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Guest Post: The Sea of Distant Stars by Francesca G. Varela

Good morning, squiders! Happy Thursday! Today I have a guest post about writing process for you from Francesca G. Varela, who is currently doing a virtual tour for her science fiction book, The Seas of Distant Stars.

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Literary Science-Fiction
Date Published:  August 7th, 2018
Publisher: Owl House Books
 
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Agapanthus was kidnapped when she was only two years old, but she doesn’t remember it. In fact, she doesn’t remember her home planet at all. All she knows is Deeyae, the land of two suns; the land of great, red waters. Her foster-family cares for her, and at first that’s enough. But, as she grows older, Agapanthus is bothered by the differences between them. As an Exchanger, she’s frail and tall, not short and strong. And, even though she was raised Deeyan, she certainly isn’t treated like one. One day, an Exchanger boy completes the Deeyan rite-of-passage, and Agapanthus is inspired to try the same. But, when she teams up with him, her quest to become Deeyan transforms into her quest to find the truth―of who she is, and of which star she belongs to.
Excerpt

It had been so long since Agapanthus had really swam—train-swam, counting her strokes and holding her breath until either her forehead ached or the upper, back end of her throat began to complain. Now she just floated, usually. Maybe a steady, parallel lap from one end of the shore to the other. She wasn’t even sure what she thought, anymore. Part of her had given up on the right-of-passage, but the other part of her wanted to prove it to them. What if she did it? What if she really did it, and she emerged from the small round boat to a feast and cheering crowds, and Leera would cup her chin in her warm hands and say, smiling, “I can’t believe it,” and Pittick would at first rest his hand on her head, but then hug her, and she couldn’t even imagine what he would say. Something about how he was wrong. About how much stronger she was than any of them had guessed. Something about being proud.

Agapanthus looked down at her legs. They were coated completely in red sand, no skin showing at all. She stood and brushed off the clinging particles. They felt like little teeth boring into her. Drops of mist speckled the edge of her cheek as the wind climbed over the Waters. She was going to brush the droplets away, but, instead, she left her fingers splayed over the side of her face as she stared out toward Shre. If anyone saw her, they would think she was odd—just staring with her hand up like that, her other hand wrapped over her ribs, her shoulders fallen, like the Contact’s had been. But no one was there to see. That was the good thing about being alone. One of the few good things.

 

Guest Post – My Writing Process

A lot of people ask me where I get the inspiration for my novels. Sometimes, a character pops into my head from nowhere—from the ether, it seems. They are real, and alive, and I know instantly that they are the one I should be writing about. Other times, I see a vague image—a quiet, numb sunset on another planet, or a girl looking up at a field of stars in the broken wilderness of some future world. This image is my sole starting point. Other times, I have a message I want to spread; a plea to protect wild places, an invitation to enjoy the connection we share with all things, or a warning to not take this connection for granted.

For the most part, I usually begin my novels blindly. I have an idea where things will go, but I let the writing take me there.

The hardest part for me is getting started. Back in high school, when I wrote my very first novel, I learned that the only way to not to get overwhelmed by the length of a novel is to go word by word. To think of writing 60,000 or more words when the pages are empty—well, that’s intimidating. But to think of writing your first 500 words—that’s achievable.

Typically, my daily goal is 500 words. Once I hit that mark, I feel accomplished for the day. 500 words a day will get you to a full-length novel in only a few months, if you’re diligent. And, even if you take a few days off here and there, or take a break when you’re off on vacation, you’ll still make good time. Using the 500 words a day method, I finished my second novel—Listen—in about nine months, and I finished my newest novel, The Seas of Distant Stars, in about six months.

Once the writing is finished, I take time to edit. First, I read through and fix up any issues with the plot or character development. Then I read it again and make grammatical corrections and changes to the prose. Then, and only then, do I let friends and family read it and give me feedback.

I long ago decided to keep my books a secret until they were finished. So, every time I’m working on a novel, no one is allowed to know what it’s about until it’s done. I guess this is because I want the story to be purely my own for a little while. Some of the best writing advice I can offer is to write like no one will ever read it. Write for yourself. Take chances. Be creative. Be edgy. Get those words on the page. After all, the only way to write a novel is by actually writing it! So, write a little each day, and let your instincts and imagination guide you.

About the Author

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Francesca G. Varela was raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In 2015 she graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing, and she then went on to receive her master’s degree in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah.

