Monday, April 30, 2012

DIY: Cover Art - Creating My Own eBook, Part Two

Last Monday, I gave an overview of the process I used when creating my first eBook. One of the things that I said I'd go into more detail about at a later date was the creation of the cover art.

Everything I've read about the publication and marketing of eBooks over the last several months has suggested that one of the most important aspects of the whole process is having appropriate cover art. You want cover art that fits the genre/feel you intend for your book to have and you want to produce that cover art on a budget which fits your overall sales expectations for your book. There's obviously a quality factor, too, but that is both somewhat subjective and is dependent to a certain extent on the budget. Another important thing is for it to look good when seen in a thumbnail view.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Links & the Week in #storyeachnight : April 29, 2012 Edition

It's been a strangely low-key weekend here so far, despite the fact that I spent hours yesterday writing. I know it's most likely the calm before a storm, but it's still been nice to feel even vaguely relaxed the last 36 or so hours.

I've continued to keep up with #storyeachnight. Here are this week's entries:

4/22 - "Scout" by Bud Sparhawk from the 6/12 ASIMOV'S. A fallen soldier re-enters the fight in a different role.
4/23 - "Crooks" by Paul Carlson from the 6/12 ANALOG.
4/24 - "You've Ruined This For Me" by Ewan C. Forbes from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION.
4/25 - "Dolly at the End of the World" by Amanda C. Davis from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. Great voice & characters.
4/26 - "Moving Night" by Nancy Holder from 100 HAIR-RAISING LITTLE HORROR STORIES. A young boy's night terrors & more
4/27 - "The Other Graces" by Alice Sola Kim from THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2011. Great voice and interesting character-building. I loved the story up until near the end when it started to lose me.
4/28 - "The Old Genius" by Nikolai Leskov from THE ENCHANTED WANDERER AND OTHER STORIES. A short crime story about how a wealthy man who refused to pay his debts was forced to recompense a trusting old woman.

Now, here are this week's writing-related links:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dissecting the Short Story: "Memories of My Mother" by Ken Liu

As discussed recently, this is the first post in the reboot of my Dissecting the Short Story series. Remember that I won't be shy about including spoiler material in this analysis, so if you haven't read this story it might be worth your time to read it first before reading the bulk of this post.

"Memories of My Mother" by Ken Liu
Published in:
March 19th, Daily Science Fiction
Approximate Length:
1000 words
First Person, Chronological, Mixed Past and Present Tense
Summary [WARNING: Spoilers Included!]:

Monday, April 23, 2012

DIY: Creating My Own eBook, Part One

One of the major things that has changed between the first time I explored the world of fiction publication (early 1990s) and today is the nature of self-publishing. Back then, it typically involved laying out hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront and was very much considered the last refuge of a writer who had failed to find a market. There was the occasional self-published item that went on to have some certain degree of success, particularly in niche markets, but most self-publishing left authors with boxes of unsold books in their garage or basement.

To say there has been a sea change would be an understatement. The growing acceptance of eBooks by readers has led to a whole new marketplace for digital titles. Turnaround times are miniscule, overhead is small to nonexistent. It's literally possible to take an existing work and turn it into an eBook ready for sale in an evening. In fact, that's exactly what I did one night last week with my science fiction story "Gravity's Pull" and my experience is what I'll be discussing in this series of posts.

Here are the steps I followed:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: April 22, 2012 Edition

It's been a nicely-hectic week on the writing front here. I'm very pleased with both my sale to Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi and the experience of turning my short story "Gravity's Pull" into my first self-published eBook.

A quick reminder that the next week or so will see the publication of this month's Dissecting the Short Story entry. If you want to read the featured story in advance, you can check out Ken Liu's "Memories of My Mother" online.

