Writing plagues and pandemics–and Covid-19

I started out 2020 feeling horribly sick.

No exaggeration. About a week after we got back from Portland in December, a few days after Christmas, I came down with an unusual gut bug that knocked me flat. It was annoying because I was working on this exciting new project that I planned to use as a what-the-hell, let’s see if something happens with tradpub big book. Most of these bugs knock me down for a couple of days, but this one kept me tired out for weeks and affected what I could and couldn’t eat for much longer than usual. My brain was fuzzy. I kept looking up norovirus and shaking my head because it wasn’t a match. But it was also clearly something I’d not had before, because my body wasn’t reacting in its typical manner to the usual gastroenteritis flare. New Year’s Eve featured a binge watch of Good Omens with my husband because I figured I needed something fun and positive to bring in 2020, and I was sick of reading books at that point.

At that point Covid-19 was just a whisper on the horizon. When I went back to working on the big project, I incorporated reading I’ve done for years about pandemics into the world I was building for this new book, then called The Ruby Project. The G9 virus was polio-like in that it often left survivors with serious side effect syndromes. I was thinking about polio when I created the G9, but also some accounts of Ebola survivors as well.

It’s not like thinking about pandemics is a new thing for me. I read The Hot Zone back when it came out; the same for Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague. Then, when my son was showing rabbits in 4H and I was a leader as well as a Fair Small Animals Division superintendent, a new-to-the-US virus popped up in rabbits. Calicivirus, otherwise known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (as well as some other names). While in a different class of hemorrhagic virus from Ebola (Ebola is a filovirus, RHD a calicivirus), the effect was essentially the same. Rapid onset illness and death. But while Ebola in humans is a body-fluid-borne illness, RHD in rabbits is airborne.

And at the time no one really knew how effectively RHD spread or how quickly it could mutate and jump species.

I looked into writing a pandemic novel based on the spread of a RHD-like virus. The insidiousness of RHD isn’t just that it’s airborne, it’s that it is persistent and, unlike Covid-19, soap and water doesn’t get rid of it. Calicivirus is a damnably persistent virus that does transmit via formites (i.e., particles on shoes, surfaces, etc) as well as being airborne. But I rapidly backed away from it because things were just too damn grim. I couldn’t live in that headspace to write.

Nonetheless, I started slipping plague and pandemic elements into the backstories of what I wrote. In my short story Slow Dancing in 3/4 Zombie Time, (available here), the story isn’t so much about zombies as it is about a post-pandemic, post-apocalyptic scenario where a father has to make choices about his family’s survival. If you look closely, the backstory of The Netwalk Sequence series includes plagues caused by war machines and alien artifacts. The backstory of the Goddess’s Honor series postulates that a magical curse created at an Empress’s funeral as part of a leadership battle between siblings ends up causing a virulent world-wide plague that decimates the population of one continent. When the losing sibling flees to that continent, the surviving peoples welcome their presence For Reasons, primarily to fill a political vacuum in one of the hardest-hit peoples. It almost happens again in a later generation when the feud is reawakened.

And then there’s The Martiniere Legacy, formerly known as The Ruby Project. My initial use of the plague/pandemic theme was not at all based on Covid-19, but on that regular reading I’ve done about pandemics. I knew that sooner or later we’d be hit by a Big Nasty, and that would cause hardships. Heck, when I look back to my earliest Netwalk Sequence notes, I was postulating that it would be happening (along with civil disorder) right about….now.

(I do wish I could find the notes I wrote in 1992 where I break things out based on the two possible outcomes of the general election. My vague recall of those projections was rather grim, no matter who got elected. Now I’m regretting that I didn’t find a means to become a more visible pundit, because based on what I was writing in the 90s, my projections ended up playing out in a reasonably accurate manner)

So I had a couple of mysterious plague/pandemic issues hit in the backstory.

And then, when I was close to finishing Inheritance and realizing that I was working on a trilogy, in late February and early March, Covid-19 exploded.

I got sick again, this time with something flu-like.

This time I wasn’t looking for comparisons to norovirus and gastroenteritis in my moments when I felt well enough to look things up online, but between Covid-19 (such as we knew then) and flu. At the time there was a minor mention that perhaps this bug had a gut component. But my late-December/early January illness didn’t fit what we knew then about the spread of Covid-19.

Unlike the earlier bug, this one behaved pretty much like what I would expect from flu. A nasty, godawful flu, but flu nonetheless. Except that it really hit me hard.

I kept writing. As Covid-19 exploded and we went into lockdown, I completed Ascendant. As resistance to lockdown soared and the Black Lives Matter protests happened, I completed Realization.

At this point, I’m in an editing phase with The Martiniere Legacy, all three books. I’ve considered incorporating more references to Covid-19 in the books. Eventually I decided that no, I wasn’t going to do that, for three reasons.

1.) The setting is 2055. We still don’t know what an accurate reflection of the impact of Covid-19 will be several years out on peoples’ behavior, but going by the responses to the 1918 flu and polio, there may not be much in the way of behavioral changes. Economic and political–oh hell yes, this is a major disruptor.

2.) I have to go back and create different mindsets for behavioral impacts related to disease transmission. To do it right means some pretty intensive rewrites, and writing projections. No. I’d much rather write that from scratch.

3.) I’m not a writer who does well trying to chase current trends in long form writing, and I’m hit or miss in short form. Some people are very good at coming up with these topical ideas quickly for both long form and short form work. I need more time to process the impact of these trends. Part of this is just due to the way I think when extrapolating from current events. I need time to read, think, scribble notes, and then start shaping characters and stories. If anthology calls appear that match something I’m already processing, I can jump on a trend in short form. More often than not, though, I just can’t do it. The work is superficial (to my reading), and I don’t work well that way.

My near-future science fiction work after this will include Covid-19 behavioral and societal impacts, because then I’ll be building stuff from the ground up and I can see trends better. But outside of a very few points in The Martiniere Legacy, Covid-19 is not the bad bug du jour. The unnamed flu that triggers Gabe’s panicked separation and divorce from Ruby–yes. The G9 that cripples Gabe–yes. And my two bugs that I experienced during the writing of the Legacy are mildly reflected in the work.

More than that–no. Not this go-round.

The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/JoyceReynolds-Ward for release dates.

