Monday, June 14, 2021

I just write Stories

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is as follows: 

Of the 7 types of hooks, which one do you use most? The “Why” Hook. The “Character” Hook. The “Catastrophe” Hook. The “Setting” Hook. The “Contradicting Emotions” Hook. The “Inherent Problem” Hook. The “Goal” Hook.

  I don't give much consideration to what sort of hook I use to create them because every story process is different for me. I suppose the one I've used most often is the "Start it off with a bang" hook. I think that the best way to start off a novel, really. Throw some chaos in there and meet the characters. Before the chaos, life is u=ususlaky pretty calm. 

Here's the thing: I want people to meet the characters I create and live through the changes with them. I want them to develop feelings for the characters, ha e empathy for them, and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to put the characters through the proverbial wringer. In Seven Forges, we are introduced to Andover Lashkm apprentice blacksmith when his hands are broken by a member of the City Guard. You know him for about 400 words before I alter his life irrevocably. That's fairly common for me. In FIREWORKS, you know the whole town for roughly twice that time before I drop a crashed UFO in the area ad destroy over half the people. You get to meet the rest of the town as they are sorting through the ruins of their town and their lives, and then I get mean with them. 

So, yeah process of elimination: I seem to like the catastrophe Hook. 


There you go, you learn something new every day.


Okay, time to start a new novel!


Keep smiling,'

Jim




Sunday, June 13, 2021

Writing the Intuitive Way

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is as follows: 

Of the 7 types of hooks, which one do you use most? The “Why” Hook. The “Character” Hook. The “Catastrophe” Hook. The “Setting” Hook. The “Contradicting Emotions” Hook. The “Inherent Problem” Hook. The “Goal” Hook.

O_o

You guys... Sometimes I look at these topics and I just bust out laughing. 

I haven't HEARD of these seven hooks, much less do I have any idea which I use most, if at all. 

That's the thing about being an intuitive writer like I am. I just don't have much experience with an analytical approach to writing like this. I also came to writing sideways, as all my education is in sciences. (With the exception of a major in Comparative Religious Studies alongside the BS in Biology, but I'm not sure that counts.) While I've taken classes with writers, I've never been to a fancy workshop like Clarion or Taos Toolbox. I have an MS in Zoology & Physiology, not an MFA.

While I like reading and hearing about how other authors work, I hate reading craft books.

In my heart of hearts, I suspect that overanalyzing story elements is a surefire way to kill the book dead. Or at least numb it out of existence. But I totally get that this is an intuitive writer's perspective. All you analytical types, go knock yourself out!

So, anyway... I have nothing to contribute, so I'll just crow about how DARK WIZARD is a bestseller! It cracked the Kindle Top 100 - a career first for me ~ and is on sale for 0.99c through Monday. The sequel, BRIGHT FAMILIAR, comes out July 9, so this is a great time to snap up book one. 

Check out those pretty pretty bestseller ribbons!


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Happy PRIDE! An LGBTQ+ Author Shout Out

Happy June and Happy Pride! This week on the SFF Seven, we're highlighting LGBTQ+ creatives. First off, let me guide you to K.A. Doore's website if you're looking for excellent queer adult LGBTQ+ Fantasy/Sci-Fi recommendations. K.A. has such great round-ups each year. I love scrolling through and adding books to my TBR list. Support marginalized authors, y'all.

Second, I wanted to highlight two authors and two books that can be read by all ages. 

First, a friend and former editing client, Greg Howard. His novel, The Whispers, is a middle-grade masterpiece that everyone should read. This book stole my heart!


Eleven-year-old Riley knows a thing or two about wishes. Ever since his mom disappeared, all he's been doing is wishing: wishing for her return, wishing he'd stop wetting the bed and wishing his dad would love him again.

Finally, with the police investigation stalled and worried his mother might soon be out of time, Riley is desperate for answers. So, he turns to the Whispers, mythical wood creatures who will grant your heart’s desires if you bring them tribute. It's a story his mother used to tell him every night. He never really believed they were real until one day he hears them call to him, telling him his mother is near. 

Riley is determined to find the Whispers and ask for the one thing he wants the most: his mother's return--no matter the cost--especially since he thinks a secret he’s been holding close is the reason she's gone. This is his chance to make things right. Along with his best friend, his loyal dog and a neighbor boy with secrets of his own, Riley ventures deep into the dark woods--where all sorts of dangers lurk--to find the Whispers and, he hopes, his mother. But what he finds will change everything for Riley forever. 

Greg Howard stuns in this heartrending, mesmerizing debut about love, magic and what it means to believe in the impossible. 

Praise for The Whispers:

“This taut, moving tale delves beyond loss into issues of sexuality, conformity and self-acceptance…a masterful exploration into the power of storytelling but also its dangers, including self-denial and escapism.” —The New York Times Book Review

With sensitivity and skill, Howard handles themes of sexual identify, self-worth, loss and friendship.” —The Washington Post

"Howard’s personal story helps create a fictional narrative both realistic and relevant, while also calling on the fantastical magic of the imagination…. A tale of family, friendship and loss, filled with magic and heart." —The Associated Press

"A dreamy novel recalling Bridge to Terabithia." —Entertainment Weekly

"A heartbreaking, beguiling debut… This poignant journey through the badlands of grief is crammed with tenderness, wit and warmth." —The Guardian





And! TJ Klune. I actually just started reading The House in the Cerulean Sea, but I'm so hooked.

Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune’s breakout contemporary fantasy

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

"1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in." —Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author of Soulless


Let me know if you've read these book or if you add them to your list!


Happy Reading!




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

One Book I Loved and One I Fully Expect To

Happy Pride, folks! This week on SFF Seven, we are highlighting books by members of the LGBTQ+ community, so I scanned through my recent reads and got a happy surprise (more on that in a bit). 

Keep in mind I'm usually at least a year out of date -- I buy books that oooh-yes my brain when they are released, but I typically don't get around to reading them until years later. So the first book I'd like to mention is The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. It's kind of Harry Potter, but if the story were told from the point of view of a middle-aged, single, magical-child services inspector/bureaucrat who owns (or is owned by?) a very judgy cat. The protagonist, Linus, is relatable and easy to read, and the rest of the story is just as charming as he is. When this book was recommended to me, it was described as "a warm hug" and it so is.

The happy surprise is the other book I want to recommend: The Jasmine Throne (by Tasha Suri), which came out... yesterday! I loved the previous books in her series and so had pre-ordered this one, and when I read the back-cover synopsis, I realized it was a sapphic fantasy and ... eeeee!! Even more excited to crack this one open = me. Clearly I have not yet read the book that came out yesterday (see above regarding my slowpokieness), but Tasha Suri has not disappointed me yet, and I feel comfortable sending folks out to buy it.

I should confess one semi-uncomfortable thing, though: going by the blog theme this week, I had to check online and make sure that these two authors were gay. According to the always-reliable internet, they are (using this and this as sources). That knowledge makes me even happier. I mean, I liked their books before, but with all the #ownvoices writers being outed stuff that has been going around, I was really hoping that nosy readers like me weren't forcing someone to tell a truth they weren't ready to tell. In these cases, that doesn't seem to be what's going on. Whew.

But it does make me think of the current #ownvoices issue and some decisions that are being made to reduce usage of the term. If you're interested in knowing more, you can read the hashtag on Twitter. Basically, some folks think the #ownvoices hashtag causes more harm than good. On one hand, I am sorry for the writers who have been outed before they're ready. That must have been horrible. But at the same time, as a reader, I like knowing that I'm reading a book by a writer who has a similar lived experience to the protagonist. I especially like to know I'm reading #ownvoices when the writer is from a more visible marginalized community, like Black writers. But for LGBTQ+ writers... I kind of see where WNDB and others are coming from. If writers don't choose to share that information, for whatever reason, is it even really my business? That's why searching up the personal details on these excellent authors felt a little awkward. 

So yes happy Pride, definitely yes check out these books/authors, and also maybe yes be sensitive to the fact that another person's identity is owned by them, not who we need or want them to be.



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pride Comics Spotlight: SPIDERSILK by Aleksi Gray

 Lately, I've been on a comics / manga / manhua binge, so my LGBTQIA+ recommended read/follow goes to Aleksi Gray (@Alakotila on Twitter) and their Spidersilk Comic.

SPIDERSILK
"Prentice and his brother, both former soldiers, are trying to find a place to call home. They find themselves falling in with the bustling thieves guild of Kalviva. However, the system isn't as stable as it boasts, and outside forces are slowly picking apart its defenses."

Spidersilk started in 2014 and it's so neat to watch the artist's skills improve over time, both the story and the illustration. 


Support Aleski on Patreon Here

There are so many wonderful comics by LGBTQIA+  creators to follow that I could go on for pages and pages, but I don't want to dilute the spotlight. Check out WebComicLibrary, Tapas, or Webtoons for the genres that interest you.  

If you have a favorite fantasy webcomic to recommend, particularly one by an LGBTQIA+ creator, let me know in the comments!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Nebula Pride


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week - in honor of Pride Month - is to promote LGBTQ+ Artists, Authors, or Creatives. Since I'm fresh this morning from attending SFWA's Nebula Awards last night (online, natch - though next year will be in person again!), and since the awards ceremony was funny and moving and simply an amazing celebration, I'll share those winners

Many of the finalists and winners identify as LGBTQ+. Particular congrats to friends Sarah Pinsker and John Wiswell, both proud members of the LGBTQ+ community. The ceremony can be viewed at SFWA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel and their acceptance speeches are well worth listening to. 

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 56th Annual Nebula Awards®. These awards are given to the writers of the best speculative fiction works released in 2020, as voted on by Full, Associate, and Senior SFWA members. The awards were presented at the live broadcast of the 56th Annual Nebula Awards Ceremony, hosted by Toastmaster Aydrea Walden.

The winners are as follows:

BEST NOVEL
Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELLA
Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELETTE

“Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com) 

BEST SHORT STORY
“Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)  

THE ANDRE NORTON NEBULA AWARD FOR MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll) 

BEST GAME WRITING
Hades, Greg Kasavin (Supergiant) 

THE RAY BRADBURY NEBULA AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION
The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”, Michael Schur, NBC (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal)  

Additional awards and honors presented:

THE SFWA DAMON KNIGHT MEMORIAL GRAND MASTER AWARD
Nalo Hopkinson

THE KATE WILHELM SOLSTICE AWARD

Jarvis Sheffield
Ben Bova (posthumous)
Rachel Caine (posthumous)

THE KEVIN J. O’DONNELL, JR. SERVICE TO SFWA AWARD

Connie Willis

Presenters joined virtually from around the country, including SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal, SFWA Vice President Tobias S. Buckell, incoming SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy, and writers and creatives Nisi Shawl, Carrie Patel, Mallory O’Meara, Mark Oshiro, Troy L. Wiggins, and Adam Savage. 

The ceremony can be viewed at SFWA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

What's On My Mind: The Fun in Being an Author

 

I had a mini-panic attack this week while working on marketing plans and the final draft of The Witch Collector, which releases on 11/2/21. Instagram tours are being planned, the book will be on NetGalley later, THERE WILL BE REVIEWS *cries,* and I'm working on graphics and thinking of cool ideas for the book launch. I'm also editing for myself, for four other authors, and writing three additional novels. The overwhelm can feel REAL, let me tell you.

But a friend reminded me of something this week when I reached out to her with a marketing question. She told me that "I got this," and that while, yes, the author's journey can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking, it's also exciting. It's the dream I've wanted, and it's here.

It can be easy to overlook our milestones rather than stopping for a minute, appreciating where we are compared to where we began, and experiencing what that feels like in the moment. If you're an author going through a bit of overload, or maybe you can't see your successes for what they are, I encourage you to slow down and remember: There was a time when you longed to be where you are now, and there are many others who long to be where you are now, too.

Just don't forget to stop and smell the roses every now and again.

You deserve it.













Friday, June 4, 2021

Which way do I go?

Earlier this week, a fellow author who'd written a trilogy asked me the prize question: Should I find a small press or should I self publish?

This author has ten books to her name already, but she'd recently broken up with her agent and former publishing house. No earth-shattering reason. It was just a poor genre fit for all parties. So here she is, out on her own. 

You'll be proud of me. For once, I did not say "it depends". Instead, I asked her what she wanted. We went through the pros of each:

Self-Publishing Pros

  • You maintain control of every aspect of your books.
  • You decide what the covers look like.
  • You decide how much covers and formatting cost.
  • You decide how quickly or slowly to release your novels.

Self-Publishing Cons

  • You assume all of the monetary risk.
  • You're entirely on your own for marketing.
  • You're responsible for every aspect of your books and some days, that's a heavy burden. 
  • Print versions of your book may require extra formatting, extra cover costs, and may be priced out of most readers' reach.

Small Press Pros

  • A sense of legitimacy.
  • A contract.
  • Editors you don't have to pay for.
  • You can usually leverage your publishing house mates for mutual marketing boosts.
  • Most publishing houses have a marketing coordinator on staff and/or a marketing mailing list where authors can lean on amassed experience.

Small Press Cons

  • You may not  have a print run if the press is e-book only.
  • Someone else controls the book cover process.
  • Your rights are tied up for a few years.
  • Some presses tie up more than just print and digital rights.
  • Some presses have long publication lead times and cannot guarantee your preferred release schedule.
  • Small presses occasionally go out of business and that makes a mess.
As we talked it became clear she wanted one thing - help with marketing. I wish I could tell you what decision she made, but I don't yet know. I suspect she'll opt for a small press, but that's a guess. Which way would you go?

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Summertime On My Mind

Black and white Siberian husky, Ullr, asleep against the couch. his belly is tucked against the couch with his front paws curled over the corner.

 The Master of Puppy Naps: Ullr

It’s officially summer! No hotdogs on the grill here, but the kiddos are done with school and the garden is growing! 


That’s basically the entirety of what’s on my mind. I’m still getting over the cold I came down with last weekend and I haven’t had enough concentration to do much in the way of bookish stuff…which includes coming up with a clever writing post. 


Napping though, that I’ve been pretty good at. But I don’t think I’ll ever be as great at it as Ullr.


I hope you’re having a wonderful start to summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Beauty of Starting at Zero

On my mind this week, the beauty of starting at zero.

The final book in my UF series is in the hands of my CP and soon to be handed off to my editors. After seven books of evolving the same world and the same characters, it's time to conceive anew. It's exciting and invigorating. The only thing locked in at this point is that it'll be a trilogy in a sub-genre of fantasy. I've spent the week gorging on books, comics, and anime to replenish my creative well. Now, I'm staring at a blank notebook page plotting, scheming, and leaving no boundaries on my imagination. 

New characters. New worlds. New magics. New rules. New challenges. 

Time to play god and create something beautiful from nothing. 

How delightful.