2017 in Review: Publications!

So, this post will be a little more upbeat than yesterday’s treadmill desk lament. I published things in 2017! And strangely, I realize, they mostly come in twos.

Two short stories in anthologies: I had stories in Where Evil Dwells: The Nova Scotia Anthology of Horror (“The Girl in the Stones”), and the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (“Station Run”). Two very different anthologies and very different stories! “The Girl in the Stones” is set in Cape Breton, when a couple moves into a house that comes with a strange pile of stones in the yard, menacing dreams, and a frightening history. “Station Run” finds a young girl on a space station discovering that her programming skills have unearthed a secret that will rock the world of the station and those who live there.

Two self-published novelettes, “Waiting to Fly” (set in the Nearspace universe), and “The Goddess Problem” (an Olympia Investigations story). “Waiting to Fly” is set in the early days of Nearspace colonization, when getting to a space station was only the first step, and getting off it again might not be easy-especially if you’re a young woman on your own. “The Goddess Problem” finds our favourite supernaturally-attuned detective, Acacia Sheridan, employed by a Greek goddess on a missing-persons case.

Two books: a new collection of short stories, The Cache and Other Stories, and the third book in the Nearspace series, Beyond the Sentinel Stars. The story collection includes stories published since my last collection in 2011, as well as a couple of bonus stories you won’t find anywhere else. And Beyond the Sentinel Stars finds Luta and her brother Lanar embroiled in a desperate attempt to prevent another Chron war from ravaging Nearspace.

On the editorial side, 2017 saw the publication by Third Person Press of Rise of the Mudmen by James FW Thompson. I’m very pleased to have been involved in the publication of this first novel. The story follows a group of young survivors through a zombie apocalypse in an alternate 1980’s timeline in Cape Breton.

Submission Planning Sheet

It takes a while to get a story ready for submission–there’s a lot of rewriting, revising, editing, polishing, and agonizing to arrive at that point where you give yourself the green light — your project is ready to send out into the world. The act of submitting is not an easy one for every writer, often fraught with self-doubt, trepidation, and  anxiety. Trying to decide where to send your story can seem like a huge, time-intensive chore, which has to be revisited after every rejection (usually when we least feel like doing it!).

What you, the writer, need — is a plan. A submission plan for your story that will help you easily decide on the best markets to target and which ones to try first, and also let you turn rejections around quickly into new submissions. No more going back to pore over the market lists every time a story comes back; no more agonizing over where to send you work; no more letting a story lie fallow on your hard drive for weeks or months while you regather the will, nerve, or gumption to figure out where to send it next.

Enter the Submission Planning Sheet. I’ve kept one of these for years (inspired by an old article by my friend writer Terry Hickman) using this method, but I’ve recently updated it to an Excel spreadsheet from my old pen-and-paper method. I thought I’d share it here for any writers struggling with keeping their stories in submission. You can use it for as many stories as you’d like by simply adding a new page/sheet for each story. It comes with instructions and some sample data, and I hope you’ll find it useful.

You can download the spreadsheet file directly from my site right here:

The spreadsheet is free, but if you find it useful and feel so inclined, you can show your appreciation with a small donation – buy me a cup of coffee? You’ll keep me fuelled for creating more useful things like this. :)

 

NaNoRetro: 2003

My NaNoWriMo Retrospective continues with a look back at 2003. I came, I wrote, I bought the t-shirt. And I wrote “THE END.”

nanoretro2003This was my second year of NaNoWriMo, and the year I wrote the first draft of One’s Aspect to the Sun. I learned a lot about novel-writing that year, including the fact that sometimes characters you intend to kill off in the second chapter just keep hanging around until you realize they’re not ready to die after all. I also found out how fulfilling it is to reach some semblance of an ending and type those two wonderful words.

I wasn’t certain if this was the year I became a Municipal Liaison, but I’ve just gone and checked my email (yes, I’m an email hoarder, I confess), and this was the year I started. So I’m glad to have that figured out, because I’m never sure when filling out the ML form each year. It didn’t occur to me before this to just go and check those old emails, for which I really have no excuse. As I recall, we were a pretty small group that year, and far-flung across the Island, as we still are, although there are definitely more of us participating now. I remember mailing out pins and possibly stickers to a few participants.

Anyway, this is a big year in the retrospective, because the draft I wrote this year became my first published novel (from Tyche Books) in…wait for it…2013. In November, even! Yes, ten whole years after I wrote that first draft. Now, I wasn’t working on it constantly during those ten years (I wrote a lot of other stuff in there, too), but I did write several drafts. I submitted it to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes) and took second place (which one of the organizers assured me meant that the novel was “publishable”), and rewrote it using the feedback I received from the judges. After a couple more rewrites and submissions, it found its home at Tyche. The beautiful cover art is by the talented Ashley Walters. The book was named “Speculative Fiction Book of the Year” by the Book Publishers of Alberta.