Two weeks in a row I've managed to keep up every day with #storyeachnight. Here are this week's entries:

4/15 - "213 Myrtle Street" by Beth Cato from Flash Fiction Online. A fun short about a sentient house with a neat little surprise near the end.
4/16 - "A Nice Neighbourhood" by Kate Ellis from the 5/11 EQMM. A twisty little crime story
4/17 - "Missionaries" by Mercurio D. Rivera from the 6/12 ASIMOV'S. As the title suggests, much philosophy/religious discussion. I liked the character details quite a bit though on 1st reflection I didn't find the end particularly satisfying.
4/18 - "Free Range" by Bruce McAllister from the 6/12 ASIMOV'S. Bizarrely humorous. I literally laughed aloud.
4/19 -  "Forget You" by Marc Laidlaw from LIGHTSPEED.
4/20 - "One Angry Julius Katz and Eleven Befuddled Jurors" by Dave Zeltserman from the 6/12 EQMM. A fun Katz & Archie story, glad to read a new one.
4/21 - "Fata Morgana" by Ray Cluley in INTERZONE 238. A fascinating world, "fantasy" only in that it isn't ours.

Now, here are this week's writing-related links:

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Gravity's Pull" eBook Live on Amazon

I have been thinking for months about starting to do some self-published eBooks through Amazon and/or other sites. Recently, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.

"Gravity's Pull" is one of the first short stories I wrote last summer. It's a hard science fiction "problem" story of the kind that I associate with Analog. The blurb I wrote for it on Amazon reads as follows:
Camilla is beginning her first tour of duty as a crew leader and is expecting a routine three months on the GT Donald Ademu, a gravity tractor ship assigned to change the trajectory of an asteroid. An unexpected development jeopardizes the lives of her and her crew as well as many other people. Camilla and the two others on-board race to find a solution in "Gravity's Pull."
I plan to post several blog entries in upcoming weeks talking in more detail about the ePublishing process. For now, I just wanted to share the news that the story is out there to be read and also share the cover art that I developed for the book.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Short Story Sale - "Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping"

I guess I ended up having reason to make a Thursday blog post after all!

I'm excited to announce that my short story "Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping" will be published by Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi in their upcoming issue.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the story on their site; I like the look and feel of this new publication quite a bit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quick April Goals Update

[Normally this would have been a post for Thursday 4/19 instead of Wednesday 4/18 but I hit Publish instead of Save and there's no good reason to pull it back. Just pretend that Thursday came a few hours earlier tonight...]

Today's post is going to be quick. Things have been going well lately writing-wise and relatively calmly (though very busy) life-wise. I've got several ideas for more extensive blog posts, but need to sit down and work with them.

What I'm going to do today is a quick check-in on my April goals.

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain (aka Seinfeld Chain), blogging schedule, etc. - As you might recall, I added an option to my Daily Writing Chain to spend 45 focused minutes on revisions. So far, having that certainly hasn't been a problem. In fact, I think I've only made that my sole qualifying writing activity for the day one time. If anything, I should be trying to spend even more time on revisions. I think at this point I'll keep this as an option for my Chain; it will replace the "personal journalling" option which I had never used and which -- at this point -- feels unnecessary. I've got plenty of other work I can be doing.
2) Write and submit one or more short stories for the first time. - Done. (And... shhhh... it's already sold, too!)
3) Make revisions to my non-fiction project based on feedback and my own editing of it. - This one may or may not happen. Other projects have taken priority both for myself and for the person I'm getting feedback from, so there's a good chance I won't get around to doing this in April. If not, it will likely show up as a May goal.
4) Write 7,500 words of new fiction. - I'm actually ahead of pace, sitting at 5224 words for the month as of yesterday. I also have two new story ideas beating down my mental "doors" so I've got to think getting those over 2300 words in shouldn't be too difficult.
5) On 4/30, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - This hasn't gone anywhere this month. I still have two "almost-ready" posts like I had last month but that doesn't cut it. "Almost" ready doesn't do me any good if I have a day I don't have time to blog.
6) Relaunch the Dissecting the Short Story series on my blog - This one's coming along nicely. A week from today (or, at the latest, a week from this coming Monday) I'll be doing a DtSS post for Ken Liu's "Memories of My Mother." It's a fairly short story; if you have time between now and then, give it a read and join in the discussion!

