Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

I always feel like
somebody's watching me
(And I have no privacy)

I had a couple of things to share this week—an interview with the creator of the #amwriting hashtag was at the top of the list—but something else reared its ugly adobe head, and vaulted to the top of the list.

Nate Hoffeider at The Digital Reader broke the story a little over a week ago. Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) version 4 “[seems] to be sending an awful lot of data to Adobe’s servers.” Most EPUB-based eBook readers on the market use some version of ADE, although I’m not sure whether any are using ADE4 just yet. Older versions are less intrusive.

How intrusive is this? Let me quote Mr. Hoffeider here:
Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text. …

Adobe isn’t just tracking what users are doing in DE4; this app was also scanning my computer, gathering the metadata from all of the ebooks sitting on my hard disk, and uploading that data to Adobe’s servers. …

And just to be clear, this includes not just ebooks I opened in DE4, but also ebooks I store in calibre and every Epub ebook I happen to have sitting on my hard disk.
(emphasis mine)

The Passive Guy, a lawyer who writes on self-publishing issues, has an excellent summary and links, both in the article and from readers in the comments.

Much of the outrage in the tech side of the community focuses on Adobe’s use of plain text. That is a little disturbing, yes—it means anyone who can put a packet sniffer anywhere along the path between you and Adobe can see all this data. But for me, it’s what the people owning the servers are doing that’s more important. Scraping your hard drive for eBooks makes ADE4 spyware, in my opinion.

When pressed for an explanation, Adobe finally said (in the typical corporate lawyer speak of any company caught with their hands in your pockets) that it’s part of their DRM, and they gave themselves permission to do it through their “privacy” policy.

Now I can already hear the Kindle haters shouting “Amazon does it, too!” Well, yes, Amazon does send some information back to the mothership, but there are (as I see it) three important differences:

  1. Amazon is pretty up-front about what their Whispersync feature does, and it gives back by letting you sync your books across devices. Adobe gives you nothing (or maybe they use the info to target advertising at you, who knows?). You can also turn it off at any time.
  2. Whispersync isn’t a DRM mechanism, at least primarily. It works just as well with non-DRM books sold through the Kindle store.
  3. Amazon doesn’t presume to scrape your hard drive, looking for any MOBI or AZW files you might happen to have, just because they feel like it.

To Panic or not to Panic (probably not)

Since I handle all eBook formatting for Green Envy Press, and I work in EPUB format, I’m pretty sensitive to the idea of some corporation scraping my hard drive and looking over works in progress. Fortunately, I don’t use Adobe software in any part of my production toolchain.

But this is the problem: if people with access (legal or otherwise) to Adobe’s servers were to target a publisher’s typesetting department, they could get advance notice of upcoming titles or other intelligence. Or they could target individuals for blackmail purposes. I find it quite likely that Adobe’s legal department will use this info to shake down unfortunates who land in some kind of piracy profile (whether they’re actually pirating eBooks or not)—or sell the info to large publishers, so they can do the shaking down. I also expect Adobe to “share collected information with our third-party partners” (i.e. sell information about your reading habits to anyone who wants to spam you to death).

On the other hand, this affects only a small but growing number of individuals—those who have been suckered into installing ADE4 on their computers. I don’t know whether any eBook readers use ADE4, or will load that Trojan Horse in a near-future update. Obviously, people in the Kindle ecosystem are immune (beyond the Whispersync issues I mentioned earlier). Apple’s iBooks ecosystem is also Adobe-free, or so I’ve read. Earlier versions of ADE are not nearly as intrusive, so you’re safe in that case as well.

Fortunately, and I’ve said this before, eBook DRM is ridiculously easy to disable. Buy your eBooks from any authorized retailer, strip the DRM, and use Calibre or a third-party eReader to read on your computer. Or buy from those of us who make sure the “use DRM” selection is turned off when we publish.

And then, there’s the technical fix: block the IP addresses assigned to Adobe’s servers at your router. Whether you use DSL, cable, or fiber to get your Internet fix, your router has a fairly simple way to set this up. Look for something like “outgoing filters” and add the addresses shown in the image below. Here’s what I’ve added to my DSL router, just in case:

That won’t stop ADE4 from getting all chatty if you take your laptop outside the house, but it’s a start.

If you haven’t tried my eBooks—DRM-free, available for both Kindle and the rest of the world, and priced to move—why not check them out? The Crossover is free, and the rest are cheaper than a large latte. And unlike a latte, you can enjoy them again and again.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 1 comment

Writing Wibbles

I finally updated the progress bar(s) over the weekend. Beyond the Sea of Storms is the working title for the sixth Accidental Sorcerers story, and I have two months to finish the first draft to stay on schedule. I have a vague idea of what I want to do for the seventh book, but I haven’t started anything yet. Oh well, I have a week of vacation next week, too close to the inlaws to be completely relaxing, but I should have a couple days free to write.

Meanwhile, Lost in Nightwalk is off to the beta readers. I have two old and two new folks working on it, and I’m interested to see how it goes. I will soon have Marginalia and The Magic App Store sent off to interested parties. I envision them as the anchor stories in a Termag-based anthology.

Tag! I’m it!

I was tagged by +Philip Overby for the Not-so-Accidental Blog Tourist hop (huh huh, he said “accidental”). You know the drill by now: answer some questions, tag some new victims, will the circle be unbroken by and by…

1. What are you working on now?

There’s that little cluster of progress bars up and to the right, that lists my active projects and how far along I am. ;-) But seriously, the important thing right now is Beyond the Sea of Storms. I’ve also written a couple pieces that will end up in #FridayFlash this week and next. About dang time, it’s been two months since my last flash.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know of too many Fantasy books where the main characters are citizens of a matriarchy (one that isn’t a “yeah we got a queen but the guys run things anyway” variety). It’s lots of fun figuring out all the implications, and sharing them with readers. Culture shock! And the women (or girls) aren’t sitting around waiting for the guys to rescue them. A recent reviewer said “my daughter and I love reading these,” and that put a smile on my face.

