Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: A Year in Blog

Well. That was quite a year, wasn't it? Was it the worst year ever, as some have asserted? Hell no. One-third of us haven't died of plague, so I suppose we're still doing better than the Middle Ages.

Well, my biggest writing news of the year has to be the benighted anthology which did not happen, but lead to me self-publishing again--this time, a short story called "When Mary Left." In addition, I decided to take Pearl out of Kindle Select and make her release wider. So far, wider release isn't yielding all that many results, but you never know. There's a big ebook world outside of Amazon and I'm keeping Pearl there.

I attempted NaNo, wrote one short story, and decided to pack it in. I'll figure out what to do with that short story come the New Year.

2016 was definitely the year of distraction for me: on the one hand, there were starts and stops of writing and research on my Victorian novel, which is definitely "on" again. On the other hand, there was endless distraction in the form of the Internet, then the election, and just life in general. But after finding some cool series to watch on Netflix (specifically, I mean The Crown, Medici: Masters of Florence, and Versailles), reading a lot this year (more on that below), and taking a lot of creative inspiration (Libbie Hawker and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer of Hamilton, to name a few), I think I'm coming back around to feeling more creative again. Maybe I needed to nourish myself creatively for a bit?

I have a vague plan of novellas and short stories to write and edit over the next few months--the ones I wanted to get drafted during NaNo--in addition to finally finishing Victoria's story in 2017, fingers crossed.

I finished my 44 book reading challenge.

There were 4 guest posts on this blog this year, including a college friend's first published novel. I look forward to more in 2017!

Oh, yeah, and I turned 30 this year.

Thanks to Jessica for the t-shirt!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Finished!

Well, I have finally reached my 44 book reading challenge goal in 2016.

Next year, I'm thinking I'll go for a lower goal (I have some writing projects on the horizon, after all) but anyway, here is the list from number 34 to 44

34. Lady of Devices (Magnificent Devices #1) by Shelley Adina. Fiction/Fantasy/Steampunk/YA/Historical Fiction/Victorian England. 2 stars.

35. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones. Nonfiction/History/Medieval/England. 4 stars.

36. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Nonfiction/History/Biography/Science/Medical. 4 stars.

37. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. Fiction/Science Fiction/Historical Fiction. 4 stars.

38. Forbidden (Old West #1) by Beverley Jenkins. Fiction/Romance/Historical/Western. 3 stars.

39. The Winter Crown (Eleanor of Aquitaine #2) by Elizabeth Chadwick. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Fictional Biography/Medieval/England/France. 4 stars.

40. The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister #0.5) by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Romance/Historical/Novella. 4 stars.

41. Fighting Demons (Hunting Monsters #2) by SL Huang. Fiction/Fantasy/Short Story. 4 stars.

42. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker. Nonfiction/Writing/Publishing/Marketing. 3 stars.

43. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Caribbean. 2 stars.

44. 1984 by George Orwell. Fiction/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Dystopian. 5 stars

So, that's the final list, but below the cut are the stats and breakdown:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

That Time I Put Pearl on Smashwords at 2:30am

Um, yeah.

So this means that I now have three different outlets for my wee novella:

-Kindle Direct
-Draft2Digital for Nook, Apple, and Kobo
-Smashwords for...well, everything else they offer that aren't the above

Here is Pearl's link on Smashwords.

Because I should really be asleep right now.

Also, this all began because I was researching whether there were blogs or newsletters I could advertise in for Kobo, Nook, or Apple readers.

And this is my Smashwords interview.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG December

Well, it's the last IWSG post of 2016 and what a year it has been. The IWSG posts every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here. Our co-hosts for December are Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

My one insecurity the past month has been: "Where is my writing mojo?" I can't seem to burrow into a project as deep and as much I'd like to. NaNo didn't work out (I came out of it with one complete short story and two beginnings, so it wasn't completely wasted), but yeah, other than short spurts, I'm having a hard time advancing. This happens sometimes, so I'll just work my holiday season and finish reading some books and see how I can get back into my Victorian draft as I plug along.

The IWSG question this month is a big one: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My instinct is to give a long sarcastic laugh, because five years ago, my answer would've been "write something, get an agent, get published." Also, because I hate questions like this. What's the phrase, 
"People make plans and God laughs"?

I'd still like to get an agent and be trade published, because frankly, the connections, pay, and exposure are still bigger in the trad publishing realm more so than the self publishing realm, particularly for my genre.

But...there's also the Libbie Hawker method. She writes indie historical fiction in a variety of time periods and subgenres; some of them are published through an Amazon arm, Lake Union Publishing. In my case, while I finish a complete novel, I'm going to keep writing and releasing novellas and short stories on my own. And we'll see if I can stop being tired for a second in order to finish this ridiculous novel. 

In the meantime, I decided to stop limiting myself to just Amazon--Pearl is now available on Kobo, B&N, and iBooks, so if you're so inclined, do check it out or spread the word if you know someone who might be interested. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pearl is on B&N, Apple and Kobo!

