28 December, 2016

The shade of it all

This has been a long writing holiday. A long one. I'm fairly certain that if I were in education, I'd have been on sabbatical. Regardless, I've been doing my best to keep up with everything, and while I may have been quieter on the social media front, I have been chugging right along with all my writerly obligations.

Like Cabover Cabaret! It's tentatively scheduled for February 2017, much like the last three Appalachian Dream Tales, so I've been working on finalizing the manuscript, as well as getting the cover art ready. While I had hoped to premiere the full artwork for this blog post, I unfortunately still have some extras left to colour and shade, so expect it instead for the next blog post to come in January.

In other news, the manuscript has also been a priority for me, and while I really want to get back to my larger projects, like Tragedy of Ice and Comedy of Rain, I just have to shelve them until after I get Cabover Cabaret set up for release.

Anyway, I must be getting back to the art side of this self-publishing industry right now, so stay tuned for further updates!

13 December, 2016

Author Spotlight: Alasdair Shaw


In continuing with my spotlight of fellow authors, this month I'm interviewing Alasdair Shaw.
Alasdair is the author of The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series, which starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. The third story, Equality, will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Alasdair: The Two Democracies: Revolution series has two equal main characters.
One is Indie, the primary AI personality of the ship The Indescribable Joy of Destruction. He is the first known sentient AI, something of a taboo in the existing society. He was accidentally liberated by the other main character, Commander Olivia Johnson. She is an inspiring officer, despite having battled depression since she was a young girl. Even though they come from opposing sides in a generations-long civil war, they become close friends, helping each other overcome their inner daemons.
If you could place Indie in any other fictional world, which would he most enjoy?
Alasdair: Most certainly the Culture. The respect given to the Minds, and the rights afforded to all artificial intelligences, would make him very happy. I see him working towards establishing just such a society in the future.
What drew you to write in this genre?
Alasdair: I have always enjoyed reading science fiction, especially space opera and military SF. As a physicist, I find describing the technology entertaining. As an Army Reserve officer, I am intrigued by the possibilities of future combat.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Alasdair: By and large, you get what you pay for. Returns tend to scale disproportionately, so a small increase in cost frequently relates to a large increase in effectiveness. There are some effective free or $5 promos, but they are few and far between.
Make good use of your KDP countdown deals. If you are writing a series, there is an added bonus of sell-through to your paid books when you put your first one on free.
Even if trad publishing, you should market your book. One author I heard recommended spending your whole first advance on advertising. Your publisher is more likely to throw their A-game advertising at it if they see it selling well.
 
Finally, take part in multi-author cross promo opportunities. These can range from discounted book listings (like Patty Jansen’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Promotions) to anthologies and boxed sets (like The Newcomer collection of science fiction short stories that I just edited).
What is your guilty pleasure?
Alasdair: Butter. I never really had much of an affection for it until I became lactose intolerant. Now, lactose-free butter is heaven. Lashings of it on granary baguette, or on whole-grain crackers – divine.

***

Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.
 
He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember. Growing up, he spent most of his spare time in the hills. Recently he has been practicing his skills ready for the winter climbing season.
 
Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor.
You can sign up to Alasdair Shaw’s mailing list at https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k9x9t2  and see what else he gets up to on his website.
The Two Democracies universe intersects with our own at Twitter and Facebook.

28 November, 2016

Author Spotlight: Heather Hayden

In continuing with my spotlight of fellow authors, this month I'm interviewing Heather Hayden.

Heather writes Sci-Fi and Fantasy for the Young Adult age group. She loves action, and has a penchant for the unexpected. In recent months, she's been working on Of Beauty Within, which is a novelized, gender-swapped retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Her debut novel, Augment, was independently published, and mixes elements of both science and science fiction, while exploring themes of friendship and what it means to be human.

Let's open with something simple. When did you decide to become a writer?

Heather: I’ve been dabbling in writing for as long as I can remember. I finished my first novel in 2007, thanks to the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, and after that, I just kept writing. I did NaNoWriMo every year, JanNoWriMo for as long as the forums existed, and other writing challenges. I’ve won prizes in local contests for flash fiction and poetry, as well. I think I always planned on writing as a hobby, but after a few years at college, trying this, that, and the other thing, I realized that writing was really what I wanted to do. That’s when I decided to pursue it as a career.

I see. Are you currently writing full-time or part-time?

Heather: A bit of both, really. My current job is online and part-time, so I try to write whenever I’m not working. Eventually I’d like writing to be my full-time job.

