26 June, 2017

A writer's work is never done

And that's certainly true whenever we're trying to hammer away at an ending that's been eluding us.

I'm sure you all remember my many promises to have Comedy of Rain done long ago, but what with writer's block and my recent illness this past Spring, progress got pushed further and further back. On the plus side, at least I was able to sew up some plot holes and brainstorm how to get some of my original ideas back into the ending.

See, I had to go back and restructure things from about chapter 30 on, which included merging two POV chapters into one and giving Hipólito command of that particular plot point. This pulled the plot forward, and, while I had to cut a scene I really wanted to keep, I think this greatly improves pacing and buildup for the big reveal.

But more importantly: I'm writing again, and that means progress is being made on this draft. If the inspiration holds and the Muse stays, then I look to have this wrapped up before the end of July.

Fingers crossed.

11 June, 2017

Author Spotlight: Imogen Keeper

As part of my continuing series of spotlighting fellow authors, this month I'll be interviewing Imogen Keeper.

I had the pleasure of meeting Immy through a critiquing website, and by an exchange, I got to read her Sci-Fi Romance/Erotica novel, The Bonding, before she debuted it. The novel, which is about a princess sent into space in order to save her people, focuses on the unusual bonding between a tribal space warrior and said princess. A bonding rooted in collar-loosening, hand-fanning erotic pleasure. Be sure to check it out if you're looking for a smooth read.

Anyway, let's get started: why do you write?

Immy: Hmmmm . . . I should probably say something really cool and edgy like, "I write because I must," and maybe there's a component of compulsion to it. I certainly feel a writer's high when I finish a great scene, and I feel pride when I'm done editing it and I like it.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZ5MMS4/
But mostly, I write because it feels more productive to write down my fantasies. Otherwise, I'm just in my head, being lazy and self-indulgent. I'll have the fantasies and dreams no matter what, so I might as well write them down. At least that way, I'm producing something.

You mentioned being proud of your work. What are you most proud of?

Immy: Well, I won't claim that every scene I've ever written is a masterpiece, but there are a couple scenes or characters of whom I am especially proud. I have an Urban Fiction that I'm slaving away at and I have to admit, I love that story. I'm proud of just about every sentence in it, and each character feels like a gift. Like a friend or a child almost. I love those characters intensely.

From my Romance-Eroticas, there is this one scene, it's simple and not deep or anything earth-shattering. It's just about a woman running away from police in a market in a dystopian world, but the details and the wording in it, it just comes alive. It transcends the separation of word and reader and it just sucks you in. Everyone says so when they read it. I just got the balance right. I am proud of that scene. It's from a book that should come out next year, called The Claiming.

Is that what you're working on now?

Immy: Yes and no. I work on a few projects simultaneously to keep myself fresh and my world from getting stale. That is one of the (many) books I'm working on.

Good to know. Can you talk about your process? Specifically, how you go about writing?

Immy: I don't really feel like I'm experienced enough to have a set system. I've finished two books, and have three others halfway finished, and so many more only just begun. I straddle the pants/plot bridge, doing a bit of both. Usually, I get bitten by the writing bug and pound out 10-15 thousand words.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XHD3JH6/
Then I edit that and mull it over, and reread the whole story and make changes. Switch to a new project and work on that for a while. Then come back and do another round of edits, hopefully followed by a major writing session again. Fits and starts. I do force myself to do something writing-related each day. Critiquing, reading, studying, editing, writing, debating with other writers . . . whatever it is, I have to write something every single day.

I see. Last question: what happens if you don't write every day?

Immy: The sky falls down. Kidding. Nothing happens. I go to a party, or take a trip, or have an unavoidable appointment and nothing writing-related gets done. It stresses me out, though. Sometimes more than others. I have a harder time staying in the moment, focusing on real people if I don't get some writing time in.