Here’s the blurb, which remained pretty much the same from the time I first wrote it in 2003 until the book came out:

When Luta Paixon, captain of the merchant trader Tane Ikai, looked in the mirror, she saw a woman in her thirties–even though she was actually eighty-two. Luta’s only explanation might lie with the mother who had disappeared over sixty years ago. But even if her mother were still alive, it would be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the farthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Looking back at my spreadsheet from this year, I see that I finished November with a word count of 50,715. On the second day, my note says, “A little worried that I don’t know where I’m going,” but by the end of the first week I seem to have settled into a groove and flown straight on till morning. I actually finished on the 27th, averaging 1878 words per day.

Which year will we visit next? Stay tuned!

Connections

bridgesThe other day I wrote here about not being really keen on marketing and promotion, and for the most part, that’s true. However, I was thinking afterward about a side benefit that sometimes goes along with promotion, and that’s connecting. Connecting with readers, connecting with other authors, connecting with others in the industry. And that part, I do like.

Over the past number of weeks, I’ve been very fortunate to forge some new connections, particularly with other authors, through these promotional efforts. In the Rogues bundle from Tyche Books, I’ve been in the company of Rebecca Senese, Michael Wallace, Daniel Arenson, Jamie Grey, and Edward W. Robinson. In the Middlings Bundle, I’m sharing space with Anthea Sharp, Michael Warren Lucas, Michael A. Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith, Blaze Ward, Mindy Klasky, Leah Cutter, Kristene Kathryn Rusch, and Daniel Keys Moran. And tomorrow evening I have a Facebook chat for Dreaming Robot with Dianna Sanchez and Susan Jane Bigelow. Some of these authors I already knew from various places like the SF Canada listserv, Twitter, or Second Life, but others are new connections, and for all of them, I’m grateful. One never knows where new connections will lead or what might grow out of them.

I don’t mean that I look on all these connections only from the point of view of how I might profit from them–not at all. I might be able to help someone else. Maybe they might benefit from something I share. I might learn something I didn’t know before, something that could be large or small and is valuable either way. I might just expand my network of friendly, fun, interesting, and helpful people–someone new to trade jokes and banter with on social media or get book recommendations from. And I might only bask in the reflected glory of having my name linked, even in a minor way, with writers who are far more luminescent than I.

Okay, yes, that last one sounds maybe just a little self-serving. I can live with that. ;)

When I look back at the trail of connections and interactions, especially in my writing life, that led eventually to something unexpected and wonderful, I feel quite amazed. We do so many things without any idea of where they may lead us. This is one reason I always encourage newer writers to become “immersed” in the writing world, whatever that immersion looks like to them. Writing groups (face to face or virtual), workshops, courses, critique groups, convention panels, speaking opportunities, professional organizations, library or school events, or whatever else may come up, say yes whenever you can. The connections you make can be one of the best parts of the writing life.

And I’ve found more great things to read in the course of the recent process. A not inconsiderable benefit all by itself.

Photo Credit: nicksumm at morguefile.com

Friday Desk Report – Feb. 26/16

stack-of-books-images-k4233733Another week when I was not at my desk very much–it was school book fair week here, so I spent a fair bit of time organizing and manning that. We had a good week and will be putting a lot of new books into the library as a result. The other payoff is seeing the students get so excited about books. Not to mention dropping a certain amount of my own money there…but we won’t talk about that.

When I was at my desk, I was getting files ready for a bundle that will drop next month–it includes a new story from what I like to think of as “the Nearspace files.” That is, it’s set in the Nearspace universe, but prior to the novels. So it gives a little glimpse into the history of Nearspace, while telling a story that stands in its own. You might already have found the other Nearspace stories I have here on the site, but this novella is something new. I’ll post all the details here when the bundle is ready to go, but I’ll just say that my story will be in some exciting company! Oh, all right–I’ll give you a sneak peek at the cover, as well:

RamseyWaitingToFlyCover

…do you like it? Probably in next Friday’s report (or sooner!) I’ll tell you what the story’s about.

So between editing the story, tweaking the cover, setting up the ebook formats, and miscellaneous other related tasks…that was the week. Add in meetings on three of the five weeknights, and it’s no wonder this isn’t a long report!

I do have one other piece of news, though, and it’s that One’s Aspect to the Sun will be part of a new Space Opera box set, also coming in March. Again, I’ll post all details and links as I have them. This is going to be a great deal, so you won’t want to miss out on it!

And I think that’s the report.

 

The Seventh Crow Kickstarter is Live!

My publisher for The Seventh Crow, Dreaming Robot Press, has launched its Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders for the book. I’m pretty excited about this as some of the perks are pretty cool: mini-prints of illustrations from the book! I’ll give you a sneak peek of one here:

Rosinda&Traveller

…but you’ll have to click over to the Kickstarter page to see the rest! It’s right here. There’s also a very cool video you can watch to find out more about the book. Watch for my very own map of the fantasy world of Ysterad in the video!

