How-to: Watch and/or search for U.S. trademark registrations

What is a trademark?

From the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s FAQ:

Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.

Whether or not you should file a trademark is up to you and your attorney. This post merely provides information on how to find out what trademarks have been applied for or granted.
 
 
How to search existing trademarks and trademark applications

Go to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), click on ‘Search Trademarks’, and search for a specific word/phrase/design mark.
 

Detailed instructions on how to interpret the results are on the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) Help page.
 
 
How to keep an eye on fiction-related trademark applications

Follow CockyBot ™ on Twitter. CockyBot tweets information about recent fiction-related applications in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database. In addition to listing the text that someone has applied to trademark, CockyBot provides links to check on the status of the application, documentation about the application, and a URL to an Amazon search for that text.

More details about exactly what CockyBot does, as well as a number of useful links related to trademarks and the U.S. trademark process, can be found at cockybot.com.
 
 
References

How-to: Create a custom URL for your Goodreads author profile

A custom URL makes it easy for your readers to go directly to your Goodreads author profile. Even if they search for you by name instead, having a custom URL looks more professional than a generated one. And it takes mere seconds to set up!

Prerequisites

  • You have an existing Goodreads account.
  • You’re a member of the Goodreads Author Program, and therefore have an Author profile attached to your user profile.

How to set your custom URL

  • Log in to Goodreads.
  • Click your profile picture in the top right-hand corner.
  • Click ‘Profile.’
     

     

  • Your author profile page will be displayed.
  • Click ‘edit author profile’ at the top of your profile, or click ‘edit data’ which appears above the about the author section.
     

     
  • Click on ‘edit my user profile.’ Your custom URL is set on your user profile, not your author profile.
     

     
  • Set your username. This will become part of your custom URL.
     

     
  • Save your changes.
  • Go to your public author profile and verify that your spiffy new URL is displayed.
     

     

References

Interview: Rei Rosenquist on “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam”


 
 
“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Rei!

Rei is a writer of speculative fiction, a barista, a baker, and a semi-nomad. They received a Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest in 2016.

“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam”

“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is a fairy tale about a white star nebula who embarks on a quest to find love.

“But, first,” Darkness paused importantly, “you must make a deal with me.”

“A deal?” What price could be too grand for this rare chance to dodge one’s own death and, in doing so, experience love?

“You must make one of those souls fall in love with you within the time of one full cycle of the Earth’s satellite—called the moon.”

“Fall in love?” the nebula asked, confused by these words.

True, the nebula had recently learned this word “love.” Love seemed infinitely good. And yet, how could one fall into it? As an asteroid into a planet, or a smaller star into a greater one. These concepts simply didn’t go together.

“But why should I make a soul fall? Into what?”

“Into you,” Darkness explained.

Make one of Earth’s soul’s warm glow fall into this gaseous body?

But, falling was bad. Spatial bodies fell into other spatial bodies. A passing asteroid would sometimes drag some gas tendrils down into itself. A binary system would collide, and the smaller star would fall in toward the larger, being eventually consumed. Whenever this “falling” happened, the thing falling was lost. Those atoms spun into nothingness, never to return.

“You misunderstand,” Darkness cut in. “It is a good thing on Earth.”

“How?”

“Humans fall in love and protect one another. They provide for one another. They support one another, hold the other up. Humans need love to live. To fall into it is to fall into the very thing that gives life.”

– from “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” by Rei Rosenquist

The Interview

The main character in “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is a nebula, which is an interstellar cloud of gases and dust. What inspired you to write a fairy tale love story from a nebula’s point of view?

Although I’ve never been a research scientist myself, I am absolutely fascinated by all things science. I happened upon the field of astrophysics a couple years ago, and ever since, I have been utterly fascinated by what lies out in the furthest reaches of space. As a child, I was raised in a strict religious tradition that downplayed the importance of science for the sake of belief in a monotheistic god, and thus most of my early opinions of the natural world were skewed and inaccurate. Nowadays, when I stare up at the night sky, I often wonder what else have humans misunderstood about reality? As a fantasy writer, a fun way to explore this question is to personify a subject and see where the story takes me. For years, I was fascinated by the idea of personifying a nebula. Finally, when I was invited to write for Beauty and Wickedness, the retelling of an old fairy tale struck me as just the right story for this journey.
 
 
The two main characters (Neb, the nebula, and Wills) have different genders and pronouns. What is the distinction between the two forms in this story?

As Wills first indicates to Petra, Neb’s gender is unknown at the start. Wills doesn’t want to assume a gender, so ey use the gender-neutral “they” as a non-selective choice. However, once we re-enter Neb’s point of view, the gender-free pronoun fits best for how Neb feels. As a being outside of humanity and its gender roles and gender norms, Neb feels no personal association to such concepts. Later in the story, Orion is also referred to by the gender-neutral “they” for the same identity reason. Both nebulae would, if asked, identify as “agender,” which is a term that means “devoid of gender” or someone who simply doesn’t register gender as something to pay attention to.

On the other hand, Wills identifies as non-binary and chooses to use the pronouns ey/em/eir as a way to indicate their identity. Wills doesn’t use they/them/their because ey do feel and care about gender, as indicated by Wills strong attraction to both Ajax (who identifies as male) and Aria (who is portrayed in a very cis-female way). However, Wills’ identity doesn’t fit within the rigid lines of binary cis-male and cis-female, but rather it lies somewhere in the grey area of both/neither.

My goal in including these similar-seeming yet very different identities is to indicate to people who have no experience with such identities that there are many ways to be outside the gender norms of male and female. There are many identity expressions even within more open labels such as “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” and “genderfluid,” among others. Gender is extremely complex, and I feel the vocabulary of mainstream American English is still at the beginning stage of wrestling with new words to express just how complex it truly is. Part of the goal of this story’s pronoun usage is to give a helping hand to those lost in the waves of words.
 
