Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Release Day: THE GODLESS by James A. Moore

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


THE GODLESS
Seven Forges, Book 5

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

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

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

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | Bookshop.Org

Monday, September 27, 2021

There's a fashion for that?

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

Sweatpants and a T-shirt. Sometimes socks..

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

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Writer Fashion: Contradiction in Terms?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     



Saturday, September 25, 2021

What's On My Mind: Self-Promotion

Raina Bloodgood from
The Witch Collector
Art by Katherine Quinn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


XOXO,



Thursday, September 23, 2021

When Having Thick Skin Isn't Enough

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


What do you think?

Monday, September 20, 2021

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near YOU!

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

HALLOWEEN NIGHTS is the anthology that almostr wasn't.

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

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

And here's the basics:

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

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

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

And a list of stories that absoluteoy blows my mind:

The Trial of Abigail Pierce by Bracken MacLeod

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

Kettle by Dan Brereton and James A. Moore

The Cemetery On Blackwell Road by James A. Moore

Marigolds For Flesh by V. Castro

Beneath The Veil by John McIlveen

Mr. Flexxo Discontinued by Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

My Favorite Halloween Memory by Jeff Strand

Stains by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar

Hannah by Mary SanGiovanni

Night Boy by Errick Nunnally

No One Will Believe You by Trisha J. Wooldridge

Rawhead by Hilary Monahan

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

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Scraping Under Those Deadlines


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

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

      

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

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


Friday, September 17, 2021

Writing Action

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

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

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

  1. Active
  2. Reactive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Move the Story Forward—With Action!

Ullr the Husky Pup, black and white Siberian husky, running—ears back, fluffy tail up—through tall, golden grass beneath a blue sky
Ullr in Action

 Putting Action into Action Scenes


Our topic of the week sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you’re writing action scenes…write action! But, is it that simple?


Watching an action scene on the screen is different than reading one. On tv you can see grimaces and evil-eye looks as well as hear the air being knocked from lungs. Visual action, unless you’re in the Matrix, follows the laws of physics. 


When you’re writing the boom pows, you have to show enough detail of what’s swinging where and who’s hitting what along with physical cues so the reader can see the real impact: the repercussions that will change their character trajectory. 


I believe in action scenes, sex scenes too, that have purpose. I’ve been known to indulge in some sword and sorcery that’s chock full of battles for battle’s sake. But as a reader I’m more invested in the action scenes when it changes the character or alters the stakes of the storyline. 


That’s the part that’s tricky. As writers I think we’ve all acted out a fight scene, alone or with the assistance of a reluctant family member. Getting the choreography down is important—you don’t want your hero to end up with three arms all of a sudden—but don’t skimp on the emotions that your characters are feeling and that lead the reader to the altered character self/plot. 


Does any of that make sense? I don’t know, it’s late and my head hurts. Let me know if you purposely write action scenes to move the story forward!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Actions Scenes and the Balance of Emotions

 


I'm a big, big fan of writing action scenes. They do require more concentration than other scenes because of the level of detail (which makes my analytical brain excited). And, there's a fair bit of pantomime, which makes it a good thing I don't write in public spaces. Action scenes play in my head like a movie with slo-mos, multiple cameras, and alternating close-ups and long shots. Yeah, yeah, I limit the long shots to only what the POV character can see/sense since I don't write 3rd omniscient.  

I will also admit that for all the "fancy" (I'm giving myself way too much credit) choreography, I often neglect the emotion. Fortunately, I have an awesome dev editor whose second-most frequent comment is "Insert Emo Here." It is really, really, really important to not neglect the feeeeeeels. I know in a real-world brawl/battle that's the last thing the brain is thinking--it's mostly instinct and ingrained training allowing the body to act/react with near-automatic movements--but in a story, we need to take the beat to bring the reader's emotions along with the character's. It's not that every punch or slash of a weapon has to have an associated emotion, we don't want to drag down the pacing. However, action scenes are used to thrust the protag from one emotional state to another or to reaffirm through a trial an emotional commitment. True for sex scenes (yep, thems action scenes); true for fisticuffs; true for car chases. 