Hey everyone,

After some thinking, I have decided to expand Pearl's reach beyond the Kindle Select program and put the novella up on other retailers! So if you know anybody who buys their books from Apple or Kobo or B&N (pending), do let them know.

Pearl is still on Amazon, too. But she's wider now and wider she will stay.

Thanks for your support!

On Kobo:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Hamilton Mixtape

Sometimes a song will come out of a Broadway show and become a hit or a standard on its own--think of most of the songs in "The Sound of Music" or some of the songs from "Les Mis." But as far as I know, The Hamilton Mixtape, which came out yesterday, is the first "mixtape" of a Broadway show. As in, different artists have reinterpreted, recorded, in some cases have written songs inspired by the show and its music.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda originally thought "ah-ha! I'll write a musical out of this book!" when he read Ron Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton, he wasn't thinking of writing a straight-up musical but writing and recording a concept album. Well, fast foward a few years and a megahit musical and Grammys, Pulitzers, Tonys, and various other awards and that "concept album" idea has spawned The Hamilton Mixtape, which was great company on my way to and from work yesterday.

There are demos that never made it into the show: Cabinet Battle #3 (which is about the Slavery Question), Valley Forge (some of that is in "Stay Alive"), and An Open Letter (which is a rap about Hamilton's screed on President John Adams). Lin-Manuel Miranda says it's one of the best things he's ever written and they cut it from the show. He did it once with some cast members in the video below.

Then there's "Congratulations," which was an Angelica Schuyler song from the off-Broadway version that got cut before they moved the show to Broadway. Some of it is still in "The Reynolds Pamphlet."

You gotta love any song that begins, "Congratulations, you've invented a new kind of stupid."

Of the songs in the show that are covered on Mixtape, there's Alicia Keys on "That Would Be Enough," John Legend on "History Has Its Eyes On You," "Helpless" with Ashanti and Ja Rule (yup, 1999 is back again), two versions of "Dear Theodosia," and "Burn" by Andra Day, and "Wait For It" by Usher. It's really easy to think of Mixtape as not versions of the show tunes but as its own separate entity when the cover versions are so different than the show versions. 

Take, for example, Kelly Clarkson's version of "It's Quiet Uptown" versus the show version

Sia also covers "Satisfied" with Miguel and Queen Latifah and it's fun and amazing. Jimmy Fallon covers "You'll Be Back," which is...unexpected.

As for the "inspired by the show" songs, "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" is undoubtedly the most powerful, but "Wrote My Way Out" has a special meaning for me, the little writer. "My Shot" is part show version and part original verses.

The first track is "No John Trumbull" by The Roots, which I think was in the off-Broadway version of the show. 

You ever see a painting by John Trumbull?
Founding fathers in a line, looking all humble
Patiently waiting to sign a declaration and start a nation
No sign of disagreement, not one grumble
The reality is messier and richer, kids
The reality is not a pretty picture, kids
Every cabinet meeting is a full on rumble
What you're about to witness is no John Trumbull

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Elizabeth Chadwick

Have I waxed poetic on how much I love Elizabeth Chadwick's historical fiction on this blog? No?

I first heard about British author Elizabeth Chadwick several years ago when she was interviewed on The Word Wenches blog about her book The Greatest Knight, the first of her William Marshal books. Now, William Marshal is a famous historical figure of the English Middle Ages: a knight, Crusader, courtier and politician and solider to the early Plantagenet kings, advisor to the English kings, and eventually, the regent of the underage Henry III. He was there when Henry II's sons rebelled against him, he was an important figure while Richard the Lionheart was off Crusading, and he remained loyal to bad King John and was one of the signatories of Magna Carta.

But I'd not heard of him before coming across mention of Elizabeth Chadwick and her novels.

I read a history book on the Plantagenets recently and of course, William Marshal was mentioned and I may have squealed because Chadwick's William Marshal books and her other novels of real historical figures in the late 11th and 12th centuries are so compelling and rich and--although I'm far from a medievalist--her novels always feel authentic.

For example. I just finished Chadwick's second book in her Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Winter Crown. This novel is mainly about Eleanor of Aquitaine's life during her marriage to Henry II. Eleanor was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, so she was concerned with its governance, with grooming her heir Richard to be the next duke, but she was also concerned with maintaining Aquintaine's sovereignty away from Henry II's empire of England, Normandy, Anjou, and other parts of what we would call France.

Eleanor expresses the view that the world is tough for women, that being female in her sphere is to be a political pawn, and she resents it when Henry makes decisions about Aquitaine without consulting her--but none of this feels out of place for this character in her time. Her marriage was mostly for political reasons, so Eleanor isn't bothered when Henry has a bevy of mistresses whenever she's pregnant. It's only when he starts leaving her out of important events and he has the same mistress for a longer period of time and flaunts her in front of the court and their children that Eleanor is perturbed.

Plus, any time I think that research in my so far eighteenth and nineteenth century world is difficult, I read Elizabeth Chadwick's blog about reading pipe rolls written in Latin and researching things like the Crusades and the Templars and Magna Carta. In some cases, for some of the minor characters in her books, their exact dates of birth and death are unknown, the number of children couples had could be uncertain, and other details are sketchy.

