Tuesday, December 30, 2014

To-Do List for 2015

Hello everyone! I've decided that this is going to be a thing for my end-of-year blog post--my list of writing resolutions for next year!

Before I get to that, I just want to let everyone know that I will still be accepting beta readers for Hungry as a Wolf until January 1, 2015. After that, I'll be attending to the feedback I already have and waiting to see what other advice I'm going to get. I do read all the notes and try to resolve all the points of confusion, so trust me--your beta reading really does help!

Now, on to my list of resolutions:
  1. Stay on top of my blog a bit better. I know I've missed a couple of blog posts here and there with really no good explanation other than laziness. This year I resolve to stay regular on this, because not only does it keep my readers informed of what's going on in my writing, but it keeps me disciplined. So, every Tuesday, I will post on my blog, whether it's an original article like this one or a response to a writing prompt.
  2. Keep my website updated. I've been bad about this. I don't see why this should be so hard--I have full editing capabilities over the silly thing, and if I stay on top of the blog spam on my website I won't get buried in it. So, once a week, I will look over my website, clean out the spam folder, and make sure everything is up to date.
  3. Send out regular newsletters. I really have no excuse. I should be sending out a monthly newsletter with updates and stuff to the people on my mailing list, and just like with my blog I've been missing issues. Yeah. I know. So, the first Thursday of every month, I will make up and send out a newsletter to my mailing list.
  4. Edit and polish my NaNo novel, Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. YA is a new writing genre(ish) for me, and I suspect this will take a lot of work. Tally ho!
  5. Finish rewrites on One Spooky Case. The fact that I need to extend the story to almost double its current length to keep the suspense up should be no matter. I have a beta reader all lined up to reread it and make sure everything jibes.
  6. Finish the rough draft of The Cinderella Gambit. This one is going to be a semi-priority, because it's been sitting half-finished in my WIP folder for a few years (!) now and it's time I got it done.
  7. For that matter, finish all my WIPs. Seriously, I have like 20 of them sitting there staring at me. I want to start finishing those rough drafts and moving them out of that folder so they stop piling up already. Once I start clearing them out, I can start writing rough drafts of all the story ideas I have floating around in my head.
  8. Hold more author events. This will be a good way for me to really get my name out there as a new author so people actually know who the heck I am and what books I offer. At this point I've held a grand total of three author events--one reading and two signings--plus setting up a dealer table at a convention. I need to get over my introversion and get out there more. With my upcoming SFR novel Heart of Steel due out in February, I will have the perfect opportunity to hold a book release event. I won't be able to surf the dealer rooms of as many conventions as I would like due to financial concerns, but I will give it my best try.
  9. Market the heck out of myself. I'm an indie author. It's all on me. I need to do all the pavement pounding to get my name and books in the hands of my potential readers. It'll be hard, but there it is. With the upcoming changes to Facebook, it's going to be even harder, but I figure that will just force me to get more creative.
So that's my list of writing resolutions for 2015. They're going to be a lot of work to get through, especially if I want to stay on top of my writing, but I'm feeling fairly optimistic. Hopefully once I get a couple of books released things will start to pick up more momentum.

What are your writing resolutions for 2015? Share them in the comments!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Looking for Beta Readers!

Hello, dear readers! It's time for me to plan for my next book release, and for that I need your help! I am looking for beta readers for my weird western novel Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to my weird western novella Sheep's Clothing.

When the mayor of a prosperous boom town in the Dakota Territory hires halfbreed gunslinger Wolf Cowrie to investigate the lack of contact from their local mining outpost, Wolf knows he's headed into a powder keg. Tensions run high between the white settlers and local Sioux, meaning Wolf will have to get to the bottom of this mystery in a hurry. Something that Wolf has never encountered before lurks in the Black Hills, though... something hungry that craves human flesh...

If this sounds like something you'd like to beta read, let me know! You can reply to this blog post on Blogger, or contact me on my website or any of my social media sites. I will be happy to send you a beta copy in any format you like, as well as a copy of Sheep's Clothing if you haven't read it yet. I hope to hear from you!

Website: http://elizabetheinspanier.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.einspanier.author?ref=bookmarks
Twitter: @GeekGirlWriter

Friday, December 12, 2014

Post-NaNoWriMo Recovery

It's December. That means that those of you who were working on a novel for the National Novel Writing Month are in the clear by a significant margin. Heck, I had to postpone this article for a week just so that I could think clearly about the topic. Assuming you finished your rough draft (and if you did, good for you!), now comes the time to decide what to do next.

The main thing that you absolutely do not do if you value your reputation as a writer is send your rough out to publishers as-is. I've heard of this happening and it makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit every time. And even if you think its the finest contribution to modern literature since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for the love of your deity of choice do not self-publish it as-is. I've heard of this happening and my faith in humanity crumbles a bit more every time.

You take that rough draft and you put that sucker away for a while. I'm not even going to look at Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life until January. Stephen King recommends letting your draft hang out in solitude for six weeks. Why? Because when you do pick it up to look it over and unleash the fury of your red pen on it, you'll be able to do so with the level of detachment this process requires.

What to do in the meantime, though? Lots of things. Read. Work on another rough draft (I have a whole pile of works in progress I could pick up). Edit another manuscript. Do what you can to clear your NaNo novel from the front of your mind. Think of December as a mental palate-cleanser. Relax.

Why is this break important? Because after living and breathing your draft for a month solid, the words might start to blur together. You'll start seeing what you meant rather than what your fingers actually typed. Stepping back and clearing your head will let you do that first pass of editing properly. I generally recommend self-editing for the first pass of a manuscript, but especially here, because you'll be able to catch all the embarrassing mistakes that you will subsequently be glad nobody else saw.

It's understandable if you want to get right into editing your NaNo novel right away, but have patience. The results will be well worth it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Designing an Alien Species for Fun and Profit

For decades, science fiction writers and scientists alike have speculated about life on other planets. The possibilities they've come up with range from funny-looking humans (Thanks, Star Trek!) to completely incomprehensible horrors from beyond the limits of sanity (Thanks, H. P. Lovecraft!). This offers modern authors a wide range of possibilities to choose from, which can be liberating and terrifying all at the same time. On the one hand, the possibilities are endless. On the other hand... okay, where do I start?


 If an alien species is going to be a meaningful part of diplomatic negotiations (successful or otherwise), it's going to have to be at least as smart as humans. If it's going to be the one who seeks us out, then unless we already have FTL technology by the time of whenever the story is set, they're going to default to smarter than us. Why? Because the nearest galaxy is maybe a dozen light years away, and your alien species will need to have determined that there's something worth checking out on our insignificant little planet, or else they wouldn't have bothered.

That's not to say that individual aliens within your species can't be idiots. You get those all over.


As indicated above, this can range from really really human to really really not. Many early aliens in visual media looked human simply because there was no such thing as ILM. In the Star Trek universe, most of the sympathetic aliens resemble humans with accessories because the Progenitor seeded a butt-ton of world with genetic material, and let evolution do the rest. Star Wars, being set in a space opera universe with a bigger budget, has a wide variety of aliens, made even more diverse with the addition of motion-capture and fully CGI sharacters. In written media, of course, you have a lot more freedom to make your aliens look like whatever the heck you want, but be cautious with aliens that are obviously not humans with weird makeup.

Non-humanlike aliens can even resemble familiar Earth species, like cat people (a favorite, for some reason), lizard people, or even insects. In general, the less mammalian they look, the harder it is for we humans to relate to them. Give them weird senses and a corresponding lack of familiar anatomy, and the average first contact team is going to be cautious, if not initially afraid of them. Once you start getting into the more mind-bending aliens like sapient colors (I have seen this played for laughs and for horror), it gets harder and harder to comprehend them, until you get the sort of things that should not logically follow the same laws pf physics, let alone biology, that we do.


Admit it. Coming up with a completely alien culture is hard as hell. Most fictional cultures will have some aspect of a familiar human culture, even if it isn't practiced openly, locally, or currently. This can be a good thing, if you want to use this fictionalized culture to make a social statement, but you will need to tread carefully and change things up. Transplanting an earth culture into your story wholesale can smack of lazy writing (no matter how awesome lion-folk Spartans would be). In general, your fictional species' culture needs to be an organic extension of the sort of environment they developed in, what they find important, and what they're naturally skilled at. That means you will need to build the heck out of their home-world and come up with a history for them, even if your human characters never find out much about it.


Aliens are weird. They're supposed to be. Even familiar-looking behaviors and rituals can be performed for reasons that come completely out of left field, and understanding why can be a major part of the story (see Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card for one example). Then you have the critters whose sense of morality is so completely divorced from ours that we have a hard time predicting what they will do any why, and they might have no concept of why what they did was wrong. Trying to weed out malicious behavior from attempts to help can be fun and horrifying by turns, depending on how you swing it. Try taking a quality and turning its importance3 up until the knob breaks, and see what that does to your creation's mindset.

In Conclusion

Creating a completely new alien species can be either piles of fun or an exercise in hair-tearing frustration. There's a lot of thought and world-building that can go into it if you want to have a meaningful first-contact scenario, but if you really get into it you can have almost as much fun working out the details of your species as you do writing a story featuring it. If you have fun writing about it, chances are your audience will have fun reading about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 25: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hello everybody! Many of you have been powering your way through NaNoWriMo like I have, and at this point you're close to the end (one way or another). The NaNoWriMo site started accepting word count validations last Thursday, and while I wasn't there yet I think I'll be able to finish my draft in plenty of time.

