?

Log in

[sticky post] Welcome to My Blog

Hello and welcome to my professional blog. In this blog, I will mostly write about writing, editing, publishing, slush reading and the calls for submission I am making or responding to. There will be writer advice based on whatever lesson I am relearning, interview links for current projects and random bits that relate to writing in some emotional or technical way. I have no filters and make liberal use of the tag system.

See my profile for my event appearances, book covers, bio and other such things.

My personal blog, gaaneden, is where I talk about my husband, my cats, my gaming and other randomness of everyday life. It is a lot less structured and a lot more fluff. Feel free to add my personal LJ as well.

Story Trends

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Sometimes, story trends just hit me. This year, it is all about robots.

First, I have story in ROBOTS! for the Origins Game Fair anthology called “ARMIN LAAS.” It is about a self aware AI that inhabits different roles in society. For this story, the AI’s chassis is a LEO – Lift Engineer Operator. He is a host robot on a space elevator who longs for more.

Second, I have a story in MECH: Age of Steel called “Vulture Patrol.” The main character pilots a salvager mech, the Grey Gull, that salvages the important bits after a space battle. It is a huge spherical mech with many arms and bays to hold salvage. The Grey Gull is personalize to the protagonist in a way that seems alive.

Third, I have a story in Defending the Future: Man and Machine called “Inky, Blinky, and Me.” This one is about a pair of self aware AIs who inhabit small modular spy chassis. They are doggedly loyal to the main protagonist and each other. They save the day in an unexpected way.

I’ve written stories for other anthologies this year, but they’ve all been tie-in fiction. Robots, mechs, and AIs are big this year. I like the fact that each story I’ve written is so different from each other.

Catching Up

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

When I first got home from StokerCon, I wrote:

Home from StokerCon. I did not win a stoker award for my YA novel, NEVER LET ME SLEEP. John Dixon did for his, and he is a complete sweetie. But, I didn't walk away empty-handed. I got to see old friends like Lucy A. Snyder and Jonathan Maberry, meet new friends, pitch the Melissa Allen series to a producer, have an in-depth conversation with an agent, meet Gini Koch, got asked to write a short story, and finished red lining my Shadowrun novel. It was a good convention.

My thoughts haven’t changed. It was a good convention. It was the first time I’ve been thanked by a winner of a major award during their acceptance speech. Lucy gave me a shout out and I appreciate it.

However, I hate the Vegas strip. I can’t say I hate Vegas. I spent time with my friend Drake in the north end of Vegas and it was lovely, if hot and dry. You can buy a lot of house for a lot less money than you can in the Seattle area.

That said, I won’t ever move out of the Pacific Northwest if I can help it. Monday, when I was taking out the trash, I had an honest-to-goodness “Calvin and Hobbes Trash Moment.” I dropped the trash in the can, then stopped and realized how quiet it was. I could only hear birdsong. Not even cars at that moment. The sky was filled with light grey clouds, bringing a depth the world around me. I could actually fill the moisture in the air. After 5 days in Vegas, it was exactly what I needed to truly appreciate where I live.

I’m home now. I’m catching up on email and other notices.

Here’s a really great review of NEVER LET ME from Amazon. This is the kind of review that makes my heart sing.

Also, my location supplement, Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island, has been nominated for d-Infinity Independent Game Awards for best RPG supplement. I’m not going to win. It’s one of those click to vote popularity things but I’m happy to have been nominated.

Tell Me - Dylan Birtolo

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Dylan is one of the first authors I met at a convention that I rejected. It was my nightmare come true. However, ever the professional, Dylan was happy, pleasant, and enthusiastic. We talked, we became friends. I published him. Eventually, I co-wrote an RPG piece with him. It's been a pleasure to see him grow as an author.

---



Evolving My Technique

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Heck, I still have the first story that I ever wrote. It was back in third grade when we had to write a one-page story in cursive writing with one inch margins drawn on the page. My story was nineteen pages. I still have it on very yellowed and slightly crispy paper. And no, you can’t read it, at least not yet.

The point is that even back then, I knew that I liked telling stories and that it was something that was going to stick with me for my entire life. I have spent time working on all sorts of different mediums, whether that is role playing, being on stage, or good old fashioned prose writing. When I was first starting as a writer, one of the things that I learned very quickly was that everyone’s process was different. If you asked ten different writers how they went about putting words on paper, you would get ten different answers. For me, I loved the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next.

