Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reading Report for 2014

I may wind up finishing one more book before the year is over, but I figure I can go ahead with my year-end reading report anyway.

My Goodreads challenge for this year was 200 books, same as last year. This year I read only 209 books instead of the 230 I managed in 2013. Yeah, I know, I'm slacking off. Some of my reading time went into writing or playing on my phone, and two of those books were three-in-one omnibus editions. You can find my complete list of books here. Below is the breakdown by genre:

Fantasy: 96
Science Fiction: 30
Non-Fiction: 55
Other: 28

There's a very slight increase in fantasy over last year, a bigger increase in other (due to a mystery series I read for research), and decreases in science fiction and non-fiction.

I actually read 40 books in paper format this year. Most of these were library books. I have borrowed eBooks from the library before, but it's more complicated than simply buying the books myself.

Here are a few recommended reads:

William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific
Mindtouch, Mindline, and Family
The Future of the Mind
Quantum Zoo
Wonders of the Invisible World
Ghost Hand, Ghost Hold, and Ghost Heart
Meatonomics
Sky Dance
Lies My Teacher Told Me

(I'm going to skip hyperlinking since it's late, but you can find all of these books on my Goodreads list.)

Kindle software updates have made it more difficult to put my books and samples in collections, so I don't know how many Kindle items I have to read (or at least look at before rejecting them). However, my Kindle now holds over 1600 items. I'd say over half of those I still have to read. At some point I will need to upgrade to the latest generation Kindle, since it has a bigger capacity than the Paperwhite. As for my paper to-read collection, this is what it looks like:






That's 42 books, in case you were wondering. Hum, 42 is the answer, so what's the question? I guess I need to keep reading to find out.

What was your reading like this year?

Edited to Add: I did finish my current book, bringing my total to 210 books for the year and 97 fantasy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing Plans for 2015

With the new year only a few days away, I thought this was a good time to discuss my current and future writing projects for 2015.

I'm currently working on a Catalyst Chronicles story about Julia Kee, a minor character from Twinned Universes. This won't be a full-length novel; I expect it to be a novelette (7,500-17,500 words) or possibly a short novella (shorter than Lyon's Legacy). It's been a bit difficult completing this story, partly because I've had to do some research into Julia's culture (she's half Navajo), and partly because the story took some detours during drafting. Hopefully I can finish it and move on to the next main story in the Catalyst Chronicles: Catalyst in the Crucible. I have a partial draft of it, but I need to do more worldbuilding for certain sections.

I have formatted Scattered Seasons, Book Two of the Season Avatars series. After I review it, it'll be time to contact the beta readers and my cover artist. I plan to publish it by spring so it's available in time for WisCon. However, I need to finish outlining/prewriting activities for the next book, Chaos Season, so I can start drafting it. While I'd love to have it available by the end of the year, it depends on how my other writing projects go.

If time permits, I want to bundle my fantasy short stories into a collection so they're available in paper format. This collection would include "Letters to Psyche," "Silver Rain," "The Book of Beasts," some short stories that appeared in various issues of Indie Writers Monthly, a set of four short stories about the Season Avatars in Scattered Seasons, and a couple of unfinished short stories I have to finish.

With all of this, as well as my day job and my son, I expect to be busy next year. How about you? Do you have any projects, writing or otherwise, for 2015?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

No matter what you celebrate, I wish you and your family a happy holiday--and hope Santa gives you something nice from his toy sack:


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Guest Post: How I Became a Publisher



The following is a guest post by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, who recently started her own press. She currently is running a Kickstarter for the anthology Tales of the Weird Wild West. To support it, click here.

How I Became a Publisher…Accidentally on Purpose

One of the things I swore I would never do was start my own press.

(Never make such claims. It is generally the most certain way to ensure that you eventually do whatever you say you’ll never do.)

Having worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years as a career taught me all the various headaches that come with publishing books. However, absorbing all that knowledge and doing virtually every job there is in the industry pretty much meant it was bound to happen eventually. At least I’d gathered a wealth of knowledge beforehand. Now I have only half as many mistakes to make on my own.

This doesn’t tell you how I became a publisher, though.

