Lightspeed Magazine presents a cool story for you. It’s called Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead but it won’t cost you a thing.
Every now and then you run across a spot that looks utterly unearthly, and for a heartbeat, it seems you might have fallen into another place. Here are ten places on Earth that look like that.
Rosalind Moran discusses the use and misuse of horses in fantasy fiction.
Want a little creepy reading for October, but you’re in the mood for nonfiction? You’re in luck!
Jaym Gates talks about her upcoming anthology, Strange California.
Honestly, I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re not listening to The Black Tapes or TANIS, you are missing out on some incredible scary-ness.
Zombies Need Brains is looking for submissions for their anthologies: Submerged, All Hail Our Robot Conquerors and The Death of All Things. But don’t wait – deadline is December 31.
There’s a new teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I have only two words: Baby Groot.
John Cleese recaps all six seasons of The Walking Dead, and it’s delightful.
A little over a week ago, I saw Edgar Meyer in concert. Edgar Meyer, for those of you who don’t know, plays double bass, the HUGE acoustic bass that you see in jazz bands and classical symphonies. And saying that Meyer “plays bass” is bit like saying that Willie Mays “played baseball.” Meyer is a virtuoso, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and someone who has excelled in classical, folk, bluegrass, and jazz circles. You might know him from the Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.
This was a solo concert. He opened with the Bach Suite for Solo Cello no. 1, which he adapted for double bass. Brilliant. Then he played a work in progress — a concerto he’s composing. He had the first and third movements just about complete, but he was still working on the middle of the piece, which was going to be one or two movements. He played one middle movement, but he made it clear that it was, for now, a place holder, something that might or might not remain in the final version.
His willingness to perform an unfinished work struck me as incredibly courageous. Now granted, the man is probably the greatest living bassist in the world. It wasn’t like any of us were about to walk out if the performance wasn’t flawless — which, by the way, it was. But still, playing the piece for us took guts.
And yet, it was also something I could relate to. [Please note: I am NOT equating myself with Edgar Meyer — I’ll wait to do that until after I’ve received a MacArthur Grant of my own…] I’ve done readings of works-in-progress — short fiction and segments of novels. Yes, it’s a bit intimidating to do this. Reading from incomplete works makes me hyper-aware of their weaknesses; sometimes it helps me identify them. Which, of course, is the point. It’s not that my audiences for readings tell me what sucks and what doesn’t. They’re almost always way too polite for that.
Rather, I become much more aware of which parts work and which don’t as I read aloud and make myself hear what I’ve written the way my audience does. Sometimes even preparing for a public reading of incomplete chapters and stories forces me to evaluate them in a different way. I read them through not as a writer preparing a first draft, but as a performer rehearsing a script. And doing this, I become more self-conscious, and less willing to tolerate wording that I might otherwise let pass in the early stages of a manuscript’s development.
So, if you’re working on something and need to identify problems that you might otherwise not see, do a reading — for colleagues, for family, for friends, for a single person you trust. The act of performing the piece might help you work through some of those issues you’re having.
Usually, I would end my post there, but I had another revelation that night at the concert that I thought I might also share with you. This requires a bit of set-up, so let me start by telling you two things about my creative process. 1) As some of you already know, I’m usually a plotter. I tend to outline my books ahead of time, as opposed to structuring my books as I go, the way so-called “pantsers” do. And 2) I often listen to music as I write. When I do, it is almost always instrumental jazz or bluegrass with a strong improvisational element. I find that the creation of music in the moment feeds my creativity as I write.
But my current project is one that I haven’t been able to outline — I’m not sure why, but I’ve found that this plot doesn’t want to reveal itself to me in that way. I’ve been plotting as I go, which has been the source of some fits and starts along the way.
That night at the concert, though, I had an epiphany. I usually write with a good deal of structure in my process, and so I thrive on relatively unstructured music to inspire my creative process. So, I thought, what if with this project, to which I’ve taken a relatively unstructured approach, I listen to classical music and use that high level of musical structure to impose some order on my writing? I started doing just that the following day, and it worked really well. I was more productive, and found my thinking about the book more focused than it had been in recent weeks. The experiment continues, but I thought I would share the experience, on the off chance that it helps some of you.
“Because that would f&$%ing rule!” said the humans, high-fiving each other and slamming cans of 24th century Red Bull.” In other words, the explanation for everything we’ve ever invented. Ever.
Mary Robinette Kowal waxes thoughtful on the problem of being friends with someone who turns out to be a jerk.
The wonderful anthology Strange California is nearing it’s goal. If you haven’t pledged already, now would be a perfect time!
Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t afraid of killer robots in our future. Whew!
Author Ann Leckie talks about the worry new writers (and old ones!) sometimes have about irritating the wrong publishing professional and ruining their careers.
Looking for a good scary read? Here are ten titles that might send that shiver down your spine.
Alexandra Erin explores the difference between safety and justice in convention culture.
Kate Elliot talks about whether it’s better to write a series or a stand-alone.
Are you in the Charlotte NC area? Looking for something cool to do this weekend? Come out to the Geek Gala! There’ll be contests and prizes, costumes and games, music and gyrations! Tickets are still available, so come on out and have some geeky fun with us!
Speaking on the weekend’s events, A J Hartley will be signing his marvelous Steeplejack at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Sunday, the 23rd.
Wow. As I have mentioned before, it’s better to just treat all people with respect, because eventually your bad behavior will come back to haunt you.
