Weekly Update – May 22, 2018

Art by Marty Kulma

Check it out! New England Speculative Writers has dropped the cover art for The Final Summons anthology! And with this announcement came a small flurry of new pledges to the Kickstarter campaign, and we are now within reach of our first stretch goal of $1,475 to cover compensation for our editor.

You still have nearly a month left to support the campaign and pre-order the book, which will feature my short story The Going Rate for Penance and 13 other fantasy, horror, and science fiction tales from New England-area authors.

By backing this project on Kickstarter, you can pre-order your e-book copy now for $5 or a print edition for $25 — which also includes a copy of the e-book! For a larger contribution you can have a copy donated to your local library. Visit the project’s official Kickstarter page and learn more about the authors, their stories, and what you get for pledges as little as $2 and as large as $50.

WRITING PROJECTS

Well-Behaved Women: At last, draft one of book two is DONE! I’ve put it aside for a while and have moved on to draft one of book three. Hopefully it’ll take me less than the six months book two took to finish it.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written. Tentatively scheduled for a February/March 2019 release.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has launched a new promotion for its newsletter, and you can get not one but two free books out of the deal! Simply click on this link and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive e-book versions of the two collections pictured here, featuring novel samples from NESW members. The fantasy collection includes the first two chapters of The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

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Unsolicited Advice

Over the past several weeks I’ve found myself engaged in numerous conversations about the craft and business of writing, and it got me thinking about how I started out and how I fumbled around because of all the things I didn’t know.

(There’s still a ton of things I don’t know, BTW. Indie authorship still is and I suspect always will be a learning process. If I feel I’m not learning anything new, that’s the time to start worrying.)

So I decided to jot down various points I’ve discussed with other authors, established and aspiring, as a sort of living master post of advice to writers — and I’m going to stress now that these are all my thoughts and opinions and they should not be taken as gospel. In fact, I’ll make that my first point…

