Archive for October, 2022

MileHiCon Aftermath and a Look at November

Oof, sorry for going all radio silence all week, squiders. Everything is fine! Except I’m avoiding editing my SkillShare class, not sure why. I think it’s because I feel like I need it to be quiet and I keep getting distracted by other things. Who knows.

MileHiCon went well! I got less things done around my panels and stuff than normal, which I think is because I had more panels, and also because I didn’t get to doing my research for the panels before the con. They moved Fall Break on us and so I had the small, mobile ones all week, so that was a bit distracting.

(Also, apparently I’m out of copies of Hidden Worlds. I didn’t think to check the stock on the older books before the con, so that’s on me.)

Basically all I got done was some pages in my sketch travel journal about our Scotland trip. (Shhh, pay no attention to the fact that it’s been almost five months since we got back from Scotland) and the panel research that I should have done earlier.

Oh well. It’s fine. Always good to see everyone and make new connections, and I sold a good number of books too.

The panels were kind of a mixed bag. The Night Vale panel was fun–I love Night Vale–but it wasn’t reader’s theater so much as round robin reading, where we all sat in a circle and read for a bit before passing it on to the next person. Didn’t seem to be any reason to have panelists, honestly. I’ve never been to this particular panel before because it’s at 10 pm and normally I’m out of the Con by 8 or 9 at the latest (if I’ve stayed for the costume contest and literacy auction), and, to be honest, it felt very late to me and I don’t know that I would do again in the future.

The Flash Fiction Chopped panel was the best of the bunch. It was a flash fiction writing contest set up somewhat like the Chopped cooking show. So each round the audience gave us a character, a setting, and a conflict, and then we got a few minutes to write based off of those prompts. Each round someone was cut, based on audience vote. There were four of us, and, hey, I won! One of the other panelists had won a Hugo, even. Now, I realize that this is completely arbitrary, and that in this particular case with these particular prompts I was able to write a better story than the others, and in other circumstances someone else probably would have won, but it was a big boost to my confidence and now I can say I beat a Hugo Award-winning author in a writing contest.

The Seelie, Unseelie, and Beyond panel was fae-focused, as expected, but it’s good that I looked at stuff beforehand, because there was also an aspect where we were supposed to bring and read from a fae-related story. Now, I trolled through every story I’ve ever had published (surprisingly a lot) and I’ve never had an explicit faerie story published, partially because, well, I don’t really write them. There was, of course, the Changeling novel I spent most of 2020 on before giving up on it, but that had many issues (not least being that I was having issues getting the fae elements to be as alien as I wanted them to be), so that wasn’t going to work. I ended up doing To the Waters and the Wild (currently available in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol 1) which hints at fae and the Otherworld without being explicit about it. And the rest of the panel went fine, because I do actually know quite a bit about fae nonetheless. It felt all awkward though, because I sat next to Carol Berg and had a terrible bout of imposter syndrome (even though I’ve known Carol for years and she is very nice), so that was fun.

(Normally you can’t ever get on panels that ask for panelists to read their stories, because everyone wants to be on them, so I’m not really sure how I landed this. Maybe con staff just likes me.)

Beyond the 3 Laws of Robotics went, well, not great. Robotics is not my forte, and I don’t even use them in stories that much when I’m doing scifi, though I have read a lot of Asimov’s robotics stuff. And I did do a fair amount of research, about why the 3 Laws aren’t actually useful for programming, and alternatives that have been put forward instead, and some research on AIs and AI laws that have been passed, but I’ll admit it was pretty top level stuff, and I was sitting next to a guy who actively works in robotics and specializing in general AI. I always feel silly when I’m on a tech panel that I don’t really understand, because I’m invariably the only woman and 15-20 years younger than the other panelists.

(Con staff knows I used to be an aerospace engineer, so I feel like sometimes they just use me as filler on tech panels that they didn’t get enough interest on.)

