Good morning All.
I want to share my feelings with you this morning. And yes, I waited until this morning, Tuesday, Oct 7th, to post this, because of course — no Internet all night until now. Because this is book release day, and it’s also “if it can go wrong, it will, day”. It’s make or break time in a writer’s career. It’s a day of excitement, after weeks of building up to a book release. It’s a day of … nothingness because although the book went out, nothing has happened. I am still waiting to see how many sold, how well my readers liked it, who will excoriate me personally on a review because they wanted my character’s love life to go another direction, or they hate complex plots, or they wanted a more complex plot, or they wanted a particular character to reappear, or they wanted fewer character to be in the book, or they wanted … something … and I didn’t deliver. Or they loved the book. Loved, loved, loved the book! Are screaming from the rooftop about how much they loved the book! It’s an either-or kinda day. A waiting day.
And I’ll keep on waiting because the book just went out in large quantities, and now the readers need to read it before they can react to it. And only now can I see reviews. Which I don’t read because I get depressed, no matter how great or horrid they are. Because I’m a writer and all writers are kinda nuts in case you haven’t noticed.
It’s a bittersweet day. Exciting. Scary. I didn’t sleep last night, even though I tried to monitor my diet yesterday to hold off my body’s normal reaction to stress or impending stress. But. My body knew what was about to happen, what did happen at midnight. Broken Soul went out. Yeah. It did. And I was up all night with indigestion, that problem caused by stress and poor diet and “writer’s nerves”. Because this week is when the numbers count the most. When I either move up the charts and Jane Yellowrock is a success, or I don’t make the charts and *I* am a failure. Stupid, I know. My character gets the kudos and I take on the failures. I did tell you that writers are kinda nuts. Yup. I am, today.
So, if you see a sleep deprived, harried writer out there today, give him or her a pat on the back or a hug because it might be release day and they probably need it. (Note – if you don’t know the writer well, then keep the physical contact to a minimum or you can get arrested, Just sayin’.)
Have great 7th, Y’all.
My second novel, The Shotgun Arcana, releases on October 7th from Tor Books. Shotgun is the follow-up to my debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot and takes place in the same weird western fantasy world—the tiny frontier town of Golgotha, Nevada, in 1870.
Shotgun Arcana takes up a year after the events of Six-Gun, and follows my ensemble cast of characters that were introduced in that novel—Maude Stapleton, Deputy Mutt, Jim Negrey, Sheriff John Highfather, Auggie Shultz, Clay Turlough, Jillian Proctor, Mayor Harry Pratt and Malachi Bick. Everyone has changed and grown a bit from the first book, some in good ways, others, not so good.
I also introduce a few new characters this time around, like the infamous pirate queen, Black Rowan, from the Barbary Coast, and her loyal, and pedantic, manservant, The Scholar. Another new addition to the cast is Emily Rose Bright, a young woman who comes to Golgotha on a mission of discovery about her own past, and ends up.
I think my favorite new addition to the citizens of the Golgotha is Kate Warne, a woman with a murky past and exceptional ability. Kate is a historical figure, based off a really remarkable woman who made a powerful impact on American history but is not exactly a household name.
I don’t want to say too much about the bad guys, I’d rather the reader get to experience them first hand in action, but I will say I worked very hard to create a horde of very, very bad folk to give my capable heroes a run for their money. Several of my heroes meet bad guys every bit as capable and dangerous as they are, if not more so, and that leads to some very exciting and fun actions scenes. I’d say this book has a lot more action than Six-Gun did, and it starts that trend right at the jump.
Still, it’s not all just action. Six-Gun has developed a reputation for some rather weighty philosophy in it as well. I swear that was not my intent when I was writing it, I was just having fun—it just seems to be part of my style, whether I like it or not, I wax philosophical. That continues in Shotgun Arcana. The discussions mirror some of my own struggles internally to reconcile the nature of good and evil, right and wrong and fairness and unfairness we all face daily in our lives. It’s me thinking out loud through my poor characters, but if you enjoy those kind of discussions, I hope you will enjoy them in this novel.
