Interview: Authors celebrating National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

February 26th, 2019 is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

A group of eight Colorado authors will be celebrating this festive day by telling fairy tales at BookBar in Denver, Colorado. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to their stories!

In this interview, the authors answer a few questions about fairy tales. 🙂

Meet the authors!

The authors reading from their work at BookBar are:

  • Diana Benedict
    Reading from “Summerland’s Paladin,” a short story in the Midwinter Fae anthology.
  • Cheryl Carpinello
    Reading “The Legend of the Red Deer & the Unicorns” from her book Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, and from “Tales of the Arabian Nights.”
  • J. A. Kazimer
    Reading from her novel CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery.
  • Lindsay King-Miller
    Reading “The Third Bride,” an unpublished short story.
  • Shannon Lawrence
    Reading “The Black Undeath,” a short story in the Once Upon a Scream anthology.
  • Lisa Manifold
    Reading from her novel Thea’s Tale, as well as from her work-in-progress.
  • Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
    Reading a poem titled “Swan Soup” and a short story, “Down in the Water.”
  • Lisa Trank
    Reading a family fairy tale about locusts.

The Interview

What do you enjoy about incorporating fairy tale elements in your own writing?

Sarah: First I think I like incorporating fairy tales into my own writing because it’s impossible not to although they can be far more disguised. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut said about how there are only so many plots out there (“Cinderella” being one of them) so why not choose to do it deliberately? Furthermore, the archetypes from the tales and the motifs too carry so much symbolic energy that they make my job easier (even if I’m twisting the original story or starting “Snow White” in the casket while she’s dead).

Diana: Fairy tales are archetypal, they depict Everyman stories. They reach way back into early people’s psyche and you can tell what was important to them and how they saw the world. I really like that animals can be active characters with their own motivations and purposes, too. I love pulling that magical aspect of storytelling into my stories. I love all my “children”, but the ones with fairy tale elements are my special babies.

Julie: People have all these expectations of fairytale characters, so my joy comes from twisting those expectations in a humorous way. For example, in CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery, gone are Goldie Locks’ trespassing ways, instead she’s a cop solving fairytale-on-fairytale crimes, with her adoptive Bear family helping out at every turn.

Lisa T.: I love messing with traditions and playing on our shared fears, phobias, and misreadings of mythologies. Fairy tales were never supposed to have happy endings—Grimm’s Fairy Tales are dark and devious, which allow us to explore that part of our psyche.

Shannon: There’s something fun about taking the familiar and twisting it into something new. Fairy tales were originally meant to be dark, but at some point we made them cheerful and endearing. I love taking them back to their more sinister roots.

Cheryl: For me, Fairy Tales also encompass folklore and legends. In my writing for ages 9-15, I love introducing readers to tales that have been around for ages and are still relevant today. The broad definition of Fairy Tales also allows me to introduce my own tales into my writing. It’s a delight when I talk with young readers who may or may not know the story of King Arthur, but when I ask if they know the Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorns, their eyes sparkle in anticipation of hearing the story.

Lindsay: Can I say that I just really like taking these ancient, archetypal stories and making them gay? There’s so much weight and symbolism in fairy tales, and I find it really satisfying to apply those layers of history and nuance to people who haven’t always appeared in stories. Queer retellings of fairy tales have so much power—they can subvert expectations in really meaningful ways.


Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story?

Sarah: Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with “Little Red Riding Hood.” I think I’ve always been drawn to it, and other fairy tale-like stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because it’s a GIRL on a JOURNEY by herself and with the exception of what Charles Perrault tried to do to Red back in the Court of the Sun King when he killed her off, she isn’t some helpless princess with privilege but a peasant girl who fends for herself and survives. I wrote my undergraduate critical thesis on her evolution from oral folktale (Middle Ages) to the twentieth century via storytelling and cinema and found that she goes from being the prey to preying on the predator (I specifically looked at how Hard Candy starring Ellen Page is a modern retelling). Originally Red didn’t even wear red and was a warning tale about werewolves where she outsmarted the wolf and escaped. Then Perrault came along and cloaked her in the harlot red and killed her off with a tidy bow of a moral at the end for the Brothers Grimm to come along in the 19th century and have a man (the woodcutter) come along and rescue her. She went through some strange phases in the 1950s/1960s, particularly with Anne Sexton’s Transformations, and the feminist strangeness that was Angela Carter with her wolf trilogy as presented in her short story collection, The Bloody Chamber where Red beds/weds the wolf and then Joyce Carol Oates’ almost timeless sociopath killer as wolf/devil retelling, “Where are you going? Where have you been?” and the relatively terrible film they made of it titled Smooth Talk followed by Freeway starring Reese Witherspoon who does outsmart the “wolf” and finally Hard Candy as mentioned above. My short answer is this: I love “Little Red Riding Hood” because I want to walk with wolves, even werewolves. I don’t necessarily care for all the marriage-centric fairy tales out there like “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty” although I do love all the magic.

Diana: I love Puss in Boots. I mentioned that I love animals that have their own purpose and motivations. Puss is a very active character. He manages the young man who inherits him quite handily, ignoring the ignorant fellow’s short-sighted plan of eating the cat and making a muff of his fur. He convinces the man to obtain a pair of boots and pouch for him and sets out to make the man’s fortune for him. At every turn he has a plan to acquire a fortune and a fine wife for his person. The young man just goes along, doing as he is told and manages to not make a fool of himself and ends up with a fine castle and the king’s daughter for his wife. Puss makes a life of ease where he only hunts mice for fun when he desires. Smart cat with a fine sense of style and drama!

Julie: Cinderella all the way. I have to know, before I die, how she managed to walk in glass slippers. Those things have no give. My own feet hurt just thinking about it.

Lisa T.: Jack and the Beanstalk. Hans Christian Anderson. I also love the Sholem Alechem tales of the Golem.

Shannon: I’ve always been drawn to Little Red Riding Hood. Who among us hasn’t felt alone, isolated? Sleeping Beauty was a favorite, as well. But in her case, it was all about Maleficent in the Disney version. There’s another story that’s always stuck with me, and I can’t remember the name. It’s the young woman who goes to become a bride, but something happens, and she is instead made into the goose keeper. Her horse’s head is cut off and mounted on the gate she must pass under every day. It was so twisted, but also had a satisfying end.

Cheryl: I’m not a traditional fairy tale lover. In case you weren’t sure, my love is Arthurian Legend. I find that the continued popularity of this legend makes it also one of most loved. There aren’t many years that go by without a new version of King Arthur making a debut. I’ll get into why in the next question.

Lindsay: The Little Mermaid. Andersen’s original story, not the Disney version—it was so grotesque. She walked on knives! She cut out her tongue! And she still didn’t get what she wanted. There’s something so primal about that, about what women have to go through to prove their worth, and how it might never be enough. I know a lot of fairy tales are dark, but as a horror writer I’m particularly drawn to the mermaid and her suffering.


The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?

Diana: Some of them provide some of the earliest lessons in behavior and we still look to them or we should. Even as kids we knew not to talk to strangers and be kind to old ladies with warts lest they eat you or curse you for your rudeness. Although, maybe kids nowadays don’t know the stories or haven’t suffered consequences for their behavior. There’s a story there. Would kids today know to never use bread crumbs for a trail because squirrels or something would eat them and they’d be lost somewhere really scary?

Julie: Even more so. Think about Little Red Riding Hood. The lesson is, ‘listen to your parents and don’t stray off the path’ else you’ll be consumed by a wolf who looks a whole lot like Grammy. The lesson still applies, though the wolf part seems like a long shot.

Lisa T.: As we continue to reinvent fairy tales, we also reinvent those lessons and that pushes against the boundaries of how we are conditioned to believe certain things about the world. I was terrified of grasshoppers because I’d grown up with this strange story from my mom’s childhood. But when our cat started hunting them and bringing the carcasses into our apartment, it gave me a different perspective and appreciation of them. And of course, writing always transforms things.

Shannon: The base of most of those stories still stands. Whether it’s about sneaking out, selfishness, strangers, or liking yourself the way you are, they still make sense.

Cheryl: Definitely. I’ve written articles on Arthurian Legend’s relevance and popularity in today’s world. Briefly, the Legend brings about the importance of friendship, loyalty, honor, treatment of those less fortunate, and appropriate behavior for many occasions to name a few. Important lessons which sometimes are not stressed enough today. Having these values already embedded in the Legend lets me create believable and identifiable characters for my young readers.


What do and/or don’t you like about traditional fairy tales?

Sarah: Obviously all the characters are stock characters, and all the female characters are held prisoner of the gender constraints of a largely Christian mindset, and maybe it’s because I’m in my forties now but I get more and more tired of the way the older women in fairy tales are hags or conniving witches. I used to be bothered more by how helpless and husband-obsessed the maidens were. Now I’m worried about the witches exiled to the woods or the barren stone towers of menopause.

Diana: Perrault reworked them into moral stories. A lot of them reduced girls/women to helpless creatures that needed to be rescued, when there are lots of other stories about women and girls who were strong and clever in their own right. I want to read stories about really strong girls and women who overcome adversity and win through cleverness.

Julie: Everything said above, and add in the rapier elements of finding helpless women in comas and assaulting them.

Lisa T.: The whole Disney take on fairy tales has really twisted generations of girls and women into expectations of being saved and way too thin waists! It’s insidious, gendered, and comes from a pretty privileged stance. Even the “modern” princesses—the entire idea of royalty being the standard for our imagination turns me off.

Shannon: I have to agree with the inherent sexism in some of these stories. You can really tell what stage of life you’re in as a woman based upon what stands out most to you at any given time. No matter how aware we are of the issues now, there’s little bit of fairy tale thought that someone will come along and rescue you.

Cheryl: Fairy Tales always reflect the society in which they were first told or written; these do not reflect the norm in today’s world. Most of the storylines have to be taken lightly while looking deeper for the values expressed.

Lindsay: I find most fairy tales insufficiently gay. I’m working on it.


What difference do you see between today’s fairy tale retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told hundreds of years ago?

Sarah: There is more of a tendency now to uncloak the alleged villains in the fairy tales of old and either prove they aren’t evil or there is a damn good reason for why they do what they do or ended up the way they did (I’m thinking in particular of the film Maleficent and how it took the “bad” fairy godmother from “Sleeping Beauty” and unpacked her character to essentially reveal a date rape situation [a metaphor for rape when her wings are cut off after she’s drugged by a man she trusts and even loves]). As a stepmother I haven’t always appreciated the way fairy tales represent us all as vain, scheming, evil, and jealous but then I started digging deeper and found the stepmother in “Snow White” at least was originally the girl’s biological mother and I’m not sure what’s worse.

