Friday, December 30, 2011

New year's resolution

I have a new philosophy.

I had a rough week, with people telling me I can't do things, or that I'm going about everything the wrong way. Or people in general who are trying to bring me down under their storm clouds.

So starting today, I'm not going to keep track of things going wrong, but things going right.

I have a family where everyone's healthy. Even my youngest brother, who has autism, is learning to talk (thank you Sesame Street). I have many wonderful friends who continue to amaze me every day.

So in the new year, I ask not that things be better ... but that I learn to recognize what I already have.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Win a signed copy of Flyday

The awesome S.M. Boyce is running a giveaway on her blog every day for the month of January, and Flyday's contest starts on the 1st! Contest page.

You can win a free signed copy of Flyday if you're in the US, so go enter on the 1st. And check out the many other books on there.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Writers: know your audience

I had to go to the post office sometime in the autumn, and when I dropped by early in the morning, I was surprised to see a huge line. I'm used to going in the early afternoon, and being one of the few people there. So I got in line and waited. And waited.

One of the workers was trying to explain to someone that he needed to write the send-to address on his package.

"But it has my name on it," said the customer.

"Yes," said the postal worker, "but who are you sending it to?"

Lightbulb moment. The man took out a piece of paper and copied an address onto the package. That stuck with me all day. How can a person expect to mail a package but not put the destination on it? What did he expect to happen?

Well, writers do it all the time.

I see a lot of writers trying to pitch books that really wouldn't appeal to anyone but themselves. Or they might resist making needed edits. If you try to tell them this, they'll say, "But I'm the writer! I decide what happens in the story!"

This is entirely true; however, readers can decide not to read it.

When you're writing your book, in that precious, embryonic stage, definitely write whatever you feel is necessary. But once you open that door to criticism, be ready to take it. Get advice from other writers, preferably, whose opinions you trust.

I see a lot of writers taking off now in indie publishing, and it's clear they didn't just finish a manuscript and upload it. They took time to revise, and they know what sells and can write it in a compelling, illuminating way.

You're not just keeping a journal here. You're writing to help entertain, amuse, or inspire other people. Keep your audience in mind. When you release that book, who do you want to read it?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest post by A. M. Belrose, author of Witch in Wolf's Clothing


Today I'm happy to share a guest post by A. M. Belrose, author of Witch in Wolf's Clothing, a paranormal romance novella. Her style is incredibly fun and humorous, so I asked her to share a little bit about herself and the book.

A. M. Belrose: I was never a particular fan of romance novels. I chalk this up to a combination of V. C. Andrews and “Clan of the Cave Bear,” both read when I was far too young to be anything but traumatized by them. What I know of the genre, roughly a decade after this rocky introduction, is what I’ve learned from reading my mother’s Kindle over her shoulder. Somewhere along the line my partner must have gotten sick of me telling her that, hey, I could do that! I was challenged to put up or shut up.

It was easy to decide on urban fantasy, since that genre holds a cozy place in my heart. Most non-romance writers assume that romance is going to be a walk in the park, that they can bang it out in a couple of days and that’s that. As a new author to the genre I underestimated how hard it would be to make sure my characters had chemistry, to balance the humor with a realistic sense of attraction and pacing, to make sure the plot and their relationship followed smooth, believable arcs. How hard it is, sometimes, to sound sexy instead of silly.

However, the most difficult part of writing a romance novel, as a lesbian, was putting myself in the lusty shoes of a straight woman. How do you describe an attractive man? What makes him attractive? What should a man smell like? What kind of flirting goes on here, what signals are sent?

I had to rely on my partner, who is bisexual, and, horrifically, my mother. It’s one thing to know that your mother has a digital library full of werewolf erotica, and another entirely to supply it to her. I refused, point blank, to discuss it with her out loud. I’m ashamed to admit that whenever she tried to mention it, or help in naming it, I resorted to plugging my ears and making hideous noises. I’m not sure how other erotica and romance authors handle dishing out the R-rated goods to their relatives, or if it’s something you’re supposed to politely avoid talking about at Christmas.

Writing “Witch in Wolf’s Clothing” was a good exercise for me. It taught me how to condense character and plot down into a novella, while maintaining appeal. More than anything, I learned the appeal of romance and all its fantasies. I’m eager to turn my hand to LGBTQ romance and urban fantasy. It’s not as much of a market, but it’s one that I think is worth expanding and providing for. Everybody deserves a little escapism and some buff werewolves.

Quite frankly, what I’ve learned from browsing the lesbian fiction section of the kindle store is that us lesbians are a snooty folk who seem uniformly convinced that our books are worth at least ten bucks. It’ll be nice to throw some 99 cent feel good romance up there, if I can swing it.

One person I really owe, beyond those subjected to editing for me, is my illustrator. She’s a fabulous person, and even if she weren’t she’d be a wonderful artist. I’m damn lucky to have her.

Thanks A. M.! The novella is available for 99 cents on Amazon.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Amazon Kindle's new lending library, and what it means for writers

If you've been on Amazon recently, you may have noticed that some ebooks are free to borrow, as long as you have a Prime account and a Kindle. I received an e-mail today inviting me to the program, saying that if readers borrow my book, I'll be compensated a certain amount based on how many books total are borrowed during the month.

However, when I went to enroll, a notice popped up saying my books "must not be available in digital format on any other platform during their enrollment." I guess this means no Smashwords and no Barnes & Noble.

Smashwords has been a huge promotional tool for me, especially with its free coupons I send to book reviewers, so I don't want to take my book down there. And Barnes & Noble has netted me sales for readers with the Nook. I could make my next novel an Amazon exclusive for a few months, especially since my books are now available for sale in other countries there, but I don't want to shut out readers with the Nook, or keep it out of book reviewers' hands.

I know Amazon is trying to sell Kindles, and the majority of my sales are from their site, but I don't like how they're trying to monopolize the market. I'd apply for enrollment for a reduced payout if I could keep my book on other platforms. Writers, what do you think about this new program?

Update: Smashwords has responded here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Update on my next book

Done.

That's a great word to type. The current draft of my newest book is finally written, and now I'm gearing up for a round of edits, proofreading, and then marketing and release.

I finished it sooner than expected, so the release date is up in the air. Watch this blog for updates.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Outlining and story structuring: how do you do it?

I just did a guest post on Pat Thunstrom's blog on marketing, so check it out.

This week, I wanted to talk about story structure. Pat recommended I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. The author comes from a screenwriting perspective, where certain things must happen to the protagonist by a certain point, and the story must have a satisfying conclusion (otherwise, the audience throws their popcorn at the screen and walks out.). He defined a book as effective or ineffective depending on whether or not the protagonist reached certain goals within a certain amount of pages.

Most of what he says is true, but novels can be very fluid, and the methods struck me as a little constricting. By his rules, many classic novels are not properly structured. But the book got me thinking, and I ended up writing a new outline with the general rules in mind. If you have a book and you're not sure why the plot isn't working, it might be a good read.

