Monday, June 26, 2017

Got a Guest Post or Something to Promote?

Remember how last week I blogged about outlining my next urban fantasy series before starting to write it? Well, I do have some notes on the final book, but I couldn't resist diving into the first book, currently called Dryads to Discover. I'm not very far into it, as I haven't got much writing done at home the last few evenings. Still, it's a start. I'm also working on three crochet projects (I need to finish two Star Wars characters by this Saturday and a blanket by Labor Day weekend) and going through Summon the Seasons again for another round of edits. All of this sure keeps me busy, though it doesn't necessarily inspire me with interesting material for the blog. So...anyone else want to propose topic for a guest post? Or do you have a science fiction/fantasy book you'd like to promote? Please let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I have some writing and crocheting to do.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice!

The summer solstice was technically last night in the Northern Hemisphere, but I figure it's not too late to celebrate with some music, both really old:

and a little newer:

Also, happy birthday to Jenna, the Summer Avatar and heroine of Chaos Season!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Outlining a Trilogy

After I wrap up the Season Avatars series, the next big writing project I want to tackle is an urban fantasy trilogy. (I also have a partial draft of a children's book, but so far that's a standalone. I may write a sequel or two later if there's interest.) I have a general sense of the characters and the situation, but instead of plowing in, I'm trying to outline not just the first book, but the overall series. There are still a lot of unresolved questions, but at least I'm thinking not just about what the heroes are doing, but also their antagonists want, what are the worst things I can do to the heroes, and what their emotional arcs should look like. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to write the entire series before editing and releasing it, or if I'll go book-by-book the way I did with the Season Avatars series. As long as I end up with finished books that make sense, the path to them doesn't matter too much.

If you write a series, do you plot it all out before starting or do it book-by-book? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wanted: Beta Readers!

I finally finished revising Young Seasons, a quartet of short stories set in the Season Avatars universe. Including front and back matter, the collection is about 84 pages or nearly 27,000 words. Here's the word count breakdown:

"But Not Today" (Gwen's story): 4500 words
"Last Locomotive from Wistica" (Kay's Story): about 4700 words (title is still tentative)
"To Name the Anilink: (Ysabel's story): 9300 words
"Jenna's Rosebush" (Jenna's story): 7100 words

As you can see, I didn't worry too much about making sure all the stories were the same length. Now the important thing is checking how readers like the stories. I'll be reaching out to my mailing list, but is anyone interested in being a beta reader, someone willing to read the stories and point out any plot holes or inconsistencies? You'll get a free eBook when the story is published and credit in the Introduction. In the meantime, back to another round of corrections for Summon the Seasons--and also time to work on the next project!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off 2017

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is an annual contest for self-published fantasy novels. (There's also an additional requirement that they be standalones or the first in a series.) Although this is its third year, I haven't heard of it until recently. Nearly three hundred books will be reviewed by ten bloggers. Each blogger picks a favorite from the thirty or so books he or she was assigned, then of the bloggers decide on an overall favorite. The prize for winning? Glory--and a selfie stick. In addition to the main contest, there's also a side cover contest.

I've entered Seasons' Beginnings into this contest, and it's been assigned to The Qwillery. There are a lot of books competing, including some I've already read. Odds are low for any individual book making it to the top ten, but this contest is still good for exposure. If you want to follow along, there's a Facebook group set up for the contest. If you'd like to help spread the word about it, Laura M. Hughes has prepared several banners for the contest, including the one I'm using.

Thanks to the organizers and bloggers for doing this, and best of luck to all!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

IWSG: Adapt, Don't Quit!

The June blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group is sponsored by JH Moncrieff, Madeline More-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner. My regular reading are probably familiar with the ISWG, but if you'd like a reminder of how this writer's group supports other writers, you can learn more on their website or their Facebook group.

This month's question is a doozy: Did you ever say, "I quit"? If so, what made you come back to writing?

I wrote my very first novel (and believe me, it showed!) in my mid-twenties, then set it aside for a while. I didn't commit to writing until a few years later, when the Beatles inspired me to write what would become the Season Avatars series. At that time, self-publishing wasn't easy and was looked-down upon, so my 187,000 word book made the rounds at agencies and publishers. I got some interest, but never an acceptance. I wrote a second book in that series and started a third, but ultimately I moved on to other projects, such as Beatles fanfiction. Some stories, like Lyon's Legacy, Twinned Universes and "A Reptile at the Reunion," were eventually completed. Others remain unfinished. I wrote for friends' webzines and participated in National Novel Writing Month, but after shopping around a combined version of Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes and getting no interest, I stopped submitting stories to agents and publishers. Nothing I was working on seemed ready to me--or even able to break through to publishers.

