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Blog 5: “Resources for Writers,” by Connie J. Jasperson

 

Resources for Writers By Connie J. Jasperson

 

I write fantasy and science fiction. If one dares to write sci-fi, the technology must be grounded in cutting-edge science. Indulging in mushy theories is a big no-no for hard-sci-fi fans.

When science fails the “theoretically possible” test, it becomes magic, and magic is a trope of fantasy.

Writers of science fiction must become futurists. They must take what is theoretically possible and think ahead. Our task is to take what science says is conceivable and make it feel true and solid.

We all agree that reading one Wikipedia article does not qualify you as an expert in your chosen subject. To go beyond the surface, we must find websites that go more into depth or speak to the experts.

Once you know what you are writing about, you can mix it up any way you want. Here are a few articles I have found useful:

CommunicationsThis is the Future of Communication Thanks to Technology

TransportationWhat’s the Future of Transportation?

AgricultureHigh-rise Urban Farming

Waste managementThe future of waste: five things to look for by 2025

Resource management – Resources for the Future: website  https://www.rff.org/

The environment of any spacefaring society must be created of technology, or they would not be able to leave the safety of this world. Earth is the only world known to harbor life as we know it.

My current favorite way to bring humans to another world is through the use of generation ships. Entire colonies living for generations on a moon-sized ship, traveling through the cosmos, offers so many opportunities for drama. To find a plethora of ideas to investigate further, check out Futurism: Here is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft.

I mentioned above that I write fantasy. In my case, writing a short story with a shamanistic element led me to investigate and study the writings of Joseph Campbell, Nancy Yaw Davis, and Frank Hamilton Cushing.

This little dip into traditional shamanism was a catalyst, kindling a world of ideas I could use in my Tower of Bones series, which began life as an RPG-game-based epic fantasy.

Whenever you can, speak to experts. Swords feature strongly in my work, and so I have forged connections with modern swordsmiths. My town has several fantastic blacksmiths who are glad to tell me what was possible in low-tech bladesmithing and what is possible with advanced technology. They’re always happy to talk about the history behind their craft.

And this brings me to the most fundamental aspect of writing—the nuts and bolts of grammar and story construction.

Readers assume writers somehow intuit grammar and are born knowing how to construct a readable novel. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Authors must learn the fundamental physics of grammar and understand how a story arc works. These rules are the traffic signals that keep our work readable and engaging. Once you know the rules, you can bend them with authority, but some rules are absolute.

Ignore them at your peril.

We don’t like asking for directions, and grammar questions are like that. The grammar style manual won’t point out your ignorance—it’s just glad you cared enough to ask.

For me, writing-craft reference books must be in their hardcopy forms, but they do have online editions. I rely on The Chicago Manual of Style. It is written specifically for writers, editors, and publishers of literary and genre fiction.

It is the publishing industry standard. The editors at the major publishing houses own copies and refer to this book when they have questions.

I have worn out several copies of the Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms. If I had to choose between purchasing this book and a thesaurus, I would select the book of synonyms and antonyms.

The Chicago Manual of Style and the Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms are the anchors of my reference library. Besides those two books, these are a few of the books I keep in hardcopy and refer to regularly:

Oxford American Writers’ Thesaurus 

Story, by Robert McKee

Dialogue, by Robert McKee

The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler (essential)

The Sound on the Page, by Ben Yagoda

Rhetorical Grammar, by Martha Kolin and Loretta Gray

Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig (essential)

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (essential)

You will gravitate to reference books that may be different than mine, and that is good.

Education comes in many forms, and it’s up to you to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow as an author.

Coursera is a wonderful organization, who offer you an education for free. While you don’t receive a diploma unless you pay for the course, you will get the education you need. Certificates of completion are available at a lesser cost if that is important to you.

Price is the determining factor for most of us, especially now with the pandemic.

However, for the financially strapped author wanting to increase their knowledge of the craft of writing, an excellent resource is the website Writers’ Digest. They are also for profit, but they offer an incredible amount of information and assistance for free.

I write fantasy and science fiction, but I highly recommend you go to websites that specialize in writing romance novels regardless of what genre you write.

The giants of the Romance publishing industry want you to succeed so they can sell more books. To that end, they get down to the technical aspects of novel construction, and they give away their knowledge for free. This is knowledge that works for writers of all genres.