Some of you might not be so lucky. Some of you might see the craziness of Thanksgiving and Black Friday coming up and wonder when the heck you'll have time to finish. Some of you might see how far you have to go yet and want to give up.


Even if the task seems daunting, do whatever it takes to give yourself the will to push through this last week. Bang out as many words as you possibly can! Remember, NaNo isn't about writing a perfect novel in a month, but just as 50,000 word rough draft in a month. Even if you think that what you have is a giant flaming mess, console yourself with a plan to revise and edit later.

Heck, this month I seem to have entirely lost my ability to spell for the sake of sheer word count. I plan to pass my draft through a spell-check program before I try to validate it so that I know that the NaNo software won't just skip over the horribly mangled words that it doesn't recognize. I'll still give it an actual eyeball check as well, though, so that words that are misspelled so that they become other words don't slip in. But that will come later.

For night now, I plan to focus on the goal that as of this writing is just over 5k words away. I'm sprinting towards the climax like a crazy person, and I know that I'll be done before I know it.

You might be, too. Just keep at it. In the end, the actual word count isn't the important part, but rather you writing that rough draft and getting it out of your head.

Happy End of NaNo!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 18: The End is in Sight

I'm on Week Three of NaNoWriMo, and I think it will be all downhill from here. Not as far as the quality of my writing goes (though with a rough draft it's hard to tell) but as far as how hard the slog will be. I'm past the midway point (yay!) and at last check I was at 30k words (yay!) so it looks like I'm going to finish this thing for NaNo (yay!).

It will be easy at this point for me to get lost in the plot threats I've started weaving together, like a kitten with a ball of yarn, but I don't think that will be a problem for me. For one, I haven't even started to bury myself in subplots, and for another, I've got a great support group that I can use to bounce ideas off of and comb out any problem spots.

Of course tying everything together in the climax is going to be interesting, considering the foundation I've laid out, but as long as I keep getting those words out I should be fine, and any plot holes can be filled in with my rewrite (and yes, I'm already planning on rewriting this thing because it's deep in the Hemingway Zone.

For now, though, I'm just going to keep pushing forward. 20k more words doesn't seem like that many considering what I've done so far, and the path ahead is wide open.  Banzai!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 11

Today marks Day 11 of NaNoWriMo 2014, and as we plow (or slog, as the case may be) through Week Two, many of us writers may be starting to lose momentum. Some of you might be having doubts about how good your story really is. You might be getting buried in subplots or research opportunities. You might be ready to set this beast aside for another day.


The Week Two Wall might be looming large in front of you, mocking you for your foolish plans to write a rough draft in a month. This is not the place to give up. Rather, this is where you give your main character a swift kick in the butt. Throw a plot point at him that throws all his preconceived notions down the stairs. Shock him into doing something that furthers the plot, and watch him rocket back out of the gate. Even if it seems as stupid and random as him finding an assassin hiding in his coat closet, that's an action point (you can figure out why the assassin was hiding in the coat closet later) and you can build on that.

In my case, I felt my momentum flagging, so I took a backstory point from one of my side characters and twisted into a plot element in the current narrative. Now my heroine is shocked and shaken and out of her element and a major part of her emotional support system (which is sparse enough to start with) is going to be sidelined for a while.

Remember that kicking the legs out from under your protagonist isn't going to kill them. If anything, they will come out on the other side stronger than ever before and even more ready to face the challenge of the day/week/month/whatever, especially if said plot point involves said threat going after your hero's loved ones. One laser-guided hero missile, coming right up.

So if you find yourself losing steam, have something blindside your protagonist and worry about making it less random during rewrites. It will give both you and your hero something new to do, and it will keep your novel from stagnating.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 4

Today is Day 4 of my first serious attempt at NaNoWriMo, and so far things are going fantastic. My word count is well above par for this far in, even though I had a minor slowdown yesterday due to my persistent need to buy food and pay my bills, but I'm still plugging away at it and I need no reason to give up just yet.

I mean, it's only Day 4 out of 30. Giving up now would just be bailing.

I'm still pretty excited about this whole thing. I've joined the NaNo community, collected a bunch of writing buddies, and I've been bouncing ideas off the forums and getting help with things like research, as well as sharing a good laugh about our speed0induced typoes.

The goal of NaNoWriMo, of course, is not to write a perfect novel in 30 days. That would be so close to impossible that it's barely worth considering. When you're going for speed, certain sacrifices will need to be made, like your ability to spell, airtight plotting, and frustrated ramblings at your apparent inability to make things up on the fly.

And that's okay.

Not only is this my first NaNo, but it's my first real foray into YA literature, so that's an interesting switch from my usual target age group. I find myself having to remember what it was like to be a teenager, and to accept and embrace the fact that as a seventeen-year-old girl, my main character and many of her peers are going to be gigantic drama queens.

And that's also okay.

At this point, while I'm not quite writing by the seat of my pants (as is my usual strategy) I still have a handful of major plot points to map out, but I still have most of the month to get that done. This is not the time for panic just yet.

For the rest of you also doing the NaNo thing, keep it up! I'm right here with you!

How far am I towards my goal? Check it out!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: DON'T PANIC

Here we are in the last few days before the National Novel Writing Month begins, and if those of you who are participating are anything like me, you're in a flat panic. Questions and doubts may be flooding your mind:
  • What if my idea sucks?
  • What if I don't finish?
  • How will I manage writing so many words a day between work/school/social life/errands/sleep?
  • What if I get writer's block halfway through?
  • What if there's a crisis and I just can't devote the time?
I know how you feel. This is my first NaNo, and I've got all those doubts and more keeping me from sleeping and threatening to make me lock up in front of my computer screen. (My brain is really sadistic that way.) Let's see if I can address them in order, shall we?

What if my idea sucks?
There are very few ideas that cannot be salvaged or improved on editing. If you enjoy your idea enough to use it for NaNo, then it can't suck that much. Just remember that this is a rough draft. Nobody has to see it but you. (You do plan to edit it, right?)

What if I don't finish?
This is actually two questions.
What if I don't manage to write 50,000 words in November?
When you will still be further along in your novel project than you were on November 1. There's no penalty for not hitting that benchmark, and not everyone will get there. Relax.
What if I write 50,000 words, but my story's still not done?
Then you can continue writing it through December or however long it takes for your story to be done.

How will I manage writing so many words a day between work/school/social life/errands/sleep?
You'd be surprised how much writing you can get done if you dedicate yourself. You might have to make a few sacrifices, though--like no spending hours at a time on your social media and/or games. Any requirements for prime functioning, absolutely stick with those, but other than that, block out as much time as you can and get that draft written.

What if I get writer's block halfway through?
This is why NaNo support groups are awesome.  The official website itself allows you to find writing buddies (local or not) to help you power through the tough times. Try free writing and turning over ideas in your draft. Add padding if you like (you can always take it out later). Just keep those words flowing.

What if there's a crisis and I just can't devote the time?
Well, honestly, stuff happens. If you have a major Crisis with a capital C that completely torpedoes your entire month, that's okay. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Write when you can but remember that there's nothing wrong with not making your word count.

As near as I can tell, the best (but by no means only) way to get through a successful NaNoWriMo is to just sit your butt down and write. Write until your vision blurs and your fingers ache and your brain goes numb. Then do it again the next day, and the next, until it's done. Don't worry about plot holes or spell checking or editing--just get that draft down as quickly as humanly possible. Don't second-guess yourself. Don't go back and fix anything, even that typo that's just screaming at you from the page. Editing comes later. Just find your zone and write that sucker.

As for myself, I'm going to keep blogging throughout NaNoWriMo and share with you my experience as a first-time participant, including (drum roll) a word count graphic.

Here it is:

My username on the NaNoWriMo website is GeekGirlWriter (same as my Twitter handle) so if you're participating and want to be writing buddies, go ahead and look me up!

Happy NaNo!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2014

I have an announcement to make. This year, I am definitely (You hear me? I mean it!) going to participate in NaNoWriMo. Whether I finish or not is another matter, but I'm going to be writing my little fanny off and giving this rough draft my best try.


A couple of reasons.
  1. I keep saying I'll do it every year and then just don't.
  2. I want to see if I can.
  3. What's the worst that can happen?
Of course, pursuant to this, I'm going to need to make sure I have a few things close at hand (or at least kept in mind) before I fling myself headlong into the NaNo breach.