That's a wonderful aspiration. Do you have a favourite motivational phrase to keep yourself on track?

Heather: I have several phrases I love, but I think in terms of motivation, CJ Cherryh takes the cake. She said: “It is perfectly okay to write garbage - as long as you edit brilliantly.” This strikes a deep chord in me, because as a pantser, my first drafts are often in need of help . . . which they get during the editing process.

I know you've published one novel already. What made you choose to pursue independent publishing?

Heather: I wanted more control, so publishing independently made the most sense. Plus, with hard work and a bit of elbow grease, it’s a lot faster to self-publish books than to seek representation. I plan on releasing two-to-four books a year, and having the control over prices, book covers, etc., is important to me.

Very insightful. Okay, last thing: it’s November! Are you participating again in National Novel Writing Month this year, and, if so, what's been your experience with it?

Heather: Yes! NaNoWriMo is actually what first got me writing novels. I started participating in 2007 after reading a magazine article about the challenge and finished with a 60,000 word novel about a mute girl and cats who lived in shadows. After that, I kept writing and didn’t look back. I’ve been participating every year since then. Some years were more difficult than others—during high school, I had a lot more free time (yay for homeschooling!), while during college I had to make time for my writing among everything else. Thankfully, my college had a trimester system and the first trimester ended mid-November—often my novel would get written during the last two weeks!

***

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden's not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

13 November, 2016

NaNoWriMo in absentia

You'll have noticed I've not mentioned hide nor hair of NaNoWriMo 2016. That's because I chose not to participate this year. I have so many projects that need to be completed (especially Cabover Cabaret, which needs to be ready for its TBA February 2017 release date), that I decided this November would be about housekeeping.

In a way, I suppose you could say that I am participating in NaNo since I'm working on all projects, large and small, that need completed, but I'm doing so without the goal of 50,000 words of new material. I'm two chapters and an epilogue away from finishing Comedy of Rain. I'm working on the cover art for Cabover Cabaret, as well as final edits. I'm so excited to debut that cover art, too, as I'm having a lot of fun with it.

Back to Comedy of Rain, though. The writing may still be slow going, but it's progressing. Especially now that I've found the song for Franklin's chapter.


I'm looking forward to having a completed manuscript "on my desk", hopefully by the end of November. Fingers crossed!

29 October, 2016

The wonders of good music

Remember the last time I checked in, I was still fighting with the final chapters of Comedy of Rain? Well, not anymore!

One of my coworkers at my new day job is as much a classic metal fan as I am, and he pointed me in the direction of Last In Line, which is comprised of most of the original members of Dio. And just like so many times before, when I find the right song, I can write the chapter.


In this case, it was "Starmaker" by Last in Line. It got me through chapter 44, which I've been stuck on for months. Hipólito finally cooperated, and I got the plot twist and everything written down. So far the next chapter is on track, so I'm looking to keep that pace going.

Next up on my list, of course, is to start the cover art for my next short story, due to be released in early February. This'll be the next story in the Appalachian Dream Tales, and will close out the first wave of introductions to my main characters. I'm in the process of getting it polished and ready, and I hope it'll be a load of fun for anyone who's familiar with Waiting for Godot. Absurdist comedy, anyone?

Anyway, that's all for now. Back to work, and I'll see you all soon for my next update!

14 October, 2016

Author Spotlight: Tabitha Chirrick

Welcome to the next installment of my author spotlight. This month, I'm interviewing Tabitha Chirrick, who is a self-published Sci-Fi writer, who recently published her first novel, Overshadowed.

Tabitha, what drew you to write science fiction?

Tabitha: There are two kinds of science fiction: philosophical “this-could-be-the-future” sci-fi, and pulpy “there-are-booms-and-lasers” sci-fi. I’m the shmuck who writes about booms and lasers.

I like Clarke, I like Herbert, I can tolerate me some Asimov, but I’ve always been drawn to what I wish was commonly called science fantasy, by which I mean fantastical stories in future or hi-tech settings rather than places with trees and tiny villages. Think Star Wars or Fortune’s Pawn or Ender’s Game. I find the marriage between the fantastical and the science fascinating, and have always been drawn to stories that fall into this genre. It’s a joy to write in, and feels truly limitless.

Fascinating; "Sci-Fa" should definitely get more attention as a separate genre! What did you think was the hardest thing about writing Overshadowed?

Tabitha: That’s a tough one. I ran into all sorts of challenges: cutting major characters and rewriting over the gaps, balancing multiple point of views, keeping the dark side likeable, and the ending, of course. Had to carefully consider the number of explosions.

