Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Underrepresented Fantasy Creatures

Although I have ideas for stories in the Catalyst Chronicles series, the Season Avatar series, and even some standalone stories, I keep coming up with more ideas to work on. One idea I might pursue after I finish the Season Avatar series is an urban fantasy with a dryad as the main character. I've always had an interest in plant spirits; in fact, one of my unfinished short stories involves spirits linked to house plants. One thing that makes dryads interesting is that you don't see them often in fiction. The Belgariad contains a part-dryad character, and Jim Hine's Libromancer series also features a dryad. I can't think of any others I've read about; how about you? What little-know fantasy races do you think should be the focus of more fiction? Feel free to leave your answer below.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Websites and Marketing

Thanks to the long weekend, I was finally able to update my website, which is here. I haven't changed the theme or basic layout, but I did update the front page with the most current news, reorganize a few pages, and update buy links for my works. I might play with the theme or background during the next update.

One thing I noticed as I updated buy links is that some of my short stories are only on Amazon or one other retailer. As I discussed previously on my blog, I decided to switch my distributor from Smashwords to Draft2Digital. In fact, I just had my Smashwords account closed last week. Now I have to decide if I should enroll some of my short stories in Kindle Unlimited (KU) or distribute them widely. Although KU doesn't pay as well for short stories as it used to, it could still introduce new readers to my work, and I've always done better on Amazon than on Kobo, Apple, or any other e-book site. On the other hand, exclusivity can backfire. It's also easier to enroll in KU than pull stories down from other sites. I know at least one regular reader of this blog who prefers to buy from Apple; does anyone else here buy ebooks from other places than Amazon?

Lindsay Buroker, an indie author and blogger, once recommended puttting up samples of your stories on your website for readers to download. I tried it for a while with Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes, but I'm not sure it made a difference. Would you prefer to download a sample from an unknown website or from a trusted one? I get all my e-book samples from Amazon, as I learn about new books from all the e-mail newsletters I subscribe to. They link directly to Amazon, and once I finish a sample, it's easy to buy the entire book if I choose to. So it might be better to just direct customers to the appropiate store.

There's still so much I have to learn about maintaining my website and marketing with it. Someday it might be worth selling directly through my own website, but I don't want to deal with collecting taxes. If I ever do sell directly, it'll probably be in conjunction with something like Gumroad.

How often do you visit author websites? What do you expect them to have?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tea Strainers, Form, and Function

At C2E2, my husband and son both bought a couple of Star Wars "goodie boxes" with T-shirts, lanyards, mugs, Bobbleheads, and other swag. My husband also bought a collection of Star Wars vs. WWII prints (WWII pictures with Star Wars images Photoshopped into them), and my son expanded his Lego minifigure collection. What did I get? I did buy a few Star Wars T-shirts and other trinkets, but I was mostly interested in tea infusers.

I decided a couple of months ago that I wanted to get some whimsical tea strainers instead of the plain metal mesh ones I already had. It seemed like a relatively inexpensive way to put a little more fun into my daily life, and since the three of us each drink different types of tea, we needed some more strainers anyway. There was a tea vendor at C2E2, so it was a good time to pick some unusual tea strainers and a couple of tea samples. See below for the tea strainer pictures:

 I actually had the Yellow Submarine strainer (a must-have for any Beatles fan) before C2E2, since I bought it online. The rest of the tea strainers came from C2E2. There's a frog and a sloth that hang from the edge of the cup, a dagger that rests in the cup, and (my favorite) a water lily that floats and has a submerged basket for tea leaves. The water lily also comes with a stand.

I haven't tried all of these strainers yet, but I have to admit some of them don't work quite as well as I thought they would. Certain types of tea are rolled into gunpowder pellets or pearls, and these teas require a lot of space to open while steeping. The submarine, dagger, and possibly the frog are a bit narrow for those teas, but they seem OK for long, thin tea leaves. The basket for the water lily does have enough room for pearled tea, but the flower tends to drip water when I remove it. The sloth seems to work pretty well for both .