 
“Seed,” which is set in your Broken Circle universe, received a Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. What appeals to you about the gritty speculative future you’ve created for this group of stories?

In truth, the Broken Circle universe was developed for a gritty science-fiction novel series I am currently working on. The world is a projection of my most pessimistic opinions of what the future of humanity currently holds. If the world we live in today doesn’t turn aside in some significant ways, the future vision of the Broken Circle could very well come to be. In writing this type of world, my goal is to post a black box warning to humanity. The Broken Circle universe itself cries out viscerally for help, and in experiencing that cry through the story, my sincerest hope is that when readers put the story down, they will feel compelled to turn inward and examine their own world. By shining a light on the darkest of futures, I hope is to bring more light to the here and now.
 
 
You call yourself a semi-nomad. What is it about travel that calls to you? Do the places you’ve lived in, and those you’ve visited, feature in your fiction?

Travel, for me, has been a way of life. My first memory is of the ocean through a hotel window. For me, packed bags are a sign of opportunity and arriving in a new place is a chance to grow and learn. I call myself “semi-nomad” because I find myself circling around to the same places where I set down a kind of root. These patterns are interspersed with going to entirely new places, but in truth, always landing somewhere new can be exhausting. So, as I’ve grown and listened to my own heart and body, I’ve found a deep peace in the return to places I love. Each time I return to one of these locations, it feels like opening the door to a well-worn and well-loved home.

Without traveling as I do, my stories wouldn’t be the same. Every time I go somewhere new, I find not just new details to add into stories, but an entirely new shape of narrative. I am inspired by different things in different places, and I am compelled to write different types of stories depending on the place and its people. Each location has its own narrative, I’d say, and tapping into that is what drives the stories inside of me. If I never traveled again, I feel I would write the same tale over and over again with the same perspective and the same ending. But, when the world shifts around me, so does my lens and the kinds of details I soak in.

In a more matter-of-fact way, I have stories set in future or fantasy versions of Tokyo, Osaka, Yamanashi, Kyoto, Lisbon, Paris, London, Venice, New York, Seattle, Portland, Waikiki, and many places that are a miasma of several real places. One thing I try to avoid is writing in length about a place I have never been
 
 
Why do you feel love stories are so important to tell?

Love, and the various ways people define it, is all about connection. That connection of hearts, of one being to another. That is what I think drives life forward. For my part, I think there is nothing as important as furthering, protecting, and upholding the cycles and patterns of life. As such, the most important story I can think to tell is a story of connection. One of deep sharing, giving and growing. That for me is a “love story.” It doesn’t always deal with romance or sexuality, but rather it looks at the question of how, where, when, and why do we connect? It demands big risks and takes many chances. And, in the end, it is the type of narrative that I truly believe can change the world. For without connection, we only end up in the same cycles of unsustainable choices which lead, ultimately, to death. On the other hand, reaching out our hands to one another with hope and trust, even if we think we aren’t strong enough, can save all manners of life.
 

 
You’re a baker! What do you enjoy about baking, and what are your favorite things to bake?

At its heart, baking is much like telling a good sci-fi or fantasy story. Each baked good like each character in a story has its own tale to tell. Both are made up of details and creativity. Just as each well-written character is entirely their own, so no two scones or loaves are bread are ever the same. The key to being a good baker is just like the key to being a good writer. First, one must learn all the rules. You must understand and internalize the nitty, gritty science of the act. You must take in and understand all the details that make the thing work well. You must try and fail. Then, once you’ve trained in good scientific habits, you do just like you do in writing – you take the rules and you throw them out. You internalize professor’s recipes and then, you burn them. You mix ingredients you’ve been told never to mix. You add in ingredients that should never fit together. You let bread proof too long, not long enough, not at all. You burn scones and see what that tastes like. And then, after all that wild experimentation – you begin to understand what your own creative sense is. And then, you train in those new skills by repeating the good ones, and eventually – you are making things no one else can make. Then, you have your baking story. And you can tell it with confidence and pride, sharing with the world your unique vision of what is good.

I’m not one for choosing favorites because I often find my preferences change frequently. However, currently, I am really into yeast starters. There is so much variety in things you can use to catch wild yeasts and so much that you can do with any single yeast to alter the flavor of bread! I love all the options and room for growth in my understanding.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Currently, I’m working on a long short story that’s a blending of European noir and Japanese anime “magic girl” genres set in a future version of Tokyo. This one should be out in the next couple months.

I’m also elbows deep in edits on the first novel of the Broken Circle Series, which will hopefully be ready for public release within the next year or so. But then, writing doesn’t like schedules so maybe I just cursed myself in saying that.

The funniest thing about writing I think is the process itself. Seeing a story start as a spark in my mind, some flickering little light that I often have to write down immediately or else it slips away. Then, that spark takes me on a journey through twists and turns, across bridges, climbing to staggering heights and stumbling through forests of the deepest dark. Then, once I have the heart of the story, the journey becomes one of making maps and charting out the territory I wandered across. I nit-pick and tear details apart. And at the end of this unforgiving surgery, what I have in front of me is a story: something I want to share with others who haven’t been along on this journey with me. At each stage, the process feels different and the outcome is always refreshing, and I think that’s what keeps me going. The newness of each new attempt and the shock of joy at the end of it when I get to share with others what I’ve poured my heart into. A kind of quiet, long-lasting love story all its own.

Rei Rosenquist is a queer agender (they/them) speculative fiction writer who depicts a wide variety of identities struggling to find a place in a wide variety of speculative worlds. They are also a lifelong barista, baker, and semi-nomad.
Rei first remembers life as seen out the high window of a hotel balcony. Down below is a courtyard, swarms of brightly dressed tourists, the beach. The memory is nothing but a blue-green washed image. Warmth and sunlight. Here, they are three years old, and this is the beginning of a nomadic story-teller’s life.