But I think, even everything else considered, the hardest part was the beginning. I rewrote the intro almost twenty times – full rewrites, not tweaks or basic edits. I got a lot of feedback over the entire writing process, and every beginning I wrote seemed to have a major pacing flaw. Starting too soon, starting too late, starting too slow, starting too fast, and on and on and on the problems went.

Luckily, I had a lot of patient critique partners, and ended up with a beginning better than all prior versions. Looking back, there are still things I would change (aren’t there always?), but I’m happy with how it turned out. Beginnings are tough. They have to accomplish so much!

How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

Tabitha: My writing schedule is all over the place. Whole chapters written in between rounds of Halo, 3AM insomnia notes, paragraphs of plot while I’m waiting for dinner to finish, and, occasionally, a very normal couple thousand words in a writing-only afternoon. I’m trying to make the latter my typical day. I mean, I get the work done, but maybe not in that stereotypical "sitting in a big chair sipping tea while the words pour out for hours" kind of way. I wish that was my process. Tea is good, and I like big chairs.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Tabitha: “Just do it.” – Nike . . . or is it Shia Labeouf now? Eh, either way.

LOL! Okay, last question. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Tabitha: . . . Just do it.

Okay, but really, I’d tell them to read broadly, practice deliberately, converse with their writing peers, and, yes, actually do the writing part. Talking about writing isn’t writing. Tweeting about writing isn’t writing. Sharing writer jokes on tumblr isn’t writing. Writing is writing. Do all that other stuff too – those things are fun – but make sure you actually write. Growth happens in the act.

***

Tabitha Chirrick is a writer of all things speculative, geeky, and/or badass. Overshadowed - a YA Sci-fi - is her most recent release, though you may have also seen her work in Pigeonholes, Unbroken Journal, or even the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of California Santa Cruz, lives in Silicon Valley, and aside from reading and writing, her favorite pastimes include cooking, gaming, stargazing, and tempting deadlines via the power of procrastination! You can follow her on her website or Twitter.

29 September, 2016

Author Spotlight: Jim Moran

Welcome to the second installment of my author spotlight series. This month, I'm interviewing Jim Moran, a Sci-Fi writer who's currently working on an epic space opera.

When did you decide to become a writer?

Jim: Heh. I don’t think I’ve really “decided” that. Or, maybe I’ve always been a writer. I don’t know. I write a lot, but not professionally as of yet. Have I decided to pursue a professional career as an author? Maybe that’s the better question, but if it is, then I don’t have a good answer for it yet.

Life is a grand adventure, right? I’m still just making things up as I go, for the most part. Ask me again in a year.

What do you think is the hardest thing about writing?

Jim: For me, it’s everything not directly related to the writing.

I think I’ve found a workable approach to writing. I don’t have much of a problem coming up with ideas, building a workable framework around those ideas, writing, revising . . . all that stuff, I’m fairly comfortable with my efforts and abilities.

But once I have a finished product, ask me what I’m going to do with it, and holy smokes I have no idea. A couple of years ago, this wasn’t even a thing that had anything to do with me. Now people are asking me stuff like “Are you going to get an agent?” and “What do you think about self-publishing” and “What do you think about the Hugo Awards?” and “What’s your query look like?” and I have no idea.

Okay, I have a few ideas. But “a few ideas” is about as far as I’ve gotten. My whole writing endeavor started on a whim, and things have basically been stumbling along towards progress ever since.

I feel like I’ve just baked a birthday cake for a three-year old’s birthday party, in a calm and peaceful kitchen, and I’m quietly pleased (and a little surprised) by the results. Meanwhile, there’s this muffled background murmur that has been present the whole time, but it’s in the distance. It doesn’t affect me right now. Right now, it’s just me and this cake I made.

But the cake isn’t for me, it’s for everybody. So I open the kitchen door and AAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Now I’m being mobbed by a bunch of wildlings. Some of them want the cake, others think the cake looks gross and immediately want me to bake a different cake, and both groups are shouting. Some of them just want different icing on the cake, as if that’s a reasonable request. Some are grabbing for the cake without asking. One of them punched one of the other ones, and they’re both crying. Somebody isn’t wearing pants. Somebody else is trying to hang on my leg with every step I take. Everybody’s running around and screaming and carrying on and it’s chaos. Chaos.