Diana: I think that fairy tales represent whatever the society needs them to. That’s how stories full of dire and explicit warnings for avoiding physical danger in a cruel world become moral stories of how to behave in society. That’s how Red Riding Hood goes through so many aspects.I think modern Disney princess movies speak (more and more) to empowering girls, which is a good thing, mostly. Frozen is the latest in a series of modern fairy tales with a powerful message for little girls. I think what is important is that these stories contain that magic, those constructs which take the reader or watcher out of the everyday world and places them smack in the magical realm of story which speaks to the oldest part of our humanity. We need magic, even more now, I think, with the advent of 24 hour technology.

Lisa T.: It’s interesting—I didn’t grow up reading fairy tales and I never read them to our three daughters. They didn’t even watch Disney princess movies because I was so repelled by them and the physical pressure they put on girls. And boys. I’m all for retelling and letting happy endings go.

Shannon: There are different iterations of the retellings. There are those that make them funnier, those that make them scarier, and those that make them more romantic, to name a few. They went from being cautionary tales to fantasies, which feels like the extreme opposite of their origins. Which is why I think the horror retellings are often closer to the original heart of the stories. I love all the variations, though, and i think we make them what we need them to be, whether that’s goofy, romantic, or scary.

Cheryl: Most of the retellings are an attempt to make those more relevant or to explain the significance of the tale. Many times this can be humorous as in the story of The Three Little Pigs told by the Big Bad Wolf.

Lindsay: My favorite fairy tale retellings are the ones that make you question what the original tale was teaching, because some of the virtues they were trying to instill are really questionable. There’s a lot about caution, obedience, passivity—especially for women—so I love to see writers approach them with a fresh eye and challenge the outdated wisdom they hoped to impart. I loved Julie C. Dao’s Snow White retelling, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, because it took this very passive character who is saved by the love and strength of others, and instead gave her a quest and a way to save herself.


Traditional fairy tales varied depending on where the tellers lived. For example, Scandinavian fairy tales often included characters and elements related to their landscape. Is there a geographical region whose fairy tales resonate more with you? And if so, why?

Diana: The Middle East has always resonated for me. I read a lot of mythology as a kid and I was sad to see that women and girls were not very strong or clever or if they were, they ended up punished. There are stories that you can find if you search hard. I was lucky to find a copy of Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, which is a collection of stories about plucky girls from all over the world edited by Kathleen Ragan. Also Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. Both of these books do share stories of geographical areas, but more they show women and girls being strong and competent.

Lisa T.: Sholem Alechem’s tales took place in small Jewish villages of Eastern Europe, much of which no longer exist. I turn to them for a connection to my ancestry and for the humor, even in the midst of tragedy and danger.

Shannon: I don’t know if they’d be considered fairy tales, really, more like mythology, but the ones that mean the most to me are Native American tales. Especially Coyote. Tricksters of any stripe will always be my favorite.

Cheryl: Aside from Arthurian Legend, I love those from Eastern Germany that the Grimm Brothers recorded and passed down to us. And I love the stories written today using the Greek Myths. I’m also a fan of the desert stories told in 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights. I guess you could say I’m just a fan of tales, legends, and myths!


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

Diana: I am working on a story about a fairy who is forced to become princess in a mortal king’s castle as a way to preserve peace between the two races. I do enjoy the actual fae stories. All the tales of these people say they were a magical and clever people. There are lots of ways to cast them given the stories told of them. I get the impression they just wanted to live their lives and many humans were afraid of them or bulled their way over their way of life or hated them because they were different. I like playing with historical characters and watching how the fairy aspect changes how and why people do things. I like the main fairy character and I like watching her figure out how to obey her queen and make her way in a human world, even knowing that everything she might come to love will be dust even as she doesn’t age.

Julie: Since I just published CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery, I’ve been writing promotional pieces which have been a ton of fun. For example, I wrote a bit about a Day in the Life of Goldie Locks, where she is standing over a body, contemplating just how she got there. It’s always such a joy to go back to a character you wrote two years ago (as that’s how publishing schedules often work) and reconnect with them.

Lisa T.: I have a full length MG novel in submission and am starting on two projects—a picture book that is whimsical and loving (harder than I thought) and another full length middle grade novel that is fantasy and funny—based in Lower East Side and the Yiddish Theater. My grandparents were actors and many fairy tales were adapted for the Yiddish Theater. I’m excited to dive into that and have fun with mirror timelines and translations.

Shannon: I’ve got a couple along these lines going. One is a retelling of Rapunzel, but Rapunzel’s the predator, and her “hair” is woven, not actually hair. I’m also working on a sci-fi Bluebeard where he’s not a murderer and the women aren’t necessarily human. Both of these turn the original tales on their head, which I’m enjoying.

Cheryl: I’m finishing the 3rd book in my middle grade Guinevere trilogy. After that it’s onto the Ancient World with my Feathers of the Phoenix series. I love delving into my worlds be those medieval Britain, ancient Rome, or the lost city of Atlantis!

Lindsay: I’m working on several more short fairy tale retellings, mostly exploring the questions “what if this story were scarier?” and “what if this story were gay?” I’m also working on a fantasy story where the dragon turns out to be the good guy all along.

Sarah: I’ve been working on my second novel, Roadside Altars, for what feels like almost-forever. As is the tradition often in fairy tales, it features a grandmother, mother, and daughter (crone, mother, maiden) and uses the Tarot as the storyline (the Fool going through each of the major arcana cards). While it’s not as deliberately a fairy tale retelling as was my first book which was also only a subtle readaptation, Roadside is a road trip novel and in that way it’s once more “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” What I do know for sure is how I want the youngest character Krystal to travel around the country much like I did when I was a teenager–hopping trains and hitch-hiking–but I really want her to be a heroine always and I’m thinking I don’t want her to ever get hurt along the way. Maybe I can change the reality if I change the literary trope?

Find the Authors

Diana Benedict
Website | Amazon | Goodreads

Cheryl Carpinello
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | BookBub | Amazon | Goodreads

J. A. Kazimer
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | BookBub | Amazon | Goodreads

Lindsay King-Miller
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | BookBub | Amazon | Goodreads | Advice column

Shannon Lawrence
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | BookBub | Amazon | Goodreads

Lisa Manifold
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | BookBub | Amazon | Goodreads

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

Lisa Trank
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

Interview: Monalisa Foster and the Intellectual Property Tracker Kickstarter

What is Intellectual Property Tracker?

Intellectual Property Tracker is web-based software that allows writers to track all the important information associated with their product, i.e. their intellectual property (IP). Taglines, blurbs, sales copy, keywords, vendor and platform links, details about various formats (audio, POD, print, ebooks), publication history, submission history, IP rights management, details about advances, contracts, and promotion history, etc. Instead of keeping this important information in a tangle of spreadsheets, various documents, pieces of paper, etc., Intellectual Property Tracker allows you to have all the information in one place.

The Kickstarter ends on Wednesday, February 13th 2019, so check it out if you’d like to help fund the project AND get some of the awesome options available to supporters!

Meet Monalisa!

Monalisa is an author whose primary genre is science fiction with a bit (or a lot) of romance thrown in. She created Intellectual Property Tracker as a way to allow authors and publishers to track all the important information associated with their products.

The Interview

How can Intellectual Property Tracker help authors?

This application will free up time and energy for writing and creating. The idea for this product came out of the WMG’s Master Business Seminar in Las Vegas last fall. There I was sharing space with some incredible writers, a lot of them best sellers, most of them indies, and the ONE thing they all wanted (besides more time) was a way to manage all the information associated with their stories (i.e. their intellectual property).

Once you get to the stage where you have several stories out, you’re probably managing all sorts of information via binders, notebooks, spreadsheets, random pieces of paper, etc. The problem is that even when you do your best to keep everything up to date (whether in a spreadsheet or a notebook), taking that data and creating reports about what rights you’ve licensed, what rights are coming back to you, or which stories are performing better, or which series has the most read-through, can take up huge chunks of your time. Time that you’d be better off writing.

Let’s face it, as writers, we wear a lot of hats. And it’s easy to let details slip through the cracks, or not even be aware of which details to track. Even something simple like finding the blurb for ONE short story you wrote five years ago is going to eat into your time unless you have that information at your fingertips.

By giving you a structured system where you can organize everything in one place, Intellectual Property Tracker will free you up to do more of your creative work and spend less time looking for and managing the information associated with it.

The Kickstarter has met its funding goal, so what’s the advantage of someone supporting the Kickstarter at this point?

There are three advantages:

  1. saving money; the pledge levels offer you the plans at a savings.
  2. Dean Wesley Smith’s Magic Bakery Workshop on copyright and intellectual property is a $150 value on its own; you’re going to learn so many amazing things about copyright and how important it is to manage your rights in this class. Honestly, if you don’t know why stories are intellectual property and the value that intellectual property (IP) has to your success as a writer, you absolutely NEED this class, even if you’ve never published anything or if you’ve just had your first story accepted.
  3. for those that already have a few (or a dozen or a hundred) titles out and know about copyright and IP, the $500 Lifetime Plan is a Kickstarter special.

Why did you decide to create Intellectual Property Tracker?

The discussion at the WMG Publishing Master Business class was the seed for this project. Most people at the class were already attempting to do this with spreadsheets. And while spreadsheets are great for some things, what people were really trying to do required a database capable of not just tracking the information, but pulling data to generate reports and present them in a meaningful way. Some people try to use spreadsheets like a database, but often run into the problem of data integrity, and duplicate or conflicting data.

What is “The Magic Bakery,” and why is it relevant to Intellectual Property Tracker?

Dean Wesley Smith, a best-selling author and a wonderful teacher, uses the analogy of a “Magic Bakery” when discussing IP (your stories). And I think it’s an appropriate analogy for several reasons.

Imagine that your story is a pie. But unlike an apple pie in a real bakery, you only have to bake it once. You can slice it up (and not just into a dozen slices, but hundreds) and each one of those slices can be “sold” again and again.

If you’re doing it right, some of those slices come back to you to be “sold” again because unlike an apple pie, these slices don’t spoil. The slices in this case are analogous to the many different types of rights/licenses associated with your work.

This is a simplified version of things, but think of it this way:

You’ve got first publication, reprint right, audio rights, movie rights. Each one of those is a slice. Now take reprint rights. You can take that slice and make more slices if your story gets reprinted in one anthology this year and another down the road, or if your novel is part of a bundle or a box set.

Now imagine trying to track when your rights come back to you? What are your reversion dates? Did you have a snapback or clawback clause on that contract or that one? What were the reversion conditions?

Don’t know what I’m talking about? You should. And the Magic Bakery will teach you these things. That’s why it complements Intellectual Property Tracker so well and why we are so glad that Dean and WMG were generous enough to offer it for the Kickstarter.

What features do you plan to add to future versions?

We know that different writers have different workflows and that different things are important to them. Our current demo is very basic but will give you a “sketch” of the final product. It’s based on the discussion at the Master Business class. We also added a short second video based on a requested feature (the tracking and management of images).