You also have the option of ordering the book with color or greyscale illustrations, ebooks, multi-packs for classrooms–even a visit from me! (via Skype if I don’t live near you, unless of course you want to pay my way…haha)

The Kickstarter will collect pre-orders and funds will help cover the cost of the illustrations and additional printing costs. There are a limited number of Early Bird copies with special pricing, so don’t miss out!

The book is set to release this August in print and ebook formats.

Cover Reveal: The Seventh Crow

Seventh Crow Cover_smI’m excited today to reveal the cover for my forthcoming middle-grade fantasy/adventure novel, The Seventh Crow. It’s coming this summer from Dreaming Robot Press and we’ve been working hard on it over the past few months.

The crow on the cover? That’s Traveller, the crow from the title. When we first started discussing cover ideas, we went hunting for an image that captured this character, and we found him! See those intelligent eyes, that proud bearing, the impression that he’s just about to speak–

But I don’t want to give too much away.

What’s the book about? (I hear you asking…)

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Dreaming Robot will be running a Kickstarter campaign to gather pre-orders, with some pretty sweet perks–like prints of illustrations from the book! Stay tuned and I’ll share full details of the campaign when it goes live.

The Seventh Crow ~ News!

file1941286445708I’m so pleased to officially report that my YA fantasy novel The Seventh Crow will be published by Dreaming Robot Press, with an expected release date sometime in 2015.

I wrote the first draft of The Seventh Crow as my NaNoWriMo project in 2005. It’s been through several drafts since then, growing and maturing (I hope!) with every one. No, I would not say that I’ve “been working on this novel for ten years”! Novel revision seems to be a very on-again, off-again kind of thing for me. If we condensed down the time that I actually worked on it, it would fit into a ridiculously shorter period of time. But sometimes that in-between time is important for the book, and for the writer. In any event, I’m very excited that the novel has found a home!

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit: curlsdiva

Writing the Blurb

DSCN5084When I wrote my series of blog posts about mistakes made by self-publishing authors, one key stumbling-block I mentioned was the blurb. I picked out three major problems with blurbs in that post…in this one, I’m going to try to help you learn how to write a great one.

Earlier I said, “The blurb is your chance to sell me on reading your book.” That’s true–but how do you do that? There’s a lot going on in your book, I know, so how do we boil all that excitement down to a couple of brief paragraphs?

I’m going to propose a template here for a three-point blurb, and show you a couple of ways I’ve used it myself. I’m not saying these are the best blurbs ever written, but I think they’re solid and I’ve had readers tell me in both cases that they decided to read the book based on the blurb alone.

1. Start with your character(s). Who are they at the start of the story? Give them names, professions, status–whatever it is that makes them who they are and is important to the story. Do they have a goal, a dream, or a problem at the outset? Is there something about their world or situation that’s important? Can you also give a clue about the type of book this is?

Captain Luta Paixon of the far trader Tane Ikai needs to know why she looks like a woman in her thirties–even though she’s actually eighty-four. (character, profession, problem, genre)

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. (character, profession, setting, problem, genre)

2. As I like to tell students when I do presentations about writing, stories are fueled by TROUBLE. So add a sentence or two telling us what the character’s biggest challenge or challenges are going to be in this story. What’s the one (or even two) most vital problems that must be faced and solved or the story will fail? Why is there no easy solution? Does something happen that compounds existing trouble or creates a new problem?

The explanation might lie with her geneticist mother, who disappeared over sixty years ago, but even if her mother is still alive, it’s proving to be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. (possible solution, not easy)

But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes. (new challenge, upsets “normal” life)

3. The third point can do a few things: it can pile on further problems or complications; it can expand on why solutions are not easy to find or add further threats; it can pose a question that the story promises to answer, and the reader is now interested to see answered. You can also take the opportunity in this or any other point to give further clues about the tone, mood, and genre of the story.

With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the furthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart. (complications, further threats, more genre clues)*

With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own. (complications, further threats, tone)**

Very often, even if the question isn’t explicitly stated in the latter section of the blurb, it’s there inherently. (Will the character succeed?) But you may want to pose a more universal or thematic question as well. While some folks don’t like questions at the end of blurbs, I’m not convinced that they’re a bad thing if they serve to get the reader wondering and invested in the story.

A few things to remember:
For each of the three points, limit yourself to one or two sentences only. This helps you really focus in on the vital points of your story.

Be honest! Write the blurb for the book you’ve written, not something else. If the book doesn’t deliver what the blurb has promised, you’re going to have a disappointed or even angry reader, and no-one wants that.

Don’t be satisfied with your first attempt. Rewrite, and rewrite again, trying out different elements or structures. Edit your blurb as carefully as you’ve edited your book. The blurb, as well as telling a potential reader what your story is about, also reveals how proficient you are as a writer. Make it sharp, clean, vivid and intriguing, and you’ll have readers wanting to know more.

*The full blurb for One’s Aspect to the Sun is here.

**The full blurb for The Murder Prophet is here.

Photo credit: pippalou