Monday, January 31, 2022

If Onoy I'd known when i started...

 The subject for this week is what I wish Id known when I started writing. 

The list is too long. There were and are so many different phases to writing, and  literally mountains f books have been written on the subject, So i'll just go with this one thing: I wish I'd better understood the concept of an information dump. 

When I look back at a lot of my earlier works I first lament my lack of fully understanding grammar (I had some great teachers along those lines and ii a forever in their debt) and I regret how often I went down the path of giving too much inforation in large ies. Details and details, mixed with history and background, It's like peanut butter: put it all to the front of the sandwich and you get a sloppy mess. Better to spread it out a bit more evenly. 

The devil is in the details, they are necessary, but they can be spread far and wide if you handle it the right way. 

I'm off for a four-hour drive into Boston to see a doctor about a cancer that is, hopefully, still not hanging around anymore. Wish me luck and have a wonderful day!

James A. Moore

Friday, January 28, 2022

What the Future May Bring

 I usually have massive superstition around speaking my plans out into the open air. It seems like whenever I do, the universe laughs in maniacal glee and I land on my ass at the end of the year wondering what happened. But I'll tell you. After the past two years, who the hell hasn't? So here we go. 

Plans for 2022:

FINISH THE DAMNED BOOK. Yes. This would be book 4 of the SFR series. Shortly after I hand that book off to my editor (if she hasn't died of boredom or old age whilst waiting for it), I want to fast draft the final book in the series. Fast draft. FAST. I'm yelling at my brain. Not you. The goal is to have both books done in at least first draft form by the end of the year. Then, you see, I could move on to other projects that are knocking around in my brain. 

There are some assassins who want their stories finished. There's a story that isn't science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal. I'm not sure where it came from or who I am that the story even crept up on me. But I'll give it a shot. It feels important for some reason. There are myriad other stories that want to see light of day.

I have low daily word count goals at the moment. I'm doing the distance runner thing - logging a bunch of slow miles in order to get faster over time. (This will take you to a Tik Tok video about this very subject.) This is all a part of having to learn how to be alone while being constantly in other people's company. While pandemic and lock downs have been fine for many introverts, those of us living in houses full of people are not all right. Finding alone is harder than it sounds like it ought to be. And yes. It matters because I'm one of those people whose thoughts show on their face -- and there are just some scenes in books that get dark and terrible. Everyone in the household is happier if no one sees those thoughts as I think them. It turns out my family doesn't like it when I frighten them. 

Now. If you'll pardon me, I'm going to go make some word count on a book that needs finishing.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Out of Focus Crystal Ball

fan shaped ice crystals covering a frozen lake

Let me peek into my crystal ball and tell you what my writing future for the coming year looks like...Hmm. Kinda outta focus. I guess my crystal ball is broken! 

This year my writing goals are to finish my next sci-fi thriller WIP and complete book 2—which actually takes place before book 1, soooo perhaps I should technically call it book 1? Anyway, complete book 2 in my epic fantasy series. 

I’d love to go on a writing retreat. To truly disconnect and not have the day-to-day responsibilities would be fantastic. It would also be awesome to attend SFWA’s Nebula conference, but I’m not sure if that’ll work out. 

In absolute certainty I can tell you that I will celebrate every high. And I will try to reach out in the lows. 

Since my crystal ball didn’t have much to say, what’s your future look like?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Year Ahead with Jeffe

This week at the SFF Seven we're taking a look at the future! We're asking: "What does your writing life look like for the upcoming year?" That includes book releases, WIP’s, retreats, cons, signings, etc. 

I just had my annual planning call with my agent, Sarah Younger at NYLA, yesterday and my year ahead is looking pretty damn busy!

Book Releases

First release of 2022 is the audiobook of DARK WIZARD, Book #1 in Bonds of Magic. This is Baby's First Self-Published Audiobook (TM) and I couldn't be more delighted about it! Book #2, BRIGHT FAMILIAR, and Book #3, GREY MAGIC, will also be releasing in audiobook this year, probably in March for both. Whee! 

Next up is GREY MAGIC, the current WIP, slated to be out February 28. After that, the long awaited finale, THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING, Book #4 in Heirs of Magic, will be out in April (I hope!)

Those are my only slated releases at this point, but there's lots more coming!


Does it count as a WIP if it's out on submission? I have one of those out.

I'm going to finish a science fantasy I started two years ago. Super excited to get that out!

I may be doing a ghostwriting project :D

I'd like to begin a new trilogy in the Bonds of Magic world.

I have a new shiny idea that I'd love to write, that Sarah is excited about too!

If this sounds like more than one person can humanly write, it probably is. Ever in motion is the future!


I don't do retreats because I do my best writing at home.


Also the Jack Williamson Lectureship in April, Apollycon in July, maybe ChiCon in September and possibly World Fantasy Con in November. 

Signings, etc.

Dependent on in-person events - cross our fingers!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

KAK"s Plans for 2022

What are my authorial plans for 2022?

Write MOAR books. 

I'm working on a new trilogy. Long-time readers of this blog know I'm a slow writer, so if I can write two of those books this year and finish the third in the spring next year, I'll be a happy camper.