Another structure tool he showed me (but I've seen before) is the Snowflake method of ourlining. That says you start with a summary, and expand from there.

It has some good points, but if you take those directions literally you will spend weeks on what amounts to a summary or outline. My way of writing is more spark-to-fire. I think of a scene, which spreads out to a conflict, and write until I have a clear image, then back off and write the summary.

For my upcoming novel Saturnine, the image that came to mind was that someone knocks on the protagonist's door, hoping to visit him and his new baby. The man's wife opens the door and says her husband's not at home. Not at home? Why would he leave his newborn daughter? A story emerged.

I think it's a good idea to have a summary before you write. Do I always have one? No. I always have at least a rough idea of the ending in mind, so I know what to write toward. But as I write, some subplots change, characters disappear or get invented, and the book's focus shifts as I experiment with scenes. Part of the fun in writing, then, is in the discovery. What's your process for writing?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm on tour! ... sort of

I've recently had a few life-changing events going on (will post more about them as time goes on), but right now I'm eagerly working to get my thriller, Saturnine, finished.

In the meantime, I kidnapped S.M. Boyce's blog the other day, writing about "What New Indies Should Know," so check it out. (And go read her new book The Grimoire: Lichgates if you like paranormal fiction. I'm reading it now and so far it's great!)

This coming Friday, December 2nd, check Pat Thunstrom's blog A Digital Magician for my post "Market madness: Focus on the book, not the buzz."

And check Paisley Sound, because I'm planning to release a review and hopefully get some new music up next week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest post by S.M. Boyce, on marketing your novel

S.M. Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction novelist who recently published her debut novel The Grimoire: Lichgates. Boyce updates her blog weekly so that you have something sarcastic to wake you up in the morning. Also, her Creative Writing degree entitles her to both be pompous and serve you french fries.

She has been actively marketing her new novel and offered to talk a bit about what she’s learned. Feel free to get in touch with her and to connect online, since she loves meeting new people (all links and details at the end of the post).
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Hey guys! Laura has graciously let me take over her blog for today to talk to you about marketing your novel.

It’s important to remember that I wrote this post with the assumption that you’ve already listened to the number one rule of authorship: write a good book. It sounds pretty basic, I know, but your prerequisite for reading this blog post is to either have a unique, well-written novel or be in the process of writing one. All set? Awesome, let’s keep going.

People tell me that marketing daunts them, and I can understand that. Those who are used to listening to radio and TV ads may think that they have to also push, push, push…and that is usually about as much fun as a root canal.

Thing is, there are multiple kinds of marketing and selling. Yes, once of them is the targeted “push” method of 30-second advertising sound-bites, but that’s a tough racket. I’ve found much more success in social networking. I’m sure you know that social networking is a powerful tool, but let’s talk for a minute about just how important it really is.

Social networking is all about starting a conversation. That means you as the author are there to share.Keep in mind that not everyone will be interested and not everyone will like your book.

The key is to find your marketing balance between polite and confident. You should have a healthy self-assurance about yourself and your book when you’re marketing, but absolutely no one wants you to post thirty tweets a day about your book – that will get you unfollowed and unfriended faster than you can blink. But if you feel uneasy, you’ll come off as such. People won’t be as inclined to listen, much less go on to share your message with their friends. Approach interactions with a confident and open-minded manner and people will receive it that way. If you care about your book and believe that it’s an amazing product (see blog prerequisite) then you’re not really selling…you’re spreading the word.

The Road to More Readers

There is no cut-and-dry path to success.

Oh, were you expecting a list? Sorry, that’s not how this works. If there was a rulebook, everyone would read it and then those steps would become obsolete. Truthfully, I think the steps most successful people take often bring them success simply because no one else has thought of doing it that way before.

Have a marketing plan full of all the ways you’re going to get yourself out there. Add to it constantly. If one idea fails, move onto the next. Don’t give yourself time to become disappointed, because I can tell you right now that not every one of your ideas will work, and that’s okay. Your goal, in the end, is to be seen as many places as possible. Stick to it and don’t give up. Find what works for you, your target audience, and your book, and build on that.

The way I see it, there are really only three set rules to being successful in crowded markets:
1. Most of what has been done once probably won’t work again.
2. Be creative, innovative, and new.
3. Be assertive but polite.

Basically, you need to be different and innovative. Do new things. Come up with creative ideas. Think outside the circle that’s outside the box.

Step #3 was really more of a personal observation. You don’t want to give up too easily (hence, the assertive), but you don’t want to piss people off (hence, the polite). I have heard of authors sending bloggers death threats because the blogger either didn’t write a favorable review or didn’t write one at all. Seriously?

I know that you’re above this, but it disappoints me that any authors do this at all. If someone doesn’t like your book, thank them for their time and move on. You can’t please everyone and you’ll go crazy if you try.

Some Ideas

So now that we’ve shaken off the thought that there’s some sort of step-by-step guide to making everything work perfectly, let’s work with that clean slate.

There are two significant tips I have to successfully market your book:
1. Be everywhere at once.
2. Forge lasting relationships (not one-night stands!).

Successful marketing is all about being everywhere at once. Be everywhere you can. Work with everyone you can. Talk to everyone you can. When someone asks you if you want to do something, the answer should be “Sure!” unless it’s going to hurt you in some way (that Nigerian prince isn’t really going to send you any money). “I don’t feel like it” won’t really cut the cheese.

On that same note, make friends. The fancy term for this is “networking,” but that has always struck me as a manipulative term. To me, “networking” implies that you’re only building friendships that benefit you. Don’t do that, because those relationships will flounder.

If you want to go out there and really make an impact on the literary world, do it through meeting as many amazing people as you can. Talk to them on Twitter. Facebook them. Plus one their book on Google+. Start email conversations about books you both like and, hell, the weather. Go to their blog and leave a comment. Follow their blog if it’s interesting. Review their book on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords (if applicable). Critique their stories on Scribophile or Critique Circle.

*Catches breath* You know what? Go ahead and start with me. I challenge you. See my contact info below and get in touch with me. Tell me about your cats, dogs, books, marketing ideas, whatever. Make me laugh.

The point is this: there are an unlimited number of ways to meet people. If you talk about your book, fine…but don’t make that your central point of focus. In the end, you’re not really selling your book. You’re selling yourself. You as a writer are a brand: your personality, your energy, your intelligence, and your experience all factor into your online presence, which is what the internet really wants to see.

One story comes and goes. Yes, books turn into classics, but nine times out of ten people are going to love and respect the author more than the story. Go out and be awesome.

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Contact S.M. Boyce
Feel free to poke, prod, and ponder in S.M. Boyce’s general direction
Boyce’s novel: The Grimoire: Lichgates
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview with Ross Payton, author of Zombies of the World

Ross Payton is a podcaster and writer whose most recent book is Zombies of the World: A Field Guide to the Undead. The book looks at zombies from a scholarly perspective, classifying 20 species (like the "Revenant" and the "Dancing Zombie") in a humorous guide with fantastic art.