All in all, though, a good experience. The larger, mobile one may actually build a Critter for the Critter Crunch for next year. We shall see.

Now, of course, we’re a few days out from November (and Halloween–I’m going to be a unicorn, one of those nice, warm fuzzy pajama type costumes) and we must, as always, acknowledge the omnipresent looming of NaNoWriMo.

Now, as perhaps you can guess due to the lack of posts on the subject, I’m not going to be participating this year. Well, I am, and I’m not.

Hallowed Hill has taken a lot of my time this past year–I outlined it in August, wrote it November through February, edited it in May and July, and spent August through now on publication and marketing. One one hand, yay, I got a book out in about a year! On the other hand, I’m a bit tired. And definitely not ready to start something new, not when I’ve got four books that need to be revised.

So I’m going to work on my Book 1 revision during November. I actually think this is going to go really well. It gives me an excuse to go to write-ins, which I’ve desperately missed the last few years. And if I set myself some sort of goal (is 50 hours too much? Probably. Maybe 25 hours), even if I don’t reach it, it hopefully gives me the dedication I need to make some real progress, or maybe even finish it up.

So that’s my plan. A little late in the year to really be digging into the revision, but oh well.

How are you doing, squiders? Thoughts about November?

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WriYe and Horror

Catching up on my WriYe blog circle prompts, plus it’s an easy blog topic in the midst of convention planning, haha.

(Trying to figure out my last outfit for the con. Do I want something that says “horror writer” to go along with Hallowed Hill? Do I want to look professional? Do I want to look eclectic and artistic? Do I want to just dress like myself? Should I wear unicorn pajamas? Options abound.)

Here’s October’s prompt: Your thoughts on horror/gore/scary stories?

In general I am pro-horror, which comes as no surprise. I love ghosts especially, and am less enamored of other paranormal creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and zombies. I don’t read or watch a lot of those.

I’d say ghosts first–and ghosts are a major draw to a story for me–and eldritch horrors second, or really any story where you’re never really sure what it is that’s out there, if anything. And ghost-adjacent things are also good.

I am also fond of Gothic literature, though I do prefer there to be actual paranormal aspects, or at least a really juicy mystery or family secret. (One that’s not just dead children buried on the premises. God. I am so sick of dead children.)

I love scary stories, where the scares come from the atmosphere, or the unknowing, or the mystery. Which is probably why I like ghost stories so much, especially ones where it’s the little things you really have to look for.

I am not a gore person. If a game or a book or a movie relies mostly on gore and violence, count me out. I don’t need that in my life.

(With books I’m a little more flexible, because I can skim through violence or gore if necessary if the story is worth it otherwise. Though I have found that if the story feels like it needs quite so much gore and/or violence, it doesn’t necessary have the legs to stand up otherwise.)

I mostly read or listen to scary stories (through podcasts or YouTube videos) and don’t really watch a lot of horror movies or television shows. I don’t necessarily scare very easily, but I do have an overactive imagination, and even visuals that weren’t especially scary in the moment tend to pop up at inconvenient times (usually the middle of the night).

(When I saw the Ring in college, I slept with the television on for three nights straight, because if the TV was already on it couldn’t turn itself on. Though I either saw or hallucinated a really disturbing episode of the Flintstones one night, so that’s a thing. And when I saw The Witches when I was six, I thought a witch was living under my bed for about six months, despite that not being an aspect of the movie at all.)

What are your thoughts on horror and scary stories, squiders? What’s your favorite scary movie? (I’m rather partial to The Village, which is not technically horror, I don’t think, and also has a very predictable twist.) Favorite ghost story? Especially share your ghost stories.

Prepping MileHiCon and Books!

It’s MileHiCon this weekend! They gave me an unprecedented five panels this year, though I had to drop one so I could take the larger, mobile one to the 20-lb Critter Crunch. I may have already told you guys this. There’s been a lot going on lately.

(The Amazon issues are mostly fixed, except reviews still aren’t showing up, alas.)