So, as we get requests and input of what our writers want, we will continue to meet their needs. Someone wanted a way to track reviews, and that’s an example of a feature we’d add. Writers that don’t track reviews would just not use that feature.

Two things NOT in the demos are sorting features and reports. But both of those will be in the final product. So, for example, one report would allow you to look at all your titles and how they are performing, whether you want to look at that information arranged by date, venue, or market.

Another report I think is crucial is the one about reversion dates. So let’s say you want to know which titles are coming back to you in 60 (or 30 or 90 days) so that you can plan for a new cover or look for a new bundle. You’ll be able to generate a report showing you that information.

Do you want a graph showing you how well book 1 of a series is performing vs book 2 and book 3? There is going to be an easy way to do that. We know we haven’t thought of everything, but our goal is to keep our writers happy, so as long as they’re telling us what they want, we’ll continue improving Intellectual Property Tracker to meet their needs.

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

I’ve just finished up a novel, a space opera (think Dune and Barrayar but with genetically-engineered samurai). I’m currently working on the sequel and another side story in the same universe (one of these, “Dominion,” is going to be included in WMG’s Fiction River series, the Face the Strange anthology edited by Ron and Bridget Collins (scheduled for 2020 release).

My stories are a mix of the far-future (as in nanotech and genetic engineering) and the past, fusing the best and worst of both to create a world in which very human characters fight for what they love. There’s adventure and romance, swords and spaceships, honor and sacrifice. I had a lot of fun writing this story. It’s definitely the type of story that I myself enjoy, and I think readers will too.

I’m also collaborating on a romantic time-travel adventure (think Roman Britain) and working on a sequel to my hard sci-fi novella, Promethea Invicta.

Find Monalisa!

Monalisa won life’s lottery when she escaped communism and became an unhyphenated American citizen. Her works tend to explore themes of freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. Despite her degree in physics, she’s worked in several fields including engineering and medicine, but she enjoys being a trophy wife and kept woman the most. She and her husband (who is a writer-once-removed via their marriage) are living their happily ever after in Texas, along with their children, both human and canine.

She learned English by reading and translating books from the juvenile section at the public library. She’d walk to the library with her dictionary and a notebook and start copying sentences and then translating them by hand. At home in the evenings, she’d take unfamiliar words and write them out ten times, or more, to get the spelling down. After a few days of this, a kindly librarian took pity on her and offered her a library card and then broke some rules in issuing one to a ten-year-old. This was back in the bad old days when kids were still free range and parents didn’t get jailed for letting them go places unsupervised. But, the library was air conditioned, an important thing when the temperature reaches triple digits, so she spent the summer there anyway, and along the way discovered Robert Heinlein and science fiction. It didn’t take long to devour the juvenile section and move on to the grown-up books.

Find Monalisa at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
 

Interview: Bundle Up! by Jamie Ferguson


 
 

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads | Author Website
Author Facebook Page | Author Goodreads Page | Author Twitter
Author Amazon Page

 
 
This interview, in which DeAnna Knippling interviews Jamie J. Ferguson, originally appeared on the Wonderland Press website.

The Interview

1. First, tell us about bundles and other beasts. Briefly, what are they, who should buy them, and where can you get them? Optional: what’s your favorite format?

Until I started writing Bundle Up!, I’d never realized how confusing the terminology can be. 🙂 I finally switched to using terms like “multi-author project” in the book to make it clear the concepts could apply to different types of projects.

Some people use “bundle” to apply to any collection of stories or books that are packaged together for sale. I’ve found that while this makes logical sense, it tends to confuse people, so I use “bundle” to refer specifically to collections of ebooks that are created using a bundling website. These sites handle splitting royalties among the participants, and may offer the option to donate a percentage of the proceeds to charity.

Other beasts include anthologies, which are collections of stories packaged together into a single book; magazines, which are similar to anthologies, but may include additional content, like essays; and boxed sets, which are collections of books in either print or ebook format. And there are even more permutations—for example, you could create a bundle of audiobooks, or a bundle of bundles of ebooks.

The three main sites where you can purchase ebook bundles are BundleRabbit, StoryBundle, and Humble Bundle. Bundles created via BundleRabbit may also be available for sale on sites like Amazon. Anything that doesn’t qualify as an ebook bundle can be sold at any retail channel that sells books.

I don’t have a favorite format—I feel that there are situations where each format works well. That said, for collections of short stories, I prefer the anthology format to the bundle format. A bundle of short stories is an ebook that contains other ebooks, so the formatting can vary quite a bit between the items in the collection. An anthology is a single book, so the formatting is consistent across all stories in the collection.
 
 
2. I’ve worked with you on a bunch of different projects (and, in fact, I did edits on Bundle Up!), and I know that you’re super organized, to the point where it’s almost a minor superpower. Please gimme a story about how you came to appreciate that about yourself. I’m always interested in how people find their minor superpowers. 🙂

My organizational superpower has always been there, so I can’t really remember a time when it wasn’t present. My mom says I made lists even as a small child. 🙂 What isn’t apparent to most people is that I’m super organized in giant swaths, but will ignore other areas if they’re not as important to me at the moment.

For example, once a month or two I’ll have built up a pile of papers and books and random things that eventually gets so high it starts to block my monitor, or I won’t have any room left to put my tea. At this point I “clean my desk,” which usually involves sorting through some things, and moving the rest to a pile elsewhere in my jam-packed office. But the colorful spreadsheets I use to track the writing and publishing projects I work on are very detailed and structured.

It’s kind of like synesthesia. I associate letters and numbers with colors, and didn’t realize until I was well into adulthood that most people don’t do this type of thing because this seems so normal to me that I rarely even think about it.
 
 
3. Your book is featured in the Nano Writing Tools Bundle aimed at writers doing a project for the National Novel Writing Month. How did you get involved with that bundle, and has it been a positive experience?

I’d been planning on writing Bundle Up! for a long time, but kept putting it off partly because I felt I didn’t have enough experience, and partly because the idea of writing a non-fiction book was a little frightening. In the summer of 2018, Mark Leslie Lefebvre interviewed me about bundles, curation, and collaboration on his Stark Reflections podcast. I mentioned writing my book during the interview—I figured that by committing to the project in a public forum I’d put pressure on myself to finally start on the project—and my plan worked! I told Chuck Heintzelman, the founder of BundleRabbit, that I’d finally started working on the manuscript. He mentioned it to Kevin J. Anderson, the curator of the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, and Kevin contacted me and extended an invitation—with the obvious caveat that my book would have to be done.

I was super excited about this opportunity. Not only had I started writing my book, I also had the opportunity to be part of the annual NaNoWriMo bundle! Having a super firm deadline meant I had to buckle down and focus, which I did. I’d probably still be poking at the manuscript if I hadn’t had this opportunity.

In addition to all that, it’s not only been a really fun experience to be a part of this collection, I’m also a fan of the charity we’re working with. The Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit education organization founded by the families of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, gets a portion of the proceeds from the NaNoWriMo bundle.
 
 
4. If a writer wanted to get involved in a bundle, what would be the best way to do that? What would make it worth it for an author to organize a bundle of their own?

Networking is by far the best way to get involved in a bundle or any other kind of multi-author project. It’s not the only way, of course. You can submit a story in response to an anthology call, put your ebook up in BundleRabbit’s Marketplace, etc. But if you connect with other authors, they’ll be more likely to invite you to participate in a project.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration if you’re interested in organizing a collection. Most people just decide to do it and jump right in, which is exactly how I ended up curating my first collection a few years ago. 🙂 But I know several authors who organized one collection and then swore they’d never do it again, and there are several main reasons why. There’s a lot of cat herding involved—as the curator, you need to make sure the authors sign the contract, get their stories/ebooks in on time, give you biographies, and so on. You also need to plan on doing a fair amount of promotion, and/or rely on the authors to help out—but not all authors understand how to do this. One of the most common complaints I hear from curators is that they expected the authors to pitch in more on the marketing side.
 
 
5. If you had one tip for authors on how to make the impact of the bundles (and anthologies) they’re in more effective, what would it be?

I’m going to cheat and give two tips, since I consider them both important. 🙂

The first is to figure out what you can do—and are willing to do—to promote the collection, and do it! Ideally, think this through ahead of time so that you can schedule time to write promotional posts, put together marketing images, and so on.

The second is to collaborate on promotion. I’ve found collaboration with other authors to be a huge benefit of multi-author collections. Not only can this help promote the collection, by working on marketing with other authors, you’re also promoting each other.
 
 
and last but not least, the bonus question:

6. Is there any note that you’d like to leave your readers on? (Hint: the additional promo question.)

Be creative! 🙂

One of the sections in my book is called Think Outside the Boxed Set. It contains examples of less common ways to use story/book collections, like creating a collective of authors who share tasks related to a series of collections. (Examples of this particular approach include the Uncollected Anthology, which I joined in 2018, and Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine created by Blaze Ward.) There are always more ways of doing things! Don’t allow yourself to be constrained by what you’ve seen others do—give yourself the freedom to think of new ideas, and try them out!

About DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer, editor, and book designer living in Colorado. She runs Wonderland Press, a micropublisher of curious fiction and non-fiction for iconoclasts.
 

Interview: Andrea Pearson on “How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book”


 
 
How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Andrea!

Andrea is a bestselling author who’s written more than 50 books and over a hundred articles for professional blogs and websites. She writes fantasy, sweet romance, and co-creates a book each year with her illustrator husband and students from the local elementary school. Andrea has written several books for authors, has a series of online courses on marketing, and hosts a regular podcast with her husband.

How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book

Are you an author who is struggling with finding volunteers and professionals to help polish your book? Do you wish there was a guide that offered plenty of suggestions for finding these people?

The Self-Publish Strong series, written by successful indie author Andrea Pearson, gives you advice and guidance on building your brand, publishing, and marketing your own books.

In How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book you will discover how to:

  1. Find and train beta readers
  2. Hire editors
  3. Test covers and descriptions
  4. Format ebooks and know where to publish them
  5. Typeset print books and where to publish them
  6. Choose a price for print and ebooks

Excerpt

One of the biggest mistakes new indie authors make is using covers that aren’t professional. Don’t hesitate to hire someone to take over this aspect of publishing for you. Good cover designers have been developing their skills for many years, and the cost of the cover will be worth the perfect design for your book.

A good cover will fit the emotions or theme of your book. Your cover needs to be able to catch (and hold) attention. It needs to match other covers in the genre, and it needs to look great.

A cover can cost anywhere from $25 to several thousand dollars, with the average landing around $300 to $450. How much it costs depends on the originality of the artwork and stock photos used. The illustrations and photographs from the popular PhatPuppyArt website, for example, can cost several hundred alone, and that’s before a cover designer starts working on them. Keep in mind that even if a book cover is expensive, it doesn’t always mean the cover will work. Get critiques on all covers, even when you’ve outsourced the creation to a designer.