Comments Off on Writing plagues and pandemics–and Covid-19

Filed under The Martiniere Legacy

A choice to write older characters…Gabe and Ruby in THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

One thing I decided to do with The Martiniere Legacy was to make my main protagonists, Ruby Barkley and Gabriel Martiniere Ramirez, specifically in their 50s/60s. In part this was due to the nature of the story. Ruby and Gabe needed to have an extensive past history that impacts their choices throughout the trilogy. Both Gabe and Ruby have reasons to win the Superhero that are tied to years of debt and struggle, and the hope that finally they can not only pay off their bills but also use that cash to launch projects that have been years in development. We don’t see much of Gabe’s Moondance Microbial projects because he eventually gets wrapped up in Martiniere family issues, but we do see a lot of Ruby’s RubyBot, a biobot that not only monitors field conditions down to nearly the plant level and reports back regularly, but can perform limited pest/weed control and water stress management in different forms (some of this is also due to author limitations because I can wrap my head around biobot development much more easily than the rapidly changing field of microbials–thanks in part to research for The Netwalk Sequence).

On a different level, another reason to write older protagonists was to hearken back to what was becoming an ongoing theme through the books–how people grow, change, and reunite. I doubt that I’ll write much in the way of side stories about Ruby and Gabe’s early years together, especially since that would require a deeper consideration of how Covid-19 eventually plays out in society. There’s just too much in flux (and I’ll write about my choices with regard to Covid-19 in another post). Another reason is that we see enough of that era through Ruby’s memories and the times that she and Gabe talk about the past while trying to figure out their future, and how they’ve been unknowingly manipulated by their enemies. Gabe and Ruby have to make conscious choices about how their past ways of handling relationship issues created problems, and how to fix them. We end up seeing a lot of this self-examination in Ascendant, where they actively start building a future together. To succeed they both have to reinvent not only themselves but a relationship that was abruptly terminated twenty-one years earlier.

I’ll admit representation plays a small piece in my choice. Ruby as the POV is the voice of a 50-something woman who has successes and failures in her life but who has not been defined by her relationship with a man for many years. We don’t see enough of that sort of thing except in (sorry for fans of these sort of stories) mundane literary works where an older woman, usually a recently divorced housewife, is struggling with issues in everyday life and her conflicts never rise above “how do I pay my bills?” “How can I fall in love after being dumped for a younger woman?” Why can’t an older woman be working with tech stakes, threats, AND personal issues? Why not an older woman with agency, determination, and a history of doing what is needed? After all, the personal issues do add an additional layer of conflict to the external stakes for Ruby and Gabe. And I do admit a certain degree of annoyance at stories that sideline older women to cottages and gardens and playing grandma, nothing more.

But another piece is that age also brings with it some tangible personal limitations. Gabe starts out the story crippled by a post-G9 virus syndrome. He wrestles with medication issues (and I probably understated those). Ruby is in better condition, but she has fatigue, aches, and pains. Neither have the strength to do what they could have done twenty-one years earlier. And that adds an additional layer of complication, especially in a profession that is as physically demanding as ranching and farming. The clock is ticking on both of them, even more than it would be for younger protagonists.

I’m hoping that readers like this perspective. But we shall see.

The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/JoyceReynolds-Ward for release dates.

Comments Off on A choice to write older characters…Gabe and Ruby in THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Filed under The Martiniere Legacy

No more short stories

In a lot of ways, this is a hard post to write. I’ve sold plenty of short stories. Earned placements in competitions including Writers of the Future (SemiFinalist, Honorable Mention x 2).

But I’m done with submitting unsolicited short stories to markets. Period. It is no longer worth the misery and the time it takes away from writing books.

I’m not writing this as a disgusted or frustrated amateur. I’ve been writing and selling short fiction off and on since 2008, plus a short stint of submitting shorts in the 90s before life complications pulled me away from writing fiction for a while. I know William Shunn’s submission format backwards and forwards. I have Ralan and the Submission Grinder bookmarked. I’ve had things published in anthologies, including ones that have placed in competition. I actually have a sale to a SFWA-qualifying market (and a couple of those anthologies paid SFWA rates).

What I haven’t done has been obsessively turning out short work and putting the effort in that is required to make the sales in this era. Look. At one time I had twenty stories out at a time for submission. Most of them have sold. For a while there I was trying to build up that number while writing novels, but then the short stories kind of fell by the wayside and I started focusing on novels and self-publishing, which means…writing a lot of novels and building a backlist. In the last year I’ve completed five novels in rough draft (two now published, the next three this fall as part of a quick-release trilogy). With that sort of focus my short story production and tracking kind of died. But now that the trilogy is progressing through edits, I have time to look around. I had thought about working on some shorts that I’d made notes for future composition.

And then I opened up my submissions record spreadsheet. The sense of dread that clutched my gut almost made me cry. Still, I carefully noted the stories I had recorded as out for submission, then searched through my email to see if I could account for all of them. Here’s what I found:

8 stories total

4 stories clearly rejected (2 within 48 hours with the good rejections…ie, not a fit but we like your work, please send more. Longer sub periods were similar. That’s my standard rejection these days)

2 stories at markets that died

2 stories that appeared to have fallen through cracks somewhere in the submission process (and yes, I had sub confirmation emails, one had been requested for a further hold)

I almost burst into tears at the thought of the several hours of work ahead. Clicking through open markets at Ralan and the Submission Grinder. Winnowing out the weird formatting requirements, the cut and paste in email only markets, the “if you don’t hear from us you’re rejected” markets, the weird subscription processes for submitting to some markets. And then the speedy rejects anywhere within 24-48 hours. If I were truly dedicated to writing short stories, I’d be writing and updating my submissions weekly. Write a new short story every week. Rejects back out within a week. That’s the sort of grind that short fiction success requires…and the markets are narrowing. Additionally, I have this suspicion that part of short fiction success may be visibility on social media, especially on Twitter. Networking through workshops. I’m not connected very well these days, certainly not as well as I was back when I was selling more short fiction. Plus I’m cis-het, white, female, and over sixty. Not exactly the burning demographic for a lot of short fiction markets.

Did I really need to keep flogging this dead horse of short fiction writing for traditional markets?

After all, I’ve republished some of my short stories as ebooks and chapbooks to sell at bazaars and in-person events as loss leaders. I’ve self-published short stories that are outtakes of events in my two series, The Netwalk Sequence and Goddess’s Honor. They do sell.

I looked back at those statistics. Half clearly rejected but with the sort of positive rejects that writers keep getting told “that means you’re getting close! Keep it up!”

Yeah. Tell that to someone else. Been doing this for a while.

