Tuesday, April 30, 2019

And I unpacked my adjectives

Three words to describe the state of my first drafts:


I change very little of the context of my first drafts. When I'm done saying things, I'm pretty much done.


Yeah. Typos. They happen and I tend to miss them. The one time I ever hired an editor was because I needed someone to find those typos.
I used her for a few novels, and she was very good, She was also, sadly, not as fast as me.


It pains me to admit it, but I am seldom on time with my first drafts these days. I'm working on that. honest.

Speaking of which, back to the grinding wheel. these things refuse to write themselves!

Keep smiling,

Jim Moore ( Who is writing this Monday post on a Tuesday!)

Release Day: AVENGERS INFINITY PROSE (the novel) by James A. Moore

James is kickin' it in the movie tie-in business; ALIEN, PREDATOR, and now the Marvel Universe!  So if you're suffering an AVENGERS: ENDGAME hangover and want to linger in the world of the Earth's greatest heroes, buy this book today!


The Avengers journey into deep space, where they unite the intergalactic races against the Builders--deadly aliens who seek to destroy the known galaxy. While the heroes are gone, Thanos sets his sights on Earth, sending the Black Order to launch the assault. It falls to the Inhumans, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, and more to defend the planet.

It falls to the other heroes of Earth--the Inhumans, the Black Panther, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, and more--to defend Attilan, Wakanda, Atlantis, and the rest of the planet. To defeat Thanos, the defending forces will need to employ a new weapon--one that may be as deadly as the invading force.

Amazon  |  B&N  |  BAM!  |  Indiebound

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Clean, Partly Cloudy, and Fuzzy

Our topic at the SFF Seven week is all about first drafts, and the adjectives we'd choose to describe them. My three?


I write pretty clean overall, which is a blessing. I'm lucky enough to have one of those brains that retains spelling and picks out typos pretty easily. My weirdest mistake is the homonym errors that emerge when I'm in deep drafting. Stupid ones - like know instead of no. I think it's because at my core I'm an auditory learner. When my trained, conscious mind is less engaged, I revert to how words sound. Otherwise, though, copy editors love me. There's usually not a lot of minor stuff to correct.

Partly Cloudy

For the most part the story is pretty clear when I'm done with the first draft - but there can be some places that are a little obscure. My developmental edits are almost always adding, clarifying and filling in. The polishing of the first draft makes it all shine with no fogginess.


I spent way too long looking for the exact word I wanted here. Revising the first draft for me means tightening up the dangling threads. I really wanted a weaving term for this, but could only find the fix, not the adjective for the unfinished state. Sometimes I discover insights as I finish the story, so I have to go back and make sure those threads are apparent from the start. I trim up the dangling threads and sort of hem up the whole story.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Conferences: Tried It, Loved It, Stopped Doing It

Author's own photo from RT 2016
This week’s theme: Lit Cons, Fan Cons, Comics Cons: What’s Best For You?

I’ve been to NASA conferences, Romance Writers of America conferences, RT Booklover conferences and Wondercon. I’ve even done a couple of virtual conferences online and book readings fairly locally. I even got invited to a Star Trek con (on my own dime so I had to pass because it wasn’t in the budget at the time) because I’m an official Red Shirt Enterprise crew member, having read the part in a Star Trek audiobook! I had fun at all times. I enjoyed being a presenter, I enjoyed being in the audience, I loved meeting readers, meeting some of my own favorite authors,  going to parties, doing the book signings. Meeting up in real life with people I ‘knew’ on social media was wonderful!
With Author Friends at RT 2016 after a big reader event
Conferences of all types are off my radar now as far as I can see. Not to go into tremendous detail, travel is currently nearly impossible for me due to a couple of chronic medical conditions so I’m a homebody and internet denizen. I don’t even do days at Disneyland right now and that’s pretty darn close via freeway. I get to the grocery store and that’s pretty much it most weeks.

But even before that, I’d decided in late 2016 I was basically done with conferences. The travel and fees were pretty expensive for my budget and I didn’t feel the money spent was giving me a good return on investment as an independently published author. As a person having a good time, ok WOW, yes, bring it on and do more! But as a business decision for my particular small business (which a self-published author IS), I was better off spending the money on more targeted promo of my own books or paying for fabulous book covers, for example.

The experiences were priceless and I satisfied a number of my own personal goals about being a published author (do panels! do a big signing! do cosplay! Meet Nalini Singh!) But I couldn’t justify the hits to my bank account to rack up more of those fun milestones.

An additional consideration for me was that all the prep work before and the down time after that I required after a big conference and the associated travel cost me a lot of writing time while I recovered. Maybe other people can step in and out of their regular lives smoothly and do these big events with nary a ripple, but I’m not one who can.

I think my experiences go to show the truth of the rule that there’s no one right or wrong way to pursue being a published author and growing your base of readers. I tried doing cons, it was FUN OMG, but didn’t work for my particular business.

Not saying categorically I’d never do another but it would have to be a really special event that I could not resist and would require a lot of forethought.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Conference and Convention Love


I love me some cons. Comicons are my fav. Always have been. Maybe because they were my first experiences. There's nothing quite like wandering through the tables, flipping through someone's boxes of comics with your list nearby, trying to find those runs you're missing while the vendor helps search another box for the single titles you need. "I know I had some of them this morning!" Eventually, I graduated to sharing a table with some friends at a local con so I could unload parts of my own collection so I could focus in on specific artists and writers. 

Then I got to start going to RWA events. Local conferences. My first National conference where I wandered around wide-eyed and lost for most of the time, but I LOVED them. I got to listen to a few of my favorite authors in the world present classes. Thanks to Jeffe, I even got to have drinks with a few of them and to meet authors I'd never have otherwise met. Best of all, I made a bunch of new and great friends. I also trudged away laden with books. SO MANY BOOKS. I should have known I might be in trouble when there was a station set up specifically for conference-goers to ship boxes home. Yes. I did make use of it and still had to pay excess weight fees on my luggage going home. 

Eventually, I graduated to presenting a few classes of my own. And when conferences were local, I made a point of doing my damnedest to go. Still do.