– from How to Polish Your Manuscript into a Rock-Solid Book by Andrea Pearson

The Interview

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give an author on how to go from a finished manuscript to a rock-solid book?

Revise, revise, revise! First, do everything you can on your own, then reach out to volunteers – friends and family, etc. (They tend to be the most kind, if you’re just starting out.) Then look for volunteers and professionals who don’t know you. Apply any revisions they suggest that ring true for your book. Pay extra attention to the things the professionals say.
 
 
What inspired you to create the Self-Publish Strong podcast, and why did you and your husband decide to team up and host it together?

We’ve always wanted to do a podcast—six years ago, we made up our minds to start one, but we couldn’t find the right topic until December 2017. I absolutely love teaching and I wanted a place that allowed me to help others without me needing to be everywhere all the time. I knew I could host my own show, but I didn’t want one with regular guest interviews, since there are so many of those already. On the other hand, podcasts that feature just one person can be a bit boring. My husband is 100% my business partner, and as our listeners can attest, he’s a smart guy with a lot of insight. 🙂 It was an easy decision to do it together. 🙂
 
 
How does your Review Crew and Street Team help you?

They’re soooo wonderful! Reviews are so much easier to get now that I have a review team. And whenever I’m running promotions or want feedback on weird ideas, they’re the first I go to.
 

 
You run a Facebook group, BookBub Promotions and More, which is a place for authors to share notes on promoting and marketing. What’s one of the most useful things you’ve learned from running this group?

That the indie community is fantastic, and people are almost always willing to share. But on the other hand, those who have the most to share usually have the least amount of time to share it. Which is why we do chats with successful authors on a regular basis—they’re unable to participate in the group all the time, but they still want to help others out. Win-win for everyone. 🙂
 
 
You write sweet western romance as Andrea Kate Pearson. What inspired you to focus your stories in a western setting, and why specifically in Montana?

I love westerns—I was raised reading them (I devoured pretty much anything sweet romance, but mostly western romances) and all growing up, I wanted a horse more than anything. I took horse riding lessons in high school and still love westerns and cowboys. We attend the local rodeo every single year—I haven’t missed once. And Montana because I hadn’t set a series there for my fantasy books. I’m taking a break from romance (my fantasy is more established), but I hope to return soon.
 

 
What’s one of your favorite resources for maintaining your business excitement and energy?

Finishing a book! There’s nothing more exciting and relieving to know I’ve finished another story. But also podcasts. I enjoy listening to other authors’ experiences.
 
 
You and your husband developed Bezza’s Book of Enchantments with a local group of kids with the intention of helping them learn writing and illustrating skills. What did you most enjoy about that experience? Do you feel it had a lasting impact on the kids?

We’ve done a book a year with the local elementary school—just tied up #5. It’s so much fun! We’ve been able to watch and interact with the kids as they’ve grown into young adults who have a passion for writing and illustrating. And yes, we feel it has had a lasting impact. They appreciate literature and art much more than they would have otherwise, and their parents and teachers tell us this regularly. It’s not a money-making project, but we absolutely love it and hope to continue serving there for several more years.
 
 
Why did you decide to have characters from one of your series, the Kilenya Chronicles, appear in book six of your series the Mosaic Chronicles?

Characters from my books tend to pop up in other series/books regularly. It makes it fun for me to write and fun for my readers to read! I personally love it when other authors do this, and I was really happy that my readers appreciated it too. It’s like finding an Easter egg. Even the books we write for the school share some characters with my books for adults/teens.
 
 
In addition to everything else you’re doing, you were one of the instructors at the 2018 WMG Publishing Business Master Class. What do you enjoy about teaching marketing to authors and publishers?

Everything! Knowing I’m helping other people, learning more (they say you learn more when you teach), and sharing my passions. I love marketing! I’ve been invited to return as an instructor for 2019, and I’m really looking forward to it.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m just tying up the final book in my Koven Chronicles. I’ve really enjoyed this series. Lizzie, the main character, has the ability to stop sparks, so she works closely with local government officials to stop bombs, guns, and fires—wild, residential, etc. It’s been a really fun series.

About Andrea

Andrea Pearson is an avid reader and outdoor enthusiast who plays several instruments, not including the banjo. She is the author of many full-length novels and novellas, including the bestselling Mosaic, Koven, and Kilenya Chronicles. Writing is the chocolate of her life—it is, in fact, the only thing she ever craves. Being with her family is where she’s happiest, and she loves thunderstorms, the ocean, hiking, public speaking, painting, and traveling.

Find Andrea

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Craig Martelle on “Become a Successful Indie Author”


 
 
Become a Successful Indie Author is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Craig!

Craig runs the 20BooksTo50K author group, which has over 26,000 members. A successful indie author, he writes best selling fiction in genres he loves: space opera, military scifi, Space Marine, colonization, and genetic engineering. He lives in Alaska, where temperatures reach fifty below zero, and he and his wife get to watch the northern lights from their driveway.

Become a Successful Indie Author

Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.

This is a motivational guide based on Craig’s two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.

Clocking in at nearly 50,000 words, this guide has something for every budding author as well as those who have already published, but for whom success remains elusive. In this business there is only one hard and fast rule—you must find readers willing to pay for your stories. It starts with the first sentence. You have to write a gripping story that people want to read, wrap a cover around the book, and then do the marketing. There’s no doubt that you can do it. Let Craig show you how.

Excerpt

Why publish your books yourself? For the same reason most small businesses start—you have an idea and are the best one to make it a reality. That idea is a story, and you have to write it, then publish it, and then sell it. And then write another one.

Daunting? Maybe.

Easy? Definitely not.

Doable? Eminently.

We publish independently because we get a much higher royalty share, we have complete control over our work, we interact directly with our readership, and so much more. The drawback is that you have to do it all yourself—creativity, production, marketing, and accounting. But indies are betting on themselves, just like any other small business. We stand up and shout, “I got this!” Then we knuckle down and do the hard work where we and we alone are responsible for our success.

Will this book guarantee that you’ll be the next seven-figure author? Absolutely not. But it will show you that if you work hard at the right things, it may not be as far away as you think. Make your hard work work for you.

This book is meant to show you what’s possible, and that you’re not alone on this journey. Arming yourself with information is the best way to win the battle known as “Indie Publishing.”

You can do it. It takes work, but the mountain is not insurmountable.

JK Rowling made over one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in book sales alone and estimates suggest that she reached only nine percent of the book reading public. Only nine percent is worth a billion dollars. She didn’t get there because she was trying to get rich. She got there because she wrote great stories and then handled the business side of it.

What if you were able to tap 1/10,000th of what JK Rowling tapped?

Then you would be a $100,000 author, while the average author makes less than $10,000 a year. But we refuse to be average, because we learn from others with readily available information that will help us get to that next level.

No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach.

Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.

– from Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

The Interview

What’s the most important lesson readers should take away from Become a Successful Indie Author?

That if you work hard at the right things, your chances of success greatly improve.
 
 
Why do you believe newsletters are so important?

It is the direct link to my fans. It lets me have a conversation with them at regular intervals. They subscribed because they liked my books. It’s important to keep feeding them.
 
 
What helps you stay motivated?

My fans, the readers who buy my books and make the characters their own. I worked as a Fortune 500 business consultant and seeing the opportunity while applying sound business practices to the art of storytelling is doubly rewarding.
 

 
You’ve written nine books in your Free Trader series, and three books in the Cygnus Space Opera series, which is set in the same universe. What do you enjoy about writing in this universe?

It takes me back to my high school days when D&D was first rolled out. It was a great game of the imagination. The first science fiction role-playing game was Metamorphosis Alpha by James M. Ward. That is the game I loved the most for engagement of the imagination. With the success of the Free Trader series, I was able to connect with James and we have since written two books together and are currently working on our third.
 

 
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from collaborating with other authors?

You can learn something from everyone, whether it’s a turn of phrase, depth of character, or so many other things. Everyone you’ve ever met knows something that you don’t. Take a chance to learn what that is
 
 
What suggestions can you give to someone trying to improve their word count?

Practice helps immensely. Writing every day is the key to big word counts. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
 
 
You co-wrote The Human Experiment with Kevin McLaughlin. What was the most surprising thing to you about the experience of collaborating with another author on this project?

That a literary fiction style book takes a different kind of marketing and a different style of writing than either of us was used to.
 
 
Darklanding, a space opera/western series you’re writing with Scott Moon, is being released in a serial format with twelve releases in a season, then a break before the next season begins. Why did you and Scott choose to use this format, and what are your thoughts about it now that you’ve completed the first season?

We wrote Darklanding very specifically to woo the small screen. Each episode can be turned into a one-hour screenplay with minimal effort. We focused on different characters in each episode to make shooting them easier. After completing the first season, we learned that as a series of books in a niche genre, it needs more oomph. We marketed it a great deal before launch. It did well, even with the rapid release but fell off the charts after we stopped releasing.
 

 
You’re a key part of 20BooksTo50K, and a driving force behind the group’s conferences. What’s your favorite part about being involved with this group?

Changing lives. We have helped so many people to turn their lives around. The stories are amazing. I’ve had the pleasure to meet a number of incredible authors because of running the largest self-published author conference in the world.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on a number of stories right, building IP (intellectual property) through outlining and preparing three new series. I have co-writers working on three different military scifi/space operas, a space dragon trilogy, and an epic fantasy trilogy. The stuff that I personally write—my lawyer in space series is doing great and I love writing it (I’m a lawyer, too, my sordid past). The biggest new series is a Young Adult Cozy Mystery set of 24 books that we’ll publish next year—a new story every two weeks. These will be novellas, but they are going to be great fun. Look for Monster Case Files in a store near you. 🙂

About Craig

Craig retired from the Marine Corps, spending time both as enlisted and as an officer. Then he went to law school, took his law degree into business consulting where he became a business diagnostics specialist and leadership coach. He retired from that at age 52 because he was away from home way too much. That’s when he started writing full time, and he has not looked back since. This is a great ride! He have a variety of stories now since he’s been at this for a little while, lots of short stories so you can see if you like his style. He has a number of best selling novels in categories that matter to him—space opera, military scifi, Space Marine, colonization, and genetic engineering. As a serial daydreamer, it’s nice to finally get the stories on paper (virtual and digital paper, that is). And then since he runs the 20Booksto50k author group with over 25,000 members, he has taken what I’ve shared, put it into logical order, expounded on a few things, and then published it as a self-help book for indie authors.

Find Craig

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | BookBub

Interview: Scott King on “Story Pitch”


 
 
Story Pitch is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Scott!