Part of me wants to just hurl the cake into the room and retreat to the kitchen, where it’s quiet and sane. Part of me wants the kids to eat the cake, because I think it’s a pretty good cake, damn it, I worked hard on it, and I want those that might enjoy it to at least try a slice. Part of me wants to stop belaboring this metaphor and move on to the next question.

But yeah. The writing, I don’t have a problem with it. Everything else, on the other hand . . .

Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Focus?  What would you do differently the next time?

Jim: I would spend more time, earlier, thinking about how I wanted my characters to progress. When I first started knocking words together, most of my major characters had a bit of personality but no growth. Some of that growth I backfilled, some of it I shoehorned in later, but I didn’t really get a good handle on where I wanted these characters to be until I was about two-thirds of the way through. Then I had to go back and rewrite a bunch of stuff. It was a decent amount of work that could have been avoided had I been thinking about it from the start.

Also, I wish I’d created my little wiki program sooner. It’s been a big help for remembering little details.

With respect to your writing career thus far, would you have done anything differently?

Jim: It’s not really a “career” thing for me, at least not at this time. And I really have no significant regrets as to where I am now. But if I were to change something, it would be to get started earlier. Like, at least a decade earlier.

My writing wouldn’t have started out nearly as well (relative to where it is now, anyway) but I’d understand the industry a lot more and I’d be more comfortable and experienced dealing with a lot of the extracurriculars.  Who knows where I’d be today?  Still a programmer, probably, because my day job is a fulfilling endeavor that I enjoy. But, writing-wise, I’d certainly be better prepared for whatever the next step should be.

So . . . yeah. Get started early.

Final question: which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Jim: Any number of folks, really. Right off the top of my head, the first name I can think of is Theodore Roosevelt.  I would buy that man a drink. He’s gotta have all kinds of interesting stories to tell.

***


Jim is a random guy on the Internet who accidentally fell into this whole "writing" thing. He is terribly inexperienced in virtually every aspect of the writing endeavor, and is currently just making things up as he goes. What fun! He has a blog.

14 September, 2016

99 problems and a goal ain't one

The first step of anything is admitting you have a problem.

Or a goal.

I have both.

I've got approximately 4 chapters left to write for Comedy of Rain, but I can't seem to write them. I can bullet point them just fine, but when it comes to expressing things in actual sentences, I draw a blank. 

And I know what the cause of said problem is: this chapter I've been stuck on is Hipólito's POV, and he's very angry. So angry, in fact, that getting him to articulate words is nigh impossible. So I'm trying an alternate method. I've taken my bullet point, and I'm adding subpoints, with the hope that I can compile enough to make sentences to make paragraphs, and soldier on enough to make it through the draft and finally close it out.

Because then once it's closed out, I'll have the entire picture in front of me, and I can edit. And edit means I have more free rein to fix the characters' POVs where needed.

30 August, 2016

Like water, like glue

Some stories flow like water. Tragedy of Ice was like that for me. I sat down a year ago, back in February 2015, and hammered out the whole manuscript in under a month.

Some stories are like glue, though. Comedy of Rain is like this right now for me. I started it during NaNoWriMo 2015, and the writing has oozed along, getting stuck along the way, building up obstacles, and meandering in ways I don't want it to go.

I wish I knew why some stories are more like the latter, as I think it would help me get through the massive difficulties I've faced with getting this one down on paper. I don't know what it is about Comedy of Rain. I have bullet points—bullet points!—detailing everything to do with the final chapters, and I just can't seem to sit down to write anything past 200 words at a time at this point.

It's sluggish, but more importantly: frustrating. I know exactly what I want to write. I write when I am in front of the screen, but I can't do more than those painstaking 200 words at a time.


But ultimately: I am writing. So unless a block happens altogether, I'm still making progress, and that's what matters.

15 August, 2016

Author Spotlight: Louise Ross

In the last few years of being on a critiquing website, I've had the pleasure of meeting many a great and aspiring authors. I don't know why I never thought of it before, but I'd love to start shining a light on some of those marvelous folks in our writing community. Beginning today, I'm going to start with Louise Ross.

Louise is a writer of speculative fiction, and is currently working on Distilled, which is a Fantasy novel about a cocky alchemist who must learn to trust before he is captured by mercenaries and delivered to his murderous brother. She's been writing for three years, and is working towards filling her bookshelf with her own published novels.

To start off our interview today: which writers inspire you?