Shotgun Arcana is my first sequel, I’ve never written a second anything ( Hell, I’ve hardly written a first anything, if you consider this is only my second published book) and I wanted to try very hard to let it stand on it’s own, like Six-Gun Tarot. Though I did leave a few dangling plot threads in this one, more than last time, which I’d love to address in a third novel if my readers enjoy this one and want more stories from my little imaginary town. But if this is my last ride to Golgotha, I’m very proud of it. I think it has a lot of things in it I’d enjoy reading about and that I find fun and interesting. I hope that is your experience too. Please let me know if you are kind enough to give it a read; I’d love to hear what you think.
I’d like to thank Misty Massey, and all of the great folks at Magical Words for giving me the opportunity to chat with you and share some ideas about writing. I’m very honored to have been asked. I want to thank Misty for being so patient and understanding for all of the craziness that has been ongoing in my family life as of late. I hope we get the chance to talk again soon. Take care.
R.S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly. The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.
Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, is scheduled for release by Tor on October 7th 2014. His novels, Nightwise, and The Brotherhood of the Wheel are to be released in 2015 and 2016, also by Tor Books.
He lives in Roanoke Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.
As you know, Bob, there is no shortage of writing advice in the world—advice about where to start your story, how to build a plausible world, or how to create compelling characters. There’s even advice about the process of writing itself. Should you write an outline first? Is it necessary to write the plot in sequence? When should you revise your work, and how, and how many times?
This is both a wonderful and a dangerous thing.
And yet, here I am, offering even more advice. What’s up with this?
Think of this as meta advice: how to approach the advice you come across. Here goes…
First rule: There are no rules, only guidelines.
Someone once told me you can’t set fantasy in the modern world. “Truefact!” they said. “Nonsense,” I replied.
Lots of rules are nothing more than preconceptions or misconceptions. Fantasy can take place in the past, present, or future. Historical accuracy isn’t a valid excuse to exclude women from epic fantasy. Past tense is a preference, not a requirement. Let’s not succumb to “everyone says so,” because that sets up barricades to richer stories.
Other rules are simply reactions to what often gets mangled by beginners. Prologues. Using dialect. No adverbs, no not ever. Know the reasons behind these so-called rules, but don’t let them stop you from veering off down your own happy path. Do you want to write a nonlinear plot? Go for it. What about a story that’s all dialog? That could be interesting. Speaking of dialog, what if you want your characters to use a futuristic slang? Or to speak in dialect? Why not?
Be bold, be creative. Have fun, dammit.
There’s only one trick.
Second rule: The reader gets to decide, too.
Yeah, I know I said there were no rules, only guidelines. This one is more like an immutable law. Take gravity. You choose the route up Mount Everest, within reason, but if you step off the cliff, you will fall.
So. You are free to write whatever you like, however you like. The reader gets final say on whether the results work for them. That cleverly invented slang might make your story incoherent. The non-standard punctuation might alter meaning in ways you never predicted. Or all these elements could add depth and atmosphere. It depends on how well you do it. And it depends on the individual reader. Some might find a book that is half footnotes to be a cumbersome read. Others might find it a delight. You can’t and don’t need to please every reader, but you do need to be aware of your audience.
Which brings me to…
First guideline: Think about what you’re doing.
This should be obvious, but sometimes we get sucked into following a particular piece of advice because we think it’s a genuine rule. We decide to scrap an opening because everyone knows you can’t start with a character waking up. But Octavia Butler started two different novels that way, and both absolutely work and work well. They work because she deliberately chose openings that highlighted her main character’s nature and situation. Lilith was awakened by aliens aboard a spaceship. Shori woke to blindness and a ravening hunger and almost fatal injuries.