Go to Harlequin.com and see for yourself.

Harlequin’s website offers many excellent tools for getting your work out the door in a timely fashion—something I need to work on. They also offer tips on marketing your work.

Harlequin also gives tips on how to create a writing space and organize your day so you can get good writing time in and still manage your family. I used to do my writing in my kitchen on an old IBM Selectric that was parked beside the gerbil cage.

Let’s just say gerbils and typewriters aren’t compatible as neighbors.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite sources of Online Information About Writing your Novel:

www.writersdigest.com

PBS.org/GuiltyPleasures/HowToWriteRomanceNovel

The Creative Penn

Harlequin.com

Creative Writing Now

I hope your writing journey has been as satisfying as mine, and that these sources of information are useful to you on the path to success. Keep writing and never stop learning.

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Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine fantasy novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy. You can find her books on her Amazon author page: http://bit.ly/CJJASPauthor

Follow Connie J. Jasperson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjjasp

 

 

Blog 4 “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Publication Process” by Suzanne Hagelin

 

 

 

Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Publication Process

 

 

This is Suzanne Hagelin’s fourth post in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing.

 

 

So much goes into writing and polishing a book that when it’s finished, you think you’re done. But that’s only one chunk, albeit a large one, of an author’s investment in releasing their work.

 

After the edits, rewrites, clean-up, and cover art are completed to your satisfaction, you’re finally ready to publish. Now what? What are the basic elements of the publication process? I’m speaking here to self-publishing authors and small press start-ups. If you’re looking for a publisher who will do the work for you, this post will give you an idea of what that entails.

 

There are tasks that only need to be done once, before you publish your first book, such as buying ISBN numbers and setting up accounts with the printers, publishers, and online distributors you intend to use. There are also items to check off your list each time you publish something. The first time you walk through this, you want to make sure you allow enough time for each step of the process. Once you get the hang of it, it should get easier and perhaps faster.

 

This list should help you plan your publication timeline.

 

ISBNs and Copyright

 

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Each version of your book requires a different number. When you buy them, you don’t have to have the titles of your books decided and it’s not necessary to follow up and inform the government which titles were assigned to each number.

It’s very easy to get an account with Bowker and buy ISBNs, but don’t waste your money getting only one at a time. If you start with one book in both print and digital forms, then end up rewriting your book, releasing a second edition, and adding an audiobook—that’s five ISBNs right there. Some online publishers like Amazon’s KDP will give you free Amazon numbers but then you are limited to selling only through them. You can still release the book somewhere else with a number, but it’s considered a separate edition.

Add a copyright statement on one of the first pages of your book with the © copyright symbol, the year of publication, book name, and author name, and a statement of what those rights are. Check books you have on hand to see what they wrote if you aren’t sure what to include. For more information on the government’s copyright laws, check here.

 

Time: Get your ISBN numbers ahead of time. The purchase goes through pretty quickly, but it’s an added stress and there’s no reason to put it off. When it’s time to add one to your book it’s a matter of minutes.

 

Metadata

 

Writing the book description that will go on the back cover has to be done before the cover can be completed, so you will already have the raw material for your metadata. Every book that is published needs to have the following information.

  • Title
  • Author(s), Contributor(s)
  • Author and contributor bios
  • Book description
  • Brief catalog description
  • Genres
  • Tags (for search engines)

 

You should be able to fit this into the publication timeline without scheduling any extra time. Just don’t forget it. It’s a pain to be uploading files and suddenly realize you forgot to write a description.

 

Formatting

 

I always format for the print edition first and the digital version second. A lot of the cleanup I do for the print edition helps with the ebook but managing it in reverse doesn’t have the same benefit.

 

PRINT—When setting up your manuscript to print, whether in bulk or using a print-on-demand (POD) option, you will want to format your book according to their specifications. This includes bleed, which allows for cutting the book after it’s been printed and bound. Allow for this extra amount when setting your page size and margins. You also need to keep in mind that the first page is a right-hand one. Page numbers run accordingly, odd numbers on the right and even numbers on the left.

Use “Styles” for all your formatting and it will be much easier to keep it uniform through the entire book. Don’t add spaces at the beginning of your paragraphs, set it up in the paragraph style with a first-line indent. When you’re finished formatting the document, turn on hidden characters (such as carriage-return) so that you can see what you’ve done with page breaks, sections, etc. Correct mistakes you would otherwise miss, and you’ll have fewer surprises when you get a proof copy.