I can't imagine constructing a story about a world that is so different to ours in so many ways, but hey, that's what Elizabeth Chadwick and others manage to do and do so well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

NaNo '16: Day...Whatever

I think we can give up the pretense that I'm still doing NaNoWriMo this year. I have one completed short story ("Haunted Lake") and two beginnings of short stories ("The New Bride of Banner's Edge" and "The N Train"), but that's as far as I got.

I want to complete those stories and the others that I have ideas for, but...not just yet. Work is getting busy, I'm volunteering at the library, and it's November, which means that I'm entering my why-am-i-so-tired time of year.

However, I am back to the Victorian novel--I picked up where I left off and I'm actually really excited to continue writing that. I'll probably be switching between this novel draft and the short stories through the end of the year into early next year.

What got me to turn back to my Victorian novel was watching the new Netflix series The Crown. The Crown is a ten epsiode series (season two is filming now!) about Queen Elizabeth II of England (the current queen). It takes place in the late 1940s into the 1950s and covers Elizabeth's accession to the throne after her father's unexpectedly early death, how she adjusts to the role of queen, how her husband Philip adjusts to being a consort, how Winston Churchill the prime minister guides the queen but also doesn't want to face growing elderly...

It was a great drama full of amazing sets and costumes and it filled the void that Downton Abbey left, so I was quite happy. Plus, I like how it shows the problematic aspects of an empire--some of the things the royals say about their colonies are not the greatest, but then, those were the attitudes they held in the 1940s and 1950s.

It had a similar pace or examination of characters that the Victorian draft was heading towards as well.

I'm also eight chapters in to Elizabeth Chadwick's second Eleanor of Aquitaine novel, The Winter Crown. As usual, Chadwick's writing is evocative and draws you in. And I picked up three paperbacks at my favorite bookstore, The Strand, last week because bookstores are magical and soul-healing. I bought 1984, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Room.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 8, 2016

I'm writing this more for myself than for an audience, so feel free to not comment if you don't want to. I feel like history is made and it passes us by and we forget about it--and this is particularly true of Americans, the country in which I was born, the country in which my father was born, the country where my mother immigrated; Americans are stereotypically not very good with geography, other countries, or history.

Just to note: November 9th, today, is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which happened in 1938. And not to equate a democratic American election with the Night of Broken Glass which ushered in the Holocaust, but just a note there.

Nazi Germany started with an election, too. You think it can't happen in America?

We've had an arduous election cycle--something on the order or two years of yammering, inane politicians, attack ads, ridiculous rhetoric, and far more disturbing, large rallies of rural, working class, not-terribly-well-educated, mostly white people gathering in large numbers to hear a blowhard asshole with no class talk about banning Muslims, building walls on the Mexican border, repealing Obamacare, stuffing the Supreme Court with heavily conservative--if not downright so-far-to-the-right judges that they might as well be living in 1930s Germany.

I'm a 30-year-old biracial New Yorker. I went to college in Boston. So yeah, I'm Northeast, East Coast liberal. I'm a registered independent who switched to Democrat this autumn. I have gone to school and interacted with people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations my entire life. Yes, sometimes it can be a mess, trying to harness people of disparate origins, but I strongly feel that my life experience has been the richer for it.

I'm sorry for those for who don't feel that way: people who've never met people who don't look like them, sound like them, go to church like them, or whose sexual orientations or gender expectations don't fall precisely in line. I'm sorry for those who aren't curious about the wider world or the past or who are clinging to outdated beliefs. Because this goes beyond a little sideye to the unfamiliar--this is unadulterated hatred for all the things I thought America stood for and was still developing and standing for.

We're a nation of immigrants. I know where my family comes from. Do you? White people didn't just spring up out of the ground in Carolina, you know. Y'all came from somewhere.

Freedom of religion. Apparently, that only applies to Christians. I'm afraid for the Muslims among my friends and acquaintances.

Cooperation and leadership in the world. NATO, everyone? How's that going to go? How are our allies going to respond to this election? How are our cooperation skills going to work?

Basic human decency. How about not making fun of people with disabilities, people of different races, not trying to fucking "convert" LGBT kids, acknowledging that women are people capable of making decisions about our bodies and futures and that we deserve respect?

After 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, there was talk about a "post-racial America," which was utter bullshit then and has been shattered in a million pieces now. The president-elect (I refuse to use his name. You know it. It's written in giant gold letters on the sides of all his buildings) was endorsed by the KKK.

The K-fucking-KK.

In 2016.

When John Kerry lost in 2004, I was disappointed. That was first election I voted it. I thought I abhorred McCain and Romney. But this? This has gone beyond disappointment, guys. This election and its result has acutally caused me to have real fears. It's made me see my country in a completely different way and I'm so incredibly sad, depressed, disappointed, scared, and angry that this is where we are as a nation.

I'm actually devastated.

Some people are like, "Well--we still have Congress to block things. We have laws to block things he wants to do. And we can vote out a lot of Congress in 2018!"

That's not making me feel better, guys. A lot of damage can be done in 2 years.

Still, to quote from "Hamilton": "Rise up. Rise up. Eyes up."

Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNo '16: Day 7

Current Word Count: 8,105 words
Where NaNo Says I'm Supposed To Be On Day 7: 11,666

This is my fifth NaNoWriMo and unlike past NaNos, I'm behind by quite a bit. Three thousand words is no joke, y'all! However, because I'm writing short stories this year (a whole mess of them), there's a new little spark when I begin a new story and that keeps me writing a bit longer and writing more, which is good.

Win NaNo this year or not, I want to have a few shorts that I can configure and maybe sell in 2017. That's the real end goal here.

The last time I did NaNo was in 2014.

Things That Have Happened Since the Last Time I Did NaNoWriMo in 2014:

In 2014,  I wrote 50,000 words of an early version of my Victorian not-yet-finished novel. Since then, I have:
-written and published Pearl
-written a short story, revised the short story, published the short story as "When Mary Left."
-continually written and stopped and started on that Victorian novel
-become a Distracto Monster when it came to the Internet

So I'm not dependent on NaNo to help me reach the end of a project anymore--just to maybe help quicken my usual snaily process.

So far, I have finished my first short story, "Haunted Lake" and moved on to my second, "The New Bride of Banner's Edge."

Here's a bit from "Haunted Lake":

Kimiko and Chris drank coffee in silence the next morning. Her hair was damp from her shower. His nose was buried in a magazine they'd picked up from the check-in office yesterday called The Monadnock Region.
She had never known Chris to play golf. His dad did, which was probably why his parents had this place as a timeshare. Were they going to attempt the links? The only time she'd played golf was miniature golf on a family vacation. Did they have mini golf here? That'd be cool. Maybe not a full weekend sort of cool, but still…
"Oh," Chris said to himself.
"Haunted Lake."
She scrunched up her face. "Haunted Lake? What's that?"
            "Well, its real name is Scobie Pond, but yeah, Haunted Lake. It's close. We used to go there when we came up here. Want to check it out?"
She took a long sip of coffee, swallowed, then asked, "Uh, why's it called Haunted Lake?" She didn't consider herself an expert on lake nomenclature, but there had to be a reason why a lake was called "haunted."
Chris leaned back. "Well, there are a lot of stories about that, I think. Someone told me about a fire that happened on the shores once. But it's seriously gorgeous. It's not even ten minutes away."
She shrugged. "All right."
"Maybe we'll go to town first? It's quaint and New England-y." His very blue eyes searched her eyes out. "Let's go be in nature, Kim."
Be in nature? Did that phrase seriously pour out her boyfriend's mouth? Chris was the most Internet-addicted person she knew. The man couldn't live without wi-fi. He liked doing city things: cafes, the ability to walk two minutes from their apartment and see both people and actual civilization, skinny jeans. Be in nature? And he wasn't being ironic?

            She took a longer sip of coffee. What else didn't she know about him?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG November

It's November and it's time for the monthly IWSG blog hop! The IWSG is a large group of writers who come together for commiseration and we post every first Wednesday of the month! Come check us out here.

Well, NaNo has begun. I'm writing short stories this year, but unlike past years, I'm very aware that I don't have all the time in the world to hit that 50K, which is one of the reasons why I decided to write short stories. Anyway, before I try to get more words down, let me answer this month's IWSG question:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Well, there are many fantastic aspects of being a writer. One of them, to quote a historian I've recently begun reading and following, is that history lets him indulge in "licensed nosiness"--and I feel like writing lets me do the same thing sometimes. Being a writer lets me explore different things and I'm quietly nosy, quietly collecting dialogue, characters, settings, and anecdotes in my head to twist around and combine and refine into a story. 

Also, I like creating characters--trying to figure out how they tick, what their deal is. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Self-Publishing Promotions

One of the things I struggle with in Indie Author Life are the promotional aspects.

1. I make peanuts on my self-published work, so although I think everyone should read them, how do you reach everyone on peanuts?
2. I'm not naturally a "look at me" kind of person (more of a "why are you looking at me?" kind of person), so I don't like to bombard social media with things about my work.

In trade publishing, the publisher often has a marketing and publicity department to take care of promotional things, though an author is expected to promote and market the work more and more these days.

Things I've Done To Promote:

-Obviously, social media.

-Make wicked easy graphics using PowerPoint or, when I have something to promote, like a new story or a Kindle Countdown Deal. People seem to respond to pictures more readily than a block of text on an author Facebook page.
Example of an easy graphic

-A few blogging friends were kind enough to review my book on their blog or interviewed me or shared my posts and news around. Never underestimate the power of Internet word-of-mouth.

-Paid for a very few ads in ebook newsletters. There are a number of newsletters and blogs, for every genre and type of work, but finding them and booking your place in them is often the hard part, along with picking them judiciously because the cost adds up.

The biggest one--and the most expensive and hardest to get into--is Bookbub, but there is also Robin Reads, Book Goodies, ENT Publishing, Great Books Great Deals, BookZio, GenrePulse, Bargain Booksy, Sweet Free Reads...

Seriously. There many of them and they all have their own requirements before they'll take your book, so check any out to make they take your genre, the length of your book, that they don't require a certain number of reviews, etc.