I'm not to a place professionally where I get invited to speak or present at conferences. I'm working on changing it. One step at a time. The local conferences all comp a part of your conference fee if you present workshops and that works for me. If I succeed at rising from the ashes of my own publishing career, maybe I'll come up with a workshop about how to pull off a phoenix stunt of your own. Guess we'll see. 

On another note, if you'd like to enter for a chance to win one of two $25 gift cards, come give a few likes to a couple of PNR, Fantasy, and SFR authors. Yes. Many of them write shifters. So if that's your thing, c'mon down. You might find a new favorite author or three. Or four.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Con Appearances

Man, I love a good SFF-lit con.  I wish I could go to more, but any that involve travel, unless I'm invited as a guest of honor, is out of my own pocket, so... I have to make judicious choices.

Especially since the fan-run, SFF-lit con is... maybe not dying, but it's definitely in an "evolve or die" place right now.  I see some of them evolving, and I see some dying.  Which is a shame. I will go to the bigger media comic-con if it's feasible (I'm at Comicpalooza in a few weeks!), but I find them less than useful for novel writers.  It's the difference of an event with 800-1000 people, who are pretty much all into books, and an even with 50,000 people, but only a sliver are into books.

However, I definitely feel like my local fan-run, SFF-lit con is on the "evolve" side of the coin, and each year it's gotten stronger.  And that would be ArmadilloCon, and HOLY CATS check out who's the Toastmaster this year.  YES IT'S ME.  So if you were looking for an excuse to check out ArmadilloCon this year, here you go.

BUT if  you need more reason, check out the Writers' Workshop, which is a fabulous one-day intensive workshop. I highly recommend it for beginner SFF writers looking to improve their craft.

And if you've got a con and you want me to come? Invite me!  I'd love to come.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lurking in the audience at your con. Not creepy at all.

I love going to cons: fan, lit, gaming, comic, anime, and all other cons. Like, love love those things. My family and I attend the local science fiction literary convention here in Austin every summer, and have for roughly the last 20 years. I've been to World Con, PAX South, ApolloCon, AggieCon, Chupacabracon, A-KON, OwlCon, and, most recently, Coastal Magic in Florida.

Only one time have I been invited to attend a con as as writer. (Thank you, Coastal Magic 2019. I just want to hug the whole idea of you!)

Let me tell you, being a writer at a con is a trip and a half. Don't know if it was my lofty seat at the panelist table or having that featured-writer color-coded badge (eee!) that turned the whole universe on its head, but for four whole days, other writers didn't run away from me when I smiled at them. Even better, when I approached a group of them, they didn't huddle in closer toward each other and desperately ignore me, as if I might suddenly break in and force them to listen to an impromptu pitch for my 400k-word unpublished epic about squirrels. I mean, they let me into their conversations, even sometimes invited me! Also, readers struck up conversations with me, and most were kind enough to ask about my books. When I went to panels other than mine and sat in the audience, the panelists treated my questions seriously, as if that badge magically meant that I have a clue what's going on. (I don't.) It was... I dunno, like an alternate universe.

Also, I most likely won't do it again.

For one thing, it was really expensive, and if we are being gentle, we could describe my career thus far as one hell of an IRS deduction. And in terms other than money -- expertise, wisdom, that sort of thing -- I'm not fancy enough to do this on the regular. I still feel like a noob who needs to learn so much and is completely undeserving of that alternate-universe level of respect.

So yes, you are likely to run into me at a con. (I couldn’t avoid those cuties if I tried.) But no, you probably won't realize you did.*

* Unless we make arrangements and text each other, and then I will buy you a drink at the bar and you can tell me all about your squirrel epic. I love squirrels. Chupacabracon in May, ArmadilloCon in August: if you're going to either one, let me know and we'll meet up!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Indies at Cons: You're Welcome as a Reader, Not as an Author

Here at the border to the Midwest, we have a lot of book cons within driving distance. Small ones, huge ones, genre-specific, generalized, library-sponsored, city-sponsored--not publisher or Hollywood sponsored, mind--but if you got an itch, we've got the festival with the book on backscratchers.

The catch for me? I'm a self-published author, which for the sad majority of the conference organizers means I'm not a "real" author. I'm welcome to attend as a reader, but not as a professional. "Thank you for interest, but call us when we can find your books in Target." It makes choosing which cons to attend really simple: if the Con welcomes Indies and treats them equal to trad-published authors, then the odds of me participating vastly improve.

Now, there are Indie-specific cons, but it's an author-beware sitch. Too often, they're akin to MLM trade shows, where you're the prey and the "networking" is with vanity publishers, "PR" spammers, and book "doctors." Also unless it's a genre-specific con, most of the Indie stuff is targeted at non-fiction authors. When it comes to those type of cons, the emphasis is on the "con." You're better served handselling books at a local fair.

Locally, there is an exception to the Unwelcome Indies trend. One part due to the genre to which it caters (hello, Romance) and one part to the tenacity of the organizer who embraces the community as a whole. I'm referring to Lori Foster's Reader & Author Get Together (RAGT) that welcomes trad and indie authors for a weekend of hanging out with readers and an open-to-the-public book sales/signing event. It's a pay-to-play event, with conference revenues going to local charities. It is, in essence, a fundraiser more so than a con. Mad props go to Lori Foster and her team of organizers who persevered through all the lumps and bumps over the years of integrating indie books into the event. (The onsite-bookstore had challenges offering indie books, what with the inability to return unsold stock among other issues. Lori and her team continue to revise solutions while offering ones that work best at the time for all.) 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Sigh. Conventions,

Here's a sad fact of life. I am a midlist author. 

I mean, I make a living at this, but sometimes it's damned close as to whether or not I'll be able to make the rent work out on any given month. 

I love conventions. I have a great time and while they are often exhausting, I also get a different sort of energy from them. I am often revitalized by even the madness of massive conventions. 

That said, there are very few conventions I am willing to pay to attend. Not that I don't want to, but, again, I have bills to pay and a great portion of my life can easily be qualified as Russian Roulette for authors. Will I get that check I was promised this week? next week? Next month?