Long-time readers of this blog also know that I'm a hermit, so no cons, no signings, and no waltzing with the plague, if at all possible. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Year Ahead

Our subject for this week: 

 Tell us your future: What does your writing life look like for the upcoming year? (Book releases, WIP’s, retreats, cons, signings, etc.)

  Well,  as always, the future looks busy and bright. I have many, many plans, or as I have always liked to say, i'm spinning a lot of plates. The catch is to keep them all going. 

On the novel fro t I have to finish THE warbORN, which is the last scheduled SEVEN FORGES novel. I'm already at work on a collaborative novel with my co-writing companion, Charles Rutledge, and I have three novellas scheduled to finish this year, plus at least five short stories. You can add into that plans for at least  two anthologies that I am editing or co-editing, 

I like to stay busy.

Did I mention I have a day job with a one-hour commute each way?

I'm not sure if I'll be going to any actual conventions in these times of plague, but there are plans for at least a couple of virtual cons to keep me busy, I'll be attending Boskone via the internet in February and others are at various stages of finalization.

Times are weird and that's all I can do for now, but, as always, I  have a hard time saying "No" to anything, so there are endless possibilities.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Year Ahead


This week's topic is Tell Us Your Future: What does your writing life look like for the upcoming year? (Events, signings, releases, etc.)

Book Releases: I have a new novel coming in August: book two in the Witch Walker trilogy, City of Ruin. I'm really excited for readers to continue Raina and Alexus's story. I also feel like I know more of what to expect this time with release frenzy, and to not schedule ANYTHING but promotional duties in August ;)

I'm also hoping to publish Silver Heart, my historical paranormal romance novella soon (2/15). It has a gorgeous new cover, and I'm expanding the story a little. This novella will act as a free lead magnet for The Witch Collector.

WIP's: I would LOVE to find time to work on a couple passion projects in 2022, though I still have A Gods' War (book three in the Witch Walker trilogy) to write. Still, I have three stories I'm itching to delve into. Two already have many chapters written, while the other is still stewing in my head, but I'm excited about all three.

Events/Signings/Cons/Writing Retreats: Honestly, I haven't gotten into the swing of things with public events yet. I have one book signing slated in Nashville for 2022, in June. That's UTOPiA Con. I'm still a little wary thanks to Covid. But, I might end up booking a few more signings, so we'll see. I think I'd like to focus more on 2023 events/signings/cons since I'll have the first two books of the trilogy out and the third will be on the way.

As for retreats, I sometimes head to the Smoky Mountains with a writing friend in the fall, and that might happen again this year. I also found a local retreat location, The Rockvale Writer's Colony here in Middle TN. They take applications for residencies, and it's a very affordable week or two away. I went there last year to finish The Witch Collector, and it was absolutely amazing. Having nothing else to think about except for writing was a game changer. It's a huge farm, with hiking trails and a big old house, along with separate cabins like The Granary. I hope to return this year. 

Author Endeavors:  I didn't expect, as an author, to need an Etsy store, but here we are ;) I get so many requests for signed books and swag, so I'm currently creating my store and hoping to have it stocked soon. It will be a work-in-progress as more items come in to the shop like art prints, magnetic bookmarks, candles, etc. And I'm excited. I love book swag so much, and knowing that readers want The Witch Collector swag is pretty epic.

Editor Projects: I've slowed down on editing tasks. I'm currently finishing the edit for On These Wicked Shores by Katherine Quinn, which releases in May. I have a couple other clients scheduled to turn in drafts for edits this year too, so we'll see how that goes!

I think that's it! It isn't much, but it will undoubtedly keep me extremely busy.

Are you attending any fun reader/bookish events this year? If you know of any in the Tennessee/mid-south area that I need to attend, let me know :)

For now, happy reading!

~ Charissa

Friday, January 21, 2022

Persistence On My Mind

On my mind today: this gal on the right who turned 19 on Thursday. She is the picture of persistence. She ached to be the queen of the household for so many years of her life. I honestly didn't know if she'd ever get to rule the roost. Erie held the position for most of Cuillean's life. When Erie died, Hatshepsut inherited the crown. Then Hatshepsut ceded her rulership to Cuillean just before dying unexpectedly. Cuillean is the undisputed queen of her domain at long last. Even if she's deaf as a post and drags one fore leg when she walks. Hobbles. Whatever. She keeps on. 

I'm doing my best to learn from her example. 

The other thing occupying my mind is a meme someone posted to a Facebook group. It hits kinda hard and I haven't gotten it out of my head for a few days, so I'm going to install it in yours and you can ponder (or wonder why humans are so intrinsically broken - whatever works) with me.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

On My Mind: A Fork in the Publishing Road

close up image from the board-game Life and a little blue plastic car with pink and red people inside sitting at a crossroads with the word Career and yes or no bubbles

It's 2022, year of the tiger, it's—well. It's that time I've earmarked for stepping back into the publishing game. Which's time to make a spreadsheet! 

When I started writing, my goal was traditional publishing due to time constraints from the day job. Then my chronic disease showed up and I traded in the lab career for my health and continued to pursue traditional publishing due to health constraints. But now that things are settling down, and I’m easing myself back into a writing routine, things are different. 