3. Why do I write what I do?

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the stories that clamor for attention are the ones that get written. I wrote White Pickups and Pickups and Pestilence because they would not leave me alone (and kept growing) until I finally finished them. In the case of our Accidental Sorcerers, one thing tends to lead to another, and the stories just flow.

There are other things I want to write—some more stories in The Crossover line, some short stories, a new and completely different series—but the stories that sit back and wait their turn aren’t the ones getting any keyboard time.

4. How does my writing process work?

For certain values of “work,” I assume.

I have to grab odd moments to write—lunch time at work, and home after Mason goes to bed, are the two primary blocks of time I have. I don’t write linearly, and I use only the barest sketch of an outline. I keep most of the story line in my head, where I can play with it pretty much anywhere (often while commuting).

When I actually begin writing a story, I start with pivotal scenes, then figure out how the characters get from Point A to Point B to Point C. I’m one of those blasphemous “edit as you go” people, a habit begun I don’t know how long ago, and it works for me. Maybe when I get out the old typewriter to see what stories want letters to physically hit the paper, I’ll change my ways.

After I finish a draft, I let it sit for a month. Then I self-edit and send to beta readers. I apply the feedback, then off to the editor. Finally, format and launch!

OK… who’s next?

Well, +Angela Kulig is a little reluctant, but if y’all raise a clamor, she might be talked into it. Might as well add +Tony Noland and +Loni Flowers to the list too… and if you want to do it, jump right in!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 3 comments

Guest Post: Loni Flowers, “Witness to My Heart”

Since the writing brain just got back from vacation, about a week late, there isn’t much for me to wibble about this week. Fortunately, my friend Loni Flowers has a new romance novel out, and I invited her to talk about it! So take it away, Loni…

• • •

It’s my first time here at FAR Manor, and I must say, it’s an honor!

Larry was extremely nice and invited me to tell you a little about myself and my new book, Witness to My Heart, that just hit cyberspace yesterday. I tell ya, I’m so stinking excited about it, I can hardly stand to be around myself!!

This will be my third published novel, and I have to say that after a year and half of working on it, I’m actually excited to be finished and on to the next project. I’m still shocked I’ve managed to write three full length novels. I was never a reader growing up. I hated English class, too. If I could reverse the hands of time, I would have tried harder, actually gone to the library and picked out a “good” book, and picked a completely different career path. But since that isn’t possible, I’m thankful for a friend who convinced me to read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (before it was popular).

I know, I know.

You’re probably moaning and groaning about that decision, but say what you will… it opened my eyes and had me obsessed with books… any book, no matter what it is, if it has the ability to engage readers… awesome! From that series I moved on to Harry Potter and learned the true meaning of what “sick days” should be used for when you finally make it to the last book in the series! (Shhhhh don’t tell my boss!) As you can guess, the rest is history. Reading sparked a creative side in me I didn’t know I had and before I knew it, I was writing my first novel at the age of 30… while working a 40 hour professional job, managing 2 kids, 2 dogs and a husband. I still can’t believe I did it.

But enough about how I got started… and let’s get you to the details of Witness to My Heart! This book was a challenge for me. Though it’s a contemporary romance, I mixed elements of suspense and mystery into it. It is a different mood than my other books, but it was so fun to challenge myself.

Here, have a peek at the synopsis:
Keep a low profile. That's what Abigale Peterson was supposed to do, especially when the person she was being protected from was one of the world's worst crime lords. After seven years in the Witness Protection Program, she felt no safer now than she did when she was seventeen. Revenge was rarely forgotten when it came to a professional criminal like Zerilli.

Low profiles meant no social life and definitely no love life.

Paranoia and lies became daily habits, going against everything Abigale believed in, but they kept her safe. They kept everyone safe.

Until a house fire puts her out of that safety and into the arms of a stranger. Max Smith is sexy, smart, and has major attitude. He’s the only one who seems to get her. He calms her fears and comforts her from her nightmares. But he also sees right through her lies.

Before Abigale can stop, she’s in too deep; confiding too much and breaking the one rule she promised herself to uphold: Never fall in love.
If you’re intrigued, I have an exclusive link (not released to the public yet) that will let you read the first 3 chapters.

Now if you are truly intrigued, be sure to grab a copy today… and if you’re interested in winning a few things, I have a big giveaway going on over on my website,

Good luck, if you enter.

Thank for taking a moment out of your day to read a little about me and my latest obsession. And Larry, thank you so much for having me over!!

• • •

Aha, now I know why we get along so well: I was another one of those people who hated English classes (although the College English class I took as a senior definitely did not suck), and I avoided literature classes like the plague. I was an avid reader, though, but Fantasy and SF were not on the curriculum in those days. Ah well, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood, right?

Maybe you want to go grab a copy of Lori’s new book, right? Here’s some links that might help with that:


B&N (Nook):


If you want to add it to Goodreads, here’s the book page:

And, you can link up with Lori on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 9 comments

Writing Wibbles

Lots of ground to cover this week, so I’ll get right on it…

• • •

First off, Angela Kulig’s mini-anthology Coffin Nails is free through Wednesday! Go get it.

• • •

Kindle Unlimited… I’m hearing a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a new lending service. Seems like we get this every time Amazon tries something new, huh? (Tip: instead of spending $10/month, go down to your local library and get set up for borrowing eBooks. It’s free and the selection is wider.)

My take: The per-borrow payout has been a over $2 for months, now, slightly more than the royalty on a $3 eBook purchase. Amazon has offered a 30-day free trial, so I expect that August is going to push down that payout quite a bit (my guess: it will be around 50¢) despite Amazon increasing the fund by 66%. For some authors, the increased borrows will more than offset the depressed per-borrow payout. Others will hate it—perhaps enough to yank their books out of Select.

Amazon is walking a tightrope. At current payout levels, an average of four borrows per member per month (about one per week) will nearly wipe out the monthly subscription fee. But if the payout drops too far, authors will pull their most popular books, making the service much less attractive.