But it’s the other four that pushed me over the edge. The dying markets. The work involved with submissions falling through the cracks. And then contemplating the work that needs to be done to send out the six whose fates I know. And at that point I just said enough. I’ve had it. Had it with quirky formatting requirements. Had it with weird submission portals. Hell, some of those portals make Kindle look simple. Had it with digging through market listings where when you click through, you can’t back away fast enough because of political considerations (some of these stories are horror and hoo boy, there’s some weird and toxic stuff out there).

I. Have. Just. Plain. Had. It.

So I’m dropping out of the commercial short fiction market. I’m going to make covers for my remaining stories as I have time, and they’re going up for sale. If and when I ever do in-person events again, I’ll make more chapbooks, or perhaps offer a chapbook collection through an online store or something. But now it’s goodbye to that damn submission sheet. Goodbye to formatting games. Goodbye to bizarre submission portals. Goodbye to trying to trace stories that fell through the cracks.

Nobody’s gonna miss me in that market anyway. But I can and will sell a few stories in ebook and chapbook, and they’ll get read. I know that one for sure.

Comments Off on No more short stories

Filed under writing thoughts

Lessons from writing a trilogy all at once–THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Once I realized that the basic story of The Ruby Project had expanded into a trilogy arc, I decided that instead of writing one book, then releasing, etc etc over the course of a year or two, that I would just sit down and write all three books sequentially. One reason for doing this was utter frustration, based on my previous experience with writing series (The Netwalk Sequence, Goddess’s Honor).

When I wrote Choices of Honor and Judgment of Honor, I found myself needing to go back to previous books to maintain continuity in the Goddess’s Honor series (we won’t talk about the continuity messes in The Netwalk Sequence, which I plan to go back and fix in the ten-year-reissue in 2021). Yes, I’d been writing side stories to fill out the backstory of the series, but there were the niggling little details and things I would have done differently based on what I knew about the main characters by the end of Judgment. At that time, I swore that I would either have the full arc of the series in mind and create detailed bibles and synopses to make the damned thing work over the course of several years, or else I would write them all first and then release them. The Ruby Project-now-The Martiniere Legacy appeared to be the sort of series where writing them all first, then release, would be effective. I had several reasons for doing this.

First, I had a strong conception of the overall series arc as well as the individual book arcs. I knew where I was going to end up, and that goal became clear toward the end of Inheritance. The stories divide neatly into parts of Gabe and Ruby’s story in their progression toward that goal–and it is both their stories, from Ruby’s point of view. Both Ruby and Gabe grow and change within each book, as they meet each challenge thrown at them while focusing on the overall goal. This series was particularly easy in that respect. I don’t know if that reflects experience on my part or the nature of the story. Legacy does fall into nice, rational divisions. It might have been a more difficult endeavor to do this with the Netwalk books, but then again, that was my first series and I was still figuring things out.

Second, the overall word count of The Martiniere Legacy is around 280,000 words, similar to that of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I read Steinbeck’s Working Days (his diary of writing Grapes) while writing Ascendant, and noticed significant process similarities, particularly in daily word count and the concern about pacing myself too quickly toward the end. 280,000 words is doable in six months, which fits my typical drafting pace.

Third, instead of poring over 3-4 books while writing the last one, I could simply refer back to what I had written in the previous two. While writing Ascendant, I had Inheritance up on my desktop screen while composing on my laptop. While writing Realization, I had both books up on the desktop. This was a huge change from my previous process. Not only could I refer back to what I’d written in a previous book, but if I needed to change something to fit the turns that the other books took (I had waaaay too many consecutive conspiracies at one point and needed to prune them back as some were stronger in the end than others), I could tweak it. I didn’t realize how big a deal this could be until I was actually going through the process of laying down breadcrumbs to hint at future developments. While I tried to write each book so that it could be read alone, I really needed to have those links to get it done at the end.

There were other bits and pieces that came along with this process. I planned book and series arcs for each character, though some drastically changed (Justine, for one). There were still pieces that didn’t get explicitly fleshed out (Justine as the Rescue Angel, though there’s a lot of hints). I had a 5″ x 8″ notepad where I made a lot of these notes and I liked that process so well that I think I may buy a replacement pad when it’s gone. Not just the size but the weight of the paper as opposed to legal pads really was noticeable. A little thing, but it can make a difference when organizing and shuffling papers while working.

It also didn’t hurt that I was in Covid-19 lockdown while writing the Legacy. There have been days when I wanted to escape from this world into that of the Legacy. Even with all its problems it just was a cheerier place to be.

Will I do this again? Probably. Not so much with the next book–the probable sequel to Klone’s Stronghold, which will be Stronghold Defender. At this time I don’t know if I’ll have a followup book to Defender, or if Klone turns out to be a prequel for another trilogy. Still thinking about that. I need to rough out what Defender is going to look like. One drawback with this process, for me at least, is that I end up not being able to do a lot of other writing. Again, I don’t know if it’s reflective of circumstances in the world around me or if it is a comment on the nature of the Legacy.

I do plan to write another book in the world of the Legacy, however. It’s going to be short and probably stylistically different, perhaps nothing more than a novella. But a character that comes on board late in Realization has a story to tell, so I’m going to try to write it. I’m also going to be writing and releasing little sketches tied to pieces of the Legacy as well. We’ll see how it goes.

The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/JoyceReynolds-Ward for release dates.

Comments Off on Lessons from writing a trilogy all at once–THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Filed under The Martiniere Legacy

So I did a thing…THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Once upon a time little Joycie-poo thought she was going to write a Big Book. It was going to include future agricultural technology, horses, a feuding couple, a game show that provided funding for agricultural technology, more horses, and whatever else it was going to take to make it a Big Book. I was going to call it The Ruby Project. And if the one publisher I pitched it to based on a concept and a quick sketch decided to take a pass after I finished and submitted it, well then, I bought a membership to the World Fantasy Convention, with plans to pitch it there.

This was pre-Covid 19, of course.

Things change. First, The Ruby Project became a trilogy once it became clear that Covid was going to play havoc with my plans for WFC. One of my characters, the slimeball ex-husband, stood up and said “I wasn’t like that and I had my reasons for acting like I did.” As I dug further into Gabe’s motives, the story blew up. All righty then. It became The Ruby Project Book One: Origins, The Ruby Project Book Two: Ascendant, and The Ruby Project Book Three: Realization. Partway through  Ascendant, I started feeling uneasy about the titles. The overall trilogy arc covered more than just the RubyBot, the source of the name. And Origins really wasn’t about the origins of the trilogy arc.