I read a lot last year and for once I paid attention to who published the books AND how had I found out about the book. 

68% of my reading list was published by the Big 5 (Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan). Mostly via their imprints which produce certain genres, like Orbit who is a Sci-fi Fantasy imprint that’s owned by Hachette. I read 9 books from Orbit. 32% of last years’ reads were from small presses or self-published. 

Spreadsheets are fun! But what I found even more interesting was how I found these books. 

  • Middle Grade Book (I read to my kids at night—audiobook style): 6
  • Found Following the Author: 11
  • Part of a Series: 22
  • Goodreads: 26
  • Library (either on the shelf or from their newsletter): 32
  • Instagram: 35

Along with reading a lot I paid attention to various authors marketing strategies and what readers responded with the most enthusiasm. Because everything boils down to what Charissa posted about: know thy readers. If you can find the readers, your book will be seen. 

Armed with spreadsheet info I now come to a fork in the road…one of life’s decisions. Which way do I go? Traditional publishing or Non-trad? It’s like playing the board-game Life and having to decide to go to college or get a job! To add to the conundrum, I write science fiction and fantasy. Do I go the same route with both works?

Things look different now, both in my capabilities and the publishing landscape. A debut author at one of the Big 5 isn’t as likely to get the marketing dollars, so I need to determine what they do bring to the table and is it worth the gamble that my work would earn enough to be considered a successful ROI in their books. A debut with a smaller press would bring different expectations, both with what they provide and what they consider a success. And again, it all comes down to where are the readers.

It’s time to weigh the pros and cons of trad publishing against non-trad. I need to determine what I want to control, how much I can handle, and what I want someone else to tackle. And it might end up being different paths for sci-fi and fantasy.

Are any of you writers debating which path to take with your work? Are any of you writers out there happy with the road you did travel?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Learning to Love the Winter Garden


Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is, verbatim, On Your Mind (Winter).

So, I'm posting a photo I took this morning from the winter garden. We've had a mild winter, and the secret garden is walled and makes a protected microclimate, so I actually have a winter garden. 

Some of you may know that I love to garden. I mention it in interviews when I'm asked what I do that isn't reading or writing. Gardening is a big piece. It sounds like a small thing when I say it, but nurturing a garden, planning it, spending time in it, all shape how I live. 

I became interested in the concept of a winter garden back when I lived in Wyoming and winters were so very bleak. The idea is to plan a garden with the entire season in mind. It's easier to envision the spring flowers, the midsummer lushness, adding in the plants that bloom in the autumn, but thinking toward the largely leafless winter is a different kind of vision. What plants bring visual interest in their starker, hibernating states? What offers spots of color in a more monochromatic landscape? 

Part of the trick is loving the winter garden for what it is, not trying to replicate the garden of warmer seasons.

I think this is a metaphor for a great deal in our lives, as gardens tend to be.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

On My Mind: Incorporating Accessibility Challenges into World Building

On my mind this week: the real-world challenges for people with declining physical ability and how to incorporate that into fictional-world and character building to enhance stories while planting seeds in readers' minds that may carry outside the story to make small gains in the real world. Representation matters, right?

There's nothing quite as heart-wrenching as living with someone whose body is steadily declining--far faster than normal aging--and witnessing society slamming doors in the person's face. As a relatively able-bodied person, there are so many things about accessibility and product design that never cross my mind. Now that my loved one's muscular degeneration disease has passed a certain threshold, their limitations can no longer be masked/hidden. Many small-to-medium modifications/adaptions would allow my loved one to continue to engage with society if adopted. Some would be (sadly) costly, while others are merely a matter of consideration. There are improvements beyond ADA building codes and standards (and yes, my voice joins the chorus already demanding that ADA minimums be required for all new builds including residential, nationwide) just waiting to happen. Here are three minor examples:

  1. Restaurants, Lounges, & Waiting Rooms: Have some chairs with arms. Provide a few pub-height tables with corresponding seats 24-28inches from the floor and arms on the seats. Folks whose knees, hips, or leg muscles have gone to crap need chairs from which they can lever themselves into an upright position. That starts with seats that place their ass above their knees. 
  2. Drinkware & Wherever Drinks are Served: Lightweight cups with large handles. Some folks need the added stability of a handle on their drinkware, aka a mug. Standard mugs have handles for average-sized hands that are often too small for average-sized people, much less larger-than-average folks, while oversized mugs tend to be unbalanced and heavy. "Light and large" applies to disposable cups too.
  3. Slippery Surfaces: If a product is meant to be held or grabbed, stop making its surfaces slippery. From body washes to takeout containers to doorknobs, "sleek" is an exclusionary design choice. A firm grip is relative, and even the firmest hold can result in dropsies.
There are many more examples and many an article/tweet/post about accessibility challenges. A character stubbing a toe on an interior threshold built too high reads like a comedy setup, but if that character has a drop left foot and the extra beat is taken to show the emotional toll of a seemingly minor inconvenience, then...then a seed is planted. That seed might just grow into a vine of consideration that bridges fantasy and reality. 

Monday, January 17, 2022


 As I sit here recovering from a fall down the stairs what is on my mind are two things. first, despite a few bruises, I am damned lucky. It was a serious fall. 

Second, I have too many pending deadlines t write a proper essay today.