If it's a local convention I can probably be got for a free pass. If it's further out, I have to seriously consider whether or not it's worth the cost of a hotel room, even if I'm sharing the costs. I mean, I have deadlines, and how much of my life is going to be changed by attending that convention? The older I get, the less likely it is I will make the effort for a convention that isn't ponying up for a free pass, transportation, and a hotel room. I can make the rest of it up on my own, but the cost of a hotel room, especially for some of the conventions in bigger cities, can be absolutely obscene. 
I'll be attending Dragon-Con it Atlanta this year. I love Dragon-con. Last year it broke 80,000 people and the air is often a wall of sound. When I was younger and lived in the Atlanta area, I could make the drive down to the city, spend fifteen or so hours there and then drive back. With a little caffeine in my system, it was survivable. 

These days? I need a hotel room to move into when the white noise reaches the earthquake levels. If I don't have a room, I'm not likely to attend.  I'm getting older and despite my beliefs when I was younger, I am not immune to the effects of that fact. 

I'm a midlist author. I know plenty of people who get invited to conventions all over the country. Despite the fact that I have written horror for over 2=twenty-five years, I have never been asked to be a guest or guest of honor at the World Horror Convention when it existed, or for the Horror Writers Association. Frankly, I'm not holding my breath. The likelihood of me attending one of those conventions that is more than driving distance away is incredibly slim. 

They want to invite me and pay for a room? Sure. If I'm up for a major award I can probably make it happen (not likely) but aside from that, if it ain't in my backyard I'm not taking the extra effort these days.  

Are the conventions worth it? Absolutely if you pick and choose. But the fact of the matter is, I've made most of the connections I need to make, and while I would love to spend a dozen or more weekends at conventions around the country and the world, I am simply not in a position where I can afford the loss of revenue and time if there isn;t a bit of compensation in the equation. not a fee. I can make that up, but at least a comped room and transportation. 

Until I have a few bestsellers under my belt, or maybe a movie deal, that's the equation I'm going to have to stick with. Or, you know, until my publisher pays for a book tour, and trust me that ain't happening.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Show Me the Money! (Or at Least Don't Make ME Pay)

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Lit Cons, Fan Cons, Comics Cons: What’s Best For You?

I imagine there will be a variety of replies to this topic - and maybe someone will take on defining each - but I'm taking a bit of a slant and talking about the stance I've taken on conventions in general.

Aside from professional conventions like the RWA National Conference or SFWA's Nebula Conference, which I attend for my own networking, craft improvement, etc., I've established a personal policy of not attending conventions that ask me to pay my own way.

Now, there are some gray areas here. The panel above - where everyone is clearly RAPT by the wisdom I'm sharing - is at Bubonicon here in New Mexico. It's a "local" SFF convention that I attend most years for various reasons. They don't pay my travel, but they do comp my registration. And it's close for me, and staffed by a lot of people who do many things to support my books.

That tends to be the model for a lot of smaller fan conventions: they invite authors, comp the registration (or sometimes only reduce it), and provide opportunities to network with readers. Unless you're a GOH (Guest of Honor), however, that's as far as it goes.

Romance fan conventions tend to offer a much worse deal. I can speculate on the reasons for it (though I won't), but a number of "reader conventions" sprang up in the last decade or so that not only required authors to pay all their own expenses, not only never comped or discounted registration, but also required authors to pay full registration or significantly MORE than readers paid, and then repeatedly urged authors to chip in even more money for gifts, meals, promo, etc.

In essence, these cons sustained themselves on the author's dollars, relying on them both for content and to pay for the con. In return, they offered exposure to readers, but very often even that fell flat, with the con mostly attended by other authors and the readers that did attend were frequently regular attendees or existing fans.

I stopped doing these.

Not because I didn't have fun - I often did! - but because I was paying a sometimes HUGE amount of money to gain maybe a few new readers at best.

I have come to see this as a matter of treating myself as a professional author. I don't pay anyone to publish my work. Money should flow to the author. Thus, I won't pay anyone to have me at their con.

The other day I shared a tweet thread from Seanan McGuire on the topic
She makes really excellent points. Which I'll bullet a few salient points in case you don't want to go to the tweet thread, though she puts it better.

  • I go where I am invited. I don't (usually) charge an appearance fee, but I'm a full-time author; I can only afford travel that's subsidized in some way, usually by a convention.
  • When we appear at a con near you, it's because someone said "hey, invite _______," and we were offered travel costs, room, and a certain amount of cash for food in exchange for being your hired entertainment.
  • I don't go to cons to "have fun." I enjoy myself, absolutely, but I am all too aware that my presence has been paid for, and I want the con--and its attendees--to get their money's worth. I'm not insulting your con by not having fun. I'm doing my job.
  • If you want me--or any author!--to come to your area, you need to ask for us! Suggest us to your local conventions; suggest us to your local libraries. We are like vampires. We go where we are invited, and where the food is.

That about sums it up for me. I love going to cons, but I have to budget where I go. I don't expect to make money off of attending. At the same time, I won't come away in debt.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rejection Marshmallows


Our topic this week has the intense title “Knife in the Heart: The Harshest, Meanest Rejections from a Publisher/Editor/Agent.”

I want to be respectful of my fellow SFF7 authors, some of whom have told really painful tales this week and I sympathize with them and everyone else who’s suffered this type of trauma, versus the one star review on a book situation or any other type of feedback, like a job performance evaluation.

But here I am again, the SFF7 maverick without much to say. All I can talk about are marshmallow type rejections. (By which I mean they didn't carry any extra hard edges...)

I never wanted an agent so I never subbed to any so I have no rejections there.

I’ve never received a mean or harsh set of notes from an editor. I’ve gotten all kinds of notes of course, including my personal favorite where I had the brilliant idea to have my alien who could be invisible leaving visible slime trails. Um, okay, time to rethink THAT plot point for sure. The phrase ‘slime trails’ is now a catch phrase in my family. But it wasn’t pointed out to me in a mean or derogatory fashion. More of a tongue in cheek “I think you have a problem here.”

