Thursday, July 20, 2017

Scrapbooking for Real Inspiration

I don't tend to-- consciously any way-- mine too much of real life into my novels.  Obviously there's bits and pieces, some of it more overt than others.  Well, there are two minor characters in Lady Henterman's Wardrobe who are, in fact, very real-life inspired, but I think I'm going to keep the details of that close to the chest for now.  Have to save something for the memoirs.

Now, one thing I do like to do is draw inspiration from places I've been.  A lot of how the city of Maradaine looks in my head comes from places like Mexico City (specifically Coyoacan), Montreal (specifically Old Town) and Boston.  I don't know if I necessarily do a perfect job getting those inspirations across, but it's what I strive for.

 Image result for coyoacan church
In other news, I'm going to be at ArmadilloCon here in Austin from August 4th-6th.  If you're in the area, stop by and say hello.  There might even be a shiny ARC of The Imposters of Aventil in it for you.  More details on that to come.
Now back to the word mines.  Plenty of work to do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Real Life as Subplots in the Persephone Alcmedi Series

Back in the summer of 2009, the first Persephone Alcmedi novel VICIOUS CIRCLE hit the shelves. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago, and yet...we've come a long way since then. Most of my plotting revloves around Persephone and the intracasies of the witch council and Seph's own destiny, but there are many vampire and waerewolf characters in the mix.

When I learned about local Cleveland authorities planning to demolish one of the predominant buildings I used in the story, it seemed appropriate to include it.


     Todd was blathering on about a meeting they’d just had with the Ohio Department of Transportation.
     ODOT had put a new compensation package on the table concerning their bid to buy and tear down the Cleveland Cold Storage building for the new I-90 project.   

I figured it was a great way to show that humans had their own notions and goals that had nothing to do with the non-humans. Yet at the same time, this allowed me to show their bias and hate by having the humans be snidely pleased that it was impacting the non-humans in a negative way. It also served as a mechanism to further explore and develop the heirarchy of waerewolves, as the big-wigs sent someone to negotiate for another prime location in Cleveland. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Real World Events, Gewgaws, Ribbons, & Hot Glue: Fictitious Scrapbooks

Taking real world non-fiction events and twisting them into a scene in a fantasy novel? Who does that?

Me. Totally me.

It's the twisting that's the fun part, then taking a hot glue gun to make little plastic bridges between the twists, and hoping the adhesive holds well enough that the whole story doesn't unravel. A little Modge Podge to seal it. A fashionable ribbon here. A pop-culture sticker there. Yep. Pretty much summarizes my writing process.

Yes. I absolutely burn my fingers on the glue. Yes, my hair, dog hair, and last week's mystery crumbs end up embedded in the scrapbook too. There's inevitably a ghosting fingerprint or twelve that'll identify me to the Thought Police.

In my defense, I try not to spill the bourbon on the scrapbook, 'cause that'd be alcohol abuse...and it eats through the glue. Though, it does make a great editing assistant and accidents happen.

So, scrapbooking in the figurative sense, I am a big fan.

Scrapbooking in the literal sense? Not it. No, that's wholly different talent.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I suspect that every author is guilty of this to one level or another Scrapbooking is the fine art of using real life events (yours or someone else's) and incorporating them into a tale.

In my case the one case where I can consciously say I did this revolves around a story of mine called "Burden of Guilt: my Brother's Keeper." In the story I twins who are psychically linked. The catch is, one of them is a serial killer who keeps his brother in check via emotional blackmail.

The story came to me full blown when I was watching the eleven o'clock news and saw a piece n twin brothers who'd broken the rules, climbed the fence for a pool that was closed and, sadly, managed to get themselves drowned for their efforts. '

There isn't that much in common, really, but it was enough to get the creative juices flowing.

I looked at my wife, wished her a good night and wrote the 8,000 word story in one sitting.

For me it's a rarity that I use real life as a springboard and it's almost always accidental in that I don't seek the stories out but run across them.

But the process does make for interesting tales and I know several authors who are almost universally writing stories based on actual events that simply haunt them until they work out the details in their stories and novels.

What Blender Setting Do You Go For?

We've been on a long road trip this last week, seeing all kinds of family. And leaving the cats behind, like the monsters we are. Here is Jackson showing off his best Pitiful Abandoned Kitty face.

Thus, I'm late posting today. But so it goes!

I've shared this news elsewhere, but I'm happy to share again here! Many of you have asked what I'm up to with various writing projects, including a few delayed ones. (Yes, the next Sorcerous Moons books are coming - I promise!) Basically what happened is that I changed agents back in February/March. And then I worked up something entirely fresh for New Agent Sarah Younger. Basically I gave her a list of ideas, we debated them, and I wrote 100 pages of one of her top three choices - the one I loved best. We went back and forth on it with several revisions. That's a great benefit of working with an agent as sharp as Sarah. She gave me great feedback on the book, tightening it up and making it the best it could be. Basically we spent three months working on this.