Finally, Kindles and eBooks arrived. Self-publishing became easier. I did some research before jumping in, but I published Lyon's Legacy in 2011 and haven't looked back. It hasn't been a quick path to success, but it's gumption-building to take charge of my books instead of hoping to approach the right publisher at the right time. I think what's been key for me (besides being stubborn by nature) is being willing to move onto new projects and try different things. I've had to adjust my writing goals since I first started, but hopefully they're more realistic--and obtainable--now. Besides, writing has always been a vital way for me to find meaning and an escape from everyday life. If I gave up writing, I would lose a core part of myself.

What would you say to someone who wants to quit writing? Feel free to share in the comments.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Friends' Book Releases

A couple of friends I wanted to meet at WisCon have new books available. I had wanted to see if they were interested in writing guests posts for this blog, and now that my son is almost done with school, maybe I'll have time to contact them. In the meantime, I thought I'd share the blurbs and Amazon links.

David O. Englestad recently published his first book, A Call of Moonhart. I've read it and found it an interesting take on the clash of cultures. Here's the description:

Anacarra: A land of two deities that used to be one and two cultures separated by more than cliff walls and forests. The Uplanders live in concert with their goddess, fed by Her bounty and protected by the harsh terrain. The lowlanders live by following the plow and the lonely god. They've been divided for millennia -- the cultures and the gods -- and those divisions are getting more dangerous.

For Rhia it isn't even a nightmare, because nightmares fade in the light of day. But the horrific images of wanton killing and destruction stay in Rhia's every thought long after waking. That's how a calling from the goddess works and, as much as she wants to deny it, despite everyone in Moonhart eknos held some part of the same goddess-sent dream, Rhia is the one, the only one, called by the goddess. She tried to protest: she isn't special, she isn't an elder, or one of the wise. She's simply a hunter but that would have to be enough. She is called to leave all that she knows -- the safety of the eknos, her huntmate, the familiar forests and meadows -- to travel the length of the uplands of Anacarra to warn the other eknos that sinister forces threaten their peaceful way of life, forces that had already murdered and abducted uplanders without warning or provocation. Rhia must rouse the clans, spread the word, and if at all possible, rescue her mother before it is too late.

Dughal has but one dream. It was the same dream his father had, and his father before him: to lead the best troupe of players traveling the realm! Dughal holds onto as much as he can of the old ways, the traditions that hold players in high esteem. His troupe boasts the best singer, the best wordsmith who both writes new plays and crafts the old ones anew, and they even have one of the last remaining Player's wagons. Dughal thought his dream a simple one and simply achieved, but that was before they encountered those called His Own. Ascetics rarely have use for players but Dughal learns that these do, and he isn't going to like the use they put his players to. Threatened with the loss of all he holds dear, Dughal has to choose, but will any choice keep them safe?

 Catherine Lundoff recently re-released Silver Moon: A Wolves of Wolf Point Novel. It's about a group of women who become werewolves as they approach menopause. I enjoyed it when I first read it and plant to re-read it. (Let's just say menopause is much more relevant to me these days.) Here's the blurb:

Becca Thornton, divorced, middle-aged and trying to embrace a quiet life, discovers that there are still plenty of surprises to be had when her menopause kicks in with bonus lycanthropy. And she’s not the only one. The seemingly peaceful and dull town of Wolf’s Point has its own all-female werewolf pack and Becca has just become its newest member. But it’s not all protecting Wolf’s Point, midnight meetings at the Women’s Club and monthly runs through the woods. There are werewolf hunters in town and now they've got Becca and the Wolf’s Point Pack in their sights.

As if that wasn’t enough, Becca’s cute lesbian werewolf neighbor, Erin, is starting to haunt her dreams as well as her doorstep. What’s a newbie werewolf to do, between the hot flashes and the unexpected physical transformations? Can Becca overcome her fears and help the werewolves defeat their greatest enemy?