It also includes a history of zombies, and tips for surviving a zombie invasion ("Lesson 1: Humans are the Greatest Danger"). I've read it and can definitively say that if you love zombies, you'll enjoy this book.

LB: On your web site, you noted that you decided to write the book after you started the web series. What made you decide to start a web series about zombies?

RP: "I'm a lifelong horror fan so I think about the minutia quite a bit. One thing that struck me in zombie stories was how they never got tired, even the ones that never ate a human. It made me start thinking about how the undead are powered so I pictured a world in which zombies were studied not slain. From there, I came up with the idea for Omega Anima and multiple species. After some world building, I thought I would tell this story as a mockumentary web series - something I could actually make and show to others."

Your web series videos are hilarious, and I especially liked "Episode 3: Extinction." Not many authors are making videos to promote their work. Can you talk about how you went about writing/filming them?


Zombies of the World Episode 3 - Extinction

"I have a background in media production - I did a video podcast, http://www.raillery.tv and I made a low budget horror-comedy called Motor Home from Hell. Because of this background, I knew a lot of actors and crew that would volunteer for a short production and I knew what I could make and what was my beyond my means. With that in mind, I wrote a script that I could actually produce. It's 12 pages long. I broke it up into episodes, each of which is 2-4 pages long.

I enlisted the help of a friend, Jason Brasier, with the production. He was essential in getting it done. We broke the script down into several days of shooting at 3 main locations.

I wouldn't recommend doing a web series like this for a book unless you already have the skill sets, connections and equipment. It's just as hard as writing, if not harder, and the payoff can be variable."

The layout of Zombies of the World looks incredibly professional--better than most other books I see. How did you go about learning layout design, and what program did you use?

"I'm a self taught graphic designer. I started with Microsoft Publisher and worked my way up. Learning took practice and studying with a lot of design books and program manuals. I used Adobe Indesign to lay out Zombies of the World. I took the look of ZOTW from nature guidebooks like bird guides and textbooks. I wanted it to look like a real zombie field guide would look like if the undead were real.

Again, I wouldn't recommend trying a fancy design for your book unless you already know how to do so. In fact, the layout's been a disadvantage in some ways - namely trying to convert the book into an ebook format was a difficult and tedious process. There's little information on converting complex layouts into a form acceptable for Kindle and epub."

What have been people's reactions to the book?

"I've been very fortunate that Zombis of the World has received many highly positive reviews. People love the quality of the art and writing and the novelty of the idea. My favorite review has been from Kenneth Hite. He's an established writer that has his own Wikipedia entry.

I had asked Kenneth for a review of my book and he said he would look at it but he wouldn't commit to a review. I was quite happy to find out he did!"

What other projects are you working on?

"I'm the co-host for a tabletop role playing game podcast called Role Playing Public Radio and RPPR Actual Play.

I'm currently writing a follow up novel to Zombies of the World. It's called "Dead Power" and follows a group of humans and intelligent zombies working together to stop a crisis before the military bombs them all. It will feature many different species from Zombies of the World. It will be action focused and it's been pretty fun to write. I hope to have it out in the next few months."

Thanks Ross! For more info or to buy the book, go to www.zombiesoftheworld.com.

Interview with Eileen Young, author of Intervention

I'm starting a new series of author interviews. Today I had a chance to interview Eileen Young, author of the erotic novella Intervention. She's the editor of Island Writer Magazine, and managing editor of Theory Train (a literary magazine), and blogs at Authors Refuge.

Full disclosure: Eileen is also my editor, and I haven't read her novella. But she agreed to answer some questions for me so I could sharpen my interview skills.

Where is your book available?
"It's available for free download from Feedbooks."

Why did you decide to release it for free?
"Because it was a collaboration with a friend of mine, and we're both big fans of Creative Commons licensing. We wanted people to read it a lot more than we wanted whatever money we could get from it. I've also considered releasing my other projects under Creative Commons licensing, though that also hits the issue of what I'd charge and what kind of margin I'd look for on the hard copies for sale when I was giving away the ebook."

What was the process of co-writing it like?
"It was really interesting, as it was the first joint project that's made it to completion. Mason, my co-author, didn't often want to write portions of it (the boring bits between plot points), but he was full of ideas. It involved a lot of discussion and world-building - way more than is reflected in the story itself - just so we could stay internally consistent."

Give us a quick elevator pitch of the book. 
"Evelyn Green, an empathic spy, is teamed up with rookie cyborg Mikhail Cerwinski to investigate anomalies in Tahiti. Clothes come off."

Would you recommend Feedbooks to other authors?
"I think it depends on your genre, and also the way you want to license it. Feedbooks does not allow independent authors to charge for books, which is fantastic if you're aiming for Creative Commons. One thing I've seen a lot recently, though, is authors putting up samples of their books, with links to their Smashwords page at the end. That's not cool at all, and I think against the ToS, though I'd have to check. I just know it annoys me as a reader.  Feedbooks tends to end up with erotica as the most popular category for the user-generated books, too, so it might not be the best place for your contemplative memoir."

So, basically just free books...?
Feedbooks also has an ebook store, which has contemporary titles, and a Public Domain section featuring everything from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights to Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

What current projects are you working on?
"Right now, I'm working on a young adult series set in New York, featuring angels and fairies and a whole lot of snark. The first one is nearing completion, and the first draft for the second is my NaNoWriMo project."

Thanks Eileen!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Disaster, day by day - journal of a winter storm

On October 29th, a snowstorm hit my area and caused a massive power outage. This follows a record snowfall from January to April 2011, a tornado on June 1st that killed several people and destroyed homes, two tropical storms, and a "microburst" that caused further damage. We thought we were in for a quiet autumn...

Saturday, Oct 29th, 1:30 pm. I dress up the kids and they head outside, and I'm astonished. Outside, it's snowing. Sure, all the local stations had forecast a Nor'easter storm with 6-10 inches of snow, but it's still incredible: white powder blanketing orange and brass-colored autumn leaves, which still haven't finished falling.

4:30 pm. The snow is starting to pile up, and I look outside at the leafy trees. If any branches fall, we will definitely lose power. I decide to put dinner on early so that the oven heats up the house and we have a hot meal.

5:30 pm. The lights have been flickering. Then everything electronic halts at once, and the house goes dark.

7 pm. It's still snowing and the roads are impassible. We light candles, and everyone goes off to bed early, accompanied by blankets. We hope for power sometime the next day. I write in my journal: "It's October, and it's snowing. Not just snowing--one of those all-out New England blizzards that grinds traffic to a halt and washes the world out into a mist of snow and ice, the trees and ground glistening white, the sky a pale gray. [...] Lightning streaks the sky, but there is no thunder--the overburdening feeling, aside from the low rumble of snow tumbling off the trees, is silence."