Which meant I kept setting aside other writing projects to work on the next round of THRONE OF FLOWERS, THRONE OF ASH. Thus my entire schedule getting delayed and shuffled. The beautiful part is, when Sarah took this out on submission, we had tons of interest, multiple offers, and a sale two weeks later. And here it is!!

These books won't start coming out until 2019, so now I can go back to a regular schedule. Which absolutely means finishing both the Sorcerous Moons and Missed Connections series. The other thing that happened is that Kensington, who published my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, started up a new SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) imprint called Rebel Base Books. They wanted to publish THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, but that would have delayed its release until March of 2018 and I knew you all would have fits. (See? I do love you and want you to be happy. I really do!)

So, we said no on that, but they really wanted me to be part of this new imprint, so we settled on me writing a trilogy for them set in the Twelve Kingdoms world. It will be high fantasy, which means less of a romance arc. BUT, I'm pretty sure it will be Jenna's story. For those of you who know what that means! We finished talking about that right before the other submission, so that got announced at the same time.

All that taken care of, our topic this week is Scrapbooking—taking stories from real life as the springboard for your stories and subplots. I'm going to keep this short, mostly to kick off the topic. I love Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's thoughts on "blender settings." Basically they say that all creative types take our real life experiences and metaphorically put them in a blender which produces the smoothie of our art. The big difference is what "setting" we put the blender on.

They've had to figure this out in their marriage, because they have such different blender settings. Amanda, a singer/songwriter and performance artist, has a very low blender setting. What she experiences, she turns around and shares in big chunks that are recognizably her art. Neil, as a writer of fantasy, has a very high setting - you almost can't recognize his real life in the final stories.

Neither is right or wrong - both of them are accomplished artists - but it took some doing for them to come to terms with how they each processed experiences. Especially for him with her putting so much of her - now their - personal life out there as part of her art.

What's most important is to find what works for you. My standard advice: discover your process and own it!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ins and Outs of My Newsletters

From DepositPhoto
The topic this week is author newsletters.

I have one, with about 3000 people on the e mail list and I have a separate list of about 1000 people who indicated interest in audiobooks only. The mail newsletter list is primarily ‘organic’, in that readers have signed up for it from my blog over the last five years, but I did add a few hundred people from various cross promo, list building events I tried last year.  I decided fairly quickly those events weren’t for me. There are many people in the world who sign up for these events for the prizes offered and then really didn’t want to continue to hear from the authors, so they unsubscribe and/or mark newsletters as spam. The audiobook list came entirely from a 2016 audiobook list builder giveaway and the first time I sent out audiobook news, there were about 40 unsubscribes, which wasn’t too bad. So I regard it as a solid list and feel the audiobook listeners genuinely do want to receive that content.

I only send out a newsletter when I have a new release OR some significant piece of news about something writing-related-to-Veronica Scott. On rare occasions I’ll do an NL in connection with a big, multi author promo event if I feel it would be of interest to, and potentially benefit my readers. I don’t ordinarily do NL swaps with other authors (on rare occasions I will, if it’s for an author I personally love), I never accept paid placement in my NL, I run no ads, I have no excerpts, freebies, contests or giveaways. I don’t share recipes, family news, personal stuff.

This does limit me from being involved in certain author cross promo events where part of the deal is the mandatory requirement to send out a newsletter. I will very rarely do that – it’s not my ‘deal’ with my readers who signed up, so I can't participate.

I’m just not a newsletter person. To me a NL is a ‘purely the facts’ kind of communication vehicle and the main reason I’d use it is for new release updates. The golden rule of promo to me is not to do the types that don’t come naturally.

From DepositPhoto
To balance that, I’m very active daily on twitter and on Facebook (on my Veronica Scott page) and in various scifi and fantasy romance FB groups, as well as author groups. I blog in three places regularly and I write posts for USA Today/HEA, Heroes & Heartbreakers, Romance University and Amazing Stories, plus occasional guest posts. I figure that’s enough Veronica Scott for most people!
So why do I even maintain a NL list? Yes, Amazon and BookBub and even Goodreads will send out new release alerts to people who have followed me on their sites. Three problems – the alerts don’t go out reliably or timely. In each place I have smaller numbers of followers than on my own list. Those lists ‘belong’ to the site, not me. I don’t even have access to who the people are. So I need my own list to ensure that in these constantly changing times, I can reach my readers who’ve expressed an interest in keeping up with my new releases. Or other book-related news, if something cool happens.

