Authors In Our Midst and Writers Chatting

How is October skittering by so quickly? My best efforts to try and do at least twice-monthly writing group posts has slipped away. I will be traveling the next 10+ days, so this will have to be it for this month.

We have another new book release this week. This time from author Vicki Delaney/Eva Gates.  This is the fourth in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane Books:

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Authors In Our Midst and Writers Chatting

In our continuing series featuring Balloon-Juice author’s latest books. Dorothy Winsor has a new book out this week. I’ll let her take it from here.

Stuck in a city far from home, street kid Doniver fakes telling fortunes so he can earn a few coins to feed himself and his friends. Then the divine Powers smile on him when he accidentally delivers a true prediction for the prince.

Concerned about rumors of treason, the prince demands that Doniver use his “magic” to prevent harm from coming to the king, and so Doniver is taken–dragged?–into the castle to be the royal fortune teller.

Now Doniver must decide where the boundaries of honor lie, as he struggles to work convincing magic, fend off whoever is trying to shut him up, and stop an assassin, assuming he can even figure out who the would-be assassin is. All he wants is to survive long enough to go home to the Uplands, but it’s starting to look as if that might be too much to ask.

Here’s the tl:dr version: Street kid Doniver accidentally tells a true fortune for the prince and is taken into the castle to be the royal fortune teller. Good new? Food and a warm bed. Bad news? He can’t tell fortunes.

I’ve said on BJ before that I got the idea for this book from the old TV show “Psych.” If you recall, that’s about a fake psychic who gets involved in solving crimes. Because I write fantasy, it occurred to me I could twist that into a fake magician responsible for stopping an assassination plot.


TaMara suggested I include something about my experience writing this book, so I went back and looked at my files and was shocked to see a complete draft from 2008. Yes, that’s right. Ten years ago. I am so slow. Not to generate words, mind you. I can do that. It’s generating insights into my characters, their situations, and whatever I want to say about the human heart that takes me forever. I am super slow about that. Now the parts of the book I like best are the ones I wrote late in the process. That early draft was competent but flat. I hope this one is at least less so!

I’m happy to talk about the book, publishing, and anything else, even Trump. This is BJ after all.

Oh, hell no on Trump. This is a politics-free thread, unless it is what you are writing about.  I thought we’d try a later time since I had a few requests for that. Let me know if it works for you guys.

So let’s chat. What are you writing these days? How’s your process? Any questions for Dorothy? Hit the comments.

For A Good Time On The Intertubes — Soon!

Hey all,

Just so you know:  I’ll be talking with some very interesting folks at 1 p.m. today on a Facebook Live panel as part of PBS’s Great Read series.

On the panel with me is the Boston Globe‘s Love Letters columnist Meredith Goldstein, novelist and essayist Kaitlyn Greenidge, and essayist and blogger on science and fiction Joelle Renstrom (who also teaches across the river from me at BU).  We’ll be talking about how science fiction, and more broadly, how the representation of science and scientists in fiction across genres affects (or doesn’t) how we grasp and value science in daily life.

I’m very much looking forward to the chance to talk such fun stuff with such fascinating conversants.

In the meantime, my prep for the discussion led me to this 2016 essay by Greenidge, “Who Gets To Write What.”  It bears on what we talk about I think, but even more it offers a rich inquiry into the duty of imagination — of doing the work of empathy and inquiry that goes into creating a fiction that cuts to the bone.  Which is to say, that says something about the world from which fictions derive, and to which their readers return.  Highly recommended.

Anyway, check it out the gabfest if you have a chance.

Image: Vincent van Gogh, The Novel Reader1988

Authors In Our Midst/Writers Chatting Chapter 14

Reading – Mathis Miles Williams

I follow WereBear on Facebook and the other day she posted a note that she was now doing consulting and I thought it would be a good time to ask her to revisit her path to publishing, website and now cat consulting for our Writers Chatting posts.

From WereBear:

Reverend Jim, foundation blog kitty. His rescue started it all!

More on my adventures in self-publishing. This is a vital next step in my plan to extend the reach of my cat advice website, (click here) which started with a book. Which no one wanted to publish. And here we are: don’t need a publisher!

The last time I used Kindle for a book this amazing angle was still new and not yet fully developed. The conventional wisdom at the time was to create novella length PDFs and see how it went. So I wrote a concise cat care/problem solving manual (since some of the worst cat problems are care problems) and racked up some nice reviews and it sold for a while.

Now, eBooks on a site like Amazon are THE ballgame. The younger a person is, the more they expect a book to be available electronically. Amazon has added new wrinkles to its platform to acknowledge this adjusted reality. This led me to some hoop-jumping as I prepared my new book for Pre Sale. Pre Sale lets even a self-published author put the book up to accumulate sales before it is available for purchase or accepts reviews.

Somebody like Stephen King has months long pre-sale periods, because fans will buy it anyway. Someone like me gets two months, and it seems most people are thrilled… but waiting But this is a fine sales tool, because it lets an author promote the work and allows people to purchase it ahead of its release. This really was nice for me, as I wanted to give it one more polish — every writer knows how that goes.

Just don’t indulge too much, folks: there’s penalties for yanking the Pre Sale. It makes Amazon pouty and your ability to do so in future goes on probation. However, this tactic has made me #1 in Cat Training, and I get a little flag on my book page. So there is that.