I hope you check out one or both books! 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

WisCon Wrapup

This has been one of the quieter cons for me. Some of the friends we used to meet every year no longer come to WisCon, and I didn’t connect with others that I expected to run into. (I suppose that’s what happens when you leave it to chance instead of planning something ahead of time.) I didn’t even go to any of the evening events. That’s mostly due to a combination of spending time with my family or Madison friends and not having the energy to mingle—or even bother to go to the writing salon when I could write in my room instead.

Another unusual thing about this con is that I wasn’t able to sell books. Broad Universe recently changed their rules to require members have a state sales permit to sell books and work at the table. Due to tax issues, I had cancelled my Wisconsin seller’s permit before the rules were published, so I can no longer sell books at WisCon. Only two Broads were able to sell books this year, so that was a big burden for them managing the table without more help. I set up and took down the table, but technically I’m not allowed to handle the iPad we use to track sales. Therefore, I’ve resigned from my role as events coordinator for Broad Universe. I’ve done it for several years, and honestly, it’s nice having one less responsibility in my life.

 Anyway, here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

I left right after dropping Alex off at school on Friday and arrived mid-morning in Madison. I set up the Broad Universe table with the help of another member before checking in. After a quick lunch, I attended a panel on socialism, then joined the Fiber Circle (crafting with textiles) before watching the table for a while. Once my family arrived Friday evening, we went out to dinner and then to Barnes and Noble. I discovered a new subgenre: gaslamp, fantasy set in the 19th century. The Season Avatars series has Victorian-era technology but is in a secondary world, so I added “Gaslamp fantasy” to the description to see if that will help readers find the books.

I was on a panel at 8:30 on Saturday, so my traditional trip to the Farmer’s Market was very short. The panel was about Star Wars and resistance. It was well-attended for an early panel, and the audience liked it. After that, I attended another panel on everyday forms of resistance, but it wasn’t as practical as I expected. The first afternoon panel was the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading. Six of us read for about eight minutes each, then we talked briefly about the organization. A few of us read again, so I ended up reading from both Fifth Season and Lyon’s Legacy. Following that, I attended a panel on “firing” the traditional white male SF canon. I skipped the last afternoon panel so we could meet local friends for dinner and walk around Madison for a while. When we returned to the hotel, we visited the pool.

Sunday I attended panels on lazy writing and oppression, living with climate change, and breaking down masculine stereotypes. I was also on a panel about feminist science fiction for beginners. It was a relative large panel, so I didn’t have to say much. At the end of the day, I took down the Broad Universe table before my family and I went out to dinner.

After a Monday brunch with one of the Wisconsin troopers, we said goodbye to Madison and made our way home.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Alex!

 My son turns ten years old today! I was able to find the original blog post announcing his birth here. What better way to celebrate than by looking back at all the adorable pictures we have of him? Don't be surprised if this post gets a little long...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WisCon Schedule

If it's late May, that means it's almost time for WisCon, my favorite convention in my favorite city. I'll be arriving Friday during the day so I can help set up the Broad Universe table. (I'm not running it this year, but since I'm event coordinator for the organization, I keep the table supplies between conventions. It's easier to bring them to the convention myself instead of shipping them to the table manager.) Here's a list of the panels and readings I'll be participating in this year:

Saturday, 8:30-9:45--Rebel Scum: Finding Hope In Resistance: Feeling glum about the current political climate? Join us for an hour of discussion about two of the key themes of Star Wars: "hope" and "rebellion. What can we take to heart from our favorite characters from the films and related novels, particularly the Rogue One movie? We'll talk about outright rebellion, uncivil obedience, and how you too can participate in making the galaxy a better place for all sentients (clones included!). 

Saturday, 1:00-2:15--Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading: I plan to read from Fifth Season.

Sunday, 2:30-3:45: Are you new to feminist SF and feeling overwhelmed? Do you wish there were a starter or beginners panel? A panel that talked about people you should know in this field and works that have changed this field. If you're trying to research all the names and little bites of important history that panelists talked about, bring your questions here!
Of course, I'll be attending other panels, browsing the Farmer's Market, catching up with Madison and WisCon friends, taking a turn at the Broad Universe table, and in general being very busy. Expect a full report next Wednesday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Star Wars Crochet

Although my mom used to crochet, she didn't teach me how to do it since I'm left-handed and she's right-handed. I finally taught myself how to do it from books. It was easier to learn how to crochet right-handed than figure out how to reverse patterns, so that's what I do. I've made sweaters, pillows, an afghan, a baby outfit for Alex, and even a stuffed cat, but lately I've moved onto smaller projects: stuffed Star Wars characters.