  1. A story idea. This isn't a problem. I have a story idea that's been fermenting for a while, entitled Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. I haven't actually started it because... well... reasons. It's been percolating more over the course of October, and I think it might be ready to put to the page. Or computer screen. Or whatever.
  2. A plan. Normally I'm a pantser. I take to novel planning like a cat to water, but with something like NaNo, I need to be able to belt this thing out as fast as humanly possible. I have a writer friend who can write thousands of words a day. If I can manage that, awesome. But I will need to know where this thing is going to go so I don't stumble over a lack if ideas.
  3. A support group. These are all over the Internet. I'll be signing up on the official NaNo site and posting my progress on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  4. Time. At the minimum, I have an hour a day that I can dedicate to writing (assuming I can ignore the distractions hollering for my attention. If I'm lucky, I can probably carve out an additional hour or two in the evening, but I will need to budget my time wisely.
  5. Chocolate. ...shut up. I'll need the endorphins,  and chocolate has been scientifically proven to boost inspiration. So there.
Now, if I manage to claw my way through this, you know what I'm going to do with my shiny new NaNo novel? Well, one thing I'm not going to do is send it straight off to a publisher. Hell no. (I've heard of this happening, and I cringe every time.) Part of NaNo is turning off your editor in order to Get Stuff Done, so the rough draft is definitely going to be in the Hemingway Zone.  I'm going to edit this thing until most of the plot holes are repaired and the wrinkles are gone, and then kick it over to a beta reader like I would with any other manuscript, because I want it to not suck.

So that's my plan. (Yay planning!) Now let's see if I can follow through.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What the Heck Was I Doing?: The Torment of Rewriting

I've developed a couple of quirks since deciding that writing was really my thing:
  1. I don't let anyone see the rough draft.
  2. I yell at myself while I'm marking the rough draft for revision.
I have a number of perfectly valid reasons for both of these. Once upon a time, when I was a young an naive writer in high school, I would just bang out a story and consider it done, and then wonder why none of the publishers I sent my stories to could perceive my genius.


I sent out rough drafts.

Take all the time you need.

A couple *coughdozencough* rejections later, I learned about a wonderful thing called editing, and a further, even more wonderful thing called self-editing.

You mean I can refine my work without showing it to someone else?

Yes, which was awesome because I'd realized, after taking a week or two for the endorphin rush to wear off, that nearly every rough draft I'd written in the mania of I have a story and I must write it down and show the world was utter dreck. Redeemable dreck, but dreck nonetheless. I became ashamed that I would in all honesty consider showing this to something else, which was both disheartening and a step in the right direction because with the degree in English I'd earned in the meantime I could pick out the problems.

Most word processing programs have a feature by which you can highlight areas and leave notations, and I use that in spades when I go through my rough drafts. In one of my current manuscripts I actually left the note, "This doesn't make sense. What the hell were you thinking?" I have become my own harshest critic, which is both good and bad.

It's good because a critical eye (simmered gently over the course of two weeks to a month) allows me to pick out the problems both big and small so I can fix them before anyone else sees what an embarrassment my rough draft is. I've found an affordable editor, but I don't even have to send her my rough draft this way. That's a real load off my mind.

It's bad because, while putting on the Simon Cowell level of snarkiness with my own work can be fun, it can get schizophrenic very easily, and if I'm not careful there's a chance I might give up on the manuscript altogether and never look at it again. Instead, I try to put suggestions in my notes rather than only criticisms, even if I have to chainsaw out an entire scene and rewrite it from scratch. Even if the note says simply "wat", I know that something that seemed so clear in the drafting phase has fallen out of focus. I've been known to switch plot points midstream while drafting, so this helps keep me on course.

Fortunately, after doing this a few times with several different manuscripts, I've happily fallen into the habit of self-editing. My rough draft need never see the light of day, let alone the desk of a prospective publisher. I can send a version I'm moderately happy with to my beta readers without worrying that it's a horrible mess. I still let my inner critic dance all over my rough drafts, but with a firm leash so she doesn't discourage me from writing altogether. In the end, this has made me a more confident writer, rather than one living in a state of "oh god all my stuff is crap I'll never get published what am I thinking".

I'm still not showing anyone else my crappy first drafts, though. Someday I may make a bonfire out of them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things I learned at Archon 38

Last weekend, I attended Archon 38, the latest iteration of a cozy (but ever-growing) sci-fi/fantasy convention held in Collinsville, IL. I'd been to Archon before, but not in several years, and it was refreshing ot get back into the swing of things. More to the point, this was my first time with a dealer table at any convention EVER, so this was a prime opportunity to get a feel for the whole process. I had a lot of fun in the end, and I also learned a bunch of stuff in the process.

  1. Don't panic. When I got there with my two boxes of books and all the promotional materials I judged I would need, I was in a bit of a panic. I didn't know where to go, who to talk to, where my table was, or what would be expected of me. Fortunately, the convention staff were super helpful and made sure I got where I needed to go, especially when it came to pallet carts to schlep my stuff to the site.
  2. You will forget things anyway. I spent half the day Friday kicking myself because I left my phone charger and the envelope of cash I'd brought to make change in my hotel room. Bleh.
  3. You may accidentally meet famous people. As it turned out, my table was set up next to Tony Todd. I knew him as a horror actor in films like the Candyman series and all but one of the Final Destination movies. My roommate knew him as an occasional actor on various Star Trek series. Fortunately, he fell neatly into my mental category of Nicest Guys on the Planet and he helped me settle in.
  4. Make friends with Klingons. Boxes of books are astonishingly heavy, and I occasionally had trouble getting them in and out of my sales space. The Klingon cosplayers were super helpful in moving boxes for me.
  5. Don't expect a lot on day one. I discovered that Saturday is the busiest day of Archon, which may have something to do with the Grand Masquerade on Saturday night. On Friday and Sunday I sold two books each. On Saturday I sold about a dozen.
  6. There will always be people with more publicity stuff than you. This is especially true for indie authors who are just starting out and thus have to squeeze every microgram of usefulness out of every dollar they have. Your more experienced booksellers will often have some very useful advice for you if you ask.
    1. People love free bookmarks. Seriously, have a box of bookmarks printed up and give those things away like candy.
  7. People watching is fun. The hall costumes this year were awesome (as usual). I must have taken fifty pictures of people passing by on Saturday alone, including several that were later entered in the Grand Masquerade.
    1. Chocobos are adorable. One of the costumes that I saw all throughout the convention was an awesome chocobo with a noise-maker in the head to make the requisite "wark" noises. I think she won best in Novice Class at the Masquerade.
    2.  Steampunk will never die. I saw a lot of steampunk costumes this year, including Steampunk Green Lantern, Steampunk Wolverine, and Steampunk Batman.
  8. Cosplay is fun but hard. I dressed as Twilight Sparkle on Saturday. Because I'm thirty-five years old and I can dress like My Little Pony if I want, dammit. I had a wig (half hour of detangling Saturday morning), unicorn horn and ears (on elastic bands requiring a bunch of hairpins to hold in place) and a t-shirt with appropriate cutie mark (after searching the internet fruitlessly for a suitable one, I had it custom vinyl printed at Threads). I didn't use nearly enough hairpins, so my ears and wig kept trying to escape down the back of my head, and the elastic gave me a bit of a headache after a few hours, but I persisted all day. In the future I need to learn how to better manage my cranium accessories.
  9. Bronies are everywhere. Throughout Saturday five people under the age of ten and three people above the age of twenty ran up to my table yelling, "Twilight!" I think I got verbally glomped by one girl who simply ran up to my table, arms extended, and bellowed, "YES!" before running off. During the Grand Masquerade, one of the sound guys sent me a bro hoof via messenger.
  10. The final day will be hard. Seriously, it's the last day of the convention, and everyone's been geeking their asses off all weekend. In the end, though, I came in, complete with cosplay hangover from the previous day, and set my stuff up for one final day of "PLEASE BUY MY CRAP!" And you know what? People did. A bunch more took bookmarks and business cards for later reference, and I imagine I will have a fair number of digital sales coming down the pipe in the next few weeks (hope hope). Finally, I packed my things up, said my farewells to my neighbors on Bookseller's Row, and got ready for the drive home, satisfied with a modestly-successful first dealer-table experience.
As you can see, I learned a lot during Archon, and I feel more confident about the prospects of my next dealer table experience. I have ideas on how to improve my table presence. I hope that I'll do a lot better at my next convention (though I'll have to decide when that will be), but until then, I still have my local sales I can focus on.

And now for something completely different...

Here comes the expected update on book sale progress! I also have a book signing scheduled at Panera Bread this coming Saturday, so hopefully I'll sell a bunch more then.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Fine Art of Steampunk

My latest project is a steampunk novel entitled The Demon of Butcher's Row, and in light of this it seems like a dandy time to go over exactly what the heck steampunk is. It's one of those weird little subgenres of science fiction and fantasy that seems to be making a minor resurgence these days, but it has a couple of cousins with which is is occasionally confused.

So, to start: what makes a work steampunk? Steampunk is any work that takes place between 1850-ish and 1910-ish that combines historical details with science fiction elements. A lot of early science fiction would be considered steampunk today, simply because it was contemporary to that time. Of course, modern steampunk tends to use the Disney version of Victorian England, polishing away the grittiness of the era to something that Phil and Kaja Foglio have called Gaslamp Fantasy. True steampunk embraces rather than ignores the dirty underbelly of Victorian society, much like cyberpunk does with its near-future societies. Of course, the full spectrum of gritty-to-shiny encompassed in steampunk ranges from A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to Girl Genius, so the reader is free to choose how they like it.

So why is it called steampunk? A lot of the tech used in steampunk fiction is based on steam technology, the main source of power under development and thus takes place right on the leading edge of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, in real-world terms, steam and coal turned out to be a technological dead-end, so many steampunk works handwave this with an element of magic or occult assistance. Since we sci-fi nerds love our cool gadgets, a lot of modern steampunk works will be heavy on the awesome dingbats and light on explanations of how sustainable they are.

