Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Release Day: THE GODLESS by James A. Moore

 James is super busy this week with his dual launches! The first is his Halloween anthology HALLOWEEN NIGHTS: TALES OF AUTUMN FRIGHT that he mentioned yesterday and the second is today's release of the fifth book in his Seven Forges epic fantasy series. If you haven't begun the journey with the Sa'ba Taalor and Andover Lashk of the Iron Hands in the SEVEN FORGES, start here. 

Seven Forges, Book 5

The long war with the Sa'ba Taalor has ended, but the land of Fellein does not know peace – only ceaseless change.

A spate of murders draw the interest of Darsken Murdrow of the Inquisition, until the hunter becomes the hunted. Andover Lashk of the Iron Hands seeks a home in a world in which he no longer fits. An unholy necromancer steals souls, makes sacrifices, and sows fear.

And in the barren wastelands of the Wellish Steppes, the army of the Godless gathers. Driven from their homeland, abandoned by their deities, the Godless now follow the banner of a new Master, and are thirsty for blood.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | Bookshop.Org

Monday, September 27, 2021

There's a fashion for that?

Yeah. Apparently this week's subject revolves around what we wear to write.

Sweatpants and a T-shirt. Sometimes socks..

Seriousiy, I dress for comfort. I ned to be comfortable when I'm throwing words at the screen. .

It's that time of season. You should rush out and buy my Hallowee books at Amazzon! If you do, I can maybe afford a new pair of sweats! https://www.amazon.com/Harvest-Moon-Tale-Beldam-Woods-ebook/dp/B07HM765LS/ref=reads_cwrtbar_6/138-4793017-7887152?pd_rd_w=6uVlf&pf_rd_p=0285128d-50e0-4388-acba-48a4a1f64720&pf_rd_r=7WDXGCPPZ5TBT94BHC7N&pd_rd_r=90c332ac-7e31-46eb-b917-72cb4f298edc&pd_rd_wg=fnG4a&pd_rd_i=B07HM765LS&psc=1

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Writer Fashion: Contradiction in Terms?

This week's oxymoronic topic is Writer fashion. Is it a contradiction in terms?

Okay, okay - that's me being a smartass. The subtitle actually asks: What do you – or don’t you! - wear to write?

I don't know about you guys, but I live in a house with a lot of windows, because I like to be able to see out. (On a total aside, I think people either like to see out of their houses or worry about being seen. I like to see out, but I'm also not gonna walk around naked.) I've been working from home for more than fifteen years, longer than I've been a fulltime writer. And, now that I am a fulltime writer, I work from home exclusively. I don't like to write in cafes, etc. And my work day consists of podcasting, actual writing, and business peripheral to writing, including volunteering for SFWA. 

All of this is to say that what I wear to write is pretty much... what I wear, full stop.

It used to be, when I had the day job, that I switched out what I wore, to help delineate writing time from day job time. Now it's all writing time! 

But I don't wear pajama pants, nor do I do the "Pantsless" thing. (Frankly I don't get when women join in with the guys talking about going pantsless - isn't this just a dress? Maybe it depends on how long your shirt is...) 

Anyway, I write while walking at a treadmill desk, so that drives most of my daily wardrobe decisions. My good walking shoes - and fave socks - are a must. Also I get warm after a few hours of walking. So, I wear a lot of sundresses. My favorite wardrobe item, to the point of being my uniform, is the Hary Dary original short strap dress, D12. In fact, I just bought TEN of them in various fabrics. Those combined with a cardigan or light jacket, along with various leggings and tank tops, form the bulk of what I wear, day in and day out.

Is it fashionable? Hard to say! But it works for me. 

Also, THE DRAGON'S DAUGHTER AND THE WINTER MAGE is out now!! Plus the rest of the Heirs of Magic series is on sale for a few more days! :-) 


Saturday, September 25, 2021

What's On My Mind: Self-Promotion

Raina Bloodgood from
The Witch Collector
Art by Katherine Quinn

This week's topic here at the SFF Seven is What's on Your Mind?

Dangerous question. I have so many things on my mind with The Witch Collector releasing in just over a month that it was hard to choose one. But I think I want to talk about self-promotion. 

I've learned some valuable marketing lessons lately, lessons I'm trying to employ. It involves me posting or sharing about my book A LOT, which felt like gloating at first. But then someone said to me: Do you tire of seeing book posts in your feed? And how many times do you actually see them? When you do see them, do you think--Oh, that's gloating!?