The ones I still have on my docket are:

  • Welcome to Night Vale Reader’s Theater
  • Flash Fiction Chopped
  • Seelie, Unseelie, and Beyond
  • Beyond the 3 Laws of Robotics

Once again, kind of a random selection of topics (and no moderation of any editing panels, if there are any). The Night Vale one is especially random, especially because it’s about four hours after the time limit I gave on panels, but I’m going to do it anyway because I love Night Vale and I also love doing Reader’s Theater.

I’m going to have to look at the panel descriptions and do some research on the rest, which is par for the course at this point. At least I am familiar with flash fiction, fae, and the 3 Laws of Robotics (I read a LOT of Asimov as a kid), so anything will be better than the memory one I was on last year where I had no business being.

I’m pondering doing either excerpts or bookmarks for the con, but seeing how we’re three days out, excerpts are looking a little better. Thinking about printing them out with a QR code on the back that links to the Hallowed Hill sales page. Also need to set up a Venmo account. But I did already send in my sales permits and order books, so I suspect I’m ahead of where I normally am.

Speaking of which:

Box of books
Books!
Close up

The color’s a little off in the pictures, but I got my copies of Hallowed Hill to sell at the con, and they are gorgeous. This is definitely the prettiest of my books.

I’m excited for the Con! I always have a nice time catching up (both with friends and on work that it’s hard to focus on around day-to-day responsibilities–for example, I outlined a ghost story weeks ago that I’ve yet to get around to writing), and it’s relaxing to have the weekend to myself to occasionally sell things or do panels but otherwise just chill and take everything in.

Fingers crossed that everything gets done! It normally does, albeit somewhat last minute. I should be back on Thursday or Friday pre-con, though, so I’ll see you then, squiders!

Cozy Fantasy

Happy Thursday, squiders. I had a lovely birthday yesterday, but today’s been a mess.

One of the things I did yesterday, though, was sit and finish The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, which was a lovely book that I enjoyed very much.

(The copy I read had a blurb on the front cover, which says “A warm and witchy hug of a book” – Tasha Suri, which is an accurate description of the story.)

The book reminded me very much of The House by the Cerulean Sea, in that it involved the main character finding their place, love, and a family where they least expected it (in both cases, involving orphaned magical children in a house by the sea). That’s not a bad thing; I very much enjoyed The House by the Cerulean Sea as well.

I’ve taken to calling these types of stories Cozy Fantasy–and I’m not alone. (I checked Goodreads, and 32 people had shelved The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches as cozy fantasy, and another 32 had just shelved it under “cozy.”) These stories are typically contemporary, with some fantasy elements, and the focus is on healing–finding yourself, finding a place to belong, finding people to call your own.

They’re comforting. And I like them.

Back in the depths of lockdown I found a list somewhere on line, and I think it was something like “The Top 10 Non-stressful Manga” or something like that. From that, I found one called Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu. I’d consider this cozy fantasy too. In manga/anime, this is a Isekai story, which roughly translates to “portal fantasy” (a staple of fantasy in general, and a subgenre I’m rather fond of myself).

The basic premise of Otherworldly Izakaya (izakaya is like an inn, or a pub) Nobu is that someone found a portal between Tokyo and a fantasy realm, and decided to open an izakaya right next to the portal in the fantasy realm. So basically it’s just fantasy people wandering into the izakaya and having their problems solved by food.

It’s more interesting than it sounds.

With the world as unstable as it feels–impending wars, climate change, diseases, crime, and the list goes on–sometimes it’s good to read something that isn’t going to cause more anxiety.

Have you read anything in this genre, squiders? What were your favorite? (I’d love to read more of this, so please share!)

Promo: Stairway to Heaven by Alex Stevens

Good morning, squiders! Today I’ve got a very interesting-sounding fantasy novel based on angel mythology (something near and dear to my heart *coughcoughShardscoughcough*). Check it out!