Magic in a steampunk setting may come in many forms, if it is used. The main interest of the society of the day was occultism and spiritualism, in particular communicating with the spirits of the dead or generally contacting other worlds. As such, a steampunk spellcaster may find himself called upon to summon or communicate with beings from the afterlife of distant planes, or else to identify and clean up after a supernatural menace that some nimrod called up and couldn't control. There may also be some overlap with alchemy, using quasi-scientific processes to transmute Substance A into Substance B, or to bind elemental forces in ways that augment the technology of the setting (see above). Magic can also cover the ways that certain scientifically-minded individuals can do inadvisable or flat-out impossible things with Science, in much the same way that Dr. Frankenstein was able to create a human being out of spare parts and a nebulously-describe process, Dr. Jekyll was able to unleash his own dark side, or the average Igor in the Discworld universe is able to generally tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up.

Gender roles in real-world Victorian society were strictly regimented. Women were often the property of the nearest male relation or husband, and typically were not allowed out and about without an escort, to prevent the potential sullying of their honor. By contrast, women in steampunk works are often in active roles in the story beyond damsels in distress. They may work as spies for the government, assassins, spellcasters or other subtle roles which wouldn't be considered ladylike. This can set them up in a contrast against male characters, such as male intellectuals vs. female intuitives, male bruisers vs. female persuaders, or obvious male menace vs. subtle female menace. Of course, their active role has a darker side, as it may be caused by or result in a female protagonist being put into greater danger--and if she can't defend herself ably from the start she better learn in a hurry.

Steampunk can be a fun genre to read and write if you're interested in that general time period and really dig the idea of beating history over the head with the spec fiction stick. When done well, it is a fun look at what might have been, if technological advancement had taken a left rather than a right. You might even have read some steampunk without knowing it, as much of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne fits tidily into this category, as do some of the later Discworld novels, as mentioned above. Done badly, though, it can easily turn into an anachronistic, incomprehensible mess (though I won't name any names). Like with most of the smaller genres, my best advice for a hopeful steampunk author is to start with the classics and find your way from there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Modest Request: August Summary

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Labor Day! I did (got a bunch of writing done and watched Maleficent at the dollar show), and now I'm ready to barrel into September!

In August, I discovered a possible regular venue to selling my books, and one that I wouldn't have considered when I first started with self-publishing: Panera Bread. Yes, the sandwich shop that in the St. Louis area is still known as the St. Louis Bread Company. I set up a table there a couple Sundays ago and sold four books, two to walk-ins. I think this coming month I'll do this again, especially since I'm coming up on Archon 38 and Bookseller's Row, to get me used to selling books face to face.

Aside from the book signing sales, I sold one copy over Amazon and three audiobook copies on Audible. I'm going to rearrange the page for Sheep's Clothing on my website sometime this week to allow my readers to more easily find my stuff, and starting this month I've knocked a dollar off the price of the paperback.

I will be making a big advertising push through Facebook and such, not only to tell people about all the myriad ways they can get Sheep's Clothing, but also to tell them about my author page on Facebook so I can get more "Like"s. I've found a website called Tweet My Books which has a big list of free review sites, so I will be working my way through that as well.

To that end, here is the expected raft of links:

To Buy Sheep's Clothing
Amazon Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Sheeps-Clothing-Elizabeth-Einspanier/dp/1495358372/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1402671109&sr=1-2
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Sheeps-Clothing-Elizabeth-Einspanier-ebook/dp/B00IWY0Z6A/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-2&qid=1402671109
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sheeps-clothing-elizabeth-einspanier/1118630507?ean=9781495358371
Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Sheeps-Clothing-Audiobook/B00MJ3LWZI/ref=a_search_c4_1_6_srTtl?qid=1407942119&sr=1-6#publisher-summary

Find Me Online
Website: http://elizabetheinspanier.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.einspanier.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeekGirlWriter
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElizabethEinspanier/about
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/GeekGirlWriter
Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/profile/eeinspanier
Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/authors/a1002742061/Elizabeth-Einspanier/
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/elizabetheinspanier

Is there anything you've like me to write an article about on my blog? Let me know!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Handling the Damsel in Distress

The damsel in distress is a very old trope, dating back to Greek mythology and beyond. You have a girl that needs rescuing, and this drives the plot. Simple, right? Well, in modern media the unqualified damsel in distress has become less popular, due to the rise of various shades of action girl and self-rescuing princesses. Even Princess Peach, the quintessential damsel of the Super Mario Brothers games, has taken a role in ensuring her own safety from time to time (though she still gets kidnapped more often than not).

As a result, the modern damsel in distress must be handled very carefully in order to avoid accusations of one-dimensionality, bad writing, or misogynist subtext. However, not every female character can be Xena Warrior Princess and get herself out of a pinch. Let's explore the reasons why a damsel might be put in distress.

  • Simple Kidnapping. Yes, this old chestnut. The villain might need to take custody of your impending damsel for a series of reasons, whether it's for financial gain, to force another character's hand, or because the villain has a serious crush on her.
  • She Has a Plot Coupon. Some damsels might possess an item (or know how to access it) upon which the plot hinges. This could be a tattoo that happens to show where the thing that everyone's looking for is, it it might be a book with an encoded message that tells how to get to the thing. In either case, get the damsel, and eventually you get the thing.
  • She Is a Plot Coupon. The damsel has a certain ability or set of abilities that will allow her to get to the thing, or access the thing herself, or otherwise solve the plot's main problem. Or maybe she's the heir to the kingdom and everyone in the land is squabbling for the right to marry her--and then someone just cuts to the chase and makes off with her. (That someone might not even know she's a plot coupon when the absconding happens, only that she's pretty or important or what have you.)
  • She Happened to be Handy. The damsel of convenience in these plots can offer the perfect opportunity to set up epic amounts of ass-kicking if the villain grabbed the wrong damsel out of the crowd. Whether this is foreshadowed before the throw-down happens is entirely up to the writer.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of why a damsel might be in distress, but it covers most of the basics. Of course, now that your damsel is in distress, let's explore reasons that she might not be able to get herself out of distress.

  • Physical Restraints. Again, a classic. This might mean she's tied to a rock or locked in a room or tied up on the metaphorical railroad tracks. Barring any established skills as an escape artist, this is often a perfectly valid reason for the damsel to remain in her predicament and need rescuing.
  • Geographical Restraints. The next best sting to tying her up is putting her someplace secluded where the hero can't get to her right away. She might be locked at the top of the tallest tower or parked in a stronghold on a secluded island or in the middle of the villain's stronghold with thousands of guards between her and the hero. In many cases, the hero might have to find her to rescue her, and him finding out her location can make up the bulk of the plot.
  • Guarded by Something Scary. This could be anything from a trained Bengal tiger to the villain's trusted assistant Moe to a fire-breathing dragon, but in any case the scary thing provides a really healthy incentive to not try to run off.
  • Drugged or Hypnotized. If the damsel is not able to properly get her bearings, obviously she can't make a valid effort to get herself free. Part of the plot might be her trying to clear her head and meet the hero in the middle, bot not always.
  • Physical or Mental Handicap. This needs to be navigated carefully, lest one be the target of accusations of insensitivity. However, certain neurological conditions can make a damsel of either sex unable to properly defend herself from harm, or even recognize danger. A blind damsel might be able to use her senses to evade the bad guy, but that's still a form of distress.
  • She's Naive. DANGER WILL ROBINSON! You better have a really good reason to use this one (like a sheltered upbringing) and it must be handled very carefully lest your prospective damsel be branded an idiot. I know as well as any that there are dingbats and airheads in the real world who wouldn't know a dangerous individual if he pointed a gun at their face, but if this keeps happening repeatedly without her learning her lesson or taking measures to protect herself (that's called character development, for those of you following along at home), eventually the audience is going to brand her an idiot and throw your book against a wall. If your damsel seems to exist solely to have the plot happen to her, you might want to consider heavy rewriting.
While the damsel in distress may have waned in popularity in recent times, she can still be an effective plot point if handled carefully. Just watch out that she doesn't become nothing more than a cardboard cutout with "LOVE INTEREST" written on it in Sharpie and give her motivations of her own, and you will be well on your way to having an interesting, sympathetic damsel.

 And now, for something completely different...

This week's progress report for Sheep's Clothing sales continues my slow and steady trend. Next month I will propose regular book-signings at the St. Louis Bread Company to see if I can do better there with more advertising and an expected crowd, and in October I plan to sell my books at Archon 38!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Future Projects Survey

Well, I've finished taking the Red Pen of Doom to the rough draft of Hungry as a Wolf, and now I have three possible projects I can work on next. I'm eager to work on each of them for different reasons, but I've resolved to pare down the number of Works in Progress I have floating around one at a time.