For my stories, and indeed my first novel, I would start with a premise, solidly defined characters, a vague idea of where the story might go, and then I sat down to start typing. I would just let the words flow. It goes without saying that I would need to go back and clean it up, but for that first draft, that was how I wrote – completely by the seat of my pants. Half of the time I was surprised with the turns that the stories would take, and that was part of the excitement of telling the story. I liked thinking on my feet. (Side note – is it any surprise that I prefer improv over memorized lines when on stage? I didn’t think so.)

I can even remember having arguments with people in online writing groups about it. One person was adamant that you needed to plan a story before you wrote it. That you needed to iron out all of the details and have them scoped out before you ever put a word on the page. In my (slightly more) stubborn youth, we butted heads a lot. He would show me examples of stories that OBVIOUSLY had to be planned ahead of time to orchestrate the finale and the payoff. I would show him my writing and point out that I never planned a single plot.

It didn’t help that I was not the best writer at the time.

It was many years before I planned my first story. It was a short story for an anthology released almost ten years ago now. I wanted to put a twist in the end, but in order for the twist to pay off, I needed to seed the story the right way. If I just smacked the reader with it out of the blue, it would not carry any weight. At best, it would be confusing. At worse, it would be completely nonsensical. So I planned the story. Not a lot, but I took a couple of notes about small clues I needed to lay down on the way to that pay off.

Now I am a big planner. This was very clear when I went back to rewrite The Shadow Chaser. The first edition of that book wasn’t planned. Now that I was going to be making a trilogy, I wanted to lay down the seeds for fruit that wouldn’t come to fruition until the third book. I knew where I was going and I wanted to lay down the pieces that would make the payoff that much more rewarding in the end.

I liken it to stage fighting. I have spent several years training how to fight with weapons, and I can do improv fights if I need to where not a single blow is choreographed. Depending on my partner, we might even make the fight look good while only being slightly more dangerous than a choreographed fight. But on the other hand we have something that is choreographed, something that we have spent weeks and months refining and practicing, ironing out all of the little hiccups and rough spots. That fight? That fight is always going to look faster, flashier, and better. It will have a much larger pay off than an improvisational combat for the audience.

I’m not saying that you need to plan. You need to find what works for you. And at first, what worked for me was putting the words down as fast as they could come. Now I like to plan. I opened up my toolbox to this idea and pulled in a new tool, one that I like to use to create better stories. I am still convinced I plan less than most writers I’ve talked to. I like that thrill too much. But, just a bit of planning does let me sprinkle those seeds and care for them.

My process evolved. I added something to my toolbox and made it my own, and I think that’s how we become better artists, whatever our medium of choice is.

---
Dylan Birtolo resides in the Pacific Northwest where he spends his time as a writer, a gamer, and a professional sword-swinger. His thoughts are filled with shape shifters, mythological demons, and epic battles. He’s published a few fantasy novels and several short stories. He trains with the Seattle Knights, an acting troop that focuses on stage combat, and has performed in live shows, videos, and movies. He jousts, and yes, the armor is real - it weighs over 100 pounds. You can read more about him and his works at dylanbirtolo.com or follow his twitter at @DylanBirtolo.


 

May Monthly Stat Thing

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Yay for eight year wedding anniversary with my beloved Husband! He’s so awesome. On May 1st, he went hiking today to give me private, quiet time to work on MAKEDA RED. That’s love and marriage for you. Besides, Saturday, we went to a rock and gem show and bought a rock for our anniversary.

Year-to-date stats:
Fiction words written: 108,810 (Yes, that’s over 50,000 words in April.)
Article words written: 7896
My novels/collections edited: 3
My short stories proofed: 2
Other novels/anthologies edited: 5
Events attended: 4

I’ve got StokerCon and the Bram Stoker Awards to go to this month. My goal is to have the first draft of MAKEDA RED done before I leave. Then I can spend a month fixing it and freaking out when I get back and finish before I go to Origins Game Fair.

Bubble and Squeek for 27 April 2016

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Release: Colonial Gothic: Lost Tales - This is my "Oops! I have a fiction collection" book. Rogue Games collected all my RPG fiction in the Colonial Gothic universe. Supernatural horror in 1776 for the win!