And the answers were: NO, I definitely don't see every post by every author I follow, and another resounding NO.

That conversation made a light go off for me. After some research, I realized that social media algorithms work very hard to hide our posts. We know this, but when it's us having to do the posting, *we* think that every single follower is seeing every single thing we put out there and that it's annoying. But the truth is that the number of eyes actually seeing our posts is very minimal in relation to our following. But more than that--Yo, these people follow you BECAUSE they want to see more about your writing life.

I also learned that out of sight/out of mind is a very real thing. If you're not keeping your book out there so that your readers and followers see it, they aren't going to think about it. Word of mouth spreads when people read our books and chat about them--sure. But it also happens when they review a book online or take a pic and post it on social media.

However, none of these things can happen if people don't know your book exists. It's like opening a gift shop in a dark corner of Nowheresville and thinking that people will automatically come knocking just because the OPEN sign gets flipped. It takes advertisement, visibility, a good product/service, and word of mouth. 

So, the sad truth is that we authors have more than one job. We have several, honestly, but Marketing Specialist is one of them. My platform of choice is Instagram because I know that my readers are there.

 **You need to go where your readers are, by the way, and figure out where they socialize with other like readers. How do they get book recs? What accounts does everyone follow? How can you get your book in that community of readers?

I figured this out for the genre I'm currently writing in, and once I began sharing more about my book, kept my posts at regular intervals, used good hashtags, and made sure that my Insta stories were constantly filled and moving, my following totally morphed. I'm tracking my growth, and since July I've added 1000 followers without doing anything wild except having a bookish feed and actually posting. My stories are now averaging 100-150 views each, which is a tremendous leap from 25-40. Now I can set goals for growth, because I know that what I'm doing is working.

All of that said, it still feels like bragging sometimes. When I share a good review, I ask myself if people are sick of my book yet. But readers WANT to see these things. This is how they know if a book is for them. And, if we're not excited about our own work, why would anyone else be?

At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you comfortable, but remember that you're a reader too. Ask yourself what author accounts you LOVE, and then maybe take a few tips from their feed. All in all, writing the book is rarely, if ever, the end of the responsibility for an author. Self-promo is its own beast, but it can help sell your book if you work at it.

**Caveat: Just like there are professional ways to market your book, there are unprofessional ways to do it too. Don't try selling your book to everyone who follows you by sending them a link. Just don't. Don't spam them. Be wise. Do it the classy way.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

When Having Thick Skin Isn't Enough

Screenshot from Libby app, library audio material app, showing The Mars Strain audiobook is now available.
 The Mars Strain available now on Libby

What’s on my mind this week changed as I listened to Jeffe’s First Cup Of Coffee podcast this morning. She talked about the old adage writers need to have thick skin in order to survive in the book business, but how that isn’t exactly the best advice/most accurate.

And it really struck a chord. When I started out writing I was managing a cancer center—I ate confrontation for breakfast and I had confidence in spades. I knew my writing was capable of moving people to tears and could earn a few laughs, and even though I acknowledged that I had room to grow and improve, I knew it was worth pursuing. 

For those that don’t know, first you have to write the thing AND THEN you have to get the book out there. It’s in the getting it out there that you need a thick skin because as soon as your work leaves your hands people will subject it to their own notions and ideals and you have zero control over how it will make them feel or how they will react to it. As an author you have to have confidence in your work or you will never reach the goal of producing a book, no matter what publishing track you choose. 

I only queried about twenty agents and received a few helpful passes, meaning they weren’t copy-paste formatted rejections. I pitched my novel to a few agents at a conference and received even more helpful passes. I had thick skin and the negative comments glanced off my shoulder as I clutched onto the praise. Yada, yada, yada—sorry, I can’t say I had a lobster bisque—but, I ended up with a wonderful agent. 

With that wonderful agent I went out on submission with the second book I’d ever written. It was exciting! It was nerve wracking. It took forever. But as with the queries, the negative stuff that came from the personalized passes glanced off and I clung to the parts they loved. 

And then something happened. Well, a few things happened and a decline in health was one of them. I’ve talked about depression before, you can check it out here if you’re curious, and it’s not something I’d wish on anyone. It’s also not conducive to having a thick skin. 

Suddenly, I found myself flinching at every pass, every turned up nose, and every negative response…including from my agent. It happened so many times that I got to a point I couldn’t bring myself to send them anything. I was mentally blocked. My thick skin had failed me utterly. 