Here are the candidates:

  • Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life: Paranormal/Chick-Lit. A perky blonde seeks love, but her inherited talent with necromancy keeps getting in the way.
  • Silk and Steel: Heroic fantasy/Romantic Comedy. A hot-tempered swordswoman discovers she is the heir to the royal throne. She must enter into an arranged marriage to stop a war that could tear the kingdom apart.
  • The Demon of Butcher's Row: Steampunk. A monstrous bat-demon is hunting down and killing people in 1890s London. A Mage and his Chymist friend investigate, due to repeated (non-fatal) attacks on the Chymist that keep leaving him in strange places.
 So, which one sounds interesting to you? Let me know, and whichever one gets the most votes will be my next project!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's For a Book, I Swear!

Doing research for a novel can be fun. You get to learn about all sorts of things that you never imagined studying, and because you're the one doing the research (as opposed to an assigned paper for school that must be this long and cover one of these topics, learning becomes a whole lot of fun.

Of course, certain topics can earn a fledgling writer some funny looks when pursued. Researching how to make a bomb out of common household materials might even land you on a few CIA watch lists. Asking for help in learning about the bondage scene or NAMBLA might get you dumped on a sex offender list (or else looked at like you are). Looking up how to commit the perfect murder... well, you get the idea.

Fortunately, a writer has the best defense ever for asking increasingly weird questions: It's for a book. People can become very helpful (or at least less-suspicious) when approached by a writer doing research, because what's the harm in helping someone write a fictional story about fictional events happening to fictional people?

Even in stories that have strong speculative elements, asking questions about the theory behind your story can yield surprising results. Max Brooks interviewed members of the military and the CDC when he was researching The Zombie Survival Guide, and discovered that many of them actually had contingency plans in place to handle outbreaks of flesh-eating zombies. (Weirdly comforting, actually.)

Of course, some writers who started out in different fields might come with the research material already pre-learned. Someone who was an Army Ranger would already know how to snap someone's neck with their bare hands. Making friends with these people can be a handy source of research info if asked politely. And that, really, is the key.

That said, researching the internet for bomb instructions or blueprints to the White House or both in rapid succession (no matter how benign the purpose) is still likely to get some attention, so be careful.

And now, some something completely different...

The Sheep's Clothing audiobook is now available for sale from Audible.com here! It's $14.95 to download (or free with a trial membership to Audible), and in my opinion Zach did a great job as the narrator. If you enjoy Western horror and old-school vampire stories, be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Modest Request: July Summary

You may recall that at the beginning of July I posted about my minor apartment flood and how it inspired me to try to sell 1000 copies of Sheep's Clothing by July 2015. Well, here's a summary of how I did this month.

Here is what I did:
  • Signed up for five free book marketing sites
  • Contacted as many book bloggers as I could find who would be even marginally interested in a horror Western
  • Sent off seven review copies (plus one to my old college adviser, but that's neither here nor there
  • Talked to a lot of people at work
  • Contacted a few places near me to discuss the possibility of a book signing event
The results:
  • Sold 15 copies of Sheep's Clothing, 14 of which were face-to-face sales.
  • One book signing event scheduled for this month.
 It feels kind of anemic, but it was only my first month of this. I want to avoid pay-for-promotion sites as much as I possibly can, as several of them want hundreds of dollars to promote my book, and there are free promotion options for me out there.

My plans for August:
  • Attend my book signing, bringing 100 copies of Sheep's Clothing with me. Sell as many as I can.
  • Go through this list and post my book to as many of them as I possibly can.
  • Post book promos to all the relevant Facebook groups I'm already a part of.
Of course, I'm also moving forward with my other fiction (which is the real key to getting traction with something like this). I'm taking steps to self-publish my SFR novel Heart of Steel, I finished the rough draft of Hungry as a Wolf (the sequel to Sheep's Clothing) this past Friday, and I'm hammering out a fantasy/mystery story entitled One Spooky Case.

Whew! I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me--but it'll be worth it if I can make this goal!

Sales Links

Once again, to make things super-duper easy for you to find, here are links to all the places my book is available for sale:

Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1kkWLR6
Kindle eBook: http://amzn.to/1kDQj80
Barnes and Noble Paperback: http://bit.ly/1srHxel
Subterranean Books: http://bit.ly/1p8ghjO
CreateSpace eStore: http://bit.ly/1kkXguf

Also as a bonus, Sheep's Clothing is available at the St. Louis County Library (and by extension, to any inter-library loan systems they've partnered with).

Link: http://bit.ly/1qVrdEd

And of course, the progress bar:

16 / 1000

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Black and White and Shades of Gray

Stories about good vs. evil are a perennial favorite. It's just a thing people have hard-wired into their brains that turn every conflict into Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, Us. vs. Them, Good vs. Evil. Stories of clear-cut morality in the central conflict are easy to understand, and easy to write.

The trouble is that they're hard as hell to write well, mainly because baseline humans don't come in Completely Good or Completely Evil. Trying to make every member of a group completely good or completely evil might work well if a certain tribe or nationality exists for the Good Guys to fight against, but doing this too often can get boring in a big hurry.

Evil goblins. Yawn.

Beautiful, pure-hearted elves. Ho hum.

As my tastes in fiction (and high fantasy in particular) have evolved, I've started finding the appeal in ambiguously gray characters. There's the hero who might do morally dodgy things in the pursuit of a noble goal. There's the villain who started out with the best of intentions, but couldn't stop his slide down the slippery slope of morality. Even Spider-Man realizes the temptations of having superpowers, and Darth Vader started as a good man.

Honestly, pure villains or heroes can get boring in a hurry. So you've got a white knight boy scout who always knows the right thing to do and goes around defending the innocent because that's what he does. So you've got an evil lord of evil who wants to use black magic to conquer the world because that's what he does. That might be great for simpler stories, but in complex, overarching epics, that lack of moral ambiguity gets old really quickly.

One of the grayest high fantasy series I've read recently is a Song of Ice and Fire, where you have a lot of factions working at cross purposes to get their own people on the Iron Throne, and very few of them are completely good or evil. You have innocents corrupted in the course of trying to escape horrifying events later. You have people set up as villains in early books, only to be revealed as morally conflicted and redeemable later. The only characters I can name off the top of my head who would fall squarely in the evil category are Cersei Lannister and her son Joffrey. Even then, Cersei is just ambitious and crazy and not as smart as she thinks she is, and Joffrey... well, has Cersei for a mother. And he's, like, twelve.

The best way I've noticed to avoid black-and-white morality in fiction is to get into the heads of both your heroes and your villains. Give the villain a reason for what he does besides LOL I'M EVIL. Maybe he does what he does to prevent something worse than him later on. Give the hero moral quandaries so he's not just LOL I'M THE HERO. Heck, Batman has done more than the Gotham police force to clean up crime, and even his allies (and Batman himself) sometimes question the measures he takes. Superman is the closest to a white knight that the DC universe has, but he has to worry that his superheroing might come back to harm his less-indestructible Earthling loved ones. Being completely good or completely evil should be hard.

Writing nuanced heroes and villains is a good way to add spice to your fiction and make your readers think. Your fans might side with one character or another for various reasons, but at least those reasons won't be exclusively because "he's the hero" or whatever. Writing in shades of gray rather than black and white also makes your story more interesting and enjoyable, and has a high likelihood of enticing your readers back for more.

And now, for something completely different...

Still making progress in my book sales (woohoo!), but I really hope they pick up soon. I'll be at Bookseller's Row at Archon 38 this year, my first time selling stuff at a convention, so feel free to come by if you're in Collinsville, IL the weekend of October 3-5 and pick up a copy!

And my sales progress:


I'll be back next week with more ramblings and news! Follow my blog for regular updates!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Things I Wish I Knew About Self-Publishing Before I Started

As I get ready to self-publish my next book, I find myself looking back on the lessons that I have learned from publishing my first--things I wish I'd known the first time around. In hindsight they seem like fairly simple things, but they can mean everything in terms of success.

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Self-Publishing is Hard

It's not hard in the same way traditional publishing is hard--goodness, no. With traditional publishing they hard part is getting past the gatekeeper--usually the lead editor--but once you do, everything is gravy.  They take care of formatting cover art, promotion, and distribution. They have complete control over how much exposure your book gets.

The good news is that a self-pubbed author has complete control over all of this.

This is also the bad news.

Print-on-demand companies like Createspace do ease the pain quite a lot, but you, the author, are still in charge of getting all the different components together. If you don't plan this stuff out ahead of time (see below), you will likely be left scrambling.

Self-Publishing Can Be Expensive

Note that I said "can be" rather than "is". You will find sites all over the internet that offer "author services" that range from copy editing to cover art to formatting, for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to something equivalent to your first-born child. If you're not careful, you might drop a whole load of money into one of these places and get something in return that looks like crap.

Thus, it is imperative that you take the time to shop around. If you're self-publishing, you're not on anyone's schedule but your own. You will have plenty of time to get all your ducks in a row within whatever budget you happen to have.

Pursuant to that...

Plan Ahead

I will be the first to admit that I didn't plan out how I wanted to get Sheep's Clothing out there and in the public eye. I was just so excited by the prospect of getting my book published that I completely forgot about this step. This left me scrambling to get my marketing stuff all set up and to find reviewers that wouldn't cost me hundreds of dollars, and to contact bookstores for events and all that jazz.

It was way more stress than I needed.

Your best best is to plan your marketing about four months before you release your book. This will give you time to create buzz on the various book blogs and in your social media (you do have that, right?) and tell whomever you want to know about your Really Awesome Book Coming Out. It will also allow you time to line up venues for a book release party and for signings after release day. Trying to do all this after release really, really sucks.