I’d recommend taking Green Day’s advice: wake me up when September ends. The free trials will peter out, Amazon will adjust the lending fund, and I expect that things will right themselves by November.

• • •

I’ve been tagged in the Meet my Main Character blog tour by my Twitter bud and co-op partner, Tony Noland!

Here are the rules:

The taggee must write a post answering the same seven questions about their MC (main character). Then the taggee becomes the tagger and chooses five other authors.

Since I have an ongoing series, this is both a WIP and a published work. It has not one MC, but three. I thought it would be more fun to let them answer the questions.

1. What is the name of your main character? Is he a fictional or a historical person?

Sura: What is this “he” about?

Mik: I think this world uses “he” as a generic pronoun, Sura.

Bailar: Mik is right. No offense was meant. Now, let me introduce us. I am Bailar the Blue, once Sorcerer of Exidy, although we haven’t seen home in over a year now. These are my apprentices: Sura sam Bailar, also my daughter, and Mik sim Mikhile, whom I named Mik Dragonrider. Sura and Mik are 14 and 15, respectively, as of our latest adventure. I suppose you would consider us fictional, although we feel quite real to ourselves.

2. When and where is the story set?

Bailar: We have roamed a great deal of Termag, the name of our world, so far. The three of us are citizens of the Stolevan Matriarchy, and we hope to return there some day. We’ve seen great cities, little upriver villages, and the ruins of ancient sites that will soon be resettled.

3. What should we know about him?

Sura: There’s that “him” again, but no matter. As an infant, I was abandoned on my father’s doorstep. It’s unheard of for Matriarchy women to abandon their daughters, but he raised me as his own. I learned of my true parentage in The Sorcerer’s Daughter. Without a mother, I’m legally the head of our household. Still, I defer to Father on certain matters.

Mik: I grew up in Lacota, one of those upriver villages the mentor mentioned. Two winters ago, I awakened an ice dragon when invaders from Westmarch were set to overrun my home. I had no training in sorcery, but the spell was in a child’s rhyme. It drove away the invaders, but I didn’t know I was supposed to dispell it afterwards. So it flew me to Exidy, and I became an apprentice.

Bailar: There is a fairly complete history of my life elsewhere. To that I would add, I have my hands full these days. Not only with all our adventures, but keeping the apprentices focused on their studies. Sura and Mik are good people, and excellent apprentices, but Nature tempts them. The skirmishes we’ve been in have given them a taste for mayhem as well, and that sometimes troubles me.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Sura: Patriarchies.

Mik: The mentor scrying when Sura and I are alone together.

Bailar: You need to whisper more softly, Mik.

Sura: That was second on my list.

Bailar: And that is why I scry. But my apprentices downplay our adventures. Each of the stories to date has a primary conflict, or perhaps a series of them. We have faced rogue mages, pirates on rivers and high seas, lovestruck suitors, and creatures thought extinct. We need not go looking for trouble, it finds us easily enough.

5. What is his personal goal?

Sura: His again. I give up. Let’s go, Mik. Father can finish this.

Bailar: Keeping the apprentices focused on earning their sashes, and keeping them safe. Although, sometimes, they end up rescuing me. Serving the Conclave, seeing new things. You know, I dreamed of adventure when I myself was an apprentice. As painful as it can be at times, I do enjoy this life.

6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?

Bailar: Of course! First, I shall link to the first four stories already published.

Accidental Sorcerers
Water and Chaos
The Sorcerer's Daughter
Into the Icebound

The next story, Lost in Nightwalk, is about our harrowing experience in Koyr, which was supposed to be a safe haven. There will be excerpts soon enough, I believe.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

Bailar: The first draft is complete, and the finished book should be available before the next solstice. Now, let me check on the apprentices before they get into too much mischief…

And… they’re gone. I guess I need to tag the next five victims. A lot of my Twitter friends are already tagged, so I’ll dip into the Google+ pool as well:

Wednesday, July 09, 2014 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

If you haven’t seen the progress bars to the right of this text, check it out. Especially check out that top one, for Lost in Nightwalk. Yup, I wrapped it up Monday night! I wrote a little shell script, with some embedded awk, to generate that set of bars. It reads a text file and spits out the HTML, which I paste into the sidebar.

With that safely marinating for now, I finally get to breathe easy. There was an entire week that I didn’t touch it, but I got unstuck in time for the three-day weekend and made the most of it.

You know what that means, right? On to the next thing! Besides the stories listed in the sidebar, I have a couple others going. I’ll add them once I send Magic App Store and Marginalia to beta readers (at which point, I’ll remove them from the list). Speaking of which, I have two readers lined up for the former, and would like to get one or two more. I need three or four for the latter. Any volunteers? They’re short stores, 18K and 15K respectively, so they won’t take long.

Oh, and I’ve entered the Fantasy Cover Wars round for this month on Masquerade Crew. Follow the link and vote for Into the Icebound and one of the others, and remember to do it every day this month! As you might remember, The Sorcerer’s Daughter did very well in March—won by a commanding margin, in fact—so I’m hoping for a similar outcome this time.

If it’s reviews you’re looking for, it recently got 5 Smiling Frodos on Frodo’s Blog of Randomness!

I owe some people some book reviews, so I ’m off to write those. Until next time…

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 6 comments

Writing Wibbles

When I released the first three Accidental Sorcerers novellas, I had a good start on the next story in the series. That wasn’t the case for Into the Icebound—I only had about 3000 words down for the sequel (working title Lost in Nightwalk). After sending four of these stories into the eBook stores, I now have a pretty good idea how long it takes to get a first draft knocked into shape. If I want to keep my “roughly six months” schedule, I’ll need to have the first draft done by mid-July.

