Archive for December, 2016

Happy Holidays! (Also, a hiatus and landsquid and a typo)

So, I’ve had a chance to actually look at my schedule over the next two weeks, and it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to post next week. So I guess this is my cue to wish everyone a happy holidays, and I shall see you on the flipside in 2017, when we will do year-end/year-beginning stuff for about a week and then dive back into the publishing/submitting posts (where we will discuss self-publishing short stories to begin with.

So, Jan 3. I shall return.

Til then, I was up late making peppermint bark, so I drew you a peppermint bark-making landsquid.

He’s supposed to be eying the Alpaca suspiciously. Oh well. Things to practice. Squinty eyes.

I was talking to a few friends last night about whether or not I should do a holiday post today or whether I should start the year-end stuff, and the general consensus was to do the holiday post, at which point I noted that I would draw a landsquid for the post.

And my dear friend Di said, “LANDQUID.”

So, in celebration of a hilarious typo, I made you all a landquid. Just for you, Di.

landquid--it's terrifying

Rar.

Happy holidays, everyone! I’ll see you on the other side!

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Memory of Place

Around this time of year, I occasionally get a bit nostalgic, and various childhood memories sneak in here and there. Last week I was at the Tattered Cover with the small, mobile ones buying gift cards for the larger mobile one’s teachers. The Tattered Cover is a local bookstore chain. The original store I was familiar with was in a fancy shopping area called Cherry Creek, and I would swear we practically lived there when I was little.

(I called my mother to see if this was just childhood exaggeration, but she says we were there fairly often.)

The original Tattered Cover was amazing. If my memory serves me–and it may not–it was a towering bookstore, four or five stories tall, not counting the basement, and it was a chaotic mess. There seemed to be little order to the sections, and you’d often have to explore multiple levels, with their maze-like shelves, to find what you were looking for (provided you were looking for something specific). For a small bookworm, it was heaven, equal parts mystery and adventure.

(Unfortunately, the Cherry Creek location went out of business about ten years ago, and while there are three current locations, none of them quite manages the magic of the older location, though they still have interesting organization and they try to stick in hidden corners where possible.)

There are other places that have stuck with me over the years. What is it about these places? I think it’s that they all have a little bit of magic to them, something that makes them a little different. These can be places you’ve been a million times or a place you’ve only seen once.

I was going to make this a reading analogy, about how some stories stick with you, even years later, but I’m not quite sure it’s necessary. But it’s good to have a little bit of magic in our lives, and perhaps it’s most important to remember that through the holidays, when tensions run high and stress threatens to drag us all down.

If you have one of these places still, maybe it’s worth it to take the time to spend some time there, to let the magic wash over you as much as possible.

What are some of the magical places in your life?

Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso

Happy Friday, Squiders!

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso.

mediakit_bookcover_captainhawkins

Here’s the blurb:
Jamie Hawkins was living on an obscure planet in the twenty third-century when on one fateful night—his life changed forever. His heroic effort to save the lives of innocent women and children, caught in the cross-fire of war, placed him squarely in the crosshairs of avenging soldiers.

A former marine, Hawkins was stunned when his rescue effort was seen as treachery. Unfairly convicted of treason by a corrupt judge, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor on an infamous penal colony.

Once in prison, Hawkins was mistreated by a paranoid warden, but his courage and perseverance won him the admiration and trust of his fellow convicts. While he was plotting his escape, an enemy attacked the planet—giving this daring warrior his chance. Together with his fellow prisoners, he launched a bold assault and high-jacked an enemy warship.

From then on, the exploits of Captain Jamie Hawkins became legendary.

Excerpt:
The black of night had fallen, but Jamie Hawkins couldn’t sleep. Though the surgeons had patched up his many wounds, the remorseless pain persisted, even now, months after his medical discharge from the Marines.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Despite his desire to ignore the unwelcomed thundering blows, he answered the door to his country home and found his neighbor, tall scrawny seventeen year old Joshua Morgan, gasping for breath.