In Conclusion

I was young and naive (...this past February) and I've learned some hard lessons since then. I hope to do better with my next self-pubbed book, but I'm sure this will be its own brand of a learning experience as well. The publishing world is always changing and evolving, and as more and more authors start taking the self-pub route, more people will find out additional quirks in the process.

Hopefully, if you decide to self-publish, you won't make the same mistakes I did.

Happy writing!

And now, for something completely different...

I've been making decent progress with selling my books this month, though not as much as I'd like. At the beginning of August I'll provide a complete breakdown of what I did in July.
12 / 1000 (1.20%)

Enjoy what you read? Follow my blog for regular updates!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plotters vs. Pantsers

This week's article will be on the two major types of fiction writers I keep hearing about: plotters and pantsers. The difference in approach between the two seems to define how the first draft of anything is done, and there have been heated arguments over the merits of their respective style. Which one is right for you? Have a look.

Simply put, plotters are writers who plan the heck out of anything before they begin writing. They have complete character profiles on absolutely everyone in their book, they have a detailed outline of every chapter, scene, interaction, and implication, and can weave the whole thing together into a complex whole when they start writing. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They get an idea and start writing to see where it leads them, discovering new characters as they go and generally letting the characters and plot do what feels natural.

Plotters take a while to actually get to the writing. They invest a lot into the front-end stuff, from outlining to researching, and generally collect a healthy file on their book before they actually start writing. Pantsers don't do a lot of front-end stuff, but launch into the story right away. Any research or notes they need to address happens either during the writing, or during the back-end stuff like revisions.

One a plotter gets to the writing, their preparation level tends to allow them to blast straight through the rough draft, with only minimal pausing due to unrelated writing issues like writer's block or even a bad case of Can't-Be-Arsed. A pantser may start quickly, only to have to stop and go back to fix a research error or look something up or work out how this that or the other detail would work within their setting. Occasionally their characters will simply stop cooperating, forcing the hapless pantser to figure out what's going wrong with the story or where it needs to go next.

Plotters may plan out a lot of books at once (see: James Patterson) or even had the entire course of a series mapped out (see: J.K. Rowling), but it seems logical that with the amount of prep they have, they would actually write one book at a time. When you know exactly where your book is going to do, there is nothing to stop you from focusing on that project until it's done (at least the rough draft) before moving on to the next thing in line. Pantsers... frequently have to improvise. They might have a whole pile of works in progress lying around because of some combination of writer's block, attention deficit creator disorder, or because they just got stuck in a plot hole and couldn't figure out how to dig their way out. This is not to say that they don't finish anything, of course--they just are more likely to have multiple irons in the fire.

This is, of course, not intended to be an indictment on the quality of writing produced by either pantsers or plotters, as both are equally capable of producing quite wonderful works of fiction. Pansters are not universally disorganized, and plotters are not universally anal-retentive neat freaks. With sufficient editing, both can produce perfectly enjoyable stories. They just go about it in different ways.

What style suits you? Let me know in the comments!

Progress Update:

8 / 1000 (0.80%)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Fine Art of the Weird Western

I never really expected to write a weird western, right up until I decided to write a vampire story. I didn't want my vampires to be the beautiful elite sexpots that half of everyone was writing these days, and I didn't want them to be anything approaching love interests, like 90% of everyone was writing.

The obvious solution, of course, was to take them out of modern times and write a historical(ish) vampire story.

Then came the hard part: figuring out how to write a weird western.

Writing a weird western doesn't have to be hard. It can be complicated, mind you, because you have historical stuff blended with decidedly non-historical stuff, but if you keep a few elements in mind, you should be on the right track.

The Setting

This is one of two major things that makes a weird western what it is. The area of North America west of the Mississippi was one hell of a place. Nobody setting out to settle there had the least idea what to expect, and they often encountered lots of scary stuff, ranging from the wildlife to the natives to fellow settlers to outlaws who just wanted to kill you and take you stuff because they could. Because it was a great big expanse of unknowns, it lent itself well to ghost stories and legends and tall tales and all sorts of cool stuff.

Of course, if you want to do this properly, you need to do your research. There are lots of nonfiction books floating around that will give you a fair idea of what sorts of things were going on at that time and place, and reading any mainstream western novel will give you a pretty good snapshot of what life was like back then--wild, dangerous, thrilling, and everyone able to kill you. Not everyone was a gunslinger, but pretty much everyone able to walk knew how to use a gun.

Then again, your standard iron won't do much against a vampire, but that's there the horror bits come in.

The Critters

Take a look at the folklore of the day, and you'll find some pretty crazy stories in fairly short order. Shapeshifters, ghosts, boogeymen, vengeful undead of all shades, and that's just what the settlers cooked up. Native American folklore has even crazier stuff, with nature spirits and shapeshifting animals and things that we might call demons that will just eat your face if you don't handle them correctly or just stay the hell out of their territory. Vampires can be found in Native American lore (called Children of Jumlin, not apotamkin, which is a completely different critter), as can serviceable werewolves (not all of which are considered malevolent) and any number of things that roam around in the spirit world.

The Magic

The weird west genre always has some form of magical or supernatural element to it. This distinguishes it from its spiritual cousin, cattle punk, which tends to have science fiction elements like anachronistic tech levels. How you handle the magic and supernatural stuff depends largely on what rules you want to have apply to it. Is this something that anyone can learn (in which case your tale will swiftly become a monster-killing romp), or can only a few people use it, like shamans or whatever other Wild West wizards you want to have roaming around? Does it work well with technology, or not?

Basically, the magic goes hand-in-hand with your critters, because most wild west heroes are going to have to use something unusual to kill your beasties. Emptying a revolver into a vampire is just going to tickle him, but if you have a priest or holy man bless your gun, that's likely to get his attention a lot faster (making the guy with the blessed gun his next target, but that's how it goes). In Sheep's Clothing, my half-skinwalker protagonist Wolf was laid low and nearly killed with a silver dagger, because he's basically a werewolf from a different culture, and that's how werewolves roll.

 Lots of evil critters in folklore are repelled or harmed by good old-fashioned religious items, but that might largely depend on which banes you use on which critters. A Native American beastie might laugh at a brandished crucifix, for example, while a European monster might cheerfully set a Native American totem on fire. A significant chunk of your story might be a Muggle protagonist learning how these things work from a more experienced teacher, just in time for him to unleash hell on the supernatural threat in spades at the climax.

In Conclusion

A weird western, by its very nature, requires the writer to combine a lot of different elements that don't always go together. How much work you put into it and how you combine the different bits will determine what kind of weird western you have when you finish. The only real requirement is that you have a great time writing it, so that your enthusiasm shows in the final product.

And one more thing...

Here's a tiny progress update on my goal of selling 1000 copies of Sheep's Clothing:
7 / 1000 (0.70%)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Modest Request

The last week has been a bit hectic for me. The roof in the apartment building where I live developed a crack, which resulted in my bedroom getting flooded twice in as many rainstorms. In between dealing with the leasing office, the maintenance guys, my renter's insurance, and the water mitigation guys, I simply had no time or energy to write a blog post last week, but I will do my best not to vanish without warning from now on.


This month, I have decided to embark on a concerted marketing campaign for Sheep's Clothing. My goal is to sell 1000 copies of my book my this time next year, and for this I need your help. I need everyone to at least take a look at my book, and if you find it interesting, then by all means buy a copy and leave a review. If you know anyone who would be interested in reading a Weird Western involving old-school vampires, tell them about my book. It is a well-researched but light read, and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback (4.5/5 starts on Amazon!), so what do you have to lose?

What I am going to do is submit my book to as many book review bloggers as I can, do interviews, give talks at various venues, and above all, I will keep my network (you) updated as far as my progress goes. This will keep me accountable for my own marketing efforts and keep me from getting lazy, and it will allow you to share in the accomplishment. So, once a month, I will provide an update on what I have done, and how many new copies I have sold.

Why am I doing all this? First, sales have been a bit anemic, and I think there's a lot more I could be doing to market my book. Second, I will need the funds to help replace the stuff that got water-damaged in the flood. Third, I want to make sure as many people as possible know about my book. Fourth, I think this will be a great learning experience for me.

And of course, to make it super easy for you to find where Sheep's Clothing can be purchased, I'm including a whole raft of links to the various places where it's available.

Createspace:  https://www.createspace.com/4641690
Amazon Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Sheeps-Clothing-Elizabeth-Einspanier/dp/1495358372/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1404234604&sr=1-2
Kindle eBook:  http://www.amazon.com/Sheeps-Clothing-Elizabeth-Einspanier-ebook/dp/B00IWY0Z6A/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404234604&sr=1-2&keywords=sheep%27s+clothing
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sheeps-clothing-elizabeth-einspanier/1118630507?ean=9781495358371
Subterranean Books: http://store.subbooks.com/book/9781495358371

I will update this list as I get more sources.

And of course, be sure to follow my blog for updates here, visit my website here, and be sure to join my mailing list here.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.einspanier.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeekGirlWriter
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElizabethEinspanier/posts/p/pub
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/GeekGirlWriter
Librarything: https://www.librarything.com/author/einspanierelizabeth

Wish me luck!
0 / 1000 (0.00%)

[Progress bar by another little progress bar]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Don't Fear the Beta Reader!