I'm very shy, naturally. It's a constant battle to come up with something interesting to say in conversation, and I tend to forget to listen to people because I'm so in my head. I find that I'm better able to focus on people when I do get a chance to write. I can relax more, play with my kids with more creativity and energy, talk to my husband and remember to ask the right questions, or go to a party and interact with people in a way that they don't even notice I'm weird, or shy, or awkward, or have these vivid, sexy characters chattering away in my skull.

***

Imogen Keeper has a rampant imagination for all things silly, sexy and sordid. It's hard to keep it all in, so she writes down her daydreams and her night-dreams into the form of big alpha heroes and the ladies who love them.

She was born in DC, lives there now, but did go away for a stint at college where she doubled-down on Art History and Literary Analysis. An MFA, a husband, a house, and two kids later, here she is . . . writing some steamy romance. Her professors in school would laugh.

You can check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

27 May, 2017

No deadlines

Aside from the ones I make, that is.

One of the best things about being a self-publishing author is that I can pick and choose my release dates, blog dates, etc. based upon my own schedule. Being sick these past two months made me realize that more so now than before.

There's always a catch, though. For me, a fair bit of my platform is automated. In this day and age, technology makes it easy for me to prep my posts in advance, and then I just set them up to post either weekly or monthly (depending on the material) while I work on my writing.

The problem, though, is that being knocked down by allergies, a stomach flu, and general illness for two months straight meant I didn't have the focus to sit down and script new posts so that there wouldn't be any interruptions. I've been grabbing things one at a time, getting them posted last minute (or, in the case of this past week on Facebook, posting it after the fact and just backdating it).

Even this blog post is behind from what I would normally post (noon), but at least I'm getting it out the same day, right?

All things considered, I'm getting back in the grove post-illness, so posts are getting scheduled now, and the manuscripts—gods, the manuscripts—are being worked on again. In fact, I've been on a binge this past week, and I've made it through twelve chapters of Comedy of Rain in my efforts to cut NaNoWriMo word vomit, as well as fill in the gaps for ideas that weren't as fleshed out as they should have been.

Here's hoping that I can keep up this progress through this long weekend.

Catch you all again soon!

12 May, 2017

Stay tuned for a word from our author . . .

Apologies everyone, but this spring has been killer for allergies and stomach bugs, and I'm behind on so much (blog posts included). No major updates to report, so I'm going to finish mending and getting back into the groove of editing Comedy of Rain. Chat soon!

27 April, 2017

Road to recovery

April was a bad month for me. I went from a sinus infection to fluid buildup on my ears to a horrible stomach virus. Needless to say, my writing has been suffering because of it.

When I last left off, I was deep into the edits of Comedy of Rain, compiling notes for major changes, altering snippets here and there, cleaning up verbosity, and—most importantly—seeding Kadiza's proper motivation where it was lacking. It's starting to feel more like Kadiza's story, as it should, and I'm so happy for that. Franklin, I think, still undergoes the most change, but that's only because he's finally reaching a place where he's comfortable with both Kadiza and Hipólito. We'll see how that goes, of course, as things move on.

Just as soon as I get through this draft and get the ending wrapped up (yay for Gambit Pileups!), I'll get back to finalizing Tragedy of Ice for eventual publishing. Seriously looking forward to that, since it'll be my debut novel.

Anyway, I'm getting back to the grind, so I will keep you folks updated accordingly.

Ciao!

12 April, 2017

Author Spotlight: Tullio Pontecorvo

As part of my continuing series of spotlighting fellow authors, this month I'll be interviewing Tullio Pontecorvo.

Tullio's an author who believes the greatest virtue of speculative fiction is the Socratic exercise. Suppose blank: what are your choices, what are your beliefs? In his view, a good speculative story can tell you more about yourself as a reader than about the author who crafted it, because it doesn't beat you on the head with a stick: it confronts you with a complex situation akin to those we face in every day real life. That's what goes into his writing.

So, let me start with an obvious one. What are you working on?