Stairway to Heaven cover

Stairway to Heaven

by Alex Stevens

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GENRE: Fantasy

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BLURB:

Corporal Jack Graven should be dead. Murdered by a vengeful angel at his own father’s funeral, Jack is resurrected and returns to life carrying a terrible secret: he is the Archangel Gabriel reincarnated.

Jack’s not the only one with secrets. His older brother, Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Graven “Demon of Kyoto”, has just inherited his father’s fortune and legacy as Lord of War, with no intention of stopping there: Tyler will someday rule the world.

The brothers reunite their elite military unit, “The Four Horsemen,” with Tyler’s longtime flame Colonel Diana Levitas and the mysterious Lance Corporal Jin Xialong. Together they seek to uncover the truth of Jack’s past life and propel Tyler to his impossible destiny.

Thrust into a supernatural war, the Gravens find salvation through the Black Muramasa, a cursed black katana and the only weapon that can destroy immortals. As they uncover more mysteries behind the ancient blade, they come face to face with the Devil himself, but in the most familiar of faces. Their pasts, presents, and futures all linked, the Four Horsemen must end the war once and for all to survive with their souls intact. Failing could mean the end of the world.

A follow up to the explosive first book in the Ballad of Fallen Angels series, “Sympathy for the Devil,” Book 2 is an action-packed, gun-slinging adventure that packs the punch of a military thriller with high-stakes supernatural intrigue.

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Excerpt:

“Make no mistake about it,” I continued. “You and your companions are caught in the middle of a war, a war of immortals. You need me just as much as I need you. As my disciples, the only change is your indebtedness to me. I would in essence be your master, and in return I will continue to offer my advice and protection. As it stands, I would say the two of you are quite indebted to me already.”

“What will we gain from this?” Jack asked. “I’ve never even considered the thought of pledging myself in return for information.”

“You gain an identity for yourself, and Tyler perhaps his soul. It will make sense once I’ve finished, this is for certain. You will also gain intimate knowledge regarding the immortals after your lives, but not without the assurance that I have my followers.”

Jack and Tyler faced each other then, seemingly sharing a silent moment of contemplation.

“Better the devil you know, little brother,” Tyler said at last.

“I tried walking away once, and it didn’t end well. He knew my name, a name I haven’t shared with anyone here,” Jack stated, turning in his chair to face Tyler. “I’m still alive, so I’d like the truth.”

“I guess we’re in, then.”

“Two,” I counted, displaying both fingers in the air. “Very well, then, my disciples. I will reveal everything you wish to know and more. The greatest story ever told.”

“Who are you really?” Jack asked.

“I am the fallen one,” I responded. “I am Lucifer.”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Alex Stevens is a Marine Corps Veteran with two deployments and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Interdisciplinary Studies program, a unique undergraduate degree that caters to students with various interests of study. He is also an advent traveler and philosophy enthusiast who has spent a lifetime studying religions, with a focus on Non-denominational Christianity. Alex spends most of his time going for walks, spending time with loved ones, and when the juices are flowing, writing. Fantasy fiction is his great escape from the mundane and he likes to create fantastical realities that are blended with non-fictional people, places, and events.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DemonofKyoto

Amazon Book link:

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INTERVIEW:

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Anything with caramel.

Which mythological creature are you most like?

Phoenix

First book you remember making an indelible impression on you.

A (Kit’s note: Unfortunately it seems the rest of the answer was cut off, and I don’t have a way to access the author directly. I’m sure it was a good one!)

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I just write and whatever happens, happens. I often times write several stories that don’t really fit together and part of the challenge for me is to make it all make sense.

Describe your writing space.

Everywhere. Usually on a couch in the living room or in bed, but I’ve written on beaches, porches, in cars, everywhere.

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

A $50 Amazon/BN GC will be provided to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC.

WriYe and Writing Courses

Hey, guess what I forgot to do in September?

Here’s the prompt from WriYe: Share your favorite books, courses, or websites you like to visit to grow your writing!

