Archive for the ‘writers life’ Tag

Braggin’ on a Friend or Two

Just as an FYI, my writing buddy Sharon Joss ( @JossWrites ) won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition.

Sharon writes delightful stories; her first novel, Destiny Blues, has magic, fate and a touch of horror (although I’ve also laughed out loud while reading her stuff). The L. Ron Hubbard win is a well-deserved honor and I’m so happy for her.

And she has a substantial backlist, so you won’t run out of her work much too soon. I’m just sayin’.

Another buddy, Ken McConnell ( @KenMcConnell ), is giving away — yes, for FREE — the first novel of his Star Saga series. You can get it from Kobo as an epub or from his website in a format of your choice.

A note about Ken: He makes the spaceship models, then photographs them, and then has his graphic artist (who happens to be his brother) make his book covers from the photos. That’s the kind of work he puts into his novels.

Thanks,
Val

On the Idea of Being My Own Publisher

In 1983, I became the features editor of my college newspaper, and shortly thereafter learned phototypesetting, a skill that would fund my last three years of college. This will become relevant in a bit.

In 1995, my husband started a small business to electronically file medical claims with insurance companies. Setting it up, filing the taxes, and eventually going through bankruptcy taught me how to run a business (we only ever had one client, and he had a heart attack several weeks before Blue Cross/Blue Shield came out with their own DIY software, but I digress).

In 1996, I became a technical writer after teaching myself HTML from a “for the Compleat Idiot” book (My Eureka moment: “It’s just typesetting codes!” Told you it would become relevant).

Off and on between 1997 and 2006 (and every few months in my current job) I worked in corporate marketing, branding, new product introduction, that sort of thing.

In short, it appears my background has given me a semi-unique skill set that will allow me to easily become my own publisher. Thus, I am filing an Assumed Business Name (Idaho’s version of a DBA — we can never do anything normally) with the Secretary of State’s office next month…Wylde Hare Press will be born.

Why? Carina Press just rejected the best thing I have ever written, “The Nobinata Gambit.” I submitted the second manuscript to them reluctantly; Carina is an imprint of Harlequin, which is a corporate master of ensuring rights are never returned to writers. I reasoned that I  might as well have the entire diaspora series with them, in spite of poor sales for the first title.

The sales of the first book in the series, to put it politely, stank on ice, in spite of the book finalling in the EPIC awards. Furthermore, the sales price was cut to $2.99, which means that I received about 60 cents for each sale at Amazon, Nook and Kobo.

By way of comparison, my Samhain Publishing title earns $1.65 per sale at third party retailers, and sells more copies per month (as in 6 copies vs 4) in spite of being three years older. So much for the mighty Harlequin marketing machine, LOL. They work great for some people — I have several friends who published well with the company — just not for me.

I will not start on my editor (who was essentially the reason I sat on the manuscript for nine months after completing it). Lovely woman, but we had different visions for the story in “The Valmont Contingency.” Since I’ve been an editor probably longer than she’s been alive — I first held the job title at the tender age of fourteen — I think mine was better. She would probably disagree.

During the 3.5 months I was waiting for Carina to decide, I developed an idea for a lead-in novella to the diaspora series that will make Carina’s “ownership” of the first full-length book irrelevant; I can have my “permafree” (that’s a technical term) novella, the first book at $2.99, and then…whatever I want, since I’m the owner of my new publisher.

The DBA name is one my husband, Spooky Man, has been throwing around for years in other contexts. And since I like rabbits and the whole idea of doing my own publishing really is kind of a wild hair, well, there you go. Synchronicity happens.

Spooky Man would dearly love its corporate symbol to be a white rabbit silhouette on a background of a starry sky (a wild hare where the sun doesn’t shine–he is a diabolical punster), but I would prefer to keep it mostly tasteful. Mostly.

I’m starting with a novella that I wrote in 2011, which is going to be the start of a series of six interlocking stories that will divide nicely into two novel-length anthologies. The first one is titled “Open Mike at Club Bebop” which is a jazz club in Luna City, on Earth’s moon. I haven’t figured out yet if this world is a precursor to the Human Diaspora universe or the Dozen Worlds universe, but it’s set during the era of our first settlements off of our homeworld.

With a bit of luck and quite a bit of elbow grease, “The Nobinata Gambit” will be ready and published by the end of September.

The follow-on to “Blade’s Edge,” which is tentatively titled “Becoming Unique,” (it’s how Talyn learns to use her powers for good rather than eeeevvviiilllll) is on track to publish about six months after, in March of 2015, and the two friends of Bebop should be finished in time to fill in the months between.

And so it goes, on to a brave new world in this case. Wish me luck.

So, I Wrote A Book in About Two Weeks

This is me sticking my head up, well, from writing most of a book in two weeks. I discovered something about myself this month. Several things, actually. This post is primarily for writers, so if you don’t care about the novelist’s process, check back in a few days for updated pet pictures.