Francesca’s dream of becoming an author began in third grade, and her writing career had an early start; she wrote her award-winning first novel, Call of the Sun Child, when she was only 18 years old, and she wrote her second novel, Listen, when she was only 20.

When not writing or reading, Francesca enjoys playing piano, figure skating, hiking, identifying wild birds, plants, and constellations, and travelling to warm, sunny places whenever she can.
Contact Links
Purchase Links
 
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Happy Tenth to GoddessFish Promotions!

GoddessFish is celebrating their tenth anniversary this month with a blog tour. Siri and I used them for our City of Hope and Ruin blog tours when that book came out and were generally pleased with the experience, so if you’d like to do a book blast or a blog tour (including reviews), take a look at GoddessFish.

Welcome to the Goddess Fish Promotions Tenth Anniversary Month Long Celebration!

Who is Goddess Fish Promotions? And what do we do? We’re glad you asked!

We didn’t want your visit here to be dry and boring, so we decided to have a poetry competition and put what we do into verse. Here are the initial entries:

Marianne:

Roses are Red.
Violets are Blue.
I’m awful at poetry.
Coffee.

Judy:

Twitter and Facebook got you down?
Come see us, we’re the best around.
We’ll get your book out so people can see
What a wonderful author you happen to be.

Yeah, for some reason, Judy won!

Even better, her poem is correct. We DO offer twitter and Facebook promotions as one of our services!

Check out our testimonials here.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little (more information is below) and we’d like to do the same. We’d LOVE to see a little poem that tells us a bit about you in the comments. We’ll be awarding random book giveaways and $5 Amazon GCs to some of the best poetry we find. It might not be at every stop, but when something really makes us smile, we’ll reward it! Come on, be daring…

And now, more about us:

About Goddess Fish Promotions

Goddess Fish Promotions was established October 14, 2008. Why? Well, when Marianne became a published author and got her the first taste of trying to promote a book on a budget, there was only one other virtual book tour company in place at the time, and their fees were simply too high for a small press author. After coordinating and running her own tour, she knew other authors could use the same service for a reasonable price. Thus, Goddess Fish Promotions was born.

Because both Judy and Marianne were authors and editors prior to running Goddess Fish Promotions, they approach the business with a unique point of view, and treat their clients how they would expect to be treated.

The people behind the fish

 

Judy Thomas — The Goddess

Judy has a college degree in English and she’s worked in retail, education, at her local library as well as an editor for a small press and for the now defunct ShadowKeep Ezine. She’s also a published author so can see things from both sides of the fence. In 2013, she “retired” and now spends her days helping authors make their dream come true—as well as working as much as she can with her local theater group.

Marianne Arkins – Fish

Grammar freak and coffee lover, Marianne wrote her first novel at ten years old, built her first commercial website in 2000, and published for the first time in 2006. She worked as a professional editor for just over a year, and knows what it’s like to write, edit and promote a book on a budget.

One of our interviews during the tour explains our nicknames … keep visiting daily to find out!

http://www.goddessfish.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoddessFishPromotions
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoddessFish
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/goddessfish/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mariannejudy/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Goddessfish

Now, the goodies … want to win stuff? Here are the rafflecopters:

Readers:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Authors:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s Go Time!

I just want to let you all know that you are absolutely no help at all. 😛

(I’m not quite done with my anthology story, so that answers the question about what I’ll do for at least part of the time. And maybe I’ll bring a sketchbook.)

MileHiCon starts at noon today! It feels like it’s come up very fast. It is a week earlier than normal this year (wonder why?), which might be part of it. But it feels like it sprang out of nowhere, all the same. Like…it’s been on my radar, but I still had less time to prepare than normal, if you know what I mean. Or maybe I’m crazy.

I’m doing a panel today on self-publishing and doing digital books versus physical books. I’ve been given a couple of moderator questions (Are physical books going away? When?) but the most part I’m not sure what exactly we’re covering. Ah, well, I have almost a decade of experience at this point, so I shall probably be fine.

(Sunday’s panel is about editing–Machete vs. Scalpel, they’ve called it–and there’s no provided questions for that one, but, again, lots of experience so I should probably be able to muddle through without looking like an idiot.)

Got to get some things done this morning before I head out, so I’d better run.

Quick list of things to bring:

  • business cards (more editing than writing)
  • books
  • card reader
  • notebook
  • laptop
  • permits
  • water bottle
  • snack

I’ll see you guys next week, hopefully still in one piece. And if you’re local and come by MileHiCon, stop by and say hi! I’m normally some place in the atrium when not doing panels.