Tullio: Hello, Ash! Let me just say I'm very happy to be here. My main WIP is a sci-fi novel, sprinkled with alternate history. The setting is the result of WW2 ending on white peace that allowed all major combatants to survive, and led to a fractured, multi-polar international order. Throw in an alien invasion that is not really what it seems, and a wide cast of characters of different ideologies that need to learn how to work together in order to uncover mysteries far bigger than humanity, and you've pretty much got my vision on paper. I'm nearing first draft completion.

That's a lot of detail. Did you have to do much research?

Tullio: Yup, and actually a lot of it is still underway! But no biggie. I love contemporary history and international relations in and of themselves; that they influence my narrative and world building is perhaps an even bigger testament to that.

Drafting and researching? Sounds like you might be a pantser!

Tullio: Indeed! Or a gardener, as GRRM would have it. It's given me plenty of headaches – but also the burning desire to see this story through.

Glad to hear it. So why do you believe stories are so important to us, both as writers and readers?

Tullio: In my view, stories are just models of our reality. Maybe they served some very particular purpose in the darkness of the long nights of prehistory . . . I don't know. But stories are older than writing (just look at the Aboriginal Dreamtime). And they're powerful. We might have gone forward to develop more refined models with philosophy and science, but stories retain the power to convey and explain reality in scale, in bites that we can consume. Of course, the less granular a model is, the more detail you lose, and that's why, at the end of the day, it's fiction.

That sounds cool! And finally, do you have any advice for writers who are starting out their journey?

Tullio: Yes: learn structure, even if you're a pantser. Not a whole lot has changed in this regard since Aristotle, and while structure shouldn't be a straitjacket, or something you necessarily plan against, it should at least help you diagnose your story beats. There's a reason why some structures are prevalent – they are designed to keep the reader interested, and raise the stakes when appropriate.

***

Tullio Pontecorvo is an aspiring science fiction author. He studies political science and international relations, and is currently working on a near-future sci-fi novel that explores the relationship between the individual and the ideological in a complex geopolitical environment. He's also a freelance journalist.

You can follow him on his blog and Facebook page. You can also check out the article he wrote for Earth Island Journal under a different name.

31 March, 2017

"Cabover Cabaret": Behind the scenes of a marketing campaign

Afternoon, folks! First: apologies for the delay in this update, but it's a biggie, so I wanted it to be as informative as possible.

Recently a friend of mine asked what went into my marketing platforms, such as the one I did leading up to the release of Cabover Cabaret, so I thought I would transform our conversation into an informative "Behind the Scenes" look for your pleasure.

To begin with, I'll preface that I do most everything myself, so the financial cost for my marketing endeavors ultimately comes down to just my time. I'm the writer, artist, editor, layout editor, advertiser, promoter, so on and so forth. About the only thing I can't do myself is peer review, and for that I have wonderful connections via an online critiquing group that provides me the essential feedback I need to make my stories the best they can be.

First and foremost, though, I am my own agent. I'm responsible for setting everything up outside the actual writing in order to sell my product to the public. In this particular case, I had to set the deadline for myself a year in advance: I wanted to publish my next short story in February.

Plan ahead. Really far ahead.

13 March, 2017

Author Spotlight: CL Feindel

As part of my continuing series of spotlighting fellow authors, this month I'll be interviewing Christina "CL" Feindel.

Christina is the author of The Revenant, book one of a sci-fi series about Grayson Delamere, a mechanic living on the fringe of the Trisolar System, who makes her living aboard any ship that will have her. That is, until someone blackmails her into helping recover the ghost ship Revenant and rekindling the fires of rebellion against the all-powerful Federation. If Grayson wants to survive, she'll have to stay ahead of a corrupt government, her elusive blackmailer, and her own dark secrets.

To start us off, Christina, could you please tell us about your preferred tools of choice for writing?

Christina: I can only write on a laptop. My brain just rebels at having to use a desktop, tablet, or anything else. For this project, I started using Scrivener. I’m kind of a hyper-organized person, so I really love the tools a program like that offers. After using it for this, I can’t imagine going back to a typical word processor or, heaven forbid, a notepad like I used when I was in school.