Over the years, they have traveled to many countries, engaged many peoples, picked up new habits, and learned new languages. But, some things never change. For them, these are stories, coffee, food and traveling. These three passions have bloomed from hobbies, studies, and jobs into a way of life.

These days, Rei can be found somewhere in between the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and Japan. There, you will find Rei cozied up with a laptop obsessively writing whilst intermittently pouring beautiful latte art, baking off a batch of famous savory scones, and sharing ideas on how homo sapiens sapiens can collectively make our awesome Earthship a better (not worse) place to live.

Find Rei

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

How-to: Goodreads author profile basics

There are two types of profiles on Goodreads: a user profile and an author profile.

A user profile is what every Goodreads member has – you can review books, create shelves, etc.

An author profile is an additional profile that is attached to your user profile.

Prerequisites

  • You have an existing Goodreads account.
  • You’re a member of the Goodreads Author Program, and therefore have an Author profile attached to your user profile.

If you’re not in the Author Program, follow these instructions to get set up.

One thing to keep in mind is whether or not you want to have one profile that you use as both your author and non-author selves, or create a new one to use as an author. Either way is totally fine, it’s just a question of whether or not you want everything you do on Goodreads to be associated with your author name.

How to edit your author profile

  • Log in to Goodreads.
  • Click your profile picture in the top right-hand corner.
  • Click ‘Profile.’
     

     

  • Your author profile page will be displayed.
     

     
  • Click ‘edit author profile’ at the top of your profile, or click ‘edit data’ which appears above the about the author section.
     

     

Basic author profile settings

  • Photo
    Adding a photo is simple and easy to do. If you don’t like any photos of you, put one of your cats, or a tree, or something! Otherwise you’ll get this nondescript, generic image.
     

     
  • Biography
    You can write this as text, or use HTML.
  • Influences
    If another author has influenced you, you can link to that author’s Goodreads profile.
  • Official website
    Add the URL to your author website.
  • Twitter
    Add your Twitter handle.
  • Genres
    You can select up to three genres that you write in.

More advanced author profile settings

There are other nifty things you can do, like add social media buttons to your author profile, link your author blog so previews of your posts show up on your profile, and add videos to your author profile.

References

Interview: Deb Logan on “Faery Beautiful”

“Faery Beautiful” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Deb!

Deb Logan writes light-hearted fantasy tales for middle grade readers and young adults. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Debbie Mumford. She loves mythology, and is especially fond of Celtic and Native American lore.

“Faery Beautiful”

Claire appears to be a normal teenager, but what most people don’t know is that she’s also a real live faery princess. In “Faery Beautiful” she learns how Princess Rhiannon and Eoin the Strong met and began the series of events that led to Claire becoming the heir to the throne of Faery.

Rhiannon’s faery steed raced along the enchanted river that divided Faery from the mortal realm. She glanced over her shoulder and urged the stallion to greater speed with hands and heels. She knew I would catch her if she allowed her pace to slacken. My charger, heavier boned than Rhiannon’s mount, couldn’t match her mare’s speed, but the charger’s depth of chest meant he could maintain his pace far longer.

Rhiannon, stop this nonsense. I sent my thought winging to her mind.

She bent lower over her mount’s neck and replied in kind. It’s my life, Rhydderich Drest Guerthenmach. I won’t be auctioned like a prize heifer.

You are a princess of Faery, I countered, layering my mind-voice with soothing overtones. You’ve known all your life this day would come, especially once we made it clear that we didn’t wish to marry.

Her misery bled through our mind-link and I fought to stay calm, to keep from empathizing with the tears I felt stinging her eyes. Her will faltered, and the mare slowed her pace. I had won. Rhiannon acknowledged my argument.

My princess had been raised with every comfort: beautiful clothes, rich foods, precious jewels, faery folk to entertain or obey her slightest wish. Every indulgence had been granted my dear friend. Everything but the desire of her heart. More than anything, Rhiannon craved her father’s love. The King of Faery had ensured his only child possessed every physical trinket a girl growing to womanhood could need or desire, but he had denied her his love.

– from “Faery Beautiful” by Deb Logan

The Interview

Claire, the protagonist in “Faery Beautiful,” is a teenage girl who attends high school and lives at home with her parents – but what most people don’t know is she’s also the heir to the throne of Faery! Why did you decide to have Claire have a (mostly) normal life even though she’s a faery princess?

Hmmm…this may be a convoluted answer! Claire is also the protagonist of my novel, “Faery Unexpected”, which tells the story of how she discovers that she isn’t just a normal teenager, but is in fact a faery princess.

The very first short story I published, “Deirdre’s Dragon,” held the seed of my Faery universe. It was a simple, 800-word tale written for the preteen set. But when I finished that story, I knew there was a lot more that needed to be discovered, so “Faery Unexpected” was born, and later “Faery Unpredictable” and “Lexie’s Choice.” This story, “Faery Beautiful,” is a frame story – beginning and ending with Claire and Roddy, but returning to the roots of Claire’s family and explaining how it is that a seemingly normal American girl came to be a princess of Faery.


 
 
What elements of traditional fairy tales have you incorporated into this story, and into the other tales in your Faery Adventures series?

The tale of Princess Rhiannon and Eoin the Strong is based on Welsh folklore of the Gwragen Annwn, fairy maidens who consent to wed mortal men … under certain conditions. Obviously, I arranged the details to suit my world, but the Gwragen Annwn provided the inspiration.

The rest of my Faery universe is simply inspired by a lifetime of reading, and absorbing, fairy tales!
 
 
Do you plan to write more stories in this series?