Other Things That People Do To Promote Their Work:

-Giveaways: These could be Amazon giveaways or Goodreads giveaways or Rafflecopter giveaways. Giveaways are popular. Who doesn't like free stuff, right?

-Reviews: Sometimes indie authors spread ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) around to reviewers, in the hopes that those readers will actually post a review of the book somewhere and thus, entice others to buy the book

-Blog tours: I've hosted plenty of authors on this blog as part of their cover reveals or release blog tours. There are companies out there who will organize blog tours for you, but the ones I've hosted are tours organized by the authors themselves.

-Conventions: If an author is writing in a particular genre and that genre has a convention, it's possible to book a spot for a table or booth.

What are some things you've done or seen or would like to try to promote your work?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Upcoming NaNo Thing

First of all, a bit of promotional business:

"When Mary Left" is now in Kindle Unlimited, so if you're in that or have Amazon Prime, you can read it for free! Otherwise, the story is 99 cents.

To celebrate the short story being out, Pearl is on Kindle Countdown for a bit.

So, what's next?

Well, I'm still working on the draft of the Victorian story. It's going to take a bit, I'm going to try not to rush it.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo the other day. Instead of writing 50,000 words of dreck (as I've done in the past), I'm going to write a bunch of short stories, maybe a novella. I plan on revising them and releasing them or submitting them to whatever next year. Basically, I'm writing myself a backlog

I have a few ideas:

-A story about Julius, Pearl's brother.

-A story based on a marriage certificate I found: an Englishman and an Asian woman get married in Nagasaki, Japan in 1895.

-A weird speculative idea I've had in the my head for a bit: when the economy collapses and the government sucks and everyone in New York City lives in a fitting room-sized apartment.

-A sweet romance story, possibly culled from an old defunct story I wrote last year.

-A WWI story

-A story about Miles Keegan's second wife?

Are you doing NaNo this year? What are you going to write?

Monday, October 10, 2016

"When Mary Left": A Short Story is now available!

A new short story is now available for purchase on Amazon!

When Mary Left

In 1793 Boston, Mary Dawkins faces the ultimate turning point: an unwanted pregnancy.

99 cents!

As usual, all reviews are welcome and seriously appreciated!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's #IndieAuthorDay

Today is Indie Author Day!

There were events at libraries across the country talking about indie publishing and since I'm so far an indie-published author, I thought I'd talk a bit about independent publishing.

"Independent from what?" Some ask.

When I was studying publishing in college and grad school, independent publishing wasn't even something we talked about and justifiably so, since this was before the Kindle. The large publishing houses are big corporations. They are mostly trade publishers. Trade publishers publish in the established ways.

Smaller, independent publishers also publish in the established model, but they're often tiny--sometimes they're more niche, sometimes they're more cutting edge than the bigger publishing houses (because they need to be to keep competitive in the market). Sometimes they're associated with larger companies (like the many publishing arms of Amazon or Smashwords or another things).

So when we say "indie author," it can mean an author published by a small press or one who is self-published.

Here are some of my favorite indie-published books:

The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is a pretty well-established historical romance, YA fantasy, and soon-to-be mystery author, but The Hidden Blade is one of my favorites of hers--the first in the Heart of Blade duology, Thomas self-published this novel about a Chinese girl trained in martial arts and an English boy who leaves home, following his beloved former tutor.

Zero Sum Game by SL Huang

SL Huang writes smart, funny action-adventure thrillers based around the amoral-but-with-a-heart mercenary Cas Russell, who has the unusual power of being able to do all kinds of math very quickly.  Russell's Attic currently has five books in the series, but Zero Sum Game is the first.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

The Duchess War is the first novel in the Brothers Sinister series, which I've glommed through this year. They are Victorian-set historical romances and Milan really knows how to write kick-ass, smart,  analytical, dynamic heroines--not one is a damsel in distress or too stupid to live.

Collecting The Constellations by Emily Steers

Take a smart, independent, curious woman. Add in a handsome sidekick, lots of adventure, and a very mysterious sapphire knife. It all adds up to a really fun mystery and adventure tale.

Tidewater by Libbie Hawker
Libbie Hawker is a historical fiction author who is mostly self-published. Tidewater, which is about Pocahontas and the Jamestown colony, was published by Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon publishing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: Story Cooking Time

It's time for IWSG: The Insecure Writer's Support Group comes together every first Wednesday of the month to vent. Check out the group here.

Well. It's October. Let's see what's up in my writing world:

--September wrapped up with a story I was about to get published not being published. My rights have reverted back to me, but I haven't gone through the story yet to see how much of it I want to rip apart and revise. I remember there were parts I didn't particularly care for the last time I read it, which was sometime around May or so.

--The novel draft is still plugging along and still going a bit more slowly than I'd like, but advancing nonetheless. At least I write faster than Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin? :-)

--I have an idea to write four or five short story/novella/novellettes in November for NaNo, then figure out which ones I might want to submit, self-publish, expand into a longer idea...

Which brings me around to the IWSG October question: When do you know your story is ready? 