Louise: I have always been fascinated by Speculative Fiction. As a child, I discovered Diana Wayne Jones and read every book I could find. From there, my father introduced me to his collection of Sci-Fi. Most of it was classic Sci-Fi like Asimov, Herbert, and Bradbury. Recently, my focus has been Magical Realism and Urban Fantasy. I keep watch on authors like Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Ilona Andrews.

Interesting! Now I'm always curious: for your own reading, do you prefer eBooks, or traditional paper/hardback books?

Louise: I prefer audiobooks first and paper books second. As a child, my father would read my sisters and me bedtime stories when he didn’t sing us to sleep. I guess I still enjoy being read to.

Have you used, or would you ever use, a PR agency?

Louise: This is an interesting question. I have never honestly considered self-publication. I love writing, but my life outside writing is so crowded that I do not think I could manage the business aspect of self-publication. If I ultimately decide to self-publish instead of traditionally publish, I would need to rely on others to help me. That would probably include a PR agency.

What’s your views on using social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?

Louise: Social media can be an effective marketing tool, but I don’t feel like viewing social media as a marketing tool works. By that I mean, when I find interesting authors and follow them, I am interested in tidbits that are not marketing specific. I am interested in progress reports and blog interviews. When I follow a writer who only posts marketing notices or who posts too often, I unfollow them. I assume others are the same. To me, social media is to be social first and market second.

Alright, last question. Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Louise: Writing is a gift. The curse is the desire to be published and famous without the immediate success. I never needed to be an overnight sensation. Therefore, writing is still a gift.

Thanks, Louise. It's been great hosting you. :)


             ***


Louise Ross dreams then writes it all down. When governments are destroyed, wars destroy the land, and tech takes over, her stories explore the struggles of the common man to overcome. 

To learn more about Louise and her works, you can follow her on her websiteGoogle+, and Twitter.

31 July, 2016

An eight letter word for . . .

I often see these great debates explode over what part of self-publishing is more difficult. I don't think it's something to be generalized, but instead is individual to each person. Writing might be more painstaking for one while marketing is laborious for someone else. Much like one person excelling in Math while another does English, there're going to be things about the self-publishing platform that everyone will have trouble with.

For me, marketing slogans are my weak point. Language has to be handpicked for the message it's going to convey, and with only a limited word count to work with, it gets frustrating.

So like everything else, I take it a piece at a time. Sometimes I'll read over what I wrote, cover my screen, then type a second copy from memory. The "from memory" usually results in some phrase changes—rarely for the worst, frequently for the best. Do it enough times, and I get the best possible marketing spiel I can manage.

The problem is: starting.

I can have all my materials in front of me—the story itself, the story summary, the blurb, the Twitter pitch, the cover art, the marketing pictures—and draw a complete and utter blank. The only way I can seem to push past this is to get my "Eureka!" moment, 'cause once I have that first phrase (no matter where it falls in the marketing spiel), I can shape the rest around it.

"But how do you get the Eureka moment?" you wonder.

For me, it's seeing all my materials, then stepping away and doing something else. I switch objectives, do something hands on (any crafters out there? Knitters? Crocheters? Painters? Laundry folders?), and let my mind clear. The right words will compose themselves for me when I hit the border of "No longer at the forefront of my mind".


Now with that being said, I'm off to sort laundry and hunt me down a few Pokémon to clear my head so I can work out this new marketing slogan!

16 July, 2016

Evolves to . . .

I'm utterly late getting this post out, and I apologize for that.

I mentioned last time that I'd be doing Camp NaNoWriMo again, so I have, in a way; this time, I'm using the first half of the month for some art projects related to my writing. I can't debut that particular art just yet, but I did have to stop and make a character sheet for Pierce, call-sign "Kentucky", one of my main characters in Tragedy of Ice.

Pierce's character sheet, July 2016

Just like being an author, my skills as an artist have significantly improved over the last year. Comparing my lines and colours to the character sheets I did last year, I've come a long way. It may not seem that noticeable to others, but as the artist, I can always tell when my style has evolved.

Kadiza's character sheet, June 2015

I can see it with my old writing, too. Looking at the short stories I've already published, I can see just how much my style has changed and evolved since I began publishing in 2014. Even for things as recent as last year, holding "Evening Hallow" up next to "Comeuppance", let alone to Tragedy of Ice, I can see the nuanced differences in sentence structure, beats, etc. Even the way I describe characters' appearances and mannerisms.


The evolution of an author/artist is one to behold, for sure. And maybe that's what's happening with Comedy of Rain: I'm evolving styles again.