I see, and do you aim for a set amount of words or pages per day?

Christina: I consider it a good day if I get at least 1,500 words on the page or, if I’m working on edits, get through a whole chapter (which is usually about 3,000 words). But most of the time, that doesn’t happen. I write when I can, as much as I can. I’ll get where I’m going eventually.

Interesting. Can you tell us a little about your views on social media marketing, and which platforms have worked best for you?

Christina: I used to work as a social media marketer for a bestselling non-fiction author, and I learned a lot from her. I don't believe you can have a successful campaign without social media anymore. Part of your success in pitching a book or a TV show or any other creative project these days lies in how big your audience already is. I think the thing that works best is just being active and available and honest. You’re building a community, not a sales funnel. People want to connect with you. Encourage that and you might just find successful sales along the way.

I agree! What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Christina: I don’t have personal experience with both, but I’ve been on the sidelines of traditional publication. It would be nice to have that kind of support from start to finish, and the resources to create a high-quality product that gets widely distributed. But you still wind up doing most of your own marketing, which is probably the part of the process beginning authors need the most help with, so the main advantage of self-publishing is retaining a larger percentage of the profits for all of the hard, often uncomfortable work of advertising yourself.

Okay, final question for today, and this is the hard one. How do you relax?

Christina: I’m kind of a workaholic. I tend to feel a little guilty if I’m not working, writing, or getting some chore off my to-do list. I also feel really good when I’m accomplishing something (even if it’s just cleaning the bathtub). So I have to kind of force myself to slow down and appreciate just being still and enjoying the current moment. Reading is a great way to do that, and I also try to work in some yoga and meditation every day.

***

Christina Feindel resides in central Texas with her multi-talented husband, Noah. While traversing academia, civil service, and chronic illness in early adulthood, she founded the whole-foods blog ACleanPlate.com and now works as a cook, photographer, and educator.

She pens fiction in her spare time, with a particular passion for character development and genre-blending. More info about her and her debut novel, The Revenant, can be found at her author website.

26 February, 2017

Five writers sit down to Google Hangouts . . .

Now that Cabover Cabaret has been published, the new year is finally ahead of me. And that means getting back to the beast that is Comedy of Rain!
"Though the road's been rocky it sure feels good to me." ~ Bob Marley
When I last updated you, the little heathen had been evading my every attempt to complete its ending. Having had my mental break from it to handle Cabover Cabaret, I came to realize that part of my problem with Comedy of Rain was that I couldn't focus on its ending while stressing about all the NaNoWriMo word vomit I'd padded the opening chapters with. I'd rehashed the plot of Tragedy of Ice so much that Comedy of Rain wasn't standing on its own.


First order of business when picking it back up was to return to the beginning. Working with the presumption that folks reading Comedy of Rain will have read or reread Tragedy of Ice before starting it, I began stripping out any details for equipment, places, history, etc. that had already been thoroughly covered in the first book. For everything I pulled out, though, I took pains to flesh out concepts and plot points that are new and relevant to Comedy of Rain's plot line. Since I have the majority of book two written, I drew in issues that Kadiza and the others would be facing, and began laying a more solid foundation for them.
"Stop making excuses. [. . .] You’re old enough to make the decision to start over and rewrite your script. Nothing will change for you until you do.” 
~ John Carlton, The Entrepreneur's Guide To Getting Your Shit Together
And then there was the other matter to attend to, the one of greatest importance. With everything I had already written, I knew Franklin and Hipólito's personal goals for Comedy of Rain, but I didn't have anything hardline for Kadiza. Which, to be blunt, was total horseshit considering she's the main character. I sat down with some writer friends, and I made bullet points for events and Kadiza's reaction (or lack thereof) to them, and eventually there was that "EUREKA!" moment where we figured out what her personal goal for Comedy of Rain was supposed to be.