There is a sweet spot of balance between action and emotion, and the authors who write it well leave a reader feeling breathless and emotionally in sync with the protagonist. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Putting Action into Action Scenes


How to put action in action scenes. I'm making up for the post I didn't write yesterday and talking about this week's topic on my podcast today instead. Also how some authors like to write sex scenes and others action scenes, but rarely both and why. I'm also offering advice on how to get past writing the thing you don't like to write.


 
  The Ursula Le Guin essay I mention is here (https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/ursula-k-le-guin-the-carrier-bag-theory-of-fiction).

You can preorder THE DRAGON'S DAUGHTER AND THE WINTER MAGE here (https://jeffekennedy.com/the-dragon-s-daughter-and-the-winter-mage).

Find DARK WIZARD and BRIGHT FAMILIAR here (https://jeffekennedy.com/series/bonds-of-magic), the Forgotten Empires trilogy here (https://jeffekennedy.com/series/forgotten-empires), and the Heirs of Magic books here (https://jeffekennedy.com/series/heirs-of-magic).

If you want to support me and the podcast, click on the little heart or follow this link (https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/jeffekennedy).

You can watch this podcast on YouTube here (https://youtu.be/5PAn2KKiUDI).

First Cup of Coffee is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at Frolic.media/podcasts!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

This Week's Topic Made Me Laugh

That's a sucky title, but it's all that I've got in me today. I say that with a smile, though. I've been working really hard on copy edits while living in a house that's mid-remodel, so I'm just glad that I'm still holding it all together. 

But, yes. When I saw this week's topic, I literally laughed out loud. Should you speak your mind on social media regarding politics or keep your tongue? 

First--I have never kept my tongue when it comes to political injustices, and I never will.

That's what made me laugh.

Second--Silence is often a privilege. Being able to live in a mental and physical state where you don't have to speak out about politics or injustices is something that's not afforded to many. A little backlash about our political and social views is nothing compared to what marginalized people face daily. If we--the privileged--don't speak up, that puts the onus on those who are affected most by certain political agendas.

Do you know how hard that is?

I don't let my friends fight alone, and when old white men try to take away anyone's rights, yes, I'm going to be vocal as hell.

Third--Authors are real people. We have opinions. We hungrily seek out facts. And, we mirror the world around us, creating a reflection called Fiction. Literature is political, y'all. It always has been. And if readers follow me, they're going to know where I stand and therefore won't be surprised when they read my books. 

So that's that. I'm not silent, and I never will be.


We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~ Elie Wiesel

 

XOXO,



Friday, September 10, 2021

Talking too Much

This may come as a shock, but there’s a whole-ass human being behind this screen. A human with messy thoughts, ideas, beliefs, ideologies, ethics, and a whole bunch of flaws. This human also has wisely or unwisely decided that story telling is their method of making sense of the world and this life. That means putting waaaaay too much stuff in writing and then lobbing it out into the world. The open question this week is whether we as authors believe we should tone down our individual thoughts and opinions in pursuit of offending fewer potential readers and thus securing more robust book sales. 

For my part, Imma talk. I’m going to talk about everything and anything that crosses my mind or that matters to me. Politics. Cats. Religion. Cats. Beliefs. More cats. Thoughts. Feelings. Holy cats, ALL the emo. Will I lose sales over this? Probably. Do I care? Not in the least. Because I AM a whole-ass human being with that long list of stuff packed inside. AND IT ALL ENDS UP IN MY BOOKS, ANYWAY. I’m going to talk about all the things on socials because it’s truth in advertising. If you hate what I say on social media, you are not my audience. If I can’t be a sterling example, I aim to be a terrible, stern warning. I am perfectly okay with waving people off.

Every single one of my books is political. Every single one. Social justice is a major theme throughout every story I tell. If those things chap your hide, I am not your author. Straight up. I do no one any favors by staying silent to hide these facts. So, I leave money on the table. I’m foolishly comfortable with that because I do not want someone to buy one of my books and be subsequently enraged by the viewpoints and content. Those sales would lead to poor reviews. Poor reviews drag an author’s store.

Maybe I’m too enmeshed in the romance community because I’m all in for enthusiastic consent. I want readers who ache to read about all kinds and shapes of humans, aliens, love, adventure, danger, and good triumphing in the end. Mostly. I’d rather have ten people grinning over my socially awkward humor and occasionally macabre posts rushing out to buy my books than have 100 people blindly picking me up. Those 10 people are going to be much, much happier readers and that will leave me a much happier author.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Where'd our common ground go?