Scrivener is a great tool for this kind of thing. Select “Show Project Targets” in the Project menu, and you get a little window with the basic stuff you need:

Scrivener’s Project Targets

The “Options…” button lets you set the deadline date, and what days of the week you intend to write (I set it to take Sundays off). Clicking on the rightmost number under the top progress bar lets you set the target manuscript size. You can adjust it later if you need. I set a somewhat optimistic target of 40,000 words, as you can see, although I now think 32,000 is going to be closer to the actual word count.

It’s pretty simple, really. Tell it how big, how often, and how soon, and it gives you a daily word count target (the “Session Target”). It has moved around some, as I’d write over 1000 words some nights and not at all on others, but right now it’s pretty close to the 850 words/day target I started with… which means that, averaged out over the last month or so, I’ve stayed pretty much on target.

• • •

Salon Doubles Down

There’s a disturbing trend these days. Some organizations will say or print something that’s rather detached from reality, and people will call them on it. Instead of doing some research, or anything that might lead them to have to say, “dang, we really hosed our credibility running that tripe,” they dig in. In some circles, it’s called doubling down on the stupid.

Enter Salon. Andrew Leonard kicked off the month of June with your basic publishing industry press release stenography (because committing journalism is a misdemeanor or something), called Amazon’s scorched-earch campaign. He threw around inflammatory phrases like “monopoly power,” “heavy-handed tactics,” and (the worst insult of all) comparing Amazon to Walmart. Of course, he provided no evidence that Amazon has a monopoly on anything, nor that what they’re doing is disproportionate, nor that they’re sending thousands of publishing jobs to China.

So indies, from Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath all the way down to me, called them on it, providing counter-arguments with evidence. In some alternate universe, a senior editor at Salon acquired clue, pulled the article, and ran a more balanced piece that used actual data and provided links. In this universe… Salon doubled down on the stupid. This time, it was Laura Miller and Amazon is not your friend: Why self-published authors should side with Hachette. (This disturbing lack of title caps seems to be a thing with Salon. But I suppose if you're not doing actual journalism, it doesn’t matter.)

In this article, the points are:
  • The only people defending Amazon are indies.
  • Many indies are angry with traditional publishers because the authors failed to get in (or are former midlisters who got screwed over and dumped).
  • Self-published authors really, really, really hate traditional publishing (actual quote here).
  • High prices for tradpub eBooks help indies by allowing us to compete on price.
  • A publishing contract is a business deal.
  • Most indie works are dreck, slush pile, etc.
  • Tradpub books are higher quality, and so deserve a higher markup.
  • Amazon might screw us over in some unspecified future.
OK, the fourth and fifth points are good ones. Stopped clocks, blind squirrels, etc. The rest is once again long on flamebait, short on evidence. Now I remember why I quit reading Salon around 2006.

C’mon, tradpub supporters. Is this the best you can do? Really? Regurgitate the same tropes from 2010 and pretend nothing has changed? If anything, traditional publishers have been squeezing their authors even harder since eBooks started booming. With almost zero production costs, eBooks give publishers more profit… and lower royalties to authors. Don’t take my word for it, Lagardère (Hachette’s parent company) put it on their slides in their shareholder presentation. Hugh Howey has them on his blog.

As far as tradpub books being higher quality goes, just saying “50 Shades of Grey” would be too easy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at a book published 50 years ago, and one published now, and see how production quality has deteriorated. Typesetters have been replaced with Microsoft Word. Copyediting isn’t nearly as rigorous as it once was, and your typical tradpub book has plenty of typos and errors to go around. One of the hardcover editions of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books had an entire line missing from the bottom of the first page! If they’d let that get by with Dean Koontz, what chance do midlisters have of getting a quality production run?

Finally, the notion that Amazon might stop giving indies decent terms—when the worst-case the detractors suggest might happen is still a better deal than authors get from traditional publishers—is laughable at best.

If publishers had some regard for authors and readers, beyond squeezing as much money as possible out of each, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 3 comments

“Into the Icebound” — setting sail May 29!

The fourth Accidental Sorcerers book is just about ready to depart!

Sura, Mik, and Bailar set sail for the Northern Reach, with Lord Darin in pursuit. Their journey is anything but smooth, with storms, raiders, and the prince of Westmarch standing in the way. Joining an expedition to the ruins of Isenbund, Bailar disappears in the night. Now, Mik and Sura must help rescue their mentor from a legendary foe thought long extinct.
The book’s about ready (just have to go through the checklist), and OMG just look at the cover…

May 29, folks! Add it on Goodreads, tell your friends, all that good stuff… and re-download the first first two during the first week of June, because I’m going back and re-formatting them to reflect all the stuff I’ve learned since.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8 comments

Guest Post: Icy Sedgwick

We pause in the headlong rush of #AtoZchallenge posts for a guest post. Icy Sedgwick has a new book out, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, featuring… mummies! Icy writes the best mummy stories, and she’s ready to share her thoughts about her favorite monsters…

It sometimes feels like horror monsters have been reduced to vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons and, at a push, ghosts. You just need to look at the classic Universal horrors of the 1930s, or the Hammer cycle of the late 1950s and early 1960s, to realise there any many more monsters to choose from. Personally, my favourite will always be the mummy. Look at Boris Karloff’s charismatic portrayal of Im-Ho-Tep in The Mummy (1932), in which the undead priest was a far more attractive romantic lead than the pathetic ‘hero’. Christopher Lee turned his Kharis into a formidable powerhouse in The Mummy of 1958. Even Arnold Loos’ mummy in The Mummy (1999) was an awesome prospect, simply because he wanted his old love back.

I love mummies for three reasons. Unlike vampires, who are the aristocracy of the horror world, or zombies who are sometimes coded as the working class, mummies are quite classless – not all mummies were royalty, after all. Mummies belong to another world, and another time, and their exoticism adds to their appeal. Furthermore, they don’t necessarily have to suffer the same limitations as other monsters. Aside from cats, Loos’ Imhotep fears nothing, and is all powerful. He isn’t restricted by time of day, or the time of the month. Finally, mummies actually exist. Granted, they’re not rampaging around a city near you, but it’s possible to visit a museum and see one for yourself. The mummy, even in its inert state, represents something more tangible than that of the vampire.

It was my love of mummies that led me to include them in The Necromancer’s Apprentice. I’ve written several flash stories about mummies in the past, and they were part of the story from the very beginning – it was after watching The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to replace the sorcerer with a necromancer, and the brooms with mummies?” They have an interesting relationship with the dead anyway, being inert until life is returned to them, yet they possess an element of consciousness that is denied to the zombie.

The mummies in the novella aren’t necessarily ‘traditional’ – the mummies are those of the royal family, and they’re kept in the House of the Long Dead, where the necromancer general acts as an intermediary should anyone need to consult with them post mortem. They appear in the story because the Crown Prince has decided he wants to include them in his Coronation parade, and so they need to be resurrected for this purpose. The job is such a big one that the necromancer general needs an assistant, and so she hires Jyx, a magickal protégée from the Academy to act as her apprentice. Of course, things don’t go according to plan but if they did it would have been a much shorter book.

I’m never sure exactly when or why mummies became viewed as monstrous, and while they are in The Necromancer’s Apprentice (although not through any fault of their own), I’ll still always have a soft spot for bandaged marauders.

What about you? What are your favourite monsters?


Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and lives and works in Newcastle. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar & Other Stories.

She spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies, considering the use of set design in contemporary horror. Icy had her first book, a pulp Western named The Guns of Retribution, published in 2011, and her horror fantasy, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, was released in March 2014.






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Wednesday, March 05, 2014 2 comments

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Instead of writing wibbles today, I joined a blog hop! +Patricia Lynne invited me, and I’ll talk a little about her (or repeat what she wanted me to say) first:

Patricia Lynne is a Young Adult writer who never thought writing would become so integral to her life. What started out as a fun way to kill time has turned into an obsession with story ideas crowding her brain at inconvenient times. When she's not writing, she's knitting (you don't have to be a granny to knit!) or making jewelry. More morbid obsessions include reading serial killer profilers. Currently, she lives with her hubby in Upper Michigan, loves to dye her hair the colors of the rainbow, and hopes to have what resembles a petting zoo one day.

Process? Me? Well, I actually have a pretty strict process, but it begins after the first draft. Still, let’s see what I can come up with. There are four questions to answer, which helps.

1) What are you working on?

I usually have three or four projects going at once, in different stages of completion. The fourth Accidental Sorcerers story, Into the Icebound, went to beta readers over the weekend. The next one, tentatively called The Halls of Nightwalk, is an incomplete draft.

Then there’s a zombie novella, and a collaboration with +Angela Kulig that we’ll probably get started on next month, and a dozen or so other things I’d like to get started this year. Dayjobs can be so pesky.

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I’m writing Accidental Sorcerers as a series of novellas, 30K to 40K words each. Most fantasy tends to runs 2–3 times that long. But in the end, there will be about eight stories, so the overall word count should be fairly similar to an epic trilogy.

The other distinction is that the dominant race on Termag (their world) is red rather than white, and the main characters are citizens of a matriarchy.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I tend to write whichever story is most insistent to get out. I’ve had characters bouncing around the inside of my head, driving me to distraction until I finally give up and get their stories written.

4) How does your writing process work?

I’m mostly a pantser, but I've lately begun to at least set up a skeleton if not a formal outline before I start writing. But I’m definitely not a linear writer. If I want to motivate myself to get started with a story, I’ll start with a pivotal scene and work my way out from there. I did that quite a bit with White Pickups; I wrote pieces of the story here and there and worried about how to connect them later. It all worked out pretty well.

After I have the first draft done, I pretty much live in a checklist until I fire the Launch Cannon. There’s a lot going on, with lots of different people I have to wrangle, and it’s easy to forget any part of it. Writing, not so much—I keep filling in holes until I have a complete story.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Let me know if you want to participate next week, and I’ll shoot you a pic and bio.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1 comment

Writing Wibbles: Interview with Helen Howell

It is my great pleasure to, once again, have Helen Howell here to talk about her new novella!

Easy one first: tell us a little about Mind Noise. Where did the idea come from?

Mind Noise is about a boy who can hear peoples' thoughts and this tends to alienate him from others. Then one day an old man appears who is able to communicate with him through thought. The old man offers to help him control this gift he has, but the question is, is the old man who he seems to be? And should the boy trust him?

The idea for Mind Noise came from a thought, that led to these questions. What would it be like to hear other people's thoughts? How would one cope with hearing things that perhaps they just didn't want to know? How would you use the information you heard? and how that then affects your life.

I think too, adolescence is a difficult time for either boys or girls to have to cope with, and an extra element like being able to hear other's thoughts, proved to be an interesting subject for me, because one could take it in so many ways. But then I decided to add the old man into the equation and to look at how he had arrived at where he was, and what motivated him. Him befriending the boy was a perfect scenario to build the story on, and adding Catherine into the equation added another interesting element. The boy now has to work out who to trust.

What's the most substantial difference(s) between the (now-defunct) serial version of Mind Noise and the published version?

The story in itself is basically the same, but the rewrite for the published Novella has more background building of the characters and the situations that occur. You get a better feel for the characters and what motivates them into doing what they do. If you like, we get to see the story behind the story.

Once upon a time, you were an exhibitionist (watercolors, not the other kind). Have you ever been tempted to write a story about someone falling into a watercolor and ending up somewhere else?

Funny you should ask that, the simple answer is No. But I have often thought about writing a story about a character in a book becoming obsessed with the writer. ^_^

You have two other books out. Tell us a little about them.

The first book I ever wrote and self published in 2012, was Jumping at Shadows. This is a fantasy fiction for 9 yrs upwards to adults who like mid grade fantasy. It is a story about a girl called Belle who discovers the secret of a family heirloom. When She and her friend Rosy use this heirloom they are propelled into a world of the shadows—the same shadows that have been haunting Belle all her life. Soon Belle realises that the future rests in her hands, and only she can keep the magic of her ancestors from falling into the clutches of a dangerous mad man.

