Magical Words Link Roundup 4-17-2017

There is a woman in a forest. Or maybe on a highway by a cornfield. At the doorway of a condemned building. And she knows that something is wrong.

Heather Weidner presents 50 things she has learned about the writing life.

Xanth is one of those series that is difficult to explain to newcomers because its popularity is undeniable (I myself devoured the books readily when I was a youngster) and yet they are super-rapey.

One recurring theme that periodically arose while reading and watching the horror genre was the notion that somewhere was a powerful and macabre book of demonic spells called the Necronomicon.

The last of OdysseyCon’s Guests of Honor has dropped out.

A series of instincts, thousands of tiny adjustments, hundreds of drafts … What is the mysterious process writers go through to get an idea on to the page?

Just as long as we steer clear of Europa

Designers are inventing new ways to stay under the radar, including textile patterns that baffle facial recognition software.

It took the director James Gray an agonizing six years and three leading men to get The Lost City of Z out of so-called “development hell.” And that, it would turn out, would be the easiest part about making the movie.

More than a decade-and-a-half into the cinematic superhero revolution that began with the first X-Men film, female superheroes are finally being given the stage — here and there, anyway.

When your stories revolve around forbidden knowledge and terrifying secrets, coming up with obscure or hidden books is just another part of your worldbuilding.

We earthlings have long been fascinated by the thought of alien abduction, and that fascination is reflected in the staggering number of movies dedicated to the mysterious topic.

Guest Post: Alexandra Christian!

Today we have a special treat.

Alexandra Christian is here to talk to you about questions writers ask.

Welcome, Alexandra!


Thanks for having me! Here we go…

I’m a lurker. You caught me. I confess — I’m a lurker. I lurk in Facebook groups reading questions and comments quite frequently. I may not say anything, but I’m there seeing what other people are up to. Some might call it nosy, but I call it research. I’m particularly interested in questions that new authors are asking in these writer groups, but sadly they often get crummy answers (IMHO). So I thought a short post with my answers to common writer questions might be interesting…

How much time do you devote to writing?

This question comes up a lot with new writers who are either working day jobs (like me) or have lots of kids and other responsibilities in your life. Some authors give snotty answers like, “to be a professional you need to devote eight hours to your craft like it’s your regular job.” Or my personal favorite, “if you don’t get up at 5am and immediately write for a few hours before work then you aren’t dedicated.” Both of those answers assume that the writer has a predictable schedule and large blocks of uninterrupted time. But not everyone has that.

The answer to this question is: Everyone is different. Do what you can, when you can.

When I was school teacher, I carried my notebook to lunch and wrote by hand while my students were eating. The best advice is this: carry your notebook with you and write whenever you have a free moment. Those little bursts add up. It may take you a bit longer than those that have 8 hours a day to devote to writing, but you’ll get there.

How long will it take for me to be able to quit my day job and live on my writing?

Ah, the naivety of youth. I see this question over and over and it makes me want to reach through the internet and slap people. Not the people that ask the question, but the people who answer it. “Well I’ve been writing for three years publishing travelogues from BFE and I’m able to make 10K a month! Buy my book to find out how!” That’s the answer I see most often.

The real answer: Nobody knows, kiddo. It may never happen or you might be an overnight success with your werebadger m/m BDSM romance. The market is fickle and there’s just no way to predict.

The only thing I can tell you is, write the stories you want to read and persevere. I’ve been writing professionally for 7 years and as of yet I haven’t broken $200/ month in royalties. My sister (author Lucy Blue) has been writing professionally for 20+ years and still has a dayjob. I have a couple of writer friends who have been at this about as long as I have who are already supporting themselves with their writing. It’s luck. There is no formula. If you’re writing because you think you’re going to get rich and famous, STOP NOW and quit saturating the market.

How do you get published?

Yet another question that doesn’t have an easy answer. With the dawn of eBooks and self-publishing, there are so many paths to publication now that everyone has a different story. The traditional route is: write a great, polished novel; query agents FOREVER and become an expert in navigating the slush pile; finally get an agent who then gives you MORE advice on editing; agent submits your book to big publishing houses and possibly sells it after months or years of submitting; you finally get the book contract and proceed to mark time for at least a year until your book FINALLY comes out (large presses are enormous machines that take ages to put out your product).

That traditional model works for some people and that’s fantastic. But the truth is, big 5 publishing is floundering right now. They are trying to keep up with the market and keep it an exclusive club. Agents are not into taking gambles these days. They want sure things and they watch the market extremely closely. And who can blame them? They have to represent authors whose work they KNOW they can sell. So the traditional publishing model is difficult to break into.