I’m firmly of the belief that there’s always more to learn about just about anything, and so I do periodically take classes, go to webinars, and read books about writing. Sometimes these books are specific to a genre or an area of writing, and sometimes they’re not.

I have found, though, that a lot of the stuff goes over the same ground, most of which is not helpful at this point (because I already know it). So something does need to be a little more unique these days.

ANYWAY though.

One of my very favorite writing books is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Pacing was long an issue for me, with many very badly jacked up first drafts (and some second drafts) in my past. This is the book that fixed all that for me.

Do you know how many pacing issues I had in my first draft of Hallowed Hill? NONE. This is hugely different than when I had to completely reconstruct the pacing on Shards to make the story make any sort of logical sense. I am cured, and this book is the cause.

(Seriously, this is the only note I got from the editor about my pacing for HH: “The pacing is good throughout, with a nice balance of Martie in problem-solving mode, moments of terror and despair, and enough support from expected and unexpected sources to keep her going.”)

The other thing that was very influential on me was Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel class. This taught me how to effectively revise, and it’s done in such a way that the steps are fairly easy to copy and use yourself, and I have used this on every book since I went through the class. (Including Hallowed Hill!) I have modified the procedure a bit, but this is a wonderful class if you’re having issues figuring out how to edit your own stuff.

(Holly also has a free class, How to Write Flash Fiction, which is also quite useful and has actually gotten me a number of sales on my flash fiction.)

There are a ton of other resources out there–so many great ones, really. It’s overwhelming, and you can (and I have) spent a ton of time (perhaps too much time) looking at stuff. You have to remember to balance your learning with your doing.

Oh, all right, one more. My favorite writing website is Fiction University. Janice Hardy runs this site (and also has a number of How To writing books and workbooks) and it’s been a go-to of mine for years. I don’t read every post, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

All right, well, those are my favorites! Any thoughts? What has worked best for you?

When It Rains, It Pours

Squiders, Hallowed Hill is out! It looks beautiful and I’m really proud of it.

And I got all my marketing work done–all the reviewers emailed, copies sent out to those who requested it, promos set up on subsequent days to maximize release week pricing and whatnot, etc.

And…I’ve run into technical issues.

The paperback version on Amazon got stuck in some sort of publishing limbo. It’s supposed to go live in three days or less, but it was stuck on “Publishing” (so past being reviewed, in theory just a short status while the book went live on the website) for over two days. Which put the paperback into some sort of weird pre-order limbo, where people could order the book, but they never got any sort of delivery date or anything like that.

It took Amazon over 24 hours to figure out why the paperback had gotten stuck and to make it go live, and people I know who had ordered the paperback in the weird limbo phase are telling me, as of a few hours ago, that they’ve finally got delivery dates and all that jazz.

Now, though, sales aren’t showing up in my reports. I know of at least a couple of people who’ve bought the paperback, and I have talked to Amazon about it, but basically they’re not worried about the sales missing yet, and I’ve been so frustrated and worn out from trying to deal with the technical issues that I don’t have the energy to push anything right now.

But, it’s like–I put all that work into the marketing, and the promos, and the timing, and everything, and to have it all go sideways because of random technical issues is so frustrating. Like, why did I bother? Maybe the solution, in the future, is to get the book all the way published, and THEN run the promotions.

Or, I don’t know, turn to octopus husbandry and teach the octopuses how to conduct bank heists.

Anyway, the smaller, mobile one and I made chocolate zucchini bread last night, and it’s really good.

Now that Hallowed Hill is out and is no longer consuming 100% of my attention (aside from technical issues and frustrations), I can go back to other projects. It will be nice to do something else for a bit. But I am running into issues with too many choices–where I can’t decide what to do next.

I saw an add for an app where you put everything that you need to do into it, and then it prioritizes stuff for you. Might look more into that.

Anyway, I should be back to my normal posting schedule. How have you been?