I spent a long time writing this book and re-editing it, it was the first long fantasy fiction I ever wrote and I'm still proud of it. You can get e-books from both Smashwords and Amazon.

My second book, like Mind Noise, was published by Crooked Cat Publishing and is called I Know You Know. It's a story about a tarot reader who sees in the cards of a client that he's a serial killer and the client suspects she knows. Here's the blurb:
The darkest cards in the tarot deck reveal the darkest side of the man sitting opposite Janice—Mr. Edgar Kipp.

She feigns an inability to read for him, but will he believe her?

His parting words indicate that he knows she knows he's a serial killer. And he plans to return. The voice of her dead grandmother urges her to be careful, warning Janice she might be seeing her own future in those foreboding cards. But Janice doesn't want to listen. Gran's dead. How can she possibly help her?
I enjoyed writing this story, as I myself read the tarot cards and I know they can give you insight into certain aspects of peoples lives. I had this notion that to take it one step further, and put the tarot reader in jeopardy from her client because of what she knows, would make for a thrilling story. The story allows you to understand where Janice came from and how she develops her abilities and it also gives you a look into the dark world of Mr. Edgar Kipp.

The book is available from Amazon as a paperback or e-book.

OK, last one: what did you want me to ask that I didn't? What's the answer?

How do I feel about having my work published?

I think the honest answer to this is that I'm happy my work has reached a wider audience. I write because I love to write but if most of us writers are honest, we write to be read too. When someone not only reads what you have written but likes it too, well that's like a box of chocolates being given as a gift. The sheer pleasure of knowing that your work is liked by some is the motivation needed to carry on writing. Because writing is a lonely business and once you release your work into the public, then there are those anxious moments as to whether it will be well received or not.

Thanks for having me over.

My pleasure, Helen! Now let’s let everyone know where to get Mind Noise and your other books, eh?

Links to Mind Noise:



Links to I Know You Know:



Links to Jumping at Shadows:



Wednesday, February 12, 2014 4 comments

Indie Life / Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month. This is the final Indie Life post, as the Indelibles have decided to wind down this monthly meme/theme. (bummer!)

Time to Market

I’d planned to write this last month, but life got in the way.

A few years ago, while I was readying White Pickups for a wider audience, I was trying to decide how to proceed. Should I follow the traditional route, landing an agent who would land me a publisher? Or skip that and take my chances with this newfangled indie publishing thing?

So, taking Kristine Kathryn Rusch's advice to “treat your writing like a business,” I sat down and did a cost-benefit analysis. Best case, I could make millions either way (ha!). Worst case, I’d make a few bucks going indie and nothing at all traditional (if I couldn’t get an agent, etc.). Either way was essentially a wash, except in one aspect. My dayjob is in the high-tech industry, and time to market is a major consideration for any new product. Can we get it out the door before our competitors roll out something similar?

In time to market, going indie was the clear winner. Even if I landed an agent immediately, and that agent got me a publishing contract a week later, it would be another two years before my book hit the shelves. I needed an editor and someone who could design a decent cover; I could format the thing myself. Maybe a year, tops. Then lightning struck: my editor turned out to be sitting next to me in the church choir, and a Photoshop expert offered a special for a cover. Bing-bang-boom, and there was my book, ready to go!

Last year, I released the first three Accidental Sorcerers stories, a pace that traditional publishers would find hard to match. But now they’re trying (New York Times link). Due to the roughly 5 month pace, I think I’ll only finish (i.e. publish) two this year. But I have several other things I’m working on. I published EIGHT books this year, all told—but only because I had a backlog. Now my backlog is clear, and I’ll be hard-pressed to come close to that kind of output this year. I publish when the book’s ready, and they were ready.

But it was in December that the indie advantage of time to market really showed itself. I was looking over some Christmas-themed flash and short stories I’d written over the last few years, and thought “huh, I ought to throw these into a mini-anthology.” Thus was born Christmas Guardians (and Other Stories of the Season).

By this time, I was in the Green Envy Press co-op, and I contacted the cover designer. I had a photo that I thought was suitable (which would save money on a “lark” project). Instead, Angela came up with a cool microphotograph from Wikimedia Commons. I already had a “floral leaf” graphic to mark the end of each story, and I had experience formatting an anthology. We arranged the stories, did a quick edit-through, and I hit Publish.

Concept to product availability: two weeks. Let’s see a traditional publisher top that. My co-op partner is trying to top it, with a Valentine-themed micro-anthology to be written and released in time for VD itself. Fun times!

Now it’s your turn: How do you use your time to market advantage?

Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

With the weekend came February, and with February came time to re-open that first draft of Into the Icebound that had been waiting patiently for my gentle editing touch (and all the things I thought about and had written down in the last month). I found a few problems, mainly with timelines, and a few minor things. I then printed the sucker out, and read it through over lunch and into the evening on Tuesday. And, of course, I found a few more things.

So… ready for the beta readers? Not quite. Someone on G+ linked to a post by Hugh Howey, in which he talks about the three things required for engaging prose. Two of them (vocabulary and a plot that people will care about) seemed self-evident to me, but “an ear for the rhythm of words” stuck out as something new. Or maybe not so much new as “aha!” You see, my partner in co-op +Angela Kulig has it. It comes natural to her, and it sets her work apart. She claims to be a lousy writer, and denies my opinion that she’s a very good storyteller, but her books read like poetry. There’s that rhythm of words, that I instinctively try to not mess up when I edit her books.

Howey has a lot to say about rhythm, but I wanted to quote this part:
Rhythm requires mixing up long sentences and short. It requires repetition, so that key concepts are stressed a second time, that they may lodge in the brain. It often means breaking rules and dropping commas where they don’t belong, signaling to the reader to take a breath, to pause, to relax, to prepare for more to come.
I often abuse punctuation when I’m writing dialog. When my characters are talking, I’ll sprinkle commas, ellipses, and em dashes as I see fit—I use them to set the pace of the dialog, to try to plant the rhythm of the character’s speech in the reader’s head. Editors go nuts when we do that kind of thing, though.

