A Reincarnation

For a number of years, I ran a couple of successful email courses through The Scriptorium; one was called “The Two-Week Short Story” and the second was “Short Story Workshop for One.” People seemed to enjoy them and I received a lot of very positive feedback from students. The first was (rather obviously) a guide to coming up with a story idea and writing a quick, complete first draft, all in a two-week period. The Workshop was a method for writers who found it difficult to get feedback or critiques to work on developing the kind of critical eye needed to help them improve their stories on their own. The Short Story Workshop itself grew out of an article I had published in Speculations back in 2001, so it had already lived through one reincarnation. It occurred to me that they’d both probably translate well into short ebooks now, and that I might reach a new group of aspiring writers in that format.

Never one to let a good idea fail to distract me from what I’m really *supposed* to be doing, I set to work and did some revising, tweaking, and re-formatting. Also, cover design, since every good ebook deserves a good e-cover. I’m not quite ready to release the ebooks yet, since they need one more good going-over, but I’m thinking within a week or so they’ll be ready to go. But I can share those covers with you now (they might get a little more tweaking, but I think they’re pretty much done):

I expect to price the ebooks around $1.99, which will be a bargain considering the courses used to sell for $8.00 each! However, I did have the hassle of setting up the email schedule, so compared to that, selling ebooks is easy. I believe I’ll test these in Kindle Select at first, and then move to a broader platform after that, as my marketing experimentation continues.

If you or someone you know is looking for some story inspiration and motivation, or have a story that needs some intensive self-workshopping, I’ll be posting here when they’re released. Maybe you’ll find them useful!

Stuck in the Middle with Who?

Montage_Coupon_Adbig-rabbitThe Middlings Bundle launches today, from the newest entry into the bundle market, BundleRabbit. If you’re a fan of sites like HumbleBundle and StoryBundle, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one, too. And I’m excited to have a novella included in their very first bundle. I also love, love, love the BundleRabbit logo! BundleRabbit is the brainchild of Chuck Heintzelman, with whom I’ve shared many happy writer therapy writing group experiences in the online group The Quillians.

My novella, “Waiting to Fly,” is set in the Nearspace universe of One’s Aspect to the Sun and Dark Beneath the Moon. Like some of the Nearspace short stories I’ve released, it’s set in the earlier days of Nearspace, when wormhole travel is just opening up and the boundaries of Nearspace are expanding. And in keeping with the theme of the bundle, “middles,” it’s something that happens while the teenage protagonist is waiting for something else.RamseyWaitingToFlyCover

Middles make an interesting theme for a collection, because we’re all in the middle of something, all the time. (Usually many things!) But much of life happens in between those things we tend to think of as milestones or markers, so middles are rich with potential for storytellers. It’s also nice that these stories are of middling length–longer than short stories, but shorter than novels. I’ve been musing on current trends in short story publishing lately, and why shorter and shorter stories seem to be the trend. But that’s fodder for another post, which I’ll likely write this week.

The Middlings Bundle is curated by author Leah Cutter, and as you can see from the cover montage, she’s gathered together some quite heady company from the perspective of little ol’ me. The bundle also features stories by Anthea Sharp, Michael Warren Lucas, Michael A. Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith, Blaze Ward, Mindy Klasky, Leah Cutter, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Daniel Keys Moran. You can find out more about each of the stories over on the BundleRabbit blog, where Chuck’s been introducing the novellas and their authors over the past week or so. In keeping with the spirit of many bundles, this one is pay-what-you-want: $5+ will net you five of the stories, and $12 or more will get you all ten stories and a bonus–a coupon for an additional free ebook from Kobo two additional books from Kobo: “Collateral Damage” by Mark Leslie
“A Bird in the Hand” by Douglas Smith (there was an initial mixup about the Kobo bonus, so I’ve fixed the information here). This is really a deal that’s too good to pass up. You’ll also have the option to designate a portion of the bundle price as a charitable donation to The Washington State Talking Book and Braille Library. This service provides access to books for people unable to read standard print material, and also loans out magazines, music scores, and foreign language titles. I had very dear aunt who depended on library services like these when her eyesight failed, and I know the importance of support like this, so I encourage you to consider them if you’re purchasing the bundle.