Once that was settled, I began tackling Comedy of Rain in full force, shaping Kadiza's attitude and POV chapters around her personal goal, and I gotta say it's made quite the difference. Then to top it all off, I was doing an art party with two other artist/writer friends, and they gave me an epiphany for my ending.

Needless to say, I'm gung-ho toward the ending and chock-full of renewed enthusiasm for this book. If you've been following me on Twitter, then you know I've already made my way up through chapter 5. I'm striving to hit the full ending by the last week of March, so if you want to follow me, tweet exchange, and chit-chat about writings-in-progress, I'd love to hear from you!

11 February, 2017

Author Spotlight: Zeta Lordes

As part of my continuing series of spotlighting fellow authors, this month I'll be interviewing Zeta Lordes.

Zeta is currently working on a Sci-Fi novella that follows the adventures of a team of Galactic Peacekeepers. The first in a planned series of books, it will follow the efforts of a cadet trying to qualify for field duty, despite the odds being stacked against her. Like many authors before her, Zeta has written a world with endless possibilities, and is planning multiple works within the same fictional universe.

Let's get started now, shall we? Zeta, do you ever model your story characters on real life people?

Zeta: Not consciously, no. Of course all characters are a compilation of real life people, but I don’t think of people in terms of… “gosh they would make a fascinating character to write about”. My characters are strictly the stuff of imaginings.

Do you strive for diversity in your characters?

Zeta: Absolutely. With the caveat that diversity can mean many things both in and out of socioeconomic parameters. Since I mostly write Speculative Fiction, I have a lot of opportunities to write outside stereotype considerations and address diversity from different perspectives. I love messing with how people perceive the lines between differences and likenesses.

What are your favorite types of female characters to write?

Zeta: I almost exclusively write autonomous female characters. Whether they start from a position of strength or weakness, their stories are about their choices and the consequences of those choices. Even when outside forces pummel them beyond endurance (I try to do that a lot), it’s their choice how they live with that. Of course, I often use their own flaws, and even their strengths, against them but ultimately I want to expose the strength and resiliency of character… male or female.

What are your favorite types of male characters to write?

Zeta: I confess I love the Alpha type males to both read and write. No shrinking violets for me. Of course, they have to be true Alphas who deserve and give respect in appropriate proportions and situations. I recently read a book by James Scott Bell called Manliness: The Robert Mitchum Way. It was a fascinating study of the Alpha male. Sometimes a little dated, but never in areas that really count. Like my female characters, I want my male characters to come out at the end a better, wiser [fictional] person than when they started.

Last question! Is there anything you’d like to add about character writing?

Zeta: I think characters are probably the most difficult, and satisfying, aspect of storytelling from both a writing and reading perspective. That includes both protagonists and antagonists. Crawling into a stranger’s head and telling their story in a memorable way, is both liberating and limiting. Obviously it’s more work with primary characters, but I try to make nearly every character shine through in some way. It’s a complex balancing act. Ultimately it’ll be up to the reader how well I do.

***

Zeta Lordes is an author of Science Fiction and Paranormal Fantasy flavored with plenty of suspense and romance.  When she’s not writing, she’s often playing with photo projects, including book covers for herself and other author friends. She lives alone in a rambling house littered with three generations of passed down books and three cats—who have their own litter.


She’s just started reaching out on social media. You can follow her website and Facebook.

27 January, 2017

Author Spotlight: JR Creaden

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

JR is an author of Young Adult Science Fiction, and is working to publish RE: MORSE, a novel set in the distant future, which follows the journey of Hugo, a gentle teen who must become fierce to protect four aliens who've won his heart. Re: Morse is a space opera with time travel, a troublesome AI, and a mad teen scientist, and explores issues of friendship, identity, freedom, and consent.

To start us off: would you consider Contact Files to be hard or soft Science Fiction? Are there elements that cross into Fantasy?