Have a great day!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Know Thy Reader

This week's topic is What's On Our Mind. As I sit here tonight, wondering if we'll be buried beneath snow come morning, I'm thinking about the last couple of weeks and how thankful I am for the readers who have found me over the last several months. The Witch Collector is currently approaching 700 reviews on Goodreads, and reviews sit at 200 on Amazon, with 4.13 and 4.5 ratings respectively. In just over two months. That's nothing wildly spectacular, I know, but for a small-press book from a nobody author, it's pretty damn good. I'm proud of this little-book-that-could, and so thrilled that readers are finding and loving it.

When TWC released on November 2nd, I already had a spreadsheet with goals and dates in place. I listed my current follower counts for each social media platform I use, or hoped to use (like TikTok). I included my Goodreads and Bookbub followers too, and then added Goodreads Reviews, Amazon Reviews, Newsletter Subscribers, Rebel Readers (my FB group), and Goodreads Adds (how many people add TWC to their Want to Read list). I wanted to track this growth because I planned to promote my book, and I wanted to see if my plan actually worked. 

I learned a long time ago that people can't consider purchasing/enjoying a product unless they know it exists, and unfortunately, books don't jump into readers' paths on their own. If a trad deal has been scored and the book is on the shelf at bookstores, AWESOME. If an author has a platform from being published for many years, AWESOME. If they have a platform for some other reason, that's awesome too! But if not--and sometimes even if so!--it takes some work to get a book in readers' hands and in bookish circles on social media.

I gave myself attainable goals back in October, but possibly still tough for a debut author with a small platform. It takes some consideration for a reader to invest in an author with little buzz, someone they know nothing about, and especially when their book is the first in an incomplete trilogy (ME). And yet, the goals I set have been smashed by readers, and I can see the growth of my reach and what things I did/do that equate to good sales. Data is good.

So...what did I do? Someone asked me that today, and I've been asked before. Yes, I did a couple Instagram book tours around release day, and yes I keep two to three very low-cost ads running. I also did a Goodreads Giveaway which was great visibility, and I'm now doing book giveaways on my own, paperback and ebook, because if any of those readers like my book, they might just tell someone else. I also focus on Instagram posts because that's where my readers are, and I automatically share those posts to Facebook. I'm now venturing into TikTok, so we'll see how that goes. I've been consistent with my newsletter as well, which has a solid response rate, and I connected my blog to Goodreads and Amazon.

But the main thing I've done that I feel has been crucial for me is...I know my readers. I communicate with them, and I thank them. I share their posts and comment, because I truly am thankful for them taking the time to create a reel or a TikTok or an Instagram photo or story, or to write a review. Time is invaluable, and not only did they give up some of that time to read my book but to also shout about it to their friends and followers.

I also offer them a place to come chat with me, my Rebel Readers group, and I give them special access to exclusive news and sneak peeks. They're getting a huge sneak peek in February! They also get first dibs at my books, because I offer them the opportunity to be early readers/reviewers. 

My readers have been the most amazing support system I could've asked for, shouting about The Witch Collector all over the place. They are absolute rockstars!

So that's what's on my mind tonight. From now on, when writers ask me what the trick to getting reader interest is, I'll tell them the truth:

I don't really know any tricks, but I do know my readers.

And I love them <3

Friday, January 14, 2022

Top 5 Suggestions for Working with Contractors

Full disclosure, I am a contractor/consultant as a technical writer. My suggestions here are partly predicated on that fact. It's a mash up of how I wish clients came to us for work and how I prefer to find and hire my own contractors as an author.

1. Know what you want, when you want it, and why you want it.
    I'm not trying to be glib. Knowing what you want determines who you hire. Knowing when you need it helps any potential contractors understand your time lines and the workload lift. Knowing WHY you want what you want goes to your brand. You and your contractor should know how the work you're contracting fits into your overall marketing/brand strategy. Value highly any contractor who can ask pointed questions about strategy and how what you're doing fits.

2. Have a minimum bar and do your research.
    I have a minimum bar - I strongly prefer to work with contractors that come recommended by people I know. This isn't to say newbies don't stand a chance. It does mean that I will be more cautious working with someone who has no track record in publishing. But if they come in and do a great job with low drama, I will sing their praises in ALL the author spaces. This is what I mean by research. Look for people who do what you need, but vet them by asking other authors about the potential contractor. And when you find someone good, talk them up to your fellow authors. You'll find that even though your favorite contractor may get too busy or too pricey for you, they'll likely make recommendations from among their friends to help you get what you need, when you need it, at the price you can afford.

3. Consider a contract.
    If you're looking to hire someone long term, consider writing up a contract. Preferably one that spells out your expectations of the contractor, what the contractor can expect from you, and what kinds of processes you'd like to put in place for managing disagreements, performance issues, or other drama that could arise. You aren't looking to spend thousands on a lawyer here. This is a basic tool created by collaboration and agreed upon mutually, then signed by both parties. Are there legal websites that will let you download a basic employment contract? Yes. It's a fine starting point. But unless it violates your minimum bar, you're not looking for a document that could be taken into court - you're creating a starting point for negotiation and conversation during a time when everyone might be stressed and not on their best behavior.

