My writing life: August 2018

August turned out to be a busy month. Far busier than I had expected.

On August 17th, I found out that my story for Tom Kratman‘s upcoming Carreraverse anthology (Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation) made the cover. Call me whacky, but the donkeys are my favorite. When I was researching mule trains for “Bellona’s Gift” (my story) I learned that mule trains actually consist of a bell mare (who leads the train, because all mules have a horse as a mother and will instinctively follow her), the mules, and a donkey. Unlike mules, donkeys stand and fight. They are the equine version of a guard dog and I just couldn’t resist having one, not just for the sake of realism, but because any animal with strong protective instincts has a special place in my heart.

Also on the cover, several elements from the Carreraverse–a trixie chasing a moonbat, and progressivines. What a fun universe to play in. It was such a great honor to be included.

It was an even greater honor–and shock–to find out that I will be making my Baen debut with my name on the cover. I found this out at the Baen Roadshow at DragonCon. Even with a photographic evidence (snapped in haste) it’s still hard to believe. Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation is set for release in August 2019.

On August 20th, I released my first self-published work of fiction, my hard SF novella, Promethea Invicta. It’s available not just on Amazon, but on Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, Nook, and Smashwords.

Shortly after releasing Promethea Invicta I got a request for an audiobook version of it. One of my writer friends (and a great sci-fi author), Karl K. Gallagher, who had recorded his own audiobooks, was kind enough to point me in the right direction. I devoured Making Tracks: A Writer’s Guide to Audiobooks (and How to Produce Them): Second Edition in a day and started experimenting with Audacity (software) via some YouTube tutorials. I found out that the best place to read was my closet.

And you guys thoughts that writers just wrote, didn’t you? I wish that were true. We wear many hats. Thinking back, I had to learn how to do layouts for my manuscripts, write ad copy, sales copy, blurbs, and use several platforms to sell my books. So there are definitely times when marketing eats up a lot of your precious writing time. Then there’s self-promotion and the introvert’s kryptonite–networking.

On August 28th, a wonderful writer’s milestone happened: I got another rejection for my novelette-length female space samurai story, called Featherlight. The reason this is a milestone is because I didn’t even blink. In fact, I’d even forgotten I’d sent it out or where. Rather than feel disappointed, I was looking at it as an opportunity to expand it past the constraints of most pro-rate magazines which tend to limit the word count to between 15K and 17K words.

Then as I was preparing for DragonCon I found out that eight outfits was nowhere near enough and packed another. Or two. This was my very first DragonCon and while I had a vague idea for what it was, it turned out to be far more intense. Only 80K people. No problem. My goal for next year is to attend as a pro.

Several other wonderful things happened at DragonCon, but I can’t yet tell you what they were. Not yet.

Which brings me back to why you might want to subscribe to my newsletter. First, I won’t flood your inbox with a ton of useless stuff, just relevant updates, maybe 2-3 times a month. Second, the social media platform I’m most active on, Facebook, suppresses content. Just because you’ve liked my author page on Facebook, doesn’t mean that you’ll see the latest updates in a timely manner or at all, since Facebook makes its money selling ads. If you only occasionally use Facebook, chances are you’ll miss my posts. So, opt-in to my newsletter (it’s really easy; just fill in the newsletter opt-in in the upper left hand corner). To quote a memorable movie line, “It’s the only way to be sure.”

If you use Twitter, follow me @HouseDobromil. It’s the Twitter version of my author page. The newsletter is better, trust me.

 

 

SSTOs and the law

Esteemed space lawyer and fellow sci-fi writer, Laura Montgomery, reverse-lawyers (i.e. reverse engineers) the realities and legalities of launching vehicles into space on her blog.

Her excellent review of Promethea Invicta looks at the real world path set up by Congress. A path that, like so many Congressional acts, delegates the actual rule-making and regulation to other entities, such as the Secretary of Transportation. Ultimately, it’s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that issues the needed licenses and permits.

Her Ground Based Space Matters Blog is an excellent resource for anyone that wants to learn more about private space activity, the FAA, NASA, and associated agencies.

The multi-talented Ms. Montgomery also writes excellent sci-fi. Her latest release, called Like A Continental Soldier, (Book 3 of the Waking Late series) just came out. Take a look at her author page and check out her other works.

 

Promethea Invicta, ready to rock-n-roll

I’m very excited to announce that my hard sci-fi novella, Promethea Invicta, is out.