MileHiCon Prep and Nerves

My sister gave me chocolate for my birthday, which is both a blessing and a curse.

We’re about a week out from MileHiCon, squiders, which is a scifi/fantasy literary convention that I like to make the rounds at each year. You’ve probably heard me talk about it before. For a few years I had a table in the author’s row for Turtleduck Press, which ended up not being much fun (stuck at table, terrible habit of comparing sales to other presses/authors, etc.) so last year I struck out on my own, which is the plan again this year.

But I still feel a little weird about. I mean, I had a MUCH better time last year and I don’t regret abandoning the author’s row. But I haven’t really done much since last year. I’ve had some short stories published in zines, anthologies, and websites, but nothing too major, and nothing I’ve had any sort of ownership over. Sure, next year is looking better–a Fractured World anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, as well as some other potential projects–but this year is pretty sparse.

So it feels weird to be doing something that is essentially marketing while having nothing to market. I mean, there’s still reasons to go–networking, to see people I like, to have fun, books, etc. (To stare longingly at the things in the art show I can’t afford. To buy awesome book-themed tea.) But I feel less relevant than normal.

(Also, reminder to self, file permits with state/city so I can sell books.)

Still, though–I’m on two panels, both editing related, and have a time at the authors’ signing table. And they offered me a comped pass for the weekend, which has never happened before. So that feels lovely. And my mom found me a proper book display so that will also be helpful for signing/selling. All in all, if I can get over the weirdness, it should be a good weekend.

(Things to do, because I honestly just realized we were a week away:

-File permits
-Organize stock/credit card reader/mailing list sign-up/business cards
-If, when panel details come out, I need to prep, prep)

Any thoughts on conventioning when there’s nothing to market, squiders? As a reader, what draws you to panelists/authors at conventions you attend?

Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua

Happy Tuesdays, squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post on process from Shalini Dua as part of the tour for her YA/NA fantasy novel, The Secret Lives of Royals.

BLURB:

Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.

Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?

Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.

EXCERPT:

I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.

There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
—–
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.

I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.

As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.

“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”

I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.

“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”

“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.

“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.

“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”

“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.

“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”

“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.

“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.

“No, thanks. I best be going.”

“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”

“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.

“Yup,” I tell him confidently.

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”

“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?

“Well, I’ll let you get on,” he says. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.

Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.

You can pick up the book here: ( Amazon | iBooks )

AUTHOR:


An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.

The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.

( Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website )

 

 

GUEST POST ABOUT PROCESS:

My writing process is a bit haphazard and involves lots of procrastination. I get really hungry, get creative with my snacks, binge watch Netflix for a while. It’s the only time I clean my apartment. And then, just when I’m about to go to sleep, inspiration hits and I stay up all night writing.

Beyond the daily struggle, The Secret Lives of Royals has been rattling around in my head for years. Inspired by school history lessons, my travels and wanderlust for places I haven’t yet managed to visit, and by my love of food and art. I absorb inspiration from all of my experiences and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places.

In addition to my suburban Northern Virginia hometown in the States, I’ve lived in London and New York and visited many wonderful and exciting places around the world. Walking past the eclectic doorways in New York, getting lost in the small back alleys of London’s side streets, enjoying cafes along the cobbled roads in France, sitting in view of the Italian ports and eating gelato, walking Barcelona’s gothic district, with its beautiful historical architecture, and visiting the palaces and mosques of pre-colonial India have all inspired so much of my storytelling.

I always wonder what is going on behind those varied and intricately designed doors as I’m walking past and what amazing things might have happened in the past that shaped our history. I think about the people who have walked these streets before me and imagine what their lives must have been like. Those musings eventually end up sparking story ideas.

Olivia’s story is a culmination of my journey thus far and the daydreaming I’ve done along the way. I tend to fill in the spaces in between my experiences with my imagination and google.

Shalina will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Patreon Research

Well, squiders, I wrote most of a blog post yesterday, and it just wasn’t gelling. The longer it went on, the less sense I felt it was making. And then I got distracted by things and I never posted it, and, believe me, that is for the best.

Yes, yes, it is.

Anyway, what I got distracted by is actually a better post topic, so let’s do that instead.

I’ve had a Patreon for…oh, who knows. Two years, maybe? Three? It is something I set up and then have never quite figured out how to work with it, so mostly I stare at it out of the corner of my eye in the hopes that I will magically figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with it.

And every now and then I poke at it, tweaking things here and there, which doesn’t especially help but feels somewhat productive.

