Tuesday, February 9, 2016

To edit or not to edit?

by Carysa Locke

This is a question I have seen bandied about writer’s forums, groups, and pretty much anywhere authors gather. Editing is a huge piece of publishing our work, and hiring an editor can often be the most expensive preparation for publishing. It is no mystery why many authors seek a less expensive option to fill this need. For me, though, a copy editor is worth their weight in gold.

I use three words a lot in my writing: finally, quietly and slowly. I kind of knew this but didn’t really know it until my copy editor included a note when she returned my latest manuscript: You use these three words a lot. You should think about other ways to say these things. This was one of those light bulb craft moments for me. 

I went through my manuscript and removed nearly every instance that used one of these words. Most of the time, it was completely unnecessary and in fact, disrupted the flow. It was a change that I felt elevated my writing to a higher level. Not only did it help me remove pesky adverbs that didn’t need to be there, but it changed how I was handling my dialogue tags. Many of them just weren’t needed.

Thankfully, this happened before the work in question went up for publication. I sent my copy editor a note, thanking her profusely for pointing out the issue. We all have –isms. Things in our writing that we tend to do particularly in a first draft, which we may not catch on our own when we revise. Some of these –isms speak to style, and some of them, like in this case, are just a thing that needs to be brought to our attention, so we can become more aware of it and fix it.

A lot of other writers may think I waste a lot of time sending out for edits and then going through and checking each one, deciding whether to keep it or leave things the way they are. For me, though, it will always be a part of my writing process. Hopefully, the next manuscript my copy editor goes through will come back a new note for me. Something I can learn from.  



Pirate Bound:

A desperate gamble… 

Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah's empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world. 

A race on the verge of extinction… 

Dem’s only goal is to protect his people, especially since a deadly bio-weapon decimated their population. Only a handful of women survived, and every day is a fight to rebuild. With Sanah’s empathy and her sister’s rare ability to heal, they could be the salvation Dem and his people have been looking for.  

A dangerous secret that could destroy everything… 

But how can Sanah trust Dem with her life? Especially when he’d kill her if he knew the truth.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Value of Planning a Book (Re)Launch #publishing #marketing

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. In May 2015 I relaunched my debut novel Keir after getting the rights back in 2014 when my publisher was bought out. At the start of 2015 I saw a workshop on book launches being run by the FFnP chapter of the RWA, and decided that maybe I should take it in the hope of getting some new ideas to give my book's rebirth a good push. I am not great at marketing, so I figured at the least I might pick up some useful tips. While some of the suggestions and projects were mostly outside my budget, let alone my abilities, I did learn a few things that helped me with my relaunch, and that I believe made it much more successful than my previous efforts, so I thought I'd share.

1. Scheduling. This was probably the most useful and important aspect of the whole workshop for me. I am not good at planning things out, but the workshop gave me a poke to do it. I used my often neglected Google calendar (mostly on my phone) and worked backwards from my release date scheduling in what things needed to be done when, such as requesting guest posts, submitting review requests, advertising, cover reveals etc. So reminders would popup on my phone to prod me to do things. I also found if I put set tasks on my calendar with a target date, I was much more motivated and likely to get it done (when my calendar is empty, I tend to procrastinate and wander off task). It also made the tasks ahead seem less stressful by breaking them up by days or weeks into individual tasks. I can't share the actual worksheet of tasks we were given in class, but simply make a list of all the things you think you need, give each a time scale, then plug them into your calendar.

2. One major task was to arrange reviews well in advance of release date (7th May, my third anniversary as a published author and what would have been Keir's third book birthday). I asked for willing reviewers among my friends and colleagues, collecting names and contacts into a list. I planned to ask for at least 25, and scheduled to send ARCs at least a month before release date in the hope that some would be ready to review on release day. (Unfortunately due to my own fault, I didn't have ARCs early enough. I didn't have them ready until 1week before). Fortunately for me this was a re-release and after contacting Amazon, the original 25 reviews I already had from the original release showed up. However, the handful of new reviews I did manage to get were a very welcome addition (I'd also copied the original reviews with the intention of asking the reviewers to repost, but thankfully didn't need to - a real time saver). Also, having joined Broad Universe (something on my list for over a year), I was able to put Keir into their NetGalley coop at the reduced cost of $25 for one month. This is planned for June, and I'm hoping any new reviews might boost sales as they tailed off at the end of May.

3. Budget. On the launch workshop, the organizer generously gave us a $1000 allowance. *Yoda laugh* Since I'm lucky if my budget for anything is even double digits, I used what I realistically had...which was considerably less than three figures. I don't believe in expensive advertising or massive giveaways - impractical for me, and in the case of giveaways I'm not convinced it gets people interested in my books (as an addition, little prizes themed to my books have worked better, but even those are a pressure on me financially). So I mostly look at free options. This often involves blogging, which takes time. Something you can do here is to write blog posts as you go while a topic is fresh in my mind, keep deleted scenes as bonus material for posts or newsletters, and keeping a list of inspirations such as music, film,books etc as you think of them. Saves you battling to recall them later. I often make up playlists for my stories on youtube, and have even included a link to these as part of my back matter. 