The trees are bent over and twisted with snow, and look like Dr. Seuss creations. I put on mittens and a hat and go back to bed, my chances at sleep interrupted by the slow ker-ack of trees snapping and the low rumble of snow tumbling onto snow.

Sunday, October 30th. Total snowfall: 14 inches. Trees are down everywhere, and many roads are blocked. Power lines are snapped and lying in the streets. But the day is otherwise uneventful: we shovel the driveway, I bundle up the kids to play in the snow, and we read the newspaper to glean when power might return. School is cancelled for the week, and shelters are set up for people with no power. People text or call to check in on us. We decide to stay home: it's cold, but we still have water.

Monday, October 31st. The mayor sends out an automated call to most homes in the city, announcing that Halloween has been postponed until the following Saturday night. This devastates the young ones around the house. But with no street lights and wires and entire trees down, it's far too dangerous for kids to be trekking out in the dark.

My youngest brother, who has autism, stares at the computer gloomily. "No power?" he says.

Tuesday, November 1st. We go to the mall, which is still powered and open, to have a hot meal and see if I can connect my laptop to the wifi for my brother. No luck. The bookstore is packed with people on laptops. One of my younger brothers, who yesterday was devastated by no Halloween, is now happy. "This is such an adventure!" he says, repeating what I said over the past few days.

Even the heat in the car is dizzying, and when we get back home, the temperature is a chilly 51 degrees. We walk around in coats and gloves.

8 pm. At night, the stars are beautiful, and I've never seen so many. But I hear lots of faint police sirens and ambulance wails. So far two people have died, electrocuted by downed wires, and more have been injured by carbon monoxide (in desperate attempts to heat their homes, they brought outdoor grills inside--dangerous!). There have also been fires, mostly attributed to candles.

The air is icy cold, and when I can no longer read with my dying flashlight or by candles (after a few days of testing, I have decided Yankee candles smell terrible, and Glades are far superior), I trudge off to bed. I remember I set up Twitter for my phone, and sent out a quick update: "On day 4 of no power and Internet. I hate snow." But I'm unable to check for any replies.

Wednesday, November 2nd. I'd received a call saying power had been restored to my college, so I drove off--only to find many of the roads still blocked by crews removing trees. I go in to work, happy to find they have heat and lights.

Thursday, November 3rd. Power returns at night for us, but many are still without it. The first thing I do is order a new flashlight. Industrial strength, waterproof, floating--I think the next disaster will be a flood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In which I explain my upcoming paranormal romance series

I've been finishing up a thriller (the sequel to Flyday), but I took a break from that for a few weeks in August to outline (and write a lot of scenes for) a new paranormal romance series, the first book of which should be ready next year. I'm hoping for a summer release, but right now it's too soon to know for sure.

Basically, it's a YA trilogy. I'm planning on calling it The Riverwood Chronicles (no one took that name yet, right?) and it will involve pixies and vampires. Yes, you read that correctly.

The first book is tentatively titled "Sparks." The outlines of all three are done, so I just have to finish writing the books. I have memories of reading a lot of great YA as a teen, and I want my books to be something on that scale. So check back on my blog from time to time and I'll update on how everything goes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Awesome review, and zombies

So this week, Emily Lamontagne over at Tea and Tales reviewed Theory Train's latest issue. I almost didn't make it in that issue (because I didn't submit anything, and the deadline passed), but I won a contest with a short story I wrote, and made it in at the last minute. Emily had this to say about it:

". . . And Let The Apocalypse Happen by Laura E. Bradford comes next in line and once again, I expected something completely different from what I read. It wasn't a bad surprise, though -- this piece is my favourite of the whole lot. A man who is nearly a victim to a sudden and unexpected zombie apocalypse goes about his day, including an appointment with a dentist who would rather see clean teeth than panic and go for a gun or whatever dentists grab during the apocalypse. Brilliant, highly enjoyable, and the kind of story you aim straight for whenever you go back to your bookshelf."

Woohoo! So that's awesome. And today I mentioned to someone I know that I was working on my next book, and her eyes lit up and she said, "The one about the zombies?!" I said no, the one about the detective, and she gave a disappointed "Oh." So maybe I should revisit the idea of writing a zombie novel.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New page - free stories

I am going to start putting free stories up on the page that is titled, enigmatically, "Free Stories."

Two of them are available in one of my ebooks, but some people don't like ebooks. They think Smashwords can't supply downloads for the Kindle or Nook (not true), or they had a dream last night that the next ebook they read was going to get magically transformed into a dinosaur and eat them. Whatever their concerns, I aim to please. So just click that and you can read them right on your screen.


A Round of Words & other writing tools

It's time I talk about A Round of Words in 80 Days, or #ROW80 on Twitter. It's a writing challenge similar to NaNoWriMo, but is more fluid--you set the goal, and can check in twice a week. Pat Thunstrom made an awesome spreadsheet for tracking progress during it.

This round (June 4th onward) has been kind of a test round for me. I came in three weeks late due to the fact that before then, I had no idea ROW80 existed. But it's good to have the spreadsheet open because it's a visual reminder of progress (or lack of progress, as evidenced by at least 7 days having 0 for their word count...).

For my first book, I kept track of my daily word count in a Textpad file. So I'd manually type in, say, "June 4 +586 words" and have a chart that way. The spreadsheet is much more interactive and gives a lot more data.

For my last book, I also filled up a OneNote notebook with lots of information, but for this one I just have a plot treatment, and I leave notes in italics as I go along. This is partly because I'm rewiting the book from a previous draft, so I don't really need to leave a lot of notes about characters and so forth, as I already have the characters solidified; I just have to keep writing.

I am kind of off track from ROW80, but I hope to catch the next round right when it starts and stay on track for about 500 words a day.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Did I write a romance novel?

Yesterday I remarked to a friend of mine that I'm puzzled about my book. Women seem to love it, while men tend to dislike it.

I was really surprised by this, because Flyday is technically a science fiction novel. It has all the staples: robots, time travel, flying cars. But those tend to be in the background, and the focus is mainly on the protagonist's relationship with his fiancee--and of course, a subplot about a rock star who's hopelessly (and ridiculously) in love.

I wondered, did I write a romance?

I looked at my bookshelf and I have only three novels that are strictly romance: Save My Soul by Zoe Winters (which is on my list of books to read), The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (which I've read and thought was fine), and Love in the Time of Cholera (one of my favorite books ever). Two of these are "love in strange circumstances" novels like Flyday.

I thought about Flyday's plot and realized the main characters' relationship follows all the beats of a traditional romance (albeit with a few more assassins). So I'm wondering if I should switch from marketing Flyday as a strictly sci-fi novel, to more of a "romance with a sci-fi backdrop."

My next book in the series will be a thriller, and I'm already thinking of it as "James Bond with a wife"--the main character is a spy and a detective, but he's also very much in love. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the middle of things

One of my favorite (yet probably the most grueling) part of writing is being in the middle of the draft, with an outline in hand while still making changes as I go along. It's a balancing act--how long do I make this chapter, what is really this character's motivation, should I put more or less description here, etc.