Stories have lots of levels of readiness. I've only published one thing so far and I can't really remember now when I knew Pearl was ready to be put out into the world-- Was it when my beta's reactions came back positively? Was it my own knowledge and instinct that the story was compelling and the character was great and why not try the self-publishing thing to see if anybody else wanted to read it? Was it when my copyeditor emailed to tell me that a) she was grateful that I wrote cleanly and b) she was so totally absorbed into the story?

The short story that I haven't looked at in a few months--I had a deadline for that one, so that's when it had to be ready by. But I knew it was ready to be written--this after at least a month of mind-stewing--when the first scene played out in my head.

Usually, that's how I know something is ready to be written down past the notes-and-research phase: when I start hearing snatches of dialogue or when I can "see" a scene happening or when I can feel the feels. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Genre, Literary, and Upmarket Fiction

For a while now, I've been aware that I don't write what's known in publishing circles as "genre fiction."

Of course, most fiction fits into a genre or at least, a category--they're not necessarily the same thing--but genre fiction, specifically, means that a book is commerical (so, basically, it has a broad appeal) and it fits into specific, easily-identifiable genres--it's a romance novel, it's a thriller, it's a mystery, it's fantasy, horror, sci-fi, blah blah. They're entertaining reads, they're often fast-paced, they satisfy a reader's genre expectations, they have strong writing hooks, and broad audience appeal. Many of my writing friends write genre fiction and that's awesome.

But I was never really sure if I fit into that.

Historical fiction is a genre, but it isn't necessarily "genre fiction." It's not often published in mass market paperbacks, for one thing, and with the higher word count historicals often have, I tend to see them in bookstores in the General Fiction or Literature sections of bookstores. Of course, there are tons of historical romances and historical mysteries and historical fantasies out there and those totally are historically-set genre fiction. (If you know me at all, you know that I devour historical romances).

Then there's the oft-cited literary fiction, which, like, writers get into arguments about what that term means. In short, literary fiction is the stuff you end up studying in school. It's the stuff college writing programs try to program you to write. Literary fiction tends to be quirky, definitely far less plot-driven, introspective. There's a definite dissection of hefty ideas. And there's a big focus on the actual language of the book--I think of extra-carefully-crafted sentences, twenty-dollar words, prose you could bury yourself in because it's so buttery and poetic.

Literary fiction often wins quite a lot of prestigious awards, but it remains hard to identify in clear terms. It's sort of like what Judge Potter said about identifying obscenity--"I know it when I see it."

When I queried The Keegans of Banner's Edge in 2014, I kept noticing the term "upmarket fiction" used in literary agents' descriptions--usually in terms of "I represent upmarket women's fiction." I kind of had an idea of what that meant; the ones that, if pressed, you'd say were just "general fiction" or "women's fiction" or "the kind of thing book clubs would want to read."

Well, some research has borne this out. Upmarket fiction blends genres, but has a high level of writing that is still accessible and appealing to a broad audience, but it can discuss and illustrate complicated ideas. I've never bought a book and said, "Oh, this is upmarket fiction," but quite a bit of historical fiction falls into upmarket fiction.

Of course, none of this is really up to the writer--genre, commercial, upmarket, literary--they tend to be sales categories. And most readers, I don't think, particularly care: they read what they want to and some may read widely and others not so much.

But--for this writer, at least--I believe I am aiming toward upmarket historical women's fiction with my current thang.

Here's a handy graphic from Carly Watters' website:

Futher Reading:
What Is Upmarket Fiction?

Literary, Mainstream, Commercial: What Genre is This Anyway?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I have hit the 45,000-word mark on this first draft of my as-yet very untitled work.

This is significant because I'm estimating that 45K is about the halfway point.


I've finally stopped being a perfectionist on this thing and started a revisions document, so I can note down the things I want to change when I get to revisions, so then I'm just a-typin' along.

45K might seem like a lot of words to be only halfway through a novel draft, but this is historical fiction (well, women's historical fiction? Women's fiction? Whatever). Historical fiction is usually somewhere in the 90,000 to 110,000-word range and sometimes is as long as 120,000 words.

I think 90K is about the limit of this particular story. And after some of the unnecessary drama of the past few days, it's time to move on and celebrate getting to the halfway mark.


Friday, September 16, 2016

An Anthology Announcement: When Publishing Goes Awry

You all might have seen and read some of the posts I've done on here and on my author Facebook page about an impending anthology that I had a short story in.

Past tense, yes. Keep reading.

This anthology came together late last year and I was super excited about it because I was looking to have another piece out in the world after Pearl, but I'm not a fast writer, so this offer seemed like a perfect solution. It would be my first experience with a publisher who isn't me and I would be in the company of so many talented authors. Short stories take less time to write and I hadn't written a short story since college, so it would be like using an old artistic muscle.

Well, things haven't quite worked out. The authors are currently trying to decide on a solution.

As much as fiction writing is about inspiration and other twee sort of things, the publishing side is a business: is it selling? How can it be marketed? Who is the audience? There are contracts and clauses, marketing considerations, money and business obligations in publishing; this is the stuff I studied in grad school.