The Middlings Bundle runs only until April 26th, so don’t miss out!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, should you like “Waiting to Fly” and want to read more in the Nearspace universe, you can currently pick up the first book, One’s Aspect to the Sun, in a bundle as well! The Rogues set is available here, and is another awesome deal.

Friday Desk Report (March 11/16) & Bundle News

Okay, the Friday Desk Report is a wee bit late. But it was a good writing week! I finished the first draft of a new short story, did some solid work on the novel draft, and worked on an old, unfinished short story that is finally sorting itself out. I also imported a mostly-finished novel draft into Scrivener for some much-needed attention when I need a break from other projects. I almost doubled my word count from the previous week, which is making me very happy indeed.Rogues 3D_01

Another thing that’s making me very happy this week is this: the Rogues bundle is out! (If you’re in Canada, use this link.) This bundle of seven novels is selling for just 99 cents while the promotion lasts, so you don’t want to miss out. I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle already and am anxious to start reading. Some of these books start series, so it’s a great chance to discover a new sci-fi love affair. My contribution is the first Nearspace novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, which starts the series but can also stand alone. Be sure to click over and check out this great deal!

I didn’t miss a day at my treadmill desk last week; I usually start my walking-and-writing routine by doing my words at 750words.com. Think “morning pages” stored online, and you’ve got the idea. I wrote there every day during February and so far every day in March. Sometimes it’s journaling, sometimes brainstorming or working out story problems, sometimes blog posts, and sometimes I actually do a portion of the day’s writing there. I like the regularity of writing there, combined with the freedom to write whatever I feel like writing. The longest streak I’ve ever had writing there was 46 days, and if I can keep it up this week without missing a day, I’ll break that. Guess I’ll have to report on that possibility next Friday.

The other new thinApprenticeFiles e-cover2g to report this week is this little goodie, available now on Kobo and Kindle. The Apprentice Files collects four stories with a shared main character: Albettra, the young wizard’s apprentice. These stories can be found in my collection, To Unimagined Shores, so if you already have that, you have these. But for those who don’t, this is a nice little sampler at a good price. Suitable for readers from middle grade and up, these light-hearted stories follow Albettra as she deals with her absent-minded and sometimes crotchety mentor; solves a murder; is pulled into a magebattle, and contends with a halfhigh stalker. This ebook was originally a Kickstarter perk, but now it’s flying on its own.

 

 

 

 

Things I researched this week:

  • family tree of Greek gods
  • wings and laurel leaves
  • mythological half-wolves
  • Cape Breton history
  • short story markets

Friday Desk Report ~ March 4, 2016

Rumsey-nova scotiaWhew! That week went fast, and it was a busy one.

Yes, that’s a map of Nova Scotia on the side, including Cape Breton. We’re in the news so much lately, of course I have to try and capitalize on that. After all, my desk IS in Cape Breton, right? And this report is coming from my desk. So it’s not such a stretch. ;) #capebreton

Most notably this week, I wrote a new short story–in a day. That never happens! My short stories are rarely all that short, and they normally take weeks or more to come into being. But this one just popped into my head and I wrote it. Boom. It also sparked the idea for several more, which are currently rattling around in my brain. Possibly a whole project’s worth. But we’ll have to wait and see what comes of it all. I was also moved to pick up an old, abandoned story and work on it some more. I think I still haven’t solved the main problem that stalled me on that one before, but I’m a lot closer to having it figured out.

I also made some inroads in the novel draft. Finally! It has been a dark two months on that front, and it’s only now that I’m coming out of it that I realize I really was stuck in a bout of the winter blues. Well, let’s call it what it is: seasonal affective disorder. I’m fortunate to get reasonably mild symptoms and to have discovered over the years that I can take steps to alleviate it–most notably, keeping active and spending daily time with a full-spectrum light. However, sometimes it takes me a little while (read, weeks) to clue in to what’s actually going on. Duh. I should set a reminder for myself now, scheduled to pop up next January, that says, “start walking and get out your Ott light!” Anyway, I figured it out eventually and am no longer spending long hours playing Animal Crossing and subsisting on chocolate chips.

Here’s something new happening: this excitement will be dropping around the middle of the month, and I’ve just seen the cover art:Rogues 3D_01Awesome! This looks like a great bundle (put together by Tyche Books) and a smart way to start on some really cool series. I’ll be sharing links and more when it goes live, so stay tuned!