A lot of authors are going through small, independent presses (like me) or doing the self-publishing thing. Indie presses have a smaller-scale model of the traditional path, but don’t usually require an agent and they move your book faster through the machine simply because they don’t have so many books to produce. But, they often don’t have the exposure that a large press does or the capital to promote your book through really big channels (Publishers’ Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, RT Book Reviews, etc.). They also have a tendency to go out of business because just like everyone thinks they can write a book, everyone thinks they can run a small press. Trust me, they can’t. So investigate your small press prospects before you sign that contract.

Self-publishing is great because you’re in charge of every aspect. The bad thing about self-publishing is that you’re in charge of every aspect. In order to be successful at self-pubbing, you have to know about everything — writing, editing, marketing, book covers, promotional channels, formatting, getting reviews, social media, etc. etc. etc… It’s also, if you’re going to do it right, expensive. You have to pay an editor. No, repeat after me — you have to pay an editor. No you can’t do it yourself. No you can’t ask your cousin who’s a schoolteacher to look it over for you. No that is not what spellcheck on Word is for. You need to pay a professional editor ($300-500), pay for original cover art (you can fudge it a little with pre-made covers, but they better be awesome premade covers — $50- $300), pay for good formatting to make the book readable on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.), and then all the promotional costs (advertising, convention appearances, print books for signings/ events, etc.). So self-publishing is great, but it is by no means cheap and easy.

So I hope I answered a few questions anyway. This is by no means a complete list, but I’ve already written two pages and there’s a manuscript over there waiting on me. But just remember this — if writing is in your soul, your soul will find a way. Don’t give up and do it every single day. If it’s what you love, you’re already successful.

Thank you, Lexxxi!

Alexandra also has a new release from Boroughs Publishing. Take a minute to check out NAKED!


Following a brutal act of vengeance, MI:6 agent Macijah St. John is left grieving for his slaughtered family and agrees to participate in a secret government experiment that gives him a magnificent and terrible power.  Now he’s a mercenary spy that solves problems for the right price.  His latest job puts him in the path of the greatest catastrophe yet—a librarian.

Phoebe Addison’s life is a disaster. Crippling debt, a non-existent social life, and being the town librarian is hardly the glamorous existence she’d always dreamed of. But when her sister Jessica, an interplanetary archeologist, gets herself involved with a psychotic billionaire bent on world domination, Phoe is about to get more excitement than she bargained for.

Boroughs Publishing for Pre-Order:

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-13-2017

I was invited to be the first guest DM on the someday-award-winning podcast Authors&Dragons. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, here’s my first episode and the followup. I’m not sure who had more fun – them or me – so you’ll need to listen and decide for yourself!

When we are guests at cons, we might be having a good time, but we are also working.

Who among us has taken the time – let alone achieved the erudition – to construct an entire brand-new language for our fantasy setting? The closest most of us have come is to invent a few words here and there. How then to come up with convincing names for characters and locations?

People are people–how much of a difference does a couple hundred of years make? A lot–and less than you might think.

Why doesn’t my book look like the other popular books in my genre?

As readers, the idea of our favorite books being turned into film and television production frightens us and excites us. It’s scary because so many things can go wrong that could result in – gasp! – an unfaithful adaptation. Yet that doesn’t stop us from being excited because we get to re-experience the stories we love.

Immortality is a constant theme in SF, but what style of immortality?

John Scalzi said, “My haters generally break down into three categories.”

After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim.

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. The outcry was immediate and vitriolic

And if you want to submit to the competition…here you go!

Update: Now that we’re one week out from the launch of our Lost Citadel Talent Search, we’ve been getting queries about what sort of vibe the setting has and what stories set in the world of Redoubt tend to read like and to focus on.

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-12-2017

If you aren’t already aware, Monica Valentinelli withdrew from her GoH appearance at Odysseycon because they made a serial harasser their Guest Liaison. Read below for the full story:

Monica Valentinelli said, “I am posting this today, as a public notice of my withdrawal as the gaming/literary guest of honor from Odyssey Con in Madison, Wisconsin. I feel I owe it to my readers and players to address the reason why I am withdrawing, and hope that this serves as a lesson for other women who find themselves in my position.”

Kelly McCullough says,”Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention. Full stop.”

Knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page. In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.

Michael Damian Thomas says, “My pro hat is off and my fannish beanie is on.”

Odyssey Con, what the actual f$#k are you thinking? ARE you thinking?

K Tempest Bradford talks about OdysseyCon and why serial harassers are safe in our community.