4. Good. Fast. Cheap. You can only pick two.
    Do yourself and your contractors a favor. Ask about price up front. Yes you can negotiate to a point. But perhaps go to Tik Tok and find one of the maker channels playing "It costs that much cause it takes me fucking hours." Good help is worth every penny. Pinching pennies is likely to make more work than it saves you. Pay your contractors their worth or scale back your ambitions. There's no shame in having a budget.

5. Have a plan.
    Have a plan for how this contract is going to go. Have a back up plan in case your contractor gets hit by a meteor. Have a plan for what happens if you get hit by a meteor. No one wants to live in worst-case-scenario-land, but you do have to plan for it. When things go well, you can breathe a sigh of relief and file your emergency plans away for another day. If things go to hell in a hand basket, however, you'll have road map to help you navigate while you're in the middle of freaking out.

Last but not least:

6. Don't forget the taxes.
    Depending on what you're doing/having done, you may be liable for supplying a 1099 to your contractor(s). Make sure you cover that base with a tax professional. No one but no one wants the IRS mad at them. Just saying.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Contractor Best Practices


Audiobook cover of The Mars Strain with Recorded Books red bands at top and bottom, image of the Red Planet in the background surrounded by virus-like organisms and the title in red.

Contractor Best Practices—working with a 3rd party in support of your book. 

I’m an unpublished writer, I have nothing out in print, yet. But if you’re in the midst of the publishing process, or about to begin, check out James’ post about collaboration (a great mindset to have going into the process), and Charissa’s post about communication (she’s got great insight having been on both sides of the table), and see KAK’s post with a helpful list of questions. And if you’re gearing up to start, Jeffe shared her favorite contractors

My production experience with The Mars Strain began with a free lance editor I hired. Recorded Books, who produced TMS, did not include any editing in their offer and I knew I wanted to turn out as polished a piece as possible and so I hired Anita Mumm with Mumm’s the Word Editing

Anita, with her years of editing experience, was a perfect fit for newbie me. She starts out each project with a questionnaire so she knows exactly what my expectations and desires are. She provided a timeline, for both of our parts, and concludes with a phone call to ensure there aren’t any lingering questions. I can’t recommend her services enough! 

Note that any errors in The Mars Strain are all mine as I had the last look before turn in date. Which leads me to the second half of audiobook production—I’m certain others’ experiences vary widely, but this is mine.

Recorded Books did a fabulous job, but all I can take credit for are the words. Communications went through the audio rights agent at the literary agency I was signed with. She passed along the turn in date for my final draft and when it was done, she shared the cover art which was more of a courtesy and not looking for input. And then Recorded released The Mars Strain in April! 

Communication: I did request that RB list the audiobook early for pre-orders and their reply was that it would release on release day. Then the lovely Charissa found it online for pre-order and gave me the heads up, which was wonderful—only I’d already shifted from pre-order marketing plans to release day plans. So it’s true, communication is key! 

Wherever you are in your writing journey, I hope you keep moving forward! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Few of My Favorite Contractors

This week at the SFF Seven we're talking about Contractor Best Practices. And already Charissa, James, and KAK have posted great articles about communication and clear expectations. I whole-heartedly ditto everything they said. 

So, instead of reiterating, I thought I'd share my own favorite contractors. It's a great opportunity to give them a shout-out. One of the best parts of being an author who self-publishes is that you become the source of work for other people. I love that I, by creating words, am a font which then flows money out to the people who do work for me. They are vital parts of my business and I'd hate to be without them.

These days, after years of honing my practices, they're a pretty lean team.

My Assistant

First and foremost, my amazing assistant is the fabulous Carien Ubink, aka book blogger Sullivan McPig. Whenever someone asks what my assistant does for me, I reel off the list and then - for about half an hour afterward - I'm adding "Oh, and she also does this!" We've been working together for years now. (She could tell you how many, which is one of the things she does for me.) She's the best.

My Cover Artist

While I occasionally use other cover artists, my go-to and favorite is Ravven. She's done the majority of my covers and I hope will do many, many more. She has an uncanny ability to take my inadequate descriptions and hand me back a gorgeous cover that exceeds my imagination. She's timely, helpful, goes the extra mile. No one else comes close to her in talent, skill, and clean business practices.

My Proofreader

Crystal Watanabe at Pikko's House handles all of my editorial. She's super fast, thorough, and a delight to work with. She also operates a business that offers the gamut of editorial services. I highly recommend checking out Pikko's House.

My Formatter

Yes, I farm out my formatting - largely because my formatter, Paul Salvette at BB eBooks, is so fantastic. He accommodates my sometimes screechingly tight turnaround times, always doing a stellar job, and with a great attitude. There's nobody I trust more to get the job done right. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Collaborators & Contractors: Setting Expectations Upfront

Contractor Best Practices: When working with a 3rd party in support of my book (artist, formatter, editor, PR, PA, etc.) what's one thing I do to make my life and theirs easier/make the project more successful?

Set expectations upfront--on both sides. 

It amazes me how many folks enter into a business arrangement while operating on a host of assumptions that are never shared with the other party(ies). There is no way that ends well for anyone. 