Review: The Melissa Allen series got a NICE shout out in this: Where Are My Damn Heroes? This article makes me really happy. It's nice to be understood.

Sale: Reminder - Last Chance Karen Wilson Chronicles Trade Paperback Sale. 4 Trade for $30.

In the "I've been so busy writing the Shadowrun novel, I didn't notice this was announced" side of things, Project Joe got announced two months back. Project Joe is actually H.E.A.D. Hunters from Gut Shot Games. I wrote all of the background stories for every character and the setting. The announcement and podcasts are system focused, but it is nice to be able to talk about the game now.

Announcement: Gut Shot Games Announces H.E.A.D. Hunters, designed by Ben Cichoski and Danny Mandel (the guys who designed Legendary Encounters).

Podcast: Dukes of Dice - H.E.A.D. Hunters, system discussion starts at 1:10. Pretty crunchy discussion.

Podcast: Bearded Bards of Board Games - H.E.A.D. Hunters, more detailed system discussion starts at 1:19. There are brief comments about the character stories. It seems I really disturbed the designers with the Lechuza (Owl Witch) story. :)

Tell Me - Camille Griep

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Camille is a lovely woman and wonderful author. I blurbed her most recent release, New Charity Blues. Today, she talks about how writing is like taking care of horses.

---



Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Growing up in the eastern prairielands of Montana, it was hard not to become a girl who fell hard for horses. Though almost two decades now sit between me and my halcyon horsey days, they came rushing back as I settled in to write my second novel, New Charity Blues.

The book is a post-pandemic reimagining of the Trojan War. We meet Cressyda (Syd) Turner in the first chapter, as she stumbles through the ruins of a city unable to rebuild because of the water-hoarding greed of her upstream hometown, New Charity. When she receives word of the death of her father, she is allowed to pass through the gates of her isolated birthplace. Under the guise of settling her father’s affairs, she plots to open the floodgates of the reservoir. But before she can set about her adventure, she has to get back on the horse – literally.

The process for Syd was not so unlike the process of saddling up to write a second book. Here are five ways “horse sense” is remarkably applicable to the process:

1. Stay close to the horse’s ass, or really far away.

Horsewomen know about the kick zone – the area where a horse’s hooves can do a fair bit of damage. Accordingly, there are two ways to safely navigate an equine backside: 1. hug the tail or 2. give the butt a wide berth.

I’ve found writing to be similar in many ways. When I approach a project, I need to stay close to it, giving it the thought, time, and attention it needs. For my personal process, thinking and decision-making time is imperative before I commit to point of view choices, tense, and character arcs. Over the course of two novels, I haven’t yet fully shrugged off the mantle of a pantser, but I’ve also discovered too much exploratory writing can be detrimental. Though exploration works for a lot of writers, when I spend a lot of time working aimlessly, I end up hating my ideas, my writing, and, sometimes, the entire concept. I’ve been accused a time or two of being an all or nothing person, and it’s true here. When I begin to create, sticking close to a project is good, as is staying far away, but picking at the road apples in the middle of the strike zone is a sure way to end up with manure on my face.

2. Be mindful of your surroundings, but not too mindful.

Three flighty Arabian horses lived in our barn when I was a child. Because I started riding quite young, I hadn’t yet grasped that animals, much like people, weren’t guileless. It was not until I was 11 or 12 that I began to realize that my horses didn’t necessarily want to ride out into the hills with me instead of standing in the sun snacking on hay.  One of their favorite tricks – a specialty of many Arabians, as owners will tell you – was spooking at any small thing on the trail. Be it bird or plastic bag, grasshopper or garden hose, their feigned surprise would often be my unseating. As I got older, I learned to anticipate their antics, which didn’t stop them, but kept me on top of my mares instead of underneath them.

I was under contract for New Charity Blues when my first novel, Letters to Zell, was released. Finishing a book while another is just making its way into the world is a fairly common writerly experience, but I hadn’t learned to tune the rest of the world out very well. In particular, I hadn’t anticipated any harm in skimming my reviews each morning before I started to write. There were so many nice reviews, but I was mostly obsessed with the bad ones, the insulting ones, the nasty ones – no matter that I’d been warned to expect them. I knew, academically, all writers had bad reviews, but I wasn’t prepared for how they’d feel. But after a stern talk with myself (some people will like our books and some won’t and that’s okay), I stopped looking around and started looking at my laptop again. I learned to anticipate the antics of the world-at-large and kept my seat in the office chair.