Undoubtedly. I adore Claire and Roddy and Lexie and Brent. I’m sure those characters, and the Realm of Faery itself, will call me back eventually!
 
 
In addition to Celtic mythology, you love Native American legends as well. What specifically calls to you about Native American mythology?

I’ve always been entranced by mythology in any form and dragons in particular. When I was working on “Deirdre’s Dragon,” one of the members of my writing group asked me what an obviously Celtic dragon was doing in America? Well, obviously, dragons can be wherever they want to be, but the question made me think. There are stories of dragon all over Europe and Asia, were there dragons on the North American continent as well? That’s when I decided that the Native American legends of the Thunderbird could be interpreted as a dragon … or possibly a dinosaur.

That train of thought led to my middle grade novel “Thunderbird” – featuring Native American twins Justin and Janine Prentiss who live in Bozeman, MT with their father, a renowned paleontologist. Since I once lived in Bozeman and happen to be the mother of boy / girl twins, I had a blast writing that one! A dragon-ish thunderbird and 12-year-old twins, what’s not to love?
 
 
Why are dragons your favorite fantasy creatures?

Honestly? I haven’t got a clue. They’ve just always appealed to me. Not the evil, demonic version so common in books and movies, but the misunderstood creatures of great intelligence who just want to be left alone to live their lives.

When I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, I was in heaven. Finally, someone who understood dragons! One of the highlights of my writing career came in 2005 when I met Anne in person at a Writers of the Future function in Seattle, WA.
 
 
In addition to writing middle grade/young adult stories, you also write fiction as Debbie Mumford. One of your series, Sorcha’s Children, is set in a world where a human sorceress and a dragon lord fall in love and create a new race of beings who can change form from human to dragon at will. What do you enjoy most about this series?

“Sorcha’s Heart,” the origin of the series, gave me the opportunity to play with an entire community of dragons, but from the perspective of a human woman. Sorcha, a young and rather reckless sorceress, finds herself transformed into a dragon and taken under the wing (literally!) of a creature she’d believed to be an enemy. I had so much fun allowing Sorcha to get to know these dragons as individuals of intelligence and grace, to find that many of her preconceived ideas were based on misunderstandings, and that humans had much more in common with dragons than anyone had ever imagined.

“Sorcha’s Heart” is a love story, but it’s also a tale of looking past our biases and discovering that our similarities matter more than our differences.


 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

As Debbie Mumford, I’m working on the final novel in my “Sorcha’s Children” series. “Dragons’ Destiny” has waited a long time to be told, and Luag and Eibhlinn are getting impatient to discover their happy endings … at least, they’re hoping I’ll give them happy endings!

As for Deb Logan, she’s launching a middle grade science fiction series tentatively titled “Galactic Cadets.” The first tale, “Cinnamon Chou: Space Station Detective,” is due to be published in May.

A prolific copywriter by day, Deb Logan has been published in WMG Publishing’s Fiction River anthologies, Dreaming Robot Press’s Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthologies, Windrift Books’ Chronicle Worlds anthologies, and other markets. She has also released several short stories, short story collections, and novels for young readers, including the popular “Dani Erickson” series. Find out more about Deb’s work at her website or follow her on Facebook. Be sure to join Deb’s newsletter list to receive an exclusive link to “Deirdre’s Dragon”!

Find Deb

Website ~ Facebook ~ Newsletter ~ Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Alexia Purdy on “The Ruins of Oz”


 
“The Ruins of Oz” is in the Once Upon a Quest anthology, a collection of fifteen tales of adventure, all brand new fairy tale twists from bestselling and award-winning authors. With inspirations ranging from The Ugly Duckling to Snow White, and everything in between (including trips to Camelot and Oz), these fabulous tales are full of adventure, magic, and a touch of romance.

Meet Alexia!

Alexia writes fantasy stories about faeries, vampires, and magic. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Tovie Bryce.

“The Ruins of Oz”

The Land of Oz was the last place Thea thought she’d find herself after falling through her mother’s enchanted mirror. If the stories she’s been told are real, why is the Emerald City in ruins?

“I—I need to go.” I spotted my boots sitting at the end of the bed and yanked them on. “Is there anyone who could tell me where I might find someone who can return me to Kansas?”

Mally pressed her lips tightly, frowning at my question.

“Well, there is one person, but that old tart doesn’t enjoy visitors and is dangerous. She lives in one of the towers still left standing in the great city. It used to be a watchtower for the Emerald City. In the city… it’s dreadful, and most say it’s haunted. That’s why Minkin don’t ever go there.”

“What’s her name?”

Mally shrugged. “We don’t say her name. She’s just an old hag now.”

“Um, all right. How do I get to the Emerald City?”

“It used to be you could follow the Yellow Brick Road, but it’s been left to ruin for decades since the—”

“End of all things. I get it. Can I still follow it?”

Mally frowned, appearing frightened more than anything. “It’s intact in some places. In others, it’s only stones here and there, under the grasses, bushes, and darkness.”

“Darkness?”

“It starts near the edge of town by the old wishing well. Right by the old ruins of Dorothy’s house. You know, the one she used to kill the Wicked Witch of the East.”

– from “The Ruins of Oz” by Alexia Purdy

The Interview

 
 
“The Ruins of Oz” is based on The Wizard of Oz. What inspired this choice?

Honestly, it was a story I had stuck in the back of my head for a while. I loved the take that the movie Return to Oz took but it wasn’t exactly what I imagined a post apocalyptic Oz to look like, so I guess I tried to convey my own kind of spin to the original story ending in a not so cozy way. What happens if Dorothy was the whole reason Oz existed and what if she never came back?
 
 
You’ve been a part of the Once Upon anthology series from the beginning. How did the series begin, and what do you enjoy about participating in it?