Ask questions at the get-go. Get the answers you need to be a good partner. Even if you think you know the answer, ask anyway. Confirmation will save you heartburn. This is one part due diligence and another part documenting commitments between two parties. Don't be afraid to not know an answer. Don't fear looking like a newb or unprofessional. Setting and receiving clear expectations is a foundational element of professionalism. 

A Sample of Questions: What do I need from them? What do they need from me? When? In what format? What are the deliverables? What are the milestones? What happens if dates need to change--on my end or theirs? How much lead time is needed? What is a reasonable turnaround time? Payments: invoices sent at the end of the project, at intervals, portion upfront and another on completion? What method of payment is preferred? When is payment due/when will I be paid? Who is my point of contact and what are their contact details? Etc.

Whether dealing with a freelancer, small business, or corporation--regardless of industry--take the time to set expectations upfront. If the party with whom you're planning on working doesn't agree to do this, bitches about doing it, or doesn't answer your questions to your satisfaction that is a HUGE red flag. Do not proceed. 

If someone asks to set expectations with you, take the time to do it. Yeah, yeah, not everyone will say "Hey, I'd like to set expectations with you."  It might be as casual as "Hey, yeah, your project sounds interesting. Let's chat about details." If you use new contractors frequently, you might even create an expectations worksheet/FAQ in advance with the questions you need them to answer and the answers to questions you anticipated being asked/info you want them to have. 

If shit goes south during the course of business, you're going to be on much better footing if you have the details documented. Especially if things go so badly that lawyers get involved. 

A Bonus for Setting Expectations: As creatives, we know dates for deliverables are the first casualty of...well, life. Many of us dread telling our partner that we're not going to make the agreed-upon date. The longer we take to inform our partner, the worse the consequences for everyone. However, because we set expectations at the beginning and because date-slippage is so common that we included the "what-if" in our initial conversation, we've spared ourselves the anxiety-inducing, panic-attack spiraling, shame levying distress of telling our partner that we're not making the deadline. We know what to expect by missing the date and we know how to get the project back on track. Similarly, when we're told that a date is being missed, we've covered our ass by informing our partner of the consequences of slippage. (Hopefully, we've added a slippage cushion to our overall project schedule so a missed date isn't catastrophic to the entire project. Right? RIGHT?).

Good business communication starts with setting expectations. 

May your partnerships be fruitful and your projects successful!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Balancing on the razor's edge

 The very first professional project I ever worked on was a comic book script, and the artist was a long-time favorite of mine, but one that I had never met. I was delighted when I heard he'd be illustrating my little eight-page script, and being an enthusiastic lad, I gave him descriptions of exactly what I wanted in every panel.

Yeah, that didn't go so well.  It's a collaborative effort, you see. The idea is that we tell a story together, not that I dictate a tale and expect his vision and mine to be precisely the same.  It was my first real collaborative effort, and at the end of the day, I was exceedingly pleased with how he told the story, once I realized that he was the artist and I was the writer. 

I have moved on and collaborated with a lot of people since then, other writers and artists alike. Sometimes I've asked to be in charge and other times I've asked THEM to take charge, depending entirely on the circumstances. More often than not we discuss who is doing what before the collaboration begins, because at the end of the day it's about having fun with the project, not about anyone's ego.  If you are worried about YOUR vision and not the shared enjoyment of a project, you might not be quite ready to collaborate.

My buddy Charles Rutledge has a great way of putting it. We're playing with each other's toys in the sandbox. The operative words here are playing and toys. We go into every project we do together with the idea of having a good time. Period. If we sell what we write together, that's just gravy. So far we've written three novels, four novellas, and about a dozen or so short stories together, and I have had a blast with all of them. We have plans laid out for at least three more novels, one of which is half done and would have been fini9shed by now but I have a few pending deadlines to finish first. THE TOURISTS GUIDE TO HAUNTED WELLMAN is a fun project first, and both of us have plenty enough on our plates. I'm looking forward to finsh8ng the Halloween-themed tale of his occult detective and mine soon. They've met before, you see, and there's always fun and carnage when they end up in the same towns. 

If we fail to sell it, by the way. we'll probably print it ourselves but that is a different subject for another time. The point is, I love writing with Charles. We have fun and both of us respect the other enough to not let something as foolish as whose name goes first or who wrote what get in the way. In most cases, he reads over my latest sections and edits as he goes, and I do the exact same thing in return. Should he have a problem with an edit I make, he's welcome to put it back, but honestly, it's usually us catching each other's typos. 

The same is true when I work with Christopher Golden, but we almost always work from a plotted storyline because he's more comfortable with that. It doesn't bother me in the least and both of us have been guilty of straying well away from the laid-out plot when we felt the need. No harm, no foul, so long as we're both having fun playing in the sandbox. 

Guess what? We always have fun playing in the sandbox. We've worked on multiple short stories and a full series of novellas. 

The very same guys and a few others are the people I go to with questions about my writing. We're known to look over each other's works when asked. It's never a problem for me and I doubt it is for them.

\I have collaborated many, many times. I've even, when the mood struck me, ghostwritten a few tales for friends who were in need of the assistance fully understanding that any words I wrote were theirs to change, as the stories were theirs, and I was lending a hand. No ego, just fun. I could tell you who, but no, it's not for me to say. 