Scott writes fiction, non-fiction, and is a game photographer. He produces an annual calendar that highlights board and other hobby games. He really, really likes coffee.

Story Pitch

Struggling to start your story or lost in the middle? You need a Story Pitch.

A standard pitch is meant for marketing and selling, but a Story Pitch is a powerful tool meant to be used when pre-writing and writing. It can help you jumpstart your novel, screenplay, comic, or whatever type of story you are trying to tell and it can be used as a corrective measure if you get off track during the writing process.

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • The key elements to story
  • How those elements are connected
  • How to construct a Story Pitch
  • How to use a Story Pitch for outlining
  • How to use a Story Pitch to fix character problems
  • How to use a Story Pitch when lost during writing
  • How to use a Story Pitch for writing book blurbs

If you like honesty, no bull, a bunch of humor, and tons of examples in your writing guides, then you’ll love Scott King’s Story Pitch.

Excerpt

A pitch is a description of a story that a person uses to sell it. In Hollywood, it might be that a writer is pitching a screenplay to producers, hoping they buy it. In traditional publishing, it might be an author pitching a novel to an agent who would then pitch it to one of the big six publishers.

Anytime you meet someone and they ask you about what you’ve written, whether it’s a novella, short story, or full-blown three-hundred-thousand-word epic, what you say back to them is a pitch.

Pitching is part of a writer’s world. No matter how much you might hate giving one, you can’t escape it. Book blurbs that appear on the back of a novel or on a retailer website are also pitches. They are carefully crafted descriptions meant to sell the story to a potential reader.

You can use a Story Pitch to create all the pitches I described above, but the main goal of a Story Pitch isn’t to sell the idea of your story to someone else. A Story Pitch is meant to be a tool you can use when pre-writing, writing, and re-writing your story.

Whittled down, a Story Pitch is a synopsis that introduces the key elements of your story, serves as a guide post while writing, and creates enough interest to hook the listener so they’ll want more.

– from Story Pitch by Scott King

The Interview

You write both fiction and non-fiction; do you enjoy one over the other?

I enjoy them equally but for different reasons. Fiction is my way of having fun. It’s creating worlds and characters that readers care about. I use it to offer escape, fun, and to touch upon themes that I think are important. In a different time of my life I was a college professor and doing non-fiction scratches that teaching itch. It’s not working one on one with students, but I still get to feel like I’m helping people.
 
 
The books in your Writer to Author series are all connected to fiction books of yours. Why did you decided to link your fiction with your non-fiction?

One of the biggest advantage to taking a class in writing versus reading a book about writing is that you get to see the mistakes that other students make in their writing and how they go about fixing those mistakes. By tying my non-fiction books to my fiction books it allows the reader to go on a journey with me. When I screw something up they get to see first hand how I fix it. My book on outlining doesn’t just teach how to outline, but shows how I outlined an actual novel. Want to know how a Story Pitch can be used to fix a problem? I use it to solve a major problem I was having in the original draft of my dystopian thriller Resist Them.
 

 
Why make the the tone of your non-fiction books so non-traditional?

I like coffee and poop jokes. I’m not stuffy. That shows in my books. They aren’t written in an academic style. They are written as if me and the reader are hanging out in a cool coffee shop and just talking shop about publishing and the craft of writing. It allows me to write the books in my natural voice which means I get to focus more on content than presentation.
 
 
How did you come up with the idea for your book Story Pitch?

I had previously published Finish The Script! and The Five Day Novel. One of the most popular subjects covered in both books was how to write a pitch. Since the interest seemed to be there, I decided to flesh out the concept into a full book, with a focus not just on how to write a pitch, but how to use it as a tool for pre-writing and re-writing.
 
 
What are the basic building blocks when writing a Story Pitch?

The core of every pitch has four things: Character, the Character’s Want, an antagonistic force preventing them from achieving their want, and the stakes, which is what happens if the want isn’t achieved.

So looking at Avengers: Infinity War it would break down something like this:
Character: Thanos
Want: To put together the infinity gauntlet (so he can wipe out half of all life forms to prevent overpopulation and the lack of resources)
Conflict: The Avengers are trying to stop him from doing so.
Stakes: If he fails the universe is doomed.

Things like genre, voice, and themes can all impact a pitch too, but this should give you an idea of what basic elements are and how they might fit together.
 

 
 
How can an author use a Story Pitch?

If you talk to most authors, they think pitches are important for selling a book. You pitch to an agent via a query letter or you pitch to a publisher. Then you might pitch to a potential reader via the synopsis on the back cover or the description on an online store. A story pitch is great for those things but it can also serve as a guide when writing or as a test when pre-writing.

When I was a college professor, I needed some sort of gauge to measure a student’s story before they started writing it. I had them write pitches, just so I could make sure they had a clear goal with the story they wanted to tell and I realized in doing so that it helped them stay on track through the writing process.

That’s where I think a Story Pitch really shines, helping writers shape their idea before writing. It’s also a great test when rewriting because you can compare your current draft to your original pitch. Doing so allows you to see where an element might have gotten off track or gone wrong.
 
 
Why might an author choose to write a Story Pitch for each character in their story?

Story Pitches are centered on individual characters. If a story has multiple POVs or a writer is simply struggling to understand a supporting character, writing a Story Pitch can help clear things up.

Earlier I used the example of Thanos from Infinity War. Although he is the “villain” in many ways he is the main character of the movie. He has the biggest wants. He is the most proactive of all the characters. He even has a slight arc in weighing what he is willing to sacrifice to gain his deepest wants.

Writing a Story Pitch centering on him makes sense, but the movie was an ensemble piece. It has a huge cast. Going back and writing addition pitches for the other characters would aid in fleshing out those additional story lines and themes that a writer might want to touch upon.
 
 
In Wrath of Dragons, the first book in your Elderealm series, you do some interesting and unexpected things with your dragon characters—especially with Doug the dragon. What inspired you to write about a dragon turned into a human?

There are a lot of fantasy novels where dragons are shape shifters. That’s not a new trope. What I did that was a bit sneaky is play a bit with expectations at the start of Wrath of Dragons. I set the story up so that readers would think dragons were non-intelligent beasts, because that is the view one of the POV characters has. Within the first two chapters that changes and the readers along with the POV character realize that there is more going on than they realized.

Doug’s whole story in the not just the first novel, but the series as a whole is that he is someone trying to learn how to connect with others. He’s an outcast as a dragon. He is trapped in human form. He has no family. He is simply looking for his place in the world. Although this is a fantastical setting, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. It’s probably why he has become one of the fan favorite characters of the series.
 
 
With so much working having to go into all stages of publishing as an indie author, do you still have fun writing?

Heck yeah. I’m a story person first. Money is great, and I’m lucky enough to make a full time income doing what I’m doing, but as things are now I make enough and I don’t need to push to make more. In a way that gives me a bit of freedom with my writing. Instead of fast tracking the next book in a series to push for quick releases, I can take a break and write a novella, non-fiction book, or whatever I want. Writing what I feel I NEED to write next instead of what I SHOULD write next keeps things fun. It lets me feel like I am prioritizing story of business.

And to be clear, there is no right or wrong reason to write. I know a bunch of authors who write and it’s a job to them. Their main goal is providing for their family or they are trying to earn a hire Amazon rank. Those reasons to write are just as legit as my reasons.
 
 
In addition to being an author, you’re also a board game photographer! What do you enjoy most about this type of photography?

People are the worst when it comes to photography. People have things they don’t like about themselves… maybe an old scar, the shape of their jaw line, the thickness of their eyebrows, or whatever. In photos they want whatever that thing they dislike to be hidden or minimized. As a photographer I like to capture things as they are and sometimes if you are photographing a person that means photographing something they don’t want. This can lead to cranky humans because you took a real portrait showing who they really are instead of what they want to appear as.

Because people can be a pain to make happy, I gravitated toward non-people photography, mostly food and landscape. That eventually lead to board games and to be honest, board games are great because they don’t have opinions of themselves. Plus publishers and designers are happy when you take real photos of their games. It’s a win-win!
 
 
You co-wrote your newest non-fiction book, Learn How to Write a Novel by Reading Harry Potter with Clark Chamberlain. What led the two of you to write this book?

Clark had done a Harry Potter class and approached me about teaming up for additional courses. Courses are not my thing, but it gave me the idea of teaming up for a book, and this book is what we decided to do!

Basically the book breaks down as a 101 class in how to write a novel and it uses Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the example for all the lessons. In a way it’s a layered so that someone who knows nothing about writing could come in and read it and leave with an understanding of what it takes to write a novel. On the other hand, if someone already has multiple books under their belt and knows what they are doing, Learn How to Write a Novel by Reading Harry Potter is a great re-read companion. The book is structured by chapter so you can read a chapter of The Sorcerer’s Stone and then read a chapter of Learn How to Write a Novel to see an analysis of that chapter!
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now?

Soooo much. It’s been a strange year.

I cranked out the first draft of Unchained Shadows, the next book in my Elderealm series. It was supposed to only be about 100k, but is pushing 200k. I’m super excited about it. It’s GOOD, but messy because my first drafts are always super messy so it needs a heavy polish and I will wrap it up by the end of the year.

I have half a dozen short stories I’m shopping around. I also have a sci-fi short story I’m turning into a novella. It’s strange and more literary than mainstream. It will probably be out sometime next spring.

Then this past summer our dog, Winchell passed away. He was raised and trained to be a seeing eye dog. It was very hard and still is for both myself and my wife, Lisa. Lisa raised him from a pup and only though a weird quirk was she able to get him back from The Seeing Eye. As part of the grieving process, I wrote a 40k sci-fi novella based on his story. The first draft is done and it needs a re-write. I’ll probably tie it into my next non-fiction book which will be about rewriting. That should also come out sometime next year!

About Scott

Scott King, an international best selling author, was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Ocean City, Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in film from Towson University, and his M.F.A. in film from American University.

Until moving to follow his wife’s career, King worked as college professor teaching photography, digital arts, and writing related classes. He now works full time as an author.

Find Scott

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Lance Bush, of Challenger Center

 

Lance Bush is President and CEO of The Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Challenger Center and its global network of Challenger Learning Centers use space-themed simulated learning and role-playing strategies to help students bring their classroom studies to life and cultivate skills needed for future success, such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

A portion of the proceeds from the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle goes directly to benefit the Challenger Center. This bundle, put together by Kevin J. Anderson, is an impressive collection of a dozen books on writing that will be inspirational, helpful, maybe even provocative. You can get all of the books for as little as $15. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018, but you can always donate directly to the Challenger Center!

Meet Lance!

Lance Bush started his career at NASA as one of the chief engineers designing the next generation space transportation. He managed the International Space Station Commercial Development program. He also co-founded and served as the Chairman of the International Space Station Multilateral Commercialization Group comprised of the five partner space agencies (Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States) and 16 countries. He has led the growth and expansion of Challenger Center, including the development of a simulation-based program that can be delivered in the classroom. Under Dr. Bush’s leadership, Challenger Center was recognized with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for its work to promote a public understanding of science and engineering.