I had a Writers In The Schools visit this week at the local high school and as usual, the kids and teachers were great to work with. Two more scheduled before the school year is up!

Things I researched this week:

  • names for parts of bagpipes
  • Cape Breton fiddle music
  • 19th c. highland dress
  • the birds of Rhiannon
  • Celtic deities

…a definite theme happening there. More on that later…

*Map: Mackinlay’s map of the Province of Nova Scotia, including the island of Cape Breton. – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

 

Cover Reveal: Dark Beneath the Moon

I’m thrilled today to reveal the cover for Dark Beneath the Moon, coming in September from Tyche Books. This book is a sequel to One’s Aspect to the Sun, and you’ll find many of the same characters returning to the story. The art is once again by Ashley Walters, who did an amazing job again this time around.

Oh,  you actually want to SEE it? Here you go:

DarkBeneat_front

Ohmigosh, isn’t it amazing? If you’ve read One’s Aspect to the Sun or the free Nearspace story on this site, you’ve heard mention of a wolf-like alien race called “Lobors.” Yes, that’s one of them on the cover with Luta, and she’s pretty important in this story.

What’s the book about? Here’s a glimpse:

Luta Paixon has plenty of trouble on the Tane Ikai, with relationships in flux and the sticky problem of two captains on one ship. But when an alien artifact, the remnant of a long-ago war, shows up on the other side of a newly-discovered wormhole, the crew also find themselves pressed into the service of the Nearspace Protectorate. The Tane Ikai‘s task: covertly deliver an alien historian to the site to decipher its meaning–and possible threat.

 

Jahelia Sord is a woman with a grudge against the world, and against Luta Paixon and her family in particular. She has her own secrets to guard, and an alliance with the notorious PrimeCorp–one she’ll keep only as long as it suits her own hunt for vengeance.

 

When a mysterious attack leaves them stranded in an uncharted new system, Luta, her crew, and Jahelia must try to put their differences aside and decide who to trust, while they uncover a shocking truth about the Chron war and what their old enemies are so afraid of…

 

Dark Beneath the Moon is set to launch this September at CaperCon. I know I’m excited! :)

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.

Murder Prophet release date

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt’s a date! The Murder Prophet will release in ebook formats on September 15th, and the print version shouldn’t be too far behind. The ebook is already available for pre-order at Amazon and Amazon.ca. I’m excited!

In the meantime, you can get a head start by reading the first chapter for free right here.

As if that’s not enough news, I’m also participating in the Masquerade Crew’s September Cover Wars (Part 2 post). If you have 30 seconds to spare, please click over and cast your vote (you can do it daily, and it really helps me spread the word about the book).

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 5

typewriterOne more hard truth, fellow self-publishers, and then I’ll stop haranguing you.

Obstacle #5 – You, the Author

This might sound harsh, but all the other obstacles we talked about really stem from one source—the author. Here’s what a lot of authors miss:

Self-publishing does not mean that you can, must, or should do it all yourself.

I think that’s what trips us up. You may be passionate about doing things your way, sticking it to the “gatekeepers,” or just sharing your story with the world. But don’t lose sight of the fact that publishers do not do everything themselves, either. They use editors. They use cover artists. They use book designers. They use marketers. They use people who are trained in these skills, and like it or not, your book is competing with those books for readers’ money and attention.

Yes, it’s possible to do all those things yourself, and do them all well. Maybe you can. But don’t expect to. Don’t assume you can. Instead, assume you have to educate yourself. You have to learn how to do these things, all of these things, well. And you have to accept that sometimes your best effort will not be enough, and you’re going to need help.

Let’s face it, as writers, we all have to have a touch of ego. We want to tell our stories. We want others to listen. We admit, by the mere fact of writing, that we believe we have something to say. But that ego can be our downfall. It tells us we can make a good book cover—or one that’s “good enough”–with no training or experience at all. It tells us that our writing is pretty darn good without any expensive and time-consuming editing. It tells us that if only we shout and shout and shout about our book enough, make our work “discoverable” enough, people will listen and feel compelled to read it, because it’s just that good.