I kept on writing. Toward the end of Realization, I realized that a.) The Martiniere Legacy summed up the trilogy arc much more effectively, and b.) I absolutely hated the title Origins. It didn’t hurt that I had named a reoccurring horse character Legacy and realized that hey, that resonates in a lot of ways with what I’m writing. So the overall series title was fixed, but what about that damned first book? I noodled around, but it wasn’t until the last few days of drafting Realization that I finally discovered the title for Book One. Inheritance.

Oh yeah. Inheritance summed it all up.

Well, I wrote the last words of Realization today. Tomorrow I’ll do the final edit pass. And then it’s off to edit Inheritance for both continuity and revision purposes before sending it off to edits.

One reason I sat down and wrote the entire trilogy over a period of six months was that I had promised myself at the end of Judgment of Honor that I would never, ever, ever write a series without either a.) creating the whole world and continuity for the entire series in advance or b.) writing it all at once and then editing. Goddess’s Honor was my second series, and I kinda blundered into it without thinking much about continuity. By the time I was done with it I was tired of paging back through the entire volume of work to make sure everything made sense.

It was…an interesting experience made increasingly weird by the first six months of 202o. There have been days when I looked at what I wrote in despair because Real Life was becoming even more weirder than what I was writing.

I plan to write a few blogs about this process because, well, I learned more than a few lessons from it.

But not tonight.

And oh yeah. I now have covers. So here they are:

Comments Off on So I did a thing…THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Filed under The Martiniere Legacy

Thoughts on a life with horses

(Mocha in one of her occasional hitching rail test moods)

Some mindful Facebook posts this morning about horses, turnout, and training made me think about my horse life and just how I’ve learned and grown as a horsewoman. One thing in common with teaching and horse life is that the learning never stops. Even if you own the same horse over fifteen years (Mocha and I hit our fifteenth year together in August), you still learn more and more about how that horse works and thinks as the years go by. Especially if you do what I did with Mocha, and put the horse through a dramatic change in management in an attempt to break an injury/illness cycle (from 24/7 stall life in a wet climate to 24/7 pasture life in a herd in a dry climate). I went into her current circumstances well aware that it might not work, and if it didn’t…well, I don’t think she would have lasted more than another year or two of life in a stall. But pasture life agrees with her, even though she is horribly needy and forms tight bonds with pasture companions. She will leave her friends easily, but frets if they are taken away from her. She’s healthy and is in good condition, and we could conceivably have another five to eight active years together if managed correctly. The me of fifty-some years ago would be boggled by the thought of what I’m now doing with a 20-year-old mare. And that is a reflection of how things have changed in that period for horse management.

I’ve never particularly thought that doing everything like I did when I was a kid with horses was particularly a good idea. For one thing, horse management these days, even with rough pasture boarding, is entirely different from what I grew up with. Regular dental work, corrective farriery, deworming products, fly management products are very different from what I had access to in the late 60s-early 70s (not so much vaccination protocols. The biggest changes in vax from then have been the addition of rabies and West Nile to the vax regime. I was an early adopter of the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis vaccine when it first came out, in addition to the Eastern and Western variants as well as tetanus. Can’t remember if rhinovirus was also part of the mix then–but the point is, vax was something we just plain did and isn’t that different from today). The closest I came to corrective farriery was putting front shoes on a foundered horse to support her feet, and noticing that hey–the stumbling horse stopped stumbling (I suspect that she may have foundered after foaling before we bought her, therefore the stumbling. She grass foundered one spring with me years later and needed careful management after that). Dental work wasn’t in the cards, and deworming product (unless the vet came out and tubed the horse) was a powder added to grain that the Sparkle mare would manage to separate out and leave in a nice neat little pile in the middle of her grain box instead of a paste syringe. Horses were also considered old by their mid-teens in those days, especially for a non-showing, backyard owner. Grass founder was poorly understood in my area, and I dealt with it in a pony and a horse.

On the other hand, there were certain tips and tricks I learned then that I still use. Showmanship practice as a means to get the horse’s focus on me (shades of “playing horse show” with the green Shetland yearling under the supervision of my first horse mentor, plus learning that hey. The old Sparkle bitch mare started listening better to me when I practiced Showmanship with her in 4H). Ground driving/long-line work to condition and school without a rider at all three gaits in something other than a lunging circle. The use of the lunge as a schooling technique, not letting the horse careen wildly as a means to blow off energy. A habit of establishing a personal space bubble and enforcing it when working with horses in the stall or the field. How to assess a horse’s reliability to be ridden on a road, and how to safely train a reliable horse to be calm around cars and other vehicles. Asking a horse to respond to lighter and lighter cues while working in serpentines and circles. The well-trained muscle memory of how to stick on a horse blowing up under you, and the confidence to deal with challenging situations including knowing when and how to bail out safely. I’m an old, reasonably bold rider, but I have a lot of kid falls in my history that contributed to knowing my limits…mostly, in my sixties. But as I’ve discovered, I’m bolder than a lot of amateurs my age (well, excepting those who compete in jumping or eventing, but I don’t do those things).

All of these were sharpened by later experience with a well-regarded trainer, but the foundation was laid almost fifty years ago. 18 years with a professional supervising me who would also sit down and talk about training, showing, breeding, and the state of the horse industry put a polish on my understanding of work with horses. Those eighteen years with Gregg Shrake really challenged me, made me think about my process, and built on my early experiences. Before I bought Mocha, I spent a lot of time being one of the ammys who provided a reality check on a training horse’s progress as part of my lessons. I never was the first one up on a greenie, but several times I got in one of said greenie’s first 10 rides. I learned more about the nuances of show horse world, and played with it a little bit. Now I’m at a place where I’m learning about more sophisticated pasture and herd management techniques, as well as rodeo horse training and expectations, and mindful management of a small breeding operation focused on producing good-minded, good-tempered horses.

What I keep on learning with horses is that learning is always happening. And that even old horses and old women can learn how to do new things. My relationship with Mocha is not at all like the one I had with Sparkle–while with both mares we came to a position of mutual trust, Mocha is more standoffish and when we are done with working and attention, she is Done With People, while Sparkle was much more social. I’ve achieved more with Mocha than I ever did or could with Sparkle. Breeding and training counts, and Mocha has both. But both mares have taught me a lot, and the lessons are still coming.

