Tag Archives: science-fiction

TusCon Is Coming! (Nov. 9-11)

Just a little over a week away, TusCon, Tucson’s local science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention is going to be particularly great this year, with a lot of new activities and great guests.

S.M. Stirling is TusCon’s guest of honor. Stirling writes a wide variety of science-fiction and alternate history. I’m in the middle of reading DIES THE FIRE, the first of his “Change” novels, where gunpowder and electricity no longer work and mankind has to figure out a new way of coping both physically and socially. It’s a very entertaining read. I enjoy apocalyptic novels like this because I love seeing how mankind is capable of being creative and resilient in the face of unexpected hardship.

TusCon’s fan guest of honor, David Lee Summers, is also a writer of great creativity, and the editor of TALES OF THE TALISMAN an elegant and highly regarded magazine that just happens to have to published my first short story several years ago. 😉

If you like science-fiction, fantasy, or horror literature and art do consider attending. Over 30 local authors will be present, including moi.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.


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Self-Publishing — How I Began

In the beginning. . . .

I started thinking about self-publishing a little over a year and a half ago. Friends like Liz Danforth and Mike Stackpole were fervent about the inevitability of digital change. Mike, one of the first authors to leap into the digital pool, advised a riveted audience at the 2009 TusCon Science-Fiction Convention to start learning about digital publishing and social media.

A little later, J.A. Konrath changed his mind about self-publishing. Prior to that, he’d been against SP for a variety of reasons, but that changed. I hadn’t heard about Konrath then, but I soon would. I devoured books, and later blogs, soaking up information and letting it swirl around in my head until it gelled into a decision.

At the same time I had a couple of former critique partners urging me away from the SP path. They felt strongly that my work was “too good” to waste on self-publishing, that I hadn’t sent my work out enough (I’d only collected a little over 100 rejections) and I hadn’t tried enough of the smaller publishers. So I did more research, decided that The Wild Rose Press would be a good fit for my paranormal suspense Veiled Mirror (in part because they would bring it out in print as well as digital), sent in my query, and settled back to wait – again. Wonderfully, TWRP didn’t leave me in limbo for weeks as other publishers had done. (That’s one of their strengths:  quick, friendly communication.) They asked for the partial, then the full, and then they were saying they wanted to offer me a contract!

My author ticket had been validated!  I was a REAL bunny – er, writer.

And all this time I continued thinking and reading and talking and blogging about self-publishing. I’d discovered Konrath by this time, and Smith and Rusch. Predictions were being made by Stackpole and Shatzkin about when the tipping point would come for paper books and the consequences to bookstores and publishers, and it wasn’t that far off. The voices were combining into a choir singing the same song: Digital Is The Future. It was while I was combing through the galleys for Veiled Mirror that I decided to self-publish my next book, Lightbringer.

But where to start?

As it happened, I read a post on that very subject by Dean Wesley Smith, and so I began, moving in slow motion.

I bought the domain name, Castle Rock Publishing.

Months later, I opened a business account so my sales could be direct deposited.

I researched, and decided not to incorporate.

I registered a Trade name.

I found a cover artist I liked , recommended her to Roxy Rogers, but didn’t contact her myself.

I stalled.

Somehow, the next step, the step of actually contacting the cover artist, of contacting an editor, would make it all real. I knew that once I did that, the rest would be inevitable, I would be a self-publishing author, with all that meant, good and bad. Those “what-if’s” I wrote about in an earlier post arose like a wall of thorns in a fairy tale. It seems silly now, looking back just a few months, but at the time I gave those “what if’s” the power to hold me still.

And then Roxy told me she had contacted the artist I’d recommended, and a freelance editor, and was self-pubbing two of her short stories in August. It was the last little push I needed. If she could do it, I could! I couldn’t let her have all the fun!  I contacted Kim Killion, Edits that Rock, and a formatter.

And so here I am, moving forward again, sharing my journey with you.  I wish I could say that I simply looked at the facts, made a rational decision, and then acted, full steam ahead. If I had, I’d probably already have a self-pubbed book out there. But that’s not how it happened.

I plan to write more about my decision to not incorporate, the importance of covers, how to measure success, and how to make sure your manuscript is the best it can be, with and without professional editing. Let me know what questions you have, and what parts you most want to know about.


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Tucson Festival of Books Rocks!

This last weekend a humongous number of people came to the University of Arizona to enjoy all things bookish.  Readers, aspiring authors, published writers, editors, and small press owners came together to share ideas and their love of the written word whether it’s printed on paper or with pixels.  I’ve attended a lot of genre specific conventions and conferences (science-fiction, horror, and romance).  All of them were educational and enjoyable. This was like having all of those and more mashed together with the county fair.  Scrumptious and exhilarating!

It was fun to be able to step outside my usual interests and hear people from other areas of expertise talk.   And I managed to not load myself up with too many more books to add to my “to be read” piles.

I feel pretty damned lucky to live in a town that hosts such a fantastic book festival!

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TusCon 37 and A Sale!

The 37th iteration of the TusCon Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention is now history. We had over 40 writers, artists, and scientists talking about and demonstrating their work.  The convention had a great energy, partly attributable to a big increase in attendance.  The guests of honor, Jim and Shannon Butcher, were both gracious (Jim signed autographs for nearly three hours) and a lot of fun to be with.