In the meantime, here’s some stuff I learned:

1. If I can get characters and plot really nailed down, I can write forty thousand words in two weeks. Now, I’ve never written more than 25K words in a month before, so this was a revelation.

Unfortunately, it took me fourteen months to get to that point. Next step is to figure out how to speed up *that* process.

2. I have a hybrid plotting process. I start out by writing with no concrete plan, but maybe a vague idea of the major plot points. Then when I get 30-50 pages, I can’t go any farther without knowing what happens, which is when I start to plot in earnest.

Now, that first 30-50 pages isn’t necessarily all the first part of the book; it might be all the really pivotal scenes from beginning to end. Or it could be one or two of them.

The first kiss, the turning point where the hero(es) figure out the big conflict is inevitable and decide how to handle it, the closing scene–any or all of them could be in there. After that I have to figure out the holes and fill them.

For this last book, I ended up making a list of scenes, then color coding them: pink for the heroine’s character arc, blue for the hero’s character arc, green for the relationship arc, black for external plot, and yellow highlighting for scenes that hadn’t had a version written yet.

From June 1 to June 26, I added more than 43,000 words to this manuscript, cutting about two thousand (that I counted). The next step is to send it out to critique partners and beta readers and see if what I wrote actually makes sense.

And then I send it to my editor with fingers crossed, LOL.

What I’m Thankful For This Year

1. I can feel my feet. (This wasn’t true in 2005; I’m much better now and thankful for it.)
2. I have someone to love.
3. I have interesting work.
4. I have enough money to pay my bills, give to those in need, *and* save for my old age.
5. There are new books to read. Lots of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to folks in the U.S.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

One of my critique partners is moving away. To Tampa. Next weekend. Well, actually I think she and the dog are boarding the plane on May 1st, but it’s close enough.

We’re having our last In Real Life (IRL) meeting on Good Friday. Somehow it’s appropriate. Endings and beginnings.

She’s beginning her new life with her old husband (they’ve been separated since January) and can’t wait to see him again.

And now the Moxie Quartet (our informal name for our critique group) is down to two. But life goes on and there is Skype.

It makes me think of Ecclesiastes, as interpreted by The Byrds. They called it Turn Turn Turn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odj2kNn3_v0&NR=1

Why I Write Speculative Fiction

Once upon a time, Val decided to write a romance novel. Seven months later, she had a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end that was long enough to be a Silhouette Desire. It was about a director of a commercial research lab and one of the researchers. There was a patent for a new form of bacterial gene splicing in the plot.

That was my first try at a sexy contemporary romance novel. It has been shoved into deep storage. No, it will never come out. Trust me, this is a good thing.

My second try at a sexy contemporary romance novel involved a secret method of decompiling executable files to tease a virus out of custom database software running oil production in a secular Middle East country. Sigh. Where did that come from? The heroine was supposed to be a stripper, for god’s sake. Into the drawer. No whining, get in there.

Okay, I thought, I would try a fantasy novel. High fantasy, perhaps even epic fantasy. Pseudo-Medieval, people who used to traffic with elves but hadn’t seen one in a generation or two…um, yeah. Within 50 pages it morphed on me. Big time.

“Elf” was suddenly an acronym for Engineered Life Form, “fey” meant Fully Engineered Human, elven magic was nanotech control systems, and they were colonists on a planet orbiting a blue-white star. But there was a love story. Welllll, alrighty then. I gave up on fantasy before page 100 and I still haven’t finished that story.

How about a paranormal? Yes, a ghost story, set in Seattle, about a software developer who has a new kind of project management tool that fully integrates…dammit.

Plus there’s the issue of the ghosts–do dead people get to have a point of view? My gut feeling is no, because it makes the ghost phenomena less creepy if the reader knows it’s just So-and-So trying to help.

It took me three tries, but I finished that one before shoving it into a dark corner.

At that point, I gave up and wrote the story that would eventually become Blade’s Edge, my first published book. The first draft was completed in five months.

Interestingly, it’s the only book I’ve ever written in order, from beginning to end–probably because I wrote the love story first, and then went back and added all the different points of view for the political story.

And that’s why I write the kind of fiction I do…because I can’t, apparently, write anything else. Even when I try. And believe me, I tried.

Now that I’ve admitted that, I have this idea for an urban fantasy about the sorceress who guards the Rocky Mountain power node under Yellowstone Lake. I think I can make this work, because I have to treat the magic like physics.

If you define magic as direct manipulation of energy, then it has to obey laws of physics that can be described mathematically. And if mages are those humans who have the ability to directly manipulate energy (anyone who can flip a light switch can indirectly manipulate energy), well, there’s your premise, all neatly tied up with a bow and E=mc^2. I can do that.

But first I have to get a few current projects finished. Club Bebop is tapping me on the shoulder again, whispering that it has lots of stories to tell me….

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