Monday, September 16, 2013

Next Project

I'm at the phase where I'm planning the cover for "Approaching Oblivion" (Jezebel 4) and estimate a month till this project reaches completion. What's next? My next book will not be “River of Sorrows/ Ryoku 3” or book 5 of Jezebel. I need to start something new, with potential. Here are a number of possible books I’ve already started.
1: “Beyond the walls of sleep”, my YA fantasy about the magic possible in dreams. Daniel learns to teleport. The adventure bleeds over into real life when Daniel crosses the Circle of Deception and gets drawn into a gang war.
2: novelization of my short story “A Lesson in Summoning”, which traces Burl from apprenticeship through master wizard. Lots of demonology and humor.
3: a short story collection called “Epic Fails” – all epic fantasy stories where someone screws up royally. This one probably won’t sell much but would be a way to share my shorter fiction.
4: “Starfish Chronicles” A D&D story about a group of teens from an orphanage, refugees from a city destroyed by black magic. Working for a powerful wizard, they go back to recover personal mementos, treasure, and clues as to how it happened. Together, they raid giants’ cloud cities and dungeons. The wizard gives each of them a gift. Over time, some become rulers in the new land and others fall apart. The ageless jester is the only survivor. Eventually, he passes the torch to the new generation.
5: “Meta Games” YA fantasy. A young man enters a magical tournament held every seven years in order to find his missing father. Very similar to Talisman game where each player has a role with advantages and disadvantages. The winning team gets a wish.
6: “Zaboath Must Die” A post apocalypse Sci Fi story where a cult survives in an undersea UN Haven. What happens when zealots inherit the Earth? Even then, someone has to be a scapegoat.
7: or I could take a month and brainstorm something new.

The problem is, my fantasy doesn’t seem to sell or rank as well as my sci fi, and my muse has been leaning that way. So much of the epic fantasy on Amazon feels low quality and redundant to me. The contemporary fantasy feels better depending on the author. Why would I write it if I wouldn't read it? 

So far, two friends independently placed their vote for Zaboath. The story is about closing down a cult society that abuses its members. Anger smolders in the main character, Neelam, until the final confrontation. I have fun building the subculture. The slang for money, for example, it tox--both for money talks and toxic, root of all evil. People cast out are lost spirits and the chosen can't talk to them. The leader controls the society through taboo and access to purified water. All in all, a very dark place.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Readability Level

My son recently did a school project for the Lexile reading level for his summer reading list. Scholastic and Barnes & Noble have search engines to help your children find books by grade level. My 11 year old son is reading 10th-11th grade books by this measure, but popular books are more like 7 to 8. Breaking Dawn was 6th grade, Percy Jackson was 7th grade, and Hunger Games/Harry Potter is 8th.

The grade level was pretty simple, I remember hand-computing the Gunning reading level for English class. Basically, the more big words you use, the higher the grade level. My teacher told me that for adult fiction, I should aim for the eighth grade. As I don't want to churn my own butter, I found several websites to compute these values for me. Most only work for 10 or 50 thousand characters and aren't very accurate or fast. The one I liked best was the Flesch-Kincaid level at

I ran all my stories through and hit my goal. Reading ease is a score between 0 and 100 which gets higher the easier it is to read. You loose points for too many syllables per word or too many words per sentence. The target for "standard" is about 60-70 for a thirteen to fifteen year old. At 90, an eleven year old could read it in a comic. Below 30, only grad students and lawyers should brave it. My fiction over the years has shifted only slightly from 58 a decade ago to 62 from this year. Approaching Oblivion is still a raw draft without excess adverbs clipped, and such.

Flesch-Kincaid grade level reading ease
Approaching Oblivion 8 59
Clean and Floss 7 62
Contagion of the Gods 8 60
Doors to Eternity 8 58
Dreams of the Fallen 7 60
Empress of Dreams 7 60
Foundation for the Lost 7 61
Jezebel's Ladder 7 60
Redemption of Mata Hari 7 62
Sanctuary 8 58
Scarab 8 58
Sirius Academy 7 61