29 June, 2016

Nothing to be done

Always remember that the brain needs a break, especially when you've been working nonstop for over a year, writing on various projects. So since Camp NaNoWriMo starts on Friday, I'll be using it to work on art for the first half, then writing for the second. Hopefully the break will do me some good, and I can plow through the next short story on my agenda, then get back to Tragedy of Ice and Comedy of Rain.

14 June, 2016

Turning a page

Today's a day for me. It is, in fact, my last day at my current job, and like closing one book and opening another, I'm about to settle in for a huge shift. I expect different job duties, different routines, different management styles. But I also expect the same character: me.

I'll grow, I'll change, I'll adapt, but I'll also retain the qualities that make me "me", while taking on new ones that will further define and mature me. As any well-rounded character should.

Real life and fiction coincide so very, very often. Just as I am the main character shifting between jobs, Kadiza is the main character shifting between books.

Tragedy of Ice started with Kadiza in her comfort zone, ripped her out of it, and threw her into a new place by the end of the book. Comedy of Rain sees her begin in her new comfort zone, and I noticed that she's brought that experience and growth from the first book and applied it to her responses in a "been there, done that" sort of way.

At least, that's how it starts out.

I have to keep throwing Kadiza curve balls so she has new things to learn, and more difficult obstacles to face than the dissenters from the first novel. Right now, it takes her much longer to start tripping up, and while originally I thought that that was poor characterization, my transition between jobs gave me new insight: Kadiza's got experience now, and it's going to take something really drastic to pull her out of her comfort zone. She's "Keeping Cool and Carrying On", so to speak, until that one thing hits her mid-book that takes her for a loop, that one thing that makes her have to stop and recollect.

And what makes me exceedingly happy about this now is that she has to turn to others because she's so far out of her depth that she can't handle it on her own. It makes her stronger as a character, because she realizes the value in asking for help. And that's completely—no, perfectly okay.

So like Kadiza, I'm going to "Keep Calm and Carry On" tomorrow at the new job until something hits me, and when it does, I'll know it's okay to ask for help. Because Kadiza said so, and I always listen to the voices in my head. 

30 May, 2016

On outlines and plantsing

I tell you what: Comedy of Rain has been a bear to wrestle with, and I'm not talking about Hipólito.

Before Tragedy of Ice was anything more than one book, I'd had only stray ideas about what the characters' lives were going to be like after the fact. Nothing truly solid to make another story with, but thoughts of "Oh, that's how ___ is going to happen" or "Oh, now that'll be interesting if they ____ when ____". And then my favourite muse finished reading Tragedy of Ice and said, "You know what? Their story's not done. You need another book."

And another book became three more books. The Europan Theatre is what I've coined as the series name (finally!), and it's slated to be a tetralogy. Now that could change as I go along, but I can't speak to that until I reach that point in the road.

But the muse spoke, and I listened, so back in . . . we'll say October, I scripted an outline for Comedy of Rain so I could have my ducks in a row for NaNoWriMo 2015. Following the same format as Tragedy of Ice, I scripted one prologue, 34 chapters, and an epilogue, with the only difference this time being that Hipólito had POV chapters. And that was fine. Mostly. Sorta. Kinda.

Not really.

The prologue went according to plan, but being NaNoWriMo, I recapped Tragedy of Ice so much that it inflated to probably 5,000 words past its necessary word count. Then chapter 1 introduced a character who wasn't supposed to show up until chapter 5, and that was okay. I could work with that. Chapter 2 had that character show up again, and I'm thinking, "Oh, crap, he's gonna have a bigger role, isn't he?"

Naturally, this was the point where all planners start to reconsider their outline, but being NaNoWriMo, I had to soldier on. So by chapter 5, a whole new subplot arose, and that was that. I had to wing it all the way through NaNo, using my outline as a general target while adapting to where the plot rivers took me. And, boy oh boy, were there some interesting rapids that got thrown in my way.

Flash forward to the end of NaNo, and I thought I only had less than ten chapters left to write. I was wrong. I brought Comedy of Rain back out to work on for April's Camp NaNoWriMo, and all those rapids that'd come up before only got more treacherous as I went. Suffice to say, I busted my outline and—while I did get the occasional bit from my originally scripted chapters—I ended up having to fly by the seat of my pants.

Which was not a fun experience.

Kadiza, Franklin, and Hipólito were facing new obstacles, and I was drawing blanks on how to get them to solve them. I did the best I could, and while I reached my goal for Camp NaNo, I was left with a still yet unfinished manuscript. Now I'm all the way through May, and I've been taking my time, slogging on through the difficult parts, and avoiding writer's block (gasp!) by reminding myself that all the things I don't like about Comedy of Rain right now can all be fixed during the revisions. I won't allow myself to go back and begin revisions yet, especially since I still haven't finished the story.