I didn’t really pursue becoming traditionally published so I don’t have stories from the trenches of subbing things to gate keepers. I did send a few stories to magazines in high school but it wasn’t much of a serious attempt to become published. I was such a newb to the whole idea of publishing – I had no idea what I was doing. I still can’t understand why TEEN didn’t fall all over themselves to buy my fabulous romantic short story between an American student and a dashing matador (no doubt heavily influenced by the Harlequins I was reading at the time but certainly not up to HQN standards); however the rejection was the standard form letter. I even got a rejection from ANALOG, from Mr. Campbell himself…but yup, form letter. I never received a personal rejection.

I believe once or maybe twice in the intervening years while I was pursuing my career in business at NASA/JPL I might have gotten myself energized to type (no word processor at that point) an entire science fiction novel, put it in a box, add the SASE and send it off to the general address for a publisher. But again, I had no idea what I was doing, knew no other authors, hadn’t a clue about writing to market or the essentials of the craft…so eventually a form letter showed up and I wasn’t too surprised.

In late 2010 I decided I could now make the effort to really hone my craft and do my best to become published. In 2011 Carina Press acquired the first thing I ever submitted in that iteration of seriously working to become published and in 2012 my first book was released by them. So, again, no rejections.

I did get a few after that, including a revise and resubmit letter from Carina on the second book in my projected series, but again, all professional, collaborative, nothing unpleasant. I subbed something to Harper Voyager (? I think maybe it was them) and made it past the first round before getting a nice form letter email of rejection. By then I was full blown on my self-publishing career and have never been in a position again to encounter gate keepers with the power to say hurtful things to me.

I just have to keep pleasing my readers and that’s a pleasure!
As it happens, this past week my eighth book in the ancient Egyptian paranormal connected series was released. (The title that Carina Press acquired was Priestess of the Nile.) Yes, mostly I write scifi romance but I like to treat myself to a total change of pace and visit 1550 BCE at least once a year.

Here’s the blurb for the new book, Song of the Nile:
Merneith, a harpist of rare talents, blessed by the goddess Hathor, has recently arrived in Thebes and joined Pharaoh’s court, but must hide secrets from her past. As she settles into her new life in the palace, the one man she can’t forget and followed to Thebes is unaccountably absent.

Nikare, a Medjai police officer serving under Pharaoh’s direct orders, is now deep undercover investigating high crimes against Egypt and forbidden to contact Merneith. Masquerading as a priest to deceive the plotters, he watches over her from afar and longs for the day he can approach her openly.

When an unscrupulous noble ensnares Merneith in the web of evil Nikare is pledged to bring down, the two must stand together against earthly and magical forces to save their own lives and protect Egypt.

How much help will the gods provide? Will the pair survive the final showdown between Pharaoh and the conspirators and find the happy future together they desire?

This is a standalone novel but is also a direct sequel to Lady of the Nile, which is where Merneith and Nikare were first encountered as supporting characters. Now they move front and center in the fight to protect Egypt from a new threat. Mild spoilers for Lady of the Nile.
Buy Links: Amazon     Apple Books     Nook     
Coming soon: Kobo and   Google

Friday, April 19, 2019

Rejection Stories.

Today's photo brought to you by He Who is Fussed By Nothing. This is Crow, 'helping' me get this manuscript finished.

As to godsawful rejection stories. Mine is pretty tame, but I do still hold a grudge. So there is that.

One of the great benefits of having gone through an acting conservatory program was that we actually had training in how to handle rejection. There were rules. First rule was: It's never, ever personal. It may FEEL personal, but it's not. It could happen that you'd walk into an audition situation and a casting director would stop you and send you home before you'd even opened your mouth. How was that not personal? Easy. You had to realize that you probably look like that casting director's ex and there's not a damned thing you can do to counter that.

So when I screwed up the courage to start submitting my writing for publication, I figured I was pretty well adjusted for handling rejection. And to be honest, for 99.9% of the time, I absolutely was. Mainly because the rejections were all so professional and nonjudgemental. It's all been stuff like, "I just bought a story on this same theme. Sorry." That was my very first rejection and was from Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was a sweet way of laughing in my face and not saying, "OMG, this tired theme? Again? Did you not read or pay attention to my guidelines at all??" It's only after years of rejection letters that I've learned to read between the polite lines to the core of what an editor wants to say with their carefully worded 'thanks but no thanks' letters.

And then.

I subbed a story I very much loved to a small house that still exists (and which, will therefore not be named.) I'd talked to the editor at conference and been invited to sub. The rejection letter I received straight up said, "Writing's not good enough." Those exact words. You may deduce from this that the editor was male and you'd be correct. At the time, other writers shrugged when I raged over it. "Eh. It's the business. Get over it." No. It isn't the business. That's the point. It's an opinion. It's a value judgement in a business were editors have no professional business telling writers their work isn't good enough. Do it on Facebook and people will call you out for shit posting. Professionals stick to facts. The facts were that my work wasn't appropriate for this editor's line(s). Fine. Say so. That's a professional, business oriented rejection. I don't require a break down of what it is about the work that doesn't work for someone. That input is ALWAYS appreciated, but never expected.  The professional, no value-judgement rejection is what the romance industry has pretty much mastered and has been the standard rejections I've received. Except for this one editor (who no longer works in the business, much to my satisfaction.)

Does that make me petty? Good. I'm comfortable with that. The best revenge is to have been published, won awards, AND outlasted the jerk judgy.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Harsh Rejection Stories

My story isn't technically a rejection story, but it's right up there.  It's as devastating. I was on one small, private on-line critique group.  The set-up was pretty casual: upload things to a shared folder, and then critiques are either A. sent via group email or B. also uploaded to the shared folder.  No specific timeline, just put it up and people will get to it or not.  Because of this system, I had some things up there that I wasn't actually seeking critique on anymore.  I hadn't taken them down, mostly because I wanted the other members of the group to be able to look at the whole body of work/larger plan if they were so inclined.
And then I got this on one manuscript.