Or sometimes the opposite happens. We write a story with a lovingly drawn description of the weather, followed by several paragraphs of backstory. Perhaps a beta reader says, “This is too slow. You need to have some kind of hook to draw the reader in.” If we’re so attached to our first vision of the story, we might reject the advice instead of taking a step back and considering how to make the opening more engaging.
Second guideline: How you write a story doesn’t matter.
You know the kind of story you want to write. You know the voice and character and how the story should unfold. You sit down to write and the second wave of advice rolls over you. Write every day! Outline first! Write in sequence! Don’t edit until you finish your first draft!
It’s easy to panic, to feel that these suggestions for writing process are actual laws of physics, not just guidelines.
Second, remember that the writing process is individual to the writer and the project at hand. Explore what works best for you and your writing. You might be someone who has to research and outline everything in advance. That’s great. Or you might be someone who flings themselves gleefully into the project, knowing the first draft will be a complete mess that leads them to the real story in draft #2. Maybe you write every day. Or maybe your life swallows you whole during the week, and you only have weekends.
There is no one true way to write. Not when, not how, not anything.
Third, there is also no one true way that works every single time. You might write six novels in a row the same way (outline, in sequence, no editing until the first draft is complete, just for an example). Then you get to novel #7 and you hit a stone wall set about with barbed wire. You panic.
Try a new approach. Maybe this project needs a different approach. You could try writing the last chapter and working backwards. Or you might pause halfway through and revise the first part before you dive into the ending.
Third: Just write.
BIO: Beth Bernobich is a writer, reader, mother, and geek. Her short stories have appeared in Tor.com, Asimov’s, Interzone, and Strange Horizons, among other places. Her first novel, PASSION PLAY, won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy in 2011. Her newest release, THE TIME ROADS, is available from Tor Books October 14, 2014.
My Characters and Me
On more occasions than I can count, my characters have this uncanny ability to make me want things or feel a certain way. This is a quick survey to see which characters influence me most in my day-to-day goings on.
Who makes you stay up at night?
*Ahem.* Yes, that would be Reyes Farrow, for obvious reasons I shan’t go into here.
Who makes you want to make a fresh pot of coffee?
Oh, man, every time I start writing Charley now, the first thing I think is COFFEE! If I don’t have a cup of coffee right there next to me, I feel naked. Well, sometimes I am, but not usually.
Who makes you want to watch TV?
Aunt Lil, actually. I love her and I’d love to hang and watch the tube with her. She has some great one-liners.
Who makes you hungry?
I would have to say Angel on this one. He is a teenaged boy, after all, and having had two myself, I know how much those guys can put away. I can just see Angel crunching an apple while trying to seduce talking to Charley.
Who makes you mad?
Mostly the bad guys, although Reyes has had his moments. But not many characters can anger me like the monstrous Earl Walker.
Who makes you laugh?
Charley and Cookie. I love putting those two together in a scene. It makes my day.
Who makes you sad?
Again, I have to go with Angel on this one. I feel for him, for the life he lost. Danged teenagers.
Who makes you feel lost?
Many of the departed in my stories do. I feel for them, for their heartache and lost opportunities, although Charley has a horrid sense of direction and can get me lost as well.
Who makes you feel scared?
Charley! That woman is a magnet for all kinds of trouble and I cringe at some of the stunts she pulls, but she wouldn’t be Charley if she didn’t.
Who makes you feel “kinky”?
Well, if we’re talking Garrett Swopes and Reyes in the same room, all kinds of kinky thoughts come to mind. MÉNAGE! Just sayin’.
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious Golden Heart®, a Rebecca, two Hold Medallions, a RITA ®, and a Daphne du Maurier, and she has received stellar reviews from dozens of publications including starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and the Library Journal. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike, and she is ever so grateful for the opportunity to carry on that tradition. She currently has two series with St. Martin’s Press: The Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of almost 30 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at www.daryndajones.com
We talked a bit about sentence structure at one of the Cons this year, discussing how important it is to know the various ways to string words together. Sentence structure is one of the most important tools in the writer’s tool box. In fact, sentence structure is the background music to the movie of our book. It sets pace, rhythm, and voice. It also contributes to the character and narrative voice. It can’t be over emphasized. But it is almost always under emphasized.