So: for authors, if you're considering going into an anthology, it may be a worthwhile experience. It may expose your work to a new audience, you'll make some new writer companions and contacts, it might stretch you as a writer.

BUT---as with everything in publishing, do your research. Check out the publisher. Ask questions. Make sure the communication is regular and business-like. Read that contract.

I cannot stress this enough: read every word, every clause. Make sure it's in the right format and wording for a publishing contract. If you don't understand something, find a legal adviser. Make sure your copyright reverts to you if something goes wrong. Make sure you can get out of the project if it goes south. Explore how the funds are to be distributed and how the publisher is permitted control over your work and your name.

As for me and the other authors: we're considering other ways of getting our stories out there. I'm not hugely attached to my entry in the anthology; I think it needs a developmental editorial brush-up. It's called "The Disappearance of Miss Mary Dawkins" and it's about the mother of little Alexandra Keegan, one of the children in Pearl. To be honest, I haven't actually read "Mary Dawkins" in several months. Though I'm not attached to it, I want it out in the world and not hanging over me like Eeyore.

Edited to Add:

The publisher finally resurfaced today on Facebook and wrote a pretty passive-aggressive status update saying the anthology was dissolved and she didn't appreciate the "nasty correspondence" she's been receiving as of late and she "didn't want that nastiness on her shoulders." Um, maybe if there was communication, this would've gone better? If the authors knew what was going on?


Monday, September 12, 2016

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal

Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016


In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11, 15 Years Later

Half a lifetime ago, I was a fifteen-year-old girl who had just begun her sophomore year of high school and was still not back in the swing of the school year. I was in the car with my mother on the way to school one pleasant, blue-skied Tuesday morning. We were driving on an overpass, the Z100 Morning Zoo blaring out of the radio when one of the DJs suddenly said, "Hey, I think I saw a plane fly into the Twin Towers!"

What? It didn't make sense. All my life, the Twin Towers--the World Trade Center--had loomed, two huge silver buildings at the foot of Manhattan, distinct from the other towering figures anchored in Manhattan's bedrock. When I arrived at school, on a mission to get myself switched from Earth Science into Chemistry, the DJ's exclamation left my mind.

I went to a large public high school in Queens, New York, one of the many schools built for about one thousand students and instead, in that fall of 2001, buzzing with about three thousand kids. We were packed in the halls like sardines, jostling and bumping as we moved up and down the four floors. But because there were so many of us, our schedules were staggered and we started and ended school on shifts. That day, as every period brought another group of kids in to start their days, the rumors spread across the school.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG September

It's the first Wednesday in September--must be time for IWSG! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a large group of writers online and we come together to exorcise our writerly insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month. Our co-hosts for today are: C. Lee McKenzie,Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata!  

This past month, I have been insecure not so much with the quality of my current draft, but with the speed. I am a slow writer. I am also an easily distracted writer. I am also not quite an outliner; I have a very loose and vague outline, which comes to bite me in the ass at least once per draft when I'm sitting there staring at my document, going "Right. So she lands there. How do I get her there?"

I resorted to what I do during NaNoWriMo: I put my Word document in full page view so that I can't look at the word count, turn off the Internet on my computer, and force myself to type.

I also read two writing books by Libbie Hawker: Take Off Your Pants!, which was about outlining, which helped me think about my story in a different way that's helping me scoot along, and Making It In Historical Fiction. 

The IWSG question: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

It's not time to write that eludes me, it's me wasting time while I'm supposed to be writing. Since I was in utero, I've been a night owl, so I tend to write more at night, though I've been trying to change that to writing more in daytime when I can. 

But in and among work, family, friends, reading other peoples' books, the odd TV show, and the shiny lights of the Internet, I write better when I know I can't be on the computer for an extended period of time. So if I'll only have an hour that day that I'll be home and able to write, then that's when writing needs to happen--and that's when the Internet needs to be shut off!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

33 Books Read!

Here we are at the almost three-quarter point of the year... and here I am with 33 books read!

What are you reading?

23. The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister #4) by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Historical Romance/Victorian England. 4 stars.

24. Plastic Smile (Russell's Attic #4) by SL Huang. Fiction/Science Fiction/Action/Thriller. 4 stars.

25. A Leaf on the Wind of All Hollows (Outlander #8.5) by Diana Gabaldon. Fiction/Fantasy/Historical/ Novella. 3 stars.

26. The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannandine. Nonfiction/History/Social history/Britain. 2 stars.

27. Collecting The Constellations by Emily Steers. Fiction/Mystery/Thriller/Contemporary. 5 stars.

28. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Nonfiction/History/American History/African-American history/Twentieth century. 5 stars.

29. Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition by Libbie Hawker. Nonfiction/Writing. 3 stars.

30. Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand. Nonfiction/ Biography/History/Feminist/India/Britain/ Nineteenth century/Twentieth century. 3 stars.

31. A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Women's Historical Fiction/Dual Timeline/Action/Romance/ France/18th century. 3 stars.

