Friday Desk Report – Oct. 16/15

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Mapping for Writers

I love maps. As a writer and a gamer, I’ve created maps of worlds, dungeons, cities, space stations, villages, wormholes in space…anywhere a story might happen. I’ve also used real-world maps for stories set in–you guessed it–the “real world.” I find that maps help ground the story and help me visualize what’s happening.

Here’s my map of the fantasy world in The Seventh Crow (which is coming out soon! Like, this month soon!):

Ysterad map 2015 print

Okay, yes, I’m pretty happy with this one. It’s done in Photoshop, and I took a lot of time to get it just the way I wanted it. But it didn’t start out this way. It began as a pencil outline on graph paper, and it was pretty rough. It’s been through several incarnations on the way to this, including a hand-colored one I used in a D&D campaign for a while. But the act of creating the world–no matter how rudimentary it is, is the important part. By creating the environment, you are also thinking about everything and everyone in that environment.

This video by Peter Deligdisch explains this much better than I can:

As the artist explains, one thought about the world can lead to the next, to the next, to the next, when creating your map (and you do not need to be as talented as he is–it can work for anyone). Graph paper or hex paper is your friend (and you can download and print of either of these here).

If you really think you can’t tackle creating a map on your own, you can use a map generator (yes, just Google “map generator”) to do some of the work for you. You don’t have completely free creative rein with this method, but if you feel drawing-impaired it can be the next best thing.

If you’re just looking for inspiration, and not material to completely call your own, there are so many maps and plans already in existence online for role-playing games, that you need never lack for a visual representation of your story environs. This sort of resource is invaluable if you really need something visual to work out story logistics in your head, but you don’t need any sort of publishable plan or blueprint. I mean, look what searching for spaceship blueprints generator gets you.

Or again, you can make your own, as I did for the main character’s ship in One’s Aspect to the Sun (these, too, started out as sketches on graph paper. I transferred them to tracing paper at one point so I could line up the inter-deck hatchways):

DeckPlans-T-I

Maps can also make a lovely background for a book or ebook cover. Here’s one I created for a friend’s story:

20130914102723-Eyes-JulieThe map we started with was a barely-there representation, but with a little work it blossomed into a lovely backdrop for this cover.

Do you draw maps, plans, or blueprints for your stories? Do you spend a lot of time on them, or are you happy with a quick sketch? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Audiobook Giveaway ~ One’s Aspect to the Sun

OATTS cover-smI’m happy to announce that I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway for THREE Audible.com audiobook codes for One’s Aspect to the Sun. The sequel is due out later this year, so if you win, you’ll have lots of time to listen to the first one before the second arrives!

As usual with Rafflecopter, there are several ways you can enter, and some things you can do every day to increase your chance of winning! The contest will run for one week, until April 21st.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

The Murder Prophet Cover Tease

I know, it’s evil to tease you with just a bit of the cover, right?

MP cover tease 1But I’m getting pretty excited about this project. I shared this glimpse of the cover a while back, but here it is again. Don’t forget to watch this space on Friday for the whole thing, and a contest to win some advance reading copies! Later in the week I’ll give you more details about the novel itself.

I will say this: if you enjoyed One’s Aspect to the Sun but wished it had less space travel, nanotechnology, and wormholes; and more urban magic, mystery, sentient animals, danger, and romance, you’ll love The Murder Prophet. ;)

Ebook Sale Today!

OATTS cover-smYes, the ebook of ONE’S ASPECT TO THE SUN is on sale today for only .99! If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, this is a great time to do so.

http://tinyurl.com/kowo3j8

About the novel | Goodreads reviews | Amazon reviews

As this sale happens, I’m installed at my desk, hard at work on the sequel, Dark Beneath the Moon. Although One’s Aspect is a stand-alone novel, I’ve had many questions about and requests for a sequel, and who could say “no” to that? There’s certainly enough going on in Nearspace to keep the characters busy! Of course I can’t give much away at this point, but the shadows of the past loom even larger in this book than they did in the first, leaving Luta and her crew with new aliens, corporate intrigue, and more than a few mysteries to puzzle through.

But in the meantime, you should be reading the first book, so you’ll be all set when the next one arrives. It pays to plan ahead, right? :)

A Contest for World Book & Copyright Day

wbd-web-467x300-enApril 23rd each year marks UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright day. As it’s described on their website, “This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance…our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.” So, in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d run a little contest here on the blog.

What you can win: One ebook copy each of One’s Aspect to the Sun and To Unimagined Shores.

How to enter: There are several ways to enter the contest, and you can have multiple entries in my Lucky Basket. Here it is:

luckybasket

Doesn’t it look lucky?

Here’s how to get your entries added:

> Leave a comment below. Just say hi! = 1 entry

> Leave a comment below; say hi and tell me your favorite speculative fiction book or author = 2 entries

> Tweet or retweet about the contest = 1 entry. I’ll even write the tweet for you. Just copy and paste:

Enter @sdramsey ‘s #BookDay contest  by April 23rd for a chance to win free SF/F ebooks (http://tinyurl.com/qgp9hfm) #books #reading #scifi

> Share the contest in any other way; post it to your blog, mention it on Facebook, +1 it on Google, write it on your forearm with magic marker. The comments and tweets I’ll see, but you’ll have to email or message me to tell me about anything else you do. Each share = 1 entry

Rules: You may enter from anywhere in the world. Entries will be hand-written by me on actual pieces of paper and dropped in the Lucky Basket. One winner will be drawn from the entries received by midnight AST on April 23, 2014. Ebooks will be available in the following formats: .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .pdf. Winner will have to provide me with a working email address for delivery of their ebooks. Winner agrees to let me post their name or screen/online name so everyone knows that someone actually did win. The decision of the contest administrator (me) is final. I will do my best to record all eligible entries, but will not be responsible for missed, missing, or misplaced entries.

Ready to enter? Go!
 

OATTS cover-sm TUS-front-cover-sm

She Took to Her Bed

IMG_9758

Not my bed, but I’d take it!

Today I decided to take to my bed. Not in the Victorian-lady sort of way, complete with fainting spells, swooning, and smelling salts, but in the need-a-change-of-scenery sort of way. It was chilly in my office, and I was doing financial things (my nemesis), so I needed to snuggle up with a heating pad, a warm blanket, my laptop and a nice big surface on which to spread out a lot of papers. The bedroom was the natural spot to which I migrated.

Also, there were a lot of distractions in my office, and I needed to escape them in order to get anything done.

This got me thinking about how most of us have places we escape to once in a while. In my novel One’s Aspect to the Sun, my main character escapes to the largest cargo pod when she needs to think, and sits or paces on the catwalk that vaults through the top of the empty space. In her case, it’s the close quarters and small rooms of the spaceship she needs to escape–she’s craving the simple sensation of having more open space around her. Which is, admittedly, a little ironic, considering she’s actually out in deep space.

Even in stories where themes don’t touch on escape, many characters have places they go when they need to get away, be by themselves, and think or regroup. It can be a powerful insight into a character to see where they find this refuge. Do they seek out a church or a library for quietude? A milling shopping center where they can blend into a crowd? A forest where they can feel more grounded in nature? What does their choice of escape say about them?

In a short story I wrote recently, the main character’s escape space is a rooftop garden. In that story, it is symbolic, since the garden was started by her father, now deceased, and does become both an actual physical refuge as well as a place of danger, throughout the course of the story.

Where’s your escape? Where’s your character’s escape? What does that say about you, and about them? Can you use it to enhance your storytelling? Or your life?

Tell me your answers in the comments, if you’d like to share.

Photo credit: revwarheart

One’s Aspect to the Sun Trailer

I love making book trailers. I’ve done them for most of the Third Person Press titles, and it’s really quite easy to do with all the resources available on the Internet. You can find free-to-use graphics at places like Morguefile.com and StockXchng, video clips at MotionBackgroundsForFree , and great music at Incompetech.com.  Of course, there are many others around the web, but these are some resources I’ve used and been very pleased with. I generally use Windows Movie Maker and Photoshop, although of course there are other video programs with more bells and whistles on offer.

So of course I had to make one for One’s Aspect to the Sun. I had a ton of fun making this one!

http://youtu.be/LVK3_ZLFURQ&w=400&h=255&rel=0

Do book trailers really make a big impact in book promotions? Who knows? But the way I see it, having a good one can’t hurt. :)