Let me illustrate.
The info I (the writer) want to convey to the audience (the readers) in the opening of a short story is:
- Jane Yellowrock has a Harley named Bitsa.
- Jane is riding Bitsa to a meeting withLeo Pellissier (her boss, a vampire, who bit her once).
- Jane is in a hurry, driving through NOLA past Jackson Square.
- It is raining and humid and the city smells different in the rain.
- The storm drains are just now catching up with the hard rain and city waste.
- It is August.
- Jane is late.
- She is wearing biker gear and Lucchese boots.
- Jane is a skinwalker. Smells and scents are much stronger to her than to a human.
There are many ways to write this information into pleasing and rhythmic sentences to avoid repetitious structure. I use first person POV, but it easily could be transposed into third.
Poorly written would be this method:
I rode my Harley, Bitsa, through New Orleans. I passed Jackson Square. It was raining and hot and muggy because it was August. The storm drains sucked the rain and trash away. The city smelled better after the rain. I was going to be late to the meeting called by Leo Pellissier, my boss, who had bitten me once.
It reads like a high school kid wrote it between gym class and English class. It’s just plain boring. But the same info can be restructured using gerunds (ing words) and rearranging the info in the paragraph in different ways, as well as changing the sentence structure to impart emotion. It can be personalized by adding character reactions. The version below is written to give emphasis on setting and voice; it is slow and offers more character and less conflict.
I gunned Bitsa between cars and around Jackson Square, the bike puttering, muttering, in the distinctive Harley rumble I loved. August rain splashed up from the steamy pavement washing debris, environmental pollutants, and the human stink of the town into the storm drain system. Pooled rain pelted my riding clothes and old Lucchese boots, soaking the leather. The heated rain filled the air with fresh scents, and if I wasn’t already late for a meeting with my boss, I’d have meandered, enjoying the French Quarter of New Orleans, but Leo Pellissier, Master of the City, wasn’t known for his pacific nature. I carried bad news, and was now late enough that he might threaten to drain me dry. I’d been bitten by those massive fangs once and I’d stake him before that happened again.
Now, let’s try the same info to impart a sense of urgency, as if the music sped up. We’ll do this several ways, mostly by offering negatives and a shorter, choppier sentence structure.
I gunned my Harley, its signature rumble reverberating through the narrow street, along the close, brick buildings. Bending over the handlebar, my grip slipped in the heated rain. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. I compensated, racing around Jackson Square. Both my bike Bitsa and I were soaked in the August storm, my old Lucchese boots ruined. I was late for a meeting with the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, and the news I brought Leo Pellissier was gonna ruin his night. And maybe mine. I’d been bitten by those massive fangs once. I’d stake him before that happened again.
Notice the difference in the way the setting is presented. The writer offers mostly negatives about the setting and the negative results—grip slipping, loss of control of the motorcycle, tire spinning. There’s more emphasis on the speed and less on the rain itself. The sentences are shorter and choppier. There are fewer compound sentences (two sentences that are compounded into one, most often using the word *and*). Same info, but a totally different tone, based on the sentence structure and the particular info I concentrated upon.
Let’s look at the first few sentences of each example and then try different ways to structure that information (and the sentences) to achieve different ends. Each results in a slightly different emotional tone.
Original: I gunned Bitsa between cars and around Jackson Square, the bike puttering, muttering, in the distinctive Harley rumble I loved. August rain splashed up from the steamy pavement washing debris, environmental pollutants, and the human stink of the town into the storm drain system. Pooled rain pelted my riding clothes and old Lucchese boots, soaking the leather.
Version 2. I gunned my Harley, its signature rumble reverberating through the narrow street, along the close, brick buildings. Bending over the handlebar, my grip slipped in the heated rain. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement.
