Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Lundoff on “Adventures in Marketing: Promoting My First Novel”

Book promotion: the thing most of us love to hate but have to do. What follows is an overview of what I did before and after my first novel was published in May, 2012.

Back in the misty regions of 2011, my publisher (Lethe Press) and I agreed that my first novel, Silver Moon, would be published in 2012. Armed with a copy of Jeff VanderMeer’s BookLife, I started planning. I knew I was going to need all the marketing help I could get and practice makes perfect and all that.

I started out by trying to define my book. I had to understand what I was selling, apart from “my first novel.” Silver Moon is a novel about a menopausal woman who turns into a werewolf. It is also about developing a community and starting a new life. And my protagonist begins to come out as a bi woman over the course of the novel. It is not, however, primarily a romance nor is it erotica. This description helped me identify possible target audiences for the book: older women, werewolf fans, fans of LGBTQ fantasy, general fantasy readers, etc.

Then I moved on to what I had to work with.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jaydium, Chapter 4


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 4

Slatey gray stones lay tumbled around the tunnel entrance, partly blocking it. About fifty feet inside, the passageway widened and curved, then straightened for another twenty or thirty feet and turned again. In the diffuse illumination of the scrubjet=s running lights, the walls alternated between matte and highly reflective gloss. Sometimes the rock surfaces looked as smooth as melted glass, sometimes so rough and jagged that slivers of it could double as knives.

The tunnel twisted into the heart of the mountain for a half mile. Then it divided, one branch leading up and back towards the surface and the other downward at a steep angle.

Eril, watching Kithri maneuver the scrubjet through the tangle of intersections, considered how easily singlo flight could lead to disaster unless the >jet were kept at little better than a crawl. The craft itself was maneuverable enough to fly two or three times their present rate. It was the slowness of their unaided human reflexes that would send them crashing into a curving tunnel wall.

Thinking analytically about the difficulties of tunnel flight was pure evasion, and Eril knew it. Duoflight required teamwork, although during he=d rarely flown secondary. When they=d sorted housekeeping, he=d agreed to let Kithri handle the controls. So why had he fought her like some rookie, too green not to panic the moment they hit the storm? Had this mission robbed him of all common sense?

Instinct. Blind instinct, he told himself. Whenever there=s trouble, you never let anyone else make decisions for you. You live--or die--by your own mistakes.

But was that any way to inspire Kithri=s trust, by trying to take her ship away from her?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Deborah on the multiplicity of sub-genres

Over on Amazing Stories, the "Chain Mail" discussions with Book View Cafe authors tackled this question:

Recently there has been an uptick in the number of “sub-genres” related to the field. Where before there was just “science fiction”, that split into ‘space opera’, ‘hard’ and ‘new wave’ during the late 50s/early 60s, now there’s — science fiction romance, western sf, post-apocalyptic, slipstream, alternate reality — the list goes on. Is it helpful to have all of these sub-categorizations (allowing readers to find what they really want) or detrimental by pigeonholing work and placing impediments between a reader and the discovery of new types of works?

Here's my answer:

I have no idea if this is a good thing or a bad thing, and even if I did, I would most likely be wrong. However, I do have some thoughts on the tendency to make more and smaller sub-sub-sub genres. One pertains to the desire on the part of many readers to find a book that is exactly like the last one they loved in terms of reading experience. This tendency explains why there are so many sequels-ad-nauseum in both film/TV and books.

Years ago, I took over stewardship of the library at my daughter’s elementary school, so I got to watch what books which kids were picking. The big thing back then was Goosebumps. We parent librarians had high hopes for the series, because the titles and covers appealed to boys who were otherwise “reluctant readers.” With glee, we watched the boys check out one after another of these books. I at least had my fingers crossed that at some point, they’d branch out. Mostly, however, they didn’t. They wanted that exact experience, and after reading three or five or twenty books with basically the same plot, they’d get bored and stop reading. As frustrating as this was to witness, I believe that some reading is better than none, and those kids carried with them the memory of first discovering that books can be cool. And picked up another book some day. Maybe Harry Potter.