Between the fancy strainers and the ordinary ones I already had, I now have plenty of tea strainers, so I don't plan on getting any more for a while. I don't really have much else to add to this blog post, other than noting that sometimes what appears to be an interesting design doesn't always function as you might expect it to. Do you have any personal examples of form not suiting function? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, March 21, 2016

C2E2 2016

Although my family always accompanies me to cons such as WisCon and Chicon, they never actually join the convention. C2E2 was the first one they attended. It was also the first con (at least in a long time) that I attended as a fan, not a writer. (I did leave bookmarks in the fan area, but I don't know if people took them or if they were thrown away.)

Alex had no school Friday, so I took the day off. We took the train into Chicago and taxied to McCormick Place. We tramped all over before finding the Midwest Garrison table—even though it was close to our entrance. We got into costume for a while, but Alex had problems with his mask, and we had to take a break to fix it. Eugene joined us later in the afternoon, and while he went around with Alex, I checked out the show floor. We all suited up to get one of Alex’s books signed by Jeffrey Brown. (See photo.) We were also lucky enough to get an ARC of his forthcoming book about Stone Age kids. I walked so much on Friday I set a personal Fitbit best—over 21,000 steps! Needless to say, I was sore the rest of the weekend and scaled back on walking around.

Since we didn’t have a hotel room, we drove back and forth every day. This meant we got up much earlier than normal both days, but we were lucky enough to get good parking even with the crowds. Saturday morning, we shopped first, but we took too long and wound up missing the Star Wars group shot. In the afternoon, I went on a droid hunt. The Midwest Garrison handed out special badges, and I and other hunters went around, finding the people who were wearing them and giving them raffle tickets. As you can see, I managed to collect badges despite the poor vision I have in costume. At the end of the day, Eugene and Alex helped with the raffle drawing.

Alex and I suited up briefly Sunday morning, but we didn't troop very long. Eugene got into costume so kids could blast him with Nerf darts for Blast a Trooper, a fundraising event put on by the Midwest Garrison. Alex helped with that by collecting used darts and reloading guns. I spent the time at a self-publishing panel for comic book writers. (They face many of the same issues book writers do, but they have it tougher with print costs and distribution.) We walked around the main floor again before heading downstairs to hang out with the Midwest Garrison until the end.

 There were lots of great costumes: many Reys from The Force Awakens, Disney princesses, Spiderman, a group as the characters from Inside Out, and many more I didn't recognize. Surprisingly, even with all the other wonderful costumes on display, Alex and I gained a lot of attention when we were Jawas. (I just followed stated costume requirements for the 501st Legion, but apparently I make a very good Jawa. Must be the lack of height.) Lots of people took pictures of us; in fact, whenever we stopped to let someone pose with us, we'd get other people taking pictures too. We made the highlight video of Day 1 (we're posing with R2-D2), and I was even interviewed about comics.  

It's getting late, so I won't discuss all the loot we bought or considered buying. Although it was an exhausting weekend, with little writing, it was still a lot of fun. We're already planning to attend next year--and this time we'll probably stay at a hotel to make things easier.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Hugo Nominations

No matter how much I read, I still feel like there's so much out there I haven't touched yet.  And of course, in order to read and write as much as I do, I end up ignoring almost all TV shows and movies. Still, with the Hugo nominations due by the end of the month, it's better to put something down in a few categories than not nominate at all. So here are my picks (you can make up to five per category):

Best Novel: Dark Orbit, by Carolyn Ives Gilman; and The Duality Bridge, by Susan Kaye Quinn

Best Novella: Sappho's Agency, by Lizzie Newell

Best Short Story: "Broken-Winged Love," by Naru Dames Sundar, in Strange Horizons

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The fiction nominations are split between traditional and indie publications. I have to admit I considered nominating my own SF Women A-Z: A Reader's Guide, for Best Related Work just for fun, but it doesn't seem right.