I made it no further than page 5 before nearly chewing my left arm off in the frustration of knowing that a writer with a great imagination, a lot of drive, and most likely a wonderful story to tell hasn't bothered, after all these years of effort, to learn the basics of story crafting. To improve your writing, you need to, at the very least, read some well-crafted books and analyze the plotting, sentence structure, foreshadowing, and subtlety of the writers' works. No one is born knowing how to write or craft a story. Those are skills that take some effort to learn. You could be a great writer. If you don't put in some study time, all your efforts and talents are wasted.
Wow.  That's brutal, no?

That's the sort of critique that could send someone running for the hills.  Heck, that's not even a critique, that's a dressing down.  

Fortunately, I just laughed at it, and then promptly deleted myself from that group.
Because the manuscript in question was The Thorn of Dentonhill, which at that point had already netted me an agent and was out on submission.  And it was bought by my publisher just a few weeks after I got this.  I mean, what exactly was this person trying to accomplish with this critique?  I'm not sure.  But I feel like they were trying to just grind me down.

This business is tough, and you do not get handed anything and certainly don't deserve anything you don't earn-- you don't just get handed accolades and awards and film options-- but you need to keep pushing on as they try to grind you down.  Success could be right around the corner, and if you let them beat you-- you let a drubbing like that one up there break you-- you won't get there.

Don't let it grind you down.  Because every rejection and drubbing can be followed by that call.  Be ready for it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Thank you for that rejection. No really.

In preparation for this blog post -- ha! you thought I never prepped these things in advance and just wrote them all stream-of-consciousness style on the day of, didn't you? -- I scoured seven years worth of emails, beginning with extremely unwise submission of some very bad short stories. Despite the universal ickitude of the crud I foisted upon these editors and agents (and interns), I couldn't remember any stand-out scathing rejections.

So I wasn't entirely surprised when my search yielded...nope. Not one mean note. That's not to say there weren't a metric crap-ton of "this isn't a good fit" or "keep trying, noob" or "not interested at this time" form phrasing. But everybody was super polite with their language. (Nobody used the word "noob." I just put that in because it's a fun word and lack of professionalism suits me.)

Anyway, I'm not sure if I should be flattered or disappointed by the unbroken monotony of vague, bland rejection. I mean, it took time and energy for editors and agents to compose the passionate rejections littered with Shakespearean insults that other folks received.

And then, somwhere in the fog of 2015, I found it, the exception. The one rejection that was personal, different, dare I say brutally honest. It wasn't cruel, but it was super, super true, and I wish I'd paid more attention to it.

I'll paraphrase so I don't embarrass this person, but an editor said, basically, "Kid, you need to decide whether you're writing science fiction or romance, cuz right now you could go either way with this book, and readers aren't likely to dig that kind of wishywashiness. Pick a freakin side."

If you read that book right now (because sadly, I did eventually convince someone to publish it), you'll find yourself nodding and agreeing with that honest editor. I know I do. That unnamed-here person taught me a valuable lesson in knowing the market and realizing that all the fancy words in the world ain't gonna sell a book that can't decide what it is.

So, I'm not being sarcastic in the least when I say thank you, editor who rejected my manuscript. And also? Truth is always valuable, even when it hurts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Worst Rejection: Public Scorning

Worst rejection I've ever received from an agent or editor?

Public Scorning
Once upon a writers' org, we used to have editors from agented-only publishers hold open submissions for a finite period to unagented authors. We'd post our query to the forum and the editor would respond with their asks or passes. For those who received requests for fulls, the editor would comment on what part of that query piqued their interest. Great opportunity and learning experience...until one particular editor posted her pass on my submission. It wasn't the canned "thank you but not for me" that was used on other passes. No, my query was special enough to merit a diatribe, wherein the words "disgusting" and "unthinkable" appeared. And she didn't keep her scorn limited to the work, she decided to light into me too. Something in the mere 200 words summarizing the opening of a fantasy romance had teed her off.  If the editor had chosen to unload her vitriol in private via email, that would've been harsh, but I would've gotten over it. The public lambasting? Yeah, that makes it memorable. 

Bonus "Worst": "No answer means no."
Back in the days when agents were moving from hardcopy queries (see Jeffe's Sunday post about the beloved SASE) to email/FDM queries, a no-good and very-bad trend cropped up among the agents. In response to the deluge of emailed queries, agents and agencies adopted a "No answer to a query meant no interest" policy. ~facepalm~ No answer turned out to mean a lot of things. Mostly that technology is only grand when it works as designed, and back then filters and private servers worked less reliably than now. Lots of queries disappeared into a void, worse, requested materials were also gobbled up by technology gremlins. Once in a while, silence meant the agency was one of those outfits that respond five years after receiving a submission. Far less often did silence mean, "I have received, read, and rejected your query." From an author's perspective, the silence policy ended up being a poor excuse to avoid the bare minimum of professionalism.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Sound of Silence?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Knife in the Heart: The Harshest, Meanest Rejections from a Publisher/Editor/Agent. I think this is a great topic because it's always good to hear that *every* author receives rejections. While 99% of them are usually vaguely kind, there's always some who have to be vicious about it.

Arguably the worst rejection is the one you never receive. Send out a submission, you can even do it old school with SASE and everything and wait. And then wait, and wait and wait. It sucks. 

The worst I ever got was pretty nice. That might be because, for the majority of my writing career, I've looked like a Viking with enough rings on my fingers to remind many people of brass knuckles. or it might be because I'm a relatively nice guy. Or it might be the luck of the draw, but I've heard a few stories that would have very likely ended with me using those very rings to rearrange the position of oh, every part of a face. 

One of the very worst I ever heard was a truly nasty letter coming back from a small press editor who told the writer that he should consider any career but writing as his words were poorly chosen, his plot was derivative and his characters shared one voice. 

Personally? I think the editor was having a bad day and took it out on someone who didn't deserve it.

My personal worst wasn't all that long ago when a publisher told me, through the editor, that I was invited never to submit again. I don't take offense, I just move on to other opportunities. Once again, I suspect a bad day and possibly annoyance that I wasn't maintaining the publisher's "vision" for their company.