I've just started getting back feedback on Heart of Steel from my beta readers (thanks, everyone!), so it seem appropriate that this week's post should be about handling the feedback you get from these previews. Putting your story in front of people can be scary and discouraging, especially if they don't seem to see the Grand Vision of Brilliance that you've cooked up, but don't fret! Here are some simple tips for getting and handling honest critiques.

1. Take a Deep Breath

This won't be easy. You've slaved away for however many hours/days/months on this thing and it's your baby. Trust me, I know. Churning out my first novel-length piece was exhilarating until I realized that eventually I wanted other people to see it. That was when I briefly turned into Gollum and wanted to hide my precious away from those nasty hobbitses who might say bad things about it.

Well, that's a beta reader's job. They're the first line of defense between you and the deeper waters of your target audience, and if your book has narrative problems or plot holes or whatever, you've prefer to know sooner rather than later, right? So take a deep breath (literally, if you need to) and relax. You will come out of this a better writer.

2. Ask Your Friends

Be careful with this. Everyone has friends who will declare that you've just written the best [genre] novel since [really well-known and wildly popular genre novel] and that you shouldn't change a thing. These friends are great for ego stroking, but not so great for critiquing. Yeah, I know. Counter-intuitive, right? Wrong! Find your friend(s) who are outspoken and opinionated (without being douchebags about it)--the ones who will tell you your new hairstyle looks horrible, or that, yes, you look fat in those jeans. These are the people you want looking at your manuscript, because they will point out any flaws it has. Tell them to be brutal.

3. Ask a Writing Community

This might be a face-to-face community, or an online one via Facebook or whatever. You might have shared interests with these people, but they have no personal interest in being nice about something like this. If they're fellow writers, then a) they're there to improve their craft via b) helping and being helped by others, so c) they will be sure to give the sort of detailed critique you really need. Therefore, d) don't be afraid to ask. Not everyone will be interested in your story, but those that will, will give you a lot of help.

4. Set It Free

This is one of the hardest things to do. You turn your project over to someone else, and then wait to hear back from them. It might be a short period of time for a short story, or possibly weeks for a novel, but you must be patient. Bugging your beta reader is only going to make them annoyed with you. You want an honest opinion, not a "fine I'm done now go away" opinion.

5. Don't Take It Personally

Here comes the hardest part: reading the feedback. Not just reading the feedback, but reading it with the dispassionate eye of a writer wanting to improve his or her craft, rather than a creator watching their magnum opus being torn apart. This is your opportunity to improve on your story before you release it into the wild. This feedback (if it's constructive) will help your story be the best it can be, based on the opinions of people sufficiently detached from the thing that they can offer honest feedback.

6. Fix Any Problems

Now, if you took #5 to heart, #6 should be relatively easy. In theory, anyway. Reading through the feedback, asking clarification questions, and actually analyzing where you might have goofed can be painful, especially if your beta points out a misspelled word or a punctuation error that you know in your heart of hearts you should have caught, dangit. You might feel stupid at the obvious things pointed out to you, but get on your big kid pants about this. It's better to have caught the stupid stuff now rather than after your book is Really Out There and some editor is wondering why you think you should be published if you keep misspelling "the" as "teh" or your sentences are so long people get lost in them.

Finding a beta reader can be hard, and trusting your manuscript to them can be even harder, but believe me, your work will be greatly improved. You just have to close your eyes and make that leap of faith.

And now, for something completely different...

I have some exciting news regarding my Weird Western novella Sheep's Clothing: I've found a narrator for the audiobook!

Zach Brewster-Geisz is a stage, film, television, and voice actor whom I met via the Audiobook Creation Exchange website. I really liked his audition for Sheep's Clothing, and he's agreed to narrate. He said he would have the first fifteen minutes done and posted by the end of this month, so I will post an update as soon as it's up.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Secondary Characters are People, Too!

In this week's post I'm going to talk about the secondary characters you might have wandering around in your work. If handled improperly, secondary and background characters will seem like part of the scenery rather than add to the flavor of your world. Why? Because it's so easy to have your secondaries just exist for the scene (or two, or whatever) they're in and then get stuffed back in the creative closet.

This is a mistake, but an understandable one. Your main characters--your protagonist(s) and your villain(s)--carry the bulk of the story, so naturally you want to focus on them. Your heroes have motivations. Hopefully your villains have motivations, too, that sound reasonable to them, rather than just having them wander around aimlessly being evil at people. But the people milling around in the background? Who cares about them?

Well, you should. You created them for a reason, and even if they're literally only there for a single scene to contribute a single piece of needed info to your hero, they need lives outside the story. This might seem like a lot of hard work that nobody's going to see, and you might be right.  BUT, that guy milling around in the background might turn out to be helpful to your hero at a crucial moment.

Remember that crowd of train passengers in Spider-Man 2 that Our Intrepid Hero nearly kills himself saving from Doctor Octopus? They came to his defense when Ock tried to finish him off because they saw that Spidey was "only a kid", like any of their own offspring. They didn't have much in the way of character development, but they helped the hero. They might have been listed in the credits as Bystander on Train #1 through #9 or whatever, but they had a reason to jump to his defense.

Now, unless you're writing a sweeping high fantasy epic or whatever, it's unlikely that you're going to break out in mass quantities of background characters. However, you do need to know who your named characters are, at least, in case you need an unexpected ally (or obstacle) for your hero at a key moment in your story.

Does this mean you need to provide a complete backstory for every single character who has even a walk-on part in your novel or short story? No, obviously not. That would be a lot of record-keeping, and a project you should only undertake if you're planning on lots and lots of ground-level world-building. Even then, just focus on a small handful of people in your fictional city of ten million, or you'll be so busy making characters that you'll never get to your story.

In conclusion, while the focus of your story should be on your main cast, don't neglect that background characters. Making sure that at least you know who they are beyond the context of the story will help you make them more rounded for the reader. Mapping out what secondary characters are doing while off-screen will also help you get them in the right place at the right time for some additional support for your main characters, and who knows? Heroic Bystander #2 might become a fan favorite as a result.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Beta Readers Wanted!

Want to get a first look at my next project? Love reading? Enjoy quirky romance? Then sign up to be a beta reader!

My next project, Heart of Steel, needs extra eyes to help me iron out all the plot wrinkles, and you can help! As this is my first romance novel, I especially need your help in making sure the romance part of it flows organically to its conclusion.

Alistair Mechanus can't remember the tragedy that turned him into a cyborg ten years ago. He does remember the pain, both physical and mental, which has haunted him since, and he's retreated to seclusion on Shark Reef Isle. Hiding away from the world that broke him, he forms a plan for World Domination, believing that he can improve on the inherent societal flaws that he associates with his breakdown. However, when he sees his latest prisoner, he feels a spark of emotion in his internal circuitry that he has not felt in over a decade.

Julia's lush vacation was supposed to block out the incident that cost her job at the hospital. Now instead of swimming in Hawaii's blue waters, she meets an infatuated cyborg who needs the very compassionate care she wants to stop giving. When her overbearing wish-we-broke-up-already boyfriend Jim is injured, Alistair’s clumsy attempt at kindness goes spinning out of control, forcing Julia to trust the mad genius with her life.

Julia soon uncovers a vulnerable side beneath Alistair’s armored plating, as well as clues to unlocking his forgotten past. However, solving the mystery of who he used to be may cost him what remains of his fractured sanity.

If this sounds like your kind of book, let me know in the comments or email me at info(at)elizabetheinspanier(dot)com, and I will send you an e-copy in PDF, mobi, or epub format (please specify). I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Convention Survival Tips

When you're a genre writer like me, eventually you're going to want to go to some of the many (many, many) conventions that are held all over the world. In my case, I was in luck this year, because the Wizard World Comic Con was in downtown St. Louis earlier this year, in addition to Archon in Collinsville, which I plan to attend this fall. Conventions are a great place to meet fans, both of the genre you write in and (potentially) of the stuff you write, and most people are pretty friendly. Additionally, conventions are great for introverts like me because for some reason I have an easier time approaching some guy dressed like Robocop or Batman versus some random guy on the street.

However, whether you attend a convention as a free-range guest to attend the seminars are see your favorite actors or writers or whatever, or you get yourself a table in the dealer's room to hock your wares, there are a few tips that will help you survive.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

I can't emphasize this enough. Chances are, you will be doing a lot of walking at the convention, possibly for eight hours or more, and you can't count on there being a whole lot of unoccupied places to sit (no, the floor doesn't count). Even if you are in costume, and the high-heeled boots you got look awesome with your outfit, think how comfortable they'll be towards the end of the day when you can barely walk. At Comic Con, I wore a mad scientist costume on Sunday that had a pair of really awesome looking stompy boots from Hot Topic (my #1 source for all big stompy boots). I had a great time walking around, taking pictures, getting my picture taken in turn, and buying geeky stuff. When I got home, I pried my really awesome stompy boots off my aching feet and found I had a raw spot worn in my heel.

Now, this might not be as much of an issue with those who get a dealer table, but you never know. You're not going to necessarily sit on your butt the entire time.