32. Making It In Historical Fiction by Libbie Hawker. Nonfiction/Writing/Publishing/Historical Fiction. 3 stars.

33. Talk Sweetly To Me (Brothers Sinister #4.5) by Courtney Milan. Fiction/Historical Romance/Novella. 3 stars.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's Saturday. Have an excerpt.


After effectively getting some creative juices re-flowing because, after I bitched and moaned about this latest writing project to my best friend, she broke out into song: "Chapter 18/I hate Chapter 18/That's two thousand words/ I gotta delete," I have decided to re-read said Chapter 18 and figure out why I hate it quite so much. (Upon reading it over, I see that it's actually not so bad. Why is writing so annoying like that sometimes?)

Also, I need to figure out where the heck the pacing went in this section of the novel, because it's taking a bit to get to the frickin' point already.

In the meantime, have an excerpt from about thirty pages ago.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

5 Things I Learned About Colonial India

My main character, one Miss Victoria Ponsonby-Courtney, was born in India in 1873. Although my story takes place in England and Victoria was sent to England to live at age six, she carries a few memories of her Indian childhood and they help illustrate her insecurity--in herself and her familial and social position. It's not a huge portion of the story, but it's important to the character and the era.

Queen Victoria wasn't the Empress of India for nothing, after all, and the 1890s, when Victoria lives, was very much a time of the British Empire.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Authenticity vs. Accuracy

Among historical fiction writers, the authenticity vs. accuracy debate is a thing. That is, depending on the kind of historical fiction you're writing, you are going to have to balance historical accuracy, the absolute facts: the year of certain Big Events, the layout of cities and towns in whatever era you are writing, the politics and social conventions of the time, the clothing, attitudes, maybe even language.

I guess I'd say authenticity is integrating all the factual things with the elements of fiction--characters, a plot, atmosphere, dialogue--and making the history work in the context of the story (and with your perspective of the history)--and to make sure all of that is readable and entertaining.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Interview With Author Emily Steers

Emily Steers and I both went to Emerson College and I remember sharing at least one writing class--there may have been more. Emily just released her first novel, Collecting The Constellations, a mystery-action-adventure story. So naturally, I had to interview her for the blog.

Charlotte Daly is goal-oriented, inquisitive, and tireless— ideal for her role as a researcher at a prestigious museum. She’s celebrated as an up-and-coming talent. She just never expected her greatest find to come from her great aunt’s basement.

It’s dazzlingly unique—a dagger made entirely of blue sapphire, flawless except for a few specks in the handle. To determine its secrets, Charlotte convinces her boss to let her re-trace her aunt’s travels to its source– with the accompaniment of her longtime friend and co-worker, Rory Hobbs.

Charlotte’s clues take her to Kathmandu, where they discover Charlotte’s aunt may not have been the noble adventurer she imagined. Conspicuous wealth, violent attacks, and grand myths plague the pair as they jump into a world of secret societies and treasure hunters they never knew existed.

The book is available in paperback and on Kindle. I've read it and I can assure you that it is a well written, entertaining ride of a story.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG: My First Pieces

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a large group of writers--and we post on the first Wednesday of every month. Thanks to August's co-hosts: Tamara Narayan, Tonja Drecker, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Lauren @ Pensuasion, Stephen Tremp, and Julie Flanders! 

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

I started writing when I was 9. I wanted to be a "writer" by the time I was 12. To say that I have a backlog of childhood scribblings is not an understatement.  Cheekily, I started calling it my "Juvenilia" because that's what Jane Austen called her childhood scribblings. 

I mean, none of it's good. Oh, except for a snarky poem that got published in the elementary school magazine; that one was pretty fun. I have some of these pieces in a folder, on yellowing pieces of looseleaf. I have some things from high school and more from college, too. It's the college stuff where I can really trace the things I'm interested in now, though---stories with diverse characters, engrossing characters. 

But as an actual, dead-serious aspiring author, what is my first piece?  It might be Book the First, which is on this blog, though I had no intention of publishing that thing beyond the blog. But it's the first thing I wrote post-grad with the intention of finishing it and making sure it was book-length, so I suppose we can consider that my first piece as an aspiring writer. 

It's collecting digital dust and always will be. The reason I keep Book the First linked under its own Page is that I can really trace my writing abilities the past few years by reading it and then comparing it to anything I've written more recently. 

Or can we consider the first incarnation of my fictional Keegan family the first piece I wrote as an aspiring writer? I wrote that first version--a Regency-era romance--with the intention of revising it up to scratch so I could, possibly, submit it. I sent it in to a contest run by a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. 

At which I point I realized that while I like reading romance, particularly historical romance, I can't write it. Also, that family had too much backstory to fit into a 250 page manuscript. 
Speaking of that family...
PEARL is an off-shoot of the Keegan family stories and she is on Kindle Countdown this week! 
Amazon UK

I also want to tell you about a college friend who just published her first novel, Collecting The Constellations. I'm almost finished with this smart, action-mystery-thriller and will be reviewing it and hopefully interviewing the author, Emily Steers, on the blog soon--but I thought I'd ask if anyone out there would be interested in hosting Emily as a guest on your blogs as well. You can check out her Twitter @EmilySteers.