“Captain Hawkins, come quick! Come quick, or they’ll all be killed!”

“Who? What are you talking about, Joshua?”

“I’ve just come from the city—it’s a war zone. People are dying,” Joshua’s voice broke. “The hospital is taking care of the wounded and sheltering women and children, but its force shield is buckling.” He finished in a breathless rush, “It’s only a matter of minutes before it fails.”

A troubled frown creased Hawkins’s face. Their mothers had been friends and he had known Joshua since he was born.

Has the boy been drawn into the turmoil? He wondered.

Hawkins had listened to the broadcasts throughout the day, absurd in every detail; demonstrators declared that they were only protesting injustice, while the government insisted the violence was a last resort against rebels.

Which is the greater lie?

Bio:

As a scientist and author specializing in technology innovation, H. Peter Alesso has over twenty years research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). As Engineering Group Leader at LLNL he led a team of scientists and engineers in innovative applications across a wide range of supercomputers, workstations, and networks. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. and served in the U.S. Navy on nuclear submarines before completing an M.S. and an advanced Engineering Degree at M.I.T. He has published several software titles and numerous scientific journal and conference articles, and he is the author/co-author of ten books.

Website

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Pick up the book here!

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mid-December Music Interlude

We’ve talked previously about writing and music, Squiders, and I thought the lot of you might want some alternatives to the never-ending Christmas music.

Last Thursday my husband and I braved below freezing temperatures to go to a Sonata Arctica concert (and were up past midnight on a work night! Madness). Anyway, because so much of this year has been dedicated to marketing and revision, I haven’t had a lot of chance to listen to long swathes of music, and I haven’t gotten much of a chance to listen to my beloved symphonic metal (excellent for writing epic fantasy–not so good for the more left-brained activities).

Anyway, I was inspired, and I thought the lot of you might like some music recommendations as well, since the last post went over so well.

Sonata Arctica was touring with Omnium Gatherum and Leaves’ Eyes. Omnium is melodic death metal and is not particularly my cup of tea (too much growling), so I’m not recommending any of their stuff. If they sound interesting to you, feel free to check them out.

Leaves’ Eyes is symphonic metal, but I haven’t listened to them in some years. I was very pleased to see they’ve gotten quite a bit better. They were fun live as well, with the male vocalist coming out in full viking armor for the last few songs. This was one of my favorite songs from their set:

Leaves’ Eyes – Sword in Rock

Sonata Arctica is more power metal than symphonic, but I am fond of them, especially their earlier stuff from the early 2000s. Their more modern stuff is less to my taste though there are still songs I enjoy. Hard to pick one to share. Here’s one that falls between the older stuff and the newer stuff.

Sonata Arctica – I Have a Right

And now some off the radio to round out the post:

There’s a riff in the chorus that gets me every time.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Fire Escape

This one has a nice message, plus an interesting twist on things.

Alessia Cara – Scars to Your Beautiful

And to go back to the symphonic metal for a minute, here’s a song that got me through the climax of the third book of my high fantasy trilogy. (And the music video has spawned a novel-length plotbunny of its own.)

Within Temptation – Paradise

(Seriously, though, if you’ve not checked out symphonic metal, you are missing out.)

Anyway, Squiders, hope this tides you over for a bit! Let me know if you’ve heard any songs that have really stuck with you lately! (Also love symphonic metal? Let us geek out together.)

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #3 The Klingon Gambit

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home to move in with my grandmother, which means I had to go through the stuff I accumulated throughout the first portion of my life and then abandoned when I went out on my own after college.

There was a lot of it.

A good majority was Star Trek-related–action figures, ship models, tons of roleplaying stuff, and books. LOTS of books. Nonfiction books about how the series were made, nonfiction books like The Physics of Star Trek (and Biology, and Metaphysics…), and most of my collection of the fiction books. Most of mine are Original Series, which was always my favorite series to read from, with the odd one or two from Next Gen or DS9 or Voyager (I did have a lot of the New Frontier books, which is Next Gen era but on a different ship with different characters, though some of them had appeared one off on various episodes).