The end result of that sort of nastiness was in the case of my friend, reminding that fellow writer that editors are only people and like all of us their opinions vary. I also pointed out that the press was minuscule and the editor was very close to an unknown quantity. Said press long since went belly up and I have never heard the editor's name again. Be an ass often enough and you, too, can be forgotten in what is really a rather tight-knit industry. Seriously, the number of people who are editors and writers both is rather substantial. Most know better than to be jackasses. 

It should all be taken with a grain of salt. The people who offer help are wonderful for their efforts. The ones who offer a serving of piss and vinegar are usually only hurting themselves. I am far more likely to remember an editor who offered me a serving of feces than I am to remember a form letter. The difference is I'm willing to forgive the form letter and I am fairly confident that I am not alone in that. 

Here's the sort of thing that can take the sting out of a mean-spirited letter. Some praise for BOOMTOWN. A few of these were utterly unexpected and very kind. They also come in several cases from peers I both admire and respect. 

"A good weird western is a rare find, and Boomtown is very weird and very, very good. James Moore's effortless prose puts you in the company of fascinating characters as he subjects them to enough bizarre mayhem for three novels by any other writer.  You won't be able to put this one down, folks."  F. Paul Wilson--Author of the Adversary Cycle series

"Boomtown... F@*k. It's amazing. The way Moore captures the snowy landscape, the beauty and the absolute horror of what's happening within it. I loved the moral complexity, loathing humanity but knowing life is so precious, the way Moore writes so honestly about most of these guys being racist ... It's a really powerful book and I'd be very happy to say that anywhere."
                                                                              --Anna Smith Spark, Author of the EMPIRE OF DUST trilogy

"Just finished reading BOOMTOWN by James A. Moore. Holy moly! This is the kind of weird west that defines the genre. Read this now." -- Jonathan Maberry -- Author of the Rot & Ruin series

"I can't recall another author who can write of walking dead men, blasphemous sorceries, Native American legends come to life, immortal hunters, and neverending horror--and still elicit chuckles in the reader with subtly unannounced humor. Then, too, is Mr. Moore's complete obviation of the need for suspension of disbelief. As in others of his books, the reader is immediately absorbed and immediately believing.

BOOMTOWN is a "Weird Western". There's a lot of violence and grabby greediness and political incorrectness which we might expect from the culture of the day (the era of the American Civil War) but there's so much more. Skinwalkers and animated dead men; monsters which might even make Lovecraft quail; and an immortal Hunter, Jonathan Crowley, who is neutral in character, neither good nor bad nor in-between. In this era he is in effect a 19th century scientist like Darwin or Alfred North Whitehead, traveling the globe seeking out flora and fauna to study.

I can't imagine any reader not adoring BOOMTOWN, but I especially recommend it to aficionados of horror, grimdark fantasy, and Weird fiction." --The Haunted Reading Room.

"On the Weird Western front…well, Moore certainly doesn’t skimp there either. Carson’s Point is positively littered with all kinds of supernatural hijinks, although the primary nuisance here is the skinwalker and his creations. The skinwalker is able to reanimate the dead and he calls forth a band of Native Americans slaughtered by former soldiers now resting easy in the settlement. Although there are zombies aplenty in Boomtown, in the case of the Native American undead Moore puts a nifty little spin on this trope that really helps separate them from your usual pack of shambling brain-eaters, which I appreciated greatly.
Boomtown is a dark and very effective work of wild west horror, and Carson’s Point is densely populated with monsters, both human and otherwise. American expansion and settlement into the west was certainly a perilous and tumultuous period of US history, to put it lightly, and Moore doesn’t shy away from the violent and inhumane aspects of the era. While several women fall victim to rape and children are counted among the murdered, Moore never writes such scenes in a salacious, leering, or gratuitous manner. Even spared the grisly details, one depiction of a helpless child’s murder managed to hit hard. Sensitive readers may still wish to prepare themselves, although, thankfully, such mentions of sexual assault and child death are kept very brief and directly to the point. Boomtown does not offer a romanticized view of the American west, but a gritty horror story of predators and prey, and, in keeping true to the period being written of, the violence that ensues." --HighFeverBooks.com 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Still Bleeding - the Worst Rejection Ever

I had to share this tweet from Agent Sarah. We got the cover flats for THE ORCHID THRONE (out in September 2019, but review copies are going out now - eep!) and they have foil! That's the shiny stuff on the cover. It shows best in the video from her tweet, but here's a still pic, in case the video doesn't play. Super cool, huh? It's my first cover with foil, and it's SO PRETTY!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Knife in the Heart: The Harshest, Meanest Rejections from a Publisher/Editor/Agent. I think this is a great topic because it's always good to hear that *every* author receives rejections. While 99% of them are usually vaguely kind, there's always some who have to be vicious about it.

This was on my mind the other day because there's one rejection I received about 25 years ago, when I was a super newbie author - and it was so mean I STILL THINK ABOUT IT TO THIS DAY.

I know, I know - I should really let it go. For the most part, I really have. I don't feel bad about it, but I do remember the words from this editor and they float back into my head from time to time.

So, I'd made this Huge Life Change™ and gone from a PhD program in Neuroscience to working as an editor/writer for a petroleum research group. The job had flexible hours, paid well, and let me develop my chops as a writer. I'd decided I didn't want to be a research scientist and wanted to be a writer instead. As part of this effort, I took courses from visiting writers at the university. One of the first was the class Essays on Self and Place. Thus, my early writing efforts were personal essays, also known as Creative Nonfiction.

(In fact, my first book was an essay collection: WYOMING TRUCKS, TRUE LOVE AND THE WEATHER CHANNEL.)

But before that happened, I was doing the magazine circuit. I'd send out work to places that published essays, from literary journals to commercial magazines. And I sold essays to that broad gamut, with my biggest score an essay I sold to Redbook for $1/word. I built this career largely through writing a lot and sheer tenacity. Which, come to think of it, is what I still do.