New Variation 1: Gunning Bitsa, I bent over the handlebar, my grip slipping in the heated rain. The signature Harley rumble reverberated through the narrow street and close, brick buildings. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. (This one takes the opening off the character and onto the bike and the setting. It’s less personal, and yet shows conflict.)
New Variation 2: The Harley stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. I compensated and gunned Bitsa. Bending over the handlebar, my grip slipped in the heated rain. (This one is even less personal, and because of the tighter and shorter sentence structure, the sense of urgency and tension might be a bit higher. The information order might even suggest a sense of fear. Why? The question arises, why is she riding recklessly in the rain?)
New Variation 3. I bent over the handlebar, my grip slipping in the heated rain. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. I gunned my Harley. (Here I went too far, cut too much info. However, I could leave it if I brought up the danger to/from Leo at the end.)
New Variation 4. My grip slipping in the heated rain, I bent over the handlebar, gunning Bitsa. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. The signature Harley rumble reverberated through the narrow street and close, brick buildings. (I don’t like this one, but it could be personal preference. I like the next one best of them all, as it seems to suggest that urgency I was aiming for.)
New Variation 5. My grip slipped in the heated rain. The bike stuttered, the back tire spinning and squealing on wet pavement. Bent over the handlebar, I compensated. Gunned Bitsa. The signature Harley rumble reverberated through the narrow street and close, brick buildings.
There are myriad ways to structure words into sentences and each way results in some kind of emotional reaction from the reader, even if it’s just boredom—the one emotion we don’t want! But especially in the opening sentences, the writer’s goal is to bait and hook the reader, pulling into the story as fast as possible.
Oh – BLACK WATER, a compilation of 2 Jane Yellowrock short stories came out on Sept 16. BROKEN SOUL will be out on Oct 7.
Endings are hard. We say that a lot, and hear it a lot, because it’s true. Most of us, when we write, choose a story to work on because we’ve had some brilliant vision of the lead character doing something, or have suddenly been overwhelmed by that character’s voice, or just have this great idea of “hey, what if . . . ?” But that initial impulse, that creative spark, doesn’t usually extend to how the story ends. We all know the famous story of J. Michael Straczynski with Babylon 5, right? He sat down with the producers to talk about the idea of doing that TV series and mentioned that he had already envisioned a five-year arc. One of the producers jokingly asked, “Okay, how does it end?” And JMS told them. Because he already had most of the major beats mapped out in his head, including the very last scene of the entire series.
But most of us aren’t like that.
And even though we do eventually get to the end, it can be tough to see it in advance. Especially when you’re just starting to plot out the story. I even know a few other writers who claim they can’t think about the ending before they start writing because if they do, if they already know where the story is going to go, they lose all impetus to write it—it’s like their brain only spins out these “what if” scenarios and plots until it gets to the conclusion and then it gets bored and moves on to something new.
I don’t have that problem because I recognize that at least half of the fun is in the journey. Even if I already know where my story is going, even if I already know how it ends, I don’t yet know all the twists and turns it will take to get there. And even once I do have all of those mapped out in my head, I still want to see how they play out. I still want to see exactly what my characters will say, what they’ll do, how they’ll react to each situation. When you prank your friends you know more or less what’s going to happen but you still want to see the looks on their faces and hear their exclamations of surprise and hopefully awe and amusement.
Ending a story becomes a lot harder, though, when it’s a book in an ongoing series. Because then you can’t close out the story completely. You can’t come to a dead stop. If you do, you’re going to have to start again from that cold stop when you begin the next book, and that means you’ll spend the first portion of the new book revving back up, trying to recapture even a fraction of that lost momentum. You have to be able to cycle the story down at the end of the book but still leave it moving forward, like leaving a car in idle when you hit a stoplight, so that with the next book you can just jump back in and bring it back up to cruising speed right away.
That can be a tricky thing, finishing the physical book without completely finishing the story. Some people use the cliffhanger method, of course. Hit a climactic moment, throw something huge at your main character—and then just end the book there. That way your readers are left perched on the edge of their seats, desperate to see how it all works out.