Mocha makes sure of that.

 

 

Comments Off on Thoughts on a life with horses

Filed under Horse life

A little taste of THE RUBY PROJECT

I’ve finished The Ruby Project Book Two: Ascendant, and am brainstorming the next book in the series, Realization, which I expect to get started on this week. I already have a rough concept of the plot but am still working out the motivations of a character who just marched into the last part of Ascendant and announced that she has Major Information About The Plot. This is a little drabble around the opening of Realization which will not be in the book (it’s all from Ruby’s POV). Nonetheless, I realized very quickly that Donna Martiniere (aka Donna-gran, the dowager Martiniere matriarch) has an important role to play…so here she is.

THE CHOICES OF DONNA MARTINIERE

It’s a brilliant blue early autumn day with a cool wind blowing dry leaves across the vast expanse of lawn around the colonial-style house behind the tall iron fence with razor wire top and regular armed security patrols pacing the perimeter. Not that the old woman sitting in a wheelchair in her ground floor office pays any attention to the outdoors. She taps a stylus against her porcelain-coated teeth as she scans the comp projections in front of her. Occasionally she pulls up the loose-fitting and slippery old green and gold silk robe she wears over her blouse and slacks for additional warmth against a stubborn draft. It slides down her arms almost as quickly as she pulls it up, but it’s one of Louis’s last gifts.

At last Donna Martiniere shuts down the comp and spins her wheelchair to stare outside, though that is not where her thoughts are.

I am so, so old. She sighs with exasperation. And this news doesn’t make her feel any younger. She closes her eyes for a moment, exhaling deeply. For a moment this past summer she had hoped to be able to finally lay down her burden and rest. Her grandson Gabriel had reappeared from almost thirty-five years of exile, still desiring to repair the corruption within the family and its associated businesses. More than that, his wife Ruby was the sort of strong woman needed to pick up the threads of family responsibilities that Donna had managed for oh so many years. Her voice fit the tuning of mind control devices that Donna and Louis had created only to see their children abuse their purposes. Ruby—and Gabriel—had been Donna’s hope to steer the Martiniere Group away from the wrong paths that Louis and Donna’s sons Saul and Philip had chosen.

Granted, Gabriel showed a tendency to attack and then run rather than finish the job. Her fault. It was how he had survived Philip’s rages. She should have been the one to take in the boy when his family had been killed in a plane crash. But Donna hadn’t felt sufficiently confident to raise a difficult teenaged boy given her health issues at the time.

My mistake. My very, very great mistake.

If Gabriel had known thirty-five years ago that she shared his distaste for the human trafficking and manipulation of indentured workers that Philip was involved with, would he have gone into hiding?

We will never know.

And past poor choices couldn’t be changed. For better or worse, she had thrown her support quite publically to Gabriel just four weeks ago. Yes, the outbreak of the G9 virus left him disabled. But his reunion with Ruby gave Donna hope that Gabriel could stand up to Philip, with her substantial support. That Gabriel, Ruby, and their son Brandon could wrest the leadership of the family and their business from Philip’s grasp.

Gabriel’s first tangle with Philip and his cousin Javier ended in disaster. Infected with a G9 accelerant worse than his initial attack. Gambling on a fringe treatment that would restore him to full pre-G9 ability. Her reports tell her that his recovery progresses nicely. But she knows the price of that treatment. Risky. Dangerous. And when it fades….

Then a booster inoculation to protect Ruby against Gabriel’s future G9 flares backfired, leaving her sick in return, her degree of disability still unknown.

Which now presents Donna with the choices ahead of her. Gabriel and Ruby have set the chain of events into action that could achieve her goal at long last.

But do they have the health and strength to actually do it now?

Donna sighs. Turns back to her desk and unlocks a drawer. Pulls out a stiff leather case that looks like a hunter’s belt bullet carrier. Taps a combination into the lock before opening the flap to study the contents.

Instead of bullets, three vials nestled in the red velvet-lined case. Three remaining doses of the twenty left after Louis’s death. Donna has kept her husband’s secret safe, only sharing it with his brother Arthur when Arthur’s wife Nora fell ill. The serum works—somewhat—for Artie, but does nothing to help Nora any more.

Philip would kill her if he knew the vials existed. Pursuit of an anti-aging serum is but one of his goals. She has done her best over the years to keep the information from him.

The serum is far from perfect. It does not work consistently. The effects only last for five years. It can kill over time. There is a maximum tolerance and a final dose that allows for one last quick return to relative youth in her case, before a steep final decline. The lesson of Nora.

Her next dose will be her final one. Donna has held out resorting to this for many years, especially after experiencing the heart attack that may have been caused by a serum dose wearing off. Philip watches her too closely and she has not been ready to challenge him yet. For her to suddenly appear years younger, even middle-aged, will let him know that the secret was real.

And it is flawed. Dangerous. Expensive. Louis was right to keep it a secret, eliminating all traces of that particular line of research as anything other than dead ends. It hadn’t even been a good beauty treatment.

But it might give Gabriel and Ruby the strength they need to confront Philip successfully. Donna has reviewed all of Louis’s notes as well as everything available about cases like Ruby and Gabriel’s. She’s mostly confident that it will work.

Donna stares at the vials. At last she closes and secures the carrier, carefully placing it on her desk. She turns back and reactivates her comp. Hesitates before calling Justine, Philip’s daughter. How safe is the girl? She has joined Gabriel and Ruby’s side. Is providing logistical support for their work.

But she’s Philip’s daughter. How closely monitored is she?

At last Donna decides. Activates the screen.

“Donna-gran!” Justine smiles at her. “A pleasure to see you. But I’m kind of in the middle of things here—“

“I need one small favor from you,” Donna says. “I need to see Gabriel and Ruby. In person. At their private ranch.”

Caution tightens Justine’s face. “They would probably prefer to meet at Moondance. That is where Gabie prefers to do family business for—reasons.”

Moondance. Gabriel’s ranch, just as the Double R is Ruby’s. A beautiful location, but despite its excellent security, not the place where she wants to do this. No. The Double R, home of Ruby and Gabriel’s best laboratories, is where she needs to be. Where they produce top agricultural biobots. Private, isolated, and secure, in remote Northeastern Oregon’s Skene County. And, coincidentally, with access to excellent human cell studies. There she can safely monitor Gabriel and Ruby’s progress.