I probably take longer than most writers to finish a draft because I'm never sure how a scene will go until I write it. Sometimes it takes me in new and interesting directions, other times I hit a dead end. So some days I delete more than I write, even as I go along, because I've changed my mind on how a chapter should go.

So far things are going well with Saturnine--and hopefully they stay that way. I'm done with the first part, which leaves three more to go. Writing a thriller is a new experience for me, but I love writing fiction that's at a fast pace. Hopefully someday people can enjoy reading it as much as I love writing it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

You Killed Wesley Payne: Book Review

A few months ago, I plucked a book off a shelf of a bookstore and bought it, only because the back cover copy made it look fascinating. It was. The book was You Killed Wesley Payne (by Sean Beaudoin), a YA noir detective novel. I finished reading it today, and I loved it.

The novel takes place in a high school torn apart by rival cliques, as private detective Dalton Rev rolls in on a scooter to solve the murder of a popular senior. The language is whip-smart, filled with clever slang and often lovely language, but is always at a brisk, no-nonsense pace. Dalton is a teenaged writer who has to make money as a detective to support his family, and he has a tough exterior but is just an average kid trying to navigate a cutthroat world.

There are so many minor characters with conflicting motivations and plot twists that I found myself having to stop and think at times, and I wish some of the characters (including love interest Macy) and motivations were fleshed out more, but above all it's a satisfying book with an endearing protagonist. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's been going on

I've been listening to this a lot lately, so I thought I'd post it up here. It's "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge. Great song, great video.



Someone was surprised that I also run an indie music blog, and said I should link it here. It's called Paisley Sound and it's a project I've been running for two years now that's starting to take off. So go read it.

I've got a lot going on (studying for my boards, remodeling the house, just got back from a trip to D.C.) but I wrote another half of a chapter of my next novel. I'm way behind on my #suwrimo goal, but ... I think it's all right for now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest post by James Martin, author of The Hunter

Today's guest post is by James Martin, author of The Hunter (available on Amazon and Smashwords). James is active on reddit's self-pub channel and maintains a Twitter account, @JMartinAuthor.

Self Publishing Doesn’t Make You a Failure

In my own mind, I had failed. For years after writing my first novel, I hit the streets and queried agent after agent. The only thing I had to show for my work was a dazzling array of rejection letters, ranging from extremely short form letters to handwritten apologetic letters.

That story is likely a familiar one to many, many writers. The feeling of dejection and failure from seeing yet another response that begins “Dear Writer, thank you for querying us, but…” is an extremely tough one to deal with.  The worst part, though, is the waiting. Agencies take months to respond in some cases, and I was never sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

On the one hand, maybe it’s taking a long time because my work is being discussed, thought over, and considered. On the other hand, maybe it was forgotten about. I had to keep my mind on other things as much as I could, for fear of going insane from the constant speculation about why an agency would take 4 months to respond to a simple query. If they had a full manuscript, I could totally understand the wait, but 4 months for a short, three or four paragraph query letter?

Of course, it’s obvious why there’s a wait. Literary agencies are behind the times, they don’t employ many people, and they receive many, many queries each day. It’s quite possibly the worst setup for someone trying to break into the industry. Agencies also often employ archaic rules (snail mail only, as an example), strict guidelines, and no tolerance for deviation. 

Once or twice, an agent or small publisher bit my hook. I refined my query letter and synopsis, and over time I found that more and more people were requesting partial or full manuscripts. That’s a great feeling for an aspiring author, but seeing your manuscripts come back rejected (or not come back at all) is even worse than a query letter rejection. Instead of rejecting my general idea, they were rejecting my actual work. I did, unexpectedly, receive some personal feedback, mostly to the effect that my book’s genre is hard to place, and doesn’t fit anywhere nicely. I don’t disagree with them. 

At one small publisher, my full manuscript was accepted, and one of the owners was championing my book. That felt awesome. There were three co-owners, and the way this particular publisher worked was that they had to have a unanimous vote on a new manuscript in order to accept it. My book received two votes. I found that experience emotionally difficult, and decided not to submit to any more publishers or agents.

So there I was, after spending years of my life trying to find someone – anyone – who would publish my book, I logged on to Amazon, self-published it one afternoon, and promptly forgot about it entirely. My original goal in self-publication was not one of selling copies or making it on my own, it was entirely self-defeat. Screw it, I thought, I’ll just publish it myself and get it over with. That was the end of it.
I checked my sales from time to time and was not surprised to see that no one was buying it. Copies sold for the first 2 years combined were single-digit numbers. But again, my goal was not to sell, my goal was to get rid of the book and ultimately try to forget the horrible experience of traditional publishing. The book was, in my mind, tainted due to failure.

Recently, a friend of mine decided to start writing and came to me for some self-publishing advice. He had heard I was a self-published author, and was eager to break into it himself. Instead of giving advice, I found myself receiving it. He suggested I take the e-marketing approach and try to sell the book myself. A dedicated Twitter and GoodReads account later, my sales started rising. 

What do you know, the system works!

What ultimately started as an act of desperation has transformed into one of hope. The book is selling, it’s getting reviews, and for the first time I feel like a real author. 

It’s clear to me that the traditional publishing model isn’t sustainable for much longer. eBook sales are rising, traditional books are dropping. Traditional publishers don’t take many risks, whereas the entire eBook market is saturated with risk. It costs nothing to try something out. Write a genre you’re not used to and self-publish, see if people like it. That would never happen in traditional publishing.

Self publication is not failure. You may not make many sales, but ultimately you are in control. Complete control. You can change the cover, correct any editing mistakes, update the synopsis, market to the audience you identify, and publish whenever you want to. It’s definitely not failure, but it is a lot of work.

Thanks, James!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest post by Matthew Boyd, author of ZNA: Origins

Hey all - today I'm pleased to host a post by Matthew Boyd, author of the novellas ZNA: Origins and Suicide Serial. I asked him to talk about some of his experiences and successes in publishing books for the Kindle.

Matt: Before I say anything else, I would like to thank Laura E. Bradford for providing another insightful blog to the growing community devoted to indie and ebook authors.

I have always had the craziest imagination, according to my parents. When I was a child I would create my own original board games to play. I would imagine impossible, outlandish scenarios and ask my Mom and Dad, "What would happen if...[insert something incredibly unlikely and quite possibly terrifying] ?"

Around junior high school, I started writing little short stories for my own enjoyment. I never really stopped. I can't tell you how many little crazy stories I have had and lost on hard drives over the past 15 years. A few months ago I found out that you could easily publish your own work on Amazon and actually make a little money doing so. I had already nearly completed "Suicide Serial" so I tried to format it for the Kindle and had a good friend, N.C. Jones (screenwriter and artist extraordinaire) design a nifty piece of cover art for it. It's basically the story of two homicide detectives pursuing a serial killer whose MO is to intimidate his victims into committing suicide.