Since I don't know how to create a crochet pattern, let alone for something as complicated as Yoda, I use crochet kits such as this one and a sequel. The kits come with materials to make two of the patterns, but you have to buy your own yarn to make the others. I think the red yarn is a different weight than the other two, which is why the red stormtrooper is bigger than Yoda and the regular stormtrooper. (If you're wondering why I made a red stormtrooper, it's supposed to be a magmatrooper from the Battlefront game. My son has a red suit of armor.) The books provide step-by-step instructions for not just the patterns, but also the stitches used, so even a beginner can figure out how to make them. It does take some practice getting the expressions right, however. They work up pretty quickly, so even with my busy schedule, I can create one in less than a week. Currently, I have another stormtrooper and a Jawa in the works.

I plan to make several of these for my son, but others will be given away as gifts to other kids. Currently I'm working on a Jawa and another stormtrooper. There are patterns for Princess Leia (I made one, but I don't have a picture), Luke, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader (IMO, his face doesn't look like the character), R2-D2, Rey, Finn, BB-8, and several other characters. I'll sure be busy making them all!

What character do you think would be hardest to crochet? Who's your favorite Star Wars character? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Short Story Balance in Collections

I'm taking a break from Summon the Seasons so I can get a fresh perspective on it. In the meantime, I'm editing the Young Seasons collection. I think I've discussed that project before, but in case you don't remember it, it's a collection of four short stories, each featuring one of the Season Avatars (Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay) at a critical point in their lives before Scattered Seasons. It's both supplementary material and an alternate entry point into the series (since there's about eight hundred years between the prequel Seasons' Beginnings and Scattered Seasons.) Right now, the word counts vary widely. Here are the ranges:

Gwen's story: 4,500 words
Kay's story: 2,100 words
Ysabel's story: 9,400 words
Jenna's story: 2,700 words

I'm a bit worried that the stories may seem out of balance. Gwen's story seems to be close to "ideal" short story length. (Five thousand words seems like average short story length to me.) I do have more material I can add to the second and fourth stories, and I'll have to see if I can tighten Ysabel's story.  In the end, though, I'd rather focus on making each story as good as I can rather than trying to shoehorn them into a predetermined story length or balance. Hopefully the readers will agree once the collection is done.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Summer Writing

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, it's tempting to spend time outside, away from the computer. I have the window open in my office, but it feels like a waste of a nice day to be indoors. (Though since my son is sick, we can't do anything today anyway.) Once school ends next month, we won't have to worry about homework or school activities, though there will be other things to replace it.

They say the best way to deal with temptation is to give into it. One way I cope with summer's call is to go for a walk in the morning. It's cooler then (an important consideration as summer progresses), and that way even if it's a workday or we have other plans, I've been outside at least once. 

Although I have tried bringing my computer outside, screen glare makes it difficult to see anything. Finding a shady spot helps. My smartphone has an outdoor setting; perhaps newer laptops have something similar. Alternatively, I could always write the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.

Do you have trouble focusing on writing when the weather is nice, or do you shut yourself away from the weather and ignore it? Do summer schedules make a difference in your routine? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Formatting Fun

I've gone through Summon the Seasons once for a developmental edit, though I have a feeling there may be scenes that I'll want to revise again before I'm satisfied. In the meantime, I've been formatting the manuscript. I use a template that I bought from Book Design Templates. It's simple to use and works for both eBooks and paperbacks. I still have to comb through the manuscript to make sure everything looks right, and I always order a paper proof to check formatting. Formatting gets easier with practice, though.

How do you format your books? Do you use a special program or work with Word? Do it yourself or hire it out? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lilacs (and Tulips) of Lombard

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers, both fragrant and fleeting. Every spring, I go on a orgy of flower-sniffing. There's a park near us that's filled with lilac bushes and tulips. It's one of our  traditions to visit it every year. Last weekend was rainy, and this weekend I was sick. However, I was determined not to miss out on the bloom peak, even if my stuffed nose isn't up to appreciating the wonderful scent. Here are a few pictures from yesterday:

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