That ego lies. Don’t trust it. View everything it says with suspicion. Assume you can’t do all those things yourself, and educate yourself if you’re determined to try. There’s a much better chance then that I’ll buy your book, and not put it down after the first five pages. And that other readers will follow suit.

The best news in all of this is that it’s not too late. Even if you’ve made one or more of these blunders, thrown these obstacles up in front of your potential readers, you can fix it. You can upload a new cover for an ebook. You can rewrite and change your blurb. You can upload an edited version of your story. You can start promoting more (or less!) or more effectively. You can decide to educate yourself or get help in the areas where your skills are lacking. If you’re in this for the long game, it’s never too late to improve.

Good luck!

The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 1

Hoe's six-cylinder pressBefore we get to this list, let me tell you where I’m coming from on this. I try hard to support and read independent/self-published authors. I have a self-pubbed book coming out soon myself. I’m not a literary snob or a believer in any “one true way” of publishing. Roughly 1 in every 3 to 4 books I pick up will be indie/self published. I’m happy to read them. I want to read them. I’ve discovered some wonderful books and authors this way.

But lately, I’ve been almost immediately putting down quite a few of those that I pick up—some after less than a chapter or only a few pages of reading. And many don’t even make it to the point where I will pick them up.

There are a LOT of books I want to read. I manage 50-60 per year and my shelves and e-readers are still overflowing. So despite my desire to support, I’m not going to waste my precious reading time, either. Your book has to pass several all-important obstacles for me to read it. We’re not even talking about whether I end up liking it yet, so you get that ever-more-important good rating/review. We’re talking about just getting me to read it, all the way through to the end.

Obstacle #1 – The Cover

We should all realize by now the importance of the cover in selling your book. The average cover in a bookstore gets about 8 seconds to interest a potential book-buyer—I’d hazard a guess that online, that window of opportunity is even smaller. I can’t even count the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that stress the importance of your book’s cover.

And a lot of self-published authors are still getting it wrong.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t create your own cover. Some writers have experience in website or graphic design, art, digital art, etc. You may be perfectly competent to create a good cover. If you have zero experience in any relevant area, you still might be able to do it, but realize that you must tread carefully and do your research. Either way, whether you take a crack at it yourself or hire someone, be smart about it. Here are a few things to think about:

1. If you are inexperienced and can possibly manage it, hire someone to create your cover. There are many options, from pre-made designs to custom artwork, at a range of prices. If you go this route, look over the creator’s portfolio and make sure they create the kind of covers that would make YOU pick up one of these books. I’ve seen some folks offering cover design lately that I shudder to think someone would pay for. Don’t go for cheap over quality, or assume that all designers are equally adept. You wouldn’t dress your new baby up in dirty rags to get her picture taken. Don’t cheat your book of a decent cover.

2. If you feel moderately qualified, take a crack at creating your own cover. If you go this route, do your research first. There are loads of resources online to help you. Like here, here, and here, just to start. And don’t neglect the fonts! A decent cover design can be ruined by the wrong font or not enough attention paid to fonts and title design. At the very least, check here and here before you proceed.

3. If you are self-creating, please, please, PLEASE get a second opinion on your cover when you’re finished. And a third. And a fourth, fifth, and sixth. And not just from people (family and friends) who are going to say nice things even if your cover looks like an incensed monkey threw poo all over it. Ask other writers and readers in your circles, online or in person. If you know an artist or graphic designer, run it by them. Ask for honest opinions and advice.

If you have none of these resources, put your cover on your computer screen and load up some websites or blogs that specifically showcase BAD covers. Compare yours to theirs and ask yourself honestly if you have committed the same types of sins. You MUST be hard on yourself. This is the very first obstacle you have to get potential readers/buyers past.

You may get mixed opinions on your cover—perhaps some people like it and some people don’t. For those who don’t, find out whether their dislike is based on personal taste (they don’t like the colours, or the mood, or it doesn’t look like a book they’d pick up) or unprofessional quality (the fonts are unreadable, images look pasted-in or don’t match, colours clash).

You need a cover that looks professional, and if you can’t create it yourself and won’t pay for it, it’s pretty much game over. Readers are not even going to give you a chance. This is a sad but true fact in the world of self-publishing, and you ignore it at your own risk.

Watch for Part 2 of this series tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the next obstacle!