I imagine that if I had stopped right there and never done one ounce of publicity for the book I would have sold about 2 copies. I decided to spam all my wonderful Facebook friends about my new book and offer everyone a free copy. I directed them to the Amazon sales page and asked only that they give it an honest review. I handed out well over 20 copies of the book and to date I have had 3 reviews. Not wanting to pester the living shit out of my friends and family to do the review on Amazon, I settled for hearing what they had to say on the phone or whenever I would see them. Every single person told me they really enjoyed the book and that it was a real page turner. To be honest, I was frustrated that sales were so anemic to start off with and that so few people had reviewed the book. I pressed on and eventually found the superb thread at Somethingawful.com targeted to ebook authors. I put up links to the product page and images of my cover art. James "Myrddin Emrys" Martin started r/selfpublish on reddit.com and I placed a promotional for "Suicide Serial" up there as well. Sales started to trickle in a bit more regularly since then.

"ZNA: Origins" is easily my biggest seller. It is the first in what will be a series of short books that detail the life of Paul Anderson, zombie apocalypse survivor. I took the exact same steps for this book as I did for "Suicide Serial" and then went a bit further. A quick Google search reveals several forums that relate to whatever subject matter one could wish to discuss or find out more about. I joined up with several "zombie/apocalyptic" type forums and posted about my book. I offered the first three people to reply to the thread a free copy of the book. Occasionally I will update the thread with something related to the discussion or with news about the progress of the next book in the series.

I made sure to use tags on the product page with terminology directly related to my audience. Using tags like "zombie" will only get you so far, and with literally thousands of other works tagged the same way, does nothing to make it easier to find your book. You need to find words that might not be quite so over-used to give you a bit of an edge in the search results. Think about certain terms, usually acronyms, like NASA or OMGWTF that can help your book have a better chance at ranking in the search results. This type of marketing strategy is used constantly by internet "search engine optimization" (SEO) gurus. I would tell you my best tags, but then I would have to kill you.

In the time frame of a bit more than 2 months, I have sold just over 200 copies of my books, with "ZNA: Origin" making up about 80% of my sales volume. I sell both ebooks for .99 cents and I do not plan to change that anytime soon. I will probably consolidate the ZNA series into one big ebook once it is completed and sell that for $2.99 to take advantage of the increased royalty payout.

Finally, I am exploring a new way to promote my books - guest posting on a blog! I will be sure to let you know how this one turns out!

Thanks Matt! You can check out his Amazon author page here. - Laura

Thursday, June 09, 2011

What's new

Recently I did a guest post at Rebecca Knight's blog. And did I mention her debut novel, Legacy of the Empress, just came out? Go check it out.

I was really amazed by the support for Sunset on Mars. Someone asked me to make it available for the Amazon Kindle, but to do that I'd need to charge 99 cents for it. Right now it's so short (~1500 words) that it doesn't seem to justify that price. Maybe I'll add some stories to it and re-release it, so I'll have to see.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunset on Mars and Other Stories

I write flash fiction off and on whenever I get a good idea, and I decided to collect 3 really short stories into a free collection, Sunset on Mars and Other Stories.

If you download it, I only ask that you spread the word to other readers who may be interested.

The stories are:

"Sunset on Mars" - from back when Flyday was a space opera (just imagine that). Appeared in 365 Tomorrows in December of 2007. The science fiction blog Marooned - Science Fiction & Fantasy Books called it "an excellent piece of flash fiction."

"...And Let The Apocalypse Happen" - I wrote this for a short story contest and it took first place. It was published in the spring issue of the literary magazine Theory Train.

"I Don’t Dream Like That Anymore" - a new flash fiction piece, which will make you feel bad for a robot and a starship captain.

You can download it here.

Cover art!

Here is the cover art for my upcoming short story collection, done by the awesome K. B. Wittke:


Check back tomorrow and I should have the collection up. It features three stories, one of which you can also read in the latest issue of Theory Train.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Newsletter & Advanced Review Copies

I'm starting a newsletter to keep everyone in touch with what's going on and to make it easy to send a lot of copies of stuff to a lot of people. Everyone who signs up by Saturday (May 21st) will get an advanced review copy of my upcoming three-story collection.

I won't send out e-mails often (look at how often I post to my blog, and divide that by three), but when I do, I'll try to include something worth your time.

Subscribe to the newsletter!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer Writing Months, #suwrimo

For a few years, radioactive alchemist over on Gaia has been running SuWriMo, which is like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) but spread over June, July, and August. The idea is to set a writing goal, divide it up by about 90 days, and get writing. I've done it for several years, and I've always had a lot of fun.

This year I asked her if I could take it to Twitter, and she agreed. So on June 1st I'll start posting my daily progress toward my #writegoal with the #suwrimo tag, and I invite all other writers to do the same.

You don't have to write a book over the course of the 3 months, but you can add to an existing book, or set goals for any sort of writing or editing project. And you can start early, keep going after August, or take time off if you have a vacation planned. It's a free-form writing exercise.

Many people track their progress through number of words written, but you don't have to. It can be number of chapters written, amount of short stories completed, whatever. The point of #suwrimo is to set a writing goal, talk with other writers, and have fun with it.

My goal will be to finish a draft of my current book by August 31st. I'm guessing that will take about 60,000 words, but I'll stop when the book's done. That's roughly 667 words a day--easily manageable, I think.

So, what's your goal? Post it on #suwrimo.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

You need social media--even if you think you don't

I had a lengthy conversation yesterday with @pathunstrum, a writer I've known for some time, about social media. (He blogs regularly on the LW.) Basically, my argument was, I don't have the time commitment to be on Twitter or even Facebook every day promoting my book. I do what I can, but my efforts there aren't having much effect. This, to me, is discouraging.

A few short years ago, the advice to writers was this: "Pay your dues. Hone your craft. Learn how to write a query letter and get an agent. You'll get one if you try hard enough. And then, if you're REALLY lucky, you'll get a publishing deal."

Now, the game has changed. To self-pub (which seems to be the way things are going) you need to not only do all the book production yourself (get betas, a proofreader, cover, upload, etc), but you must maintain a constant presence on social media. It's exhausting, and sometimes it feels like I'm going nowhere. So my question to him was: am I going anywhere?

Pat pointed out things I could do (spend ten minutes a day on Twitter) and things I am doing right (working on my next book). And he pointed out that luck favors the diligent. Maybe you put in years of effort, and get nowhere. And then one day the scale just tips in your favor, and you get the readers you were trying to reach.

I'm not one of those people who has the major plans. "Okay, this November I'll reach 2,000 sales, and by next June I'll have 1,000 blog followers." I don't think that way. I think in terms of my writing, and the book I'm working on now, and what readers will enjoy. I try to write stories I would like to read, while working with the schedule I've got. I have a lot of plans for promotion that I think would be a lot of fun for readers, and go beyond Facebook pages and retweets. But those are a great launch pad to make people aware of them.