Some free options that I used:
Book Blast
SFR Quarterly release announcement and review request (they also offer reasonably priced ads and first chapter spots)
Cover Reveals spotlight (also offers cheaply priced extra services)

The Romance Reviews free banner headlines (you need to be a member of the site and display their banner to receive a free headline each month).
Goodreads Listopia (one of my readers found Keir the first time around via a list on Goodreads, and it costs nothing to add your book. Just be sure it's an appropriate list for your book. In my case, I went for lists focusing on beta heroes).

Lower priced options that I didn't use:
Check out Greta van der Rol's post on some email subscription services HERE. The prices vary, but several other authors pitched in with what did or didn't work for them in the comments as well. I've used some of those mentioned, but with no positive results.

3. Plan potential advertising. Adverts are something I don't consider a worthwhile ROI for me, so I stuck with the free options already mentioned in 2. I had planned to use the extras at Cover Reveals, but in the end I ran out of time - I didn't have sales links early enough to book it. My wonderful book cover designer and editor Danielle Fine did make some truly beautiful promo pieces for me to use, and I ran these as a daily countdown to release. I can and have done some of my own, but they're not as pretty. They're better than just text promos though.

4. Tour. I have had mixed feelings on the subject of tours. I didn't plan an official one as such, but approached a couple of big sites I'd been to before - mostly via my now ex-publisher - some familiar places, and a few new ones. These, in general, cost nothing but a little time and effort. For one, I had to provide a giveaway. Since I was self publishing, it cost me nothing to give away a digital format of my book. Here I fell down on one aspect of my relaunch by not sorting an overall giveaway - I'd had a poster of my book cover and bookmarks made, but I can always run these at a later date for another boost. I didn't do a huge number of guest spots, though,because of having mixed feelings about the value of blog tours. So I kept to posts I actually felt enthusiastic about and that I thought might be interesting. I also had the sequel listed on Goodreads and included a link to that. 

Did it work? Well, I had my best month's sales ever, all the more surprising to me with it being a re-release. Keir also had more pre-orders than any previous title I've released, AND it repeatedly hit the Amazon Top 100 books for Time Travel during its second week. I don't pretend to really understand marketing, and I'm still experimenting. Maybe I was just lucky. But I figure a well-planned launch has helped. It certainly made me feel less stressed to have targets on my schedule and to hit them, so it was worth it from that viewpoint alone. 

If you feel you have anything to add to the suggestions, or if there's something you've tried that has worked especially well or the opposite, please share!


After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 22 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Broad Universe, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), the 2015 EPIC eBook awards, the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place), and the RWA LERA 2015 Rebecca contest (2nd place).

You can stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

Blogs –
Spacefreighters Lounge - http://www.spacefreighters.blogspot.com

A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Available from...
Amazon | All Romance eBooks
Kobo | iTunes


A demon waiting to die...

An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary ‘Blue Demon of Adalucien’ waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.

Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can’t explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. A science fiction romance novel previously released by Lyrical Press Inc. 7th May 2012, Keir is a Readers Favorite Contest Awards Finalist 2012​, HOD RWA Aspen Gold finalist (3rd place), The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards semi-finalist, and a 2012 SFR Galaxy Award Best May to December Romance winner.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

SFRB Recommends #50: Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin #steampunk

In 1842, the gunpowder might of China’s Qing Dynasty fell to Britain’s steam engines. Furious, the Emperor ordered the death of his engineers—and killed China’s best chance of fighting back…

Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling kept her family from falling into poverty. But her meager savings are running out, leaving her with no choice but to sell the last of her father’s possessions—her last memento of him.

Only, while attempting to find a buyer, Soling is caught and brought before the Crown Prince. Unlike his father, the Emperor, the Prince knows that the only chance of expelling the English invaders is to once again unite China’s cleverest minds to create fantastic weapons. He also realizes that Soling is the one person who could convince her father’s former allies—many who have turned rebel—to once again work for the Empire. He promises to restore her family name if she’ll help him in his cause.

But after the betrayal of her family all those years ago, Soling is unsure if she can trust anyone in the Forbidden City—even if her heart is longing to believe in the engineer with a hidden past who was once meant to be her husband…

Lin presents a non-traditional steampunk perspective in Gunpowder Alchemy: that of an empire in decline. British imperialism had adverse effects on the already-troubled Chinese. The world is a fascinating mix of historical accuracy (Crown Prince Yizhu, Opium Wars, the Taiping Rebellion, Soling gets away with being of good birth but having unbound feet only because she is Manchu) with floating ships and clockwork technology.

