Writer Wednesday – Emmie Mears

1. Who are you? I’m Emmie Mears! In theory, anyway. For now.

2. What type of stuff do you write? I like to have my fingers dipped into just about every SFF pie. Lately I’ve been tending toward more broad speculative fiction, second world alt history and second world in general, but I’m looking forward to digging into some science fantasy and more straight sci fi as well as epic fantasy soon. (I have a hankering to write a first contact story, but we’ll see.)

3. What do you want to pimp right now? I have a rather grueling release schedule lately. A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS just came out, which is a contemporary magical realism, and I’m certainly proud of that. LOOK TO THE SUN comes out 15 November and is available for preorder right now, and that is a book that feels almost too timely — I’ve pitched it as Les Miserables meets Shadow of the Wind. It’s a second world novel with a Gothic feel about generational tragedy, love, and fighting against fascism.

4. What’s your favorite book? This will likely come as no surprise if you read the preceding paragraph, but Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is absolutely stunning, and the moment I finished it for the first time, I picked it up and read it again. A more recent read was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which was phenomenal (and, combined with a non-fiction thing I read recently, inspired my next project).

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I’ve been very privileged to be able to write full time for the past year. I have a part time job as a banquet server as well. Besides writing, though, the full-time-ness of that job encompasses PR, marketing, accounting, finance, and enough emails to form an avalanche. I also manage a small contingent of ninja cats in my home.

6. Where can we find you? I am virtually omnipresent on the internet, it feels. You can find me on Twitter @EmmieMears, or you can find me on the Book of Face. I’m also on Instagram if you like cat spam and a parade of homemade food. If you like short stories and want to help support my writing, you can find me on Patreon, and for the eminent pragmatists among you, my general home on the interwebz is simply emmiemears.com.



Expect the Unexpected – 5 Tips for Writers

By the time this goes live, I will have finished my twelfth full length manuscript. That’s some novels, and with seven-soon-to-be-eight in the wild, I’ve arrived at a point where I get emails from people asking me to kick them in the butt. “Kicking internet folks in the butt” was not something I was entirely prepared for when I went into this career with the idea that maybe one day I could make a living doing the only thing I think I’m good at, but it’s something I’m being asked to do.

In the spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom and lessons, here are five things I didn’t expect from writing when I started:

5. Writing books doesn’t really get easier.

It hasn’t. In fact, books 10 and 11 were some of the toughest things I’ve done. Writing is a constant evolution of figuring out exactly how much you know and don’t know. It’s about trying something that has worked for you before (or that has worked for someone not-you) and finding out that lo, suddenly it worketh not. That can be…frustrating.

I’ve heard it said that writers don’t know how to write books. We have to learn each time how to write this book. In my experience of the past decade of finishing books, that is very, very true.

4. Writing is a lot easier when you can leave the business out of it.

I think in a lot of our minds when we start out, writing is like that internet meme.

Step 1–Have idea
Step 2–Be said idea’s miraculous conduit onto the page
Step 3–???????
Step 4–PROFIT

Yeah, nah.

It doesn’t work like that. Whether you traditionally publish or do it independently (I’ve done both), two words will dictate much of your success: bottom and line.

In trade publishing, that bottom line can be the difference between your book getting acquired and your book getting trunked. (Or, as I have personally experienced, an entire imprint getting trunked and every book it publishes going down with it.) In indie publishing, it can mean you’re spending more on your packaging, marketing, editing, etc. than you are making. That is not sustainable unless you are one of the mythical humans for whom money is not the difference between your pet iguana starving to death or not.

Having to factor in making art with the reality of making money is not an easy web of tightropes to walk. But it can be done.

3. On that note, if you don’t have it, money can be a massive systemic barrier.

As in all careers, having money to start with means that you have access to networking opportunities, career development, and the more esoteric bits, like automatically being taken a bit more seriously. Conferences and conventions, where heaps of connections are made, are decidedly not cheap. Tax write off, yes, but you still have to spend the money up front.

The same goes for indie publishing–you have to put money in on the front end there, for a great cover if absolutely nothing else.

That said? Slush works. Both of my agents, I’ve gotten through the slush pile. I’m a hybrid author, which means I’ve had trade deals and have indie published both. If you are seeking to go the commercial trade publishing route, you don’t need to know anybody (and no matter how much your friends love you, even if you have connections, they are never a guarantee).

2. There is never Only One.

Books are not like Highlander. Sure, we see the highly publicised unicorns like Twilight and Wool, that One Book that propelled its author to fame and fortune. But we have to remember those stories are unicorns. There is an immense amount of luck in the writing business that boils down to this: the right eyes hitting your work at the right time.

It can happen on the first book you write (I suppose, since it has to very few folks). But more likely there will be many books. The first that you publish, whether trade or indie. The first that earns you a five star review–or the first that earns you one star. There will be a book that someone will email you to tell you they desperately needed. A book you look back on and cringe. Because for most of us, this career is about building a mountain, not about being airlifted to the top of it or shot out of a cannon.

Which brings me to the last tidbit…

1. Your craft is the barre.

In ballet, the barre is the place you turn to re-orient yourself. To find balance and return to the basics that make the pro jumps possible. That is craft to the writer, but you have to build it. There is a general mythos around writing that suggests that the ability to do it well is this ephemeral thing called “talent.” But the truth is, it’s something we have to learn and hone. Everyone can get better at it. Sometimes when we start out, our barre is crooked and falls off when we lean on it too hard. We have to bust out the level and learn some physics and engineering and figure out how it best works for us, and even then we have to replace the screws that fall out and the bits of mirror where the silver wears away.

It takes effort and practice, and there is never a guarantee of being that unicorn. There is just the story, just the barre that holds us up and directs the flow of our movements.

But here’s the other bit–you can surprise yourself. If you’d asked me when I was 20 how many books I thought I could write, I don’t know what my answer would have been. At nearly 32, I’ve written twelve. Everyone’s mountain looks different.

And I’m just getting started.

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Book Review – Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Title: Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Author: Thomas Sweterlitsch
Format: Paperback
Written: 2014

Thomas Sweterlitsch’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a truly haunting take on the near future, as it is one that strikes as not only bleak and disconnected, but also truly possible. It’s the story of John Dominic Blaxton, a poet who lost everything when an explosion destroyed the city of Pittsburgh, claiming the lives of millions, including his wife and unborn child. Yet John continues to live in Pittsburgh–emotionally, at least–through a fully immersive virtual reconstruction of the city called The Archive, which taps into a visitor’s memories and video records of the cities to recreate their lost city.

When he’s not reliving every recorded moment with his wife in an endless cycle of desperation and despair, Dominic works as an Archivist, investigating cold cases within the virtual Pittsburgh for insurance companies. However, his latest cold case involves the murder of a woman whose very existence is somehow being deleted from the Archive. Dominic’s obsession with uncovering the truth behind the woman’s fate takes him down a path that begins to blur the line between physical and virtual reality, as he digs deeper into the illusions and the remnant threads of his own sanity.

Sweterlitsch tells the story beautifully, using his own intimate knowledge of Pittsburgh to paint the city in such a grounded, intricate way that the reader easily finds themselves immersed in the Archive. His use of Dominic as a narrator, tapping into his grief and despair, and his persistent instability, adds the factors of an unreliable narrator to the mystery, leaving the reader at times questioning what is really missing from the Archive and what is truly just the delusions of Dominic’s detached obsession with solving the mystery of the lost girl.

This story also provides a great reflection of technology itself and how we use it today. The Archive serves not only as a great plot device but also as a mirror on our own dependence on digital interaction, the escapist mentality of digital culture, and our need to constantly relive the past. Sweterlitsch not only paints a detailed science fiction landscape, but does so while yearning for a more analog age, with real human interaction in a tangible world.

Overall, Thomas Sweterlitsch’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an immersive, thought provoking, and very fun read. I would give it four out of five stars, and would recommend fans of the science fiction or mystery genre give it a good read.

Book Review – Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Format: Hardback

Published: 2013

 

After finishing Insurgent I was quick to pick up Alegiant and read it. I was excited for the read as I had enjoyed insurgent. So I delved in looking forward to getting lost in the book to be jerked right out of the story by the second chapter. Instead of the story being told in first person perspective from the eyes of Tris the story alternates back and forth from the eyes of Tris and Tobias. It is almost every other chapter that the voice changes in first person. Each chapter is marked with whose perspective the story is being told but taking the time to note that every chapter pulls you out of the story that is being told instead of getting lost in it. In addition to that if I got interrupted in the middle of a chapter it was difficult to determine whose perspective I was reading from unless I looked back a few pages at the chapter start.

 

Over all, I don’t mind changing perspectives in third person because that is easy to tell and the voice doesn’t really change just the scene does, but in first person it can be difficult to determine who “I” is. Honestly I feel the story in Allegiant suffered from the changing perspectives and in some ways it was a little necessary but a lot of times it wasn’t and I didn’t see the point of the change in perspective. Alternating back and forth I feel was a poor execution of telling the story. Honestly there are better ways of executing things if there is a need for change in perspective such sections, it still pulls a reader out of the story but not as frequently so one can go multiple chapters without being pulled out. Also a font difference would also help as it is a quick reference and easier to notice than stopping at each chapter to read a name to verify whose talking. Long rant cut short, this made me very cranky and frustrated me with the book.

 

Despite the changes in perspectives, I still read the book because I wanted to know what happened and it was still a good story that kept my attention as far as stories go and toward the end I was locked into the book and was ready to murder a person for interrupting me in my reading as the story picked up and had enough action that changing perspectives was not a bit deal. Overall the book was a pretty good read, and I will give it a 4 out of 5 pages. If the story wasn’t as good as it was the formatting would have forced this book into a 3 out of 5 but the story saves the book keeping at a strong rating and something I would say is a good read but I would warn about the changing POV’s as that can be annoying.

Writer Wednesday – Jeffrey Cook

1. Who are you? Jeffrey Cook. I’m an author living in Maple Valley, WA – about 30 miles from Seattle.

2. What type of stuff do you write?
I’m the author of the Dawn of Steam series. Dawn of Steam will soon be a trilogy (third book coming in March) of epistolary format (letters and journals), Regency-voice alt-history/steampunk novels, set from 1815-1819.
I’ve recently added my first YA title as well, the YA SciFi story Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, released through Fire & Ice YA Press.
I’ve been published in the anthologies Steampunk Trails (volume 2), Avast Ye Airships (released in March), and Free Flowing Stories.
Finally, I’m currently working on a YA Fantasy series, The Fair Folk Chronicles, while finishing editing on the third Dawn of Steam novel.

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
The Dawn of Steam series has been my passion for the past two years, researching, getting voices right, getting the language and historical references right – and the tale is nearly finished. Rising Suns will end the story of the crew of the airship Dame Fortuna (for now. Books 4-6 are in planning, but won’t be written for some time.) – as they explore the world, and delve into conspiracies of the post Napoleonic War-era world.

4. What is your favorite book?
My single favorite book is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lots of competition after that, including Shogun, The Lord of the Rings and The Lonesome Gods. But Frankenstein remains my favorite.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I am also a gamer (table top and live action rpgs), a sports fan (go Seahawks!), an animal lover/dog owner (The anthology I’m heading up, being released in March is a charity book, benefitting Washington State’s PAWS animal rescue.), and an advocate and organizer for other local small press and independent authors.

6. What link can we find you at?
http://www.authorjeffreycook.com/  and  http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Cook/e/B00IRMC3H6/ (for reviews, book info, etc.)

Guest Post:

This is a little bit of a combination of “Advice I’d give new authors” and “Best advice I’ve gotten.” I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people who have been writing much longer than I have, quite a few of whom are much more successful. Some of that advice is useful, some of it is not. Some is consistent, some contradictory. Here’s the three pieces of advice I’ve found that’s very consistent, and that I’ve adopted, and do my best to pass along:
As a new writer, write. It seems simple, but there’s more to it than that. A lot of people have great ideas, but never get that book out. A lot of people write until they hit writers block. Or until they get another job, or whatever, and then stop. Write every day, for 15 minutes. Do not make exceptions. If you’re serious about your craft, you can find 15 minutes. If you can do it for 3 weeks, no exceptions, you’ll likely find it becoming habit, and find ways to rearrange your schedule to get the time in. The writing doesn’t necessarily have to be on your book, or on anything serious. If you’re blocked up, spend it editing, or writing an outline for that other idea – but make the time every day to put words down on the page, or fix the words you already put down.

Second, when you’re getting ready to publish: There’s a lot of really, really good stuff out there in self-and-small-press published material. There’s also a lot of rushed-to-print garbage. And the latter gives all of us a bad reputation that’s hard to shake. The more good, professional looking material there is out there, the easier it gets for people to consider buying other small press and self-published books. If you spend money on only two things, make it an editor and a cover artist. Regardless, unless you are really, really good at either self-editing (a rare skill. Some can do it, most can’t.) or visual art, have someone you know and trust do both. Do everything you can to put out a clean, edited, professional looking product. Plenty of people say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But people do. And in some ways, should. A quality cover tells people the author cared enough about their book to put time and thought into it.
Doing this will both help you, and a lot of other authors out there. Speaking of which…

Third and final thing: other authors are your best resource. Talk to them, learn from them, network with them, leave reviews for them, buy their books if you can, and otherwise make use of this resource. Plenty of authors see others as competition, and try to sabotage them in hopes it will somehow help their own career, or out of jealousy. Don’t do this. There is a lot of material out there – in the long run, your best bet for getting noticed comes from networking, having people who want to read and review your work, and shared fanbases.

Writer Wednesday – Terri-Lynne Smiles

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Terri-Lynne Smiles

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Cross-genre novels. Currently, The Rothston Series combines elements of science fiction and contemporary fantasy into a believable explanation for real world events. Next year when the series is finished, I have a number of other novels to be released, including a murder mystery without a murder, a futuristic thriller set on an isolated planet/colony, and a discovery story about a woman who finds herself wrongfully imprisoned. The commonality is that they all involve science in one form or another.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
The Rothston Series is what’s hot for me right now. The first book, Foreseen, introduces the college-age characters in an exciting romp into the world of adepts – people who can covertly change the decisions made by those around them. The second novel in the series, Choices, follows the two protagonists on a tense and sometimes terrifying trek around the globe as they flee for their lives. It leans slightly toward horror in some of their encounters but sets the stage for the final two installments of the series. Origins, the third book, will be out later this fall, with Common Ground concluding the series in 2015.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have a favorite book (unless you count 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias), but I have several authors I enjoy for different reasons. I’ll spare your readers my long-winded explanations of the strengths and weaknesses of each and just stick to the list:

  • Edgar Alan Poe
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dean Koontz
  • Ray Bradbury
  • David Baldacci
  • J.K. Rowling

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I was a healthcare lawyer for over 25 years before leaving to pursue writing full-time (meaning almost every waking moment). Writing is much more difficult and absorbing than law. I’m also an active volunteer for a number of charitable organizations and the Board Chair of the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
Main Website – www.terrilynnesmiles.com
Facebook – Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/TerriLynneSmiles
The Rothston Series on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Foreseen-The-Rothston-Series/

 

 

 

*****

On Reading…

Reading is important for everyone – writer or not. I can’t say that enough. I read about an hour or two a day but don’t stick to any particular genre – I find that too limiting in terms of voice and style. For example, in the past two months, I finished Veronica Roth’s light YA novel Divergent, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and John C. Brewer’s international thriller The Silla Project. I am three-quarters of the way through Michael Williams’ literary Trajan’s Arch and failed at reading Brandon Sanderson’s high fantasy Elantris. I have also started Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction Outliers, and am re-reading from cover-to-cover 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias. During this same period, I also read two unpublished manuscripts – one romance, one contemporary fantasy – and portions of two proposed how-to books. I used to give up on novels that didn’t rivet me to my seat, but now force myself to finish if I can because each book I read provides more insight into writing – either by positive or negative lesson. Nonfiction, on the other hand, enhances my understanding of the world, which then informs my writing. That means if I’m not getting anything out of a nonfiction book by the end of the first chapter, I’m unlikely to go further.

Anyone who writes fiction has heard over and over that reading is essential to writing. This is one of the few “truths” for authors. If you’re short on time, don’t abandon your reading. If you don’t have time to read, your writing will stagnate.

 

imaginarium

Writer Wednesday – Amy McCorkle/Kate Lynd

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
I write romantic suspense, crime fiction, and gritty romantic suspense under Amy McCorkle and SciFi and Dystopian under Kate Lynd

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
See question one.

What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
I’m working on a screenplay right now that I plan on producing and directing called Rain Down On Me, an indie drama about a hard drinking, embittered disabled vet and his relationship with a woman on the run from her abusive sheriff husband. A web soap called Darius and Anastasia about a mob boss and his former CIA bodyguard. And I’m launching Blackout: An Aurora Black Novel and Letters to Daniel Vol. 2 at Imaginarium.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Director and producer.

What link can we find you at?
Amy/Kate’s Blog

 

*****

Enter Catchy Title Involving A Boat Here

Alone in a boat. As a writer that’s what you are when it comes to making it in your career. I remember as a kid growing up I wanted to be a writer. Or perhaps published author would be a better way of putting it. I wanted to walk into a bookstore and see my name on the shelf. I dreamed of awards and signing my name and getting paid boatloads of money to do it.

I had no idea how to make this happen. I thought you went to college to make this happen. And you can get your MA in creative writing and set out along that path if you wish. But there’s no more guarantee that you’ll make than if you take my route which is going to conventions and conferences and making connections and being left alone to develop your voice.

But I have to admit my success came by way of the small press. And I picked great house to start with MuseItUp Publishing. They’re an e-press that will consider print after a year of your book being out on the market for a year. They nurtured me and helped me hone my voice as a writer. Lea Schizas had a vision and she has seen it through.

I found her at digicon, a free online writing conference put on by Savvy Authors. I had a fabulous mentor in Julie Butcher. I now have several people who’ve reached out to me along the way and supported my career in its early stages. Stephen Zimmer the boss that he is was big on getting me included in the con scene. Pamela Turner introduced me to Stephen and Fandom Fest.

The most important thing though is, no matter how many people are there to help you, you will get nowhere if you don’t reach up that ladder for the next rung while helping someone up with the next hand. Not only is it just good karma, it makes good business sense. You don’t want to alienate people with a bad attitude. Your success ultimately depends on you. Because your career is the boat and you are the one steering it with you paddles. No one is guaranteed the million dollar paycheck with the movie deal. You must define what is success for you. Compared to February of 2011 I am doing quite well. I still could do better. You can always do better. Be more. Do more. So my advice is don’t ever give up. Keep writing. Keep revising. And don’t be afraid to submit.

Writer Wednesday – Tammy-Jo Eckhart

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
TammyJo Eckhart

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, contemporary, and historical fiction, often classified as erotica since I don’t “pull my punches” and believe that sexuality is a natural part of life.

What do you want to pimp right now?
Book 3 of the “Beyond the Softness of His Fur Trilogy” has just been released by my publisher, Circlet Press.
Also my non-fiction and award nominated book, “At Her Feet” has continues to be widely read and apparently empowering as we hoped it would be.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I always go back to “The Silver Metal Lover” by Tanith Lee because it really touched what was happening in my own life when I was finishing high school and starting college.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a wife, a partner, I storyteller/game master for RPGs, I’m an educator and arts community volunteer, but most of all I’m a survivor of several things.

What link can we find you at?
My main website (find it here!) is the best since it links to my books and gives some other information about me.

*****

The Danger of Fans and Lack of Privacy for Writers

We often think of writers as being little celebrities but I’ve learned over the two decades I’ve been published that this comes and goes in cycles and that all attention is not good or desirable attention. Let me explain a bit more.

After my first book, “Punishment for the Crime,” a collection of short stories, came out with Rhinoceros, an imprint from Masquerade Books, back in 1996 I started to get emails and letters from readers, even the occasional flowers when they ran into me at events. This wasn’t an everyday experience but living in NYC at the time where I was doing readings to crowds or meeting folks through my publisher who was right in the same city it happened far more frequently than after I moved back toward the Midwest. It always felt good to be recognized but sometimes it also felt a bit creepy.

Most readers were sweet. They’d want to shake my hand or simply tell me that they liked my book. If I were selling books or at a bookstore for a reading they’d want an autograph. Meeting people face-to-face at scheduled events was expected and cool. Not all encounters with my readers were at these sorts of events.

This was still in the early days of the Internet and it took work for someone to find me or find out about me. Yet within a year of the first book with Masquerade coming out I started to get emails from strangers. I didn’t broadcast myself around at that time — the concept of networking on social media wasn’t a thing writers were supposed to do. And yet because I happened to various community bulletin boards or email lists, my email was out there. Once my email was found by one person, it was found by several and for the second and third year my first and second books were out, I got an email a week.

I’d like to say that most of the emails were cool and sweet like most of the face-to-face meetings but I can’t say that and be honest. Honesty is a big deal to me. No, instead the majority of the emails I got were a bit creepy. They hoped I was as mean as a character in the title story or that I was as hot and sexy as another one. They wanted me to crush them with my boots or they’d ask about my sex life. I just deleted the creepy ones. Problem solved right?

For the most part, yes.

My third book came out with a different publisher as Masquerade struggled with some internal issues and I moved back toward the Midwest. Every now and again I’d get another email and a few times some gift might arrive in the mail… a bit creepy how they found out where I lived but most often it was through this new Amazon.com thing which wasn’t supposed to tell anyone I didn’t allow what my address was.

Then the creepiest fan contact happened. Someone called me. It sounded like either a very butch woman or a transguy by voice but I frankly didn’t ask because I didn’t care. What started off as “I really liked X” story turned quickly into questions about kink looking for advice which deteriorated into sex talk and attempts to ask me about my sex life. I told the caller time and again to stop calling and finally had to threaten to call the police. These calls lasted over three years.

Now I’m sure that more popular authors out there have even creepier experiences but I’ve never forgotten my own experiences. This hasn’t stopped me from joining social media, my agent and all of my author friends claim it is a must, but I had to learn that even just being published puts you out there, it takes away some of your privacy. You have to learn how to deal with it or decide to never publish at all. After all you can’t control who is reading you any more than you can control how many people are reading you.

My lesson learned then is that if you want to be read you must give up some of your privacy. Not all of it but once that book is out there in public view you’ll have to fight to protect yourself and your family because you can never tell who is reading and how they might react. Never be afraid to put out your work but be realistic about what you are also risking.

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