Are you reading IronJack? WHY NOT????
Liana Brooks offers tips for agent querying. Here’s a hint – there’s no secret knock.
President Obama (who is a self-professed geek and that just makes me love him more) offers his list of must-see SF. (Okay, no, Cosmos is science fact, but I love it too much to call Mr Obama on it.)
Barbara Barnett speaks about Byronic Heroes in Contemporary F&SF.
Maybe a zombie uprising isn’t really possible, but here are 5 ways the apocalypse could happen, or so science claims.
I promised months ago to talk about building an email list, and now I’m finally getting back to it. Sorry, I’ve written a few books since then. But don’t worry, it’s still all valid.
Let’s start by dealing with a few basic ideas about mailing lists – Yes, you need one. Yes, it will sell books for you. Yes, you need to mail the people on it regularly. Yes, you want to engage with folks on your mailing list. Yes, it’s okay if it’s all about you, but it’s great if it’s about other folks, too.
So how do you build one? Let’s start with the basics – you need to start working on building a mailing list before your book exists. It won’t have very many people on it, and they might all be your friends and family, and you might not ever send anything out to them, but if you go ahead and start a mailing list early, you have time to build a few test emails and send them along before the first book hits, so you can hit the ground running when it does.
There are a lot of tools out there, but I use MailChimp. I use it because I currently have a pretty small mailing list, and for the lowest tier of mailing lists, MailChimp is a powerful but effective tool. Once you get over 2,000 people on your list, you might want to look at some other tools. But I only have about 1,000 people on my list currently, so MailChimp is fine for me. If you want to help me boost my list and force me to explore more robust options, click here. You get a free Quincy Harker short story just for signing up, so that’s a win for both of us!
See what I did there? In addition to talking about the piece of software I used, I also snuck in a request for people to sign up for my email list. I’m usually about as subtle as a hand grenade, so I don’t feel the least bit bad about asking for your signup multiple times. I also don’t mind putting a bunch of links in this post, because the more opportunities you give someone to say yes, the more likely they are to do just that.
You can work on your list several ways. One is by blogging and putting links in your bio at the end of each blog post. Another is by putting a link in your email sig file. Another is by putting a button on your Facebook author page (yes, you need one, and we’ll get into why at a later date). I’ve done all of these things. They aren’t tremendously effective, but I do them. I also put links in all my ebooks for people to sign up for my email list. That way once they fall in love with my writing (and if you aren’t confident that people will fall in love with your writing, GET confident – now), they can sign up for my email list, get a free ebook, and stay in touch with all my comings and goings and new releases.
And yes, now I’m just putting in links anywhere that remotely sounds feasible just to be silly. Because it’s late on a Sunday night, I’ve been at a lovely con all weekend (Fayetteville Comic Con, and I’m being 100% sincere, it was a very nice little con), and I’m tired and punchy.
Another way to build your list is to have a signup sheet at all your events. My buddy Darin does that (his new book just released, you should buy it, it’s awesome!) to great effect. I don’t, because I know me, and I know how unlikely I am to actually transfer those handwritten email addresses into my list. Because I have a few things going on, so I know that I need the process to be as automated as possible or I won’t do anything with it. But if you’re more on top of things than I am, then that’s a great way to collect addresses.
I also have done giveaways to entice people to sign up for my list. I recently gave away ten audiobooks to people that signed up for my email list in a certain month. That resulted in quite a few new signups, and the idea is that you will convert those people into customers.
And that’s what all this is about – turning people who are interested in your work into customers, and repeat customers. Obviously none of this works if you write crap, so make sure your craft is up to par before you start emailing people asking them to buy your book.
I typically recommend that you email folks no more than 1-2 times each month, and only when you have something to say. If you’ve got a new release, that’s a good mailer. If you’ve got a special price, that’s a good mailer. If you’re going to a bunch of cons in the next few weeks, let people know. It’s the coolest thing in the world when someone comes up to you at a con and says they love your work, especially if you didn’t pay them to say that. It happened to me three times this weekend in Fayetteville, and I have to admit it made me feel like a rockstar.
So give people information, and give them value. Don’t just ask for stuff (money), give them stuff – giveaways, little stories about the book that maybe they don’t know, answers to questions you get through email – all that stuff can make great newsletter topics. And don’t be afraid to give people 3-4 things per newsletter.
So there’s a little bit about how to create a mailing list. I’ll touch more on what makes a good newsletter in a couple weeks. Until then, John G. Hartness is the award-winning author of a bunch of things. He’s all over the interwebs, over on his blog at www.johnhartness.com, on the Authors & Dragons podcast with other people who are far more talented and funny than him, and at conventions all over the South. Next up – the Charlotte Geek Gala!
Newest Release – Quincy Harker Book #6 is available for preorder! Exclusively on Amazon, preorder yours now! Harper’s chasing demons, or are the demons chasing him? Find out what happens when stuff gets REAL in Heaven’s Door!
First things first. To be a writer, you have to write. Author Chris D’Lacey shares his top writing tips.
Tor.com offers up five books with Female Protagonists Who Shoot First and Ask Questions Later.
I am a such a fan of poisons and plagues, so I was thrilled to take a look at this article from Dan Koboldt. I would never poison anyone in real life. People on my pages, though – they probably ought to look out.
Would you like to win a copy of A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter? Here’s your chance!
Dear Non-readers, please stop saying these things to us.