Stay Hydrated

Conventions will be hot and stuffy. There will be a lot of people. You will sweat. This goes double if you're in costume, no matter how much actual skin coverage is involved. Many conventions will have food vendors, but they will be expensive. Carry a bottle of water with you and refill it in the restrooms from time to time so you don't have to go hunting for a drinking fountain before you pass out.

Be Polite

This goes equally if you are a speaker, a bookseller, or one of the roving crowds of unwashed masses. Ask permission before you take someone's picture. Act like a freaking civilized human being. A lot of conventions have "no creeper" rules because some convention-goers have decided that a cosplayer in a skimpy costume deserves to be groped or have her zippers messed with (I wish I was kidding). That's a good way to get the snot beaten out of you by Superman, Thor, or Jayne Cobb.

There is an unstated rule that being in a Deadpool costume means you can act utterly insane and get away with it, but have some freaking standards, or the dozen or so other Deadpools will call you out on it. Acting like a jerk at a convention is a good way to get you not invited back at best, banned in the middle, and arrested on assault charges at worst.

Have Fun

This is why you went to the convention in the first place, right? Walk around! Meet people! Check out the costumes! Talk to fellow writers! Attend the panels! Buy the stuff! Get out there and have a good time (within reason, see above)! Chances are you'll make some new friends/networking contacts, and you might even link up on the social media platform of your choice.

Going to a convention does take some planning and some extra endurance, but the main reason you go to one of these things is to have a good time and meet people with similar interests. Bring a camera or Smartphone and a spare charger, though--you don't want to see the Best Costume Ever towards the end of the day and realize you're phone's almost dead from the 900 other pictures you took that day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paranormal Romance vs. Sci-Fi Romance

When I first decided I was going to write (and finish) a novel, the first idea that came to mind was a sci-fi romance called Heart of Steel. That was fine as far as it went, until the time came to do a little genre research, whereupon I found the relative handful of sci-fi romance titles were tossed into the same section as paranormal romance. That struck me as odd, since sci-fi and paranormal are only similar in that they're both spec fiction. Aside from that, they're worlds apart. Now, I know that the people in charge of cataloging the romance subgenres are going to keep using the terms interchangeably while sci-fi romance is even nichier than paranormal romance, but I thought I'd try to distinguish the two.

First, let's talk about setting. Paranormal romances tend to be set in roughly the modern day, plus or minus twenty years or so. They're usually like "our" Earth, except for the presence of the paranormal stuff, which may or may not protect itself with a conspiracy to keep normal folks from discovering (and freaking out over) it. This offers the reader a fairly comfortable frame of reference, and allows for the possibility of an everyman or everywoman lead. Sci-fi romance can be set anywhere from 100 years ago (in the case of steampunk) to several hundred years in the future (for nearly everything else). It also doesn't have to be set on Earth, let alone "our" Earth--I've seen titles set on alien planets as often as a futuristic Earth that might be a mind-boggling dystopia, a post-apocalyptic hell, or a wondrous speculation of miracles yet to come.

Now let's talk about the critters. Paranormal romances tend more towards magical or supernatural creatures, including but not limited to vampires, spellcasters, ghosts, demons, angels, and shapeshifters. Any one of these may be a love interest (vampires seem to be popular these days), and they can be either gender. Sci-fi romances can have aliens (usually humanoid), cyborgs, robots(!), and any number of metahumans with superpowers not otherwise covered under the paranormal umbrella. Again, any one of these can be the love interest in your story (yes, even the robots), but while they can be either gender, there seems to be a slight preference for males, regardless of the gender of the other lead.

Finally, let's talk about the heroes. Paranormal romances tend towards intuitive heroes who aren't afraid to resort to physical combat to get the job done. They use their street-smarts, or instincts, or gut feelings to get out of a scrape. Conversely, sci-fi romances tend to have intellectual heroes who prefer to think their way out of a scrape. They might or might not be able to build a death ray out of some aluminum foil and a car battery, but they're more likely to try to make a plan rather than punch, kick, or bite (depending on preference) their way through obstacles. This is not to say that all PNR heroes are brutish beasts (even if other members of their species are) or that SFR heroes are all emotionless robots (even if they literally are). Even a steampunk artificer might know how to throw a solid punch in a pinch, but if he has time and the death ray option is open, well, he's going to build himself a freaking death ray.

Now, I know that there's going to be some overlap between SFR and PNR stories, especially if the author takes the science fantasy route or the Magic Is Sufficiently Advanced Technology route, but these are the distinctions I've seen. Unfortunately, the fact that there aren't separate categories for each means that someone looking for one or the other might have to hunt around in Romance or Science Fiction to get your speculative romance on, regardless of which type you prefer. Fortunately, with the increase of self-published authors, I imagine that both of these categories may increase in size, meaning that the cataloging people in bookstores (online and physical) may eventually separate the two properly. In the meantime, though, happy hunting.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Obscure Genres, Explained

As you browse the fiction categories of Amazon, you probably notice that a lot of the stuff has been sorted into neat categories: Horror, science fiction, romance, mainstream, whatever. Then there are those that people might not be familiar with, genres who are an actual thing, but might be a subset of one of the big categories or (gasp) a mix of two or more. You might have heard about these and wondered what the hell they're all about, because otherwise they're intermixed with the Big Categories and otherwise really damn hard to search for. Here is my humble attempt to explain them to you.

The "Lit"s

  • Chick Lit: Let's start with one of the lighter ones. Chick lit is a relatively modern genre focusing on modern womanhood, generally through a filter of humor. It typically features a female protagonist whose womanhood is the central focus of the plot. In other words, a chick flick in book form. 
    • Examples: Bridget Jones' Diary, The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Misery Lit: And of course, way over at the other end of the idealism/cynicism scale is Misery Lit. This is supposedly biographical literature focusing on the protagonist overcoming trauma or abuse of many different kinds, to offer a literary catharsis for others who has suffered abuse. This genre has been rife with hoaxes (believed and confirmed alike), but regardless, if you can read one of these books without losing your faith in humanity, you have no soul. 
    • Examples: A Child Called It.
  • Boomer Lit: Boomer lit focuses on protagonists from the baby boomer generation. It typically explores all the elements of an aging population, but is also prepared to challenge the stereotypes that go along with it.
    • Examples: The Hot Flash Club.
The "Punk"s
  • Bio Punk: Bio Punk mixes organic technology and genetic engineering with the science of an earlier time. This was actually fairly popular in early science fiction as the smart guys were learning how the human body worked, and it's carried through to modern works as well
    • Examples: Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Cattle Punk: Cattle Punk is to the Western what Steampunk (below) is to the Victorian setting. Imagine a Western novel with robotic horses, rayguns, and a gunslinger with a mechanical eye, and you've got a fair idea of what Cattle Punk is all about.
    • Examples: Wild Wild West (movie)
  • Clock Punk: Clock Punk is old-school Steam Punk. Yes, I know Steam Punk is old-school already, but this is even older-school--like pre-Industrial Revolution. Replace steam power with clockwork, applied to the same general results. Imagine the sort of crazy shit that Leonardo da Vinci might be up to if he had the ability, and you've got Clock Punk
    • Examples: Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Cyber Punk: This is the big one that launched a dozen sub-genres. Cyber Punk added the grittiness of the underclasses to what had previously been the shiny, chromey futurism of contemporary science fiction. In Cyber Punk you have underground hackers railing against The Man with the aid of cybernetic implants that let them do neat things like mentally interface with a computer.
    • Examples: Half of everything by William Gibson.
  • Diesel Punk: With the dawning of the Twentieth Century came the Industrial Revolution (yay!), mass manufacturing (yay!), and a little thing called World War One (boo!). Diesel punk does funky things with internal combustion engines and electricity, making for an interesting sort of Zeerust (that is, things that would be futuristic if they weren't set in the past).
    • Examples: Bio Shock, Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Steam Punk: This is the big one: Steam-powered gizmos in a Victorian setting. Imagine if steam, not electricity, were the medium to catapult humanity into a new age of technology, producing wonders like automata and other man-made servants of that type, alongside terrors like advanced war machines running roughshod over a world that isn't ready to counter them. Steam Punk covers not only literature, but film, music, comic books, and a fashion subculture, and strangely side-steps all the unpleasant issues of Victorian morality and gender roles
    • Examples: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Other Stuff

  • Weird Western: Where Cattle Punk is a science fiction take on the Western Genre, the Weird Western is more fantasy or horror. The frontier of that era was paved with ghost stories and legends, both from the settlers and the Native Americans, and the Weird Western works on the conceit that some of them are real.
    • Examples: Desperadoes, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sheep's Clothing
  • Bizarro Fiction: Hoo boy. Bizarro fiction is one of those genres where either you get it, or you don't. And the trouble with getting it is finding it half the time. Bizarro fiction typically takes place in a dreamlike parallel world where bizarre stuff is commonplace, and it works on its own logic that generally only makes sense if you just sit back and roll with it. Imagine if a novel dropped acid. The fun part is searching for these books, because some of the titles are downright profane.
    • Examples: Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, The Ass Goblins of Auchwitz (... Told ya.)

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list of the more obscure genres out there, but hopefully it will offer some help in figuring out what the hell is meant by these terms. I may make another post of this sort if my readers need help figuring out other subgenres.