I’ve been on the committee that organizes the convention for some time, and for the last four I’ve also been a participant as a newbie writer.  Next year I’ll still be a newbie, but I’ll also have new book out to talk about!  I learned on my birthday that The Wild Rose Press will be publishing Veiled Mirror, a romantic suspense with paranormal elements.  The excitement is only creeping up on me slowly, and I’m happy to know that reaction isn’t unusual.  One of the panels at TusCon was “Hooray!  You’ve sold a book.  Now what?”  Fully half the participants initial reaction to their first sale was “Ohmygod,” instead of “Hooray!”

So now I’m taking the next step in my career, and I’ll be sharing with you what I learn along the way.


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TusCon This Weekend

For those of you in the southwest, I’ll be at TusCon 37, a science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention. It runs from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon (Nov. 12 – 14).  The Guests of Honor are Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files series) and Shannon Butcher (author of The Sentinel Wars series).  They have a variety of activities planned, including author panels, art show, masquerade, and computer gaming.  I’ll be on at least one panel and possibly doing a reading, so come on down!

I won’t be blogging on Friday, but I’ll be back on Monday.

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Why Isn’t Free Will Sexy?

I just finished Shannon K. Butcher‘s paranormal romance Burning Alive, the first book of her  “Sentinel Wars” series.  (Disclosure:  Shannon and her husband Jim Butcher will be the guests of honor at TusCon, a science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention this November, a convention for which I’m doing the programming.)

I enjoyed the book and went to Amazon right after finishing it to put another of the series in my shopping cart.  But I must admit there were elements that bothered me and got me thinking about whether I should be including more of them in my own writing.

The basic premise of the series is this:  In our contemporary world there are secret groups of powerful, long-lived beings (the Theronai and the Sanguinar) who are sworn to protect us humans from the monsters (the Synestryn).  The male Theronai gather energy from the environment and if they don’t find a mate to bond with who can syphon off the energy and use it to power her magic, the men’s souls eventually die.  The Sanguinar are healers, but because they power their magic by drinking the blood of others, they’re not well tolerated.

I like the complexity of the universe Shannon has created.  It’s not all straight forward good guys vs. bad guys.  But a central element of the romance gives me pause.  The bond between the Theronai hero and the heroine is largely physical.  An emotional bond does grow between them (over three days) but first and foremost is the physical need they have for each other.  Helen’s touch relieves Drake of the pain of his overabundance of magical energy, and taking it into herself (even before she knows what’s happening to her) feels really good.  They hunger for the other’s touch.

I could get all English Lit. major on this and talk about how this is symbolic of our primal need to connect with others, to belong in a greater social context.  I could talk about how it’s representational of the biochemistry of falling in love.  But let’s not.

This trope of being swept away against our will is a common one in the romance genre.  The physical component isn’t unique either.  C.L. Wilson also uses the concept of having the hero’s life depend on complete bonding with his one and only soul-mate in her Tairen Soul series.

Can’t you just hear an obsessed lover shouting, “I’ll die without you!”  In real life, wouldn’t that give you the creeps?

But Romance isn’t real life, and it’s not meant to be.  It’s fantasy.  It’s wish fulfillment.  And that’s probably the key.  We like the idea of being important to someone.  Of being needed and valued.  This trope, of having the hero’s life depend on his mate’s love and commitment, is symbolic of that.

Shannon does give her heroine a choice — but what a choice!  Fortunately, Helen both loves Drake, and loves making love with him.  But she also knows that if she refuses him, he’ll die in agony.  Is that really a choice?


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Wednesday Review: Bedtime Stories by Jean Johnson

I enjoyed Bedtime Stories:  A Collection of Erotic Fairy Tales by Jean Johnson.  I think the subtitle is a little misleading though.  While there are some hot scenes in each of the tales, they are first and foremost romantic fantasy or science fiction.  The emphasis is more on story than on sex.  This is a positive, as long as you didn’t buy the anthology primarily for vicarious thrills.

My favorite of the stories is “The Courtship of Wali Daad.”  Johnson executes the rhythm and voice of this Arabian Nights type tale perfectly.  The ironic ending to “The Frog Prince” makes it my second favorite.

A couple of the stories are set in the same universe as her Sons of Destiny series inhabits.  I haven’t read Johnson’s other books.  Perhaps if I had I would have enjoyed those stories more.

Over all, this is a nice anthology and I look forward to reading more from Johnson.

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Wednesday Review: Song of Scarabaeus

Sara Creasy‘s debut science-fiction novel rocks!  I completely blew my schedule yesterday because I didn’t want to put it down.  My biggest disappointment with it is that I now have to wait for the sequel to come out.

I grew up devouring science-fiction and fantasy, and even though I’ve been reading more romance in the last few years, this genre is my first love. (I consider SF and F to be one genre because I see it as a continuum — and they’re shelved that way in the store. :-))  I love SF and fantasy because it explores what it means to be human by stretching the boundaries of our expectations and the environment.  Creasy does a fabulous job of examining our moral obligations to each other in a universe where teck invades every aspect of life.  It’s very rare to find a hard SF book with such excellent characterization.  Add that to a fast paced plot and a touch of romance and you have a winner.

I hope someone nominates Song of Scarabaeus for a Hugo Award because it’s that good.

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