 

Ullr the husky pup sitting on wood slab porch looking out at meadow and pine trees.
Ullr the husky pup on a front porch

How does that go…if the world had a front porch? 


My fellow SFF Seveners have posted some great takes on this week’s topic and they’re all different. Isn’t that fabulous! Each of us have our own backgrounds and experiences—differences are what makes the human race interesting…and keeps us from the robotic monotony portrayed in so many sci-fi novels. 


But with the rise of social media we’ve lost our ability to discuss respectfully and continue to be courteous afterwards. There is no longer the ability to agree to disagree. There’s no more front porch. 


I believe there’s enough politics on the socials and not enough compassion. It’s too easy to shout opinions and accusations at a computer screen and too easily forget that there’s another human being on the other side. We’ve lost our ability to sit down next to one another over a cup of coffee or plate of food. 


On Netflix there’s a show called Somebody Feed Phil. In Season 4, episode The Mississippi Delta, Phil goes to Jim’s Cafe, it’s been open since 1909. In this episode Phil joins a table of elderly gentlemen who sit at the same table every day and to hold their place they set a paper placard that states: Table of Knowledge.


This group of men are friends, despite having different political stances. Phil asks them about this and they tell him they “agree to disagree and be agreeable about it”…and because of that, they're able to talk about their opinions and continue to enjoy their egg sandwiches at the same time! 


It’s a great show if you’re up for binging. Phil is funny and the people he meets, as well as the food he gets to eat, are fantastic!


But it’s the Mississippi Delta episode that encompasses why I believe we all need a front porch to meet on. If all of our countries leaders were to sit down to eat and visit over some cocktails we might reach more of a middle ground, maybe things would happen faster and help those who really need it. 


No, I don’t think everything can be fixed on the front porch. But I do know food and drink help us find common ground and with common ground comes respect. 


I’ll continue to spread happiness and compassion wherever I can, as well as protect my mental health by abstaining from getting into politics online with strangers that tend to treat others as less than.


Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Yee haw politics

There have been some really reasonable and measured responses here this week on the topic of whether writers ought to express our political views on social media. You should read those. For me, I'm beyond reasonable and measured.

See, I live in Texas.

I've lived here all my life, I write about people who live in Texas, I am a woman, and I vote. I cannot separate these parts of myself, so I won't apologize for saying that I am right now incandescent with rage over the crud my state leaders have been up to lately. I'm not out to offend anyone, but also, my state is making breathing more and more dangerous for some of its citizens, and I can't sit back and pretend that's okay.

Yes, I'm donating and writing letters and volunteering and doing everything I can behind the scenes, but also, this is my life. And it's also, very incidentally, my brand. The way to get to the future dystopia I've written about is to continue right on as we are. Lord help us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Is Shouting into Void Worth Your Personal Safety

There's a luxury to being politically vocal, and it's seated in your perception of your personal safety.  It's one big reason why men dominate the discourse and feel entitled to highjack, derail, and weaponize it. They're not worried about what they say online following them offline. Those who do not identify as male do have to worry about that in the same way we have to worry about where and how we park in a public garage, how we have to have our keys in hand before we reach our destination, how we continually monitor the number, distance, and sobriety of men in our immediate surrounds. 

Because social media is intertwined with our offline lives, we expose too much personally-identifying information to the masses. Often without realizing it because we're being social. As authors, we're being social because we need to increase our visibility, because the more people who know about us, the more people who know about our books, the more books we'll sell. It's the closest we can get to a "sure thing" for sales.  

So what does that have to do with us being politically outspoken online? These days, political activism lights a beacon for those of nefarious intent. They suddenly have a reason to take a closer look at you and what you've posted. Do you live alone? Do you have a pet that might defend you or that might make you more accessible? Do you have routine days? A regular coffee shop habit? Do you reside in a small community where strangers might be noticed? What about a city where everyone is a stranger? Are you in the frequent company of others or are you a loner? Spouse? Children? What school do they attend? What do they look like? What are their social accounts? You didn't file for copyright of your works with your real name and address, did you? What about that required mailing address in the footer of your newsletter? Used a PO Box, but still in the same city? What about your property tax records, they wouldn't happen to be under your name or a family member's, would they?  