I’m so privileged to be pals with Anthea Sharp whom I’ve partnered with in several Faery anthologies before these came about. When she suggested the first of the trio of Once Upon anthologies, I leaped at the chance to work with her on it. She’s a brilliant organizer and I love to participate in anything she does. So much love for the woman.


 
 
What are some of the traditional faerie myths you incorporated into your Dark Faerie Tale series, and why did you choose them?

My Dark Faerie series is loosely based on the Unseelie and Seelie courts of Celtic mythology, which I loved to read about and was so immersed into, I had to write something with my own twists and turns. I was fascinated by the idea that faeries could be good and could be evil but you wouldn’t really know until you faced them, and even then, loyalty was something that wasn’t easily given. Magic is always fun to write about, especially when I could spin my own lore and modernize it in ways readers could understand could happen in today’s world. Now eight books into it, I seriously can’t believe there was so much to say about that world but it’s been quite the adventure to meet the characters and flesh them out. They are each unique and fantastical in so many ways.
 

 
You’re turning “The Glass Sky,” your short story in Once Upon a Kiss, into a series. Why did you decide to provide early access to the chapters of the first novel on Patreon?

The Glass Sky has been my favorite story to write for the Once Upon Anthologies and I recieved amazing feedback on it from my readers. They wanted more! I’ve held off for several reasons but when I decided to open a Patreon account to deliver stories and exclusive content more easily to my readers without having to deal with the low views that Facebook and Amazon now provide, I researched Patreon after seeing a couple of my favorite authors on there getting up close and personal with their patrons and really getting to connect far easier than the platforms I traditionally shared on. The Glass Sky was the perfect project! I’ve been wanting to expand it into a trilogy and this was the perfect chance to do it while still keeping it exclusive and not out in the full public. I seriously am having fun jumping back into this fairytale retelling world loosely based on the tale of King Thrushbeard. I hope people check it out.
 
 
How much of the city in your Vampires of Vegas series is based on your real-life experience living in Las Vegas?

So much of it is based on my experiences of places in Las Vegas. I practically wrote all the sites from memory of being in each place. I’ve been here in Vegas for 28 years now and I used to work in a Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It never ceases to amaze me how many hidden corridors, doorways, nooks and crannies are kept from the public view and the thought occurred to me that it was the perfect scenario to get lost in when the world really died off and a new species of people emerged.
 

 
In addition to writing fantasy, you write contemporary romance under the name Tovie Bryce. What do you have planned for this pen name?

I honestly am trying to build a contemporary romance readership, and I’ve been trying to do so for years, but under my own name. After much failure on that part, I decided separating the genre from my best selling stuff in YA Fantasy/Paranormal would be the best way to get a more focused audience. My readers don’t cross over. Yes, it’s been like starting over but I have another book in my City of Lights series planned plus a contemporary sweet romance based on some of my experiences coming of age. You can see why I wouldn’t want my name associated with it as much but I am not keeping the pen name a secret, just in case I do have some readers following along the romance branch.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m currently working on my Accursed Archangels series. It’s basically taken over almost every working hour lately and I literally attempted to write it in a month. The outline for it came to me in just a couple hours, literally this story possessed me. I got book 1 done in six weeks, so a bit over the timeline I wanted but it’s been an amazing time honing down my organizational skills in writing. The first book is titled The Unbreakable Curse and is due out March 27th. Book 2 is titled The Cursed Labyrinth due out in late May 2018, and book 3 is called The Irredeemable Soul due out July 2018.
 

Alexia currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada–Sin City! She loves to spend every free moment writing or playing with her four rambunctious kids. Writing has always been her dream and she has been writing ever since she can remember. She loves writing paranormal fantasy and poetry and devours books daily. Alexia also enjoys watching movies, dancing, singing loudly in the car, and Italian food.

Find Alexia

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Find Once Upon a Quest!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play | Goodreads

Interview: The Editors of Electric Spec

Electric Spec

Founded in 2005, Electric Spec is a not-for-profit speculative fiction magazine published four times per year. The primary goal of the editors is to get great speculative fiction into the hands (or screens) of readers; they’ve published short stories from authors all over the world.

Meet the editors!

Grayson Towler has a lifelong fascination with dragons, dinosaurs, magic, and the telling stories. His first book, a middle-grade fantasy titled The Dragon Waking, was published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book was a finalist in the 2012 RMFW Gold contest.

Grayson has worked as a copy writer since 2004 for Sounds True, a publishing company for books and audio programs concerning meditation, spirituality, and self-help. He is also an illustrator, and he has been writing and drawing an urban fantasy webcomic, Thunderstruck, since 2004. He also created “Tales from the Vault” – a popular collaborative fiction website active from 1996-2001.

In addition to writing, Grayson has also been a web designer, substitute teacher, comic artist, and small business owner. He and his wife, Candi, live in a house owned by three relatively benevolent cats in Longmont, Colorado.

Lesley L. Smith has a Ph.D. in Elementary Particle Physics and is the author or coauthor of many scientific articles. Her speculative short fiction has appeared in a variety of venues, including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Lesley is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Minta Monroe writes darker fantasy, particularly involving the occult or supernatural. She is the author of The Mound Dwellers and several collections of short stories. In addition to fantasy, she writes science fiction and mystery under other pen names.

Nikki Baird writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, both long and short form. Her short horror story, “Devastation Mine” was published as part of the anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for a Colorado Book Award. She has been a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold contest for the two years in the Speculative Fiction category, and is a regular contributor to Littleton Writers Critique Group, an open critique group in southwest Denver. She is currently trying to place her second fantasy novel with a publisher.

The Interview

 
 
What’s your sorting process for stories that come in?

Grayson: Lesley handles this, and I believe she randomly divides the stories evenly between the slush readers.

Lesley: I randomly assign each story to an editor.