“It has to be the Double R,” Donna insists. “I have my own reasons.” Even though she’s handed over the authority of the Martiniere matriarch to Ruby, she still is able to project her own authoritative tones to compel Justine.

Justine chews her lip, worried, clearly torn between loyalties. At last older programming overrules newer programming.

“I’ll set it up, Donna-gran.” She scowls at Donna. “But I know damn good and well that you just used a compulsion on me. I hope whatever it is you want is worth it.”

She doesn’t like to see the anger in Justine’s eyes at being manipulated, the suddenly stiff, tense body that tells Donna that she has violated her granddaughter’s trust.

But necessity is a harsh mistress, and Donna Martiniere has stared necessity in the face too damn many times over her nearly one hundred years.

“I hope it is, too,” she says softly.

As always, it is a choice.

Comments Off on A little taste of THE RUBY PROJECT

Filed under The Ruby Project

NIWA Spring Blog Tour–Week 6, Suzanne Hagelin, Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Approach to Marketing

Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Approach to Marketing

This is Suzanne Hagelin’s final post in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing.

 

Behold the secrets to instant success! How to make every marketing dollar count! Rocket to the top of the NYTimes bestseller list and STAY there!

I have no idea how to make any of that happen, but maybe I can save you some wasted money and effort. Marketing is complex and some ‘secrets’ lose their potency by the time they’ve reached you. There probably are expensive courses you can take that would make all the difference, but how will you know which ones are going to work for you and which ones are a waste of money—or worse, a fleecing operation that strips newbie authors of their limited cash?

The best I can do is point you in the right direction and give you some tips on getting started.

Research

How does the news get out for books in your genre?

What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Mysteries aren’t the same as science fiction. Memoirs and self-help aren’t marketed the same way as fantasy and humor.

One place to start is visiting bookstores in person and online. Look for books in your genre and see which ones catch your eye. Try searches on Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. Don’t assume you have to compete with the books that show up on top. Each store has a different feel and clientele. All you’re doing is familiarizing yourself with it.

Mailers. Get on a number of email lists targeting your genre, check them daily, read their blurbs, click on the ones that appeal to you as a reader, and buy some books you are genuinely interested in reading. As you figure out how to pick books you like, watch how they promote them. Look at the covers and the blurbs. Are there words and phrases that consistently engage you? Have you begun to identify ‘red flags’ that mean you won’t like the book? It may take a while, but at some point, you’ll be able to scan through the books for sale quickly and pick out the best ones. You’ll also get a feel for well written blurbs. While this doesn’t automatically lead to writing good blurbs, it’s still valuable.

There are many mailers for readers out there. My current favorites are BookBub and Bargain Booksy. I’m also on the Book Barbarian list and quite a few author newsletter lists. Authors often share sales on their own and other authors’ books as well as giveaways and contests where you can pick up free or discounted books.

Talk to Authors. Author-networking is one of your most valuable resources. As you’re setting up strategies to test, ask some of them for input. They could save you from wasting time or give you hints that will increase the benefit.

Be careful. If you’re considering paying for training or a service to help you promote your book, please look them up first and find out if they are reputable. Talk to other authors in author groups, check out websites like Writer Beware. Don’t buy something blindly.

 

Ads

Not quite ready for ads yet? No problem! Practice writing blurbs and ad copy. No matter where or how you market your book, you need succinct phrasing to spark readers’ interest and help them catch your idea quickly. And it’s not easy to learn.

Ad copy and pitches. Novelists don’t usually have any background in writing ads, but this skill is the most valuable one you can develop in your marketing. No one else is as invested in your book as you are or will take the time to hone a good pitch.

You need more than one pitch. One-liners, two-liners, headline-style, individual words, short descriptions. Look for tropes and catch-words readers will recognize. Keep a file with a number of variations on your ad copy and come back to it periodically to make new attempts. Use it for testing ads and for social media posts. Try them out in person, pitching your book to a friend or acquaintance.

I had the help of some author friends in coming up with my main pitch for selling “Body Suit” in person. I often use it for ads as well. It starts with a twist on a cliched phrase and highlights two key parts of the story: “A riches to rags adventure of a clever woman in a high-tech suit versus a hostile AI”. I had to memorize this and practice giving it multiple times before it came fluidly to my lips—and it continues to sell the book to people who like that kind of thing.

Here are two examples of some delightful pitches:

What happens when the Chosen One dies in chapter 1?Unchosen

It’s about a snarky, sarcastic fortune-teller who hates people. So of course she’s the one who has to get the group together to save the world.” The Fallen

There are lots of resources you can tap to help you learn to write better pitches and ad-copy but in the end, you’re training your mind to think this way and it’s worth the time it takes. This is an important part of your marketing strategy.

Places to Advertise

There are lots of places to advertise your book; here are a few key ones to consider. Remember that expenses can add up rapidly and it’s important to test out ads with small budgets to narrow down that best approach. This can be a time-consuming process.

Amazon          —Amazon gives good metrics and updates quickly so it’s easy to see how your ads are doing, that is, how many clicks it’s getting. If you’ve uploaded your eBook to KDP, it will show you the conversion into sales.

FaceBook       —Some genres work better than others with FaceBook ads, I’ve heard. I don’t have much experience with them. Nice graphics can make a difference.

BookBub        —BookBub ads reach a lot of readers and are easily targeted toward the kind of readers that would like your book. You can associate it with well-known authors in your genre. If someone wants to find something like “The Lord of the Rings” and searches on “Tolkien”, your ad will show up if you chose his name in the author search. I like this feature a lot.

Book Mailers            —You can apply for ads or featured deals in mailers. This is where your research into mailers will come in handy. Once you’ve identified the ones that fit your genre and preference, check out their requirements for applying for deals and submitting ads. Some of them will be much more affordable than others. The cost is usually linked to exposure and overall success of their ads.

When making your ad plan, you’ll need to consider several things: where to place ads, what to emphasize, whether to offer a free book or a discounted one, how much to spend, and how to measure results. You may have heard a lot about ROI (return of investment) but in the beginning, you need to focus more on learning what is successful than making money.

Investment in your learning curve is worthwhile.

Networking

Befriend and support other authors. Read and review books. Follow them on social media and share posts if you like their books. Set up newsletter swaps and blog tours with authors in your genre. Authors are always coming up with new ways to work together to promote books.

I have found the Northwest Independent Writers Association to be a great resource for getting to know other authors in my area, working with them, learning from them, and sharing with them.