Make sure your final document meets the printer’s requirements with fonts embedded. Some online services may have tools for cleaning up your file, but the finished product could look different than you intended. I recommend using Adobe Acrobat to distill it into PDF/X-1a:2001.

 

EBOOK—eBook conversion has different requirements than the print version. You don’t need blank pages and there are no page numbers, headers or footers. After you’ve set the margins, there’s little else to do for spacing.

The important part of formatting a book for digital conversion lies in the overall structure. The best way to look at this is to open up the “Outline” view of your book and check each level. Your title should be at level 1 and whatever else you want to be part of your table of contents should be level 1. The eBook conversion will generate the table of contents on this basis. I like to include the copyright in my contents, so I make the first line on that page a level 1 along with the chapter headings.

The cleaner the outline, the more straightforward the conversion will be.

 

Time: Allow a couple of days work for formatting if the process is familiar to you, longer if it’s your first.

 

EBOOK Conversion

 

You should have no trouble with the conversion if your formatting is straightforward. Whether you use a free app, a template, or a service to convert it, it’s important to open the resulting file in a reader to check it. Reader apps are free, and I recommend getting as many as you think would be used by your readers. By right-clicking on your epub file and choosing “Open with” you can select the one you want to use to check your ebook. I have Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Calibre apps, plus other platforms like Draft 2 Digital provide a reader app when you upload your book through them.

Scroll through the book and be sure to check your table of contents if you have one. If you have extra breaks and invisible characters you didn’t see in your document, this is where they will show up.

 

Time: Allow a couple days to convert your ebook and fix any problems. If you are dealing with a learning curve, that should be scheduled separately.

 

Proof Copies

When you’re fighting a deadline, it’s very tempting to bypass this step, or at least to rely only on the e-proof when checking for mistakes. I’ve done it more than once. That’s when things like this can happen:

 

 

As the publisher, it was up to me to catch this mistake by the cover artist. This picture, taken of books already on sale at an event, was the first time I noticed. The battle to get them there on time blurred my vision. Fortunately, we’ve learned to laugh and take it all in stride. It’s still a great book and most people don’t seem to notice the spine. And we had only ordered what we needed for that event.

 

If your printer doesn’t offer proof copies, you can set your publication date in the near future and order a printed copy, shipped overnight. It’s worth paying extra for the quick delivery. The sooner you find mistakes and get to work on fixing them, the better.

 

Time: It can take a couple days after you’ve placed the order for the printer to get to your book. Then overnight shipping at best means the next day after that. If you have weekends or holidays to contend with, it could stretch out as long as a week before you get your book. Make sure you factor that into your timeline.

 

Wholesale Orders

 

Ordering printed books in bulk is pretty straightforward—you want to have copies to give out and to sell. Don’t make the mistake of ordering too few or too many. One case, whether that holds 20 or 30, is a reasonable number to start with. It also makes a difference if you need to factor in shipping costs, to order in multiples of however many fit in a case. This saves on the overall cost per book.

As you get into the flow of selling physical copies of your books, you want to restock in time. I try not to let my inventory go below 10 copies per book when I’m in between minor events. For major events, I want more on hand, depending on how well each book has sold over the last six months. Until you figure out your needs, plan to order more when you get down to half of your last case.

 

Time: Allow three weeks for a normal order. Major printers like Ingram Spark will usually take a work week to get your order printed and ready to ship. When in a time crush, it’s more cost effective to pay for rush printing than rush shipping. Normal ground usually arrives in a week or two. Local printers can be a joy to work with because depending on their workload, they can meet some difficult deadlines and there are no shipping costs.

 

Reporting

 

This should be a blog on its own, but it’s worth mentioning here. Figuring out how you want to keep records and track everything takes time. Don’t barrel through the publication process without setting up something basic to see you through until you know what you’re doing. Write down every expense, save receipts, keep track of links, accounts, passwords, everything pertaining to the process.

I have no idea how much time to advise that you set aside for this. It should be strewn out along the entire publication timeline.

 

Suggestion: Get an email address specifically for your author/publishing business and have all your accounts, transactions, and related connections go through it. Don’t use it for anything else. It’s the easiest collection method for raw data that you have.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Once a book is ready to move into the publication process, I need to allow a minimum of four weeks (with some frantic work thrown in) before I can count on having books in hand to sell, and six to eight weeks gives me a little breathing room. Overlapping the steps, such as getting a print proof copy on the way before I even look at converting an eBook, makes better use of the time.

 

Planning your publication process may improve your chances of a flawless end result, but absolute perfection in books is a myth. Give it your best, learn from your mistakes, and shoot for 95%.

 

This is actually one of my favorite stages in the process. I love the excitement of the imminent arrival of a new book!

 

The first post in this series is “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Mind”.

You can read the second installment here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Time”, and the third here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Plot”.

The fifth post, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Approach to Sales”, comes out next week on Mollie Hunt’s Blog.

Graphic made with photos by NASA Hubble and Christophe Ferron on Unsplash

 

 

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USA Today bestselling author of hard science fiction, Suzanne Hagelin, lives in the Seattle area where she runs a small press, Varida P&R, and teaches language on the side.

 

Her Books. The Silvarian Trilogy Book 1, “Body Suit” is available for 99c in April only and the audiobook is Downpour’s current Editor’s Pick at $4.95. Book 2 “Nebulus” just released on audio, and Book 3, “The Denser Plane” is in the writing stage. The Severance begins with “Cascade” and will be followed by “Eclipse”.

 

LINKS—Suzannehagelin.com, Suzanne’s Blog, Newsletter, Twitter, FaceBook, Medium

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               USA Today bestselling author of hard science fiction, Suzanne Hagelin, lives in the Seattle  area                                                                       where she runs a small press, Varida P&R, and teaches language on the side.

 

Her Books. The Silvarian Trilogy Book 1, “Body Suit” is available for 99c in April only and the audiobook is Downpour’s current Editor’s Pick at $4.95. Book 2 “Nebulus” just released on audio, and Book 3, “The Denser Plane” is in the writing stage. The Severance begins with “Cascade” and will be followed by “Eclipse”.

 

LINKS—Suzannehagelin.com, Suzanne’s Blog, Newsletter, Twitter, FaceBook, Medium

 

 

 

                       

Book Review: Falling in Love and Other Misadventures, by L.Wade Powers

How to describe so diverse a collection of short fiction? Between these covers, the reader finds 22 stories of romance, humor, suspense, sci-fi, and sober reflection on the stuff of life and death.

Powers has peopled his quirky tales with a cast of characters who are sometimes deceptively ordinary: an Air Force trainee pursuing his first sexual encounter; a ten-year-old boy shoplifting a roll of Life Savers candy; a self-conscious woman trying to escape a nightmarish first date; a young door-to-door encyclopedia “consultant” seeking his first sale.

On the less ordinary side are the man willing to risk all in his exploration of lucid dreaming; the attractive alien taking a job as a waitress in a country diner; the man seeing ghost birds no one else can.

All of these stories—these “misadventures”—are vehicles for the author’s wry observations of the human condition. They become reflections on love and death and the passage of time. Powers holds up a mirror before the reader: The joys and sorrows and fears we see are our own. Kudos for a masterful work!

Click here for the link to the book.

Click here for his website.

Upcoming Audiobook

Those of you who follow me on Facebook have heard the news that Seal of Secrets is being made into an audiobook that will be available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes by mid-to late June. It will be narrated by Gary Crane. Here’s his website. My cover designer, Roslyn McFarland, of Far Lands Publishing, (farlandspub@gmail.com) has taken Margaret S. Tsang’s original painting, “Yaquina Sunrise”) and made it into the cover for the new version. Yes, it takes a village to make a book!

 

Thoughts About Writing a Novel

I’m one month away from publishing my next novel and it got me thinking about how I got here. Although I had written a novel and two-thirds of another back in the 80’s, their drafts sit gathering dust in a closet. I began writing in earnest when I retired at the end of 2011. And here I am, with two novels, two books of short stories, and soon a third novel.

I’m beginning to think that writing, like raising children, takes a village. Where would I be now without the help of people in the Northwest Independent Writers Association–Roslyn McFarland, Jennifer Willis, Jamie McCracken, Lee French, Pam Cowan, Jonathan Eaton, April Aasheim, Larry Powers, among others? Or friends at Goodreads, including Ginger Bensman, David Rose, Michael Gardner, and others? My monthly critique group, the Salem branch of Willamette Writers, and the weekly library group, Writers Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow are also a part of the community that supports me.

The gestation period of my new novel is just about nine months to the day. I’m giving birth again, this time on Halloween! Who woulda thought? And it began in the early days of last February with a simple incident: I went hunting for agates with my daughter’s family on the Oregon coast. That’s all I knew–I had no outline for a story, no idea where it was going to go, no plot. I just wrote about a man trying to find agates, all the while keeping a wary eye out for sneaker waves. Then I found out he was a widower and a college professor. Shortly after that, I discovered he knew the college professor who had committed murder in my short story “Eye of Newt.” Oh my goodness! I hadn’t seen that coming! But that’s how it grew. And I realized that the murderer had to get his comeuppance after escaping the clutches of Officer Whitehorse in the short story. After all, I couldn’t help but remember Alfred Hitchcock assuring his audience that crime doesn’t pay just after the troubled housewife who had murdered her husband with a frozen leg of lamb roasts it and serves it to the policemen investigating the case!

So there we are. I’m pleased with the way the novel came out, and I’m very happy with the cover. I hope it keeps you up reading way past your bedtime!

Here’s the link to pre-order it: Woman in the Waves.

New Book Cover

Dear Friends,

My apologies for neglecting to stay in touch. I have quite literally been devoting all my spare time (with the exception of my movie time!) to my new novel, which I hope to publish by the end of the year. Though I am still in the rewrite/revise/edit phase, I went ahead and hired Roslyn McFarland (farlandspub@gmail.com) to create a cover for me. I give her my highest recommendation. She is a joy to work with, amazingly affordable, and very good at what she does. Here’s a first look:

 

Movie Review: Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. . . . in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land.” (The Myth of Sisyphus).

When 13 Reasons Why begins, Hannah has already taken her life. Before doing so, however, she made 13 audio tapes, each addressed to a person who contributed to her untimely demise, through acts of omission or commission, neglect or bullying. Each of those people must listen to all the tapes and then pass them on to the next person on the list. What unfolds is a gripping mystery, unraveling the sometimes casual insensitivity, sometimes brutal crime that is the stuff of relationships. It is a journey into everyday darkness, a descent into a world without redemption. And it all takes place in a high school.

It seems that the older we get, the easier it can be to dismiss the upheavals of adolescence. We belittle the pain by calling it “teenage angst” or “drama.” We’ll say things like, “How bad can it be? Their parents pay all the bills, put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in their bellies.” This series is the antidote to such inane sentiments.

Over the course of 13 insightful episodes, we meet a group of adolescents who range from the shy and decent, to the bold and criminal. If you are a high school teacher or guidance counselor, you should watch this series. Your students are already talking about it. If you are a mental health therapist, you owe it to yourself and your patients to see it. But it is not a program for the squeamish. The graphic scenes of rape and suicide (without the slightest bit of prurience) may cause you to turn your eyes away. That said, it is a masterwork. The writing and dialogue are crisp, the production values high, the youthful actors uniformly excellent. It may be the most heartbreaking show I have ever watched and I am still haunted by it. You have been warned.

Free Book

Again I want to thank all of you for your generous support of my writing ambitions. For the next five days, through Monday, April 24, the Kindle edition of my book The Pieta in Ordinary Time and Other Stories will be free. Please consider gifting a copy to a friend or family member. (Or several copies to several friends and family members!) Show them why reviewers are saying things such as:

“It isn’t often that a short story sticks with me for years and years. But some of these tales are unforgettable.”

“This is a great collection. I don’t want to play favourites; every single piece in this collection is finely written. Nonetheless, for me some went beyond mere excellence; I have to call them sublime.”

“This is a staggering collection of 16 short stories which explore the darker side of the human condition: death, grief, mortality, mental illness, prejudice, abuse and so forth. It isn’t light reading, but it is powerful stuff: shocking, lurid, hopeful, uplifting.”

“Reading these stories felt like a visit to the Twilight Zone (a whole season’s worth).”

Click the book title above for a link to the page on Amazon.

Meanwhile, work on a new collection of short stories is proceeding. I’ve got about half a dozen pieces so far. The book will be entitled Catch of the Day and will boast a cover painted by my wife Sharon, whose artistic talents have been exploding in recent weeks. Color me proud!