Minta: I start with the earliest subs and read in the chronological order in which
we received them.

Nikki: I don’t sort at all, I take them in the order received.
 
 
How far do you read into a given story?

Grayson: This very much depends on the quality of the writing! So writers, all that guidance you’ve heard about how important the first lines and pages are… it’s true. If I’m confused, bored, turned off by a cliche, or annoyed by basic errors of grammar and spelling, the odds are I’m not going to force myself to push through to the end. I might skim a story and see if it picks up, but it’s really important for a story to make a good first impression.

That said, I really do try to give every story a chance. A story doesn’t have to start in medias res to capture my attention (in fact, that technique has as high a failure rate as anything else). If the author’s writing fundamentals are good and the story doesn’t seem derivative, I’ll generally stick with a story to the end.

Lesley: I basically agree with what the others said: I read until I stop reading. 🙂

Generally, I’ll give it a page. If my attention hasn’t been grabbed by then: sorry! We get hundreds of stories submitted for each issue and we just don’t have time to keep going.

Minta: Until something makes me stop reading. Usually it’s something about the story itself, and usually this becomes clear in the first 2 pages, although sometimes much sooner. Almost half of my subs make me read the entire story.

Nikki: Until I get bored or irritated. Sometimes that’s half a page in, sometimes it’s half a page before the end. Very rarely will I read a story I plan to pass on through to the end, but it does happen every once in awhile, when I’m so confused about what the story is about or where it’s going that I just have to know how the author thought it SHOULD end. But that’s definitely not a good reason to finish a story!
 
 
How many readers does a story have to pass through before a decision is made about it?

Grayson: There are two stages of evaluation. In the first stage, one of our slush readers will engage with the story and decide if it is good enough to make the finals – that’s upward of 170 stories per issue in total. When we have the finalists selected, we generally have a list of 20-22 stories left. Then all three editors read everything on the finalist list, and we select our top 5 by consensus.

Sometimes that last cut involves leaving some very good stories out of the issue, which is tough.

Lesley: As Grayson said, we have two stages of evaluation. In stage one, a story will get one or two editors to read it. If a story reaches the second stage, then a minimum of three more editors will read it. So, potentially, all five editors might read a story that we publish.

Minta: If I think a story isn’t right for us, then it has only one reader: me.
But if I think a story is worthy of publication, then I ask another editor to read it also. If the second editor agrees with me, then it goes on for review by the remaining editors. In that case, a story will have 4 readers, because in the end, we all love the stories we select for
publication.
 
 
What do you like/dislike about editing?

Grayson:
DISLIKES: I dislike rejecting stories. I’ve been on the other end of that process often enough that I know how it feels.

I dislike having to send form letters out for rejections–every author wants to know why their story wasn’t selected. After all, without feedback, how are you supposed to improve? I get it. But we just do not have time to engage at that level. It’s that simple.

I dislike getting excellent “first chapters.” The experience is this: I’m reading along in a submission, I’m really getting into story and loving where it’s heading, and then all of a sudden it stops. It’s as if I’ve gotten the first chapter of a book but I don’t get to read the rest. An open-ended ending is one thing–those can be great. But a good story that just cuts off mid-stream? That’s the most frustrating sort of submission.

LIKES: I love finding that stand-out story in the submission process. Having to reject a bunch of stories in a row starts to feel so depressing, and I begin to wonder if I’ve become too jaded to enjoy anything. But then, a gem of a story comes along, and it’s a bit like falling in love.

Once we settle in and get our stories assigned, I love working with authors. Maybe I’ve been fortunate, but my experiences have been universally positive once an author and I get down to the actual editing process. Helping an author find the rough spots in their story so the whole thing can shine is infinitely rewarding.

Lesley: I like having the opportunity to encourage other authors and give them the opportunity to share their work with the world.

Minta: Editing is not part of my tasks for Electric Spec, but I enjoy the
challenge of figuring out why a story either works for me or not.

Nikki: I actually like editing. I feel like it helps me cast a stronger critical eye over my own work. It’s so much easier to see what’s not working quite right in someone else’s writing than your own. I was “raised” in the critique methods of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which subscribes to the sandwich method of good-bad-good. I always try to say something positive in the note I send back with edits – what I liked about the story that got us to offer publication. And I try to point out 2-3 things in a story that I thought worked really well, in amongst all the edits. I try to offer concrete explanations for why something doesn’t work, and also a suggestion for what might work better. I try never to say “This doesn’t work – fix it”. That’s completely unhelpful. And I try to end with a positive comment or two at the end of an edit.
 
 
Once Electric Spec buys the rights to a story, what’s the editing process like?

Grayson: Speaking for myself, I scrub through the story in detail and look for any spot where the author could be more clear, more succinct, or more engaging. I generally don’t do too much developmental editing, but if I see a spot where a plot point might go a different way to strengthen the story, I’ll offer the suggestion.

In general, I find that an editor’s most useful function is to spot problems and explain why they’re problems. The actual solutions are better when they come from the author. My goal is to support the author in making this the best version of their story it can possibly be.

Once I’ve engaged with my first editing pass, I send it back to the author for their review. The author then reviews every suggested change and either accepts it, improves it, or contacts me to discuss whether the change is needed. There may be a bit of back-and-forth, but by that point the story is generally ready to go on to proofing.

The time frame we’re talking about here is about 4 weeks from signing to publication. So when we select stories for the issue, we keep that time frame in mind. What that means is we look for stories that are already quite solid. In submissions review, I’ve seen many “diamonds in the rough” that have a lot of potential but would simply take too much polishing. Stories have a better chance of getting accepted if the author has put the time and effort in to make them as mistake-free as possible.