I'm thrilled with how everything stands at this point. April is shaping up to be my best writing month in a little while, possibly even my best so far this year.

I hope that everyone else is finding things moving along smoothly with their goals!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rejection Relics

Somehow, through an unknown number of moves, I've managed to hang onto a folder of rejection slips from the early 1990s. Going through these recently was kind of a cool bit of time travel. One thing that's amazing is looking at the slips and seeing some of the titles and realizing that they don't ring the slightest bell at all as to what they were about. Even more amazing is when there's a reference to a plot point and even that does nothing for my memory. Apparently teenage-me wrote some story called "Madonna with Child" which somehow involved Elvis Presley. I have no idea which "Madonna" the story referred to...

Part of me wishes I had those old stories. (Yes, the rejection slips survived, but the digital files apparently did not... I have exactly two of my 1990s stories still in digital form.)  Part of me is glad that I don't have them. I suspect that the rejection letters may have been a bit more charitable to someone of my age (which I apparently referenced in my cover letters). It may well be best that the stories themselves are lost to time.

I pulled the rejections which I found most interesting out of the file to scan and share. Six of them are presented further down in this blog post. (I've blacked out or cropped out addresses since they would be long-inaccurate for any of these markets.) I hope you enjoy taking this trip back with me to visit a different writer and a much different fiction marketplace.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: April 15, 2012 Edition

The first link I want to draw everyone's attention to is Ken Liu's short story "Memories of My Mother." This will be the subject of April's Dissecting the Short Story post, which will appear on 4/26 or 4/30. So, if you want to be able to join in the discussion around this story, you could go ahead and read it now to be ready for that.

I've finally gotten back into the groove of regularly doing #storyeachnight. Here are this week's entries:

4/8 - "Amor Vincit Omnia" by K. J. Parker from THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, 2011 EDITION. Some rather fascinating worldbuilding in Parker's story, though not sure how I feel about the overall story arc.
4/9 -  "Older, Wiser, Time Traveler" by M. Bennardo from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. I liked this story. Good voice and sense of where the story was going which, in a time travel story, can always be a bit tricky.
4/10 - "Final Exam" by Megan Arkenberg from the 6/12 ASIMOV'S. An interesting, very non-linear structure though I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a good bit shorter.
4/11 - "Waiting at the Altar" by Jack McDevitt from the 6/12 ASIMOV'S. Decent space exploration story though I enjoyed his recent "Maiden Voyage" (which featured the same characters) more. ("Maiden Voyage" was the subject of my January 6th "Dissecting the Short Story" entry.)
4/12 -  "Lethal Injection" by Kevin Levites from NOIR NATION #1. Seems like a lot of snake research went into this one. It had a very authentic feel.
4/13 - "The Green Book" by Amal El-Mohtar from THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2011. A great, rather short, story about an enchanted book and people who have interacted with it.
4/14 - "A Brief Respite From Eternity" by Alex Shvartsman from STUPEFYING STORIES 1.5. A nice flash fiction which worked for me even though it deals with a particular subject area I'm getting a bit weary of.

Now, here are this week's writing-related links:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dissecting the Short Story Update & "Lucky 7" Novel Excerpt

OK, so barring a last minute surge of votes for one of the other two stories, it looks like Ken Liu's "Memories of My Mother" will be April's Dissecting the Short Story entry. I'm planning to have that post up either 4/26 or 4/30. Thanks to those who participated in the voting. I'm hoping that having the story be readily available for others to read along will help generate some discussion.

The other piece of business today is following up on a blogfest tag, Fellow writer Rance Denton tagged me in the Lucky 7 blogfest. I'm not going to tag other writers, but will play along with the game otherwise. I'm supposed to "Go to page 7 or 77 of your current work-in-progress, go down to the 7th line, and post on your blog the next (approximately) seven lines!"

Current work-in-progress could be any one of a number of things. But the only one with a page 77 would be my NaNoWriMo project "Adrift." Since any excuse to bring that back towards the front of my mind momentarily is a good one, I'll go with this excerpt from page 77 of the first draft of "Adrift."

"Julia sat up. She was outside, in the same place that she had been two times before. But when was she? The only way to find out was to get up and head towards the road and the town she had found before.
She stood and began to walk, heading in the direction that she remembered going before. A compass would help, she realized. Add that to the list of things that she would need to hang onto as she went to sleep if she was going to do this again.
The thought momentarily struck her that it was amazing that she could simply accept this now. One moment she was in her home, in 2012. Another moment, she was somewhere else and probably somewhen else as well. And yet she completely accepted it. There was no doubt in her mind that this was reality, no matter how impossible it might seem."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Following Heinlein's Rules for Writers

Science-fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein once codified five "rules" for writers who wish to improve their chances of success at publication. My favorite source for these rules is Robert J. Sawyer's page where he expands on all five and adds a sixth.

In brief, the rules are:
  1. Write
  2. Finish What You Start
  3. Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
  4. Put Your Story on the Market
  5. Keep it on the Market Until it Has Sold
  6. (Sawyer's Addition) Start Working On Something Else (To which I would add "And Try To Work At Improving Your Craft"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: April 8, 2012 Edition

Not a lot of news in my personal writing world to speak of. I continue working steadily on new stories. I wrote a first draft of one story earlier this week that I need to take through a reshaping second draft before it goes out anywhere. In fact, even though I spent a day doing revising on several stories recently, I still have a fair amount of editing and revising work which I need to get down to doing. I haven't yet given myself credit for a day on my daily writing chain by doing 45 minutes of focused revisions (as discussed here) so I should probably try to do that. I think I've got a bit of a mental barrier to using that as my writing for the day since I've spent so many days in a row writing something new every day. I might just have to pick a day and say "This day I'll do 45 minutes of revising at this specific time and that will be my qualifying work for the day." We'll see how it goes.

I'm still very hit and miss on #storyeachnight though I really do want to get back to reading a new story basically every day. Looking back at the week, I see I was even worse at it than I realized. I'm going to try to get back to reading a story close to every day, but we'll see how it goes.

Here are this week's entries:

4/1 - None
4/2 - None
4/3 - None
4/4 - "After" by C. L. Holland from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION.
4/5 - None
4/6 - "Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain" by Yoon Ha Lee from THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2011. An interesting tale of fantastic weapons, how they came to be created, and their impact on universes.
4/7 - None

Yeah... Definitely not living up to the "each" part of that recently.

Here are this week's links:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dissecting the Short Story Voting Has Begun!

I've listed the three choices for April's "Dissecting the Short Story" feature. They are:

Voting will be open through April 12th. The resulting analysis of the selected story will be posted in late-April.

While we're on the topic of Dissecting the Short Story, here's a neat little fact: P. N. Elrod's short story "Beach Girl" which was the subject of my fourth Dissecting the Short Story entry won the 2011 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award. Well done, P. N.!

Monday, April 2, 2012

March Goal Wrap-Up, April Goal Setting

With a new month here, it's time to do a final check-in on my March goals and set my April goals.