The secret, by the way, is exactly this simple in my opinion: Respect. I respect them. They respect me. We have fun playing together and we don't sweat the small stuff. 

The first rule is always the same. Have Fun. The second rule is also always the same: Respect Your Co-Creator.  I have worked with several collaborators and in every case, I learned new things and I had a blast. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Communication Makes the World Go 'Round

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Contractor Best Practices. When working with a 3rd party in support of your book, what's one thing you do to make your life and theirs easier or to make the project more successful? This can be in regards to artists, editors, formatters, personal assistants, etc.

Having been on both sides of the coin in this regard, and having released my first novel last year, I can readily say that, for me, communication is key. Good communication can be difficult in our world of emails, direct messaging, and texting, which sounds off when I read it since all of those are forms of communication--but it's true. Often, much gets left out of rushed emails, quick DM's, and brief texts. We sometimes forget how to give proper information to people who don't know us or don't know how to read the subtext we might leave behind in a message. Assuming that things are understood can be problematic if the information wasn't specific, detailed, and clear.

I've had to remind myself several times this year to SLOW DOWN and do a better job of communicating. Sometimes, the things we consider givens are not so with others, so be sure both parties have a clear understanding of what's expected (and when and how) from each other.

I think it's also important to remember that, as an author, you're part of a professional industry, regardless of the fact that you might rarely see other humans from the publishing world (or even the regular world). Professionalism is something you can't afford to abandon if you intend to garner respect from those in your field.

Now, if the situation is reversed and you're the one chasing someone whom you've paid for work, waiting unreasonably past a deadline, or struggling to get someone to meet you with the same professionalism that you deliver, then you just have to deal with those situations as they will inevitably come. I typically try to give people the benefit of the doubt and a second chance, but if you burn me again, you go on my No-No list ;)

I look forward to reading the other posts to see what everyone comes up with on this topic.

How about you? What do you feel is a best practice when it comes to working with a 3rd party?

Friday, January 7, 2022

Marcella's 5 Writer's Resources

 Confession time. I haven't written anything in a year and a half. It isn't just that I haven't. I couldn't. It's like a switch flipped in my brain and NOPE is the new setting. No matter how many hours. No matter how many reworks of plot or characters. Nothing budged. Ah. I see you've noticed the past tense. It's because I fell, quite by accident, into a series of resources that are ever so slowly thawing the ice around writing. Maybe around me.

It all begins, as so many of our stories do, with January 2020 when I could see the writing on the wall and put my household on lock down a few months before official lock down started. I didn't know it at the time - what kind of damage I was taking. It was invisible. I knew that introvert me was suffering because suddenly there was no alone to be had. Not anywhere. Little did I recognize what kind of damage was being done to my mind.

My number 1 writing resource, then, is a book. 

Peak Mind by Amishi Jha - This is a nonfiction book about the science of attention. She describes how the attention systems in our brains work. Because of that, I could clearly see how and why all creative ability had been frozen. It's because my attention system has been locked on 'floodlight' - scanning for threat. Focus and concentration need a laser beam. She describes exactly how to recover. Work in progress. I can work on my book again. Finally.

Calm - Yes. It's a meditation app. It's training for focus. It's also retraining for migraine brain. But honestly, I'm here to get my writing mojo back. If several minutes a day of breathing can help my attention system relearn how to focus, count me in. Since starting the training program, I've started writing again in slow, low pressure increments every day. Building a sense of safety and success.This attaches writing to the reward system in the brain again. Blinding word counts? No. Definitely no. Those will come with time and dedicated practice.

Wordhippo - Now we're into the mundane writing resources. Wordhippo is a thesaurus that doesn't take itself too seriously. I like it because the synonyms are more on point than other resources I've used. I don't know if that's fact or perception but the pink hippo doesn't hurt anything. I find the right words more often there.

4theWords - I know I've mentioned this one before. It's a website that gamifies your word count. It works brilliantly for some people. Apparently, I'm one of them. For others, it's a complete no go. It's one of those things you have to try for yourself.

And finally, for business resources and advice, nothing beats writer organizations. Jeffe and Charissa have mentioned SFWA, I triple nominate the org. You can ask the nerdiest questions in the forums and get informed answers. It's brilliant. I'll also put in a plug for Novelists Inc. Ninc aims at indie authors and offers an incredible wealth of information up to and including drafts of rights reversion request letters.

I hope that no one other than me needs to retrain attention. It's a drag. I mean, on one hand, I finally understand what the hell happened and there's a way to fix it, but dang could I just have me back, please? If you need the resources, too, I hope they're helpful. And hey. See you in the stacks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Jeffe's Top 5 Writing Resources

This week at the SFF Seven, we're sharing our Top 5 Writing Resources. Charissa and KAK have already shared some excellent ones. Mine are below. But first, check out this great fundraiser sponsored by Romantic Fantasy Shelf. It goes through January 6, 2022 and the response has already been amazing!

Jeffe's Top 5 Writing Resources

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)

Charissa mentioned SFWA's Writer Beware already, but I feel - as the current President of SFWA - that I should recommend the entire organization. I'm clearly biased, but I think SFWA provides all kinds of tremendous resources for writers. Go check it out! 