Lesley: I print out my stories and then critique them as I do for my critique partners’ stories. Then, I email the authors back this edited doc and we go from there… From there, it differs quite a bit. Some stories need very little work. Some need more.
 
 
What’s your favorite part of working on Electric Spec?

Grayson: Well, apart from what I mentioned above about the editing process, I really enjoy working with Lesley and Nikki as editors. I’ve learned a lot, and I think we have a good rapport. Most of all, I love good stories. Being able to give authors a platform to share their stories is incredibly fulfilling.

Lesley: I really enjoy encouraging other authors. I’m also honored to work with such a great group of editors (who are all also great authors)!

Minta: Finding an unforgettable story. When a story sweeps me away, I form my own
list of stories that I hope will also sweep away the other editors. It’s a sweet moment when one of those stories ends up making it into the current issue!

Nikki: Getting the exposure to so much creativity. I get to read literally hundreds of short stories for free, and get a look into basically the “raw psyche” of spec fic writers out there. That’s pretty cool! And E-Spec wouldn’t be possible without a
crew that is dedicated and organized – and Lesley most of all keeps us all running
smoothly!

Find Electric Spec

Website | Facebook | Blog | The Editors

How-to: Convert an image to black & white using an adjustment in Photoshop

There are a number of ways to convert an image to black & white in Photoshop; this post explains how to do it using an adjustment, which can be applied via either a smart filter or an adjustment layer.

Both smart filters and adjustment layers apply changes to the color and/or tone of your image, but they’re layered on top of your image – not made to the image itself. This means you can modify them, or turn them on or off, without changing the original image.

Smart filters apply to a single image, whereas an adjustment layer applies to all layers that come after it (not just image layers).

Here’s an example showing an image before and after the black & white adjustment was applied. In this case, the adjustment was only applied to the background image.

Prerequisites

  • You have an existing .psd file.
  • The image you are working with is a smart object.

Convert a single image to black and white using a smart filter

  • Select the image in the Layers panel.
  • Click Image > Adjustments > Black & White.
     

     
  • The Black and White adjustment presets will be displayed. You can adjust the color values if the defaults aren’t exactly what you want.
     

     
  • Click OK.
  • A new smart filter will appear underneath your image in the Layers panel.
     

     

Create an adjustment layer to change all subsequent layers to black and white

  • In the Layers panel, select the image you want to convert to black and white.
  • In the Adjustments panel, click the Black & White icon.
     

     
  • The Black and White adjustment presets will be displayed. You can adjust the color values if the defaults aren’t exactly what you want.
     

     

References

Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.13.1.

Interview: Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay on “Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence”

Meet Chuck and Jim!

Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay are the editors of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, a collection of stories by writers whose lives were touched by the late Ed Bryant. In addition to creating this collection as a tribute to Ed, Chuck and Jim are both very talented speculative writers in their own right.

Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence

Edward Bryant influenced a generation of readers and writers. In this collection, you’ll find stories of dinosaurs roaming the Earth, zombies rampaging a small town in Colorado, a Norse god in a rock band, and a family road trip to view the solar eclipse in Montana when something strange becomes visible in the darkness. Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence contains twenty-four stories influenced by a master of science-fiction and horror. Editors Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay are proud to find and work with so many talented writers who called Ed their friend and mentor. In this book you’ll discover the extraordinary influence of a master’s touch!

This collection contains stories by Edward Bryant, Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Eneasz Brodski, Kevin J. Anderson, Janis Ian, Gary Jonas, Denese E. Dora, Kent Johnson, Richard E. Friesen, Jamie Ferguson, Wayne Faust, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Bruce Holland Rogers, Gregory R. Hyde, Robert Chansky, Trey R. Barker, Stace Johnson, David Kilman, Marie Desjardin, Van Aaron Hughes, Rebecca Hodgkins, Chuck Anderson, and Jim LeMay.

The Interview

What inspired you to create this collection?

Chuck: Jim and I decided to start the collection after we were at a remembrance for Ed. There, a bunch of us who knew him were telling stories about him and drinking beer when a writer said, ‘We were all just Ed’s kids!’ That’s when I got the first idea for the anthology. A few days later, I told Jim my idea. Luckily for me, he came onboard and soon afterward we came up with the guidelines and started to ask authors for stories. Jim and I also knew Ed’s estate was trying to start a scholarship in Ed’s name and part of the anthology’s profits will go to it.

Jim: As with our most unusual and innovative ideas, Chuck came up with this one. When he mentioned the idea to me a few days after our group reminisced about our friend and mentor I immediately agreed. What a wonderful way to honor Ed! In his will Ed stipulated that part of his estate should be used to set up an award to be called the Edward W. Bryant Jr. Mathom Award. As Chuck mentioned a portion of the profits from this book will go to that award.
 
 
Tell us about the theme for these stories. How did you select them, and what do they have in common?

Chuck: The stories were all by authors Ed worked with over the years. The oldest story is by Connie Willis from 1979, and a few were created just a few months before his death. The stories vary just as much as the authors who wrote them. It’s surprising to see their range and their talent, but it doesn’t surprise me because Ed had so much to give to most of them. How did we select them? Jim usually reads them first. They have to get by him. He’s a good gatekeeper.

Jim: Selecting the few stories to include was an agonizing process. We had such excellent stories from so many talented writers to choose from. Even though, as Chuck says, I read the stories first, we decided on the final cut together. We wanted to include stories that represented the broad range of subjects that Ed favored in science fiction, horror and fantasy.
 
 
What did each of you learn from Ed? What impact did he have on your own writing?

Chuck: I always learned from Ed the dignity of how a professional writer should always act. It was always the way he carried himself and how well he treated others. How we should critique each other’s stories. How we should deal with publishers and editors. How to talk to act at a convention. Ed always showed us his professionalism, and I have always felt the best teachers always taught by example and Ed was one of them.