Earlier this year I ran my first Kickstarter. It was for a little personal project called Eternal Wanderings, a continuation of my Eternal Cycle series of Irish myth-based novels (you can learn more here if you are curious: http://kck.st/1tv0cq7) The campaign was successful and the book needed a brand, an imprint to serve as a foundation. Thus eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com) was born.

A few weeks after the campaign completed I received an email from my friend, Misty Massey. She remembered that I work for Dark Quest Books (www.darkquestbooks.com) and was hoping they would be interested in a project for which the original publisher had fallen through. That project was to become The Weird Wild West. Unfortunately Dark Quest had a full schedule through 2016 and Misty and her co-editors, Emily Lavin Leverett and Margaret S. McGraw, didn’t want to wait so long to see their vision become a reality.

(Yep…here comes the accidentally on purpose part…)

When I saw how disappointed they were I found myself saying…If you don’t mind taking a chance on a brand-new press, but with plenty of experience, eSpec Books could help you out.

We hashed out the particulars and the rest, as they say, is history!

Being a new press, with little capital, this fun, quirky collection—a speculative fiction/western mash-up, is being funded through Kickstarter, which in effect, allows us to take pre-orders: http://kck.st/1udizgM.

In addition to some pretty fantastic pledge rewards there are a bunch of stretch goals that are pure gold…all donated by our esteem contributors. Speaking of which…

Our editors did a fantastic job corralling high-quality authors for the project, such as R S Belcher (Six-Gun Tarot), Tonia Brown (Railroad!), Diana Pharoah Francis (Trace of Magic), John Hartness (Bubba the Monster Hunter), Jonathan Maberry (Code Zero), Gail Martin (Deadly Curiosities), Misty Massey (Mad Kestrel), and James Tuck (Blood and Bullets).

And, because we are optimistic that way, if we raise enough funds there will be a second volume, for which the editors already have commitments from Faith Hunter, Barb Hendee, Devon Monk, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Charles E. Gannon and Laura Anne Gilman.

But it’s not just about the known talent. Both eSpec Books and the editors are very dedicated to giving new authors a chance. To this end the first collection will have a minimum of four open submission slots, with two additional slots to be added if we hit the appropriate stretch goals. If we unlock a second volume, that will have open-submission slots as well. Submission guidelines can be found at the bottom of the Kickstarter campaign page.

Won’t you help us make this dream a reality? Back, share, or like…it all helps:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dackley-mcphail/tales-of-the-weird-wild-west





BIOS

The Publisher

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.


Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (especbooks, damcphail or badassfaeries), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more visit www.especbooks.com, www.sidhenadaire.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.

The Editors
Misty Massey is the author of Mad Kestrel (Tor), a rollicking fantasy adventure of magic on the high seas, and Kestrel’s Voyages (Kindle DP), a set of stories following Captain Kestrel and her daring crew. Her short fiction has appeared in Rum and Runestones, Dragon's Lure and The Big Bad II.  Misty is one of the featured writers on Magical Words (magicalwords.net). When she’s not writing, she studies Middle Eastern dance and performs with Mythos Tribal and Chimera. You can see more of what Misty’s up to at her website, mistymassey.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Emily Lavin Leverett is a fantasy, sci-fi, and (occasional) horror writer from North Carolina. Her works have appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Drafthorse: A Journal of Work and No Work, and will appear in Summer 2015 in Athena’s Daughters II from Silence in the Library. She also edits, with short story collections including The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil and Big Bad II with John Hartness, from Dark Oak Press.  She freelance edits as well. When not writing or editing, she also is a Professor of Medieval English Literature at a small college in Fayetteville. She teaches English literature including Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as teaching composition and grammar.  Medieval studies, especially medieval romance, heavily influence her work. When neither writing nor teaching, she’s reading novels, short stories, and comic books or watching television and movies with her spouse and their cats.