The Sovereign Republic of Texas of 2071 is no longer part of what used to be the United States. But it is still bound by the treaties it inherited, including the Outer Space Treaty.

Theia Rhodos is ready to free humanity from the shackles that keep lunar resources out of her reach. She’s done taking “no” for an answer and she’s ready to sacrifice everything.

And her enemies are ready to let her.

Everything in life has a cost. And a price.

Available as from your favorite book seller, as well as through libraries (via Overdrive and Bibliotheca).

 

Interesting write up of To Be Men

Blogger, Powered by Robots, had some interesting things to say about voices, writing, and To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity.

I decided to write about this because I’ve gotten a hold of a review copy of the To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity anthology edited by Sirius Métier and published by Superversive Press. It was published digitally about two weeks ago (as I write this) and seems to be doing pretty well, both relative to its Amazon reviews (five so far, and all five star ratings) and in terms of sales.

One thing the twitterati forgot about when they were raking male authors over the coals, was the intended audience of the story being written.

Read the rest, and his follow up posts based on each story, here.

Time and Distance: The benefits of cycling.

One of the reasons I work on multiple projects at a time is because my writing process is unlike anything else in my life. Most other aspects of my life are filled with clearly defined steps, checklists, and algorithms. Exceptions are clearly defined by “if,then” statements. Loops are set up in very specific ways. This includes the laundry.

Writing is the one thing I do that doesn’t work that way. It’s why I don’t outline (waste of time; I don’t stick to it; I write them AFTER).

Give me a beginning and/or an end, a theme or a moral point, and I can make it all work. Give me an already written ending and a song and I’ll give you a story (more about this when it’s official).

Think of a finished story as a sequence of scenes, numbered from 0 to N. Chances are, it’s been marinating in my head for some time and exists in one form or another as a set of notes, scribbles, and research references in a Scrivener file, waiting on me to get stuck on my current project and in need of something else to work.

A work in progress (WiP) might originally start out as scenes 5, 12, 18 … 52. Of course, at the time I’m writing them, I don’t actually know that, but you get my point. It’s not unusual for me to realize that I need to cycle back as I’m writing scene #18 and then come up with #13-#17 or go back and fix #12 so it works with #18.

Yesterday I spent the whole day writing (for the first time in awhile as I’d gotten side-tracked by other projects; I spent the whole day in pajamas and I think I ate).

There is nothing quite like time and distance to make you see that scene #156 is no longer a good fit. There’s also nothing quite like time and distance to make it easy to gut #156 if that’s what the story needs.

And by gutting, I mean opening up a new Scrivener scene document, and typing it out fresh after getting myself solidly set inside the character’s head. It is being inside the character’s head that allows me see that scene 156 no longer works.

It’s an entirely different process that “editing” an existing set of words and polishing the hell out of that turd hoping no one will notice what it is.

This is why writing takes time–and I’m talking writing here, not typing. All kinds of time go into “writing.” Research time. Down time (like a hobby or reading for pleasure).

Time spent cycling back to read what you’ve written so that you can get into your viewpoint character’s head before you move forward.

Time spent looking stuff up as you go along when you realize you need an essential piece of information (like can they really match bullets to specifics guns–the answer turns out to be a resounding NO!).

Time spent arguing with your characters because they don’t want to go where you want them to (aka writer’s block, at least in my case).

Is it worth it? I guess it all depends. I’m not a big fan of typing*.

Typing: Julie was a dog lover.

Writing: Julie tossed a TV dinner into the microwave for her husband and rushed out to the grill to make sure that Precious’s steak didn’t get overcooked. Great Danes were known for their particular tastes and she hoped he liked the kobe beef as much as the butcher seemed to think he would. Of course, the butcher had been under the impression that it was for her husband, and she hadn’t enlightened him. He wouldn’t understand. No one would. No one but Precious.

*For a better explanation about the difference between typing and writing, I recommend Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction (The Million Dollar Writing Series)

 

 

Now LIVE! on Kobo

Kobo was actually the easiest one to set up. Added bonus, they are part of OverDrive, a system that allows libraries to lend eBooks. So, if you’ve wondered how to get your work into libraries, this is one venue. I think it’s also available through other aggregators.

But why would I want to “give” my eBook to libraries? First, you’re not “giving” anything. Second, having your book in a library is advertising. Someone who enjoyed your work might just decide to check out and see what else you’ve written. Gasp! What a concept.

Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide is now available on Kobo.