As has become the norm in recent years, it seems as though con organizers handled a situation badly, which snowballed into reactions of condemnation and dismay from the community.

* * * * * *

Robyn Bennis says I firmly believe that all good writing advice is generalized to the point of uselessness by its third retelling.

Whitewashing is a concept that has been around for quite literally decades, especially from the early days of film. Simply put: whitewashing means to cast a white actor to play a role that is traditionally, historically, and/or written for a person of color, essentially erasing the poc perspective and experience from the role in favor of a white actor.

The Fallacy of Agency: on Power, Community, and Erasure

Whether it be for plot or characters, you won’t be forgetting these unique science fiction or horror reads anytime soon.

I spent a couple of hours last week editing author bios for a con program. I didn’t kill anyone…

You know those notes, plans, and carefully woven plotlines? Get them all together in one place and throw them right out the window.

Spend any time at all on the Bravo TV channel, you’ll probably stumble on a Real Housewives episode…With that in mind, I’d like to suggest Andy Cohen consider a new arm of this successful franchise: Real Authors.

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-11-2017

According to a 2014 survey, 54 percent of traditionally published authors and almost 80 percent of self-published authors make less than $1,000 per year.

Taking the time to choose the right setting for each scene is one of the best ways to ensure our writing has impact. Why? Because the setting touches everything.

China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

I love Disney World, but this might be the thing that finally keeps me away for good.

Almost everyone has one in their family: a closet. And a jinn encounter.

A Best Series award makes perfect sense: when a book is part of a larger story, no matter how mind-blowing, it can be tough to judge it on its own merits—so why not take a look at series as a whole?

If all things go well, we’re about to finally see what a black hole looks like, as the Event Horizon Telescope connects six telescopes sprawled across the world and makes them work in tandem to image the supermassive black hole at the center our very own Milky Way galaxy.

For every time your stupid thumbs missed a key…somebody out there skipped a digit and damn near ended the world.

Let’s talk about muggles.

There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are. (Editor’s note: nope, this has nothing to do with speculative fiction. It’s just funny. Although some of the food does look like what they’d serve in a space station from a sci-fi B-movie…)

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-10-2017

How could you tell the difference between an urban fantasy protagonist and a horror protagonist? The answer may depend on how the character would react if an uncanny supernatural being shows up and attacks him.

Whether you come from the California coastline or the snowy forests of Maine, reading a book set in your home state can make you feel a warm nostalgia for that beloved place.

The mystery of Roanoke endures another cruel twist. An artifact found 20 years ago turns out to not be what archaeologists thought.

For years, Blade Runner was the best sci-fi movie never to have a sequel, and that got the Nerdist thinking about all those other movies that belong to the ever-dwindling list of science fiction flicks that never got a follow-up.

Will Smith famously turned down the lead role in “The Matrix.” But how would the mind-melting 1999 sci-fi movie have turned out if the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” actor had actually starred as Neo, in place of Keanu Reeves?

All the best mythological monsters are badass women. Which one are you?

While most people fear the end of the world (or at least actively avoid the idea entirely), there are occasionally those who welcome it, perhaps encouraging it to come about through the calling of Cthulhu or the releasing of Giant Squids.

Terri Kapsalis says, “I teach “The Yellow Wallpaper” because I believe it can save people.”

There are certain stories that are written over and over again…“Snow White” is a template story. So is Dracula. There are many, many versions of “Snow White”: there’s the Grimms’ fairy tale, of course, but also book versions, movie versions . . . And each version is a reinterpretation of earlier versions, a conversation with those versions.

Live your life so Professor McGonagall would be both proud and exasperated by you.

Party Talk!

With gift-giving holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day looming, I asked our writers to answer the question “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Alexandra Christian
I gave my husband a hardcover edition of Lost Girls, the extremely dirty graphic novel series by Alan Moore where all the beloved female heroes of your childhood do really bad things to each other.

Faith Hunter
A necklace for a friend’s mother and a necklace for belly dancing. This is funny, but can’t say why!

Misty Massey
I gave my son a new water bottle and a tool carrier, because I’d put them on lists for other people to buy him for his birthday and they didn’t. *sigh*

Diana Pharaoh Francis
I’m trying to remember. I think it might have been a book to my daughter. Probably. I tend to give her books constantly, so there you are.

Gail Martin
Valentine’s Day—not telling!

Melissa Gilbert
I just gave my dad John Hartness’s newest Quincy Harker collection, The Cambion Cycle, for his birthday.

Darin Kennedy
Grabbed take out dinner for a friend who is a functional bachelor for the next three days.