3. Listen to your mount.

When I was in high school, my most placid and well-behaved mare, Ileah, and I were on a short trail ride in the hills near my house. She almost never refused obstacles of any sort, so it was odd as we climbed a springtime-damp hillside when she stopped in her tracks. I urged her forward, insisting that it was a teachable moment. What I didn’t know was that there was a piece of barbed wire in the soft ground. She tore the skin on her leg badly as she pulled her leg from the mud. At first I thought I’d killed her, there was so much blood, but I bandaged her with my purple bandana and watched shakily as the vet sewed her leg up with something that resembled an upholstery needle.

As with a trusted friend or equine, it can be important to listen to our manuscripts. Sometimes when things aren’t working, there’s a reason and instead of digging our heels into a chapter’s side, it’s best to circle back around and find another route through. I spent a couple of months trying to keep a character in the early chapters New Charity Blues who, if I was honest, had no true function except that I wanted him there. But in the end, the book was better served by placing him far on the periphery, finding another way into that part of the story.
 
4. Never let your horse run home.

Just as there were periods of trepidation during the writing of New Charity Blues, there were periods of complacency. I wasn’t ever complacent with the writing itself, but I was surely careless with time management. After all, I’d written one novel. I could do another with one hand tied behind my back. Except that I couldn’t. 

There’s a rule – or at least there was back when I took endurance and trail-riding lessons – that you never let your horses run home. I even mention it in the book when Cas and Len are out checking fences. It’s generally thought to be good discipline, and, well, safer. In my case, letting the horse run home always gave me trouble on what came to be known as “Double Buck Hill.” I wish I could tell you how the terrain was named for two kindly, male deer. I must admit, however, when I let my hot-tempered mare, Dawn, have her head before our last, small descent toward home, she would manage to unseat me, not once, but twice almost every time.

I turned in my novel edits at the end of an almost six weeks of contiguous travel. At the end of it, I felt like I’d been bucked off a horse more than twice. Talking to my editor from a hotel in Missoula, she suggested that perhaps I make things easier on myself schedule-wise the next time I turned in a book. She isn’t wrong. Conventions and festivals and readings are all wonderful things for authors to do, but I didn’t have to be Superwoman, and I probably won’t try to be again. Though I’m told I fall surprisingly gracefully, I haven’t managed the flying part yet.

5. The best way to end a good ride is a stiff brush and a cube of sugar.

Talking to a friend recently, I remarked how we as artists and writers deny ourselves lots of things. Writing is a luxury for a lot of us – time given up to something we love, but often in the sacrifice of other things we love, like relationships or other passions. It’s worth it for almost all of us, or we wouldn’t do what we do, but often we forget to reward ourselves.

If a horse isn’t wiped down, dried off, and brushed after a ride, their coats get slick with sweat and can be rubbed bare, both unsightly and uncomfortable. And rare is the horse that declines an after-work apple or post-adventure alfalfa pellet. I don’t think it’s any different for writers. If I had to give one piece of advice to the hard workers I’m surrounded by in my own literary community it would be this: reward yourself for meeting your goals, small or big. Reward yourself for hitting your word count. Reward yourself, especially, for finishing, for turning a corner or solving a problem. It doesn’t have to be a milkshake – it could be a short walk or a round of tug-of-war with the dog or even a nap – just let the thing bring you joy and you’ll be that much more refreshed when you put the saddle on once again.

---
Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

Tags:

Tell Me - Josh Vogt

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

I met Josh at Origins in 2015. We had the pleasure of both being up for the same award. We decided that made us nemeses. In truth, we’re both pretty bad at being each other’s nemesis because Josh is one of the genuinely nicest authors out there. I loved ENTER THE JANITOR so much that I insisted that he let me blurb MAIDS OF WRATH (so I could read it early). I wasn’t disappointed. Writing and editing are Josh’s reasons for being… and this is his explanation why.