Jim: I had written non-fiction for decades before I started experimenting with fiction. I explained everything in enough detail for my clients to clearly understand the subject and which actions should be taken next. That worked fine for non-fiction, but manifested itself as a stiff writing style in my first two novels. Then I joined one of Ed’s writers’ groups. He taught me to give the reader just enough detail to let her figure out the rest. He showed me my strengths as well as areas where I needed improvement. All this in a firm but gentle manner that has made me a much better writer.

Oh, yeah. I rewrote my first two novels after finishing those under his tutelage.
 
 
What did you enjoy most about putting this anthology together?

Chuck: The things I enjoyed most about putting together the anthology were working with Jim and the other twenty-two authors. At first, I didn’t know if we could put the book together but after a few weeks stories started to come in one after another. The outpouring from our community was overwhelming; there will always be a great amount of love for him.

Jim: The day after Chuck suggested putting the anthology together, to which I so eagerly agreed, I had second thoughts. Had we committed a horrible act of hubris? How could we possibly have thought giants of our genre like Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem and so many others agree to place their stories in our inexperienced hands? But, as you can see from the result, they did. And now I find I have made new friends of all those excellent writers and friends of Ed.
 
 
What makes it fun for the two of you to work on a project like this together?

Chuck: Jim is the best. We’re neighbors and only live a mile apart. We usually meet every week at a local brewpub. We have become good friends over the last couple of years, and I don’t remember any big disagreements when we were putting the anthology together. He’s always level-headed, and he listens to all of my crazy ideas. When Jim came onboard, he made the anthology one hundred percent better.

Jim: Our similarities (among other things, we both like beer) and differences (Chuck’s full of crazy — his definition — ideas that fascinate me and I tend to be more conservative and curmudgeonly). We’re close friends as well as neighbors. I feel honored that he chose me to help him with the anthology. Just wait’ll you see what he just came up with for our next project!
 
 
Are you planning other collections?

Chuck & Jim: We are currently putting together an anthology of dinosaur stories, tentatively to be called A Fistful of Dinosaurs. We are working on several other ideas.
 
 
What’s your most memorable memory of Ed?

Chuck: Maybe the time we almost got into a minor car accident on I-25. Or the time he proudly showed me the tulips in his garden. Or the unusual Christmas gift he seemed to find for everyone each year. Or the two of my short stories he purchased for Wormhole Books? One memory? How can I only choose one?

Jim: I remember those of his books he signed for me at several MileHiCons. He signed the first, his collection of short stories “Wyoming Sun” my first year in the Denver area in 1982. He always spoke to me for a moment or two before signing a book to find out how to make the message personal. And I remember our joking about his “flat cats” and trading puns about cats on our way to a writers’ meeting in the mountains. And his memorable comments about my novels. And as Chuck says, there are many more.

About Chuck

Charles Eugene Anderson is a painter, publisher, writer. Chuck lives in Colorado.

Website | Goodreads | Email

About Jim

Jim LeMay is originally from Missouri, the land of Mark Twain, Yogi Berra, Walter Cronkite, Edwin Hubble, Robert A. Heinlein and many other worthies so he knows his characters well. He has engaged in many of their vocations and avocations – homebrewer, bartender, waiter, land surveyor, civil engineer, land developer – and in some they have not: author, copywriter, commercial artist and others best forgotten. Jim lives in the Denver metropolitan area.

Website | Facebook
AuthorsDen | Goodreads | Email

Find out more about Ed Bryant

Locus Magazine | The Internet Speculative Fiction Database | Wikipedia

Find Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence

Mad Cow Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo
Books2Read | Facebook | Goodreads

Embed a Pinterest board in WordPress

Prerequisites

  • WordPress site.
  • Pinterest account.
  • A Pinterest board to embed on your WordPress site. Note that this doesn’t have to be your own board.

Configure WordPress

A specific instruction must appear in one of the PHP files on your WordPress site in order for embedded Pinterest boards to be displayed.

Don’t worry – you don’t need to write code to do this. 🙂

This instruction just tells WordPress to include some commands that tell it how to handle the Pinterest board.

  • Check to see if this is already set up.
    • If you have Jetpack installed, check to see if you have this file:
       
      wp-content/plugins/jetpack/modules/shortcodes/pinterest.php

      If you do, make sure it contains something like this:

      $script_src = '//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js';
      wp_enqueue_script( 'pinterest-embed', $script_src, array(), false, true );

    • If you don’t have Jetpack installed, see if this line or something similar is present in your PHP files (search for “pinit.js”). It would likely be in header.php, but could be in another location.
       
      <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script>

  • If this is not set up, add this text to the file header.php for your theme, and save the modified file.
     
    <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script>

    Note that if you’re not running a child theme, this line will be overwritten if your theme is updated. (Unless you’re doing something that’s very customized, you should be using a child theme for this very reason – because who wants their modifications to be lost?)

Embed your Pinterest board

  • Go to the board you want to include, and copy the URL.
     

     
  • Go to the Pinterest Widget builder page.
  • Click on Board widget.
     

     
  • Paste the URL you copied into the Pinterest board URL field.
  • Select the desired size.
  • Copy the code displayed in the box under “Copy and paste this code…”
  • Edit the WordPress page or post or widget where you want the Pinterest board to be displayed.
  • Paste in the code you copied. This should work in the Visual Editor as well as in the Text Editor in WordPress.
  • Preview what you’ve done to make sure everything is displaying properly, and then save it.

You can modify the HTML to adjust the size, change the alignment, etc. For example, this text centers the board.

<center><a data-pin-do="embedBoard" data-pin-board-width="400" data-pin-scale-height="240" data-pin-scale-width="80" href="https://www.pinterest.com/jamieauthor/underground-images/"></a></center>

And here’s the result.