  • No one’s rules of writing are the be-all and end-all and should not be taken at face value. What works for one writer might not work for another, so figure out what does work and adopt it, and ignore any advice that doesn’t work for you.
  • You do NOT have to write EVERY DAY. Get that out of your head now. I know authors love to throw that one out — “You must write every single day! Even if you don’t feel like it!” — but it’s BS. Artists are not machines. Our creative energy ebbs and flows and it is not limitless. Sometimes what you need is to step away from your project, go do something else, and clear your head. It is okay to not write every single day.
  • That said, you do need to write. I know that seems like an absurdly obvious statement, but I’ve met so many aspiring writers (emphasis on aspiring) who spend more time building their social media presence (more on that later) or world-building or polishing their outlines than actually writing their book. I don’t know if they have a serious procrastination problem or a fear of failure or what, but they seem destined to always be in pre-writer mode and will never actually finish a project. Don’t be that person. Write your story.
  • Cover art featuring CG pseudo humans. My god, don’t. They are always, always terrible and cheap-looking. Note that I am not talking about digital art as a medium, I am talking specifically about anything that features a fakey, cheesy, PlayStation One-era video game cut scene-quality figure. I don’t want to pick on any one cover as an example, so instead I’ll send you over to Lousy Book Covers so you can bask in the awfulness of the site’s “pseudohuman” tag.
  • When you’re looking around at publishers and small presses in particular, remember the Neil Gaiman rule: money flows toward the author. If you’re asked to shell out money for anything — editing, formatting, cover art, printing, distribution — you’re either dealing with a shady publisher or a self-publishing platform masquerading as a publisher. When dealing with any entity calling itself a publisher, your sole responsibility as the author is to write the book, not finance its production.
  • On a related note: there is a predatory cottage industry that’s sprung up around indie authorship — everything from writing contests to pay-to-play fake awards to marketing and publicity services, all designed to capitalize on authors’ desperation to succeed. Be skeptical of anyone who asks you for money, and question the value of whatever they’re offering.
  • Sending press releases about your book to the media is the second biggest waste of your valuable marketing time. I say that as someone who worked in the media for 15 years. Large outlets don’t care about Joe Nobody releasing his self-published book because they have bigger fish to fry, and smaller outlets need to be convinced to care because a lot of people are competing for not a lot of space, so the outlet is going to be very particular about what they give free publicity to. Besides, even if you do get some ink, chances are you’re only going to reach a tiny fraction of your target audience. It’s just not the best ROI.
  • The biggest waste of your marketing time? Throwing up promotional posts on any Facebook page that claims to connect writers with readers. They don’t. They’re all just echo chambers, nothing but authors all shouting “Buy my book!” to other authors too busy also shouting “Buy my book!” to give a toss about what everyone else is pitching.
  • Speaking of social media, there is this (to my mind) baffling philosophy among new writers that before they release their first novel, they first have to create a massive online following so they have a fanbase ready to scoop up their book when it drops. If you’re an as-yet-unpublished author and you’re spending as much time on establishing an online presence as you are on finishing your first book, STOP DOING THAT and finish your damn book. One, publishers and agents considering your work are going to consider your work, not how many followers you have on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Two, if you’re going the indie author route, you can only string people along for so long. If your release date is weeks away, and is firm, and you have good stuff like excerpts and cover art to post to rev up interest, then go for it, but you can’t start talking yourself up months or even years in advance and expect everyone to stick around until you finally get off your ass and finish your book.
  • Part of this job is talking yourself up, but you can do that without sacrificing honesty or indulging in puffery and self-aggrandizement. Getting a positive review from one guy in Australia does not make you an “internationally renowned author.” Receiving a pay-to-play award from some nonentity does not make you an “award-winning writer.” Cracking the top twenty of some tiny, obscure subcategory on Amazon does not make you a “best-selling author.” You should be able to promote your work based on its merits rather than front-loading your pitches with artificial accolades.
  • Also? Avoid backdoor promos of your work. I belong to several online writer groups and some of them have a strict “no self-promotion” policy to keep the spam down, but there is always that one guy who starts every post with, “As the writer of the Such-and-Such Trilogy, I think…” There’s a time and place for self-promotion; the time is not all the time and the place is not everywhere.
  • Writing the middles of stories sucks. Beginnings and endings, when you’re setting all your pins up and then knocking them down, have an energy to them. Middles, when the ball is rolling down the alley, are boring. I always struggle during the second act, as do a lot of writers. If this is you, take heart — you are not alone.
  • Quality, not quantity. It’s true that indie authors need to be fairly prolific, and putting out a decent number of books in a relatively tight time frame can be very beneficial, but it’s not a contest to see how many books you can churn out. Stephen King, considered one of the most prolific writers of the modern age, has produced 59 novels — over the course of 44 years. That’s about 1.3 books released per year. And he has the luxury of being able to do nothing but write. Not everyone can be Terry Pratchett.
  • Do not ever dub yourself the King/Queen of (Insert Genre Here). Just don’t. It’s pretentious and presumptuous as hell, more so if you’re producing crap. Let someone else give you an impressive sounding title after you’ve earned it.
  • Test readers. Get some. Use them. Listen to them. Having test readers is not creating art by committee, as I’ve heard some claim. As the author, you quickly grow blind to your own story’s flaws and faults, and the best thing you can do is get fresh eyes and outside opinions on your work. That does not mean you have to implement every suggestion you receive — you are still the ultimate arbiter here — but test readers are your eventual reading audience in miniature; their issues with your book might well reflect issues others are going to have with it.

Have any tips or advice for writers? Post them in the comments section!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – A Series Overview

What’s it About?

Derek Strongarm and Felix Lightfoot are a pair of hard-luck adventurers for hire with an unfortunate knack for landing jobs that pay too little and threaten their lives too much. Erika Racewind is a hardened elven warrior who doesn’t like people, except maybe when she’s killing them. Winifred Graceword is a kindhearted elven priestess skilled in the healing arts. David is a young sorcerer on a path to discover who he really is – and whether that person has a last name, because going by just David is getting old fast.

Together these companions travel across the land of Asaches looking for adventure and the glory and riches that come with it. Mostly the riches, though, because you can’t buy food and beer with glory.

Who is this Series For?

Sword-and-sorcery fantasy fans looking for something a little lighter than most of the fare currently on the shelves. If you want heavy, dark, serious stories with lots of death, destruction, torture, rape, and political intrigue, go read something else because you won’t find it here.

What you will find is a fast-paced adventure filled with colorful characters, rip-roaring action, humor, and gentle jabs at the classic elements of fantasy fiction.

Which is not to say this series is a comedy or parody. There is still drama aplenty, but as a rule I don’t take things too seriously. You can read these books and not feel like you need a hug and a room full of puppies afterward.

Is it Suitable for Young Readers?

Not really. The series is a hard PG-13/light R for violence, language, and sexual content. It is suitable for older teens, but not for the YA crowd.

What are the Books in the Series?