I’ve also gotten some very lovely reader mail back after a NL goes out.

In today’s world of publishing, everyone is looking for the next new thing. Somewhere in 2016, from my standpoint, the whole newsletter concept exploded, and authors were doing these huge list building events. I began to see certain unintended, unexpected side effects occurring, as discussed in various author groups I belong to. One effect, I mentioned above, was the set of ‘professional giveaway entering people’ who’d sign up for the prizes and then promptly unsubscribe. Another was the author getting in trouble for too many people marking their NL e mail as spam, versus simply unsubscribing. Third, readers were burning out – if there were 100 authors in an event, the poor reader might get inundated with 100 newsletters right after the event ended!  Fourth, readers are busy people and they might forget they’d even signed up for a NL as part of a giveaway weeks ago (or it wasn’t made clear to them their e mail was being harvested, which is a no-no, you have to disclose that) so when NL’s they had no memory of asking for hit their inbox, the person might get pretty upset.

And then there’s this whole idea of the ‘drip campaign’ which as I understand it, is where the author sends the poor reader a series of a mails, like gates to go through…add to that author frustration I’ve seen over “people don’t even read the NL, I’m going to delete half my list”…well, maybe the readers  ARE reading the NL, but in their e mail previewer, which might not count as an open in your particular NL tool…some people send NL’s weekly (!!!), bi-weekly….

Hello, I write books. I need to spend my time writing the books, and relevant posts for the big platforms where many readers hang out, not newsletters. I do have a PA help me with the technical part of sending the NL out, but I write the content. I don’t have the time in my life, or the patience, to manage drip campaigns and click thru rates and developing unique content just for the NL….I prioritize what works for me as a person and indie author.

I guess it sounds by now as if I’m pretty down on newsletters. I know some authors are very successful with NL’s and have forged terrific relationships with their readers because that format works so well and is a natural fit for their personality and communications style. SE Smith is an excellent example. I also love Nalini Singh’s and am happy to see a new one in my e mail whenever they show up.

After ALL that, if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter and be assured you’ll only see new releases info, with a smattering of other content, here’s the LINK. The sign up box is on my blog, at the top of the Home page.

And if you are into audiobooks, a group of authors from various genres has gotten together on Facebook and Twitter to do a giveaway July 15th through 30th. Just look for the hashtag #summeraudio

Friday, July 14, 2017

All I Do Not Know

The cat is back. Her feeding tube is out and she's recovering really, really well. My heart, however, is now in for some serious stress testing, apparently.

Aaaand, had you been subbed into my newsletter, you'd know all of this already because I just sent out a newsletter (the third in like three years) this past week. This is to say that when it comes to email lists and newsletters, I'm a learner, not a master. My email list is tiny. As in double digits tiny.

Finding how to subscribe to my email list is probably more difficult than it should be. KAK's excellent write up made that plain to me. Also plain to me is that getting my sign up put up as easily as Marshall did his? Yeah. It's not a thing. I have no way to grab my sign up box and put it where I want it. I have to send you to the Contact page on my website. Not sure why mine is coded that way. Dumb. But there you go. I will be asking my web mistress, I assure you.

My main issue with the whole newsletter/email list thing is that I have no earthly clue what to say. Ever. So my newsletter subscribers are mostly people who already know me from other endeavors - the international cat fancier's list I belong to, for example. So yes. My cats star in my newsletters. Kinda like they do everything else. As a result, I haven't ever really pushed for email sign ups.

The other issue is that I am scattered across a wide array of genres. SFR. UF. Fantasy. Paranormal Romance. In no case have any of my series been completed past two books. Usually, in a push for email sign ups, an author has something to offer - a free book, short, novella, something. And I do. But it is the sole example of sword and sorcery that I've written. So it's an odd lead-in to the rest of my list, right?


I think if we want to be really straight here, this is me. Drowning in all I do not know.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mailing Lists, Black Gate and Imminent Imposters

So the topic on hand this week is Mailing Lists, and how to do them well. Frankly, I'm still learning that one. I've only recently launched my mailing list, and my main rule of thumb is "only post when there's news".  Just today I saw a friend comment that she's on a writer's mailing list that has multiple posts a day.  That, my friends, is spamming.  I won't do that.  Heck, emailing more than once a month seems overzealous to me.

However, if you want a not-too-inconvenient mailing list:

In other news, Black Gate Magazine just recently posted a nice write-up detailing all the books, including the upcoming ones, of the full Maradaine sequence.

And speaking of upcoming books, The Imposters of Aventil is less than three months away.   And if you have access to NetGalley, it's already available to review.  And I should have ARCs to give away in the near future.  You know you want an ARC, don't you?  Of course you do.