The other thing about sub-sub (etc.) genres is that so many of them are crossovers. Science fiction mysteries. Westerns with magic. Paranormal Romances. Steampunk vampires. There’s a playfulness in taking elements we love and seeing how many new ways we can combine them. It must drive the marketing people nuts.

This, I think, is a very good thing.

The photograph is by Eva Watson-Schülze (1867-1935), public domain.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jaydium, Chapter 3


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 3

Relieved to still be alive, Kithri signaled shipbrain to begin the disengagement from duoflight. She resolved not to say anything about Eril's brief mutiny. They were still alive, she'd never see him again after today, and perhaps the storm itself had taught him better than to try it again. This wasn't space, where he knew all the dangers and how to deal with them. Yet she couldn't help thinking that in the end, when it mattered, he'd come through better than she expected. With him as a partner, she could duo her way through a black hole.

She knew she was rationalizing, making excuses. If she had any sense she'd turn around and fly back to Port Ludlow right now. But if she did, she=d be throwing away her last real chance to get off Stayman...

It's just one run. I can survive anything for just one run.

With the end of duolinkage, Kithri's vision returned to normal. She slowed the scrubjet to subsonic. To the north, just inside the boundary of the Plain, lay a pile of partially completed permacrete structures, the abandoned first colony site. Fine white dust rose from the disturbed soil where the slow-growing scrub had not yet, after centuries, re-established its dominion. The merest breeze blew it aloft, an eloquent reminder of the fragility of Stayman's ecology and the dismal failure of the first spaceport. The Federation had long since moved its base to the current location, where water was more readily available. It had never tried to revive the first site, a costly and difficult project. There was no reason to, as long as the miners were willing to haul the jaydium across the Plain.

Kithri lifted her eyes to the vast, whitened Manitou range, rising high above a line of brownish dust haze. Peak after purple peak surged skyward, hard-edged against the dark blue horizon. The drifted snow on the summits glimmered in the sunlight.

Behind her, Eril drew a quick, hissing breath. She was still in such rapport with him that she experienced his awe as if it were her own. The pleasure she felt at his mental touch built into a preorgasmic thrill. She caught her breath, her heart pounding in her chest.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Next chapter of Jaydium coming up!

Check back tomorrow for Chapter 3 of Jaydium, my romantic science fiction adventure. You can find scroll back or find links to all the previous chapters under "Read A Story." Here's a teaser:

She held him tightly, fiercely, as if she could press her flesh through the layers of clothing and into his. His mouth on hers felt like velvet and then like steel. He cupped her head with his hands, his fingers stroking the smooth skin behind her ears. She slid her lips over his cheek, down the line of his jaw to the soft hollow of his throat, tasting him, inhaling his scent like perfume.

It's like making love to myself, she thought in amazement. The male self that is my perfect complement.

Kithri drew away, eyes closed as she drew his hands over her breasts. She swayed, almost overcome with the intensity of her feelings, and sank to her knees.

She put one hand to the barren ground for balance. A sharp-edged stone cut deep into her palm, drawing blood. The pain shocked her halfway back to rationality. The pounding in her ears faltered as she stared at the red droplets staining the grit on her hand.

That's my life draining away into the dust. Her stomach twisted into a knot of ice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is This Story Too Big…Or Is The Book Too Small?

Recently, I read two novels that left me chewing over the issue of story size. The two novels were Love On The Run by Katharine Kerr and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Both were absorbing, with characters I cared about and nifty plot twists, ideas to chew on, and interesting locales. In other words, they were respectable novels by competent authors. I enjoyed them, yet each in a different way left me wishing the book had been either longer or shorter.

Love On The Run is the fourth in a series about a paranormal investigator, Nola O'Grady, her sweetheart Ari who is by no means mundane, the various doings of the super-secret agency that employs her, and her family, variously gifted and not always on the right side of the law on this and several other worlds. By the time Love On The Run takes place, we've had a chance to get to know these characters and worlds. The multiplicity of related alternate universes reminded me of some of my favorite early Andre Norton science fiction.

A Discovery of Witches is actually the first volume in a trilogy, but for some reason I did not realize that until I sat down to write this essay. I was thoroughly prepared to enjoy it -- what a delight to begin a story in the research shelves of the Bodleian Library, tracking down and deciphering ancient manuscripts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jaydium, Chapter 2


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 2

"Assist?" came Eril's voice.

The long muscles in his thighs flexed alongside Kithri's arms as he settled the auxiliary foot controls. With an effort, she ignored the sensation. "Take us due east to the hills, then through them along the lowest route."

"Speed?" There was no hint of excitement in his voice.

"Don't get us smashed."

Kithri rested her hands lightly on the controls, sensing the subtle changes as Eril eased into command and increased their speed. He flew with almost arrogant confidence, but he wasn't greedy‑-he'd left a good twenty percent to her discretion.

They reached the first wrinkle of hills at moderate subsonic speed. Eril guided the scrubjet along the narrow gullies where vegetation covered the jagged rock like splotches of green-black ink. At first his handling felt rough-edged, his reactions to the winding canyon jerky. Kithri nudged the stabilizers and tried to keep her muscles loose. He was doing a hell of a lot better than she had on her first try.

She'd been eleven, less than a year on Stayman and still homesick for Albion's flowers. That was before the war, when the Federation still manned the colony and provided services to the jaydium miners and their families. That was when they still had families. Her father sat before her in the pilot's seat, his body a bulwark against this unfamiliar, desolate world.

"All right, Kithryne Sunnai," he said. He was given to using her full name when he wanted her to pay particular attention. Sometimes when a topic was really important to him, he sounded like one of his own geology lectures. Even now, she could remember the rhythm of his words, his voice, his hands covering hers on the scrubjet controls.

"Stayman's your world now, and you've got to learn her like the inside of your own room, learn her mountains, her Cerrano Plain, learn how to chip and run her jaydium. Learn the dangers of her coriolis storms and alkali pits. So you can take care of yourself when--if anything happens to me. This scrubjet will be your friend when there's nobody else you can trust..."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jaydium - next chapter up tomorrow

Hungry for “a wild and woolly journey through time and space,” some really cool aliens, and a touch of romance?

Far in the future, an interplanetary civil conflict has ground to an uneasy halt, leaving its human victims bitter and desperate: Kithri, the daughter of a scientist, abandoned on a desolate mining planet with no hope to use her talents, and Eril, shell-shocked pilot, finding adapting to peace more difficult than he dreamed.

Chapter 2 is scheduled for Friday July 13, 2012. If you're new to reading along, you can find a list of links to previous chapters by clicking, "Read A Story."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jaydium on sale - this week only

For you folks who've been following along and can't wait to see what happens next, I've added an extra enticement to buying the book -- it's on Specials sale at Book View Cafe at $0.99 for one week only.

Do check out our weekly Specials -- you never know what goodies you'll find!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Query Letters Take Practice

"If you don't tell me what your book is about, it's game over,"  says literary agent Janet Reid,in her blog post, "Every query letter must have this one thing."

This seems self-evident, but Janet's blogged about a gazillion different ways writers can get it wrong. Some of that is undoubtedly due to not understanding the function of a query letter. It could also be due to the difficult of changing gears. Harry Turtledove once said that novels teach you what to put into a story, and short stories teach you what to take out. Well, query letters are like short stories all mixed up with novels and then put on diet pills (the kind that make you so jittery, you want to jump out of your skin). Here you've spent all this time developing and deepening and creating interwoven connections and layers of nuance...and then you ask your muse to encapsulate 100,000 words in ONE SENTENCE.

Yep, it's the elevator pitch. Without the snazzy. But with the snazzy. A different kind of snazzy.

Even seasoned writers blanch at the prospect. But look at it this way: in today's publishing market, this is a necessary skill. That's true even if you're self-published - you still need to communicate that nugget of coolness-of-story-experience in very few words. The thing is, we think we can do this just because we can write a novel. It's a different skill. One that we can learn. One that we can practice. (And one that our friends can help us with, by feedback.)

So I remind myself (a) I wasn't born knowing how to do this; (b) having written umpteen novels does not in itself grant me the knowledge of how to do this; (c) just like learning to write said novels, I'm going to make a bunch of mistakes before I get better at it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jaydium, Free Chapter

And now, just to do something different, here's the first chapter of Jaydium for you to enjoy. If you can't wait to find out what happens next, you can download the whole thing from Book View Cafe (And the files will play nicely with your Nook or Kindle, as well as other devices). If not, come on back next week for the next episode...


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 1

Dust, Kithri thought as she shoved her shoulder against the door of The Thirsty Miner Tavern. The pitted duraplast jerked open, sending a drift of gray-brown powder over her boots. My whole life is turning to dust.

Dust was everywhere on the single inhabited continent of the planet Stayman. It clung to the folds of Kithri=s dun-colored overalls and sprinkled her ragged brown curls. Sifting past the shutters or tracked in at the door, it invaded even the corners where shadows lay thick and stale.

The Thirsty Miner gathered its fair share of dust. Other bars catered to in-system traders, the few Federation agents who cared to rub shoulders with locals or the farmers who, when they came into town at all, kept stubbornly to themselves. But this bar, small and far from the center of Port Ludlow, attracted only its regular customers, jaydium miners all.

Look at them, Kithri thought, pausing as the door swung shut behind her. They=re already drinking up every credit they've made on this run.

Old Dowdell and his two tavern buddies, identical in their rumpled miners' overalls and grizzled faces, looked up from their usual places at the centermost table. Kithri turned her back on them and leaned her elbows on the bar. The barkeep set a mug of brew in front of her. 

A few more years, and I'll be just like them.

This was not strictly true. Although Kithri had come to Stayman as a homesick adolescent, she would never be anything but an outsider. One day her clear gray eyes might dull under the faint film that never seemed to leave the other miners= eyes, and her youthful skin might dry up into a mass of crevices like theirs, but she could never change who she was--the daughter of a Federation scientist.

Kithri might not belong to Stayman, but Stayman had left its mark on her. The heavy fabric of her overalls could not hide the long curves of her thighs, or shoulders grown muscular from years of chipping jaydium. She rubbed her nose where it had once been broken and sipped the tepid brew, wishing for the hundredth time that morning there was somewhere else to go, something else to do. She could drag out her outdated astrophysics texts and pretend to study, but what would be the use?

I'm never going to get off this miserable planet! Not to University, not to anywhere!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

AMAZING STORIES Interviews begins...

Check out the restored/reinvented/rejuvenated/reincarnated Amazing Stories online. Among other delights, it features a series of round-table discussions with the members of Book View Cafe.

I had such fun participating in this project. Each of us began the discussion of a different question, so that no one person had to set the tone. And because we're all um, highly opinionated people, there's a delicious diversity of viewpoints, as well as ideas building on one another. Except for the format, which allowed only one response from each participant to each question, the discussion has the flavor of a panel at a convention.

From the website, click on  the cover or here to get started. The first questions are, "Is science fiction definable?" and "Is science fiction dying?" Here's my answer to the second one:

I read this question in three different ways.

One, have we run out of sfnal ideas and writers to turn them into stories?

Two, is it so unprofitable to publish sf that the genre is headed for extinction?
Three, are readers no longer interested in sf? Here is my own very brief answer to the first.

We have not run out of ideas, enthusiasm, or writers. In its history, science fiction received two enormous boosts. The first came at the end of the 19th Century, with the Victorian era explosion of technology and scientific discovery. This was the era that gave us Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, and the next generations of writers. It also continues to generate tales of mechanical genius, romance, and adventure through the current steampunk genre, which hearkens back to the time when technology was understandable by the ordinary person.

The second boost came with the space race of the mid-20th Century and the focus on science education, plus the coupling of astronomy, post World War II pyrotechnics, and old-fashioned derring-do. Then came a period of disenchantment with technology and with science itself; when invention created more problems than it solved, the future no longer looked so shiny. I hope the pendulum has begun to swing the other way now. Although the frenzied pace of manned space exploration has moderated, today’s crop of space telescopes (Hubble, Chandra, Kepler, and others) bring us the universe as we have never before seen it, so I hope there will be no lack of inspiration in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, oceanography, computers… and therefore, no dearth of great science fiction story ideas.

Up next: Is literary fiction better than science fiction? Hope you enjoy the discussion!