This is why Jeffe’s ruminating resonated so deeply with me today. It took me back to that place of vulnerability and it made me realize that I’m still kinda there. I’ve paused my next steps because of it and I don’t know that I’ll ever get my thick skin back. 

But maybe I don’t have to…is having thick skin the wrong idea? 

As creatives we need to feel, we can’t stop the emotions. So how do we deflect, or as Jeffe put it, find a laser big enough to shoot down the space junk on a crash-course trajectory? 

*Jeffe, you were onto something with that analogy! I like it!*

I guess I’m going to try build a strong enough support system around me so when an asteroid hits, I’m able to lean to one side or the other and avoid getting blasted. It's bound to happen, unless I quit this crazy business, and I'll receive more passes and negative criticism on what I've written. And yes, I'll always react and have feelings, but if I can gain enough confidence from my support it'll strengthen my own shields so I don't have to laser as many.  

Having support, a community, friends that understand what you’re going through…that’s far better than having tough skin. I’m going to test out a new adage. Let’s say: to make it in the publishing business and get your words out in the word, you need to have a support system.

And thanks to my support system, The Mars Strain is officially available on Libby! Libby is the app my library uses for audiobooks and if your library uses it too, you can check it out! I think that's how it works anyway. 

What do you think?

Monday, September 20, 2021

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near YOU!

This week'ssubkect is whatever strikes our fancy, an as this is almost out, it's my fancy.

HALLOWEEN NIGHTS is the anthology that almostr wasn't.

ery seriousoy, almost didn't come up with the lust of possible authors, almost didn't ask if they were interested, almost didn;t ask the cover artiwst, the amazing DanB Brereton for cover art...

But here we are. Two months )maybe three) later, the stories are all in, the layout is complete and likely being uploaded today, tomorrow latest. All hecause I love Halloween and was thinking it woud be kind of cool if the entire book of stories was done by people who wouod actually be at an event where I wanted the book to debut. Every contriutor was supposed to be there. And then Vocid reared its ugly hed nd the event was cancelled. and because most of the work was already done, I decided to come out with the book anyways.

And here's the basics:

A Blurb, simly because I wanted to share the book with one of my writer friends and he decided to read it in one night and then decided to offer a blurb.

“Halloween Nights is a brilliant and disturbing collection of horror tales by some of today’s finest writers. Chilling, unexpected, and unnerving fun!” -Jonthan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of RELENTLESS and V-WARS

Here's that cover I mentioned, how cool is this?

And a list of stories that absoluteoy blows my mind:

The Trial of Abigail Pierce by Bracken MacLeod

1 I’m Not Gonna Make It by Christopher Golden and Brian Keene

Kettle by Dan Brereton and James A. Moore

The Cemetery On Blackwell Road by James A. Moore

Marigolds For Flesh by V. Castro

Beneath The Veil by John McIlveen

Mr. Flexxo Discontinued by Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

My Favorite Halloween Memory by Jeff Strand

Stains by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar

Hannah by Mary SanGiovanni

Night Boy by Errick Nunnally

No One Will Believe You by Trisha J. Wooldridge

Rawhead by Hilary Monahan

I'm still shaking my head over this one...

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Scraping Under Those Deadlines

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is whatever is on our minds. Which is always dangerous to ask. We're all busy people, so I'm going to bet we all have about 10,000 things on our minds, all bumping and jostling for priority.

Top of MY mind right now is preparing for the release of THE DRAGON'S DAUGHTER AND THE WINTER MAGE. This book ended up having a very tight turnaround. So tight that, as of this writing, I'm not guaranteed to make it. The clock is still ticking for my upload deadline of tomorrow evening. BUT, I'm feeling optimistic that I'll make it! I finished writing the book on Wednesday afternoon, did a final polishing pass on it Thursday morning (Including notes from beta readers who read the final chapters as I finished them), then sent it to my copy editor/proofreader. She's promised it to me by this evening - and it's looking good, as I just paid the invoice - at which time I'll make the final corrections and send it off to my formatter. (Yes, I pay a formatter rather than doing it myself. There's a lot of good reasons for that, but I won't go into them here.) My formatter is amazing (part of why I pay him to do it) and has promised me I'll have the formatted versions tomorrow. So... I should make it. Light a candle for me and show your faith by preordering :D 


Meanwhile, I've put the rest of the Heirs of Magic series on sale for the rest of September, so now is a fine time to pick up the first two books and the prequel novella.