I’m not a big fan of this method. For me, it feels too much like cheating. You deliberately didn’t finish that scene in order to keep your readers interested, but by doing so you’ve broken your contract with them. When you wrote this book you promised that it would contain a full story, and now at the end you’ve pulled a fast one, like borrowing something from a friend, saying “oh, I’ll give it back when I’m done,” and then every time they ask for it back claiming “oh, I’m not quite done yet.” When I read books like that, my own response is to chuck them aside in frustration and not pick up the next book out of sheer spite: “Oh, yeah? You thought you could leave me hanging like that? Not a chance!” There’s a reason, if a friend borrows something from me and never returns it, I won’t usually loan them anything else in future.
What I much prefer instead, both in my reading and in my own writing, is to use episodic and arc storylines. Each book, for me, should be a single clear episode. It should have a self-contained storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end (though they don’t have to be in that order). There should, by the end of the book, be a clear resolution to whatever major situation had occurred at the start.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the end of each book should tie up every plot thread. Or even every major one. Because if you have wrapped up every thread, why are you writing a sequel? You’ve already finished that story, go out and write something new instead.
We write sequels because there’s still something more we want to say or see or explore about those particular characters, that particular setting, that particular situation. Which means there are still some threads out there to play with. If the characters are thrust into the middle of a war at the beginning of the first book, that doesn’t mean the war has to be over by the end of it—but it does mean whatever battle they were worried about should have occurred, or whatever element of the war they were focused on. The next book can pick up with the next stage of that war, but it shouldn’t start up mid-battle.
When I wrote the first DuckBob novel, No Small Bills, I had a very clear plot: the universe is being invaded, and a group of aliens ask DuckBob—a hapless guy they’d previously abducted and altered, giving him the head of a duck—to help them stop it. Hilarity ensues. I resolve that situation by the end of the book—but that doesn’t mean it’s all over. For one thing, actions have repercussions. Especially the actions of someone like DuckBob. He’s in a very different place at the end of the first book, not just literally but also personally. I wanted to explore what that meant for him and for the universe in general, which is why I wrote the second book, Too Small for Tall. That has a very different story—DuckBob’s best friend, the Man in Black he nicknamed Tall, runs into a problem and DuckBob tries to help fix it, with his usual insane results—but even though this situation is a new one, the characters’ relationships and personal situations are a direct continuation of the things that happen in the first book. I’m about to release the third book in the series, Three Small Coinkydinks, which had DuckBob and his alien techie pal Ned wandering into yet another new situation, but one that leads back rather alarmingly to some things from not only the second book but also the first one. Each of the books has its own story, but they all fit together into a much larger story, just as the characters continue to evolve throughout. And each book has a clear resolution, an ending to its particular plot, but leaves a lot of room for the characters—and the readers—to wonder what exactly is going to come next. At the same time, my readers aren’t going to walk away from any of these books going “but that’s not fair, how does it end?” They may come back for more DuckBob—I hope they will!—but they’ll be satisfied that the particular book they read, the particular story, had a proper ending. Just one that still leaves the way open to flow into a new story, one which will have its own ending as well.
Aaron Rosenberg is the author of the best-selling DuckBob series (consisting of No Small Bills, Too Small for Tall, and Three Small Coinkydinks), the Dread Remora space-opera series and, with David Niall Wilson, the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. His tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, WarCraft, and Eureka. He has written children’s books (including the original series Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles, the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books on a variety of topics, and over seventy roleplaying games (such as the original games Asylum, Spookshow, and Chosen, work for White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle, and many others, and both the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets and the Gold ENnie-winning Lure of the Lich Lord). He is the co-creator of the ReDeus series, and one of the founders of Crazy 8 Press. Aaron lives in New York with his family. You can follow him online at gryphonrose.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and on Twitter @gryphonrose.