I'd read a piece of advice from some author I can't recall now to treat submitting like a game of ping pong. You submitted work, and as soon as it got rejected, you batted it right back out to another venue. I even called my folder of essays I was actively submitting "Ping Pong." I had a rule that I had to have every finished piece on active submission at three places at one time. As soon as a rejection arrived in the mail - and these were the days of paper printouts sent in the mail with a self-addressed, stamped envelope (the infamous SASE) - I had to whack that essay back out right away. I kept a list of publication venues (in a spreadsheet, OF COURSE), in order of preference, and I'd just go to the next on the list.

All in all, this approach worked very well for me. Treating the submission/rejection process like a game helped to take the sting out of rejections. It also meant I got a LOT of rejections. Every time that envelope showed up in my mailbox, addressed in my own hand, I'd feel the pain. They almost never *accepted* via the SASE. An acceptance came via phone call, maybe email (depending on the year), or as a thick envelope with their own postage containing a contract. Maybe even a check! I always wondered what they did with my SASEs in those cases, but it seemed cheap to ask for them back, even though I could have reused them.

So, yes, I received many, many rejections of various flavors, but I also published work at a steady rate in a variety of venues. I kept up a high velocity in my personal game of ping pong. It worked well.

This one magazine though...

It was called something like Women's World Weekly. I could be conflating several publications. But I do recall I discovered it in the Women's Bathroom at the petroleum research institute I worked in. Someone left copies in there every week. It was low-quality paper, with lots of ads for things women supposedly liked, and then those kind of heart-wrenching "real life" stories of love and loss.

So I sent them one of my essays on love and loss. And I got a rejection back pretty fast - hand-written, saying that it wasn't exactly the kind of thing for them - too long, or whatever. This was early on and I didn't always pay attention to the content of the rejections. Often they didn't say all that much that was useful. Also, I came from a scientific background and the non-scientific nature of their criteria often stymied me. Finally, I was busy - and the game of ping pong meant I had to get stuff back out there rapidly.

I sent them another essay on love and loss. I got another rejection saying no, it wouldn't work for them.

I sent a third essay. (Maybe I only sent two, but it might have been the third submission.) And I got this hand-written, black-ink, furious scrawl that said:


And I don't remember the rest. It was some sort of excoriation on how my work would never, ever, in a million years, be right for them.

Thing is - they were probably right. And it was true, that I didn't "get it." I was very new at that point, and green. I didn't yet understand how to discern what a particular publication or editor preferred. I viewed it all as a vast crapshoot - or a game of ping pong - and figured the right thing at the right time was what got accepted.

Which is actually very true.

But there was something in the sheer venom of that rejection that has always stuck with me. And sometimes I hear that guy's voice - the editor was male, which is interesting in retrospect - shouting at me in that scribbled note, telling me that my work was a waste of his time.

Of course, I took that publication off my spreadsheet and never submitted there again, which likely came as a relief to them. I sold those essays elsewhere, and I've gone on to build a career.

Still, every time someone implies that I "just don't get it," I feel the twinge of that knife to the heart. Funny, what gets to us, huh?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Writing Is a Snack Free Zone

Author's Titanic tea cups (reproductions)
Here we go again with a theme for the weekly post that I don’t have much of anything to say, not because I dislike the theme but because it doesn’t apply to me.

“Perfect writing snacks.”

Umm, yeah, I never snack when I’m writing.

If I’m writing, I’m writing and my hands are in constant motion, typing.
I’m not a snack-y person really. I have an apple in mid-morning, a string cheese if I’m feeling extra hungry in between meals and need protein and either a banana or an apple between dinner and bedtime. I might have a cup of tea on occasion and that I may actually drink while I’m sitting here at the keyboard, but is tea considered a ‘snack’?

On snacks in general, I used to love M&M’s, maybe when reading, but on three occasions over the years I’ve had one go down the wrong way and nearly asphyxiated, which since I actually came within a few seconds of brain death years ago and required heroic Heimlich maneuvers from the friend I was out with (that occasion was a piece of toast, not candy)….I have considerable anxiety on the topic. So M&M’s are off my list of edibles. Sorry, little guys!

Author's piece of coal
from the sunken ship

VS Note:  107 years ago this week, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank with a terrible loss of life. I was always fascinated by the sinking and wrote my scifi action adventure novel WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM loosely based on the events, but set in the far future on an interstellar cruise liner. There is a romance but the book is much less steamy than my normal stories. I later wrote a sequel about two of the supporting characters in response to numerous reader requests. STAR SURVIVOR is written in my steamier style.

Buy Links for WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iBooks    Google Play   Kobo   (There’s also an audiobook…)

Buy Links for STAR SURVIVOR: iBooks      Amazon    Kobo       Barnes & Noble

Friday, April 12, 2019

Fueling For the Fight

Food and writing don't really go together for me. Tea and writing? That's almost nonnegotiable. But food takes too much concentration. Food tends to be concentrated at meal times which I may take in front of my computer while I sit there staring at the flashing cursor while I chew. I may contemplate a plot, character, or scene issue. Eating and ruminating, so to speak. But eating and writing are two very separate things that do not go well together for me. It's almost like it take different parts of the brain or something.  

Granted. I do my fastest and best writing stupidly early in the morning before food or tea. Water yes. Feline companionship, yes. No noms. Except for said felines. Feline snacks are a MUST for writing. Feed the cats or wear the hangry cats. The struggle is real. 

But if you want a glimpse into the "Thank the gods I'm not eating her diet" depths, this was lunch:
quinoa with fake cheesy ranch dressing, Indian-spiced pan roasted brussels sprouts, and a spoonful of black-eye peas. It was topped off with fake black cherry 'ice' cream (topped with vegan mini chocolate chips)

I cannot imagine that anyone wants these recipes unless they're plant-based as well, but here you go. The fake ice cream.