Otherwise, I'm just hanging out here, waiting for those edits to come in... 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Writing Action

To write solid action scenes, start by understanding humans. Action is almost always the result of overwhelming emotion. If inertia is the strongest force in the universe, you need something that shatters it. That something becomes the scene’s (and your character’s) DRIVER. Example: Breaking Bad. The US healthcare system failed Walter. Rage and desperation drove him and the series. Maybe you can see how that emotion also drove the rising arc of increasingly brutal action as the series progressed.

Once you have a driver, you take human physiology into account. It should be familiar. Fight, flight, or freeze. You must know your character(s) well enough to know what prompts would make them fight, which would make them run, and which would make them freeze. Characters can progress from one stage to another. For example, you hear a noise in the house at 2AM. You freeze. It’s in your bedroom! You throw off the freeze and run for your life. It’s a bat fluttering around the room. Now you slip into fight mode – not that you’re going to start swinging at the bat (unless you are – in that case, get on with your bad self) – you’re going to shift into action. You close the bedroom door to keep the bat contained, and you open your window so the bat can escape. Maybe you switch on a light to encourage the bat to land so you can grab it in a towel and yeet it from the window. The process can go in reverse, too. Fight first, run when fighting isn’t working, then freezing and playing dead when even running fails.

Finally, it helps to consider which kind of action scene you need.

  1. Active
  2. Reactive

An active scene is self-initiated. Action results from internal stimuli (emotion, desire, longing, etc.) Key identifier: A decision or choice is made.

A reactive scene is externally initiated. Action results from external stimuli or events (being pursued, being caught, someone throws a punch.) Key identifier: Surprise.

Active scenes tend to follow a galvanizing moment. Think of Star Wars: A New Hope. The Millennium Falcon gets tractored into the Death Star. Luke finds out Leia is on the station. She’s the reason he’s in this mess in the first place. His family was killed because of her droids. He makes the decision to rescue her. (It’s common for Active scenes to follow Reactive scenes – someone comes for you – now you’re going to decide your next action.)

Reactive scenes follow a shock or a surprise. Someone jumps out of a dark alley with a gun. At its purest, most primitive, this is the leopard chasing you across the savannah because it wants to invite you to lunch the hard way.

Driver. Fight, flight, or freeze. Active or Reactive Scene.

Next: Chemistry. The primitive portion of the human brain produces chemicals when it perceives danger. Those chemicals are primal – they are old – they are bound up in survival – they can be brutal. These chemicals shut down executive function. Thinking stops. Reaction and instinct take the wheel. For the most part, emotion – except for fear – stops. Time enough for that after you survive. This is especially true for reactive scenes. Active scenes offer more leeway around thinking and feeling because the character may never tip over into fight, flight, or freeze – even if they end up actually fighting. Because it was a decision, characters can retain executive function longer and may only lose it if their plans fail.

Now you need to know the purpose of the scene. You need to know what the protagonist and the antagonist stand to win and lose in the scene. How does the action serve the character arc and the story arc?

Next, sketch out the skeleton of the action beats in the scene. (Example: Vlad jumps out of the dark into Jenny’s path. She runs. Struggle at the doorway knocks free splinter of wood. When he hits her and she falls, she grabs the wood. He picks her up by the throat. She stabs him through the heart.) Now sketch in the dialogue if it’s necessary for the scene. Go back and fill in the POV character’s sensory and emotional detail. Use a light touch in a reactive scene (in the event that Jenny wasn’t looking for Vlad and this is a huge shocker.) Layer in more sensory and emotional detail if it’s an active scene (Jenny decided to go hunting Vlad, cause this girl is done.)  Finally, flesh out the action. Focus on crisp, clear stage directions. Pierce Jenny’s hand with the sharp wood and let the blood run so you can lead up to driving that stake into Vlad’s heart. You don’t need every single move. You do need to plug any ‘how did they get there’, ‘where did that wolf come from’ holes in the scene.

Your action scenes need to result in emotion and thought after the action dies down. They should change the character(s), drive the story arc, and the character arc. Also, once you've done this layer technique a time or two, you'll just write an action scene without having to block it out so technically. And wow, hasn’t this turned into a whole-ass treatise?

Which means it’s time for the standard disclaimer: This is only ONE way to write action. It’s a tool I find useful. Pick it up. See if it fits your hand. If it doesn’t, toss it like a hot rock. It’s only as good as the help it provides.