The book, The Way of Cats, (available here) is the first in a series, and that’s where the new Amazon thing got strict. I had thought I was going to make the Cat 911 manual part of a series, back when I put it on the site. But now all that has been superseded, and the upshot of it all was, I took it off Amazon. Don’t want to confuse potential readers, who now expect actual books when they, yanno, buy books. Important because a series is a very important tool for both fiction and non-fiction. A mystery reader loves getting back to the next adventures of a favorite detective, (which also means we find the body sooner.)

While this works better for some genres than others (romance would not work unless it was a bit niche) a continuing character is usually a winning addition to our fiction ambitions. In fact, my next book will be the first in a cozy mystery series (so-called because they take place in a contained subculture with an amateur sleuth, downplayed sex and violence elements, and lots of psychological intrigue) so the subject is top of my mind lately.

Kindle Series are now difficult to shift on the fly, so be sure you have some thought put into this kind of commitment before getting everything set up in Amazon’s publisher panel. There’s a variety of ways to upload, but Amazon also has decided their default will be the complete document in Word’s latest format. But don’t panic if you are not a Word fan, since Google Docs, Apple Pages, and my beloved Scrivener are word processors who can export into a DOCX file. (The X stands for the Office Open XML standard, so many programs have embraced it.)

The very good news is that it is easy to format things the way you want them, even photographs and charts, and have it look good once it gets Kindled. Then, use that same file and format it to be a traditional book through the Amazon CreateSpace, an on-demand publishing platform that lets people order your book in paperback, too. An author gets a bulk discount for batches of these, perfect for those fun signing parties at the local bookstore… provided you have one these days.

Thanks folks, and remember that I am also available for Cat Consultations (click here) via Facetime, Google Hangouts, or telephone. I’ll be hanging out in the comments if you have any questions about taking this wild and whacky journey.

Thank you, Pam! Okay, back to our writing chat. How are things going for you? Where are you at these days? What’s got you stuck? And what’s going well? Email me if you have something in the pipeline you want to talk about.

Hit the comments and be kind.


Authors In Our Midst/Writers Chatting Chapter 13

Hey there! We have a new published author in our midst, so I thought it would be fun to combine our efforts this morning. Here’s our newest author, Laura Leigh Morris:

In the hills of north central West Virginia, there lives a cast of characters who face all manner of problems. From the people who are incarcerated in West Virginia’s prisons, to a woman who is learning how to lose her sight with grace, to another who sorely regrets selling her land to a fracking company, Jaws of Life portrays the diverse concerns the people of this region face every day—poverty, mental illness, drug abuse, the loss of coal mines, and the rise of new extractive industries that exert their own toll.

While these larger concerns exist on the edges of their realities, these characters must still deal with quotidian difficulties: how to coexist with ex-spouses, how to care for sick family members, and how to live with friends who always seem to have more.

Congratulations! And I believe she’s going to try and stop by if you have any questions or just wants to join our discussion.

Now how about the rest of you. Where are you at in your project? How is it going, what should we talk about today?

I just got my first edit back and am reviewing it. Talk about overwhelming, I wasn’t even sure where to begin. But I’m sifting through, deciding what is additive and what is not.

How do you manage the overwhelm – whether it be the first draft, the first edit, or hitting the publish button – what gets you through it and back into action? 

Okay, let’s chat. Remember, be kind and supportive.


Writers Chatting: Chapter 12

“Memories”  Illustration by Walter Beach Humphrey

Welcome back! I had a request for a writing thread to discuss goal setting and planning. It is actually a good timing for me. My finished novel has been sitting on a shelf for a year while I decided what to do next. Now all of sudden everything is in overdrive, so I have to manage all of that with continuing work on the second book in the trilogy.

I have spent so much  time in the bulk of the first book, I’m stumbling as I set up the second. Jumping back into the prep stage has been hit or miss.

How do you approach your writing? Do you outline everything first and then fill in from there? Do you just write and worry about structure later? Do you write specific chapters, out of order and decide where they go later? Do you write beginning to end – what do you do when you hit a roadblock? How do you manage your characters – do you keep a bible on hand, do you make index cards and hang them all over the room?

And can we talk a bit about social media? Who is doing it for their books and how is it going?

Okay, that should get us off to a good start. As always, it’s just a guideline, discuss what you need to in your process.

Final note: for you romance writers out there, the next RWA conference is in Denver in July. Info here.  If you go, let’s make sure  we schedule a meet-up near you, around that time.

There you go, have at it. And remember to be kind and supportive.

Writers Chatting: Chapter 11

Welcome to the final chapter for 2017.

Let’s start with some additional information from Andrew Durkin, see his original guest post here.  This part of his guest post answers many questions from the last chat. From Andrew:

The most surprising thing I’ve learned since becoming a professional editor is that not all authors believe in the benefit of professional editing. On the surface, that’s understandable, especially in self-publishing—why pay for something when you can get a friend to do it for free? Economic resistance is often compounded by a very human fear of criticism, as well as horror stories about bad editors who have corrupted an author’s artistic or intellectual vision.

But I’m going to start from the premise that professional editing is the sine qua non for anyone serious about being an author—regardless of genre, and regardless of the type of publishing (traditional or self). The real question is how do you get the most out of the process? In my experience, there are three rules of thumb, and they follow below. (Some of these will seem like common sense . . . but you’d be surprised!)

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