Black Cherry Nice Cream

chop and freeze 1 banana (lay the slices on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 2 hours)
Bag of frozen black cherries
bag of vegan chocolate mini chips
plant milk of your choice (I use Ripple, a pea protein based product)

Put 1/2 cup of frozen banana and 1/2 cup of frozen black cherries in a blender. Turn your blade speed down (4 on a Vitamix does well). Blend. This is going to sound like you're blending gravel. You are. Ish. Once the frozen fruit has broken down a bit and collected on the sides, shut down the blender, scrape the fruit down, and add plant milk 1/4 cup at a time. Blend. You'll have to turn off the blender and scrape the sides a few times to get everything to ice creamy consistency. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Dig in. 

And don't forget. Iced tea goes with everything.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fueling Up for the next big thing

Friends, my whelm has been a bit over.  In the past two weeks, I've launched one book, sent in the copyedits for another, and finished the draft of yet another.  And now I'm starting the process of drafting what's going to be a Big One-- PEOPLE OF THE CITYwhich is technically a Maradaine Elite novel (i.e., starring Dayne and Jerinne), but in practice, this is the first Big Crossover.  And it's a LOT.
Right now I'm in that less-sexy, more data-driven part of things of making sure I have timelines and terms squared away, knowing I've got all the who's and what's and where's and when's locked down.  
This stuff requires fuel.

My big go-tos right now tend to be coffee in the morning and herbal teas in the afternoon and evening.  Add in apples, peanuts and granola, and I'm good to go.

And I'll need to be.  There's still a lot of work ahead.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

No noms for me

My writing brain is a starveling. Also quite dramatic, apparently. I mean, really, brain: "pining with want"? Except yes, that's really the best description. I can't write if I am properly fed. Full belly equals sleepies and a complete lack of motivation. Plus also, my stories are about longing, right?

At any rate, when I'm fast-drafting or working up against a deadline, I exist on coffee and vodka and the occasional no-carb whatever, which often tastes like canned tuna or roasted almonds. It's probably a good thing for my long-term health that I don't get into these intense write-all-the-words-RIGHT-NOW situations. Though, I'll be honest, they are fun.

Know what's funner, though? Getting the thing done. Which usually involves a celebration. Which means food.

 You know that saying "I'll sleep when I'm dead"? My Writing Brain's version is "You can eat when you're done."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Food Post: Snacking while Writing

Confession: I'm nowhere near as virtuous as Jeffe and James. I am a snacker. Dinner often resembles multiple snack sessions, or maybe lunch continues into dinner as I snack through the food pyramid.

To whit, here are my Top Writerly Snacks by Food Pyramid Group:

  1. Vegetables = Broccoli Tots w Cheese (Green Giant. Freezer section).
  2. Fruit = Simple Mango Smoothie (Frozen mango chunks, splash of lemon juice, water/wine in a blender) 
  3. Grains = Crackers, probably with cheese though hummus is nice too. 
  4. Dairy = A pot of yogurt to keep all digestive parts working as designed. (Watch the sugars on this one; some yogurt brands have more sugar than ice cream.)
  5. Meat = One-bite mini meatballs (usually in the freezer section, sometimes the butcher has them freshly made)
  6. Fats & Oils = Spoonful of all natural nut butter (I like peanut or cashew. Again, watch the added sugars here or you might as well have a Reeses Cup.)
  7. SUGAR: Dark Chocolate, bite-size (I like Dove's individual wrapped squares because chocolate-covered keys are nasty.)

Yes, coffee stands alone. It's is not a food group. It's a necessity. Kind of like bourbon. 🤣

Monday, April 8, 2019

Clean Hands, Healthy mind

I DO snack while I'm writing, Mostly I snack on dried things that are high in protein. Protein eliminates the hunger that can distract from writing. Most often it's dry roasted peanuts or roasted nuts of some kind because I'm a diabetic and have to watch the carbohydrate intake.
Also, I like to have clean hands, so nothing too fatty. I love popcorn, but it's damned messy when trying to type.

To wash it down there's always coffee, tea or water.

Okay, back to work. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines....

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Hands on Keyboard, Butt out of Chair

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the deceptively simple "Perfect Writing Snacks."

I say it's deceptively simple because I'm going to have to pull a Veronica Scott this week and say that I just have nothing on this one.

I don't snack while I'm writing. Really, I don't snack much at all. The way I grew up, we pretty much just ate at mealtimes, maybe a nibble with drinks at cocktail hour. Also, my whole ethic is bent in the opposite direction. I don't snack while I write because it would interfere with my hands on the keyboard. It's also difficult to eat while walking, which is what I do while writing.

There's a saying a lot of writers pass around, that the way to get the words down is "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard," or BICHOK. While I agree with the spirit of the saying, I don't like it because I'm not a fan of sitting. I walk while I write and it's been the most amazing thing for me.

I got my first treadmill desk in February of 2013, so over six years ago (wow!). Since that time, I've gotten so that I generally walk about 10 miles/day while writing. The trance-state induction of steady walking is amazing for writing flow, and the movement keeps my brain alert.

I have the same hydraulic desk, which I can raise and lower as I wish. I absolutely recommend that model. I'm on my second under-desk treadmill, which is about how it goes, since they do wear out.

If you listen to my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, you know that my current treadmill started tanking on me. The horrors! The folks at LifeSpan (I have this model) have been great and are sending me a new motor, since it's still under warranty. The techs come on Wednesday to install it and give the whole thing a tune-up.

Until then, I was deeply unsettled. I'm working hard on finishing THE FIERY CITADEL, sequel to September's THE ORCHID THRONE, and I need to walk to write!

Okay... maybe I don't NEED to, but I hate to mess with my process. I really do. And you all know that I'm always saying that the most important thing is that we own our process as writers, and that means doing what it takes to facilitate that process.

So, my hubs David suggested that we rig up something temporary on the running treadmill. (Yes, we're a two-treadmill household, but a walking desk treadmill needs a motor that runs well for long times at low speeds, which is not the same kind of motor that you need to run at faster speeds.) Thus, above, is my temporary workstation. Those are the leaves for expanding the dining room table across the handle bars, and the ever-useful bungee cord strapping on the laptop. I have a wireless keyboard I love for the key action, so that's nice and familiar.

There's even a glimpse of the book, for the clever reader.

I wouldn't use this system for long, but it works for now.