I've been following Kristen Lamb's #MyWANA hashtag on Twitter, and groups like that are a great way to find a lot of people on one topic. Sometimes Twitter seems very insular (unless you go searching, you only see tweets from people you're following), but the more I poke around on Twitter, the more I see there are a lot of opportunities for writers to connect and get their voice heard.

I have seen a lot of writers burn out on social media, but I think they're approaching it from the wrong perspective. It's not a tool to gain sales, or a roadblock you have to conquer. It's just a way to be accessible and learn more from other people. You can have fun with it, or you can treat it as a business--whichever way you want to go.

I have been busy on other projects lately, but I'm going to invest a little more time into social media. As Pat says, "You want to be standing on the platform when the train comes in."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Future Superhero

"Kapow!" he yells. "Jab! Jab! Jab!"
He pummels his enemies
from atop his Darkwing Duck-sheeted bed.
"Take THAT! And THAT!"
he cries; he is vanquisher, savior of cities,
destroyer of evil, protector of justice;
his fists make the world turn
and make girls sigh in admiration.
He is the greatest-no, wait!
Call Webster’s; greatness
must be redefined. He is super incredible
awesome man! He is--
"Billy! Breakfast!" yells his mother
from downstairs.
"Yes, Mom," he mumbles,
still in his pajamas.
Eggs and toast? Prepare to be punched.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Going forward

First, go read about my thoughts on e-book pricing over at the LW blog. I'll be here when you get back.

Next, people have been asking me a lot of questions about my next book, mainly what it's going to be about. I'm not used to talking about the series to anyone but my betas (who are probably really tired of it now), so let me give it a go. There will be six books in the series. All of their outlines are done, and all the books are titled. I know what's going to happen in the last scene of the last book. I've got some rough outlines of short stories kicking around, too. I just need to finish writing everything.

The next book is going to be called Saturnine. Thomas Huxley is a secret agent again, and goes looking for the man who nearly killed him--which backfires when he kidnaps Thomas's partner in the squad. And very quickly, that becomes the least of Thomas's problems. Meanwhile, Ariel has to fend off an old enemy.

But that book is on the back burner while I focus on licensing exams and finding a nice white dress for my pinning ceremony. I originally wanted a December release, but my life is always pretty hectic and I never know what I'm going to get done tomorrow, let alone in the next half-year (especially with a project as massive as a book).

And oddly enough, for all the trouble the second book has given me, the third is pretty much done. I finished it last summer. All it really needs is some breezethrough edits and it'll be print-ready. So when you see the second book come out, the third is probably just a few weeks, some formatting and a cover image away. I'll keep everyone posted with my progress.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

(There's) No Place Like Home by Anthony Matos

Anthony Matos, who I worked on the student newspaper with in college, just released his first novel, (There's) No Place Like Home. It's currently on Smashwords, and here's the description:

There is an organization that recruits and inserts agents into American jails and prisons with one mission: extermination. The saying goes that everyone deserves a second chance; but in this new age of Depression with over-crowded prisons and backed up courts, a drastic and violent change must happen. Agents are given targets and implanted into prisons with their identities only revealed to selected individuals of power. They establish connections with inmates until they isolate targets and execute.

The largest amount of wealth within the once respected America is now being funneled into the sewer. Murderers, gang members, rapists, pedophiles, inside traders: they’re all enjoying the most modern conveniences our money has to buy. Fully equipped gyms, televisions, 3 meals a day and a roof over their heads while their victims may struggle just to make ends meet; or may have met their end already.

How much money does it take to keep a killer alive compared to how much it costs to bury their victim? Before you answer, just save your breath. You’re living your life the best you can, and your bandwagon ride on the next big social charity isn't important anymore. It’s not going to change what we’re doing here. But what we’re doing here is going to change your world forever.


There's some rough language and it's not meant for the younger crowd, but it has some nice description, such as "The morning sun splashes off red brick buildings and gives them a shine they don't deserve." If you're a fan of dramatic thrillers, check it out.

(There's) No Place Like Home

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Making the jump to YA

Part of a writer's dilemma is, when you write a book that doesn't really resemble anything else you've found, how do you classify it by genre?

Awhile back, I mentioned to some of my writer friends that I wished I were writing YA (young adult) fiction. And I'm not just chasing trends here: I really like YA books. Before high school, I read YA and not much else. I'm still around teenagers all the time, so I sometimes read what they're reading. In the past few years I loved books like Tithe and Stargirl. I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and laughed all through it. I am, in short, a YA addict.

But Flyday, for a long time, struck me as a really non-YA book. The main character, after all, is in his twenties, engaged, and well into a career. But as some of my readers pointed out, that's not the whole story. Much the book is dedicated to 18-year-old Ariel, who essentially runs away from home when her brother is sent to fight in Iraq. She's also a time traveler; tell me that's not cool. There's another major character, Emily, who is a teenage princess. I think this fits quite well in the YA genre.

Plus, I've been reading a lot of adult fiction lately, and I realized that Flyday is a lot more tame than the other books I was seeing. That's not by accident. When I was writing it, all of my betas were teenagers or young adults. Heck, I was a young adult when I finished the first draft (spring of 2008, which would put me at around 19 or 20) before putting it aside to go to nursing school.

I worried that the rock star, Jamie, would be a bad influence on teens, but lots of readers commented that teens would really identify with his struggles. There's some violence, but it's over quickly, and The Hunger Games trilogy qualifies as YA despite the violence it portrays.

So, with lots of encouragement, I'm going to say that this is definitely a YA novel. And I'm really relieved, because now, as I'm writing the draft of the second book, I can expand Ariel's role and not try to force myself to write an adult thriller (which I don't think is a good fit for the story, in any case). I'll let her deal with typical teenage things like romance, but she'll still manage to travel through time and get lots of people angry at her. It's win-win. I'll change the genre categories for Flyday soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Signed copies

I'm setting up a PayPal system to process requests for signed copies of Flyday if you live outside the Western Mass area. E-mail me (kilexia at gmail.com) and tell me your instructions if you want a specific message. Cost is $12, including shipping. (If you want it shipped outside the U.S., e-mail me and we can figure something out.)






If you've already bought the book or you live outside the U.S. and it would cost an arm and a leg to ship it, I can e-mail you a free autographed sticker to put on the book's front page. Just e-mail me with your address and instructions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can't get started with your writing? Read this

A lot of people have asked me over the years, "How do I become a writer? Where do I start?" 

My answer used to be, "I don't know. Pick up a pen and write something down?" I was facing the same question myself. But now that I've actually finished a book, I can sit back and think about what was useful for me and what wasn't.

Things you need to be able to write:

1. A quiet place. I wrote most of my novel in the library when I was studying for my writing degree at my first college, and I thought about the plot while walking around the campus. I soaked up a lot of the inspiration around me, and some of the architecture there (including above-ground tunnels) made it into the book.

2. Resources. If you're one for writing guides or just need inspiration, Bird by Bird and On Writing are the books I always recommend to new authors. Bird by Bird is especially good, because it's a heartfelt book that at the same time takes a "down in the trenches" approach to coaching new writers: the author lays everything out and tells it like it is.