Greetings fellow writers and readers. We are Barb and J.C. Hendee, and some of you know us as the collaborative authors of the books/series in the Noble Dead Saga, beginning in 2003 with Dhampir (NobleDead.org). We live south of Portland, Oregon, and about a hour from the coast. Barb’s earlier works appeared in numerous genre magazines and anthologies. J.C.’s poetry, non-fiction, and short fiction have also appeared in many genre publications. And I am J.C., here with you today.
We are both former academics with MAs in English but with differing emphases: Barb in Composition & Rhetoric and myself in Creative Prose, along with a lot of literary / specialty press editing and publishing. We both have backgrounds in the private sector as well. Over the last decade plus, we have taught workshops, classes, and seminars related to fiction writing inside and outside of academia. I was also once a partner in a private IT consultancy (data/document systems and security) for a while. That was before the last 13 years as a full-time author with Barb.
Since you come to MagicalWords.net as dedicated writers as well as readers, we thought you might like hearing about our involvement in another related field: ever-evolving (e)self-publishing. And so, here is how we wandered into that realm.
N.D. Author Services is a recently launched operation offering services for self-published to professional authors. A steadily growing gallery of premade covers is available, and we have now publicly opened to custom cover work. As to how this all started…
I composed all previous covers for my and/or Barb’s occasional self-published short works in T·N·D·S: Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga. It was quite a learning experience as something new to me. I also did all compiling and distibution to our established portal accounts at major online ebook stores. (We do not use ebook publishing aggregators.) After watching me fuss and fume in that, Barb said something like “Hmm, you should do that for other authors, too.”
I balked at first; this new pursuit was aside from being a full-time author. Later, with nudges from global contacts maintained from college, teaching, and IT years, I thought otherwise. With that, NDAS established its presence on the internet.
All team members have full-time careers inside and/or outside the publishing industry, some of them both. They are involved because it is fun and they like it. All have a vested personal interest in authorship, one way or another. And both Barb and I adore this new venture.
We intimately understand the concerns of would-be to professional authors. This applies whether you are self-publishing, working through a agent/publisher, or seeking to reissue a backlist for either. We even like helping authors with security and savings, if you look in the NDAS site’s “Resources [for Authors]” section. Barb says that I can be a bit of a fire breather/eater when it comes to authors being gouged by software corporations.
I make no apologies for that. I now use nothing but FOSS (Free Open Source Software) full-time in my professional pursuits as an author. I walk the walk, as they say, on twos or fours with claws included. You can do the same, and your publisher and/or press will not know the difference. Mine did not, until I told them (much) later. And NDAS regularly offers “advice” articles for authors. The current series about “The Challenge of Promoting” deals with how to setup and manage the basic foundation (to expand upon) for efficiently promoting your published works… at nearly $0.
As said, some custom contract work for private clients has been ongoing at NDAS from before it opened. So now that we have gone public, other products and services are in the making. Those wait until truly ready for release over the coming season in the following order:
- internet promotional graphics (based on NDAS covers or otherwise),
- related graphics, promotional or otherwise,
- EPUB development & compiling,
- Print layout (with or without EPUB), and
- (if personal time permits) manuscript and submission package review & critique.
As a side note, if you have need for any of these now, it never hurts to ask us, though we cannot guarantee a “yes.” We have occasionally aggreed to unlisted services upon need as some previous clients know.
As authors ourselves, we know the writing comes first; it does for us, too. So we do not “publicly” announce new products and/or services until we are ready to handle them.
And that’s that. Whether you are just curious as an author about future options, or as a reader wanting a peek inside the changing world of publishing, stop by our new (second) home on the net. As to getting something finished and ready for readers, well, you will find help with that here at MagicalWords.net.
Barb and J.C. are currently working on the 15th and last volume in The Noble Dead Saga, The Night Voice. Barb also writes The Mist-Torn Witches series, which though set in the NDS world is autonomous and has no connection to the saga.
Once the final NDS novel is complete, they are already under contract (and preparing with their editor) for the first in a new collaborative fantasy project yet to be announced.