1) Read my first draft of "Adrift" and create something akin to a "beat sheet" for it. - Didn't happen.
2) Have a short story revising day where I get at least three stories into a form where I am ready to send them out for beta or submission. - I did it. Now, one of the stories I've since decided needs more work, but at the time I honestly thought it was ready for beta. I know I should be trying to avoid getting backlogged, but this certainly felt like a decent approach for if I am backlogged.
3) Write 7,500 words of new fiction including at least one new short story. - Word count was not met, multiple flash (short-short) stories were completed, though.
4) Keep all my writing routines -- Seinfeld Chain, revised blogging schedule, etc. - Done. I called this my top goal for the month, and I'm satisfied with having met this goal.
5) On 3/31, have one non-time-sensitive blog post written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - Not going to give myself credit for this one; I've got two mostly completed, but neither is "ready to hit post" which would be the standard I'd want for this goal. Close, but not quite.
6) Write and submit one or more short stories for the first time. - Done.
7) Decide if I am going to attend Marcon (a local science-fiction convention) in April or not. - Done -- though I'm not going to go.
8) Complete a first draft of my non-fiction project. - Done and sent to someone for a read-through to see what initial feedback I can get on it.

Very good, all things considered.

My April goals will be:
1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain (aka Seinfeld Chain), blogging schedule, etc. - One addition I'm going to make to this, that I'd been considering in the past. I'm going to add an option to my Daily Writing Chain to spend 45 focused minutes on revisions. The key word there is focused -- if I'm just half-assing it (to be blunt) then it shouldn't count. If I look back on this after a month and think that it's turned into a way to goof off instead of getting real work done, then this option will get the ax. I also plan to see how many days that's my qualifying activity for the chain.
2) Write and submit one or more short stories for the first time. - My basic monthly "Write 1/Sub 1" goal.
3) Make revisions to my non-fiction project based on feedback and my own editing of it. - Self-explanatory.
4) Write 7,500 words of new fiction. - Truthfully, I'd like to make this goal bigger, but given how things have gone the last couple of months, it seems prudent to keep it at this level.
5) On 4/30, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - This is pretty much a standing goal. I'm upping it from one to two, though. That would carry me through most of a week in the event of something happening that kept me from blogging.
6) Relaunch the Dissecting the Short Story series on my blog -  I talked about this some several weeks back, and I've finally started making headway on it in the last few days. If all goes well, I'll have a poll up by the end of this week for people to vote on the story they want me to dissect.

Does anyone have any interesting news from March or exciting goals for April that they'd like to share? I'd like hearing them!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: April 1, 2012 Edition

No fooling here, we're all business!

The two links I'm most personally excited about today are the ones to my two short stories on the Kazka Press site: "Vacant Thrones" and "What You Can Change."

In other personal writing news, I received word of a sale to a prestigious semi-pro market earlier this weekend. The contract isn't signed yet but I'll be sure to let everyone know once I can make it public.

My #storyeachnight reading has continued to be sporadic, though I am now explicitly focusing on trying to read stories for my revival of the "Dissecting the Short Story" series.

3/25 - None
3/26 - "In the Unlikely Event" by Ferrett Steinmetz from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. A fun flash fiction.
3/27 - None
3/28 - "Offering Solace" by Jamie Lackey from DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. I liked the feel of much of it, but I wasn't crazy about the ending. The author notes, indicating the story's origin were interesting to me.
3/29 - "The Day They Came" by Kali Wallace from LIGHTSPEED. Interesting voice. It felt like maybe it went on a bit long, though I can't say I really got bored either.
3/30 - None
3/31 - "Nightfall in the Scent Garden" by Claire Humphrey from STRANGE HORIZONS. Wow! Lyrical and evocative. Childhood, myth, names, love... Easily one of my favorites of stories I've read recently. (* Obviously my favorite for the week.)

And now, here are this week's links:

Two Stories Live Today on Kazka Press Site

Two stories of mine went live today on Kazka Press's website. No fooling!
  • "What You Can Change" is a science fiction short story set in a dystopian society. This is a story I wrote late last summer. I'm glad that it found a good home as their first monthly featured short story.
  • "Vacant Thrones" is a flash sword & sorcery fantasy. This is one of four stories picked from their March prompt.
I hope that you enjoy reading these stories!