Author Reputation

Building your reputation as an author is more than just getting fans who love your writing. Connecting online makes it easier to promote books and maintain a following. There are a number of ways to do this.

Here are a few:

  • Newsletters. Get your own mailer going and build a list of people who are there because they like the books you write and help promote. This is also a great way to work with other authors, promoting each other’s books, and increase your reach.
  • Blogging. Support your reputation and build your online presence by having a place online where people can find free content you’ve shared.
  • Social Media. There are many platforms where you can build a reputation and raise interest in your work through frequent posts. Is there one you prefer? Focus on that one and add it to your marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are very popular with authors for a reason. They’re free, versatile, and a great place to test out your marketing ideas.

Another word of caution. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin. I know authors who are brilliant at balancing posts on multiple social media platforms and I’ve made attempts at learning some of their techniques. But I’m not able to keep it going so it hasn’t been effective in gaining me readers. I’ve decided to address it in the future because it’s an important component in online reputation and sales. For now, I’m juggling enough as it is.

Other Marketing Approaches

Social Media marketing is a whole topic on its own. There’s no end to how you can promote your books in creative ways. An author friend of mine, for example, decided that she wanted to give away 10,000 copies of the first book in her five-book series. Normally, you would pay a well-established book mailing list quite a bit for the privilege of giving away that many copies. She came up with some ideas using social media, swaps, and a couple of smaller mailer ads, and accomplished her goal in a number of weeks. I’m sure it took a lot of hard work and ingenuity. And there’s no question it gave many new readers a chance to discover her popular series, Adaline, (which I love by the way).

Be strategic

Come up with three or four different ways to market your book and plan a trial run for each. Test them one at a time. If they are successful and you are ready to continue with them, make them a part of your marketing plan. If they don’t fit your current limitations, set them aside and check them again at a future time.

It’s better to work on one strategy at a time and build it solidly, than to have many wimpy ones bleeding you of time, creativity, and money.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here but at least this give you a good place to start.

 

The first post in this series is “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Mind”. You can read the second installment here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Time”, the third here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Plot”, the fourth here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Publication Process”, and the fifth here, “Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Approach to Sales”.

Graphic made with photos by NASA Hubble and by Victor He on Unsplash

 

=====

 

USA Today bestselling author of hard science fiction, Suzanne Hagelin, lives in the Seattle area where she runs a small press, Varida P&R, and teaches language on the side.

 

Her Books. The Silvarian Trilogy Book 1, “Body Suit” is available for 99c in April only and the audiobook is Downpour’s current Editor’s Pick at $4.95. Book 2 “Nebulus” just released on audio, and Book 3, “The Denser Plane” is in the writing stage. The Severance begins with “Cascade” and will be followed by “Eclipse”.

 

LINKS—Suzannehagelin.com, Suzanne’s Blog, Newsletter, Twitter, FaceBook, Medium

 

 

Comments Off on NIWA Spring Blog Tour–Week 6, Suzanne Hagelin, Writing Essentials: Organizing Your Approach to Marketing

Filed under 2020 NIWA Blog Tour

NIWA Spring Blog Tour #5–The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing, by Thomas Gondolfi

This is the fifth in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers Association. You can catch up with them at https://www.niwawriters.com/

The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing – The Golden Rule

by Thomas Gondolfi

Let’s be honest with ourselves – many large publishing houses take advantage of basically everyone in their ecosystem. They use the slush pile to get intellectual property (IP) cheaply. They use their size and segment share to pressure vendors, distributors, and sellers to do as they want. It’s a nasty fact of life. Almost all authors know it but with little other choice are forced to run the gauntlet in hopes of grabbing the brass ring. Smaller publishers don’t have that level of power. They can still be predatory or just dirty using contracts to steal IP, lawyers to threaten litigation, or even take money from unsuspecting authors. I didn’t choose the name of my publishing concern by rolling random numbers. TANSTAAFL Press*, by the very nature of its name, wants to give a fair deal to the authors, vendors, and the customers.

We have all heard of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As a hybrid publisher, I feel that I need to not only follow this rule but be held up as an exemplar in all facets of the business.

Let’s start with the authors, shall we? I try to give new authors, not established ones, a voice by publishing their exceptional works. It takes a bit of extra effort to find those whose work I love, but it is worth it. Along the way, I can assist other authors who aren’t quite there yet, all in a way that I’d like to see, such as personalized rejection letters that encourage more submissions.

Contracts or publishing deals are made as fair as I possibly with none of this “take it or leave it” BS that many big publishers do. In generating our standard contract, I pulled in as much of the SFWA contract as possible. Then I leavened it with what I would want to see if I were to sign a contract. You can see it at https://tanstaaflpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/TANSTAAFL-Publishing-Contract-START.pdf. On a simple reading, many things will stand out in my contracts vs. those of other companies. I am proud of several of these. Royalties go up rapidly for sales over a set amount. There is a termination date or sales numbers where the author gets his / her rights to the book back. Most importantly, the contract is only a starting point that I encourage the author to input toward customization. The idea in my mind is a fair deal for everyone.

Education: If someone feels like they want to go down the publishing path themselves, I’m more than happy to provide my experiences and advice – for the most part, gratis. I write books, give seminars, working on a community college course, and just sit down to chew the fat with folks about writing and publishing. My reward for most of that is indirect, kind of like the reward for being a parent. Seeing the recipient of your knowledge avoiding your mistakes is golden.

I try to apply the Golden Rule of fairness to vendors I work with. If I think they are asking too little, I make them accept more (has happened more than once). If they do something exceptional (like help me get something done faster when I’m in a schedule crunch), I’ll throw them a bonus. I always offer the names of my vendors when asked and often publish them in my works. Conversely, when something doesn’t feel fair to me, I move on to a vendor that does. BUT, don’t assume a significant dollar figure means something isn’t reasonable. Factor in how many hours it would take them. What specialized equipment or training did they need to pay for? Then figure out how much per hour it cost. With that knowledge, could you make a living on that much money per hour?

Customers get our works at the same or lower prices than those of a traditional publisher, even if the cost to produce is higher. I can do this primarily because I take a higher risk and my payroll is significantly lower. I often throw in discounts for those who buy multiple books or an entire series. Wins for everyone.

By putting yourself in the shoes of the other party, it becomes easier to decide if any deal is fair. Don’t sell your work short, nor the risks you are taking investing money. At the same time, don’t assume you are someone that deserves a champagne fountain at every luncheon because you can get a book into print. Turn the deal around. What you will get in return for this mental exercise is a group of faithful, long term relationships AND more that would be eager to do business with you.