Didn’t need an ISBN for this either. Yes, this means they’ll have different ISBNs, but I don’t expect this to be something that needs tracking to justify the cost of an ISBN.

Now LIVE! on iBooks

As I said before, the self-pub plunge is as much for the benefit of the experience as anything else. iTunes Connect was easy enough to navigate. iTunes Producer, like most Mac programs, a breeze.

Easy set up. One glitch because I didn’t have the latest version of Java installed.

Review was MUCH faster than Amazon.

And now I’m live on iBooks with Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide.

One of the nice things I noticed about this is that it’s very easy to set up promo codes.

No, didn’t need an ISBN for this either.

I took the self-pub plunge

Most of my author friends are self-published or hybrid writers. I often feel “out of the loop” when it comes to the details of the self-publishing process, so I decided it was time to take the plunge. At the behest one of them, I took the six blog posts about my workshop experience and why a rejection is an opinion (not a death sentence), and created a book: Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide

Although it took all day, it took far less time than I thought it would.

I already had the KDP account set up, but I had never worked with the KDP system or Vellum (the layout software).

Here’s the run-down of what it took to go from a series of blog posts to a finished product.

I chose an image off DepositPhoto.com, and fired up Pages. This probably ate up most of my time. It had been awhile since I’d worked with Pages for anything other than writing, but it all came back to me. Create a black background. Add image on top. Check the reflection option. Add the fonts for the title and author. I spent more time playing around with fonts and colors, to be honest. Way too many choices, most of them bad. Saved it, changed the type of file, and done. Reopened it in Preview in order to adjust the ratio of image width to height, per Vellum’s suggestion. That took like another minute.

Next, Vellum. Great software, took about ten minutes and one very specific question posted to a group, and I had it figured out — the front and back matter, the chapters, the headers, dividers, everything–bam, bam, bam. It was amazing. By contrast, I was struggling with Jutoh for days before I threw my hands up in disgust and wished I’d never heard of it. With one press of a button, Vellum generated everything for all the platforms/venues/formats, all in one step: Generic ePUb, GooglePlay, iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Print (i.e. a PDF).

It took longer to actually proof the PDF, Kindle and iBooks files (by looking at every page inside the file) than it took to put the book together, and that includes futzing around with the fonts and colors. (BTW, leave the extra pages in the PDF alone. They’re there for a reason.)

Vellum is pricey, but worth it (works only on Mac). You can play with a full version for free, but you have to have a license to hit that magic button that spits out all the stuff you can then upload to the various venues. No, you don’t need Vellum if you’re doing KDP because you can upload a .docx or .PDF or .rtf file instead, but that doesn’t mean that all your versions will look the same if you wide (other platforms).

Uploading to KDP was simple enough. The one snag I hit was with the paperback version, which took two tries to get right, so maybe fifteen minutes to re-do.

Did learn that you don’t need an ISBN–Amazon will “give” you one.

There was a 24-hour turnaround on the approval process.

Voila. That’s it, in a nutshell. Even a rocket surgeon can do it.

Up next, publishing on iBooks, Kobo, and Nook. Also CreateSpace, D2D, all this stuff I’ve heard of but never had a reason to look into too deeply.

When the heroes are bad guys

“Make your characters interesting.”

Don’t recall exactly where I got this little bit of writing advice, but I was thinking about it when a few someones came up to me and asked if I’d seen Lucifer. I think it was prompted by “The Devil You Know” (an unpublished short story of mine) which featured The Duke of Hades.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I’ve got the first disk of season one and I’m setting myself up for another Hollywood disappointment—my standards for anything coming out of Hollywood have fallen so much that I’d rather watch Korean dramas with subtitles (which I hate because they’re distracting).

Nevertheless, hat tip on Lucifer. I loved it. From the first episode. And no, it wasn’t all because of the eye-candy, or the arrogance, but because they somehow managed to make him interesting in a good way.

Plus, I seem to have a soft-spot for anti-heroes.Continue Reading

A rejection is an opinion, not a death sentence (part five)

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Mar. 1st, 2018

The fifth story was an exploration of dragons.

The first thing the buying editor admitted to was the fact that she did not articulate what she wanted as well as she thought she had. Unfortunately, that wasn’t apparent until she got the stories and it was too late to do anything about it. This brought up another important point about things that influence editorial decision-making. When they get a lot of stories that aren’t quite right (for whatever reason) the pressure on their time increases. They need to keep an eye on these time pressures, so they are more likely to buy stories that don’t need work.

Read the rest here: Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide

Part Six