What I am doing is allowing myself to make notes and revisit my outline. Sort of like creating "stage direction", I've got my new outline that's accounting for all the changes made to date, plus what's left to write tentatively annotated on the outline. The ending hasn't really changed, but the next several chapters could end up going directions I never expected. And if that happens, yes, I'll have to redo my outline, but at least at that point I'll know the fate of certain characters, as well as what I need to do when I go back to actually revise and start weaving in the new threads properly. Or "tightening the shoelaces", as I like to call it. Everything's essentially there now, so it just needs better allusions and foreshadowing so that the setup rings true with the reveals. And, as always, the iceberg knowledge of what's been going on in the background so that I can pull from that info and write the best story I can.

15 May, 2016

"The Faraday Cage": Behind the scenes of a launch party

A Steampunk anthology.
Hallo, folks!

I know: I'm late. Camp NaNoWriMo has mostly given me back my soul (I still have the last several chapters and epilogue of Comedy of Rain to complete), but I will be back on my every-15-days posting schedule now.

I had the wonderful opportunity recently to participate in an online launch party as host, and with the authors' permission, I'd like to talk about our behind-the-scenes preparation and experience.

My good friend, Virginia Marybury, asked me two months ago if I would be willing to host the Facebook launch party for The Faraday Cage anthology, which she had been asked to write for by author/editor Steve Turnbull.

I'll admit: I was nervous. I'm glad I was asked two months ahead of time, because it took me the better part of a month to build up my courage. I was being asked to host someone else's launch party. Something I had never done before. No easy feat when I'd only participated in a single previous launch party, and that was as a member of the audience.

But I'm glad I decided to accept the challenge of hosting. It was a wonderful experience, and Steve and the others were great to work with.

We led up to the event with an "exponential growth" of communication, and since we had over a month to plan (and also because I was intensely focused on Camp NaNo), Steve and I played a bit of Facebook tag, sharing pre-planning ideas.

One thing I want to make clear here: I was completely open and honest with Steve from the get-go about my lack of experience with hosting such an event, and he assured me right back that we'd all be in it together because none of them had been on the host side of a launch party before, either. That openness made for a great behind-the-scenes development team, as everyone was involved in preparing for the launch.

Steve set up a private organization group on Facebook for myself and the authors, and as we got closer to the event and everyone had a better idea for their schedules, we made preparations accordingly. Katy O'Dowd knew for certain that she wouldn't be available for the launch, so she scripted some Q&As for us to have on hand in her stead. I'm so grateful she did this, as it made us think to have the other authors script Q&As, too (turns out we needed it, as three of the five were unable to make the launch in the end, so "Yay!" for building a script).

Now, before I ever got involved, Steve and the others had everything for their anthology worked out – including a magnificent piece of cover art for the book, as well as custom interior black and whites for each author's story. Those black and whites came in handy: since I wanted to take the time to spotlight each author, I was able to make those spotlights more visible during the event by having each paired with its applicable artwork. Add to it that the Q&As were posted for each particular author under their spotlight, and we were able to keep the event posts condensed, clean cut, and organized.

Something I did once we had everything collected for the trivia, spotlights (story title, author, short-form blurb, and 1-sentence author bio), and Q&As was put it all together in a timetable. I composed an event kickoff note, then staggered events on my timeline by 5-minute increments. Including two reminders about how trivia winners would be announced and what prizes were available, I was only able to cover an hour and a half of our two-hour event. But that was okay. The last 30 minutes gave us a buffer window in case we got busy or had hiccups (miraculously, no real hiccups aside from Facebook switching Steve and me back to our private account names instead of our author accounts a couple of times), and with the way we got busy, that 1.5-hour schedule stretched the entirety of our party. Steve then, of course, closed us out with Thank Yous and winner announcements.

Oh, and before I forget: about 15 minutes prior to kickoff, we shared the event page to several large Indie Author groups on Facebook to maximize exposure. There were several participants who none of us recognized, and I can only attribute them to those Indie Author groups. Not bad for what was a last-minute decision in the hour leading up to launch!