Scratching a Lich: Derek and Felix find themselves entangled in an urgent quest to slay a legendary lich before he can trigger a world-ending apocalypse – as insane undead sorcerers are wont to do. Together with Erika Racewind, bodyguard for a mysterious young wizard named David, and Winifred Graceword, they head out to discover lost cities, recover long lost magical artifacts, and slay great evils in order to fulfill curiously specific prophecies – as mismatched, ragtag groups of adventurers are wont to do.

Assassins Brawl: The companions are hired to safeguard a spoiled brat of a princess targeted for death by the assassin Ruined Isys, but as is often the case, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Now all they have to do is determine who is behind the plot before they get caught in the crossfire.

Blades of Glory: Derek, Felix, and company are up for a job that seems a little too simple for a payday that seems a little too generous – but unfortunately, so are the famed adventurers of fortune known as the Noble Blades. Which of them will be the first to find a stolen ceremonial mask that is absolutely positively completely normal and not at all some lost artifact possessed of dark power?

How Long Will the Series Run?

Unknown, but tentatively ten books.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read can read sample chapters from Scratching a Lich, buy signed copies, connect with me through social media, and get regular updates at my website: innsmouthlook.com

Weekly Update – May 15, 2018

The New England Speculative Writers‘ Kickstarter campaign for The Final Summons anthology, set for a February 2019 release, is still going! We have a little more than a month left to hit our stretch goals, the first of which is $1,475 to cover compensation for our editor.

For readers, that means you can still contribute to the campaign and pre-order the book, which will feature my short story The Going Rate for Penance and 13 other fantasy, horror, and science fiction tales from New England-area authors.

By backing this project on Kickstarter, you can pre-order your e-book copy now for $5 or a print edition for $25 — which also includes a copy of the e-book! For a larger contribution you can have a copy donated to your local library. Visit the project’s official Kickstarter page and learn more about the authors, their stories, and what you get for pledges as little as $2 and as large as $50.

WRITING PROJECTS

Well-Behaved Women: I came so close to finishing book two last week, but a fight scene slowed me down, as they tend to do. I’m going to chip away at it this week and see if I can wrap it up.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written. Tentatively scheduled for a February/March 2019 release.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has launched a new promotion for its newsletter, and you can get not one but two free books out of the deal! Simply click on this link and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive e-book versions of the two collections pictured here, featuring novel samples from NESW members. The fantasy collection includes the first two chapters of The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – May 8, 2018

The New England Speculative Writers‘ Kickstarter campaign for The Final Summons anthology, set for a February 2019 release, is still going! We have a little more than a month left to hit our stretch goals, the first of which is $1,475 to cover compensation for our editor.

For readers, that means you can still contribute to the campaign and pre-order the book, which will feature my short story The Going Rate for Penance and 13 other fantasy, horror, and science fiction tales from New England-area authors.

By backing this project on Kickstarter, you can pre-order your e-book copy now for $5 or a print edition for $25 — which also includes a copy of the e-book! For a larger contribution you can have a copy donated to your local library. Visit the project’s official Kickstarter page and learn more about the authors, their stories, and what you get for pledges as little as $2 and as large as $50.

WRITING PROJECTS

Well-Behaved Women: The current draft of book one is off to my editor and book two is nearly done. I know I said that last week, but I mean it this time. Really.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written. Tentatively scheduled for a February/March 2019 release.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has launched a new promotion for its newsletter, and you can get not one but two free books out of the deal! Simply click on this link and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive e-book versions of the two collections pictured here, featuring novel samples from NESW members. The fantasy collection includes the first two chapters of The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Action Figures – A Series Overview

What’s it About?

The series focuses on Carrie Hauser, a 15-year-old girl who one summer experiences two life-changing events: her parents announce they’re getting divorced, and she gains superhuman abilities after encountering a dying extraterrestrial after he falls to Earth.

Her adventure begins after Carrie and her mother Christina move back to Christina’s childhood home town of Kingsport, Massachusetts, and Carrie meets four teens with powers of their own: superhero fanboy Matt Steiger, who owns a pair of magic gloves that can produce any object he can envision out of thin air, like a living cartoon character; Sara Danvers, a telepath and telekinetic who is afraid of her own abilities; the easygoing Stuart Lumley, who possesses superhuman strength; and Missy Hamill, an adorable motormouth with enhanced strength and reflexes.

The teens form a superhero team almost on a whim, but soon find themselves fighting for their lives against very real super-villains – much to the dismay of Kingsport’s hometown hero Concorde, leader of the super-team The Protectorate.

Who is this Series For?