So what-all does this have to do with my self-edit? Easy: I’m going to go through the printed MSS one more time, looking for that rhythm of words. Then… it’s beta time!

Thursday, January 23, 2014 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

The last few days have been fascinating, from the standpoint of an indie writer. First, Melissa Bowersock told us about The Editing Myth, where it turns out that traditionally published works might not get that thorough editing that we’ve all assumed they do. When at least sometimes, the reality is they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions.


But we’re not done!

On the heels of that bombshell, the Passive Guy blog ran a post about how a traditionally-published author blogged her own earnings over three years, then took down the post “for contract disclosure reasons.” The Passive Guy concluded with It’s not an iron-clad rule, but some of the worst contracts from an author’s perspective include some sort of prohibition on the author’s discussion of the contract.

By coincidence, Steve Zacharius (the CEO of Kensington, a second-tier publisher in New York) was engaged in a discussion on a different blog, and one of the commenters pointed him to this post. He joined the discussion, and it’s a most fascinating one. In fact, it triggered a second post, Response to Kensington, that garnered even more comments. What was telling: several commenters asked him, repeatedly, to provide a copy of Kensington’s standard boilerplate contract. He refused by using the standard executive tactic: answering as if the question were different (for example, “we don’t disclose specific details of an author’s contract”), and deflected related questions about average advances. Some authors did weigh in with how much they had been offered, figures from $2500 to $50,000.

Other authors complained about trouble getting rights reversions, or lack of editorial feedback (shades of “The Editing Myth”), and Zacharius did respond forthrightly to those people. Someone suggested a survey, where authors could respond anonymously, and he seemed to really like that idea. I really think he has his heart in the right place, but he can’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that authors no longer really need a traditional publisher—at least, not on the traditional terms. He continuously repeats “eBooks are only 30% of the market,” when those stats don’t include indie sales (which Amazon says are 25% of their eBook sales, and that’s a pretty dang big chunk of sales to ignore).

But the you-know-what got real when he accepted a dialog with Joe Konrath, a major cheerleader for indie publishing. This long but fascinating dialog might not be over just yet, and is definitely worth the time to read.

Some people say that reading the comments section of a blog is the way to madness. Not in this case. It’s eye-opening. Go see if I’m right.

Thursday, December 19, 2013 10 comments

Writing Wibbles: Looking Back

This will be the last Writing Wibbles of 2013, so I think it’s a good time to look back on what-all happened in my personal writing world.

It was a grueling year, production-wise. I started the year with a lot of stories completed or nearly completed, and ended up launching seven titles. That doesn’t count the books I edited or proofread for the co-op. The pace forced me to examine how I did things after the editor sent back those last changes, and I did manage to streamline a lot of the processes. Part of that was making checklists, so I didn’t forget something important.

That was the supply, what about demand?

In a nutshell: I was blessed. I didn’t make nearly enough to quit my day job, let alone rack up sales like Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey, but I did a lot better than others. I haven’t dug up exact numbers for how many books sold (let alone how many of each), but most of the books sold were 99¢ each, giving me a royalty of 35¢ give or take. I have a reasonable handle on income and expenses. Being in a co-op, where we all help each other out, I didn’t have production-related expenses like editing or cover design (but I paid by editing and formatting other books). There were other expenses… so, here’s the round numbers:

Income: $3000

Promotional expenses (giveways): ($150)

Nook HD (for verifying EPUBs): ($180)

So while I didn’t pay off the mortgage or anything (rats), I was able to afford a badly-needed replacement for my ailing Civic, which died about a month after I came home with the Miata. Writing made a difference for me this year, an important difference, both financially and emotionally.

And for that, I’m grateful. With any luck, it will make more of a difference next year. I don’t plan to have such an aggressive release schedule, but maybe I’ll have more time for promotion and for rolling out paperbacks. That’s going to be interesting, especially once I automate the conversion from EPUB to typesetting markup. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 2 comments

Green Tuesday Sale!

Save a tree, buy an eBook: it’s Green Tuesday!

My co-op, Green Envy Press, is running the show. I’m happy to be one of ten authors (not all of whom are in the co-op, mind you) offering twenty Kindle books for 99¢ or (even better) free, today. Go check out the sale page: On Twitter, follow the hashtag #GreenTuesday to join the festivities.

The sale runs until midnight PST (3 a.m. EST, or 0800Z).

Go forth, and load up your Kindle!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 5 comments

Writing Wibbles

Sometimes, when the first, second, and third opinions are unsatisfactory, the fourth opinion is the charm.

I’ve had some trepidation about The Sorcerer’s Daughter, knowing something needed fixing but unable to put my finger on what. Beta readers have been helpful with various details, and it’s definitely better than it was a couple months ago, but something was still nagging me. As I’ve worried about some of my #FridayFlash, and the pieces were well-received in the end, I finally decided it could be just me. I gave it to the editor and crossed my fingers.

Tonight, I heard back from the redoubtable Mrs. Harris. Yes, there are problems, but I have a handle on them now. One of them is that I shoved in one sub-plot too many for a novella-sized work. I can either double the size (30,000 words right now), or replace a sub-plot with some other details. I got my work cut out for me, but now I know what to do.

And I’m wrapping up the first draft of the fourth Accidental Sorcerers story, Into the Icebound. I don’t think there will be many problems with this one; it’s a straightforward action/adventure in a fantasy setting. Can’t go too far wrong there. The first three books have brought them to the point where we can have some real fun…

I’m going to include a quick link here, but it deserves (and will get) its own blog post. My co-op, Green Envy Press, is sponsoring a Green Tuesday Sale! “Save trees, buy 99¢ eBooks!” If you’re an author, you don’t have to be part of the co-op to join in—just hit the sign-up link and add your books to the list. If you’re a reader, be sure to come back on December 3; there will be plenty of selections.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 6 comments

Indie Life / Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month.