Margaret S. McGraw’s writing includes the daily prompt-writing blog WritersSpark.com, several short stories currently in circulation for publication, and two novels in progress: Mira’s Children is a YA science fiction adventure, and OceanSong is a fantasy begun in the 2012 NaNoWriMo challenge. Her imagination draws on her lifelong love of science fiction, fantasy, and anthropology. Her education and experience range from anthropology and communication through web design and IT management. Margaret lives in North Carolina with her daughter and an array of cats, dogs, Macs and PCs, and too many unfinished craft projects. For more details on her writing, follow Margaret on Twitter @margaretsmcgraw or visit her daily blog at WritersSpark.com.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Twelve Days of Sithmas

Even Darth Vader and the other Sith Lords celebrate Sithmas with gifts, but as you'll see in this video, you can't always return them:


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Seasonal Stories on the Sagan Now Out

This year, I managed to write not just one, but two seasonal science fiction stories set on the spaceship Sagan (which is part of my Catalyst Chronicles universe). I bundled them together under the title "Seasonal Stories from the Sagan."  Here are the story descriptions:

"A Solstice in Space"--Cass wants to celebrate the winter solstice with her friends and family, but they don't share her pagan beliefs. Can they create a ceremony that respects everyone's beliefs, or will she have to observe the solstice by herself? And how can you celebrate a solstice when you're not even on a planet?

"Snowballs in Space"--Paul's plans to have a snowball fight with his friends may land him in hot water with the Sagan's officers when he "borrows" a lot of materials to make fake snow.

There are spoilers for Twinned Universes in the stories, but I tried to make them able to stand on their own.

This bundle is available for $0.99 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Scribd, and Inktera. I hope you check it out!

P.S. This was my first time publishing through Draft2Digitial, and it was a very quick and easy process. It doesn't have all the features of Smashwords, but I will definitely use them again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So Tsu Me....

Last week, I joined tsu (pronounced Sue, and there should be a line over the "u"), one of the newest social networks out there. So far, it seems like it potentially could be better for connecting with people than Facebook. While I do like the games and groups on Facebook, I don't like the way they limit how many people see posts on an author page and then expect you to pay to "boost" them. They also put too many ads in the news feed. Although tsu is also supported by ads, they distribute 90% of the revenue to the content creators and keep only 10%. It would take a long time and a lot of work to earn a decent income solely through tsu, but it's still better than nothing, so I figured I'd try it. If you'd like to join, or if you want to connect with me on there, you can do so via this link. I'd love to meet some more readers and writers!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway for Seasons' Beginnings

Since I have a few extra paper copies of Seasons' Beginnings, I thought I'd hold a Goodreads giveaway for them. There are three copies available for the US and Canada, and I'll sign them directly to the winners. I've heard shorter giveaways are better, so this giveaway is only one week long. You can use the widget off to the side or this link to enter. Please spread the word, and if you enter, good luck!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Read Tuesday Sales

Instead of my normal Wednesday post (which I'll skip tomorrow), I'm posting today to remind everyone it's Read Tuesday. If you're not familiar with Read Tuesday, it's a day to promote buying and giving books as well as encouraging literacy. I can get behind this movement eight days a week!

To celebrate, both Twinned Universes and Seasons' Beginnings are on sale at Amazon this week for $0.99. Alternatively, this month, you can buy the paper version and get the Kindle version for free.

Click on the following links to find Kindle deals, free print books, Smashwords discount codes, Createspace discount codes, and more free Matchbook deals. There are lots of different books in different genres, so you're sure to find something for yourself or someone else. Enjoy, and happy reading!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Remembering John Lennon

It's hard to believe it's been thirty-four years since he was taken from us so violently. Here are a few videos to help keep his memory alive:






Friday, December 05, 2014

Science of the Week, 12/5/14

Earlier this fall, I hosted author Vanessa Finaughty as part of her blog tour for Wizard of Ends. She graciously returned the favor by interviewing me about Seasons' Beginnings. You can read the interview here.

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Most American presidents destined to fade from nation's memory

The Law of Requisite Usefulness

Mere expectation of treatment can improve brain activity in Parkinson's patients

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press-ons

Protein that rouses the brain from sleep may be target for Alzheimer's prevention

Political correctness in diverse workplace fosters creativity

Researchers use 3-D printing to guide human face transplants

The human eye can see "invisible" infrared light

"Mirage Earth" exoplanets may have burned away chances for life

Space travel is a bit safer than expected

Unlike people, monkeys aren't fooled by expensive brands


Have you started holiday activities yet? This weekend, I have my company's holiday party, a cookie exchange, and a holiday train ride. Hopefully I'll manage to squeeze in some holiday writing--or even regular writing--in there as well.

Take care, and I'll see you Monday.















Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Star Wars Shopping

With a seven-year-old Star Wars fan in the house, I'm becoming more involved with Star Wars than I ever did before. (Shh, don't tell my son, but I'm more of a Star Trek fan.) With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few links with you in case you need some presents for a Star Wars fan of your own:

Star Wars R2-Q5 Measuring Set 
(If I was going to get one of these, I'd go for trusty R2-D2 instead.)

Star Wars costumes (they also have Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica) 


Star Wars clothing and jewelry
(This site also features Star Trek and Doctor Who items, among others)

See anything that catches your eye?

OK, now back to writing for me....

Monday, December 01, 2014

Down to the Wire...

Although I didn't sign up for NaNoWriMo this year, I did set myself a personal challenge to finish revising the second draft of Scattered Seasons in November. Last night, around 11:15, I did it. My word count for the month was nowhere near 50,000 words, and I really struggled with this ending, since I changed the plot of this book extensively to match with Seasons' Beginnings. The ending was completely new, and I had trouble blocking out how it should go. But the draft is done and comes in under 75,000 words. Time to take a break from it until next year and switch back to the Catalyst Chronicles universe for a while. I know where Julia's story has to go; I just need to figure out the path to get her there.

Anyway, congratulations to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo. Even if you didn't finish your book or the word count, just showing up and writing can be a victory. Keep the momentum going!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Post: An Author's Path to Fame and Fortune

I hope you enjoy this guest post written by R. Mac. Wheeler.

I wrote my first short-story in fifth grade. Wrote poetry to girlfriends in high school. Started my first novel in 1992. I finished it around 2002. It was horrible. But I eventually split it into three separate novels, with enormous editing, which I will say humbly, created rich, independent stories.

I wrote fairly regularly from 2002 to 2007, penning another seven novels. I sent out thousands of query letters; never snatched an agent. Transitioned from fantasy to SF to contemporary fiction, while searching for "my voice."

Wrote a couple, what I call 'lite' urban fantasy (ghosts, the unexplained), followed by vampire and werewolf thrillers, and have been hooked on paranormal since. Started self-publishing in 2011.
I love to write. (Now have 26 novels in Amazon and B&N.) Don't so much like the marketing. Have never paid a dime for advertising. Took the advice to create a social network (very hard for me, since I'm a loner), do the blogging thing.

I first targeted the focus of my blogs on other writers, before I asked myself, why? They write, they don't buy (Well, you know what I mean). I had gotten into photography about the time I had that flash of insight. Since, my blog has been all about my photography. Mostly nature. I've branched out a bit.

Every weekend I trek to one of the many wonderful wilderness areas and parks we have here in Florida, and post my photographs in my "Sunday Safaris." But a rare day goes by I don't click on a dozen different things that catch my eye. So my daily "Snapshots" developed.

Every post is about fun, enjoying the beauty around us everywhere. I hope you'll visit my blog, follow me, enjoy the amazing things I discover every day that I used to overlook.

- Cheers, Mac

R. Mac Wheeler is an author of character-driven SF/F/Suspense and Paranormal novels filled with quirky sorts who lug a lot of baggage, in worlds that aren’t that far out. Here are some places you can follow him:



 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Sales for Seasons' Beginnings and Twinned Universes

I have two separate sales going on this holiday season. Today through Wednesday, I'm advertising Seasons' Beginnings through SciFiFantasyFREAK. I promised a special price of $0.99 for the eBook, so it's currently on sale now through Wednesday. It's a pity I didn't coordinate the ad with Read Tuesday, as I plan to put both Seasons' Beginnings and Twinned Universes on sale for $0.99 from 12/7 through 12/13 for Read Tuesday. If you haven't read either of those books, early December is the best time to get them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Science of the Week, 11/21/14

I apologize that this didn't post sooner; it wasn't scheduled for my normal midnight time.


Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Magic tricks created using artificial intelligence for the first time

Adjusting Earth's thermostat, with caution

Spiral laser beam creates quantum whirlpool

Gravity may have saved the universe after the Big Bang
(I first typed Big Band, which may say something about my tastes in music)

The fundamental constants are still constant

Train your way to synesthesia

Elusive dark matter may be detected with GPS satellites


Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday!









Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: Camille Faye

I'm glad we're able to bring you a Blog Ring of Power interview this week, even if it's on Wednesday instead of Monday. The timing is actually perfect, as our guest author, Camille Faye, is holding a Facebook party tonight. Here's the official announcement:

Voodoo Butterfly Book Party--November 19 from 6-9 PM (CST)
Voodoo Butterfly is officially available on Amazon, so let's P-A-R-T-Y! Wear PJs if you want, because you can enjoy the fun from the comfort of your own home. At the party, we will have "door prizes", a live online psychic reading, and a Q&A so that you can ask any burning questions about Camille Faye's writing or her paranormal novel, Voodoo ButterflyJoin the party by clicking on this link and hit the JOIN button. Invite your friends for a magically fun time. See you on the Facebook event page at 6 PM.Here's that link again: https://www.facebook.com/events/1479342722348711/
Camille is sharing her creative process with me; please check out T.W. Fendley's blog for more information about Camille and her writing life. Emily has information about Camille's current work and her words of wisdom.

Where do you get your story ideas?

Funny enough, Sophie's story came to me in a dream when I was actually visiting New Orleans with my family. I dreamt of this woman who had the power to change evil people good. The next flash of my dream showed Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans absolutely covered in monarch butterflies. I tried to fall back asleep, but couldn't, so I wrote the dream in my journal. One year later I decided to write a novel about that character and since voodoo is such a big part of the New Orleans culture, I decided to have her unexpectedly inherit a voodoo shop down there. The catch? She knows nothing about voodoo or her secret power when the book starts.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I actually don't get writer's block. [Insert crickets chirping]. Since I'm always taking notes and only have limited writing time daily, I always know what I'm going to write about. Right now, I have two folders full of notes containing my plans for book 2 in the Voodoo Butterfly series.

Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?

For Voodoo Butterfly, I was a pantser. A scene would flash in my mind, I'd jot it down, and then deal with it during my writing time. When I had enough of these bits and pieces, I worked them into a loose outline. With the second book in the series, I decided to try an outline, but I give myself flexibility to move things around.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?

Both. A few beta readers provided feedback for the first version of Voodoo Butterfly. I did have several agents and NYC editors request a partial or full manuscript, but it just wasn't getting picked up. Then I was asked to join The Lit Ladies critique group. They provided feedback and I worked through the manuscript for about three years (in the midst of moving twice, having a surgery, having a baby, etc.). After I went through all of their suggestions, I submitted to some writing contests. In October 2013 I finaled in the NW Houston RWA's Lone Star Contest. One of the judges was the owner of Soul Mate Publishing, who offered me a contract. So that's how I landed a publisher.

How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?

"Research" for my books is extremely fun. I utilize some of my own experiences (from growing up in a haunted house and visiting haunted locations), but I've also made a trip down to New Orleans in the name of "research." On that trip, I was pregnant so I couldn't get into too much trouble. (Ha!) But I did get to go on a cemetery walking tour through Saint Louis Cemetery Number One and I also stayed at Oak Alley Plantation (which was made famous by the movie Interview with a Vampire).

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?

Writing is soooo hard for me, but the challenge is a part of why I love it.





Camille Faye lives in Missouri, loves on her family, and writes during the baby’s naptime. She grew up in a haunted house, which sparked her fascination with the paranormal. The Northwest Houston RWA named her novel, Voodoo Butterfly, a 2013 Lone Star Contest finalist. Read an excerpt at www.camillefaye.com.

Author Contact Information
Website: www.camillefaye.com
Blog: www.thelitladies.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/camillefaye
Twitter: @CamilleFaye

When twenty-five-year old Sophie Nouveau inherits her grandmother's voodoo shop she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family's history of Mind Changers, who have the power to change evil people good. To complicate matters, someone doesn't want Sophie in New Orleans and sends a series of death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life.

Tipped off by her grandmother's ghost, Sophie realizes her mind-changing spell's been missing one magic ingredient: true love. If Sophie cannot experience transformative love, she cannot make her spell work, and she will be powerless to fight back when confronted by the one who wants her dead.


D. Buy/Book Links:
Amazon: Voodoo Butterfly by: Camille Faye

Is your book in print, ebook or both?
Ebook for now, but will be released in print in early 2015.

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