First Cup of Coffee with Jeffe Kennedy

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own podcast! Four days a week I chat for about 20 minutes over my first cup of coffee about being a career author. I talk about my own process, the ups and downs of that and my career, the business side of writing and occasionally industry gossip. I even answer listener questions! 

Synonym Finder

This is my absolute favorite paper resource. Mine is falling apart. Forget the thesaurus, every writer should have the Synonym Finder!

David Gaughran

Whether or not you self-publish, David Gaughran is an amazing and generous resource. His books and free newsletter are chock full of up-to-date information. Highly recommend!


I can't link to this one but... Get you some author friends and nurture that circle. They are the most invaluable resource you'll ever have. 


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

5 Writer's Resources: From Concept to Marketing

 New year, new novel? Thinking of trying your hand at penning a fantastical futuristic horror romance? Great! Here are 5 websites that might help you focus your plot, dodge the scammers, get the cover of your dreams, and sell the book you've labored to bring into existence. 

  1. Writer Beware: I enthusiastically "ditto" Charissa's recommendation from Sunday for this priceless resource to protect yourself from the predators in our industry. Victoria Strauss and company investigate and report on fraudsters, exploiters, and scammers in publishing. No "fake news" here. Before you think about paying anyone a single penny, check this blog.
  2. Query Shark: Wünder agent Janet Reid's blog for critiquing queries submitted by blog readers (yes, the author(s) volunteer to receive public feedback). Why, oh why, would you care about your query at the beginning of your authorial journey? Isn't a query pointless if you plan to self-publish? Simple answer: The meat of the query is your book's plot. If you can't distill your story--at least in your head or on the back of an envelope--you're going to waste a lot of time and creative energy on tangents and revisions. Do yourself a favor by jotting down the rough draft of your query before you start. Keep it at hand as your North Star so--whether pantser or plotter--you don't stray too far from the story you meant to write. While the wrappings of a query may change over time, how to effectively convey your story's short summary doesn't change. Dig through the Shark's archive to find plenty of samples of queries in your genre. 
  3. Art Station & Deviant Art: Whether you're searching for your next cover artist or creative inspiration, these two illustrator/artist sites are rich in offerings.
  4. Reedsy: Finding a great editor (dev, line, copy, or proof) who is experienced in your genre, attentive to detail, able to communicate in a way that is comfortable for you, delivers on time, and has availabilities in their schedule is no easy feat. Reedsy is a great starting point, but be sure to do your due diligence before committing. Every robust site has its share of rotten apples. 
  5. David Gaughran: You've written the book, had it edited, acquired the eye-catching cover, and uploaded it to retailers/distributors. Now, how to make people aware that your book exists? David's site is rich in the basics and his how-to books are usually under $5 (though, depending on how marketing savvy you are, they may be a bit remedial). I stay subscribed to his newsletter to remain abreast of the latest changes in big distributor/advertiser policies and technologies. He also does a nice job of sharing best practices that he's field-tested. He'll also caution against marketing fads that make you into an asshole from whom readers flee. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Top 5 Writing Resources

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. This week's topic at the SFF Seven is our Top 5 Writing Resources. I have so many websites, books, and software programs that I love, so it was hard to choose just 5, but I did and I'll tell you why each one made the cut.

  1. KM Weiland's Helping Writers Become Authors website. I've linked to KM's story structure series which is one of the very best I've come across. I've read KM's books too, but I refer back to her story structure series any time I get stuck or feel like I need a refresher. Even for those writers who don't plot, understanding story structure can help build much stronger fundamental skills and aid in creating cleaner drafts. There's a ton of other info for writers on this site as well, and I recommend reading as much as possible. Helping Writers Become Authors is truly a one-stop-shop.
  2. Jane Friedman's Writing Advice Archive. We won't talk about how long I've followed Jane, but I can tell you that her publishing industry and writing advice is always on point. If you aren't sure how to navigate the publishing world, I highly recommend perusing her Writing Advice Archive. She covers everything from getting started as a writer to rights and legal issues. Most importantly, she's been in this business for 20 years with a vast range of experience, so she knows what she's talking about.
  3. Writer Beware. I've had several inquiries lately from new writers about publishing routes, and I was sad to learn that most every person who reached out to me had experienced bad dealings with vanity presses or scams. I was also surprised how many new writers don't realize that you do NOT pay for a literary agent. To make certain you're dealing with a reputable publisher, I advise researching agents, publishers, and editors thoroughly. Writer Beware can help with some of this.
  4. Hiveword. Man, how I used Elizabeth Spann Craig's Knowledge Base when I was a newbie writer tiptoeing into this writing world. I can't begin to tell you how beneficial this website (now Hiveword) was for me when I was starting out. I'm pretty sure there isn't anything you won't find here in your writing quest, so if you have a question, hit up this amazing search engine and delve into thousands of writerly articles.
  5. Writer Unboxed. This site is excellent for the technical parts of the writing journey, but it also has posts from veteran authors who make you feel far less alone on this journey. They share their insight and struggles, and the community is strong here. I see this site as 'nourishment' for the writer's soul, a very important and often overlooked part of a writer's life.

That's it!! Now go read, research, and write, write, write!