The Interview

While I see that you have programs for all ages, your focus has been on middle schoolers. Why did you choose to focus on that age group?

Middle school is a crucial moment in people’s lives. In middle school, approximately half of students decide not to pursue a math or science-related career path. We have success in engaging students in programs that bring science and math to life, igniting their potential and providing inspiration that helps students develop a love of learning and further pursue studies and careers in STEM subjects.

Why does the Challenger Center feel it’s important to have learning centers where kids can interact with hands-on equipment, especially since it would be less expensive not to install special equipment?

A Challenger Learning Center is a place where students from all backgrounds can come together and interact while learning important life skills. Our Centers are not only designed with hands-on simulators that provide an incredible STEM experience, but the Centers also create an environment where students practice critical 21st century skills, like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Your organization has built Challenger Learning Centers not only across the U.S., but across the globe. How does that fit in with your mission?

Our mission is to ignite the potential within every student possible. We want to open their eyes to new skills and ideas that can prepare them for success in their careers and lives. Our Centers across the globe help us to reach these goals. We have already reached over 5 million students over the last 32 years and we look forward to reaching many more in the future.

You are developing a series of Classroom Adventures that use a “simulation-based” learning model. What does that mean when you are in a regular classroom rather than one of your fully equipped learning centers?

We understand that not every student can visit a Challenger Learning Center, that’s why we have developed Classroom Adventures. We want to bring the essence of a Center Mission to the classroom where teachers can deliver the program. Similar to a Mission at a Challenger Learning Center, Classroom Adventures use simulations that are delivered via a computer and include hands-on labs and activities. The program is designed to accomplish the same thing as a Mission — increase students STEM engagement, career awareness, and 21st century skills. Classroom Adventures can be designed for any age group and any STEM topic.

What kind of feedback do you get from kids? Do they have a clear favorite?

We are currently piloting our first Classroom Adventure – Aquatic Investigators — and the students love it! They get to work together with their fellow classmates to help save the Hawaiian Monk Seals.

In a similar vein, what do teachers say about the programs?

We’ve worked with over 2,000 students and their teachers rated student engagement at 4.73 out of 5, and 87% of the teachers wanted the chance to continue using the program. Both Center Missions and Classroom Adventures are effective and provide options for students and teachers to experience engaging STEM subjects in the classroom. Challenger Center programs expose students to a variety of careers, real-world experiences, and skills — teachers love that!

Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space, was a high school Social Studies teacher. A more obvious choice might have been a science teacher, especially since she was selected from more than 11,000 applicants. How do you think she stood out from the crowd? What were her greatest strengths as a teacher?

I believe Christa stood out because she had a great passion for teaching and I believe that’s the greatest strength any teacher can have. Christa wanted to share her lessons with students around the world; she understood the importance of STEM subjects, discovery, and exploration. These too were characteristics shared with other applicants and her backup, Barbara Morgan, who later flew as the first Educator Astronaut. Barbara Morgan helped create Challenger Center and serves as our Chair of the Education Committee on our Board of Directors.

The Challenger Center is now sharing the “lost lessons” that she developed and had planned to teach while on the mission. How have those lessons been received?

The lessons have been well received not only by students and educators, but also by the public. This was a great tribute to Christa and the crew and it came to life when two NASA Educators Astronaut, Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba, asked Challenger Center if they could complete Christa’s Lessons. It was tremendous teamwork and after nearly 33 years, we are fortunate to complete and share Christa’s lessons and to continue the legacy of the Challenger STS-51L crew.

There have always been those who argue that we need to focus on the problems we face here on earth first, before we pursue space exploration. How would you respond to that particular view?

Space exploration can help us solve some of the problems we face here on Earth. Thanks to space exploration, scientist and engineers have developed new technology and research. Most importantly, space exploration promotes science education. The Apollo Missions inspired my generation to grow up and become scientist and astronauts – the Apollo Effect. Not everyone ended up working in the space program, and many went on to solve other issues in areas like transportation, food development, energy production, and so much more. A Mars mission will inspire a whole new generation of STEM professionals.

Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you feel is important for folks to know about the Challenger Center and your mission?

Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators and it’s crucial they don’t lose interest in STEM subjects. That’s why our Center Missions and Classroom Adventures are developed to build students’ confidence in their own abilities and demonstrate the power of teamwork. We want to spark a passion for learning that will last a lifetime.

Find Challenger Center

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Interview: Kevin McLaughlin on “You Must Write”


 
 
You Must Write is in the is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Kevin!

Kevin is an amateur astrophysicist whose hobbies include sailing, constructing medieval armor, and swinging both steel and rattan swords at his friends. He wrote his first short story at age seven, and his first novel in 2008 during NaNoWriMo.

You Must Write

No five lines of advice have built more successful writing careers than Robert Heinlein’s five rules for writers.

Whether you are new to writing or the author of many books, Heinlein’s Rules will help you bring your craft and career to the next level. This book delivers the rules in a series of practical lessons, each with exercises designed to help writers build the Rules into their own work-flow. Unlike most “writing rules”, which tend to stifle creativity, Heinlein’s Rules are focused on unleashing the most creative elements of our minds, combating our deepest and most crippling fears, and driving past the greatest obstacles most writers face to reach success.

In this book you’ll learn:

  • What Heinlein’s Rules are, and how they can fit into YOUR writing career.
  • Tools for better engaging your creative mind and shutting out the editorial voice while writing.
  • Methods for identifying and facing down fears that block your way.
  • Chapters on practical application, with examples drawn from the author’s own thirty-two-book career as a bestselling novelist.

Excerpt

The ideas in this book challenge many preconceived notions about the writing process. What you read here will fly in the face of some things you have read or been taught elsewhere. This wasn’t an easy book to write, and I expect it won’t be a simple one to read either. But it will be valuable.

There’s something about being taken outside our comfort zone which helps us to grow. Enables growth, even. It’s what we talk about in the Hero’s Journey, after all: the idea that the protagonist must go beyond their “normal world” – their comfort zone, if you will – in order to become the person they are meant to be.

I’m going to be asking you to do that inside these pages. Some of what you read here will make you uncomfortable.

But none of it is false.

If you read something that feels off to you, consider why. Think about that thing for a while. Ponder it. Try the methods suggested here. You may well find an ability to grow in your own writing practice by stepping outside your comfort zone.

There are many ways to write a book, and none of them are wrong if they eventually lead to a good book that will educate or entertain readers. In these pages I talk about one method, but I want to stress before we begin that this is only a method – not THE method. As we say, there are many roads up the mountain.

This book contains everything you need for one route. It’s a guide to reaching success as a writer that has worked for hundreds of professionals over the last seventy years. There are many ways to reach the summit – but this is a great one.

– from You Must Write by Kevin McLaughlin

The Interview

What are Heinlein’s Rules, and why do you consider them important for writers?

Heinlein wrote down five fairly simple rules for writers to follow, saying that if adhered to they would result in a successful career. Those rules?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
  4. You must put it on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

But we’re living in a time where common advice passed along over the years argues against this method. We’re told that revision is essential; but most of the professional writers before the advent of computing did not revise heavily, if at all. We’re told that it’s OK to write only when the muse is with us; but most writers who have achieved great success did so based on a strong work ethic.

That doesn’t mean these other bits of advice are always wrong. But neither are they always right. It’s important to have both sides of the story, so that we can learn which practices work best for us as individual writers.
 
 
Why are Heinlein’s Rules hard for most people to follow?

Mostly because fear is a difficult thing to overcome.

It’s fear which holds us back and keeps us from writing, most of the time. It might be fear of success or fear of failure, but it’s almost always fear. Then it’s fear which keeps us from finishing a work we’ve started. It’s not actually that the new idea is any better; we’re afraid that if we finish the book, we might find out it’s actually no good (or too good, for fear of success). It’s easier to never finish and therefore never face that fear.

It’s fear that causes us to revise over and over; because again, if we say ‘it’s done’, then we have to send the work out into the world, and what if it isn’t good enough? What if people laugh at us? What if they don’t, and they expect us to do the same thing again next book?

It’s fear which keeps us from putting our work out there where people can buy it and read it, fear which causes us to give up after a few rejections or a tiny handful of sales when indie publishing.

Fear is a harsh master to live under. The rules require we throw off that yoke. That’s what makes them hard to follow.
 

 
Rule #2 is “You must finish what you start.” Often, a writer will be working on a story, and then get so excited about an idea for a new story that they start working on it and never finish the first one. What tips do you have for dealing with this type of situation?

First off, just don’t do it. (chuckle) Easier said than done, I know! Oh, I get those random ideas all the time. I think most writers do. Every book I write, I seem to have at least three new ideas for something else churn up into my mind, demanding my attention.

What I used to do was write the ideas down. I’d take a notebook and put as much as I could brainstorm of the idea down onto a single page. Then I’d set the notebook down and get back to work. By writing the idea, I was telling my subconscious that I understand this new thought is important, too. That I will get to it at some point. Just not right now.

These days, I don’t even do that much. I’ve become much more ruthless about my ideas. If I have an idea for a new story in the middle of my work, I make a mental note of it and then continue working. I know part of my subconscious keeps working on the idea anyway, so I let it go. I generally have my next three or four books lined up at any given time, so if the idea is still there and still sounds exciting in a couple of months, I’ll probably slot it into my schedule somewhere. If I’ve forgotten it, then the idea probably wasn’t very good anyway.

It’s very rare that I’ll bump an idea into the middle of an existing schedule. I did it recently with the first book of a new series (“The Quantum Dragonslayer”) because I came up with the idea in part to address the trademark silliness going on in the writing community. But it’s also a really cool idea that I’m having fun with. Even then, I still waited until my current work-in-progress was completed.
 
 
Which of the Rules is the hardest one for you to follow personally, and how do you try to manage this?

The first one is the hardest for me. I suspect it is the hardest for most people.

I write pretty fast. I’m cruising along at something north of a NaNoWriMo a month, and working on getting faster – which actually means ‘spending more time hitting keys’, of course.

It’s getting there and hitting the keys that can be the hard part. It’s shutting down whatever cool science fiction TV show is attracting my attention, avoiding Facebook (the bane of all writers!), not playing silly video games on my phone, and actually getting down to work.

I erased all the games from my phone. I erased all the games from my computer. I removed all the social media apps from my phone. I installed internet blockers on my laptop, and then I go out to a coffee shop or the Boston Public Library to write. Even with all of that, it still gets hard sometimes to do as many words as I’d like!

But I persevere. With time, I will get better at this. Practice is everything.
 