As states resume using vigilantes to police their neighbors and reestablish witchhunts in the 21 century with cash bounties, the threat to personal safety is going to get worse. Worrying about whether your political opinions will negatively impact your author brand is pointless if your life's been destroyed because you made a stand online. 

Now, you may scoff and think, "Wow, Debby Downer, way to go with the doomsday hysteria." That's fine. That's also a testament to your perception of your personal safety as well as your privilege. Good for you. That means you have a plan for dealing with online harassment, right? You're one of those authors whose day isn't ruined because of one bad review, let alone dozens, or hundreds, right? You're ready to invest in remedying the crashing of your online store/website? You're ready to be dropped by your agent/publisher based on manufactured drama (truthful or not)? You're solid on the steps you'll have to take if the harassment moves offline, right? You've brushed up on stalker laws...and what they don't protect against, right?

This isn't to say you ought to sit down, shut up, and take what's dealt to you. It's a reminder that as an author, you've put yourself in the public space--whether you've written one book that's sold ten copies, or written ten books that sell a few hundred thousand copies each--which makes you a more "interesting" target to those who want to make trouble. It only takes one asshat with a modicum of skills to rock you back on your heels. Are you emotionally, physically, and financially prepared for it? 

If, however, you are comfortable with your safety and feel you're at low risk for harassment, then by all means, drag the fools as politely or brazenly as suits you. Be a voice for those who cannot.  

Regardless of whether you get political online or not, ask yourself, is there a better, more effective way to advance your cause(s)? Does volunteering an hour a week offline do more good than tweeting an opinion? Sure, the former is more inconvenient for you, but it's also more impactful, isn't it?

While it's great and noble to organize and fight for a more perfect union, take a beat to figure out if shouting into the void is worth the risk to your safety...and the safety of those around you. The answer might be yes. Then again if it's no, there is no shame in holding back.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Hold thy tongue?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Social Media and politics: Should you speak your mind or keep your tongue?"

The simple nswer: Words have consequences. I have lost sales becuse of ky opinion.

(f it means a lot to yu, by all means, but know that you WILL impact potential sales.

Thzt szid, I loathe Donald Trump and slzmmed h im regulalry while he was in chzrge of this nation. no regrets.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Social Media, Politics, and the New Etiquette


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Social Media and politics: Should you speak your mind or keep your tongue?"

So, once upon a time, friends and neighbors, this used to be a subject for actual debate. Social media was new, the internet itself was new, and we had a lot of conversations that involved determining the etiquette of this new, virtual world. Especially where social media was concerned, there was a lot of advice-giving around establishing a persona/brand. Many of us first adopted social media as a way to gain viewers/readers. I joined Facebook and Twitter originally to funnel people into reading my newly created blog. So we treated social media as a kind of moving billboard for ourselves. 

Accordingly, we focused on creating a non-controversial, attractive persona/brand. We also took the longstanding holiday dinner etiquette of staying away from money, religion, and politics. It was the approach of someone who wanted to maintain family connection enough to hold their tongue for a few hours - and then depart to go live an unedited life after.

Well, a funny thing happened as the internet grew and more people adopted social media: it became a globally connected form of communication. News could be transmitted immediately, from people directly involved. Grassroots efforts became more effective than ever. It became more difficult to hide or suppress injustices. 

In ecology, we talk about the predator-prey cycle. If there are too many coyotes, they eat all the rabbits. Because there are no more rabbits, the coyotes die off and the population diminishes. With fewer coyotes around, the rabbit population bounces back - and so follows the coyote population. 

Well, those interested in perpetuating injustice, feeling thwarted by the power of the internet to drag their nasty business into the scorching light of social disapproval, countered by developing an elaborate misinformation effort. The internet and social media shared damaging information? Well, they would kill it by flooding social media with so much false and misleading information that people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

And so the cycle continues.

I don't know if I'm a rabbit or a coyote - it could depend on the day - but I do know that the way I combat the flood of misinformation is by being authentic. I don't feel we have the luxury of presenting a bland persona to the online world. If we don't speak up, then we create a silence that allows other voices to dominate. We're not talking about a family dinner that lasts a few hours. This IS our lives, day in and day out. If we choose to hold our tongues in the name of seducing readers with a blandly non-offensive position, then we're choosing to live edited lives - and to allow the blowhards to dominate the conversation. We can't afford to hold our tongues, even for a few hours. 