The story presents many questions about conflicting loyalties and what it means to be a person of virtue: Soling tries to be a good daughter, serve the Emperor, and serve her country at the same time. Soling's adventures will continue, so there's no happily-ever-after here, but she and Chang-wei slowly build the beginnings of a relationship in a convincing fashion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

3 Tips for Short Story Writing

by Bokerah Brumley

January has been a busy month for short story contests. Mash Stories offers an on-going flash fiction contest. Writer’s Digest offered a short, short fiction contest earlier this month (and , Simon and Schuster held a fan fiction contest, Baen has a near-future science fiction contest, and the Chicago Tribune has a short fiction contest open until January 31, 2016.

This week, I’m participating in the 10th Annual Short Story Challenge offered by NYC Midnight. It’s tremendous practice.

Here are three tips I use for writing better short fiction.

1) Pick one main event. Streamline the story so that everything points to that one event – even after the climax, the story finish still points to that one event. The plot can be as simple as cooking dinner or as complex as sky diving from a space elevator. Don’t stuff in extra details. Often, the beauty of a short story is rich characters, full of depth, but a plot that exists within a small space and lower word counts. Short stories, even though a different experience than writing novels, are great practice in streamlining.

2) Limit characters. Pick one or two. Don’t name anyone else. If the main character is on a crowded bus, blur the extras by providing little-to-no information about them. Include only the details that are necessary to move the plot forward for the main character. Character naming is similar to adopting a stray dog. Once it has a name, it wants to stick around in the readers’ mind.

3) Limit Point of View. In short fiction (whether flash fiction – 1,000 words or less – or a novelette – up to 17,500 words), there is a limited amount of time to hook the reader. Begin close to the inciting incident, but keep it simple. Story creators often want to keep all the viewpoints, include the antagonist’s reasons or mention the main character’s last love interest. Don’t obscure the great words with superfluous ones. Increase tension and interest, limit readers’ knowledge to only what the main character knows. Pick one character that is central to every situation, jump in that head, and stay there.

Just remember: first drafts don’t count. Get the story down. Get the words out. Don’t worry about rules or tips or editing. After that first draft, go back and edit it into shape. And whatever happens, keep writing. Your uniqueness enhances our own.

What are some tips you have for writing better shorts?

I’d love to hear from you: me@bokerah.com. Or find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

(All views expressed in this post are that of the author and not necessarily that of The SFR Brigade.)

Author Bio:

Bokerah Brumley is an award-winning writer from West Texas. She is the Publicity Officer for the Club while simultaneously addicted to Twitter pitch contests, writing contests, and social media, in general. She has too much planned for this year, but is doing it anyway. She lives with her husband, five home-educated children, three dogs, and two cats.

'Dogwood Sprocket' by Bokerah Brumley

A SciFi Steampunk Romance Novelette Available for FREE in "Seasons: A Multi-Genre Story Collection."



Apple (iBooks)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

SFRB Recommends 49: Perdition by Ann Aguirre #scifi #romance #sfrom

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.

Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.

Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

This book is dark and gritty.  Tensions and brutality run high: a fight-to-the-death dueling pit addresses grievances, and Dred has to do some extreme deeds to keep order in her territory while she and her allies fight off threats of other criminal fiefs. There's plenty of gunfighting and concerns about provisions, weaponry, the basic survival needs. 

Dred's the star of the show, hiding herself and some of her talents behind her persona because to show weakness or difference means the crumbling of any kind of civilization on the ship. Jael has never known loyalty or much about friendship, but the way Dred and her crew treat him inspire him to be a more worthy person. Dred, Jael, Dred's inner circle, and even the enemies are all memorable, multidimensional characters. They're not nice people: they're convicts on a prison ship. If you can live with that, you're in for an intense read! The romance is well-integrated into the plot, and I loved how Dred and Jael come to respect and care about each other through their actions.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

SFRB Recommends 48: Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

After a stint in an alien prison, Captain Ari Rose wonders why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father's scientific expedition to finish a Ph.D. she doesn't want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. She wasn't built for it, either. But when pirates commandeer her father's ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner. 

As far as pirate leader Cullin is concerned, Ari's past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin's sights. If she hasn't been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he's convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can't afford the desire she fires within him and he'll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.

In Enemy Within, everybody's got layers of secrets and at least one angle. The major characters have complex stories and goals and have to make some difficult decisions to get those accomplished. What do the deliciously disturbing space bugs want with Ari? Who is she really loyal to, and why is that important to Cullin?
The romance is tested hard- at several points I thought it was unworkable.

This book wreacked havoc with my emotions. I felt for Ari, who gets pulled through all kinds of wringers. Cullin was a little harder for me to get a handle on, but his confusion and frustrations made sense and felt real. Add spaceships, some politics, murky alliances, fencing, and aliens, and this book packs quite a wallop. This story's been on my keeper shelf for years and inspired me try writing myself. It ends well, and the characters definitely earn it!

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation