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Archive for the ‘Writer's Advice’ Category

Ethereal Tales Special Issue All writers start somewhere. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the magazines which published my writing. A few still exist (in one form or the other), some have fallen into the cracks of speculative publication history, others can still be located with some effort.

Illumen Spring 2015 But no matter the fame or lack thereof of the editors, I am grateful to them for publishing my writing. Their acceptance and subsequent publication of my poems or prose helped me to remember my words had worth, and sent me forward on my writing journey.

Illumen Spring 2010 Ethereal Tales Special Issue (includes my story, “Black Bear”) was published by Morpheus Tales as a farewell to a fine magazine which I had the honor of having had a story in (“The Garden Shop”). Illumen, now published by Alban Lake Publishing, was (along with Scifaikuest) originally published by the now-closed, Sam’s Dot Publishing (I had poems published here).

Scifaikuest Feb 2010 Elektrik Milk Bath Press published both a speculative poetry magazine, Paper Crow, (which included my poetry) and a series of speculative anthologies (which included my fiction). All of the publications were wonderful reads, and I’m hoping their editor, Angela Craig, is able to get healthy and start publishing again.

Paper Crow Fall Winter 2010 Editors of Indie press (it used to be call small press – and I much prefer the new label) publications are a special breed. With little chance of profit, and a great chance of putting lots of their own money into an Indie press to help to stay afloat, they persevere. It is through their efforts that many a writer (and illustrator, I might add) have their first stories, poems, essays, and artwork presented to readers.

Paper Crow Spring Summer 2013 A good example (in my case) were the publications edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (published by Richard H. Fawcett). Fantasy and Terror and Fantasy Macabre were early appearances on the other side of the USA of my speculative poetry.

Paper Crow Spring Summer 2011 But when I glance around those long ago Table of Contents, I see I’m not the only writer to have had their early work published by Jessica and Richard. Thank goodness for folks like them who encouraged this (and other) new speculative writers to keep on writing.

Fantasy & Terror 10 The last publisher I’ll mention in this post is the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Let’s face it, poetry isn’t at the top of most people’s reading list. Maybe it’s the bad poetry often force-fed to students when they’re young, but many readers grow up not only not caring about poetry – but actually disliking it.

Fantasy & Terror 9 I, or the other hand, have loved poetry since childhood. It is truly where I began my writing hobby which morphed into a writing career.

In my neck of the woods, nearly forty years ago when I went looking for other writers in the rural part of Maryland where I live, the Harford Poetry Society was it. They graciously helped me grow as a writer and tolerated my strange interest in speculative poetry – and eventually, sf/f/h fiction.

Starline Jan Feb 1987 So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Starline, the newsletter of the SFPA. I felt like shouting “Hooray!” upon discovering that science fiction and fantasy poetry was written and enjoyed by others.

Thanks again to the hard-working and under-paid editors of Indie presses. Though sunlight may have faded a few of the covers, I still treasure the magazines (and books) you produced simply for the love of speculative writing.

And to readers of speculative writing – do both yourself and new genre writers a favor – support Indie presses.

 

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As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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Pole to Pole Publishing http://poletopolepublishing.com just opened submissions for their next themed, speculative anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. And yes, I’m one of the editors again.

Editing a themed anthology is both challenging and rewarding. As an editor, you have the opportunity to read hundreds of stories – each trying to address the theme in an unique manner. But their “unique” story isn’t as unique as many authors believe it to be.

Pole to Pole Publishing’s 2016 anthology, In a Cat’s Eye, featured darkly speculative stories about cats. Kelly Harmon and I read hundreds of stories, and wanted to have one (and only one) story representing “expected” speculative cat roles, plus a few “out of the box” tales as well.

Therefore, only one cat as witch’s familiar, Egyptian cat, transformation into a cat, cat god, and robot cat story were accepted. There were several good stories in each of these cat-egories (pun intended), but we were committed to a mix of stories, so once a “slot” was filled, we didn’t accept a similar tale. So those writers who discarded their first, second, and maybe even third story idea, and came up with something very different had a better chance of serious consideration – like steampunk cats, zombie cats, mutate space cats, and clockwork world cats. To see the results, you can purchase In a Cat’s Eye here: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/in-a-cats-eye

We approached Pole to Pole Publishing’s 2015 speculative anthology, Hides the Dark Tower in a similar manner. Once we had a Rapunzel, castle-fortress, sea witch, shot, water, and signal tower story, we didn’t accept a second story which repeated the theme or storyline. We looked for tales which were “different,” like towering circus signs or smoke stacks. To read those tales we did publish, you can check out Hides the Dark Tower here: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/hides-the-dark-tower

I hope a few of my readers will write and submit a “dark luminous wings” story for the latest Pole to Pole Publishing anthology. What do we mean by the theme? I can’t tell you! As the stories come in, a book will form. It will be a dark, magical, imaginative, winged journey for both the editors and our readers. So think “out of the box” and send us your best story! http://poletopolepublishing.com/submissions

 

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0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing a little bit about getting pigeon-holed as far as writing genres.

Defying Categories by Gail Z. Martin

“Writers, like actors can get pigeon-holed.

If you’re very successful writing one type of fiction, publishers, agents and readers want you to continue to write that same type of fiction, sometimes indefinitely. While it’s great to have ongoing series, most creative people like to experiment, stretch their wings, try something new. Creating a new series that is in the same genre is often an easy sell, because since you’ve succeeded with that genre before, people expect continued success.