Fans of superhero comics, TV shows, and movies in general, but particularly of titles featuring teen heroes such as Young Justice, Teen Titans, Young Avengers, and Champions.

The tone is generally lighter than a lot of YA books out there now. While there is drama and conflict, and some later stories deal with darker issues, I try to keep the series fun, upbeat, and optimistic.

Is it Suitable for Young Readers?

Action Figures is a PG-13 series that contains mild to moderate profanity, non-graphic violence, some mature themes, and later on in the series mild sexual content.

An added word about the violent content: while the violence is not graphic, the consequences are not downplayed. This isn’t sanitized Hollywood violence. People get hurt just as they would in real life and do not easily shrug off injuries, and in some cases the characters have to deal with the emotional trauma of their experiences.

What are the Books in the Series?

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret OriginsCarrie and her new friends in the Hero Squad (yes, they know their team name is awful) find themselves caught in the crossfire as the deadly mercenary Manticore comes to Kingsport, on the hunt for the rogue artificial intelligence known as Archimedes.

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women – The sorceress Black Betty threatens to raise hell – maybe literally – as she pursues her vendetta against the Protectorate’s resident paranormal expert Dr. Enigma.

 

Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect – Missy’s life is turned upside-down when she learns the truth about the source of her powers, and her connection to the bloodthirsty killer Buzzkill Joy.

 

Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel SummerSara finds herself in the crosshairs of the mysterious hero killer the King of Pain, but to save herself, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear.

 

Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-UpsThe Hero Squad, still reeling from their devastating encounter with the King of Pain, get a little help picking up the pieces from their friends in the Protectorate and the Quantum Quintet.

 

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play – The Squad finds itself outnumbered and under-powered after one of their members goes missing – and at the worst possible time as foes from their past reappear, more dangerous than ever and ready to exact revenge.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War – On Earth, Carrie Hauser is a hero, but on the far side of the galaxy, she’s just another soldier on the front lines of an interplanetary war against the terrorist Black End.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage (spring 2019)

How Long Will the Series Run?

The series is plotted out to ten books but might run one or two books longer. In any event, it will come to a firm end at some point and not run on indefinitely.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read can read sample chapters from Secret Origins, short stories set in the Action Figures world, buy signed copies, connect with me through social media, and get regular updates at my website: innsmouthlook.com

Station Identification Time

Who Am I?

I’m a writer originally from Falmouth, MA who now lives in Worcester (pronounced like the name of Hugh Laurie’s dim-witted socialite) with my awesomely talented wife Veronica, who runs a business called Storied Threads.

After 15 years with the Falmouth Enterprise, where I worked as a general and political reporter, blogger, and editor, I left the news industry to focus on my creative writing.

In addition to my novels (more on that in a minute) I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve produced scripts for Pastimes Entertainment of Revere, MA and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.

What Do I Write?

Action Figures is a YA superhero adventure series featuring a team of young superhumans who set out to make a name for themselves in the superhero world and quickly find themselves in over their heads. Fun, full of humor and action, populated with likable characters (including some of the villains), and suitable for teen readers and adults who still love superheroes. Oh, and no love triangles. Ever. The first book, Secret Origins, reached the #1 spot on two Amazon best-seller lists.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is my response to all the overly serious fantasy novels out there that have forgotten how to have fun. The series follows two hard-luck adventurers for hire with a knack for biting off more than they can chew and their friends as they explore ancient ruins, fight deadly monsters, go on epic prophecy-driven quests for artifacts of great power hidden in highly inconvenient locations, and cross a lot of rickety rope bridges along the way. The first book, Scratching a Lich, received a gold medal for fantasy fiction from BellaOnline, a resource for women in writing, which also recognizes feminist writers and their work.

Cheap Thrills Digest is a short story collection featuring introductions to my two series, plus an original novelette-length horror story, Lost Souls, which is exclusive to CTD. If you’re curious about my writing, you can grab this for just $6 in print or 99 cents in e-book format.

Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

Freedom Winds Underdog Comics is a mini-comic I wrote for , and you can read it for free at any time here, here, or here.

Well Behaved Women is a planned urban fantasy trilogy now in the early stages. Book one is tentatively scheduled for a late summer/early fall 2018 release.

What Will I See Here?

I post weekly updates that include progress reports on various projects, cover art reveals, new release announcements, a schedule of appearances and book-signings, the occasion essay on writing, and whatever random bits and pieces capture my attention.

Where Can You Find Me Online?

Official website

Weekly newsletter

Amazon author page

Facebook

Twitter

BookBub

Instagram

Goodreads

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