Patreon helpfully sends out a newsletter with tips on attracting patrons and growing your audience and tools to use and whatnot, though they seemed to be mostly geared toward people who work in podcasts, music, or video (probably because these seem to be the most success categories on the site). They recently sent out an email about a section of their app that allows creators to easily take video of their process which got me thinking about my poor, mostly abandoned Patreon again.

(Also I checked out the app, but apparently they recently changed it and everyone hates everything about it, so I’m going to leave that alone for now.)

So I spent some time yesterday looking specifically at other SFF writers on Patreon who seem to be doing decently, to see what they’re doing.

These people fell into two categories:

  1. Larger name authors who are probably leveraging an existing fanbase (including award-winning authors like Kameron Hurley and self-pub gold standard Lindsay Buroker). I kind of looked at these but I figure that what’s working for them is probably out of my reach at this moment.
  2. Authors I hadn’t heard of

So I poked through category 2. And here are the trends I noticed:

  • Most people had “per item” payment tiers rather than monthly tiers. So every time they finished a short story or a chapter or whatever, their patrons would be charged.
  • The people with the most patrons were extremely productive. One was writing 50-60K words a month on a regular basis, and most of the other ones were putting out at least 2-3 novels a year.
  • A lot of Patreons (especially ones with monthly tiers) were focused on a certain project, like a series of novels or shorts related to a series. Very few were “support me on everything I write.”

I have a video intro because that was highly recommended when I set up the account–not a single one of the others I looked at yesterday had one. I guess that makes sense. If you’re working in visual media like most people on the site, why wouldn’t you do a video? But for a writer, where the story is going to be most important, hooray, it looks like one isn’t necessary. Which is fantastic, because I’m going to take my down. When I get around to it.

So, I’m wondering, if I want a specific project Patreon where I can generate a lot of content and potentially build on something that already has fans, maybe I should modify mine to be specifically about the City of Hope and Ruin sequel. The book has had decent buzz and Siri and I have had people asking about a sequel since immediately after it came out. Or maybe I can make a separate page that both Siri and I can have access to? Not sure about that–it might be one page per account (in which case maybe Siri wants to make one?).

I’ll have to ask her about it.

Does anyone have any experience with Patreon, as a creator or as a patron? What has worked for you, or what do the creators that you follow do that you like?

MileHiCon and Nanowrimo

I have survived the con! \o/ Barely. But I had a good time and made some new friends (yay!) and am now on a search for a refillable notebook cover. (Craig Griswold who was in the art show, on the off chance you read this, you have no online presence and I would like to buy things from you.)

(If you know of nice refillable notebook covers–i.e., a cover you can move from notebook to notebook that attaches to said notebook’s cover, kind of like a dust jacket for a notebook–in a larger size, such as composition book or steno book size, let me know. It seems like the perfect solution to my need to buy fancy notebooks but then my reticence to use said notebooks because they’re too fancy.)

I think the panels and limited signing/selling books time is a much better combination for me. I might have sold more books if I manned a table all weekend, but hey, maybe I wouldn’t have. I sold a decent amount for the time I did man a table, and any difference in sales is not worth being trapped at a table all convention. I got to see the costume contest for the first time ever.

The panels were mostly fun. The Trek one was the best, both because of the obvious love for the franchise by everyone on the panel and in the audience, and also because we actually discussed things back and forth on the panel. The audience was engaged and had great questions and comments. The Doctor Who one was the worst. It was a roundtable, which is basically just a big discussion between everyone present, but it was dominated by a small minority who wanted to talk about special effects and other background things while it was obvious some people just wanted to geek out over their favorite companions and whatnot. And the fangirling panel was fun, but we would all just go in a row to answer each question, and I wish we’d had more actual discussion.

It was a learning experience, though, and I’d definitely do it again.

There were a lot of questions from con attendees about Nanowrimo. It makes sense–the convention attracts a lot of amateur and beginning authors and it is almost November (I wrote Navember, haha)–but it still surprised me. So I figured I’d better do my obligatory Nano post for the year here.

I’m not doing Nano this year. I have not been terribly productive this year, at least not as productive as I’d planned to be, due to various stresses, and while November should be pretty chill (after next Wednesday, anyway) I know that the moment I commit to anything, something else will fall apart. So I’m out for the year, though I will probably do a smaller goal (somewhere between 10K and 20K) on my rewrite.

Doing Nano, squiders? Thoughts on MileHiCon if you went, or conventions in general?

Also, happy Halloween!