The Elements of Style is also a must for any writer. It's short; go grab a copy and read it. I also found Eats, Shoots & Leaves to be a hilarious grammar resource (but other people have said it's boring, so I might just be a grammar geek).

If you're looking to write an ebook, Zoe Winters' Becoming an Indie Author is a great resource as well. For news in e-publishing, J. A. Konrath's blog is a must-read.

If you're a poet, In the Palm of Your Hand is an excellent book to learn some skills and read examples of fascinating poetry.

3. Time. I did most of my writing late at night or between classes. If I had a day off, I wrote. During nursing school I could go months at a time without writing, but during the summer I jumped right back into it and worked on the draft of a new book. Nowadays I dash off notes and entire poems on my phone while waiting for the bus.

It takes some effort to find spare time, but most people have more of it than they realize. I've seen people write dozens of tweets in a single day, then type, "I never have enough time to write!" Don't be that person.

4. Good software. I once used RoughDraft, because it was a lightweight program that did a lot, especially due to its "Notepad" function (each file has a little sidebar you can use to write notes).

I had to start using Word for school, however, so now I often type in that and outline in OneNote, which I find indispensable for organizing a new book (one tab for plot outlines, one tab for character lists, etc), so I have everything in one place. If I forget what eye color a character has, or where they're supposed to be in the next scene, I can flip back and find out quickly.

5. Writing buddies. If no one you know is an aspiring writer, try finding a writing forum online; AbsoluteWrite is a really comprehensive one.

One thing that really sped up my writing was finding "betas"--essentially, people to read, and give thoughts on, my writing. My first betas were friends and siblings, and I would deliver paper copies of my chapters to them. Eventually this led to me e-mailing them, and finally using Google Docs to create files that everyone could read together and pile notes on. It's a lot of fun, and it's a good motivator to keep writing when you have instant feedback.

6. An idea. Whether you're writing poetry, a short story, a novel or anything else, you really need to find something you believe in to write about. This is the most important and yet elusive part of writing. My ideas usually come in the form of a thought that grabs me and won't let me go.

The original thoughts for my book Flyday went something like this: What if a girl had a time machine that could take her anywhere she wanted to go? And what if she encountered a man accused of murder, and found that her future actions might have caused it? I wondered where the story went, and I wrote it.

Someone once told me, "I write because the books I'd want to read aren't written yet." This is a good way to think about writing. What would you want to read if you saw it on the shelf? Write it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's new, and thoughts on ebook pricing

I joined a collaborative writing blog, and although it's just starting up, there are several other bloggers who are fascinating to read, so check it out. I also have a few writing projects I don't want to divulge just yet--I'll wait until I have more time to give them the proper attention.

People have been asking about Flyday's sequel, and yes, I am actively writing a new draft of it, but no, I don't have any idea when it'll be done. I'll have more updates as things get more solid.

I'm also considering raising Flyday's ebook price, especially since I see people charging that for novellas and Flyday is nearly 300 pages. Mainly I was inspired by the recent interview with Zoe Winters in which she explains her pricing strategy. For a reader, 99 cents may be an appealing price, but only 35 cents of that will go to the author. 35 cents, for a book they probably spent years writing. That doesn't seem fair.

I think if people are interested enough in the book, they'll buy it at any reasonable price. I've seen people pay $4.50 for a coffee that will be gone in twenty minutes. An ebook would provide hours of reading, and you can enjoy it for years. Is Flyday worth $3.95 or even $4.95 for that? Definitely.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In which I interview Jeff van Booven on Flyday

My writer friend Jeff van Booven has been my sounding board for many years when I was writing Flyday, so it was only natural that I interview him afterward about his opinions on how I did. I managed to tear him away from 19th century literature for a few minutes, and somehow we got to talking about missed chances for feminism and the roles of robots in science fiction.

LB: So Jeff, what did you think of my book?

JVB: Well Laura, I thought it was a book. All the classic trappings were there. Pages. Words on those pages. Why, there was even plot and characters.

You're mentioned in the dedication. What would you say your role was when I was writing Flyday? 

Unmorale support. I provided lots of distraction. Essentially, it was my goal to make sure that you had a metric by which to judge your productivity and then chastise you for not doing better. I had a whip and nothing better to do. Think of it as author slavery.

That's an incredibly pessimistic view. [Note: We had previously discussed Flyday's risk for being censored.] Do you think the characters are good role models, or do you think that the book should be banned? 

Banned, why hell yes it should be banned. It's the classic think of the children line! Good role models you ask? Why, they're absolutely terrible. Being gay, sure, fine, kids need to learn tolerance and to treat one another with respect. But, to think that you can just pop off into the future because you're bored and without telling anyone! What kind of message is that supposed to send to the youth of today? That it's okay to just tally off before supper and mess with other peoples' timelines. A bit rude I say and our children shouldn't be exposed to such irresponsible garbage!

I never really thought about it that way. So you think Ariel is the most irresponsible character in the book? 

Certainly. I mean, she doesn't even bother to travel back in time to the 19th century to provide some professional editorial experience in the form of cutting out the extensive overuse of description and breaking of the fourth wall by the narrative voice. She doesn't even really need any sort of real editing experience to do so. The least she could do is team up with Margaret Fuller and get some real feminism going. So yes, she, the keeper of the time machine, has doomed society to excessive years of backwards thinking that could have been avoided. Most irresponsible character in the book, yes, and off all literary history; even more irresponsible than Jane Eyre.

She could still go back in time and promote feminism though, couldn't she? But if she did something crazy radical like tell someone about antibiotics in the year 1400, would that change too much and cause new and unexpected problems? 

Well, yeah, it'd certainly increase the chance of resistance to anti-biotics, but this is a literary blog--medical knowledge isn't something I care too much about. Sure, it'd be nice to have a cure for cancer, but I'd rather not have to slog through a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's all about perspective. You want somebody to complain about her not advancing medicine, interview a nurse about your novel.

Fair enough. Taken by itself, could Flyday be considered a feminist book? There are a lot of strong female characters. 

Well, yes, I suppose it would be; however, I think it will more likely be remembered for its sympathetic portrayals of robot-kind. Far from often do our silicon brethren get a fair shake in literature. Even the most pro-robot authors like Isaac Asimov had a tendency to produce slightly anti-robot texts. That's the real strength of Flyday, it goes beyond the cultural constructions and societal prejudices of robots to produce a wholly sympathetic character that gives robots the agency they deserve.

Readers do seem to really like that robot. Well, I think we've covered almost everything. Just one final question: if you had any advice for Thomas Huxley, what would it be? 

Same as I do for anybody else in a trying situation: don't fuck this up.


Jeff van Booven is a grad student at Missouri State University and runs a blog called the One Hour Parking Show. Laura E. Bradford the author of Flyday, and she is reconsidering her choice to put Jeff in the book's dedication.