I know most of my blog readers don't care about the Hugos, but what do you think were noteworthy books, TV shows, or movies from last year? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, March 14, 2016

And Now, a Haiku

I haven't written many haikus since finishing my year-long, haiku-a-day project, but today seemed like a good day for one:

Words won't be written.
If they flee me, how much worse
For dyslexic kids?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Lyon's Legacy Back to Permafree!

I guess the title says it all. I lost the free price-match temporarily after shifting from Smashwords to D2D as my distributor. Amazon finally picked up the price match on Monday. The Amazon link is here, but it's also available on B&N and Apple. If you weren't reading this blog when Lyon's Legacy first came out, here's the blurb:

Sometimes being a geneticist isn’t enough to understand your family....

Joanna Lyon is the great-granddaughter of the legendary TwenCen musician Sean Lyon. She may have inherited her ancestor's musical talent, but her parents' bitter divorce and her Uncle Jack's attempts to remake her into another Sean have left her hostile toward her family and music. Her passion is for science, but since she has no access to the family funds, she struggles to earn enough credits for graduate school. Then her uncle sets up a business deal with her employer to make Joanna go on a mission for him: travel via the spaceship Sagan to an alternate TwenCen universe where Sean is still alive in Chicago, 1962. Joanna must collect a DNA sample from Sean so her uncle can create a clone of him. She refuses at first, but finally agrees to go. Secretly, however, Joanna believes her uncle will exploit the clone, and she plans to sabotage the project to stop him. But when she falls in love with one of the scientists in the Sagan's genetics lab, clashes with other time travelers who fear she'll change how history develops on the alternative TwenCen Earth, and receives devastating personal news, Joanna will find herself pushed to her limit even before she comes face-to-face with her hated ancestor. Their encounter will leave her changed forever. Will she still be able to thwart her uncle's plan, and what will she have to sacrifice to do so?

 If you like it, don't forget to check out Twinned Universes!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Beta Readers Wanted!

I could use a couple more beta readers for Chaos Season, Book Three of my fantasy Season Avatars series. This book features Jenna as she not only deals with Chaos Season, but also deathbushes, the War Avatar, and a secret she's keeping from Gwen. I'd like readers to tell me if the characters are likeable, if the plot is interesting, and if there are any confusing/boring bits. The book is about 250 pages, and I need feedback by mid-April for my June release. Beta readers get a thank you in the Acknowledgements section and copies of all the books in the series so far. Please let me know if you'd like to read Chaos Season. Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

IWSG: Walking and Plotting

I finally remembered to update the badge for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! (Miracles will never cease.) Since it's the first Wednesday of March, it's time to discuss struggles you have with your writing or offer words of encouragement to others. For more information, please follow the link above.

Many writers have different attitudes towards writer's block. For me, when I have trouble figuring out what to say next, that often means there's a problem with the story. However, it's one thing to realize that, and another to fix it, especially when you're still in first draft mode and don't have someone you can brainstorm with.

I've been having problems with Fifth Season, Book Four of the Season Avatars. I'm near the end of the book, and I have a fair idea of how the climax will play out. However, even though I had some ideas jotted down, the last few pages I'd written weren't quite gelling. I went back and added some emotional reaction after a dramatic revelation, but that still wasn't enough to link what I had with where I needed to go. In fact, I was about to make something happen, but it didn't feel right.

We were fortunate enough to have some unseasonably warm weather the last couple of weekends, so I took the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood and let my mind wander. (I'm surprised it ever comes back.) This often turns into good plotting time for me. On one of my walks, I figured out that if I changed what didn't feel right about the current action, it could set up some important plot events and character development for later on. Not only that, but it helped set up a chain of events that would lead into the climax.

I've had to spend the last couple of days revising what I had, but I should be ready to move forward during my next writing session. Sometimes breaking the routine slightly can help you get out of a mental rut.

What's your favorite way to break your writing routine? Do you do something physical, or change your setup? Feel free to share in the comments.

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