 
There are currently nine books in your series Adventures of the Starship Satori. How has the series changed over time? Do you have an ending planned for the series, or do you expect to keep adding to it for the foreseeable future?

Oh, this series has changed a ton! I wrote the first bits of these books years ago when it looked like serial short works might be taking off. Each was about fifteen thousand words long. I launched them just as short serials began tanking (thanks to Kindle Unlimited changing, mostly). Then I got the idea to re-issue them as new books. I merged the first two episodes into one book and the latter three into another, then wrote a third. Now I had three novellas instead of five novelettes, and they started selling.

I made my first four-figure month thanks to those books.

But last November I took it a step further. I’d gotten better at writing in the years since they were first published, and book one was really short. Like, twenty-eight thousand words or so. I took on the challenge of rewriting the entire story, adding entire new chapters and revisiting some of the old scenes to flesh them out more. Then I relaunched them. This relaunch resulted in my first five-figure months of sales.

But wait – doesn’t that violate the Third Rule? I’d say no, for two reasons. First, because I was redrafting large chunks of the book. Redrafting (taking the old thread of an idea and writing a new version from scratch) is still writing in creative mode, rather than editorial (critical) mode. But I’d also learned over the years to split the two up. I went over the book as an editor, noting places it could be improved. Then I went back in as a writer in creative mode and improved those places. In this way I was effectively ‘revising to editorial order’. The editor said ‘make it longer’; the writer made it longer, and the book was much better as a result.

I’m not entirely sure where that series is going. I haven’t discovered yet whether Earth survives the challenges humanity is facing, and if so how. There are going to be at least twelve books before it’s all done, but it could go longer. We shall see what the story demands.
 

 
What’s the most important tip you have for following Rule #4, “You must put it on the market?”

Take the plunge and just do it. Whether you’re planning to submit the work to publishers or publish it yourself, get the work out there where people can buy it. There is a natural hesitation, especially for those first few books. Get over it. That book is not a precious flower. It is (hopefully) the first or second or third of MANY books you will write over the course of your career.
 
 
Why are backlists especially powerful for indie writers?

Well, the Starship Satori series is an awesome example. I’ve repackaged those initial stories twice now. Each time I was able to hit a new and larger audience. In fact, for the most recent relaunch (November 2017) I offered free copies of the new books to my entire mailing list. Hundreds of people took me up on the offer. I felt this was only fair, since many of them had already paid for the stories once. I didn’t want to double-charge fans to read the new versions (even though the new first book was 60% longer than the original!).

Even with the large giveaway, the relaunch was still an enormous success.

Books are evergreen. There’s no reason not to assume I can still be making money from the Satori books a decade or more from now. My backlist is mine to control, to repackage, to relaunch, to schedule push marketing around, and to do whatever else I think will get new readers.
 
 
You co-wrote The Human Experiment with Craig Martelle. What was the most surprising thing to you about the experience of collaborating with another author on this project?

Craig was a good friend who was having trouble with this book. He’d tried working with another writer before me but it ended in failure. I took on the job because the project sounded interesting. Then I ended up getting really sick; our launch was originally supposed to be late December, and it ended up getting pushed back to April. Craig was awesome through the entire time, and I’m really grateful for that.

But the most surprising thing was probably the first chapter rewrite. Craig sent the finished book to some beta readers, most of whom hated the opening of the story. We chatted about it for a bit, trying to figure out how we could punch it up a bit. Midway through the conversation, I told him to give me an hour. I wrote a new first chapter that was a huge improvement over the original and shipped it out to him. He loved the new work, and did the job of massaging the other chapters to smooth it all out.

But without that feedback from the beta readers, the book would have gone out with the original opening. I think the solution we came up with works much better, and the creative process that went into the new first chapter was fascinating.
 
 
How did your hobbies, which include building medieval armor and swinging swords, help you create the setting for your Valhalla Online series?

Well, I like to think I’ve managed to add a few elements of realism as a result! I’ve got a background which includes over a decade in the US Army Infantry, about twelve years of assorted eastern martial arts, and another decade or so of western martial arts (that’s the sword and armor part). Coupled together, I use these experiences to help build realism and believability into my fight scenes and other sorts of combat scenarios.
 

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

I’m working on finishing up the fourth and final book of the Valhalla Online series. This book has been a long while coming, and I know a lot of folks are really interested in seeing how things wrap up – especially now that Sam is back in the Ghost Wing books! I’ve merged her storyline into the same universe as the Accord of Honor books, creating one big story arc out of all of them: the Ragnarok Saga. I’m enjoying the story again, which is important for me. And since I have big plans for Sam and her friends in the future (Ghost Fleet, and then other books beyond that), it’ll be fun to see how things turn out in Valhalla Online.

What’s fun about writing, for me, is keeping it fresh. If I’m getting bored, I can pretty much guarantee my readers will be as well. I’m always working to push myself in my craft, to build better stories with each book. That is a challenge, and fun. Telling stories that are fun to create is a great part of this job, too. I think if it wasn’t fun to spin these tales, I’d probably go find some other job that was, instead. Fortunately, I love this stuff!

About Kevin

Kevin McLaughlin is a USA Today bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy novels, with over thirty books published. He is a full member of SFWA, and a professional member of the RWA.

He believes in giving back to the writing community that helped him out during the early days of his career, so he uses his experience and to boost others. He has been a speaker at Boskone, Dragon Con, the Nebula Conference, 20Books London, and many other events. A skilled public speaker with experience in education, McLaughlin sees it as both pleasure and obligation to pass along to others the skills he has learned, so that the chain of people helping people continues unbroken.

Find Kevin

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Interview: Blaze Ward on “Pulp Speed for Professional Writers”


 
 
Pulp Speed for Professional Writers is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Blaze!

Blaze writes science fiction and fantasy. In addition to his own short stories and novels, he’s the editor of Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine with the motto “On theme. With weird.” He also writes non-fiction books for writers. Blaze writes very, very fast!

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers

They’ve told you that writing fast is impossible. They were wrong.

You too can create stories at the speed of the great pulp writers. Not only that, but your craft will actually get better the faster you go. It just takes time and practice.

Come learn the things I discovered as I went from writing at mundane rates to Pulp Speed.

Topics include:

  • Where did the term “Pulp Speed” come from?
  • What are the classifications of Pulp Speed?
  • How does your health and ergonomics impact your speed?
  • What is possible?

Are you ready to break loose and start turning out good stories at amazing speeds? Do you have what it takes to go “All Ahead Crazy?”

Excerpt

We should start off by talking about this thing called Pulp Speed. This is another term for Really Freaking Fast. To understand the background, we need to go back to the era of the pulp writers, which is generally from the end of the First World War, give or take, up until perhaps the end of the Fifties. So about a long generation of time.

In those days, there were not a lot of books published in the field we know today as science fiction. The modern paperback novel, as we know it, came about after World War Two, as a result of all the books that the US Government printed for soldiers during the war. That taught an entire generation of men (and women) to read for pleasure.

Before that, what you had were the magazines. Things like Amazing Stories, Worlds of Wonder, The Black Mask, Weird Tales, etc. They came and went frequently, with a only few of them surviving long, and fewer have made it clear down even to the present. Each tended to lock into a particular genre, and then tried to generate enough newsstand sales to get a subscription base going that could keep the magazine solvent. It didn’t always succeed.

For such magazines, they frequently paid a penny a word (US $) for stories in science fiction. Assuming a short story came in at 5,000 words, the story would earn the author $50. For comparison sake, the median US income in 1940 was $956, or roughly $80/month. Mind you, this is median, so just selling a single story in a month would get you a nice, lower-middle-class lifestyle. And if you sold two, you were living high on the hog.

Not every story would sell, but if you hit once or twice per month, you were set. The key was to write a lot of stories, and send them off. Every story we write is not Pulitzer material. And spending a whole month crafting such a story is no guarantee that it will be any better than one you wrote in an afternoon.

Furthermore, a lot of writers were submitting in those days, and some of them just weren’t that good at their craft. The editors had their favorites, people they could rely on to produce good enough work, on theme, on a regular basis, so they could, it turn, fill a whole magazine. But you couldn’t publish three stories by Bob Brown in the same magazine this month.

You could, however, publish three stories written by Bob Brown, and use pennames on two of them, so “Marc Jones” and “Stan Woods” could also have stories here.

What we had was an ecosystem that favored good writers who could produce good words at speed. They wrote a lot of words. Whole acres of them. Because they treated it like a job.

What does that mean?

These days, you generally go to work and are in an office or in front of a press for eight hours, with a break for lunch and smokes.

The Pulp writers sat down and typed for eight hours.

The new writer, just sitting down and figuring out her craft (and typing on a keyboard, rather than longhanding), will quickly get up to a pace of about 500 words per hour. However, she won’t be able to write for eight hours straight.

Writing for that many hours is a skill, as well as a muscle. Treat your writing the same way you would train to run a marathon. Start slow and careful, and slowly push yourself to greater lengths and speeds, rather than trying to do it all at once.

– from Pulp Speed for Professional Writers by Blaze Ward

The Interview

What is “pulp speed,” and where did the term come from?

Pulp Speed One is defined as One Million Words Per Year, or about 84,000/month. It dates back to the Pulp Writers (1920-1960 more or less) who generated an amazing number of short stories each month and sent them off to all the pulp magazines of the day.
 
 
Can anyone learn to write at pulp speed?

You can. It is a muscle, just like any other. True Pulp probably requires that you have a supportive enough spouse that you don’t have a day job any more. I was writing 450,000/yr with a full time job and a long commute. Once I had the time to think. I more than doubled my speed in about three months, and I have held at 100,000 words per month for six months now, with no slacking of pace.
 
 
Does this work better for different types of fiction, or different lengths of stories?

I write Science Fiction primarily. Dean Wesley Smith writes all over the map. I find it works better for longer pieces, because then you don’t have to spend as much time on administrative overhead (covers, blurbs, formatting, etc.) I also like to write short novels (40-50k) because then I’m in a different universe and different characters every two weeks, so it keeps me from dreading opening a file that turns into a doorstop monolith.
 

 
How do Heinlein’s Rules for Writers help writers get to pulp speed?

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Quoted more or less above. I have a different mantra I use for writing, because I’m almost completely indie, so 4 & 5 have different meanings for me. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

It has to be interesting enough that you wake up in the morning and say to yourself “Oh My God I get to go make shit up for a living!!!” I cycle while I write and have taught myself to write clean first drafts, so I make a single pass after I’m done and send it to my First Reader.

Don’t rewrite. Don’t redraft. Time you spend writing your novel again is time I’m writing a second (and more) novel. Once it is done, I put it out for publication and go on to the next one. I won’t win awards for pretty words, but I make a living from my writing and most of those award winners don’t.
 
 
What inspired you to write Awaken the Star Dragon, and how does Fermi’s Paradox tie in with this?