If all of that seems disorganized, then rightfully so. We were flying by the seat of our pants with limited experience, but we pulled it off through great communication via a behind-the-scenes group chat so that we could navigate in real time what we were posting next. As such, I'd like to now streamline this for the bullet-point folks who would prefer to see our practice put into a practical model form:

28 March, 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016


Excuse me for the next month, I'll be busy working on Comedy of Rain, and boy have I gotten some ideas! Bwhahahhaa!

13 March, 2016

Epilogues and second drafts

Yellow to trim, pink to cut.
Epilogues. Oh, epilogues.

I know some people don't like them, but I do. Their whole purpose is to close out the story, wrapping up loose ends, showing the fates of characters, giving the promise of a Happily Ever After, or at least a Happily For Now.

Originally, Tragedy of Ice wasn't going to have an epilogue. Or a prologue. But first round critics and beta readers wanted the story to start sooner. They wanted all the world building to be all together, not spread out over the course of chapters 1 through 5 like I first had it (which, in my opinion, I thought was a great approach because things came in manageable doses so no one would be overwhelmed).

My readers disagreed. And since so many of them disagreed with me, I needed to listen to that feedback and decide what to do.

I really shouldn't hold my coffee that close to my Surface.
So I wrote a prologue, but now that I had a prologue, things were off balance. The whole of Tragedy of Ice is written from alternating POVs for Kadiza and Franklin (Hipólito doesn't get a POV for stylistic reasons). By writing the prologue, I had to put it in Franklin's POV so it wouldn't throw off the manuscript's structure, but then I was left with Franklin having one more "chapter" than Kadiza, which shouldn't be the case since Kadiza's the star of the story.

Thus my decision to write an epilogue.

And it's a good thing I decided to do so, because my first round readers and critics were able to also tell me what things I had left as loose ends. I had one large thread and a few more little ones that gave me all the fodder I needed to close out the story with an epilogue from Kadiza's POV. The critics, for the most part, all agreed that it was a great addition. The only problem now was that the chapter was tail-heavy, and by that, they meant it was trying to do too much for a final "chapter".

*glares at "The End"* Straggler.
Based upon their feedback, you can see in that first picture up top how I was able to target things to cut and shorten. My goal was to cut 1,000 words (that's the equivalent of 4 standard manuscript pages), and I did rather well for a first pass, I think. I cut roughly 750 words, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with that. I knew it could be tighter. Thus, the second hard copy evaluation of the epilogue (pictured at right), in which I cut just over 50 more words by rewording phrases and finding those last little bits that could still be cut entirely.

It's been a week-long chore, but I think I've got it to a point now where I'm happy to put it back out in front of the critics and betas to see if they like the improvement. I hope so. Cause if they love this version better, it puts me one step closer to putting this story out to you folks to enjoy.

Okay, time for me to get back to my spring cleaning before taking one last run through of the epilogue. I'll see you all again soon! :)

27 February, 2016

Gratitude and updates

It's been two weeks since Comeuppance was released, and you folks did not disappoint. Thank you so much for your purchased copies, your reviews, and your recommendations. It's heartwarming knowing you all enjoyed it, and it makes me that much more enthusiastic about my future releases.


I've spent the day being productive, worked through the revisions of chapters 28 and 29 of Tragedy of Ice. I'm actually about to do the read through of chapter 29, then I'll be moving on to revising chapter 30. Quite the progress for a Saturday, for sure! After that, I'll have four more chapters and the epilogue to revise. I'm looking to have the whole second draft completed by mid-March, then back to my critics and consultant. I await their verdict.


In other news, I'm looking into something very special to add to the website here, which some of you click-happy folks may have noticed already. *grins* Don't worry, I'll make an official announcement once I have things sorted on it, but I can promise it'll be a nice addition. :)


But I'm off for now, back to revisions, revisions, revisions . . .!

13 January, 2016

Mark your calendars

Comeuppance has a publication date! 

On Friday, February 12th, I will publish Comeuppance to Amazon.com and Smashwords (and it's subsequent distribution branches).

Please check back here until then for some goodies I'll be putting out soon!

After a premonition warns her of a great, rising evil, Lady Hurst knows she has to do something – but to fight evil on the side of good, she must first do a great evil. As the resident witch doctor of Arthurfield, WV, she is tasked with keeping her role in the world as neutral as possible.


So when a grieving mother comes calling with her ghostly son, Jacob, in tow, Lady Hurst accepts the contract to exact revenge. Her problem now, though, is that Jacob has taken up residence in Lady Hurst's townhouse, and he's equally eager to do his murderer in. Should Jacob become corporeal before Lady Hurst can complete her contract, she may find the stakes are higher than she can handle . . .

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Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.