Actually, until I was an adult, I’d only ever seen one or two Original Series episodes. My appreciation for the series came from the movies and the books. And I did love those books.

But the Original Series books are a mixed bag. Not a lot of quality control. Some are amazing. Some are godawful. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

So this brings us to The Klingon Gambit, Star Trek #3, by Robert E. Vardeman, published in 1981. I admit I picked this one out because it was one of the thinnest of the bunch, but it turns out the font is really small and so it’s somewhat hard to read. I am unfamiliar with Vardeman’s other works (except I’ve probably read his other Star Trek novel) but he’s apparently written quite a few fantasy series (usually writing with other people) and was nominated for a Hugo for best fan writer. If his other stuff is worth reading, let me know–I’m not sure this particular novel was a good display of his potential storytelling.

(I tried to write a Star Trek novel once, when I was 16 or 17 or somewhere in there. Despite my great love of the series, I couldn’t seem to get anyone in character and gave up after the first chapter.)

The premise of this novel is that the Enterprise is sent to Alnath II to investigate the death of a shipful of Vulcans. All the Vulcans are dead in their beds, with no sign of any issues–there should be no reason for them to be dead, but they are. A Klingon dreadnought is in orbit, and the fear is that they’ve developed some new weapon. There is also an archoelogical team on Alnath II, investigating a large, complex pyramid that seems to be the only remains of what was once a technologically-advanced civilization.

This is not one of the better Original Series novels. Several characters feel out of character (there is a subplot where people are acting out of character, but this is apparent even when that subplot is not in effect), and I feel like perhaps the author was a little bit amused about Star Trek in general. I noted, for example, that every time someone uses the transporter, we had to focus on the fact that their atoms were scattered and then reformed back on the planet. In general, some of the terminology just feels slightly off.

Now, this is probably just from me looking back from the future. The Original Series is not the best on continuity, and it wasn’t until Next Gen and later that a lot of the worldbuilding for the universe was solidified. Next Gen didn’t start until 1987, so this significantly predates that. It was probably hard to figure out what exactly was going on back then.

I also found the plot pretty predictable, and also somewhat close to at least one, if not two, Original Series episodes (as a kid, having not seen those episodes, maybe I liked this plot better). Also Kirk seemed to not be suffering from one of the major plot issues despite the rest of the crew doing so, and if he had been, maybe the stakes would have been a little more interesting.

So, would I recommend this particular book? Not really. It’s not great in Star Trek terms, though it does at least use Star Trek plot elements, such as the Klingons and Andorians. It got better as it went on, but it still wasn’t strong in either plot or character. There’s definitely better books out there.

Read this particular Trek novel, Squiders? Thoughts?

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 3)

Here’s our final stop on this particular story type/publication method combination, Squiders.

Short Story Collections

Like anthologies, short story collections are, as the name implies, a collection of short stories. The main difference is that an anthology features the work of multiple authors, while a short story collection includes the work of only one. As such, short story collections tend to operate more along the same principles as novels than selling a single short story at a time.

The first step toward submitting and publishing a short story collection is to have written a number of short stories. These can be ones that have been previously published, or they can be new ones. A number of stories is necessary; most traditionally-published collections are equal in length to novels. These stories can be related, such as all featuring the same characters, or the same universe, but they do not need to be.

If you have an agent (see agents section–note for blog: not written as of yet, so don’t be confused that you can’t find it), you can have them submit to publishers for you; some publishers will accept submissions from unagented authors. Like novels, you will need to write a query letter that you or your agent can send out. The query letter will need to have statistical information about the collection (number of stories, word count, genre if possible, etc.) as well as some sort of hook to inspire a publisher to look closer at your stories. An interested publisher may ask for a sample, or may ask for the entire collection to aid in the decision-making process.