Turns out, family dinners have gotten a lot more contentious, too. Frankly, I think that's a good thing. Harmony that comes from voices being silenced is no harmony at all. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Go Forth and Write

This week's topic has the SFF Seven questioning a writing adage: 'If you're bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it.'

Is this true, though?

No. I can tell you that I was bored out of my mind at times while writing the love scene for The Witch Collector. For me, sex scenes and fight scenes are HARD. So hard that they make me nap and I don't nap. There's so much choreography, and I have to not only make both types of scenes easy to read but there's certain pacing for each, along with certain genre expectations. When I'm writing love and fight scenes, my brain is ALL IN. It's tedious, time-consuming work that I will revise several times before it feels right. In both types of scenes, there's an emotional layer as well, so there are times when I have to sit and dig deep into the heart of the story and unearth the deeper meaning. In my stories, love scenes change the dynamic between the main characters and fight/battle scenes tend to end up with them losing something they treasured, needed, or hoped for. Nothing is gratuitous. Everything I write has a purpose for what's ahead. 

So, the question is, are these scenes boring just because I wasn't bouncing in my seat while writing them? Absolutely not. If I've done my job, they're kick-ass. The battle scenes are intense, fast paced, gritty, a little gruesome, and they deal my main characters a load of change to face. As for my love scene/s, they're sensual and provide the reader with the climax (pun intended) to the romance arc they've been hoping for, as well as...change. 

Change can be key to preventing a story from falling into a boring flow. One technique is to try turning a scene on a dime. This is something I've been working on, and I try to make the ends of many of my chapters change the whole game the characters are playing. It's fun for me, and as a reader, I know I respond to books that do this. This is just one way to avoid the novel doldrums.

But, no. Just because YOU might write a scene or chapter with little zeal in your fingertips, doesn't necessarily mean that the writing is dull. Writing is work, and it isn't always a thrill to sit down and craft a scene. The thrill often comes later, when you've had a little distance and you read it and think...Wow. I did that? Or for me, when my kid calls me and says, "Wait...how did my mother who doesn't even watch violence on TV manage to write THIS?" OR, even better, when a reader writes a review and is so affected by your work that they want to tell the world. 

Sometimes writing is work. Sometimes you have to force yourself to sit at the computer and try to get words down, and while that might not be boring, it might also not be exciting. Sometimes it's a tedious writing session that makes a scene tick. Sometimes the words flow like water and we writers grin the entire time. The goal is to write something you love and something you're proud of. How that happens will differ many times over the course of a novel's creation. Writing is a craft, and though there are some rules, few are universal, and most hold different meaning for different writers.

So, go forth and write. Don't let an old writing adage make you feel like you're doing something wrong. 

XOXO,









Friday, September 3, 2021

You're not bored, I'm bored

Y'all. Authors are like seagulls. We like to bite off more than we can chew. Most of the time, we're scrappy enough that getting what we wants excites us and we scream after it with abandon. When we're like this, we're writing great guns and while we might not be at our most coherent, we're probably not boring ourselves or anyone else.

Sometimes, though, we're wounded seagulls limping, pathetic, and begging for scrapes. Getting words may or may not be akin to squeezing blood from a stone, but I guarantee we're bored and burned out and neurotic and second guessing every last thing we say, think, or do. We're bored. Bored. Bored. BORED.

But. Because neither seagulls nor authors are entirely rational animals, our boredom has no bearing on whether readers will be bored. It's because while maybe we aren't feeling a story, we're still authors. We still know how to do the job. We know how to structure a story. Also, it's because it's super likely that it isn't the story we're bored with.

We're bored with ourselves. We're bored with our neuroses, and we know on a deep, subconscious level that something may be wrong with the story. That's what kicks us in the self-confidence. We'll sit and struggle with the problems in our stories, trying to choke them down and keep making progress. Remember. We're pathetic, emotionally stunted, injured seabirds here. We're already a neurotic mess - especially about our writing. Problems arise when someone comes along with the well-meaning advice that when we're bored our readers will be bored. 

