a nod to my discarded curlicues. The frame is a hint of vintage embellishment, not a glut of it. It is a more balanced design, too. Using Garamond font was a sneaky Renaissance ploy. This beautiful classic font is still used in many print books. It is easy to read. And it is correct to the time period of the magic world in Forever Boy.