---



A Lifelong Cure for Boredom

I hate being bored. When I was a kid, the times I got bored were the times I invariably got in trouble, whether because of trying to mix up explosives from a chemistry kit or finding ways to booby-trap my sisters’ bedroom (look, I didn’t understand the concept of ‘plausible deniability’ back then, okay?).

Books quickly became mainstays of my attempts to ward off boredom, and remained a central part of my free time as I grew up. I could find endless adventure in the stories they held. I could be transported to whole new worlds, meet impossible people and creatures, and always wonder what might come next. Whenever the threat of boredom loomed, I now had an escape nearby, if not already in hand.

In my early college years, I knew that whatever career path I took, it needed to be something that would constantly challenge me. Something that would provide ongoing variety and force me to keep growing and learning and expanding my experiences. If I got stuck in a rut with a job, it just wouldn’t last. I looked at lots of possible paths—everything from art to politics to stage magic to psychology. Nothing stuck.

Then, one afternoon, I was reading a fantasy novel when a thought came to me: “I could’ve written this! In fact, I could’ve probably done a better job, too.”

And then a little voice spoke up in the back of my head, saying, “Prove it.”

In that moment, a goal crystallized for me. I would be an author. A career author, at that, who would spend the rest of his life crafting stories like the ones I’d grown up loving and, in many ways, living through. At the same time, I realized that in pursuing this dream, I could tap into something I didn’t realize actually existed until right then—a lifelong cure for boredom.

See, being a writer—and now a published author as well as an editor—gives me a chance to experience endless variety. There’s really no end to what I can learn and experience and turn into a story, unless I choose for there to be (and that’s not going to happen in any foreseeable future).

I can write in different genres, like fantasy, science fiction, horror, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, pulp, and more. I can write in different voices, whether I’m evoking the unfathomable horror of the Cthulhu Mythos or indulging my love of humor with novels like Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. I can write different story lengths, from flash fiction (1,000 words or less) to doorstopper epic fantasy novels. I can write in different industries, whether I’m a freelance copywriter producing blog content and sale letters or writing roleplaying game tie-ins like Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes.

In all this, not only am I giving myself a reason to endlessly pursue the new with every story I write, I like to think I’m giving other readers the chance to experience the same joy of discovery and adventure that thrills me to this day. For me, there’s always going to be another story to tell.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

---
Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt


 

Tags:

Bubble and Squeek for 7 April 2016

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

It is all Shadowrun all the time right now. I'm deep into MAKEDA RED and that's pretty much all I'm doing right now. So, here's some links for you and a chance for you to win a set of Melissa Allen audiobooks.

REVIEW: Here's a great review of NEVER LET ME. I really appreciate reviews like this.

REVIEW: Here's a really good review of APOCALYPSE GIRL DREAMING. I love the fact that some of the stories stick with her.

REVIEW: Here's a great review of DECISION POINTS. The reviewer says that my story, "The Prince of Artemis V," hit a home run.

SALE: Apocalypse Ink Productions is having a sale of my Karen Wilson Chronicles books! If you were waiting to get any of the individual trade paperbacks, Now is the time to get them. After May 1st, they are gone for good. Karen Wilson Chronicles Trade Paperback Last Chance Sale. 4 Trade for $30.

AUDIOBOOKS: All three Melissa Allen audiobooks are available. You can listen to NEVER LET ME SLEEP, NEVER LET ME LEAVE, and NEVER LET ME DIE, read by the marvelous Elizabeth Evans. Also, email me at gaaneden at gmail dot com for a chance to win all three audiobooks!

March Monthly Stat Thing

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

I’m going to ignore that it is the first of April and pretend that “lie and be cruel to the people who trust you most” day doesn’t exist.

Year-to-date stats:
Fiction words written: 58,210 / 200,000
Article words written: 4230
My novels/collections edited: 3
Other novels/anthologies edited: 4
Events attended: 4 / 9

Mostly, I’m boring. I’m drafting my Shadowrun novel, MAKEDA RED. This means no social media until I hit word count unless there are extenuating circumstances… like picking up my new car.

I didn’t want to have to buy a new car, but mine got totaled at the end of February. I’m still reeling from sticker shock, but I do like my new car. It’s a Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid in sage green. I got my all wheel drive hatchback. The Husband got his hybrid. We’re both happy.

We think he’s told us his name but we’ve got to drive it a bit more to be sure.