JR: Contact Files is soft science fiction, for certain. The plot hinges on the existence and use of a time travel device (a temporal quantum field engine), and there's no such thing. Yet. Alongside time travel, there are site-to-site teleportation devices, and these coincide with matter resequencers. While these are all well-established scifi tech norms, I realize they're pushing the boundaries of true science. For now. I'm a believer in possibility.

The aliens have some quasi-fantastic traits that sit on that narrow fence between hard and soft science fiction. Telepathy, temporal "control", and meta-consciousness are all featured in the first book.

At the same time, the reality created in the book (aside from those mentioned) are drawn directly from hard science. Issues of stellar entropy, genetic diversity, biological evolution, and cosmic life cycles are at the root of the problems the characters must solve.

What do you find is the hardest thing about writing?

JR: All parts of writing come with their own challenges from my experience. In the planning stage, there's the struggle for looking for that balance between a unique hook and a familiar or believable setting. During the writing, there's the challenge of getting lost in tangent, of finding the best scenes and the best way to frame them. Once I'm editing, the hardest part is listening to critique and making the hard choices to cut or expand, rewrite or erase.

I find I push boundaries with each writing stage, honestly, so perhaps these things would be easier if I stopped trying to fight every battle at once?

Have you written works in collaboration with other writers, and if so: why did you decide to collaborate, and did it affect your sales?

JR: I'm currently ghostwriting a story for an engineer, but that project is still in development, so I don't have any sales projections. I decided to work with him, because I found his ideas surprising and strange. It seemed a shame that, since he "doesn’t write", his story would never be told without help. I'm a helper.

When I started Contact Files, I knew right away that this was an enormous task for one writer. Can I do it? Of course I can, but it may take me a decade to pour everything out. I'd love to find other writers to work with on the later books or adapting the books to screenplay.

Knowing what you do now, what advice would you give to your younger self?

JR: Don't marry a narcissist; it's detrimental to your health and purpose. Be wary of toxic people of all kinds, because you will attract them like flies as you stomp unawares through life. Stay light-hearted and open-minded, that's who you are, but don't be afraid to say "no" or to stand up for yourself.

Back up every draft, so you don't end up rewriting the same chapter five times. Seriously, losing work is extremely frustrating.

Last one: if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?

JR: Tom Robbins' Still Life With Woodpecker. If you only get one book, it might as well be a book prepared to sell you on the value of a "single" thing.

***

JR began her writing career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to herself. Her current YA space opera series Contact Files will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection.


Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that's more Star Trek and less 1984. When she's not writing, JR enjoys exchanging "your mama" jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons. You can follow her on her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.

12 January, 2017

The unveiling

It's finally done!

For those of you who've been seeing it on my Twitter feed, you know that this is the finished cover for Cabover Cabaret, my next short story due to be released tentatively 10 February 2016.

In this serial, we return to Arthurfield, WV, my crossroads for the preternatural. Here we have Reggy, a weretiger who's survived more than enough centuries to make him cynical, and yet he has found ways to remain jovial enough. His newest partner, Thomas, just started working for Discreet movers, a company that specializes in the needs of the preternatural community. Together, they'll be in for one hell of an evening in terms of weird and unusual events.

This one has definitely been a labour of love, with many a rewrite, many a cry, and many a "How the crap do I make this thing shorter—it's already 16,000 words!" Well, that last one didn't turn out the way I wanted, but that's okay. The pacing, according to my beta readers, is great enough that they didn't notice the length. I'd call that a win.

As to its release, Cabover Cabaret will be the fourth Appalachian Dream Tale, and will be available through multiple vendors, such as Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, etc. As the author, I ask that—if you can—please make your purchase through Smashwords, as they offer the best return for authors as far as royalties are concerned. I know it may not seem like much, but that kind of incentive helps self-publishing authors like myself stay committed to their craft, maintain their resources, and renew their websites. So thank you in advance, and I hope to have the pre-orders up soon for you folks!

Party on, Wayne! :)

______________________________________________________________________

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.