But what if you’ve got ideas for other types of stories, outside that genre? Then it can get dicey. Publishers and agents worry about risk. Readers of one genre might not read the other genre. Even your gender might be an asset in one genre and a liability in another. Some genres are considered to be more competitive than others, and certain genres have overall higher sales figures/readership than others. All of those things factor in to potential profitability of a new series, the impact on your track record/reputation, and future opportunities.

Ideally, you want to have the freedom to keep doing what made you successful, while being able to risk venturing into new territory. Some authors achieve this by writing in the other genres with separate publishers, or by working with a small press. Others use indie publishing to bring out series in genres where they haven’t previously made a name for themselves. Still others choose to use a pseudonym, either to separate their sales in one genre from those in another, or by or because they don’t want to confuse readers whose preferences might not cross over. Lingering stereotypes about author gender lead some writers to assume one persona for one genre (like romance) and a different personal for another genre (like suspense). I’m looking at you, Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb.

I’ve been very lucky to have had supportive publishers who have enabled me to write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. I’m currently working on new books that fall into the horror, dark urban fantasy and space opera categories. I don’t know whether those will find a home with a publisher or whether we’ll bring them out indie, but they are tales I want to tell. I know up front that not every reader will follow me across the genres, but I believe there will be some degree of overlap, and welcome the chance to develop relationships with new readers.

Writing is about creativity as well as earning a living. If you keep writing the same kind of things without a chance to explore new ideas, you’re likely to get bored, resentful or stale, none of which will do good things for your fiction. So write what you want, and eventually those stories will find a home and an audience. They might not succeed equally, but you’ll learn something in the process, have some fun, try out new skills, explore new place, meet new people. That journey is just as important as the destination.

DaysofDead Banner V1 copy My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP

holdontothelight-fb-banner Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

TrickOrTreat excerpt from Caves of the Dead in my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures

Enjoy an excerpt from Coffin Box, one of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story

Hot stuff! Look at my video for Ice Forged and Reign of Ash

Hey! My Ascendant Kingdoms series is on Audible! Start with Ice Forged here

Treat yourself with an excerpt from Leona Wisoker’s Guardians Of The Desert

TrickOrTreat DoubleDragonSampler#1 

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books) and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin. A brand new epic fantasy series debuts from Solaris Books in 2017.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Find her at http://www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads and free excerpts on Wattpad .

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin or her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, quotes, blogs from me, and more. Have an inspired day – and Hold onto the Light. – Vonnie 

 

 

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51q9gur7vpl Just in time for Halloween and Day of the Dead, my Day of the Dead story (actually Night of the Dead in the tale), Gifts in the Dark, has been published as an eBook by Digital Fiction Publishing Corp as part of their Digital Science Fiction line.

And Gifts in the Dark is science fiction, since the story is set in the far future on a distant planet that humans have settled on after a long voyage in deep sleep. But even in this far-future setting, people remain people, sisters remain sisters, and the Day of the Dead traditions still ring true. Yes, there are fantastical supernatural elements and superstitions, but as in all stories, there are people at the center of the tale.

For in the end, the story, no matter its genre, is about its characters – their lives, loves, fears, and struggles.

Ready for a little Day of the Dead reading?  Gifts in the Dark is only 99 cents – so why not give it a look!

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When Gail Z. Martin invited me to post a blog as a part of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign, I decided to make it personal.

I was one of those kids who was different enough to attract the attention of bullies. A girl interested in science, math, art, fantasy, science fiction, writing, etc. attracted unwanted and negative attention from some of my school mates. Junior high (middle school to you younger folks) was the worse – I was regularly spit on by several “popular” girls on the school bus.

Where are those girls now? I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. The things which made me an outcast then, are the things which I value the most about myself now. But that self-assurance is hard-won.

I’ve dealt with depression and lingering self-doubt for much of my life, because of that long-ago bullying. Which gives me great compassion for those who are different or who feel like outsiders. And though I won’t name names, because it is not my story to tell – I can assure them that many of the writers and artists I’m friendly with have experienced either bullying, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or a combination of those things.

So what’s my message? First, don’t let bullies ruin your life. They don’t deserve that much power. You are unique and valuable. The problem lies with the bullies – not you. Second, when you see bullying going on, stop it if you can, or get help from an adult to put an end to the bullying. Third, don’t be a bully. Always choose kindness.

One of the best things about the science fiction and fantasy community is their willingness to accept those marvelously unique artists, writers, and fans who might be viewed as “outsiders” in the mundane world. And one of the best things about being a writer of speculative fiction, is I get to create and celebrate characters who are different – whether they have physical, mental, or emotional challenges – imperfect characters are the most interesting to read about. Why? Because they’re the characters most like us.

About the campaign:

holdontothelight-fb-banner #HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627

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“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and lots of other books.

Great quote by Shannon Hale which reminds writers what a first draft is really like — nothing but a bunch of sand in a box! It’s the rewrites and revisions that take the sand and compress it, shape it, and add a little magic to it. Then, you have your story (or book).

Shoveling sand is where I am on several projects. I don’t mind the shoveling or knowing I’ll be spending lots of time trying to make a castle out of the raw ingredients. It’s all part of the journey.

Today, was a good day. I discovered 2 books which will aid in my research. Both are terribly expensive, but I think they’re worth the cash. I also managed to jot some notes down which will end up in a manuscript. And then there’s the story which I’ve been trying to build — it seems to have a mind of its own. Not such a helpful thing when the story needs to fit in a themed anthology. It feels like every time I get a castle nearing completion, a wave knocks it down and I must start again.

So to my writer friends out there, have a great day, whether you’re shoveling sand or building castles.

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