The Almighty Checklist

As all indies know, there’s more to publishing than writing the book. Covers, editing, formatting, publicity… it can get overwhelming, especially if you have several projects in various stages.

The good news is, each book needs the same things to happen before you hit that Upload button. At a former workplace, where we produced technical documentation (that’s my day job), we had a similar situation. To track our progress, and make sure nothing important was dropped, we created a “pre-publication checklist.” It was a good reminder of all the little details that had to be addressed before we were ready to say a manual was complete and ready to go to the printer.

When you have several projects going, in various stages, it’s easy to forget a detail. It has really helped me to have a blank “Prepub Checklist” template in +Evernote. When I get finish that first draft, I create a copy of the checklist in the appropriate notebook:

The “master” checklist has the templates tag, so I can find it immediately. After copying, I rename the checklist, tag it with the project name, and start filling in checkboxes as I go:

So now, I can pull up the checklist for any active project, and see what I need to do. In this case, I need to get serious about starting promotional efforts for the upcoming release of my third Accidental Sorcerers story while I’m waiting on the editor to get back to me. ;-)

Now it’s your turn: How do you keep track of your own projects?

Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013 7 comments

Indie Life / Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month.

Muddle in the Middle

Let’s pretend a shiny new writing idea just happens to come by when you don’t have any other pressing projects going on—or maybe you’re just burned out on your current WIP and need to pound on something else for a while. A pivotal scene, perhaps the climax, is just itching to get out of your head and into your computer or notebook.

You start working on this new project, and a couple weeks later it’s taking shape. The beginning looks good, and the ending is awesome! If only that big gap in the middle would magically fill itself in… and now, the real work begins.

This happens to me enough that I have a name for it: the muddle in the middle. If I plotted out the whole thing to start with, I have a series of blank scenes in Scrivener with a title and maybe a paragraph or two describing what's supposed to happen in one or two of them. If I pants it… same hole, different (or no) name.

Usually, logic and time (and persistence) are enough to straighten out the muddle and get a story finished. Logic is a great tool to keep handy—simply ask yourself how does your hero get from Point A to Point B? and remember that very few paths are arrow-straight. It’s not only the journey that’s important, it’s how your hero grows on that journey. There’s a central conflict to win, after all. Even if the hero has what’s needed to begin with, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz (the movie), she still has to learn the how or why.

Time is another helpful tool, especially if you aren’t on a deadline. Sometimes, just closing the project window and walking away is the best thing you can do for a story. Let your subconscious chew on the plot, and sooner or later you’ll know what to do.

Now it’s your turn.
How do you work through that muddle in the middle?

Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!

Monday, September 23, 2013 3 comments

Pigments of My Imagination Blog Tour

All aboard!

When I first ran across Angela Kulig a few years ago, she had posted an excerpt to her novel in progress on her blog. A girl starting art school stumbles across a boy painting swans in a pond. But the water in his painting ripples, and the swans swim and fly. I was captivated by this sample, and figured (given a sufficient amount of justice) Pigments of My Imagination would be a hit.

Time went by. Angela got picked up by Red Iris, rewrote Pigments of My Imagination to suit the darker tone of their titles, split with the publisher, rewrote it back to something closer to the original. She founded a co-op, I was invited to join, and most of the other members fell away, leaving the two of us having each others’ backs. As she puts it, I make the insides look good (editing, formatting), she makes the outsides look good (cover art, marketing). We spend a lot of time IM’ing each other.

But Pigments of My Imagination was still “coming.” It went through yet another rewrite. I’d poke her about it every once in a while. Be careful what you ask for… she got me to edit and format it. I wasn’t the only one waiting for the finished product, and never expected that I would be a major part of it getting finished.

But it’s done. It’s out.

And it delivers. And I get to be the first stop on the blog tour!

Here’s the synopsis:

From the moment Lucia steps into Bayside Art Academy, she is fed a steady stream of lies, but it’s not until she meets William that she begins to question the people she trusts. Unraveling fact from fabrication seems impossible until Lucia finds her first painting, and discovers the dead do not lie—at least not to her.

A dozen lifetimes ago, Lucia started a war. Not a war with armies or guns, but a bloody war nonetheless. The path leading Lucia to the truth is hidden within lovely art that spans the ages. In this life, however, Lucia doesn’t know where to look. Lost, she turns to the one thing she knows with certainty—she is in love with Leo, and has been before.

Of the Green Envy Press titles, this is the first to have both eBook and paperback editions! To celebrate, Angela has a Goodreads giveaway of two paperback editions. Go forth and enter!

There’s also a Rafflecopter—win a Kindle Fire and other cool stuff:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want a better shot at winning the raffle, follow Angela so you can get to the next stop on the tour:
And if you can’t wait, you can grab an eBook (or paperback!) at Amazon, B&N, or Kobo.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 7 comments

Writing Wibbles

A couple weeks ago, I hit one of those “I suck, why do I think I can write” phases that is something all writers go through from time to time. (If you haven’t, hang on. You will.) A couple nice reviews, that popped up on Amazon soon after, put me mostly right.

I got myself the rest of the way right by starting The Lost Years and posting the first episode last week. As part of the angst-fest, I got to thinking about some of the writing things I really enjoyed doing—and that included posting the latest episode of a long-running serial every week over a four-year period (two years each for FAR Future and White Pickups). As long as this blog has run, that’s still half its lifetime, right? I wanted to recapture the magic of those days, when I had no pressure except to remember to queue up the next episode and add it to the Tuesday Serial collector.

One of the things I’ve recaptured, something I haven’t done for nearly a year, is writing at least some of the scenes by hand. This is part of next week’s episode; even if you can read it, much will change before it’s officially Episode 3:

If you can read this…

And who knows… when I get it finished, I’ll probably turn it into an eBook and put it on the market. But there’s a lot of writing to be done before I get to that point. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the weekly posts.


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