===

* – TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Thomas Gondolfi founded TANSTAAFL Press in 2012. He is a book parent of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School, along with numerous other writing and editing credits, which can be found on www.tanstaaflpress.com. He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and a certified flirt.

Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years, giving him a unique perspective on life and people.

Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.

Comments Off on NIWA Spring Blog Tour #5–The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing, by Thomas Gondolfi

Filed under 2020 NIWA Blog Tour

NIWA Spring Blog Tour, Week # 4–The Author Community, by William Cook

The Author Community

 

This is the fourth in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers Association. You can catch up with them at https://www.niwawriters.com/

 

We are a strange group, we writers who consider ourselves “the author community.” For the partners and spouses of writers, I’m sure that sounds like an understatement. After all, they’ve lived through the sudden 3:00 AM awakening of their writer, who exclaims, “I just figured out the ending to my story, but I have to write it down now before I go back to sleep and forget it!” They’ve endured the heartbreak of watching their author mope around the house for days after a tepid two-star review on Amazon. They can’t forget the jubilation when their partner shouts, “I just sold my first book to someone who isn’t a family member!”

How did we become members of this independent author community? Some, with an abundance of self-confidence, identified themselves as authors when they first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Others felt inducted into the group when they typed “The End” upon the completion of the first draft of a short story or a novel. For poets, it was writing that final line of the last stanza. Still others didn’t identify themselves as authors until their short story got published in a magazine or anthology, or their book appeared on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And then the fun really begins!

I had no inkling of an author community as I was writing my first novel. All I knew was that I had a story inside me that would make me burst if I didn’t get it out. But once it was out, then what? I have a friend who spent a year unsuccessfully trying to woo a literary agent into taking on his project. Another friend told me, “Just publish it yourself.” Ultimately, that’s what I did—full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes.

Once I decided to publish independently, doors began to open. The author community seemed to come out of the woodwork and welcome me into its ranks. Who knew there were groups of independent authors all around me, eager to greet me, to support me in my efforts, to help me improve my craft?

So as strange or as downright weird as we may each be individually, our group is united in its passion for all forms and styles and genres of writing. We share what we’ve learned on our personal journey, cue others to upcoming workshops and conferences, offer critiques and beta readings to hone the skills of our colleagues, act as cheerleaders when we read other indie authors and post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. We share an identity that is as exciting as it is sobering. We know we must promote the highest standards of professionalism so independent authors are not regarded as somehow inferior to those published by the big houses.

In fact, I’ve decided that what I like best about being an independent writer is this connection with others like myself. Interestingly, the author community is both real and virtual, with physical meetings as well as online Facebook meetings. I am certain I would have made very little growth as a writer without these groups having my back.

I cannot remember exactly how I stumbled upon Willamette Writers, a statewide group of authors with local branches all around Oregon. In thinking about it, it may have been my daughter-in-law, a passionate community organizer, who pointed it out to me. The Salem branch of Willamette Writers meets monthly. In addition to giving a forum to members for promoting their books, the group hosts a guest, who gives a presentation about various aspects of the craft. During one session, a professional editor instructed us in the fundamentals of self-editing. There have been conferences on building story arc, writing realistic dialogue, character development, point of view—in short, topics designed to improve our skills. There was even a session that featured a local literary agent, who highlighted the nuts-and-bolts of seeking an agent for those inclined to do so.

Willamette Writers is probably best known for sponsoring its summer writing conference in Portland. This is a national event that hosts a large program of workshops, as well as a bevy of literary agents who make themselves available to hear pitches and proposals from attendees.

Closer to home, my wife spotted a small ad in the Statesman Journal, Salem’s local newspaper, several years ago about a weekly group that calls itself WYTT—Writers Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. This is a group of independent authors at every level of skill, from those who have already published one or more books, to those who are just turning their talents to writing and are eager for feedback. What is special about it is that everyone must read from their works aloud, after which the other members give feedback. I have found it to be extraordinarily helpful.

Given the number of members who often attend WYTT and the time limitations that imposes, it soon became clear to me that a smaller critique group would also be essential. Branching off from WYTT, we now have a group of five who meet monthly. We provide hard copies of our material to each other, and then read that material aloud. In this extended format, more in-depth criticism is possible, including developmental editing as well as some copy editing.

On the virtual front, I am a member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association. Although it was started by a small group of like-minded folks years ago at OryCon, Oregon’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention, it is open to all genres. It is a Facebook group dedicated to improving the skills of its members as well as improving the professionalism of independent writing overall. Need a cover designer? A good beta reader? A venue to promote paperback copies of your books? Help with self-editing? Ideas about marketing? Someone in NIWA knows, and is eager to share that knowledge with you. NIWA also publishes quarterly catalogues of members’ books, a great way to advertise our newest ventures, as well as to provide our portfolio to prospective fans. I am especially pleased with the annual NIWA anthology, a collection of members’ short stories around a particular topic. Last year the topic was “Doorways.” This year it will be “Escape,” to be published in November.

These are only the tip of the iceberg. There are writers’ groups out there which meet in almost every town. Some are specific to genre—groups for authors of romance or mystery or science fiction or horror. There are groups for promoting literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. There truly is a flavor for everyone. If you’re a new writer or a seasoned veteran, have a taste!

 

Other posts in this series by this author:

https://authorwilliamcook.com/blog/   “Reading to Impact Your Writing (And Can Watching Movies be a Business Expense?)” March 29-April 4.

www.conniejjasperson.com   “Advice for New Writers” April 5-11.

https://lecatts.wordpress.com “My Approach to the Writing Process” April 12-18.

 

Watch for the next post in the series by this author:

www.tanstaaflpress.com/news/ “Self-Editing, Grammar, and Beta Readers” April 26-May 2.

 

William Cook moved to the Pacific Northwest from the East Coast in 1989, and worked for a total of 37 years as a mental health therapist until his retirement in 2011. He splits his time between writing, babysitting for his 15 grandchildren, and sneaking off to mid-week matinees (when theaters are open!). The Kindle edition of his latest book, Dungeness and Dragons: A Driftwood Mystery, is available now for pre-order and will be published on April 24. Find all his books at:

https://authorwilliamcook.com/

 

 

 

Comments Off on NIWA Spring Blog Tour, Week # 4–The Author Community, by William Cook

Filed under 2020 NIWA Blog Tour, Uncategorized