It's a fast-track to a complete freeze. Frozen seagulls poop (a lot) in terror. Frozen authors -- yeah, who knows? I'm afraid to look. I only know that when I'm bored with a story, it's because my neuroses are lying to me. Yes, there might also be something wrong with the story. But I cannot let that stop me. I need to keep writing. That's how I finally figure out where and how the book is broken. During it, though, I'm already second guessing myself into oblivion. Being told I'm probably boring my readers just buggers up the works even more.

So. "If you're bored, your readers will be too." It's pithy. It might be cute on a tee shirt. But the quote needs to be yeeted into deep space cause that cute little one liner t'ain't necessarily so. 

My job as a writer is to let a story be what it needs to be. Initially. If your draft is boring, who cares?? No one sees that. It's yours. Besides, there's an excellent chance that your assessment is dead wrong and you're just sick of the story. Either way, the proof and power is in the rewrite.And that's where your power lies. Mine, too. 

I'm a hopeless, pathetic seagull when I draft. I'm a seagull with a switchblade when I edit, though, so boring better watch out. I'm coming to carve up a manuscript.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Don't let Rules of Thumb give you Writer's Block

Audiobook The Mars Strain on iPhone resting on glass panel above NASA control board on space shuttle.
The Mars Strain - getting technical

 If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading - 

true or false?

Hmm, false? 


Truth time: this often mentioned rule-of-thumb paralyzed me while I was writing The Mars Strain. I was deep in the cinematic climax with Jules racing the clock to find the right phage, but I kept fizzling out because I needed to keep the science grounded and I felt like I was doing a lot of technical writing—which translated to me being bored!!


Now, don’t get me wrong. I love science, it’s part of me and always will be. But trying to bring enough technical aspects to keep it real for the reader without overwhelming them is soooo difficult. It’s a balancing act and my mind kept fast forwarding to the emotional arc which was the only thing I wanted to write at that time! That, and the phrase “if you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading” kept looping through my mind…putting up writers block after writers block.


Torture.


If I knew then what I know now… Well, then I’d have written that section a lot faster! Yes, I was bored and wanting to move onto more exciting parts, but I’ve had readers tell me they loved the amount of technical aspects that brought Juliet’s lab work to life. So for this instance, FALSE!


To my future writing self, I now know not to let myself be derailed by nailing down details. I also know that if I pick a story that doesn’t excite me and is just blah, I can expect that anyone I have to pitch the book to will pick up my vibe and be less inclined to get excited about it. So I’ll stick to my rule of thumb to only write the stories that I can’t get out of my head for months on end, which rings TRUE to our question of the week! Don't pick a premise that bores you.


How about you, dear readers? When you get bored reading and either skip ahead or DNF the book, do you ever wonder if the author was born writing it? 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Here, Let Me Bore You

That writing advice about if you bore yourself writing something, you're probably also going to bore the reader? Could have a point. I mean, as a reader, I get bored a lot. I'm a really picky reader, and if a story hasn't captured me from the get-go, it's probably not getting a lot more from these eyeballs (unless I am being forced to read it, like for a contest or a class or something). This is a horrible habit on my part, I know. Yes, yes, I know that particular book gets better at the midpoint or has this really great 3/4 twist or the third book is when the series really starts to shine or .... you know what? Don't care. I've already noped right past that book.

Now, having read all that, answer me honestly, does my snootpicky opinion really make you want to change your book? Are you worried about my opinion of your opus-in-process?

Of course not. You're a writer.

You want to write a book that opens with a seventeen-page description of some fancy vegetable garden at sunset? Do it.

Or open a book with someone waking from a dream or observing themselves in a mirror or picking herbs by the river or talking to a handsome stranger who is offering to change their flat. If that's the book that's speaking to you, don't you dare sit there and wonder if reader-me is gonna be bored. 

Because who are you even writing for? A rando reader you'll never meet?

Or are you writing for you?

If you're writing for you, do the thing that entertains your own brain. You'll know if you're boring yourself. So stop that. Entertain yourself. Make yourself cry, make yourself crack up, give yourself all the feels.

Readers will agree, or not, and there's nothing that you can do about them. Readers are wildly unpredictable. The only thing you have control over, writer-you, is the story and everything in it. Make it something you are proud of, something you want to re-read over and over and tell everybody about. Then and only then should you share your creation with the world.