NOTE: Short story collections are notoriously hard sells, especially if you are not an established, traditionally-published author. Publishers typically find them hard to market, and readers may not pick up a collection if they are not previously familiar with the author in some way. Previously published stories may be an easier sell in this case, especially if they’ve been published in top-tier markets or have won industry or genre-specific awards. Alternately, short stories that are linked to a novel series can also be easier sells, since readers are more likely to seek them out to augment their reading of the series in between novels.

A publisher will have a contract you will need to agree to before they’ll publish your collection. If you do not have an agent, you might consider asking one or a rights-specific lawyer to look over the contract to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Some publishers will pay some amount of money up front, called an advance. You have to “earn through” your advance before you can start earning royalties. Others may not pay an advance at all.

All right! That’s it for traditionally publishing short stories. Please let me know if you feel I’m leaving anything out, or if anything is confusing.

I’m going to take about a week off of the book posts (I’m reading a terrible Star Trek novel to share with you guys on Friday) and then we’ll jump into self-publishing short stories (which is a massive beast). And then another break from those sorts of posts and then into the novels, egads.

Happy Tuesday!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 2)

Continuing on from Tuesday. If you missed that post, I recommend clicking the handy link at the top or bottom of this entry (depending on whether you’re on the blog or website) or simply scrolling down and reading that one first if you’re on the main blog page.

Picking up where we left off:

Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of short stories (or longer works, such as novellas) that center around some sort of theme. These themes can be very specific or very broad, depending on the publisher and the particular anthology in question. Publishers that regularly release anthologies may have the next several themes available on their website so you can plan ahead.

Submissions for anthologies work in two distinct ways:

  • You can be invited to submit work for an anthology. This is more common if you’re an established, decently-selling author who has been traditionally published by major markets, or if you’ve worked with an editor before and they’ve been impressed with your work.
  • A publisher releases a call for an anthology, which is open to established and new writers alike. (In some cases, publishers may be looking specifically for new authors; the submission guidelines for the anthology would state this.)

Like magazines or journals, market websites like Duotrope and the Submission Grinder list open anthology calls on their websites, and you can search specifically for anthology markets by using their advanced search function. Anthology calls often have a deadline associated with them (i.e., stories must be received by November 15), though some publishers may keep submissions for a particular anthology open until they feel they’ve received an appropriate amount of acceptable submissions. Often, an anthology call will also include the intended publication date for the anthology.

Pay rates for anthologies follow the same methodology as magazines and journals, falling into pro, semi-pro, token, and non-paying or exposure. Anthologies are more likely to pay a flat rate per story, and also may include a copy or two of the anthology. Some anthologies may pay authors a share of the royalties, either as the main form of payment, or in addition to whatever the original buying rate was. Some anthologies are created to make money for charitable causes–the submission guidelines will normally specify this.

Like magazines and journals, you can try to fit a previously written story into an anthology, or write a story specifically to match an anthology theme.

NOTE: Depending on the anthology theme and how specialized it is, it may be hard to place an anthology-intended story elsewhere if the anthology does not accept it.

In many cases, the submission process for an anthology is similar or identical to submitting to a magazine or journal, with most using either an email submission process or an online portal. An anthology may accept a wide variety of story lengths or be focused on a specific type of short story (such as flash fiction), and pay rates may be different depending on the length of the story. For example, some anthologies may pay a pro rate for very short works, such as flash or micro fiction, but pay semi-pro or token for longer works.

If your short story is selected for inclusion in an anthology, the publisher will send you a contract specifying rights and when/if the rights will revert to you after a certain period of time. The editor or publisher may also ask for some edits to be made to the story. These are normally fairly minor–small plot issues or copyediting–as the time frame and demand for an anthology does not allow for more major changes; if a story is not working on a larger level, it is very unlikely to be selected.

Here’s part 2, Squiders! Again, let me know if anything is confusing or if you feel I’m leaving something out, or let me know if the format isn’t working for some reason. I’d hate to go through the whole thing if the format is inherently wrong! Otherwise, we’ll continue next Tuesday with the third and final part of traditional short story publishing and then take a bit of a break on the subject before we jump into self-publishing short stories.

Otherwise, I hope you have a happy weekend, Squiders!