Fermi’s Paradox: Where is everyone?

Jeffries Corollary: We are the most dangerous, psychotic species in the galaxy and they’re hiding from us.

What happens when a crime boss out there decides to abduct a criminal here? The good guys decide they have to recruit a cop.

I write a lot of so-called military SF, and grand space opera. I wanted to write something that was Pulp in feel. I envision my writer voice as standing in 1950, with the state of culture and technology then, and trying to envision the world as they would have, rather than as a modern prognosticator would. It gets silly.
 
 
Boundary Shock Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine you started in 2018. What inspired you to start this magazine, and what are you enjoying about it?

I have always wanted to do something like this, but your choices were to either do a crowd-funding thing (Kickstarter, Indigogo, etc.) or run up a massive debt on your credit cards that probably never paid off. But the Seventh Indie Revolution in publishing has finally made the tools available to anyone with enough gumption. I wrote down every one of my steps because once I got there, I wanted others to be able to replicate it (See below) and challenge the major genre magazines. There are quality writers out there, just waiting their chance.
 

 
In addition to creating Boundary Shock Quarterly, you’ve written a book about the process: How to Launch a Magazine for Professional Publishers. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from creating this magazine?

That it was possible. That anyone could do it, if they wanted it bad enough to step up. My Syndicate has been a bit like herding goldfish from time to time (cats don’t move in three dimensions) but they’ve also come through with some quality stories that made it fun.
 
 
What have you found most interesting about the complex world-building you’ve done for your science fiction series Alexandria Station?

Inventing a Cavalry (men and women on horses = Hussar) Legion and invading a planet with it. And building outward from several hundred pages of extended universe bible about details and people. I can’t be wrong with my technology, generally because I never explain how it works. I can only be inconsistent.
 

 
What’s your most important piece of advice for authors who want to achieve pulp speed?

See above. “Sit down. Shut up. Write.”

Pulp speed is a factor of how many hours you spend at the keyboard generating words. And you must find the desire to do this. You must want this more than other things.

I sold my last television four years ago, and I don’t “watch shows.” Those are hours I spend possibly goofing off, but more likely working on story and world-building.
 
 
What’s your current pulp speed, and what do you expect is your personal max?

Currently, I have been holding at Pulp Two (100,000+/month) as a marathon pace. My personal best was Pulp Five (150,000/month) pace, except I intentionally took the last three days of the month off to hold it under that. But it is a muscle and I am writing faster now than I did even two months ago, so I might try pushing at some point, just to see.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I got a request to be in a bundle, with the curator sure I had novels he hadn’t seen. But all I have left in the genre were Book Twos+ (the Ones were already in bundles). But I offered to write something on short notice, as I was just finishing a novel that day, and needing a project to start (the writing schedule is always in pencil).

So I’m generating a new Handsome Rob novel (in the Alexandria Station universe) and it has to be done in two weeks. 🙂

About Blaze

Blaze Ward writes science fiction in the Alexandria Station universe as well as The Collective. He also writes fantasy stories with several characters and series, from an alternate Rome to epic high fantasy in the desert.

Blaze’s works are available as ebooks, paper, and audio, and can be found at a variety of online vendors. His newsletter comes out quarterly, and you can also follow his blog on his website. He really enjoys interacting with fans, and looks forward to any and all questions—even ones about his books!

Find Blaze

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Simon Haynes on “How to Write a Novel”


 
 
How to Write a Novel is in the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Simon!

Simon Haynes is a professional, prolific writer with more than 20 years experience writing fiction. He writes novels in several different science fiction series. His work typically features an underdog fighting for survival against far stronger opponents. He’s a huge fan of Isaac Asimov’s work, in particular the robot novels and the Foundation series. He also enjoys dry, witty comedy, and loves satire.

Simon is the programmer and designer behind Spacejock Software, and is responsible for popular programs like FCharts, yWriter and yBook.

How to Write a Novel

Do any of these sound familiar?

You want to write your first novel, but you don’t know how to begin.

You’ve started writing several novels, but you never finish them.

You’ve written a novel or two, but you want to increase your output and publish more often.

If you answered yes to any of the above, this book might just be what you’re looking for!

I’m Simon Haynes, and I’ve been writing and publishing novels and short fiction for almost twenty years. This guide contains everything I’ve learned about writing a novel, both as an indie and as a trade-published author.

Maybe you want to write a novel which has been on your mind for years. You don’t care how long it takes, you just want to see it through to the end.

Or maybe you see yourself as a career novelist – there’s a real challenge – and you want to write books quickly and efficiently.

I’ve done both, and I cover both approaches in How to Write a Novel.

Excerpt

Okay, we’ve covered plotting and pantsing and there are writers who are firmly committed to each camp, but there is a third choice.

First, let’s recap:

• It can be fun to write without a plot outline, because of the freedom. On the other hand it can take five or ten times as long to write a novel this way, and the rewrites are a big part of that.

• Writing plot outlines can be fun too, because it’s like pantsing an entire novel in a few thousand words. On the other hand, writing a novel from a comprehensive plot outline can become dry and boring.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was another way, where you still had fun but also got your book finished without all that wasted time and effort? That’s where my hybrid method of writing a novel comes in, and if you get nothing else from my book, this next part should be worth the price alone. It’s changed the way I approach my novels, and I’ve gone from writing one novel per year to writing and publishing four novels in the last four months.

They’re not junk, either. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and they’re probably the best-received novels I’ve ever written.

– from How to Write a Novel by Simon Haynes

The Interview

What inspired you to write How to Write a Novel?

Over the years I’ve worked out a pretty good method of delivering a completed manuscript on time. I’ve been applying it to my own work this year, and during the past eight months I’ve written and published seven novels and a 15,000 word novella.

It was after completing the sixth novel for the year that I realised others might benefit from my knowledge, and so I put together How to Write a Novel.
 

 
You often write series of standalone novels, instead of novels where each one is the sequel to the previous book. Why have you chosen to do this for some of your series?

When I was about six years old a well-meaning relative gave me a copy of Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton. It was book two in the series, a sequel to book one in every sense of the word, and I refused to read it until I could get my hands on the first.

Later in life I ended up with two books from a different three-book trilogy. These were re-issues of a 1950’s science fiction series, and the publisher only released the first two books! The front- and back- matter said NOTHING about the third title, which I found out about years later. I ended up having to buy a 1950’s first edition, and they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.

Anyway, I guess the short answer is, I’ve been burned several times by incomplete series and I don’t want to inflict the same torture on my own readers.

(To be fair, missing books is hardly a problem nowadays, thanks to ebooks.)
 
 
If you could go back in time to when you started writing, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

I didn’t start my first novel until I was 27, and didn’t write my first proper short story until I was 18. My advice would be to start sooner and write more!
 
 
You began writing Hal Spacejock in 1994, and are working on the ninth book in the series. What do you enjoy about writing these books, and what keeps you engaged after spending so many years with Hal Spacejock and Clunk the robot?

They’re a fantastic comedy duo (trio, if you include the Navcom). When the three of them get together, scenes just write themselves.

But honestly, I can’t seem to avoid these characters. I managed to work Clunk into my new fantasy trilogy, and all of my novels are interconnected somehow, even the middle-grade titles.
 

 
How to Write a Novel contains a section on facing fear. What’s your most important piece of advice to writers who are dealing with fear?

Most of us worry that our first novel will be a pile of unreadable rubbish. Well, I’m here to tell you … it probably will be! Mine certainly was, and not only that, it was only about ⅓ of a full length novel to boot.

Maybe the second novel is another pile of rubbish, but if you find a story to tell, and write about engaging characters facing interesting challenges, eventually it’ll come together.

Like anything, it takes practice.
 
 
What is yWriter, and why did you create it?

I was a short story writer to begin with, and I’d start writing at the beginning and keep typing until I had 2, 3, 4000 words. Then I’d type The End and start posting it off to markets.

When I started on a novel, with multiple plot lines and points of view, I got to about 20,000 words and it all became too much to handle. I knew I’d written a certain paragraph, but couldn’t find it.

As a computer programmer I deal with software code broken up into small, easy-to-handle chunks. I wanted the same thing for my novel writing, and so I designed yWriter to be more like a programmer’s tool than a document editor.
 
 
Some authors outline their novels ahead of time; others write into the dark. What approach do you use, and do you follow the same approach for each book?

Both, and no!

This is a sore point, because this year I’ve written 3 novels to strict outlines, and another 4 which I just wrote any old how. They all turned out fine, it was just a very different process.

So, with my latest I sat down and wrote a 5,000 word plot outline. It only covered the first ⅔ of the novel. And then, as I started on chapter one, Hal and Clunk kicked the entire outline to the kerb and went off on the adventure THEY wanted to have.
 
 
Tell us about the world’s deadliest paper plane!

Oh yes, true story. I made this acrobatic plane and threw it straight onto the neighbour’s roof. (This was in rural Spain.) They weren’t there, since it was a holiday home in the off-season, so I climbed up the stairs to this kind of rooftop patio, and I could see my plane further up the roof, on the tiles. I reached up to climb past this kind of metal wire fence, then froze. The ‘metal wire fence’ was the overhead high-voltage power lines, which were only about three feet above the roof!

Talk about shoddy building standards. They must have built the house under existing powerlines and just left them there.
 
 
Clunk, the robot in your Hal Spacejock series, also appears in your Robot vs. Dragons series, where you’ve stranded him on a planet that doesn’t have space travel. Why did you decide to create a new series that included Clunk, and has this created any challenges for you as the author–or any unexpected opportunities?

Earlier in 2018 I posted a joke cover for April Fools, the title of which was ‘A Game of Clunks’. There was a shield with a cog on it, and a joke about the robot ‘who couldn’t bend the knee, or anything else.’

The reaction was amazing, with people saying I HAD to write it. I was only 10,000 words in when I realised it had just become a dreaded trilogy. I mean, the books have FOURTEEN sub-plots and a cast of dozens. There was no way I was going to wrap that lot up in one novel.
 

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

Hal 9, Hal Junior 4 and 5, a three-book series featuring a rookie fighter pilot (scifi), and four adult comedy novels under a pen name. The fighter pilot appears in Hal 9, as an older character, which was a deliberate choice. I intended to include her as a cadet, but decided to make her a senior officer in Hal 9, and a cadet in the series. Same thing I did with the Harriet Walsh Peace Force books.

The variety is what makes it fun!

About Simon

Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.

In addition to novels, Simon writes computer software. In fact, he writes computer software to help him write novels faster, which leaves him more time to improve his writing software. And write novels faster.

Between 2005 and 2012, Simon completed NaNoWriMo six times. He’s still recovering.

Simon’s goal is to write fifteen novels (quickly) before someone takes his keyboard away.

Update 2018: goal achieved and I still have my keyboard!

New goal: write thirty novels.

Find Simon

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads